This fixation has migrated from the fringe of the fringe over on Breitbart.com, which shamed itself in July with headlines announcing that border officials had found a “Muslim prayer rug” at the Arizona border that turned out to be an Adidas soccer jersey. In August, Breitbart protégé James O’Keefe, the goofball behind the ACORN sting and other dumb stunts to entrap evil liberals, snuck across the border in an ludicrous Osama bin Laden costume, to “prove” America’s worst enemy could penetrate our weak southern flank, even though he’s dead.
If you heard about O’Keefe’s stunt, you probably chuckled darkly (especially if you saw photos.) You chuckled, that is, unless you’re Sen. John McCain. If you’re Sen. John McCain, you used O’Keefe’s stunt to browbeat a top Homeland Security official, Francis Taylor, at last week’s Senate hearing about the ISIS threat.
When Taylor insisted officials “have the intelligence and the capability at our border” to block terrorists from crossing, McCain shot back: “Well you know it’s interesting because a American reporter named James O’Keefe dressed as Osama bin Laden walked across the border at the Rio Grande river undetected. Does something like that concern you?” Taylor said O’Keefe was not “undetected,” and that border officials saw him and his crew, but McCain wasn’t satisfied.
Now it’s a full-blown panic. The Drudge Report’s top headline hypes “ISIS at the border?” even though the New York Times story it links to explains how the U.S. is working hard to debunk this conspiracy, though it can’t work faster than Fox News is hyping it.
…as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted, Fox’s explanation is “a brilliant and meaningless distinction. So Hannity’s radio show will have a financial connection to and a rooting interest in the Tea Party Patriots, but presumably ‘Hannity’ on Fox News will not. When the star commentator moves from radio mic to television camera, his institutional ties to the Tea Party Patriots will go poof in a cloud of media-platform dust.”
Politico reported earlier this year on how conservative organizations are using talk radio hosts like Hannity as “a fundraising gold mine” by paying them to read advertisements on their shows that “usually steer listeners to its website and encourage donations, as well as ads for the sponsoring groups on the hosts’ websites, and sometimes a certain number of signed fundraising emails and appearances.”
The Washington Post reported in April that the Tea Party Patriots is one of several conservative groups that spent “just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting” candidates, instead devoting most of their money to fundraising and consultants. Martin is “on track to make more than $450,000 this year.” While he is complaining about President Obama’s “amnesty” plan, Hannity claimed after the 2012 elections to have “evolved” on immigration and endorsed a pathway to citizenship.
Fox has replaced the Sunday massacre with older stories about the Bergdahl prisoner swap, the Veterans Administration, and Hillary Clinton’s book release and presidential aspirations. The producers and editors at Fox News have never been shy about reporting acts of alleged terrorism, even before any evidence has emerged. But for this story they have refused to even refer to the crime as terrorism.
There are some obvious reasons why Fox would skew their reporting and ultimately remove this story from their news coverage. And all of them represent biases that are a long-standing part of what can be called the Fox News Creed: Racism, Guns, Anti-Government, and Tea Party.
First of all, the perpetrators are not who Fox’s racist producers typically profile as terrorists. Rather than being brown-skinned, Muslim, foreigners, the Millers are white Christians from Indiana. So not only would it run counter to Fox’s philosophy to implicate the Millers in terrorism, it would offend their 90% white, right-wing audience.
Secondly, the issue raises concerns about access to dangerous firearms. The NRA constituency at Fox is loathe to focus on such events that make the public uncomfortable with the wild west society that is favored by the gun fetishists and right-wingers who program and watch the network. Fox avoids or downplays most stories about gun violence, but jumps on any report that they can frame as an Obama attempt to repeal the Second Amendment.
Thirdly, Fox is well known for promoting some of the very same political ideologies as the Millers. They have featured guests who advocate secession from the United States, as well as armed resistance to federal law and authorities. An example of that is the recent Cliven Bundy affair where Jerad Miller just happened to show up threatening to use "the language of violence" against representatives of the Bureau of Land Management. Fox has also hyped Republican leaders, like Texas governor Rick Perry, who have made public statements that come just short of declaring secession.
Finally, the Millers’ association with Tea Party groups is something that Fox will work vigorously to excise from the public discourse. The Millers were supporters of the biggest Koch brothers-bankrolled Tea Party organizations (Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks), and openly espoused their anti-government views. It was only a matter of time before people who came to rallies with signs that said "We Came Unarmed - THIS TIME," would keep their promise of violence. Of course, Fox News also supports the same groups and views, and has been instrumental in creating and promoting the Tea Party. In fact, there would be no Tea Party without Fox News. Consequently, Fox is not going to risk alienating such a critical part of their audience.
So why haven’t the center-to-left organized boycotts of Fox News advertisers?
Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his public relations firm have been coordinating interviews for soldiers criticizing the actions of recently-released Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
Those critics have said that Bergdahl, who had been imprisoned by the Taliban since 2009, risked the lives of soldiers who tried to find him after he reportedly walked off his Afghanistan base.
Several media outlets have reported on these soldiers and their concerns, including Fox News, The New York Times, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Beast. According to a report in Buzzfeed, Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his firm Capitol Media have “played a key role in publicizing” these critics.
Grenell served as a spokesman for former U.N. ambassador (and current Fox News contributor) John Bolton in the George W. Bush administration, and also worked for a short time on the Romney 2012 campaign.
The New York Times reported on June 2 that “Republican strategists” arranged for the paper to interview soldiers who served with Bergdahl and have animosity towards him because they believe he is a deserter.
One of the soldiers quoted in the article, Cody Full, sent out a tweet thanking Grenell “for helping get our platoon’s story out.”
Buzzfeed reported that Grenell’s partner at his firm, Brad Chase, confirmed that they were behind the public relations campaign (Grenell also sent out a tweet explaining his firm offered “pro bono services” to the soldiers). Chase disputed the Times’ characterization of his firm as “Republican strategists” because he is not a Republican.
But a radio producer who booked one of the soldiers told Buzzfeed that Grenell was their point of contact for the appearance. Two other reporters confirmed to Media Matters that Grenell put them in contact with the soldiers.
David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times, who posted an article late Monday quoting Bergdahl’s critics, said he had reached out to Grenell, who personally helped him contact Evan Buetow, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon.
The New York Times' Helene Cooper, whose article identified the source of her interview subjects as “Republican strategists,” said she was contacted on Sunday with information on former platoonmates of Bergdahl who wanted to talk to the paper.
After appearing on SNL in the 80’s, Jackson had largely faded from public view until she reshaped herself in recent years as a tea party activist and conservative bomb-thrower. Her proclamations that Obama is definitely a communist and possibly the Antichrist sparked something of a second career, leading to a stint as a columnist for conspiracy website WND, a web-TV series, occasional Fox News interviews, and regular appearances at conservative and tea party events.
This week, Jackson ”filed to run as an independent candidate for a seat on a county commission outside Nashville, Tenn.”
During an interview promoting her book on Fox News last year, Jackson told Bill O’Reilly that while she had always been a Christian, she was apolitical until 2007 when she discovered an “underground conservative group of people” in Los Angeles that “educated” her about how a communist named Barack Obama was running for president. A Miami New Times profile of Jackson from 2012 tracing her journey from SNL to the tea party explains that while she refuses to name the “secret organization” that helped awaken her political side, she “is clearly talking about Friends of Abe,” a group of conservative celebrities whose members reportedly include Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer, Pat Boone, and Gary Sinise.
After this political awakening, Jackson took to political blogging, making headlines in 2008 for writing on her website that Obama “bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ” and asserting that it was important to “ask if Barack Hussein Obama could be a Muslim terrorist sympathizer or a Marxist mole.” Despite her extremism and nonsensical political views, she was nonetheless quickly absorbed into the conservative movement, appearing in an October 2008 National Republican Senatorial Committee ad attacking her former SNL colleague Al Franken
Jackson’s fledgling conservatism was apparently heavily influenced by Fox News and its fever swamp coverage of Obama’s first term.