Fox News host Sean Hannity relied on a discredited right-wing organization that fabricated a story about a transgender student harassing her peers in a school restroom, attacking proper facilities access for transgender students as a "violation of privacy."
The rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) gained notoriety earlier this year after it was caught manufacturing a story about a transgender student in Colorado who PJI claimed was harassing other students in her school's bathrooms. That story ended up being entirely fabricated - the school district's Superintendent stated that no instances of actual harassment had been reported. PJI scrambled to save face, claiming that the "harassment" it referenced actually amounted to nothing more than a few parents and students feeling uncomfortable by the mere presence of a transgender student.
PJI's history of lying about the case didn't stop Hannity from promoting the group's work during the December 18 edition of his show, including airing a PJI-produced video featuring testimony from parents and students from the Colorado school who were bothered by the transgender student's existence. Hannity called the video "pretty powerful" and asked if letting transgender students use the bathroom of their choice was a "violation of privacy":
Many schools have already implemented policies similar to the one in Colorado, and California passed a law this summer granting transgender students proper facility access. Schools that have instituted such policies haven't reported any instances of misconduct and state that they've experienced "nothing but positive results." Experts state that allowing transgender individuals access to facilities that match their gender identity is essential to affirming their identities and removing the stigma all too often attached to trans people.
This isn't the first time Hannity's program has featured fear-stoking arguments against transgender rights. In August, he blasted California's new law, asking, "What do we do with the seven-year-old girl that goes into the locker room and there's the 14-year-old boy naked in the girls' locker room because that's where he chooses to be?" Fox itself has assailed the law repeatedly, with host Bill O'Reilly calling it "the biggest con in the world," further contributing to the network's transphobia problem. The network's willingness to tout a group that has lied in order to smear transgender students marks a new low.
From the December 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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On the December 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News' Sean Hannity falsely claimed that a background check occurs on every gun sale in America to attack an ad that calls for action on gun violence in memory of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The December 10 edition of Hannity included a segment on a new ad called "No More Silence" from gun violence prevention groups Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). The ad depicts a moment of silence for victims of the Newtown tragedy while also advocating for action to be taken on gun violence to prevent future tragedies. Asking if the ad was "politicizing tragedy," Hannity made a number of false claims about gun violence during the segment:
After American Values Institute Executive Director Alexis McGill Johnson said that action on gun violence would include reforms so that "every gun sold has a background check," Hannity replied, "We already have that." (Both MAIG and Moms Demand Action make expanding checks a major component of their advocacy.)
In fact, a significant number of firearms are sold without background checks through so-called private sales, often at gun shows or over the Internet. Gun shows and websites that specialize in private sales have been linked to illegal trafficking operations, both narcoterrorismand international terrorism, and serve as conduits for individuals who would fail a background check because they are prohibited by law from owning a gun. Indeed, research has shown that a large percentage of criminals obtain firearms through private transactions.
Fox News continued its campaign against undocumented immigrants getting an affordable college education, railing against a lawsuit in Georgia that asks the state's universities to grant in-state tuition to immigrants who are considered lawfully present under the deferred action program. To make its case, Fox cited the fallacy that their parents don't pay taxes, and argued that this was an issue "of fairness."
It's indisputable fact however that at least three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal taxes and an even larger number pay state and local taxes. Moreover, reports show that the notion that undocumented students are somehow cheating Americans out of a college education is untrue.
As the Associated Press reported on December 5, a group of undocumented students in Georgia filed a lawsuit against the state's university system stating that they should be granted in-state tuition as they are now lawfully present under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to the Department of Homeland Security:
An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect.
Discussing the lawsuit on Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity dismissed Five co-host Bob Beckel's argument that undocumented immigrants have a right to an affordable college education, replying: "So laws don't matter in Obama-Beckel's world." Five co-host Andrea Tantaros added that she's "very sensitive to the immigrant community" because her father was an immigrant and that "you do feel sorry for the children that were brought here." She went on to say: "However, their parents, Sean, have not been paying taxes. They have not been on the books. Their parents broke the law. It's a crime." She concluded: "It's an issue of fairness."
In fact, the federal government has estimated that about three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in federal payroll taxes each year. In a 2010 study, the Brookings Institution found that the "consensus of the economics literature is that the taxes paid by immigrants and their descendants exceed the benefits they receive--that on balance they are a net positive for the federal budget."
A New York Times article highlighted positive stories of people gaining coverage from the Affordable Care Act's exchanges -- a departure from the media's history of ignoring the law's success stories in favor of overwhelmingly negative coverage.
The media has overwhelmingly turned to negative anecdotal stories in covering the implementation of the ACA's exchanges. In The American Prospect, Paul Waldman argued that the media's tendency to use negative "exemplars" in health care coverage dramatically overemphasizes negative consequences of the law, often employing misleading reporting in order to manufacture "victims" of the law:
As the Affordable Care Act approaches full implementation, we're seeing a lot of exemplar stories, and I've been noticing one particular type: the story of the person who seems to be getting screwed. If it were true that most Americans were indeed being made worse off by the law, that would be a good thing; we'd learn their stories and get a sense of the human cost of the law. The trouble is that in the real world, there are many more people being helped by the law than hurt by it, and even those who claim to be hurt by it aren't being hurt at all.
Journalists have a natural inclination to cover bad news over good and to be skeptical of the government, which is usually healthy. But if you aren't careful it can also lead to misleading reporting. If you're going to do a story presenting one person as a victim of the law, it might be a good idea to make sure they are what you say they are.
Waldman cited a report from the NBC Nightly News as an example of how the media's coverage of health care consequences can be misleading. The segment highlighted a Los Angeles real estate agent whose premiums were higher after her insurer cancelled her plan and she looked for replacement coverage on the exchange. Waldman pointed out that the segment left out crucial context, such as whether she was eligible for subsidies and what level of coverage her current plan provided. A CBS News segment had similar problems, interviewing a woman named Dianne Barrette who lost her existing coverage and found replacement plans to be much more expensive. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple criticized the report, pointing out that Barrette's current plan was "a pray-that-you-don't-really-get-sick 'plan'" and "could well have bankrupted her."
Fox News' Sean Hannity faced criticism after hosting three couples who professed to be "victims" of the health care law. After Eric Stern, a former senior adviser to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, contacted the three couples after the show aired, he found that none of them had actually been negatively impacted by the law or had even attempted to shop for coverage on the exchanges that they were complaining about:
Yesterday the world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela. In a moving speech, President Obama described the former South African president as a man who through "fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others... transformed South Africa -- and moved all of us." Obama also noted that his first political action was inspired by Mandela -- a protest against South Africa's brutal apartheid regime in the late 1970s, part of a wave of progressive activism that would sweep the country over the next decade and compel the United States to enact economic sanctions against South Africa's government.
American conservatives have a far more complicated history with Mandela, as many of the movement's most prominent figures spent the decade leading up to his release from prison opposing actions geared toward ending South Africa's brutal apartheid regime. In 1986 President Reagan vetoed a bill that would have imposed economic sanctions on South Africa unless it met five conditions, including Mandela's release. Congress overrode that veto. Washington Post columnist George Will derided calls for sanctions and divestment in a 1985 column: "Clearly some of the current campaigning against South Africa is a fad, a moral Hula Hoop, fun for a while."
On the very day Mandela was freed in 1990, conservative icon William Buckley warned that "the release of Mandela, for all we know, may one day be likened to the arrival of Lenin at the Finland Station in 1917" (referring to Lenin's return to Russia from exile and the ensuing Bolshevik seizure of power) and mocked South African opponents of apartheid for their concern with "the question of one-man, one-vote," which he claimed "has not yet hit the United States, whose Senate guarantees most unequal treatment."
American conservatives of the era recognized the brutal repression of black South Africans by the whites, but ultimately determined that ending that system was less important that preserving South Africa as an ally in the Cold War. They pointed to Mandela's ties to South Africa's Communist Party and his history of violent activism and warned of dire results if he were freed and the apartheid government overthrown. (In his statement at the opening of the 1964 trial that ended in his imprisonment, Mandela explained that his African National Congress worked with communists toward the common goal of "the removal of white supremacy." He compared this to the United States and Great Britain allying with the Soviet Union during World War II).
Ronald Reagan neatly summed up the conservative position on South Africa and apartheid in a March 1981 interview with Walter Cronkite:
In an interview with CBS News, Reagan said the United States should still be concerned about South Africa's policy of racial separatism, called apartheid. But he suggested that as long as a "sincere and honest" effort was being made to achieve racial harmony, the United States should not be critical.
Reagan then asked: "Can we abandon a country that has stood by us in every war we have ever fought, a country that is strategically essential to the free world in its production of minerals that we all must have?" [Associated Press, March 23, 1981, via Nexis]
Since Mandela's passing, conservatives in the media have grappled with their movement's actions in light of the fruits his leadership bore. Here's how they're responding, in ways ranging from repugnant to laudatory:
Some conservative hardliners are convinced that they were right about Mandela all along. "Don't Mourn For Mandela" is the headline of Joseph Farah's December 6 column, in which the WND editor highlights Mandela's communist ties and use of violence, writing:
Apartheid was inarguably an evil and unjustifiable system. But so is the system Mandela's revolution brought about - one in which anti-white racism is so strong today that a prominent genocide watchdog group has labeled the current situation a "precursor" to the deliberate, systematic elimination of the race.
In other words, the world has been sold a bill of goods about Mandela. He wasn't the saintly character portrayed by Morgan Freeman. He wasn't someone fighting for racial equality. He was the leader of a violent, Communist revolution that has nearly succeeded in all of its grisly horror.
Farah concludes that someone needs to highlight these "inconvenient truths" because "the Mandela mythology is as dangerous as the terror he and his followers perpetrated on so many innocent victims - white and black."
Similarly, PJ Media's David Swindle headlined his piece on Mandela, "Communist Icon Nelson Mandela Dead at 95." In a post at his Gateway Pundit site, popular conservative blogger Jim Hoft marked Mandela's passing by posting a picture of Mandela with Fidel Castro and highlighting a tweet from a "Communist Party" Twitter account mourning his death.
From the December 3 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
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Historians are throwing cold water on conservatives' "fundamentally ludicrous" attempts to co-opt John F. Kennedy's legacy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
In recent days, several conservative media figures -- including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Chris Wallace -- have suggested that if Kennedy were alive today, his views would align with conservatives and the Tea Party. But in interviews with Media Matters historians dismissed these claims as "silly" and "bunk."
"It shows me that John F. Kennedy's legacy is so powerful that even those who stand for everything he stood against want to claim his legacy," said Sean Wilentz, professor of history at Princeton University. As for the right-wing pundits' view of a right-wing JFK? "It's bunk," says Wilentz. "John F. Kennedy embraced liberalism. He called himself a liberal, he was grateful to get the nomination of the Liberal Party of New York State. He ran on the liberal line."
Wilentz explained that the idea of him as conservative likely comes from his tax cuts, but he adds, "tax cuts are not necessarily conservative or liberal. The economy was sluggish at that moment, and it was to improve unemployment. Conservatives wanted to radically and dramatically change the income tax, basically collapse it."
Wilentz and other historians pointed to Kennedy's efforts at drafting the first versions of the 1964 civil rights bill, seeking nuclear disarmament, and supporting health and education funding.
"Was he a liberal? Yeah, he certainly thought he was a liberal and he went out of his way to be a liberal," said Edward D. Berkowitz, professor of history and public policy and public administration at The George Washington University. "A pro-government kind of liberalism, you can see that clearly in his domestic program. He was a big advocate of Medicare and federal aid to education."
Jeffrey A. Engle, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and the author of eight books, said describing JFK as conservtive is "a fundamentally ludicrous claim, which fundamentally misreads Kennedy's actual life and imprints upon Kennedy [the] political views that they themselves like. Kennedy fundamentally believed that the government could and should play a vital role in bettering people's lives, be it in education, civil rights, social welfare or the economy and he simply would not have been a conservative, there is just no way around it."
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Sean Hannity called the Senate's passage of filibuster reform a "lawless maneuver" despite having supported it in 2005 under Republican President George W. Bush.
After the Senate voted to change the rules on judicial nominees to allow confirmation with a simple majority vote, Hannity called the move a "lawless maneuver," saying "Democrats break the rules":
But in 2005, under a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress, Hannity called judicial nominations one of the "specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a supermajority," arguing that it was "unconstitutional to filibuster":
HANNITY: Senator [John McCain], one last question before we let you go here.
There are seven specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a supermajority. I believe it's unconstitutional to filibuster. It is not about advice and consent now to ask for a supermajority on judicial nominations. I believe that is not constitutional.
There's been a lot of talk about what we describe as the "constitutional option," which is that the Republicans would unite and vote, and there would be an up-or-down vote on all of the judicial nominations. Do you think that's the right thing to do? Will you support [then-Senate Majority Leader] Senator [Bill] Frist if he does it?
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out, of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations that have occurred in the history of the U.S. Senate, half have occurred during the Obama administration.
Fox News' Sean Hannity and Eric Bolling seized on a dubious, anonymously sourced report to revive the conspiracy theory that the Bureau of Labor Statistics manipulated unemployment data to help re-elect President Obama.
On November 18, the New York Post cited an anonymous Census Bureau employee to suggest that employment numbers were changed while President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012.
On the November 19 edition of his syndicated radio show, Hannity claimed the report proved that he was right to claim, in October 2012, that unemployment numbers were "altered for political gain."
On the November 19 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling also claimed the Post report proved his BLS conspiracy theories:
But not only was the New York Post's report thinly sourced to begin with, CNBC reported today that Julius Buckmon, the Census worker that allegedly fabricated data, has not worked at the Census Bureau since 2011, long before the unemployment report that Fox accused the Obama administration of manufacturing. Business Insider's Brett LoGiurato spoke with a Census spokesperson who confirmed that Buckmon has not worked for the agency since 2011 and that Buckmon "was an employee who was willfully disobeying Census procedures and disobeying the law."
Furthermore, the unnamed source provided no evidence that the September 2012 unemployment rate was either unusual or manipulated. Business Insider's Joe Wiesenthal explained:
The allegation is interesting. It claims that surveyers conducting the Household Survey -- which is what establishes the unemployment rate -- were pressured to fake surveys in order to fill in data gaps, when it was difficult to get adequate response rates on its surveys.
It also claims that instances of bad data being filled in is something that was going back to 2010 -- in other words, this is not a story about the infamous September 2012 jobs report. There's also no allegation here that there was pressure to manipulate the number up. The only claim is that there was pressure to fill in gaps where there was a shortfall in the number of survey respondents.
There may be more information to come to light on this, but at least this particular report doesn't jibe with Welch's claim that something unusual happened with the September report to artificially push the number down.
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.