Surveys have shown that a non-trivial percentage of Americans (roughly one in five) believe President Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim. Chances are an even greater percentage of Americans hold the Fox News Channel in large measure responsible for perpetuating this perception, along with the notion that Mr. Obama was born not on Oahu, but in Kenya.
A few months ago, former President Jimmy Carter said this on CNN:
A lot of gullible folks in the United States actually believe what Fox [News] puts forward as facts, when most of it is just complete distortions. And they’ve also attempted to twist around what [Barack Obama’s] religious faith is and whether or not he’s an American and so forth.
So what type of information exactly does Fox News feed its gullible audience with respect to Mr. Obama’s nationality and religious affiliation that Mr. Carter finds so objectionable?
Hard to say whose voice, among the plentiful selection of hosts, contributors, and guests, represents “what Fox puts forward as facts”—the official Fox News distortion on a given issue, as it were—but The O’Reilly Factor always seems a good candidate for gauging the overall flavor of the channel. After all, Bill O’Reilly commands the largest slice of Fox News airtime, to wit three hours a day, five days a week, including the prime time slot at 8pm, thus copping the largest cable news audience by far. And although no single on-air personality can be said to epitomize the entire organization, one can hardly invoke that infamous “Fox News narrative” without incorporating the impassioned orations (paranoid rants, hate-filled diatribes … pick your favorite description from your favorite source) of its flagship bloviator—a “very, very, very rich man, who has grown phenomenally rich by playing a character on TV that the most gullible audience in the history of television falls for,” according to Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC’s latest prime-time talent.
On last night’s Factor, in the course of a lively discussion on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s handling of a line of questioning from David Gregory on Sunday’s Meet the Press as to why he (Boehner) didn’t do more to reign in his crew with regard to the recurring doubts expressed by some Republicans about Mr. Obama’s nationality and religious faith, Bill O’Reilly, for the umpteenth time since the initial materialization of these rumors, and with his trademark panache, presented his take on the issue to Fox News contributor Juan Williams:
Here’s the deal, and I want everybody to understand this. The issue doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Sane, clear-thinking people understand the president is not a Muslim, and he wasn’t born in Indonesia, or whatever they’re putting out there. … It’s a bunch of bull that people made up. It has no impact on public policy, Juan.
Then why are Republican congressmen introducing legislation [to question whether Obama is an American citizen]?
Bill O’Reilly: (screaming)
BECAUSE THEY’RE PINHEADS! THAT’S WHY! IT’S GETTING NOWHERE! IT WON’T GET VOTED ON, IT WON’T GET DEBATED! IT’S JUST A GRANDSTAND PLAY BY PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING FOR ATTENTION!
Mr. O’Reilly proceeded to refer to the Obama-is-a-Muslim and birther debates as “ridiculous stuff,” and ended the debate with a note of belated advice to Speaker Boehner of how he should have handled his grilling on Meet the Press:
If I were Boeher, I would have said this, here’s what I would have said to Gregory, and I hope the speaker is listening. Here’s what I would have said: “Hey, don’t you have any better questions to ask about? That’s insane. It’s not my job to police insanity. Get it? You got anything else on your plate there, Mr. Gregory?” That’s what I would have done.
So at least one point of view concerning Mr. Obama’s religion and citizenship that Fox News emphatically “puts forward as a fact”—and has been putting forward for years—to “the most gullible audience in the history of television” is that those who question the president’s stated Christian faith and the legitimacy of his presidency are “insane.”
Does Jimmy Carter have cable at all?