In a May 14 op-ed for The Hill, Fox News correspondent Juan Williams decried politicization of the investigation of the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious and labeled House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's inquiry into Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice (DOJ) a “monstrous witch hunt.”
Williams' comments are in stark contrast to his network's coverage of the issue, which over the past year has promoted Issa's investigation at every turn while also giving airtime to those who would peddle conspiracy theories about the failed operation.
In his op-ed, Williams describes Issa as a modern day Captain Ahab, hell-bent on finding fault in Holder for Fast and Furious no matter how thin the evidence is suggesting that he had any involvement in the operation. According to Williams, the ultimate goal of Issa's inquiry is to “defame Holder and hurt the president.” Warning about the potential consequences of Issa's contempt proceeding endgame, he concluded:
At the moment more than 100 House Republicans have already signed on to a resolution expressing no confidence in Holder.
That kind of politics is acceptable.
But a contempt citation for the top law enforcement official is a monstrosity breaking apart public trust and dragging the nation's already polarized politics to the bottom of the sea.
While Williams may be disturbed by the direction in which Issa's investigation is going, the truth is that his employer, Fox News, has served as a clearinghouse for politicized statements about Fast and Furious for over a year. In the last month alone, Issa and two of his lieutenants (Reps. Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz) have appeared on Fox News at least nine times to promote their investigation into Fast and Furious.
Beyond elected figures, since February of this year, Fox News has given airtime to four different guests who all have suggested that the real purpose behind Fast and Furious was an Obama administration conspiracy to attack Second Amendment rights.
National Rifle Association CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was given a free pass on the February 10 edition of Fox & Friends to allege the existence of this scheme. After host Steve Doocy bragged that “nobody in the mainstream media except Fox” was covering Fast and Furious, LaPierre stated, “It's a shameful day for most of the American media because they are part of the cover-up. What this administration did is they concocted a scheme to make what is not true, appear to be true. Namely that the Mexican drug cartels were being armed from firearms from American gun dealers because they wanted to seek political advantage in the United States.”
During a March 12 appearance on Fox's America's Newsroom, controversial Tea Party figure Judson Phillips made the claim that Fast and Furious was “purely a political operation” designed to bring about “draconian gun control laws here in America.”
On April 16, Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich appeared on The O'Reilly Factor to praise Issa's investigation and claim that “the political agenda behind this entire thing was to blame American gun shops for cartel violence in America in order to push an anti-Second Amendment, more regulations on these gun shops.” An ambivalent Bill O'Reilly called Pavlich's claims a “conspiracy thing” while at the same time reserving comment on the veracity of her “provocative” claims.
Finally, former South Carolina Governor and current Fox News contributor Mark Sanford appeared on the May 10 edition of America's Newsroom to claim that “a lot of people” want to know if Fast and Furious was a plot hatched by Attorney General Eric Holder to curb gun rights in the United States.
Fox News has also provided a platform for alternate theories concerning culpability of Holder and the Obama administration for supposed involvement in Fast and Furious. During a December 2011 edition of Fox's On the Record Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) claimed that Fast and Furious, an ATF operation, had to be authorized by “the highest level of DOJ.” Host Greta van Susteren failed to mention that then acting ATF director Michael Sullivan had appeared on Fox News in September of that year and clearly stated that top-level DOJ authorization was not needed for ATF to initiate Fast and Furious.
Certainly one of the most explicit attempts to politicize Fast and Furious occurred during a November 2011 segment on America's Newsroom. Fox “straight news” anchor Bill Hemmer read a viewer's question about whether Fast and Furious “constitute[s] a treasonous act.” He then asked Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), “is this treason, what's the definition?” The fact that even Rep. Gosar, a strident supporter of Rep. Issa's investigation, declined to indulge Hemmer on this question certainly speaks to Fox's Fast and Furious agenda.