Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
Fox News has rediscovered its love of law and order.
In the wake of protests across the country by Black Lives Matter activists following the deaths of two African-American men at the hands of police, Fox has spent days loudly denouncing the group for its allegedly violent ways. Under the headline, “Time to end Black Lives Matter lawlessness,” Fox’s Todd Starnes recently insisted “the rules of law matters, folks. Without it, we’ve got anarchy.”
Starnes was angry that Black Lives Matter activists weren’t arrested when they marched on a bridge in Memphis and shut down traffic there over the weekend.
Fox hosts and guests have all been piling on Black Lives Matter, continuing the network’s long-running campaign to demonize the group. Bill O’Reilly announced that an NAACP director and African-Americans in general need to “distance themselves from Black Lives Matter” in order to create “good racial relations,” while a panel of Fox News talkers last week insisted Black Lives Matter has its “roots in violence.” And Sean Hannity recently claimed that Black Lives Matter’s “advancing narrative is killing cops.”
In other words, just rancid stuff, as Fox whips up racial tension under the guise of defending law and order. (Rudy Giuliani on Fox: Black Lives Matter “puts a target on the back of police.”)
Fox News’ hate rhetoric isn’t just dangerous, it also reeks of hypocrisy when you recall that back in 2014, the same Fox News flaunted its disdain for law enforcement in order to champion Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. For two decades, Bundy refused to pay federal grazing fees on the public land his cattle used. According to Fox and the conservative media then, there was no more important battle than Bundy’s symbolic showdown with the federal government.
The rancher’s battle was supported by heavily armed militiamen and women. Insurrectionism was the ugly theme of the day. Law enforcement was the enemy. And for Bundy, Fox News acted as his publicist/public defender, rallying conservatives across the country to support a rancher who didn’t want to pay his taxes.
- Bill O’Reilly suggested Bundy “probably is a hero in many people's eyes because he's standing up against this colossus."
- Sean Hannity relentlessly promoted Bundy, who called the Fox News talker his “hero.”
- Andrew Napolitano called the law-breaking rancher a "patriotic, heroic American."
And yes, the same Todd Starnes who today is so worried about “anarchy” if Black Lives Matter activists aren’t arrested was out front defending Bundy’s lawlessness. Referencing federal employees' attempt to legally confiscate Bundy's cattle after his fees and fines, Starnes noted, "Don't they still have laws on the books about cattle rustling out in Nevada? ... Back in the day, they used to string folks up for stealing cattle."
At the height of Fox News’ Bundy frenzy and irresponsibility (like when Hannity wondered on-air if the federal government would kill the rancher), conservative media couldn’t stop fanning fears about "government overreach" in the Age of Obama.
The Drudge Report recklessly hyped the possibility of a violent confrontation with the anti-government militia members, and Bundy himself threatened a “Range War” against the government, claiming his son was a “political prisoner.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center later reported, “The standoff between federal agents and armed supporters of a Nevada rancher earlier this year was a highly coordinated effort by far-right militiamen.” The group noted the Bundy confrontation “was seen as a victory within the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement after federal agents pulled out despite Bundy owing more than $1 million in grazing fees and fines to the federal government.”
Make no mistake, the Bundy stand-off was aggressively anti-law enforcement. “Militia snipers lined the hilltops and overpasses with scopes trained on federal agents,” SPLC noted. During one confrontation, protesters taunted federal agents with insults, denouncing various officers as a "terrorist," "loser," "chickenshit," and a "fucking pussy.
Reminder: In April 2014, Bundy uncorked a racist rant ("I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro") and thoroughly embarrassed his media supporters who foolishly portrayed him as an American hero.
But before his sudden fall, Fox News touted Bundy and his anarchic militia supporters as symbols of American resistance. Keep that in mind next time a Fox talker denounces Black Lives Matter as lawless.