From the December 12 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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If only Santa Claus were a homeless child.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly sparked outrage this week after insisting that Santa and Jesus were white:
KELLY: By the way, for the kids at home, Santa just is white but this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. Santa is what he is and we are debating this because someone wrote about it.
Those controversial comments came in reference to a thought-provoking post penned by Slate columnist Aisha Harris that appeared under the headline "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore." Harris' piece is worth reading.
In short, she explains the confusion she faced as a child reconciling the ubiquitous images of a white Santa Claus with the one she experienced in her own neighborhood, where Santa Claus was black. It's a compelling take on the way media images and iconic cultural touchstones can marginalize:
I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn't the "real thing." Because when you're a kid and you're inundated with the imagery of a pale seasonal visitor--and you notice that even some black families decorate their houses with white Santas--you're likely to accept the consensus view, despite your parents' noble intentions.
In an increasingly pluralistic society, Harris asks, shouldn't our seasonal icon be more representative of society?
It's worth asking why it is so important to Megyn Kelly that her audience (and the children she imagines are watching The Kelly File) maintain their conceptualization of Santa Claus as a white man. It's not as if Harris concluded that Santa should be a black woman. She proposed replacing Santa with a penguin.
Kelly helped cut her teeth at Fox as a member of Bill O'Reilly's culture warriors. In that context, her comments help explain the culture she is helping to defend: her own.
At the very least, Kelly's reaction to a non-white Santa demonstrates a troubling lack of empathy, but it is an empathy deficit that is becoming a pattern with Kelly, who went to great pains to portray herself as a non-ideological, serious reporter when she took over a primetime show.
Kelly has received some credit for speaking "truth to power" inside the Fox News bubble, in part getting accolades for aggressively challenging two of her male colleagues after they criticized female breadwinners as symptomatic of what is wrong with America in the 21st century. And there is no doubt that Kelly deserved credit for using her position of power to reject misogyny.
But her record of using that position of power to defend non-majority populations is sketchy when it comes to experiences outside her own.
After Kelly pushed back on one of her guests on Fox for referring to maternity leave as "a racket," Jon Stewart skewered her for having previously dismissed society's interest in making sure that workers have a basic level of benefits. Stewart demonstrated that Kelly's position on the danger of entitlements being "baked in the cake" was at odds with her newfound defense of workers being entitled to maternity leave.
In other words, the empathy deficit remained. It's just that Kelly's own culture now included maternity leave.
Kelly's warfare on behalf of her own culture taps into broader power dynamics that are at play throughout the media. As Media Matters has documented, broadcast and cable news is disproportionately the home of white men. And particularly in the arena of nightly television news, it is the dominion of highly paid elites who have the ability to set the agenda.
So it's important to look at the stories that don't get covered.
Megyn Kelly's rejection of a non-white Santa was one of 13 references to Santa Claus on major cable or broadcast news programs that night, according to Nexis. And the reasoning behind her discussion, Kelly explained on air, was that "somebody wrote about it."
The same justification could have been given for a discussion about homeless children. Yet by contrast, there were three references to homelessness that night. One of those came from a Fox host complaining that a Duck Dynasty star had been mistaken for a homeless person at a Caribbean hotel.
None of those segments told the story of Dasani, an adolescent homeless girl who formed the center of "Invisible Child," a New York Times expose by Andrea Elliot on homelessness in New York City running this week. According to Nexis, Dasani's story was the focus of only a single segment during evening and primetime news this week.
A senior attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a far-right legal organization beloved by Fox News personalities, cheered India's Supreme Court for reinstating that country's ban on gay sex, calling the decision a model for the United States. ADF's support for the decision came a week after Fox host Bill O'Reilly praised the group on-air.
On December 11, India's Supreme Court restored a colonial-era law banning "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." The ruling overturned a 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court finding the law unconstitutional. Under the 1861 statute, gay sex is punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Benjamin Bull, executive director of ADF Global, gave a December 12 interview with the news service of the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association and applauded the decision. Bull contrasted the Indian ruling with the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling overturning anti-sodomy laws:
"When given the same choice the Supreme Court of the United States had in Lawrence vs. Texas, the Indian Court did the right thing," says Bull, which was choose to "protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates."
The net effect is to protect the integrity of the family and by extension to protect traditional marriage.
In the Texas case, the state's high court struck down sodomy laws in a 6-3 decision that affected similar laws in other states.
The Texas case "laid the groundwork for the invalidation of traditional marriage by a number of courts subsequent to that," the attorney explains.
The Indian Supreme Court saw what had happened there "and was wise enough not to want to go down that road."
"America needs to take note that a country of 1.2 billion people has rejected the road towards same-sex marriage, and understood that these kinds of bad decisions in the long run will harm society," he adds.
The language of the Indian statute is identical to that found in many other current and former colonies of the British Empire, including Belize. In that country, ADF has supplied lawyers to defend the criminalization of gay sex.
Undisturbed by the group's rabidly anti-LGBT positions, Fox News has long maintained a cozy relationship with ADF. In an interview on his December 2 show, Bill O'Reilly effusively thanked ADF senior vice president Doug Napier for his group's efforts to combat the manufactured "War on Christmas." "God bless you, each and every one," O'Reilly gushed. Before O'Reilly's sycophantic interview, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson solicited donations for the group. Meanwhile, Fox reporters Shannon Bream, Megyn Kelly, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck have hosted ADF lawyers for one-sided interviews on the imagined dangers of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people.
With the ADF giving its full-throated backing to the Indian court ruling and urging the U.S. to "take note" of the development, the organization has again demonstrated that its claims of "defending freedom" are little more than an Orwellian fraud. The question is whether Fox will continue to play along; and based on its track record, it seems the answer is yes.
Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto is blaming "the war on men" supposedly waged by "Barack Obama's America" for the school suspension of a six-year-old Colorado boy for sexual harassment.
First-grader Hunter Yelton made national news this week following his suspension from elementary school for sexual harassment after he kissed a female classmate on the hand. While the nation debated the appropriateness of the punishment, Taranto espoused a new theory in a December 11 piece for The Wall Street Journal: Yelton is the "littlest casualty in the war on men."
"In Barack Obama's America, even a small boy can become a sexual suspect," Taranto wrote, claiming the boy's school was "following orders from Washington" when it issued the suspension. As evidence, he cited an April 2011 letter from then-Assistant Secretary of Education, Russlynn Ali, which reminded schools, colleges, and universities receiving federal funds of their obligation under Title IX to respond to allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment at their facilities.
Taranto decried these sexual harassment regulations as unfairly policing men, going so far as to suggest that sexual harassment is normal male behavior that has become stigmatized (quote marks are his own):
As amusing as the story of Hunter Yelton is, however, it is an example of a dire and widespread problem. "Sexual harassment" rules are ostensibly sex-neutral, but in practice they are used primarily to police male behavior. Feminists like Hanna Rosin note with triumph that girls and women do better in school than their male counterparts. One reason is that normal female behavior is seldom stigmatized or punished in the name of "civil rights."
And while college "justice" is often downright oppressive, the excesses of contemporary feminism know no age limits. As the story of Hunter Yelton demonstrates, the war on men is also a war on little boys.
Taranto's theory quickly made it to Fox News, where The Kelly File devoted an entire segment to speculating whether the Obama administration shares blame in the child's suspension. In response to host Megyn Kelly's question, "does the administration have a hand in this," conservative radio host Dana Loesch repeated Taranto's argument, claiming regulating sexual harassment "polices male behavior, it's the persecution of a guy."
From the December 11 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News is actively promoting what it claims are "shocking" details about newly hired immigration enforcement attorneys at the Department of Homeland Security, asserting that the Obama administration is "stacking" the agency with "pro-open borders amnesty attorneys," because the lawyers either previously worked in immigration law or for immigrants' rights organizations.
Fox News hosted discredited former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams twice in two days to attack the Obama administration over its recent DHS hires, attacks which were also highlighted on the Fox Nation website. Adams, who is best known as the fabulist behind the New Black Panther Party pseudoscandal, accused the Obama administration in a piece for the conservative PJ Media of improperly hiring these attorneys, claiming that the hires "undermine confidence that the federal government will vigorously enforce federal laws, notwithstanding any congressional 'mandates' to do so." Adams listed all the attorneys hired, along with information about their employment history or immigration background.
Among the work experience Adams cited were stints with immigrants' rights organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Advancement Project, the National Immigration Law Center, and the American Immigration Council. He also highlighted the work experience of an attorney who volunteered for Planned Parenthood, and those of two others who studied Arabic in Africa while in college.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck teased an interview with Adams by claiming that "a shocking new report" shows that "President Obama [is] stacking his immigration enforcement office with pro-open borders amnesty attorneys." She added: "Are illegal immigrants getting a free pass thanks to the government?"
During the segment, co-host Steve Doocy said: "Even if the Obama Administration can't officially change immigration policy, these lawyers can help illegal immigrants stay in the country regardless of the law." He added: "The Obama administration, they're brilliant in getting around the rules." Adams then repeated his allegations, including that the lawyers are "all on the far left, open borders side of the equation."
Adams singled out two lawyers he claimed supported his points that they would follow an ideological agenda: Jennifer Lee and Maura Ooi.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly hosted J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department attorney who she identified as a "well-known Washington whistleblower." Adams is best known as the fabulist behind the New Black Panthers Party pseudoscandal, which Kelly extensively promoted.
Kelly presents herself in interviews as politically unbiased. Some media observers also push that claim, often pointing to her Election Night rebuttal to Karl Rove's objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama or her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their comments on women in the workplace. But Kelly is also a champion of anti-Obama scandalmongering, notably her effort to turn the New Black Panthers Party story into a damaging attack on President Obama.
In 2010, Adams accused the Obama administration of racially-charged "corruption" for allegedly refusing to protect white voters from intimidation at the hands of minorities in the New Black Panthers Party voter intimidation case. Adams was a long-time Republican political operative who was reportedly hired as part of the Bush administration's illegally politicized hiring of conservative Justice Department lawyers. An investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility ultimately cleared DOJ officials in 2011 of any wrongdoing or misconduct in the case.
Kelly was responsible for launching Adams' claims into the national debate, giving him his first cable news interview in July 2010 and providing dozens of segments and hours of coverage to the story in the subsequent weeks.
Because Adams' story did not stand up to the facts, it was quickly rejected by the Republican vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Fox contributors, and other media figures. Kelly in particular was criticized as being "obsessed" and conducting a "minstrel show"; her own colleague Kirsten Powers accused Kelly of "doing the scary black man thing" and promoting the claims of "a conservative activist posing as a whistleblower."
But three years later, Kelly welcomed Adams to her December 7 program, introducing him as a "well-known Washington whistleblower."
From the December 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Scottsdale, AZ-based legal group committed to rolling back the rights of women and LGBT people on the grounds of "religious liberty." The organization has played a leading role in combatting marriage equality and non-discrimination policies in the U.S. while working internationally to criminalize homosexuality. Despite its rabid anti-LGBT extremism, ADF receives reliably friendly treatment from Fox News.
Established as the Alliance Defense Fund in 1994, ADF's founders include such religious right leaders as Focus on the Family's James C. Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ's Bill Bright. According to ADF's website, the organization changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom in 2012 to highlight its "enduring mission to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family."
Headed by President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears, staffed by more than 40 attorneys, and boasting an annual budget in excess of $30 million, ADF bills itself as "a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system." As part of its effort to remake the American legal system along quasi-theocratic lines, ADF has:
ADF's relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." SPLC proved instrumental in exposing an aspect of ADF's work that the organization chooses not to tout on its website - its international work to criminalize homosexuality.
Fox host Megyn Kelly repeated two long-debunked myths regarding the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, ignoring congressional testimony, military experts, and even photographic evidence in order to claim "we still don't have any answers" about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts on the night of the attacks.
On the December 3 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Kelly hosted Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (CA) to discuss this week's closed-door congressional testimony from two CIA contractors present in Benghazi during the attacks on September 11, 2012. During the interview, Nunes claimed that there are still unanswered questions about the administration's response to the attacks, asking, "What were they doing? How come nobody came to help?" Kelly did not push Nunes on his claim, instead parroting it: "Your point is, they didn't dispatch any help, even when it was unclear whether the attack had ended or not. What would be the delay when they didn't know it was over?"
Kelly later asked if the congressional hearings had "been able to shed light ... about what the president was doing at the moment of the attack and on the night in question," to which Nunes said no. She concluded, "So we still don't have any answers."
From the December 2 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
From the November 25 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Despite the GOP's strategy of obstructionism throughout the Affordable Care Act's (ACA, commonly known as Obamacare) implementation, Fox News pundits claimed Republicans have done nothing to contribute to ACA rollout problems.
Fox's Megyn Kelly misrepresented a recent Justice Department memo to make it appear as though employer-provided health plans would be forced to change under the Affordable Care Act. But group plans that existed before the passage of the law remain unaffected unless insurers and employers choose to substantially alter them.
The Affordable Care Act exempted insurance plans that existed before March 23, 2010 from many of its regulations, allowing insurers to continue offering those plans on the condition that they did not significantly change either the benefits offered or the overall cost. Those policies are known as "grandfathered plans."
On the November 18 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly highlighted language from an October 2013 Department of Justice brief which estimated that most plans would lose their grandfathered status over time. Kelly claimed the memo contradicted President Obama's assertion that the vast majority of insurance cancellations were in the individual market, as opposed to employer provided plans. Kelly hosted Andrew McCarthy who used the brief to call the ACA "a massive fraudulent scheme" in a National Review Online post. During the segment, McCarthy claimed the brief predicted that consumers in the group market would "lose their coverage."
But the brief does not say that people who are insured in group plans, such as employer-sponsored insurance, will lose their coverage. Rather, it points out that group health plans could merely lose grandfather status if they're changed. As the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in their 2012 Employer Benefits Survey, under the ACA insurance plans do not lose grandfathered status unless the insurer makes "significant changes that reduce benefits or employee costs." In fact, according to the Kaiser survey, the primary reason firms chose not to grandfather a health plan was to maintain flexibility in making future plan choices.