Fox News spent an entire week hyping a supposed “War on Easter,” pointing to the decision made by a few school boards to hold “Spring egg hunt[s]” instead of Easter egg hunts. In seven days, Fox devoted 10 segments to what host Bill O'Reilly called the continued “war on Judeo-Christian tradition.”
On March 21, O'Reilly lambasted President Obama and the White House for empowering “secular progressives” to pressure school districts around the country to eliminate terms like “Easter bunny” and “Easter egg.” O'Reilly complained that “the war on Judeo-Christian tradition continues in some public school districts,” citing districts in five states that he said “are having Spring egg events. Moderated by a Spring bunny” :
O'REILLY: I know it's stupid. You know it's stupid. But it's happening, and there is a reason why it's happening. Secular progressives are running wild with President Obama in the White House. They feel unchained, liberated and they are trying to diminish any form of religion. The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs.
In the past week, several Fox shows followed O'Reilly's lead, airing segments that criticized the “P.C. police” and focused on “assaults” that have put Christianity “on the run in this country” :
March 22: Fox & Friends First dedicated a segment to replaying O'Reilly's call to arms in defense of Easter. In reaction to the clip, co-host Heather Nauert asked, “What the heck is a Spring egg anyway?” and emphasized that it should be called “Easter.”
March 24: During a “P.C. Police” segment, Fox & Friends Sunday guest co-host Jesse Watters, echoing O'Reilly's March 21 remarks, discussed the deliberate attempt to “diminish religion” with his guest. He also claimed that people who want to remove the word Easter from certain school activities causes pain to more people:
WATTERS: Now, a lot of people say it offends people when you use the word Easter, a very small minority, but then by removing the word Easter ends up offending much more people to begin with. Don't they see that they're actually causing more pain?
March 26: The Five co-host Eric Bolling hyped a supposed new example of Easter coming under attack when the principal of an Alabama middle school directed her school to not call an egg hunt an “Easter egg” hunt in order to respect others' religion.
March 27: Fox's coverage of the “War on Easter” came to a head when it dedicated six segments to the so-called “War.” Fox's early show, Fox & Friends First, covered the Alabama middle school's decision twice, asking the audience to weigh in on the supposed controversy.
On Fox & Friends, the co-hosts also commented on the Alabama middle school's decision to remove “Easter” from school activities. In the first segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade reacted to a clip of the principal explaining why she made the decision to drop the word “Easter,” asking if she was nine years old because of how she spoke. Co-host Gretchen Carlson wondered why using the word “Easter” was concerning at all:
CARLSON: I just always love to know who complains about this. Because if you're talking about Passover this week, and you're talking about Easter, I think those are the only two religious holidays this week. Correct me if I am wrong. So if you include both of them what's the big deal? I guess if you believe in nothing, then you would be one that might criticize, saying either of those two words. But then, can't you just leave the option out there for people if they believe in nothing to just - okay you believe in nothing. I just don't understand when people get their undies in a bundle.
Carlson failed to note that “this week” there are 2 Zoroastrian holidays, a Buddhist holiday, a Jehovah's Witness holiday, a Hindu holiday, and a Sikh holiday.
In a second segment, co-host Steve Doocy reacted to the Alabama middle school's decision by illustrating how to avoid use of the “E-word” on air:
DOOCY: I don't remember a bunny in the bible story. I feel sorry for the kids because they can't say the e what if the teacher wants to talk about the big storm, the nor -
KILMEADE: Can't say it.
CARLSON: What about Easter island?
KILMEADE: Can't say it.
Later that day on The Five, Bolling and his co-hosts returned to the Alabama middle school's so-called “War on Easter,” using it as a segue to attack supposedly secular beliefs:
PERINO: Greg, do you think it would be better if we called, like if you had an Easter egg roll, an Easter egg hunt, if you had free range organic chicken egg hunt, do you think that would be more acceptable in the culture?
GUTFELD: No. Because you're still hunting and you're teaching children to hunt. And that is just disgusting. I think you can preserve the traditions of the Easter egg hunt if you replace the eggs with what the secular media would like, which are either food stamps or birth control pills. Then everybody would be happy.
O'Reilly closed Fox's “War on Easter” week with a segment on his show claiming that “Christianity is on the run in this country,” and “You rarely see those kinds of assaults against Jews or Muslims.” He also claimed that “the 10 percent who would be upset by the Easter bunny, they should be institutionalized, by the way.”
Media Matters reviewed raw footage of all Fox News Channel programming (from 6 a.m. through 11 p.m.) March 22 through March 28 for mentions of “Easter.” We did not include repeats of programs; for instance, even though The O'Reilly Show airs at both 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., we only included the 8 p.m. broadcast. Mentions of the search term “Easter” during teasers or promos were not recorded. We included and timed only full segments that focused on the “War on Easter” and/or the impact that decisions to replace the term “Easter” with the non-denominational term “Spring” could have on Christians.