Paul Begala

10 Stories Fox News Falsely Reported as News

media mattersIt should be noted that I originally wrote this article in early 2011 for a site called The site ended up getting infected with malware, and was taken offline and all its articles with it. It was a great site, and this article actually went viral the month it was published. It is being republished here, as it was published way back when, since it fits the bill of what this blog is all about. Late last week, Media Matters for America spoke with a Fox News “insider”, who said that things are made up all the time at the organization. This “insider” also said that it is the M.O of Fox News to “undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats.”

Whether or not this insider is actually an insider, or whether or not Fox News has such an M.O. or not is another story. This story should make us question how valid the statement is about Fox News making things up, or reporting stories that just aren’t true. Have they ever reported something that was just plain false? Well, here are 10 stories for you:

The Shirley Sherrod “Scandal”

In July 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her post as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. Blogger and conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart first posted a video on his website that “shows” Sherrod telling a story of how she discriminated against a white farmer, and how that action was approved up by the audience to whom she was speaking. The problem was that the video was actually one small snippet of a 45-minute video, where Sherrod ends up helping that white farmer and fostering a friendship with him.

But the full video, and full story, was not what circulated the mainstream media, including Fox News. As of this week, Sherrod has sued Breitbart, with no more comment from either party.

Watch the snippet

Watch the full speech

The Nuclear Security Summit Logo

Also in the summer of 2010, made a lot of fuss about the “resemblance” between the Islam crescent and the logo of the Nuclear Security Summit. Not only is this one of least newsworthy things in the whole world, but also it was a similarity first interpreted by right-wing bloggers, who are always looking for a conspiracy theory. Besides a bunch of pictures, there was nothing substantial that proved that the Islam crescent served as the inspiration for that logo.

Fox’s Coverage of the “Conspiracy”

Where the idea really came from

A Ban on the Declaration of Independence

For two weeks toward the end of 2004, Fox News falsely reported that an elementary school in Cupertino, Calif. banned the Declaration of Independence because it mentioned God. The idea came from an erroneous headline of a Reuters article covering the same story, but the story specifies that the school was banning handouts from fifth grade teacher Stephen Williams, who had selected only the certain parts of the Declaration of Independence that make reference to God. The school was not banning the document itself, nor was it imposing any sort of ban on the entire school, but just the handouts from Williams, which happened to contain words from the Declaration. Though Williams, and Alliance Defense Fund attorney Jordan Lorence, also said on Hannity & Colmes and the school was banning the Declaration of Independence, Hannity and Colmes were not the only pundits to cover this story. The other pundits didn’t necessarily have Williams and Lorence either. On top of that, it took a correction from the school itself to straighten the matter out.

See who else failed to check the facts on this one

Paul Begala and the Clinton Campaign

In January 2008, Fox News reported several times that CNN political commentator Paul Begala was joining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Only was that false, and that Begala told at least 11 news organizations (including Fox News) that the rumor wasn’t true. Yet, Fox News continued to report it anyway, and to also report (falsely) that Begala had made conference calls with the campaign. Not sure if this every got rectified.

Read the full discourse between Begala and Fox’s Major Garrett

The LAPD Gets Jetpacks

In October 2010, Fox & Friends reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had purchased 10,000 new jetpacks, at $100,000 a piece. Except that the entire thing is false, as corroborated by the Los Angeles Times. Fox & Friends retracted the story about 40 minutes later.

Watch their hilarious coverage

Where the story really came from

How Many People Attended that Rally?

That’s a good question, especially when you are asking Fox News. There have been a few instances where the number, or footage, that Fox News syndicates reported on a crowd or rally was disputed, such as the crowds for Sarah Palin’s new book, the 9/12 protest, or the Tea Party protests against Barack Obama.

Watch Sean Hannity admit yet another footage error by the network

No One Covered the Washington Tea Party

In the Washington Post of Sept. 18, 2009, Fox News took out a full-page ad that said, "How did, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?" The ad refers to the 9/12 protests and insinuates (or at least can logically be interpreted to insinuate) that these other networks didn’t cover the march at all. However, this is not the case, and there’s numerous evidence to show otherwise. In fact, here’s a report card grading how EACH NETWORK covered the march.

View the misleading ad

A sample of CNN’s coverage

Terrorists Just Loved it When the Dems Took Over Congress

Keith Olbermann in November of 2006 got his hands on some documents from Fox News officials that tell reporters and producers to talk about how the War on Terror is still going, and how Muslim extremists love the fact that the Democrats took over Congress in this midterm election. Granted, this is Keith Olbermann, but it’s definitely food for thought.

Watch Olbermann in action

Felons Vote, Troops Don’t

Just before the November midterm elections, our good ole pals over at Fox & Friends reported that Cook County, Illinois hand delivered ballots to inmates, while it sent the absentee ballots for soldiers serving overseas a little bit late. There were just a few problems with this one:

  • Cook County did not send their absentee ballots late. In fact, the county had sent them almost two weeks ahead of schedule
  • Inmates are not hand delivered ballots, but must request them just like anybody else.
  • An inmate only gets a ballot if they are not yet convicted in a court of law. An inmate also doesn’t get a ballot if they are convicted any time between the day they request and Election Day.

Watch the full Fox News report

Read a little bit more about the truth

“We’re not making this up!”

This one led to a lawsuit of Fox News, when Fox & Friends reported a fake news story and repeated false information. The story involved a middle school prank in Lewiston, Maine, when a student tossed a slab of ham onto a table of Somali Muslim students, knowing they would be offended. Fox & Friends reported a parody of the prank, where quotes attributed to superintendent Leon Levesque were repeated, such as teaching the students that “ham is not a toy,” and that the district is developing an “anti-ham” response plan.

To clarify, the story about the prank is completely true. The quotes attributed to superintendent Leon Levesque, were completely falsified.

To report on the story and to those quotes once before a retraction may be excusable, but to do it twice in a before realizing the mistake is simply poor journalism. On top of that, the mistake wasn’t acknowledged until three weeks later! In their defense, Fox & Friends did tell the truth in that they were not making it up. The problem was, somebody else made it all up. But is that really any excuse?

Hate crime, or just a ham sandwich?

Read how Fox & Friends escaped the guilty verdict