Fox News apologized not once but twice Saturday night for false statements about European Muslims made repeatedly during the network’s broadcasts last week. Because Fox disseminates lies and misinformation so regularly and apologizes so rarely, the fact that it issued two “wea culpas” on the same night — albeit during the weekend while no one was watching — appears to be significant. Of course, Fox is not revealing why it issued the apologies, nor whether it did so under pressure and, if so, from whom.
The first apology was for assertions made during an interview with a Nolan Peterson, a journalist who claimed to have firsthand experience visiting so-called “no-go zones” in Paris — areas under complete Muslim control where non-Muslims, even emergency workers, are not allowed:
“There are 741 no-go zones throughout France, and they’re located in these ghettos that have formed around the major cities,” Peterson told Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck over the weekend. “There are basically neighborhoods where French Muslims have coalesced because they can’t find housing or economic opportunity within the major French cities.”
“It was pretty scary. I’ve been to Afghanistan and Iraq and Kashmir, India, and at times, it felt like that, those places in these no-go zones,” he continued. “You see young men wearing Osama bin Laden T-shirts in a hookah shop. I saw a speech by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was leading an insurgency against American troops in Iraq at the time.”
Praising his “great experience both in military, in writing, in travel,” Hasselbeck asked Peterson what should be done to fix the problem with so-called “no-go zones” in France.
Peterson said that there was no easy answer, but the solution was a “top-to-bottom shakedown of French society and culture.”
“Would you go as far as to say ‘no-go zones’ should be a ‘no’?” Hasselbeck wondered.
“Oh, they should definitely not allow those to exist,” Peterson insisted. “We didn’t allow Afghanistan to exist as a no-go zone of Islamist recruitment after 9/11, and that’s essentially what the French are letting happen in their own country, are places where Islamists can freely recruit, without any danger of prosecution, young disaffected Muslims into their ranks.”
But the existence of the no-go zones had already been debunked by the the time Peterson and Hasselbeck were having this discussion. According to Snopes.com, Fox’s no-go zones were in fact French “zones urbaines sensibles,” or ZUS, which are areas targeted for urban renewal.
The mistake, whether deliberate or not, provoked this snarky segment on French television:
The first apology on Saturday was assigned to a second-string newsreader, Julie Banderas, rather than to a higher profile figure like anchor Brett Baier or anchor emeritus Britt Hume. Here’s the apology Banderas read to Fox viewers:
JULIE BANDERAS: Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe. Particularly with regard to England and France. Now, this applies especially to discussions of so-called ‘no go zones,’ areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren’t allowed in and police supposedly won’t go.
To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on the religion.
There are certainly areas of high crime in Europe as there are in the United States and other countries, where police and visitors enter with caution. We deeply regret the errors and apologize to any and all who may have taken offense including the people of France and England.
The second apology came later in the evening on a weekly show hosted by former New York judge and failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Jeanine Pirro, who apologized for a statement made her show a week earlier by Fox terrorism analyst Steve Emerson, who asserted that Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city, was completely under the control of Muslim authorities:
STEVE EMERSON: [In] Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in. And parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire. So there’s a situation that Western Europe is not dealing with.
This prompted ridicule from a very high source in Britain. “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fool’s Day,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, told a reporter. “This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.”
Cameron and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch have a long-term, complicated relationship, the low point of which was an investigation by Parliament into charges that Murdoch’s London newspapers traded positive coverage for access with Cameron, similar to the relationship Fox News had with the Bush administration for eight years.
Jeanine Piro was forced to deliver her apology herself.
JEANINE PIRRO: Last week on this program, a guest made a serious factual error that we wrongly let stand unchallenged and uncorrected. The guest asserted that the city of Birmingham, England, is totally Muslim and that it is a place where non-Muslims don’t go. Both are incorrect.
The most recent census data, which is from 2011, indicates 22 percent of the population of Birmingham identify themselves as Muslim. Also, we could find no credible source indicates Birmingham is a so-called no-go zone. We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who’ve been offended.ere’s what Pirro said tonight:
Last week on this program, a guest made a serious factual error that we wrongly let stand unchallenged and uncorrected. The guest asserted that the city of Birmingham, England, is totally Muslim and that it is a place where non-Muslims don’t go. Both are incorrect.
The most recent census data, which is from 2011, indicates 22% of the population of Birmingham identify themselves as Muslim. Also, we could find no credible source indicates Birmingham is a so-called no-go zone. We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who’ve been offended.
Neither the facts nor Fox’s apology fazed Louisiana’s hapless Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, who, despite evidence to the contrary, referred to the nonexistent no-go zones in a speech in London today.
And, of course, the Republican base is not buying Fox’s reversal. Over at the right-wing extremist website Free Republic, commenters were adamant that Fox issued the apology under duress. “Faux caves again,” wrote one commenter. “People I know that actually LIVE there say there are [no-go zones]!” said another. Commenter RoosterRedux reminded his fellow Freepers that fox is partly Muslim-owned. “For those who have forgotten,” he wrote, “Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is the second largest shareholder in Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns Fox.”
Maybe the Freeper is onto something, but it’s unlikely that Prince Al-Waleed pressured Fox to issue a false apology. If the Prince insisted on anything, it’s likely he demanded that the network tell the truth. This would not be the first time al-Walid, who reportedly owns about 5.5 percent of News Corps stock, has meddled in Fox’s messaging before. Back in 2005, he claimed that he was so alarmed by Fox’s coverage of what it called “Muslim riots” in France. “I picked up the phone and called Murdoch…” al-Walid said, “[and told him] these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty. Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots.”
It’s also possible that Rupert was embarrassed by the high-profile exposure of his foolishness in Europe. Murdoch doesn’t care about ridicule of Fox by American satirists like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, who has dubbed Fox News “Bullshit Mountain.” Safely ensconced inside their right-wing media bubble, Fox viewers are rarely exposed to debunking of the network’s lies and disinformation. It’s different in Europe, of course, where news consumers tend to be more sophisticated and rightly recognize Fox propaganda for what it is.
There caveats embedded in Fox’s apologies, of course. A legitimate news organization would explain how the errors made it onto the air — why the facts were not researched and why sources weren’t checked. Absent an explanation of how the mistakes were made it’s best to assume the reports were no “errors” at all.