Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign launch speech viciously denigrated Mexican immigrants and strongly split conservative media figures on his candidacy. While some argue Trump is a "rodeo clown," others think he is "saying things that need to be said." Several conservatives disagree with Trump's rhetoric but claim he's raising important issues.
Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes wrote that "Record-breaking floods have inundated Washington, D.C. just days after the Supreme Court decided they knew better than God" and wondered, "Anybody got an ark?"
Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary, has issued dire warnings to his followers after the June 26 Supreme Court marriage equality decision.
After the decision, Starnes tweeted: "If you thought the cultural purge over the Confederate flag was breathtaking -- wait until you see what LGBT activists do with Christians." He wrote on Facebook: "Friends, it is imperative that you prepare yourselves, your families and your congregations for the coming persecution ... These are troubling days - and we must be willing to defend religious liberty." (In reality, such religious liberty concerns are bunk.)
His assessment veered toward end times territory in a June 28 Facebook post where he wrote: "Record-breaking floods have inundated Washington, D.C. just days after the Supreme Court decided they knew better than God. I seem to remember another time in history when there was a record-breaking flood." He added: "God painted the sky with rainbow colors after that flood. This go-around - Obama painted the White House with rainbow colors. Anybody got an ark?"
Starnes' remarks are so ridiculous that it sometimes seems like a parody of an intolerant conservative pundit. Indeed, The Daily Beast's Asawin Suebsaeng wrote of "the Worst Man on Cable News": "Todd Starnes did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment regarding whether he actually believes the shit he says, or if he is just forever trolling."
Fox News' immediate response to the deadly shooting at a black Charleston church was to repeatedly push the prospect that the massacre was a religious hate crime, rather than a racially motivated one.
At around 9 p.m. on June 17, a white man named Dylann Roof entered a prayer service at the historic black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and murdered nine black people with a gun. Roof is said to have left one witness alive, to "tell the story of what had happened," and reports soon surfaced that Roof told his victims, ranging in age from 26 to 87, that "you rape our women and are taking over our country, and you have to go." Charleston police chief Gregg Mullen was quick to describe the shooting as a hate crime, calling the crime "senseless" in a news conference that same evening.
The church was founded in 1816, and after a founding member of the church, Denmark Vesey, organized a slave revolt in 1822, the church was burned in retaliation. One of the shooting victims, state senator and pastor Clementa Pinckney, previously said, "This site, this area, has been tied to the history and life of African Americans since about the early 1800s."
On the morning after the shooting, Fox News' coverage scrambled to suggest the shooting may not have been racially-motivated, but was perhaps a religious hate crime.
Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy stated that it was extraordinary the massacre was being labeled a hate crime, positing, "It was a church, so maybe that's what they're talking about" and citing "hostility towards Christians." Guest Bishop E. W. Jackson agreed that "most people jump to conclusions about race," and that "we don't know why he went into a church, but he didn't choose a bar" or "basketballc ourt." Later, frequent Fox guest and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani theorized that "we don't know the motivation of the person who did this," saying "maybe he hates Christian churches." And later that day on Fox News Radio, Brian Kilmeade speculated that maybe the shooter "hates Christian churches" or possibly just the state of South Carolina.
After Dylann Roof was arrested, he reportedly confessed to investigators that his motivation for the shooting was to "start a race war." Additional evidence emerged of his racist, white supremacist beliefs -- A Facebook photo showed Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and the former nation of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, which have been "adopted as emblems by modern-day white supremacists." And friend of Roof's said that he "was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites," and that he wanted to "start a civil war."
Fox has a long history of concocting alternative explanations for events others see as examples of racism and its effects. When Eric Garner died at the hands of police in Staten Island last year, Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Greg Gutfeld blamed New York's high cigarette taxes for leading Eric Garner to sell black market cigarettes, the crime for which police were arresting him when he was killed; Hannity described it as the "root cause" of his death. Host Bill O'Reilly has attributed the disproportionate imprisonment of black people to "the culture" in "ghetto neighborhoods," while contributor Geraldo Rivera once said that Trayvon Martin's hoodie was "as much to blame" for his death as George Zimmerman was. And Fox host Eric Bolling has said he simply doesn't "think there's racism" in America, because we have a black president.
From the June 19 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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From the June 18 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox figures falsely labeled President Obama's new plan to protect student borrowers a "bailout," ignoring the realities of the plan as well as the student debt crisis that necessitated his executive action.
Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress believes that gay marriage and the film release of Fifty Shades of Grey are signs that the apocalypse is nearing. Jeffress said "the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
Jeffress is an evangelical pastor with a long history of incendiary remarks. He is an anti-gay bigot who believes gays lead a "miserable lifestyle," homosexuality is linked to pedophilia, and gay people are promiscuous and engaged in "filthy behavior," and "brainwashing activit[ies]." He's compared Mormonism to a cult, called Islam an "evil, evil, religion," referred to Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as "false religions," and said Catholicism is a "counterfeit religion" that rose from a "cult-like, pagan religion."
During a February 10 appearance on Fox News Radio's The Alan Colmes Show, Jeffress said he saw "radical Islam," gay marriage, and Fifty Shades of Grey as signs of the coming apocalypse.
Jeffress claimed: "The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1 that in the last days it will be terrible times. And that word terrible means lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that everywhere, whether it is the attempt to change the most basic unit of society, the family and marriage by redefinition of marriage. Or the acceptance of perversion. You know, this Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades of Perversion. I think that's symptomatic of what is happening."
On gay marriage, Jeffress added, "I believe that gays have the same constitutional rights as heterosexuals. No doubt about it. But I agree with our last guest that marriage is not a constitutional right. If it were, Alan, 15-year-olds could marry. Siblings could marry." He then asked if a father and daughter should also have the right to marry if same-sex couples could.
Jeffress said he hadn't seen or read Fifty Shades of Grey, but from what he read it "tends to objectify women -- put them in a bondage situation." When asked about if he approves of that in a voluntary situation, he replied, "that's her business." He added that "this movie may represent a new low in popular entertainment. That's all I'm saying. And I'm just saying the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan is backtracking and brazenly lying about his controversial remarks calling bipolar disorder "made up" and "the latest fad." While Sullivan now claims his remarks were taken "out of context," this defense is preposterous. He repeatedly dismissed the validity of bipolar disorder and the clip used by Media Matters was the same one posted by his employer with the headline "(AUDIO) Bipolar Woman Says She DESERVES Disability Benefits. Tom Tells Her She's WRONG!"
During his January 28 program, Sullivan told a caller who said she suffered from bipolar disorder that "bipolar is like the latest fad." He also claimed, "I just think it's something made up by the mental health business," and "I don't know why we have to create these new illnesses" for something that "wasn't a problem in the first place."
Sullivan's remarks generated condemnation from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), members of the media, mental health advocates, people on social media, and online petitioners. Many have pointed out that comments like Sullivan's only further stigmatize those suffering from mental illness.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) criticized Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan for his "unfounded" and "senseless" remarks last week calling bipolar disorder "made up" and "the latest fad."
In a statement provided to Media Matters, Napolitano said that Sullivan's "senseless speech discourages listeners and viewers from seeking treatment they need, halting the progress we have made toward the goal of eliminating stigma." She added: "Rather than minimizing people who have the courage to talk about their illness we should be lifting them up, so others know it is always okay to ask for help."
The California congresswoman is a longtime mental health advocate and was the co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus in the 108th through 112th (2003-2013) Congresses.
Sullivan, who is also a Fox Business contributor and regular guest anchor, said on his January 28 Fox News Radio program that people with mental illness have figured how to "game the system" by receiving disability benefits. He added, "they're mostly government employees and they know how to do it."
From the February 5 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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UPDATE: Starnes' post now includes an "Editor's Note" correcting the inaccurate $200,000 figure:
Editor's Note: A previous version of this column stated that the Kleins could face a fine of at least $200,000. However, an attorney for the bakers says the actual amount is at least $150,000.
In fact, $150,000 is the most the Kleins could face in fines - a maximum of $75,000 per person suing. No ruling on amounts has been made. The incorrect figure remains unchanged in the body of the post.
Fox News' Todd Starnes falsely reported that the Oregon bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple could face up to $200,000 in fines, badly misinterpreting local reports about the case, according to the state's Bureau of Labor and Industries.
On January 29, an administrative law judge in Oregon rejected a request from the lawyers representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss a discrimination complaint filed against shop owners Aaron and Melissa Klein. The case has been ongoing since early 2013, when the bakers refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in violation of the state's non-discrimination law. A March 10 hearing will determine what damages the couple is owed.
On February 3, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes published his report on the Kleins' failed attempt to have the complaint dismissed, stating that the bakers could face $200,000 "in fines and damages":
An Oregon administrative law judge ruled on Jan. 29 that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.
The judge's ruling paves the way for a March 10 hearing at which the Christian business owners could be ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and damages.
Starnes' "$200,000" number is a blatant misreading of the original Oregonian report he cites. In actuality, it was the anti-gay bakers who were asking the judge for $200,000 in damages, court costs, and attorney fees:
An administrative law judge has rejected an attempt by lawyers representing the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss the case and award them $200,000 for damages, court costs and attorney fees.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) investigators involved in the case have actually recommended that the bakers pay $75,000 in damages per person.
In a statement to Media Matters, BOLI Communications Director Charlie Burr confirmed that Starnes' reporting was false:
Todd Starnes is writing that the bakery owners face fines of up to $200,000 in damages. That's false. In fact, it's the Kleins who have asked for $200,000 in damages from our agency for our enforcement of the Equality Act. We rejected the request due to jurisdictional issues.
The agency's prosecution unit is seeking up to $75,000 per person in damages, but no ruling on amounts has been made. [emphasis original]
Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan told a caller who said she suffered from bipolar disorder that her illness is "something made up by the mental health business" and just "the latest fad." When the caller told Sullivan that she "would not be alive today" if she hadn't received mental health treatment, Sullivan wondered if "maybe somebody's talked you into feeling and thinking this way."
Sullivan, who is also a frequent Fox Business contributor and guest anchor, began his January 28 program by complaining that people with mental illness have figured how to "game the system" by receiving disability benefits. "They're mostly government employees and they know how to do it," he added. Sullivan also defended Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) controversial and false statement that "Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts."
A caller later challenged Sullivan over his remarks, saying she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder thirteen years ago and mental health treatment allowed her to graduate from college and obtain a full-time job. The caller, who now volunteers with Stop Stigma Sacramento, noted that bipolar disorder isn't a made up illness and is biological.
From the October 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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From the October 17 edition of Fox News Radio's The John Gibson Show:
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Fox News contributor Keith Ablow went on an unhinged racial rant against President Obama, accusing him of failing to protect the country against Ebola because his "affinities, his affiliations are with" Africa and "not us ... He's their leader." Ablow also compared America to a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome, electing a man who dislikes the country and "has names very similar to two of our archenemies, Osama, well, Obama. And Hussein."
Ablow, a member of Fox News' "Medical A-Team," appeared on the October 14 edition of Fox News Radio's The John Gibson Show. He had previously written a column alleging that President Obama is not forcefully confronting Ebola and helping calm fears about the disease because he "may literally believe we should suffer along with less fortunate nations."
Ablow started by explaining that from his perspective "as a psychiatrist," Obama thinks he's a "citizen and a leader of the world" who doesn't belong to one country and "perhaps least of all this country because he has it in for us as disappointing people. People who've been a scourge on the face of the Earth. And so for him to then say we're going to seal the borders and protect Americans when in my view, in his mind, if only unconsciously, he's thinking, 'Really? We're going to prevent folks suffering with illnesses from coming across the border flying into our airports when we have visited a plague of colonialism that has devastated much of the world, on the world? What is the fairness in that?' I believe Barack Obama is thinking."