After months of championing anti-gay business owners and criticizing efforts to protect gay and lesbian customers from discrimination, Fox News is finally waking up to the consequences of its fear mongering campaign - and it doesn't like what it's seeing.
The Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 left many anti-gay marriage activists reeling. Recognizing that their decade long fight against marriage equality was quickly becoming a lost cause, many anti-gay conservatives turned their attention to an issue that they believed might offer them more traction - the religious liberty of anti-gay business owners.
While opponents of marriage equality have long warned about businesses being forced to serve gay couples, it's only recently that the issue of protecting anti-gay business owners became a rallying cry for social conservatives.
That rallying cry has been largely amplified by Fox News, which in recent months has worked to tout anti-gay business owners as martyrs, victimized by gay activists seeking services for their same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies.
Falsely accusing gay activists of ushering the "death of free enterprise" in America, Fox News has highlighted a number of anti-gay horror stories in which religious business owners have faced penalties for refusing to serve gay customers:
In each of these cases, the business owners were found to have violated their state's non-discrimination laws. And in each of these cases, Fox News depicted the business owners as victims whose religious freedoms were being threatened by being required to serve gay customers.
Continuing his defense of draconian state legislation to allow individuals and businesses to refuse services to gay people on religious grounds, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson suggested that businesses serving gay couples were "aiding and abetting sin."
Erickson continued his criticism of his Fox News colleague Kirsten Powers' recent USA Today column, in which Powers criticized "homosexual Jim Crow laws" currently being debated in several state legislatures. Those laws would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers for religious reasons.
In her column, Powers, an evangelical Christian herself, argued that Christians shouldn't refuse services to people simply because they disagreed with them, noting that many "Christians serve unrepentant murders through prison ministry." Erickson responded by asserting that, unlike prison ministers, businesses that serve gay couples would be "aiding and abetting" sin:
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers and Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued their feud over Kansas' anti-gay segregation bill, with Powers calling Starnes out for "lying" in his criticism of her opposition to the measure.
The feud between Starnes and Powers began on February 19 with a USA Today column in which Powers challenged supporters of a Kansas bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds. "Christians backing this bill," Powers charged, "are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws." Powers' Fox colleagues Starnes and Erick Erickson swiftly criticized the column and defended the Kansas bill as an effort to protect religious liberty.
Starnes reignited the feud with a February 20 tweet alleging that Powers - an evangelical Christian who quoted religious opponents of the Kansas bill in her column -- showed an ignorance of Christianity:
Powers pushed back, accusing Starnes of lying:
Starnes continued to take umbrage at the comparison between Jim Crow laws and "license to discriminate" legislation, charging Powers with "smearing people" who supported the legislation and accusing his critics of "playing the race card":
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers condemned a legislative push in Kansas to legalize religiously-motivated anti-gay business and employment discrimination, contradicting Fox News' pattern of defending anti-gay discrimination and sparking criticism from Powers' Fox News colleagues.
In a column for USA Today published on February 19, Powers blasted a Kansas bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on the owner's religious views. Since its passage by the state House of Representatives on February 12, the bill has been shelved by the Kansas Senate. Powers took issue with supporters of "homosexual Jim Crow laws" using Christianity to justify anti-gay bigotry - a common practice at Fox News (emphasis added):
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it's because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don't interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they'd be out of business. [Evangelical pastor Andy] Stanley said, "Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Maybe they should just ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" I think he'd bake the cake.
Powers' Fox colleague Erick Erickson made clear that he wasn't a fan of her column, tweeting a link to a blog post that criticized her position and called the right to refuse service essential to "the common good." Erickson called the post "your must read of the day":
Fox's Bill O'Reilly downplayed the gravity of the gender pay gap, going so far as to question "the point" of discussing wage disparities between men and women.
On January 9, Maria Shriver and the Center For American Progress released The Shriver Report, a study dedicated to exposing and reducing the gender wage gap by focusing on the drivers of gender-based income inequality. Although women make up approximately half of all workers in the United States, they earn on average only 77 percent of what the average male makes.
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly questioned whether the Shriver Report was "a big deal," asking his two female guests what "the point" is to drawing attention to the gender wage gap other than advocating for the government to "guarantee equal wages." O'Reilly went on to attribute gender wage disparities to differences in education level:
2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers attacked the new health care law for requiring all new insurance plans to cover essential services such as maternity care and mental health care, ignoring the fact that individuals with these conditions are often discriminated against in the insurance market and that requiring coverage for these services will help the economy and reduce economic insecurity.
On the November 12 edition of Special Report, Powers complained that under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance plans are now required to cover benefits such as maternity care and mental health care, despite the fact that an individual might not ever need to use these services:
POWERS: The idea that they think that 50-year-olds should have maternity care is very concerning to me. You know, people are being forced to pay for things that they will not use. It is not for them to tell people -- I don't need to be told I need to have mental health coverage. If I wanted it, I would have gotten it. And I think people are getting a little fed up, even Democrats, with this stuff.
In fact, without the ACA's requirement that essential health benefits be covered by new insurance plans sold on the exchanges, Powers may not have been able to get mental health coverage or maternity care if she wanted it. Individuals who needed those services before the law's passage were routinely discriminated against while trying to obtain necessary health insurance, by being required to pay significantly more for coverage, left unable to get a plan offering specific coverage, or rejected from health insurance all together.
As CNNMoney explained, previously insurance companies were able to keep costs down for many by offering plans without some essential benefits, like maternity care and mental health services, and cherry picking "among applicants to only pick the healthiest ones." The New York Times reported that in 2011, "62 percent of women in the United States covered by private plans that were not obtained through an employer lacked maternity coverage," and a Washington Post columnist explained that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 20 percent of people currently in the individual market have "no coverage for mental-health cases, including outpatient therapy visits and inpatient crisis intervention and stabilization." (Approximately 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health condition per year, and half of all Americans will experience one in their lifetime.) Many individual market insurance plans did not offer these services.
The entire concept behind the Affordable Care Act was to change this, ensuring that all Americans, regardless of their personal finances or current health states, could have access to quality, comprehensive health insurance that covered their needs. The law thus mandates ten essential health benefits -- including maternity care and some mental health services -- that all new insurance plans must include at minimum for every American.
Powers' argument also ignored that requiring insurance companies to cover these essential services in all health plans has significant economic benefits.
From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
Fox contributors Kirsten Powers and Monica Crowley mischaracterized a Texas bill that would have limited reproductive rights by downplaying the restrictive measures in the bill, which would have closed almost all abortion-providing facilities in Texas, and repeatedly invoking convicted criminal Kermit Gosnell.
On the June 26 edition of Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly hosted Monica Crowley and Kirsten Powers -- both Fox News contributors -- to discuss Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a measure that failed to pass after Texas Senate Democrats held a successful filibuster.
During the segment, Powers claimed that concerns from reproductive rights groups were exaggerated, adding: "I don't think that many clinics are going to close." Crowley agreed, saying reproductive health advocates "always try to go right to hyperbole -- that women are going to have to flee to Tijuana because they're not going to have access in Texas to abortion. It's all ridiculous."
Crowley went on to claim that restrictions in SB5 were "completely reasonable" and that they were "a direct response to the horrors of the Gosnell case." She also used the story to revive the disgusting and long-debunked myth that Obama voted as a state senator to support the killing of infants who were born alive.
Because of a restriction in SB5 that would, according to Bloomberg.com, "require abortions to be done in ambulatory surgical centers by doctors with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic," it's estimated that almost 90% of facilities that provide abortions in Texas -- the percent that do not currently meet that high threshold -- could be forced to close. The Washington Post explained how the bill would impact reproductive access by imposing requirements that only five existing centers would meet:
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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As police and federal officials hunt down the suspected Boston marathon bombers, USA Today contributor, Daily Beast columnist, and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers made this absolutely baffling assertion via Twitter: "Just b/c the bombing suspects were Muslim, that doesn't make it 'terrorism' any more than a crazy abortion clinic bomber is a terrorist."
The intent behind this tweet isn't immediately clear, but the message it conveys -- that an anti-abortion zealot who sets off a bomb inside of an abortion clinic is not a terrorist -- is absolutely false. The FBI treats attacks against abortion service providers as acts of terrorism and anti-abortion movements that resort to violence as terrorist groups.
Abortion clinic bombers are terrorists. This shouldn't need clarifying.
UPDATE: After the publication of this post, Powers tweeted the following about abortion clinic bombers:
Conservative media critics have been adamant this week in accusing news organizations of ignoring the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with killing seven babies and a mother. According to the grand jury report, Gosnell was running a "house of horrors" in which he performed illegal late-term abortions by delivering live babies who were then killed by his staff, all under unsafe conditions. Convinced the liberal media is censoring the story because of its alleged support for abortion, critics have been lamenting the lack of coverage and demanding the disturbing local trial be treated as big national news.
On Fox News' Special Report yesterday, contributor Jonah Goldberg complained that "the media is not covering" the story. Fox News employee Kirsten Powers penned a USA Today column criticizing the country's leading newspapers for not putting the Gosnell story on "the front page." (Powers singled out the New York Times and the Washington Post for allegedly downplaying the Philadelphia trial.)
And on Thursday, Rupert Murdoch's flagship American newspaper, The New York Post, weighed in with an unsigned editorial, "Dead Silence," which condemned the supposed "media blackout" surrounding the story.
Like most of the conservative attacks, the Post's editorial saw a clear case of media bias [emphasis added]:
The trial is receiving intensive coverage in Philadelphia and across the conservative press and Web sites. But national networks and newspapers? Not so much.
The reason seems obvious: Much of our press corps skews to one side on abortion. So even though what Gosnell is charged with is closer to infanticide - an unlicensed abortionist profiting mightily by killing the newborn babies of poor, minority women - somehow it's not news.
Isn't that a scandal, too?
Here's the thing: Up until Thursday's editorial condemning the so-called liberal media for not covering the Gosnell trial, the New York Post hadn't covered the Gosnell trial. Not only hadn't the Post put the story on its front page, where Powers demanded it belonged, but Murdoch's Post hadn't covered the story at all*. Meaning, the Post had been part of the media "silence" surrounding the story; the same silence the Post yesterday condemned.
Note that Murdoch's Wall Street Journal also has not covered the Gosnell trial, according a search of the paper's archives, via the Factiva database.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before Congress about the September 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Media Matters reviews the falsehoods conservative media have pushed regarding Clinton and her response to the attack.