Even when Fox is reporting on a completely innocuous story, they can't help themselves from lying. Fox & Friends ran a segment hosting one of their most prominent advertisers, the Foundation for a Better Life, and purporting to report “who's behind” the group, they hosted an unobjectionable, heroic woman who is featured in one of their ads. But, she's not “who's behind” the group; indeed, it doesn't even seem that she works for them. In fact, the actual people behind the group are right-wing, religious, anti-gay conservatives.
As any Fox News viewer knows, the Foundation for a Better Life is a pretty prominent advertiser on the network. Their commercials follow a similar pattern, usually a short vignette or montage with little to no dialogue, featuring people demonstrating some sort of positive behavior. Sometimes they will show a student refusing to help his friend cheat, a mother encouraging her son to find the things he's best at, a basketball player coming clean about a bad call that a ref made. The personal favorite for many of us depicts a man remembering the things he loves about his wife and deciding to go back to her, despite the fact that they fought, and she burned his steak dinners for a whole year. Set to country music.
These ads almost invariably end with the ad naming the positive quality displayed in the ad and encouraging you to “pass it on.” These include things like honesty, patience, generosity, so on. The fact that the commercials don't ask you to do anything, and the website doesn't ask for money, makes this group unique to say the least. So when this morning's Fox & Friends told us they were going to show us who is behind these somewhat cryptic ads, we were intrigued. But, somehow, the show let us down again.
Co-host Steve Doocy teased the segment by saying: “Straight ahead have you seen these commercials about paying it forward? We wanted to know who makes them and who's the group behind them? We found out. The very cool story behind the message is coming up.” While Doocy was speaking, they aired video of the Foundation for a Better Life ad, which depicts a real life story of a high school student with Downs Syndrome being named Prom Queen. Watch:
Yet when they got around to the segment on “who's the group behind” the ads, they hosted a woman named Oral Lee Brown, whose experience with a young girl prompted her to “adopt” an entire class of 23 first graders and put up the money for them all to go to college. On $45,000 per year. Her story is truly amazing and certainly one worthy of national attention. But it has nothing to do with who is “behind” the Foundation for a Better Life. In fact, despite Fox identifying her as a “face” of the organization, Ms. Brown doesn't even appear to work for them; her story is simplyfeatured on one of the group's advertisements.
So who is behind the Foundation for a Better Life?
Well, the group appears to have few actual employees, according to their 990 form. In 2009, there were only two paid officers, with a handful of unpaid officers, including three members of the Anschutz family: Christian Anschutz, the Treasurer; Nancy Anschutz, the Vice President and Director; and Phillip Anschutz, the Chairman and Director. Additionally, the sole source of funding is the Anschutz Foundation, which gives between $2.5 and $3 million per year.
So why didn't Fox & Friends host the Anschutz family to discuss their group, if they really wanted to get to the bottom of “the story behind these moving messages?” Perhaps because they'd have to acknowledge that preaching “quality values for all individuals regardless of their race or religion” isn't all Mr. Anschutz does. Indeed, there is at least one community in particular that doesn't have “quality values,” in Anschutz's eyes and that's the LGBT community. Anschutz has reportedly funded several campaigns against gay rights, among other things, including evolution and single parenthood. According to the UK newspaper The Independent:
But Anschutz is not only a wealthy tycoon who has built a business empire that encompasses everything from railways and ranches to cinemas and sports teams, he has also used this vast wealth and influence to promote his conservative Christian views, to campaign against gay marriage and to fund an organisation that questions Darwin's theory of evolution. His money also pays for another group based in Washington to attack and lobby against liberal elements of the US media and to rail about alleged indecency on television, while his movie production company, the Anschutz Film Group (AFG), has made Christianity-themed films such as The Chronicles of Narnia, an adaptation of C S Lewis's children's story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
For instance there was his funding in the early Nineties of a group called Colorado for Family Values, which pushed a ballot initiative known as Amendment 2, which wished to overturn state laws protecting gay rights. The measure passed but was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1996.
Anschutz is also involved with the Discovery Institute, a “think-tank” he funds in Seattle which criticises the theory of evolution and argues for the involvement of a “supernatural” actor in the development of living things. Critics accuse it of offering little more than a new spin on creationism, and the institute was recently caught up in a notorious lawsuit about the teaching of creationism in schools.
Then there is the Media Research Council, a Washington-based group that attacks the liberal media and which in 2003 was responsible for half of the complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission about alleged indecency on television. According to the non-profit group Media Transparency, Anschutz also funds a number of other ultra-conservative organisations, including the Institute for American Values, which campaigns for marriage and against single parenting, and Enough is Enough, which campaigns against internet pornography. [The Independent, 07/08/06]
In addition, Anschutz owns the whole line of Examiner newspapers, including everyone's favorite right-wing, anti-gay, anti-Obama rag, the Washington Examiner. He also owns the uber-conservative Weekly Standard (which coincidentally, he bought from Rupert Murdoch).
Let's be clear. I have no problem with the Foundation for a Better Life's values messages and whole-heartedly applaud Oral Lee Brown's work to send poor children to college. But, you have to wonder, why didn't Fox just focus their story on that? After all, it's a perfectly legitimate, heartwarming story that deserves the attention. Why did they frame the story as reporting on who is “behind” the ads and claim that Brown was the “face” of the organization? Why did they feel they had to take that approach, in order to obscure the true, ultra-right-wing, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-single mother even, forces behind them? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?