The Biggest Scandals To Hit Fox News

Most media outlets have some degree of bias. Fox News, though? The network of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, formerly known for touting the world's most disingenuous slogan — who could ever forget that whole "Fair and Balanced" thing? — expanded in the 21st century to become one of the most influential news entities in the United States, but is widely recognized as being little more than a propaganda arm for a certain U.S. political party. You know the one.

Now, whatever your political slant might be, there's something deeply wrong with the way that Fox News skews reality to suit its agenda, from not citing its sources, to broadcasting racist stereotypes, to promoting anti-scientific conspiracy theories, when they aren't hiding sexual harassment cases behind the scenes. Put bluntly, the "news" part of Fox News is suspect, at best, and the sheer level of toxic scandals the network has been plagued by for the past few decades attests to that.

Biased to the bone, even if it means rewriting the truth

Bias is human. However, journalistic standards demand a certain level of objectivity regarding facts. If you're a news anchor, your opinion on any politician and/or organization must take a backseat to the objective reality regarding whether they are corrupt, authoritarian, sleazy, or so on. Fox News doesn't play by those rules. Instead, the network chooses its conclusion (GOP: good, Dems: bad), and either cherry-picks information or outright lies to get there, creating a conservative echo chamber that has deepened polarization across the U.S., as explained by the Guardian, and ripped families apart. Over the years, Fox's irresponsible promotion of inaccuracies and constant pro-GOP flag-waving (regardless of the issue) has fueled many baseless theories and misconceptions, while making the network itself increasingly powerful. As once said by David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox."

This problem has worsened in recent years, as seen by the weird relationship that President Trump has with the daytime show Fox & Friends. Regardless of what one thinks about Trump, or Fox, the fact is that it's wildly unprofessional how Fox & Friends works tirelessly to rewrite factual events to better suit the president's needs, knowing that he's watching and purposely giving him talking points to try to deflect current scandals, as the New Yorker assesses. 

Fox News has a dark history of sexual harassment scandals

Politics aside, the toxic culture inside Fox News HQ, particularly in regard to the treatment of women, is well-documented. And, as is so often the case, the problems started at the top: Roger Ailes, the now-deceased CEO, had numerous sexual harassment allegations against him from women at the network, as Vox explains, including Megyn Kelly, Andrea Tantaros, and Gretchen Carlson. This misconduct continued unabated for years, but eventually boiled over into both a federal investigation and Ailes himself being unceremoniously removed from the very network he founded, according to the Los Angeles Times. These events were later adapted into the 2019 film Bombshell.

Then, there's Bill O'Reilly, whose own history of sexual harassment — involving a $32 million settlement, according to Vox — wasn't enough to get Fox News to can him, until the whole thing became so publicized that advertisers were pulling out left and right. Note, this wasn't the first scandal involving O'Reilly. Some years prior, during O'Reilly's tense custody trial with his ex-wife, Gawker reported that O'Reilly's teenage daughter said she had witnessed her father choking her mother, whereupon he'd "dragged her down the stairs by her neck."

Fox News has doctored photos and misrepresented video footage

Back in 2008, Media Matters reported that an episode of Fox & Friends had attempted to smear the reputations of a New York Times reporter and editor, Jacques Steinberg and Steven Reddicliffe, respectively, by doctoring their photos to make their teeth yellower, enlarge their noses, put dark circles beneath their eyes, and in the case of Reddicliffe, lengthen his forehead to give the appearance of a more deeply receded hairline. See the picture above? Yes, this was as childish as it sounded, and yes, it erupted in a flood of criticism toward Fox News ... but seriously, even putting aside the obvious breach of ethics involved here, to say nothing of the offensiveness, it's also hard to fathom how a company worth billions could've created such amateurish photoshops and tried to pass them off as real. Your 11-year-old nephew could've done a better job in MS-Paint.

Sadly, Fox News never learns a lesson. The following year, Fox got caught in a slightly different (but equally sleazy) scandal involving misrepresented footage, according to the Los Angeles Times, when Sean Hannity tried to claim that over 20,000 people had attended a Michelle Bachman rally (in reality, there had been 5,000-to-10,000 attendees), and he used footage from an entirely different protest as "evidence." Luckily, Jon Stewart caught him in the act, and Hannity was forced into a half-hearted apology, according to the Nation, wherein he blamed it on oversight.

The racism, antisemitism, sexism, and many other prejudices of Fox News

Fox News has a long, long history of racism, both onscreen and off, and has racked up a long, long list of legal cases to prove it. One example? In 2017, the New York Times reported that 11 Fox News employees were suing the network for racial discrimination. Company comptroller Judith Slater was alleged to have mocked the way that Black employees pronounced words, and following Trump's controversial travel ban, evidently asked them, "Who is going to Africa?", among other instances of discrimination. 

On screen, of course, Fox's history of racism is a matter of public record. In 2019, Free Press called out Tucker Carlson for wrongfully claiming that, "There aren't that many hate crimes occurring in the country" — a blatant lie, considering hate crimes have actually been on the rise, according to the FBI. In 2020, the Anti-Defamation League wrote an open letter to Fox News demanding that the network stop employing antisemitic stereotypes, after repeated instances of the network stirring up anti-Jewish resentment in its coverage against Bernie Sanders, Michael Blooomberg, and George Soros. Meanwhile, Fox has continually defended police brutality against people of color, gaslit viewers regarding slavery and Jim Crow laws, and planted numerous false allegations and stereotypes against Latino Americans, immigrants, Asian Americans, the indigenous community, LGBTQ+ individuals, and more.

Fox News rejected science in favor of propaganda

Climate change is real. So are the dangers posed by COVID-19. Fox News, though, has violently contradicted the science regarding both of these realities, with deadly results.

As far as climate change, there is a 97 percent consensus among scientists regarding humankind's role in the climate horrors being wrought. Nonetheless, as the Guardian points out, Fox News has gone out of its way to disproportionately interview "skeptical" experts on screen, or to give airtime to non-experts bankrolled by fossil fuel corporations. In 2019, Public Citizen tracked that 87 percent of Fox News' climate coverage was devoted to climate denialism, putting out long-debunked conspiracy theories even as literal catastrophes ravaged the globe.

The same is true of COVID-19. In early 2020, the Guardian reported that Fox News aggressively downplayed the threat posed by the novel coronavirus, putting out misleading and/or false information, comparing it to a bad cold, and other lies which likely played a huge role in the U.S.'s horrendously failed response to the pandemic. In fact, a University of Chicago study cited by NPR looked at Fox News viewers, and found a direct link between those who watched Sean Hannity's program, which went out of its way to downplay the threat, and increased COVID-19 cases. By April 2020, Fox News' efforts to label COVID-19 a "hoax" resulted in a lawsuit, according to Forbes.

That time Fox News attacked Reza Aslan for bigoted reasons

Back in 2013, as explained by the Atlantic, a religious scholar named Reza Aslan wrote a book titled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, an account on what factors might've shaped the historical Jesus Christ. To publicize the book, Aslan did an interview on Fox News, where host Lauren Green interrogated Aslan with unbelievably ignorant questions like, "You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?", and even accusing him of hiding his Islamic background. Aslan responded — repeatedly — that he wrote the book as an academic, who had built his career studying religions, and whom just happens to be Muslim ... you know, aside from the fact that while Islamic teachings don't place Jesus as the "son of God," he is also an integral figure and prophet within that religion. Sorry, Fox, but Christians don't have a trademark on Christ. He was kinda a public figure. 

Not surprisingly, this debacle was pronounced by BuzzFeed as "the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done." But hey, it did help promote Aslan's book.

Family drama at Fox News

Behind the scenes, Fox News hosts plenty of weird soap operas. One particularly messy spat went public in 2010, when Murdoch's son-in-law, Matthew Freud (what a name to have during a family squabble, huh?) told the New York Times that he was ashamed of being connected to his father-in-law's news network, stating that, "I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes's horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder, and every other global media business aspires to." Ouch. Following this pointed statement, Elisabeth, Murdoch's daughter, told the Guardian that her husband had "gone rogue" with his comment, but it's worth noting that, surprisingly enough, Elisabeth was also a Barack Obama supporter (and fundraiser!). Murdoch's company, for its part, issued a cold statement saying Freud's views had nothing to do with Murdoch's. 

This wouldn't be the end of the Fox family drama, however. In 2019, the mogul's own son, James Murdoch, told Vanity Fair that he thought his father's network was destroying the "connective tissue" of society, and expressed interest in funding his own liberal media outlet to compete with Fox. James Murdoch, for the record, donated to the Pete Buttigieg presidential campaign. 

Fox News has given airtime to ridiculous (and dangerous) conspiracy theories

Arguably, one of the worst impacts that Fox News has on society is the network's continual mainstreaming of fringe conspiracy theories.

Some examples? Well, it doesn't get much dumber than "birtherism," the bizarre and racist argument that Barack Obama was born outside of the United States, a theory that probably never would've gained anywhere near as much traction if it hadn't been broadly publicized by Fox News, according to Media Matters. Then there's the Seth Rich nonsense, explained by Vox, wherein the tragic shooting of a young Democratic National Committee staffer led Fox News to make baseless accusations blaming the Clintons. Fox News also advanced Sarah Palin's ludicrous claim that the Affordable Care Act would result in "death panels," as Media Matters points out, even while other conservatives were referring to her comments as "irresponsible" and "crazy." Recently, Fox devoted a truly ridiculous amount of airtime to "Obamagate," according to the Guardian, a ridiculous conspiracy theory so muddled that even ardent followers can't coherently describe what it is, but which mainly functioned as a convenient pivot from Fox's terrible handling of COVID-19.

The Tucker Carlson interview gone wrong

Tucker Carlson is no stranger to controversy, as Business Insider reports, whether it involves him making racist comments, sexist comments, or downplaying the very real dangers of white supremacy. One peak moment of unpleasantness, though, occurred in 2019, when he attempted to interview Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, the author of Utopia for Realists, a book which touts the benefits of a universal base income. Bregman, as you might recall, was the leftist firebrand who went viral when he told wealthy attendees at Davos that when it came to saving the planet, they needed to have their taxes raised, instead of just talking about philanthropy. For some reason, Carlson thought he and Bregman would connect ... but he clearly hadn't read Bregman's book, and according to Vox, the whole thing went horrendously for the Fox News host. Bregman didn't hold back in telling Carlson that he was a "millionaire funded by billionaires," and "part of the problem," until eventually, Bregman's straightforwardness sent Carlson ballistic, spewing NSFW expletives and insults at Bregman. The whole thing made Carlson look fairly childish, and he had no intent on airing it, but Bregman made sure that it went viral all 'round the Twittersphere.

Carlson eventually apologized for the profanity, according to Business Insider, but not the message behind it, saying it was sincere. Which is ... not a sincere apology, to be clear, and reeks of something the higher-ups might've demanded from, you know, a millionaire funded by billionaires.

Fox News' whole '9/12' fiasco

In 2009, as explained by an archived TV Newser article, Fox News bought full page advertisements in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Post, with a photograph from a Tea Party protest that had taken place several days earlier on September 12th (or 9/12). This advertisement, displaying a large crowd protesting "big government," was headlined by the caption "How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN Miss This Story?"

To be clear, yes, the 9/12 protest happened. Fox didn't make it up. What they did lie about was their claim that other networks didn't cover it, since all of them did exactly that. So what Fox News was doing here, with a clear bias toward the Tea Party, was deceiving their base in order to create an "us or them" narrative, by falsely claiming a huge and important event had happened and major networks had tried to brush it under the radar. Naturally, the news networks in question quickly clarified that Fox was lying. 

All that aside, the matter wasn't helped by the fact that a Fox News producer was caught on camera rallying the crowd, according to Politico.

The Bill Sammon email that leaked out of Fox News HQ

Leaked emails are probably the most recurring scandals of the 21st century, and Fox News had its own "Emailgate" (to use Fox News-style terminology) back in 2010, according to Media Matters, when private messages from the network's managing editor and VP Bill Sammon were made public, revealing just how intentionally Sammon wanted to slant the news. 

To summarize, the emails showed that Sammon was aggressively ordering staff to take a hard right on the issue of healthcare reform, through subversive tactics such as referring to the "public option" (I.E., the actual term) as a "government option" to play into Tea Party resentment and scare people away from it. The propaganda didn't stop there, however. Other emails, as reported by the Benton Institute, showed that back in 2008, Sammon was trying to muddy then-Senator Barack Obama by highlighting a past relationship with a white woman (basically, to inflame racist viewers), and to equate Obama's political views with Marxism. Sammon's emails also showed him urging staffers to employ climate change denialism, via Politico, facetious arguing that climate science had been "called into question" (it hadn't) and asserting that, in his words, "It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies."

Despite this scandal, Sammon is still with the network.

Sean Hannity's lawyerly mess

Sean Hannity is another Fox News celebrity who is seemingly always involved in scandals, whether due to outright deceptions or his publicly advising a president he has private dinners with. 2018, though, was a particularly bad year for Hannity, largely thanks to his questionable choice of lawyer. 

As the New York Times reported, it was in a Manhattan courtroom where the world learned that Hannity was a client of now-infamous Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, a fact which Hannity desperately tried to deny, arguing he'd never paid Cohen for his services. Hard to claim that you're providing unbiased commentary on impeachment scandals when you share a lawyer with the president, eh? Anyhow, the incident led the Guardian to unearth a mountain of public records showing that Hannity possessed a secret real estate empire, with the Fox News host linked to a number of shell companies owning over 870 homes in seven states, ranging from mansions to low-income housing. Many of these properties were purchased at a low rate in 2013, because banks had foreclosed on their previous owners for mortgage defaults. Which is ironic, since his show had, at the time, been slamming the Obama administration for allowing so many homes to foreclose, while Hannity himself had been buying said homes up with shell companies, and getting legal advice from Michael Cohen. Nice guy, that Hannity. 

Rupert Murdoch's expansion plans got complicated because of all the Fox News scandals

While no one can dispute the success of Fox News as a franchise, there's also no disputing that the news channel's reputation is ... well, not good, and in 2017, NPR reported that Fox News' problematic history was causing a real headache for owner Rupert Murdoch's other business arrangements.

At the time, Murdoch was trying to purchase full control of the European broadcasting company Sky, which is an active media empire running across Europe. Murdoch's buyout efforts were already hamstrung by the sexual harassment scandals hitting Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, but also by a lower profile controversy involving supermarket floor decals and Chris Christie (loooong story), and the fact that a previous attempt to take over Sky, six years prior, had been blocked by a parliamentary inquiry, 100 civil lawsuits, widespread bribery, and phone hacking.

Wondering how it all ended? In 2018, Murdoch won government clearance to take over Sky, according to the Guardian, but later that year, he sold all the shares to Comcast, the world's most hated company.