Tag: fox news
Joe Biden

Biden's Debt Ceiling Victory Destroyed The Right's 'Senility' Smear

It is part of the right-wing canon that President Joe Biden is senile, with his mental faculties deteriorated to the point where he must be confined out of sight in his basement to avoid embarrassing himself publicly. This talking point was always a dubious and opportunistic political attack. But Biden’s successful negotiation of the debt ceiling deal demolishes the claim – and the right hasn’t figured out how to handle that.

Republicans and their allied media apparatus have hyped claims of Biden’s purported dementia since the 2020 presidential race. Trumpists on Fox News and elsewhere frequently highlighted Biden’s speech flubs (he has a stammer) and out-of-context video clips to draw attention to his admittedly advanced age and suggest he was “struggling.” At the same time, they attacked Biden for purportedly “hiding in the basement,” suggesting that Biden was eschewing public rallies not due to the pandemic but rather because his campaign was hiding him from voters to avoid scrutiny of his mental acuity.

Biden’s electoral victory did nothing to quell such attacks, with Fox figures regularly and casually describing Biden as “senile,” and extremely online Republican officials like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talking on the campaign trail about the need to send “Joe Biden back to his basement.”

The last week has been brutal for this theory, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Biden personally negotiating a debt ceiling deal that right-wing media figures call a “total cave” to Democrats that produced “a typical DC swamp sewer bill.” In March, McCarthy offered to bring the president “soft food” to kickstart negotiations, an obvious crack at his age. But on Sunday, after striking a deal, the speaker described Biden to reporters as “very professional, very smart. Very tough at the same time.” The resulting legislation passed the House on Wednesday night and now moves to the Senate.

The right is having difficulty coming to terms with how, as Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) put it on Twitter, “Republicans got outsmarted by a President who can’t find his pants.”

Some, like Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity, are treating Biden’s purported senility as entirely unrelated to the result. Hannity was discussing foreign policy as the House began voting on the bill, and said of the president, “We all know he's a cognitive mess, and he has no idea that today is Wednesday.” Minutes later, after the bill passed, Hannity complained that Republicans’ “hand was stronger” and expressed disappointment that they didn’t get more out of their hostage-taking. But he did not apparently consider how a president who didn’t know what day it was had managed to outnegotiate McCarthy.

Others, like Fox’s Jesse Watters, are continuing to talk up Biden’s purported mental frailty while ignoring the debt ceiling negotiations altogether. Watters did not mention the debt ceiling deal at all during Wednesday’s show. But he found time to amplify an actor’s claim that Biden has “obviously declining mental faculties” and to claim that Biden is “going to stay at home, he's not going to campaign” for reelection.

And a third group, headlined by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, is trying to cope with the tension here, albeit without considering that perhaps the problem is that their talking point isn’t true.

It is an embarrassing failure for Bartiromo and company to have spent years telling their audience that Biden is practically a “vegetable,” leaving them woefully unprepared to grapple with evidence of the president’s actual faculties. But don’t expect anything to change – they are all too deeply committed to the bit to alter course at this point.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

How Fox News Promoted Homeless Vets Hoax To Smear Asylum Seekers

How Fox News Promoted Homeless Vets Hoax To Smear Asylum Seekers

Fox News and Fox Business relentlessly promoted a false New York Post story claiming that homeless veterans were displaced from hotels to make room for newly-arrived migrants for several days last week, devoting more than an hour of airtime to claims that seemed tailor-made for Fox’s anti-immigrant hysteria. The networks’ coverage even included interviews with local government officials who said they had met with the displaced veterans.

But the story told by the Post, and promoted by Fox, unraveled less than a week later, when local news outlets investigated the claims and determined that it was a hoax.

The Mid Hudson News was the first outlet to debunk the story. According to their reporting, there were never any veterans at the main hotel in question, the Crossroads Hotel, and nobody was kicked out to make room for migrants. The Mid Hudson Newsalso reported that the veterans that local politicians claimed to have met to verify the story were actually homeless men who were recruited from a shelter and paid “to act as veterans that had been displaced from a Newburgh hotel in order for a non-profit organization to perpetrate a fraud on the public.”

Another local newspaper, the Times Union, reported that an attorney for the Crossroads Hotel stated that staff at the hotel “are receiving serious threats — including death threats — from all over the county as a result of” the false accusation, and that staff one day “were forced to call 911 to seek protection against someone who was menacing the staff at the hotel, claiming he was looking for the veterans.”

Once this story was debunked by local news outlets, and nearly two weeks after Fox began promoting the story, Fox News and Fox Business began airing extremely short “updates,” which admitted that the entire story was false. On May 24, Fox rolled out an obviously scripted statement on several programs specifically mentioning the Crossroads Hotel, which had featured prominently in Fox’s coverage, possibly to avoid yet anotherdefamation lawsuit similar to those brought by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic in response to Fox’s political smear campaigns against them.

Key events in Fox’s promotion of this hoax:

  • May 12

    Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post published an “exclusive” evening report headlined: “Homeless vets are being booted from NY hotels to make room for migrants: advocates.” The report cited Sharon Toney-Finch, CEO of a nonprofit organization that the Post claimed “works with the vets.” According to the article, “Nearly two dozen struggling homeless veterans … were told by the hotels at the beginning of the week that their temporary housing was getting pulled out from under them at the establishments and that they’d have to move on to another spot.” The Post claimed that the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh, New York, booted the majority of the veterans, and that they were relocated to another hotel “about 20 minutes away.”
  • May 13

    Fox & Friends Weekend kicked off Fox News’ coverage of this fake story the day after it was published by introducing it in the context of the expiration of Title 42 and prominently displaying the Post’s front page, with the cover stating: “Vets kicked out for migrants: Outrage as upstate hotels tell 20 homeless veterans to leave.” The co-hosts quoted from the Post as Pete Hegseth held up the front page to the camera.Later, Neil Cavuto interviewed Orange County (New York) Executive Steven Neuhaus, whom the Post reported had filed a lawsuit against the hotels, which supposedly kicked out the veterans. Neuhaus would be the first of several New York state government officials Fox would interview about the story. During the interview, Neuhaus attacked the owners of these hotels and urged the New York Civil Liberties Union to sue them, and claimed he talked to one of the displaced veterans, saying: “The girl I talked to today, she’s got three Purple Hearts, and a Bronze Star with valor. She was in tears.” (It’s unclear which woman Neuhaus claims to have spoken to; the homeless people recruited by Toney-Finch for this hoax were all men. However, Toney-Finch herself now faces scrutiny for potentially lying about her service in the Army, including her receipt of a Purple Heart.)
  • May 14

    A day after Fox began promoting the fake story, Fox News weekend anchor Arthel Neville explicitly claimed, “Fox News confirms 20 homeless vets just got kicked out of several hotels in the suburbs north of Manhattan to make room for those migrants getting bussed in from the city.” Fox correspondent CB Cotton then quoted Toney-Finch’s nonprofit organization (which had fabricated the entire thing) to substantiate the false claim.
  • May 15

    After the weekend, Fox News and Fox Business began promoting the hoax in earnest. Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said it was “astonishing that some of these hotels are getting migrants” and canceling other reservations, adding, “There are two couples that booked rooms for their wedding … and 20 vets also were in that hotel, they all had to move out because these migrants moved in.” Later on Fox & Friends, guest co-host Will Cain claimed that a “flood of illegal immigrants” are taking up hotel rooms and other resources in New York. Cain went on to remind viewers “about homeless veterans booted from a hotel so that rooms could be given to illegal immigrants,” with Earhardt adding, “Eric Adams says they’re gonna stay there for four months, so 20 veterans had to move to another hotel.”Fox anchor Harris Faulkner claimed the story showed “the disgraceful treatment of our military veterans played out in Orange County, New York,” as the nonexistent group of “at least 20 homeless veterans, some reportedly suffering from PTSD, had to give up their hotel rooms for illegals.” Fox contributor Johnny “Joey” Jones added a jab at the Biden administration, stating, “A president that would leave Americans stranded in Afghanistan probably doesn't see the onus to take care of 20 veterans in a hotel. And I hate to say it, but that's just the absolute truth of it.”

  • Outnumbered co-hosts Emily Compagno and Kayleigh McEnany expressed outrage over the Post story, with Compagno claiming “America's heroes are now paying the price” for the “Southern border crisis.” McEnany lamented, “I can't help but notice the contrast when you have a 24-year-old — a veteran, had been in Afghanistan — kicked out of his hotel room as an Afghan national on the terror watchlist is crossing the border in San Diego.”Fox anchor Martha MacCallum complained, “You’ve got the hotels in New York that are having to take folks in. You had one in Newburgh, New York, where they had to cancel a wedding and kick out some homeless veterans to make room for incoming migrants.” (Unlike the homeless veterans hoax, other outlets have confirmed the reported wedding cancellations.) Fox host Sean Hannity said, “Let’s get some facts out so Joe Biden can understand what is really going on,” before proclaiming: “This is pretty infuriating, homeless vets who served our great country, they’re being put out on the street and replaced by illegal immigrants.” As he said this, Hannity displayed the headline of a FoxNews.com article which stated: “Biden admin, NY officials slammed after homeless veterans booted from migrant hotels: ‘Slap in the face.’” (After local news outlets debunked the false story, this FoxNews.com article was completely changed to reflect the debunk, with an editor’s note added to the bottom).Fox Business anchor and noted election conspiracy theorist Maria Bartiromo introduced this fake story to Fox’s sister network during an interview with Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY). During the segment, Bartiromo slipped and said: “It's incredible that the vets are being killed — kicked out, so that there's room for illegals.”
  • May 16

    On May 16, another Fox correspondent, this time Nate Foy, said that Fox had “confirmed” that the fake story was true: “I can confirm those 20 veterans are staying at a different hotel, and a handful of them are on their way to permanent housing.”Later on The Ingraham Angle, David Riley, an American Legion representative in New York, joined host Laura Ingraham in expressing outrage over the fake Post story. Ingraham claimed homeless veterans were being treated as “second-class citizens” by supposedly being kicked out of hotels. During Riley’s angry ranting about the fake story, Fox aired b-roll video prominently showing the front of the Crossroads Hotel.Cavuto also continued to feature the fake story on his Fox Business program, where on-air graphics claimed, “Homeless vets booted from hotels to house migrants,” and, “Nearly two dozen homeless vets removed from hotels.”
  • May 17

    The hoax story continued to be told on several Fox programs on May 17, including for the first time on the network’s flagship “news” show, Special Report. On the program, Foy said that the office of New York City Mayor Eric Adams “denies removing homeless U.S. veterans from an Orange County hotel to accommodate migrants.”That night, the Mid Hudson Newspublished its first report debunking the New York Post’s story. Toney-Finch, who was the Post’s source for its story, had provided a credit card receipt for room charges at the Crossroads Hotel as proof that her organization paid for homeless veterans to stay there before they were supposedly displaced. But the Mid Hudson News determined that the receipt was a forgery, and a manager at the hotel said there was no record of that transaction. The newspaper further reported that “the manager said there were no veterans at the hotel, none were kicked out and no other guests were told to vacate. The hotel does have a group of asylum seekers there, but the seven-year general manager noted that the hotel is not even booked to capacity and rooms are available.”
  • May 18

    The day after the Mid Hudson News debunked this story, and hours after the newspaper published follow-up reporting on the hoax, Fox continued to air the fake story as if it was true. On Fox News Tonight, Riverhead, New York, Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said: “In particular, what’s really, really disturbing … was that in the Crossroads Hotel in Orange County, he [Mayor Eric Adams] made a deal with the hotel. They took 25 local area residents who were homeless, who needed this shelter, put them out on the street to house people that have come in over our borders.” Cain, who was hosting the show, did not correct her.
  • May 19

    On May 19, Mid Hudson Newspublished another story further debunking this hoax, reporting that a group of 15 local homeless men were recruited by Toney-Finch “to pretend they were veterans that had been kicked out of the Crossroads Hotel in the Town of Newburgh last Friday, in advance of the arrival of migrants brought up from New York City.” The newspaper reported that “they were each promised $200 along with food and alcohol” by Toney-Finch, who “appear[s] to have fabricated the entire story.”
  • Hours later, Fox began to admit that the story it promoted was fake. Fox correspondent Nate Foy, who previously claimed to have “confirmed” the story, offered what he described as a “quick update,” stating: “We’re now looking into new reports that a veterans advocate misled lawmakers, and media outlets, about a story that some homeless men may have been hired to pose as veterans.” Anchor John Roberts responded: “There’s enough chaos without potentially false stories running around out there.” Indeed.
  • Later that night, Ingraham offered her own “little update” on the hoax she had been promoting: “Before we go, a little update on a story we brought you this week about homeless vets being displaced from hotels so that illegals could move in. Turns out, the group behind the claim made it up. We have no clue as to why anyone would do such a thing.”
  • A Media Matters review determined that Fox News and Fox Business had devoted more than an hour of combined airtime to the promotion of this hoax prior to starting these corrections.The same night, The Daily Beast also published an exposé of Sharon Toney-Finch, the veteran and advocate who fabricated the story, which she fed to the New York Post and other media outlets. The Beast reported that she may have lied about her own military record and decorations:

The woman at the center of the maelstrom is Sharon Toney-Finch, who was inducted last July into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame after a special salute by lawmakers for her service. She is listed in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, has been the subject of glowing profiles about her heroism under fire, and once appeared on Fox & Friends to unveil a set of Purple Heart commemorative coins. On May 16, New York State Sen. Rob Rolison, a former police officer, honored Toney-Finch as a “woman of distinction,” making special note of her Purple Heart.[...]However, U.S. Army spokesman Bryce Dubee told The Daily Beast on Friday that the Department of Defense does not know anything about Toney-Finch and a Purple Heart.[...]Officials with the Army’s Human Resources Command told the Times-Union on Friday that they, too, were “unable to verify (from our records) that Sharon Toney received a Purple Heart.”

  • May 20

    On May 20, one week after Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth, who is himself a decorated U.S. Army veteran, kicked off Fox’s promotion of this hoax by holding up the front page of the New York Post, he made a seemingly sincere apology and used the word “correction”: “We do have a quick correction on a story we brought you last weekend. The source who told the New York Post, get this one, that the homeless veterans in New York were displaced to make room for illegals at another New York hotel, made the story up. It was a made-up story. And our apologies for reporting it as such.”
  • May 21

    New York Mayor Eric Adams called out the hoax during an appearance on CBS’ Face The Nation on May 21, saying: “We have witnessed in some municipalities where they lied and stated that veterans were being forced out of hotels, which was untrue and found out to be fabricated. So, these types of tactics are just anti-American and anti-New York City.”And on CNN, anchor Jim Acosta and national correspondent Gloria Pazmino highlighted the “very disturbing story” of the homeless men hired to pose as displaced veterans, describing the allegations as “a complete scam.”
  • May 22

    On May 22, MSNBC host Chris Hayes ran a comprehensive segment calling out Fox News for claiming it had “confirmed” the false story, in the context of its recent $787.5 million defamation settlement in the Dominion case, as well as the long line of Republican politicians ranging from the local to national levels who pushed the hoax. He ended by mocking Ingraham’s contention that “we have no clue as to why anyone would do such a thing” like making up a story.“Why would anyone want to make up a story that’s too good to check, but plays directly into the most deranged bias of your conservative audience?” Hayes opined. “I can’t imagine Fox News airing those kinds of lies, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
  • May 24

    Multiple Fox News anchors and other on-air personalities, including Cavuto, Bartiromo, Faulkner, and others read a nearly-identical script, again described as an “update” rather than a correction or retraction, specifically naming the Crossroads Hotel and acknowledging that the story was false. They also gave a disingenuous promise to provide viewers more information “as we get it,” ignoring the extensive information already uncovered in the last week by both local and national news outlets. This script also ignored that they smeared migrants by pushing this fake story in the previous week.

TODD PIRO (CO-HOST): We want to update you on reports last week claiming that upstate hotels in Orange and Rockland counties, including the Crossroads Hotel, evicted a group of homeless veterans. We've since learned that veterans advocates misled local officials, and it now turns out those eviction claims were false. We wanted to update you on this story and make sure the record was set straight. More as we get it.

It turns out that the Crossroads Hotel that Fox repeatedly attacked in its promotion of this hoax, and which is prominently mentioned in the weirdly scripted corrections on May 24, is owned by Choice Hotels, which is an advertiser on Fox.

Fox News was effectively smearing one of its own advertisers by promoting a hoax that was reportedly followed by death threats.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Elon Musk

Is Elon Musk's Twitter Seeking To Displace Fox News On The Far Right?

Fox News served for years as both the undisputed central hub of the right-wing media and a primary power center for the Republican Party, but the network is now in a vulnerable position. Fox’s record settlement with Dominion Voting Systems both cost its parent company dearly and put its corruption on public display, while its sudden firing of star host Tucker Carlson triggered denunciations from right-wing commentators and an ongoing ratings collapse. With Roger Ailes dead, Rupert Murdoch ailing, and Carlson out, the network lacks a strong leader with influence over the right.

The time is ripe for a challenge to Fox’s supremacy – and it’s getting one from an unexpected quarter. Elon Musk, the reactionary billionaire who took over Twitter in October 2022, is positioning the social media platform to supplant Fox within the right-wing echo chamber.

Musk won over the far right by unwinding Twitter’s policies on hate speech and disinformation and returning former President Donald Trump and other banned right-wing extremists to the platform. That set the stage for a recent spate of high-profile developments.

Earlier this month, Carlson announced on May 9 that he was planning to take some version of his show to the platform. Then on Tuesday, the Daily Wirerevealed that its popular video podcasts, hosted by right-wing commentators like Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, and Michael Knowles, will follow suit. And on Wednesday night, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launched his long-awaited presidential bid in a Twitter Spaces event featuring Musk and fellow venture capitalist David Sacks.

These figures are reactionary ideologues unified by their eagerness to use right-wing power to crush their perceived enemies in the culture war and the “woke mind virus,” their term for progressive views on gender and race (which they frequently distort). In practice, that means dismantling the rights of LGBTQ people, targeting institutions that treat them with respect, and removing them from the public square, while curtailing discussions of race and U.S. history that diverge from right-wing dogmas.

Carlson and Daily Wire hosts like Walsh are among the foremost popularizers of the right’s war on “wokeness,” while Musk is an internet-poisoned conspiracy theorist who systematicallydismantled the platform’s protections for LGBTQ people, undid restrictions on hate speech, and has regularly promoted racist misinformation on the platform. DeSantis is the perfect political avatar of this brand of right-wing politics, having built a national profile by signing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” education law, then bringing state power to bear against Disney after the company publicly objected to the legislation.

The Musk-Carlson-Daily Wire-DeSantis faction will portray itself as an insurgency within the right that seeks the audience, money, and votes held by the Fox-Trump establishment. The resulting clash will create a race to the bottom as the two sides compete for support through demagoguery and conspiracy theories, making the political environment even more unstable and dangerous.

Fox’s own weapons are being turned against it. The network established its audience by denouncing other media outlets as unacceptably liberal and dishonest, gave Carlson and the Daily Wire hosts copious airtime to build their profiles, celebrated Musk’s takeover of Twitter, and inculcated its viewers to demand ever-escalating attacks on “wokeness.” Now the right-wing stars Fox helped mint are branding the network, implicitly or explicitly, as just another mainstream media outlet that deserves the “full Bud Light treatment,” as Walsh put it.

DeSantis, meanwhile, ascended to a plausible presidential challenger with Fox’s support. As a congressional back-bencher he saw Trump use a constant presence on Fox to win the 2016 presidential primary, adopted the same strategy in his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and developed a national profile by firing Fox-friendly culture war salvos in frequent appearances on the network. But while he’ll still make an appearance on Fox – though curiously via an interview with Trey Gowdy, an occasional Trump critic taking his turn among the hosts rotating through Carlson’s old time slot, rather than the more popular hosts like Hannity or Jesse Watters, both Trump loyalists – he did so only after first bending his knee to Musk’s rising power on the right.

Many questions about Twitter’s plan remain unanswered, including whether an audience will actually develop for long-form video on the platform and how it will be monetized. It also remains to be seen whether a presidential campaign that prioritizes Twitter over Fox can actually gain control of the GOP.

What’s crystal clear is that if you are an advertiser in business with Twitter, you’re in the Elon Musk business. And soon, you’re going to be in the Daily Wire business, the Tucker Carlson business, and the Ron DeSantis business as well.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Ignoring Border Reality, Fox Blares Racist Immigration Rhetoric

Ignoring Border Reality, Fox Blares Racist Immigration Rhetoric

Fox News obsessed over the prospect of an imminent, “catastrophic” migrant “invasion” in the days leading up to the May 11 expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that allowed U.S. authorities to swiftly turn migrants away at the border. Network hosts warned that the border had been “effectively abolished,” and that migrants who received a “free pass” would be “saying hello to a suburb near you.” The Biden administration, they warned, was acting “intentionally” in ending the policy as it sought to carry out its “goal” to “fundamentally change America” by importing new “Democratic voters.”

This analysis was wrong – not that that’s deterred the Fox hosts who offered it. Migrant flows have actually declined since Title 42 lapsed, in part due to specific policies the Biden administration enacted that drew criticism from migrant advocates for restricting asylum claims. But Fox hasn’t changed course, and is continuing to sound the alarm that migrants are a threat to their viewers and that the Biden administration is at fault.

Immigration is the issue that best captures how Fox coverage seeks to keep viewers in perpetual fear of what they see on the screen. At its most sinister, the network promotes the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory that a globalist cabal is browning America for nefarious electoral purposes. But on a daily basis, its aim is to ensure that the audience feels that the country is under siege from migrant hordes and that the Democrats are at fault – even when reality contradicts their commentary.

Some at Fox have responded to their failed predictions by ignoring the unfavorable numbers and sticking to their script.

“Everybody knows that Democrats support liberal immigration policies and they like open borders because they want votes, and their donors want cheap labor,” Fox prime time host Laura Ingraham said a few days after Title 42’s expiration. “The only force capable of closing the floodgates is an angry and frankly energized American electorate.”

Host Sean Hannity likewise maintained after Title 42’s expiration that “the borders are wide open” and that President Joe Biden is “aiding and abetting lawbreaking.”

Others at Fox highlighted individual crimes allegedly committed in the United States by migrants and the prospect of terrorists captured at the border as additional reasons for viewers to stay scared.

“New reports suggest that there’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about who’s coming across the southern border,” anchor John Roberts said at the top of a “straight news” segment. After correspondent Bill Melugin detailed reports that several individuals on the terror watchlist as well as an individual previously convicted for manslaughter had been taken into custody near the border, Roberts summed up: “Bad people still hungry to get into the United States.”

On Fox & Friends Tuesday, the hosts stressed the downside of Title 42’s expiration, with Pete Hegseth arguing that cartels abusing migrants waiting in Mexico was a sign of “a Biden border crisis absolutely out of control.”

The willingness of Fox hosts to promote any story that casts migrants in a bad light, no matter how far-fetched, can blow up in their faces. The network ran with the New York Post’s May 13 report that migrants had displaced 20 homeless military veterans “evicted” from two New York state hotels. Fox personalities highlighted the “disgraceful treatment” of veterans and their replacement by a “flood of illegal immigrants” – then the story was exposed as the result of a hoax.

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent recently noted that the right’s “fantasy that the border is constantly in chaos has become a marker of MAGA identity.” That illusion could not be sustained without the careful and constant efforts of outlets like Fox.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.