From the July 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Conservative media dismissed the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which granted closely-held corporations the right to deny employees contraceptive coverage through their employer's health plans if they believe the contraceptives conflict with their religious beliefs, claiming that women still have access to contraception because a generic form of birth control is available at drug stores for low cost.
Fox News is minimizing the radical nature of the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby, framing it as narrowly-tailored and claiming that the federal government "will end up paying" for the four contraceptives that the chain store objected to. However, Fox is ignoring the fact that companies are challenging all 20 contraceptives covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and that one way the conservative majority suggested the government could bridge the gap in coverage -- providing the same opt-out accommodation to for-profits that it provides to religiously-affiliated non-profits -- is already being challenged in the lower courts.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, holding that for-profit, secular corporations are exempt from a provision in the ACA that requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover comprehensive preventive health services, including contraception. The religious owners of Hobby Lobby objected to providing coverage for certain forms of birth control, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, because they erroneously believe that these medications cause abortions. For the all-male conservative majority on the Court, it was enough that the owners "sincerely believed" this scientifically inaccurate information.
Right-wing media immediately celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision, which adopted many of their favorite myths about religious freedom and contraception. Fox News in particular was supportive of the Court's supposedly "narrow ruling," with contributor Laura Ingraham claiming that women who worked at companies "like Hobby Lobby" who were upset about the decision were overreacting and "had really bad cases of the vapors over this case." A panel discussion on the June 30 edition of Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren also downplayed the significance of the case, with Weekly Standard senior writer Stephen Hayes stating that he didn't think the case would "have a huge impact" because "the Court very carefully narrowed this case to apply basically to the facts presented." A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, agreed with Hayes and claimed that the case was "narrowly-tailored," arguing that "the government will end up paying for these [forms of contraception] anyway." Fox News host Megyn Kelly went the furthest on The O'Reilly Factor, claiming reproductive rights advocate Sandra Fluke -- who warned the decision could apply to all contraception -- "doesn't know what she is talking about."
At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
From the June 28 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Conservative talk radio hosts lashed out at Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran for beating his tea party primary challenger, Chris McDaniel, with the help of votes from blacks and Democrats.
Right-wing media have dishonestly portrayed recent reports of children fleeing across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence in Central America, even portraying the immigrants as dangerous disease-carriers, terrorists, and cartel members.
Out-going House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham's recent attacks on him "not a serious contribution to any public policy" and added that Ingraham's recent commentary, which included suggesting he be traded to the Taliban, "cheapens the debate."
On June 10, Cantor was defeated in a primary election by tea party Republican candidate David Brat. The surprising outcome was cheered by Ingraham and other conservative talk radio hosts who had backed Brat and attacked Cantor over his position on immigration reform.
In the lead up to Election Day, Ingraham -- also a contributor for Fox News and ABC News -- repeatedly touted Brat, urging listeners to vote for him and even appearing at Brat's campaign rallies. At one rally, Ingraham said she wished President Obama would have traded Cantor to Afghani militants instead of the five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay who were exchanged for captive soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
Cantor responded to Ingraham's Bergdahl dig on the June 15 edition of ABC's This Week, stating, "I would say that the suggestion that I should have been traded to the Taliban for Sergeant Bergdahl really is not a serious contribution to any public policy debate, and frankly I don't think that it reflects on the people who self-identify as tea partiers. I think they reject that kind of notion, and it's just not serious, and frankly it cheapens the debate."
From the June 13 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Just days after Rep. Eric Cantor was ousted in a Republican primary, right-wing media are outraged at the ideological credentials of his likely replacement as House majority leader. Conservatives are calling Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) "dimwitted," "pro-amnesty," and "just another in a long line of big spenders who thinks the Democrats in charge of government are the problem, not government itself."
The Washington Post reported that McCarthy is the "overwhelming front-runner" to be the majority leader after he "appeared to have consolidated ranks in almost every corner of the House GOP caucus and seemed well positioned to win next week's snap election to succeed Rep. Eric Cantor." The Los Angeles Times similarly reported McCarthy "is all but assured of becoming the next House majority leader."
Cantor has endorsed his "dear friend" McCarthy, stating: "He'd make an outstanding majority leader, and I will be backing him with my full support."
But the prospect of McCarthy replacing Cantor has drawn strong condemnation from conservative pundits, including radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, who campaigned against Cantor.
Sean Hannity appears to be hoping for a repeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat, using his considerable influence as a conservative talk show host to promote extreme right-wing candidate Chris McDaniel in a runoff election for the GOP's U.S. Senate ballot slot in Mississippi.
Hannity linked McDaniel's race to that of Virginia's 7th congressional district, which ended June 10 in a surprise victory for conservative outsider Dave Brat. In Mississippi, neither Sen. Thad Cochran nor his opponent McDaniel received more than 50 percent of the vote in the state's June 3 primary, forcing a runoff on June 24.
Conservative talk radio's influence was undeniable in Brat's defeat of Cantor -- radio hosts like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and Glenn Beck devoted a significant amount of time to promoting Brat and took credit for his surprise win. On the June 11 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity continued the trend, playing a full campaign ad for Chris McDaniel and hosting the candidate himself. Hannity referenced Cantor's defeat several times and praised McDaniel, who he previously endorsed, as a "solid conservative":
HANNITY: After last night's political earthquake a lot of people saying -- remember some have been predicting the tea party is dead, even though there had been a lot of success actually this election year.
HANNITY: I have always been very, very reluctant to endorse in primaries. Very reluctant. And I decided to get into this race and support Chris McDaniel because I see him as a solid conservative.
Right-wing media ignored immigration experts and blamed President Obama's immigration polices for the recent influx of unaccompanied children apprehended illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In reality, experts cite increased violence in Central America as the driving factor.
Right-wing media are using House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) loss to tea party challenger and anti-immigration advocate Dave Brat in a Republican primary to argue that the outcome was a referendum on immigration reform. In fact, a majority of American voters -- including Republicans in Cantor and Brat's Virginia district -- support immigration reform.
Conservative talk-radio hosts like Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham devoted considerable time touting Republican anti-immigration congressional candidate David Brat, and they took credit for his surprise victory over Rep. Eric Cantor during the Virginia primary election.
Brat's candidacy was most vocally championed by conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham. Ingraham led the charge against Cantor with a sustained effort to put Brat into office. Holding true to her extreme anti-immigration stance, Ingraham applauded Brat and his "consistent, principled stance against Amnesty," attending multiple rallies for the candidate and even posting a "Vote Brat, Stop Amnesty" election day reminder in order to get out the vote.
However, after Brat's victory, Ingraham was quick to point out that she didn't do it alone. On a June 11 appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, she praised her fellow conservatives, including Mark Levin, for being "the only people covering this race" (emphasis added):
INGRAHAM: This is being branded as a tea party victory. That's not quite accurate, and Brat addressed this last night. Not one major tea party organization came out and endorsed Brat. Supported Brat in any meaningful way. We had a difficult time getting the tea party groups and Brat connected. They bascially told him, 'you don't have a chance,' they wrote him off.
And there were a few people -- myself, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus, Breitbart News, The Daily Caller -- they were pretty much the only people covering this race. I said this yesterday on Fox & Friends. We had 625 people hanging off the balcony of Eric Cantor's own country club last Tuesday night and there was no major media there except for Breitbart News and a little reporter from the local NBC. That's it.
Mark Levin hosted David Brat four times since April to discuss both his campaign and Eric Cantor's stances on immigration policy, of which Levin has long been a vocal critic. During a May 29 interview on Levin's show, Brat received the host's full-throttle endorsement. Levin encouraged his audience to visit the candidate's website adding, "in my humble opinion if you have a few bucks, give the guy some help because he needs it and he would be a great member of Congress." Levin also supported Brat on his social media platforms:
On June 9, the day before the election, Levin again hosted Brat on his show, telling him that "I'm all for you, I want you to win" during and allowing him to thoroughly explain his platform to listeners.
Ingraham and Levin's support propelled Brat further into the conservative media sphere as Brat gained momentum in the run up to Tuesday's primary. A day before the election, Brat appeared on the The Glenn Beck Radio Program. Beck began his interview with Brat by noting that a variety of conservative media figures supported his cause, saying, "Doc Thompson, Laura Ingraham, Pat & Stu have talked to him and are big fans."
Cantor's defeat was especially stunning after his campaign raised more than $5.4 million dollars, a number that towered over the meager $123,000 that Brat's campaign spent. However, what little Brat did spend came in part from the support of those driven by conservative radio's urging. As the Washington Post wrote in a June 11 article, the talk-radio hosts were responsible for driving many donations to the Brat campaign:
Brat was boosted for months by conservative talk-radio hosts, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, who touted him as a contender to their listeners and drove small-dollar donations into Brat's coffers.
Now that the Brat's win is clear, conservatives have wasted no time patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Fox News quickly quickly moved to credit conservative radio, with contributor Brit Hume claiming that ""There are parts of this country where if Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin are on the radio supporting you, that's worth a lot" during an appearance on the June 11 edition of The Kelly File. Levin later appeared himself on Hannity to complete the victory lap.
One of the biggest upsets in American politics was powered by right-wing media, according to analysis of last night's defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Minority Leader, who fell to an obscure Tea Party-backed candidate. Cantor's campaign spent nearly as much on drinks and dinners at steak houses as David Brat did on his entire primary push. Yet Brat easily defeated the seven-term Republican leader.
"The seeds for Brat's upset were sown on right-wing radio talk shows, particularly Laura Ingraham's," CNN's Brian Stelter reported. On Fox News last night, radio host and Brat booster Mark Levin celebrated the Virginia "ass-kicking." (During the same appearance, Levin urged Republicans to "stop chasing genitalia" in order to win elections.)
"There are parts of this country where if Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin are on the radio supporting you, that's worth a lot," Fox's Brit Hume noted. "In the right place, with the right constituency, those people hold real power."
Real power, indeed.
For years, that power was mostly directed at Democrats, and specifically at President Obama as talk radio and the larger right-wing media Noise Machine has worked tirelessly to demonize its opponents via nasty and often dishonest, illogical attacks.
After John McCain's dispiriting loss to Barack Obama in 2008, damaged leaders of the Republican establishment slowly shuffled off the national stage. And into that vacuum rushed Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Rush-I-Hope-He-Fails-Limbaugh, and other players from the right-wing media lineup. They took over the messaging for the Republican Party, the attacks on the new president, and helped power the surging Tea Party movement in America.
Teaming up with the GOP and its unprecedented plan to obstruct a president who won an electoral landslide victories, the Noise Machine provided the mass media muscle and set out to portray Obama as nothing more than a suspicious, foreign, anti-capitalist socialist who distrusted America and wanted to take away citizens' guns. He was also condemned as a "racist" who displayed a "deep-seated hatred for white people."
The Republican Party, by and large, was happy to watch as the right-wing media took control of the GOP's communications apparatus, which allowed the right-wing media to take control of the GOP's public messaging. And when they were demonizing Obama and the Democratic Party, Republicans likely marveled at their good fortune of having millions of dollars in free media at their disposal each week to launch misinformation campaigns against the White House.
And for Cantor personally, the Noise Machine was a godsend. With no apparent interest in governing, legislating, or in public policy, Cantor's professional goal appeared to be to obstruct the White House at all costs, and to make Obama look bad at every turn. And for that, he had perfect media partners.
But then Cantor became the target.