Fox News deceptively edited a clip of President Obama's statement on demonstrations following the shooting death of Michael Brown to suggest Obama is “choosing sides” and has “set an atmosphere” for discord and violence. In fact, Obama emphasized the importance of both “a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest.”
Obama addressed the tense protests that followed the death of Brown -- an unarmed teen who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri -- in an August 15 statement that called for “healing,” “peace and calm.”
The August 15 edition of Fox & Friends promptly suggested Obama may have gone too far by noting that there is “no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters.” In a teasing segment, an on-air graphic asked if the president was “choosing sides.” Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. later argued that Obama “may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force.” Though Johnson acknowledged that Obama “did to some extent” invoke reason, he concluded that “the shadings in his statements ... set an atmosphere -- unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community”:
JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if he jumped in too quickly. He may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force and with regard to the police being an assaultive force on protesters. What I expect, and I think a lot of Americans expect, is the president to invoke the rule of law, to invoke reason. He did to some extent. But if you look at the shadings in his statements, he's clearly made a statement that the police were acting in an excessive way, that they were violating rights not only of the protesters, but of reporters on the scene. So when you do so, you set a scene and you set an atmosphere --unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community.
But the portion of Obama's statement that Fox & Friends aired during the segment was deceptively clipped to hide the fact that Obama also condemned “violence against police” as well as “excessive force against peaceful protests.” Fox spliced together the Obama's comments that “I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting” and “There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests,” skipping over the portion of his statement that condemned violence against police (the portions Fox aired are in bold):
Now, second, I want to address something that's been in the news over the last couple of days and that's the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting. Today, I'd like us all to take a step back and think about how we're going to be moving forward.
There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.
I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That's part of our democracy. But let's remember that we're all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.
So now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.
Even Fox News' Geraldo Rivera disagreed with this assessment. In a later segment, he pushed back against a similar suggestion from Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, noting that Obama “tried his best to do a measured presentation.”