Fox is accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of a "power grab" for proposing a rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. In fact, the new classification is based on sound science and intended to address years' worth of confusion surrounding the proper protection of the nation's waterways.
Newly-proposed guidelines would allow "greater consistency, certainty, and predictability nationwide by providing clarity in determining where the Clean Water Act (CWA) applies," per the EPA, specifically by incorporating recent research on the extent to which small streams and wetlands connect to larger bodies of water downstream. That research, which is under review by the EPA's Science Advisory Board, found that small streams, even those that only flow at certain times, "are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters," and that wetlands are similarly integrated, making them subject to CWA protection.
That is, unless you ask Fox News and Fox Business. This week, the networks have adopted the complaints of GOP lawmakers to claim that the EPA is only using the study to justify a "power grab." Lou Dobbs claimed on his show that the clarified jurisdiction represented "unprecedented control over private property" -- "maybe" extending to "mud puddles." And Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly asserted on Fox & Friends that the study is "bogus" -- merely a rationalization to "regulate all bodies of water" and "control more behavior."
Despite these claims, the new EPA study did not provide the basis for regulating "all bodies of water" (or "mud puddles"). It found that the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could evaluate small streams on a case-by-case basis to determine their impact downstream. The rule is necessary because the parameters of the CWA are currently quite muddled, as even conservative critics and industry lawyers have noted in the past. This process is in keeping with the March 2013 decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, which re-affirmed nearly unanimously that federal agencies are granted a wide berth in interpretations of their own rules.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that Congress' decision to raise the debt limit means that President Obama can now "spend as he wishes," even though the debt limit only affects the government's ability to meet past financial obligations, and government spending has always been checked by congressional allocations.
A day after Congress agreed to a deal that would end 16 days of government shutdown and avert the financial crisis that would have resulted from a failure to raise the debt limit, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Napolitano to comment on whether the decision to raise the debt ceiling was "a deal or raw deal." In response, Napolitano summarized: "because the Democrats bullied the Republicans last night, they have the ability to borrow more money and the president can spend as he wishes for another 90 days." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic framed the congressional deal as a "borrowing binge."
But Napolitano misrepresented the way that government spending functions. As the Government Accountability Office has previously noted, the debt ceiling places a "limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred." Raising the debt ceiling would only allow the government to meet "existing legal obligations," which, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has pointed out, does not authorize new spending.
Furthermore, Napolitano's claim that reopening the government would allow Obama to "spend as he wishes" is a common right-wing myth that has been repeatedly debunked. As PolitiFact noted, "[o]nly Congress can appropriate money. Obama can only spend what he's given." The "Power of the Purse" is a congressional responsibility that places restrictions on the executive branch's ability to spend.
The idea that a debt ceiling deal amounts to a "blank check" is a right-wing talking point frequently parroted by the media. Indeed, Fox has previously suggested that a debt ceiling increase would allow the president to take over Congress' power to dictate spending.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
Major media outlets are pushing the narrative that the United States Department of the Treasury could prioritize payments to bond holders and select groups of recipients in lieu of an increase of the federal borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling, beyond October 17. This ignores Treasury Department officials and other experts who explain such prioritization is unworkable and legally dubious, and that default would still happen.
An independent report has all but destroyed one of the right's most cherished Obama administration "scandals," a fever dream that featured former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson intentionally shirking transparency laws with the help of a secret email account under the name "Richard Windsor." Fox News mentioned the saga in at least 40 different segments in the last year -- yet despite the network's fascination with the story, it has not covered the recent development, which undermines most of its previous coverage.
The EPA's Inspector General (IG) recently found "no evidence" that the department has "used, promoted, or encouraged the use of private email accounts to circumvent records management responsibilities." The IG was similarly unable to turn up proof of any senior agency officials trying to dodge federal recordkeeping, and the report noted that the EPA has taken various actions to improve its electronic content management in the last four years.
That inquiry came in response to claims that Jackson and others were using such accounts to elude Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Congressional Republicans who pushed for the review had cited a Daily Caller article that reported Jackson used the name "Richard Windsor" for her "secret" secondary account. The Daily Caller got its information from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a partly industry-funded free-market think tank obsessed with the idea that some elusive, unguarded conversation would expose the Obama administration's (effectively imaginary) "War on Coal." (Later, when CEI actually got to read some FOIAed emails, it declared the lack of suspicious content somewhat suspicious).
But Jackson has explained that she regularly told people to "make sure" they searched for the Richard Windsor account when they made FOIA requests. Furthermore, EPA officials (and the IG) have noted that the use of a primary, staff-managed public account as well as a secondary account is common in both the public and private sectors in order to stem the flow of emails and get work done. Two former EPA administrators under George W. Bush reportedly used secondary (sub. required) email addresses as well.
However, the ordinariness of the practice didn't stop conservatives from feeding the "scandal" oxygen. Right-wing media couldn't get enough of Richard Windsor. They speculated that unseen emails contained information on an "expected" carbon tax (even though the administration has repeatedly stated that it is not pursuing a carbon tax). They bizarrely insinuated that the digital nom de plume was related to a "fetishistic" website (it was actually in honor of Jackson's family dog and hometown). They claimed the administrator was fleeing from the issue when she stepped down after a little over four years at the helm (neglecting to mention that she'd held the post longer than all but one past EPA chief). And in order to keep the "scandal" relevant once she resigned, they connected the allegations to Jackson's nominated replacement, Gina McCarthy (even though McCarthy told a Senate committee that she did not conduct business with a secondary account).
Fox News played a leading role in making Richard Windsor a story. A search of Nexis and internal video archives indicates that the network has mentioned the ordeal in more than 40 different segments in the last year, hosting the putative architect of the "scandal," CEI's Christopher Horner, ten times to promote it. In all, about 86 percent of guests discussing the issue voiced anti-EPA sentiment (7 percent defended the EPA and 7 percent were neutral). Over 90 percent of segments did not mention the mitigating factor that previous administrations had also used secondary email accounts:
Fox & Friends smeared President Obama with the false claim that he sent more security guards to keep veterans away from Washington, D.C.'s World War II memorial than were sent to the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya when it was attacked in September 2012.
When the federal government began a shutdown on October 1 after Republicans repeatedly demanded concessions to weaken or stop the Affordable Care Act in exchange for keeping the government open, national parks and monuments were closed as there were no longer funds to keep them staffed. Veterans participating in the Honor Flight program were eventually allowed to visit the World War II memorial.
On October 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy used the confusion over the status of the memorial to continue the network's inexhaustible obsession with Benghazi, saying, "as it turns out, it looks as if more personnel were sent in to the World War II memorial to keep people out than the State Department actually sent to Benghazi by two. They sent five people to Benghazi, the White House sent seven people to make sure that nobody got in to the war memorial."
An ABC News reporter was present at the memorial for several hours and didn't spot seven security guards keeping veterans away, but did observe the barricade being pushed aside without incident allowing the veterans to see the monument. One security guard was even spotted helping an elderly vet walk up a steep decline.
The National Park Service has also stated that it will not keep the veterans from visiting the memorial, calling their visits a First Amendment issue that supersedes the shutdown.
"The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks," the NPS said in a statement.
Politico reported on October 1, after a different group of veterans visited the memorial, that a National Park Service spokeswoman said "there [was] no risk of anyone getting arrested" at the time.
Fox News is accusing President Obama of intentionally inflicting pain upon World War II veterans who were initially unable to visit the memorial to their legacy after it was closed in the wake of a government shutdown. Fox figures, many of whom have been advocating for this very shutdown, compared the memorial's closing to the cancellation of White House tours during sequester -- a move conservatives originally claimed was made for no reason other than to inflict pain upon the American people for political purposes.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when Congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). As a result of this shutdown, national parks and museums -- including the nation's monuments -- were forced to close.
One of the shuttered monuments was the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The closing initially prevented busloads of veterans from accessing the site. As media attention focused on their plight, members of Congress -- many of whom are vocal advocates of the shutdown in the first place -- aided the visiting vets in removing barriers in order to "storm" the monument. National Park officials eventually opened the site to veterans, who are now considered as participating in a First Amendment protest.
Right-wing media, particularly the pundits at Fox News, rushed to accuse President Obama of unnecessarily closing the monument in order to cause "some sort of pain" against the American people. On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino said the administration "wanted to insert some sort of pain, so that as they screw down the nut, and then you'll start to feel like 'oh, my gosh, we have to compromise.'"
Perino went on to characterize the closing as "the Washington Monument strategy" -- a political strategy that, according to The Washington Post, "involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing...cuts to the most popular and visible services an agency provides." Co-host Eric Bolling concurred, likening the closing of the World War II memorial to the cancellation of White House tours in the aftermath of sequestration.
On Fox Business Network, host Lou Dobbs said that in March, the president was "trying to make the sequester as painful as possible ... and that's what they're doing now." He followed up, saying, "There's just one conclusion as to why they did block the wide open space in the first place -- the administration wanted to."
The war memorial, as well as the other parks and museums under the purview of the National Park Service (NPS), are deemed non-essential services under a shutdown of the federal government, and NPS employees, including park personnel, face a requisite furlough. The NPS shutdown contingency plan requires the suspension of "all activities except those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."
Fox News misleadingly suggested that Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared bankrupt solar company Solyndra a "success" in recent remarks. In fact, he was praising the broader clean energy loan program that supported it, noting that its loan recipients, such as Tesla Motors, are mostly still in business.
The new attack came after Moniz defended the Department of Energy's (DOE) green loan initiative in an interview with C-SPAN. He explained that despite the hype surrounding Solyndra, the portfolio has been a "terrific success," as evidenced by the fact that losses represent only a little over 2 percent of the $34.4 billion in loan guarantees, and under 10 percent of the reserve fund that Congress set aside to cover any defaults, knowing that not every company would succeed. Indeed, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis, the amount set aside by Congress for defaults will be more than enough even if every high-risk project fails. This is indicative of the caution that undergirded the program, which mostly apportioned funds to inherently low-risk power generation projects.
But Wednesday's edition of Fox & Friends suggested that Moniz was championing one of the program's rare failures, running a clip from Moniz's interview with a chyron reading "CELEBRATING SOLYNDRA. Energy Official: Failed Solar Co. A 'Success.'"
Watch what Moniz said and how Fox News reported it:
Fox has repeatedly seized on individual companies' troubles to declare the entire solar industry either on the "brink of collapse" or "tanking our economy." Media at-large have not been much better, relentlessly promoting Solyndra as the face of the green loan program and, at times, of clean energy itself, even as they ignored other, more promising developments. However, contrary to this narrative, clean energy sources including solar, are on the rise:
A Fox News anchor suggested that since the majority of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees have been furloughed under the government shutdown, we should simply do without them even after it has been resolved. However, EPA employees furloughed include those in charge of cleaning up hundreds of hazardous waste sites and enforcing clean air and water laws.
On Wednesday, Fox News' America's Newsroom noted that less than 7 percent of the over 16,000 EPA employees would be working during the government shutdown (about 1,000 total employees). Co-anchor Martha MacCallum laughed that "some" have "asked why we need the other 15,000 EPA workers at all," adding that these were "valid questions":
The "some" who are asking this are several Republican lawmakers behind the government shutdown. For instance, Rep. Steve Stockman who has rallied for the shutdown, tweeted a Washington Examiner article suggesting furloughed employees may be "non-essential" long-term, and re-tweeted a follower celebrating the idea that they wouldn't return:
From the October 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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On Wednesday, the State Department Office of the Inspector General (IG) issued the results of its investigation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board that was chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, as well as the State Department's implementation of its recommendations. The first finding of the report states [emphasis added]:
The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended--independently and without bias--to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State's security programs.
After being given advance copies of a Republican report attacking the credibility of the Benghazi review that was released on September 16, publications rushed to inform their readers of its flawed findings. There is no similar urgency on the part of the media to cover this new report which should lay to rest the notion that the Accountability Review Board was anything but an independent investigation into the tragedy that occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
The right is selectively quoting an Inspector General (IG) report to accuse the State Department of ignoring the recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB). In fact, the IG report noted that the State Department is making progress implementing the ARB recommendations and praised its leadership as a model for future ARB responses.
Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich dishonestly criticized the independence of the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya by hyping the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed four of the ARB's members. Federal law mandates that the secretary of state appoint four of the five members of each Accountability Review Board.
During a September 19 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida asked Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, vice chairman of the ARB, to confirm that Clinton appointed four of the five members of the board. After Mullen confirmed that, Mica commented "it looks like sort of an inside job of investigation, the Department of State looking at the Department of State." Mica also commented that the ARB did not interview Clinton for its report.
Pavlich, who was commenting on the hearing through her Twitter account, seized on this fact to criticize the ARB report, calling it a "whitewash":
Pavlich later made the same point in a post on Townhall.com, where she's an editor, this time to impugn the independence of the board:
During the hearing, Republican Rep. John Mica pointed out Clinton appointed four out of the five members of the ARB board investigating the Benghazi attack. The ARB describes itself as "independent."
But the secretary of state is required by federal law to appoint four of the five members of an Accountability Review Board:
A Board shall consist of five members, 4 appointed by the Secretary of State, and 1 appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence. The Secretary of State shall designate the Chairperson of the Board. Members of the Board who are not Federal officers or employees shall each be paid at a rate not to exceed the maximum rate of basic pay payable for level GS-18 of the General Schedule for each day (including travel time) during which they are engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Board. Members of the Board who are Federal officers or employees shall receive no additional pay by reason of such membership.
Pavlich has previously smeared Clinton over the Benghazi attack on Fox News.
Fox Business is crying foul over Environmental Protection Agency-hosted climate change lesson plans, which it calls "propaganda." However, the material is aligned with the National Research Council, reflects the view of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and covers many topics that conservative media have flagrantly misreported in the past.
The lesson plans, which have been available online to middle school educators for months, drew conservative ire after a tweet from the EPA appeared on Fox contributor Michelle Malkin's social media aggregation site, Twitchy.com, on September 12. By the next morning, it was considered big enough news that Fox News contributor Monica Crowley covered it on Varney & Company, asking, "Are they going to tell these kids to not exhale? Because every time you exhale, that's carbon dioxide."
Equally uncontroversial is the view that industrial activities -- particularly the burning of fossil fuels for energy -- have led to a surplus of life-supporting gases like carbon dioxide, which has made the planet hotter -- too hot, in fact. Even many prominent climate deniers acknowledge this much.
It is no surprise that the EPA's lesson plans are grounded in good, basic science; they were adapted from material designed by preeminent scientific institutions including the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The material is also aligned with the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards.
Fox figures would do well to take a look at these plans. Here are three issues they cover that have proven tricky for them in the past: