A Pox on Fox: Latest Lies From Fox News

[I]t disturbs me because I think a lot of nasty stuff went on behind the scenes [during Hussein’s rule] that people don’t know about and they should.

~ Bill O’Reilly, Dec. 16, 2003

While the capture of Saddam Hussein has so far meant little in terms of stemming the violence in Iraq, it has certainly emboldened the Fox News Channel (FNC) to curiously trumpet the capture as ex post validation of the coalition’s invasion.  Since Sunday December 14, FNC has been almost one continuous Saddamathon with the now-famous footage of the latex-gloved frisker searching Saddam triumphantly showing on the channel almost every hour on the hour.  The following is a chronicle of recent war and other lies and spin from Fox.  As with my earlier report in June, my comments are in []s.

Sunday Dec. 14:
The Saddamathon begins.  A David Lee Miller report runs several times throughout the day purporting to be a history of Saddam’s rise and rule over Iraq.  It’s as if Hussein came out of nowhere to brutalize Iraqis.  [The effective lies by omission make the "report" surreal.  On the "Fair and Balanced" Fox, Miller inexplicably forgets to mention the extensive U.S. involvement in effectively creating and sustaining the Hussein monster:  no mention of the U.S.-aided assassination of Abdul Karem Kassim and rise of the Baathists in March 1963 (also the U.S.-aided putsch of ’68 – a great help to Saddam), no mention of Reagan-administration support for Hussein (including ingredients for biological and chemical weapons) during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, no mention of former Hussein buddy Don Rumsfeld’s December 19, 1983 (see video at link) and March 24, 1984 visits to Baghdad (the latter visit being on the very same day as press reports that a U.N. team found that Iraqi forces had used mustard gas laced with a nerve agent on Iranian soldiers).

There are constant references on Fox to Hussein "gassing his own people" but no mention of Stephen Pelletiere’s gutting of that tale.  Also no mention of Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly and U.S. ambassador April Glaspie effectively giving Saddam the green light (as Saddam apparently saw it) for his August 1990 invasion of Kuwait.  No mention of the slaughter of more than 100,000 Shiites that occurred when the U.S. encouraged their rebellion and then failed to support it.  No mention of the estimated half million deaths from U.S.-supported sanctions.  All these topics are of course verboten on "Fair and Balanced" Fox.]

The O’Reilly Factor (7:00 p.m. CT).  O’Reilly’s first guest is Marc Ginsburg, presented not only on O’Reilly’s show but numerous times on Fox’s Special Report with Brit Hume as an objective Middle-East analyst.  [Ginsburg – like the "impartial" Dennis Ross, Frank Gaffney, and Cliff May – is of course a neocon shill every bit as much as Fox contributors Kristol, Barnes, and Krauthammer.  Sometimes Special Report‘s All-Star panel is a stomach-retching neocon sandwich:  Krauthammer, Barnes, and Kristol bread with quasi-neocon Kondracke or Sammon baloney filler laughably included for "balance."]

Next is O’Reilly’s in-your-face trumpeting of a weekend report by the appropriately named Con Coughlin of the London Telegraph supposedly uncovering a direct link between Saddam and Osama bin Laden.  The report centers around a "top-secret memo" found by the U.S.-appointed government of Iraq asserting that Mohammed Atta was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal in the summer of 2001 just before the September 11 attacks. 

Convenient for the Bush administration is that the memo was allegedly written by the former head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam, however the memo suggests that there really was a shipment of uranium from Niger to Iraq after all.  Further, the Niger shipment would never have been accomplished without a "secret meeting" between Saddam and (how convenient!!) current neocon bogeyman Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.  (You can almost hear Perle cursing in the background about the "stupid ragheads" on Washington’s payroll who manufactured the memo but forgot that the White House conceded there was no shipment!)

[Update 12/17/03:  Newsweek‘s Isikoff and Hosenball have labeled the memo a probable fake, and report that the memo is "contradicted by a wealth of information that has been collected about Atta’s movements."  Despite this news, Bill O’Reilly tonight once again refers to the Coughlin report on his show.]

[Update 12/18/03:  California Republican Congressman David Drier on Hannity and Colmes twice cites the Telegraph  article based on the fraudulent memo as evidence for a Saddam-al Qaeda link.  Hannity also briefly adduced the fraud toward the beginning of his show.]

[Recall Con artist Coughlin’s visit to Fox in late April to trumpet the Telegraph‘s Inigo Gilmore report claiming to find "the first proof of direct links" between Saddam and bin Laden.  We were to believe that Gilmore just "sweet talked" his way past the 3rd Infantry into the Mukbaharat to somehow find documents sitting out in the open that the CIA just happened to miss.  Because it followed so closely on the heels of other false reports, few gave any credence to the article.  Interesting also for Con Man has been his recent work attempting to bolster Tony "Bliar’s" notorious and laughable 45-minute claim.

With regard to the neocon obsession with finding a link between Saddam and 9-11/al Qaeda, recall also Fox’s role in mid-November of playing up Stephen Hayes’ article in the Weekly Standard "Case Closed," which supposedly provided proof of not just a link but a long-standing "operational relationship" between Saddam and bin Laden.  The article wasn’t much more than a collection of assertions from raw intelligence data.  Fox presented the article’s contents as fact all day on November 15, the same day as a DOD statement which labeled such reporting "inaccurate."  Fox still presented the article’s assertions as fact for another two days!]

Monday Dec. 15:
Fox and Friends.  Fox Business analyst Neil Cavuto predicts a market rally from the Saddam capture.  [The know-nothing Cavuto, who sometimes seems like he can’t tell preferred stock from livestock, is wrong as securities markets from NYSE (down 0.39%) to AMEX (down 0.59%) to NASDAQ (down 1.58%) all close down for the day.  Even the Wilshire 5000 is down 0.76%.  Yeah, I’d say the markets were impressed with the capture, Neil.]

It’s Joe Lieberman Day at Fox, as footage of his comment that if Howard Dean had his way, Saddam would still be in power is running almost as much as the footage (running practically every ten minutes) of the latex-gloved guy searching Saddam’s hair and mouth for insurgent cooties.  [Fox really has their sites set on Dean.  The constant playing and replaying of the latex-gloved guy frisking the mangy Saddam becomes so annoying I have to turn off Fox for the day.  Judging by reports about Fox e-mail, even many of the network’s fans are annoyed.]

Tuesday Dec. 16:
Your World with Neil Cavuto.  Midway through the show (3:31 p.m. CT) Cavuto refers to the day’s stock-market performance as the Saddam Rally.  [I guess the Saddam Rally could have come next February if the market’s next rise hadn’t been until then.]

Cavuto (3:49 p.m. CT) gives the frothing pro-war president of the Catholic League, William Donohue, a platform to bash Cardinal Renato Martino.  Donohue says Martino only represents "the total fringe" in the Catholic church.  He claims that Catholics the world over were in favor of the war.  [Anti-war Catholics?!   Why there’s almost no such thing!]

Special Report with Brit Hume (5:00 p.m. CT).  A report by Bret Baier on how the capture of Saddam with documents has yielded all sorts of supposed benefits in terms of fighting the insurgency network.  [Fox journalists appear bent on showing immediate benefits, no matter how vague or assertive, of Saddam’s capture.]  Reporter Mike Emanuel repeats the tired lie that the U.S. killed 54 guerrillas in Samarra.  [Nine dead civilians is apparently the real story.]  Footage is aired of Don Rumsfeld claiming that Saddam’s spider hole could hold WMD that could kill scores of people.  [Maybe true, but the misleading implication Rumsfeld and (at times) Fox are trying to advance is that the WMD jackpot, like Saddam, can be found with enough searching.]

The O’Reilly Factor (7:00 p.m. CT).  [This was the most unbelievable episode I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot.]  In his opening monologue O’Reilly rips into Cardinal Martino, but (unlike Hannity later in the night) charitably quotes him:  "I felt pity to see this man destroyed.  The military looking at his teeth, as if he were a beast.  They could have spared us these pictures.  Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him."   [Hannity removed the words in bold italics.]

O’REILLY [Talking Points Memo]:  The problem with the Vatican and the UN and others who have no solution to fascism, terror, atrocities, and mass murder is that they live in a dream world and they are afforded that luxury by America, Britain, and other free nations who stood up to the Nazis, communists, Japanese imperialists, and now the terrorists.  Cardinal Martino and Kofi Annan may be well intentioned but they are not looking out for us.  And we are the only thing standing between them and a bullet to the head.

[The Vatican has no solution, lives in a dream world, and would get a bullet to the head without the U.S.A.?  O’Reilly next debates Father Ryscavage, a Jesuit priest over the appropriateness of the humiliating footage of Hussein.]

O’REILLY:  Father, I don’t get it here.  I think that God actually orchestrated this [the capture of Hussein], this is how religious I am…you would censor that image?
RYSCAVAGE:  I would censor the image of him being humiliated in public.
O’REILLY:  I would have no problem brutalizing this man to protect others, to find out what he knows.  I would not believe that would be sinful, Father.
RYSCAVAGE:  The Church provides a moral framework for decisions, it doesn’t tell you what you have to decide.
O’REILLY:  Martino has been rabidly anti-American in this whole campaign, in the beginning the Pontiff and this cardinal declared the war immoral.  I thought that declaration was immoral because of all the people who have been killed by Saddam. 

[Update 12/23:  Recent reports have the Kurds orchestrating the capture of Hussein.  Fox has yet to mention these even to deny them.]

[Next came one of the most shocking exchanges, marking a new level of overt depravity even for Fox.]

O’REILLY:  Let me ask you about Jesus in the temple, driving the money changers out with a whip.  Was he affording those people dignity, Father?
RYSCAVAGE:  He was protecting the dignity of the temple, the people who prayed in it and the merchants who worked in it.
O’REILLY:  That’s exactly what President Bush and the U.S.A. was [sic] doing when they went in to remove Saddam.  They were protecting the dignity of the Iraqi people and they were protecting the dignity of the world so we wouldn’t have to deal with a guy who clearly was out to hurt people…So we were doing exactly what Jesus did in the temple, weren’t we?
FATHER RYSCAVAGE:  No, I don’t think so.

[There you have it!  George W. Bush and the U.S.A. "exactly" as Jesus in the temple.  This from the No Spin Zone.]

Hannity and Colmes (8:00 p.m. CT).  Torture Saddam Day on H&C, with Bill Bennett and Sean Hannity enthusiastic interlocutors on the subject.
BENNETT:  …if it’s the only means necessary to get information out of him which will save other people…then yes I would do it…I would not be reluctant to use fairly strong pressure.
COLMES:  What do you mean?
BENNETT:  The standard things people do.  Sodium pentathol, needles under the finger nails…I would do it publicly, admit I was doing it, and say why I was doing it.

Hannity quotes Cardinal Martino, careful to doctor the quote (especially on screen) to remove Martino’s statement about Hussein bearing blame for his predicament:
HANNITY [verbatim as if quoting Martino]:  "I feel pity at seeing this destroyed man treated like a cow, having his teeth checked.  I have seen this man in his tragedy.  I have a sense of compassion."  That’s fine but where has he [Martino] been for the compassion [sic] of all the people that have been murdered all these years?  I find this embarrassing as a Catholic.
BENNETT:  …the Vatican has missed some things in the last couple years, they’ve missed the moral significance of some things going on in their own church and they’ve missed the moral significance of this war.

[Of course there’s no moral significance in a soi disant virtue czar gambling away half a million dollars at the Bellagio in one weekend while there are children starving in Iraq.  Oh, that’s right, Bennett quit his lavish gambling for some reason.]

Wednesday December 17
Fox and Friends (5:00 a.m. CT).  More denouncing of the Pope for being anti-war.  Host Brian Kilmeade celebrates the U.S.-appointed Iraq foreign minister’s condemnation of the UN for hindering the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.  [As if there’s any significance to what a U.S. puppet minister thinks.]  Then (7:10 CT) Kilmeade tells the Fox audience that what’s so neat about Hussein being handed over to the CIA is that although they can’t torture him, they can deprive him of sleep, food, and light as well as blast him with unpleasant music.  [Kilmeade is a hilarious and psittacine disaster who shows what happens when a sports reporter crosses over to serious news analysis.]

Host Steve Doocy proudly shows the audience photos of his family socially cavorting with Don Rumsfeld and White House staff member Bradley Blakeman.  [Now try to imagine how conservatives, Republicans, and latex-gloved friskers would have greeted say, CNN, for having a morning show with hosts that cheered the Clintons, openly showed themselves socially cavorting with their staff, while CNN claimed to be "Fair and Balanced."]

O’Reilly Factor (7:00 p.m. CT).  O’Reilly’s opening monologue is entitled "The Death of Shame in America."  He cites "dishonest news analysis" as a symptom of the death of shame.  [No irony there!  His first guest is this odd ex-CIA guy who keeps referring to Hussein over and over as "the hard drive:"  "We will not take a sledge hammer to the hard drive."]

O’REILLY:  What about sodium pentathol, mind altering drugs, chemicals, things like that?
SIMMONS:  Fair game, absolutely fair game.
[There are U.S. officials – especially ex-CIA types like the guest – who have almost, if not as much, information as Hussein has, since he was their on-again, off-again employee.  Will they be tortured as well?]

(7:15 p.m. CT)  O’Reilly tells Jessica Stern from Harvard’s Kennedy School that Syria and Iran should be nervous if they’ve hidden Saddam’s WMD.  [Fox bashes Madeleine Albright for her nutty conspiracy theory that Bush has bin Laden hidden away, yet they employ a grown man who thinks it plausible that Syria or Iran has Saddam’s non-existent WMD.]  

O’Reilly (7:38 p.m. CT) is enraged that Drudge exposed his Today show lie that his new book is rivaling Hillary Clinton’s in sales.  [O’Reilly’s book sales aren’t even half of Clinton’s and are quite a bit below those of his arch-enemy Al Franken. By the way, Matt, O’Reilly repeated the same lie on his own show on Monday.]  O’Reilly states that "you can’t believe a thing Matt Drudge says" yet doesn’t correct Drudge and calls Internet journalism "a threat to democracy."  

[Recall O’Reilly suggesting on June 16 of this year that the Internet should be federally regulated to prevent falsehoods from being told!  Apparently the big government-media establishment is the only entity that should be able to lie with impunity.  O’Reilly’s two guests, Liz Trotta and Quentin Hardy of Forbes, start fighting over whether Internet free speech should be shut down because, God forbid, it’s allowing citizen journalists to have their say and that, according to Trotta, has made the Internet "a garbage dump."]

HARDY:  Are you telling me you want to shut down the Internet and keep people from finding out information?
TROTTA:  No, I want to keep it responsible and safe for democracy instead of a garbage can for people’s ridiculous fantasies.
O’REILLY:  Shouldn’t there be some standards of behavior, some kind of standard?
TROTTA:  Exactly.
HARDY:  I believe the viewers can judge for themselves.
O’REILLY:  Do you?

Hannity and Colmes (8:40 p.m. CT).  When Hannity brings up the subject of 270 mass graves under Hussein, actor Mike Farrell fights constant interruptions from Hannity to point out that the mass graves were mainly filled in during the Reagan and Bush I administrations.  [Hannity’s brilliant rebuttal:  "Oh, it’s Reagan’s fault!"]

Okay, enough of Fox.  The last four days have been quite a re-education for me.  Here’s what I learned:  that the history of Hussein’s rule of Iraq is relevant, but only selectively.  The dirty business that France, Russia, and Germany did with Hussein is an endless outrage but when it comes to the U.S., no discussion is allowed with offenders interrupted, shouted down, and called names.  I learned that the Internet needs federal regulation ("standards") because the bad, bad people who write on it spin, distort, and propagandize.  "We Report, You Decide" is appropriate for Fox, but for some reason I missed, not for the Internet.

I also learned that it’s a respectable view (with no evidence provided) that Saddam’s WMD could be hidden in Iran or Syria and that it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that those are the two nations that our beloved neocons want to invade next.  Most important of all, I learned that George W. Bush and the U.S.A. are now Jesus, roaming the world with a whip to root out sin and iniquity.   Poor Jesus.  I guess He should feel so lucky to be compared to George W. Bush.

Dr. Dale Steinreich is a contributor to AgainstTheCrowd.com and an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute.