The conservative media's meltdown over a Nebraska school district's effort to train teachers about gender diversity demonstrates how conservative misinformation threatens even basic efforts to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.
In late September, administrators from the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district in Nebraska began providing teachers with informational materials aimed at better equipping them to accommodate and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included handouts from the group Gender Spectrum, which works to help develop "a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens."
One of those handouts, "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness," listed recommendations to help teachers make their classrooms more gender-inclusive, including asking teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid the use of gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen." Instead, Gender Spectrum recommended teachers use terms like "readers," "campers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
The school district's distribution of Gender Spectrum's materials sparked controversy when the conservative group Nebraska Watchdog published a report on the handout on October 2. The report was picked up by National Review Online and The Daily Caller before eventually making the jump to Fox News. The network ran multiple segments falsely accusing LPS of "banning" terms like "boys and girls" as part of a "political agenda."
In an interview with Equality Matters, Gender Spectrum's Director of Education Joel Baum criticized the "disingenuous" reporting on his organization's training materials. "They're sharing information about work that's occurring in a school and not being accurate about ... the overall purpose of the work," he said. "[B]y taking various things out of context - like "purple penguins" - they completely trivialize something that's really, really important and misrepresent our work."
Fox's misleading coverage of Gender Spectrum's handouts eventually prompted LPS Superintendent Steve Joel to call a press conference to dispel the network's misinformation. Joel criticized conservative media outlets for peddling falsehoods about the educational materials, calling it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school was forced to waste time and resources responding to calls and questions about the handouts.
After spending much of 2009 complaining that President Obama's appointment of "czars" was akin to the crowning of monarchs and Russian practices, Fox & Friends is now calling for the appointment of an Ebola Virus czar.
Fox host Steve Doocy responded to news of the first Ebola diagnosis contracted within the U.S. by calling for an "official Ebola czar" on the October 13 edition of Fox & Friends, echoing the demand of Republican Sen. John McCain. According to Doocy, "We probably need one" because Obama isn't doing enough to fight the virus:
DOOCY: So every time there's an incident like this, you see Thomas Frieden, the guy who heads up CDC, but is he the official -- there he is right there -- Is he the official Ebola czar? We probably need one, because the president isn't, you know, he's not --
KILMEADE: Sen. McCaul is calling for one.
DOOCY: Absolutely. So with all this bad news --
KILMEADE: Congressman McCaul.
DOOCY: Where was the President of the United States over the weekend? Right after he talked to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he went golfing.
But the Fox program has a long history of mocking previous Obama administration czars.
In 2009, then-host Gretchen Carlson mocked the term and alleged, "You know when I looked up 'czar' in the dictionary, or Googled it, the word that came up was 'king.' And I was wondering to myself, why we are having so many czars/kings now in America?" Doocy added, "When you think about it, 'czar' is a Russian word." Fox then aired an altered graphic of Obama's cabinet members in Russian czar attire displaying the question, "And Now We're Russia?" Doocy went on to compare administration cabinet members to Russian monarchs:
The same year, Carlson asked whether czars in the Obama administration were "just friends of Obama who need work or payback a favor?", while Kilmeade previously questioned whether the appointment of a czar was evidence "of a new culture of corruption."
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson criticized a Nebraska school district's efforts to accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students, accusing the district of pushing a "political agenda" while downplaying the problem of gender-based harassment and bullying in schools.
The Lincoln Public Schools district in Nebraska has been targeted by conservative media outlets following a report that teachers had been given educational materials with recommendations for better accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students. Those materials included a handout encouraging teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered expressions like "ladies and gentlemen" to refer to students. Instead the handout suggested teachers could use gender-neutral phrases like "readers," "campers," or nicknames like "purple penguins."
During the October 9 edition of The Real Story, Carlson invited Fox News contributors Alan Colmes and Tony Sayegh to criticize the school district, falsely accusing the school district of "banning" gendered language:
CARLSON: Don't kids have enough to worry about right now? Now we're going to confuse them even more - right before puberty, by the way - to not call each other what the majority of the population really is, and that would be boys and girls. Once again, this is pandering to outrageous over correction of a society addicted to making sure we take care of the .001 of the population instead of the masses. I want to be very clear: I am not against transgender people or transgender kids in any way, but to make an entire population start calling each other "purple penguins" because maybe one child in the entire school system will turn out to be transgender is crazy.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee is claiming the American public should distrust statements made by President Obama and the federal government about the spread of Ebola because they have purportedly lied about the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
During the October 4 broadcast of Huckabee, the former Arkansas Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that "the Ebola scare goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?" After Huckabee's audience responded no, Huckabee replied: "And why would you? I mean remember these?" He then played clips of Obama talking about health care, the IRS, and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's Sunday show comments about Benghazi. Huckabee contrasted the remarks with Obama's September 16 statement it was unlikely someone with Ebola would reach America but "we've taken new measures so that we're prepared here at home."
Huckabee concluded his Fox commentary by claiming he's "feeling a little sick myself. But it's not Ebola. I'm just sick of a government that I'm paying for telling me not to worry and just trust them. I wish I could, but if they repeatedly lie to me I just don't believe them anymore."
Huckabee made similar remarks during his Huckabee Report radio commentary this morning. He said that "if people don't trust our leaders, the people aren't to blame. We were told we could keep our doctors and insurance and pay $2,500 less. That Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video ... trust is something you gotta earn and once squandered, it's hard to get back."
The October 6 Cumulus Media Networks segment:
Fox News has been obsessed with Benghazi, as the network aired over 1,000 weekday evening segments in the first 20 months after the attacks. The Fox obsession has caused its personalities to repeatedly link Benghazi to unrelated matters like the NFL's domestic violence problems, a White House security breach, and missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, among others.
The conservative media have also rushed to politicize the presence of the Ebola virus in the United States with attacks on Obama.
UPDATE: Another Fox host has pointed to Benghazi as a reason to be distrustful of the government's handling of Ebola. During the October 6 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson wondered if we can "trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola" when its "track record" includes Benghazi:
CARLSON: Time now for my take. So, should we trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola? With the government's recent track record not being so hot, well, we learned we couldn't trust the IRS, after the targeting of conservative groups. The Secret Service, after an armed man made his way into the White House. The VA, after reports men and women who served this country died waiting to get health care. We couldn't trust the promise that Obamacare that we could keep our doctors that we wanted. And do we trust that we know all the answers yet about Benghazi? What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn't that they're necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they're scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task. So if Ebola becomes a bigger issue the question still remains, will we be safe?
On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson was surprised to find out that President Obama called out Fox News' Obamacare coverage during a speech. Carlson asked reporter Ed Henry "Why? My question to you, Mr. Henry, is why would he do this?"
President Obama delivered a speech on the economy at Northwestern University today, during which he brought up the Republican party's inability to focus their campaigns on attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pointing out that contrary to Fox News' coverage, the health care law is working well:
So I laid out what I know has happened over the six years of my presidency so far, and I've laid out an agenda for what I think should happen to make us grow even better, grow even faster. A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.
There's a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits -- it's because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace, and they're now manageable. There's a reason fewer Republicans you hear them running about Obamacare -- because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News -- (laughter) -- it's turns out it's working pretty well in the real world.
Carlson was confused as to why the president called out Fox News, but perhaps the reason is that just last week the network revived the debunked death panel myth amid news that Obamacare was working. As Vox reported, although the health care law is working "in the real world," in conservative media it's a disaster:
[C]osts are lower than expected, enrollment is higher than expected, the number of insurers participating in the exchanges is increasing, and more states are joining the Medicaid expansion. Millions of people have insurance who didn't have it before. The law is working. But a lot of the people who are convinced Obamacare is a disaster will never know that, because the voices they trust will never tell them.
This post has been updated for accuracy.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson urged President Obama to follow "precedent" set by President George W. Bush and release 18 months of daily intelligence briefings to prove what his administration knew about the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) -- despite the fact that Bush released only one intelligence briefing after years of pressure.
Fox has fixated on Obama's Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB) amid ongoing U.S. air strikes against the Islamic State, reviving long debunked claims that the president skipped his scheduled briefings and thus missed intelligence on the terror group. The October 1 edition of The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson took a similar route, as Carlson and network anchor Bret Baier discussed a recent call by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for Obama to release 18 months of his PDB in order to prove when he first learned of the Islamic State from the intelligence community. According to Carlson, "President Bush did do it, so there is precedent for this," and the pair speculated about the chances of Obama doing the same now. Baier predicted that it was "not likely," adding, "There is a precedent here, in that, the last time we dealt with a big intelligence question prior to 9/11, the 9/11 Commission met with President Bush and President Bush did come forward with the Presidential Daily Briefs."
Though idealized by Carlson and Baier, Bush's "precedent" on releasing PDBs is not one of disclosure.
Under pressure from the 9/11 Commission, the Bush administration fought the release of PDBs for two years. Ultimately, they released only one, titled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US," years after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. From The New York Times:
On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief -- and only that daily brief -- in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document's significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda's history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.
That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration's reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.
Fox News continued to hype reports of an imminent Islamic State terrorist plot against U.S. and Parisian public transportation hours after the U.S. intelligence community discredited the rumor as "total bunk."
News broke on September 25 that Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had informed reporters at the United Nations of "accurate reports from Baghdad" detailing a terrorist plot by the group calling themselves the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in advanced stages against subways in the U.S. and Paris, France.
The prime minister's remarks quickly spread across American media, but by early afternoon, U.S. intelligence officials had roundly discredited the rumor. As NBC News reported, "Virtually every major U.S. law enforcement agency and intelligence agency said they had no evidence of any such plot. The report is viewed as 'total bunk,' according to a senior intelligence official."
CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto tweeted:
Yet over an hour later, Fox News continued to hype fears over the discredited plot. On The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson repeated the Iraqi prime minister's warning despite noting that an Obama administration official had not confirmed the report, cautioning, "Apparently the plot has not been thwarted."
Rather than acknowledging the fact that multiple U.S. intelligence agencies had discredited reports of the plot, Carlson simply said, "The other threat we heard about today from the Iraqi prime minister, which, by the way, the FBI says this administration doesn't know anything about it, but the word was that the attacks could be imminent on our subway systems here and in Paris."
Fox News misleadingly attacked the federal food stamp program for being wasteful and unaccountable despite reports that the program achieved the lowest payment error rate in its history in the most recently available data.
Fox New complained about the findings of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on quality control in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. The USDA report clearly states that the 2012 fiscal year was "another year of excellent performance in payment accuracy" before noting that the most recent payment error rate of 3.42 percent was once again "the lowest National payment error rate in the history of SNAP."
On the July 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cast the findings in a negative light, stressing that "the government is overpaying on food stamps by about $2 billion." Co-host Steve Doocy then questioned whether the Obama administration could "be trusted with more money," given the overpayments. Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney went on to chastise the Department of Agriculture for labeling the food-stamp payment error rate of 3.42 percent "excellent," wondering aloud "since when has that been good?"
Fox News' mischaracterization of the SNAP report continued throughout the day. On Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee called the USDA report "startling" and said that "the administration is having a tough time managing its funds." On The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson claimed that federal spending on nutrition assistance was "reaching a breaking point" before highlighting the growth of participation in the food stamp program since 2007.
Far from indicating a managerial flaw in the Obama administration, the 2012 payment error rate in SNAP is evidence of success in rooting out improper payments. According to the report being derided on Fox News, the national payment error rate in SNAP during President Obama's first year in office was 4.36 percent. That error rate then fell to 3.81, 3.80, and 3.42 percent in fiscal years 2010-2012, respectively.
A Texas charity has abandoned a plan to help house child migrants after conservative media outlets used misleading images to suggest displaced children would be living there in luxury conditions. In fact, the same charity operates other no-frills facilities and had planned to convert a hotel in a similar style.
Conservative media have promoted multiple conspiracy theories connected to the humanitarian migration crisis, including the accusation that President Obama "planned" the recent surge of child migrants across the border for political reasons, that migrant children are infecting Americans with rare diseases, and that Obama is allowing violent gang members to cross the border.
Right-wing and even mainstream media have eagerly pushed the suggestion that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is "Obama's Katrina" -- an inane comparison that repeatedly surfaces inside the conservative media echo chamber.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson baselessly accused the IRS of knowingly canceling a contract with email archiving company Sonasoft in order to hide emails connected to the alleged targeting of tax exempt organizations. But Sonasoft itself debunked these allegations after it revealed that the IRS never had a contract for its email archiving software.
On the June 27 edition of The Real Story, during a discussion on the IRS' lost emails with Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton, Carlson referenced a story from Power Line blog speculating on the purportedly suspicious timing of the IRS' cancellation of the Sonasoft contract. Carlson alleged that the IRS canceled Sonasoft's contract because "they knew Sonasoft would then delete those emails."
But I want to switch gears just for a minute with regard to this back up system, this Sonasoft company that the IRS cancelled their account with. Because I know that you believe that the timing seems somewhat suspicious, number one. But could there be a deeper meaning as to why that was cancelled at that particular time because, you know, other people are suspecting right now that quite deliberately they cancelled that account because they knew that Sonasoft would then delete those emails.
Carlson didn't offer any concrete evidence to support her claims that the IRS cancelled its contract with Sonasoft to hide IRS emails. In fact, Sonasoft never had access to any IRS emails.
Fox News responded to News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch's pro-immigration reform op-ed by hosting the head of an anti-immigrant hate group to argue against his position on immigration reform.
In a June 18 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch, CEO of Fox News's parent company News Corp, endorsed comprehensive immigration reform, arguing that "[i]mmigrants enrich our culture and add to our economic prosperity:"
People are looking for leadership--those who stand for something and offer a vision for how to take America forward and keep our nation economically competitive. One of the most immediate ways to revitalize our economy is by passing immigration reform.
I chose to come to America and become a citizen because America was--and remains--the most free and entrepreneurial nation in the world. Our history is defined by people whose character and culture have been shaped by ambition, imagination and hard work, bound together by a dream of a better life.
Later that day, Fox invited Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) to respond to Murdoch's op-ed on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. During the show, host Carlson moderated a debate between Stein and immigration attorney Francisco Hernandez where Stein accused the Obama administration of "openly sabotaging" immigration law enforcement because Obama doesn't believe anyone ought to go home.
Fox News personalities are questioning the timing of the Obama administration's capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, ignoring the complicated logistics involved in carrying out the dangerous apprehension in an unstable foreign country.
After endlessly politicizing the Benghazi terror attack for the past 20 months, Fox News is doing an about face, accusing Hillary Clinton of politicizing the issue after she called out the media and politicians for exploiting the tragedy.
On May 30, Politico released an excerpt from Hillary Clinton's forthcoming book, in which the former-secretary of state wrote that she refuses to "be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans" and denounces using Benghazi as a "political tool." Clinton also described the "regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation, and flat-out deceit by some in politics and the media" that has contributed to the politicization of the crisis.
The excerpt provoked the ire of Fox News, which has led the charge in politicizing the Benghazi attacks. In particular, the network has leveraged the Benghazi attacks in a transparent attempt to smear Clinton's credibility and tarnish her image in expectation of a 2016 presidential bid. But rather than address Clinton's attempt to call out media misinformation, Fox simply flipped the script, accusing Clinton of politicizing the tragedy.
On the May 30 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Sandra Smith claimed that Clinton is "politicizing the issue in this book by pointing fingers at Republicans for trying to politicize it." Later that day, The Real Story host Gretchen Carlson wondered if Clinton's remarks on coverage of Benghazi in her book were merely a way to "turn the tables on the people who are asking the questions as politicizing it." Fox regular Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff followed suit on June 2, accusing Clinton of "turning this into a political bandwagon," and trying to "make it look like anybody who wants answers is a politician":
Fox News has pushed reset on many of its favorite Benghazi myths that have already been put to rest in the wake of the recently released Rhodes email and the House GOP's announcement of the formation of a Select Committee to investigate the attacks.