In recent weeks, Fox News has continued its pattern of engaging in political advocacy, this time supporting Scott Brown, the Republican nominee in the special election for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat. Fox has hosted Brown several times, providing him a forum to raise funds; Dick Morris has explicitly asked viewers to go to his website to help elect Brown. Fox media figures have distorted Democratic nominee Martha Coakley's statements and suggested Democrats may steal the election; and Fox News has suggested that a Brown victory would provide economic benefits.
From the January 19 edition of Fox and Friends:
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On January 15, Fox & Friends misrepresented the details of the recent health care negotiation relating to proposals to taxing high-cost "Cadillac" health care plans by falsely claiming that the proposal to "eliminate from any taxing dental and vision" policies applied only to union members, and Fox & Friends repeatedly claimed that the concessions won during the negotations were "a bribe" to unions. In fact, most of the negotiations, including the dental and vision exemptions, apply to all workers -- not just union workers -- and the extension given to union members regarding the implementation of the excise tax was reportedly made in order to allow unions time to negotiate less expensive plans for their workers.
Tuesday, Sarah Palin made her Fox News debut, where she, as Simon Maloy has pointed out, basically got paid by Fox News to give an infomercial about herself. The Fox News community has expressed nothing but glee over Palin's appearance, with Fox Nation going so far as to declare that Palin was "on Fire in Fox News Debut." Fox & Friends spent a good chunk of their show yesterday discussing Palin's appearance and her "common sense conservatism," but there was one part of Palin's interview that really struck a chord with them -- when she declared that the negative stories about her in the recently released book on the 2008 elections, Game Change, were "a bunch of B.S."
During the interview, Bill O'Reilly gave Palin the opportunity to respond to several anecdotes in the book, including that she didn't "know the difference between North and South Korea"; that she "thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11"; and that she "didn't know why" her son was being deployed to Iraq. Palin dismissed most of these claims as "crap"; "lie[s]," and "B.S." (except for Saddam's ties to 9/11--she had "questions" about that). Palin said "these reporters were not there, adding, "I don't think I've -- that I've ever met these guys. They didn't interview me for the book."
Palin's declaration seemed to blow the Fox & Friends crew's minds, and they immediately took up Palin's cause. Gretchen Carlson said of Palin's self-defense: "It's a really interesting point, actually, that the reporters were not there. So they're depending on people allegedly who were there to give them the story. How do they know they're telling the truth?"
Apparently it had not previously occurred to Carlson that the book's sources could be less than reliable. Prior to Palin's remarks, Fox & Friends had spent a considerable amount of time breathlessly reporting on numerous thinly sourced rumors that appear in Game Change with nary a hint of skepticism ...so long as the rumors related to Democratic politicians, of course.
For instance, on Monday, Steve Doocy reported that the book's authors, Mark Halperin and John Heilmann, "have gotten all of the juicy stuff from behind the scenes during the run for the presidency" and described as a "fact" that "candidate Obama's own political team, some staff members would refer to the candidate as the black Jesus." Brian Kilmeade went on to report that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign staff "lost confidence" in her after her "bizarre reaction to her loss in Iowa," adding that Clinton thought that Obama's past drug use "should have been in play. And Bill Clinton, her own staff did a background check to find out about rumors about him having relationships with other women and they found one, a long-term one in 2006 and they set up in there their own war room on just Bill Clinton." Can't you hear the skepticism in their reporting?
Or how about yesterday, when, in its first news segment of the show, Kilmeade declared: "No one is looking at this book and saying, 'You lie.' You're looking at this book and saying 'I can't believe everybody knows this story.'" For her part, Carlson said of the book's reporting on the Clinton campaign: "[S]ome are saying...because one of the leading sources in this book was somebody directly on the inside of Hillary's campaign, so there really is no disputing the facts. Although that hasn't really stopped anyone before from disputing the facts." Yesterday Fox & Friends reported with hardly a whiff of disbelief that former President Bill Clinton accused Sen. Ted Kennedy of only "endorsing" Obama "because he's black"; that Bill Clinton said "a few years ago" Obama "would have been getting us coffee"; that when Obama was Senator he was of the opinion that Biden was "absolutely the most condescending U.S. Senator towards him"; that Bill Clinton was alleged to have been engaged in an extramarital affair; that Hillary Clinton wanted to push stories that Obama was a drug dealer; and that in the book, the Edwards family was "laid bare," by "eye-open[ing]" revelations.
I'd be inclined to give the Fox & Friends team the benefit of the doubt that they never thought to question the validity of the claims made in Game Change before their idol Palin complained about it, if they had immediately stopped treating the book's stories as fact. Sadly, that was not the case. After Carlson questioned "how" one could know if Heilmann and Halperin's sources were true because the "reporters were not there," Fox & Friends later reported on the book's description of Elizabeth Edwards as "a crazy woman" without a question as to the accuracy of the book's anecdotes. The on-screen text during that segment was, "A Marriage in Turmoil? Book Paints Negative Picture of Edwards." Clearly, they must believe that as long as the story isn't a negative one about Palin, then it must be true.
Take a look at Fox & Friends selective skepticism of Game Change's reporting:
Right-wing media outlets have continued to attack Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley for her recent comments about terrorism in Afghanistan, often by distorting her remarks on the subject. But the context of Coakley's comments make clear that she was referring to Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan -- echoing numerous military experts' statements regarding Al Qaeda's diminished presence in Afghanistan.
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox & Friends repeatedly attacked Martha Coakley, Democratic Senate candidate for Massachusetts, for saying there are no "terrorists" in Afghanistan, and at one point falsely claimed she said the "Taliban" is "no longer a threat." But the context of Coakley's comments makes clear that when she said "terrorists," she was specifically referring to Al Qaeda, not the Taliban, and indeed, her comments are similar to military experts' statements that Al Qaeda's presence is diminished in Afghanistan.
From the January 13 edititon of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that a New York City-led initiative to encourage reduced salt intake would allow the government to "decide how much salt is in our diets," tying the voluntary guidelines to "some sort of government-run health care," repeating a consistent pattern of Fox personalities distorting voluntary guidelines as illustrating government mandates that would exist under health care reform. However, as the New York City government makes clear, the program "is a voluntary initiative, not a regulatory measure."
Responding to Sen. Harry Reid's recently reported controversial comments about President Obama, numerous conservative media figures have accused Democrats of having a "double standard" regarding racially insensitive remarks made by Republicans, specifically citing the outrage over former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's past comments in support of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign. But others -- including NPR's Cokie Roberts, Rev. Al Sharpton, and NAACP's Hilary Shelton -- have argued that the two comments are not comparable, because Reid was praising an African-American's advancement, whereas Lott was expressing support for a segregationist.
Fox & Friends' hosts and the New York Post editorial board complained that the "near-five-hour delay" (or "three-and-a-half hour delay") of President Obama's press conference addressing the intelligence review of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt to set off a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas day was "disconcerting," "strange and eerie," "dysfunctional," and "not what the White House should be doing." In fact -- as Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy at one point acknowledged -- administration officials stated that the delay was required to declassify the summary of a report on the attempted attack which was released following the conference.
Conservative media figures have politicized the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack to criticize President Obama's handling of national security matters. But their assertions about Obama's and former President Bush's handling of terrorism and national security are replete with myths and falsehoods.
Following President Obama's January 7 remarks on the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing -- during which he stated, "We are at war. We are at war with al Qaeda" -- numerous conservative media figures have falsely suggested that prior to that speech, Obama had not characterized the fight against terrorists as a war. In fact, in his inaugural address, Obama stated that "[o]ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," and he has repeatedly discussed terrorism as the rationale for U.S. military action abroad.
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Following news that Senate Democrats Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan will retire in 2010, Fox News personalities have repeatedly tied theirs and other congressional Democrats' retirements to President Obama's "radical" agenda. In doing so, Fox ignored that a similar number of Republicans in Congress have announced that they also will not seek re-election.