On the eve of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings, right-wing media pushed numerous myths and falsehoods regarding Kagan's nomination.
The following timeline of 24 hours of Fox News "journalism" demonstrates the networks' willingness to disregard the facts when faced with an opportunity to advance a damaging narrative about the Obama administration.
Yesterday morning, FoxNews.com reported Gabrielle Giffords' (D-AZ) claim that the Department of Education and the U.S. Border Patrol "have joined the 'boycott Arizona' trend and nixed conferences there out of concern over the state's immigration law." The article stated that "FoxNews.com is awaiting response from both agencies," and said "the cancellations ... may have been more out of a desire to steer clear of controversy than outright protest of the law." Nevertheless, the headline on the front page of FoxNews.com asserted as fact that "two federal agencies join the 'boycott Arizona' campaign":
Shortly thereafter, Fox News' America Live, one of Fox's purportedly "straight news" programs, did a segment about "reports now that two government agencies have recently cancelled events planned to happen in Arizona. These are the federal -- this is the federal government cancelling events now, raising questions about whether the feds are now engage in an effort to try to punish Arizona for its new immigration law," in the words of host Megyn Kelly.
The progression of Fox's wildly misleading reporting about the closure of a small strip of land in an Arizona wildlife refuge has been quite impressive. First, "straight news" anchor Shannon Bream reported on June 15 that a "massive stretch of Arizona [is] now off limits to Americans. Critics say the administration is, in effect, giving a major strip of the Southwest back to Mexico." On June 16, Fox Nation followed by promoting her report with the laughable headline "Obama Gives Back Major Strip of AZ to Mexico." (As we noted, the closed area is about five miles square, it's been closed since 2006, and it's, uh, still U.S. territory.) A FoxNews.com article from the same day at least managed to correctly report the fact that the land has been closed since 2006.
On the evening of June 16, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out a statement attempting to clear up confusion surrounding the closure, which is in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Part of the statement said that while the closure had been implemented "due to human safety concerns," "since 2006 the Refuge has experienced a significant decline in violent activity in the area thanks to ongoing cooperation between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Customs and Border Protection." Sounds like good news.
So, how did Fox do on June 17?
FoxNews.com posted an article that incorporates quotes from the Fish and Wildlife statement. Headline?
FOXNews.com and WorldNetDaily reported Sen. Jeff Sessions' attack on Elena Kagan for a donation to Harvard from a Saudi prince that -- according to Sessions -- established a center for Sharia Law. In fact, the gift was given to Harvard University, not Harvard Law School, it did not establish a center for "Sharia Law," and the prince is a major shareholder of Fox News' parent News Corp.
Media are criticizing President Obama's address on the Gulf oil spill as lacking specifics. MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski described such criticism as "drivel" and argued that they would criticize his speech no matter what he says; indeed after past speeches and press conferences, the media attacked him for being too professorial, lecturing, boring, or arrogant.
From the May 19 edition of FoxNews.com's Freedom Watch:
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FoxNews.com reported yesterday that while President Obama issued a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer, "critics note that Obama, unlike his predecessors, has not held a traditional White House prayer service since he took office":
President Obama issued a proclamation last Friday as his Justice Department appeals a federal judge's ruling last month that the day of prayer is unconstitutional.
"Prayer has been a sustaining way for many Americans of diverse faiths to express their most cherished beliefs, and thus we have long deemed it fitting and proper to publicly recognize the importance of prayer on this day across the Nation," Obama said in the proclamation.
But critics note that Obama, unlike his predecessors, has not held a traditional White House prayer service since he took office.
"Every time I hear the president casually end a speech with 'God Bless America,' I wonder if he realizes that phrase is a prayer -- not another edict from Washington," said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition.
"I can't remember a time when America was more in need of God's blessing, but the president doesn't see it," she said.
By "predecessors," FoxNews.com means George W. Bush. According to the Christian Post, Obama's decision not to hold a Prayer Day service at the White House marks a return "to the conventional practice of past administrations besides that of George W. Bush's." Similarly, Dan Gilgoff wrote in a US News & World Report blog post last year:
Historically speaking, the White House's decision to skip a formal event for the National Day of Prayer isn't too big a deal. So far as the National Day of Prayer Task Force can tell, no administration prior to George W. Bush regularly hosted an event to mark the day. But the Obama White House's decision has set many tongues wagging in the media, particularly the conservative and religious press.
After President Obama released a video message highlighting 2010 efforts to turn out the vote among minorities, right-wing media responded with inflammatory rhetoric, including claims that Obama is playing the "race card." Those media figures have ignored that Republicans have issued similar appeals to minority voters.
Last week, Fox Business announced that it would begin airing senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano's FoxNews.com show Freedom Watch. Given the show's history, the move raises questions about whether the channel will allow Napolitano to mainstream and promote fringe guests and radical anti-government conspiracy theories.
In contrast to his Fox News colleagues, Napolitano has used his FoxNews.com show to praise and promote two of the most visible leaders of the 9-11 Truth movement, Alex Jones and Jesse Ventura. On Freedom Watch last month, Napolitano called guest Ventura a "champion of exposing government fraud and lies," and promoted Ventura's belief that the government either "participate[d]" in 9-11 or "knew it was going to happen and didn't do very much to stop it."
Napolitano also hosted "the great" Jones to push anti-government conspiracy theories about one-world government and his DVD The Obama Deception, which describes Obama as a "hoax" by the New World Order to impose "forced National Service, domestic civilian spies, warrantless wiretaps, the destruction of the Second Amendment, FEMA camps and Martial Law."
Napolitano is a regular guest on Jones' radio program. Napolitano has called the self-described 9-11 Truth "founding father" a "dear friend" who "we go to" because of "your zeal and your courage and your fearlessness in exposing" the government. Napolitano does not discuss 9-11 Truth conspiracies with Jones in available online videos, and Napolitano indicates in his book Lies the Government Told You that he does not believe the government carried out the 9-11 attacks. However, the Fox News analyst has pushed other anti-government conspiracies about "one world government," seizure of firearms, the suspension of elections, and the creation of a "war" or "crisis" to help President Obama. Napolitano even told Jones' anti-government listeners that if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they'd "probably want to take up arms against" the government.
Napolitano's mainstreaming and praise of the 9-11 Truth leaders is in direct opposition to his Fox News colleagues. While Glenn Beck has promoted numerous anti-government conspiracy theories, he's opposed the 9-11 Truth movement. Beck criticized Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for associating with Ventura because he is a "9/11 Truther" and "off the deep end." Beck heavily criticized former Obama administration official Van Jones and those associating with him after his name appeared on a 9-11 Truth petition (Van Jones has stated that he believes Al-Qaida caused the attacks and that he was lied to about the petition, which was "something that I never saw and never signed onto"). Despite Beck's denunciations of 9-11 Truthers and those associated with them, Napolitano is a frequent guest host for his Fox News program.
In September 2007, Alex Jones and his "9-11 was an inside job" followers protested Geraldo Rivera's live Fox News program; Geraldo in-turn told the "anarchist" and "nut job" protestors to "get a life." In May 2007, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin criticized Paul for appearing "on radio shows like 9/11 conspiracy nut Alex Jones." Just last month, FoxNews.com reported that the "government is investigating dozens of death threats to IRS employees" that "were posted in response to an incendiary story on infowars.com, the radical far-right Web site owned by radio host Alex Jones."
Following the announcement that the Security and Exchange Commission is investigating the investment firm Goldman Sachs for fraud, an April 19 FoxNews.com article reported that the "White House...strongly denied any involvement in the timing of the high-profile fraud case against Goldman Sachs," after Republicans and their media acolytes suggested the charges were timed to help pass financial reform. Fox News reported that "Republicans also accused the administration of biting the hand that fed it, since Goldman Sachs was President Obama's top Wall Street contributor during the 2008 campaign, with employees donating nearly $1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics," and went on to quote Rep. John Boehner as asking "just whose side is President Obama on?" Pause for reaction. First of all, the SEC is a non-partisan body that is operating independent of the White House. Secondly, the accusation that the President is "biting the hand that fed it" makes absolutely no sense. Wouldn't the real scandal be if Obama interfered with a SEC investigation because the subject of the investigation was a large campaign contributor of his?
From an April 5 FoxNews.com article:
Possible nominees include Elena Kagan, U.S. solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law School; Judge Diane Wood, on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago; Judge Merrick Garland, with the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
As with the Sotomayor nomination, Obama's new nominee wouldn't be likely to tilt the ideological balance of the court, since Stevens is considered a liberal justice and Obama is highly unlikely to pick a conservative. But the nomination would probably have more of an impact on the operation of the court than last year's did, because Stevens is the leader of the liberal wing.
Stevens, the longest-serving member of the current court, is often credited with bringing moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy to the liberal side for close cases, and it is unlikely his replacement could have that kind of influence.
A March 30 FoxNews.com article advanced global warming skeptic Chris Horner's baseless claim that climate scientists' emails show that the U.K.'s Climatic Research Unit's (CRU) temperature data are inaccurate, and that NASA's, "by its own admission," "are in even worse shape." In fact, there is no evidence in any of the emails that show the data from either organization are wrong.
Via blogger Richard Bartholomew, we've discovered a tale that plays like a weird wingnut version of the telephone game.
Back in January, there was speculation in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt to blow up a plane approaching Detroit on Christmas that Al Qaeda might attempt to implant an explosive called PETN into the breasts or buttocks of would-be suicide bombers. After the UK's Daily Mail did an article on this at the end of January, claiming that an "operation by MI5" had determined that Al Qaeda was working on ways to implement such a plan, WorldNetDaily followed in a Feb. 1 article, credited to WND's $99-a-year G2 Bulletin newsletter, which reported that MI5 had discovered the Muslim doctors trained in U.K. hospitals had begun rigging the implants.
Several weeks later, the British tabloid The Sun rehashed the story, not crediting WND yet purporting to quote WND editor Joseph Farah and describing him as a "terrorist expert." The Sun story came back across the pond and was posted on the Fox News website (both are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.).
Unfortunately for all news organizations involved, the breast-bomb story was apparently just too good to check, so it's no surprise to learn that when the claim is examined, it's more than a tad implausible. As Neal Ungerleider at True/Slant writes:
FoxNews.com is running an article featuring the inflammatory headline, "Veterans Angered By Exclusion of Military Health Benefits From List of OK'd Programs." I have no idea what purpose the article is supposed to serve, other than to advance the assertion made in the article by the VFW that "The president and the Democratic leadership are betraying America's veterans."
Here's the backstory. The Senate health bill that the House passed on Sunday lists as providing "minimum essential coverage" one federal health plan that covers veterans who are on Medicare, but not other TRICARE military and veteran health insurance programs. Some have alleged that this means that members of the military and veterans and their families could be in violation of the bill's individual mandate provision if they keep their current insurance.
However, the chairmen of the relevant committees have stated that while TRICARE coverage is not specifically mentioned in the bill, it "would satisfy the requirements of the bill." Moreover, even if there were a problem, Congress would have an immense amount of time to fix it, as the individual mandate provision doesn't kick in until 2013.
Moreover, as even FoxNews.com acknowledges, last week the House introduced and passed legislation - by a 413-0 vote - making clear that all other TRICARE programs would also be treated as minimal essential coverage. The Senate is not the most functional of bodies, but it seems likely that they will be able to pass that bill and get it to the president before 2013.
So even if it is momentarily true (though again, the chairs of the relevant committees say it isn't) that "Military Health Benefits" are "Exclu[ded]" from the "List of OK'd Programs," it is enormously unlikely that they will remain so.
Nonetheless, the VFW leader Thomas J. Tradewell, Sr. released a statement accusing President Obama and the Democrats of "betraying America's veterans" and engaging in Washington double talk" for seeking to pass health care reform. And Fox runs with the quotes and portrays the issue as one of contention between veterans and the Obama administration.
FoxNews.com posted a "Photo Op-inion: St. Patrick's Day in Washington," which claims to feature "[s]ometimes funny, sometimes serious" images on the news. While posting the images, FoxNews.com writes that "[n]one of the images were created by Fox News."
The following images are from Fox News' slideshow: