Fox News political analyst Brit Hume and anchor Bret Baier attempted to shift responsibility for the possible government shutdown from Republicans to Democrats by blaming biased reporting from the "mainstream media" and not the actions of Republicans in Congress for the popular perception that Republicans would be responsible for a government shutdown.
The government may shut down after Republicans attempted to use a looming government shutdown as leverage to defund the Affordable Care Act. According to the Huffington Post, the GOP-led House of Representatives "passed a stopgap funding bill Friday that will shut down the government unless Democrats agree to defund President Barack Obama's marquee health care law." Economists fear that a government shutdown -- especially if it were followed by a potential default on the federal debt -- could hurt financial markets, elevate the unemployment rate, and further slow a sluggish economic recovery. More than 783,000 federal employees could be sent home, according to a CNN analysis.
On the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Baier introduced a commentary from Hume by claiming, "The mainstream media across the board has apparently made its call about who will be to blame if the government shutdown occurs, partial or not." Hume then elaborated, saying, "One reason people think Republicans are to blame for government shutdowns is so much of the media keep telling them that's the case."
A recent CNN poll found that 46% of Americans believe that the GOP would be responsible for a government shutdown, while 69% of Americans believe Republican members of Congress have acted "mostly like spoiled children." Americans may feel that way because, acccording to Mother Jones, "Republicans have been very clear all along that they were deliberately stringing out the budget process so they could use a shutdown as leverage for their demands." Even other Republicans have been critical of the shutdown strategy, with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), famously calling it the "dumbest idea I'd ever heard."
Fox's own pundits have been divided. Sean Hannity said that defunding the ACA via a government shutdown is "the hill to die on," for the GOP. Charles Krauthammer described that same strategy as "really dumb," and "nuts." But those comments both acknowledge the GOP's responsibility for employing a strategy that could shut down the government.
In reality, Democrats have already shown a "willingness to compromise," according to Roll Call, which reported that "House Democratic leaders said on Monday that they are prepared to vote for a rider-free continuing resolution at sequester levels -- a cave from earlier condemnations of the House-passed $986 billion topline." Roll Call's David Hawkings reported that, unless Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner changes his mind, the shutdown is inevitable, but that's not likely because Republican leadership are under too much pressure from within their own party to compromise.
Hume previously acknowledged the right wing media's role in fueling such partisan showdowns in Congress, saying of some Republicans in Congress, "if you're sitting over in the House of Representatives and some measure to defund Obamacare comes along and you think it's a suicide mission because it might involve a government shutdown you're going to be hesitant to oppose it anyway because you don't want the most conservative -- you don't want the tea party and you don't want the conservative radio talk show hosts on your back."
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren admitted that the network may have taken the Cleveland Clinic medical center's decision to cut jobs out of context after Fox repeatedly hyped the story to demonize the Affordable Care Act.
Reuters reported on September 18 that the Cleveland Clinic medical center announced plans to reduce its staff and budget in order to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Fox News repeatedly hyped the news as evidence that the ACA destroys jobs.
However, even the Cleveland Clinic itself didn't buy into Fox's narrative. The Atlantic reached out to the Cleveland Clinic and found that Eileen Sheil, the clinic's Executive Director of Corporate Communications, "seemed a bit confused by the emphasis on Obamacare" in the media coverage of the center's actions. Sheil told the publication, "We've been working on reducing costs for years ... We felt health-care reform was absolutely necessary." The Atlantic explained (emphasis added):
Actually, much of what the Cleveland Clinic system is doing follows the recommendations of health-care analysts closely. For example, it has consolidated closely located neonatal intensive care units, because high volumes tend to lead to better results. It's working to reduce the number of procedures its staff performs, since in the current system "physicians are rewarded to do more, not to do the right thing for the patient," as Sheil put it. And there's a new focus on chronic diseases, which are an increasingly important and costly area for treatment.
Think of it this way: These are all steps that the Cleveland Clinic was likely to take, but Obamacare implementation is acting as a catalyst, spurring the clinic to adopt them now rather than on a slower timeline.
Yet Fox's flawed reporting made its way to at least one member of Congress. On the September 24 edition of Fox News' On The Record, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told Van Susteren of the ACA, "The Cleveland Clinic announced this week they are laying off many employees. They're cutting $300 million of expenses because of the implementation -- because of the health care law."
Van Susteren then admitted to the network's misleading reporting on the clinic, telling the senator, "I don't know if Toby Cosgrove, who's the CEO, whether he's backpedaling or not, but I talked to him a couple hours later and he sort of thought that we were taking a little bit out of context what he meant."
Much of Fox's coverage of the implementation of the ACA has been rife with misinformation. As Sen. Barrasso illustrated, Fox's misleading reporting can often influence members of Congress. Fox recently managed to help the House of Representatives push through massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) and once aided an Alex Jones conspiracy theory in getting a hearing in Congress.
Fox's Martha MacCallum preemptively attacked President Obama's upcoming remarks regarding healthcare costs in relation to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, claiming that the truth behind premium costs "flies in the face" of what Obama has previously said and would say in his speech. MacCallum predicted that Obama would incorrectly claim that healthcare costs are lowering -- but Obama reported that while rising healthcare costs are a continuing concern, the rate of increase in costs is at its lowest in 50 years, a fact he's acknowledged in the past.
Discussing Walgreens' recent decision to move some employees to private health insurance exchanges on America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that Walgreens made their decision because, as he paraphrased, they "can't afford the constant rising cost of healthcare and [they] cannot afford the cost of compliance with Obamacare." MacCallum, along with co-host Bill Hemmer, later responded to the news, saying (emphasis added):
HEMMER: But this is the beginning of a flood. We talked about it last week, when the big companies step up and say we're going to change the policy, many, many others will follow.
MACCALLUM: And it flies in the face of what you're hearing from the president, and we'll hear it today as well: That premiums are going down. That costs are going down. So if costs were truly going down, what would be forcing these companies to push people off of their rolls onto this, you know, 'Here's your check,' and, you know, 'good luck.'
Despite MacCallum's claim, what the president has previously acknowledged is that while healthcare costs are still rising, increases have slowed to their lowest rate in 50 years -- a fact that Fox failed to report.
OBAMA: Healthcare costs, which were and continue to be a major source of concern, are increasing at the slowest rate in 50 years, and for many of you, in terms of your bottom lines, employer based healthcare plans have gone up at about a third of what they were going up when I first took office.
Fox has a habit of pre-emptively dismissing, ignoring, and cutting away from Obama's speeches. MacCallum's misconstruance of Obama's remarks on healthcare costs is not surprising given the network's long history of reporting misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speculated that the attack on the Washington Navy Yard may have been a false flag operation committed by disguised government agents in pursuit of some obscure goal to restrict liberty. Despite Jones' far-fetched and often offensive statements, conservative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report have continued to promote his theories -- coverage that has even inspired legislative action in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
After a gunman attacked the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, Alex Jones immediately wondered if the attack was part of some conspiracy, tweeting, "Who will the Navy yard shooting be blamed on? Terrorist? Tea Partier? Leftist? Lone nut?" Later, on his radio show, Jones said, "when you have multiple shooters like this, it has patsy written all over it," and compared it to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, which Jones described as "undoubtedly a false flag." At the time of publication, Reuters reported, "Up to three gunmen, at least two dressed in military-style clothing, killed several people and wounded at least four others in a shooting spree at the U.S. Navy Yard on Monday."
Jones has long promoted false flag conspiracy theories. He once accused the government of using a weather control machine to devastate Moore, OK, with tornadoes. Jones also claimed that the United States government was behind everything from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting. Most recently, he questioned whether the New World Order may be using the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to replace the world's population with human-machine hybrids.
While Jones' theories may seem outlandish, they often receive promotion among the right wing media including Fox News. Earlier this year, Matt Drudge declared 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Jones' widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in order to either commit a coup against the United States or to drive up ammunition prices and keep it out of the hands of American citizens recently spurred the Republican-led House of Representatives to investigate and introduce legislation in order to prevent DHS from stockpiling ammunition.
Jones wasn't the only right-wing media figure to rush to politicize the tragedy. Others included Fox's Katie Pavlich and Martha MacCallum and CNN's S.E. Cupp.
In a column on National Review Online's (NRO) The Corner, Fox News contributor and NRO columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky laid out what they considered "The Latest Evidence Of Voter Fraud." The evidence they offered, however, amounted to one county in Mississippi that was recently ordered to remove ineligible voters from its registration rolls, and a report released by the conservative Voter Integrity Project showing a statistically insignificant number of alleged voter fraud cases, neither of which showed any conclusive evidence or prosecution of voter fraud.
In a September 9 column, Fund and von Spakovsky wrote, "Obama-administration officials and their liberal camp-followers who routinely claim there is no reason to worry about election integrity because vote fraud is nonexistent suffered some embarrassing setbacks last week."
The first piece of evidence they offered was a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) -- a far right legal advocacy group whose senior fellow and policy expert once accused the NAACP's president of "treason" for denouncing voter ID laws, and who said it was racist to oppose those same laws -- against Walthall County, Mississippi in which the county was instructed to purge its voter rolls of felons, the deceased, and duplicate registrations. Fund and von Spakovsky made no claims of actual voter fraud in regards to that case, however, writing only that:
This is the first time in the 20 years that the NVRA has been in force that a conservative group has sued to enforce Section 8, while liberal advocacy groups have filed many cases to try to stop election officials from cleaning up their registration lists, a practice which they foolishly label "voter suppression."
An inflated voter registration roll by itself is not evidence of voter fraud, which the Brennan Center for Justice defined as "when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system." Instead, voter roll purges have repeatedly been used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities and students -- traditionally Democratic voting blocs.
The second piece of evidence Fund and von Spakovsky presented was a report released by the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina (VIP-NC), a group with a history of false claims regarding voter fraud. VIP-NC released a report they obtained from the North Carolina Board of Elections which shows 475 cases in which the state had a "reasonable suspicion" that voter fraud occurred. Those cases were turned over to the appropriate district attorneys and Fund, von Spakovsky, and VIP-NC acknowledged that prosecutors chose not to bring charges in those cases. However, Fund and von Spakovsky attributed the lack of convictions to political fear, writing, "As VIP also points out, the report raises the important question of why local district attorneys in North Carolina have been 'so negligent in prosecuting' these referrals."
Fund and von Spakovsky used the VIP-NC report to advocate for strict voter ID laws and portrayed North Carolina as a hotbed of voter fraud (emphasis added):
The report shows that there were 475 cases of election fraud that the Board "believed merited a referral" to prosecutors between 2008 and 2012. The fraud included double voting, impersonation and registration fraud, and illegal voting by noncitizens and felons. Not all of this fraud would have been stopped by voter ID, but there are certainly people willing to engage in fraud and we need to take a comprehensive approach to protect the security of the voting and election process.
In fact, the strict voter ID laws they advocate might have prevented only one of the 475 alleged voter fraud cases referenced -- the single allegation of voter impersonation. According to the report, the majority of the 475 cases occurred during the 2008 general election, when over four million people voted. Yet conservatives in the state have used similar claims of voter fraud to pass what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "greatest hits of voter suppression."
According to Mother Jones, North Carolina's law "prohibits same-day registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, eliminates one week of early voting, prevents counties from extending voting hours due to long lines (often caused by cuts in early voting) or other extraordinary circumstances, scratches college ID cards and other forms of identification from the very short list of acceptable state-issued photo IDs, and outlaws certain types of voter registration drives." From Mother Jones:
The bill's new provisions make it so that, with very few exceptions, a voter needs a valid in-state DMV-issued driver's license or non-driver's ID card, a US Military ID card, a veteran's ID card or a US passport. According to an April 2013 analysis (pdf) of state Board of Elections data by Democracy North Carolina, 34 percent of the state's registered black voters, the overwhelming majority of whom vote Democrat, do not have state-issued photo ID. The same study found that 55 percent of North Carolina Democrats don't have state-issued photo ID. Only 21 percent of Republicans have the same problem.
Instead of protecting elections from fraudulent voting, strict voter ID laws are instead being used to disenfranchise minorities and low-income individuals in an effort to help Republicans win elections.
Fund and von Spakovsky both have a history of spreading misinformation about voter fraud, culminating in a book they co-authored that is rife with falsehoods. NRO's continued advocacy of strict voter ID laws is not surprising given its sordid history regarding civil rights.
Fox host Chris Wallace used a discussion on the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington to ask whether the time has come for the government to stop "putting a thumb on the scale" for African Americans with affirmative action policies. Wallace's question ignores the continuing problem of economic inequality between whites and African Americans.
The August 25 edition of Fox News Sunday discussed racial progress since the 1963 March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom. During the segment, Wallace raised the issue of affirmative action and asked Fox contributor Kirsten Powers, "50 years after the March on Washington, one of the questions is how long - well, how much longer the government should give special treatment to minorities." After Powers noted that historically unemployment among African Americans has been higher than among white Americans, Wallace asked contributor Scott Brown, "At what point have we gone as far as the country, as the government, needs to go in putting a thumb on the scale, if you will? You know, it is 50 years after Martin Luther King's speech. Obviously there were hundreds of years of discrimination. But at what point do we, in effect, say, 'you're on your own?'"
As Powers noted, the March on Washington was about civil rights, but it was also about economic inequality. Today, white families tend to earn twice as much income as do African-American families, while African Americans experience double the unemployment rate. There's also a racial gap when it comes to wealth. According to the New York Times, "Many experts consider the wealth gap to be more pernicious than the income gap, as it perpetuates from generation to generation and has a powerful effect on economic security and mobility." CNN reported that as of 2010, white Americans were worth as much as 22 times more than African-Americans:
One of the greatest drivers of the wealth and income gaps is the lack of higher education, according to a report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. The study found that "obtaining a college degree is vital to economic success and translates into substantially greater lifetime income and wealth." And in general, those with higher educational attainment are less likely to be unemployed.
Multiple studies have shown that banning affirmative action would result in lower enrollment rates among African Americans. One Princeton study declared, "Ending affirmative action would devastate most minority college enrollment."
Wallace mischaracterized affirmative action as "putting a thumb on the scale" in favor African Americans. In reality, it's about removing the thumb that was already there.
Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon who criticized President Obama over health care policy at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, was heavily promoted by Fox News for his conservative views before flaming out following controversial statements regarding gay marriage. But after news broke that a political action committee (PAC) had been formed to draft him to run for president, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren invited Carson on and asked him the "best reason" he should be president. Carson responded with what sounded suspiciously like a stump speech.
On August 22, Politico reported that a PAC had been registered as the "National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee." According to Politico, the group was formed to urge "the neurosurgeon and Obamacare critic to throw his hat into the ring for 2016." That night, Fox's Greta Van Susteren hosted Carson to get his reaction. But first, Van Susteren asked Carson to "tell us, what would be the best reason for Dr. Ben Carson to be president and what would be the not-so best idea." Carson responded by mentioning several times how he has traveled the country and spoken to "enormous" crowds about how America needs "common sense" and "somebody who can create a vision."
Carson insisted that he was reluctant to run for president, an act which itself has become a signal of presidential ambitions. Speculation about Carson's plans are even stronger when placed in context of his 2012 book, recent speaking engagements, and television appearances.
Carson was widely promoted by Fox News as a new conservative leader and possible 2016 contender after he criticized President Obama during his keynote address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where Carson made conservative arguments about health care, tax policy, and the national debt. The hosts of Fox & Friends attempted to recruit him to run for president. Sean Hannity asked Carson directly if he would run for president, before declaring, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." Hannity even devoted an hour-long show to promoting Ben Carson as the man who is "saving America." This campaign for Carson eventually prompted Fox's Eric Bolling to criticize conservatives for "desperately" pushing him to run.
While Fox has often attempted to rehabilitate conservative candidates and media figures -- most recently former Fox employee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Carson may be unique in that the comments that got him in trouble came out of his frequent Fox appearances. While making the rounds on the network, Carson stumbled into controversy when he compared marriage equality advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, later both apologizing and attacking his critics. Carson's own colleagues at Johns Hopkins University called his remarks "nasty, petty, and ill-informed," and he was ultimately forced to step down as a 2013 commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins.
Fox has a history of heavily promoting its own hand-picked candidates. The network has advocated at various points for the election of Sarah Palin, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Scott Brown, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer stated that "the Obama administration may be dealing a bruising blow" to the Head Start program -- by implementing the automatic spending cuts commonly known as the sequester -- before noting that "critics say" the cuts could have been avoided. While Sawyer did note that the cuts were linked to sequestration, she framed them as an action taken by the Obama administration while failing to highlight the responsibility Republicans in Congress share or mentioning the White House's long standing offers first to avert sequestration and now to replace it.
On August 18, The Washington Post reported that as many as 57,000 children lost access to Head Start's health, nutrition, and early education programs due to the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. While covering that story, Sawyer claimed on ABC World News' August 19 broadcast that "an uproar is building tonight after an announcement that the Obama administration may be dealing a bruising blow to the program head start designed to helped preschool children catch up on education."
SAWYER: And now back here at home an uproar is building tonight after an announcement that the Obama administration may be dealing a bruising blow to the program Head Start designed to helped preschool children catch up on education. Word tonight: the administration says the sequester forced cuts, but critics say there may have been another way. And tonight 57,000 children are facing the possibility they will no longer get educational support.
Sawyer appeared to lay blame squarely on the Obama administration's shoulders, or at least ignored the responsibility held by Republicans. Sawyer reported that "critics say there may have been another way," but in fact, Obama offered another way with a plan to avert sequestration. Republicans refused to budge on a deal and some even said the cuts were necessary. Once sequestration hit, Obama called on Congress to replace it with a more balanced approach. The president has also been an advocate of early childhood education and even mentioned it in his 2013 State of the Union.
ABC's coverage was brief -- a common problem in the media's sequestration reporting that Media Matters has previously noted -- but left out critical context that gave the appearance of laying the blame on Obama.
Fox News' Neil Cavuto invited former Fox host and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich onto his program for a softball interview that glossed over Kasich's record of harmful, draconian policies directed at middle and working class families in Ohio. Cavuto also completely ignored ethics questions currently surrounding the Kasich administration's JobsOhio company -- a privatized state development corporation accused of steering tax dollars toward Kasich allies.
Kasich, a former Fox News personality who has received considerable encouragement from the network in the past, appeared on the August 15 edition of Your World where he discussed his economic record and controversial tenure as Governor of Ohio -- at one point, he was the most unpopular governor in the country. According to Cavuto, Kasich "has single-handedly turned his state around, and right now he is the most popular he's ever been there, but lately now he's ticking off a lot of folks which is why we always love having him on."
Cavuto began the interview by letting Kasich praise his own economic policies in Ohio without acknowledging several important facts. For example, according to a recent Pew Research survey, Ohio ranks 47th among all states in private sector job creation over the last year, and a majority of those jobs created under the Kasich administration have been low-paying positions with wages less than $15 per hour. And while Ohio has seen a positive trend in job growth, that trend began before Kasich took office in 2011. Kasich has previously dismissed the idea of an auto bailout, but nearly 850,000 jobs -- about 12 percent of Ohio's labor force -- are tied to the auto industry, according to the Center for Automotive Research. Yet even after the bailout succeeded, Kasich dodged questions about whether or not he supported it.
During the interview, Cavuto praised Kasich's handling of Ohio's budget, claiming, "Many [are] impressed with how you've turned the budget around." Cavuto then allowed Kasich to give an oration about his desire to "reach out to people who live in the shadows" and help them economically. But still Cavuto failed to mention how Ohio's budget surplus came from draconian cuts Kasich made that slashed funding for education and women's health. And Kasich's newest budget proposal includes an increase in the state sales tax -- a plan that "plays to an upper income audience," according to Ohio State Professor Paul Beck. "I think that people really get hit who are lower, middle class and lower wage positions because they are spending more of their income in consumption," Beck said of Kasich's plan.
While talking about Kasich's economic views, Cavuto also missed an opportunity to question the governor about the controversy surrounding Kasich's JobsOhio, a private, non-profit company created by his administration to help spur job growth in Ohio and a centerpiece of his economic plan. According to Ohio's WKSU, "An investigative report shows the majority of members on the state's private job development company board, JobsOhio, are invested with businesses that are receiving state incentives through that organization." While the Ohio Ethics Commission recently declined to rule on a complaint involving Kasich himself, they were unable to investigate the board of JobsOhio -- that's because the Republican legislature legally denied them that power, despite their pleas to the contrary. After a public dispute with Republican State Auditor Dave Yost over JobsOhio's finances, Kasich signed a bill barring the state auditor from auditing their books.
While the Wall Street Journal also glossed over Kasich's record in order to praise him, Fox News has a history of attempting to rehabilitate the images of unpopular conservatives, including Sarah Palin, former President George W. Bush, and most recently, Rush Limbaugh.