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Fox&Friends Has Less Than Lucid Discussion Of Hate Crimes Bill – But What Else Is New!

Reported by Priscilla - July 21, 2009 -

The conservative right wing, particularly the Christian right, hates “hate crime” legislation. There is the bogus talking point that it will prevent their beloved pastors from preaching – well – hatred towards homosexuals. They also think it will provide protection for pedophiles – something featured on both Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity’s shows. The Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes bill, passed by the US Senate 63 to 28, expands the current federal hate crime definition to include sexual preference as criteria for crimes carried out on the basis of race, religion, and national origin. As it represents another defeat in the ongoing right wing, which waged an aggressive campaign against this bill, I was curious about how Fox, the mouthpiece for the American right wing, would handle this obviously great event; as “People for the American Way” said to “be on the lookout for intensified rhetoric and lies from the Right about this good bill.” Not surprisingly, Fox&Friends provided a platform for the “intensified rhetoric and lies” with its segment titled “Hate Crime Controversy, Could Amendment Encourage More Crime.” I was surprised, however, that the approach taken on yesterday’s Fox&Friends segment wasn’t religious – it was just bizarre!

Fox News chyrons, posed as a question, frequently are – minus the question mark – right wing talking points hence, the first chyron, “Senate’s Hate Crime Amendment, Could It Do More Harm Than Good?” While noting that the new bill “expands” the definition of “hate crime,” Steve Doocy didn’t say that the bill was expanded to include sexual orientation. Doocy asked if this bill could “make it harder to prosecute terrrrrists.” David Rittgers, introduced as legal policy analyst and former army special forces officer, who opposes the bill, was the only guest and he was full of rightwing talking points about the bill starting with “we already criminalize violence…dragging the ideology of the perpetrator into the courtroom gives them a bigger platform for their ideas…” Doocy and Kilmeade did not note that Rittgers is a policy analyst for the conservative Cato Institute. Rittgers reiterated the idea of the “platform” in citing the Holocaust Museum and recruitment center shooting as acts of “lone extremists and domestic terrorists.” He did not mention domestic terrorist Scott Roeder who shot Dr. George Tiller. The chyron read “New Bill, More Harm Than Good?” Kilmeade said that “on the surface” the bill seems fine; but asked Rittgers to elaborate on the problem as he “peels it through.” Rittger claimed that we already have laws for prosecuting those who harm other people. What Rittger didn’t mention is that this new bill provides federal assistance when local law enforcement is reluctant to pursue crimes perpetrated on the basis of hate. Rittger’s “platform” argument would also hold true for the other categories of “hate crimes;” but nowhere in the discussion (except for a vague statement at the beginning) was the fact that this amendment expands the definition to sexual orientation mentioned. Rittgers’ contention that the amendment is an “aids program for domestic extremists” seems strange when we already have a category of hate crime which includes attacks based on religion. As such, one would assume that jihadist types wouldn’t be attacking anyone based on sexual orientation.

Doocy read a quote from John McCain who objected to the amendment and added “that was pretty much what you said, David.” Rittgers was concerned that the recruitment office shooting wouldn’t be considered a hate crime unless the shooter was looking for a person of a specific race or religion; but the Holocaust Museum would be a hate crime despite the “same death toll., the same kind of crime, why are they different?” Brian Kilmeade, who apologized for his recent “pure genes” remarks, said “good points.”

Comment: If Fox viewers are un/misinformed, this segment was exhibit A. The existing federal hate crime law was not explained and neither was the expansion. (phrase “sexual orientation” not uttered). And because the segment was not “fair and balanced,” there was no counterpoint. While the kids wanted to move in the direction of how this new bill impacts on fighting terrrrrrsts, Rittgers brayed about how the bill would provide a “platform” from which the accused could spread their message but he didn't say that could happen under a hate crime being prosecuted under the old criteria. As a report on what this law was about, this segment – for lack of a better phrase – truly sucked. But then, we’re talking Fox&Friends.