In the cable news business there is one network that relentlessly boasts about its prominence and formidable presence above all others. Fox News is clearly taken with itself and is even promoted in their own ads as “The Most Powerful Name In News.” That makes it all the more curious that Fox seems to shudder when confronted with opposing arguments.
Fox News is often the subject of well-deserved criticism due to their aversion to facts and a long record of strident bias. However, their first reaction to reasonable rebuttals is to go on the attack against their perceived enemies. It is behavior reminiscent of schoolyard bullies with marshmallow centers who struggle to mask their hurt feelings with forced bluster. What follows are seven examples of just how thin-skinned this allegedly powerful network really is, and how prone they are to whining when they get smacked down.
At a press conference President Obama astutely noted that the penchant Fox News has for punishing Republicans who dare to work cooperatively with Democrats has the effect of discouraging Republicans from such cooperation. That rather modest observation sent Fox News into a tizzy. Jumping immediately to the most absurd stretches of hyperbole, Steve Doocy of Fox & Friends fired up the outrage machine to accuse the President of attacking, not merely Fox News, but the First Amendment. Meanwhile the determinedly dishonest Fox Nation web site declared the President’s remarks to be a threat. How Obama was infringing on freedom of the press or threatening anyone was never explained.
In an interview Al Gore commented on Fox News and right-wing talk radio saying “The fact that we have 24/7 propaganda masquerading as news, it does have an impact.” Rather than try to dispute the obvious truth of Gore’s comment, Fox’s Peter Johnson, Jr launched into a harangue about Gore permitting a news enterprise based in the oil-producing nation of Qatar to buy his network, Current TV. Yes, that had nothing to do with Gore’s remarks, but it did serve Johnson’s purpose of blindly lashing out at Gore for daring to besmirch Fox.
Author and military foreign policy expert Tom Ricks was invited on to discuss his new book, The Generals. Fox host Jon Scott thought he could get Ricks to join Fox’s crusade to blame Obama for the tragedy in Benghazi, but Ricks wasn’t cooperating and told Scott that “I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party.” That was apparently too much for Scott who abruptly ended the interview less than 90 seconds after it began. After taking criticism from other media for that self-serving censorship, Fox VP Michael Clemente doubled down and disparaged Ricks for not having “the strength of character to apologize.”
Greta Van Susteren saw an opportunity to whimper about how mistreated Fox is when she complained that the State Department had left them off the mailing list for a couple of news briefings. She called it “a coordinated effort” to punish Fox by “denying Fox access to information.” What she failed to disclose was that the State Department had previously explained that they had only notified news organizations that had reporters assigned to cover the department and that, having none, Fox didn’t get on the list. But that explanation didn’t stop Van Susteren and others at Fox from assailing the administration for an imagined snubbing.
In a debate over whether or not NBC had ever criticized President Obama on the use of drones, Bill O’Reilly falsely claimed that the drone story never appeared on NBC. In fact, it was NBC who broke the story. The following night, after much ridicule for his egregious mistake, rather than apologize and set the record straight, O’Reilly lashed at the “loons” who were engaging in “more deceit from the far left.” As usual, any critical analysis of O’Reilly or Fox News is viewed as liberal Fox-bashing and is met with name-calling and vilification.
Fox’s Juan Williams is one of the network’s alleged lefties. When he made a disturbingly racist comment about his fear of flying with Muslim passengers, he was let go by his other employer NPR. The reaction from Fox News was swift and utterly repulsive. Fox’s CEO Roger Ailes lashed out in defense of his pet liberal saying of NPR that “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.” Most people would regard that as something of an overreaction, but for Fox it is consistent with their characteristic vengefulness when they consider themselves under siege.
Perhaps the most frequent target of Fox’s vitriol is the watchdog group, Media Matters for America. By defining its mission as a monitor of conservative bias in the news, Media Matters has earned the undying enmity of Fox News. In the course of their persistent barrage of slander aimed at Media Matters, Fox has called the founder, David Brock, (without substantiation) a dangerous, self-loathing, mentally ill, drug user. Fox was so frightened by Media Matters that, in the week prior to publication of their book The Fox Effect, Fox News broadcast no fewer than a dozen derogatory pieces in a preemptive strike with segments on their most popular programs, including The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, Fox & Friends, etc. It was the sort of blanket coverage they usually reserved for a natural disaster, a declaration of war, or a lewd TwitPic of a politician. Fox’s anti-Media Matters campaign even included solicitations on the air (more than 30 times) by Fox anchors beseeching their viewers to file complaints with the IRS challenging Media Matters’ tax-exempt, non-profit status.
These are just a few of the more notable instances when Fox has engaged in pronounced public wailing after taking flack from a critic. But it’s an almost daily occurrence for Fox to slap back at a politician, pundit, or even a celebrity, who utters something that Fox regards as unflattering. Just ask Bill Maher or Nas or Sean Penn. For a network that touts its powerfulness, Fox News behaves with the sort of tender sensitivity that is generally associated with sniveling weakness. They wildly lash out at critics and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge mistakes or accept responsibility when errors are pointed out. It is, to say the least, undignified, unprofessional, and immature, but it is the Fox way.
2012 was a dismal year for Fox News. The PR arm of the GOP (Greedy One Percent) failed to fulfill its prime directive: advancing the interests of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. They spent much of the year constructing an alternative reality that left millions of their flock in shock when President Obama won an overwhelming reelection. They refused to accept the facts on the ground and denigrated polls (even their own) when the results conflicted with the fictional narrative they were peddling. And perhaps most painful of all, they surrendered their ratings lead to MSNBC. Two-thirds of their primetime lineup (Hannity and Van Susteren) dropped to second place behind the competition on MSNBC (Maddow and O’Donnell).
However, Fox’s travails did not occur for lack of effort. They were clearly operating at the top of their capacity to distort and deceive. They carefully aligned all of their resources in the battle against honest discourse, including the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, the Wall Street Journal, and the abhorrent and vulgar Fox Nation web site (see Fox Nation vs. Reality). In the process they unleashed some of the most feverishly biased reporting, even for Fox News. But what’s worse is that these examples of media malpractice constitute a fundamental debasement of journalism and democracy.
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward revealed that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had dispatched a Fox News defense analyst, to Kabul, Afghanistan, to recruit Gen. David Petraeus as a GOP candidate for president. The notion of a news network soliciting candidates for political office is a perversion of the role journalists play in society.
In response, Ailes claimed that it was “a joke” and that he “thought the Republican [primary] field needed to be shaken up.” Where Ailes got the idea that it was his right and/or duty to shake up the GOP primaries is unexplained. News people are supposed to report the news, not make it. Woodward’s story affirms that Fox News is a rogue operation. Their intrusion into the political process debases journalism by breaching all standards of ethical conduct. And they debase democracy as well by exploiting their power and wealth to manipulate political outcomes.
Last May on Fox & Friends, the program’s hosts introduced a video that purported to examine “Four Years of Hope and Change.” What it was in reality was a four-plus minute campaign video that presented a variety of soundbites by President Obama accompanied by ominous graphics and eerie music that falsely implied that his campaign promises were unkept. The video (which Media Matters thoroughly debunks here) could not have been a more pro-Romney, anti-Obama attack had it been produced by the Republican National Committee.
Apparently Fox News also recognized the gross inappropriateness of their anti-Obama attack ad. Minutes after the video was posted online it was removed from every place it had been posted. Later, an edited version of it was re-posted, and then that too was removed. Eventually, Fox EVP Bill Shine issued a statement scapegoating an “associate producer” and concluding that the matter “has been addressed.” But it’s difficult for Fox to absolve itself of responsibility for this atrociously unethical affair. By now it is so obvious that Fox exists only to promote Republicans and bash Democrats that this video fits squarely within their twisted mission.
In a discussion of the role of women in the military, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta expressed an opinion about new rules from the Pentagon that would permit women to serve closer to the front lines. Trotta’s take on this centered on the problems faced by servicewomen who are sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers whom she regards as whiners because they won’t shut up accept the fact that if they work closely with men they should expect to be assaulted.
And if that weren’t bad enough, Trotta went on to complain about the expensive military bureaucracy set up to “support women in the military who are now being raped too much.” I would really like to know precisely how much rape is acceptable before it crosses Trotta’s line. Is there any context in which she might have meant that that isn’t unfathomably repulsive?
Fox viewers are accustomed to stories about “illegals” swarming across the border to take up residency in the U.S. and sponge off of our prosperity. There is hardly a mention of immigrants on Fox that isn’t associated with crime, joblessness, or drug cartels. Lately, however, someone at Fox News has recognized a major flaw in their strategy to demonize immigrants, particularly Latinos, who are a growing constituency of both consumers and citizens who can vote and are registering in record numbers. So how does Fox maintain their editorial animosity toward immigrants without alienating an increasingly important voter group?
The answer appears to be by developing news content specifically for this demographic and sequestering it from the rest of their viewership. This has resulted in a flurry of disparaging articles on the Fox News flagship, while the same story is presented on their new Fox News Latino in a far less bigoted fashion. And the pinnacle of this hypocrisy occurred during a Fox report on the election when they displayed video of illegal border crossers with a caption reading “The Hispanic Vote.”
This year Republicans engaged in a widespread and blatant effort to suppress voting by Democratic-leaning constituencies such as seniors, minorities, students and low income citizens. In the state of Ohio they sought to amend a law that granted early voting to everyone so that only members of the military would be permitted to vote early in the three days prior to the election. Democrats objected to this as it discriminates against certain voters, and they filed suit to preserve the right of every Ohio citizen to vote early.
Fox News picked up the story advancing the premise that Democrats were seeking to take something away from our military. Anchor Shannon Bream falsely declared that “If President Obama gets his way, the special voting rights of some of America’s finest will be eliminated.” The truth however, is that Democrats in Ohio were suing to insure that nobody’s rights were eliminated. The Ohio GOP was deliberately attempting to suppress the votes of citizens they presumed would vote Democratic. And Fox News helped them in that mission by brazenly lying about the substance of the debate and pushing the GOP opinion as if it were fact.
Coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting was handled by Fox News in a manner that is revealing and offensive. On the day that Florida law enforcement authorities planned to file charges against George Zimmerman, Fox ran a story that featured a photo of Zimmerman with a beaming smile alongside one of Martin that looked foreboding and was obviously darkened. This was nothing less than a journalistic lynching. The editors at this alleged “news” network were demonstrating their overt hostility to both African-Americans and journalistic ethics.
Later in the day a more impartial photo was inserted that was not as overtly disparaging of the victim. You think they got a few complaints about the previous photo? Fox had numerous pictures from which to choose of both Martin and Zimmerman, and they chose the most negative picture of Martin which they paired with the most positive picture of Zimmerman. That was not an accident. It was the result of deliberate editorial judgment. And it tells us everything we need to know about Fox’s editors.
Throughout the year Fox News led their audience on a roller coaster ride of propaganda and censorship as they shifted from celebrating what they regarded as positive electoral news to suppressing the negative. They persistently sought to cloister their audience in a bubble that filtered out any facts that might upset their viewers or political patrons. Fox was so determined to shut out anything that might challenge their narrative that they even failed to report their own Fox News polls if Obama was ahead.
This was a part of a broader effort to deceive their audience by castigating or ignoring polls when they didn’t like the results and praising the same pollsters when their numbers were more favorable. They launched a campaign to demean professional pollsters and prop up disreputable charlatans with their “unskewed” versions. Not surprisingly, this led to the unprecedented post-election state of shock experienced by those who were foolish enough to rely on Fox for information.
The in-house Fox News psychiatrist, Keith Ablow, has offered his embarrassingly ridiculous diagnoses on a number of occasions. Without ever having examined (or even met) the President, Ablow has declared him to be contemptuous of the judiciary and devoid of all emotion. He further assessed that Obama has “got it in for this country” and doesn’t like Americans. These are, of course, the delusional ramblings of a quack who is more preoccupied with his own animosity for the President than with credible psychiatric analysis.
During the GOP primary, Ablow chimed in on criticism of Newt Gingrich for his serial marriages that ended when his wives became ill or failed to serve his political purposes. Ablow’s astonishing diagnosis was that Gingrich as president would make America stronger specifically because of his multiple infidelities. Ablow actually thinks that three wives and two extramarital affairs (that we know about) enhance Gingrich’s qualifications to be president. His reasoning had something to do with the fact that multiple homewreckers found him to be marriageable material and that that was a mark of character. This is what passes for family values in today’s GOP.
In the heart of the presidential campaign season, Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News devoted the full hour to a blatant infomercial promoting an anti-Obama movie by the people who brought us Citizens United. The program featured lengthy clips from the film as well as interviews with the film’s creators, David Bossie and Steve Bannon. Bossie is the head of Citizens United, the organization that prompted the abhorrent Supreme Court decision that made it possible for individuals and corporations to donate unlimited sums of cash to political candidates and causes. Bannon is chairman of Breitbart News and was the director of the monumental flop, “Sarah Palin: Undefeated,” a movie that managed to fail miserably despite millions of dollars in free publicity courtesy of Fox News.
What’s particularly disturbing about this is that the producers freely admit that their purpose is not so much to promote the film, but to let their ads serve as disguised political messages aimed at disparaging the President and affecting the outcome of the election. The reason that they chose October to release the film was so their advertising would appear during the campaign season and they could pretend that it was merely marketing for the movie. And I repeat, this is not a conspiracy theory, it is something they specifically admit to and boast about. Fox News was merely the first stop on their media blitz.
The next time you hear the Fox News slogan “fair and balanced,” be sure to remember that their rendering of fairness is to trot out covert conservatives and label them Democrats. A perfect illustration of this is alleged Democrat Kirsten Powers, who took to Fox News to attack President Obama in an article titled: “President Obama, stop blaming the victim for Mideast violence.”. If you changed the name to Ann Coulter nobody would have blinked an eye.
Powers was addressing the violence at American facilities in Libya and Egypt when she wrote that respecting religious beliefs “is implicit sympathy for the claims of some of the attackers and rioters.” So Powers thinks that respect for the diversity of faith is tantamount to sympathizing with terrorists. She cannot comprehend that such respect is offered to the vast majority of peaceful Muslims who had nothing to do with the violence. And allowing her to spew that bile while posing as a Democratic analyst is part of how Fox distorts their presentation of fairness and balance.
Behaving entirely consistently with a network that harbors politcos who want to see President Obama fail, Fox News cavalierly dismissed the October unemployment report showing a drop to 7.8 percent. Heaven forbid anything good happens in this country while a black, socialist, Muslim from Kenya is in charge. So while having the unemployment rate drop from 8.1 to 7.8 will bring the rest of the country some solace, it just creates headaches for the doomsayers at Fox.
Fox spent the whole morning trying to hatch skeptics. They brought in former General Electric CEO Jack Welch to explain his delusional Tweet: “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” Fox’s Stuart Varney concurred along with Donald Trump and a bevy of correspondents and guests. None of them could explain why an independent agency of career economists, without a single Obama appointee, would fudge the numbers for a president to whom they owed nothing.
The most heartbreaking news of 2012 was surely the massacre in Newtown, CT, that saw twenty schoolchildren and six adults senselessly murdered. The resultant outcry from concerned Americans about the easy access to weapons that are capable of such carnage was met by Fox News as an unspeakable attack on the Second Amendment and free enterprise. Their response was to slaughter the First Amendment by prohibiting any discussion of gun safety on the network.
Sources told Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine that “David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air.” This is how Fox directs the editorial content of the network. They have a heavy hand enforcing what people may, and may not, say on the air. It’s also worthwhile to note that while Fox banned all talk of gun control, they did not similarly banish talk of other explanations for the atrocity in Connecticut. For instance, they had no problem with laying the blame on mental illness, movies, or video games. And Fox host Mike Huckabee was permitted to go on the air and blame the killings on the absence of God in the classroom (which does nothing to explain similar shootings that have taken place in churches).
While Fox News broadcasts flagrant distortions of reality on a daily basis, the examples above transcend the conventional dishonesty and bias that is their hallmark. These assaults on ethical journalism demonstrate how dangerous it is to permit a political enterprise to disguise itself as a news network in order to shape an extreme political agenda. It is evidence of social programming and manipulation at its worst. And the sad part is that we can expect much more of this in 2013. Happy New Year!
When Fox News debuted sixteen years ago, it was crafted from scratch to be a partisan outlet for right-wing propaganda and a platform for advancing a conservative agenda. Its founder, Rupert Murdoch, was already an internationally known purveyor of right-slanted newspapers and broadcasters. Complimenting Fox’s television presence is its Internet community web site, Fox Nation. The statement of purpose posted on the Fox Nation web site says that it is “committed to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse, and fair and balanced coverage of the news.” However, a cursory glance at the site reveals that they have fallen wide of their stated purpose by several light years.
Fox Nation is layered thickly with far-right extremist diatribes and links to disreputable articles plucked from the Internet’s fringes. And the notion that civil discourse can take place on Fox Nation is quickly dispelled by reading their user forums with their frequent use of the “N” word and juvenile references to the President as “Odumbo” and the First Lady as “Moo-chelle.” These sorts of comments are not anomalies. Fox Nation is deliberately catering to this caliber of audience who revel in overt racist and hostile dialogue. This is not the conventional, freewheeling online chatter that is found on comment boards and is particularly unusual for a site sponsored by a major national news network.
Not much is known about the operations of Fox Nation. Unlike other news enterprises that identify their principle staff, Fox Nation treats their publishers, editors, etc., as if they were covert agents of espionage. There is no masthead or bylines or any other indication of who is responsible for the repugnant content posted daily on the web page. Requests for this information from Fox corporate communications officers went unanswered. And given the dishonesty, unprofessionalism, ignorance, and immaturity of the tone and substance on the site, perhaps it is their intention to remain anonymous in order to avoid the shame that would come with an association to such puerile trash.
Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch was a harsh critic of Google News, calling them “parasites,” because he said they steal his content by posting headlines and short blurbs and linking to the source articles. But that’s pretty hypocritical because it’s exactly what Fox Nation does. There is almost no original content, and what they harvest from other sources is often planted on affiliated sites like those of Fox News contributors Tucker Carlson, Michele Malkin, and Dick Morris.
What follows are ten excerpts from my ebook, Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth. The book chronicles more than fifty flagrantly dishonest reports by the Fox Nationalist team of faux journalists. These are not mere differences of opinion or discussions that might have varying degrees of perspective. They are obvious, provable, outright lies, and they are manifestations of a disconnect with the real world.
1) Human Carbon Emissions Could Put OFF a Lethal New Ice Age
According to the Fox Nationalists, the perpetrators of Global Warming are actually rescuing the planet from a frigid doom. They quote Cambridge University research published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The only problem with their conclusion is that the scientist they reference in the article, Luke Skinner, has a completely different conclusion. He says that he anticipated this response amongst climate crisis deniers and said that they are…
“…missing the point, because where we’re going is not maintaining our currently warm climate but heating it much further, and adding CO2 to a warm climate is very different from adding it to a cold climate.
“The rate of change with CO2 is basically unprecedented, and there are huge consequences if we can’t cope with that.”
Skinner told the BBC that the results of the study point to the sensitivity of the climate system to “quite small changes in CO2, let alone the huge changes that we’ve been responsible for over the last 200 years.” Of course, none of that is included in the Fox Nation article. They deliberately neglect the obvious point that by the time the presumed ice age begins, in 1,500 years, global warming, if unchecked, would have already put half the planet’s current land mass under water. But these facts do not sway Fox from cherry-picking out-of-context soundbites to mislead their audience.
2) College Mate: Obama Was An Ardent Marxist-Leninist
In this episode Fox Nation posted as their featured headline story an article with the title: College Mate: Obama Was an ‘Ardent’ ‘Marxist-Leninist.’ In order to fabricate this wholly dishonest smear, Fox sunk to re-posting a column written by conservative bomb-thrower Selwyn Duke. Duke’s article was originally published by The New American, the periodical of the extremist and notoriously fascistic John Birch Society.
In the article, Duke relied entirely on the testimony of John Drew, a man who has been pushing his dubious and uncorroborated account of a college relationship with Obama for years. He claims that Obama was a close friend and confidant. The truth is he only met Obama casually a handful of times at gatherings with many others present. He never attended college with Obama because the future President didn’t enter Occidental College until after Drew had graduated.
It’s painfully clear to anyone paying attention that Drew is attempting to exploit his brief encounters with Obama to exalt himself, disseminate his rightist propaganda, and earn a few bucks in the process. Now, after years of plodding through radical right-wing rags and Internet backwater rabble, Drew and Duke have succeeded in getting Fox Nation to sling their stale mud.
3) Obama Selling Amnesty For $465
The issue of immigration is one that the Fox Nationalists relish in demagoguing. They publish numerous stories that are openly racist, as has been thoroughly documented. This is just such a story that was designed to inflame prejudice with its utterly dishonest skewing of the facts. The headline composed by Fox Nation is wholly untrue. Not only is amnesty not a part of the administration’s program, nothing in it is for sale.
In truth, President Obama directed the Department of Homeland Security to exercise prosecutorial discretion so that innocent children who were brought to this country by undocumented parents are not unduly punished while a more comprehensive solution is negotiated with Congress. The program does not provide amnesty. The fee to apply for this program is intended to offset costs, but can be waived on a case by case basis for applicants unable to pay.
None of those facts stopped Fox from deliberately misrepresenting the matter in a way that leads their audience to presume that the administration is peddling citizenship to foreigners who come here to steal our jobs. It appears that Fox picked up the story from the juveniles at Breitbart News where John Nolte published an article that implied that Obama’s goal is to mint new voters. Never mind that the immigrants partaking of this program will not have voting rights because they will not be citizens.
4) Americans Not Buying Buffett Rule
The Buffett Rule that Americans are not buying refers to his remarks that wealthy folks like him should not be paying lower tax rates than average folks like his secretary. So all that the Fox Nationalists had to do to validate their headline was produce the results of a poll that shows that a majority of respondents do not believe that raising taxes on millionaires will do any good. And since, in this case, they are relying on the results of a poll conducted by Fox News, they should be able to support whatever preconceived myth they want to invent.
However, the very first paragraph of their own story states that “more voters think raising taxes on wealthy Americans will help (40 percent) rather than hurt the economy (24 percent).” And the margin of difference (16%) isn’t even close. Yet somehow the headline atop the article overtly refutes the facts in their own survey. Are these people even trying anymore? They must really think their readers are idiots. And since they must know their audience better than anyone else, I will defer to their assessment.
Sharpton: “What I don’t want to see is because he is black we act like he’s not the real president – he ought to be leading the black cause or the labor cause. He’s the President. To minimize who he is, I think, is an insult to the achievement of having him there.”
So this was not about Sharpton never criticizing Obama, just not constraining Obama to being merely the president of black Americans as opposed to all Americans. Fox, on the other hand, should acknowledge that their whole business model rests on not criticizing Republicans and conservatives. In a specific example you have Dick Morris, who has been on the Fox payroll for years, and pledged never to criticize Mitt Romney:
“I decided a couple of – a month or two ago to stop dumping on Mitt Romney, for example … Not because I approve of Romneycare, not because I approve of his flip-flops, flip on abortion, but because I may have to be one of those who carries this guy for a couple of months when he’s running against Obama and I don’t want to make my own task harder.”
Morris fulfilled that promise by becoming one of Romney’s most ardent cheerleaders. Just days before Obama won with a commanding Electoral College victory, Morris told Fox News that a Romney landslide was a virtual certainty.
6) Elizabeth Warren Praises Communist China
In response to an ad by Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, the Fox Nationalists have not only lied, but exposed their latent unpatriotic tendencies as well. To state bluntly that “Elizabeth Warren Praises Communist China” is a thoroughly manufactured falsehood. She never did anything remotely of the kind. What she did was advocate for the importance of America remaining competitive on an international basis and not permit China to take the lead. Here is what she said:
“We’ve got bridges and roads in need of repair, and thousands of people in need of work. Why aren’t we rebuilding America? Our competitors are putting people to work, building the future. China invests 9 percent of its GDP in infrastructure. America, we’re at just 2.4 percent. We can do better. We can build a foundation for a strong new economy and get people in Massachusetts to work right now.”
The Fox Nationalists have a decidedly shallow grasp of world affairs. They think that lamenting America falling behind on matters critical to international competitiveness is the same as praising a political system of government. Were these same conservatives outraged when Reagan, and other cold warriors, argued that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union militarily and, therefore, they were praising Russia’s communism?
For Fox News, and its conservative benefactors, to criticize Warren for these comments is akin to advocating for America to succumb to foreign competitors. In effect, it’s conservatives who are acceding to China’s superiority – not the other way around.
7) Stocks Tumble Worldwide After Obama Speech
The implication of this headline is that Obama’s speech had something to do with a stock market decline. However, the very first paragraph of the Bloomberg News article Fox cites specifically states that the decline is due to…
“…escalating concern about Greece’s debt crisis and speculation congress won’t pass President Obama’s plan to boost the economy.“
In other words, the markets favor Obama’s plan and want it to be implemented. So a more honest headline would have read “Stocks Tumble Worldwide Due To Republican Obstructionism.” But then again, if you’re looking for a more honest headline then you probably wouldn’t be reading Fox Nation in the first place.
8) Guess Who Tried To Break Into Southwest Cockpit?
Notice that in this headline the Fox Nationalists explicitly describes Ali Reza Shahsavari as trying to break into the cockpit of a Southwest Airlines plane. But anyone who read a little further down would have seen that the article unambiguously contradicts the headline saying “Initially, authorities said the man had tried to break into the cockpit but Amarillo Aviation Director Patrick Rhodes later said that he was ‘not trying to break into the cockpit, but was unruly and had confronted the cabin crew.’”
The headline was wholly the creation of Fox News. The story itself was sourced to the Associated Press, whose article got the headline right: “Southwest flight makes emergency landing in Texas.” So what we have here is Fox deliberately falsifying the headline in order to make a derogatory insinuation about a man of Iranian descent who just happens to be an American citizen born in Mississippi. The article states that there is no indication of terrorism and additional reporting describe the incident as an episode of mental illness triggered by an argument with another passenger. The only conclusion is that Fox saw a brown man with Middle-Eastern features and decided to invent an international terrorism incident where none existed by appending a provocative question to the story that contradicted the article’s content.
9) Man Linked to ‘Occupy’ Protest Charged With Attempted Assassination of Obama
The Fox News Channel ran a story with this same deceptive theme. They hosted Michelle Malkin to engage in a discussion that was deliberately designed to smear the Occupiers. During the segment they displayed a picture of the suspect, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, with a caption that said: “‘Occupy’ Shooter.” There was no question mark or other qualifying notation to indicate that this was merely speculation on the part of Fox News.
For the record, the only link between this guy and the Occupy movement is the one invented by Fox. The Washington police have stated unequivocally that they have no evidence that he was affiliated in any way with the protesters. Reports that he may have tried to hide in the crowds at the Occupy DC site should not surprise anyone. Any densely populated location would attract somebody trying to elude law enforcement. A football game or an Alzheimer’s Walkathon would serve the same purpose.
What little is known about Ortega-Hernandez would likely lead objective analysts to suspect him of being a Teabagger. He is said to be anti-government, hates President Obama, and has a history of mental illness. That’s a profile that would fit perfectly for say … Glenn Beck.
10) Poll: Majority Blame Obama For Bad Economy
There have been numerous polls asking respondents to say who they hold responsible for the state of the American economy. In every one of them George W. Bush ranks at or near the top, with Congress and Wall Street following close behind. Usually President Obama is not the target of most of the blame.
Leave it to Fox News to come up with a poll that contradicts the others. And it should come as no surprise that the poll they’ve latched onto is the work of Rasmussen’s Pulse Opinion Research. However, even with a fixed pollster, and a rabidly partisan news outlet, Fox still finds it necessary to outright lie about the poll’s results.
In Rasmussen’s poll 34% said that Obama is the most to blame for the slow economic recovery. Most elementary school graduates know that that is not a majority. What’s more, if you add the responses of those who said that it was either Congress, Wall Street, or George W. Bush, it comes to a clear majority of 61% saying that Obama is not to blame. The Fox Nationalists must take great comfort in the knowledge that their audience is too incurious to actually look into anything themselves.
“The public’s opinion of the Tea Party movement has soured in the wake of the debt-ceiling debate. The Tea Party is now viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of the public and favorably by just 20 percent, according to the poll.
“The president’s overall job approval rating remained relatively stable, with 48 percent approving of the way he handles his job as president and 47 percent disapproving.”
To repeat, 48% approve of Obama while only 20% approve of the Tea Party. That means Obama’s approval is more than twice that of the Tea Party. What’s more, Obama is viewed favorably by slightly more people than view him unfavorably. The Tea Party is viewed unfavorably by twice as many people as view it favorably.
The only way to spin this poll positively for the Tea Party is to deliberately misconstrue the data by taking into account only the unfavorable numbers as if they existed in a vacuum. Leave it to Fox to lie to their audience and produce a community characterized by ignorance and wishful thinking.
These are just a few examples of the veracity-challenged deceptions that appear everyday on Fox Nation. In the ebook, Fox Nation vs. Reality, there are dozens more examples of the documented, deliberate dishonesty that is the hallmark of Fox News. It’s a handy reference for rebutting those crazy uncles who keep sending you conspiracy theory chain letters and berating you for having missed Hannity last night.
Fox Nation is an integral part of the Fox News family and a critical component of their mission to deceive the general public and reinforce the partisan tunnel-blindness of their glassy-eyed disciples. This makes it all the more necessary to shine a light on their cynical mauling of truthfulness in media. Mark Twain said that “Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” And the fabulists at Fox have imagination in abundance as evidenced by all the tales they make up on their web site. So the more they seek to deceive, the more the rest of us need to be prepared to rebut and confront them. As difficult as that task may seem, we can take heart in Stephen Colbert’s observation that “Reality has a well known liberal bias.” Which explains why it is so at odds with what Fox represents.
For obvious reasons, the American conservative movement has long been dogged by accusations of racism and racial insensitivity. From their famed Southern strategy to their determined efforts to suppress minority voting via phony voter ID initiatives to their race-baiting Obama attacks, conservatives have made clear their opposition to a tolerant, multicultural America. In fact, much of their electoral strategy relies on scaring older, white voters about blacks and Hispanics taking over “their” country.
It’s not uncommon to hear a prominent conservative, even one who holds elected office, make patently offensive remarks, yet some occasionally hit an unimaginable low. This week, it was revealed that Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard has published a book in which he wrote that “[T]he institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise.” He defended his book on Wednesday, telling the Jonesboro Sun that he still believed slavery to be a blessing because it helped blacks come to America. Yes, he praised slavery. And when given the opportunity to backpedal, he doubled down.
You may think that this does not occur often. You would be wrong. Here are a few other prominent conservatives who have suggested slavery was not all that bad.
1) Pat Buchanan
In his essay “A Brief for Whitey,” Buchanan agreed that slavery was a net positive saying that, “America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”
2 & 3) Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum
Bob Vander Plaats, the leader of the arch-conservative Family Leader, a religious organization that opposes same-sex marriage, got GOP presidential candidates Bachmann and Santorum to sign his pledge asserting that life for African-Americans was better during the era of slavery: “A child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”
4) Art Robinson
Robinson was a publisher and a GOP candidate for congress in Oregon. One of the books he published included this evaluation of life under slavery: “The negroes on a well-ordered estate, under kind masters, were probably a happier class of people than the laborers upon any estate in Europe.”
5) Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson
Peterson is a conservative preacher who articulated this bit of gratitude: “Thank God for slavery, because if not, the blacks who are here would have been stuck in Africa.”
6) David Horowitz
Horowitz is the president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and edits the ultra-conservative FrontPage Magazine. In a diatribe against reparations for slavery, Horowitz thought this argument celebrating the luxurious life of blacks in America would bolster his case: “If slave labor created wealth for Americans, then obviously it has created wealth for black Americans as well, including the descendants of slaves.”
7) Wes Riddle
Riddle was a GOP congressional candidate in Texas with some peculiar conspiracy theories on a variety of subjects. His appreciation for what slavery did for African-Americans was captured in this comment: “Are the descendants of slaves really worse off? Would Jesse Jackson be better off living in Uganda?”
8) Trent Franks
Franks is the sitting congressman for the 2nd congressional district in Arizona. As shown here, he believes that a comparison of the tribulations of African-Americans today to those of their ancestors in the Confederacy would favor a life in bondage: “Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.”
9) Ann Coulter
Known for her incendiary rhetoric and hate speech, Coulter was right in character telling Megyn Kelly of Fox News that, “The worst thing that was done to black people since slavery was the great society programs.”
10) Rep. Loy Mauch
This Arkansas GOP state legislator has found biblical support for his pro-slavery position. He wrote to the Democrat-Gazette to inquire, “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”
There is an almost palpable nostalgia amongst some conservatives for a bygone era wherein they could sip Mint Juleps under the Magnolias while the fields were tended to by unpaid lackeys. And it isn’t a vague insinuation. Mitt Romney supporter Ted Nugent declared explicitly that “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.” Allen West, the chairman of Romney’s Black Leadership Council, frequently portrays Democrats as plantation masters who want to enslave American citizens. And no one should regard it as a coincidence that so much of this racist animus has surfaced during the term of the first African-American president of the United States.
It’s one thing to harbor such offensive racial prejudices privately, but when people in public life are comfortable enough to openly express opinions like these, it reveals something of the character of their movement. And what’s worse is that conservative and Republican leaders, given the opportunity, refuse to repudiate the remarks. Mitt Romney has stated that all he’s concerned about is getting 50.1% of the vote, and if that means tolerating appeals to racist voters in order to attain his goal, then it’s just a part of the process. Conservatives often complain about being characterized as racists, but there’s a simple solution to that problem that would make it go away overnight: Stop being racist.
Conservatives and professional Obama haters have been nurturing an animosity for Obama that far exceeds anything directed at previous presidents. The lengths that they will go to bury Obama in mud often resemble D-Movie spy plots that set new standards for implausibility. The all too familiar birther conspiracies that allege that President Obama is a Manchurian socialist bent on transforming America into an Islamic Caliphate are mere fairy tales when compared to some of the horror stories that shiver the spines of the delusional right.
The frequency and outlandishness of their conspiratorial imaginations grows in sync with their desperation. With Obama leading in most polls and the election season drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to recap some of the more ludicrous conspiracies hatched by our conservative fear mongers. So with our tin-foil hats securely strapped on, let’s venture down the primrose path of hair-raising hypothesis.
Cooking the Unemployment Rate
The most recent crackpottery of the right was revealed last week as new unemployment numbers were released. The new data put the unemployment rate at 7.8%, the lowest it has been since the Bush administration cratered the economy on their way out of town. Almost immediately, right-wingers declared that the numbers were manufactured by Obama’s henchmen in the Labor Department. Never mind the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is an independent body that currently has no Obama appointees serving. That didn’t stop conspiracists like Jack Welch from alleging that they are “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” That unsubstantiated charge was adopted by Rep. Allen West, Fox News’ Stuart Varney, and much of the rest of the right-wing media circus.
The Media is Skewing the Polls
For several weeks now, Obama has maintained a steady lead in election polling. That fact has been difficult for conservatives to square with their conviction that Obama is the most hated man in America. Consequently, they must conclude that all of the polls have been tampered with by scheming liberals. However, for their conspiracy to be credible, they would have to include Fox News and Rasmussen amongst the conniving lefties because their polling also puts Obama in the lead. One way they have found to workaround that inconvenient fact is to ignore the polls that challenge their thesis. Therefore, Fox News simply neglects to report on polls that show the President leading – even their own Fox News polls.
Politicizing the Stock Market
In a year when the economy is such an integral part of the news cycle, conservatives have found it necessary to glom onto any factoid that they can use to bash the President. That manifests into a frenzy of spin that casts any decline in the stock market as the fault of Obama, and any increase as investor speculation that Obama is on the way out. Last week, many of the right-dominated business networks feebly described a positive day for the Dow as a Romney rally, simply because it occurred on the day after the presidential debate. There is a long history of the right making idiotic assessments of the stock market. In May of 2009, Fox News anchor Brenda Buttner gushed, “Call it a tea party rally. Wall Street’s sure partying, up six weeks in a row.” In September of 2011, Fox Nation reported “Stocks Tumble Worldwide After Obama Speech.” Then in June of 2012, they fantasized that “Stock Market Drops After Obamacare Upheld.” Fox’s Neil Cavuto hosted a discussion of what he called the “Bush recovery” nine months into Obama’s term. What they commonly miss is that markets traditionally perform better under Democratic administrations than Republicans.
Obama is Coming for Your Guns
This conspiracy theory takes a considerable measure of willful suspension of disbelief. The National Rifle Association has alerted its members that a second Obama term will result in the repeal of the second amendment and a wholesale confiscation of guns. Their evidence of this is that Obama has done nothing at all to roll back gun rights during his first term. That, they surmise, is a devious trick to lull gun rights advocates into a false sense of security. Then, when Obama is no longer facing a reelection campaign, he will be free to curtail all of our precious liberties.
The Social Security Administration’s Arms Cache
When it was discovered that the Social Security Administration had purchased 174,000 bullets, the right-wing sirens went off and presumed that they were preparing for massive civil unrest and intended to use the ammo on Americans. “‘Why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest?’ Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry wrote on the conservative website The Daily Caller.” That would be a good question if it weren’t rooted in utter dementia. In fact, the actual reason for the purchase was a routine acquisition to arm conventional security personnel at the agency’s offices across the country.
The Muslim Mole in the Secretary of State’s Office
A longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton was accused by conservatives of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Huma Abedin has worked with Clinton for many years as a trusted and effective public servant. No evidence was given for the repugnant allegations that cast her as a traitorous double agent. She is also married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is Jewish and unlikely to be affiliated with Muslim extremists. But that didn’t stop Rep. Michele Bachmann who said, “it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions” in our government. She was joined by other prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Frank Gaffney. This conspiracy dove-tails nicely with those alleging that Obama is a Muslim plant as well.
Fact-Checkers Are A Liberal Plot
Creative and shameless conservatives are establishing a new and unique front in the political war zone. Not satisfied with bashing everything about the media (despite the fact that talk radio and their own Fox News are a huge part of it), the wackoids on the right have declared war against – get this – Fact-checkers! This may seem wildly deranged, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. If your entire movement is built on a foundation of lies, then fact-checkers are your mortal enemy. This became clear a few weeks ago when Neil Newhouse, a Mitt Romney adviser, publicly declared that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Since then they have disputed or ignored every challenge of their truthfulness. The result is a record setting collection of dishonorable mentions from PolitiFact and other media lie detectors.
The Secret Behind The Gulf Oil Spill
When millions of barrels of oil were pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, most Americans were disturbed by the devastating environmental damage and the negligence of the company operating the drilling platform. But conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh saw through the scheme and revealed that the massive malfunction was actually a deliberate act of sabotage devised to create a justification for eliminating all off-shore drilling. Limbaugh told his audience that “I want to get back to the timing of the blowing up, the explosion out there in the Gulf of Mexico of this oil rig … What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?” You can’t argue with logic like that, because it’s the logic of a mad man who thinks the President would murder twelve workers and foul an environmentally sensitive region in order to achieve a political goal.
Obamacare’s Death Panels
No list of conspiracy theories would be complete without a mention of Sarah Palin’s “death panels.” These nefarious groups were said to have the power to decide whether your grandmother would live or die based on her level of productivity to society as determined by a team of government bureaucrats. In reality the section of the Affordable Care Act to which Palin referred actually provided for coverage to pay for end-of-life counseling. These were voluntary sessions to help patients determine and document what sort of life-saving measures they preferred in the event that they were incapacitated and unable to communicate their wishes to their doctors. When that proved to be an embarrassing misinterpretation of the law, conservatives switched to another section of the bill, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and called that the death panel. However, the IPAB was simply a board that assessed the best practices in medicine and made non-binding recommendations in order to prevent excessive billing and unnecessary procedures. Palin was awarded the “Lie of the Year” award from PolitiFact for her imaginary panel.
The Green Plot to Enslave the World
Conservatives have never taken to science. So it should come as no surprise that many of them regard global warming as a hoax whose purpose is to enrich Al Gore and a few socialist wind farmers. But there is another faction of the anti-environment movement that has uncovered something even more dastardly lurking behind the effort to maintain a clean, sustainable planet. Agenda 21, a little known and non-binding resolution adopted by the United Nations is viewed by some on the right as an attempt to control the lives of people throughout the world by regulating everything they do. Amongst their paranoid fears is that Agenda 21 will cede U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. and a one-world government. The truth is that Agenda 21 is a set of principles to guide the development of practices to preserve a sustainable environment for future generations. It is entirely voluntary and was agreed to by the U.N. in 1992 and signed by President George H.W. Bush. But to hear doomsayers like Glenn Beck put it, it will “suck all the blood out of [our communities], and we will not be able to survive.”
These are but a few of the tales woven by angst-ridden right-wingers in the dark moments when their thoughts wander from rational reality. However, the science that they scorn may have an explanation for their fantastical imaginings. Ryota Kanai, at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, examined how liberals and conservatives brains differ. Among the findings were that the brains of liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which has been shown to produce thought proceses that are more flexible and reliant on data, proof, and analytic reasoning. Conservatives are more likely to have an enlarged amygdala which is associated with greater inflexibility, emotion, and fear response.
This could account for conservatives having a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that their senses are working overtime and the results produce some pretty wild visions of nightmarish liberals threatening America’s very existence. They seem to have taken very seriously the warning from the Reagan-era horror film, The Fly: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
A slightly abridged version of this article was published on Alternet
The Republican National Convention was a rare opportunity to peer into the soul of a party that has embraced an open aversion to the truth. It was a veritable festival of falsehoods, from Paul Ryan implying that a GM plant that had shut down before President Obama was inaugurated was somehow his fault, to Mitt Romney perpetuating the myth that Obama’s health care plan had cut $700 billion from the benefits of Medicare recipients. Even the theme of last Wednesday’s program, “We Built This,” rested on a thoroughly dishonest misrepresentation of the President’s words.
Less noticed was a parade of hypocrisies that would bring shame to anyone with a modicum of self-respect. The degree of hypocritical expressions emanating from the right has reached historic proportions. It’s as if they have lost the ability to recognize the obvious contradictions they exude. Or, more likely, they simply don’t care. They are more interested in scoring political points which, unfortunately, is a deceit at which they are occasionally successful.
The hyper-hypocritical tendencies of today’s GOP has spread through the Party’s blood stream and is discernible from almost every angle. Below is a sampling of recent examples of rank hypocrisy caught gushing from the right and its most prominent proponents.
1) Hypocrisy On Health Care: Romney has promised that his first action on day one of a Romney administration would be to repeal ObamaCare. Of course, he wouldn’t have any authority to do that and attempting to pass legislation in congress would get stopped short in the Democratically-controlled senate. However, he may want to have a discussion with his running mate. It was recently disclosed that Ryan quietly applied for funding of a Wisconsin health care clinic in his district. The funds would come entirely from the Affordable Care Act that Ryan and Romney now propose to repeal. Also, after insisting that he would repeal Obamacare in its entirety, Romney told David Gregory on Meet the Press “I say we’re going to replace Obamacare. And I’m replacing it with my own plan.” Somebody needs to remind Romney that Obamacare IS his own plan, including the individual mandate.
2) Hypocrisy On Political Ads: In an interview on the Bill Bennett radio show, Mitt Romney lashed out at what he considered to be false ads by a pro-Obama Super PAC. In the course of his tirade he lamented that “in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad.” Romney said this even as he refused to pull his own ads that had been rated “Pants-on-Fire” lies by PolitiFact. Subsequently, the Romney campaign decided to abandon any pretense to honesty and declare that fact-checkers had “jumped the shark,” and that they would no longer “let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” In other words, we’ll lie if we feel like it.
3) Hypocrisy On Women: At the GOP convention in Tampa, Ann Romney gave a keynote speech wherein she saluted women saying “You are the best of America. You are the hope of America. There would not be an America without you.” It was a naked attempt to appeal to women voters with whom the GOP is having trouble connecting. However, beyond her vacant flattery she never uttered a word of support for issues of importance to women. There was no mention of equal pay, gender discrimination in the workplace, parental leave, or child welfare services like health care or nutritional programs. The only references she made to education were how fortunate her husband and children were to have the benefit of attending first-rate institutions that most Americans will never see. And the GOP platform strikes a markedly different tone by banning access to family planning services and effectively asserting that women, “the hope of America,” are not competent to make decisions about their own bodies.
4) Hypocrisy On Misogyny: The comments of GOP senate candidate Todd Akin regarding “legitimate rape” caused a firestorm of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Many on the right insisted that Akin withdraw from the Missouri senate race. However, most of the criticism was directed at the harm that Akin caused to the GOP’s prospects of winning the seat, rather than to the offensive views Akin articulated. There was abundant gnashing of teeth over Akin’s stupidity for putting the election at risk, but little condemnation for what he actually said. The reason for that is that when it comes to women, the right’s policies are actually a logical conclusion of Akin’s dumb outburst. In fact, Ryan cosponsored a bill in the House with Akin that sought to redefine the term “rape” so that federal funds were unavailable for victims unless the crime was deemed “forcible,” which would have excluded many assaults that were statutory, incest, or under duress.
5) Hypocrisy On Voting: Fox News and Romney have both recently made an issue of legislation in Ohio that would remove early voting availability for all voters except those in the military. The Obama Justice Department challenged the law arguing that every voter should have early access to the polls. Romney and Fox responded by accusing the President of wanting to make it more difficult for soldiers to vote, even though the administration’s position was to make voting easier for everyone. What Romney and Fox did not say was that their position would have denied early voting to over 900,000 Ohio veterans (in addition to millions of other Ohio residents) who were not included in the GOP’s bill. [Note: An Ohio court just ruled in favor of the administration's position, but the Ohio Secretary of State insisted that he would defy the court order to open the polls. Then, after the judge demanded the Secretary of State appear before him to explain himself, he backed down and agreed to the court's order].
6) Hypocrisy On Tax Shelters: Mitt Romney’s problems with his financial records are well known. He continues to refuse to release his tax returns even as more evidence comes out that he has engaged in shenanigans involving off-shore banks and other tax avoidance schemes. Nevertheless, Romney had the audacity to address a group of donors and complain about big businesses that “save money by putting various things in the places where there are low tax havens around the world.” Apparently that’s only acceptable for wealthy presidential candidates.
7) Hypocrisy On The Economy: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Mitt Romney says “Yes.” The key issue of the Romney campaign from its inception has been his contention that the economy is in dismal shape and that it’s the President’s fault. Romney has said on numerous occasions that Obama may have inherited a troubled economy, but he made it worse. However, when asked by radio host Laura Ingraham about improving economic indicators he unflinchingly admitted“Well, of course it’s getting better. The economy always gets better after a recession.” Ingraham was stunned and gave Romney a second shot noting that he wasn’t helping his argument. Romney held firm saying “Have you got a better one, Laura? It just happens to be the truth.” Soon after, Romney returned to falsely accusing Obama of making things worse.
8) Hypocrisy On Terrorism: While running for the GOP nomination for president in 2007, Romney was asked by reporters if he agreed with comments by then-candidate Obama that if Osama bin Laden was discovered in Pakistan he would take action if the Pakistanis did not. Romney responded “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours.” Earlier this year, on the anniversary of the death of bin Laden, who was killed by American Special Forces in Pakistan, Romney diminished the President’s role by saying that “Anybody would have made that call.” Well…not anybody.
9) Hypocrisy On The Auto Bailout: Romney was a vocal opponent of the auto industry bailout orchestrated by the Obama administration. He famously wrote an op-ed for the New York Times with the title “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.“ Fast forward a couple of years to a newly profitable and growing automobile industry and we find that Romney has shifted his position to one where he not only claims to have supported the bailout, but he considers himself responsible for its success. He told ABC News that “I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.” That’s a little like Pontius Pilate taking credit for Jesus coming back.
10) Hypocrisy On Abortion: When Romney ran for the senate in Massachusetts in 1994, he claimed to support abortion rights and punctuated his commitment to that position with a story about a close relative who died as the result of an illegal abortion. In a debate with his opponent, Ted Kennedy, Romney referenced his family’s loss and said “It is since that time that my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that.” So Romney was once driven by his grief to make an unwavering commitment to never force his beliefs on others, but now he’s pushing for a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Is he through with grieving now? Is he comfortable with the grief that other families will suffer if his promise to repeal Roe v. Wade is fulfilled?
Hypocrisy and the Republican Party have never been far apart. They were the originators of the health care insurance mandate, but flipped to opposing it after it was proposed by a Democratic president. They supported the DREAM Act until Obama put it on the legislative agenda. Cap and trade was a GOP innovation. And the war hawks of the Republican right – Bush, Cheney, Rove, Boehner, Bolton, Limbaugh, Hannity, Kristol, Beck, etc. – never saw a day of combat. Mitt Romney, after protesting in favor of the draft to send other kids to Vietnam, avoided service via his Mormon missionary work in Paris, and received multiple academic deferments.
The lies that have been so freely disseminated by the right are a serious impediment to democracy, made worse by their arrogant persistence in lying even after having been exposed. But their hypocrisy is just as thickly applied and just as deceitful. It is emblematic of the character (or lack thereof) of the Republican Party and its spokespersons, including their leader, Mitt Romney.
Special Feature: Here are the runner-ups that didn’t make the top ten:
11) Hypocrisy On Socialism: The featured convention speeches by the Republican standard bearers contained some flowery language intended to motivate their delegates and sway voters watching at home. Some of their rhetoric, however, would not have been so well received if it had been offered by President Obama. On Wednesday Paul Ryan said that “We have responsibilities, one to another. We do not each face the world alone.” That was followed by Romney on Thursday saying “The America we know is the story of the many becoming one.” To some listeners those may sound like distinctly socialist sentiments. That sort of collectivist dialogue is commonly heard in leftist conclaves and union halls. All Obama had to say was that he favored “spreading the wealth around” and he was deemed an avid Marxist. For Rom-n-Ry to talk this way and not get branded as subversives is a bit surprising. Particularly when the Republican model of shared sacrifice is lower salaries for teachers, lower benefits for seniors, and lower taxes for millionaires.
12) Hypocrisy On Music: Paul Ryan, in an attempt to connect with a younger voting demographic, has lately been touting his rocker cred. He said that his favorite band is Rage Against the Machine. That prompted Rage guitarist Tom Morello to ask “I wonder what Ryan’s favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of ‘Fuck the Police’?” Then Ryan told the GOP conventioneers that his iPod was stoked with songs by “youth-oriented” artists like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin that an old-timer like Mitt Romney couldn’t appreciate. What he failed to note was that his playlist seems to be dominated by bands that debuted some 40 years ago and that Romney is younger than Zeppelin’s lead guitarist, Jimmy Page.
13) Hypocrisy On Immigration: A core part of the Fox News agenda is to demonize immigrants. Last month the Fox Nation web site featured a story about a sexual assault on a child with a headline that blared “Illegal Alien Charged with Raping 4-Year Old.” Of course, the immigration status of the alleged perpetrator is entirely irrelevant to the crime. Fox would never have published such a story identifying a white Protestant American in the headline, although that happens far more frequently. It is also interesting that Fox never posted a story with the headline “Fox News Reporter Charged with Sexual Assault on 4-year Old”when that occurred a few years ago.
14) Hypocrisy On Taxes: Mitt Romney has been campaigning mightily to disabuse voters of the notion that he is an out-of-touch multimillionaire who has benefited unfairly from his wealth and position. Nevertheless, he refuses to come clean about his taxes or his resume with Bain Capital. Part of the reason he chose Paul Ryan to join his ticket was to divert attention from these questions that have been hounding him on the campaign trail. However, he may not get the reaction he hopes. Ryan’s budget plan includes the elimination of capital gains taxes, and since that is almost the entire source of Romney’s income, it would reduce his already low (13.9%) tax rate to nearly zero (0.82%).
15) Hypocrisy On Medicare: The charge from Democrats that the Romney/Ryan Medicare plan will end the program as we know it has rankled the Romney campaign. They respond by saying that no one over the age of 55 will be affected by their reforms. Setting aside for the moment the ludicrous notion that seniors would be happy knowing that only their children would suffer the loss of benefits, Romney’s plan to repeal ObamaCare would immediately end prescription drug benefits and access to preventative care that today’s seniors are currently receiving.
With the election season fully in bloom, the aroma of deceit and desperation is growing more pungent by the hour. Mitt Romney, The Original Bankster, continues to be evasive about his international business affairs, and he refuses to release more than a single year of tax returns in order to quell speculation. His electoral prospects have not been noticeably enhanced with the addition of Wisconsin congressman, and extremist right-winger, Paul Ryan to the ticket. Consequently, the GOP PR machine (aka Fox News) has swung into action to attempt to cauterize the wounds and manufacture some positive spin on behalf of the struggling Republican standard bearers.
The most effective contribution of the Fox spinners is their expertise in disseminating brazenly dishonest propaganda without shame or fear of reprisal. They construct fabrications that benefit their patrons and broadcast them to an audience that is so undiscriminating that they’ll watch Sean Hannity more than once. And since the majority of rational news consumers will never see much of what Fox works so hard to invent, we have complied a list of some of the most dishonest moments so far in the 2012 election cycle. [Note: in order to pare this list down to a manageable length, it has been limited to just just the last eight weeks. There's only so much bandwidth on the Internet]
1) President Obama Did Not Call Mitt Romney A Felon
Mitt Romney claims that he had ceased to be involved with Bain Capital in 1999, although his signature on SEC documents affirms that he was the sole shareholder and CEO as late as 2002. Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Stephanie Cutter, pointed out that Romney had to have lied on either the SEC forms or his public statements that contradict them. Fox News turned that into an accusation by Obama that Romney is a felon. However, there is a big difference between calling someone a felon and simply noting that if one were to commit a felony they would be a felon, which is all that Cutter had done. But Fox is not inclined to miss an opportunity to invent a controversy where none actually exists.
2) Fox News Built That
In a speech to supporters in Virginia, Obama praised the hard work of individuals and businesses while also noting the collective value of American investment in economic prosperity. So Fox News plucked an out-of-context soundbite from the speech that said “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” What Fox deliberately left out was that Obama was referring to public services like teachers and police, and to infrastructure like roads and bridges that contribute to the success of all businesses. It’s a position that Romney himself has taken. However, Fox News blew this distortion up into such a frenzy that the Romney campaign adopted it and now have made the Fox-built fallacy the theme for the GOP convention in Tampa. [Note: The GOP convention is being held in the Tampa Bay Forum, a facility that was built with mostly public funds]
The tactic of taking quotes out of context has been a favorite of the Fox News gang this year. They did precisely the same thing with remarks Obama made about the economy (the private sector is doing fine) and his record in office (we tried our plan and it worked). In both cases Fox left out critical language surrounding these remarks that revealed just how purposefully dishonest the Fox News team is.
3) The Swift-Boating Of President Obama
Fox News has proudly announced the commencement of a Swiftboat campaign against President Obama. The organization set up to carry out the assault is described as “A group of former U.S. intelligence and Special Forces operatives,” but in reality is a partisan assembly of Republicans and professional Obama haters. The Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund (SOOEF) plans to produce and distribute videos and advertisements that will criticize Obama for “taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden.” This is an archetypical implementation of Swiftboating whose purpose is to spread lies about a key achievement of Obama’s leadership as Commander-in-Chief.
The assertions by the SOOEF that Obama has improperly heralded himself for the demise of Bin Laden are demonstrably false. Their video features gross misrepresentations of Obama’s statements on the subject that loop portions of his speech referencing himself, but leaves out his abundant praise for the military and intelligence operatives who carried out the mission. The opening line of the President’s address to the nation announcing that Bin Laden was dead explicitly and unselfishly stated that “the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.” He went on to thank “the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome,” and he praised “the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.”
None of that was in the SOOEF video which Fox has featured in numerous broadcasts. What’s more, Fox actually uses the term “Swiftboating” to describe the anti-Obama campaign. Either they have completely given up on trying to pretend that they are a “fair and balanced” news enterprise (which no one believes anyway), or they don’t know that Swiftboating means lying.
4) Fox Nation Ignores Polls By CNN, Reuters, And — Fox News
Virtually every time a new poll on presidential politics is released Fox News will make a point to publish the results – so long as the poll shows Obama losing. In a particularly egregious example of this bias earlier this month, Fox prominently reported on a poll by the right-wing Rasmussen operation that placed Mitt Romney in the lead 47-43. What Fox neglected to report was that there were three other polls released at the same time that all put Obama ahead. And the most striking part of this omission was that one of the polls that Fox declined to cover was conducted by Fox News itself and put Obama ahead of Romney by nine points.
Fox couldn’t even bring themselves to report on their own poll conducted by their own pollsters. That’s the sort of biased cherry-picking that is the hallmark of Fox’s “news” charade. And it’s a crystal clear message to pollsters from Fox: If you want to be covered, you better say what we like. And that goes for Fox’s pollsters as well.
5) Welfare-To-Work Rules Were Not Weakened By the Obama Administration
The Romney campaign recently accused Obama of directing his administration to relax the welfare-to-work provisions of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill. That accusation is directly refuted by the facts. What Obama did was to permit waivers for states that could affirm their progress in moving people from welfare to work, and allowing them flexibility to enhance their programs. It’s a modification that Romney himself had requested when he was governor of Massachusetts. Nevertheless, Fox News picked up the accusation and ran with it. In every segment on the subject they portrayed the issue precisely as Romney had framed it despite every fact-checking operation concluding that Romney’s charges were entirely false.
And speaking of fact-checking, Romney has been rated untruthful 67 times by PolitiFact, and 14 of those were “Pants-on-Fire” lies (including the welfare lie). In fact, 43% of PolitiFact’s findings on statements by Romney are rated as untruthful. He’s downright pathological, but Fox has not yet reported that fact.
6) Obama Did Not Sell Amnesty For $465.00
After Obama issued a directive to the Department of Homeland Security not to advance the deportation of young immigrants who had been brought to this country by their parents and who had demonstrated achievement in school or the military, there was a rush of dishonest reporting from Fox News that Obama was placating law breakers and opening our borders to criminals, drug traffickers, and terrorists. Of course, none of that was true. News reports from more objective sources correctly noted that the beneficiaries of the program had broken no laws and that the public overwhelmingly supported the President’s plan.
After the initial drama subsided, Fox News decided to take another stab at promoting their false narrative. They began running reports alleging that Obama was “selling amnesty” to illegal aliens. What Fox was grossly misrepresenting was that the program had an application fee to help offset its costs. One would think that deficit minded conservatives would have approved of that fiscal responsibility. But Fox chose to present it as the purchase price for amnesty even though no one in the program would receive amnesty.
7) Soldiers Were Not Prevented From Voting In Ohio
The issue of voter suppression has been a major factor in this years election contests. In states across the country Republicans have been working strenuously to reduce early voting availability and impose unreasonable identification requirements that serve to disenfranchise mostly voters who are minorities, seniors, students, and low income. But perhaps the worst example of distorting the issue occurred when Fox News accused the Obama administration of seeking to trample on the voting rights of people in the military.
The actual story is that the Republicans in the state of Ohio passed a bill that reduced early voting for everyone in the state except the military. The Obama Justice Department contested the move arguing that the same early voting privileges should be available to all Ohio voters. So the Obama administration was actually advocating for expanding voting rights for everyone, including veterans who would have been excluded under the GOP bill. The characterization by Fox News was 180% opposite of the truth.
8) Fox News Reports Obama Birth Certificate “Definitely Fraudulent”
In a stunning piece of journalistic malpractice, Fox News reported assertions that Obama’s birth certificate was “definitely fraudulent.” The remarks were from Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, and while they were correctly attributed, nowhere in the article did Fox note that the birth certificate had been authenticated and that every credible source agrees that it is valid. The only references to the birth certificate’s authenticity were framed as merely “claims.” And Fox being “fair and balanced” regards all claims as having equal weight, even those without any substance to back them up.
This is a necessarily abridged collection of Fox falsehoods. There are far too many more to list here. But in the last eight weeks Fox News has disseminated some glaring whoppers in an attempt to prop up the flailing Romney campaign. Expect this to continue through the upcoming conventions and straight through to November. Because when you are supporting a candidate who refuses to reveal his taxes, his business history, or even his proposed policies, all you have left is what you can make up.
The reputation for Fox News as a brazenly biased, right-wing, mouthpiece for the Republican Party and a conservative agenda is well-established. From their upper-management (Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes) to their frontline anchors (Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity), they have forged a network that has entirely abandoned any pretense of impartiality.
That well-honed partisan prejudice has proven to be useful in poisoning the political discourse. Fox News has exploited their audience to favor GOP candidates and sway perceptions of complex issues like health care, economics, and the environment. Amongst the most prominent of the issues that Fox has sought to distort is immigration. Their reporting is relentless in falsely portraying immigrants as shiftless lawbreakers who steal jobs from American citizens and drain the nation of scarce public resources.
Fox viewers are accustomed to stories about “illegals” swarming across the border to take up residency in the U.S. and sponge off of our prosperity. They are vilified as criminals and blamed for everything from disease to the recession. There is hardly a mention of immigrants on Fox that isn’t associated with drunkenness, joblessness, or drug cartels.
Lately, however, someone at Fox News has recognized a major flaw in their strategy to demonize immigrants, particularly Latinos. One of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population happens to be legal Latinos who are either naturalized or natural-born citizens. The U.S. Census bureau reports that the Hispanic population grew at about four times the nation’s average growth rate between 2000 and 2010. The report notes that “the Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010 and accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population increase of 27.3 million.”
The problem for Fox News, and their ideological benefactors, is that these are citizens who can vote and are registering in record numbers. This is particularly noticeable in states that are crucial for Republican electoral victories like Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. But the trend is evident in some measure throughout the country.
This situation poses a disconcerting problem for Fox. How do they maintain their editorial animosity toward immigrants without alienating an increasingly important voter group? The answer appears to be by developing news content specifically for this demographic and sequestering it from the rest of their viewership.
First to appear in this vein was the Fox News Latino web site. It is an English language adjunct to the Fox News site with content aimed directly at the Latino reader. However, the treatment of news events on Fox News Latino is markedly different from that on Fox News. Here are a few typical examples:
June 15, 2012: In response to President Obama’s announcement of a policy shift wherein certain young immigrants would be granted work permits rather than be deported, the Fox News Latino web site posted a story headlined, “Obama Administration Halts Deportations for Young Immigrants.” That’s a factually accurate description that treats the news in a neutral manner. The headline was accompanied by a sympathetic photo of a young Latina child draped with an American flag.
However, on Fox Nation they went with the headline “Obama Administration Bypasses Congress, To Give Immunity, Stop Deporting Younger Illegals.” In that short sentence they managed to imply impropriety on the part of the administration, infer the controversial subject of amnesty, and insult Latinos by employing the dehumanizing label of “illegals” (even though the people affected by this initiative did not break any law). The photo accompanying this article was of adult Latinos sitting up against a wall in handcuffs.
It is also notable that the Fox News Latino site posted the Associated Press article about the announcement in full. The Fox Nationalists posted only two paragraphs plus a video from Fox News of right-wing wacko Allen West expressing his outrage. This is further evidence that the Fox Nationalists want to avoid giving their dimwitted readers too much actual information, but prefer to throw up as much ultra-right-wing opinion as possible.
June 19, 2012: Bloomberg released a poll that showed that 64 percent of likely voters favor Obama’s policy on suspending deportations of certain younger immigrants. Note that this substantial majority is of “likely” voters, not just Latino voters. So the story has relevance to a wide range of news viewers and could even be an important predictor of who will win the presidency in November. Nevertheless, Fox News did not run this story. Fox Nation did not run this story. The only Fox destination where you can read this story is on Fox News Latino. So Fox is deliberately hiding from the rest of their audience the news that a substantial majority of Americans agree with this policy.
What’s more, the tone of the reporting is distinctly different from that on other Fox properties. There isn’t a hint of hostility toward immigrants. The story accurately refers to “prosecutorial discretion” as the means of carrying out the policy, rather than the false assertions of Executive Orders or dictatorial overreach that appear on Fox News. The derogatory phrase “illegals,” used routinely on Fox News, is nowhere in the story, having been replaced by “undocumented immigrant.” The story notes correctly that Congress, not the President, had dropped the ball on the DREAM Act and that it was Republicans who filibustered it out of existence. These are news insights that will never be seen by the broader Fox audience unless they happen to read Fox News Latino.
June 25, 2012: Fox News covered the Supreme Court ruling on the controversial Arizona law against undocumented immigrants in its uniquely racist way by tailoring the story differently to different audiences. On Fox News Latino the headline accurately reported that the “Court Strikes Down Most of AZ Immig Law.” However, on Fox Nation they went with the misleading, “U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Controversial Part of Tough Arizona Immigration Law.” Even Fox News was more balanced by saying that the “Supreme Court Reigns In Arizona On Immigration.”
Here we have one arm of Fox reporting that the law was struck down, and another arm saying it was upheld. So once again Fox panders to their Latino audience on the web site aimed at them, while slanting steeply in the opposite direction on Fox Nation, a community of such rancid bigotry that Fox had to close the comments section for fear of the vile postings that frequently occur. Obviously, Fox knows its audience.
July 8, 2012: The Fox News Latino web site featured an article from the Associated Press on the issue of voter suppression that was reported in a manner that respects the truth. The author correctly notes that instances of in-person voter fraud are nearly non-existent, but that the photo-ID laws advanced by Republicans will disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters.
On Fox News the typical approach to this story is the ludicrous assertion that opponents of ID laws are proponents of fraud, even though they can never cite actual incidents of fraud. The purpose is obvious. Fox News is working in concert with the GOP to purge Democrats from the voter rolls. However, on Fox’s Latino-focused web site the story is completely different. It is treated with the proper attention to the harm that would befall Latino voters.
In addition to the Fox News Latino web site, Fox recently announced that they are launching a new Spanish language broadcast television network, MundoFox. The network will feature both entertainment and news programming, but their initial press release states that they “will not have any association with Fox News Channel.” It also quotes the Senior VP of news, Jorge Mettey, describing the type of viewer they intend to attract in a particularly derogatory light:
“We are not focusing on the regular normal issues that newscasts in Spanish focus on, like immigration and that stuff. It is not our focus. We are talking to a different Latino. We are not talking to victims. We are talking to successful people eager to improve their lives.”
Apparently Mettey regards “regular normal” Latinos as victims who are uninterested in improving their lives, and he doesn’t want any of “them” watching his network. MundoFox is getting off to a great start by insulting a fair portion of their potential audience. This aggressive posturing is actually typical of the way Fox has launched all of their networks. When announcing Fox News as being “fair and balanced” they were implying that the other networks were not merely competitors, but that they were untrustworthy. When they launched the Fox Business Network they bragged that “a Fox channel would be ‘more business-friendly’ than CNBC.” Although it doesn’t really make much sense for a network that is supposed to be reporting objectively, for the benefit of people making investment decisions, to declare that they intend for their coverage to be friendly.
It is also notable that Mettey, has a somewhat checkered past. He was fired from his position as news director at KMEX in 2007, amidst allegations of ethical breaches. The Los Angeles Times reported that…
“The alleged improprieties investigated included whether Mettey had benefited financially from coverage of Puebla’s governor at a time when he was being criticized for his association with an accused pedophile and of an African-themed zoo in Puebla in which Mettey’s wife, Denise, has an ownership interest. In addition, the news division allegedly accepted free tickets on an Aeromexico flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Puebla.”
With the expansion into the Latino community, Fox is reaching out to connect with a new audience. In the process they are conducting themselves in an uncharacteristically fair and balanced manner. Make no mistake, there are good reasons for this atypical behavior on the part of Fox, and it isn’t just the immense economic opportunity (although that is certainly a factor). Roger Ailes, Fox News CEO, was a Republican strategist and media consultant before launching Fox with Rupert Murdoch. Ailes knows that Republicans have a demographics problem as Latinos continue to grow as a percentage of the population and, therefore, the electorate. The Tea Party dominated GOP can’t see past their prejudices and frothing immigrant hatred. But Ailes knows that if the party doesn’t win back some Latino support they will be a minority party for decades to come.
So with Fox News Latino and MundoFox, Ailes is doing for the party what they are too stupid to do for themselves – pandering to the Latino vote. They think they can segregate the reporting so that their Latino audience will see stories that are framed positively, while the rest of the Fox universe remains steeped in the animus of bigots and conservative partisans. It’s a cynical ploy that could only be hatched by people who think that Latinos are stupid enough to fall for it. Fortunately, that’s where Fox is most likely going to be proved wrong.
Update:Media Matters just posted a similar article with quotes from Latino leaders expressing their skepticism of Fox’s Latino news coverage and motives.
Update II: They’ve done it again. Fox News Latino published an article about emails revealed during an ACLU litigation that expose the racial hatred of former Arizona senate president Russell Pearce (author of the controversial immigration law). But a cursory search of Fox News did not turn up any reporting on this shocking story. However, I eventually found a re-posting of an Associated Press article on the subject buried in Fox’s “SciTech” section. That’s right – “SciTech,” not “News” or “Politics” – is where Fox posts an article about a legal challenge to a politician’s immigration law that is littered with racist remarks. So Fox makes this information available to their Fox News Latino readers, but clumsily tries to hide it from the rest of their audience.
The Sunlight Foundation just released the results of a study that measures the scholastic grade level of speeches made by members of congress. The scale uses the Flesch-Kincaid test and is based on the length of words and sentences used. Among their findings are that…
“Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level.”
The study further found that it is the “most extreme members” who speak at the lowest grade levels, as well as the most junior. A major turning point was the election of 2010 that saw the introduction of a wave of new Tea Party Republicans to congress. Of the 20 lowest scoring members, 17 were Republicans, and twelve of those are in their first term of office. You have to go down to the 15th place before you find a Democrat.
So is this significant in any way? There are varying perspectives from which to interpret this study. On the surface it could be viewed as evidence that the intellectual capacity of the congress is declining due to the neanderthal behavior of the new Tea Party members who speak in short bursts of small words. That would be consistent with their shallow grasp of most issues and their tendency to reduce every discussion to a battle between liberty and socialism (drilling everywhere = liberty; clean air = socialism).
On the other hand, it could be said that concise expression makes communication more effective and accessible. There is an art to editing and being able to speak with an eloquent simplicity can be both more desirable and more persuasive. Advertisers know this and build their marketing campaigns on logos and slogans that communicate ideas and emotions quickly and succinctly. Political campaign managers and propagandists (but I repeat myself) know it as well.
So the fact that members of congress are speaking at lower grade levels may be an indication of either creeping ignorance or enhanced manipulation. For a specific perspective on this that may help decide which interpretation ought to prevail, let’s take a look at how Fox News characterized a similar study that also used the Flesch-Kincaid method to score President Obama’s State of the Union speech a few months ago. Their headline, declaring that Obama’s speech was written at an 8th grade level, hovered above a picture of a boy in a dunce cap:
OK then. If Fox thinks that Obama is a dunce because his State of the Union speech scored low on the test, then they must also regard all of these Tea Party representatives as dunces. And for that they have some justification. Perhaps this language analysis isn’t the perfect measure of intelligence or effectiveness in government, so let’s take a look at some of the things they’ve actually said and done and judge them on that. Here are the ten lowest scoring members in the study with some examples of the brilliance that helped them achieve this honor:
Mick Mulvaney (R-SC): Mulvaney is the co-author of the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill that has been at the center of the debate on raising the debt ceiling. The bill would impose stiff reductions, mostly to programs that fund economic growth and aid to the poor. It would also cap spending for entitlement programs and call for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Mulvaney is one of those extremists who would rather see the U.S. default on their debts and suffer a credit rating downgrade than reform the tax code to be more equitable and stop favoring the wealthy.
Rob Woodall (R-GA): Woodall once advised a constituent on Medicare that she should reject the government-provided plan and secure her health insurance on the private market. However, when asked why he refused to reject the health plan provided to him by congress he said simply, “Because it’s free.” Then, to cement the impression that he is focused solely on his own welfare and special privileges for congressmen, he was one of only two votes against the STOCK Act that prohibited members of congress from engaging in insider trading.
Rand Paul (R-KY): The son of cranky Libertarian Ron Paul, Rand is such a strong advocate of the free market that he opposes the parts of the Civil Rights Act that prohibit businesses from engaging in discrimination. He believes so firmly in personal responsibility that he wanted to let BP off the hook after their oil rig exploded killing eleven workers and flooding the gulf with toxins. He called criticism of BP “really un-American.” More recently, he said of Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, “Call me cynical, but I didn’t think his views on marriage could get any gayer.”
Sean Duffy (R-WI): At a town hall meeting in Wisconsin, Duffy was asked whether he’d vote to cut his $174,000 congressional salary. He proceeded to whine about how $174,000 really isn’t that much: “I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage.” Sounds like he could benefit from Obama’s proposals to reform mortgage and student loan debt.
Tim Griffin (R-AR): A few years ago there was a scandal in Bush’s Justice Department when it was revealed that they fired several U.S. Attorneys for political reasons. Then, to make matters worse, they filled the vacancies with cronies and partisan patrons. One of those terminated was the U.S. Attorney in Arkansas. His hand-picked replacement was a Karl Rove protege named Tim Griffin.
Todd Akin (R-MO): Last year Akin appeared on the radio program of Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. That would ordinarily be enough to dismiss him as a fringe-dweller, but Akin took the opportunity to broadcast his opinion that “The heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.” Akin was also the sponsor of a bill to prohibit courts from hearing legal challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance – an ironic attempt to unconstitutionally elevate congress over the judiciary in order to suppress “liberty and justice for all.”
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO): Like many Tea Party Republicans, Hartzler has expressed doubts about Obama’s citizenship. When questioned about the birth certificate the President released she said “You know, I have a lot of doubts about all that. But I don’t know, I haven’t seen it.” She also opposes same-sex marriage with the old slippery slope argument that associates it with polygamy and pedophilia. She asks, “Why not allow one man and two women or three women to marry? [...] Why not allow a 50-year-old man to marry a 12-year-old girl if they love each other and they are committed?”
Tom Graves (R-GA): Graves’ obsession with limiting government is so severe that he voted against bills that would provide organizations that work with children easier access to a federal database so they could screen job applicants for criminal records. But then his grasp of legislation is somewhat faulty. With regard to funding for oil subsidies, he declared them to be a “manipulation of the market place” shortly after voting twice to extend them.
David Schweikert (R-AZ): Perhaps the poster child for this list is Rep. Schweikert who was asked a question about the health insurance mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act, and whether he thought it was fair that prior to the ACA someone could incur medical expenses but not pay for them, raising the cost of health care for everyone else. He responded that “you have the right as an American to be dumb.” And he is fully exercising his rights.
Ron Johnson (R-WI): Johnson has been a harsh critic of the government stimulus bills. But somehow that didn’t stop him from seeking stimulus funds for renovations to the Grand Opera House when he was president of the venue’s board. His explanation when asked to justify the apparent hypocrisy was that “he may have asked a question or two, but that doesn’t mean he supports the stimulus effort or even wanted the money.” Of course not. He was just curious to see if they would hand over the cash, which he would have promptly returned.
The question of whether or not a low score is indicative of low intelligence is still open. Republican pollster and word doctor Frank Luntz spins the results by contending that “It’s not an issue of dumbing it down; it’s an issue of cleaning it up.” But that interpretation only seems to be applicable for Republicans who score poorly. It’s also pure Luntzian meme surgery from the man that calls clear-cutting “healthy forests.”
These ten members of congress, who grace the bottom of the list, were rated as speaking at 7th to 8th grade levels (scoring between 7.95 and 8.62). Eight of them are 1st term Tea Partiers. Is it a coincidence that their work in office reflects the arrogance, selfishness, and resistance to compromise and teamwork that sometimes accompanies the immaturity of youth? When Fox News reported, they decided that that Obama’s low score (8.4) meant that he was a dunce. However, most of these members of congress scored even lower. So by Fox’s standard these members are even dumber, which places them squarely in the Fox audience demographic that studies have shown are more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources.
Full disclosure: This article scored a 10.35 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.
A few days ago President Obama delivered a speech in which he reminded his audience that everyone who succeeds in America has done so with the help of other Americans. We are all mutually dependent on the resources and civic projects that keep this country humming. The President made the point that even he was a beneficiary of the social and economic collective advancement that’s historically been a part of our nation’s framework. He noted that “Somebody gave me an education. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn’t. But somebody gave us a chance.” However, in the past few decades, something changed in our country. As Dylan Ratigan says in his book Greedy Bastards…
“[S]omething has gone wrong in America. For the last few decades, the rising tide has been lifting only the yachts. Almost anywhere you look, if you just open your eyes, you will see ordinary, hardworking people struggling. Not far away you’ll find a few greedy bastards making out like bandits. What defines greedy bastards? It’s not merely that they’re rich. [...] Greedy bastards have given up on creating value for others and instead get their money by rigging the game so that they can steal from the rest of us.”
That’s the heart, and what passes for the soul of Mitt Romney, who somehow extracted an interpretation of the President’s words that led to the absurd criticism that, “This is a president more intent on punishing people than he is on building our economy.” However, when even a cursory examination of the facts is made, it’s clear that it is Romney who is The Punisher. His policies, if enacted, will punish a broad spectrum of Americans from almost every possible constituent group. For instance…
Despite telling representatives of Planned Parenthood that he supported Roe v. Wade when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, he now says that he believes that life begins at conception and that the historic Supreme Court ruling should be overturned. And while the health care plan he implemented as governor included coverage for abortions and contraception, he is now fervently opposed to such coverage. He has also expressed his opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Act that Obama signed in order to assist women seeking equal pay and relief from workplace discrimination.
2. THE POOR:
Earlier this year Romney famously declared that he is “not concerned about the very poor [because] We have a safety net there.” Clearly Romney has never had to avail himself of the services provided to those reliant on the safety net, or he might be a little more concerned. He might also not have developed a tax plan that would further cut taxes for the wealthy while raising them for lower income citizens.
Once again, Romney let his true feeling be known when he gushed that he “like[s] being able to fire people.” That being the case, it is no wonder that he regards unions as impediments to his goals. He blames unions for many of the nation’s economic problems and promised a policy to forbid union preferences in federal contracting beginning on his inauguration day.
4. GAYS AND LESBIANS:
Romney is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the armed services. This is another position that conflicts his record in Massachusetts where in 1994 he campaigned for a senate seat saying that he would be even an stronger advocate of gay rights than Ted Kennedy.
5. AUTO COMPANIES/EMPLOYEES:
Romney considers Michigan, where his father was once governor, one of his many home states. Nevertheless, he was so against a stimulus package for the auto industry that he publicly stated his preference that they should be allowed to go bankrupt. The stimulus was provided by the Obama administration and today GM has retaken its position as the number one car manufacturer in the world. And that was achieved with no help from Romney who even traveled around the country giving speeches that disparaged the company’s products, particularly the Chevy Volt which now receives high praise from industry experts and consumers.
Romney has staked out an extremist position on immigration that will not endear him to Latinos. He has called Arizona’s SB1070, a law that nearly criminalizes being brown-skinned, “a model for the nation.” Romney opposes the DREAM Act that would establish residency for immigrants who came to the United States as children and then served in the military or completed college. But a Romney administration would expect these, and all immigrants, to self-deport.
If you are 65 years old, or ever expect to be, Romney is intent on making your golden years somewhat less shiny. He advocates raising the retirement age to eligible for Social Security benefits. He supports moving funds into private accounts that would fluctuate with the uncertainties of the stock market. And he has proposed tying increases to the Consumer Price Index rather than the Wage Index, which would significantly undercut the purchasing power of seniors dependent on a fixed income.
8. ANYONE WHO CARES ABOUT CIVIL LIBERTIES:
For anyone concerned about the rights granted by Supreme Court decisions, Romney carries a frighteningly extreme portfolio. He has said that would nominate judges like Roberts, Alito, and Scalia to the bench. But even more disturbing, he recently brought on Robert Bork as his new top legal adviser. Bork was the man behind the “Saturday Night Massacre” where two Justice Department leaders resigned rather than fire the Special Prosecutor investigating Watergate. It was Bork who stayed and carried out Nixon’s orders. Bork also once called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.”
9. RESIDENTS OF EARTH:
Three words: Drill baby drill. Romney is a staunch advocate of exploiting fossil fuels on land and at sea. He is a critic of off-shore oil bans and a supporter the KeystoneXL pipeline that risks contaminating ground water in order to enrich refineries who intend to ship the oil products overseas. Although he has said that he believes that global warming exists and the it may be caused by human activity, he is opposed to addressing the problem with regulations that he believes would impair economic growth. Because economic growth is more important than having a planet on which to grow.
Just ask Seamus, the poor Irish Setter who was forced to ride in a cage on the roof of the family station wagon while on a 600 mile road trip.
Mitt Romney has a resume and an agenda that promises pain for average Americans. He would increase the financial burdens of the poor, reduce the protection of agencies that monitor everything from Wall Street to toxins in foods. He respects only wealth and, consequently, has assembled a program that could be called Trickle-Down on Steroids. Yet he has the audacity to accuse President Obama of wanting to punish people simply because the President’s plan asks billionaires to pay a few percentage points more on their wildly extravagant income.
Romney thinks it’s punishment to return to the tax rates of the 90s when the economy was booming, but he can’t comprehend the punishment of millions of families losing their homes, thousands of students losing their grants, innumerable sick people unable to get necessary treatment, or communities across the nation being exploited by greedy corporations and politicians like Romney. In Romney’s world it is better to protect one American millionaire than a million Americans. It’s the code of the Greedy Bastards.
A new book from Media Matters was just released that chronicles the history of Fox News and explains how a small group of wealthy, politically connected conservative partisans conspired to build a pseudo-news network with the intent of advancing the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party. And that network, known for its drooling anti-liberalism, is scared spitless.
The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine, was written by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt (and others) of Media Matters. It begins by looking back at the early career of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and his role as a media consultant for Republican politicians, including former president Richard Nixon. From the start Ailes was a brash, creative proponent of the power of television to influence a mass audience. He guided the media-challenged Nixon through a treacherous new era of news and political PR, and his experiences formed the basis for what would become his life’s grand achievement: a “news” network devoted to a political party, its candidates, and its platform.
When Ailes partnered with international newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch to launch a new 24 hour cable news channel, he was given an unprecedented measure of control to shape the network’s business and ideology. The Fox Effect examines the underpinnings of the philosophy that Ailes brought to the venture. His earliest observations exhibit an appreciation for the tabloid-style sensationalism that would become a hallmark of Fox’s reporting. Ailes summed it up in an interview in 1988 as something he called his “orchestra pit theory” of politics:
“If you have two guys on stage and one guy says ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”
That’s the sort of thinking that produced Fox’s promotion of hollering town hall protesters during the health care debate and their focus on lurid but phony issues like death panels. It is a flavor of journalism that elevates melodrama over factual discourse.
The book exposes how Fox was more of a participant in the news than a reporter of it. Through interviews with Fox insiders and leaked internal communications, The Fox Effect documents the depths to which the network collaborated with political partisans to invent stories with the intent of manipulating public opinion. The authors reveal memos from the Washington managing editor of Fox News, Bill Sammon, directing anchors and reporters on how to present certain subjects. For instance, he ordered them never to use the term “public option” when referring to health insurance reform. Focus group testing by Fox pollster Frank Luntz had found that the phrase “government option” left a more negative impression, and they were instructed to use that instead.
There is a chapter on the Tea Party that describes how integral Fox was to its inception and development. The network literally branded the fledgling movement as FNC Tea Parties and dispatched its top anchors to host live broadcasts from rallies. The Fox Effect also details the extensive coverage devoted to the deceitfully edited videos that brought down ACORN. Fox was instrumental in promoting the story and stirring up a public backlash that resulted in congressional investigations and loss of funding. The book followed the story from Andrew Breitbart’s new and little known BigGovernment blog to Glenn Beck’s conspiracy factory to the wall-to-wall coverage it enjoyed on Fox’s primetime. This chapter is where the authors introduce what they call “The Six Steps” that Fox employs to create national controversies:
STEP 1: Conservative activists introduce the lie.
STEP 2: Fox News devotes massive coverage to the story.
STEP 3: Fox attacks other outlets for ignoring the controversy.
STEP 4: Mainstream outlets begin reporting on the story.
STEP 5: Media critics, pundits praise Fox News’s coverage.
STEP 6: The story falls apart once the damage has been done.
This is a pattern that has played out with varying degrees of success. Fox used this blueprint to engineer the career-ending slander of presidential adviser Van Jones and Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod. But the strategy was less effective when used against Attorney General Eric Holder and Planned Parenthood, although not for lack of effort.
These, and other examples of deliberate bias, illustrate why most neutral observers regard Fox News as the PR arm of the Republican Party. The Fox Effect makes a convincing case to affirm that view and even offers admissions to that effect by Fox insiders. It is a damning exposé of how a political operative and a right-wing billionaire built a propaganda machine thinly disguised as a news network. The research and documentation are extensive and compelling.
For that reason, Fox News has mounted an unprecedented attack on Media Matters in advance of the book’s release. [Note: Actually it's not so unprecedented. Fox set the precedent itself last year with a sustained campaign to do tangible harm by tacking an article to the top of the Fox Nation web site with a headline that read "Want to File an IRS Complaint Against Media Matters? Click Here..."] In the week prior to publication of The Fox Effect, Fox News broadcast no fewer than a dozen derogatory segments across all dayparts and on their most popular programs, including The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, Fox & Friends, etc. It was the sort of blanket coverage usually reserved for a natural disaster, a declaration of war, or a lewd TwitPic of a politician. The attacks never contained any substantive argument or even example of error on the part of Media Matters. However, they are brimming with the most nasty form of personal invective imaginable.
The basis for the Fox News broadcasts was a series of articles by the Daily Caller (TDC), the conservative web site of Tucker Carlson, who just happens to also be on the Fox News payroll. The gist of the story, as described by TDC, is that Media Matters is manipulating news organizations, coordinating messaging with the White House, and struggling to cope with the “volatile and erratic behavior” of Brock, whom TDC alleges is mentally ill. TDC never reveals from where they got their psychiatric credentials, nor when they had an opportunity to examine and diagnose Brock. Likewise, they never reveal where they got any of the other information for the allegations they make against Media Matters as every source is anonymous.
Media analysts have universally condemned TDC’s reporting. Howard Kurtz interviewed author Vince Coglianese on CNN’s Reliable Sources and assailed the absence of any evidence to corroborate the allegations of his anonymous sources. Coglianese could not even confirm that events alleged in the article ever occurred. He laughably argued that the absence of a denial from Brock was evidence of guilt, rather than a simple disinclination to raise the profile of a poorly written article. Jack Shafer wrote for Reuters that “the Daily Caller is attacking Media Matters with bad journalism and lame propaganda.”
Media Matters was created to document conservative media bias and work to implement reforms that would produce more balanced reporting. Yet, Fox is confused by the fact that Media Matters’ research is cited by progressive organizations and publishers. The grunt work of aggregating video and other reporting is appreciated by those who use Media Matters materials. Much of it is provided without any editorializing. The right has always been fearful of any entity that would simply record their disinformation, nonsense, and hostility, and then hold them accountable for it. But they have yet to criticize NewsBusters or their parent organization, the Media Research Center, despite the cozy relationship they have with Fox News. Brit Hume, the former managing editor of Fox News, however, was abundantly grateful:
Hume: I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent [Bozell] and the team at the Media Research Center [...] for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.
Joining in on the assault is the Fox Nation web site that is engaged in a relentless barrage of critical articles with disturbingly insulting and hyperbolic headlines. For instance:
Is Media Matters’ David Brock A ‘Dangerous’ Man?
Were Media Matters Donors Duped?
Inside Media Matters: Founder Believed to be Regularly Using Illegal Drugs, Including Cocaine.
But even those paled in comparison to what Fox News was posting on the screen graphics that accompanied their broadcasts:
MEDIA MATTERS’ MONEY: David Brock is an admitted drug user
THE MONEY BEHIND THE MACHINE: David Brock committed to a quiet room
A LIBERAL INFLUENCE: Brock spent time in a mental ward
Note that the subjects of the broadcasts were financial in nature. Fox was reporting on TDC’s discovery that Media Matters donors were largely progressive individuals and foundations (not exactly what one would call a scoop). However, Fox News appended assertions as to the mental stability of Brock, which had nothing to do with their topic. It was merely an opportunity for them to take swipes at a perceived enemy. And this mud-slinging occurred during what Fox regards as their “news” programming, not the evening hours that they designate as the opinion portion of their schedule.
In order to cement the impression that David Brock is a mental defective, unfit to lead any organization or to be given serious consideration, Fox News brought in their resident psycho analyst, “Dr” Keith Ablow. As a part of the Fox News Medical “A” Team, Ablow appeared on the air in a segment that painted Brock as seriously disturbed and even dangerous:
“If you are filled with self-loathing you will see demons on every street corner because you project that self-hatred. [...] He’s a dangerous man because having followers and waging war, as he says, or previously being a right-wing hitman, this isn’t accidental language. It’s about violence, destruction, and he feels destroyed in himself.”
This diagnosis was an invention by Ablow who has never examined Brock, or even met him. That in itself is a violation of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics, something Ablow does not need to concern himself with because last year he was compelled to separate himself from the APA due to ethical “differences.”
If Fox News wants to engage in “remote” psychiatry they ought to at least be fair and balanced about it. However they pointedly make no mention of the reported paranoia of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. No mention that he was cited as the reason that the NYPD provided police protection for the Fox headquarters at a cost of $500,000 a year to the people of New York. No mention of the obsessive fears described by Tim Dickinson in a Rolling Stone profile:
“Ailes is also deeply paranoid. Convinced that he has personally been targeted by Al Qaeda for assassination, he surrounds himself with an aggressive security detail and is licensed to carry a concealed handgun. [...] Murdoch installed Ailes in the corner office on Fox’s second floor at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. The location made Ailes queasy: It was close to the street, and he lived in fear that gay activists would try to attack him in retaliation over his hostility to gay rights. (In 1989, Ailes had broken up a protest of a Rudy Giuliani speech by gay activists, grabbing demonstrator by the throat and shoving him out the door.) Barricading himself behind a massive mahogany desk, Ailes insisted on having ‘bombproof glass’ installed in the windows – even going so far as to personally inspect samples of high-tech plexiglass, as though he were picking out new carpet.”
I really have to wonder if even the Fox News audience is so intellectually comatose that they wouldn’t recognize the feverish anxiety gushing from Fox in advance of the Media Matters book. A tree stump would notice that they are laying it on awfully thick. So the obvious question is what are they so afraid of? And the answer is that Fox News can no longer hide from their reputation as a dishonest purveyor of slanted propaganda and tabloid trash on behalf of a right-wing agenda and the political operatives who advance it and benefit from it.
The Fox Effect is a thoroughly documented investigation into the inner workings of both the organization and its principle managers and backers. It peels away the layers of the conservative cabal that has so effectively poisoned the public discourse on many significant issues. And like the fraudulent Wizard in the city of Oz, Fox wants us all to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (Roger Ailes), or to the curtain (Fox News), or the corporation that controls it all (News Corp). And to that end Fox has embarked on a massive smear campaign to destroy the credibility of the book, its authors, and the organization that produced it. But Media Matters has already succeeded. As noted in the book’s epilogue:
“Fox News will no longer be able to conduct its campaign under the false pretense that the network is a journalistic institution. There is heightened awareness in the progressive community and in the general public of the damage Fox causes.”
Every media organization has had to, at one time or another, discipline staff who crossed an ethical line. If a reporter loses his or her cool and becomes offensive in the course of their work, they must be held accountable to some set of professional standards. Ideally the standards would be a set of objective criteria that focused on verifiable breaches of honesty or civility. A credible news organization must never tolerate a reporter lying or engaging in personal attacks. I repeat, a “credible” news organization…
Unfortunately, there is a disturbing lack of oversight in this regard. Often offenders are excused without consequence or, conversely, punishment is meted out to an innocent party. For example, NPR terminated their relationship with a couple of executives who were victims of false allegations in a video produced by James O’Keefe, the criminally convicted, right-wing activist best known for deceptively edited videos.
This past week presented a revealing lesson in contrast as to how different media enterprises deal differently with anchors and other editorial personnel who fail the test of principles that ought to govern all journalists.
CNN was put to the test this week when Roland Martin posted a Tweet that appeared to advocate violence against gays. Martin pointed out that it was not meant seriously and wasn’t even directed at gays, but at the sport of soccer. Nevertheless, CNN acted quickly to suspend Martin indefinitely.
By contrast, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta delivered a commentary on Sunday berating women in the military for complaining that they get raped too much (Trotta did not define what an “acceptable” amount of rape is). The news that triggered this revolting commentary was a Pentagon report that rape and sexual assault had increased 64%, a statistic that Trotta cavalierly dismissed. She further asserted that servicewomen should “expect” to be raped because they work closely with men. Fox News has had no comment on this matter despite fierce criticism from women’s groups and veterans offended by the assertion that male soldiers are innately animals and female soldiers should quietly accept assault as a part of military life.
These two examples illustrate the differences between a news enterprise that attempts to act responsibly and one that disregards such restraints in order to forge ahead with a sensationalistic approach and to pander to the scandal-lust of their viewers. CNN has faced this dilemma in the past by meting out punishments for ethical infractions to Lou Dobbs, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr, Susan Roesgen, Peter Arnett, and Eason Jordan. MSNBC has done the same to Keith Olbermann, David Shuster, Mark Halperin, Markos Moulitsas, and Pat Buchanan. Some of these chastisements were warranted (Dobbs, Buchanan), and some were executions of petulant grudges (Markos), and CNN still inexplicably employs miscreants like Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch. So CNN and MSNBC should not necessarily be held up as models of morality. But at least there is some evidence of an internal criteria for ethical behavior of some sort.
Fox News, however, has yet to make any news staffer pay a price for professional indiscretions, despite the fact that things got so bad at Fox they had to distribute a memo asserting a “Zero Tolerance Policy” that warned of “letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.” The memo was issued after numerous, embarrassing on-air blunders by Fox reporters and producers. But rather than undergoing discipline, Fox News bent over backwards to reward reporters who behaved badly. In fact, while other networks were firing such violators, Fox seems to be on a mission to recruit them. For instance: Juan Williams, Don Imus, Doug McKelway, and Lou Dobbs were all put on the Fox payroll after having been terminated for cause at other networks. Even Glenn Beck who, while no longer hosting his own program, appears regularly with Bill O’Reilly and others.
Fox maintains a clubby environment for recalcitrant reporters, and there remains a full stable of them on the air. Here is a selection of some of the more obviously repulsive people that Fox News should have fired for their absence of morality and professionalism, but to date have not even had their wrists slapped. And make no mistake, the job security enjoyed by these weasels is not due to carelessness on the part of Fox News. Controversy, hostility, and rabid right-wing advocacy are the hallmarks of Fox’s business model. It’s how they cultivate and reward the loyalty of their audience. What other explanation could justify this:
Todd Starnes: Unsurprisingly, Fox News has smeared the Occupy Movement from its inception. They have disparaged them as everything from unfocused to unclean to un-American. But it took Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary on Fox Radio, to equate them to mass murderers by asking, “What should be done with the domestic terrorists who are occupying our cities and college campuses?” By comparing Occupiers to the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Starnes is engaging in rhetorical terrorism and insulting hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans.
Cody Willard: This Fox Business reporter brazenly exposed his bias when he attended a Tea Party rally and feverishly barked at the camera this call to arms against the U.S. government, “Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?”
Andrew Napolitano: The “Judge” is a notorious 9/11 Truther who believes that the attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job, orchestrated by agents of the United States government. That’s a position considered so crazy by Fox Newsers that it was instrumental in their campaign to get Van Jones fired from his post as a green jobs adviser to President Obama. But, in typical Foxian hypocrisy, it has no impact on the employment of Napolitano. [Note: The entire primetime schedule of the Fox Business Network, including Napolitano, Eric Bolling and David Asman, was recently canceled. But it was due to poor ratings, not content. And all remain active Fox News contributors.]
Bill Sammon: The Fox News Washington managing editor was recorded admitting to a friendly audience on a conservative cruise that he would go on air and “mischievously” cast Obama as a socialist even though he didn’t believe it himself. In other words, he lied to defame the President and rile up his gullible viewers. That would be cause for termination at most news networks, but probably earned Sammon a bonus at Fox.
Eric Bolling: Hoping to sustain Fox’s leadership in inappropriate Nazi references, Bolling accused President Obama of engaging in class warfare that was “forged in Marxist Germany.” And if that wasn’t asinine enough, he sided with Iran against the U.S. by accusing the American hikers who were held in an Iranian prison of being spies and said that Iran should have kept them.
Bill O’Reilly: Dr. George Tiller, a family physician in Kansas, was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist who may have been incited to violence by rhetoric like this from O’Reilly: “Now, we have bad news to report that Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted. Acquitted today of murdering babies.” O’Reilly regards the acquittal of a doctor for performing legal medical services “bad news,” and the services themselves “murder.” But he never took any responsibility for fanning the flames of violent incivility that led to the actual murder of Dr. Tiller.
Col. Ralph Peters (Ret): In a rant that argued that the United States should fight back against our enemies with the same tactics they use against us, Peters turned the media into military targets: “Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. And like Bolling, Peters also took the side of our foes by suggesting, without evidence, that a missing American soldier was a deserter and that “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” presumably by killing him.
Michael Scheuer: This former CIA analyst was concerned that the American people were not sufficiently afraid of future terrorist attacks. He regards that absence of fear as dangerous complacency. But he has a solution: “The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”
Roger Ailes: The CEO of Fox News proves that a fish stinks from its head. In response to NPR’s firing of Juan Willimas for bigoted remarks about Muslims, Ailes let loose a tirade wherein he viciously attacked the NPR executives saying that… “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.”
Liz Trotta: Ending up where we began, this abhorrent attempt at comedy simply could not be left off of this list. What started out as a verbal stumble became a call for assassination when Trotta said, “Now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, umm, Obama. Well, both if we could.”
It’s difficult to believe that anyone could retain a job in the media after making statements like those above. These were not mistakes or misunderstandings. They are not out of context. They were considered, deliberate expressions of opinion that represented the reporter’s views at the time. Yet all of these people are still employed and active at Fox News.
To be fair, there is an example of Fox News firing reporters who crossed a line that even Fox could not abide. Steve Wilson and Jane Akre investigated a story that detailed the health risks posed by the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a milk additive manufactured by chemical giant Monsanto. Fox objected to the story’s negative portrayal of a major advertiser and ordered the reporters to make modifications that they knew were false. When the reporters refused they were fired. In the subsequent litigation Fox argued in court that the network had a right to determine the content of their stories, and even to lie, and that employees who declined to comply could be terminated as insubordinate.
So while Fox News has no problem with their analysts advocating terrorism against Americans, they draw the line when it comes to suppressing their Constitutional right to lie. Fox has taken great care to set their priorities and to draw their ethical lines in sand that is always under the prevailing tide.
[Update] This week racist Pat Buchanan was sacked by MSNBC and radio schlock jocks John & Ken were suspended for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho”. But Liz Trotta, Eric Bolling, et al are still happily working at Fox.
Frank Luntz has been helping to distort the language of Republicans for decades. His specialty is developing dishonest phrases to replace accurate descriptions of social and political issues when the accurate descriptions produce negative impressions of conservatives and their unpopular agenda. And now…..
Luntz created the term “death tax” as a substitute for “estate tax,” reasoning that it would be easier to steer low-information voters away from a tax on dying than a tax on people who own estates. He also supplied the term “government-run” to replace “public option” during the health care debate after determining that focus groups responded less favorably to the label that implied falsely that government would get between you and your doctor.
It is common to observe Luntz’s fabrications getting adopted by conservative politicians and media. He is a frequent presence on Fox News and has been cited as their main source for right-leaning rhetoric. He serves the same purpose for political clients, and in that role he just spoke at the Republican Governors Association to deliver an ominous warning:
“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death. They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”
Luntz is right to be afraid. The Occupy movement has taken hold of the American Dream and reminded citizens that they have a right to be heard on important issues that impact their lives. It has revealed that the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of the goals of the Occupiers. It has reasserted the Constitutional and patriotic practice of free speech and the redress of grievances. These are principles that Luntz and his rightist patrons simply cannot abide.
Consequently, Luntz went to work to shape a new batch of linguistic contortions with which to befuddle naive FoxPods. The fruit of his fear is striking evidence of the success of the Occupy movement. Below are the specific suggestions Luntz gave to the GOP governors for what to say, and not to say, when talking about the Occupy movement. Pay attention, because these words and arguments are what will soon be cascading from the mouths of pundits and politicians on Fox News and other ring-wing media:
Out: Capitalism / In: Economic Freedom or Free Market
Luntz has concluded that, while Americans still prefer capitalism to socialism, any mention of it will stir thoughts of the misdeeds of Wall Street and bankers. Indeed, capitalism has suffered a PR setback in recent years and even ranks below progressivism in national polls. In a nod to the effectiveness of the Occupiers, Luntz now believes that to be seen as defending Wall Street is “a problem.” So the GOP can’t even admit that it favors capitalism for fear of losing support.
Out: Tax the Rich / In: Take from the Rich
Every poll shows that the country is in favor of making the wealthy pay their fair share. Even polls of millionaires reveal that they think their own taxes should be higher. So Luntz proposes a tweak in the hopes of producing language that sounds more sympathetic. Remove the “sym” and you have something more like the truth.
Out: Middle-Class / In: Hardworking Taxpayers
The right has obviously lost any appeal to all but the most fortunate in society. Luntz recognizes that there is little to gain by courting the middle-class so he has invented a new term that he believes people can relate to without actually defining it. The problem is that taxpayers that actually do work hard won’t be fooled by this rouse into thinking they are members of the One-Percent whose lives of leisure are supported by GOP policies.
Out: Jobs / In: Careers
This may be the most brazen deceit on the list. Luntz asked his audience of Republican governors whether they wanted a job or a career. After few hands were raised for the former, and many for the latter, Luntz summed up asking, “So why are we talking about jobs?” He should try asking his questions in the parking lot of a Target Store rather than to sitting governors and their staff. He might get a different response and may even learn why so many Americans are talking about jobs.
Out: Government Spending / In: Waste
This is a transparent effort to associate anything having to do with government as wasteful and unnecessary. I assume he means to disparage government spending on things like Social Security, interstate highways, veteran’s benefits, law enforcement, public schools, child services, water, air, and food safety, and national security, which is, by far, the largest chunk of the federal budget. By all means, let’s stop wasting money.
Out: Compromise / In: Cooperate
In today’s Republican party compromise is seen as weakness. Luntz asserts that it amounts to “selling out [your] principles.” He also admits that cooperation means the same thing, but doesn’t have the sting of compromise. The GOP may not have been using Luntz’s phrasing, but they have definitely been acting on the concept. This session of Congress has had more filibusters than any in history as Republicans refuse to compromise. The fact that they are more committed to the failure of this administration than they are to the success of the nation has been apparent to the public, which is why Luntz and the GOP have to resort to this sort of word play.
Out: Umm… / In: I get It
Here Luntz is just offering his version of a patronizing statement to mollify an angry electorate. Luntz told his audience of governors, “Here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ I get that you’re angry. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.” Unfortunately for Luntz & Co. the electorate knows that’s a lie. They know that Republicans don’t really get it and neither do they have any solutions.
Out: Entrepreneur / In: Job Creator
I think this must have something to do with sounding too French. Republicans have a long record of pretending to support entrepreneurship, but Luntz must have detected a derogatory connotation that wasn’t there previously. He must also have detected a problem with the word “innovator” because he also advises against its use. However, the GOP has already been using “job creator” as a substitute for “rich,” so they will be forced to find a new label for the one-percent. How about “the One-Percent?”
Out: Sacrifice / In: In This Together
The logic behind this twist is that is that the word “sacrifice” allegedly evokes a negative feeling that is shared by all. The problem with that logic is that the rich have not yet been asked to sacrifice anything. So, in reality, Luntz just wants to excise the word because it only applies to the subset of Americans who are already suffering and to whom the GOP are least likely to appeal. Raising the specter of sacrifice only dredges up harsh feeling amongst the middle-class…I mean hard working Americans…when juxtaposed with the rich…I mean job creators.
Out: Wall Street / In: Washington
This capsulizes the whole problem for Luntz and the right. He knows that Wall Street is correctly seen as the perpetrator of much of the country’s current ills. He knows that associating with Big Finance will sink the prospects of any politician. And he knows that success for the Upper-Crusters he represents depends on fingering another villain. Ironically, the villains he suggests are the very people and institutions that he represents in DC. If he is going to mount a “blame Washington” campaign it has to include the Republican denizens of the capital who, more than anyone else, handed over control of the economy to the Wall Street hoodlums who promptly shattered it.
With the collapse of the Tea Party, the financial elite are girding for a fight. A recently disclosed memo revealed a scheme to launch a propaganda campaign against the Occupy movement to be funded by $850,000 from the American Bankers Association. The lobbyists behind this effort include former staff members of House Speaker John Boehner. The ties between the Banksters and political power brokers are as strong as ever.
The inescapable truth that emerges from Luntz’s presentation is that the Occupy movement has been a phenomenal success. In a little over two months it has captured the imagination of a weary populace who now see a path to redemption. It has flipped the national conversation from one of a phony debt crisis to one focused squarely on economic inequities and the abuse of corporate power in the political arena. And now it has resulted in one of the most satisfying accomplishments of all: It has Fox News’ Word Doctor, and likely all of his clients and colleagues, scared to death. Hopefully they will be just scared enough to start doing the right thing for the 99% of Americans who have had to wait too long for the restoration of fairness and justice.
Fox News has been feverishly trying to dampen the viral growth of OWS ever since it sprouted in a park in Lower Manhattan about a month ago. Their overt hostility is in sharp contrast to the love affair they had with the early Tea Party. Now they are slandering decent and passionate protesters as communists, whining about class war, comparing them to hippies, accusing them of violence, and associating them with Nazis. All of these attacks have collapsed from the weight of their own dishonesty, and support continues to grow for the movement. But does that stop Fox News?
Of course not. Their determination to crush this populist uprising is fueled by a cabal of bitter elitists with deep pockets. Rupert Murdoch’s pals on Wall Street have no intention of sitting still while they are asked to be accountable for their chicanery. So yesterday Fox’s Megyn Kelly featured a story based on an article at FoxNews.com with a provocative headline: EXCLUSIVE: Ex-ACORN Operatives Behind the Scene of ‘Occupy’ Protests.
Run for the hills, Helga. A defunct organization of community organizers who helped low-income citizens to vote, find housing, get an education, and navigate the complexities of government agencies, has risen from the dead to take control of a leaderless rabble of park squatters demanding an end to financial and political corruption. It’s Armageddon!
The FoxNews.com article was based on is a collection of unattributed sources making unsubstantiated allegations about New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the group Fox says is the ACORN spinoff. Most of the claims are so far-fetched as to be beyond believability. For example, one source flatly claims as a matter of fact that “there is a still a national ACORN.” The Fox reporter never bothers to confirm the demonstrably false assertion, nor to challenge the source. And then there’s this…
“Sources said NYCC has hired about 100 former ACORN-affiliated staff members from other cities – paying some of them $100 a day – to attend and support Occupy Wall Street. Dozens of New York homeless people recruited from shelters are also being paid to support the protests, at the rate of $10 an hour, the sources said.”
Doing the math, that comes to $10,000 a day for the staffers and another $8,000 (approx) a day for the homeless recruits. The Wall Street Occupation has just entered its sixth week, but if we assume that these folks worked for just three of those weeks, that’s $270,000 (with weekends off).
Remember, ACORN is an organization that disbanded when their funding dried up as a result of the negative publicity generated by the thoroughly discredited smear campaign of video-dissembler James O’Keefe. Every investigation of ACORN subsequent to their dissolution failed to find any wrongdoing except on the part of O’Keefe, whose videos were deemed to have been deliberately and unethically deceptive.
Nevertheless, Fox is now reporting that the spawn of this bankrupt non-profit “raked in about $5,000″ via fundraising efforts by hired canvassers. And with that puny take they managed to pay over a quarter of a million dollars to 150 people. That sort of magical fiscal management hasn’t been seen since Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. And all of this was supposedly orchestrated in order to make a crowd of thousands look marginally bigger. This doesn’t even take into consideration any of NYCC’s other expenses like rent, utilities, office equipment, etc., despite a specific assertion in the article that the money raised was used “to buy supplies, pay staff and cover travel expenses.”
“Fox News is trying to discredit Occupy Wall Street. New York Communities for Change is a new organization that fights for low- and moderate-income families. We don’t pay protesters and any monies raised by NYCC’s canvass are used in support of our ongoing issue campaigns. Period.
“The reality is that Occupy Wall Street is an organic movement of the 99% outraged at the ability of the 1% to corrupt America’s political and financial systems for personal gain while middle class families lose their jobs, their homes, and see their economic future devastated. We call on Fox News to stop its unseemly attacks and to respect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that our nation needs a more equitable distribution of wealth.”
The Fox News article’s author, Jana Winter, claims to have interviewed insiders with specific knowledge of private details. Winter cites her interview subjects twenty times in the article but only once puts a name to a comment. Her negligence to identify anyone even includes a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers and a Fox News producer – two people who presumably are not averse to attribution.
The one identified source is Harrison Schultz, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman, whom Winter quotes as saying that “he knew nothing about NYCC’s involvement in the Occupy movement. ‘Haven’t seen them, couldn’t tell you,’ he said.” So the only on-the-record quote in the whole article was an unambiguous denial of any OWS coordination with NYCC. That’s what Fox News considers an “exclusive” expose of ACORN’s clandestine domination of the movement.
For the past few weeks Fox News and the broader right-wing media has relentlessly hammered at OWS. They have tried in vain to drive down support for the movement by associating it with a different villain on an almost daily basis. Bill O’Reilly and his guest, Glenn Beck, discussed how George Soros was funding the protesters and their newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal. In fact, there is no verifiable tie to Soros and the newspaper was produced by notorious pranksters, The Yes Men, and funded by donations. Glenn Beck took pleasure in a report that former KKK leader David Duke had “endorsed” OWS. What Beck failed to mention is that Duke, a pathological self-promoter, had also endorsed the Tea Party. But Andrew Breitbart took the top dishonors by speculating that OWS might be affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Despite this barrage of hogwash, the Occupy movement continues to gain popularity. A CBS/New York Times poll shows that 43% of the country agree with the Occupiers. An Associated Press poll shows that 37% of Americans view the protesters favorably. That compares to only 28% who have a favorable view of the Tea Party. Even more significant is the support expressed for the movement’s economic justice agenda, particularly raising taxes on the wealthy. A Bloomberg poll shows overwhelming support by 68% of the American people, including a majority of both independents and Republicans. And poll after poll affirms those results.
Is it any wonder then that Fox News is so frantically flinging fistfuls of mud in the hopes that something will stick? And since the usual name-calling they employ (socialists, thugs, deviants) has failed to make a mark, they are pulling out oldies like ACORN. Even if the association with ACORN were true, what would be the harm? We know now that ACORN was fully exonerated, while their critics were repudiated. There is certainly no shame in being associated with an organization that fought for decades on behalf of the disenfranchised members of our society.
This is a desperation move on the part of Fox News that reveals the weakness of their position. If this is the best that Fox can come up with, expect the Occupy movement to continue gaining strength. But also expect Fox to escalate their attacks into even more bizarre territory. Before long they will find a way to associate the Occupiers with an underground civilization of Molemen seeking to overthrow the surface-dwellers. Occupy Overground!
The last time Andrew Breitbart got any significant notice in the media was when he publicized the Twitter sexting of former congressman Anthony Weiner. It was a particularly repulsive bit of gossipy sensationalism that furthered no public interest, but ruined a man’s career (and possibly his family), just to satisfy Breitbart’s craving for attention and his obsession with destroying what he calls “the institutional left.”
That was four months ago and Breitbart must be getting antsy about having been ignored by the press ever since. Now, on his BigGoverment web site, he has published an article asking his readers to comb through thousands of emails that he says are from OccupyWallStreet organizers. He claims to have acquired them from Thomas Ryan, a “private cyber security researcher.” Breitbart provides links to download these emails so that his minions can scour them for evidence of “links to socialist, anarchist, and possibly even jihadist organizations.”
It’s not bad enough that right-wing media have attempted to portray the Occupy Movement as dirty hippies, lazy freeloaders, ignorant dupes, leftist traitors, godless heathens, diabolical Marxists, violent revolutionaries, and White House plants, Breitbart is adding Al-Qaeda terrorists to this list. If it wasn’t so dangerously provocative it would be moderately humorous. But Breitbart’s accusations are irresponsible and his activities may be illegal. The first paragraph of the story says…
Breitbart: “In keeping with the new media notion of crowdsourcing–enthusiastically embraced by the mainstream media when trawling through Sarah Palin’s emails–Big Government will be providing readers later today with links to a document drop consisting of thousands of emails.”
The correlation Breitbart draws between these emails and those of Sarah Palin is entirely inapplicable. Palin’s emails as governor of Alaska were released through a lawful process that requires communications by government officials to be available to the public. Both the state of Alaska and Palin’s attorneys had an opportunity to examine the emails for any privacy concerns and neither expressed any objection to their release.
Breitbart, however, is publishing emails that were expressly created by individuals for their personal use. They were private communications amongst people who did not grant their publication and were not advised of it. The emails were literally stolen by a hacker who admits that he gained access to them through deception and misrepresentation (social engineering). And Breitbart is now complicit in the crime by publishing the ill-gotten goods with full knowledge of their origins.
[Update:Gawker has more on Thomas Ryan and his "Black Cell" campaign to infiltrate and discredit the movement. Ryan's activities include forwarding emails to the FBI, the NYPD, and companies targeted for protests.]
Anyone familiar with Breitbart’s Legacy of Sleaze will not be surprised by this latest atrocity. He previously was best known for unfairly smearing ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, and others, with videos that were deliberately edited to produce a false and negative impression.
It should be noted that, thus far, none of the emails that Breitbart or his lackeys have reviewed contain anything remotely embarrassing. That, however, hasn’t stopped him from lifting words like “destabalization” and “unrest” out of context to suggest something more devious than the public protesting that is protected by the Constitution. Breitbart will surely employ such tactics to demonize the movement, just as he did with his attacks on ACORN, etc. It’s hard-coded in his deviant nature.
Even if there are some unsavory comments sprinkled amongst the thousands of emails, they could not plausibly be attributed to the Occupy Movement as a whole because the movement has no leader or authoritative spokesperson. It would just be one person’s opinion. The possibility that someone in a group of passionate dissidents wrote something offensive is not inconceivable. But it is also not official doctrine and cannot honestly be represented as such. The key word there being “honestly.” If Breitbart finds something controversial he will no doubt try to tarnish the movement with the indiscreet remarks of a single, marginally associated individual.
In the telling of this story it must not be forgotten that the emails being reviewed by Breitbart & Co. were obtained in manner that is at least immoral. And this isn’t the only example of such despicable, and possibly unlawful, behavior on the part of right-wing activists.
Patrick Howley, an assistant editor for the uber-conservative American Spectator magazine, admitted to infiltrating OccupyDC for the purpose of undermining it. He then attempted to lead a group of protesters into storming the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The protesters, being much smarter than Howley, did not play along. Howley stormed the museum alone and was pepper-sprayed by security.
Mark Williams, former spokesman for Tea Party Express, told his radio listeners that he was planning to sabotage union rallies with the intention of making them look “greedy and goonish.” And he beseeched his listeners to do the same. Williams was the one-time spokesperson for the Tea Party Express, but was dismissed for publishing a virulently racist article on his blog.
Mike Vanderboegh, a militiaman from Alabama, encouraged his followers to break the windows of Democratic offices with rocks and baseball bats. More recently Vanderboegh published a Photoshopped picture of Attorney General Eric Holder in a Nazi uniform.
Rush Limbaugh delivered a radio sermon in which he called for riots at the Democratic National Convention. The rant was titled “Screw the World! Riot in Denver!” He was specific in describing his objective as “burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that.”
This illustrates just how afraid the right is of the 99% of Americans who are waking up to the injustice and corruption of the 1%. They are increasingly fearful that their free ride is over. When people like Rush Limbaugh call the Wall Street protesters “human debris;” when Glenn Beck asserts that they “will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you;” it is all too clear that they have lost control of their senses. They are so deranged by fear that there is no limit to the absurdity of their claims and actions.
It also illustrates the sort of desperation that leaves the likes of Breitbart clinging to the hope that he can find damning rhetoric that he can misrepresent in emails that were illicitly acquired. And it isn’t going to end any time soon. This is something that progressives and occupiers are going to have to be aware of as the struggle proceeds. Vigilance of the conservative whack jobs and their media accomplices must be an ongoing focus of the campaign for economic justice.
In the fiercely competitive world of cable news, the players have been jockeying for position as they battle for viewers and advertisers. Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, each with their own models of programming, seek to gain scale and influence.
Fox News, we know, has established its place as the leader in right-wing advocacy and Republican PR. MSNBC, while not a full-fledged counter to Fox, has allotted a fair portion of its programming to more liberally leaning fare. But CNN, the innovator and one-time leader in cable news, has wavered between those poles emerging as somewhat of a journalistic mutant – neither left nor right nor neutral.
The past year, however, CNN has been attempting to fashion a more recognizable persona. The shift coincides with the promotion of Ken Jautz, formerly the president of CNN’s sister network, HLN. At HLN Jautz succeeded in raising both ratings and revenue by turning the channel into a trashy TV tabloid reliant on celebrity gossip and characters like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck (yes, Jautz gave Beck his first job on television).
Now presiding over CNN, Jautz has brought his brash and distinctively commercial style to the network that once aspired to be a model of journalistic integrity. He is employing the same sensationalist philosophy at CNN that brought him success at HLN, along with a decidedly conservative bent. In an interview he gave after his promotion was announced Jautz delivered a tribute to Fox News and a preview of what to expect from his tenure saying that he does not believe that “facts-only” programming will work. True to his word he has endeavored to give CNN a shiny Fox-like hue and assembled a team that shares his aversion to facts.
Here are some examples of the lowlights of the Jautz era at CNN:
1) First and foremost, Jautz brought Glenn Beck into the CNN family saying that “Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial…not confrontational.” That sort of delusional analysis ought to have been a red flag that disqualified Jautz from running a news network.
2) Erick Erickson, the RedState blogger who once called Supreme Court Justice David Souter a Goat-f**king child molester, became a CNN political commentator. Since his hiring he has cheered the S&P’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating and agreed with Rick Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.
3) CNN signed Dana Loesch, the editor of Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism, to be a contributor. Loesch has alleged that President Obama “sided with terrorists,” and she embraced the overt bigotry of notorious Islamaphobe Pamela Geller. Breitbart, of course is famous for promoting deceptively edited videos that smeared ACORN, NPR, Shirley Sherrod and even CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau. Loesch was hired by CNN after these events were widely known.
4) Jautz brought Erin Burnett over from CNBC. In her debut she broadcast a story that portrayed the protesters on Wall Street as unfocused neo-hippies that didn’t understand the issues they were protesting. Burnett would have fit in well on the curvy couch of Fox & Friends where they routinely disparage the movement without ever addressing the substance of it.
5) CNN had the distinction of being the only network to air Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address. Even Fox didn’t think it was worthy of live coverage. The result is that CNN had two opposing viewpoints to the President’s address, one from the GOP and one from the Tea Party which, of course, is just an affiliate of the GOP. We’re still waiting for CNN to air a response from the Progressive Caucus or MoveOn.org.
6) Another new CNN political analyst is Will Cain, who CNN acquired from the ultra-conservative National Review. And if that credential isn’t far enough out in right field, Cain just announced that he is joining Glenn Beck’s web site, The Blaze.
7) CNN locked arms with the Tea Party to co-host a Republican presidential primary debate. By choosing Tea Party Express as their partner they embraced a dubious organization that was booted out of the Tea Party Federation due to the racist commentaries of a spokesman. It was also revealed that most of the funds raised from donations wound up in the coffers of Russo, Marsh, the Republican PR firm that founded Tea Party Express.
8) Former Fox News anchor and Bill O’Reilly fill-in, E.D. Hill, is now a CNN contributor. Hill was dumped by Fox after a segment that showed President Obama giving the First Lady a friendly fist bump and Hill called it a “terrorist fist jab.”
So CNN is now employing Fox News rejects, Andrew Breitbart lieutenants, and Glenn Beck associates. They’ve entered into covenants with unscrupulous Tea Partyers. On the flip side, former CNN reporters Ed Henry and John Roberts are now comfortably ensconced at Fox News. The lines between CNN and Fox News are blurring to the point where the networks are becoming indistinguishable. And most of this occurred since Ken Jautz assumed the helm of CNN.
If there is one thing that American media doesn’t need, it’s another Fox News. The first one is already doing a stellar job of misinforming the public and advancing the agenda of the Republican Party. What’s more, emulating Fox has done nothing for CNN’s ratings. Why should it? Viewers who are in the market for dumbed-down histrionics, Democrat bashing, and a steady diet of right-wing falsehoods, already have a proven provider. Fox’s audience has shown that they are not the least bit interested in looking for the remote that slipped under the sofa years ago. They don’t even change the channel when their heroes are just a click down the dial.
Consequently, if CNN is gaining nothing from reshaping their editorial slant to mirror Fox, the only conclusion is that they are deliberately making a hard right turn because that is the direction they want to go. But this path has only resulted in their dropping to third place behind Fox and MSNBC. If CNN ever hopes to regain some of the luster of their glory days, they will need to differentiate themselves from Fox. They might want to take a stab at journalism. That would be novel in these days of advocacy tabloidism.
America’s Republican/Tea Party contingent, who are defined by their dogmatic devotion to lower taxes as a panacea for everything, have finally found a sector of society that they can comfortably saddle with a higher tax burden: The Poor.
That’s right. These anti-tax zealots have concluded that fairness cannot be achieved in the country’s tax code as long as there are disadvantaged freeloaders who are allegedly not paying into the system. While they fight tooth and nail to protect wealthy individuals and corporations from contributing even modest amounts to the nation’s recovery, the rightist brigade is marching lock-step in favor of soaking the poor in order to heal the malaise on Wall Street and the misery of long-suffering bankers. Their battle cry goes something like this: “Half of the Country Doesn’t Pay Any Taxes At All.” Fox News has been pushing that theme for quite a while. For the past two years they headlined it on Fox Nation right at tax time.
This movement is not some scruffy assemblage of disorganized trust-funders seeking to upgrade their yachts. It is a coordinated campaign that has pulled together high profile proponents from politics and the press. Here is a sampling of the breadth and unity of the movement and the message:
Rick Perry (R-TX): We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.
Michele Bachmann (R-MN): A system in which 47% of Americans don’t pay any tax is ruinous for a democracy.
Sarah Palin (R-AK): The problem is more than 40% pay no income taxes at all.
Jim DeMint (R-SC): Over half of Americans pay no federal income tax.
Mitch McConnell (R-KY): In fact, about half of Americans don’t pay any income taxes at all.
John Boehner (R-OH): Fifty-one percent — that is, a majority of American households — paid no income tax in 2009. Zero. Zip. Nada.
Eric Cantor (R-MD): We also have a situation in this country where you’re nearing 50 percent of people who don’t even pay income taxes.
Alan West (R-FL): Currently we have some 40-45% of Americans who are not paying any taxes.
We’re not through yet.
Donald Trump (R-HisOwnEgo): You do have a problem because half of the people don’t pay any tax.
Bill O’Reilly (Fox News): 50 percent of Americans don’t pay any federal income tax now.
Stuart Varney (Fox News): About half the people who work in America, half the households, actually, pay any federal income tax at all.
Dave Briggs (Fox News): [A]lmost half of this country pays no income tax whatsoever.
Gretchen Carlson (Fox News): But what does that mean when you factor in that 50 percent of the nation doesn’t even pay federal income tax? Is that fair?
[Idiot Award Winner]Steve Doocy (Fox News): With 47% of Americans not paying taxes – 47% – should those who don’t pay be allowed to vote?
Sean Hannity (Fox News): 50 percent of Americans no longer pay taxes.
Neil Cavuto (Fox News): I’ve discovered nearly half of this country’s households don’t pay any taxes at all.
Oh yes, there’s more.
Dave Ramsey (Fox News): This idea that 42% of Americans don’t pay anything…that’s just morally wrong.
Brian Kilmeade (Fox News): Fifty-one percent of the country isn’t paying any taxes at all.
Eric Bolling (Fox News): 43 percent of households don’t pay any federal tax.
Glenn Beck (Right-Wing Radio): There was like 48 percent say they pay their right amount of taxes and 49 percent don’t pay any tax.
Rush Limbaugh (Right-Wing Radio): Meanwhile, 45% of Americans pay nothing.
Gary Bauer (Right-Wing Evangelist): But the reality is that nearly half of Americans don’t pay any income tax.
Rick Warren (Right-Wing Evangelist): HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero.
Ted Nugent (Right-Wing Douchebag): This, of course, will not apply to those 50 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes.
Is there anyone who could seriously argue that this is not a coordinated effort aimed at demonizing low-income and working class citizens? The conformity and ubiquity of the identical messaging from such a broad spectrum of players is audacious and disturbing. And what’s worse, it is deliberately misleading and/or false.
First of all, claims that half the population pay no taxes at all are factually wrong. (See the chart at the left from the Wall Street Journal). There are about 46% who do not pay federal income taxes, but most of them do pay many other taxes including Social Security, state and local, sales, property, gas, etc. Secondly, it should come as no surprise that those with little or no tax liability have little or no income. The majority of this group is comprised of senior citizens, students, the disabled, and the unemployed. Those are the folks that the right wants to tap for new revenue rather than the rich who they have taken to calling “job creators” despite the fact that they haven’t created any jobs since they got the Bush tax cuts a decade ago.
To put this into perspective, federal income taxes account for just 20% of all taxes. When you include all the other sources of tax revenue, people making $20,000 a year pay approximately the same effective tax rate as people making $500,000, give or take 5 percent. However, those earning a half-million have seen their rate decline almost 50% since 1980, while the rate for the 20K earners barely budged.
What’s more, corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenue dropped from 27.3% in 1955, to 8.9% in 2010. During that same time period individual income/payrolls as a percentage of federal revenue skyrocketed from 58% to 81.5%. Thus the burden of paying for our government shifted broadly from corporations to ordinary people (notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people). These facts prove that the whole faux controversy over the tax liability of low income Americans is, in technical terms, a crazy zombie lie.
Also worthy of note is that one of the main reasons that many Americans owe no federal income tax is due to the earned-income tax credit that was introduced by Republican President Gerald Ford and expanded by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And now the GOP is threatening to impose a tax hike on working people by opposing the extension of President Obama’s Payroll Tax reduction. This relief was passed as a temporary measure and is set to expire at the end of this year. Obama has proposed extending it for another year, but House Republicans are balking, saying that “not all tax relief is created equal” (Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX), and that tax reductions, “no matter how well-intended,” will push the deficit higher (Rep. David Camp, R-MI). Camp is a member of the deficit reduction seeking Super Committee. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), says the legislator “has never believed that this type of temporary tax relief is the best way to grow the economy.”
Really? Is this the same Eric Cantor who fought so fiercely for the temporary tax relief produced by Bush’s tax cuts for the rich? Cantor, and the rest of the Tea-publicans, are putting their deficit cutting necks on the line to raise the 120 billion dollars that would be restored to the treasury by letting the Payroll tax relief expire, but they will take the fight to Hell and back before considering the recovery of 800 billion dollars from the expiration of Bush’s gift to taxpayers earning more $250,000 a year. Apparently Republicans are opposed to temporary tax relief when it benefits the middle and working classes, but they are wildly in favor of it when it benefits the wealthy.
How can the GOP get away with portraying themselves as tax-cutters while advancing an agenda that would increase taxes for most Americans who happen not to be rich? How can the Tea Party assert through their acronym that they have been “Taxed Enough Already” when they view seniors, and other low-income Americans as not taxed enough? And when will the media expose this brazen hypocrisy?
Last week’s tragedy in Norway has left the world stunned. The magnitude of the bloodbath is difficult to comprehend. As news of the massacre began to trickle out, speculation was rampant as to the perpetrator and the motive.
Not surprisingly, much of the early accounts falsely alleged an Al Qaeda connection. However, as facts started to infuse the reporting, it became clear that the suspect, Anders Breivik was an extremist, fundamentalist Christian, with harshly bigoted views toward Muslims, immigrants, and leftists. His manifesto resembled the ravings of Glenn Beck with talk of cultural Marxism and Islamic colonization. Yet even after Breivik’s motives were disclosed, the right-wing media has engaged in brazen finger-pointing and insensitivity toward the victims and other innocent parties. For instance…
1) A writer on Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace website set out to whitewash Breivik’s right-wing Christianity: “This Norwegian terrorist was not a Christian or a conservative. He acted contrary to the teachings of the Bible and conservatives from Burke to Madison. He was instead a jihadist, blinded by an ideology who resorted to violence…”
While Breitbart’s crew is anxious to disassociate mainstream Christians from this atrocity, rightists in America rarely offer that distinction to Muslims who regard terrorists like Bin Laden as apostates and not representative of their faith.
2) On the other hand, CNN’s Erick Erickson unapologetically went after Muslims anyway: “The fact of the matter is violence and Islam may not be very common among American Muslims [sic], but internationally it is extremely common and can fairly well be considered mainstream within much of Islam.”
Remember, this was after Erickson learned that there was no Islamic connection to the massacre. It was also after he had accused Muslim’s of the crime before Breivik was captured.
3) A writer at RedState went off a cognitive cliff to claim that “We live in a world where we are perfectly happy to abort millions of children and then DEMAND to know WHY Anders Behring Breivik became the human sarcoma that he truly is.”
Never mind the fact that we already know that Breivik’s assault was spurred by his hatred for multiculturalism, the RedStaters, like all wingnuts, are determined to find a way to lay blame on any handy tenet of progressivism. Remember Pat Robertson blaming Hurricane Katrina on the gays?
4) Mark Steyn of the National Review is stumped as to why there have been allegations of Islamophobia: “So, if a blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavian kills dozens of other blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavians, that’s now an ‘Islamophobic’ mass murder?”
It is if he knew that Breivik explicitly targeted people associated with Norway’s Labour Party, whom he blamed for promoting multiculturalism.
5) Brian Kilmeade on Fox News queried his guest: “Are you surprised somewhat that western newspapers, in this case The New York Times seem to be jumping on the fact — they’re trying to equate Christian, what they say are Christian extremists, with Muslim extremists?”
Kilmeade utterly failed to grasp the irony that just hours before he and his network were baselessly accusing Muslims of committing the mass murder. Now he’s worried about the reputation of Christians despite the fact that the shooter was a Christian.
6) Professional Islamophobe, Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs found a unique way to blame Muslims even after she knew they were not involved “Anders Behring Breivik is responsible for his actions. If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists. If anything incited him to violence, it was the Euro-Med policy.
So according to Gellar, Muslims are responsible for violence that they cause themselves, as well as for violence caused by others who hate them.
7) After first asserting that the perpetrators were likely to have been Muslim terrorists, John Hinderaker of the PowerLine blog dug in saying “Was that wrong? Not at all. Any time mass murder attacks take place, it is not just likely but highly probable that they are the work of Muslim jihadists..”
This conveniently leaves open the opportunity to blame every future act of terrorism on Muslims, whether they are responsible or not.
8) As Norway mourns, it’s clear that the right-wing media has been boiling over with surreal speculation that is both derisive and bizarre. And you can’t allude to bizarre derision without acknowledging Glenn Beck, whose unconscionable remarks exceed all the other by disparaging the actual teenage victims even before they have been laid to rest.
“As the thing started to unfold, and then there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth, or whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics?”
Well, for one there is Glenn Beck’s own 912 Project that sponsors the “Tampa Liberty School,” a Tea Party-themed getaway for schoolchildren ages 8-12. But that doesn’t excuse Beck’s inference that the slaughtered camp-goers were akin to Hitler’s youth brigades.
All of these examples of ignorant bigotry took place AFTER it was known that the gunman was not Muslim, but an extremist Christian and far right activist. Not surprisingly, the conservative press was just as blindly prejudiced in their initial reactions to the breaking news.
CNN’s Erick Erickson Tweeted: “Terrorist bombing in Oslo. I bet you it was not Lutherans who did it.” Another writer at Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace web site said: “Norway has a big Muslim problem. Before long we should know if Norway’s problem has just blown up in its face.” The author failed to provide a definition of what constitutes a “Muslim problem,” but it sounds disturbingly similar to what was once referred to as the “negro problem” in many of America’s southern states. Apparently he considers any presence of Muslims to be a problem. Filling in for Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham announced “two deadly terror attacks in Norway, in what appears to be the work, once again, of Muslim extremists.” Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post said that “there is a specific jihadist connection here.” Thomas Jocelyn of the Weekly Standard said that “in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra.”
The despicably bigoted opinions expressed by the prominent, establishment commentators above reveal a dark and disturbing side of American conservatism. Their views percolate throughout the rightosphere and infect the broader community of conservatives. That endorsement of hate results in even more extreme views, like those expressed by this member of the Maine Tea Party: Man of the YEAR 2011 – Anders Behring Breivik!!!
If cooler (saner) minds don’t rise to moderate this overt hostility, the potential for more of this violence will persist, and there is no reason why it would not occur here in the United States. In fact, right-wing extremists have already demonstrated their capacity to do harm, as the survivors of Dr. Tiller, or the targets of Byron Williams will inform you. And lest we not forget Timothy McVeigh’s attack on a government that his militia-bred philosophy viewed as too liberal.
This is a compilation of several previous News Corpse articles that I put together for Alternet.com.
In the untamed jungle that is cable news, there is a ferocious and predatory beast stalking the terrain. Anyone who has encountered Fox News in the wild can attest to the spine-chilling threat imposed by the pseudo-news network. And now Fox News has the scent of new game.
The Fox News pack is on the prowl for the media watchdog group, Media Matters, against whom they have recently initiated a sustained assault. In the past two weeks they have featured over 30 stories with the express purpose of challenging the group’s right to exist. Fox has assigned network stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly, Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer, James Rosen, Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, and Bernie Goldberg, to the mission. This is an unprecedented, broadly distributed attack by a major media enterprise against a non-profit group they regard as an adversary.
This latest batch of complaints stem from comments made last March by Media Matters founder, David Brock. He was quoted in Politico as saying that the organization was shifting its focus toward Fox News to one of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage.” Giving Fox the benefit of doubt, one might conclude that it’s only fair that Fox defend itself from such an overt declaration of war. The only thing that might refute that perspective is – reality.
If this is war, it is one wherein Fox is the aggressor. Fox News initiated their attacks long ago with aggressive and false assertions that cast Media Matters as hacks, anti-American, violent, and communist. They alleged that George Soros was pulling their strings long before Soros ever made any contributions the group. Fox stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck engaged in rhetoric so hostile that it inspired actual physical attacks against Media Matters and their progressive allies. This video (courtesy of Media Matters) was posted two years ago and illustrates the hostility harbored across the Fox platform long before Brock’s recent comments:
The new and highly coordinated offensive by Fox asserts that Media Matters has violated the terms of their tax-exempt status by setting their sights on Fox. They quote from the IRS rules governing non-profits that state that…
“…501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
On the basis of that criteria, Fox News argues that Media Matters is in violation and should have their tax-exempt status revoked. However, in order for that to be valid, Fox would have to admit that they are a political operation so that attacks on Fox News would qualify as opposition to political campaigns and/or candidates. Without that stipulation there is no violation on the part of Media Matters. So Fox is, in effect, conceding their role as a Republican mouthpiece. Shocking, I know.
With calls mounting for Anthony Weiner to resign, it would be prudent to take a look back at the public record of his accuser. It is Andrew Breitbart whose behavior is most repulsive and destructive. He is a liar and a hypocrite and causes far more harm than a horny congressman who never actually engaged in any sexual misconduct. If anyone should resign and skulk away in shame, it’s Breitbart.
Public apologies are often the source of captivating and prurient entertainment. There seems to be a genetic compulsion in the human DNA to observe our heroes, celebrities, and, of course, adversaries, fall from grace and beg forgiveness. This week we saw what may be Rep. Anthony Weiner’s curtain call but, like any good melodrama, he was upstaged by an ambitious and vainglorious rival, Andrew Breitbart.
After commandeering the podium at Weiner’s press conference, Breitbart declared “I’m here for some vindication.” He portrayed himself as a media-contrived victim of character assassination and challenged the reporters in the room substantiate their alleged assaults on his reputation.
“The media says ‘Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies.’ Give me one example of a provable lie. One. One. Journalists? One. Put your reputation on the line here.”
For some reason, no one in the room responded. It’s almost as if the press were clueless stenographers, unfamiliar with Breitbart’s past, and were incapable of providing a substantive rebuttal.
This is actually fairly typical of the modern press corps. Another example occurred when the New York Times asked Breitbart about the Weiner affair on Saturday and he attempted to strike a non-partisan tone saying that…
“I am as offended when John Ensign acts like an idiot, when Chris Lee acts like an idiot.”
Really? What the Times failed to note was that Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog did not publish a single story about the travails of either Ensign or Lee. Not one single story. How offended was he? Compare that to his obsession with Weiner that produced 17 separate stories and consumed every single headline (except for the plug for his lame book), and that was four full days after the story broke.
For those who are interested, including members of the press who were struck dumb at the press conference, here is a brief compilation of Breitbart’s reportorial resume, replete with dishonesty and deliberate disinformation. Feel free to offer these in response to Breitbart’s future challenges. We will await his profuse and heartfelt apologies.
1) ACORN: Breibart’s web site was the central agency for disseminating videos that were later shown to have been heavily edited in order to convey a fictional scenario that smeared a social service organization that had for years been assisting low income citizens with financial advice and voter registration. Every investigation of the affair exonerated ACORN and affirmed the deception of the videos. Breitbart’s henchman, James O’Keefe, is currently being sued by former ACORN employee, Juan Carlos Vera.
2) Shirley Sherrod: In this episode, Breitbart was responsible for slandering a USDA employee as a racist. Lately he has been defending himself by saying that he had included the “redemptive arc” of her story that revealed her innocence. But let’s not forget how he originally portrayed the situation:
“In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions. [...] In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer.”
That is a pretty clear accusation of discriminatory behavior on the part of a federal employee. And it is also a lie. Sherrod did not discriminate against the farmer, as Breitbart later acknowledged, and the story she told was of an incident that occurred 20 years before she held a federal post. Nevertheless, Breitbart’s reaction at the time was another demonstration of his paranoid Narcissism as he whined, “As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difficult for me as well.” Poor guy. Sherrod is currently suing Breitbart.
3) Clinton Plotting a Tea Party Attack: Breitbart published a story with no evidence, about an alleged conspiracy that never came to pass:
“Big Government has learned that Clintonistas are plotting a ‘push/pull’ strategy. They plan to identify 7-8 national figures active in the tea party movement and engage in deep opposition research on them. If possible, they will identify one or two they can perhaps ‘turn’, either with money or threats, to create a mole in the movement. The others will be subjected to a full-on smear campaign.”
Also never coming to pass…a retraction. This story bubbled up through the media like much of Breitbart’s fiction, eventually getting coverage from Fox Nation.
4) Jason Mattera’s Punking of Grayson and Franken: Jason Mattera, who later became editor of Human Events, was employed to run a couple of “ambush” interviews that were posted on Breitbart’s web site. One interview targeted Rep. Alan Grayson and castigated him for his support of bill that funded a program to prevent child abuse. The other interview was directed at Sen Al Franken who was attacked for supporting student health and school safety. In both cases Mattera twisted the purpose of the legislation into something unrecognizable and patently false. Expect more of this because, as Breitbart says in his book, Righteous Indignation, “Ambush journalism is the most valuable kind of journalism.”
5) University of Missouri Labor Class: In another phony video sting, Breitbart published a video of the proceedings of a class on the history of labor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. As usual, the video was a deceitful mash-up that misrepresented the professors and students as supporting violent labor activity. The twist here is that it was Breitbart’s one-time friend Glenn Beck who published an accounting of the video deception and vindicated the professors. As a bonus intrigue, the party from whom Breitbart got the UM video is identified only as Insurgent Visuals. That, however, may be a ruse to disguise Breitbart’s long-time partner in crime, James O’Keefe.
6) Beck’s Back Alley Snitch: Speaking of Glenn Beck, in happier times when the two weren’t feuding, Breibart was the source for numerous Beck offensives. He provided Beck with scandalous material on Van Jones who, at the time, was a White House adviser on environmental initiatives. Beck lauded Breitbart, saying…
“You know where the great journalists of our time are? Andrew Breitbart. [...] You were the only one, besides watchdogs, that were really aggressively working behind the scenes with us on Van Jones.”
The same thing occurred with Yosi Sergant, communications director for the National Endowment for the Arts. Breitbart went after him and provided the data to Beck, who said…
“This is again another Breitbart story, where the NEA communications director reached out and said, hey, listen, we have to be very careful with our language here.”
In both cases the information provided by Breitbart was vague and/or untrue, but both Jones and Sergant were jettisoned — just as Sherrod was — by a nervous White House for violations that were either false or greatly exaggerated.
7) Democrats Plotted to Blame Tea Party for Slaughter: Breitbart’s site featured an article that made the sensationalist claim that Democrats devised a plan to blame the Tea Party for the tragic shooting in Tucson, AZ. The allegation consisted of a single, unidentified source who merely offered his own opinion that the massacre could be pinned on Tea Partiers. There was no allegation of a conspiracy or even of any discussions of such a plan by anyone connected to the Democratic Party. But that didn’t stop Breitbart from posting the story with an irresponsibly provocative headline.
8) The Abbie Boudreau Affair: In one of the most bizarre adventures by the James O’Keefe gang, they set out to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau into a floating love nest to embarrass her in some manner that was never really explained. While Breitbart did not act as the agent for this prank, he did provide a platform for O’Keefe to publish his defense after having been outed by an accomplice. O’Keefe managed to take a situation in which he appeared to be a revolting pervert and make it worse by saying about Boudreau…
“She would have had to consent before being filmed and she was not going to be faux ‘seduced’ unless she wanted to be.”
Considering the fact that he never sought the consent of his previous video victims, why should we accept his assertion that he was going to start seeking consent now? Even more troubling is his implication that his intended victim “wanted” it. O’Keefe is resorting to the disgusting defense that rapists offer about their victims. And Breitbart permitted this to be published on his site.
9) GEICO Gecko – Tea Party Crasher? Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog posted a mind-numbingly stupid article that accused Ricky Gervais, the actor/comedian and voice of the GEICO Gecko of disparaging the Tea Party in a profanity-laced voice-mail. The only problem is that Gervais had nothing to do with it. It was an actor (D.C. Douglas) who worked for GEICO a couple of years prior. But it wasn’t enough to smear Gervais with insinuations, Breitbart also posted a picture of the Gecko atop a table that was adorned with a poster of President Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. What that had to do with the story is anyone’s guess. It just appeared to be a gratuitous slap at the President while falsely slandering Gervais.
10) Racism: Breitbart is obsessed with the theme of racism. He is convinced that the charge is thrown around cavalierly, and mostly to insult Tea Partiers and himself. He embarked on a campaign to prove that congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis, was lying when he said that he had been the victim of racial epithets when attending a congressional rally. He regards the Shirley Sherrod incident as an example of the racism demonstrated by the NAACP. But when discussing allegations of his own prejudice, Breitbart said this to radio host Adam Carolla:
“Can I prove that I’m not a racist toward Hispanics? Did you ever see Moscow on the Hudson? Remember Maria Conchita Alonso in that? The things I did to myself as a teenager prove that I’m not a racist.”
So Breitbart’s proof that he is not a racist is that he used to masturbate to pictures of a Latino actress. That defense would also work pretty well to prove that colonial plantation masters weren’t racist either because they routinely raped their slaves. Breitbart’s repulsive pride in his perverse view of racial open-mindedness tells us much about him. And he is certainly in no position to assess the veracity of people like John Lewis.
This should be a good starting point for the press in case they ever get the chance again to respond to Breitbart’s call for evidence of his dishonesty and low character. Here’s hoping that they are listening and that no one presumes to use the Weiner affair to rehabilitate Breitbart’s deservedly sleazy reputation. Just because Breitbart lucked into being correct (like a broken clock) doesn’t mean that his long-established pattern of deception should be dismissed. Just because Charles Manson didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe doesn’t mean that he’s innocent of every other crime attributed to him.
Breitbart deserves no accolades over this. His reputation cannot be rehabilitated after one lucky scoop sent to him by a Twitter stalker. And he still owes the many people he deliberately harmed an apology. Weiner, at least, was man enough to own up to his mistakes, eventually. Will Breitbart ever do the same? Not likely.