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Fox News Exploits Flag Drawing Story For Its Own Divisive Purposes

Reported by Ellen - May 12, 2010 -

Those “We like America” folks at Fox News have found a new way to exploit the American flag for divisive purposes, this time to portray a California middle school as indoctrinating children with anti-American, pro-Obama propaganda (notice the juxtaposition!). Fox teamed up with a sympatico mother and teen-ager to push the agenda, even before all the facts about what had happened were determined. With video.

From what I gather, Fox News got its latest “public schools are indoctrinating our children with anti-American, liberal propaganda” story when a California mother Tweeted about an art teacher telling her daughter that her drawing of the American flag was “offensive.” Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes saw the Tweet - I'm not sure if it was directed to him or he just found it, as one look at his home page reveals he has antennae out for these kinds of stories. Starnes picked up the story and voila! Tracy Hathaway and her daughter Taryn were Fox News' latest liberal-school-victims darlings. Had Starnes or anyone else on Fox done even a smidgen of digging, they might have discovered that there could be less to the story than meets the eye.

The Californian, in a post called, “Salinas schoolroom flag flap may be baseless,” noted that Fox jumped the gun before anyone found out why the teacher had said what she did. The Californian's Mike Hornick wrote that the district superintendant, Mike Brusa, said,

“It may have been (the students) were working on the Yellow Ribbon project, which sends care packages to military in war zones. One of the requirements is that there is no writing on the flags. If that's the case, then there's been a huge misunderstanding here and a lot of needless turmoil and grief."

Reasons for prohibiting writing on a flag -- on any topic -- involve awareness of other cultures and of U.S. soldiers, Brusa said.

"If you have a flag with 'God bless America' over it in the middle of Iraq, or you're sending it to soldiers who aren't Christians, it could be a problem," he said.

Superintendent Brusa also noted that the teacher in question had been absent and he promised to get to the bottom of what happened.

But “we report, you decide” Fox News saw no need to either wait to find out what had happened or even to report the potentially mitigating factors before it ran with the “Old Glory 'Offensive?'" story on Fox & Friends Monday (5/10/10) and “Bias in America's Classrooms” on Hannity on Tuesday (5/11/10). Fox Nation also posted the story under headline, "Teacher Deems American Flag 'Offensive.'"

On Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy announced, “Showing some patriotic pride for a class assignment got a Califronia teenager a shocking reaction from her teacher...Meantime, the same teacher apparently praised the picture of President Obama drawn by another student in the class.”

7th grader Taryn Hathaway sounded coached as she claimed that the reason she had decided to draw the flag was because, “I had my freedom of speech so I just drew whatever I wanted to.” Doocy didn't push for a further explanation.

Doocy then prompted Mom Tracy Hathaway for her reaction when she found out that the teacher had praised the drawing of Barack Obama. Of course, if the project had been for the troops and the kids had been told not to write on the flag, that could easily explain why a teacher would praise a drawing of Obama and not Taryn's flag with its "God Bless America." It could also explain Taryn's "I had my freedom of speech" answer. But Doocy never asked what the project was nor whether the teacher had put any restrictions on what could be drawn. However later, on Hannity, Taryn said the assignment had been to sketch "whatever you wanted" but using pointilism.

Mom Tracy said, “I didn't understand why the one thing that brings our country together and unites us, as the American flag does, was offensive to somebody.” And yet, she had no problem with this “uniting” symbol being used as a tool for Fox News' divisive purposes.

Tracy Hathaway quickly made it clear that she was at least partially on board with Fox News' conservative agenda. She added, “The (drawing of the) president who – for whatever reason, people disagree with what he's doing - was OK with (the teacher).”

Sean Hannity, not surprisingly, was more caustic. Joseph McCarthy would have been proud of Hannity's introduction that began, “The liberal bias and anti-Americanism is infiltrating America's public schools.” Like Doocy, Hannity also failed to report the potentially mitigating factors.

Taryn and Tracy giggled appreciatively as Hannity sneered that the drawing of Obama probably had a little bubble saying, “Yes, we can, chan, chan.” (Hannity seemed to be starting the word "change.")

Mom Tracy agreed “absolutely” with Hannity's hypothesis that the teacher had been trying “to indoctrinate and impose their political views on your daughter.”

Taryn gave a similar, odd explanation to Hannity for drawing the flag that she had to Doocy. “I wanted to show that I'm a free American citizen and I can draw whatever I want and I wanted to support our country.” If the assignment had, in fact, been to draw whatever she wanted, why did she feel the need to show how free she is? Don't get me wrong, Taryn seems like a nice, earnest and well-intentioned young lady and with a similarly nice, well-intentioned mother. But I can't help but think there was something more to the story the Hathaways were not telling.

One thing is clear: Even if the teacher had been politicizing the art class, she was not the only one. And the biggest act of politicization came from Fox News.

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