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  • "Fox Facts" On The IRS Aren't Facts At All

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Fox's "Fox Facts" on the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status get the facts exactly wrong.

    Judicial Watch released a batch of IRS email correspondence under a Freedom Of Information Act request on May 14. The emails include a chain of correspondence between the Cincinnati IRS office and the Washington, D.C. based office dating back to February 2010, when a Cincinnati IRS employee first flagged a Tea Party group seeking tax-exempt status for further review. The full email chain shows that the Washington, D.C. office's involvement was all in response to the initial inquiry from Cincinnati.

    Yet right-wing media latched onto a midsection of the email chain, from July 2010, to push the conspiracy theory that Washington directed inappropriate targeting of conservative groups.

    The falsehood made its way onto the May 16 edition of Fox News'America's Newsroom in an on-screen graphic presented as "Fox Facts." The on-screen "Fox Facts" falsely claimed that the emails newly revealed by Judicial Watch prove that the targeting of conservative groups stemmed from Washington, D.C. rather than Cincinnati:

    Fox

    When it comes to manufacturing scandals, Fox isn't one to let facts stand in their way. 

  • When Attempts To Correct Fox's Benghazi Hoax Amount To A Cover-Up

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    In a new variation of what Politico's Michael Hirsh deemed the "Benghazi-industrial complex," Fox News is suggesting that the Obama administration's strategy to push back against the network's Benghazi misinformation amounts to a cover-up.

    Writing in Politico Magazine, Hirsh highlighted what he called the "Benghazi-Industrial Complex," the GOP's tactic to use Benghazi conspiracy theories to make former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "so disgusted by the prospect of running that she'll stay out of the race" for president in 2016. Hirsh explained how Fox News has led the way in this campaign, creating outlandish conspiracy theories such as the claim that "Hillary staged her concussion in 2012" to avoid addressing Benghazi on the Sunday news shows. Hirsh continued:

    Fox, in fact, has made Benghazi a permanent part of its programming, mentioning the word on no fewer than 1,101 programs in the past year, according to Nexis. The chyron "Benghazi" is almost as much of a permanent fixture on Fox as "Breaking News" is on CNN.

    Fox News has worked from the beginning to spread misinformation about the attacks. In the days after the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, the network consistently distorted the Obama administration's responseaccusing the president of "covering-up for al Qaeda." In one of the most egregious attacks on the president in the weeks following the attack, Fox pretended Obama called the "vicious murder of Americans ... just a bump in the road."

    The network's lies about Benghazi could -- and did -- fill novels, and its Benghazi hoax eventually led House Republicans to call a special select committee based the false information reported on Fox.

  • Conservatives Demand GOP Stay In The Right-Wing Media Bubble

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Paul RyanIn December 2012, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reported that in the wake of their devastating electoral defeat, Republicans were looking to "break their Fox addiction" by working with mainstream outlets, not just conservatives ones. "As operatives are increasingly realizing," Coppins wrote, "many of these outlets have limited reach beyond the fervent Republican base, and the talking points politicians declaim often resonate only in the conservative echo chamber."

    A year and a half later, the reaction to Coppins' latest piece shows one roadblock to GOP efforts to reach out to mainstream media and the voters who don't get their news from ideological sources: a jealous right-wing media that wants increased access to Republican leaders. 

    Coppins' April 28 BuzzFeed profile chronicled how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is "doing something rather unprecedented for a Republican: He is spending unchoreographed time with poor people," purportedly in order to inform his policy-making in that arena. The BuzzFeed writer was given exclusive access to Ryan during one such trip to visit the impoverished. His article drew swift criticism from progressives who said that Coppins credulously accepted Ryan's rhetoric on the issue while downplaying the impact that the massive cuts to poverty-fighting programs in Ryan's budget would have on the poor if it were implemented.

    But right-wing outlets have a very different critique of the article: They think it made Ryan look bad, proving that he never should have cooperated with Coppins in the first place.

    Breitbart's Matthew Boyle writes that Ryan "comes across as a deeply awkward millionaire paralyzed by political correctness as he struggles to identify with a black church congregation," citing two anecdotes from the piece. He concludes that Ryan's aides should not have granted Coppins access in the first place. The idea that the Republican congressman from Wisconsin might actually have been awkward in that situation goes unmentioned, with the implication that if Boyle had been the one traveling with Ryan, he'd have reported a more flattering piece.

    Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt likewise writes that the Coppins profile did not "do much or even any good" for Ryan, and bemoans how Republican press aides "resist having their bosses sit down with their natural allies in the center-right press" instead of giving access to mainstream reporters. He provides a list of reporters at The Daily Caller, TownHall.com, the Weekly Standard, and The Washington Free Beacon, concluding, "Don't ask me why they were not invited along with Ryan but McKay was. Part of the ongoing epic fail of Beltway GOP communications strategy. Hopefully it will change before 2016 arrives."

    Boyle and Hewitt are criticizing Ryan for following a strategy that Republican operatives had identified as necessary to improve the party's national standing and win presidential elections.

    The Republican National Committee's analysis of the 2012 election found that if the GOP wanted to win national elections, it had to change the minds of voters who believe the party "does not care about people," particularly those living in poverty. Ryan's effort to speak out on poverty seems consistent with that report's advice.

    But as the operatives Coppins spoke with in 2012 pointed out, it's difficult to shift the poverty narrative if Republicans only talk about the issue with conservative reporters, as Hewitt and Boyle suggest.

    Of course conservative journalists will always want more access and scoops. But demanding them at the expense of mainstream outlets traps the GOP between their conservative media supporters and their desire to win elections.

  • Donald Sterling, Cliven Bundy, And The Right-Wing Refrain That Racism Is Dead

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling

    Recent racist musings from the likes of rancher Cliven Bundy and LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling bring to light one of right-wing media's favorite misnomers -- that racism and bigotry are over. It's a dangerous fiction that's also surfaced in recent Supreme Court decisions, and one that provides cover for modern racists and policies that hurt minorities.

    "Is there racism? I don't believe there's racism," asserted Fox News' Eric Bolling, echoing a refrain that's become common place inside the conservative bubble.

    For example, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer has argued that policies protecting against racial discrimination are no longer necessary because they're about giving "advantages to people who 50 years ago" were disadvantaged.  Co-host of Fox's The Five Andrea Tantaros argued civil rights laws are no longer needed "because there is equality." According to Bill O'Reilly, racism is "an individual problem," "not a country problem," and America's sad history of discrimination is "all in the past."  

    This readiness to ignore the existence of racism provides cover for intolerance on the fringe. Over the last month, right-wing media propelled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to folk hero status for cheating the federal government out of millions, only to sprint away from him when was caught on tape wondering if black people were better off as slaves.

    Similarly, billionaire Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, was banned for life from the NBA after the exposure of his alleged racist comments to his mistress. 

    While many Fox News hosts and contributors eventually condemned Bundy and Sterling's racism, the rhetoric is largely reminiscent of right-wing media's stereotypes of minorities and denial of the existence of racism -- In the wake of their racist rants, both Bundy and Sterling denied they held any racist views. 

    Bundy and Sterling are extreme examples of cognitive dissonance, but the racism-denialist mindset is a pervasive and dangerous one.

    Right-wing media's dismissal of racism has most recently surfaced in the wake of the recent April 22 Supreme Court decision in Schuette v. BAMN, that effectively overturned decades of civil rights precedent and gutted a core component of equal protection law by giving Michigan voters the power to change their state's constitution to ban race-based considerations for university admissions.

    As Jeffrey Toobin described, the conservative majority took the position of "blame-shifting," suggesting that "the debate over affirmative action should and could take place in a genteel, controversy-free zone." He wrote:

    Bundy and Sterling represent an ugly corner of contemporary American life, but it is one that is entirely invisible in recent Supreme Court rulings. In the Roberts Court, there are no Bundys and Sterlings; the real targets of the conservative majority are those who've spent their lives fighting the Bundys and Sterlings of the world.

    [...]

    In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote about a country where the Bundys and Sterlings still hold considerable sway. Indeed, she went beyond the simple bigotry of the Bundys and Sterlings and found that more subtle wounds of racism still exist in this country. "Race matters," she wrote, "because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: 'I do not belong here.'"

    Decisions made and policies created on the premise that racism no longer exists in America have incredibly damaging impacts on civil rights and minority communities.

    The Supreme Court's recent decision in Michigan is evidence of that. The ruling opened a door for state majorities to change their political systems to unfairly disadvantage minorities -- a decision that has dangerous consequences, particularly in a state like Michigan where white Americans are the overwhelming majority. Such consequences are already being felt by minority students in Michigan. In addition to racist incidents and racial tensions on campuses around the country, the enrollment of African-American students in Michigan has seen a dramatic decrease.

    The Supreme Court's recent tossing aside of history and legal precedent is reminiscent of the court's June 2013 blow to voting rights -- a decision also made on the premise that racism no longer exists in America, but in reality had a negative impact on minorities. In the June 25 decision, the conservative majority invalidated the provision within the Voting Rights Act that prevents states and local jurisdictions from enacting racially discriminatory election practices. States wasted no time after the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act pushing highly restrictive voting laws that history has shown serve to make it harder for minorities to cast a vote. 

    Apparently inside the conservative bubble, it's easy to praise such devastating policies so long as you deny the existence of racism at all, a refrain that ultimately helps keep discrimination alive. 

  • "Girls Like Pretty Ponies, And Boys Like Toy Trucks": Fox's Outnumbered Is Absurdly Sexist

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY & OLIVIA KITTEL

    One Lucky Guy

    Fox's newest show, Outnumbered, features a rotating cast of four female hosts, one male host, and a litany of sexist tropes.

    The program premiered April 28 with female co-hosts Jedediah Bila, Harris Faulkner, Sandra Smith, Kimberly Guilfoyle and their male co-host of the day Tucker Carlson, who was honored with the Twitter hashtag #ONELUCKYGUY and described by the women as "a good enough sport to join us on day one."

    When Fox announced the new show, Amanda Marcotte noted its premise: "The man will be 'outnumbered,' meaning that even though Outnumbered is supposedly a female-centric show, the male point of view is still so central that it gives the show its title." The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg similarly predicted that the program would find its "heat" by highlighting opposition between men and women, essentially parodying "what conservatives often accuse feminists of wanting to do to men: overwhelm them and shout them down as a sort of rhetorical reparations for years in a subordinate position."

    These predictions proved accurate. In fact, Outnumbered's set even placed the lone man at the center, surrounded on a couch by the female hosts wearing Fox's famous short skirts. The hosts kicked off the show by indulging the parody that men and women are profoundly opposed to each other, with Carlson joking at the very beginning that he was "in a defensive crouch already," because living with four women had given him experience he needed to "submit" and handle this "outnumbered" position:

  • Fox's Howard Kurtz Slams Fox's Coverage Of Cliven Bundy

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Howard Kurtz

    Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized his own network's coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, blasting the network for elevating Bundy's anti-government agenda and turning the lawless rancher into a folk hero before falling silent when Bundy's racist remarks came to light.

    Fox News darling Cliven Bundy rose to his folk hero status after he failed to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land, following decades of refusing to pay required grazing fees. Fox News and other right-wing media elevated the story with substantial coverage, championing Bundy and his supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials.

    But when Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, Fox News fell silent, abruptly ending their incessant promotion of the lawless rancher. The New York Times first reported that Bundy had questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," and Media Matters quickly obtained video of the racist remarks.

    On the April 27 edition his Fox News show #MediaBuzz, Kurtz posited that Fox News "fell seriously short" in their coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy once his "blatantly racist" comments were revealed, after having previously built Bundy up "as a symbol of resistance":

  • Sharyl Attkisson Cries Media Bias, But Her Shoddy Reporting Speaks For Itself

    ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER & SOPHIA TESFAYE

    Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has stepped up her campaign to paint herself as a victim of media bias by floating half-baked conspiracy theories about the research that exposed factual issues with her work. These newest allegations are as unsubstantiated as the shoddy reporting that has previously tarnished her -- and CBS'-- record as a reliable source.

  • Sharyl Attkisson's Media Matters Conspiracy Theory

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sharyl Attkisson

    Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson is augmenting her campaign to paint herself as a victim of liberal media bias with conspiratorial and false attacks on Media Matters.

    Earlier this year Attkisson, who had been celebrated by conservative activists for her often shoddy reporting on the Obama administration, ended her two-decade career at CBS News. She has since made numerous media appearances, often on Fox News, claiming that her reporting had been curtailed by CBS managers who opposed critical reporting on the administration. As Media Matters noted last week, Attkisson has provided little to no evidence to support her broad claims that politics, rather than newsworthiness, was keeping her stories off CBS' air.

    Attkisson responded during an April 20 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. After Attkisson claimed that there is a "campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do," host Brian Stelter asked, "Media Matters has been campaigning against you and saying you've been inaccurate in your reporting, is that what they're doing? They're just trying to controversialize the issue?" Attkisson responded that she had been "targeted" by Media Matters and hinted at a motive, saying, "I don't know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own." After Stelter asked her whether she really believed Media Matters had been paid to target her, she responded, "Perhaps, sure. I think that's what some of these groups do, absolutely."  

    Attkisson's claims quickly found a ready audience on Fox News.

    But Attkisson's claims are false. Media Matters has never taken contributions to target her or any other reporter. We have published research on her reports on green energy and Obamacare, among other topics, when those reports have been inaccurate or misleading -- the same standard to which we hold any other reporter.

    Attkisson decided to float this conspiracy theory without any evidence during an appearance on a news program, suggesting that she doesn't believe she needs to prove her contentions before bringing them to a national audience. If that was the reporting standard she sought to uphold at CBS News, it's no wonder that her managers were unwilling to let her promote half-baked conspiracies on their airwaves.

  • The Hill Fails To Disclose Pro-Telecom Writer Is Paid By Telecom

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Hill

    The Hill published an op-ed criticizing the "growing fascination with publicly funded broadband networks" and touting the "private-sector" as the best way to build telecommunications networks. But the Capitol Hill paper failed to disclose that the author is a telecom consultant and co-chair of an association backed by telecomm companies.

    Larry Irving wrote an April 9 piece claiming "the specter of governments operating broadband networks in competition with the private sector, or of state or local governments serving as both regulators and owners of competing broadband networks, could stifle investment or reduce private-sector access to capital." Irving added that "with the exception of bringing or improving service to remote geographies, I don't see many problems that government-owned or -operated broadband networks will solve."

    The Hill simply identified Irving as follows: "Irving is the CEO of the Irving Group and served for almost seven years as assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)."

    That identification vastly understates Irving's financial connections to the industry he wrote about. Irving is the founding co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an IRS 501(c)(6) association backed by telecomm companies whose purpose is to "prevent the creation of burdensome regulations," according to documents filed with the IRS. IIA reportedly receives financial support from AT&T and includes members such as Alcatel-Lucent and TechAmerica, which lobbies on behalf of technology companies. The group's 2011 IRS tax form -- the most recent one available -- states it received over $18 million in revenue. (Note: This post's description of IIA has been updated for clarity.) 

    While The Hill noted that Irving heads the Irving Group, it did not disclose that the firm provides "strategic advice and assistance to international telecommunications and information technology companies."

  • Fox Falsely Claims Obama Wants To Give Up Control Of The Internet To The U.N.

    Blog ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

    Fox News baselessly claimed that the Obama administration plans to give up control of a key Internet administrator to the United Nations,ignoring Obama administration officials' repeated insistence that it will not let a governmental organization run the agency.

    On the April 10 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett claimed that the Obama administration was to "give up" direct oversight of the Internet and "transfer control to an international body controlled by foreign governments." Guest Jordan Sekulow agreed, claiming that the Obama administration plans to cede control of the Internet to the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jarrett advanced Fox's previous distortion of the plan, falsely suggesting that nations like China and Russia may now be able to control the Internet and that the plan would lead to the U.N. taxing the Internet. Sekulow agreed, saying that the ITU "is run by dictators" and "authoritative regimes."

    But there is no evidence to support Jarrett's claim that the U.S. intends to give control of ICANN, the agency that administers the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS), to the ITU. In a March 14 press release, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) announced it will proceed with a 1998 plan to transition U.S. control over ICANN to a multi-stakeholder body, explicitly stating that "NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution."

    In his April 10 congressional testimony, Commerce Department assistant secretary Lawrence Strickling reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment that no government or inter-governmental body would control ICANN [emphasis added]:

    STRICKLING: We need to ensure that the broad Internet community--companies, technical groups, civil society and governments--continue to work together as equal partners in crafting the rules of the road for the Internet through the multistakeholder model. Some authoritarian regimes however do not accept this model and seek to move Internet governance issues, including the DNS, into the United Nations system in order to exert influence and control over the Internet.

    [...]

    Some have argued that what NTIA is doing is tantamount to "giving away the Internet".That could not be further from the truth. There is no one party--government or industry,including the U.S. Government--that controls the Internet. The Internet is a decentralize dnetwork of networks. What we have in fact done, is demonstrate leadership and strategic vision by laying out a framework with clear conditions to finalize a process that has been ongoing for 16 years.

    [...]

    With the March 14 announcement, NTIA has taken the next step in the 16-year process to privatize the coordination and management of the DNS. ICANN last month began the process of convening stakeholders for the first of many public discussions on this topic. During this period, NTIA's role will remain unchanged. As we have said repeatedly, we will not accept a transition plan that would replace the NTIA role with one led by governments or an inter-governmental organizationand we have established a framework of four principles that the process must address. This must be a careful and thoughtful process. If a plan that meets these criteria cannot be implemented by September 30, 2015, we can extend the contract for up to four years.

    Further, Internet experts have stated that the U.S. plan to relinquish control of ICANN actually weakens the power of the ITU. Politico quoted Nick Ashton-Hart, the Geneva representative for the Computer & Communications Industry Association and a former ICANN official, as saying that "If the U.S. was to try and maintain the master key, it would have been more likely to result in the fragmentation of the Internet," because other countries could claim a similar role. Politico also quoted Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) stating that if the federal government hadn't relinquished its oversight, the ITU could continue to argue that ICANN functioned as a pawn for the U.S. government.