By Jay Kirell
War is an ugly thing, but not nearly as ugly as politics.
A week after appearing with President Obama at the White House to announce the release of their son from five years of Taliban captivity, the parents of Bowe Bergdahl have begun to receive death threats.
I’ll repeat that. The parents of an American POW have been receiving death threats.
You know who you can blame for that?
Ever since the news of the prisoner transfer with the Taliban was announced last week, Fox News has been relentless in it’s systematic teardown of not only the specifics of the deal, but the soldier who was returned and unconscionably, the parents of that soldier.
The anchor of Fox News’ prime time lineup, Bill O’Reilly, was particularly irrational and borderline dangerous in his comments regarding Bergdahl’s father:
Personally, I loved the part about Pashto being the language of the Taliban. It’s also the language of most of Afghanistan. It’s also a language taught to American military personnel so they can better communicate with the locals.
But Bill O’Reilly is a smart guy. He knew that.
He didn’t put that line in there because he was confused or misunderstood linguistics. He put it in there to anger his audience. The more riled up they are, the more they watch. The more they watch, the higher the ratings. The higher the ratings, the more Bill O’Reilly makes.
It doesn’t matter if the Bergdahl’s have their lives threatened and now the FBI is involved. O’Reilly got the attention he always craves and I’m sure Fox News got a terrific ratings bump from their wall-to-wall coverage of “the traitor Bergdahl’s and their terrorist-loving President.”
It’s been like that for a long time with Fox News. Here’s just as sample of how much hatred and vitriol they’ve stirred up in just the last five years:
- From 2009-2012, Cass Sunstein served as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. During that team he was the subject of a near-obsession by then-Fox News host Glenn Beck. As soon as Beck started connecting Sunstein with various conspiracies he started to receive letters and hate mail and death threats to his unlisted home address.
- In April of 2010, Nancy Pelosi, then-Speaker of the House, received death threats from a man named Gregory Giusti. Giusti’s mother stated Fox News’ coverage of Pelosi and the health care debate was a factor in her son’s alleged actions.
- In July of 2011 , Blair Scott, Communications Director for American Atheists, appeared on America Live with Megyn Kelly. Shortly after the appearance The Fox News Facebook page got over 8,000 death threats posted on its wall after discussing the group’s lawsuit hoping to stop the erection of a crucifix at the World Trade Center Memorial.
- In August of 2012, a former Navy SEAL and author of the book “No Easy Day” recounting the events that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden received death threats from Al Qaeda-linked websites after Fox News revealed the author’s real name in an online report and during a televised segment.
- In March of 2013, Deandre Poole, a Florida Atlantic University professor was the subject of segments on the Fox & Friends morning show as well as the O’Reilly Factor. After the segment about Pool’s class assignment “Stomp on Jesus” aired, Poole received racially-charged emails and voicemails as well as death threats.
- Again in March of 2013, Zerlina Maxwell, a writer and Democratic strategist, appeared on Sean Hannity’s show and spoke out against the notion that woman needs a gun to defend herself from rape. For this slight against gun culture in America, Maxwell received rape and death threats on Facebook and Twitter.
- In November of 2013, school board members in Sioux Falls, South Dakota received hate mail and death threats after Megyn Kelly aired a segment about the school board allegedly not requiring students to say the pledge of allegiance. Fox News used highly-edited quotes from school board members to make them look…unpatriotic or something.
- In March of 2014, Lois Lerner, former IRS official, pleaded the Fifth at a House Oversight Committee hearing. Lerner, who was being subjected to numerous death threats at the time, was mocked by Fox News host Jon Scott, who counseled her on how she might avoid future death threats in the future – namely, confess to alleged crimes against conservatives: “I can see why if you’re getting death threats, why you wouldn’t want to open yourself up to more scrutiny. But at the same time, it would seem that answering some of the questions might cause some of these people who are so angry to ease up.”
As we’ve seen, death threats against people the Fox News audience turns its ire against is nothing new. The Bergdahl’s are just the latest to commit the grave sin of being something conservatives find unappealing.
It’s a commentary on our divided times that the cable channel most appealing to the angry and bitter is also the most popular. It’s also a commentary on our current standards of journalism that the Fox News Channel is considered a journalistic outfit at all.
But by law they are a news organization. Even if their actions show them to be nothing more than a guy shouting fire in a crowded theater.