Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck complain about Media Matters drawing attention to the fact they are bad for business
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Right-wing radio hosts such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin have been acting as paid pitch people for a company that promises to help train members on how to use guns to “survive a mass shooting.” Hannity has been especially vocal about the company and used the recent Las Vegas mass shooting to shill for it on his radio program.
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is a pro-gun company that sells membership plans featuring “education, training, and self-defense insurance” for gun owners. It also criticizes attempts to enact gun control laws and publishes Concealed Carry Magazine. The group claims to have over 250,000 members and has attempted to grow its membership over the years through numerous advertising buys with conservative media.
Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Ben Shapiro are all part of the association’s latest advertising campaign for a “100% FREE Complete Concealed Carry & Family Defense Guide,” which includes tips on “how to survive a mass shooting” and “the safest AND most dangerous places to sit in a restaurant” (the sign-up takes people to a page that urges them to pay for a membership).
The USCCA created dedicated landing pages for each individual host participating in the advertising campaign, including the following identical quote which was cut and pasted for each person:
Prior to the Las Vegas shooting, these media personalities did advertisements for the campaign that aired in late September. Here are those ads, along with their dedicated website URL: Beck (ProtectAndDefend.com), Hannity (DefendFamily.com), Levin (DefendThem.com), and Shapiro (DefendMyFamilyNow.com) .
Hannity has continued to tout USCCA as a solution to surviving a mass shooting following the Las Vegas tragedy. During his October 5 radio program, Hannity segued from talking about the mass shooting to introducing “our friends at the United States Concealed Carry Association,” saying, “I’m proud to be associated with them. They have offered a family defense guide. You’re going to learn -- and this is 164 pages -- how to survive a mass shooting. How to detect attackers before they see you.”
Previously, Hannity used the shooting at a congressional baseball practice in June to push USCCA membership.
The association, which did not respond to requests for comment, features a Hannity testimonial on its website under the headline: “Why Sean Hannity Joined The USCCA… Hear Why One Of The Most Trusted Conservative Voices In America Is A Proud Card-Carrying Member.”
Hannity used his October 4 Fox News program to advocate for concealed carry while discussing the Las Vegas shooting. He praised right-to-carry laws and said that “having more citizens that are armed leads to a decrease in violent crime.” He did not mention he’s being paid by a pro-right-to-carry group during the program.
Despite Hannity’s claim, as The Atlantic noted in June, “academic studies have strongly suggested” that right-to-carry laws “lead to higher rates of violent crime. The latest -- and, at least according to one of its authors, most comprehensive -- was released earlier this month by the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research.” The study concluded, “There is not even the slightest hint in the data that [these] laws reduce violent crime.”
Media Matters previously documented that Hannity repeatedly used his Fox New program to push his radio sponsor’s concealed carry agenda without any disclosure about his financial relationship. He similarly used his Fox News program in 2014 to promote the fundraising efforts of the Tea Party Patriots, which sponsored his radio program.
Discredited conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza has revived the long-running and debunked claim that billionaire philanthropist George Soros collaborated with the Nazis as a child. The false claim comes as D’Souza has been trying to promote his latest book, which links Democrats to fascism and pushes the Soros lie. The smear, which has been invoked by other right-wing media figures in the past, has been repeatedly condemned by journalists. Nevertheless, other conservative media and GOP officials have run with D’Souza’s recycled and false charge.
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Beck Attacks Advertiser Boycotts While Simultaneously Claiming The Boycotters Never Even Advertised On O'Reilly's Show
Almost six years after former Fox News host Glenn Beck insisted that Media Matters had nothing to do with the decline in his show’s advertising and its eventual termination, he went on his radio program to blame Media Matters for Fox dropping host Bill O'Reilly. A recent report revealed that O'Reilly and Fox News have paid $13 million in settlements for sexual harassment, sparking an advertiser boycott of his show and leading to his ouster from the channel.
Beck devoted much of his April 19 radio show to calling on his listeners to help save O’Reilly after news broke that the board of directors of 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, would be meeting to decide O’Reilly’s fate. Just a few hours later, 21st Century confirmed that “Mr. O’Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel.” O’Reilly’s advertisers largely abandoned his show after The New York Times reported on the settlements, and it appears that some advertisers are gearing up to drop Fox entirely. These advertisers are rejecting the hostile and predatory corporate environment Fox has created and allowed to fester for over a decade and are recognizing the liability that associating with such behavior presents for them.
Beck’s own show, which aired on Fox News from 2009 to 2011, was terminated after a decline in revenue, ratings, and relevance. An advertiser boycott led by Media Matters President Angelo Carusone resulted in more than 300 advertisers pulling their ads from Beck’s program after he called former President Barack Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people." In February 2010, the broadcast of Beck's show in the UK lost all advertisers and began airing without any commercials. Fox saw a decline in both the number of paid advertisements running during Beck's show and, according to industry data, in what key advertisers would pay for an ad during his show.
The day before Fox announced that his show was being terminated, Beck insisted that Carusone’s campaign was not responsible for his show’s decline. Today he again claimed that the advertiser boycott didn’t hurt his show because the boycotters never advertised on his show to begin with; yet he’s now making a similar argument on O’Reilly’s behalf, while simultaneously insisting that Media Matters is “behind this with Bill O’Reilly.” According to Beck, the advertisers “that are boycotting Bill O'Reilly, most of them I'm sure never ever were even on Bill O'Reilly's show,” but he told his listeners to contact Fox News nonetheless to let it know that “‘we [can’t] stand with you if you're just letting Media Matters purge people.” From the April 19 edition of The Glenn Beck Program:
Oh, and that's right, Media Matters, who's behind this with Bill O'Reilly, they said that they believe that Fox News and Bill O'Reilly are currently the leader in conservative misinformation.
This is a purge, and it's going to be a hard purge. It's going to hurt. You need to decide where you are, and I recommend that if you find, just Google search list of advertisers that won't -- that are boycotting Bill O'Reilly, most of them I'm sure never ever were even on Bill O'Reilly's show. Some of them were, but you should probably write to them today and say, “If Bill O'Reilly is fired because you canceled, I will never buy your product again." You should write to Fox News Channel, “I want you to know, I'm not sure we can stand with you if you're just letting Media Matters purge people.”
Beck also invited O’Reilly’s lawyer to offer a defense of the Fox host on the program.
Three black women are currently suing Fox News over "top-down racial harassment." Bill O'Reilly recently made racist remarks against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the latest in the star Fox host’s long history of bigoted remarks. And it’s not just O’Reilly -- the entire network is filled with bigotry. Here is a supercut showing the worst of Fox News’ putrid racism:
Internal Divisions Flare Up At Fox, Breitbart, The Blaze, IJR
Peering into his laptop camera while filming a fidgety monologue for his Periscope audience last week, Breitbart.com investigative reporter Lee Stranahan spelled out an internal crisis that was unfolding at the "alt-right," pro-Trump media hub.
Convinced he was sitting on "the biggest political story in the world," Stranahan announced that his boss, Washington political editor Matthew Boyle, had ordered him to stay away from future White House briefings, which meant Stranahan couldn’t ask press secretary Sean Spicer about the supposed blockbuster. (Short version: Stranahan has strung together a conspiracy theory that would suggest the Russian hacking narrative is a complete fabrication by so-called deep state actors and a firm called Crowdstrike.)
“I’m probably going to lose my job,” Stranahan lamented during his televised update, noting “I have five kids to feed. … But I’m not going to let this story get killed.”
Indeed, by week's end, Stranahan was gone from Breitbart. He said he will now team up with The Gateway Pundit, the hyper-dishonest “alt-right” site that now boasts a White House press pass and commits itself to trolling journalists on the presidential beat.
The weird public Stranahan meltdown was just the latest example of far-right media outlets seemingly cracking under the strain of the Trump era. Along with at Breitbart, internal dramas have recently played out publicly at Fox News, TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, as right-wing media sources struggle to find their footing with Trump now in charge, and with the attention that comes with that.
Accustomed to robotically blaming Democrats for all the supposed evils in the world, conservatives now have to deal with a political landscape where Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the House, and, possibly soon, the Supreme Court.
Is dissent allowed? Or is the new role to simply cheer whatever Republicans do, and serve as a convenient shield for the administration?
“For years, conservatives breathlessly accused the media of being too easy on President Barack Obama and acting like a bunch of sycophantic boot-lickers for his administration. Turns out, some only wanted the chance to try it out for themselves once a Republican was in office,” conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter wrote in Politico. “Some of those who used to be the conservative movement’s most loyal government watchdogs are nothing but lapdogs now for Trump.”
At Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, popular conservative host Tomi Lahren was temporarily suspended after she went on The View and made comments critical of anti-abortion activists. (Lahren: “I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think that the government should decide what women do with their bodies.”)
In an usual display of newsroom friendly fire, Lahren’s comment was immediately condemned by her own colleagues at TheBlaze:
Beck himself soon joined the pile-on. “It takes intellectual honesty, and it takes a willingness to actually think these things through and to do more than just read Twitter or Facebook to get your news and your political opinions,” Beck said on his radio show while denouncing Lahren, according to The Daily Caller.
Beck has now reportedly fired the host. “Glenn is reminding the world of his conservative principles by sidelining Tomi after she insulted conservatives by calling them hypocrites,” one Beck "insider" told the New York Post.
Over at Fox News, executives were recently left scrambling when the White House pointed to Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano as a source for the inexplicable claim that former President Barack Obama had asked British intelligence to spy on Trump during the campaign. It was part of the White House’s larger failed attempt to support Trump’s baseless claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election.
The claim of British involvement sparked an international incident.
Initially, a Fox News spokeswoman reported that Napolitano “stands by his report on FOX & Friends,” but then the full-on retreat began. By March 20, Fox had taken the extraordinary step of yanking Napolitano off the air “indefinitely.”
Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison spoke with a "Fox News insider" who told her: “The key thing Judge Napolitano did was to say ‘Fox News is reporting that ... ,’ and he can’t say that.' That breaks the trust, and you saw what it cost him. He is not a reporter and knows he's not a reporter." The source claimed that Napolitano’s comments, and Trump’s championing of them, had created what Ellison described as "an internal headache" for Fox News: “It’s a disaster," said the source. "It’s a nightmare.”
Speaking of headaches, Independent Journal Review (IJR) handed out suspensions last week after the GOP-friendly news site published a bizarre column suggesting Obama might have pressured the federal judge in Hawaii whose ruling halted Trump’s latest attempt to establish a travel ban for six Muslim-majority countries. (IJR column headline: "Fmr President Obama Made 'Surprise Visit' to Hawaii, Days Before Judge Issued Travel Ban Ruling.")
IJR editors later apologized for and retracted the story, but not before one staffer reportedly quit over the embarrassing episode. The site then suspended its chief content officer and two editors. (On March 27, Politico’s Hadas Gold reported that IJR video producer Colin Chocola also reportedly quit, citing issues he had with the “direction” of IJR that predated the Hawaii conspiracy theory flap.)
The dust-up was significant because the conservative-leaning IJR, founded in 2012 by former Republican operative Alex Skatell, was the only media outlet allowed to accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his recent trip to Asia -- a trip that yielded a laudatory puff piece published by IJR.
The move to invite IJR was "part of an effort to include a broader representation of U.S. media,” according to the State Department.
“If willingness to tar a former president with conspiratorial garbage constitutes an element of media diversity, then the State Department succeeded,” quipped Erik Wemple at The Washington Post, after IJR published its conspiratorial column about Obama.
Last week, Business Insider provided a detailed look at the internal dissension swirling within IJR since Trump’s election, as editorial factions battle over how far to the right the site should tilt. “It's basically becoming a giant native ad for the Trump administration," one former IJR staffer complained.
For eight years, Obama bashing largely unified the right-wing media in America. Now without that security blanket to cling to, they’re finding life in the spotlight’s much more complicated.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer attacked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) claiming that if the office has “any kind of authority [that] is a little far-fetched.” Spicer’s dismissal of the CBO’s credibility follows years of misrepresentations and attacks against the CBO by right-wing media figures. In fact, Spicer himself and President Donald Trump have cited CBO analysis to boost their agenda.”
On March 1, Attitude Magazine reported that the upcoming live-action remake of the film Beauty and the Beast would feature Disney’s first LGBTQ character, and the following day, Mashable reported that Disney’s digital cable channel had showed its first same-sex kiss on the children’s cartoon Star vs. the Forces of Evil. Right-wing and white nationalist media organizations responded by blaming the “faggot agenda,” creating a “boycott petition” against the film, and saying Disney is attempting to “indoctrinate American children.”
Conservative radio host Sean Hannity rightly defended President Donald Trump’s ten-year-old son, Barron, as off limits from attacks in the media by claiming that conservatives afforded President Obama’s daughters the same courtesy. But right-wing media had a field day attacking Sasha and Malia Obama throughout President Obama’s term, including Sean Hannity, who berated the Obama girls for going on Spring Break vacations.
Hannity argued that the media should leave President Trump’s son alone following news that a writer from Saturday Night Live was suspended for tweets about Barron. He claimed that the media should “leave the kids of politicians alone,” and said that he “never would” attack a politician’s kids, including President Obama’s daughters. From the January 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show:
SEAN HANNITY(HOST): I will say one other thing. I did bring this up also last night. The way the media and these leftist snowflakes have treated this poor ten-year-old kid. Alright, I'm the only one that actually knows him. I met him, I shook his hand, I talked to him. The kid is a great kid. He's incredibly bright, smart, polite. You know, he's like a dream kid. "Hi Mr. Hannity, how are you? It's very nice to meet you. It's an honor to meet you." And I remember being blown away. Melania had to introduce me to Barron. He's such a good kid and I have these words for the media: leave the 10-year-old boy alone. Just like we conservatives left the Obama daughters alone. Leave the kids of politicians alone.
If conservatives ever did this -- and by the way, I never would. It seems -- I’ll say this about Michelle and Barack Obama. Their kids seem lovely to me. I can’t stand that pettiness, where you’re involving children in these discussions. It’s pathetic
Hannity is correct that the president’s children should always be off limits from media attacks, but the hypocrisy does not go unnoticed: He and other conservatives did in fact attack President Obama’s daughters mercilessly. Conservative radio hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh mocked Malia Obama to attack President Obama’s policies. Beck later apologized, saying, “The children of public figures should be left on the sidelines.”
Hannity also attacked the president’s daughters. During an April 2013, edition of his Fox News show, Hannity had an on-air meltdown about “the girls” going to the Bahamas and Idaho during their Spring Break. Despite criticism from former Fox contributor Kirsten Powers, Hannity argued, “we have to pay for the security, which is the right thing to do, but not one vacation -- they just went on two Spring Break vacations. … That’s my money.”
When President Trump claimed that as many as 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, and when Trump’s press secretary categorically announced that Trump’s swearing-in had been the most-watched "both in person and around the globe," the new Republican administration set off a firestorm -- not only about the crowd estimate, but about “alternative facts” and truth-telling.
That Trump and his communications team would begin his presidency with such an easily debunked falsehood about the size of the inauguration crowd stunned plenty of Beltway observers. Even days later, the topic was still gnawing at Trump, as he reportedly bragged to congressional leaders yesterday about how enormous his inauguration crowd was.
But in truth, the pattern of lying about how many people assemble en masse to support conservative causes enjoys a long history within the right-wing media; a history Trump has revived. (Note that lots of pro-Trump propaganda outlets gladly propped up the inauguration crowd lie.)
Most famously, when former Fox News host Glenn Beck sponsored an anti-Obama rally in September 2009, the conservative media was awash in wild, unfounded claims about how massive the protest crowd was. Blogger Michelle Malkin even announced two million people had assembled. (That would be a bigger crowd than Obama’s 2009 inauguration.)
According to one aerial estimate that day, Makin’s quote of two million was only off by about 1.9 million.
More recently during the presidential campaign, conservative outlets routinely propped up Trump’s phony claims about crowd size. Breitbart even got caught publishing a photo from a CNN.com news report about a massive gathering of Cleveland Cavs fans celebrating their home team’s NBA championship, and then presented the image as being from a Trump rally in Florida.
It’s one thing for dishonest bloggers to make up crowd size estimates for political purposes. It’s obviously quite another when the White House takes that tact and turns it into official government policy.
What’s so strange about the obsession over crowd size is that conservatives often make fantastic, unbelievable claims about crowds that are already respectably large.
Nothing made that point more clearly than the Beck-sponsored march in 2009, the so-called 9/12 Project rally. Riding the wave of the burgeoning Tea Party movement, conservatives wanted to send a message that American was suffering from Obama buyer’s remorse and that all the good will he had earned the previous year was gone because Americans were appalled by his agenda.
Tens of thousands of activists showed up. But all day long, conservatives online insisted (or fantasized) that the anti-Obama crowd had swelled to astonishing, historic, unimaginable proportions. In a weird game of telephone tag, a Tea Party activist first claimed ABC News had reported the 9/12 crowd was 1.5 million strong, even though ABC did no such thing. Another activist then tweeted that ABC was reporting the crowd at 2 million. (False.) Malkin then embraced the baseless 2 million figure to spread it.
Also that day, conservatives bloggers passed around a photo that supposedly proved the march was one-million strong. But the photograph was actually from a rally that took place 12 years earlier. Even after the 9/12 rally, Beck still claimed his rally had attracted nearly 2 million anti-Obama activists.
Two months later, Fox News’ Sean Hannity had to apologize after Comedy Central caught him using footage from the 9/12 rally to tell the story about a much less-well attended D.C. rally, the Super Bowl of Freedom. “The effect was that the latter event seemed like a much bigger deal than it was,” Mediaite noted.
Fast forward to the Trump campaign and the Republican candidate seemed to take the bogus crowd size strategy right off the shelf and put it in play, while supportive conservative media outlets pitched in. “Trump has routinely exaggerated the already large numbers” at his rallies, noted the Washington Post.
Back in July 2015, Trump tweeted out that 12-15,000 people had attended his rally in Phoenix, even though the local police put the number closer to 4,000. Nonetheless, the phony 15,000 figure was embraced by media outlets friendly to Trump. Not to be outdone, right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit upped the ante: “20,000 PATRIOTS TURNED OUT TO SEE DONALD TRUMP IN ARIZONA!!”
That’s five times what the local police estimated the actual crowd to be.
On the surface, Trump’s weird post-inauguration obsession with puffing up the numbers of his celebration might seem like a baffling, insecure tick. It is -- he's just advertising that insecurity via an established right-wing media tactic.
At noon today, Donald Trump will swear the oath of office and become president of the United States. His ascent would not have been possible without the years of vitriol that the right-wing media directed at his predecessor.
That hatred of President Obama, and the related scorched-earth efforts to smother his agenda, prepared the way for Trump. Many Republican voters became, in the words of one conservative writer, “just increasingly divorced from reality” after spending years in the right-wing echo chamber.
In the first months after Obama’s election, as the president sought solutions for the most immense economic crisis in decades, conservative media became completely unhinged. Violent, doomsday rhetoric and overt appeals to feelings of anger and paranoia in their audience became regular features of commentary across the full spectrum of the right-wing press. While the level of demagoguery waxed and waned over the years, the hatred and fear that had been unleashed never dissipated.
The GOP establishment was all too willing to go along with “the rage and unreason of radio talkers” as long as they could keep them pointed at liberals. Then Trump came along, a candidate who had repeatedly questioned whether Obama was eligible to be president in the first place, and stole the base right out from under them.
And once Trump was a major party candidate, he had a pretty good shot of becoming president, especially after receiving a massive volume of coverage from a press that was unwilling or unable to properly contextualize his candidacy.
Five days before Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the nation was in dire straights. A financial crisis had sent the economy into a tailspin, triggering massive job losses and a plummeting stock market. The banking system was still on the brink of failure. The auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Americans were rightly frightened of the immense economic insecurity, but broadly supportive of the new president who promised to right the ship.
But on January 16, 2009, Rush Limbaugh -- one of the most powerful voices in Republican politics -- told his millions of listeners that his “hope for the Obama presidency” was “I hope he fails.” In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity the day after Obama was sworn in, Limbaugh doubled down, saying: "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president."
Over the next few months, Limbaugh would continue to state that he wanted Obama to fail. When other prominent Republicans offered criticism of the radio host, he would blast them on his show; his audience would flood their offices with calls until they were forced to apologize. In a sign of things to come, even the chairman of the Republican National Committee had to grovel before the man with the microphone.
That same month, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes sat down with another right-wing radio host, Glenn Beck. After spending two years at HLN, Beck was about to debut his new Fox show, and he was worried that Ailes might not be willing to give him the leeway to go after the incoming administration. “I see this as the Alamo,” Ailes reportedly told Beck. “If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we'd be fine.” A partnership was struck.
Fox executives later acknowledged that the network took “a hard right turn” after the election and become “the voice of opposition” to Obama.
As a presidential candidate, Obama had frequently been subject to a hefty dose of conservative media vitriol. Given that Obama was the first black major party nominee and had the middle name “Hussein,” a lot of that vitriol was racist or aimed at falsely suggesting he was a Muslim. The fearmongering took off as the election approached, with conservatives baselessly warning that he would be a dictator.
But in the first 100 days of his administration, following the lead of Limbaugh, Ailes, and Beck, the floodgates opened.
As the Obama administration took control of the reins of government and began trying to halt the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the right-wing media reviews rolled in.
“Is this where we’re headed?” asked Beck over a montage of photos of Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin.
Obama’s aim was “destroying our economic system as we currently know it." His financial rescue plan was “Josef Stalin without the bloodshed.” It was also socialism. So was his economic recovery plan (unless that was really communism. Or fascism. It was definitely slavery). The auto industry rescue made him a mob boss. So did his labor proposal. His cabinet secretaries were Soviet commissars.
According to one CNBC host, the big debate was over whether Obama was “the New Economic Policy Lenin or the initial storm-the-Winter-Palace Lenin.” Obama’s party was trying to create a “political dictatorship.” Possible prosecutions of Bush administration officials who had aided the use of torture were “show trials” that would turn the nation into a “banana republic.”
Obama was “enslaving” our children. His education plan was “Maoist.” He was striving to create “chaos and depression” among Americans. He was a vampire “going after the blood of our businesses.” His government was “a heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state." He was “taking every tradition and institution that defined this country's greatness and trying to rip it to shreds.”
He was “more sympathetic with the long-term goals of world communism, and … Muslim terrorists, than with any legitimate American goals." He was embracing “the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood” and preparing to “sell us out” to the Islamic world.
He was trying to institute a one-world government by repealing the Declaration of Independence and taking the Constitution apart. “Those crazies in Montana who say, ‘We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over’” were “beginning to have a case.”
After weeks of hearing that Obama was planning to destroy the country, right-wing media’s audience members were ready for action. They got their opportunity after CNBC contributor Rick Santelli’s denunciation of Obama’s housing plan from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade went viral on February 19, 2009; Santelli’s rant culminated in a call for viewers to join him to protest at a “Chicago Tea Party” on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Within days, powerful national conservative organizations backed by corporate interests and wealthy right-wing donors started organizing a nationwide series of “Tax Day Tea Parties” to protest the Obama administration, leading up to and culminating on April 15.
Fox News -- the “voice of opposition,” Ailes’ “Alamo” -- became the focal point, megaphone, and chief promoter of the nascent tea party movement.
The network’s hosts and anchors championed the protests in dozens of segments and promos in the following weeks, hosting protest organizers for fawning interviews, providing their audience with protest dates, locations and website URLs, and encouraging viewers to join them at protests they were attending and covering. At times, these events were openly branded as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” In turn, organizers used the scheduled appearance of Fox hosts to drum up more attendees.
Fox’s abject support for the tea parties was a crucial element in their success. As we noted at the time, “Dozens of articles about tea parties in various cities reported that Fox News and its hosts helped influence, start, or turn out participants to local protests. In numerous cases, these reports quoted local participants or organizers stating they were motivated to join or start protests because of Fox News.”
Again, this all happened in the first 100 days of Obama’s tenure.
The years to come would see right-wing media flirt with a host of absurd Obama conspiracies; claim over and over again that he intended to create “death panels”; and try to bury Obama’s nominees under an avalanche of false smears. Fox News went all-in as the research and communications arm of the GOP. Glenn Beck called Obama a racist, used his paranoid anti-Obama rants to become a conservative grass-roots leader, attacked a liberal foundation with such heat that one of his heavily armed fans tried to storm its offices, lost all his major advertisers, and eventually left Fox. The “end of America as you know it” was always just around the corner.
President Obama’s Marxist/communist/socialist/Leninist/Maoist/Trotskyite/Stalinist administration resulted in the longest streak of private sector job creation in our nation’s history, with more than 15 million private sector jobs created since the recession’s low point in 2010. Under his tenure, the stock market reached record highs, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than doubling since he was sworn into office.
In the wake of Obama’s re-election, The Onion proposed that a “shrieking white-hot sphere of pure rage” would be the 2016 candidate “that would tap into Republicans' deep-seated, seething fury” after the GOP failed to oust Obama in 2012.
It was a very funny joke and we all had a good laugh and then the Republicans nominated Donald Trump and he was elected president.
Why Trump? Because, better than anyone else in the Republican field, he could appeal to the hatred of Obama that conservatives had spent years stoking.
Who could do better than someone who had prominently, and repeatedly, questioned whether Obama had been born in the United States?
Trump launched his recent political renaissance by hitching his wagon to the birther movement, a collection of fringe right-wing figures entranced by a racist conspiracy theory: Obama was not constitutionally eligible to be president because, in spite of all available evidence, he hadn’t really been born in this country. In this twisted worldview, Obama wasn’t just destroying the country -- he also had no right to its highest office in the first place.
The birther movement would discredit itself again and again over the years, with adherents suggesting that they had uncovered Obama’s “real father,” claiming that the Certificate of Live Birth Obama produced during the 2008 presidential campaign was forged, releasing an obviously fake Kenyan birth certificate for Obama, and declaring that Obama was hiding his birth certificate because it revealed he was Muslim. But a big chunk of Republican voters, including a contingent of GOP members of Congress, still bought into the myth.
Those conservatives were overjoyed when Trump came forward and became the leading voice of the birther movement, raising questions about Obama’s birth certificate in a series of 2011 interviews. Fox News promoted Trump’s claims in dozens of segments, and several of the network’s hosts joined in, suggesting that Obama’s birthplace was in doubt.
Obama released his long-form birth certificate later that year. But Trump never backed down. He immediately suggested the document was fake, and he spent years promoting birther conspiracies in interviews and on Twitter.
After years of listening to anti-Obama vitriol from right-wing talk radio and television hosts, conservatives wanted someone who could match that hate. They found him.
And today, he’s the president.
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