No Surprise: Fox News Just Makes Up Facts Now

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Update: Europe responds to Fox News’ Fictional Facts

We all know that Fox News interprets the second part of its name very loosely, but it hit a new low this weekend when it allowed guest Steven Emerson to blatantly make stuff up.

This is a clip from “Justice with Judge Jeanine” (A+ alliteration skills, Fox) with Jeanine Pirro, a former New York District Attorney and former Republican nominee for New York Attorney General.

The man in the clip is Steve Emerson and he’s a “terrorism expert.” By that he means he’s an author, writer, and pundit who’s been slammed in the past for his fear-mongering and ability to spread misinformation. He’s well known for repeatedly crying wolf by blaming acts of terror on Islamic extremists, most notably after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He said that that attack had a “Middle East trait” of being “done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.”

So this piece is apparently on “no-go zones.” Fox News and other conservative publications have begun using the moniker to describe fictional places where apparently Muslims have taken over and created their own societies within other countries. According to Fox News these areas are “off-limits to non-Muslims.” Also “many of these areas are governed by Islamic Sharia law, and the state is unable to provide even basic public aid such as police, fire, and ambulance services.”

This alleged breakdown of civil society has apparently gone unnoticed by anyone except Fox News contributors. In fact, I was startled to learn from the clip above that Birmingham, UK, also known as the second largest city in the UK, has apparently been turned into one of these “no-go zones.” According to Emerson it’s “totally Muslim.”

This has come as a complete surprise to everyone, including the city of Birmingham. After all, its own website quotes its religious demographics as follows:

46.1% of Birmingham residents said they were Christian, 21.8% Muslim and 19.3% had no religion.

Exactly what Emerson thinks happened to that almost 80 percent of the population that identifies as something other than Muslim is unclear–did they convert? Have they been run out of town? How has no one noticed? In addition, Emerson basically accuses the French government at the very least, and the British and Swedish governments at large of a) not caring about these supposed “no-go zones” and b) not telling anyone about them.

Pretty much everyone has now called Emerson a complete imbecile, because that’s what happens to you when you make shit up on TV and try to pass it off as fact. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Emerson is “clearly an idiot.”

It’s also important to recognize that Jeanine Pirro sits idly by practicing her shocked-Muslims-are-out-to-get-us face that I am pretty sure they much teach a class on at Fox News. It’s clear that she doesn’t know enough–or care-to try to ask any real follow-up questions on Emerson’s points, many of which could have been debunked by a simple google search.

As soon as the clip made its way to the internet, the hashtag #FoxNewsFacts started trending. It’s a lot of fun to scroll through, but here are some of my favorites:

Emerson, has, of course, had to release an apology for his claims about Birmingham. Here’s his apology in full:

You may quote me on this as I will be posting this and taking out an ad in a Birmingham paper. I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error. And I am issuing an apology and correction on my website immediately for having made this comment about the beautiful city of Birmingham. I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful. There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake.

So there you have it, Emerson admitted that he was “totally in error.” But something about this apology doesn’t actually sit that well with me. First of all, his apology only appears to address the facts he made up about Birmingham, not the fact that he makes claims that these “no-go zones” exist all over Europe. That’s misinformation too, even though it’s less visibly egregious, it’s just as dangerous in its own way. The way that Emerson’s apology comes across is that he just got it wrong about Birmingham, not overall.

This kind of fear-mongering is disgusting. Emerson came on that show for one reason only: to sensationalize an inaccurate theory and scare people into listening to him. It’s what Fox News, and in the spirit of fairness, any openly partisan “news” source does on a regular basis. After all, remember the Ebola coverage from earlier this year?

Honestly, Emerson will probably be back on Fox spewing his made-up facts before we know it. Or they’ll find someone else to do the exact same thing, because this is what the network does on a regular basis without seeing consequences. In the exact same show, Pirro claimed that President Obama is going to limit our First Amendment Rights. From Pirro’s earlier “Opening Statement“:

I’m surprised the president hasn’t signed a new executive order that simply says, ‘Don’t offend Muslims.’ And make no mistake. As sure as I’m talking to you, there will be efforts to limit our First Amendment, our free speech, to comply with Sharia blasphemy laws, which call for death to those who slander the prophet Mohammed.

I’m an incredibly strong supporter of the First Amendment. Jeanine Pirro and Steven Emerson should be able to say whatever noxious shit they want. But the fact that they get to do so on TV is terrifying.

Europe responds to Fox News’ fictional facts: After Fox News started to receive a lot of flack for its fictional story about “no-go zones” in parts of Europe, Europe is responding. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, is planning to sue Fox News over the story. She told Christine Amanpour: “When we’re insulted, and when we’ve had an image, then I think we’ll have to sue, I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed.” Hopefully this will provide a wake up call for Fox News–as much as it makes its money off of sensationalizing fear for the American people, not everyone will play as nice when it comes to made up facts.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.



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