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  • GOP payments, Trump venues, conflicts of interest: Fox figures’ speeches have been an ethical disaster

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Click here to access a PDF version of this report.

    For years, Fox employees have spoken at events for conservative groups and Republican Party organizations, using their cable news celebrity to help those organizations raise money and gain publicity.

    According to a new Media Matters analysis, Fox figures have taken more than $500,000 from Republican Party groups to speak at events. They have interviewed Republicans officials shortly after co-headlining events with them. And they have financially helped President Donald Trump by keynoting speeches on Trump properties.

    Here are five takeaways from an examination of speeches by Fox figures over the years:

    • Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Greg Gutfeld, Sean Hannity, Pete Hegseth, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro have received over $500,000 combined in speaking fees from Republican groups while working at the network.
    • Members of Fox's purported "news" division, such as anchor Shannon Bream and Fox News Senior Vice President of business news Neil Cavuto, have also headlined conservative events, including alongside Republican officials. In one instance, Bream spoke at a conference that also featured then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (whom she later interviewed on her program).
    • Fox News employees have spoken at events that have financially benefited President Donald Trump. For instance, Chris Stirewalt -- a member of Fox’s “news” division -- spoke at an event for the petroleum industry at Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. And Jeanine Pirro has done events in which the proceeds went to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
    • Republican groups paying Fox News hosts has unsurprisingly created numerous conflicts of interest. For instance, Pete Hegseth repeatedly interviewed then-Senate candidate John James after headling a fundraiser with the Michigan Republican; and Pirro interviewed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) the day after appearing with him at a fundraiser.
    • Three Fox News hosts -- Brian Kilmeade, Pete Hegseth, and Shannon Bream -- have cancelled speeches at conservative events this year following Media Matters reporting.

    (Media Matters obtained speaking fees through searches of various government campaign finance databases. The fees were either paid to the Fox figures or to their speaking bureaus.) 

    Here are more than 50 notable examples of Fox News speeches since 2007: 

    2007-2016

    November 1, 2007. Sean Hannity speaks at a fundraising event for the Alachua County Republican Party in Florida, reportedly receiving $75,000. The GOP group’s website stated at the time that Hannity would “broadcast the Sean Hannity half of Hannity and Colmes via satellite from the Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ. We had lobbied the powers that be that control such thing because it will greatly de-compress the day and the event. They informed us a few days ago that we got our wish. After the reception and during the main event, the reception hall at Canterbury Equestrian Showplace will get turned in to a mini TV studio. The[re] will be no audience in the reception hall, during Hannity and Colmes. … We will be broadcasting Hannity and Colmes on our big screens in the arena.”

    August 2, 2008. Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon says in a speech aboard a cruise for Hillsdale College that he lied repeatedly during the closing days of the 2008 presidential campaign when he speculated on-air "about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism." The remarks were unearthed by Media Matters three years later and caused major embarrassment for the network.

    April 15, 2009. Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity attend tea party rallies across the country, with the network labeling them “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” Beck and Van Susteren are no longer with the network, but Cavuto, in addition to hosting programs on Fox News and Fox Business, “oversees business news content for both networks” as its senior vice president and managing editor of business news.  

    March 23, 2010. Hannity keynotes a fundraising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee. The GOP group stated that it “raised over $7 million” for the annual event.

    April 15, 2010. Hannity plans to broadcast his Fox News program from a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati but Fox News executives force him to abandon his plans. The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported on the event, and Media Matters added additional reporting and criticism before Hannity’s appearance was cancelled. Though Fox News executives were reportedly angry with Hannity, the Times later reported, “While there have been post-mortem discussions about the incident, it does not appear that they have resulted in any serious disciplinary measures taken against any staffers involved.”

    September 25, 2010. Tucker Carlson -- then a Fox News contributor -- reportedly speaks at an event hosted by the Moore County Republican Party in North Carolina, receiving $10,000.

    March 29, 2011. Carlson speaks at a fundraising event for the Lane County Republican Party in Oregon, receiving $23,500.

    May 25, 2011. Then-Fox News contributor Dick Morris speaks a fundraising event for the Oakland County Republican Party in Michigan. He would later treat GOP donors to a tour of Fox News and tapings of Lou Dobbs Tonight and Hannity.

    March 9, 2012. Morris speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Lake County in Florida and auctions off a personal guided tour of Fox News' New York studios for GOP donors. Fox News “reprimanded” Morris following Media Matters’ report.

    February 7, 2013. Ingraham speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at Mar-A-Lago, FL, receiving $12,500. Trump introduced Ingraham.

    July 1, 2014. Media Matters releases a report documenting 15 Fox News hosts and contributors who have campaigned in the past few years with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Fox employees include current Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Greg Gutfeld, Laura Ingraham, Charles Payne, and Dana Perino.

    February 21, 2015. Jeanine Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee, receiving $20,000.

    May 4, 2015. Ingraham speaks at an event for then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn became a senator in 2019.

    February 11, 2016. Ingraham speaks at a fundraising event for the Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois, receiving $12,500.

    March 20, 2016. Ingraham speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at Mar-A-Lago. Trump, who was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination then, also spoke at the event.

    May 5, 2016. Brian Kilmeade speaks at an event for the Queens Village Republican Club in New York.

    May 13, 2016. Carlson -- then a co-host on Fox & Friends Weekend -- speaks at an event for the Republican Party of Arkansas, receiving $23,500.


    Photo from the Republican Party of Arkansas' Facebook page

    2017

    January, February, and March: Jeanine Pirro receives a “speaker’s fee” payment of $5,000 each month, for a total of $15,000, from the New Jersey Republican State Committee for an unspecified event.

    January 26. Pete Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Brazos County in Texas, receiving $5,000.

    February 18. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Kent County Republican Committee in Delaware, receiving $12,000.

    March 4. Lou Dobbs speaks at a fundraising event for the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee in Florida, receiving $25,000.

    March 9. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Erie County Republican Committee in New York, receiving $7,579.34.

    March 13. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Georgia Republican Party, receiving $15,000.

    March 20. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth in Pennsylvania, receiving $5,284.

    March 31. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Bonneville County GOP in Idaho, receiving $14,000.

    April 21. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Snohomish County Republican Central Committee in Washington, receiving $5,547.60.  

    July 28. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Arkansas, receiving $15,000.

    July 29. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Larimer County Republican Party in Colorado, receiving $5,000  

    September 21. Host Greg Gutfeld speaks at a fundraising event for the Washington State Republican Party, receiving $36,609.41.

    October 8. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Volusia County Republican Party in Florida, receiving $20,000.

    October 13. Cavuto speaks at an event for the conservative and Koch-funded Washington Policy Center alongside Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

    October 17. Ingraham speaks at a “campaign kickoff event” for then-Senate candidate Kelli Ward (R) in Arizona. The New York Times reported, “Fox News hosts are not usually allowed to stump for candidates, but Ms. Ingraham was granted an exception because her show had not yet begun.”

    October 21. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the California Republican Party, receiving $20,000.

    November 2. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Montgomery County Republican Women's PAC in Texas, receiving $6,500.

    November 9. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Alachua County Republican Party in Florida, receiving $15,000.

    December 6. Hannity speaks and accepts an award at a United in Purpose luncheon hosted by Ginni Thomas at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

    2018

    January 18. Pirro speaks at an event for the Trumpettes USA club at Mar-a-Lago. The Washington Post reported that “the event followed the format of a Palm Beach charity ball — without the charity. [Trumpettes co-founder Toni Holt] Kramer was clear that the money would all go to the president's club.”

    February 8. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois, receiving $13,250.

    February 17. Gutfeld speaks at an event for the Morris County Republican Committee Fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, reportedly receiving $30,000.

    February 23. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Alabama Republican Executive Committee, receiving $10,600.

    March 5. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News’ politics editor who “helps coordinate political coverage across Fox platforms,” gives a keynote speech at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) spoke at the gathering the following day.  

    March 16. Pirro speaks at a fundraising event for the Kern County Republican Central Committee in California that also features then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Pirro, who received $25,000 for speaking at the event, would interview McCarthy the following the day on her Fox News program without disclosing the payment.

    May 17. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Benton County Republican Central Committee in Washington, receiving $8,500.

    May 24. Hegseth speaks at a fundraising event for the Livingston County Republican Party in Michigan with then-Republican Senate candidate John James. Hegseth, who received $10,239.55 for the engagement, would later interview James on Fox & Friends Weekend on July 28, September 9, October 14, and October 28, without disclosing his financial conflict of interest.

    June 28. Hannity speaks at a Manhattan Republican Party event honoring him.

    June 30. Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes speaks alongside Republican officials at a fundraising event for the Fayette County Republican Party in Tennessee. Starnes has also worked as an anchor and reporter for Fox News Radio.

    July 2. Hannity participates in campaign rallies for two Florida Republicans: gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and congressional candidate Rep. Matt Gaetz.

    August 11. Shannon Bream speaks at the conservative Steamboat Institute’s 10th Annual Freedom Conference & Festival and praised the recently passed GOP tax bill and said that Trump has been “rolling back regulations that we've heard from businesses, from the IRS to the EPA, have made it tougher for them to survive and be profitable in America.” Bream made the remarks despite stating that she’s “in the news division” and doesn’t “have an opinion publicly.” Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also appeared at the conference; Bream interviewed Zinke on her show in November.

    October 10. Pirro speaks at an event for Scott Wagner for Governor (R) in Pennsylvania, receiving $35,000.

    November 5. Hannity and Pirro both appear and speak at a campaign rally with Trump ahead of the midterm elections. The network responded by falsely claiming it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.”

    2019

    January 17. The Williamson County Republican Party in Tennessee announces that “Brian Kilmeade will not be speaking at” its February 16 “Reagan Day due to scheduling conflicts.” Media Matters had earlier that month criticized the Fox & Friends host for agreeing to participate in the partisan fundraiser.

    January 24. The Bridgeport Republican Town Committee in Connecticut announces that Pete Hegseth will no longer be speaking at its April 25 fundraiser “due to circumstances beyond our control.” The cancellation came a day after Media Matters reported on the event.

    February 23. Pirro again headlines a Trumpettes USA party at Mar-a-Lago that benefits Trump’s club, as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported.

    March 22: The James Madison Institute announces that Shannon Bream has cancelled her speech at its April 3 fundraiser. Media Matters had previously reported on the event, noting that Bream belongs to Fox’s “news” division yet was scheduled to speak at the fundraiser for the Koch-linked group alongside Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

    May 31. Fox Nation host and Fox News contributor David Webb is scheduled to emcee a fundraising event for the Belknap County Republican Committee in New Hampshire. Webb has also emceed the committee’s events in previous years.

  • Fox News anchor misleadingly splices together tweets of anti-gun violence activist to accuse her of politicizing Colorado school shooting

    NRA's Dana Loesch went on Fox to dismiss calls for gun safety legislation as a rush "to politicize" a tragedy

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Yesterday, a shooting at a school in Highlands Ranch, CO, left one student dead and eight injured. To discuss the tragedy, Fox anchor Shannon Bream on Fox “news”-side show Fox News @ Night brought on NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who derided people for blaming guns after shootings.

    Loesch also accused actress Alyssa Milano and gun safety activist and founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts of politicizing the tragedy in their tweets condemning the school shooting and criticizing the NRA, asking, “What is wrong with these ladies’ hearts that their first response to a tragedy, before we even know who the victim is, is to rush to politicize it?”

    Fox featured on screen a tweet attributed to Watts that was actually two tweets the network had misleadingly spliced together -- one posted after the shooting and part of another she had posted the day before. Fox has a history of propping up the NRA and the embattled organization’s legislative priorities. The NRA frequently accuses activists of politicizing deadly shootings.

  • Here's how Fox News is spinning the Mueller report

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 18, the Department of Justice released a 448-page redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Since the report’s release, Fox News has been spinning its findings to appear favorable to President Donald Trump.

    Although Mueller didn’t officially charge Trump, the report is still widely seen as “a “brutal indictment of his campaign and his presidency.” According to NBC News, the first volume of the report “details how Trump and his allies solicited, encouraged, accepted and benefited from the assistance provided by America's most storied foreign adversary as part of a multi-front assault on American democracy.” The second volume “lays out comprehensive evidence that the president may have obstructed justice through what Mueller described as a ‘pattern of conduct’ that included firing FBI Director Jim Comey, trying to remove Mueller, publicly praising and condemning witnesses, and seeking to limit the scope of the probe.” In short, the report tells a story of “a president who used nearly every power vested in his office and his persona … to cover up ties between his campaign and Russia so that he could spare himself the public humiliation of having won an election that wasn't entirely on the level.” As NBC notes, critics argue that the report’s findings “rattle the very foundations of the American system of governance.”

    However, Fox News is still working hard to keep the president in a favorable light. Fox figures have argued that Trump’s actions were justifiable because he was frustrated; have deflected from the report’s findings by pivoting to the perceived reporting errors of the media; and have falsely claimed that one can’t obstruct justice without an underlying crime. Fox figures have also continued to call for an investigation of the investigators and of the origins of the probe, and they have defended Attorney General William Barr’s questionable and highly partisan actions.

    Narrative 1: Trump was cooperative and his actions were justified because he was frustrated

    Fox figures are suggesting that the fact that Trump didn’t use executive privilege is evidence that he cooperated with the Mueller investigation. Fox is also arguing that Trump’s reaction when he found out about the special counsel investigation could not be perceived as guilt because it came out of frustration that it would slow down his agenda. (Barr advanced this argument of Trump’s frustration in his April 18 press conference.) Fox is also pointing to an expletive Trump used as proof that he was just worried people would see him as an illegitimate president.

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed Trump said “I’m doomed” only because he had “been told that any time there's a special counsel, it goes on and on and on for years.”

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Yeah, the president sat down at his desk and said, basically, I'm doomed. I have been told that any time there's a special counsel, it goes on and on and on for years. And he said this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/18]

    Fox’s Dana Perino claimed that Trump “was actually quite cooperative” with the special counsel’s investigation.

    DANA PERINO (HOST): I do want to ask Martha [MacCallum] about this idea about cooperation. And if we can pull up sound bite number 15, because I want to have you listen to this. And it's interesting to me that there's these calls about obstruction, and yet the president was actually quite cooperative -- didn't ask for executive privilege on any of the documents, allowed people to go and be interviewed. [Fox News, Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, 4/18/19]

    Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that Trump didn’t say a “bad word … in the sense that he was guilty” but “in the sense that special counsel investigations or special investigations, independent counsels slow down your agendas.”

    KATIE PAVLICH (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): You know, there's been this out-of-context quote from the Mueller report that reporters have been talking about as a result of the release, saying that the president said he was -- a bad word. He was -- essentially, his presidency was over as a result of the special counsel getting launched. But he didn't say it in the sense that he was guilty. He said it in the sense that special counsel investigations or special investigations, independent counsels slow down your agendas. [Fox News, Outnumbered Overtime, 4/18/19]

    Narrative 2: The media were wrong in their reporting on the Mueller report

    Fox figures are arguing that the Mueller report vindicated their accusations that the mainstream media was wrong in their reporting of the investigation, even though much of what mainstream media reported on was ultimately seen as corroborated by the final report. Various Fox figures demanded that media outlets apologize to Trump and others. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway echoed this narrative when she appeared on Fox, saying, “We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them.”

    Fox & Friends guest Buck Sexton criticized other media outlets for not apologizing for "the insanity that they have been reporting" about the Mueller investigation.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Buck, you have said this is a reminder of the media getting it wrong for the last two years. Do you think the media will realize -- or has realized that and will make it right or apologize? I think I know the answer.

    BUCK SEXTON (TALK RADIO HOST): I'm quite sure that the media is not going to apologize and, in fact, I think what you’re seeing today Ainsley is a lot of people doubling down. There was certainly a bit of humiliation that was doled out to them when we knew that there would no charges, either on obstruction or on collusion, conspiracy once that came out. But now you are going to see a lot of media outlets that are desperate to find something in this report to justify the insanity that they have been reporting on for two years. They are going to work very hard at a kind of special interpretive analysis here to say, “Well, there weren't charges, but look at this thing.” They are also going to dig deep into the redactions and suggest that that's where the real collusion happened or that’s where you’ll find -- I mean, it's all nonsense and it’s all politics for them. And speaking of politics, the Democrats are going to try to use obstruction. There will be some -- I don't know if the whole party will go in this direction to create a narrative that there needs to be at least investigations going toward or hearings going toward impeachment based on the obstruction evidence but not charges that will be in this report. I think that's pretty likely. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/19]

    On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said media reporting on the Mueller investigation was “dog doo.”

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): [The Mueller report] comes out. How can the rest of us act like our assumptions for the past two years -- or their assumptions for the last two years -- were ratified, were right. I mean why doesn’t the entire city of Washington stop and ask itself, “How were we so wrong?”

    BRIT HUME (FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST): Well, that can be attributed to the partisan divide that you see across the country and very much in Washington. There are some of us, such as those of us here at Fox News, who don't have any of this collusion dog doo all over our shoes and never did. And so we look at this and we think to ourselves, "Well, yeah, I guess we sort of sized that up properly." We didn't buy into that. We didn't make a hero out of Michael Avenatti and having him on our air a couple of hundred times and talk about what a serious presidential candidate he was. We didn't spin every story that came along to suggest that it pointed in the direction of the collusion that was talked about endlessly. We didn't do any of that. So there's a big segment of us -- there’s a big segment of our audience that didn't buy into that stuff either. So none of us tonight has anything but regrets that this took up as much of our time and as much of our political air as it did as you point out. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/18/19]

    On his show, Carlson said, “The Mueller report is probably the single most humiliating thing that has ever happened to the White House press corps."

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): These are hysterical children. They should not be in journalism, but they are. In fact, they run journalism, and they have no plans on giving up their power. The Mueller report is probably the single most humiliating thing that has ever happened to the White House press corps in the history of this country. So, how did reporters in Washington respond today when it finally came out? Well, they did what they do best; they celebrated themselves. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/18/19]

    Fox’s Mark Levin claimed that “it's now a matter of the American people versus the press," adding, “I would call them the unfree press.” Levin also cast doubt on the legitimacy of the report, saying that “you have no idea” if "the report is truthful” and that it’s a “200-page op-ed” that Mueller “should never have written.”

    MARK LEVIN (FOX HOST): This is political document that he should never have written. A political document that is 200 pages long that the press keeps focusing on. That's why he and Weissmann and the others wrote it, because he knew you all -- he knew CNN would be obsessed with it. He knew that MSNBC would be obsessed with it. This is an op-ed. This is a 200-page op-ed. That's all this is.

    LEVIN: This is a hack job. Now, where are we here? Where are we here? From my perspective, it's now a matter of the American people versus the press. Or how I would call them, the unfree press. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/18]

    Narrative 3: The report found "no obstruction"

    A growing Fox narrative asserts that there’s no obstruction of justice unless there’s an underlying crime. Attorney General Barr also suggested this idea, which, according to The Washington Post, is wrong: “It’s black letter law that a defendant can satisfy the corrupt intent criterion for obstruction even if the defendant himself committed no underlying crime.” That hasn’t stopped Fox from using this talking point -- Trump even tweeted a paraphrased quote from Fox host Martha MacCallum, writing, “When there is not an underlying crime with regard to Collusion (in fact, the whole thing was a made up fraud), it is difficult to say that someone is obstructing something. There was no underlying crime.”

    On Fox & Friends, former independent counsel Ken Starr said that “not only was there no obstruction, there was cooperation.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt accused the left of “shifting the narrative yet again” to obstruction.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): We heard Russia, Russia, Russia. Then we heard no collusion. And now we're hearing obstruction, obstruction, obstruction. The left is shifting the narrative yet again. Are you surprised?

    KEN STARR (FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL): Well, I'm not. I'm disappointed, but here's the bottom line: Not only was there no obstruction, there was cooperation. Did the president want to cooperate? No. Did he like Bob Mueller and the whole thing? He hated it. Well, guess what? Bill Clinton hated me and hated the investigation. Ulysses S. Grant fired the special counsel. Harry Truman's attorney general fired the special counsel. Famously, Richard Nixon fired the special counsel and the special prosecutor. You know there's a difference between having thoughts and this is another dimension that really did surprise me: how open and frank the conversations are with the president of the United States that then become disclosed and they are now in the public domain. We used to call that executive privilege. Talk about cooperation: cooperation in all caps. Not a single, as far as we know, invocation of executive privilege when these were such private, confidential conversations that are now, obviously, embarrassing to the president and being seized upon for political purposes. But there was no obstruction here. The 10 obstructive acts just don't add up to being an obstruction of justice in the criminal sense.[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/19]

    Fox News correspondent Ed Henry falsely claimed, “You can't obstruct something if there is no underlying crime.”

    ED HENRY (GUEST CO-HOST): Think about what they have said in the run-up to this. Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow have said you can't obstruct something if there is no underlying crime. So if part one of the Mueller report says there was no collusion/conspiracy coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, then there is no underlying criminal activity by the president of the United States. So then how can you say, “Well, there is no crime but you obstructed justice even though you didn't commit a crime”? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/19]

    The following day, Henry again falsely claimed that there is “no obstruction there” because Trump’s aides “didn’t act on it.”

    ED HENRY (FOX NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT): Well, on that incident that Brian [Kilmeade] was talking about with Don McGahn, who was White House counsel at the time, it basically talked about the president calling him up, and the report says that weekend, the president called McGahn and directed him to have the special counsel removed because of asserted conflicts of interest. McGahn did not carry out the instruction for fear of being seen as triggering another "Saturday Night Massacre" and instead prepared to resign himself. Now McGahn ultimately did not quit and the president did not follow up with McGahn on his request to have the special counsel removed. Important points there because in the end, embarrassing details for the president about how it all played out. But he didn't act on it. McGahn didn't act on it. So there was no removal of Robert Mueller. So no obstruction there. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/19]

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade falsely asserted that Mueller found Trump wasn't trying to obstruct the investigation.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): One of the big controversies I guess from the White House perspective is there will be a mass of details, according to, I think, Jonathan Swan, a great reporter on Axios, of the president unloading on -- about Mueller, about [Jeff] Sessions, about Rod Rosenstein to, I guess, [former White House counsel] Don McGahn and others. I have news for you: We all heard it. We have seen it, we've interviewed him. We've read his Twitter feed. He's doing it non-stop in front of the public eye which might have made it challenging for Robert Mueller to figure out, “Is these the rantings of an innocent man or is somebody trying to manipulate me?” And Robert Mueller's answer is obviously no one is manipulating him. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/19]

    Narrative 4: The investigators and origin of the Mueller investigation need to be investigated

    For weeks, Fox personalities have been demanding that the origins of the investigation, Hillary Clinton, and the Obama administration be investigated. The narrative made its way to Barr’s press briefing, where Fox White House correspondent Catherine Herridge asked Barr if he will investigate the “genesis of the Russia investigation.” This right-wing narrative questions the legitimacy of the starting point of the investigation, even though the details of the investigation’s origins are public.

    Speaking to Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, Fox host Sean Hannity questioned the origin of the report, asking, “Are we really to believe the origins of this as they claim?”

    SEAN HANNITY: Attorney General Barr said the other day, and there was a media freakout over it, that yes, the Trump campaign was spied upon. Now it happened in a number of ways. It happened vis-a-vis the FISA warrant full of the Hillary-bought-and-paid-for, of all things Russian lies as the bulk of information, according to the Grassley-Graham memo. … Are we really to believe the origins of this as they claim was George Papadopoulos and a drink set-up? Do you believe that origin? Because that would not warrant what has just happened to this country. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/18/19]

    Fox Nation host Lynette Hardaway of the Diamond and Silk duo said, “The government officials that participated … need to be brought to justice,” later adding that it's "time to investigate the investigators.”

    LYNETTE HARDAWAY (DIAMOND, FOX NATION PERSONALITY): You have to understand also that the media is trying to divert attention away from what really happened.

    ROCHELLE RICHARDSON (SILK, FOX NATION PERSONALITY): Mhm.

    HARDAWAY: The government officials that participated, that masterminded, that orchestrated all of this here collusion mess -- they need to be brought to justice.

    RICHARDSON: That's right.

    HARDAWAY: It's time to investigate the investigators. They don't want the issue to get out. And that's why they are trying to divert our attention away for, and trying to push this obstruction of justice mess when there was no obstruction of justice. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/19]

    Narrative 5: Barr was transparent and technically didn’t need to release anything at all

    Some mainstream reporters have disagreed with premature reporting describing the report as "lightly redacted," but Fox figures have repeated that phrase, with some arguing that Barr didn’t need to release a report at all and praising his transparency.

    Fox anchor Shannon Bream defended Barr, saying he didn't have to release Mueller's report. Host Dana Perino agreed that “the attorney general didn’t have to do this at all.”

    DANA PERINO (HOST): Shannon Bream, I did want to ask you about this. It's very lightly redacted. I worked at the Justice Department for a while. I know redactions are very frustrating to people. I think we have a full screen that we can pull up that shows that they did try to provide the American people as much as they possibly could in this report. But also to your point, earlier, and we'll repeat it here, the attorney general didn't have to do this at all.

    SHANNON BREAM (FOX NEWS ANCHOR): Yeah, there's nothing in the statute of the regulations that require him to do this. I mean, the way that it works is that the attorney, or the special counsel has to report to the attorney general on his findings. It simply says that the attorney general has to report on those things to Congress. It could have been one page. It could have been the four-page letter he sent a couple of weeks ago. He wasn't obligated to release this publicly or to Congress. So for people who were worried about his transparency, which he pledged to do, I would hope that many of them would look at this today, and they may still have their concerns on the issue of collusion, but each redaction is spelled out perfectly.

    But what people were really wanting to dig into was obstruction, so on that volume, too, hundreds of pages there of material that is both flattering and unflattering to the president has been revealed. Barr promised when he was asked by Sen. [Jeanne] Shaheen on the Hill that he would not withhold information that could be damaging to the president. So it looks like he's made the effort here. We'll see if it's enough for Congress, because as we've talked about, House Judiciary has already approved subpoenas and they say they'll use them if they need to. [Fox News, The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, 4/19/19]

    Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano claimed that Barr “erred on the side of transparency.” Fox host Martha MacCallum agreed, saying that “by most standards” the report is “lightly redacted.”

    MARTHA MACCALLUM: With regard to the report itself, we have a kind of cool graphic that The Wall Street Journal did that is an overview photograph of all of the pages, and you can see where the redactions are. It is, I think by most standards, fairly lightly redacted.

    ANDREW NAPOLITANO (FOX SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST): Yes, I quite -- I was wrong. I sat right here and I said half of it was going to be redacted and the more redactions, the less credibility it will have. I was very wrong. They were -- erred on the side of transparency in the redactions. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/19/19]

    Fox’s Catherine Herridge said that the report is “lightly redacted.”

    CATHERINE HERRIDGE (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT): I've been able to peel through it. It is lightly redacted and where there are redactions there is actually a statement justifying the redactions. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/18/19]

    Narrative 6: Fox defended Barr against accusations that he acted unprofessionally and in a partisan manner

    Since the release of the Mueller report, Barr’s actions have been called into question due to his oversimplification of the report in a four-page summary he initially released. According to The Guardian, Barr “was responsible for the decision not to prosecute Trump, despite the preponderance of evidence gathered by Mueller.” Barr’s Thursday morning press conference, held before anyone in media had seen the report, was seen as an effort to spin the report's findings ahead of its release, raising questions about his credibility and ability to act in a nonpartisan capacity. Still, Fox figures are defending Barr, brushing off criticisms of his actions as merely stemming from Democrats’ disappointment in the results of the report.

    On Outnumbered, the panelists defended Barr. Co-host Dagen McDowell called criticisms of Barr "unbridled outrage," while co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery dismissed them as "clearly a Democratic talking point."

    DAGEN MCDOWELL (CO-HOST): What do you make of just the unbridled outrage toward Attorney General Bill Barr that we certainly saw in the media yesterday? Because I was talking to Robert Ray, who worked on the Whitewater investigation after Ken Starr did. And he said the argument that the attorney general varied from fair characterization of what Bob Mueller did, that notion is completely ridiculous. He knew the whole report was going to come out. And he said people are going to remember that the way this man is being disparaged, because you would be disciplined if you attacked a federal judge this way.

    LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY (CO-HOST): And it was so clearly a Democrat talking point that was issued, and that's why all the presidential candidates parroted it. And it's -- I don't understand -- the only thing that you can say is they were looking for something very clear and demonstrative to hang their hats on in order to impeach or at least reputationally tar the president beyond repair. And when they didn't have that one big thing, the next thing was to go after the AG. But I don't think that's going to stick, either. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 4/19/19]

    America's Newsroom co-anchor Bill Hemmer said that it's "clear" that "so many Democrats have turned their fire on Bill Barr." His guest Tom Dupree agreed, claiming that Barr is a "target" for Democrats "who were hoping that the report would have reached a different conclusion."

    BILL HEMMER: What was clear watching the coverage yesterday is that so many Democrats have turned their fire on Bill Barr. Is that fair to say now, Tom?

    TOM DUPREE (FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL): I think that is fair to say. Look, I think that there were a lot of Democrats who were hoping that the report would have reached a different conclusion, as to the underlying collusion or nonexistence of collusion with Russia. And when they didn't get that, I think they said well, what can we do now? And I think Barr presents a target. I mean, his press conference yesterday, he explained the reasons why he reached a conclusion he did around obstruction. I think it opened him up to charges from some quarters that he was acting more as the president's personal lawyer then rather as an impartial, neutral arbiter of the law. So, I think they see Barr as a more vulnerable target at this point, frankly, than the president. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 4/19/19]

  • Fox “news” side anchor Shannon Bream hosted anti-abortion filmmakers to spread misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Fox News @ Night host Shannon Bream brought on the producers and writers of the anti-abortion movie Gosnell -- days after the White House screened the movie -- to advance an inaccurate and sensationalized right-wing media narrative about abortion providers engaging in so-called “infanticide.”

    Fox News promotes Bream and her program as part of its “straight news” division in an effort to reassure wary advertisers to stay the course, despite the frequent xenophobia, sexism, racism, and lies of Fox’s “opinion” side, helmed by Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity. But like her colleague Martha MacCallum -- another host the network inaccurately points to as a supposed counterpoint to the “opinion” side -- Bream has long been a source of anti-abortion misinformation and cannot be used to prop up a facade of objectivity.

    During the April 15 edition of Fox News @ Night, Bream facilitated a discussion about abortions conducted later in pregnancy that was dominated by the same sensationalized lies that have defined Fox’s opinion and news coverage since the beginning of the year.

    The White House screening of Gosnell on April 12 was another example of Republicans’ and President Donald Trump’s strategy to stoke outrage over Democratic efforts to protect and secure access to abortion later in pregnancy. In recent months, right-wing media, and Fox News in particular, have gone all-in on promoting outrageous and inaccurate talking points claiming state efforts to protect abortion access were akin to legalizing abortion “up to birth” or even supporting “infanticide.”

    Bream’s segment was an unsurprising continuation of this strategy. She allowed the filmmakers to conflate the illegal actions of former abortion provider Kermit Gosnell -- who is currently serving “three life terms in jail” for “first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive at his rogue clinic, then stabbed with scissors” -- with the actions of legitimate abortion providers. During the segment, co-writer Phelim McAleer alleged that "there wasn't that much difference" between what Gosnell did from what a "legal" abortion provider does. As co-writer Ann McElhinney claimed, “The reason we made this film in the first place” was because legal abortion, in her opinion, allows an abortion provider to “neglect a baby to death.”

    In reality, Gosnell’s practices are in no way representative of abortion providers or abortion procedures in the United States. As New York magazine’s Irin Carmon wrote in 2013, Gosnell’s actions were not evidence of widespread malfeasance by abortion providers, some of whom attempted to warn about his actions and the condition of his clinics beforehand; rather, it was his "willingness to break the law" that made many patients seek him out, believing “they had no alternative.”

    During the segment, Bream pointed to an NBC News article by Robin Marty about the film to allow the filmmakers to explain away “criticisms.” Marty’s article, however, accurately lays out the issues with the film, noting, among other things, that the movie makes an absurd comparison between Gosnell and assassinated legal abortion provider Dr. George Tiller:

    To compare an experienced doctor who legally performed third trimester abortions, usually for women victimized by sexual assault or who learned that their child had fatal fetal anomalies, to a man who stabbed live babies in the neck to sever their spinal chords isn’t just disingenuous, it’s disrespectful (and potentially slanderous).

    Bream allowed her guests to equate Gosnell’s actions with those of legitimate abortion providers -- and the segment played into right-wing and anti-abortion media's manufactured villainization of abortion providers and those who have abortions.

  • Fox News discussed the Green New Deal more often than CNN and MSNBC combined

    And Fox's coverage of the plan was riddled with misinformation, mockery, and climate change skepticism

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the last week of March, Fox News aired more than twice as many prime-time segments discussing the Green New Deal as MSNBC and CNN combined, Media Matters found. Fox ran 22 segments on the Green New Deal, and only half of them even mentioned climate change. MSNBC and CNN aired 14 and five segments, respectively, but all of those discussed climate change.

    Fox aired more Green New Deal segments than CNN and MSNBC combined from March 25 to 31

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed. Markey (D-MA) introduced the Green New Deal on February 7, thrusting the issue of climate change into the national political conversation. On March 26, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called a procedural vote on the resolution, attempting to embarrass Democrats by forcing them to take a stance on it before senators had a chance to hold hearings and debate the measure. Almost all Senate Democrats banded together to call McConnell's bluff by voting "present" instead of yes or no. 

    Media Matters analyzed prime-time cable news coverage of the Green New Deal during the week of the Senate vote. From March 25 to 31, Fox News ran 22 segments discussing the Green New Deal on its weekday and weekend prime-time shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight. Across this same period, MSNBC aired 14 prime-time segments discussing the Green New Deal, and CNN aired five.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Only half of Fox's Green New Deal segments mentioned climate change, 11 out of 22, despite the fact that the plan is designed specifically to address the climate crisis. In contrast, all segments about the Green New Deal on MSNBC and CNN discussed climate change.

    Media Matters did a similar analysis in February in the days after the Green New Deal was introduced. It found that Fox covered the Green New Deal more than three times as often as MSNBC and CNN combined from February 7 to 11; Fox aired 34 segments that mentioned the proposal, MSNBC aired eight, and CNN aired three. And during that period, Fox mentioned climate change in 41% of its Green New Deal segments, MSNBC mentioned climate change in 62%, and CNN mentioned it in 67%. 

    Comparing those earlier findings to our new ones, Fox ran fewer segments on the Green New Deal in the last week of March than it had during that stretch in early February, and a similar proportion of the segments mentioned climate change. MSNBC and CNN, in contrast, both improved their performance, airing more segments on the Green New Deal and discussing climate change in all of them. And in the case of MSNBC in particular, many of the segments were longer and more substantive and informative.

    But the overall trend of Fox covering the Green New Deal more than its cable competitors continued, and that's a significant problem because Fox's coverage is so bad. 

    Fox's coverage of the Green New Deal was rife with misinformation and mockery

    In the last week of March, many of Fox’s 22 segments mentioning the Green New Deal contained misinformation. A number of them falsely suggested or stated that the plan would ban airplanes or cars, which it would not. Others claimed that the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion or $100 trillion, though both figures have been debunked. In four cases, the misinformation came directly from President Donald Trump; he maligned the Green New Deal during a speech in Michigan, and Fox aired footage of that speech without rebutting Trump's false statements. Donald Trump Jr. spread false information too. On the March 25 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, he mocked the plan and said, "we don't exactly have $93 trillion to spend to say you're going to take a bus to Hawaii."

    Another classic example of a Fox discussion about the Green New Deal came on the March 30 episode of Watters' World, in which Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was interviewed:

    JESSE WATTERS (HOST): Good, now, what is the data telling you about socialism? The Green New Deal, are people responding to that? Or is this a killer at the ballot box?

    BRAD PARSCALE: I mean, look, I think it’s a great issue for the president. I think it's just, as he said last -- as he's been trying to say all week, I think it’s incredible how much they just want $100 trillion, destroy the economy, turn us into Venezuela.

    WATTERS: He wants to run against the Green New Deal.

    PARSCALE: Oh yes. Oh yeah.

    WATTERS: He is licking his chops.

    PARSCALE: Yeah, it's like a juicy steak. I mean, getting rid cows, airplanes, no more Hawaiian senators --

    WATTERS: Right, yes, it's like the Big Mac president running against the vegans. It's not going to fly.

    Two of Fox's prime-time Green New Deal segments cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change. One came from Tucker Carlson on the March 27 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, during which he said, “The climate seems like it is changing. Climate changes a lot, always has, maybe human activity is causing it.” In the same episode, he also made the false claim that “nobody is dying from global warming in this country.” The next night on Hannity, guest Rush Limbaugh was more explicit in his climate denial, claiming, “We don't even have the power to impact the climate. We can't change it for better or worse. But it is constantly changing. All we can do is adapt to it. We're the best in the world at that.”

    But both Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity, Fox's flagship evening opinion shows, spent less time on the Green New deal in the last week of March than they had in early February, when they both aired rants about its allegedly oppressive nature.

    In contrast, Fox News @ Night with host Shannon Bream, which Fox bills as a straight "news" program, aired more segments on the plan in the last week of March than it had in early February. The Fox News @ Night segments also spread misinformation, like the false claim that the plan would cost $100 trillion. Fox News @ Night also gave a platform to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on March 27 to continue the ridiculous attack he had made on the Green New Deal on the Senate floor earlier that day; on the show, Lee mocked the plan further, saying, "The Green New Deal is its own punch line."

    MSNBC aired strong coverage of the Green New Deal and climate change, thanks in large part to Chris Hayes

    MSNBC aired 14 segments on the Green New Deal in the last week of March, and nine of them ran on All In With Chris Hayes. All of MSNBC's segments discussed the plan within the context of climate change.

    Hayes produced standout coverage of the Green New Deal, including substantive discussion of what it aims to do and why climate action is critical. After the Senate vote on March 26, Markey appeared on All In With Chris Hayes to explain the reasoning behind the Democrats’ strategy to vote “present”:

    SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): I voted “present” because Mitch McConnell and the Republicans, who are making a mockery of the legislative process, they gave us no hearings. We could have no expert witnesses. We could have no scientists. We could have no people from the states which have been affected by the massive climate-related damage, which has occurred from forest fires in California to the storms across the Midwest, the hurricanes sweeping through Texas and Florida. None of that was allowed to be presented as part of a hearing process.

    CHRIS HAYES (HOST): Today illustrated to me the enormous gap -- I mean, I think the Republicans by and large, your fellow colleagues, they see it all as a joke, as a stunt. I mean, the gap between what the actual physics are -- what the science says, what the scale of the challenge is -- and where the Republicans are, it almost seems un-overcomeable to me. Does it to you?

    MARKEY: It is pretty big. I mean, the United Nations and their scientists at the end of 2018 said that climate is warming so rapidly that it now poses an existential threat to the planet. The 13 federal agencies with jurisdiction over climate issued their own report at the end of 2018. They came to a conclusion that said this is very serious and we had to do something about it.

    On March 29, All In With Chris Hayes aired a special episode in which Hayes interviewed Ocasio-Cortez and a host of others about climate change and the Green New Deal. This episode accounted for four of MSNBC's segments about the Green New Deal in the last week of March. Hayes also aired segments about how Republicans are failing to substantively engage on climate change and how climate change is already affecting residents of the Bronx, among others.

    According to a recent Public Citizen analysis, Hayes discussed climate change more than his MSNBC peers over the past 24 months -- even though he called climate change a “palpable ratings killer” last July. He was criticized for that comment, and since then he's aired climate coverage more often. Public Citizen is now calling on Hayes to commit to cover climate change at least once a week.

    Other discussions of the Green New Deal on MSNBC came during interviews with politicians, including Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) on MTP Daily, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Politics Nation, and Markey again on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

    One MSNBC segment included a guest who argued against taking dramatic steps to combat climate change. On the March 26 episode of MTP Daily, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens warned that we could "bankrupt ourselves in the process of ensuring ourselves against the potential risk." Host Katy Tur and NBC analyst Heather McGhee both pushed back against Stephens' claim that climate change isn't serious enough to warrant bold action. 

    CNN infrequently mentioned the Green New Deal, but connected it to climate change when it did

    CNN aired only five prime-time segments that discussed the Green New Deal in the last week of March. Climate change was brought up in all of them.

    Three of these discussions occurred during interviews with Democratic presidential candidates. On the March 26 episode of Erin Burnett Tonight, Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said he was a "fan of the Green New Deal." Though he did not say the words "climate change" or "global warming," he spoke about the climate crisis, noting the need to "protect our planet" and the promise of renewable energy. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appeared on CNN Tonight on March 26 and said he does not support the Green New Deal, but he thinks climate change is "one of the defining issues of our times." And during a CNN town hall on March 27, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) restated his support for the Green New Deal and emphasized the importance of fighting climate change.

    Fox is distorting the public conversation about the Green New Deal

    It is good news that MSNBC and CNN have been discussing the Green New Deal in the context of climate change, and in some cases examining its policy ideas in-depth.

    Unfortunately, Fox News is still talking about the Green New Deal more than its cable competitors, and often in dishonest and destructive ways. By spreading misinformation about the proposal, Fox is distorting the national dialogue about it. Sean McElwee -- co-founder of Data for Progress, a progressive think tank that helped to shape the Green New Deal -- made this point in a March 27 op-ed in The New York Times:

    The core challenge the Green New Deal faces is not so much on the merits of the concept or even its political feasibility; it is that many of its Democratic supporters have met an aggressive and one-sided onslaught from the right with very little by way of response.

    Though many components of the Green New Deal are popular, the Republican propaganda machine has already reshaped the narrative, and it has done so with virtually no coordinated pushback from progressives, or certainly nowhere near enough, a worrying pattern.

    Progressive pushback has emerged more often in recent weeks, especially on MSNBC. But Fox, by covering the Green New Deal so aggressively and negatively, is already prejudicing many voters against it before they have a chance to learn what it actually calls for and why. McElwee cited polling by the progressive project Navigator that found Republican Fox viewers were more likely than other voters both to have heard a lot about the Green New Deal and to have seen negative coverage, and a recent poll by Navigator found that Fox News viewers were more inclined than others to deny that human-made climate change is happening.

    Fox is unlikely to change its approach, so other media outlets need to step up with more frequent, honest, and probing coverage of the Green New Deal and other proposals for addressing the climate crisis. Failure to do so will distort the overall discourse around climate change and hinder the process of finding solutions.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted Nexis and IQ Media searches for mentions of "green new deal" in programs that aired on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 5 p.m. and midnight from March 25 to 31. We then searched within those transcripts for mentions of “climate” or "global warming." We counted any segments that were devoted to the Green New Deal or made substantial mention of it. We did not count teasers, passing mentions, or rebroadcasts.

  • At conservative event, Fox “news division" anchor Shannon Bream praised GOP tax bill and Trump “rolling back regulations”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    2018 event flyer from the Steamboat Institute

    Shannon Bream, a Fox News anchor who is part of the network’s purported “news division," appeared at a conservative event months ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and praised the Republican tax bill because “everybody wants to keep more money” in their paychecks. She also said that President Donald Trump has been “rolling back regulations that we've heard from businesses, from the IRS to the EPA, have made it tougher for them to survive and be profitable in America.”

    Bream spoke on August 11 at the Steamboat Institute’s 10th Annual Freedom Conference & Festival. The two-day event also featured then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and conservative commentators Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, and Sebastian Gorka, among others.

    The Steamboat Institute is a Colorado-based conservative nonprofit. It stated in its 2018 annual report that the conference “provides attendees with an unparalleled opportunity to meet and mingle with the speakers, who include nationally recognized leaders in conservative thought and policy.”

    Its national advisory board includes Ginni Thomas, a conservative writer who is married to Justice Clarence Thomas, and Kevin Jackson, who was fired from Fox News after he said the women who reported sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh are “lying skanks.”

    The institute is part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a coalition of organizations that pushes for conservative policies across the country. Industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch have funded SPN.

    During her speech, Bream praised the recently passed Republican tax bill, stating that everyone gets “some kind of benefit” from the plan and that “everybody wants to keep more money of their paychecks.” From her speech:

    SHANNON BREAM: The Heritage Foundation has done an interesting study on this. They crunched the numbers and they found this, quote: “Every taxpayer, average taxpayer, in every state, and in every congressional district will see a tax cut in 2018.” And this: “Households will save an average of $1,400; married couples with two children will save $2,917." They’ve got a very cool graphic if you’ve been on their website. If you’ve seen this study, it lights up -- it lets you click on different districts and states to see how the tax cuts in the original package would benefit you, and there’s not a single district that you can click on that doesn’t have some kind of benefit. I pointed this out on my show a couple of weeks ago when the study came out, and I got heat for being partisan, and I thought, ‘I think everybody wants to keep more money of their paychecks.’ I don’t know that -- I’m in the news division, I don’t have an opinion publicly, we all have opinions -- but I don’t think saying that people get to keep more of their own money is a bad thing? Am I wrong?  

    As Vox’s Emily Stewart wrote, “The 2017 tax bill cut taxes for most Americans, including the middle class, but it heavily benefits the wealthy and corporations.” 

    Bream also said that Trump has been “rolling back regulations that we've heard from businesses, from the IRS to the EPA, have made it tougher for them to survive and be profitable in America.”

    Several months later, Bream interviewed Zinke on the November 29 edition of her program Fox News @ Night (Zinke resigned in mid-December under a cloud of ethical problems).

    Bream is a member of Fox’s purported “news division,” which the network points to when touting its alleged objectivity (in reality, the "news" and opinion sides are both cogs in the same propaganda machine). This year, she was scheduled to speak at an event alongside Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for the James Madison Institute, a nonprofit conservative group that has been funded by the Koch brothers and has praised Republicans. Shortly after Media Matters reported on the event, the organization announced that “Bream has had to cancel her appearance at our annual dinner.”

  • Fox “news side” anchor Shannon Bream is keynoting a fundraiser for a Koch-linked group alongside Ron DeSantis

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (3/22/19): The James Madison Institute announced on March 22 that “Bream has had to cancel her appearance at our annual dinner.” JMI announced that the keynote speaker will instead be Jason Riley, “a Wall Street Journal columnist, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Fox News commentator, and best-selling author.”

    Fox News anchor Shannon Bream, who is part of the network’s “news division,” is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser for a conservative group alongside Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

    Bream and DeSantis are set to speak at the James Madison Institute’s 2019 annual fundraising dinner on April 3. Tickets for the event start at $150. JMI also stated that sponsors to the event “get access to our VIP reception before the dinner with special guest Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody,” who is a Republican.

    JMI is a nonprofit organization that describes itself as “Florida’s premier free-market think tank.” The organization has ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. In 2016 and 2017, the Charles Koch Foundation gave JMI a combined $392,000 for general operating support.

    While the organization states that it is nonpartisan, it has heavily praised Republican officials and their policies:

    In 2013, Progress Florida and the Center for Media and Democracy issued a report criticizing JMI on issues such as its anti-environmental policies and funding by the Kochs. From the report:

    Over the years, JMI has released several “studies” and reports that deny global warming is happening, call for an end to clean energy programs, advocate for expanded offshore drilling despite the risks to Florida’s shores from deeper wells (like BP’s Deep Water Horizon), and push for corporate tax breaks, all of which would directly benefit the Koch brothers’ corporate and personal interests.

    Bream is part of Fox’s purported “news division,” which Fox News executives point to when touting the channel’s alleged independence (in reality, the "news" and opinion sides are both cogs in the same propaganda machine). She said in a 2017 interview with TVNewser about her then-upcoming program Fox News @ Night: “I’m in the news division, so it will be all straight news, not opinion. Certainly we’ll have people on the program from all sides of the story, but it’s really about giving our viewers another straight hour of news.”

    DeSantis has frequently appeared on Fox News, including on Bream's program. Fox News helped DeSantis win both his Republican primary and general election campaigns and host Sean Hannity campaigned for DeSantis in Florida. 

    Media Matters has documented Bream’s long history of misinforming viewers about reproductive rights topics. She has also helped champion right-wing efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

  • Maddow's bombshell that the Trump administration tracked immigrant pregnancies also reveals how bad Fox's coverage was

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After numerous controversies and advertiser losses, Fox News has been scrambling to erect an imaginary firewall between the network's so-called "news" and "opinion" sides. But recent reporting from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about a 2017 case involving the treatment of pregnant detained teenagers underscores the reality about the two sides: Fox's "news" hosts are in lockstep with their so-called “opinion” colleagues and seemingly have been for some time.

    During the March 15 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow reported on spreadsheets kept by President Donald Trump's administration containing details about unaccompanied immigrant girls’ pregnancies in an attempt to delay or prevent wanted abortions. In 2017, the Trump administration made a policy change that shelters could not facilitate abortion access for detained minors without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the then-director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. An undocumented teen (referred to as Jane Doe) who was being held in federal custody and was blocked from obtaining a wanted abortion brought suit, and a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to allow her to access abortion care.

    Although it had been previously reported that Lloyd tracked pregnant teens in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) custody using a spreadsheet, the March 15 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show showcased the exclusively obtained spreadsheet and shared previously unseen details. As Maddow said of the 28-page document:

    This is the federal government, with your tax dollars, keeping an individualized record of pregnant teenage girls’ menstrual cycles, whether they've had a positive pregnancy test, what the government knows about how they believe the girls got pregnant, how they believe this individual girl got pregnant, and whether this girl has requested an abortion.

    As Maddow explained, “This was essentially a spreadsheet designed to facilitate federal government action to block these girls from getting any abortion they might want.” In addition, Maddow noted, Lloyd kept tracking the girls’ pregnancies and cycles even after the court ordered ORR to stop blocking teens from obtaining abortions.

    Back in 2017, The Rachel Maddow Show had reported that Lloyd, an anti-choice extremist, used his position to push an anti-abortion agenda on the undocumented minors in his care. He allegedly visited at least one of the pregnant teens to try to talk her out of an abortion and made others go to anti-abortion fake health clinics for the same purpose. He had also reportedly inquired about whether a teenager in ORR custody could have her abortion “reversed,” an anti-abortion scam that is not based in science. Lloyd left ORR to join the Health and Human Services Department (HHS)’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives in November 2018.

    The updated story about Lloyd keeping tabs on teenage girl's menstrual cycles shines a light on the slanted lens through which both Fox's opinion and "news" sides present stories. Those who get their news from Fox are unlikely to hear about this invasive spreadsheet -- just as they were unlikely to hear about Lloyd’s actions in 2017. Instead, the network’s stories about the Jane Doe case that year focused on anti-abortion misinformation and fearmongering about immigrants.

    For example, during a 2017 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed the Jane Doe case was about “liberals … arguing that U.S. taxpayers somehow have an obligation to fund abortions for illegal aliens,” though Jane Doe had obtained private funding for the abortion. On The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham claimed that, because of a related court decision to allow undocumented minors to access abortion, the United States would become “an abortion magnet.” Notably, Ingraham opened the segment by downplaying the experiences of the pregnant detained minors impacted by the decision, mockingly saying: “Underage and need an abortion? Well, just come to America. … No visa needed.”

    Fox News’ so-called “straight news” hosts covered the 2017 case similarly. Bret Baier and Shannon Bream also pushed abortion misinformation about the Jane Doe case -- as they’ve frequently done for other abortion-related stories. During a 2017 edition of Special Report, host Baier opened a segment about Jane Doe’s case by posing the misleading question of whether viewers and their “fellow taxpayers [would] be required to pay for an abortion for an illegal immigrant.” In that same segment, Bream appeared as a correspondent and alleged that some people “think this could open the door to the U.S. providing abortions for minors who would seek to cross the border illegally solely for that purpose.” On her own program, Fox News @ Night, Bream continued promoting anti-choice groups’ talking points, pointing to comments from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, worrying that his state would become “a sanctuary state for abortions” due to the Jane Doe case.

    MSNBC’s new reporting further highlights the failures of Fox News’ work on this story -- on both the “news” and “opinion” sides. Fox News has a vested interest in proving (no matter how inaccurate) that the network's news hosts are somehow different from the network's opinion hosts. But hosts on both sides of Fox's artificial divide have prioritized anti-abortion misinformation and xenophobia over accurate reporting on Scott Lloyd's tenure at HHS. Given the amount of energy the network has spent fearmongering about abortion this year, it seems unlikely that viewers will hear anything accurate about the spreadsheets -- or, perhaps, anything at all.

  • There’s no difference between Fox’s so-called “news” and “opinion” sides on anti-abortion misinformation

    Fox’s “straight news” anchors repeat the same anti-choice talking points as the network's opinion hosts

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    There are many reasons that Fox News’ false dichotomy between the network’s so-called “news” and “opinion” divisions is laughable, but there is perhaps no clearer indication than the sheer amount of anti-abortion misinformation spread by both "opinion" and “straight news” personalities alike.

    After the Democratic National Committee announced that Fox News would not be hosting any of this year’s Democratic presidential primary debates, backlash from Fox’s senior leadership was swift, with officials imploring the DNC to “reconsider its decision” on account of the “ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism” reportedly shown by some of the network’s hosts. As Variety previously reported, the network had already rolled out a messaging campaign to reassure wary advertisers about the outlet’s legitimacy, extolling the virtues of the network’s news hosts. This messaging campaign is merely a repackaging of the same inaccurate story Fox has been telling for years: Viewers and critics shouldn’t hold the blatant xenophobia, sexism, racism, and lies of the opinion side against the allegedly objective news team. But this recycled talking point further falls apart when it comes to anti-abortion misinformation spread by the network’s hosts.

    In January, abortion rights measures in New York and Virginia sent Fox News and broader conservative media into a frenzy. Although both measures were attempts to protect abortion access should the Supreme Court overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, Fox News hosts across the network’s news and opinion programs seized on the opportunity to spread sensationalized misinformation and attack Democrats for allegedly supporting “infanticide” or so-called abortions “up until birth.” Despite these inaccurate characterizations, Fox News devoted over six and half hours of coverage before the 2019 State of the Union address to falsely claiming that these state measures allowed “infanticide” -- a talking point that ultimately appeared in President Donald Trump’s remarks. In fact, Trump and Republican lawmakers are reportedly banking on using anti-abortion extremism to rally voters for the 2020 elections -- a strategy that was on full display during the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference.

    It’s no secret that Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity -- each a part of Fox’s volatile and increasingly bad-for-business prime-time lineup -- are all frequent anti-abortion misinformers. Although Fox has attempted to distinguish the work of Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Shannon Bream, and Chris Wallace from their colleagues, these "news"-side hosts have all pushed their share of lies, distortions, and misinformation about abortion and reproductive rights.

    Bret Baier

    Although Fox clearly has a profit motive in portraying Baier as a straight news host, there is little to distinguish him from his colleagues on the opinion side when it comes to his abortion-related reporting. In Media Matters’ annual study of abortion-related coverage on evening prime-time cable news programs, Baier and his program Special Report have consistently been dominated by anti-choice talking points and inaccurate statements about abortion and reproductive rights.

    Notably, Baier hosted a 2016 town hall with Democratic presidential candidates and used the platform to recycle misleading right-wing anti-abortion talking points. On his program, in the same year, Baier inaccurately described a common abortion procedure as “dismemberment abortion” and misled viewers that a Supreme Court case involving access to contraceptives was actually about abortion rights. Baier previously invoked a longstanding right-wing media talking point comparing legally operating abortion providers to convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. In 2009, Baier even went so far as to falsely assert that the Obama administration would allow doctors to be jailed for refusing to perform abortions. 

    Martha MacCallum

    Beyond frequently hosting anti-choice guests such as Live Action founder Lila Rose and Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, MacCallum seemingly makes little secret of her personal views on abortion and will often use sensationalized rhetoric when discussing the topic.

    Even before MacCallum became a staple of Fox’s evening lineup, she was already a serial anti-abortion misinformer. In 2015, MacCallum attacked Planned Parenthood for allegedly using taxpayer money to support abortion care (the organization does not, as the Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds for abortion services). Like Baier, MacCallum also used a 2016 presidential primary forum as an opportunity to spread anti-abortion misinformation sourced from the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) deceptive videos attacking Planned Parenthood. Since MacCallum began hosting her own program, she has consistently promoted anti-abortion talking points about later abortion and Planned Parenthood. In 2017, MacCallum pushed several myths about the existence of so-called “sex-selective” abortion practices, even demanding a guest on her program explain whether it was acceptable “for someone to decide because they don’t like the sex of their baby to abort it at eight months.”

    Shannon Bream

    Whether appearing as a correspondent on Special Report or hosting her own program, Fox News @ Night, Bream has been a frequent source of anti-abortion misinformation on Fox. Despite representing the network’s so-called “straight news” contingent, Bream’s promotion to host her own program was celebrated by anti-abortion leaders.

    Bream was a frequent promoter of CMP’s deceptive videos, even hosting the Fox News “special” promoting the group’s claims in 2015. In 2016, Bream touted “exclusively obtained” copies of letters from a House investigation based on CMP’s allegations -- letters received a full day before they were publicly released or shared with Democratic members of the investigative panel, in direct violation of congressional rules. Since then, Bream has repeatedly signal-boosted anti-abortion talking points and myths by spreading misinformation about abortion safety, letting guests make inaccurate allegations about Planned Parenthood without pushback, and citing polls commissioned by anti-abortion groups without necessary context to suggest a lack of public support for abortion. If there’s a talking point circulating around anti-abortion media and personalities online, it’s more likely than not that it will eventually surface on Bream’s program.

    Chris Wallace

    Although Chris Wallace does not discuss abortion as frequently as some of his Fox colleagues, his invocation of so-called “partial-birth” abortion during the final debate of the 2016 presidential election is more than enough to disqualify the anchor from consideration as a fair and balanced voice on abortion-related issues. Wallace’s inaccurate and sensationalized question was then picked up by other right-wing media outlets and has since re-emerged in Trump’s current talking points about abortion. Wallace has also shown a propensity for repeating right-wing smears against Planned Parenthood, citing anti-choice videos attacking the organization well before CMP’s campaign of deception began.

    It doesn’t matter whether viewers watch so-called "news" or "opinion" programming: Both are likely to contain sensationalism, outright lies, and harmful characterizations about abortion patients, providers, and procedures -- seemingly no matter the potential consequences.