Special Report with Bret Baier

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  • Fox News Cites Anti-Choice Group’s Poll To Push Myth That Americans Oppose Abortion Access

    Once Again, Fox’s Shannon Bream Pushed Dubious Polling To Argue That “Social Conservatives” Are “Turning The Tide” On American’s Abortion Beliefs

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the July 27 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, chief legal correspondent Shannon Bream reported that the Democratic Party’s positions on increasing abortion access and funding run contrary to the “personal convictions of average Americans.”

    To support this argument, Bream cited a recent poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus -- a self-identified “pro-life” group that has waged “a decades-long battle against abortion legislation.” Beyond failing to disclose the ideological affiliations of the group commissioning the poll, Bream also attempted to use the data to misleadingly suggest that Americans have a unified and consistently anti-choice position on abortion access.

    According to Bream, the Knights of Columbus poll shows that “78 percent” of Americans “say they support substantial restrictions on abortion, including 62 percent of those who self-identify as pro-choice.” However, as previous research has shown, polling on individuals’ support for abortion is complicated and highly contextual.

    For example, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explained, 39 percent of Americans do not self-identify as either “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” and this determination is often influenced heavily by the wording of individual poll questions. She noted that although many people had “strongly held” feelings about abortion, much of the phrasing in polls fails to capture “the personal factors and situations that influence how each individual thinks about the issue.” Kliff continued that in poll questions, “a simple wording change can significantly alter whether Americans say they support legal abortion.”

    When MSNBC’s Irin Carmon compared the questions asked in different polls she, too, found that a simple shift in phrasing or question style could substantially alter a poll’s findings:

    You could ask Americans if they want Roe v. Wade overturned, as the Pew Research Center did in 2013, and learn that 63 percent want to see it stand. Or you could ask Americans to choose between two vague statements, like the recent poll the Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted for the Knights of Columbus, a group that opposes abortion. Asked to pick between “it is possible to have laws which protect both the health and well-being of a woman and the life of the unborn; or two, it is necessary for laws to choose to protect one and not the other,” 77 percent said it was possible to do everything. The policy implications of the first statement are unclear.

    [...]

    Asking about what the law should be, whether generally or specifically, is when it gets really messy. According to one pollster, the most popular question of all – asking people if they think abortion should be legal in all, most or certain circumstances – is the most problematic.

    “I don’t even want to ask this dumb question anymore, because it doesn’t work,” says Tresa Undem. “It’s a bad polling measurement.” She conducted the Vox poll as well as a recent one for the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which supports abortion rights, and has written about the problem with polling on abortion.

    Why? When Undem looked only at the 34 percent of people who said they thought abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest and health risk, she found contradictory views.

    [...]

    But Undem says that internally conflicting views on abortion are par for the course. “On this topic, where people haven’t sorted through all their thoughts about it, you ask one question, the next you can get a reverse response.”

    Americans across the ideological spectrum also tend to share a variety of fundamentally incorrect perceptions about the frequency and safety of abortion procedures. As Kliff wrote in a February 29 article, Americans often significantly “overestimate the safety risks for women who have abortions" and underestimate the prevalence of procedure itself. Despite the fact that abortion is both common and incredibly safe, these misconceptions can negatively skew an individual’s perception of the procedure.

    The July 27 Special Report segment was far from the first time Bream has used selectively framed polling data to suggest Americans oppose abortion access and reproductive health care.

    In January 2016, Bream cited another poll from the Knights of Columbus to allege that “81 percent of Americans think abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy.” During the report, Bream did not note that the poll was commissioned by the anti-choice group.

    Beyond pushing selectively framed polling, Bream also has a history of presenting misleading reporting on a number of reproductive rights topics. For example, long after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood were discredited, Bream gave CMP founder David Daleiden an unchallenged platform to continuing pushing misinformation.

    While Fox News and Bream used selectively framed polling to criticize the Democratic Party’s platform as “out of step with the majority of Americans,” they have ignored the fallacious positions on abortion and Planned Parenthood codified in the official Republican Party platform.

  • Fox’s Charles Krauthammer “Wouldn’t Compare” Trump To A Fascist Leader, But Had No Problem Linking Obama To Hitler In 2008

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer took issue with President Obama’s remarks during the Democratic National Convention where he seemed to allude to Donald Trump as a “homegrown demagogue.” The president argued that American “values” have always survived threats from “fascists or communists or terrorists or homegrown demagogues,” to which Krauthammer complained that he “wouldn’t compare [Trump] to Hitler, Stalin, and Osama Bin Laden.” Krauthammer’s distaste for Obama’s seeming comparison is surprising considering Krauthammer linked Obama to Hitler in 2008.

    During President Obama’s July 27 remarks at the Democratic National Convention, the president highlighted the work his administration has done to fix the economy and keep America safe. Obama also commented on the values he learned from his grandparents, arguing, “That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.”

    Fox’s Charles Krauthammer criticized President Obama’s comments, calling them “astonishing” and saying, “I wouldn’t compare [Trump] to Hitler, Stalin, and Osama Bin Laden.” Krauthammer added, “I think because Trump represents the antithesis of what [President Obama] does in his own mind, [Obama] really is going to throw his weight into this election.”

    Krauthammer had no issue with linking Obama to Hitler when then-Senator Obama gave a campaign speech in Berlin, Germany in 2008 to thousands of Germans, American expatriates, and others at the Brandenburg Gate. Krauthammer weighed in on whether Obama’s speech in Berlin would help him in the 2008 campaign, saying, “You don’t get a bounce out of standing in front of 200,000 Germans at a rally who are chanting your name. Bad vibes sometimes, historically.” Krauthammer’s apparent offhand allusion to Hitler in a criticism of Obama is part of a much larger trend in right-wing media wherein commentators and pundits routinely compare mundane policy choices to the brutal oppression of history’s greatest dictators.

    On the other hand, while Krauthammer “wouldn’t compare” Trump to Hitler, historians, journalists, political commentators, and even Holocaust survivors have criticized Trump for outrageous comments, proposals, and actions they argue share similarities with fascist dictators. Trump has previously been called out for using “Nazi-style” hand gestures, galvanizing white nationalist groups with his campaign rhetoric, and even tweeting an anti-Clinton image which originated on an anti-Semitic message board.

  • Here Are All The Reasons Media Think Trump Is Not Releasing His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated his plan not to release his tax returns prior to the election due to an IRS audit -- despite the IRS saying he is not precluded from doing so -- media figures questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s excuse, arguing instead that it could be due to his possible business dealings with Russia, paying little to no taxes, and not giving to charity, among other reasons.

  • Fox News Revives Debunked Claim That Democratic Primary Was “Rigged”

    Fox Spins Hacked DNC Emails To Claim Clinton’s Victory Is “Illegitimate”

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News figures distorted the contents of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to claim that the Democratic presidential primary was “rigged” and that Hillary Clinton’s victory is “illegitimate.” But media have noted that Clinton won “her party’s nomination by every available measure” and that the hacked emails in no way prove the primary was “rigged.”

  • A Year Of Anti-Choice Deception: CMP’s Smear Campaign By The Numbers

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On July 14, 2015, the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released the first of 14 deceptively edited videos smearing Planned Parenthood.

    To mark the one-year anniversary of its deceptive campaign, the anti-choice group released a “video overview of the past year” that purported to show “senior-level Planned Parenthood leadership negotiating the sale and haggling over the price of aborted baby body parts.”

    In the past year, CMP’s dishonest videos attacking Planned Parenthood have been consistently debunked while multiple states have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

    Despite the fraudulent nature of CMP’s claims, right-wing media seized on the opportunity to attack Planned Parenthood. CMP’s smear campaign served as the catalyst for a year of media-driven misinformation about Planned Parenthood, including efforts to defund the organization and ongoing congressional witch hunts against abortion providers and medical researchers.

    By the numbers, here’s what a year of anti-choice deception looks like:

    10: Fox News Devoted 10 Separate Segments To CMP In One Day Of Coverage

    After CMP published its first video in July 2015, right-wing media were among the first to consistently give a platform to the anti-choice group’s misinformation.

    Following the release of CMP’s second video on July 21, 2015, Fox News dedicated 10 segments across seven separate programs to hyping the deceptively edited footage in a single one day. According to a Media Matters count of Fox News programming on July 21, 2015, America’s Newsroom aired three segments on CMP’s smear videos, while both Special Report and The O’Reilly Factor discussed the allegations across two separate segments on each program. The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, and The Kelly File each devoted one segment to CMP.

    Another recent Media Matters study found that during a 14-month period from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, Fox News’ evening news programs relied on extreme anti-choice figures and misinformation to help promote CMP’s smear campaign. For example, Fox host Bill O’Reilly called for an FBI investigation into Planned Parenthood while network correspondent Peter Doocy claimed that he “searched the Planned Parenthood website for fetal baby part prices” but didn’t get any results because the practice is a “well-kept secret.”

    9: Reported Harassment Of Abortion Providers Increased Ninefold Following CMP’s Baseless Attacks

    According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” of abortion providers -- likely inspired by CMP’s incendiary allegations and rhetoric. NAF president and CEO Vicki Saporta noted that the ninefold increase in harassment and threats of abortion providers since the release of CMP videos was “unprecedented.”

    In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was tragically borne out in November 2015 when suspected shooter Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.

    Planned Parenthood has not been the only target of this violence and harassment. In December 2015, Scott Anthony Orton was arrested for making death threats against employees of StemExpress, the biomedical company targeted in several of the discredited CMP videos. As reported by The News Tribune, Orton posted more than 18 different threatening messages that led to his arrest. In April 2016, Orton pleaded guilty to threatening StemExpress employees.

    8: CMP Has Targeted Eight Planned Parenthood Providers By Name In Smear Videos

    Since July 2015, Media Matters has extensively documented the deceptive edits and misleading information in CMP’s videos. Throughout the 14 videos, CMP has targeted eight Planned Parenthood providers by name. In a July 14 post announcing the release of its one-year anniversary video, CMP reiterated the names of these providers and provided links to each of their deceptive videos. By recording abortion providers without their consent and identifying them by name, CMP not only exposed the targeted providers to increased threats of violence, but also raised the spectre of anti-choice violence against all reproductive health care providers.

    For example, after Dear allegedly carried out his deadly attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood, MedStar Washington Hospital Center barred abortion provider Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper from publicly speaking about the need for great abortion access. The hospital’s medical director issued the gag order after the Planned Parenthood attack “out of concerns for security,” saying he didn’t want to draw attention to MedStar’s abortion and reproductive health care services.

    Nina Liss-Schultz reported for Mother Jones that the November Planned Parenthood attack “highlighted a fact of life that abortion providers and clinic staff have known for decades: Sophisticated and extensive security are necessary to protect both providers and patients.”

    7: Congressional Select Panel Included Seven Documents Sourced From CMP In One Letter

    The congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was formed in October 2015, several months after CMP began releasing deceptively edited videos in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood.

    Since the select panel’s inception, the media have criticized its actions as a politically motivated “witch hunt” and a “Benghazi treatment” of Planned Parenthood. In its 10 months of operation, the select panel has found no substantiated evidence of wrongdoing, prompting numerous lawmakers to call for its disbandment. Although select panel Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has insisted Republicans are on a “fact finding mission,” Media Matters has sourced numerous documents used by the select panel as “evidence” to CMP’s website and deceptive videos.

    In a June 1 letter, the select panel sourced seven documents from CMP to allege Planned Parenthood had violated federal patient safety and privacy rules.

    6: Six Democrats On The Select Panel Have Called For An End To The “Witch Hunt”

    The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives is comprised of eight Republican and six Democrat members. The Democrats on the select panel include: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and ranking member Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL).

    Since the panel’s inception, the Democrat members have consistently voiced their concerns about the methods and motivations of the Republican members. Commenting on the Republican member’s interim report, Schakowsky pointedly criticized the panel’s work, stating, “Never before have I witnessed such a disconnect between allegations and the facts.” Schakowsky previously called out the select panel as a “dangerous witch hunt” against abortion providers.

    The Democrats on the panel are part of a group of 181 other lawmakers who have called on Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the select panel.

    5: Five Supreme Court Justices Ruled Against Restrictive Anti-Choice Legislation Cheered By CMP And Others

    On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that Texas’ extreme anti-choice law HB 2 was unconstitutional because it imposed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Supporters of HB 2 argued that the law’s requirements were medically necessary to protect the health and safety of women during abortions. In reality, these restrictions were based on anti-choice myths about abortion, offered no medical benefits to patients, and substantially burdened women’s ability to access safe and legal abortion.

    In reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision, CMP’s founder David Daleiden issued a press release calling it a “nearly incoherent abortion ruling” that was “little more than a naked power grab that calls into question the Court’s continued adherence to the rule of law.” Daleiden maintained that CMP’s work would have convinced the Supreme Court otherwise if it were not under “a gag-order from the federal court in San Francisco.”

    4: Four Of CMP’s Videos Make Up Its So-Called “Documentary Web Series”

    Out of CMP’s 15 videos -- including the anniversary recap video -- four are labeled a “documentary web series” called the Human Capital Project. CMP described the four videos as a documentary-style expose that “integrates expert interviews, eyewitness accounts, and real-life undercover interactions to tell the story of Planned Parenthood’s commercial exploitation of aborted fetal tissue.”

    Throughout the four Human Capital Project videos, CMP relied heavily on the testimony of former StemExpress employee Holly O’Donnell to falsely allege that Planned Parenthood participated in the illegal sale of donated fetal tissue and to make other unproven allegations of improper conduct.

    In reality, the claims in the so-called “documentary” videos have been thoroughly debunked. Citing previously unseen footage, the Los Angeles Times released an investigative report in March that confirms “O’Donnell’s apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed” and that off-camera, Daleiden can be heard “coaching O’Donnell through repeated takes.”

    3: Three Lawsuits Have Been Filed Against Daleiden And CMP

    Since CMP began its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood last July, there have been three lawsuits filed against the anti-choice group, its founder David Daleiden, and his various associates.

    In a comprehensive look at the impact of CMP’s campaign of deception, Rewire’s Jessica Mason Pieklo and Imani Gandy summarized the charges and timeline of each of the lawsuits filed against Daleiden and his co-conspirators. According to Peklo and Gandy, Daleiden and CMP face suits from StemExpress -- the biomedical tissue procurement company that previously partnered with Planned Parenthood and has been depicted in some of CMP’s videos -- the National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood.

    2: Daleiden Was Indicted On Two Charges By A Grand Jury In Houston, Texas

    In addition to the lawsuits they face, Daleiden and one of his associates were indicted by a grand jury in Houston, Texas. In January 2015, a Harris County, Texas, grand jury indicted Daleiden on a felony charge of “Tampering with a Governmental Record” and a misdemeanor charge of “illegally offer[ing] to purchase human organs.” Although the misdemeanor charge was dismissed on a technicality in June, Daleiden still faces the felony charge for using a “fake driver's license during his efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood.”

    CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Melaney A. Linton told Mother Jones that as the indictment process has progressed, “It's become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we will allow the court to hold them accountable.”

    1: One Year Later, Still No Evidence That Anyone Except CMP Broke The Law

    One year later, CMP’s deceptively edited videos have been repeatedly discredited while multiple state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. During this time CMP has earned the title of Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year, been indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Houston, TX, been subject to lawsuits, and had its work soundly rejected by multiple judges and journalists alike.

    After a year CMP still has little to show in the way of evidence to substantiate their claims, while Planned Parenthood has emerged even stronger. In a statement to the Huffington Post, Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens explained that, despite the difficulties of the past year, the reproductive health organization remained confident about the future. She said, “We’re stronger today than we were a year ago … The extreme anti-abortion activists behind the videos are on a mission to ban abortion in this county -- they failed.”

  • There’s More To The Harvard Racial Bias Study Than Right-Wing Media Are Reporting

    Other Media Note Error Of Extrapolating From Limited Data

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    After The New York Times published results from Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer’s study showing that police, after making a stop, are “less likely to shoot if the suspects were black," right-wing media hyped the report headline that there was “no racial bias” involved in police shootings. They argued that high rates of black crime could instead explain the disproportionate rate of black fatalities at the hands of police. But other media outlets noted that the study’s data is limited, that it is based on testimonies of police officers, and that it “avoided the question of whether black citizens are more likely to be stopped to begin with.”