Written by Melinda Warner, a Media Matters blogger
As Fox News celebrates its 15th anniversary, Media Matters looks back on 15 of the network’s most outlandish smears since 2004.
Fox News: Kerry Just Loves His Manicures. Loves them!
On October 1, 2004, Fox chief political correspondent Carl Cameron wrote a fake news story about Sen. John Kerry receiving a manicure before a debate and included false quotes like “‘Didn’t my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!‘ Kerry said Friday” and “‘Women should like me! I do manicures,’ Kerry said.” The network subsequently issued a retraction and an apology. But this “stupid mistake” was not the only time Fox ridiculed Sen. Kerry for run-of-the-mill, pre-television appearance personal maintenance. Brit Hume, Bill O’Reilly, Pat Caddell, and others all similarly took the opportunity to mock Kerry following the debate.
Fox News: Scientists Are Liars.
Fox News hasn’t let the fact that 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring and that human activity is very likely to blame stop them in their quest to make sure their viewers think science, facts, and reality are figments of the left’s collective imagination. No, no, no. Scientists are liars, obviously, and global warming can be linked to naturally occurring phenomena. Like moon volcanoes.
Following the 2009 release of hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Fox repeatedly claimed that the emails showed scientists “fudging data to make their case for global warming.” The allegation was unfounded at the time and was later shown to be false by numerous inquiries. Undaunted, Fox has continued to push this mythology ever since.
- Fox’s Stuart Varney: Emails Suggest “Scientists Are Fudging Data To Make Their Case For Global Warming.”
- Fox & Friends: Stolen Emails Show Scientists “Fudging,” “Doctoring” Data.
- Sean Hannity: Scientists “Were Certainly Fudging” Data.
- Chris Wallace: Emails Showed “Some Of The Climate Scientists Were Apparently Fudging The Numbers.”
- Fox Reporter Kellogg: Emails Suggest Scientists Who “Believe” In Climate Change “Were Trying To Manipulate The Data.”
- Mike Huckabee: “A Lot Of The Scientists Were Cooking Data In Order To Reach A Political, Not A Scientific Conclusion.”
But Fox wasn’t content to restrict the “scientists are liars” message to the University of East Anglia. Following the lead of the Heartland Institute, Fox News trumpeted the utterly baseless claim that scientists at the University of Colorado are “doctoring” sea level data to “exaggerate the effects of global warming.” In reality, the scientists used a standard and transparent procedure performed by other research groups around the world, and even the climate skeptic cited by Fox News objects to the implication that the group engaged in scientific wrongdoing.
Fox News: Democrats Want To Kill You!
Desperate to find something, anything with which to defeat Democrat’s health care bill (because ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care is not a Fox News priority), Fox News was eager to peddle the nonsense that the bill contained a provision that elderly and sick people would face down “death panels” before obtaining approval for care. Never mind that the “death panel” provision was actually something the congressional Republicans had previously supported and was uncontroversial on its face – it simply lets Medicare reimburse patients who want to talk to their doctors about end-of life planning. No, don’t mind that.
Fox News’ O’Reilly: Arianna Huffington = KKK = Nazis
In 2008, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly got himself very worked up over some reader comments on The Huffington Post. Following an article reporting on a fall that sent Nancy Reagan to the hospital, some readers posted tacky, hateful comments on the piece; O’Reilly read one that said “Like her evil husband, she has lived far too long. Here’s hoping she dies in the tub.” Because the site’s editor, Ariana Huffington, did not delete the comments, O’Reilly decided that made her the same as two of the most evil groups to walk the earth, saying on air:
“You know, what’s the difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Arianna Huffington? What’s the difference?”
“I don’t see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis.”
As disgusting as this instance is, it is not unheard of for Fox News personalities to invoke the two groups to describe progressives or progressive ideals. O’Reilly frequently likens those he disagrees with to Nazis and the KKK including Daily Kos, Michael Moore, and Al Franken.
Fox News: We Gave Them Arizona And They Set It On Fire!
The national debate over immigration has become increasingly more absurd on Fox News. In 2010, Fox News reported that the Obama Administration gave a “major strip of AZ to Mexico.” The Fish and Wildlife Service quickly debunked the claim with the facts that the small area was off limits to the public while security measures were improved.
Then in 2011, Fox News ran with the rumor that a tragic Arizona wildfire had been set by undocumented immigrants. First brought to national attention by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Fox personalities kept the story alive even though there were few facts to support the claim. Two American citizens were found to have allegedly left a campfire unattended and causing the resulting fire.
Fox News: Shariah Law Is Coming!! (Psst…Muslims Are Scary)
Fox News hosts have been fairly consistent in their panic that Shariah law is coming to the United States. It’s a very scary, and definitely very Muslim-sounding, word to them.
In September 2009, Fox’s Hannity dubiously claimed that Harold Koh, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department, “advocates the use of Shariah law in America.” The smear continued even after Koh explicitly denied the accusations.
Then in August 2010, Hannity claimed that Imam Rauf, former imam of Park 51, wanted to “shred our Constitution” and replace it with Shariah law. Hannity supported his claim by taking sentences out of context from Rauf’s book What’s Right With Islam. Fox News’ Fox & Friends also picked up the attacks when hosting Washington Times’ Frank Gaffney, who had previously offered the absurd charge that then Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was “enabling efforts to insinuate” Shariah law in the U.S.
In July 2011, the New York Times published a long profile that exposed just how insubstantial “creeping Shariah” conspiracy theories really are. Think that dissuaded Fox News? Think again.
In fact, in August, Fox’s Eric Bolling fearmongered about Sohail Muhammad, a Muslim judge appointed to the bench by New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, having “a completely objective view on American case law.” Bolling promised his audience: “We’ll keep our eye on” the judge. Moreover, Fox News continues to host right-wing blogger Pamela Geller, who without expertise in Islam, Islamic law or Arabic repeatedly insinuates fear over the “spread of Shariah in the United States.
Fox News’ Sammon: I Don’t Really Believe Obama’s A Socialist, But I’ll Tell You He Is Anyway.
In 2008 as Fox News watched its chances of electing another Republican president diminish, they pulled out all the stops. Fox’s Washington deputy managing editor Bill Sammon appeared as a guest several times to suggest then-Sen. Obama was a socialist and even sent an email to his coworkers that highlighted what he described as “Obama’s references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists.” Well, lo and behold, in 2009 Sammon was a paid speaker on a cruise organized by a conservative college. During his speech Sammon said:
“Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to quote, ‘spread the wealth around,’ At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.”
So when Fox’s Washington deputy managing editor, and one of its vice presidents, is making mischievous speculations – that he himself did not believe – about political candidates, what can be expected of the rest of the network?
Fox News: You Shouldn’t Watch Men Dancing.
In 2011, Fox’s worldview was challenged when Chaz Bono, a transgendered man, became a contestant on the popular Dancing with the Stars competition. Despite the best efforts of host Megyn Kelly, many of her coworkers recited all sorts of anti-transgender fearmongering on the “news” channel. Dr. Keith Ablow, a Fox News contributor and one of the worst offenders against the transgender community, authored a FoxNews.com column in which he commented:
“It would be wrong to think that gender dysphoria cannot be kindled by celebrating those who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery.”
“I advise parents to not allow their children to watch the episodes in which Chaz appears.”
“Chaz Bono should not be applauded any more than someone who, tragically, believes that his species, rather than gender, is what is amiss and asks a plastic surgeon to build him a tail of flesh harvested from his abdomen.”
FoxNews.com pulled the column from its site, but Fox News has continued to host Dr. Ablow.
Fox News: Spies Tell All Their Friends That They’re Spies.
In 2003, George W. Bush Administration officials leaked the identity of a CIA covert operative – Valerie Plame – to several journalists, including columnist Robert Novak. Novak subsequently printed that information in a column that sought to discredit Plame’s husband, retired diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had written an op-ed disputing President Bush’s claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Even though the announcement of her occupation destroyed her career as an operative, and may have put in jeopardy every mission she had been part of, Fox News figures and guests decided it didn’t matter, with some suggesting that she had outed herself…even though she openly discussed her former position only after Novak published his column. Fox personalities continued to insist that none of their friends (and future coworkers) in the Bush Administration did anything wrong because even if Plame did work for the CIA she wasn’t covert (she was).
Fox News: We Don’t Need Facts To Try To Destroy Progressives’ Careers.
You never can tell where Fox News will go when they decide to try and destroy someone’s career. They’re so creative, it’s quite difficult to keep up.
In 2009, then-White House Communications Director Anita Dunn received more than her fair share of attention. There was no balance to the attacks – just a relentless drumbeat of commenters using cropped video to attach her to Mao Zedong. Dunn had told graduating students that Mao and Mother Teresa were two of her “favorite political philosophers,” and based on short quotes from them, she offered the advice that “you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths” or “let external definition define how good you are internally.”
Fox quickly turned these comments into ammunition for attacks. Beck began by insisting that Dunn “worships” and “idolizes” “her hero” Mao Zedong. Not to be outdone, one of Fox News’ so-called “straight news” programs, Special Report, cropped a video of Dunn to show her saying Mao is one of the “people that I turn to most.” Host Sean Hannity and paid contributor Michelle Malkin happily contributed to this line of attack, long after Dunn had left office.
Again in 2009 during the witch hunt on Obama czars, Fox News participated in the attempted destruction of Education Department official Kevin Jennings. Fox falsely accused Jennings of “encourage[ing]” and “covering up” the statutory rape of one of his students. On Sean Hannity’s show, Karl Rove even falsely accused Jennings of engaging in “high-profile, in-your-face advocacy of things like NAMBLA.” Hannity and numerous others called for Jennings to be fired, but since the entire attack was based on Fox News fabrications, Jennings kept his job until he chose to leave it.
Fox News’ O’Reilly: Gay Marriage? Why Do People Want To Be Allowed To Marry Ducks??
The ongoing fight for marriage equality for all has been met with some ridiculous resistance from Fox News. Bill O’Reilly has warned his audience of the possible ramifications of legal same-sex marriage for gay couples: the law will lead to legal marriages between humans and goats, ducks, and dolphins. It’s not hard to understand why the comparison of human marriage to bestiality is demeaning and horrible – unless, of course, you’re a Fox News host.
Fox News: This Guy Beck Has Some Great Ideas. Let’s Give Him A Show.
In his two-year run on Fox News, Beck presented reliable, factual stories unhinged, conspiratorial smears such as: President Obama is a racist with “deep-seated hatred for white people“; the caliphate is coming; and [insert progressive's name here] is “the most dangerous man in America”, “is the head of the snake”, and “want to destroy” America. Not to mention his repeated comments about the looming apocalypse and that only those who listen to his advice will be ready. Also, there were costumes. And tears.
Fox News: Obama Went To School At A Madrassa (Psst…Muslims Are Scary)
In January 2007, Fox News pulled out of the Internet cesspool the idea that then-Sen. Obama was raised a Muslim and received his early education in a madrassa in Indonesia. Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy asked: “Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa?”
Of course, the reason no one had ever mentioned it was that it never happened. CNN quickly and conclusively debunked the claim, visiting the school in question and determining that it was not a madrassa. In fact, the sorts of extremist schools feared by Fox did not begin to appear in Indonesia until 12 years after Obama moved away. Of course.
Fox News: Powerful Women Should Know Their Place. Progressive Ones, That Is.
Fox News has never been a bastion of feminism. So imagine their constant consternation at the powerful specter of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Not afraid to attack everything from her appearance to her femininity to her intelligence, Fox News has taken every opportunity to get in a sucker punch. Comments from Fox personalities include:
- Dennis Miller Called Pelosi A “Shrieking Harridan Magpie”
- Bill O’Reilly: “Even Nancy Pelosi Can Figure This Out”
- O’Reilly: Pelosi “Can’t Blink With All The Stuff She’s Got In Her Forehead”
- Glenn Beck Would Give Pelosi “Man Of The Year”
- “Where She Belongs”: Sean Hannity Agreed With Guest That Pelosi “Should Be Home” With “Tea, Crumpets — Back In San Francisco”
- Sarah Palin: “In The Words Of Dennis Miller” Pelosi’s Explanation Of Health Care Waivers “Are A Tight-Faced Lie”
Fox News: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS NEW FANGLED HIGH FIVE?!?!
Fox News’ America’s Pulse host E.D. Hill was evidently confused about a fist bump shared by the Obama’s on stage just before Barack Obama’s acceptance speech upon becoming the Democratic nominee for president. She decided the minor gesture on an otherwise eventful day first needed an entire segment of her show (during which the various forms of human congratulatory actions were dissected), and second needed to be introduced with the comment, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.” These kids today. Congratulating each other with fancy high fives. Even Fox News employees don’t know how to deal. Hill lost her show within a few days after apologizing on air, saying “I certainly didn’t mean to associate the word ‘terrorist’ in any way with Senator Obama and his wife.”
This post was originally published by Media Matters.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr creative commons