"What is the cause of this unrest" in Baltimore?
Fox News' attempt to tackle this question dismissed the role that anger over police brutality played in sparking the protests and riots that broke out following the funeral of Freddie Gray -- a black man who died of severe, unexplained spinal cord injuries obtained while in police custody. Instead, the network blamed the unrest on "parental neglect" and "hip hop culture," among other factors.
The April 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now highlighted growing violence in Baltimore, and host Jon Scott asked network political analyst Juan Williams for his thoughts on what sparked the unrest: "Is there any one cause? Is it a collaboration of poverty and parental neglect?"
Williams blamed "family breakdown" as the "core part" of the Baltimore protests, adding that high unemployment, drug culture, and "dysfunctional behavior" also contributed. Some mistakenly blame frustration over police brutality for the unrest, Williams suggested, arguing that in fact the problem is a society "asking police to do things they're not trained to do":
WILLIAMS: What you have here is a situation where, I think, you have poor people, who feel that they have a grievance -- a difficult situation across our country in terms of how police deal with the dysfunction that is in this neighborhood, but deal with it in every community in America. We are asking our police to go in and to deal with people who are extremely violent, disorganized, families in chaos, and say to the police, you're our front lines. And when the police fail in handling the situation, then we say, it's a matter of police brutality. I think it's a matter of society, often times, asking police to do things they're not trained to do.
Baltimore, of course, has a marked history of police brutality -- As The Baltimore Sun documented in a searing 2014 report:
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
Mistrust of cops in Baltimore has been "long-simmering." A similar riot broke out in the city in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Since then, racial tension and inequity has resulted in "a troubled history between the police force and its residents."
Others like The New York Times trace the "broken relationship" between Baltimore residents and the Baltimore Police Department back to 1980, when the NAACP called for a federal investigation into police brutality. The tensions continued into the past decade "with a crime-fighting strategy known as 'zero-tolerance policing' that led to mass arrests." The Times noted how city leaders have attempted to reform the police department "that has a history of aggressive, sometimes brutal, treatment of black men," a history, "which helps explain the long-simmering anger that boiled over" with the death of Freddie Gray.
After a massive oil tanker derailed in West Virginia, several members of Fox News claimed that the accident demonstrates the need to build the Keystone XL pipeline because it is supposedly "safer" to transport oil by pipeline than by train. However, pipelines spill even more oil than trains, and when a major pipeline spill recently occurred near Keystone XL's proposed route, Fox News barely mentioned the spill and didn't once connect it to legitimate safety concerns about Keystone XL.
Fox News hosts Jon Scott and Heather Nauert suggested that California voters did not know what they were doing when they passed a ballot measure that will reduce criminal penalties and address unconstitutional overcrowding in the state's prisons.
On November 4, Californians voted to pass Proposition 47, known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. As the Huffington Post reported, the measure would downgrade "nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession" to misdemeanors, an act that would lead to about "40,000 fewer felony convictions" and save the state "hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons" annually.
On the November 6 edition of Happening Now, hosts Heather Nauert and Jon Scott hosted a panel that included the author of Proposition 47 to discuss what the legislation would mean for California. Nauert suggested that those who voted for measure may not have known what they were doing. Asking "if the people who voted for that proposition knew what it was really all about," Nauert called its title "misleading" while Scott mused that "you do have to wonder" about it since "everybody wants safe schools and neighborhoods... but do they know what they were really voting for?":
But Fox's assessment of voters' inability to grasp what they were voting for ignores the wide-margin by which the measure passed. Capturing 58 percent of the vote, Proposition 47 proved widely popular with Californians at the ballot box.
Moreover, the new law will bring the California justice system in compliance with its constitutional obligations. In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered California officials to reduce its prison population, which had grown to unconstitutionally high levels after the state enacted a "three-strikes law" in 1994 that forces judges to sentence repeat offenders to prison for life. Writing for the majority, conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy determined that California's prison system resulted in "needless suffering and death" as a result of "serious constitutional violations." Kennedy continued:
Overcrowding has overtaken the limited resources of prison staff; imposed demands well beyond the capacity of medical and mental health facilities; and created unsanitary and unsafe conditions that make progress in the provision of care difficult or impossible to achieve. The overcrowding is the "primary cause of the violation of a Federal right," specifically the severe and unlawful mistreatment of prisoners through grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care.
California lawmakers were still struggling to address "severe overcrowding" in the state's prison system earlier this year, but Proposition 47 is one step towards getting the state in line with the Supreme Court's order while still ensuring that violent offenders remain in prison.
Nauert and Scott's comments are just the latest Fox attack on voters. The network has previously suggested that young women shouldn't vote, that young people should stay away from polls "if they don't know the issues," and that Americans should have to pass citizenship tests before gaining the right to vote.
Fox News turned to misleading statistics and sensational rhetoric in a renewed attack on government anti-poverty relief programs, federal workers, and public pensions.
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott invited Fox Business contributor Charles Gasparino to discuss concerns regarding the scope and sustainability of government benefit programs. The two falsely portrayed government employment as a "growth industry" and made a confusing comparison between the total number of Americans receiving so-called "welfare" and the population of Russia. Gasparino lamented that more "stigma" is not attached to receiving federal aid or "living in a housing project," before falsely concluding that public pensions face a "huge looming crisis" and are, in essence, "Ponzi schemes":
GASPARINO: I don't think Americans are against handing people a check if they really need it, if they're starving, if they need welfare, if they need a helping hand. But we have a cultural situation in this country where it is more than that, where it is almost acceptable. The stigma is gone about accepting that check.
GASPARINO: We've become the old Soviet Union! If you threw in the state numbers, it would even be bigger. The pension issue that I brought up is one of the huge looming crisis out there. It's essentially a Ponzi scheme.
Scott's initial claim that "nearly 110 million Americans live in households on welfare," is misleading. According to the United States Census Bureau, in the fourth quarter of 2012 roughly 109.6 million Americans resided in a household receiving "one or more means-tested programs." These include housing assistance, disability and survivor benefits, numerous nutritional assistance programs, Medicaid, and forms of "cash assistance." Only 5.4 million individuals lived in homes receiving from the benefit program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as "welfare."
The portrayal of government employment as a "growth industry" is also false. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, total government employment across local, state, and federal agencies has declined significantly during the Obama administration and over the past seven years. Total government employment was roughly 22.6 million when President Obama took office in 2009, declining to 21.9 million today:
Gasparino's final claim that public employee pensions are "a Ponzi scheme," is incorrect. A February 2011 report by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) demonstrated that most of the long-term funding shortfall in public pensions is a result of the 2007-2009 economic crisis and the accompanying stock market downturn. Baker concluded that the debate on pensions had been "seriously misrepresented" and that most public pensions appeared "easily manageable" over the long term.
Fox News and Gasparino have a long history of misappropriating terms like "welfare" and relying on sensational comparisons of pensions to "Ponzi schemes," in addition to unsubstantiated correlations between the number of recipients of a government program with completely unrelated population statistics.
From the June 30 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theory that the timing of Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture was "curious" by pretending the speculation originated outside the network.
Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Immediately, Fox anchors questioned the "curious timing" of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help President Obama in the polls or to give Hillary Clinton a good headline for an upcoming Fox News interview. After the breaking report on Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott pointed out that Khattala had given media interviews before his capture, and said the "obvious question" is "why now?" Minutes later on Outnumbered, the hosts called the arrest "too neat" and "too cute," speculating that it was timed to be "a great thing to announce" during Clinton's Fox interview.
On June 18, Fox hosts concealed that the speculation of "curious timing" began on their own network, noting that "some" people had made serious claims that the timing looked suspicious without identifying the origin. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy spouted:
It was yesterday that it was announced that we finally went in and got him. And to some, they said, 'Now isn't that curious timing? The same day that Hillary Clinton is showing up on Fox News, they are able to announce we got the bad guy.'
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.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the May 6 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Mainstream media distorted Ret. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell's Benghazi testimony to the House Oversight Committee, seizing on a partial remark that "we should have tried" to rescue the victims and ignoring the fact that Lovell later explained that he did not mean the military response was insufficient.
On national Equal Pay Day, Fox News ignored President Obama's signing ceremony for new executive orders aimed to address the problem.
On April 8, President Obama signed into law two new executive orders to help alleviate the pay gap between men and women hired by federal contractors. The president hosted a ceremony at the White House featuring equal pay pioneer Lily Ledbetter.
Unlike MSNBC and CNN, however, Fox declined to air the ceremony. Happening Now co-host Jon Scott directed viewers to Foxnews.com for coverage of the ceremony after he depicted it as merely political, "the Democrats think it is a political winning issue for them, that is why they are touting it right now." Fox ran a segment that reported on House Republicans' plans to "fix" Obamacare during the event:
Fox's refusal to air the President's speech comes as the network continues to dismiss the issue. Fox hosts and contributors have repeatedly claimed that the pay gap between men and women either does not exist or is not particularly significant.
From the March 24 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Jon Scott dismissed President Obama's efforts to raise the minimum wage and strengthen overtime pay protections for millions of workers as a distraction from the economy -- an unusual sentiment, given that experts believe both measures would have a stimulative effect on the economy.
On March 13, President Obama used his executive authority to direct the Labor Department to change standards in order to increase the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. From The New York Times:
Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars' worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama's directive would significantly increase that salary level.
In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee's primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.
On the March 13 edition of Fox's Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott questioned whether raising the minimum wage would be "sufficient to distract people from the jobs and the economy and maybe Obamacare." In a later discussion with Washington Times columnist Charlie Hurt, Scott derided President Obama's plans to strengthen overtime pay protections as a "political tactic" meant to "score political points." Hurt agreed, and concluded that, like raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime pay rules "doesn't really help the economy in any great way":
From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the March 3 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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