Last month Sharyl Attkisson resigned from her job as an investigative reporter for CBS News. She blamed the departure on what she perceived as a liberal bias by the network’s brass that kept her stories off the air. But that excuse has little support behind it considering the fact that the current president of CBS News is David Rhodes, a former executive at Fox News who presided over the most brazenly biased right-wing propaganda that ever masqueraded as news.
This weekend Attkisson appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources and was subjected, for the first time, to some pushback regarding her version of the events that led to her separation from CBS. In the course of the interview Attkisson made an irresponsible accusation for which she failed to offer any evidence. She alleged that Media Matters may have been paid (by some mysterious entity she declined to name) to attack her and her reporting:
“I clearly at some point became a target. I don’t know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own. [...] I think that’s what some of these groups do, absolutely.”
Media Matters responded with a prompt denial saying that their coverage of her was “based only on her shoddy reporting.” And Attkisson’s wild claim about Media Matters is an excellent example of such shoddiness. Without a scintilla of proof, Attkisson went on a national news program and made an accusation of the worst sort of journalistic malfeasance. If that’s the kind of reporting she brought to CBS it’s no wonder they spiked her stories. And it is strikingly lazy, unethical, and self-serving to invent and disseminate an unsupported charge against Media Matters.
For the record, this is not the first time that Atkisson has been caught in an embarrassing breach of ethics. She has produced reports on issues like Benghazi and green energy that were riddled with flaws and omissions. But she seems most prone to crossing the line when the story is about her.
Last year she revealed that her computer was hacked by an unknown intruder. She appeared on Fox News with Bill O’Reilly and implied that the only plausible purpose for the hacking was to intimidate her due to her investigations on Fast and Furious and Benghazi. That put the suspicion squarely on somebody in the administration that didn’t like her snooping into those matters.
However, just as with her smearing of Media Matters, she offered zero evidence of her charges. She dismissed out of hand any possibility that she may just have been one of millions of victims of criminal hacking that goes on every day. At one point O’Reilly asked if she knew who the hacker might be and she said “Well, I think I know. But I am just not prepared to go into that.” This all happened nearly a year ago and Attkisson has still not told us what she allegedly “knows” about the identity of the hacker. What she did say was that she would proceed with her investigations and that she had the full support of CBS:
“We’re continuing to move forward aggressively, CBS News takes this very seriously, as do I.”
What’s interesting about that is that she is admitting that CBS was supportive of her efforts, contrary to her new story that they are hopelessly liberal and were holding her back. She described her relationship with Rhodes, the right-wing former Fox News exec, as being one where they had a “meeting of the minds.” That was her opinion at the time she was actually doing the work. Now that she has left CBS, and is preparing to publish a book that is critical of the Obama administration, her view has flipped 180 degrees, just in time to generate some controversy that might raise interest in her book (which is being published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins). But I’m sure all of that is just a coincidence.
There is, however, a clear pattern of sloppy journalism and wild claims when Attkisson spouts off about computer hackers, liberal bias at CBS, and paid attacks from Media Matters, none of which is backed up by any proof. Her tendency to fling unsupported allegations at her perceived enemies shows that the disgrace with which she is now viewed by responsible journalists is well deserved. Lucky for her, Fox News regards that sort of bias and unprofessionalism as an asset, so her future employment prospects look good.
One of Bill O’Reilly’s favorite new attack themes is something that he calls the “Grievance Industry.” Apparently it is any person or group who registers a complaint against something that O’Reilly likes. For instance, racial discrimination or tax policies that favor the rich. It’s curious, though, that he would invent a disparaging way of looking at something that is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution: “…to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And the larger irony is that no one is more of a complainer than O’Reilly himself.
Take his latest Talking Points Memo segment wherein he makes a case for voter suppression via voter ID laws that do not address any actual problem. He begins with his boilerplate whining about how “the grievance industry believes that requiring an ID to vote is a right-wing plot to deny some Americans their voting rights.” He asserts that the push for voter ID is because of voter fraud, but like everyone else on the right who has beaten this path, he provides no evidence of the fraud that he alleges.
In an effort to belittle his opponents, O’Reilly says that the left denies that there is any voter fraud. That’s a lie. In fact the left acknowledges that there is voter fraud, but that it is on such a small scale as to be insignificant. And it doesn’t come close to justifying the imposition of obstacles to voting for millions of legitimate citizens.
Attempting to introduce some substance, O’Reilly cites an “investigation” into voter fraud in the state of North Carolina. The only problem with that is that it has produced precisely zero examples of any unlawful activity. The project was so flawed that when Dick Morris made the same reference to it as O’Reilly, PolitiFact slapped him down with a rating of “False.” They further pointed out that the data used was previously shown to be utterly unreliable. In Kansas they bragged that they had uncovered 185,000 potential cases of voter fraud. But all that came of it was fourteen referrals for prosecution and zero convictions.
O’Reilly then specifically made an allegation, which he portrayed as a fact, that “at least 81 North Carolinians voted in 2013 after they died.” But there is no evidence to support that claim either. In previous similar incidents there was always a simple explanation such as that the voters had cast absentee ballots and then died prior to election day.
O’Reilly then endorses a plan to put photos on Social Security cards and use those as voter identification. Critics of this proposal note that it would introduce serious privacy risks, a complaint that O’Reilly casually dismisses. However, Social Security cards have a unique purpose in our society and the prospect of making them a universal form of identification does expose people to a greater risk of identity fraud. Your Social Security number was never intended to a form of identification.
Perhaps the most outlandish assertion in O’Reilly’s rant was that “There are about 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. who could vote without proper ID in place.” Oh my. That’s twice the margin by which President Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012. So where all of these illegal aliens plotting to corrupt the American electoral system? There certainly isn’t any evidence of them having voted. And they’ve been around for many election cycles. It doesn’t even make any sense that people who are here without documentation would risk jail and deportation in order to cast a ballot for candidates who will not represent them.
The only reason that O’Reilly would even raise this phony issue is to fan the flames of bigotry that are already burning in the souls of his audience and much of the extremist right-wing that he represents. It is a reprehensible and irresponsible appeal to people who are predisposed to hate anyone different from themselves. And sadly, it is an appeal that will find agreement by viewers of Fox News despite the irrationality of the argument.
O’Reilly invented the “grievance industry” concept so that he could dismissively waive off any allegation of prejudice as something unwarranted, trivial, and/or fabricated. It’s his way of belittling those who make observations about the racism that still infects our society. But he is the best example that bigotry, in all its hateful glory, continues to be a problem that the goodhearted American people need to redouble their efforts to eradicate. And we could start with Bill O’Reilly.
Although Letterman only announced his pending retirement a few days ago, Colbert was almost instantly regarded as a top contender to fill the vacancy. His unique brand of characterture and satire has won him numerous Emmys and even a couple of Peabody Awards. When he assumes the position at the Late Show desk he will immediately challenge his peers to up their game in both raw comedy and creativity. It is fair to expect Colbert to reshape the concept of late-night television.
For extra added entertainment pleasure, watch the conservative martinets of Puritan culture grasp their throats and gasp for air as their lungs veritably burst with outrage. Colbert, and his Comedy Central mentor Jon Stewart, have long been targets of right-wing animosity. To the extent that they manage to get the jokes, they despise them and whine about more liberal domination of the news (as if Stewart and Colbert were actually journalists). They tried in vain to mimic the Daily Show and to launch (or relaunch) careers for conservative comics like Dennis Miller, Steven Crowder, and Victoria Jackson.
Just yesterday, Bill O’Reilly devoted his nightly Talking Points Memo segment to Colbert, whom he called “a deceiver” for mocking O’Reilly’s ludicrous defense of income inequality. O’Reilly went on to say that…
“Colbert can be dismissed as clueless, but the guy does do damage because he gives cover to the powerful people who are selling Americans a big lie, that this country is bad, that it intentionally oppresses many of its own citizens. That is a lie. That point of view is shameful.”
Well, O’Reilly is the authority when it comes to doing damage by giving cover to powerful people selling lies. But even as Fox News blasts Colbert and Stewart as hopelessly biased, they have recognized the falsehood in that characterization. News Corpse documented 29 occasions where the Fox Nation website praised Stewart for taking the conservative side on his program. That, however, has never stopped them from asserting that Stewart is a socialist who only satirizes conservatives.
In response to the Colbert promotion, Breitbart News editor, John Nolte tweeted “Low-Rated Hyper-Partisan Lefty to Replace David Letterman.” He previously critiqued Colbert saying that…
“There’s a HUGE left-wing agenda behind what Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert is doing, and it’s a serious agenda that has nothing to do with satire.”
That’s typical of the viewpoint that Nolte has held for years. In a series of ignorant columns attacking Colbert, Nolte pointed out what he considered to be the poor ratings performance of The Colbert Report. But due to his embarrassing ignorance of the television business, Nolte failed to realize that Colbert’s ratings were better than those of Fox News. What’s more, no knowledgeable person would compare the ratings of a niche cable channel with those of a broadcast TV network. When Colbert moves up to CBS he will inherit the audience that goes along with it.
Rush Limbaugh weighed in saying that…
“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American, conservative values. Now it’s just right out in the open.”
NewsBusters’ Dan Gainor tweeted…
“Colbert: From liberal asshat pretending to be conservative to liberal asshat who gets to be honest about his asshattery.”
Karl Rove was personally offended by Colbert’s “Ham Rove” bit, which he took as a threat of violence:
“One liberal replacing another one. Only this one apparently knows how to wield a knife.”
Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post published a screed titled “Picking Colbert to replace Letterman? CBS really screwed up,” in which author Kyle Smith (who?) says that Colbert is…
“…only funny if you accept the premise (conservatives are morons) while you snort Mountain Dew out your nose.”
There will surely be more to come from these media geniuses who live in fear of Colbert’s brand of truthiness. If they were smart they would withhold their juvenile insults and accept the fact that CBS made a decision that is in the best interests of their bottom line. They could simply declare that their silly #CancelColbert boycott campaign was a huge success and return to something they have a much longer history of – insulting women and minorities.
The prospect for Colbert’s future as a late-night host are promising. He has an appealing personality and an engaging rapport with the guests he interviews. He is likely to have less political content on CBS, where their Standards and Practices department will keep a tighter rein on him. That will be a loss for those of us who cherish his outlook on society and culture, but you can’t blame him for aspiring to advance his career. And while he may tone it down, he likely will not abandon it altogether.
What many of the people commenting on this news are neglecting to mention is that there will now be a vacancy at Comedy Central. Here’s hoping that Jon Stewart, whose production company put Colbert on as his lead-out, will have some say in the matter of what follows him next. Due to his irreplaceable persona, it will not be possible to slip someone else into the same format. But another snarky news send-up is still the obvious choice to fill out the late-night hour. Perhaps Comedy Central could parody Fox News’ The Five, with a panel show featuring Daily Show regulars like Lewis Black, John Hodgeman, Kristen Schaal, Al Madrigal, Jessica Williams, Wyatt Cynac, etc.
They have no shortage of talent available. And, thanks to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media circus, they have no shortage of material either.
[Update] On his show last night, Bill O’Reilly ignored the news about Colbert’s new job, but Time Magazine caught up with him and elicited this response: “I hope Colbert will consider me for the Ed McMahon spot.” Proving once again that O’Reilly is hopelessly stuck in the past, his attempt at humor reached back to reference a decades old sidekick, rather than a more relevant choice like Paul Shaffer or Alan Coulter. But O’Reilly would be a good choice for an Ed McMahon role, whose comedic persona was that of an old Irish loudmouth and a notorious drunk.
Late last month Bill O’Reilly offered his rebuttal to the argument that income inequality is contributing to the current state of economic stagnation and the bitter partisanship in political circles. He dismissed any notion that there is a problem with having 400 of the richest Americans controlling more wealth than the rest of the 350 million of us combined. Instead, O’Reilly said that…
“The truth is there will never be equality in this world. That’s impossible, an opium-laced dream. I will never have equality with my fellow Irishman Shaquille O’Neal he is bigger and stronger than I am by nature. I will never be as smart as Einstein, as talented as Mozart or as kind as Mother Teresa. Each human being is born with abilities, but they are not equal abilities.”
This demonstrates that O’Reilly doesn’t have an inkling of understanding what the income equality debate is about. It has nothing to do with artificial uniformity of human life forms, physically, intellectually, or emotionally. It is about society sharing responsibilities fairly. It is about insuring that powerful elites and faceless corporations are not permitted to exploit everybody else while shirking their own civic duties. Or as Stephen Colbert said facetiously…
“Shaquille O’Neal is taller than Bill O’Reilly, therefore the richest 1 percent of Americans should control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.”
Colbert’s hilarious smackdown of O’Reilly (video below) must have gotten to Papa Bear. On last night’s episode, O’Reilly devoted his opening Talking Points Memo to lambasting Colbert in the harshest terms. He called Colbert “a deceiver” and an “ideological fanatic” who is “misguided in the extreme.” But O’Reilly wasn’t done yet. He continued saying that…
“Colbert can be dismissed as clueless, but the guy does do damage because he gives cover to the powerful people who are selling Americans a big lie, that this country is bad, that it intentionally oppresses many of its own citizens. That is a lie. That point of view is shameful.”
Of course, Colbert never said or implied that the country is bad. But he and millions of other Americans recognize that it is flawed with respect to the over-weighting of influence by upper-crusty plutocrats. Recent decisions by the right-wing dominated Supreme Court that give ever-more power to the rich are evidence of the wealth-centric bias that keeps average citizens from having an equal say in public affairs. When money equals speech, the rich get more of it, and the poor can only buy silence. That’s a position that fits squarely with O’Reilly’s world view. Last year he actually lamented the fate of the rich as the ones who were really oppressed.
O’Reilly also sought to school Colbert on the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying that “Maybe Colbert should understand that Dr. King gave his life for equality of opportunity.” But that is a stupendously false and ignorant misreading of King’s message. King gave his life in the fight for actual equality and freedom from oppression, not the “opportunity” of it. And the fight continues to this day with people like O’Reilly who defend a status quo that favors rich folks like himself.
One thing that O’Reilly got right is that “Each human being is born with abilities, but they are not equal abilities.” And clearly O’Reilly doesn’t have the intellectual or comedic ability to go toe-to-toe with Colbert.
In last night’s episode of The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly began the program with his routine and hackneyed Talking Points Memo segment. As usual, O’Reilly’s perspective was arrogant, insulting, and entirely devoid of substance or factual basis.
The issue that set O’Reilly off on this occasion was a CBS News poll that showed that 53% of the American people say that President Obama has strong qualities of leadership. Obviously there must be something wrong with those results because O’Reilly knows better than everyone else. He asks “How can that be possible?” and asserts that the people are just “confused.”
The first problem O’Reilly sees with the poll is that the respondents were “adults,” rather than registered or likely voters. For some reason he thinks that’s significant. However, he is now demonstrating his own ignorance because those distinctions are only relevant in polls measuring the current status of an election. For polls gauging the opinions of the general public there is no reason to narrow the respondents to voting demographics. O’Reilly is just desperately grasping for some excuse to dismiss the results.
But the worst part of O’Reilly’s spin comes when he expresses an open hostility to pretty much everyone who supports the President:
“The harsh truth is that many of us are blatantly ignorant and lazy. We simply will not pay attention to the world around us. We get our information from other people, who may be as dumb as we are.”
In O’Reilly’s mind it is impossible to have a positive view of Obama unless you are mentally deficient. It isn’t just a matter of a difference of opinion, it is an inherent inability to comprehend the world you live in. So if you disagree with O’Reilly you are just plain dumb. And since the poll shows that 53% of the nation disagree with him, O’Reilly thinks a majority of the American people are ignorant and lazy. Wouldn’t it be nice if the American people told O’Reilly what they think about that?
The best part of O’Reilly’s remarks is that taken by themselves they are a perfect description of his own arrogance and the willful ignorance of his viewers. It is they who blindly follow the fact-free ramblings of a rabidly biased pundit whose mission in life is to deceive and distort and to disparage his ideological adversaries. And that’s the harsh truth that O’Reilly is too ignorant and lazy to grasp.
After Bill O’Reilly did his Superbowl interview with President Obama, O’Reilly predicted that “the interview that I did is going to go down in journalistic history.” So far, the only historical notice taken of the affair is O’Reilly’s boorishness and Narcissism.
A much more likely candidate for the history books is the interview conducted by Zach Galifianakis on “Between Two Ferns.” It showcased the comedy stylings of the President while demonstrating his keen awareness of modern media and the impact of the Internet as a communications platform. Following his Ferns outing, which has racked up nearly three million views to date, traffic to Healthcare.gov spiked by 40%.
Bill O’Reilly’s famously sensitive ego must have been severely injured by the popularity of the Ferns bit, because he devoted one of his “Talking Points” segments to criticizing it as “problematic” and “desperate.” In fact, whenever O’Reilly is confronted with challenges to his omnipotence, he responds with venom and vacuous attacks. Another recent example of this is his criticism of CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian airliner. O’Reilly complained on his program that CNN was overdoing it, but the real source of his complaint is more likely the fact that CNN has been crushing him in the ratings ever since the jet went missing. Apparently cable news viewers are satisfied with CNN’s reporting, despite O’Reilly’s whining.
Well, now we have a fresh take on the O’Reilly/Galifianakis battle of the interviews courtesy of HuffPost Comedy. And, if anything, it shows that a fern would be a more than acceptable replacement for O’Reilly.
The Titanic ego that we all know as Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, has once again demonstrated the enormity of regard that he has for himself. In an appearance on fellow Foxie Geraldo Rivera’s radio show, O’Reilly critiqued his performance during the Superbowl interview of President Obama saying…
“I’m going to predict that the interview that I did is going to go down in journalistic history as what should be done. It takes a certain skill to pose questions in a factual way and be persistent without being disrespectful.”
I totally agree. It does take a certain skill, one that O’Reilly utterly lacks. However, there are many elements of the interview that merit historical remembrance. For instance, he likely broke his own record for flagrant rudeness by interrupting the President forty-two times. He also earned a place in history by raising only the topics that his bosses at Fox have certified as official scandal bait (the ObamaCare website, the IRS, and of course, Benghazi), or as Jon Stewart described it, O’Reilly was “dipping whole-scale into the full Fox scandal grab bag.” And History will surely note that some 40% of the interview consisted of O’Reilly talking, making him nearly as much the subject of the interview as the President.
After the interview, O’Reilly was taken to task by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post for many of the reasons enumerated above. This caused O’Reilly to bust a gasket, calling Milbank a weasel and a liar, although never once did he specify what Milbank said that was allegedly false. PolitiFact, however, assessed the dispute and gave Milbank a “Mostly True” rating.
It’s endlessly entertaining to watch O’Reilly exalt himself as the journalistic eminence that he clearly believes himself to be. It’s like watching a child brag about his sports ability and then taking his ball and going home after he embarrasses himself. The difference is that O’Reilly is so egotistical that he is impervious to shame. So thanks, bill, for showing us all how it should be done – by negative example.
Today the highly [er, make that barely] anticipated Superbowl interview of President Obama by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News (video below) went off pretty much how you might expect. Hoping to cover matters of importance to the special broadcast’s audience, the irascible O’Reilly jumped right into the discussion with an issue that has been dormant for weeks and went from there to some of the most overwrought pseudo-scandals that Fox has failed miserably to ignite, despite countless hours of effort.
O’Reilly led off by asking the President about the website glitches that plagued the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare ) when it launched four months ago. He inquired why Obama hasn’t fired his Secretary of Health and Human Services, as if she had personally written the faulty code. And he asked about Obama’s prior statement that “if you like your plan you can keep it.” Of course, Obama has answered all of these questions numerous times, so O’Reilly’s dredging them up could not possibly have produced any new information.
The next subject was Fox News’ favorite mantra: BENGHAZI! This issue is even older than the website failure. The unique angle O’Reilly sought to mine involved the claims of “some people” who O’Reilly said believe that the White House refused to describe the attack as terrorism in order to help his reelection campaign. There’s just two small problems with that: 1) O’Reilly doesn’t explain how that would help the reelection effort. and 2) The President did describe the attack as terrorism the day after it occurred. Nevertheless, O’Reilly insisted that Obama explain why there are people who believe the false premise. Obama had an excellent explanation saying that “They believe it because folks like you are telling them that.”
Next up for O’Reilly’s inquisition was the infamous allegations that the IRS had targeted Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations who applied for non-profit status. Obama pointed out that, despite extensive hearings in Congress, no evidence has been produced to support the charges. In fact, the evidence increasingly reveals that both liberals and conservatives were given scrutiny by the IRS, as they should be. Obama further noted that, just as with Benghazi, “These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”
Finally, O’Reilly read a question that had been sent to him by a viewer. The viewer wanted to know “Why do you feel it’s necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you such opportunity and success.” Seriously? This idiotic bit of tripe has been swirling around the conspiracy theorist community since the first Obama inauguration when it was posited by Glenn Beck. These brain-damaged twerps can’t seem to grasp that a turn of phrase during an election campaign is not a coded reference to some nefarious plot to unravel the American Dream. The only meaning was that then-candidate Obama intended to repair the damage that the previous eight years of President Bush had caused.
So this was the entirety of O’Reilly’s interview. It was a rehashing of tired rumors and slander. Given this platform to reach an unusually large audience, O’Reilly wasted it with bitterly partisan nonsense. He could have addressed some of the issues that are currently on the minds of the American people, like the economy and jobs, immigration reform, the Keystone XL Pipeline, or the situations in Syria and Iran. He could have dug deeper into the President’s recent State of the Union speech and sought to get him to elaborate on income equality. He might even approached the tribulations of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, or legalizing marijuana.
But no. O’Reilly stuck with the Fox News manufactured scandal mongering related to ObamaCare, the IRS, and as always, Benghazi. As a result, the interview was a pitiful waste of time and more proof that Fox News doesn’t have the first clue about what constitutes journalism. But rest assured they will find some sentence fragment in the segment that they will inflate into humungous proportions that will produce buckets of raw outrage by Monday morning.
On his program Monday night, O’Reilly embarked on a mission to belittle President Obama and the State of the Union speech that would be delivered the following night. Consistent with the Fox News philosophy of disparaging all things Democratic – even before they occur – O’Reilly asserted that the American people wouldn’t care about the speech, but would be enthralled by Papa Bear himself.
O’Reilly: There is no question that President Obama’s first five years in office have been troubled. Tonight he will try to regroup, but Talking Points believes that few Americans will be paying close attention to him. In fact, I predict that this broadcast you’re watching right now, will be higher rated on the Fox News channel than the president’s actual address. We’ll see.
Yes, we shall indeed see. But first of all, isn’t it cute that O’Reilly refers to himself as “Talking Points,” as if it were an anthropomorphic entity with opinions separate from his own? Well, Mr. Talking Points might be disconcerted to learn that 33 million people watched the State of the Union speech. That is actually fewer than watched in recent years, but still a hefty chunk of viewers that exceeds all other conventional programming.
More to the point, O’Reilly’s prediction that his own show would outperform the speech has blown up in his face. The Factor drew only 3.5 million viewers, which means he was off by a mere 90 percent. O’Reilly’s broadcast didn’t even beat just the viewers who watched the speech on Fox (4.7 million). And since there was no rational way to spin his prognostication failure, O’Reilly simply ignored it last night in his first post-speech broadcast.
This is typical of O’Reilly’s pompous conceit as he strives to present himself as an omnipotent and infallible observer of human events. It recalls his dreadfully wrong prediction that the Supreme Court would overturn ObamaCare, when he promised to admit that he was an idiot if he were wrong. He was wrong, and he broke his promise. But that came as no surprise to those who pay attention to his daily blather.
Much of the cable News circus was preoccupied this weekend with remarks made by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry about Mitt Romney’s family. It was a relatively trivial incident that sought to highlight the blinding whiteness of the Romney clan and, by extension, the Republican Party for which he was was briefly the de facto head. Harris-Perry apologized for the comments and her apology was accepted by Romney and it seemed as if life on Earth would endure.
Enter Howard Kurtz, the media analyst for Fox News. On Friday he published an op-ed, which was followed by a segment on his Sunday Fox News program MediaBuzz, wherein he proposed his theory that MSNBC suffers from a “culture in which harsh personal attacks are encouraged, or at least tolerated.” His evidence for this was a series of recent controversies involving personalities at MSNBC, which he claimed not to be biased against.
Kurtz: I’m not designing this to bash MSNBC, but you had Martin Bashir with the vile attack on Sarah Palin, apologizing and then losing his job. You had Alec Baldwin losing his job at MSNBC over an alleged anti-gay slur hurled at a photographer. Now Melissa Harris-Perry. Is there something in the culture there that tolerates this unacceptable language?
One has to wonder why, if Kurtz did not intend to bash MSNBC, did he focus solely on “unacceptable language” by people on MSNBC. It’s not as if he didn’t have plenty of examples of Fox News anchors and pundits who did much the same thing. Just within the past week Fox’s Mike Huckabee compared doctors at a hospital, that had been caring for a girl who was pronounced brain dead, to the Nazi regime that was responsible for the murder of millions. Fox also hosted a former CIA agent who recently wrote an article that advocated the assassination of President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron. Neither of these commentaries entered into Kurtz’s examination of the culture of cable news. The only observation that Kurtz deemed notable was his severly skewed impression of how conservatives are viewed by liberals.
Kurtz: If there is a theme to these episodes, it is a view of Republicans and conservatives as so mean-spirited, hard-hearted and clueless that just about any rhetoric against them can be justified.
Thus we had the spectacle of Martin Bashir so reviling Sarah Palin that he not only called her a “dunce” and an “idiot” but prescribed for her an old slave treatment in which he said someone should defecate in her mouth.
Oh my. Bashir called Palin a “dunce” and an “idiot.” Apparently Kurtz has never seen Bill O’Reilly’s program where for years he has had a regular segment in which he called his liberal adversaries “pinheads.” Not that he needed a dedicated segment to disparage his foes. He was found by Indiana University to have called people derogatory names every 6.8 seconds. Recently O’Reilly even expressed his hostile intentions toward the Democratic Majority Leader of the senate, saying…
“Harry Reid, I think you’ll have to kidnap. Tie him to a tree up in Idaho somewhere, leave him there for a few weeks.”
Surely O’Reilly will insist that the was joking about kidnapping and torturing Sen. Reid, but the Harris-Perry segment was premised that it was all in humor. The same cannot be said for Glenn Beck’s declaration that Obama was a racist who hated white people. Neither Beck nor his superiors ever apologized for that. In fact, Rupert Murdoch agreed with it. Perhaps the most glaring example of repulsive rhetoric was that displayed by Fox News contributor Erick Erickson upon the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter when Erickson said…
“The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester to ever serve on the Supreme Court in David Souter’s retirement.”
Let’s not forget the Fox News community website, Fox Nation. It’s culture is so riddled with hostility that they won’t even refer to some people by their actual names. The Fox Nationalists refer to Sen. Al Franken as Stuart Smalley, after a character he played on Saturday Night Live twenty years ago. They also call comedian Bill Maher “Pig” Maher for reasons no one seems to know. [For more on Fox Nation, readFox Nation vs. Reality, a book that documents the website's steady stream of lies]
There are, however, some notable differences between the incidents of verbal abuse as articulated by MSNBC and Fox News. At MSNBC the lapses in judgment were followed by apologies and sometimes suspensions or terminations. The lapses at Fox were either celebrated or ignored by management and often repeated with more emphasis by the abuser.
So Howard Kurtz has the gall to wonder if there is culture of harsh personal attacks at MSNBC where such incidents are routinely punished, but he has no concerns about his own network where they are a point of pride. That’s a distinct difference that would enter into the analysis of an honest media critic. Luckily, Kurtz works for Fox so he doesn’t have to worry about being honest.
A couple of months ago, Pope Francis delivered an exhortation on the state of global poverty and society’s response to it. It was a rather profound critique of the conservative economic principles that have been the central political focus of the Tea Party and its Republican benefactors. Ever since, right-wingers from Sarah Palin to Rush Limbaugh have walked the tightrope of respecting the Pontiff while blasting his guidance as extreme liberalism and pure Marxism.
Now Bill O’Reilly has joined the fray with another of his Talking Points Memos that articulate his notoriously vapid opinions on whatever is irking him that day. He titles this one “The Pope, Capitalism, And The Far Left.” It started out as a rebuke of lefty pundits who have embraced the Pope’s call for income equality. O’Reilly accuses the left of distorting the words of the Pope, but he doesn’t provide a single example of any such distortion. Not one. He does, however, leave out numerous excerpts from the Pope’s writings that explicitly condemn conservative economics like the “trickle-down theory” and advocate on behalf of the poor. For instance:
“[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” [...and...] “It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”
O’Reilly further declares that “I can tell you with certainty that the Pope opposes” economic justice, which O’Reilly recasts as socialism. From whence he gets his certainty is unexplained. It certainly is not from the Pope’s own words that include…
“[N]one of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.” [...and...] “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth,” he said, adding that it requires “processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income.”
The Pope is using very specific and carefully chosen language that demolishes any hope of right-wingers dismissing his meaning. “Social justice” and “distribution of income,” phrases the right has tried feverishly to demonize, are not accidental rhetorical flourishes on the part of the Pope. Nor is it accidental when O’Reilly, nevertheless, dismisses the Pope with hollow posturing by saying that the left “want to impose a nanny-state that redistributes income,” or that “The left doesn’t care about the facts. It’s all about hating America.”
When it comes to hate, O’Reilly has a distinct advantage. Aside from having an academic study prove that he uses derogatory names on his program once every 6.8 seconds, he took this latest opportunity to harshly disparage the people about whom the Pope was talking. O’Reilly assigned blame for the tribulations of the poor only on their own alleged shortcomings, asserting that they refuse to “work hard, be honest, stay sober, and get educated.” He would never acknowledge the responsibility of the government’s institutional bias in favor of wealthy elites for the economic imbalance that clamps down on society’s less fortunate. It’s far easier for those in O’Reilly’s social strata to insult the poor as lazy, lying, drunken, illiterates.
If O’Reilly actually believed that the left was distorting the Pope’s words, he would have provided an example. Instead he made a blind allegation that he never bothered to support, all the while ignoring the fact that the Pope’s words were not ambiguous in their contempt for compassionless elitists like O’Reilly. It’s an indication of just how desperate the right is to pretend they have a moral alliance with the Pope when, in reality, they are scrambling to avoid any remotely honest discourse about the income inequality that Pope Francis spoke about so eloquently.
Over the years, Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly has said some painfully stupid things. He has claimed that Christianity is not a religion. He promised to admit on his show that he is an idiot if the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of ObamaCare (which he never admitted). He actually boasted that he has more power than anyone except the President. And now he has taken up the case for America’s beleaguered millionaires.
On his program Wednesday (video below), O’Reilly began his hokey Talking Points segment by asking “Do you want to be rich?” He then set about to answer the question with a litany of reasons why any sane person would flee in fear of such a curse. The burden of great wealth is far too cumbersome to be endured and those of us not suffering from it should pity the rich and their miserable existence.
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“Here’s what happens when a person is wealthy,” O’Reilly said, as he commenced his tale of woe. His first complaint was that if you become rich you will simultaneously become a target of people who will want your money and will lie and cheat to get it. Therefore, you will have to hire lawyers to shield yourself from the envious rabble who will be barking at the gates of your mansion. Well then, it’s certainly better to be poor than to have to fraternize with lawyers in order to sustain your life of luxury. Then O’Reilly gravely warned that “Every affluent person in America is in danger. Every one.” As an example he cited the two winners of the Mega Millions lottery, about whom he said…
“The two folks who won the big money this week will see their lives instantly change. And perhaps for the worse.”
Perhaps? It is almost a certainty that the lives of those sad former peasants will spiral downward into a hellhole of having everything they have ever dreamed of for themselves and their families. If they are smart they will dispose of that dirty money as quickly as possible. As a service to these wretches, and at great personal risk to myself, I would agree to take it off their hands so they can continue to have decent lives. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
O’Reilly also stated that the new millionaires would suffer because “Their freedom will be severely curtailed.” Obviously, everyone knows that having untold riches shackles the victim in a pit oppression. Freedom is only really enjoyed when you have no money weighing you down on your estates and your yachts and your villas in international resorts. As O’Reilly notes, “Only one percent of the population is truly financially independent.” That’s why America is a free country. Only one percent has their freedom curtailed by wealth. And if it is up to O’Reilly, that figure will remain at one percent so that more people are not similarly tormented.
Unsaid in this screed is that when O’Reilly is talking about the downtrodden millionaires, he knows whereof he speaks. He is, in fact, talking about himself. So he should be well aware of the damage that wealth does to the hapless souls who suffer from it. He is selflessly enduring a life of subjugation and oppression in order to prevent such tribulations from being forced onto others. And his compassion is evident in his closing remarks where he made a point of raising this injustice to the heavenly doorstep of God:
“So congratulations to the Mega winners. And the best thing that we can do for them is say a prayer.”
Indeed. Let’s all say a prayer for the millionaires and billionaires in our society who are too often forgotten victims of a dastardly fate. And while we’re at it, let’s say a prayer for Bill O’Reilly who is always looking out for the folks, even if he won’t associate with them.
The Fox News driven War On Christmas is a peculiar conflict that only seems to flare up every year after Thanksgiving. Apparently both sides go into retreat between New Year’s Day and Halloween. But that isn’t the only peculiarity about this war.
Fox News’ general in the battlefield is Wily Bill O’Reilly. He is by far the most dominant figure in the war. And for proof of that, just ask him. Not only does he take the point every year by exposing any alleged assault on a nativity scene that his staff alerts him to, he proudly boasts about the success of his warrior crusade. Just this week he declared victory, an announcement that hopefully will put an end to the seemingly endless conflagration:
O’Reilly: We challenged them! So, therefore, it isn’t a mythical war on Christmas. It’s real and we just won!
That would be a profound turning point in the Christmas Wars except for the fact that O’Reilly had previously declared victory five years ago:
O’Reilly: “The Factor’s” reporting on Christmas is one of the most important things we’ve done. The underlying assault on this federal holiday is spelled out in my book, “Culture Warrior” if you have an interest. But the bottom line is this. We won.
How many times will Wily Bill claim to have emerged victorious in the same war? Generally when you have vanquished your enemies you do not have to re-vanquish them the following year. But that’s the peculiarity of a war that is waged for ratings, profit, and the adoration of dimwitted troops bravely manning their sofas with remotes at the ready.
So America can thank O’Reilly for saving Christmas – twice – and for preserving the true spirit of the holiday season that he described with such heartfelt earnestness when he said…
“Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable.”
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If that joyful expression of profit over prophet doesn’t jingle your bells you are two steps lower than Scrooge. So get with the program and join O’Reilly’s crusade for the traditional values that honor greed and corporatism. It’s a vision of the holiday season that was expressed so artfully in music by Miles Davis and Bob Dorough in this classic Christmas carol: Blue Xmas.
Poor Jesus. After going to all the trouble of throwing the Money Lenders out of the temple, now he has to deal with cretins like Rush Limbaugh who think that the church founded in his name is beholden to secular profiteers and godless corporations.
How else could Limbaugh explain his opinion that the Catholic church would be lost “If it weren’t for capitalism?” It is astonishing that the people who most aggressively impose their religious beliefs on others, who demand that the whole of society celebrate their holidays and insist that their values be codified into law and school curriculum, these people seem to have the shallowest grasp of the faith they profess. And Limbaugh is not alone in his Adoration of Greed. A few years ago Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News program that…
“Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable.”
O’Reilly actually believes that this country should be grateful that Jesus came along because the holiday commemorating his birth is such a boon to businesses. Now that’s the Christmas Spirit, isn’t it.
Limbaugh’s tirade was sparked by a recent paper authored by Pope Francis that articulated a version of Christianity wherein a moral society cared for the least of its citizens. He explicitly repudiated Republican values like “trickle-down economics” and preached that economic “inequality is the root of social ills.” That is the sort of talk that unhinges right-wingers whose greatest fear is to be lumped in with the unclean masses who, ironically, are the producers and consumers of the goods their businesses peddle.
All of this comports with the Christian hypocrite dogma spewed by political hacks who are only trying to exploit people who follow Christ’s teachings. These pundi-vangelists couldn’t care less about faith or service. However, the Republican Party shares something in common with the worst aspects of the Christian church. They are both trying to sell stories on faith to ill-informed people who are motivated by fear. But these religious scam artists are only concerned with their own welfare. They have no real compassion or generosity. Their tunnel-blind self-interest is a stark affirmation of the wisdom of the revered Catholic Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, who said…
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
Some people are just gluttons for punishment. Take James O’Keefe for instance. The petulant, wannabe ambush journalist has already been exposed as a purveyor of dishonest videos that are deceptively edited in order to slander his victims. He was caught trying to execute a perverse scheme to seduce a CNN reporter. He had to pay a $100,000 to settle a defamation suit brought by a former ACORN staffer. And he was convicted of criminal behavior in a stunt he tried to pull in Louisiana.
Since then his projects have been few and even many of his former allies declined to promote them. But now he has a new video that purports to expose some malfeasance on the part of some ObamaCare “navigators” who are helping people to acquire health insurance. As I’ve noted before, O’Keefe’s inner sadist assures that his projects are almost always aimed at attacking people and programs that serve the less fortunate. That’s true in this case as well.
The ObamaCare association seems to have loosened up those who abandoned him in the past, including Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. However, his reputation for producing video fiction is fully intact. In the new video he sends in a shill to pretend to inquire about enrolling in a health care plan. In the process, the shill attempts to trick his unsuspecting victims into giving bad advice. However, we can’t know for sure whether they did that because the videos are so heavily edited that there is no way to discern the actual context. Also, the people O’Keefe’s shill spoke with weren’t certified navigators, but were in fact trainees. So the prospect of them making a few mistakes shouldn’t shock anyone.
In one case, though, it is apparent that the navigators did not do what O’Keefe accused them of doing. O’Keefe alleged that the navigators advised the shill to misrepresent his income. In reality, they simply told him to report on the ObamaCare website the same amounts he reported to the IRS. It’s his responsibility to file his income taxes honestly. But the conclusions drawn in the video conceal that. That’s just one example of how creative editing can distort the true picture of what occurred.
Given that Fox News is immersed in an obsessive campaign to cripple ObamaCare, they must have given the green light to O’Reilly to readmit O’Keefe into their good graces – sort of. O’Reilly devoted most of his opening segment to O’Keefe’s video, but without ever mentioning his name. That may have been wise considering the disrepute associated with O’Keefe and his band of dissemblers. O’Reilly only identified the video as the work of Project Veritas, which he helpfully explained to his viewers means “truth,” something with which O’Reilly and O’Keefe have limited experience.
Even Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze couldn’t post O’Keefe’s video without disclaiming that “It should be noted that the video is heavily edited and employs deceptive tactics in order to catch the navigators offering the shocking advice.” When Beck’s crew is disturbed by deceptive tactics, you know you’ve crossed a line that most charlatans never see in their whole lives.
What’s worse, a United States senator, John Cornyn, Republican of Texas (where else?), also cited the O’Keefe video as evidence that ObamaCare needs to be stopped immediately. Cornyn said that “This behavior is unacceptable, and is yet another broken piece of a deeply flawed system. The Obama administration should stop this program immediately.” Obviously – if a trainee tells a dishonest, partisan shill something that isn’t quite accurate, in a video produced by a known liar and criminal, then an entire government program that was set up to help 48 million previously uninsured Americans get access to health care should be thrown out.
That’s the quality of the logic in use by Republican and Tea Party opponents of ObamaCare. And, as such, is more than ample justification for ignoring them completely. It also explains how the pathetically amateurish video fabrications of James O’Keefe get taken seriously by idiots in politics and the press.
[Update 11/14/2013] Another Fox News program is hyping the O’Keefe lies. Sean Hannity did a segment during which he also referred to Project Veritas as the video’s producer and never mentioned O’Keefe’s name. He also spewed other lies about the cost of the website, the navigators not getting background checks, and the scope of the people whose current plans will be terminated by insurance companies.
The Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) was passed three years ago, and in that time has already helped millions of people by setting standards for insurance coverage that prohibit discrimination for preexisting conditions, permit children to remain on their parents policies until they are 26 years old, mandating free preventative care, forbidding arbitrary cancellations, eliminating annual and lifetime limits, etc. And that’s before the introduction of the health care exchanges that provide better and less expensive plans to millions.
The new law has already saved lives and the financial well being of many families and individuals. But that is of no concern to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. On his Tuesday night program he debated Dr. Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who contributed to the development of both RomneyCare and ObamaCare (video below). O’Reilly began the discourse by asking how long insurance companies have been not insuring those with preexisting conditions. He then answered his own leading and manipulative question by saying that “It’s been, roughly, since the Revolutionary War,” and adding that one more year won’t matter. Dr. Gruber responded with the an observation that is all too frequently ignored by pundits and politicians who attack the ACA. But pay extra attention to O’Reilly’s retort.
Gruber: It’s easy for you to say, but you’re not someone who’s living every day with the risk of going bankrupt or dying because you don’t have insurance coverage.
O’Reilly: I’m talking about the greater good. I understand this suffering and if there’s any way that I personally can alleviate it, I will. I give beaucoup money to charity to try to relieve…The greater good is served by having a law that is being mandated, all right, imposed on the population, clear, number one, and functional, number two. And neither of those things are happening, doctor.
See? O’Reilly’s just standing up for the “greater good.” It’s perfectly acceptable for some families to lose their mothers or fathers or children if, in exchange, we can insure that there is a functional website to enroll others next year. That’s the greater good, isn’t it? So some families will will become homeless or have to spend their retirement savings on medical expenses. That isn’t nearly as important as avoiding Internet glitches or forcing people to enroll by telephone.
In almost every occurrence of some television blowhard criticizing ObamaCare’s flawed rollout, the critic is a wealthy member of a privileged class who never has to worry about access to health care. And like O’Reilly, they often reveal their callous insensitivity toward people who are less fortunate. O’Reilly trailed off in his self-congratulatory nod to his charitability without specifying how he personally relieves anyone’s suffering. Instead, he makes a judgment as to whether saving lives is even a worthy goal. And to compound his haughty arrogance, he demonstrates an embarrassing ignorance of the ACA’s scope.
Gruber: But Bill, you have to remember. This bill is not affecting the vast majority of the American population. That’s what’s getting lost is the fact that the vast majority of Americans getting their insurance from their employers or the government are not affected by this law.
O’Reilly: We don’t know that yet. The law is only about six weeks old. We don’t know that yet. But the evidence rolling in is that the suffering being caused by the law is much more intense than the help it is going to give.
Gruber: That’s absolutely wrong.
O’Reilly: All right. We have a gentleman’s disagreement on that.
What O’Reilly calls a gentleman’s disagreement is generally regarded as fundamental misunderstanding (or blatant misrepresentation) by rational observers. First of all, it is unarguably true that most Americans (over 80%) get their health insurance from their employers or governmental agencies like Medicare and the Veterans Administration. Secondly, the law is three years old, not six weeks. Like many ObamaCare critics, O’Reilly is mistaking the insurance marketplaces that just rolled out online as the whole of the program. Finally, O’Reilly didn’t bother to provide any details on the more intense suffering he alleged, most likely because there isn’t any truth to it.
However, if you’re looking for a public voice to advance support for functional websites at the expense of the health and economic security of millions of Americans, you have found your advocate in Bill O’Reilly – the Guardian of the Greater Good. [Note to O'Reilly: Isn't the "Greater Good" a socialist concept?]
The astroturf fraud known as the Tea Party was literally invented by a cabal of uber-rightist millionaires and corporations with interests in tobacco and oil. The prime movers were the Koch brothers, who transited from their father’s John Birch Society to their own front groups, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.
The financial firepower of these entities, however, was still not enough to elevate the Tea Party “movement.” It required an aggressive media sponsor to flood the news zone with faux-populist themes and give birth to the puppetized pundits and politicians who would carry the message. For that mission Fox News was all too ready to volunteer and even went to great lengths to brand the Tea Party as a Fox News subsidiary with promos touting their “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” There can be no doubt that without Fox News there would be no Tea Party.
That makes the new column by Fox’s star attraction, Bill O’Reilly, all the more startling. His own headline reads “Is the Tea Party Over?” And by the end he answers the question with a resounding “Yes.”
“The only way the Tea Party can resurrect itself is for it to coalesce around a strong leader. There has to be a central message delivered by someone with charisma, a person who is reasonable and persuasive. The movement has been damaged both inside and out. Only a very intense public relations campaign will turn the tide.
“I don’t think that will happen. It would take millions of dollars in TV ads and organizational infrastructure for the Tea Party to negate the national media’s contempt. And that kind of big money operation goes directly against what the Tea Party people want to be – a citizen movement that operates independent of party structure.”
O’Reilly’s opinion, in short, is that “The only way the Tea Party can resurrect itself is for it to coalesce around a strong leader,” and “I don’t think that will happen.” O’Reilly is throwing recent Tea Darlings like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul under the bus, along with baggers like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann who are already there.
I’m not going to argue with O’Reilly’s conclusion because the Tea Party has always been a constructed reality. It never existed outside of the power structure of the Republican elite. There were no Tea Party candidates, conventions, voter registrations, or platforms. They were all Republican politicians, voters, and policies. However, there is much to disagree with in the path to O’Reilly’s eulogy.
First of all, O’Reilly’s contention that the Tea Party’s problem is a lack of leaders can only be taken seriously by a deaf and blind pundit who lives in a Himalayan cave. There are many who do, and who aspire to, lead the phony parade. Their problem is that they advocate a broadly unpopular set of policies that the American people emphatically reject. People like Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin have favorable ratings that scrape the sea floor at record low levels, as does the Tea Party itself. The Tea Party doesn’t have a public relations problem, it has an agenda problem.
Secondly, O’Reilly seems to think that there hasn’t been enough money thrown at advancing the Tea Party mission. When he said that it “would take millions of dollars” which conflicts with the Tea Party’s alleged aversion to “big money operations,” he ignores the fact that the Tea Party has always been a big money operation financed with hundreds of millions of dollars by everyone from the Koch brothers to Karl Rove to the Republican National Committee, and dozens of mysterious Super PACs that keep their donor’s identities secret.
The central theme of O’Reilly’s column is that the Tea Party’s woes are all the result of the contempt of the media (as opposed to the contempt of the people). He says that “the Tea Party finds itself with an image problem and there are two primary reasons why.” The first of O’Reilly’s gripes is with the media, who he says “is at odds with Tea Party beliefs,” and that “demonizes the Tea Party all day long calling it racist, stupid and even worse – unsophisticated!” It’s telling that O’Reilly thinks it’s worse to be called unsophisticated than racist or stupid. But he may be onto something because, based on their behavior, most Tea Partiers don’t seem to be concerned about public displays of racism or stupidity.
The second of O’Reilly’s grips is with the media (just like the first gripe), but in this case it’s “the right wing media, which generally loves the party.” Here O’Reilly lays into the birther nutjobs who call the President a communist and a Muslim. In other words, most of the Tea Party and much of Fox News. O’Reilly attempts to take a stand for comity by declaring that “Hate is hate no matter what ideology you embrace.” This from the guy who opened the column by implying that the supporters of Occupy Wall Street “embrace violent tactics [and] infringe on the rights of the folks.”
So according to O’Reilly, the billionaire-backed Tea Party is not a big money operation, it has no national leaders unless you count the Cruzes and Palins and Pauls, and Limbaughs and Hannitys, etc., but it is plagued by a contemptuous media that hates them and an adoring media that loves them. [Warning: Don't try to make any sense of this. It can only lead to confusion, severe mental anguish, logical disorientation, and acute migraines]. However, if O’Reilly’s tortured contention is that what it all adds up to is that the Tea Party is over, let’s just cross our fingers hope that he stumbled onto the truth for a change. But in all likelihood, he is just carrying water for the establishment GOP who are trying desperately to distance themselves from Tea Party crackpottery out of fear that it is going to be a big loser for them in the 2014 elections. He, and they, are too late. Now they have to live (or perish, as the case may be) with the monster they created.
Halloween is approaching and the hobgoblins of conservative minds are already spinning nightmarish tales of the horror of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Actually, they have been doing it for quite some time dating back to at least March of 2010 when Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller published an article headlined“IRS looking to hire thousands of armed tax agents to enforce health care laws.” Fox News re-posted the article on their community web site and Fib Factory, Fox Nation despite the fact that it was a complete fabrication and was debunked by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org
This year the campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch. The Republican Party and conservative media has pulled out all the stops in a strategy aimed at scaring people from signing up with the hope that low enrollment will collapse the system. President Obama had the same concerns last month when he said…
“What you’ve had is an unprecedented effort that you’ve seen ramp up in the past month or so that those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place — and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts — trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.”
These are not the hackneyed GOP talking points about death panels, job killers and government bureaucrats coming between patients and doctors. These are far more fanciful efforts that stretch the limits of credulity and appear to have more in common with satire than actual news reporting. Yesterday Rush Limbaugh “ruminated” (sourced to Breitbart) that ObamaCare may just be a ruse to set up gun registries in the United States. This is what it has come to as ObamaCare has finally reached the consumer stage and conservatives are desperate to keep people from discovering its benefits. For instance…
1) Fox News Warns That If You Sign Up For ObamaCare Hackers Will Steal Your Life Savings
On an episode of “The Real Story” on Fox News, host Gretchen Carlson introduced an ominous new strain of fear mongering to demonize ObamaCare. She interviewed John McAfee, the anti-virus software developer who is presently a fugitive from a murder investigation in Belize. He asserted a wild accusation that visitors to Healthcare.gov are going to be victimized by hackers who will steal their identities and/or drain their bank accounts.
However, neither Carlson nor McAfee actually provide any evidence of such a threat. In fact, when directly asked about it. McAfee diverts from the question and lays out a completely different threat that has nothing whatsoever to do with the ObamaCare web site. He alleges that nefarious individuals could set up their own unaffiliated web sites in the hopes of luring naive people of whom they will seek to take advantage. Of course, that is a threat that exists every day for every web site, and has since the Internet began. But visiting Healthcare.gov does not expose anyone to these phony sites as implied by the fear mongers at Fox.
2) WorldNetDaily Reports “Obama ‘Crashing Health-Care Site On Purpose’”
This article asserts that the President is so afraid that insurance shoppers will learn that ObamaCare is really more expensive than the old system that he deliberately caused the website to crash to keep people from seeing the rates. No one is defending the botched launch of the insurance exchanges, however, the notion that the technical glitches were intentionally caused by Obama is delusional.
WND’s argument (supported by links to Rush Limbaugh) that rates will increase leaves out the subsidies and tax credits that are available for many applicants. With these adjustments, premiums for most people will be substantially lower. The administration would, therefore, be anxious for consumers to have access to that information and would not be putting obstacles in their path.
3) Rand Paul: Take ObamaCare Or Go To Jail
The Tea Party darling Rand Paul has made innumerable false statements about virtually every policy that has emanated from the White House. But none surpass the diversion from reality than when he said “They say take [ObamaCare] or we will put people in jail. People say we aren’t going to put anybody in jail. The heck they won’t. You will get fined first. If you don’t pay your fines, you will go to jail.”
That’s interesting coming from someone who has frequently complained that no one in Congress has read the Affordable Care Act. If he had read it himself he would have known that the law explicitly prohibits criminal consequences for non-payment of fines. It states “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.” It rarely gets more clear than that, but the mission to frighten the public exceeds the motivation for truth on the part of GOP scare-meisters.
Notably, Bill O’Reilly insisted that no one on Fox News ever claimed that failure to enroll in ObamaCare would lead to a prison sentence, but he was hilariously embarrassed by the videos that proved otherwise, including on his own program.
4) Right-Wing Think Tank Mortified That ObamaCare Web Site Links To Voter Registration Form
This is a particularly curious horror story as it seeks to raise an alarm over something that ought to be regarded as a civic duty. Nevertheless, the conservative MacIver Institute (a Koch brothers funded operation) published an article that implied there was some sort of heinous objective on the part of the Obama administration for having included a link to a voter registration form on the ObamaCare website. This startling revelation is met with foreboding by MacIver and a flurry of right-wing media outlets that disseminated MacIver’s story including National Review, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and of course, Fox News. All of their reports agreed that this was a clandestine attempt to register only Democratic voters despite the absence of any partisan framing. MacIver even asks specifically “[W]hat does registering to vote have to do with signing up for Obamacare?”
The core of the right’s trepidation is rooted in a more fundamental aversion to the act of voting itself. It is why they are continually erecting new barriers to voting, such as unreasonably stringent identification requirements, shortening or eliminating early voting periods, wholesale purges of voter rolls, and of course, brazenly discriminatory gerrymandering. Democrats, on the other hand, have sought to expand voter turnout with bills like the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (aka Motor Voter) that mandates that certain government agencies provide people with access to voter registration. In fact, it is that twenty year old law that requires the ObamaCare administrators to make voter registration available. MacIver, and their similarly mortified conservative comrades, are either unaware of this, or are deliberately feigning ignorance in order to rile up their conspiracy-prone base.
5) Weekly Standard Finds Imaginary Threat On ObamaCare Website
The ultra-conservative Weekly Standard dispatched their crack reporters to ferret out what they portrayed as an ominous security threat on the Healthcare.gov website. What they found were comments in the site’s source code that said that “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.” The Standard notes that these comments were not visible to users and were not part of the site’s terms and conditions. But that didn’t stop them from implying that users would be still be bound by it because “the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code.” Not really. It’s only a part of some inoperative text that carries no more obligation than some discarded notes.
6) Fox News Fears ACORN Is Back To Push ObamaCare
The Curvy Couch Potatoes over at Fox & Friends had a jolly old time resurrecting their fear of a community organizing enterprise that no longer exists. ACORN was wrongly hounded out of business by right-wing opponents after pseudo-journalist and convicted criminal, James O’Keefe, distributed some deceitfully edited and libelous videos. But that hasn’t stopped conservative media from exhuming the corpse whenever they are in need of a sensationalistic story, as demonstrated by Fox co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck who announced that “We’re getting information that ACORN operatives are trying to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act.”
While ACORN was never found to have engaged in any unlawful activity, there was a bill passed that prohibited them from receiving federal funds. However, there is nothing in the law that prevents organizations with former ACORN staff from getting federal grants. In fact, there isn’t even any current law that prevents ACORN from getting grants as the previous ban was not included in the latest Continuing Resolution. Fox is brazenly misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to reignite fears of the old ACORN bogeyman. And they upped the terror ante by further alleging that ACORN would use your personal medical and financial information against you politically. They never revealed how that would occur, or to what end, but that isn’t the point. Their only interest is in spreading fear, no matter how irrational and unsupported.
The zealousness with which these right-wing propagandists pursue their disinformation campaign is evidence of their own fear that Americans will come to appreciate having access to affordable health care. Therefore, they see their mission as derailing the program before that eventuality unfolds. Their tactics get more extreme and absurd the closer the program gets to gaining acceptance. A particular target of their attack is young people whose participation is important for the program to succeed. Consequently, opponents have launched a well-funded campaign (thanks to the Koch brothers) to scare off young consumers. Generation Opportunity has already released the now notorious “Creepy Uncle Sam” videos that make false implications of government intrusion into medical care. Next they are embarking on a twenty city college tour to mislead students.
PolitiFact has reviewed sixteen claims made by ObamaCare detractors and found all of them false. Twelve of those were designated “Pants On Fire” lies. If there is one question that begs to be asked, it is this: If ObamaCare is so terrible, then why do opponents have to lie so much about it?
For the past week, the Fox News spokesman for the Divine Spirit, Bill O’Reilly, has been proselytizing his own prescription for resolving the government shutdown crisis. The centerpiece of his solution is his call to delay the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” for one year. He says that big business is getting to waive their mandate for a year, so why not all of the American people.
The only thing wrong O’Reilly’s position is everything. First of all, Americans already have a de facto one year exemption from ObamaCare. The open enrollment period for ObamaCare extends for six months, until the end of March 2014. Anyone who does not get the required insurance by then will have to pay penalty, but it will not be due until 2015. So everyone has plenty of time between now and then to evaluate their options and make a decision that is in their best interest. Therefore, O’Reilly’s suggestion for a one year delay is moot. His notion that everybody must have insurance by January first or they will be billed immediately is simply untrue.
Secondly, O’Reilly uses as a justification for his superfluous delay proposal the previous granting of a one year waiver for the employer mandate. He reasons that if big business is granted this alleged reprieve, why not give the same break to individuals? But what O’Reilly either doesn’t know, or doesn’t say, is that the waiver to which he is referring is only going to a tiny minority of specific businesses that are not providing health insurance to their employees. Since about 96% of the impacted companies already provide such insurance, that leaves only the portion of the remaining 4% who are not prepared to comply that will be subject to the waiver. And that represents about 0.4% of the American people. Citing that miniscule piece of the program as justification for exempting everyone subject to the individual mandate is ludicrous.
When Bill O’Reilly mouths off ignorantly about subjects like these, it really isn’t particularly surprising. He does that pretty much every day. Unfortunately, his pal from the Daily Show, Jon Stewart, also got swept up in the false argument about business waivers during an interview last night with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. And as if it weren’t bad enough that he misread the facts, he berated Sebelius in a prolonged rant over that misunderstanding. Hopefully someone on his staff will provide him with more accurate data on this for future reference.
It is plainly absurd to delay a program that is already saving millions of dollars for millions of people on the basis of such flawed reasoning. And it certainly makes no sense to push everything back because a few companies got a waiver. The Tea Party Republicans advocating this course are engaging in deliberate obstruction and obfuscation, and they must not be allowed to get away with it. Their irresponsible behavior is already having an adverse effect on them with some polls showing they are at risk of losing their majority in the House of Representatives. So I guess the old saying about silver linings is true.
Modern conservatives are obsessed with demonstrating their admiration for Martin Luther, Jr. now that he has been dead for 45 years and is universally regarded as a civil rights icon. While he was alive they despised him as a rabble-rousing commie and opposed his efforts to integrate schools, workplaces, and other social institutions.
Today they scramble to get invitations to an event commemorating King’s best remembered speech as if they were teenage girls trying to get into a Justin Beiber concert. Never mind that they continue to work furiously against the principles for which King fought, and they endeavor to roll back the clock on everything from voting rights to job opportunities.
On his program today, Bill O’Reilly joined the rush to pretend that King is a revered figure amongst those on the right. In a dialogue with James Carville, O’Reilly made what he must have thought was a profound observation: “Wasn’t it a little strange that they didn’t have one black conservative or one black Republican? Did their invitations get lost in the mail, or what?”
Carville began his response by noting the appearances by former presidents Carter and Clinton, but was interrupted by O’Reilly snidely remarking that “Isn’t George W. Bush a former president.” Carville replied that he didn’t know whether Bush was invited or not, to which O’Reilly matter-of-factly stated “He wasn’t. No Republicans and no conservatives were invited.”
Not surprisingly, given O’Reilly’s track record for accuracy and honesty, none of that was true. Bush was invited but declined because he is still recuperating from heart surgery. And even Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal reported that the claim that all conservatives were deliberately excluded was false. In fact, GOP House Speaker John Boehner was invited. The GOP majority leader of the House, Eric Cantor, was invited. Both declined. Former NAACP president Julian Bond appeared on MSNBC lamenting that organizers invited “a long roster of Republicans who all said no. They did, however, attend their own Republican-sponsored affair.
If this is evidence of the GOP’s re-dedication to expanding their base and reaching out to minority constituents, they are going to be sorely disappointed come election time. Conservatives didn’t like King fifty years ago, they don’t like his message today, and they snubbed efforts to participate in the tribute. No wonder they need O’Reilly to misrepresent the facts and invent a non-existent controversy, falsely blaming unnamed liberals for excluding them. I wonder what excuses these losers made up for not having been invited to their proms.
O’Reilly is famous for failing to take responsibility for his mistakes and untruths. He never admitted he was wrong when he said there weren’t any homeless veterans. He never “apologized for being an idiot,”as he promised, if ObamaCare was upheld by the Supreme Court. And you can safely expect that he will not take responsibility for these egregiously dishonest remarks either. [Credit where credit's due: On his program tonight O'Reilly did acknowledge that he was wrong about conservatives not being invited to the MLK event. I guess there's a first time for everything.]
[Update:] Right-wingers throughout the media have been blasting the MLK event for not inviting conservatives. However, numerous conservatives were invited, but turned it down. Amongst those was Tim Scott, the only current African-American senator (albeit an appointed one), who many pundits held up as an example of the bias shown by the event’s organizers. As it turns out, Scott was also invited and he, too, declined.