In recent weeks, Fox News has continued its pattern of engaging in political advocacy, this time supporting Scott Brown, the Republican nominee in the special election for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat. Fox has hosted Brown several times, providing him a forum to raise funds; Dick Morris has explicitly asked viewers to go to his website to help elect Brown. Fox media figures have distorted Democratic nominee Martha Coakley's statements and suggested Democrats may steal the election; and Fox News has suggested that a Brown victory would provide economic benefits.
Fox News hosted Brown several times and provided forum for him to solicit campaign funds
On Fox, Brown encouraged viewers to visit his campaign website to find out “how to help with donating and volunteering.” In several Fox News appearances, Brown pointed viewers to his campaign website, solicited funds for his campaign, and also cited RedInvadesBlue.com, where, he said, “we have a money bomb right now that's hitting ... and you can help me fight back against the machine.” Fox News hosts Martha MacCallum and Greta Van Susteren said they invited Coakley to appear on their Fox News shows.
Brown: “If people want to help they can go BrownForUSSenate.com and they can donate so I can fight against the machine.” From the January 14 edition of Fox & Friends:
BROWN: Well, it certainly is me against the machine, and there's three negative ads running, all -- many of them obviously distort my record. It's the typical, you know, one-on-one bad politics, dirty politics playbook, and I'm fighting against the machine. They're rallying around not only locally but nationally to make sure that I do not win this seat, and if I, in fact, win it, that I'm not seated in time. And if people want to help, they can go to BrownForUSSenate.com, and they can donate so I can fight against the machine. Because I can win this race if the people in Massachusetts look at the issues.
Brown said Fox viewers “can learn more” by visiting campaign website. From the January 12 edition of America's Newsroom:
BROWN: There's political chicanery. I'm used to it in Massachusetts. And people can go to BrownForUSSenate.com, they can learn more about that and how to help with donating and volunteering.
Brown tells Fox viewers where to find his campaign's “money bomb right now that's hitting.” From the January 11 edition of On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
BROWN: Martha's a good person, but she's wrong on all the issues. And the people of Massachusetts are upset at the taxing, the spending, the backroom deals. Martha Coakley's position on terror -- it's outrageous. She said tonight that there are no terrorists in Afghanistan. That's the type of person who has a policy that is very scary, especially when we're trying to provide the tools and resources for our soldiers to keep them safe. And if people want to learn more, they can certainly go to BrownForUSSenate.com.
But we have a money bomb right now that's hitting, and you can go to RedInvadesBlue.com, and you can help me fight back against the machine, because the negative ads -- the second I walked off the stage, the negative ads have started. And you all around the country can make a big, big difference in this race.
Brown to Fox viewers: “If people are kind of fed up ... they can go to BrownForUSSenate.com.” From the January 8 edition of Hannity:
BROWN: If people are kind of fed up with the way things are going, they can go to BrownForUSSenate.com, and they can make a difference and they can stop the business as usual -- not only in Massachusetts, but more importantly nationally. They can give me a chance to go down there and bring some common sense back to Washington.
Fox fundraises to elect Brown
“Political analyst” Morris: “Please, please help” Brown. During the January 11 edition of Hannity, Morris urged viewers to “go to DickMorris.com ... to help elect Brown,” because if “we win this fight, then there will never be another victory for Obama.” DickMorris.com includes a fundraising plea “to help us raise $300,000 for a last minute media buy to push Brown and the Republicans to victory” ; Fox News executives allow Morris to solicit funds for Republican efforts despite reportedly telling colleague Mike Huckabee to cease conflict-of-interest promotions that help his political action committee.
Beck suggests Democrats may steal MA election
Discussing MA election, Beck says ACORN, progressives will “lie, cheat, and steal their way through anything.” On the January 19 edition of his radio show, Fox News host Glenn Beck stated:
BECK: Well, the fat lady has not sung. And this is a very fat lady. It's ACORN, it's the Working Families Party, it is the progressive movement. They will lie, cheat, and steal their way through anything. But it looks like Brown may be a winner. If there's a big turnout today, Brown may be the winner in Massachusetts. Everyone is predicting this. I'm not going to predict anything until it's over.
Beck suggests Democrats will steal the election if “it's within a couple of thousand votes.” On the January 19 edition of his radio show, Beck stated:
BECK: I want to make this very clear. We were just saying this very thing off the air. I don't -- don't count your chickens before they've hatched. I don't say this thing is over until it's over. And I don't mean even tonight, I mean after the secretary of state has signed off and certified this vote. That's why it's imperative that this vote is nine points spread, because you just can't falsify nine points. If it's within a couple of thousand votes, she wins.
Fox suggests Brown victory would provide economic benefits
Varney: “Your 401(k) could do well” if Scott Brown wins. On the January 19 edition of Fox & Friends, guest Stuart Varney predicted that a Brown win might cause a rise in the stock market because “investors would love” it if the Obama administration “reverse[d] course” :
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Well, are you concerned about the money in your 401(k)? Who's not, right? Well, you may want to make a call to Massachusetts and get some people out to the polls? Well, that's because our next guest, and a friend, says that your portfolio could look much better if Scott Brown wins Ted Kennedy's vacant Senate seat. Who's that friend? Stuart Varney is here. He's the host of the new show Varney & Company on the Fox Business Channel. Morning to you.
VARNEY: Morning, Gretchen.
CARLSON: All right. So if Scott Brown wins --
CARLSON: -- our 401(k)s are going to benefit?
VARNEY: Well, it's possible. Think of it this way: If Scott Brown wins, I mean, that is a revolution in Massachusetts politics, and it sends an enormous message, a very powerful message to the Democrats in Congress and to the White House that, “Hey, we don't like your domestic economic policy. Reverse course.” So, if Scott Brown wins, that message gets heard, and you've got 10 months before the next big election. Time to reverse the tax, spend, and borrow and deficit story that we've had for the past year. Investors would love that. Your 401(k) could do well because of that.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And Stuart, people are saying the stock market could go up if he -- it looks as though he's going to win. It's happening today. That, of course, if you're 100 percent stocks, that would definitely raise it up in the short term. But I want to tell you what the president's message is: Health care knocks down the deficit. And if you pass health care, that'll be a way of attacking the deficit. And if you have Scott Brown, you're not going to have health care.
Fox chyron: “What Can Brown Do For You? A Boost In Your 401K May Be In The Cards.” During the same interview, Fox & Friends aired the following on-screen graphic:
Fox Business' Payne: Brown win “fertilizes the soil for an incredible longer-term stock market rally.” On the January 19 edition of the Fox Business Network's Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney asked contributor Charles Payne if a Brown victory “sends a huge message to Washington.” Payne responded that “it fertilizes the soil for an incredible longer-term stock market rally. Wall Street will be so happy. You will hear the corks popping from Wall Street in this studio.”
Fox News repeatedly distorted Coakley's comments
Fox distorted Coakley's comment about “terrorists” in Afghanistan. On Fox & Friends, Carlson, Kilmeade, and co-host Steve Doocy repeatedly attacked Coakley for saying during a January 11 debate that “terrorists” are “gone” from Afghanistan, and at one point falsely claimed she said the “Taliban” is “no longer a threat,” calling her comments “astonishing” and “a problem.” On Hannity's January 18 Fox News show, after guest Curt Schilling said Coakley was “out of touch” with Massachusetts constituents, Hannity said: “Yeah, well, she manages to say that -- that all the terrorists are gone from Afghanistan.” America's News HQ co-anchor Gregg Jarrett said that Coakley might be “out of step when she says things like terrorists are no longer in Afghanistan,” while The Fox Nation posted video of her comment with the link “Coakley: There Are No More Terrorists in Afghanistan.”
But Coakley was specifically referring to Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan, which Fox never acknowledged. In fact, during the debate, moderator David Gergen asked Coakley, "[H]ow do you think we then succeed in Afghanistan?" Coakley replied: “I'm not sure there is a way to succeed [in Afghanistan]. If the goal was -- and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that goal. They're gone. They're not there anymore. They're in, apparently Yemen, they're in Pakistan. Let's focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.” She added: "[T]he focus should be getting the appropriate information on individuals who are trained, who represent a threat to us, and use the force necessary to go after those individuals." As Media Matters for America has noted, national security adviser Jim Jones, Gen. David Petraeus, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal have all reportedly stated that Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan has been diminished.
Fox News distorted Coakley's comments to falsely claim she said “Catholics shouldn't be working” in the ER. Hannity stated that Coakley “says Catholics shouldn't be working in emergency rooms. This is Massachusetts. I lived in Rhode Island five years. A lot of Catholics in Massachusetts. So what's happening?” Likewise, Beck stated: “Now, the next one is religious bigotry. Do we have that with Coakley? Oh, sure. Catholics -- pay attention to this one.” After playing an audio clip of Coakley saying, “You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room,” Beck said: “Oh, well, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Hey, Catholics, as soon as we get all of the -- you know, all of the universal health care, if you got to provide abortions or something, you're a nurse and you don't want to do that, well, go find another job. And practice that religious freedom elsewhere.” The Fox Nation linked to Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit post -- which highlighted Coakley's comments -- with the headline: “Coakley: Catholics Shouldn't Work in the ER.”
But Coakley was discussing those who would deny treatment to rape victims, not all Catholics. In an interview, WBSM's Ken Pittman asked Coakley, who reportedly is Catholic, if she would “pass a health care bill that had conscientious objector toward certain procedures, including abortion.” Coakley stated that she didn't “believe that would be included in the health care bill,” and that she would oppose legislation that “say[s] that if people believed that they don't want to provide services that are required under the law and under Roe vs. Wade that they can individually decide to not follow the law.” Citing her Republican opponent, Coakley added: “And let's be clear, because Scott Brown filed an amendment to a bill in Massachusetts that would say that hospital and emergency room personnel could deny emergency contraception to a woman who came in who had been raped.” Coakley's statement prompted the following exchange with Pittman:
PITTMAN: Right, if you are a Catholic, and you believe what the Pope teaches, you know, that any form of birth control is a sin. And you don't want to do that, that --
COAKLEY: No, but we have a separation of church and state here, Ken, let's be clear.
PITTMAN: Yeah, but in the emergency room you still have your religious freedom.
COAKLEY: The law says that people are allowed to have that. And so, then, if you -- you can have religious freedom, you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room.
PITTMAN: Wow. OK, so if you have religious conviction, stay out of the emergency room.
COAKLEY: Well, no, I'm not -- look, you're -- you're the one who brought the question up. I don't believe that the law allows for that, and I know that we accommodate all kinds of differences all the time. I think Roe vs. Wade has made it clear that women have a right to choose, and in Massachusetts, particularly if someone has been the victim of a rape, an assault, and she goes to an emergency room to get contraception, someone else should say, “Oh, no, I don't believe in this, so I'm going to affect your constitutional rights?”
PITTMAN: I agree that you've gotta have some balance there.
Fox distorted Coakley's comment about the need “to get taxes up” On the January 17 edition of America's News HQ, Jarrett also said that Coakley might be “out of step” for “in the debate saying, quote, 'We need to get taxes up.' ”
But Coakley was talking about the need to increase employment in order to increase tax revenues. During a November 30, 2009, Democratic primary debate, Coakley said we “need to get out of this recession” by “get[ting] people back to work.” Coakley stated: “We need to get people back to work. We need to get taxes up, and we'll start to chip away at that deficit, because individuals and the country, my colleague in California Jerry Brown said, we've all been spending too much money we don't have on stuff we don't need.” Coakley went on to say: "[H]ow do we get you back to work, and how do we bring that deficit down? Ultimately by being more careful on how we're spending our money as a country and as individuals. We can do it. We've done it before." The New York Times reported on January 8 that “a spokesman for Ms. Coakley said the comment, made during a primary election debate, was referring to the need to increase tax revenue by getting unemployed people back to work.” The Times added: " 'It's a completely misleading ad,' said the spokesman, Corey Welford. 'Martha was referencing the need to get people back to work and tax revenues that would come with increased employment.' "