Conservative and other media figures -- echoing a reported strategy on the part of Republicans -- have attempted to lay blame for the financial crisis on proponents of the expansion of affordable housing. Those attacks are premised on several myths and falsehoods.
On Hannity & Colmes, The Wall Street Journal's John Fund falsely claimed that ACORN "almost got a slush fund in the housing bailout bill a few weeks ago." In fact, neither the September draft proposal nor the final version of the bill contained any language mentioning ACORN.
On his radio show, Neal Boortz baselessly suggested that Rep. Barney Frank "was protecting Fannie Mae for about seven or eight years in the 1990s because his lover, his boyfriend was working for Fannie Mae, pushing out these subprime mortgage packages." Boortz provided no evidence to support his suggestion that Frank allowed his personal relationship to affect his work in Congress. In fact, Frank repeatedly took actions over the years to strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The New York Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain saying of Sen. Barack Obama: "[A]s recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, a good idea." The article did not mention that McCain was distorting Obama's comments from a September 2007 speech, as several media outlets -- including the Times -- noted when McCain previously made the same accusation against Obama.
On The O'Reilly Factor and in a FoxNews.com article, Bill Sammon suggested that Rep. Barney Frank allowed his relationship in the 1990s with Herb Moses, a Fannie Mae official at the time, to improperly influence his conduct as a member of the House Financial Services Committee. However, in his article, Sammon cited only an anonymous Republican congressional staffer and a member of the conservative Media Research Center. Sammon also misrepresented Frank's record by reporting that Frank "spent years blocking GOP lawmakers from imposing tougher regulations" on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without noting that during the period in question, Frank supported legislation to increase regulation of Fannie Mae and create a government regulatory agency that would oversee some aspects of the company.
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported that Judy Black, whom he identified as "a policy director (read: lead lobbyist) for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck's DC arm" and "the wife of McCain strategist Charlie Black," forwarded a PowerPoint presentation on the "campaign contributions that Fannie and Freddie provided to leading Democratic members of Congress." But Ambinder did not point out that Charlie Black has lobbied for Freddie Mac.
On the Fox News special Saving Our Economy, Bret Baier repeated or failed to challenge numerous false assertions about the role of affordable housing initiatives in the financial crisis and Democratic responses to the crisis.
In a blog post, Jay Carney claimed that Sen. John McCain's "campaign has released a 60-second ad that uses Bill Clinton's words to pin the blame for the mortgage crisis on Democrats" without noting that in the interview clipped in the ad, Clinton actually said that "the biggest mistake" was the SEC's repealing of a regulation on short selling, when President Bush was in office.
Several conservatives in the media have recently blamed the Community Reinvestment Act for the current financial crisis -- when, in fact, the CRA does not apply to institutions making the vast majority of troubled loans underlying the crisis. It applies only to depository institutions, such as banks and savings and loan associations. Experts have estimated that 80 percent of high-priced subprime loans were offered by financial institutions that are not subject to the CRA.
In a column, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank "sat by as mortgage brokers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made bad loans." Also, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace did not challenge a similar claim by Sen. Jon Kyl that efforts by the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress to regulate Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae "were stopped at every turn by Democrats." In fact, more than a year ago, Frank sponsored a bill to create the Federal Housing Finance Agency, granting that agency "general supervisory and regulatory authority over" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and directing it to reform the two companies' business practices and regulate their exposure to credit and market risk.
Fox News' Stuart Varney misrepresented the cost of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, falsely asserting that the "House, right now, [is] voting on that $300 billion housing bailout bill." During the segment, on-air captions read "$300B Bailout Bill," and "House Voting On $300B Housing Bailout Bill." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill "would increase budget deficits (or reduce future surpluses) by about $24.9 billion over the 2008-2018 period."
CNN's Wolf Blitzer made the misleading assertion that "the House of Representatives just passed a $300 billion plan to help struggling homeowners." In fact, while the bill to which Blitzer referred would authorize the FHA to insure up to $300 billion in homeownership retention loans for qualified homeowners, the Congressional Budget Office estimated a total cost of $2.7 billion for the program.
Fox News' Neil Cavuto misrepresented the projected cost of a federal "housing rescue package" by saying it was going to cost "300 billion bucks," while an on-air graphic read, "House lawmakers set to pass $300B housing bill; bailout?" In fact, while the legislation would authorize the FHA to insure up to $300 billion in homeownership retention loans, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the program would cost the government $2.7 billion between 2008-2013.
Responding to an ad by John McCain's campaign, which asserts that in response to "home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering," "[Hillary] Clinton and Barack Obama just said they'd solve the problem by raising your taxes -- more money out of your pocket," Joe Scarborough said the ad would "probably work." But Scarborough didn't note that the ad's central claim is false: Neither Clinton nor Obama has asserted that she or he would respond to "home foreclosures rising" by raising taxes.
On Fox News' The Live Desk, Martha MacCallum, discussing with correspondent Major Garrett a report about Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Maggie Williams, stated that Williams "sat on the board of one of the nation's once-largest and now bankrupt mortgage lenders, Delta Financial." However, neither Garrett nor MacCallum mentioned Sen. John McCain's reported ties to the mortgage industry.