Fox News Ripped School Board For Nixing the Pledge of Allegiance — Even Though the Board Did Just the Opposite

Sioux Falls school board member Kent Alberty has had quite the week, what with the death threats and all.

From across the country, he and the four other board members received messages from upset Fox News viewers. Some of the missives were respectful in their criticism, but many more were nasty, even threatening. One anonymous correspondent proposed that the board be lined up against a wall and shot.

In an effort to restore some normalcy,

The Sioux Falls School District has removed the board members’ personal information from its web site for now, to discourage any more misdirected feedback.

What did Alberty and his colleagues do to deserve all that bile? That’s the crazy part. They decided to honor the proposal of a local war veteran to make elementary and middle-school students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In fact, the board then went further, voting to make the same requirement of students at high school assemblies.

A local news outlet published a clumsy or erroneous headline that implied the Pledge had been dropped. The Fox team got wind of it, and next thing the Sioux Falls board knew, Megyn Kelly was on the air, sneering at the godless school authorities, essentially leading the braying Fox Nation into the inevitable two minutes hate.

The irony is that the people who have reason to be upset by the school board’s actual decision — that’s you and me — haven’t raised the slightest stink. But we should, and we have every reason to. I don’t know exactly what language and method Alberty and his pro-Pledge brethren adopted to make Sioux Falls public-school students say the magic “patriotic” incantation from now on, but if the news video above is correct, schoolchildren will be “required” to say the Pledge.

That’s not just a bad idea, it’s illegal — and has been since the Supreme Court decided West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 70 years ago. While it’s not against the law for a district to make the Pledge a part of the school routine, students and faculty who wish to opt out have the dual right to remain seated and to decline to say the Pledge. In the Barnette case, the justices famously ruled, 6-3, that

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

Legalities aside, I explained here why the Pledge should be retired, and why pupils being allowed to opt out doesn’t solve a key problem — especially not in elementary schools.

If Megyn Kelly wishes to once again drive the Fox mob into a frenzy, she now knows to whom to direct them (second entry). I hope Kent Alberty will at long last enjoy some peace and quiet.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Wait, are you saying that the most accurate, most trusted, most fair and balanced, source of news that has ever been and ever will be made a factual error? How dare you. They have teams of journalists and writers to make sure that this never happens. The whole cable network’s credibility is at stake….. hold on, shit my bad, this story is about Fox New. For a minute there I thought you were talking about the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Fox getting something wrong, — is water wet? Are bears catholic? Does the pope shit in the woods?

  • Stev84

    Another veteran babbling about “freedom” (probably), but standing for nothing but totalitarianism and coercion. So typical.

  • WallofSleep

    I know they say “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”, and that’s sound advice. But at some point you have to admit that no single group of professionals can possibly be this consistently stupid, and this is without a doubt malice.

    The folks at Fox aren’t stupid, and they don’t care who gets hurt or who dies as a result of their purposefully irresponsible reporting.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-august-23-2010/the-parent-company-trap

      Personally, I think we can find common ground and say, fox is on team evil and team stupid.

      • WallofSleep

        Heh. I thought that was going to be a “Bullshit Mountain” clip.

        Yeah, Alwaleed has been something of an open secret for some years, but Fox viewers don’t care because “RRRR! Libruls and gheys and messicans!!”

      • darren02112

        now now, let’s be fair. You can’t just label those at fox news at either evil or stupid. there’s three groups. team evil, team stupid, and team evil & stupid.

        • Carla

          I mean, they could be Team Stupid, run by Team Evil.

          • WallofSleep

            Indeed. But taking Fox News entirely out of the equation, Team Stupid has always been run by Team Evil, for time immemorial.

      • WallofSleep

        “Fox & Friends” must certainly be run by a division of Team Stupid. Has to be.

      • UWIR

        Fox plays for both teams?

    • http://scoop.it/t/secular-curated-news-views Secular Antitheist Liberal

      The Supreme Court has ruled the media has a Constitution right to lie. So trusting any media outlet is simply unwise. The medes love to lie, distort, obviate, spread gossip, rumor & conjecture. It’s easier and cheaper than looking up facts and doing actual journalism.

    • Nox

      You can run a successful media empire by assuming the people are stupid and pandering to that assumption of stupidity, but I don’t think you could do it by actually being that stupid.

  • trogon

    I grew up in Sioux Falls. (At the time, we had a daily recitation of the Pledge in elementary school, and not in middle or high school.) It does not surprise me in the slightest that the local news sources bungled a headline, even to the extent of getting it exactly backwards. Of course, it doesn’t surprise me that Fox News failed to fact-check something, either, but I’m not sure 100% of the blame can be placed on them in this case.

    • WallofSleep

      “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action”

      11ty billion times is the Fox News business model.

    • Brodestar

      For their part in reporting false information they are very much 100% to blame. They should have fact checked before going on the air with the story. That is what REAL respectable jornalists do.

  • Lando

    I had to dig a little to find the original, but here it is (i really only care because this is in my backyard): http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/veterans-speak-out-about-the-pledge-of-allegiance/?id=156436

    I had assumed a reporter left a meeting early to make deadline and missed something, but this is a full story from yesterday from someone who seemed to be there. What the hell? Did they just get reaction before the actual vote? All I hear from the meeting is ‘we don’t have time in the day,’ but no voting. They (the local station) seem to be sticking to their side of the story.

    • Lando

      Please ignore the source, I can’t find the original URL for the video, but it’s embedded here:
      http://nation.foxnews.com/2013/11/13/school-district-not-enough-time-day-pledge-allegiance
      I still don’t see how

      From another local station (the one in your video above) sort of agrees with the ‘incendiary story.’ http://www.ksfy.com/story/23952027/should-all-students-say-the-pledge

      It sounds like a semantics issue. The high school didn’t DROP the pledge, they never said it in the first place. The vets were asking them to add it, and they disagreed. Outrage.

      Not to defend Fox, but it’s starting to make a little more sense.

      • WallofSleep

        “Not to defend Fox…”

        Truth is truth. If the truth of the matter is that Fox got it right, then I would consider digging that up a defense of truth rather than a defense of Fox.

        • Lando

          I think Fox took a really reactionary position, but I can’t seem to find their original video, so I don’t know what headline, etc. they went with. Hard to tell from that brief clip above.

          The school board definitely doesn’t deserve death threats, but two news sources from the meeting suggest that they voted to NOT ADD the pledge. I don’t know if I would call their reporting false or untrue.

          ‘Not to defend fox’ was just stating that I’m not trolling. I would call them out if it were applicable, but this seems to be a case of someone overreacting to a poorly worded headline.

  • Jeff Walker

    Dear Fox News,
    You do realize of course that allowing such things as religion in public schools
    opens the door for all religions to do the same thing right? And when the christian majority becomes the minority will you feel the same way? And how will you feel when one group of kids offends another group of kids and the school becomes
    a war zone the playground a battle field?

    • WallofSleep

      “And when the christian majority becomes the minority will you feel the same way?”

      That’s the whole point of them violating the constitution by trying shove their religion into the public school system any way they can. They are trying desperately to maintain their majority position.

      • Itarion

        Wouldn’t it be so awesome if every group fell below the 50% threshold of “majority”? I think that would improve a lot of things, such that no one’s trying to get things [or people] stepped on.

    • Pitabred

      But which sect of Christianity do we allow? It’s an insta-minority if they get it back to the way it was in the 50′s where Christianity was assumed. There was a huge hubbub over JFK being a Catholic, which is the wrong kind of Christian…

      • Jeff Walker

        The Amish Hahaha

  • GeraardSpergen

    It’s doubly amazing that no one at FOX looked at the Sioux Falls location and didn’t think to double check the story.

  • Brian Westley

    This is because so many right-wingers are also complete idiots.

  • TheUnknownPundit

    The person(s) responsible for that segment obviously got it wrong. The local story played into the producer’s biases and they ran with it.
    But that has happened over the years at other media outlets. I recall NBC using special effects to explode a truck in a staged crash when earlier repeated attempts to effect a explosion didn’t occur when staging the crashes.The news folks behind that story were certain the trucks were unsafe (like the Ford Pinto) and faked the explosion but didn’t mention that salient fact when the segment aired.
    I also recall a story by ABC that reportedly showed all sorts of safety violations concerning produce and meat at a Food Lion store. The story seemed quite damning for Food Lion until the truth came out.
    As it turns out, the undercover workers secretly taping the violations were the people responsible for the violations in the first place. When other employees or managers corrected the violations, that video hit the cutting room floor. The reason this occurred was because the producers for the Food Lion story were pro-union activists and Food Lion was a non-union shop.
    My point being is that everyone has an agenda, unfortunately getting at the truth is not always at the top of the list. The opinion shows on FNC are up front about their biases. The missteps I summarized above occurred on Dateline and 20/20, respectively. News shows that were supposedly done without bias.
    Lastly, the people that made any correspondence that crossed the lines of civility are solely responsible for their actions. Not Fox News. In my web surfing over the years I’ve received vitriol from both Right and Left. There are hateful reactionaries in both camps.

    • baal

      When the news media merely failed to fact check the first video from James O’Keefe I wasn’t happy but shit happens. After that though, they floated or took a just maybe line on several of his next vids. I was floored. If a source engages in plain fraud, why ever give them the time of day again (unless have your own similar ends agenda or are coerced to)?

      • TheUnknownPundit

        You seem to be saying that O’Keefe is a fraud, if I’m reading your post correctly. Forgive me if I’m misreading your post.
        To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to O’Keefe’s works. However I do know that his modus operandi is to present himself as seeking government aid or services and secretly taping his interactions with government workers. He provides information to them that should disqualify him from receiving the government service or aid. He has made public the recordings showing these workers falsifying the data to make him eligible during these encounters. I think that sums things up fairly.

        If the tapes he has brought to the public fairly represent what really transpired during his encounters, then he is doing a public service by exposing public malfeasance or corruption. If not, then he is a fraud.

        To reiterate, I don’t have an issue with anyone in the media having an agenda as long as they don’t override the truth in order to achieve their agenda.

        • baal

          O-Keefe edits the video he peddled to make it look like his bad acts were those of someone else and represented them in ways that were usually opposite of reality. It was the video equivalent of taking the word “not” out of a sentence like, “I have not beaten my wife”. It’s fraud in the common usage.

    • UWIR

      “Lastly, the people that made any correspondence that crossed the lines of civility are solely responsible for their actions.”

      When you poke a dog with a stick, and then open the gate to the yard, you don’t get to say that the dog is solely responsible for its actions.

      • TheUnknownPundit

        Bad analogy, IMO, as people aren’t dogs.
        Sure, poor research on the FNC show led some viewers to submit correspondence to the board members they would not have sent otherwise. So granted, all the correspondence sent was sent due to misinformation. With that said, each individual was still responsible as to whether their (unwarranted) correspondence was civil or not.

        • UWIR

          More than one person can be responsible for the same event. Not only was this misinformation, it was done with malice, and with full expectation of this response.

  • islandbrewer

    I can’t even fake being surprised by the Unfair & Unbalanced (and usually wrong or lying) News station.

  • LesterBallard

    Megyn Kelly makes me want to use words I don’t want to use, that would make me disgusted with myself if I did use. But that’s pretty much how I feel about FNC in general.

    • Stev84

      It’s pretty sad, because there were a few recent segments where she spoke up against some right-wing nuts and showed that she is one of the more sane persons at FOX News.

  • OhioAtheist

    No need for fact checking at Fox.

    • Itarion

      Facts?! We don’t need no stinking facts!

  • God’s Starship

    The outdated pledge isn’t worth this. It turns people into wolves for no good reason.

  • diogeneslamp0

    No government entity can ever shove enough Christianity down the throats of people, especially kids, to keep the Christian right happy. They always want more, more, more. If we cave in on the Pledge, next will be crosses burned on your kids’ arms with a van de graaf generator– like the Freshwater case. They’ll never be satisfied.

  • The Starship Maxima

    While fashionable to paint Fox News as the only people who lie and distort facts, that’s simply confirmation bias at it’s finest. Noted liberal Piers Morgan accused his own country of war crimes, and when the story was revealed for the vile lie it was, he still, to this day, has not apologized.

    With that said, Fox News VIEWERS, on the other hand……dear God. (head-desk).

    • 3lemenope

      I really don’t think anyone’s under the impression that *only* FOX News plays fast and loose with the truth. However, they are a special sort of special in that regard. MSNBC may be extremely smarmy and CNN obsessed with triviality, but FOX swims in bullshit on a level that is truly stunning.

      • The Starship Maxima

        I don’t know that I agree with that opinion, though I can certainly see the validity in it.

        But seriously, badmouthing your own nation’s armed forces and accusing them of human rights violations would be called “treason” in other places. Piers Morgan is lucky he wasn’t shot.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but if one’s own nation does commit war crimes, shouldn’t one speak out? I don’t know anything about the incident with Piers Morgan, so I’m not speaking to that specifically, but in general.

          It isn’t treason to point to your own pile of shit and say it stinks. I actually consider it the highest form of patriotism, because no one will clean it up if people don’t know it’s there. Case in point: Snowden.

          • The Starship Maxima

            I’ll table my opinion on Snowden, but with lovely Piers Morgan, while editor of the Daily Mirror, they ran a doctored photo that showed members of the Queen’s Lancanshire Regiment abusing Iraqi prisoners.

            Nobody knows who fabricated it, but the Mirror loudly peddled it as an example of disgraceful military conduct. These men and women are out there defending the country and they’re being lied on.

            Now, we all make mistakes. That’s fine. Morgan refused to apologize or even ADMIT the truth even after it became clear the pictures were fake.

            If a Christian had said atheist soldiers had abused prisoners and it was a lie, you, everyone here, and the world would call them disgusting liars. As would I.

            Piers Morgan doesn’t get a pass because he’s a liberal non-Christian.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              You’ve yet to provide evidence that the photo in question was doctored, or that Piers Morgan lied.

              • The Starship Maxima

                Well, let’s see, the Daily Mirror itself issued an apology over the photos, the Telegraph covered the story, as did CNN (oddly, Piers’ new home), it was featured in a Cracked list of most outrageous media hoaxes.

                And how the pictures were proven to be false; well the tank shown wasn’t built for the desert and was no where near Iraq. The rifles didn’t match. Etc.

                A quick Google search will yield the relevant results. As would a quick trip to Wikipedia.org

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  So you claim.

                  Actual evidence, please, not this “oh, all you have to do is Google” crap.

                  Show me the documents proving Piers Morgan knowingly and deliberately lied.

                • 3lemenope

                  I actually think it’s pretty unlikely he knowingly and deliberately lied. It was more likely that he was passed bad intel, he and his staff did not do proper diligence, and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

                  What makes Piers Morgan pretty much scum is that he failed a major (some journalists would say the ONLY important) duty he had in the situation, then when discovered refused to retract and demonstrate contrition. He put his name on a story, the story turned out to be false, and he refused to take responsibility. In essence, he’s guilty of being simultaneously arrogant and totally shitty at his job. Since the story is about something that people have understandably very strong feelings about, and is a matter of critical public interest, it makes the lapse and the lack of follow-up apology basically unforgivable; a fatal breach of trust.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  This.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  I find it no more crap than being too lazy to pull up a story that was not exactly a niche news item.

                  Also, I believe I stated that IF Piers had simply made a mistake, then, whatever, we all do. The Daily Mirror specifically issued a statement stating that Morgan’s refusal to issue an apology or even ADMIT the photos were fake, or to retract the story meant the couldn’t keep him on in good conscience.

                  If I’m telling you this can be easily looked up and you refuse to do so and refuse to even read what I wrote, then I see no reason to dignify your rather disingenuous demands for proof you yourself refuse to seek.

                • UWIR

                  What, when someone disagrees with you, suddenly you start demanding evidence? How many times have you responded to one of my posts by simply declaring that I’m wrong (usually with some personal insult) without the slightest effort to back up your claim?

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Didn’t say anyone got a pass. I said I didn’t know anything about it, because I hadn’t even heard about this until you brought it up, and so I didn’t have any opinion about it whatsoever. Assuming what you say is accurate, Piers Morgan fucked up. No question. I wouldn’t call it treason, still, but it’s clearly bad behavior to not admit a mistake. A retraction and apology would have been the right thing to do. If a Christian said atheist soldiers abused prisoners, we’d look into it and if it was untrue, confront and ask for a retraction and apology. If they said the abuse was done because they were atheists, then we would call them filthy liars. Please note the distinction between action and motive.

              However, to the larger point: if one’s own nation does commit war crimes, shouldn’t one speak out? You never did answer that.

              • The Starship Maxima

                Sorry, yes, of COURSE, one should speak up if one’s own country is doing fucked up shit.

                Remaining silent in the face immorality isn’t courage or patriotism. It’s cowardice and self-serving villainy.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Remaining silent in the face immorality isn’t courage or patriotism. It’s cowardice and self-serving villainy.

                  We are in agreement there, at least!

    • God’s Starship

      Noted liberal Piers Morgan? Are you high?

      • The Starship Maxima

        Sadly, no.

        Isn’t Piers like this famously rabid anti-rightwinger/Christian basher? Or am I totally off.

        • God’s Starship

          No, that’s me.
          Morgan doesn’t tow the tea party line about guns, so in some folks view that may make him a rabid Christian basher if one lives deep enough inside the fundy fishbowl.

          • The Starship Maxima

            I suppose. I was more looking at the way he bashed Kirk Cameron for giving an honest to a question he asked him. Or the way he egged on Ann Coulter about whether she’d date a liberal, even after she asked him if he’d be so presumptuous with Margaret Thatcher, or his general support for Obama and general liberal leanings.

            Of course, that might just be the fundy fishbowl throwing me off.

            • God’s Starship

              Probably.

            • usclat

              No, not “might” but “definitely” the fundy fishbowl is throwing you off. Piers Morgan has interviewed many progressive persons with the same intensity. That’s what he does now. You know, interview celebrities of all persuasions, as it were. I personally dislike the man for his long and close relation with Murdoch and his leeches all of whom would never be mistaken for being liberals/progressives.

              About the only time I didn’t mind seeing Morgan was when he made the first comment in discovering Susan Boyle. That’s it.

            • UWIR

              Kirk Cameron gave an honest [answer] to a question? Cite, please.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Since Fox News (sic) is in the habit of jumping to conclusions without checking facts, this could be a source of gleeful merriment. Making sure that no innocent people will be harmed in the brouhaha, someone could cook up a juicy red-meat-for-fascist-pigs story that is actually ridiculous nonsense, and slip it to a Fox News (sic) reporter as if it’s a real scoop. Then, having already bought shares in popcorn companies, sit back and be entertained.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    The pledge is a waste of time and resources better spent learning.

  • Brodestar

    Say it with me now Fact Check, Fact Check, Fact Check. This kind of reporting is precisely why Fox News has been banned in Canada. Not only did they stupidly report a falsehood but their irresponable act lead to death threats. Fox News is a horrible group that has no problem spreading rumors no matter what is the truth and what is a flat out lie. If Martin Bashir has to apologize for his Sarah Palin remark then Megyn Kelly needs to send out a heart felt apology to the folks in Sioux Falls for causing trouble. Im not holding my breath though because this Fox News were talking about here and trouble is all they seem to want to cause instead of doing actual news reporting.

    • indorri

      Say it with me now Fact Check, Fact Check, Fact Check. This kind of
      reporting is precisely why Fox News has been banned in Canada.

      Quick cursory search points to that being a hoax. It is broadcast in Canada: living in Canada and receiving it on Canadian cable packages.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Fox News was denied a news license in Canada, because what they report is not sufficiently unbiased nor accurate to count as news. They can (and apparently do) still broadcast there, but from what I understand they are not allowed to market themselves as a News Channel.

      • http://allweathercyclist.blogspot.com/ JethroElfman

        Fox wanted to be included with the package of channels that cable companies must provide to all subscribers, known as “basic cable”. It would have significantly increased the fees the cable companies would pay to Fox for getting the feed. This request was rejected by the government cable regulator. However, most cable companies in Canada provide the Fox feed as part of extended-packages that subscribers pay extra for.

  • skyblue

    I actually found this story kind of funny.

    A screw-up occurs, and the very people who should be getting all emotional and happy-teary-eyed at the thought of forcing kids to say the pledge, Fox News viewers, are instead getting pissed off at the board. Heh.
    If only the school board had checked the Constitution, or Fox had checked the facts, this whole thing could have been avoided. But no.

    However, death threats (or as they called it, “misdirected feedback”)? That part isn’t funny, but sadly isn’t surprising either.

  • cole

    i dont see whats so wrong with not saying the pledge of allegiance


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