"Ludicrous." That's how San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal described the effort by right-wing media outlets - including Fox News - to smear a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance aimed at combating bias against LGBT people.
On July 23, the right-wing website OneNewsNow published an article criticizing an effort by the San Antonio City Council to update its non-discrimination policy to include discrimination against LGBT people.
The updated policy would prohibit the city government and its contractors or vendors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in employment. In addition, it would also prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and places of public accommodation. It would also allow City Council members to consider a person's history of anti-LGBT bias when making appointments to boards and commissions, stating:
No person shall be appointed to a position if the City Council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability.
That provision drew the ire of conservatives, who claimed that the ordinance was an attempt to limit Christians' freedom of speech.
Before long, several right-wing media outlets picked up on the controversy, with each new iteration of the story presenting even wilder claims about the ordinance's supposed threat to religious liberty.
Right-wing media outlets have smeared a proposed measure in San Antonio to expand the city's non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, falsely claiming that the revised measure would limit free speech and religious liberty.
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes is outraged that a Manhattan barbecue joint will no longer rent space to an anti-gay church and vows to boycott the popular restaurant. Starnes' strong condemnation of a private business's actions contrasts sharply with his spirited defense of Chick-fil-A, which faced boycotts over anti-gay statements last summer.
In a July 24 post for FoxNews.com and in a series of tweets on July 25, Starnes denounced Hill Country Barbecue for its decision to stop allowing The Gallery Church to conduct services in the restaurant. Hill Country Barbecue's action followed mounting pressure in the neighborhood for the restaurant to stop renting space to the church after Pastor Freddy Wyatt gave a sermon series on same-sex attraction.
Starnes blasted Hill Country Barbecue's decision as "[a]nti-Christian," vowing that he'd never set foot in the restaurant again:
From the July 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox, broke from Fox News hosts and contributors by tweeting support for the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill.
In a July 14 tweet, Murdoch called on House Speaker John Boehner to allow for his chamber to vote on the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform package. Boehner has previously committed not to bring the package up for a vote in the House:
A number of host and contributors of 21st Century Fox's subsidiary Fox News have expressed a view opposite of Murdoch's, either denouncing the Senate plan or calling for House Republican obstruction of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.
On the July 10 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity praised Boehner for not allowing the Senate bill to be voted on in the House, saying, "the decision by the leadership not to take the Senate bill is a good first step" to fixing the immigration system. He also advised that they take their time to get it right.
During the Hannity segment, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin offered her "qualified applause and praise" of Boehner's commitment to not bring the Senate bill up for a vote.
Additionally, Fox News contributors Laura Ingraham and Bill Kristol have both endorsed Republican obstruction of immigration reform efforts, claiming that any reconciliation of a potential House immigration reform bill and the Senate bill would be disastrous.
Other Fox News figures have staked out a different position, articulating support for the Senate's immigration reform effort. During the July 10 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly explained that House Republicans killing the Senate immigration reform bill would "mean the chaotic status quo would remain and the Southern border would not be made more secure." And Fox News contributor Karl Rove said on Fox News Radio that while he doesn't think the Senate immigration reform bill is perfect, he wanted "the process to continue."
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes hyped the story of a Utah National Guard technician who was reprimanded by his superiors after his anti-gay views became the source of repeated insubordination.
In a July 11 story for FoxNews.com, Starnes sensationalized the case of Tech. Sgt. Layne Wilson, who wrote an email in December protesting a same-sex wedding at West Point's Cadet Chapel. Wilson's email prompted the Air National Guard to reprimand him for "fail[ing] to render the proper respect to a commissioned officer." Wilson - a noncommissioned officer - also had his reenlistment contract reduced from six years to one year.
Starnes - who has called military policies protecting gay soldiers a sign of "the end of days" - baselessly framed the story as a tale of stifling Wilson's religious freedom, rather than a stark case of insubordination. Disregarding longstanding military rules, Wilson condemned his superiors for allowing the ceremony to go ahead:
"This is wrong on so many levels," Wilson wrote. "If they wanted to get married in a hotel that is one thing. Our base chapels are a place of worship and this is a mockery to God and our military core values. I have proudly served 27 years and this is a slap in the face to us who have put our lives on the line for this country. I hope sir that you will take appropriate action so this does not happen again."
Fox News radio host Todd Starnes used a story about a soldier disobeying lawful orders to falsely claim that the military is persecuting Christian service members for their beliefs, continuing his misguided campaign against nonexistent "culture wars."
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers was charged and found guilty of three Article 15 charges after he disobeyed lawful orders by making political statements while in uniform. Sommers was counseled on separate occasions for bumper stickers and tweets that attacked President Obama and reading political literature while in uniform. Starnes used the case to claim that the military is prosecuting service members for their religious beliefs in an article titled, "Army Reprimands Soldier Under Fire for Religious Beliefs." Starnes then used his platform to allow Sommers' lawyer John Bennett Wells and Family Research Council's Jerry Boykin to push the same deceptive claim. Wells claimed that the timing of the prosecution seemed strange and suspicious, adding that "it looks like a graduated attempt to build a case against him on some really ridiculous charges." FRC's Boykin went further:
Boykin said the issue is whether the chain of command would be doing this if it were not for his outspoken Christian faith and his unwillingness to compromise on what he believes.
"It seems to me that the chain of command has failed to deter him from his beliefs and has resorted to this step now," he said.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade told the leader of a violent nationalist hate group that targets British Muslims, "We got your back" and "it's great what you're doing."
Kilmeade offered his endorsement to the English Defence League (EDL) and co-founder Tommy Robinson, who appeared as a guest on the June 10 edition of Kilmeade's Fox News Radio program. Kilmeade's support followed an interview in which Robinson railed against the immigration of Muslims into the United Kingdom, and warned of Muslims "forcefully putting us under Sharia" Law and planning a "silent takeover" to "implement Sharia" in his country and across the world.
Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Lennon) also said he didn't regret his recent conviction for using a false identity document to enter the United States to attend an anti-Islam event with anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller. Robinson pleaded guilty and was jailed in January and released in February. Robinson's offense was not his first brush with the law.
Fox News has previously reported on the violent and fringe nature of the EDL. On August 28, 2010, America's News HQ anchor Gregg Jarrett noted there were "hundreds of extreme right-wing protesters rioting in northern England. Members of the so-called English Defence League tossing bottles and rocks at police in the city of Bradford. There's the map. Police penned the group in, keeping them away from a separate rally headed by a leftist group. The English Defence League opposes what it calls the spread of Sharia Law and Islamic extremism in England. Police arrested five people, but there are no reports of any injuries."
Several other news outlets have similarly described the EDL as a violent and extreme anti-Muslim group:
No story about transgender people is too insignificant for Fox News reporter Todd Starnes to cover as a "culture war" horror story, especially if the story gives him the opportunity to use inaccurate and transphobic slurs in his reporting.
In a June 3 article for Fox News Radio, Starnes reported on a Nashville woman who complained after she encountered a transgender woman in a restaurant bathroom. The story included various quotes from the disgruntled woman's husband, inappropriately referring to the transgender woman as a man and commenting that her presence in the public restroom "poses a safety hazard":
David Staton, whose wife had the disquieting run-in while eating out at Amerigo, a restaurant in the country music capital, has a simple solution.
"There needs to be some sort of law that says if you are born a man with man-parts, you go to the men's bathroom," said Staton. "In a family restaurant, men should go to the men's room and women should go to the women's."
Staton and his wife were celebrating a date night on Saturday by eating dinner at Amerigo - a regional Italian restaurant chain in Nashville.
Sitting just a few tables away was a group of cross-dressers.
"These guys were well over six feet tall, big burly men in dresses," he told Fox News. "The whole restaurant noticed them."
And Staton's wife especially noticed them after an encounter in the ladies room of the Nashville establishment.
"It was a small restroom and she was waiting for a stall," he said. "And that's when she came face to face with a guy well over six feet. She immediately blurted out, 'Am I in the men's bathroom?'"
She was not.
Staton said the man went over to the mirror to fix his lipstick and told his wife, "It's okay. It's okay."
He said it poses a safety hazard - especially for families with young daughters.
"No dad or parent should have to wonder - is my little girl going into the women's bathroom with men in there," he said. "To have a man in the women's bathroom is a dangerous thing. That's just so wrong on so many levels." [emphasis added]
On Twitter, Starnes continued his hobby of making derogatory remarks about transgender people by echoing Staton's comments, referring to the transgender woman as a "burly man wearing a dress":
Fox News reporter Todd Starnes claims to offer "culture war news," but several of his recent stories have turned out to be false or misleading.
From the April 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox News host Brian Kilmeade thinks he's found the explanation for how someone was able to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon: President Obama's supposed policy of "disengaging from the Middle East."
Kilmeade linked the alleged actions of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar to President Obama's foreign policy during his April 19 radio program. Kilmeade stated: "We had a guy in yesterday that worked with Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton and he's so disappointed that we're disengaging from the Middle East. But you talk to these radicals in the Middle East and they say, 'America, don't get involved, leave us alone.' So like it or not, this president has left them alone. And guess what happens? Now the IEDs are blowing up in our streets. So what are we supposed to learn from that?"
NBC News has reported that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan and became a naturalized American citizen on Sept. 11, 2012, while his late older brother, Tamerlan, killed during a recent firefight with law enforcement, was born in Russia. They reportedly came to the United States in 2002 or 2003 with their family, which is of Chechen origin.
From the April 19 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
KILMEADE: Joe, how much are you shocked that a guy who came here when he was nine -- at nineteen, is out to blow up Americans?
CALLER: I'm not. I'm not shocked at all. I think it's -- I think it's a societal issue, I think that there's a -- that there's a definite view of America that's propagated by the political system that's going on now, and I'm not really shocked that people are disenchanted and have this view we have to, you know, get back at them. It's unfortunate, it shouldn't be that way, but you know, with an administration like we have now, and the propaganda that's going on, it just helps these people to further their psychosis.
KILMEADE: Yeah, it is two things going on. And it's got to be frustrating. We had a guy in yesterday that worked with Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton and he's so disappointed that we're disengaging from the Middle East. But you talk to these radicals in the Middle East and they say, "America, don't get involved, leave us alone." So like it or not, this president has left them alone. And guess what happens? Now the IEDs are blowing up in our streets. So what are we supposed to learn from that?
Kilmeade, who also co-hosts Fox News' Fox & Friends, is hardly an authority on foreign policy or national security issues. Kilmeade has misled his audience about Iraq war intelligence, claimed (repeatedly) that "all terrorists are Muslims," and once remarked that Sen. John McCain "should not be allowed to talk on torture" because "he was tortured."
Fox News figures are dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they're being used and exploited by Democrats, discounting the efforts they have made to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws.
On April 11, the Senate overcame a Republican-led filibuster that tried to block the beginning of debate on stronger gun laws with a 68-31 vote. The impetus for the new gun proposals was driven by the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 victims dead, most of them young children. President Obama had been urging Congress to act to strengthen guns laws in response to the shooting for some time.
According to several Fox News figures, Obama has been using the families of the Newtown shooting victims as props for a political agenda.
On April 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws "naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families," while his guest Ann Coulter said that Democrats are "play[ing] with these victims." The previous night, Hannity stated that the president "is once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his April 11 radio show that Obama is "using the Newtown families to push for background checks." Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry similarly said on April 9 that "for the second straight day, the White House used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." On his April 9 radio show, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that taking some of the relatives of the Newtown shooting victims to Washington, DC on Air Force One to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
Such an attitude does a disservice to the many Newtown families that want tougher gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Several of the families appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes on April 7 to discuss what kind of gun violence prevention measures they would like to see signed into law, saying that universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines were important. After the vote that broke the GOP's threatened filibuster, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing those who tried block an up-or-down vote on new gun legislation, saying that "[t]he senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy."
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes criticized an email from a U.S. Army officer condemning anti-gay hate speech, suggesting that the email was a sign of "the end of days" and warning his audience that "your military is being turned against you."
In an April 9 article for Fox News Radio, Starnes reported that an email from Lt. Col. Jack Rich instructed subordinates to be on the lookout for behaviors that are "inconsistent with Army Values," including showing support for a number of "hate groups" operating in the U.S.
The email included a list of anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA), stating:
The religious right in America has employed a variety of strategies in its efforts to beat back the increasingly confident gay rights movement. One of those has been defamation. Many of its leaders have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling, describing LGBT people as "perverts" with "filthy habits" who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and "convert" them to gay sex. They have disseminated disparaging "facts" about gays that are simply untrue assertions that are remarkably reminiscent of the way white intellectuals and scientists once wrote about the "bestial" black man and his supposedly threatening sexuality.
Rich's depiction of the hate speech stemming from the anti-gay movement is entirely accurate. Both FRC and AFA have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their long histories of defaming LGBT people, including peddling the myth allowing for openly gay soldiers would cause a spike in sexual assaults and HIV infections in the military.
Starnes - who acts as Fox News' resident mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups - chose to depict the email as an assault on Christianity, interviewing several employees of FRC who, not surprisingly, condemned the email:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was disturbed by the contents of the email.
"It's very disturbing to see where the Obama Administration is taking the military and using it as a laboratory for social experimentation -- and also as an instrument to fundamentally change the culture," he said. "The message is very clear - if you are a Christian who believes in the Bible, who believes in transcendent truth, there is no place for you in the military."