Fox Cites Discredited Author Ed Klein To Whitewash GOP Responsibility For Government Shutdown

Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

Fox News hid a House Republican tactic that ensured a government shutdown by citing discredited author Ed Klein to misleadingly blame White House adviser Valerie Jarrett for the shutdown.

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed on October 16 that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was "the architect of the shutdown," continuing the network's pattern of excusing Republicans of blame for the impasse. But the federal government shut down on October 1 after Republicans refused to fund the government without unrealistic policy changes to the Affordable Care Act, and reports from after the shutdown began explained how Republicans changed congressional rules to ensure federal gridlock. Talking Points Memo (TPM) explained:

The House and Senate were at an impasse on the night of Sept. 30. The House's then-most-recent ploy for extracting Obamacare concessions from Senate Democrats and the White House -- by eliminating health insurance subsidies for Congress members and their staffs -- had been rejected by the Senate. The 'clean' Senate spending bill was back in the House's court.

With less than two hours to midnight and shutdown, Speaker John Boehner's latest plan emerged. House Republicans would "insist" on their latest spending bill, including the anti-Obamacare provision, and request a conference with the Senate to resolve the two chambers' differences.

Under normal House rules, according to House Democrats, once that bill had been rejected again by the Senate, then any member of the House could have made a motion to vote on the Senate's bill. Such a motion would have been what is called "privileged" and entitled to a vote of the full House. At that point, Democrats say, they could have joined with moderate Republicans in approving the motion and then in passing the clean Senate bill, averting a shutdown.

But previously, House Republicans had made a small but hugely consequential move to block them from doing it.

[...]

So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.

Congressional experts told TPM that such a move is highly unusual:

"I've never heard of anything like that before," Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.

"It is absolutely true that House rules tend to not have any explicit parliamentary rights guaranteed and narrowed to explicit party leaders," Sarah Binder, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM. "That's not typically how the rules are written."

When House Democrats attempted to bring the Senate bill funding the government to a vote on October 12, they were told by a presiding Republican member that they could not do so due to the GOP leadership's rule change. A House Republican aide later confirmed the rule change to CNN.

Doocy's misleading effort to place all of the blame for the shutdown instead on Jarrett relied on a New York Post article that extensively quoted Klein, who used anonymous sources to claim she had devised the strategy in consultation with the president:

President Obama's top adviser Valerie Jarrett was behind a plan to force a showdown with Republicans over ObamaCare as part of a strategy to regain Democratic control of the House next year, claims author Ed Klein.

[...]

"It was during one of those nightly sessions that Jarrett devised the no-negotiating strategy that Obama has employed in his fight with the GOP over the government shutdown," Klein said, citing sources within the administration.

"Valerie came up with the concept late at night, after the kids and grandma and were gone."

"She convinced the president that a government shutdown and default offered a great opportunity to demonize the Republicans and help the Democrats win back a majority in the House of Representatives in 2014.

But Klein has been criticized in the past by both mainstream and conservative media -- even by Fox News -- for his shoddy sourcing for his claims about the Obama White House and the Clintons. The Boston Globe's review of Klein's book The Truth About Hillary described his research as consisting "mostly of anonymous interviews of the kind one finds in newspaper tabloids," making him look "like an author devoid of credibility." Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan called that book "poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced, full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work." In a Fox News interview, the Washington Examiner's Byron York noted that the book "was denounced as a whole pack of lies by everybody involved," and Fox host Greta Van Susteren agreed that it was "widely denounced" outside of the Clintons' friends. Klein's book about President Obama, called The Amateur, pushed similarly anonymous claims and included falsehoods about the president's actions and approval numbers.

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