In recent days, The Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published op-eds by members of the Heritage Foundation containing the false claim that union autoworkers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits. In fact, according to General Motors, these claims are based not only on current workers' hourly wages and benefits, such as health care and retirement, but also retirement and health-care benefits that U.S. automakers are providing for current retirees.
Fox News hosts, reporters, and contributors have repeatedly provided or echoed the claims of only opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers the right to form or join a union if a majority of workers sign a card stating they want to unionize. Absent from numerous reports and discussions on Fox News is the argument made by proponents of EFCA that under the current system, employers often fire union supporters and pressure employees to vote against unionizing.
In recent weeks, several conservative media figures, echoed by Republican lawmakers, have responded to comparisons in the media of President-elect Barack Obama to FDR, or assertions in the media that a New Deal-level of government intervention will be necessary to resolve the current economic crisis, by asserting that the New Deal was a dismal failure, plunging the 1930s economy into a depression, an assertion that prominent progressive economists flatly reject.
Lars Larson responded to a November 22 Media Matters item by misrepresenting what he had said five days before about autoworkers' hourly compensation. Larson claimed on November 24, "[T]hey [Media Matters] were saying that if you count just what is being paid to the worker and to his pension and for his medical care, that it doesn't add up to $73 an hour and they're right, but that's not what I said. I said that the total cost of having that worker on the assembly line is over $73 an hour." In fact, as Media Matters documented, Larson falsely claimed on November 19 that American automakers are "paying $73.73 an hour to those people with salary and benefits."
Sean Hannity baselessly asserted that "[t]he federal government and the Democrats ... forced these banks, through the Community Reinvestment Act, to make these risky loans," adding, "The risky loans started the subprime mortgage crisis, which impacted all these financial institutions, which needed government bailouts." In fact, according to housing experts, the vast majority of subprime loans were made by independent lenders not covered by the CRA.
On all three network evening news programs, reports on the bailout of Citigroup included interviews with supporters of the deal, but only the CBS Evening News included any criticism of the bailout -- and that criticism came from a source who argued that the bailout was not large enough. None of the reports featured criticism of the bailout on the grounds that it is a poor deal for taxpayers, even though several economists have made that argument.
On Hardball, guest host Mike Barnicle did not challenge the false claim by Republican strategist Todd Harris that union autoworkers earn "70, $75 an hour," a claim also recently made on Hardball by a Heritage Foundation fellow and echoed by host Chris Matthews.
MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski falsely claimed that "the average Big Three automaker union worker's compensation is $73/hour -- two and a half times the average for the taxpayer being asked to bail them out." In fact, the $73 figure includes not only future retirement benefits for current workers, but also benefits paid to current retirees, according to GM.
Several media outlets have used data that combines the average cost of current wages and benefits and future benefits to falsely assert or suggest that autoworkers make $70 or more per hour. But, as analysts and some media outlets have noted, the figure includes not only future retirement benefits for current workers, but also benefits paid to current retirees.
An Augusta Chronicle editorial supporting the "Fair Tax," a proposal that "replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes" with a national sales tax, falsely stated that under the "Fair Tax" people will "get their entire paycheck." In fact, Georgia residents would still have to pay the Georgia income tax, which is withheld from their paychecks.
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt rehashed the discredited claim that President-elect Barack Obama is to blame for recent declines in the stock market. In fact, analysts have cited economic data on dropping retail sales, increasing unemployment, and other significant factors to explain recent stock-market declines.
While discussing potential Republican outreach efforts toward African-Americans, Jason Lewis stated on The Rush Limbaugh Show: "[T]his whole notion of taxing -- taxing America's labor -- you know, I don't know how else you describe what this sordid experience of slavery was when you take away somebody's ability to engage in the marketplace with the fruits of their labor." Lewis later added: "We need to go into the African-American community there on cultural issues. And they should be there on taxes, because they know what it's like to have to work for free."
On CBS' Face the Nation, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich falsely claimed that Indiana and Utah -- both governed by Republicans -- have the "lowest unemployment rates in their respective regions." However, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics records, neither Utah nor Indiana has the lowest unemployment rate in its region, and several states with lower unemployment rates are governed by Democrats.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace did not challenge the false assertion by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) that Republican economist "Marty Feldstein says we shouldn't" enact a new economic stimulus plan. But Feldstein wrote in an October 30 op-ed that "[t]he only way to prevent a deepening recession will be a temporary program of increased government spending."