Several right-wing media figures have claimed that the Obama administration is criticizing Fox News because the network asks “tough questions” and is “reporting the truth.” This assertion is undermined by Fox News' extensive history of advancing falsehoods, repeatedly passing off GOP materials as news, doctoring quotes, and frequently engaging in outrageous attacks on President Obama, such as Glenn Beck's claim that he is a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture -- I don't know what it is.”
Conservative media figures claim the Obama administration is targeting them for “reporting the truth”
Limbaugh claimed “Obama's out there attacking” Fox because it is “reporting the truth.” On the October 22 broadcast of his radio program, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department official in charge of setting compensation for bailed-out companies, had “independent authority.” Tying the story to other supposed Obama administration scandals, Limbaugh grouped himself with Fox News: “So it's no wonder Obama's out there attacking me and Fox News. Who else will report this? That's what's really going on here. The people who are reporting the truth in this country are the targets of this administration: Fox News, talk radio, me in particular. That's what's going on.” [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/22/09]
Beck to media: “When they're done with Fox and talk radio, do you really think they're going to leave you alone if you want to ask a tough question?” On his October 13 radio show, Beck said: “When they're done with Fox, and you decide to speak out on something. The old, 'First they came for the Jews, and I wasn't Jewish.' When you have a question, and you believe that something should be asked, they're a -- totally fine with you right now; they have no problem with you. When they're done with Fox and talk radio, do you really think they're going to leave you alone if you want to ask a tough question? Do you really think that a man who has never had to stand against tough questions and has as much power as he does -- do you really believe after he takes out the number one news network, do you really think that this man is then not going to turn on you? That you and your little organization is going to cause him any hesitation at all not to take you out?” [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, 10/13/09]
Rove: “If you dare oppose them, they're going to come hard at you. ... Fox is asking tough questions.” On the October 18 edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor Karl Rove said: "[T]his is an administration that's getting very arrogant and slippery in its dealings with people. And if you dare to oppose them, they're going to come hard at you, and they're going to cut your legs off. ... Fox is asking tough questions. Fox has got on the opinion side of it some very tough critics of the administration. They're conflating the news side and the opinion side in order to -- in order to attack a media outlet. Again, it's undignified for the president of the United States to be doing." Later, Rove said that “it is demeaning the office of the president by taking the president and moving him from a person who ought to be talking to everybody and communicating through every available channel to saying, 'If you oppose me, if you question me, if you're too tough on me, by gosh, me and my people are not going to -- are not going to come on. We're going to penalize you.' And that just is wrong, fundamentally wrong.” [Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, 10/18/09]
Malkin: "[I]f I were [a] media outlet that had journalists who asked tough questions, yeah, I'd be losing a little sleep." On the October 22 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade discussed with Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin her list of the three questions she “wants the White House to answer,” one of which was, Kilmeade said, “Hasn't your White House set a dangerous First Amendment, Mr. President, undermining precedent in publicly declaring which news organizations are legitimate and which are not?” Kilmeade said to Malkin, “Why ask that question?” Malkin replied, “Well, because I think it goes to the heart of this entire controversy. This isn't about just one news network, this is about the entire ... mainstream media. And when you have official White House spokespeople defining what journalism is and what journalism isn't, it's not just one news network that should be worrying about this. And while President Obama may not be losing sleep, if I were another media outlet that had journalists who asked inconvenient questions of this White House, yeah, I'd be losing a little sleep over it.” [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 10/22/09]
“Truth” ? Fox repeatedly promotes falsehoods and smears
Beck falsely claimed Anita Dunn “worships” “her hero” Mao Zedong. Throughout most of his October 15 Fox News program, Beck falsely claimed that White House communications director Anita Dunn “worships” and “idolizes” “her hero” Mao Zedong. In fact, in the video that Beck aired as evidence to support his claims, Dunn offered no endorsement of Mao's ideology or atrocities -- rather, she commented that Mao and Mother Teresa were her two of her “favorite political philosophers,” and based on short quotes from them, she offered the advice that “you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths” or “let external definition define how good you are internally.”
Fox hosts falsely claimed that Kevin Jennings covered up sexual assault. Sean Hannity repeatedly ignored evidence to falsely claim that Jennings, director of the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, ignored the statutory rape of a 15-year-old student, even advancing the falsehood after the claim had been widely debunked. Fox News hosts Bill Hemmer and Bret Baier also advanced this smear. Additionally, Hannity and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers also smeared Jennings -- who counseled someone who was of age at the time and who has said he did not have a sexual relationship -- with the outrageous suggestion that Jennings is comparable to film director Roman Polanski, who was charged with rape and pleaded guilty to having sex with a girl who was 13 at the time after allegedly plying her with drugs and alcohol.
Fox News ran with San Bernardino ACORN video without needed fact check. On September 15 and 16, Fox News devoted significant programming to conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe and Townhall.com columnist Hannah Giles' video of their interactions with a San Bernardino ACORN worker who claimed she murdered her ex-husband and gave advice on how to run a brothel, but stated after the video was released that she had merely been attempting to “shock them as much as they were shocking me.” In running with the video, Fox News hosts frequently promoted the fake claim that the ACORN employee killed her ex-husband without fact-checking the allegation or indicating that they had contacted ACORN for a response. In fact, ACORN called the video “an obvious set of lies and manipulations,” and the San Bernardino Police Department found her former husbands “alive and well.”
“Death book” distortions abound on Fox News Sunday. On the August 23 edition of Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace hosted former Bush administration aide Jim Towey to discuss his Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The Death Book for Veterans,” and in doing so promoted numerous distortions about an end-of-life educational booklet used by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). In addition to forwarding the smear that the booklet is a “death book,” Wallace promoted Towey's distortion that the booklet encourages veterans to “pull the plug” -- it doesn't; Wallace and Towey both suggested that the Bush administration suspended use of the booklet -- it didn't; and Wallace claimed that a VHA document requires doctors to direct veterans to the booklet -- it doesn't.
Beck claimed Van Jones was a “convicted felon.” On his August 11 Fox News show, Beck accused Van Jones, whom he described as Obama's “green jobs czar,” of being a “convicted felon ... who spent, I think, six months in prison after the Rodney King beating.” In fact, as Eva Paterson, president and founder of the Equal Justice Society, has explained, “Van [Jones] has never served time in any prison. He has never been convicted of any crime.”
Fox trumpets CAIR conspiracy theory charges made by author with anti-Islam history. Repeated Fox News segments reported that, in Bret Baier's words, “Republican lawmakers say the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, is trying to infiltrate Capitol Hill by placing interns in key positions,” an allegation stemming from a right-wing book whose author has a history of making outrageous and anti-Islamic assertions and is published by WorldNetDaily, which has its own history of making outrageous allegations and inflammatory remarks. Moreover, the document that Republican Reps. Sue Myrick (NC), John Shadegg (AZ), Paul Broun (GA), and Trent Franks (AZ) cited as evidence of CAIR's alleged activities is stolen and does not support their claims.
Fox host Hill asked if the Obamas' fist bump was a “terrorist fist jab.” During the June 6, 2008, edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, former host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion by saying, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.” In the ensuing discussion with Janine Driver -- whom Hill introduced as “a body language expert” -- Hill referred to the “Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump or fist pound,” adding that “people call it all sorts of things.” Hill went on to ask Driver: “Let's start with the Barack and Michelle Obama, because that's what most people are writing about -- the fist thump. Is that sort of a signal that young people get?” At no point during the discussion did Hill explain her earlier reference to “a terrorist fist jab.”
“Truth” ? Fox News promotes GOP research, sometimes passed off as its own
Fox & Friends recited misleading GOP press release on stimulus. On October 22, Fox & Friends co-hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Gretchen Carlson parroted a House Republican press release and repeated its claim that the stimulus impact is “6 million jobs shy of what the administration promised us” since the administration stated “that 3.5 million jobs would be created. And, in fact, the United States has lost 2.7 million since the stimulus plan.” However, the administration estimated that by 2011 -- not September 2009, when the 2.7 million job losses since February were recorded -- 3.5 million jobs would be created or saved by the stimulus compared to the number of jobs that would have existed at the end of 2010 had the government not passed the legislation.
Fox & Friends spent segment reading from RNC press release, touting GOP plan “looking out for the health of” seniors. On August 25, Fox & Friends' Carlson read from a Republican National Committee's press release calling for a “Health Care Bill Of Rights for Seniors.” Fox & Friends also aired on-screen text summarizing the press release.
Fox News' Hemmer "[kept] track of the stimulus money" -- by lifting research from GOP website. On April 23, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer repeatedly suggested information about four “interesting” projects reportedly funded by the economic recovery act was obtained through Fox News' own research, even though nearly all of the information Hemmer mentioned, as well as that included in on-screen text and graphics, first appeared on Rep. Eric Cantor's Republican Whip website.
America's Newsroom pushed discredited GOP calculation of Obama's cap-and-trade proposal. On April 2, guest host Alisyn Camerota asserted that the cost of Obama's cap-and-trade proposal “would be $3,100 per U.S. household.” The claim was advanced by the House Republican Conference in a March 23 “Talking Points” press release, and the Republicans reportedly purported to back up the claim by pointing to a 2007 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But MIT professor John Reilly, one of the authors of the study, has disputed the GOP's calculation, stating that his study “has been misrepresented” and that the Republicans' claim of an average household cost of $3,128 was significantly higher than the correct figure. PolitiFact.com rated the $3,100 figure a “pants on fire” falsehood.
Cut and paste: “FOXfact[s]” about GOP budget nearly identical to GOP Rep. Ryan's op-ed. While interviewing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on April 1, Fox News' Happening Now aired “FOXfact[s]” purporting to describe facts about the House Republican budget. However, all of the seven on-screen “FOXfact[s]” were nearly identical to portions of an op-ed Ryan published in that day's Wall Street Journal. The “FOXfact[s]” were aired again later that day.
Fox passed off GOP press release as its own research -- typo and all. In purporting to “take a look back” at how the economic recovery plan “grew, and grew, and grew,” on February 10 Fox News' Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release. The following day, Scott apologized -- for running the typo. Scott's apology was criticized by Washington Post media critic and CNN host Howard Kurtz, who said: “We sometimes jab at the pundits for using talking points, but in the case of Fox News anchor Jon Scott, it was literally true this week. ... You should be apologizing for using partisan propaganda from the GOP without telling your viewers where it came from. Talk about missing the point.”
“Truth” ? Fox News guilty of doctoring quotes
Fox News doctored Biden quote to falsely claim he was praising economy in March. On March 16, Live Desk co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that “after weeks of economic doom and gloom, the Obama administration is now singing a slightly different tune. Take a look at what was said in recent interviews this weekend.” Live Desk then aired clips of administration officials purportedly giving an optimistic view of the economy, which included video of Vice President Joe Biden stating, “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” However, Biden did not make those remarks during an “interview” that weekend; he made them at a September 2008 campaign event in which he criticized statements by Sen. John McCain. MacCallum apologized the next day.
Fox News reporter distorted Obama comments on health care. On April 24, White House correspondent Wendell Goler cropped a comment by Obama and took it out of context -- effectively reversing the statement's meaning -- to falsely suggest that Obama supports creating a health care system “like the European countries.”
Happening Now cropped clips of Obama to promote “another apology tour.” On the June 2 Happening Now, Scott asked if “the president's upcoming trip [to Europe and the Middle East will] be what conservatives might call another apology tour,” and both Scott and co-host Jane Skinner aired cropped clips of Obama's remarks from an April 3 speech in France to falsely suggest that Obama criticized only the United States. In doing so, Happening Now joined conservative commentators and Fox News hosts who have cropped or misrepresented Obama's overseas remarks to falsely suggest, in the words of Hannity, that Obama was “blam[ing] America first” and, more broadly, that Obama's earlier overseas trip constituted an “apology tour.”
“Truth” ? Fox News engages in outrageous, baseless attacks on President Obama
Kilmeade wondered if the Nobel Peace Prize "[has] anything to do with delay of the deployment of 40,000 troops." On the October 9 Fox & Friends, Kilmeade stated: “I'm looking at the charter, and we're just getting this now, but this guy Alfred Nobel stipulated the Peace Prize should go to the person who will have done the most or the best work of the fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses. I'm wondering, does that have anything to do with the delay of the deployment of 40,000 troops in Afghanistan, because that was his big postulization [sic] over the last week or so. Should I put more troops in?” [Fox & Friends, 10/9/09]
Hannity said “it sounds” like Obama “is more concerned about bringing the Olympics to Chicago than winning the war in Afghanistan.” On the September 28 edition of his Fox News program, Hannity criticized Obama for purportedly backing away from “the type of commitment” to winning the war in Afghanistan that he expressed during the 2008 presidential campaign. During the segment, Hannity asserted: “Now, it sounds to me like the president's more concerned about bringing the Olympics to Chicago than winning the war in Afghanistan.”
Fox News contributor Johnson suggested Obama pressure led CBO to score Baucus plan favorably. On the September 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest co-host and serial health care misinformer Peter Johnson Jr. suggested that Sen. Max Baucus' (D-MT) health care plan received a favorable score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) because the office was “taken to the woodshed by the president earlier in the summer, when they uncovered hundreds of billions of dollars of real deficits in the House plan.” Johnson offered no criticism of the scoring by the CBO -- which analyzed the Baucus plan when it was introduced, not “after being taken to the woodshed” -- and which is an independent agency that reports to Congress. [Fox & Friends, 9/18/09]
Beck claimed Obama's “civilian national security force” is “what Hitler did with the SS,” “what Saddam Hussein” did. On the August 27 edition of his Fox News program, Beck discussed Obama's call for a “civilian national security force” -- which was a reference to expanding the foreign service, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps. Beck stated: “I'm finding this -- this is the hardest part to connect to. Because this is -- I mean, look, you know, David [Bellavia, former Army staff sergeant], what you just said is, you said, 'I'm not comparing' -- but you are. I mean, this is what Hitler did with the SS. He had his own people. He had the brownshirts and then the SS. This is what Saddam Hussein -- so -- but you are comparing that. And I -- I mean, I think America would have a really hard time getting their arms around that.”
Beck: Obama is a “racist,” has “exposed himself as a guy” with “a deep seated hatred for white people.” Appearing as a guest on the July 28 edition of Fox & Friends, Beck said: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy -- over and over and over again -- who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture -- I don't know what it is. But you can't sit in a pew with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff and not have it wash over.” He later added, “I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. He has a -- this guy is, I believe, a racist. Look at the way -- look at the things he has been surrounded by.” [Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]