Mere weeks after right-wing media loudly defended racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy with erroneous allegations of a "federal land grab" of his property, the same conservative outlets are now advocating for a border fence that would require an immense seizure of private lands.
In the first half of 2014, thousands of children fled across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape rising violence plaguing their home countries in Central America. Anti-immigrant figures in the right-wing media have responded by stoking nativist insecurities, erroneously suggesting the children pose public health and safety concerns and that they will be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely.
Many of these figures have also returned to calls for a fence to be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham made the completion of a border fence part of her personal plan to address holes in the nation's immigration policy in a manifesto titled, "The Government Vs. The People: Rebuilding Trust In The Midst Of The Illegal Alien Tsunami".
On Fox News July 9, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum floated the idea of prioritizing appropriations to construct a border fence over money for humanitarian care and administrative personnel to facilitate customs hearings. On July 8, Fox guest Pat Buchanan said in an appearance on Hannity, "Why cannot the government say 'Look, let's get together, we do need a secure fence, a double- or triple-link fence, all along the border of the United States with Mexico'?"
About a week earlier, contributor Charles Krauthammer advocated for a border fence, saying, "If fences don't work, why is there one around the White House?"
Calls for a fence often lack context or details -- and in MacCallum's case, drastically misinform on the cost of such an endeavor. In particular, conservative media tend to ignore the fact that, in order to complete a border fence, the federal government will have to seize, through eminent domain, the private property of American landowners from Texas to California.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested the construction of a border fence would be a cost-effective strategy for dealing with the influx of children fleeing Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border, but she underestimated the real cost of construction by billions of dollars.
On July 8th, Politico reported that President Obama requested $3.73 billion in emergency funds from Congress "to address the influx of child migrants crossing the Southwest border and Rio Grande from Central America." The funds would be used for border enforcement, humanitarian assistance for unaccompanied children, and immigration courts.
During an interview with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) on the July 9 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum criticized the Obama administration for requesting $3.7 billion to address the humanitarian crisis which she claimed would only "plug the hole" when the "most recent estimate" for the cost to build border fence was only $6.5 billion:
MACCALLUM: 3.7, and we just listened to sort of a detail of where the money goes -- a lot of it is into facilities and for judges and that kind of thing as you say. It was interesting -- we looked back this morning at the latest estimate -- the most recent estimate we could find for what it would have cost to build the fence across the border and that's about six and a half billion dollars. So now you've got a 3.7 billion dollar request to basically -- you know -- plug the hole and take care of the people who came through it.
But MacCallum is wrong. According to the New York Times, the $6.5 billion figure MacCallum cited was merely an estimate of the cost to "deploy, operate and maintain" the existing border fence, which currently covers 650 miles, not the cost to extend the fence across new territory. In fact, the Times also reported that Customs and Border Protection projected the cost of finishing one fence across the southern border of the U.S. to be more than $22 billion, not including costs to acquire land and maintain the fence:
In 2009, the Congressional Search Service reported that the Department of Homeland Security had spent roughly up to $21 million per mile to build a primary fence near San Diego. The cost had ballooned as the fence extended into hills and gullies along the line.
The same year, Customs and Border Protection estimated costs of building an additional 3.5 miles of fence near San Diego at $16 million per mile. Even this lower figure would yield a rough projection of $22.4 billion for a single fence across the 1,400 miles remaining today.
These estimates do not include the costs of acquiring land, nor the expense of maintaining a fence that is exposed to constant efforts by illegal crossers to bore through it or under it or to bring it down. In March, Customs and Border Protection estimated it would cost $6.5 billion "to deploy, operate and maintain" the existing border fencing over an expected maximum lifetime of 20 years. The agency reported repairing 4,037 breaches in 2010 alone.
Fox continues to offer misinformation and advocate anti-immigration policies, recommending the federal government respond to the increasing numbers of of children fleeing gang violence in Central America by building multiple fences and militarizing the border.
Fox News' Adam Housley suddenly flipped his own network's script, calling the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala not "that big of a deal," and accused the White House of embellishing his role in the deadly Benghazi attacks -- a report that's inconsistent with other Fox News reports naming Khatalla as a key suspect.
American forces apprehended Khattala in Libya on June 15. When the news broke on June 17, Fox News quickly reported the top militia leader's arrest. Then on June 27, Khattala went from a top terrorism leader to small potatoes.
Fox News diminished Khattala's capture, suggesting the militia leader was small time and the Obama administration is ignoring "actionable intelligence" on larger suspects. On the June 27 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox correspondent Adam Housley reported that Khattala's capture "wasn't that big of a deal at all," because Khattala was considered by officials to be "low-hanging fruit." Housley capitalized on diminishing Khattala's profile in order to criticize President Obama for failing to follow through on his "promise to stay focused on hunting down those responsible for the 2012 attack.":
Fox News host Martha MacCallum described the pending Hobby Lobby case -- a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that all employer-sponsored health insurance cover contraceptives as part of preventive services -- by repeating four right-wing media myths in the span of 17 seconds. MacCallum adopted the false narrative of the religious owners of the for-profit, secular chain store and its supporters during the June 25 edition of America's Newsroom:
1. "The Hobby Lobby case, which challenges the Obamacare conception mandate that requires ..."
As political science professor Scott Lemieux explained, "there is no 'contraception mandate.' Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. ... What is erroneously described as a 'mandate' simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards." In other words, Hobby Lobby can avoid contraception coverage by providing no health insurance at all -- but it may not hold its employees hostage by sponsoring health insurance policies that are not complaint with the ACA.
2. "... that employers provide ..."
As Georgetown Law professor Marty Lederman has written, it would be the federal government that requires the insurance companies -- not Hobby Lobby -- to meet the minimum coverage standards that include comprehensive preventive services, including birth control. According to Lederman, "Once the HHS Rule goes into effect, it would not be the Greens who 'directed' the Hobby Lobby ... insurance plans, in any real sense, to cover contraception: That would, instead, be a legal requirement imposed by the government -- and it's a requirement that applies to any and all such plans throughout the nation, whether sponsored by an employer or not."
3. "... free access to conception methods ..."
It turns out that so-called "free" birth control isn't actually free. In fact, "it is misleading -- and politically dangerous to say so," according to Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check, because "if you have insurance, you pay for it, either by virtue of your labor or out of your own pocket, or, depending on the situation, both. And under the ACA, it is now mandated that your insurance plan cover certain benefits without a co-pay. This does not make them 'free.' It means that you are paying for that service as part of your premium. You earned it, you paid for it, it is yours. If you pay for it, you deserve to get it."
4. "... as part of a comprehensive Obamacare health policy, includ[ed] in that would be some drugs which could trigger abortion."
Despite the fact that Hobby Lobby "sincerely believes" that some contraceptives result in the termination of a pregnancy, the science simply does not support this claim. According to The New York Times, "It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion ... is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents' definition of abortion-inducing drugs."
Fox News ran with the unsubstantiated and explicitly discredited claim that the U.S. might have paid a cash ransom to an Afghani militant group in exchange for the recent release of an American soldier, an assertion that has been repeatedly denied by the White House.
During the June 9 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox's senior political analyst Brit Hume hypothesized that in addition to releasing five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. may have paid a cash ransom to the Haqqani network, Bergdahl's captors. Hume claimed that because the Haqqani network "is interested in money," "that gives rise to the question, which the administration has yet to answer, as to whether in addition to the release of these five Taliban prisoners, some ransom was paid."
MacCallum ran with the ransom idea:
MACCALLUM: A lot of layers and a lot of questions. And I would imagine Congress would have questions about that money as well.
HUME: Of course.
MACCALLUM: Whether or not they would have been put in the loop on that, right?
HUME: Sooner or later that question's going to be asked to somebody under oath, or perhaps the administration may come out and say, 'Yes, in addition we paid X amount of money to get this guy freed because we thought it was so important. And we'll see how people react to that.
MACCALLUM: But that raises the question then, why would you need to release these Taliban prisoners if that was part of the deal? And that goes back to perhaps some of these other questions about --
HUME: Well if it turns out that ransom was paid -- and this is speculation -- if it turns out ransom was paid, and that was what did the trick, that really does, as you suggest Martha, sharpen the question of well, why did you need to release these Taliban starting-five, as they've been called by some people?
Fox even floated their theory in the following segment with Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA), asking McCarthy, "What about this other question with the money ... how will you get to the bottom of the question whether or not money was exchanged?"
It's a conspiracy theory that parrots Fox contributor Oliver North's unsourced speculation that "somebody paid a ransom" for Bergdahl -- and one that has already been explicitly debunked.
The White House has flatly denied that money was exchanged for Bergdahl's release. While a ransom was previously considered as a possibility in the prisoner swap negotiations, a National Security Staff spokesperson explicitly denied the idea last week, according to the Houston Chronicle:
The White House countered Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Clear Lake, in a statement Friday after the congressman had questioned whether President Barack Obama paid ransom for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release.
"The United States did not provide money in return for Sgt. Bergdahl," National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
In fact, after Fox's lengthy speculation, an official White House Twitter account reiterated the fact that no cash was exchanged in response to right-wing claims:
Fox News' Stuart Varney dishonestly hyped new data on the number of Americans receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to accuse beneficiaries of committing fraud to avoid finding a job. But experts agree that fraud in the SSDI program is low and there is no evidence Americans are faking their disabilities.
A May 21 Drudge Report headline proclaimed a "Record 10,999,447 On Disability and linked to a CNSnews.com article announcing that the total number of disability beneficiaries in the U.S rose in April "setting a new all-time record":
On Fox's America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed the "explosion" in disability beneficiaries showed "America is becoming increasingly a welfare state. " Varney accused SSDI beneficiaries of committing fraud by taking the "disability option" supposedly where able-bodied individuals who can't find a job use SSDI "almost as an insurance policy against no income or no job":
VARNEY: During the Obama years we've gone from eight million people, just about eight million people claiming Social Security disability payments all the way up to nearly 11 million. That is a huge explosion in disability payments. Now a lot of people are taking what's called the disability option. They can't find a job. So they take -- they treat disability almost as an insurance policy against no income or no job. So you have got this explosion in disability payments. And Martha, we can't afford it.
Two points, number one, if we go on like this the Social Security disability trust fund, totally runs out of money by the end of 2016. That is not that far away. Number two, there's been an expansion in who qualifies for disability payments. Mental disorder is now acceptable. Mood disorder, or back pain. Now, that kind of opens the door to fraud because you can't really prove a lot of that. And plus, once you get disability, you're on it for a very long time because the virtually very little inspection process to figure out who is off the disability, who has recovered. So pretty much payment for life. We can't afford this
Fox News is witnessing the nasty byproducts of its endless campaign to depict extreme, virulent homophobia as a normal part of mainstream Christianity.
It's long been standard practice at Fox News to conflate anti-gay bigotry with Christianity. Last December, for instance, the network rushed to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality with bestiality and equated gay people with "drunks" and "terrorists," with Megyn Kelly referring to Robertson as "[t]his Christian guy," Sean Hannity describing his comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values," and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes defending Robertson as upholding "the teachings of the Bible."
Meanwhile, Fox has repeatedly touted business owners who refuse service to gay couples, taking up their mantle in regular "Fight for Faith" segments. The network has championed some of the country's most extreme anti-gay hate groups as mainstream Christian organizations. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to attend he city's St. Patrick's Day Parade over its ban on LGBT groups, Fox News attacked him as a "religious bigot." And the network regularly describes even basic legal protections for LGBT people as anti-Christian.
Now, a new anti-gay controversy has once again provided fodder for Fox to depict extreme anti-gay bigotry as grounded in mainstream Christianity. Earlier this month, HGTV cancelled a forthcoming reality show slated to be hosted by brothers Jason and David Benham. The cancellation came after Right Wing Watch unearthed the brothers' history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as "demonic" and "destructive."
Anchor Megyn Kelly responded to HGTV's move by asserting on the May 8 edition of The Kelly File that while "gay rights are more and more protected in this country," the same didn't hold for "Christian beliefs and Christian rights."
During the May 16 edition of Kelly's show, guest host Martha MacCallum invited right-wing radio commentator Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist Jessica Ehrlich to discuss the controversy engulfing the Benham brothers. Perfectly encapsulating the right's bogus homophobia-as-Christianity narrative, Loesch dubbed Ehrlich an "anti-Christian bigot" for deigning to criticize the brothers' extreme anti-gay views:
Fox's Dana Perino debunked the right-wing media's attempt to manufacture a scandal around former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new memoir by claiming that the book reveals that the Obama administration had asked him to lie to the American public.
On May 12 Geithner debuted his new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, detailing his time as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Treasury Secretary under the Obama administration during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The book's excerpts promptly became fodder for right-wing media outlets, which latched onto two specific anecdotes to declare that the White House had directed Geithner to lie during appearances on the Sunday political talk shows.
At issue is Geithner's description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011 in which then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer asked him to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote how he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute."
Because of these anecdotes, Geithner's book represents a "new bombshell," according to Fox News, one that may show "the White House playing politics with the American people, perhaps." America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum claimed:
MacCALLUM: Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a book. In it -- the excerpts have been released today -- he says that the White House asked him to go a Sunday show and say something that was not completely true, because it worked better for them politically. That is what is being suggested here.
But later the same day, on The Five, co-host Dana Perino, who previously served as press secretary under President George W. Bush, responded to allegations from her co-hosts that the White House had asked Geithner to lie. Perino explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint":
PERINO: I can actually understand the Geithner thing. It's like saying, "Hey, can you not try to say this point about Social Security?" I don't think that is asking Geithner to specifically lie. I can understand from a communications standpoint you're asking the principle and the policy person, "How far can you go to say X,Y, or Z?"
Fox News also quoted from "a source close to Geithner" who pointed out that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":
After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."
The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.
From the May 7 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
From the May 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News attempted to spin a new climate change report as a mere distraction from "multiple scandals swirling around the administration," ignoring that the report was legally mandated by Congress under a law signed by former President George H.W. Bush.
On May 6, the Obama administration released the third National Climate Assessment (NCA), a report compiled by over two hundred climate scientists over a four-year period. The report concluded that unabated climate change would pose many dangers to the U.S. including increasing drought and wildfires in the Southwest, and coastal flooding from rising sea levels and increased precipitation in the Northeast.
The May 6 edition of America's Newsroom opened with co-host Bill Hemmer's supposition that the Obama administration's "dire new report on global warming" may be intended "to distract Americans" from the "multiple scandals swirling around the administration." Co-host Martha MacCallum went on to elevate Sen. Jim Inhofe's claim that the climate change report is "part of the game the president is playing" to distract Americans from "his unchecked regulatory agenda":
Fox News is using a newly released White House memo disclosing media talking points for Obama administration officials as vindication of its campaign of lies and misinformation about the Benghazi terror attacks.
When a mass shooting occurs, conservative media rush to blame mental health, video games, a lack of armed people present, and even liberal values -- anything but the fact that the shooter was able to get a gun.
But the single proximate factor in all mass shootings, and in all gun violence really, is that it is easy for dangerous people to access high-powered firearms. Lack of access to firearms typically makes it difficult for would-be mass murderers to carry out their plans. For instance, experts say mass stabbings are extremely rare in the United States. To the contrary, 69 percent of all homicides are committed with a gun. Of 37 public mass killings since 2006, 33 involved firearms, while the Boston Marathon bombings, an incident involving a car, and two cases of arson accounted for the other four incidents.
Furthermore, academic research has linked the easy availability of firearms to homicide. According to numerous studies, "where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide." Compared to other high income nations which typically more strongly regulate the availability of firearms, the United States' gun homicide rate is 19.5 times higher, leading to an overall homicide rate that is 6.9 times higher. Research has also shown, "across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded."
Following the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood that left three victims dead and 16 others wounded, conservative media have refused to acknowledge the role of easy access to firearms in shootings and have instead claimed mass shootings are caused by video games, mental health problems, the "culture war," and by a deficiency in the number of firearms carried by the general public.
Fox News used a misleading report from the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to accuse the Obama administration of "destabilizing the nation" by releasing undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds. In fact, data show that the Obama administration has met its enforcement mandate to prioritize the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions, which has resulted in a substantial increase of such deportations.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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