In a report on the renewed judicial nominations struggle over three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Fox News' Shannon Bream incorrectly reported that the court was balanced evenly and that past Democratic opposition to highly controversial Republican judicial nominees is equivalent to the blanket obstructionism President Obama's nominees are currently facing.
Appearing on Special Report with Bret Baier, Bream advanced the right-wing myth that filling the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit would "tip the balance" ideologically and is unnecessary, given its "lighter" caseload. From the October 29 edition of Special Report:
BREAM: The problem is this is the D.C. Circuit Court. And what's important about it is it is the key appeals court for looking at federal regulations and federal agencies, things like the EPA, the IRS. So it's something that looks at administrative action that goes around Congress. So it is a real check on administrative power. Now, this is the court that looked at the NLRB recess appointments, those appointments that the president made to the National Labor Relations Board, and found them unconstitutional. So it's very important. It's balanced right now evenly between judges who were appointed by Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, so adding even one new nominee of the president to this court is going to tip the balance. By the way, four of the current Supreme Court justices served on this court. It's very important.
BRET BAIER: But Democrats rightly point out there are a lot of empty seats so why shouldn't they be filled?
BREAM: Yeah, there are three vacancies. The President has tapped three different lawyers to fill those seats, including one who is currently a judge in a lower court. And basically, there were vacancies back when President George W. Bush was fighting to fill these seats as well. Back then Democrats said the court doesn't have enough of a workload to justify filling all of these seats. It's what Republicans are saying now and they add the workload has gotten even lighter in the last eight years. One of the judges currently sitting on the bench said this, quote, "if any more judges are added now, there won't be enough work to go around." That's from one of the current folks who's on this court.
Bream's report on Republican obstruction of Obama's judicial nominees parrots repeatedly debunked right-wing talking points. Bream is correct that the D.C. Circuit Court is a significant part of the federal court system -- it is considered second only to the Supreme Court in terms of its impact on federal law. It is strange, then, that she would uncritically report on Republican efforts to prevent the court from operating at full capacity. Moreover, her characterization of Democratic opposition to George W. Bush's D.C. Circuit nominees is demonstrably false -- that opposition did not result in the elimination of any seats, and ultimately four of Bush's nominees were confirmed. And unlike Bush's judicial picks, President Obama's nominees have faced unprecedented obstruction from Senate Republicans.
CNN host Newt Gingrich declared that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' congressional testimony was worse than Richard Nixon's alleged crimes during the Watergate scandal, another round in the right-wing media's campaign to find their own Watergate scandal with which to smear the Obama administration.
During Sebelius' ongoing testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee about HHS' role in producing the Healthcare.gov, CNN Crossfire host and former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich commented via Twitter that Sebelius' "dishonesty" in her testimony "exceeds anything president [sic] Nixon was accused of."
Nixon, of course, was nearly impeached for his administration's involvement in and attempted cover-up of the wiretapping of Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The Supreme Court had to order Nixon to hand over tape recordings implicating himself in the cover-up, and he subsequently resigned from the presidency.
Perhaps conservative media should consult this helpful Media Matters flowchart in the future: Is It Watergate?
UPDATE: CNN Newsroom host Wolf Blitzer confronted Gingrich regarding his Nixon comparison, explaining, "I just want to know if you want to revise making a comparison to Nixon." When pressed by Blitzer on whether Gingrich believes Sebelius committed any crimes -- like Nixon allegedly did -- Gingrich said, "We don't know yet." Later, when Blitzer called Gingrich's comparison "overblown," Gingrich jokingly offered to "modify" his tweet, to say that Sebelius's testimony "equals anything" of which Nixon had been accused, admitting that "'exceeds' may have been too strong."
BLITZER: On the point comparing it to Nixon, comparing what she did -- what this secretary did to Nixon, that is, I mean just between you and me, that's a little overblown.
GINGRICH: Well, what do you say about an administration which, you just pointed out, the actual number may be 16 million Americans losing their policies. Now, this affects life and death. It affects --
BLITZER: You're talking about the president. Here, you said -- and I'll read it again just to be precise and then you can tell me if you want to revise it. 'Sebelius dishonesty in testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of.'
GINGRICH: Ok, I will -- I will modify it: 'Equals anything.' How is that. Exceeds may have been too strong. I think to go under oath and say with a straight face there was not an outage in a site you've been covering for a month.
Washington Post columnist Charles Lane recycled erroneous Fox News claims about California's new TRUST Act, which details how state officials can constitutionally participate in federal immigration policy.
On October 21, Lane provided misleading talking points to right-wing media on the topic of an appellate judge's recent admission that strict voter ID has proven to be voter suppression. A week later, the exchange was reversed, with Lane repeating debunked misinformation on the TRUST Act previously broadcast by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.
In his most recent column, Lane falsely claimed that the TRUST Act was "in tension" with the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States, which reaffirmed long-standing Supremacy Clause precedent that forbids state law from conflicting with federal immigration law. Like O'Reilly's confused analysis before him, this is a conflation of the unconstitutional attempts of Arizona to usurp federal immigration powers with the separate - and unchallenged - constitutional justification behind the TRUST Act. From the October 29 edition of the Post:
California's new law limits cooperation with the federal Secure Communities program, under which the fingerprints of arrestees that local police routinely send to the FBI also get routed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
When ICE registers a "hit" against its database, it tells the state or local jail to hold the individual for up to 48 hours so that federal officials can pursue deportation if appropriate. Between March 2008 and September 2011, Secure Communities led to more than 142,000 deportations.
California's new law forbids police to detain anyone under Secure Communities unless the individual has been convicted of or formally charged with certain serious crimes such as murder or bribery -- but not, say, misdemeanor drunk driving.
It's the mirror image of a provision of Arizona's immigration law that essentially required Arizona police officers to check with ICE about everyone they arrested. The Obama administration opposed that as unwanted and unnecessary meddling in federal decision making -- but it was the only aspect of Arizona's crackdown that the Supreme Court upheld.
So: If the Supreme Court says that one state (Arizona) may pester federal immigration authorities with more information about detainees than they asked for, can another state (California) deny the feds information they might seek?
But the surviving provision in Arizona's troubled immigration law (SB 1070) mentioned by Lane involved communication between state and federal officials, whereas the TRUST Act delineates immigration detention powers. These are two entirely separate areas of enforcement underpinned by separate legal justifications.
Contrary to Lane's argument, that is not a "mirror image."
Fox News aired a video compilation critical of President Obama, without mentioning a Republican National Committee research document that reflects Fox's "report."
On October 29, Fox & Friends showed video of Obama and administration officials explaining that the president was not made aware of problems with the HealthCare.gov website, reported NSA surveillance of foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an Inspector General report about the IRS' handling of groups seeking tax-exempt status, and other things that the show labeled "DC scandals."
The Fox & Friends segment bears a striking similarity to a RNC document posted to GOP.com on October 28 titled "The Bystander President." Each "scandal" highlighted by the RNC document appears in the Fox segment, except that Fox left out the RNC mention of bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and added the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious and a reference to the network's manufactured Benghazi "scandal." Nowhere in the segment did the Fox & Friends hosts say that these claims came from a Republican document -- unlike MSNBC's Morning Joe, where co-host Mika Brzezinski said, before playing a similar video, that "Republicans are calling President Obama the quote 'bystander president.' A memo on the RNC's website points out numerous examples of a president who appears to be left in the dark."
Fox News has a history of disguising GOP talking points as its own reporting. In February 2009, Fox host Jon Scott criticized the planned economic recovery package that later passed as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, with a series of news sources that came directly from a press release by Senate Republicans -- including the same typo. In October 2009, Fox & Friends parroted a misleading House Republican press release that was critical of the stimulus. The list of GOP talking points presented as Fox News reporting goes on.
Fox News immediately pounced on a 60 Minutes Benghazi report to continue a baseless smear campaign against Hillary Clinton in an attempt to make sure the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate will "be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road."
After CBS' 60 Minutes aired a segment of correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan's year-long investigation of the Benghazi attacks regarding a long-answered "lingering question," Fox's America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum hosted Tea Party News Network's Scottie Nell Hughes and contributor Leslie Marshall to discuss the report. These politically-oriented guests were selected in an apparent attempt to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as MacCallum admitted to the pair, "the reason we're talking to you about this is because it is going to be politically relevant and it may be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road." One such attack discussed was the long-debunked myth that the administration told the military to "stand down" rather than proceed with a Benghazi rescue mission.
MACCALLUM: Yeah, they had made repeated cries for help, for increased security. Those were turned down. And the reason we're talking to both of you about this is because it is going to be politically relevant and it may be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road. She, we also remember, shook her hands in the air and said 'what difference does it make whether it was a bunch of crazy individuals or something that was planned and plotted.' I am paraphrasing a bit of what she said, but you all remember it well.
MARSHALL: That is great paraphrasing, taking one sentence a bit out of context.
HUGHES: They asked for help, a month before there was a meeting where they sat there and laid out the entire plan that this embassy was going to be under attack, and that night when the calls for help went out and the soldiers wanted to go in and help, there was a call somewhere from this administration to stand down. We don't know who made that call.
MARSHALL: Really, really?
MACCALLUM: The "Stand Down" order is very controversial, but we know they did not go in and help.
After Marshall called out MacCallum for taking Clinton's Benghazi testimony out of context, Hughes turned the conversation to the myth that the Obama administration told the military to "stand down" and cancel any planned rescue missions -- one of Fox's favorite myths.
In fact, multiple sources, including the commander of the Special Forces team that was allegedly told to stand down and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, have all said that no such order was given. The House Armed Services Committee also released a statement putting the myth to rest, stating that, according to testimony and "contrary to news reports," the commander "was not ordered to 'stand down.' "
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer cited an unnamed report to continue the network's dishonest attacks on the Affordable Care Act by claiming that HealthCare.gov may cost taxpayers over $1 billion -- an assertion that overstated the actual cost by more than $700 million.
On the October 25 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, host Hemmer asked whether HealthCare.gov, the website established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to connect Americans with health insurance exchanges, would be "the first billion-dollar website?" Hemmer then told contributor Katie Pavlich, "Government keeps throwing money after problems which shows you how government gets fat and very, very expensive," before concluding, "These people have lost their minds." The on-screen text read, "Rpt: Final Obamacare Website Costs Could Top $1 Billion."
However, as reported in a Washington Post fact-check, yesterday's congressional hearings regarding the ACA website revealed that government contracts to create the website amounted to a total value of less than $300 million. According to The Washington Post:
In the testimony, a reference was made to the fact that the TCV (total contract value) was $292 million. That is the least important number, as in effect it is like a credit card limit. What is more important is what has been already spent or obligated.
To sum up: The floor for spending on the Web site to date appears to be at least $170 million, with an upward potential of nearly $300 million.
While neither Hemmer nor Pavlich revealed the source of the report they were using to make their claims, a Media Matters search found only a Newsmax article with a similar contention. That article in turn referenced a report from Bloomberg Government. But according to Bloomberg, their study covered "all health law-related contract awards to the firms since the ACA was enacted in March 2010," not just the those related to the ACA website. That study may also be overstating the costs, considering "it assumed that most recent IT awards by the Department of Health and Human Services are ACA-related because the law's implementation has consumed an increasing share of the department's time and resources."
Fox is doubling down on misleading its viewers about the costs of the ACA -- almost literally. It was previously called out for inflating HealthCare.gov's costs to $634 million.
From the October 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From October 25 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the October 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media are championing an appellate decision currently before the Supreme Court that upended the ability of presidents to appoint nominees during Senate recesses as a repudiation of President Barack Obama. But National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning was a radical decision that ignored long-standing precedent, and if the Supreme Court finds such appointments unconstitutional, governmental operations could be hindered to a historic degree.
During a discussion of the latest jobs report, The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore ignored the prominent role sequestration cuts played in depressing job growth, choosing instead to make the reality-defying claim that sequestration has in fact been a boon to the economy.
On October 22, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly unemployment report for September. According to the report, payrolls rose by 148,000, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 to 7.2 percent. Those positive gains, a welcome change from losses sustained after the financial crisis, nonetheless fell short of expectations that 180,000 to 200,000 jobs would be created in September.
WSJ's Moore reacted to the jobs report during an interview with Fox News host Jenna Lee on Happening Now. He claimed the numbers represented an economy in "stagnation" that is "middling at best" and "kind of limping forward." Lee followed up, asking whether automatic spending cuts known as sequestration were to blame. Moore responded:
MOORE: Well first of all, I think the sequester has been very good for the economy, not bad. When you cut government spending, that frees up resources for private businesses. So the sequester has been, in my opinion, a very positive force and it's bringing down the deficit in spending.
Moore's cheerleading of sequestration while complaining about an under-performing economy is ironic because the slowdown of the recovery has been caused in large part by the sequester, which, according to Yahoo! Finance, is "finally dinging the economy":
Forecasting firm MacroEconomic Advisers has lowered its second-quarter forecast for GDP growth from 1.8% to 1.3%. That's very weak growth that will probably hold back hiring and spending, and depress confidence. "The sequester is expected to slow growth this year, and largely accounts for the weak second-quarter growth and lackluster third-quarter growth," the firm said in a recent report.
Pullbacks in the job market seem likely during the next few months. After five straight months of improvements, small businesses surveyed by the National Federation for Independent Business curtailed hiring in May. The latest jobs report from ADP showed private-sector firms created about 30,000 fewer jobs than expected in May, with companies hiring at a pace too slow to bring down the unemployment rate. Manufacturing activity, which is directly affected by federal spending on defense contractors, has fallen below the level generally considered to be recessionary.
Tony Nash of forecasting firm IHS warned recently on CNBC that the effects of the sequester should build as the year goes on. Even the Federal Reserve mentioned the sequester in its latest "beige book" report on regional economic conditions, citing concerns about defense-industry cutbacks in the Cleveland and Richmond regions.
According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, the sequester has impacted job growth throughout the country. CNN recently confirmed an earlier report that the sequester has slowed economic growth. Worse still, an October 2013 report by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that the "full brunt of the [sequester] cuts hasn't hit yet, and if we go down the sequester path for too long, we won't be able to reverse the devastating impacts."
Furthermore, repealing the sequester would stimulate the economy. According to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), canceling sequestration would increase the United States' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $113 billion and generate 900,000 new jobs, which the Economic Policy Institute noted, is "a number akin to 40 percent of the total number of jobs created over the last twelve months."
Moore's ignorance is not new. He previously claimed that sequestration was a "success" free of "negative consequences," a sentiment echoed throughout the right wing media. Instead of spending cuts, Moore would do well to turn his attention to job creation.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson tried to resurrect the debunked claim that President Obama played a role in the IRS' targeting of political groups.
On the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson, Carlson attempted to "put the president under the microscope" about what he knew and suggested that investigations into the matter "never really got to the bottom of it." Carlson invited regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, which filed a lawsuit against the government over allegations about what the IRS did. Sekulow acknowledged that he has not added Obama's name to the lawsuit, but that did not stop him or Carlson from fueling speculation that Obama had prior knowledge of what happened:
Despite Carlson's speculation, there is no evidence whatsoever to tie President Obama to the IRS' actions. A July 16 memo issued by the office of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) compiled information from 15 IRS employees based on interviews with the GOP-led House Oversight Committee. According to the memo, the committee found that "[n]one of these witnesses reported any political motivation or White House involvement."
From the October 21 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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From the October 18 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News' concerted campaign against government social programs is not resonating with the American people, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.
An October NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey determined that a majority of Americans now favor the government doing more, not less, to solve problems and meet the needs of the public. This finding runs counter to the Republican party's desire for limited government, as NBC explained:
As the [Republican] party has used the shutdown and fiscal fight to campaign against the nation's health-care law and for limited government, the poll shows those efforts have backfired.
And by a 52-percent-to-44 percent difference, respondents believe the government should do more to solve problems. Back in June, the public was split, 48 percent to 48 percent, on whether the government should do more or less.
The poll found that support for increased government intervention jumped during the 16-day government shutdown forced by the House of Represenative's tea party faction:
These results should be especially interesting to Fox News -- long before it was championing a government shutdown, the network was leading the charge against government programs and regulation. Fox has tirelessly demonized federal social programs and disparaged those they help, a campaign that does not appear to have had much effect upon the opinions of the public at large.
Here are some of Fox's most strident attacks:
Fox campaigns tirelessly against the federal minimum wage requirement for private businesses. According to Fox, any increase in the wage creates drastic job losses for small businesses and results in the automation of entry-level service work.
Some at the network have even posited that raising the wage rewards mediocrity.
In apparent attempts to downplay the necessity of the federal requirement, Fox argues that it's mostly teenagers who comprise minimum wage earners, not people expecting to earn a living, and regardless the minimum wage has already been sufficiently raised.
Economists disagree -- as the Center for Economic and Policy Research explained, raising the minimum wage has no "discernible impact" on employment, and in fact, wage increases often result in more jobs rather than less. Adjusting for inflation, the real value of the minimum wage has declined eight percent since 2009, a fact which drives growing income inequality and places an extraordinary financial burden on the millions of adults -- not teenagers -- who depend on these jobs to survive.