Fox News: The No. 1 Name in Murder Fantasies
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Note: This is a re-post of a November 10, 2010 piece from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)which is particularly relevant to the conversation about the shooting spree in Arizona on Saturday.
Bill O'Reilly's " joke" in November about decapitating Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank was only the latest example of a demented Fox News culture that permits on-air personalities to fantasize about assassination and other forms of violence against those deemed enemies of the station, its personalities or their worldview.
During the cable channel's 2008 election coverage, in what she later called an attempt at humor, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta linked Osama bin Laden to Barack Obama as people who both should be assassinated:
And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, uh Obama. Well, both, if we could.
A week before Trotta's "joke," Republican primary candidate Mike Huckabee was apologizing for his own Obama assassination quip. Addressing a gathering of the National Rifle Association, Huckabee joked that a loud thud heard backstage during his address was Barack Obama diving to the floor to avoid gun shots. Months later, Huckabee was given his own Fox News show.
With its biggest new star, Glenn Beck, Fox News hired a host well-known for on-air death fantasies--for instance, chattering about killing filmmaker Michael Moore with his bare hands and hoping out loud that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) would burn to death.
In a Fox News skit in September 2009, Beck portrayed himself poisoning Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
It's a culture that apparently filters down to Fox News viewers and supporters. Over the years Fox Nation, the Fox News "owned and operated" fan website, has regularly featured comments expressing the desire to see Barack Obama's assassinated.
News Hounds ( 11/8/10) published a collection of such quotes, some of which can still be read at on the Fox site. Fox Nation purports to be self-policing, to depend on readers to report inappropriate and irresponsible remarks for removal. Apparently presidential assassination fantasies fall short of Fox Nation's standards for inappropriate or irresponsible commentary.
Recent examples of these assassination fantasies on Fox Nation include comments calling for President Obama to "get what Kennedy got," for the CIA to "take this pres down" and a warning to the president that the Koran "ain't thick enough to stop a .308 round."
There is some evidence that Fox's murder fantasy culture has already helped to spark violent action. Reporting for Media Matters, journalist John Hamilton tells the story of Byron Williams, a Beck devotee who engaged in a shootout that injured two California Highway Patrol officers in July. After his apprehension, Williams told police he'd intended to travel Oakland California to kill people at the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU.
In a jailhouse interview in which he described the right-wing media sources that informed his views, Williams returned again and again to Glenn Beck:
I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.
Among the things Beck did, according to Hamilton, was attack the Tides Foundation in 29 separate Fox News shows in the 18 months leading up to Williams' foiled mission to Oakland.
Moreover, as the ADL reports, Pittsburgh's Richard Poplawski was so inspired by Beck's anti-government conspiracy theories, he reposted to a neo-Nazi website tape of Beck suggesting the government was building concentration camps for dissidents--before he was arrested after a shootout with police that left three officers dead.