Fox News is providing ample, uncritical airtime to hype Representative Paul Ryan's (R-WI) report on the alleged ineffectiveness of government anti-poverty programs, despite condemnation from numerous economists that the report is misleading and inaccurate.
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.
Fox News host and Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson championed an Arizona measure that would allow businesses and individuals refuse services to gay people on religious grounds as a bulwark against "fascism."
Appearing on the February 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Carlson told co-host Martha MacCallum that the bill simply promotes "tolerance." The measure, which awaits Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, is opposed by numerous business owners and conservatives, including Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain (R-AZ), 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and three GOP state senators who originally backed the bill. Carlson wasn't swayed by such critics, twice charging that it's "fascism" to require individuals and business owners to provide equal services to gay people:
CARLSON: Well it's pretty simple. I mean, if you want to have a gay wedding, fine, go ahead. If I don't want to bake you a cake for your gay wedding, that's okay too. Or should be. That's called tolerance. But when you try and force me to bake a cake for your gay wedding and threaten me with prison if I don't, that's called fascism.
After months of championing anti-gay business owners who refuse service to gay customers because of their religious beliefs, Fox News condemned a proposed Arizona law that would protect businesses that discriminate against gay customers, comparing the measure to "Jim Crow laws."
During the February 25 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum invited Fox News contributor Juan Williams and The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros to discuss Arizona's controversial new anti-gay segregation law, SB 1062 which would protect businesses that refuse to serve gay customers on religious grounds. The measure, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, has been condemned by a growing number of conservatives and business owners, including three Republicans senators who regret voting for the bill.
MacCallum, Williams, and Tantaros all condemned the measure, with MacCallum and Tantaros both drawing comparisons between the bill and racist "Jim Crow laws":
TANTAROS: What has happened, Martha, is this has spiraled totally out of control. And so, while the First Amendment is a really strong argument, I don't know why you would want to bring Jim Crow laws back to the forefront for homosexuals.
MACCALLUM: I mean, that's exactly what it sounds like.
TANTAROS: If you're a business owner, I don't know why you'd want to turn business away. And if you're gay, let's say, why would you want the baker of hate baking your cake anyway? Unfortunately, it has taken a really crazy turn and gotten way out of hand. And as Juan mentioned, a number of Republicans, three of them who voted to pass this said that they would change their mind.
MACCALLUM: It sounds like the lunch counter, Juan.
Fox seized on Vice President Joe Biden's acknowledgement that health care enrollments under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might not reach the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) original estimate of 7 million people, distorting his comments as an admission of failure by the Obama administration. But Biden's remarks merely echoed the CBO's new estimate of health care enrollment, a number that was neither set by the administration nor necessary for the success of the health care law's exchanges.
During an unannounced stop at a coffee house in Washington D.C. on February 19, Biden explained that health care enrollment numbers "may not get to seven million, we may get to five or six, but that's a hell of a start."
On the February 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum described Biden's comments as "a new admission on Obamacare -- Vice President Joe Biden conceding yesterday that the administration may not reach the sign-up goal that they set for themselves."
Two unsubstantiated claims from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong about his company's cuts to retirement plans elicited two very different reactions from one Fox News segment.
Last week, AOL's chief executive officer Tim Armstrong announced that the company was paring down retirement benefits because of the high costs of two employees' "distressed babies" and the increased costs of health care resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). Armstrong later apologized for the statement about the two employees and the company restored the cuts to 401(k) plans.
Discussing the story on Fox's America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum performed a rhetorical dance that led an ostensibly critical segment of Armstrong's comments into a fact-free attack on the ACA and a defense of corporate scapegoating.
MacCallum prefaced the segment by noting that, insofar as Armstrong was blaming any babies for cuts to employees' retirement, she felt that the comments were "unfortunate." But then she spring-boarded into her main focus: AOL wouldn't have to do these things if there wasn't a war on business spearheaded by Obamacare. According to MacCallum, AOL's decision to cut 401(k)s "does reflect a reality, an underlying reality, that a lot of companies are facing -- finding ways to make ends meet," yet she never clarified whether AOL is one of the companies facing such an undefined "underlying reality."
She offered an aggressive defense to Fox contributor Leslie Marshall's point that when companies struggle, their executives often do not. "It's always the big, bad company," MacCallum said. "Big, bad corporate America ... is it right to not acknowledge that these companies are under pressures that they were not under before?"
From the February 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Economists are encouraged by reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase job flexibility by allowing workers to maintain health coverage outside employment, calling the impact good for workers and the economy. But to Fox News, increased flexibility just means increased laziness.
From the January 29 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News hyped the results of their own misleading poll question that dishonestly portrayed the Obama administration as giving "false information" about the September 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. However, a bipartisan review found that the administration's description of the attacks matched the information provided by the intelligence community.
On the January 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hyped the results of a new Fox poll to claim that "a majority of American voters blame Hillary Clinton and President Obama equally" for the Benghazi terror attack. MacCallum added that half of respondents "believe that the administration came out with false information" because "it was good for them politically."
But the Fox poll question that MacCallum used to justify her claim was framed dishonestly. After asserting that "the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous attack in response to an offensive online video," the question asks "why Obama administration officials gave false information in their early public statements about the September attacks in Libya?" Respondents were then asked to choose if the false information was to protect America, to protect Obama politically, or because "They just made a mistake."
Fox News is misleadingly touting the results of a recent poll to falsely claim that a majority of Americans don't care about inequality and believe that government should do nothing to reduce it.
On the January 23 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck discussed the recent policy pivot by Republicans and Democrats toward addressing income inequality. During the segment, the results of Fox News poll in which respondents were asked to prioritize pressing economic issues were displayed on screen:
Doocy used the results of the poll to claim that Americans are unconcerned about rising income inequality:
DOOCY: This is what you're concerned about. Forty percent of you are worried most about jobs and unemployment. About the same number worried about the deficit and how much the government spends. Meanwhile, you wind up with "income inequality" at only 12 percent.
Later that day on America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley returned to the poll, claiming that the results also showed most Americans do not want the government to take action to reduce income inequality. During the segment, the following graphic ran on the screen:
Fox, and the poll they cite, are creating a false choice between reducing income inequality, creating jobs, and addressing the deficit.
Numerous economists, including Jared Bernstein, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman have argued that rising inequality is bad for the economy and creates a drag on economic growth. Furthermore, in their recent book, "Getting Back to Full Employment," Bernstein and economist Dean Baker outlined proposals that could create jobs while lifting wages and reducing reliance on government safety net programs, thereby positively impacting job creation while reducing some pressure from the federal budget. In the view of many prominent economists, Americans do not have to choose between jobs, deficit reduction, or reducing economic inequality; sensible policies can be implemented to address each issue.
Additionally, while MacCallum suggested that few Americans want government action to reduce inequality, the actual poll shows that participants were never asked about inequality. Instead of being asked "How do you feel about income inequality" as Fox showed on air, the actual question in the poll was "How do you feel about the fact that some people make a lot more money than others?"
Differences in individual earnings, which the poll asked about, and structural inequality -- the idea that a small share of earners at the top capture nearly all income gains -- are not the same thing.
When Americans are asked directly about whether or not government should do anything to mitigate income inequality, the results are quite different from what Fox claims. According to a January 23 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today, 69 percent of Americans believe that government should do "a lot" or "some" to reduce inequality.
Furthermore, a majority of respondents -- 54 percent -- support raising taxes on the wealthy and expanding programs for the poor in order to help close the income gap.
Media Matters research shows that Fox, along with other right-wing media outlets, consistently misrepresents the issue of economic inequality. These skewed poll results are just the latest in a long line of examples.
Conservative media figures relied on gender norms to smear Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as an uncaring mother after learning of her decision to give her ex-husband custody of her children as she pursued her law degree.
On January 18th, The Dallas Morning News reported that "some facts have been blurred" in Wendy Davis' personal story, including that she had been 21, not 19, when she divorced her first husband. The paper also reported that when Davis and her second husband were divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody of her two children, one teenager and one adult.
Discussing a recent school shooting at Purdue University, frequent Fox News guest Lars Larson blamed gun-free school zones for the incident, stoking fears that gun-free zones attract violence.
During the January 21 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum moderated a discussion with Larson, a radio host, and Fox contributor Julie Roginsky about preventing violence in schools following the tragic shooting death of teaching assistant Andrew Boldt at Purdue University. Larson dismissed the notion that private gun sales should be subject to background checks, claiming that not "one single incident" has occurred from a private-party sale without a background check. Instead, he blamed gun-free zones, asserting, "[t]he fact is, almost all these incidences happen in gun free zones, virtually all of them," adding that "having more guns in society -- it does make society safer."
In fact, statistics show that gun-free school zones are safer for youth than areas that permit them. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that gun-free zones like primary and secondary schools are typically safer for young people, as gun deaths in gun-free zones never exceeded 2 percent of total youth homicides:
Fox News' defense of the gun lobby passed into the realm of fiction when host Martha MacCallum told viewers that what usually thwarts school shootings is "when there's a gun introduced into the situation." She followed up this myth with the long-debunked claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if Hitler hadn't confiscated citizens' firearms.
On the January 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum moderated a discussion between radio host Mike Slater and Fox contributor Jehmu Greene about a new anti-NRA film being produced by Harvey Weinstein.
During the segment, MacCallum broke into the debate to declare that "in most cases" the harm from mass shootings has been mitigated by adding more guns into the fray, saying the shootings generally end "when there's a gun introduced into the situation that stops [the shooters] from what they're doing."
MacCallum -- echoing a Washington Times column by senior opinion editor and pro-NRA activist Emily Miller -- later intimated that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the citizenry were armed, but "their guns were all confiscated under German law at the time."
Though MacCallum's statistic is clad as a statement of fact, it is anything but -- a study completed by Mother Jones found that "not one of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped" by an armed civilian.
Fox News ignored growing evidence of a culture of political retribution in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office while instead attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for keeping an "enemies list" -- in reality, a list of endorsements Clinton sought in 2008 -- something Fox's own senior political analyst described as "perfectly reasonable," and dismissed as "not a huge deal."
Thousands of e-mails released last week revealed examples of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration exacting political retribution from a list of those people whom the governor or his aides believed had crossed him in some way. According to The Star-Ledger, a circle of Christie staff and allies appears to have taken political retribution to a new level when it conspired to send the borough of Fort Lee into traffic chaos by closing lanes to the world's busiest bridge." And a new Wall Street Journal report detailed how Christie allegedly treated Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) by cutting him off from state administrators after Fulop declined to endorse Christie in the gubernatorial election.
In a segment on Fox's America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum neglected to report those updates in the Christie scandal, choosing instead to juxtapose Christie's problems with a report that ran in both Politico Magazine and The Hill that detailed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and its efforts to gain lawmakers' endorsements. Both the original report and Fox News labeled the list of endorsements as "Hillary's Hit List."
Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume compared the Politico report to the Christie Scandal, claiming it "raises to some extent the question [about Clinton] you're now hearing raised about Chris Christie," asking whether or not she "fostered a climate" that encouraged aides to seek political retribution. Despite Hume's direct comparison, the reports regarding Christie detail numerous incidents of alleged abuse while the Politico report mentions no actual allegations of political retribution, only that the Clinton campaign tracked its political endorsements -- an act that Hume himself described as "perfectly sensible" and "not a huge deal."
When news of the Christie scandal originally broke, Fox News largely ignored it - an omission that CNN media critic Brian Stelter said may have been due to political considerations and Fox News chairman Roger Ailes' role as "Republican kingmaker" who "has in the past tried to enlist Chris Christie to run for president" and "has been said to be a big fan of Chris Christie." When it did cover the scandal, Fox pointed to Christie's handling of the scandal as a "lesson in leadership" while attacking Clinton and President Obama for their handling of what Fox perceives as similar scandals.
Hume attributed competing media organizations' coverage of Christie to political bias, explaining that "journalists look at a story and if it's somebody they don't particularly care for or whose politics they don't agree with -- when that person slips up it just seems, as they look at it, like a bigger story." Ironically, that explanation may explain Fox News' focus on Clinton.
Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore