On Special Report, Fox's Marc Thiessen calls Trump's possibly illegal plan to transport migrants to sanctuary cities "pure genius"
Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...
Fox News is trying to entice Democratic presidential candidates to participate in town halls on the network, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) is scheduled to do on April 15. Though Sanders has explained his reasoning for wanting to do a town hall on Fox, there are plenty of good reasons why other candidates should think carefully about whether they want to partner with the network.
Fox is a pernicious propaganda machine for the Trump White House, and it has a long history of both denying and downplaying climate change and helping to block climate action. Fox is currently at the peak of its political influence, but it's also at a precarious point both financially and in the court of public opinion. Many advertisers have fled and others are considering following suit, not wanting to be associated with the network's bigoted and toxic commentary. Fox is now desperately courting advertisers by trying to paint itself as a legitimate news outlet ahead of May 13, when it will host an "upfront" event at which it aims to sell about 60 to 70 percent of its advertising space for 2020. Democratic candidates might want to keep their distance and not enable Fox's attempt at whitewashing its toxicity.
The New Yorker recently exposed how Fox News has developed a symbiotic relationship with the Trump administration and has become a nexus of the right-wing disinformation network. And earlier in April, The New York Times Magazine detailed how Fox founder Rupert Murdoch’s media empire “helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth” in the U.S. and beyond, “destabiliz[ing] democracies around the world.”
After the New Yorker published its piece in March, the Democratic National Committee barred Fox News from hosting any of its upcoming presidential primary debates.
Fox News has been especially destructive on the climate change narrative, serving as an echo and amplification chamber for climate denial and environmental deregulation efforts. For years, Fox has played a critical role in undermining the public consensus around climate change by eroding trust in climate scientists and scientific institutions, according to a 2013 study. A separate study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 72 percent of Fox News segments about climate science in 2013 "contained misleading statements." In the years since, the network has continued to parade a coterie of network personalities, fringe cranks, and conspiracy theorists to push misinformation about climate change and attack those working to confront the climate crisis.
During the Trump administration, Fox News has also provided a safe haven for disgraced officials like former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Not only did Pruitt and Zinke prefer Fox News over other news networks, they both used their appearances on Fox to question climate science and to advocate for harmful environmental rollbacks, often with little to no pushback from fawning hosts.
Fox News claims that Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, the Fox hosts who will anchor the town hall with Sanders, are straightforward newscasters. But a closer look at their past comments and reporting reveals that they cannot be trusted to foster good-faith discussions about key issues, including climate change.
MacCallum has denied basic climate science and made ridiculous claims about global warming. In 2014, on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, she said:
MARTHA MACCALLUM: I mean the climate has changed over the course of the thousands and thousands of years that the Earth has been in existence. It has changed, you know, by several degrees up and down over the course of it. I just don't think that there is convincing evidence that the presence of man has altered that more dramatically than say the earth being covered with volcanoes emitting, you know, naturally noxious gases.
That same year, MacCallum downplayed the importance of climate change and argued that Democrats in Congress should be concentrating on other issues instead. And in March 2015, after the Obama administration announced a voluntary emission-reduction pledge ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Paris, MacCallum was critical of the move and falsely said that the U.S. was going to the "upper end of the range" with its commitment and "nobody else has to do it." In fact, dozens of other countries had by that point announced targets to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions, including the European Union, whose target was more ambitious than the one the U.S. put forth.
Baier has a reputation for not being as bad as some of the more explicit climate deniers on his network, but according to a 2014 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, he has still aired "a number of segments containing inaccurate statements about climate science." He has given climate skeptics a platform to attack climate science and climate action, often with very little pushback.
In March, Fox News executives held an unprecedented meeting with its advertisers to persuade them not to abandon the network after more than 30 companies had dropped their ads since the initial push began in December of last year. Recent calls for companies to pull their ads from Tucker Carlson Tonight and Justice with Judge Jeanine came in response to Media Matters releasing audio of Fox host Tucker Carlson's racist and misogynistic rants on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show from 2006 to 2011, and to Fox personality Jeanine Pirro’s anti-Muslim tirade against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
For years, Fox News has let its prime-time hosts spew bigotry, propaganda, and dangerous conspiracy theories on a nightly basis, while using its so-called "news" programming to give the network a veneer of respectability. But the "news" side and the "opinion" side of Fox News are two sides of the same coin. Fox is dangerous and corrupt from top to bottom.
Bill Sammon, Fox's senior vice president and Washington managing editor, is courting Democratic candidates for town halls and trying to get the DNC to reconsider its decision not to let Fox host a debate.
Sammon has a notoriously terrible record on climate change. In 2009, he sent a memo to Fox journalists ordering them to curtail honest reporting on climate change:
We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.
He sent the memo out less than 15 minutes after a Fox correspondent accurately reported that U.N. scientists said the 2000-2009 period was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record." When the correspondent returned to the air a few hours later, he added views from climate "skeptics" into his reporting. Sammon has also tilted Fox's coverage of other issues further to the right.
Four years ago, Sammon played a key role in crafting questions for a Republican presidential primary debate. Do Democratic candidates want to invite Sammon to craft questions for them now?
With Fox on the ropes with advertisers, Democratic candidates should consider if they want to throw Fox News a lifeline this spring.
Loading the player reg...
Fox News has virtually ignored reporting that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner used private email and a messaging app to conduct government business and even communicate with foreign leaders and that other current and former administration officials have also used private email. The conservative network has a years-long history of ignoring, whitewashing, or delaying reporting on stories that could make President Donald Trump look bad.
CNN reported that on March 21, House oversight committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to the White House requesting more information in an investigation into the use of personal email and private messaging apps by Trump administration officials. In the letter, Cummings “alleged that Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp, a popular messaging application, to ‘communicate with foreign leaders’ -- something he said that Kushner's attorney had confirmed in a private meeting. He also contended that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act by her use of private emails.”
A search of the SnapStream video database revealed that since the existence of Cummings’ letter was first reported on March 21, only Shepard Smith Reporting and America’s Newsroom have covered the allegation against Kushner on Fox News, for a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds. The rest of Fox’s supposed news shows did not report on it -- neither Special Report with Bret Baier nor The Story with Martha MacCallum had a segment on the story, despite both of the shows airing hours after Shepard Smith Reporting. Fox’s prime-time lineup completely ignored the story.
According to Cummings’ letter, this allegation stemmed from a December meeting with Kushner’s personal attorney Abbe Lowell. Cummings also alleged in the letter that Lowell could not answer whether Kushner transmitted classified information through the private messaging app WhatsApp, which Cummings reportedly would consider a “major security breach.” Lowell denied that he had told Cummings that Kushner messaged foreign officials on WhatsApp, saying, “I did not specify who” Kushner was contacting through the private messaging app. CNN reported that the other Trump administration officials accused of using personal email for government business include former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland.
Despite Fox News’ minimal coverage of the Kushner email story, Fox & Friends found time this morning to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails yet again.
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.
Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, announced on March 19 that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) will serve on its board of directors. Ryan had been the recipient of fawning praise from Fox News personalities in the past for his right-wing budget proposals and his selection by Mitt Romney as his vice presidential pick for the 2012 presidential election.
Last night's Special Report was a case study in how Fox's news team operates
On Wednesday, Fox News opened its studios for an unprecedented meeting with the advertising industry. The network hoped to make the case that -- in spite of the constant controversies involving its biggest stars -- media buyers should continue to place ads on the network without fear of damaging the advertisers’ brands. Fox executives sought to focus attention on the network’s “news side,” arguing that advertisers should be proud to associate themselves with staffers like Special Report anchor Bret Baier who produce purportedly credible journalism akin to that at other networks.
Fox’s “news side” actually serves two distinct roles that are quite different from those of reporting bureaus at other networks, as I’ve noted before. First, as Wednesday’s meeting underscores, when there is an outcry caused by the right-wing hosts whose bigoted commentary is at the core of the Fox business model, network executives can point to the “news side” in order to shield the Fox brand. Second, the “news side” produces incremental reporting, often based on Republican claims, that advances conservative narratives, providing ammunition for Fox’s right-wing hosts to yell about.
A report that aired on Wednesday night’s Special Report provides a clear case study of this second role, with one of Fox’s premier “news side” journalists pushing along a Republican congressman’s effort to create a new scandal about the Department of Justice and the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
On Tuesday night, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) tweeted an exchange he had with former FBI attorney Lisa Page during a closed House Judiciary Committee hearing last July. Ratcliffe wrote, “Lisa Page confirmed to me under oath that the FBI was ordered by the Obama DOJ not to consider charging Hillary Clinton for gross negligence in the handling of classified information.”
Lisa Page confirmed to me under oath that the FBI was ordered by the Obama DOJ not to consider charging Hillary Clinton for gross negligence in the handling of classified information. pic.twitter.com/KPQKINBtrB
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) March 13, 2019
This was not news, and there was no such “order.”
As Adam Goldman, who covers the FBI for The New York Times, pointed out in response, the Justice Department inspector general’s review of DOJ and FBI activities during the 2016 election laid all of this out when it was published in June. According to the report, DOJ prosecutors who analyzed the “gross negligence” statute which Ratcliffe and Page discussed had concluded that making that charge would require a great deal of evidence, which the FBI investigators concluded "was lacking.” The report also noted that the prosecutors' interpretation of the statute was consistent with "prior cases under different leadership including in the 2008 decision not to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for mishandling classified documents."
Moreover, as Cato Institute senior fellow Julian Sanchez pointed out, the scandal Ratcliffe was attempting to generate is debunked by the simple fact that the conduct he and Page discussed was absolutely normal. The FBI doesn’t charge people -- prosecutors at the Justice Department do -- and it is entirely typical for DOJ prosecutors to explain to FBI investigators the precedents that govern what evidence they would need to bring a case. In fact, Page explicitly made this point elsewhere in her questioning by Ratcliffe. As Sanchez put it, the exchange shows “DOJ is giving obviously correct legal advice—‘the facts you’re describing aren’t the sort of thing that section of the statute would apply to, or that we’d charge under that section’—and Ratcliffe is trying to spin it as a (nonexistent) ‘order’ not to investigate.”
For credible journalists, that’s where the story would end.
But Page has been a frequent subject of baseless theories from right-wing media and congressional Republicans suggesting that senior FBI and Justice Department officials had conspired to prevent Clinton from being charged with crimes, while pushing through a politically motivated investigation of now-President Donald Trump. Ratcliffe’s claim fit into those narratives, and so it quickly spread through right-wing media.
By Wednesday night, Special Report, Fox’s flagship “news side” broadcast, was covering the story.
Baier, a Fox anchor often included in the ranks of the network’s legitimate journalists, introduced the story by pushing the “order” falsehood: “We are learning more tonight about what the Obama Justice Department ordered federal lawyers to do and not to do concerning the Hillary Clinton email investigation.”
Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge’s subsequent report focused on the transcript Ratcliffe tweeted. Throughout the segment, Herridge bolstered the sense that Radcliffe's tweet pointed to a real scandal. She claimed that Page's testimony “appears to conflict” with former FBI Director James Comey’s July 2016 statement that the FBI’s investigation was done “independently." She produced an FBI document that said “DOJ not willing to charge” on gross negligence. And she highlighted denunciations of the Justice Department from Trump and a Republican congressman. At no point did she note that the Justice Department inspector general had already explained that the normal DOJ/FBI process had been followed.
Later in the program, Baier returned to the exchange Ratcliffe had highlighted, calling it “significant” and saying that it “seems to open up a lot of other questions.” Invoking a constant refrain from presidential mouthpiece and Fox colleague Sean Hannity, Baier later asked a guest, “Is this fair to say that this shows, Mo, two tiers of justice? I mean, is this the beginning of kind of saying it wasn't fair the other way either?”
The first Special Report segment caught the attention of the president, who was apparently watching and tweeted out the caption featured during the report.
The president's day is ending as it began, with him tweeting Fox's propaganda.
Left, Fox, 6:06 pm
Right, Trump, 6:35 pm pic.twitter.com/ElyskeHWXc
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) March 13, 2019
As is typical for Fox “news side” reporting, Herridge’s segment provided grist for the network’s far-right stars. All three prime-time shows devoted time to the story, using it as fresh evidence of the purported corruption at the Obama Justice Department that supposedly let Clinton get away with crimes.
“My question to you is simple,” Hannity asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in one such segment. “Based on what Lisa Page said, do we now have to go back right to Hillary Clinton if, in fact, the DOJ rigged that from the get-go?”
By Thursday morning, America’s Newsroom -- a Fox program typically described as part of the network’s “news side” -- was running scandalmongering coverage falsely claiming that “New Transcripts Show Lisa Page Said DOJ Ordered FBI To Stand Down On Charging Clinton.” (In adding “stand down” to the alleged order, Fox is invoking its endless coverage intended to push the myth that U.S. forces were issued a “stand down” order during the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.)
In perhaps the most obviously bullshit nonsense Fox has produced in some time, they have finally found the stand down order, it's just for the Clinton emails not Benghazi.
This is Fox's "news side," which the network keeps saying is Actually Good. pic.twitter.com/lnL9Y6e5Ij
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) March 14, 2019
This won’t be the last we hear of this nonsensical story. As Baier said on Wednesday’s show, “We're going to see a lot more of this angle, especially from the Judiciary Committee and the Senate and elsewhere.” And Fox’s “news side” journalists will be more than happy to support that narrative from Senate Republicans, regardless of how ridiculous their claims may be. That’s literally what they are there for.
Fox’s “straight news” anchors repeat the same anti-choice talking points as the network's opinion hosts
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Fox's one substantial segment on the U.N. report featured right-wing arguments against taking dramatic action
A new landmark report from a United Nations scientific panel warns that humanity is rapidly running out of time to take the unprecedented action needed to prevent horrific impacts from climate change. The report, released on Sunday night at 9 p.m. EDT by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was covered by a number of major media outlets the following day. CNN reported, "A sobering major report on climate change warns that we could be careening toward catastrophe." The New York Times noted that the report "paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought." The BBC reported, "It's the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures."
But Fox News aired very little coverage of the report on Monday.
Fox did not air a single segment that mentioned the U.N. report in its coverage from 4 a.m to noon EST on Monday. In contrast, CNN spent more than seven and a half minutes on the report over that period, and MSNBC spent more than four and a half minutes.
While Fox couldn't spare a moment from its morning lineup for climate catastrophe, the network dedicated more than nine minutes to pop star Taylor Swift's Instagram post endorsing two Democratic candidates in Tennessee and encouraging people to register to vote. Fox hosts and guests criticized Swift's post and argued that she didn't know enough to weigh in on politics.
Fox's nightly prime-time shows on Monday also completely neglected to mention the report.
Host Tucker Carlson did make a mention of pollution, but he meant the pollution of the public sphere by liberal ideas. Guest Cesar Vargas, an immigration attorney, greeted Carlson with, "Happy Indigenous Peoples Day." Carlson responded, "Don't pollute the show with that nonsense. It's Columbus Day, pal, come on."
Carlson also made time to read lyrics from John Mayer's song "Your Body Is a Wonderland" and call toxic masculinity "some made-up, dumb feminist term."
During Fox's "Special Report With Bret Baier" on Monday evening, host Baier spent about 30 seconds during a news rundown giving a straightforward overview of the report.
"Shepard Smith Reporting" on Monday afternoon spent about two and a half minutes on the report, kicking off with Smith saying, "Climate change is real, the situation is urgent, and time is running out. That's the new warning from a landmark United Nations report." But Smith's summary of the report was followed by Fox correspondent Trace Gallagher using right-wing talking points to argue against taking the dramatic action that scientists say is needed:
Gallagher: Even outside scientists who acknowledge that something has to be done to prevent the planet from warming say the goal laid out by the United Nations is really unreasonable because it would mean draconian cuts in emissions and dramatic changes in the way that we use energy, meaning extremely high gas prices, a lot more regulations, and putting governments right in the middle of decisions on how people utilize their private property. As you noted, the authors say that these goals really are a long shot. The conservative Cato Institute called some of the conclusions absurd. But former Vice President Al Gore praises the report, says he believes technology is the answer but we need to rely on solutions available today.
American Family Association: “Unless the biblical standard of two or three witnesses is met, an accusation should not be considered credible”
Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, and American Family Association have attacked Christine Blasey Ford and worked to discredit her after she reported that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school.
Soon after President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups united behind his nomination, offering praise for Kavanaugh’s candidacy and saying he would be “strong” on their issues. Many of those same groups have doubled down on their support by attacking Christine Blasey Ford and questioning her motivations after she reported that Kavanaugh groped her and attempted to remove her clothing and rape her in high school.
Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Family Research Council (FRC) who was reportedly “involved in discussions with the White House” on Kavanaugh’s nomination, attacked Ford’s credibility on the September 21 edition of Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier. During his appearance, Perkins called Ford’s story “very, very suspect,” questioned why she hadn’t come forward sooner, and asked whether or not drinking alcohol may have affected her story. Perkins also questioned whether Ford and potential witnesses “really remember the facts” and whether her attempted rapist was even Kavanaugh at all, in line with a recent conspiracy theory created by conservative media figure Ed Whelan.
Speaking at FRC’s anti-LGBTQ Values Voter Summit, Perkins urged Republican lawmakers in attendance to “move much more aggressively” to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and former FRC President Gary Bauer, declared the “political process” surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination to be “political waterboarding” and a “travesty.” According to The Associated Press, Bauer mockingly re-enacted what a conversation with Ford and law enforcement may have sounded like and was reportedly met with laughter.
Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel has also attacked Ford, including by writing a six point list of so-called “disturbing facts that undermine her story.” Several of those points suggest she came forward for political reasons. The post attempted to discredit Ford by highlighting her political affiliations and those of her lawyer, Debra Katz, claiming the two “have a history of Democratic activism” and anti-Trump advocacy. Liberty Counsel also launched a “fax barrage” directly linking its supporters to the offices of elected officials to send messages of support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The “fax barrage” served as a fundraiser for Liberty Counsel and claimed that Ford’s story does “not align with the moral integrity” of Kavanaugh. Additionally, Liberty Counsel sent an email blast to supporters in which its Chairman Mat Staver called Ford’s story “a shameful, desperate attempt to destroy a person in order to stop his nomination to the Supreme Court” and characterized her as “someone who has an ever-changing story with plenty of political motivation.”
In a separate email to supporters on September 22, Staver continued attacks against Ford, saying she was “being used to create an excuse to delay the hearing” and listing statements from various supporters of Kavanaugh in an attempt to undermine her credibility. On September 24, Mat Staver’s wife Anita Staver, who serves as president of Liberty Counsel, suggested that Ford was a liar in a tweet: “I believe survivors but not liars!”
Additionally, former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber, who still co-hosts one of its radio programs, attacked Ford on Twitter, where he likened her to a “suicide bomber” and compared her story’s effect on the Kavanaugh confirmation to a “political witch burning.” Barber also said Ford “would be fully exposed & further discredited,” and that “true victims” will be “distrusted because political vultures cried wolf one too many times.” In a separate post, he claimed, “We have entered the age of #MeToo McCarthyism. Pure evil.”
Said it before, I’ll say it again. There’s ZERO chance #Ford testifies Thurs or any day. She would be fully exposed & further discredited (to the extent that’s possible). They never intended her to testify.
She was the first suicide bomber. #ConfirmKavanaugh
— Matt Barber (@jmattbarber) September 24, 2018
Extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association (AFA) has also launched attacks against Ford. Bryan Fischer, host of AFA’s American Family Radio show Focal Point, attempted to use Ford’s political affiliations and her lawyer’s legal career to discredit her story in a September 17 blog post. Fischer claimed that Katz “has made a career out of dismissing sexual assault allegations against liberal politicians.” In the same blog post, Fischer wrote, “The Bible is very clear that no serious allegation should ever be accepted against someone on the basis of one lone allegation.” In a September 18 email to supporters, AFA President Tim Wildmon reiterated that claim and wrote that “unless the biblical standard of two or three witnesses is met, an accusation should not be considered credible.” AFA initially did not support Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court but quickly reversed course after hearing the “passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement."
Ford is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 27, about Kavanaugh’s attempted rape.
Loading the player reg...
The story served a two-fold purpose for the network: distract from bad Trump news and ratchet up anti-immigrant sentiment
Fox News' August 21 coverage of the tragic death of Mollie Tibbetts spiked after law enforcement identified their suspect as an undocumented immigrant. In the eight hours between reports that the 20-year-old University of Iowa student's body had been found and the announcement of the suspect's alleged legal status, the network discussed the story for 21 minutes; after law enforcement announced that the suspect was undocumented, that coverage spiked to over three times as much throughout the next seven hours.
The news of Tibbett’s body being found broke around 9 a.m. that day, and Fox spent 21 minutes on the story during the next eight hours. But once local authorities identified the suspect as an undocumented immigrant during their 5 p.m. press conference, Fox’s coverage jumped to 69 minutes for the remainder of the evening. The spike in coverage occurred despite Fox airing President Donald Trump’s rally for over an hour and news breaking that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort had been found guilty on eight counts and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen had pleaded guilty to two felony campaign finance charges in which he directly implicated the president.
The story of Tibbetts' death was featured on Fox’s entire evening schedule from 5 p.m. to midnight. Every single mention, tease, news correspondence, interview, and panel -- save one, a less than 30-second comment on Tucker Carlson Tonight -- noted the suspect’s alleged immigration status.
Shortly after the press conference began, commentators on Fox were already weighing in on how Trump could use the revelation about the suspect’s legal status politically, while downplaying the developments in the Manafort and Cohen cases.
The Five co-host Dana Perino suggested that Americans don’t necessarily care as much about Manafort and Cohen’s convictions -- what they really care about is the immigration status of the suspect in Tibbetts' case:
One thing I think that the president might do is -- maybe he won’t comment on either of these two things [Manafort and Cohen] at all given that we just heard from the police in Iowa with the Mollie Tibbetts case that they are holding -- the federal government is holding a man, illegal immigrant, as a suspect in that case, in that murder. And to me -- thinking about the fact that the Mueller thing is a little bit complicated; the Cohen thing is interesting, and it is explosive, no doubt. But if you are out there in America and you’re watching this and you’re thinking, “What do we really care about right now?” I think the president will probably be talking a lot about that.
Co-host Greg Gutfeld agreed, stating, “I just have to piggyback on what Dana said. I think that right now Trump’s main argument [on immigration] has now just been backed up by a very ugly reality. And I can’t see how that isn’t -- when you stack that up against these other tax evasions and guilty pleas, for an average American, [the Tibbetts case] resonates.” Later in the show, Gutfeld said, “In terms of what is important, I think no one at the Trump rally tonight will give a damn about Manafort or Cohen, but this will probably be fresh in their minds.”
Introducing the topic of Trump’s West Virginia rally that evening, host Bret Baier stated during Special Report: “We’re likely going to hear a lot about Mollie Tibbetts and this illegal immigrant who’s in custody in Iowa.” Matthew Continetti of the conservative Washington Free Beacon replied, “That’s, of course, safe political terrain for Trump where he has a real point about the problems that illegal immigration are causing in the United States of America, and here we have the most visceral and tragic example of it with Mollie Tibbetts.”
Right before Trump’s rally, The Story host Martha MacCallum asked her guest David Wohl, “What do you expect the president might say about this case tonight?” Wohl replied, “He is going to go over this extensively tonight. ... This is the number one story, Martha. Michael Cohen’s being indicted for campaign issues that Trump had nothing to do with is secondary completely to this story, Martha. This is what parents care about.”
After the rally concluded, the remaining lineup on Fox all discussed Trump’s comments about the Tibbetts case and the suspect’s alleged immigration status. Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, The Ingraham Angle, and Fox News at Night all included a clip of Trump’s speech at the start of segments about Tibbetts.
The spike in Fox News’ coverage after local authorities linked Tibbetts' murder to an allegedly undocumented immigrant made two things clear: The network was looking for a story to take some heat off the Cohen and Manafort news, and its streak of exploiting stories to hype "immigrant crime" remains unbroken.
Media Matters searched the Snapstream video database’s transcript and closed-captioning archive on August 21 for variations (including misspellings) of the terms “Tibbetts,” “Mollie” within close proximity to “Tibbetts”, or “Tibbetts” within close proximity of “immigrant,” “killed,” “murder,” or “missing” on Fox News Channel from 5 a.m. to midnight. We timed all mentions, teases, news correspondence, interviews, and panels only for relevant speech about the Tibbetts case.
Loading the player reg...
Following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, media have been speculating about the possibility of a nominee selected by President Donald Trump casting the deciding vote overturning Roe v. Wade.
While some mainstream outlets have rightly warned about the likelihood and negative impacts of overturning, or even further hollowing out, Roe’s protections, many conservative outlets and figures deployed a variety of excuses either to suggest that Roe is not at risk or to downplay any potential negative effects such a move would have. But make no mistake -- the Trump administration and its anti-abortion allies haven’t been shy about their goal: making abortion inaccessible or even illegal in the United States, no matter what the consequences.
In 2016, then-candidate Trump said in response to a debate question about whether he would overturn Roe: “Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. And that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.” Previously, in July 2016, then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said that he believed that electing Trump would lead to the overturning of Roe and that he wanted to see the decision “consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” In return, anti-abortion groups have also supported the administration -- a fact underscored by Trump’s keynote address at the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s (SBA List) gala in May.
Despite the administration’s promise, conservative media and figures are deploying a number of inaccurate excuses to either deny or downplay the severity of the threat to abortion rights with another Trump-appointed justice on the court:
In the aftermath of Kennedy’s announcement, some conservative media argued that abortion rights are not threatened because the sitting justices -- including Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump’s previous nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch -- would be reticent to overturn precedent.
For example, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal argued that because “the Court has upheld [Roe’s] core right so many times, ... the Chief Justice and perhaps even the other conservatives aren’t likely to overrule stare decisis on a 5-4 vote.” Similarly, during a June 27 appearance on Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, conservative lawyer Alan Dershowitz claimed that Roe is safe because “true conservatives also follow precedent,” and therefore any conservative appointee would not vote to overturn it. Short-serving former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said it is unlikely that Roe would be overturned because “the court recognizes that there are certain fundamental principles that are in place and certain presidential precedent-setting principles in place." He concluded, “I know there are conservatives out there that want it to be overturned but I just don't see it happening."
It appears highly unlikely that the new Supreme Court would keep Roe intact. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote that Kennedy’s retirement “ensured” that Roe will be overturned -- even if it ultimately will “die with a whimper” as the Supreme Court would allow anti-choice lawmakers to foist “extreme regulations on clinics, outlawing abortion after a certain number of weeks, or barring a woman from terminating a pregnancy on the basis of the fetus’ disability or identity.” As Stern concluded, “the constitutional right to abortion access in America is living on borrowed time.” This argument was also echoed by The Daily Beast’s Erin Gloria Ryan who contended that one more Supreme Court vote against abortion would mean that “the conservative minority in this country will have the power to uphold laws designed to force pregnant women into motherhood.” During the June 27 edition of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House, host Nicole Wallace explained that the impact of Kennedy’s retirement means “actually talking about a future generation growing up with abortion being illegal again” and “young women and men taking the kinds of risks that a generation now hasn't had to consider.”
In other instances, conservative media have argued that Roe is "bad" law because the constitution doesn't include a right to abortion. By this logic, they contend, a reversal of precedent is inconsequential because the new nominee would merely be helping correct previous judicial overreach.
In an opinion piece for The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro argued that Roe v. Wade is a decision that was rendered “without even the most peremptory respect for the text and history of the Constitution,” but that “pleased the Left.” An improved Supreme Court, according to Shapiro, “would leave room for legislatures – Democrats or Republicans – to make laws that don’t conflict with the Constitution.”
In National Review, Rich Lowry similarly said that Roe “is, in short, a travesty that a constitutionalist Supreme Court should excise from its body of work with all due haste.” Lowry concluded that Roe “has no sound constitutional basis” and implied that it should be overturned because it is an embarrassment for the court.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway claimed on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, “Even people who are pro-choice recognize that it was a poorly argued judicial decision.” She also said that Trump does not need to ask the judicial candidates about Roe v. Wade as “so many people regard it as such a poorly reasoned decision.” Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress also said on Fox News’ Hannity that Trump doesn’t need to ask about Roe because “there is no right to abortion.” Jeffress continued that though abortion is “nowhere in the Constitution” there is, however, a constitutionally protected “right to life that has been erased for 50 million children butchered in the womb since 1973.”
But, as legal analyst Bridgette Dunlap wrote for Rewire.News, these claims that Roe is bad law are part of a conservative tactic to invalidate abortion rights more broadly. She explained: “In order to portray abortion rights as illegitimate, conservatives like to argue—inaccurately—that the Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade by inventing a right to privacy that is not grounded in the Constitution’s actual text.” Instead, she noted, Roe is based on the idea that “using the force of law to compel a person to use her body against her will to bring a pregnancy to term is a violation of her physical autonomy and decisional freedom—which the Constitution does not allow.”
In addition, Roe is not just an important acknowledgement of the right to legally access abortion care -- even if states have already chipped away at the accessibility of that care. As Lourdes Rivera of the Center for Reproductive Rights explained in the National Law Journal, overturning Roe would impact the right to privacy and mean “uprooting a half-century of judicial decision-making, with profound consequences for our most cherished rights and essential freedoms.” Lawyer Jill Filipovic similarly wrote for Time magazine that “if Roe is done away with under the theory that privacy rights don’t exist, this could mean that there is no constitutional right to birth control, either.” In addition, she said, “cases that came after Roe, including Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated a Texas law that criminalized sex between two men, were decided on similar premises — and could be similarly imperiled.”
A common argument by conservative media -- and in some cases, Trump himself -- is that an overturning of Roe would merely return abortion regulations to the states and not completely outlaw the practice.
For instance, according to Fox News guest and constitutional attorney Mark W. Smith, even if Roe were overturned, it wouldn’t “outlaw abortion” in the United States, it would just allow “states and voters [to] decide what to do about abortion.” Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano also made this claim, saying the “worst case scenario” is that if Roe “were to be repealed or reversed, the effect would be the 50 states would decide” their own abortion regulations. This inaccurate claim was also made during segments on CNN and MSNBC. During a June 27 appearance on CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN legal commentator and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued that “all overturning Roe v. Wade does is” give the regulation power “to the states.” The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol made a similar claim on MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, when he argued that overturning Roe would merely “kick [abortion regulation] back to the states.”
In reality, sending abortion regulation “back to the states” would functionally outlaw abortion access across large parts of the country. As Reva Siegel, a professor at Yale Law School wrote for The New York Times, returning the issue to the states would be disastrous because already, “27 major cities are 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider, and we can expect these ‘abortion deserts’ in the South and the Midwest to spread rapidly” if states are given free reign. New York magazine’s Lisa Ryan similarly reported that currently “there are only 19 states in which the right to abortion would be secure” if Roe is overturned.
This landscape could easily worsen with anti-abortion groups turning their attention more directly to legislation on the state level rather than the federal level. As HuffPost’s Laura Bassett noted, a number of “abortion cases are already worming their way through the lower courts” that could further entrench abortion restrictions in a number of states. In 2016, ThinkProgress explained what a world before Roe looked like: “Wealthy women were able to access safe, though illegal, abortions, but everyone else had to risk their safety and sometimes their lives, and doctors had to risk going to jail.”
Another common reaction among conservative media has been to cast blame back on abortion rights supporters. In this case, right-wing media have attacked supporters of Roe for “overreacting” to the potential loss of abortion rights, and accused others of opposing Trump’s nominee not on facts, but on principle.
For example, during the June 27 edition of Fox Business’ Making Money with Charles Payne, guest and attorney Gayle Trotter argued that abortion rights supporters were just “trying to scare people” in order to “defeat the president’s nominee.” Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo also echoed this argument during a June 27 appearance on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. According to Leo, “The left has been using the Roe v. Wade scare tactic since 1982, when Sandra O’Connor was nominated. And over 30 years later, nothing has happened to Roe v. Wade.”
Similarly, on June 29, Trump supporters and YouTube personalities Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, appeared on Fox News’ Fox and Friends to discuss potential replacements for Kennedy. During the segment, Diamond asked why Democrats were “fearmongering” and “going into a frenzy” before knowing the nominee or their position on abortion. After interviewing Trump on Fox Business about his thought process for nominating Kennedy’s replacement, Maria Bartiromo said on the Saturday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend she believed that “all of this hysteria” about a potential overturn of Roe was being "a little overdone” by the left.
Pro-choice advocates are not “overreacting” to potential attacks on the protections afforded by Roe. As journalist Irin Carmon explained on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, Kennedy’s retirement “is the point that the conservative movement, that the anti-abortion movement, has been preparing for for 40 years” by “taking over state legislatures and passing laws that are engineered to chip away at the abortion right.” Carmon said that even with Kennedy on the bench, “access to abortion, and in many cases contraception, was a reality [only] on paper already.” Now, “it is disportionately Black and brown women who are going to suffer with the regime that is going to come forward.” Attorney Maya Wiley similarly argued on MSNBC’s The Beat that overturning of Roe would mean “essentially barring a huge percentage of women from huge swaths of the country from access” to abortion.
Polling shows a large majority of Americans support the outcome of Roe. But some right-wing media personalities have said that such findings ignore other polling about Americans’ supposed support for restrictions on later abortion.
For example, The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack argued on Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime that the claims of support for abortion access are inaccurate because there is a “great misunderstanding about Roe v. Wade” and the impact it has on abortion restrictions and that “there is actually pretty popular support for second trimester regulations.” This talking point has been used elsewhere, such as by the Washington Examiner and anti-abortion outlet Life News, in an attempt to discredit perceived support for Roe.
The argument deployed by McCormack has also frequently been used by right-wing outlets in the past -- despite the disregard such an argument shows for the complexities involved in abortion polling. As Tresa Undem, co-founder and partner at the public-opinion research firm PerryUndem, wrote for Vox, most “standard measures” that are used “to report the public’s views on abortion ... don’t capture how people really think” about the issue. In contrast to right-wing media and anti-abortion claims, polling done by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Hart Research Associates shows that support for later abortions goes up when people realize that abortions in later stages of pregnancy are often undertaken out of medical necessity or for particular personal circumstances.
As Trump prepares to announce his selection for the Supreme Court on Monday, July 7, right-wing and conservative media will only offer more of these excuses to downplay that Roe v. Wade is firmly in the crosshairs.
Loading the player reg...