As Russian president Vladimir Putin flexes his military muscles by invading Ukraine in violation of multiple international treaties, right-wing pundits are fawning over the "macho" leader's strength while complaining that President Obama wears "mom jeans" and is weak on foreign policy.
In the wake of Russia's apparent invasion of the Crimean Peninsula -- an area within the sovereign territory of Ukraine -- right-wing media have renewed their crush on the Russian leader, praising his strength and equestrian skills after TIME's Michael Crowley tweeted a photo of Obama on a bicycle and Putin on a horse, saying the juxtaposition "does kind of capture the moment."
Fox Nation made the photo its "Pic of the Day" and published a "highlight reel of Putin doing macho things" like "performing karate," riding a horse and a motorcycle (though disappointingly not at the same time), and tranquilizing a tiger.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly discussed the photo on his primetime show March 3rd, saying the photo depicted the "contrasting styles" of Putin and Obama. "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants," O'Reilly said. "The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate."
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Sarah Palin questioned the "potency" of President Obama saying, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."
Other Fox pundits have followed the same theme. Foreign policy expert KT McFarland tweeted, "Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin's sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners". Frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani lavished Putin with praise, saying that in contrast with Obama, Putin is "what you call a leader."
Of course, no one praising Putin's leadership mentions his penchant for repressing dissent and stymieing the freedoms of his people. But at least he can fend off a wild animal without his shirt on.
Fox News commentators have been rushing in to blame President Obama for the Russian military's excursion into Ukraine. It's because of Obama's "weakness" that Vladamir Putin has seized the military initiative, announced Sarah Palin.
The crisis proves Obama's guilty of misunderstanding the Russians and not being "interested in American national security affairs," according to John Bolton. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Fox viewers Obama "left a vacuum that Putin is filling," and Steve Doocy complained the president hasn't done "much" to solve the situation.
Also, Obama needs to get a "backbone" and he's "lost moral authority." All this while Fox has marveled over Putin's prowess as a true "leader," and swooned his supposed physical superiority over Obama.
Please note that in August 2008, during President Bush's final months in office, a strikingly similar scenario played out when Russian forces invaded the former Soviet state of Georgia. At the time, the Bush White House sounded an awful lot like today's Obama White House. From Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, now a Fox host:
"The United States supports Georgia's territorial integrity. We call for an immediate ceasefire. We urge all parties Georgians, south Ossetians, Russians to deescalate the tensions and to avoid conflict. We are work on mediation efforts and to secure a ceasefire, and we are urging the parties to restart their dialogue."
Yet unlike today, the Putin-led excursion in 2008 completely failed to spark the panicked rhetoric that's become Fox News' trademark since Russian troops crossed over into Ukraine last week. Notably absent from the 2008 Georgia coverage was relentless finger pointing and blaming the White House for the extreme actions of a foreign leader thousands of miles away. There was also none of the Putin cheerleading that we hear on Fox News today.
In fact, some of the Fox commentators currently stoking the flames of "crisis" were rather non-judgmental when Russian tanks moved into Georgia. "I don't think the Russians are reckless," Charles Krauthammer announced on August 8, 2008, as Russian fleets advanced into the Black Sea and Russian jets launched raids targeting government buildings in Georgia. "What they are doing here is reasserting control of this province. And when it's done, which will probably happen in a couple days, the firing will crease."
Three days later, Krauthammer insisted there was nothing for the United States to do as the crisis escalated: "Well, obviously it's beyond our control. The Russians are advancing. There is nothing that will stop them. We are not going to go to war over Georgia." Krauthammer's Fox colleague Jeff Birnbaum, agreed: "Because Georgia is not part of NATO, there's really no danger the United States or Europe will get in involved in what is really a civil war almost between--within this small part of Georgia."
Fox News' message to America then? Just relax. There's nothing the U.S. can do about Russia invading its sovereign neighbor and it will all be over soon.
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
The Veterans Day edition of Fox News' Hannity spent twice as much time discussing the so-called "War On Christmas" than the actual wars whose veterans we honor on that holiday.
On the November 11 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Sarah Palin to discuss her newly released book about the "War On Christmas." While Hannity wrung his hands about the latest "unbridled and seemingly unprecedented" attacks on Christmas, Palin opined that "angry atheists" armed with attorneys "want to tell us, they want to tell patriots, they want to tell traditional Americans, that no longer can you acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season."
The "War On Christmas" segment lasted only two minutes, but that was twice the amount of airtime Hannity devoted to covering Veterans Day. Only a brief "Veterans Day edition of our video of the day" segment at the end of Hannity's show made any mention of the nation's veterans and the conflicts they braved as part of their service.
Fox News hosts often cover the "War On Christmas" more extensively than they do real wars. During the last holiday season, Fox's Bill O'Reilly dedicated nearly an hour to segments defending Christmas from its alleged assailants, while spending a mere fifteen minutes covering military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Gaza.
The latest strange and ugly conspiracy theory to make its way from Alex Jones' Infowars.com to Fox News contended that the pregnant, diabetic woman who nearly fainted during a White House Rose Garden speech was faking her poor health at the behest of President Obama in order to improve his image.
On October 21, Obama took to the Rose Garden to address the status of a glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov. During the speech, a woman standing behind the president, Karmel Allison, nearly fainted. The president and others turned to help Allison, who was later revealed to be a Type 1 diabetic and pregnant -- conditions that may have contributed to her unsteadiness.
Shortly thereafter, Alex Jones and his website Infowars.com pounced on the incident, baselessly claiming that Allison faked her fainting spell. Not only that, the website claimed that Allison is just the latest in a long line of Obama's fake fainters. In an article titled, "Was Fainting Woman at Obamacare Speech Staged?," Infowars.com reporter Steve Watson wrote that the "President has used the fainting woman spiel many times before to play crowds":
[T]his is not the first time this has happened... or the second time... or the third time... or the fourth time... It happens ALL THE TIME. He pretty much has a prepared speech that he repeats.
Commentators have previously claimed that this could also be part an effort to appear like a kind of quasi-religious or Messianic figure.
At the very least, if these incidents are not staged, they serve to highlight how Obama routinely seizes on them to uphold his public image as a "great guy".
Other fringe outlets amplified the conspiracy theory. The following day, Lady-Patriots.com published a piece by founder Dr. Sharon Scheutz, in which Scheutz claimed the fainting was "phony":
I couldn't believe how phony it was. As soon as I watched it I went to youtube to check it out from different directions. It was just as fake from any of them.
For some strange reason, Obama has to have props around him when he does one of his con-jobs in the Rose Garden, or wherever he chooses to receive his worshipers. This was no different, except that he had animated props this time. Although it was well staged there were enough holes in this little scene to drive the proverbial truck through.
Scheutz, it should be noted, is not a credible source of information. In addition to being a fainting truther, Scheutz has compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and just weeks ago wrote that the president was a Muslim:
If America survives Barack Obama's presidency and if history tells the truth, one word used to describe him will be LIAR. Yes, he's a Muslim. Yes, he's a Socialist/Communist. Yes, he's even a moron, and he's evil. But everything associated with him since he has been in office can best be described by one word: LIAR.
From the October 17 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the architect of the Republican effort to shut down the federal government, spoke at a Washington, D.C. rally, hosted by activists who were angry that the nation's memorials had been closed as part of the government shutdown. Sarah Palin also addressed the crowd.
Soon after Cruz spoke, and after Palin handed out small American flags, organizers turned to Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman. Best known in recent years for his evangelical pursuit of birtherism and all half-baked conspiracies related to the debunked claim that Barack Obama wasn't born in America and that he's an undercover Muslim, Klayman told cheering activists in Washington that the president "bows down to Allah." He announced that Obama's "not the president of 'we the people, he's a president of his people," and that Obama needed to "put the Quran down."
The Obama's-a-foreigner ugliness fermented by Klayman was soon showcased after shutdown protesters marched to the White House where, according to the conservative Washington Times, the crowd numbered "about 200," including curious onlookers. Outside the White House gates, one conservative protester waved a Confederate flag, and when local police arrived to secure the area they were greeted with calls of "brown shirts," while one demonstrator commented the scene "looks like something out of Kenya."
Note also that the recently failed right-wing truck rally in D.C. was organized by a proud online birther, and that attendees to the far-right Value Voters Summit in Washington over the weekend were invited to hear addresses by birther exhibitionists Joseph Farah and Jerome Corsi.
If anyone's surprised that a proud and unapologetic birther (in 2013!) was front-and-center at a right-wing anti-Obama rally this week, or that the birther charade plays a central role in government shutdown activism, then they haven't being paying close enough attention to the conservative movement in America.
And that includes most members of the Beltway press corps.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recently addressed the birther issue and stressed the importance of it in terms of understanding today's radical Republicans in the House:
MADDOW: They have a different sense of what is normal. They have a different sense of what counts as reasonable politics in America -- and failing to appreciate that, means that we fail to develop reasonably accurate expectations for their behavior. And that has become really important.
That failure to appreciate helps explain why the shutdown to defund a three-year-old health care law remains so perplexing to most outside observers. Viewed through the prism of traditional partisan politics, it doesn't make any sense. It's a shutdown about nothing. It's a shutdown devoid of content or purpose. (Defunding was never a realistic outcome.) It's certainly a shutdown that was executed without any clear goals by Republicans, or anything that even resembled an endgame strategy.
As the government shutdown loomed and then became a reality, right-wing media figures have called for maintained Republican commitment to keeping the government closed until Democrats agree to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin attacked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace,demanding he release the names of Republicans who attempted to "trash" Senator Ted Cruz.
On Fox News Sunday, Wallace revealed that "I got unsolicited research, and questions" from "top Republicans" in order to "hammer" Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who appeared on the program to promote his effort to defund Obamacare.
After Wallace's comments aired, Fox contributor Sarah Palin sent out a tweet calling on Fox News Sunday to "Keep it TRULY fair & balanced" and "Release the GOP names encouraging you to trash @SenTedCruz. No more anonymous sources."
Fox News hosts and contributors have repeatedly clashed over strategy surrounding the ongoing effort to defund Obamacare, with some describing it as "the right thing to do" while others have labeled advocates a "suicide caucus."
If Newt Gingrich shows signs of raising money or hiring staff for another presidential run he would have to immediately give up his new job on CNN's reborn Crossfire, a top CNN executive told Media Matters.
But until that time, Gingrich can remain on the CNN payroll even as he is involved with at least two political action committees that are working to raise money for Republican candidates and help the former House Speaker retire his 2012 campaign debt, as long as any conflict is disclosed on the show.
Rick Davis, a former Crossfire producer and current CNN executive vice-president of standards and practices, said Gingrich, who has floated a potential 2016 presidential run, would have to give up his new job at the network if he starts fundraising for a new political campaign or forms a staff to conduct such an effort.
"If they're going to get in touch with the [Federal Election Commission] and start raising some money for a campaign our relationship's over, or if they are going to start having some paid staff for some sort of campaign, our relationship's over," Davis said when asked about Gingrich.
According to Davis, Gingrich is subject to the same rules that applied to Crossfire hosts in the show's previous incarnation. Both Pat Buchanan and Geraldine Ferraro ended stints as hosts of that program to run for office, Buchanan for a 2000 presidential run and Ferraro for a 1998 Senate run.
"I was overseeing Crossfire back then and I dealt with both of them then and the policy then is the same policy now," Davis added.
Davis' comments come just days after Gingrich hinted that he may make another White House run in 2016.
In an interview with fellow Crossfire host S.E. Cupp, Gingrich said he would not rule out a 2016 run. When asked if he would "run again in the future," Gingrich replied: "I don't know. We still have a substantial campaign debt. If we can pay it off we would seriously look [at] a 2016 run."
Gingrich had been asked in the past if he would consider running for president in 2016, and said at various times, "It's not a no," "I don't rule it out, but we're not spending any energy on it," "I have no idea at this stage," "It's certainly something that we're going to keep our powder dry and see how the next two years evolve," and "I doubt that, but one never knows."
In June, National Review Online quoted a Gingrich "insider" claiming of a potential Gingrich bid: "There's no planning or anything like that. But these are people who are big fans of his, so a lot of them want to see him run in 2016."
Davis would not say if Gingrich had been asked about his 2016 plans during negotiations for the new Crossfire post, but added, "that's clearly our policy, he knows it and that's it."
Fox News and other media outlets in recent weeks have aggressively tried to revive the claim that President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes "death panels," a myth that has been repeatedly debunked and is undermined by the law itself.
From the August 10 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In:
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There are no death panels. There never was a death panel. There never will be a death panel. The Affordable Care Act does not provide for state-assisted euthanasia, so there's absolutely no reason for a newspaper to casually refer to any part of it as a "death panel."
And yet, here's The Hill's "Healthwatch" blog doing just that in an article on the ACA's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which is designed to reduce the growth rate of spending in Medicare, under the headline, "ObamaCare 'death panel' faces growing opposition from Dems":
ObamaCare's cost-cutting board -- memorably called a "death panel" by Sarah Palin -- is facing growing opposition from Democrats who say it will harm people on Medicare.
Public awareness of the board shot up last year when Palin called it a "death panel," connecting the IPAB to her previous attacks on a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning in the Affordable Care Act.
"Though I was called a liar for calling it like it is, many of these accusers finally saw that ObamaCare did in fact create a panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about healthcare funding," Palin wrote on Facebook.
This claim experienced a revival on the right after Dean published his op-ed, which argued that the board would ultimately ration care for Medicare patients.
"The IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them," Dean wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
"Getting rid of the IPAB is something Democrats and Republicans ought to agree on."
The piece quickly went viral, prompting conservative bloggers and Fox News hosts to cheer: "Dean confirms that Sarah Palin was right!"
Sarah Palin was not right. Sarah Palin was never right. And The Hill certainly shouldn't be giving the impression that Palin's "death panel" nonsense has somehow been vindicated.
While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and "nuts."
Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.
Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will "inflict substantial harm on the economy."
Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a "litmus test" for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.
In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:
Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?
Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.
Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was "common sense."
Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be "ludicrous" and "nuts." On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea "works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president" but is "ludicrous" as a winning legislative strategy.
From the July 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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