The Hackery and Mendacity of a FOX News Legal Propagandist

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I recently wrote about the women news anchors and contributors on FOX News. It is important in the interest of being “fair and balanced” that we do not ignore the men taking the pay of FOX. Today we will look at Peter Johnson, Jr. According to FOX News, Peter J. Johnson, Jr., graduate of Columbia College and Columbia University’s School of Law and has served them as a legal analyst since 1997.

Johnson “is a trial and appellate lawyer, is the president of Leahey & Johnson, P.C., a Wall Street law firm that specializes in litigation and appeals.” FOX labels him “A well-known authority on jurisprudence and government,” which may or may not be true, considering that FOX recently labeled Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin constitutional experts.

Obviously, being a lawyer does not bestow instant honesty on a person. There are plenty of crooked, self-interested people in every profession. It should not be necessary to point out that being a lawyer does not free a person from thralldom to ideology.

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Mr. Johnson is no exception. For example, last November 23 on Fox & Friends he told a fib on national TV about U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations on medical screenings, claiming that “what we see now in the Senate bill is the Senate saying that if you get an A or a B, then it’s gonna be paid for. If you get a C, it’s not gonna be paid for.”

This was, in fact, false (SEC. 2713. COVERAGE OF PREVENTIVE HEALTH SERVICES), and presumably Mr. Johnson knew it. He either does not prepare properly to report facts, or he deliberately ignores and misrepresents them on ideological grounds. Either point renders him an ineffective expert, though the latter excuse is more likely given that Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel repeated the claim in a New York Post column.

On the June 25 edition of Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends Mr. Johnson appealed to the old Death Panel scare, claiming that health care reform is “the government deciding who will live, who will die”:

This is a charge Mr. Johnson repeated on the October 30 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, where he asked if “nothing much has changed” in House health bill “with regard to the death panel.”

Obviously, and Mr. Johnson knew this as well as you or I, there was, and is, no death panel.

On August 20 2009’s episode of Fox & Friends, Mr. Johnson again intentionally misinterpreted President Obama’s words in order to attack him for using “one of the Ten Commandments as an argument for a political argument,” which, he says is “incredibly offensive to a lot of people in the Judeo-Christian ethic.” This is an interesting claim coming from FOX correspondent, given that the GOP has become in a very real sense God’s Own Party and that most of its attacks on social issues are Bible-based, including those directed against same-sex marriage.

In fact, President Obama was not invoking the Ten Commandments (any of them) for political purposes but simply stating that those who spread misinformation about health care reform were “bearing false witness.” He was not referring to those who disagreed with or opposed his plan.

On March 5 of this year, Mr. Johnson fibbed again, this time with regards to “certain pages of the Senate bill — Pages 2,069 to Pages 2,078” – his words – where “it says in certain cases that there be a one-dollar-per-month, per-enrollee contribution to federal reproductive services, which includes abortion.”

This, he echoes Bart Stupak (and he says a dozen Democrats), is a violation of the Hyde Amendment (1976), which prohibits the use of funds allocated by the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services pay for abortions .

The only problem is that it’s not true. The fee, which comes not from government but from private funds, is only applicable for those who opt for insurance with abortion coverage.

Can we agree at this point that experts by definition know what they’re talking about?

What Mr. Johnson is, in point of fact, is a propagandist.

To illustrate the degree to which Mr. Johnson is in the thrall of right-wing ideology, on May 27 of this year President Obama refused to comment either way on the boycott of Arizona in response to the immigration bill recent passed there. FOX’s Megyn Kelly, true to form, misinterpreted his remarks to mean he refused to condemn the boycott (in fact, he also refused to support it), but Mr. Johnson went even further.

In what Media Matters calls a “tour-de-force display of hackery and mendacity on Fox & Friends” on May 28, “he tried to convince everyone that Obama “tacitly endorsed” the boycott and is thus engaging in the same “secitionalism” as the supporters of slavery who “destroyed the United States in the 19th century.”

Yes, he likened our first black President to the supporters of slavery.

Just the other day, Mr. Johnson outdid himself, saying, on August 20, that Muslims should “give up their rights” in order to be “great Americans.” Yes, he said this. Giving up your rights makes you a great American.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the entire FOX sponsored Tea Party movement about defending rights? Or is it that only certain people have to give up their rights? People, say, with darker skin, who speak with a foreign accent and perhaps follow a different religion?

Yes, “fair and balanced” news coverage, folks.

Clearly, as an expert Mr. Johnson fails miserably. He is better in his role as a propagandist. At least there the goal is to lie, or if not simply making facts up (the death panels) then to distort them all out of proportion to the truth in order to serve some ideological purpose. Mr. Johnson excels at this, or, at least, he is enthusiastic.

But then we should not expect much out of FOX when it comes to reporting the news. Sure, it can be argued that there is no news that is undistorted by spin, but there is spin and there is propaganda, and there is outright fiction. If you are going to step before a camera and say something, it should at least be made clear to the watcher if what you’re saying is fact or fiction.

As an afterthought, I should mention that on the March 19, 2010 broadcast of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Mr. Johnson claimed he was a Democrat. If I registered today as a Republican, that’s how much Mr. Johnson is a Democrat.

8 Replies to “The Hackery and Mendacity of a FOX News Legal Propagandist”

  1. This guy reminds me of going to the company doctor. Despite the fact you have lost both hands and are bleeding from the stumps you get a clean bill of health.

    But as they say, its not in the truth, its in the effect. Fox News, obviously lives to that credo.

  2. I hate to be this way, but I belong to the organization that has “Hang a lawyer once a week” in their name

  3. No Democrat would or should want to be working on that slimy Fox noise. Democrats should appear there and tell the truth to the Fox liars. Too bad that more republicans just do not care about the truth or the facts. Only that constant republican propaganda to keep the republican tea party scared, really scared.

  4. Well, color me shocked; another hack at Fox News. This is a great expose, Hraf. And we need to be relentless with the debunking of their “Fair and Balanced” mantra.

    I’ve long held that if they want to pretend they’re a news source, they need to have disclaimer running on their lower thirds that says “We sued for the right to lie on air and call it news. Watch at your own risk.”

    I love how you dismantled their “Freedom” baloney. Freedom for the whom?

  5. I know it’s not supposed to be funny, but that made me laugh! Up is down and down is up over at Faux Noise!

  6. Peter Johnson Jr. is no democrat, at least not in the sense most people understand this term. In the two years I worked for him I do not recall ever hearing anything but support for Republican candidates and ideas, and scorn for what Democratic Party leaders usually stand for.

    That aside, he runs a law firm he inherited from his father. That is, a toilet firm that is legendary for exploiting its employees, over billing its files, and for consciously fostering a culture of being nasty to opposing counsels. Nowadays Jr. barely practices law. At most, Jr. reviews what his minions write for him and perhaps sits during some hearings or mediation conferences (after all the work has been done for him). In my opinion, he is not a bright attorney, nor a person you would like as a friend.

    Instead, he devotes most of his time to FOX news and doing PR. In that capacity, it has always been my impression he is a delusional hypocrite with a right wing agenda. His last remarks calling for American citizens to give up their constitutional rights is a new low for him. Truth be told, it is not surprising News Corp. hire him precisely to put out moronic statements.

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