Media Matters challenges host to live up to self-professed interest in accuracy
Washington, DC - In response to Glenn Beck lashing out for being chosen as 2009's "Misinformer of the Year," Media Matters for America challenged him to contact the organization if he believes any critiques of his show are false or deceptive. Media Matters' President Eric Burns sent Beck a letter inviting the Fox News host -- who has repeatedly professed an interest in accuracy -- to call the newly installed "Beck phone" anytime he believes he is being unfairly criticized.
The "Beck phone"
The letter reads:
January 5, 2010
On October 13, you unveiled a "red phone" that the White House could use to call in and "correct the mistakes" on your show. On Monday, that red phone made another appearance, as you - responding to Media Matters naming you 2009's Misinformer of the Year - again asserted your commitment to the truth:
"If I'm not telling the truth, then why not just call me? That's all you have to do. Call. Why is it that you attack this program, this network and anyone, the tea party goers, anyone who stands in your way, Washington? Why attack? You see, lies are so easily stopped. Lies that are broadcast nightly to an entire nation are easily stopped. They're called laws -- or here's an idea, standards. Even if you think I'm wildly irresponsible, you have to know that News Corp. is not stupid. It's a company worth billions of dollars. Do you really think this corporation would risk everything on an irresponsible crazy guy? That doesn't make sense. And yet, the phone still doesn't ring. Truth."
While we do not have the number for your red phone, we have on many occasions corrected falsehoods and misinformation from Fox News' Glenn Beck and Premiere Radio Network's The Glenn Beck Program - you simply refuse to acknowledge it. You claimed our decision to name you 2009's "Misinformer of the Year" was not backed up "with any facts." However, that decision was based on the 175 research items we posted in 2009 alone addressing claims made on your radio and television shows. For example:
- Beck falsely claimed "[o]nly 3 percent" of stimulus plan would be "spent in the next 12 months." Beck falsely claimed that "[o]nly 3 percent" of the Democratic economic stimulus plan would be "spent in the next 12 months." Beck's figures were based on a partial Congressional Budget Office cost estimate that excluded faster-moving provisions in the bill. According to the CBO's full cost estimate of the bill, 11.2 percent of the $816 billion bill would be spent in the first seven-and-a-half months after the bill is enacted, and, when including the bill's tax cut provisions, $169 billion -- or 20.7 percent of the bill's total cost -- would take effect in the first seven-and-a-half months.
- Beck aired false claim that a union only needs 30 percent support from employees to be "established." Beck aired an on-screen graphic with the headline, "THEN ... WAGNER ACT," which falsely asserted that if 30 percent of employees want a union, "it gets established." In fact, the Wagner Act, which was passed in the 1930s, required that for union representation to be established, a majority of employees in a bargaining unit within a company had to "designate or select" a union to represent them. The National Labor Relations Act as it stands today also contains a majority requirement.
- Beck falsely claimed average UAW worker makes $154 per hour. Beck falsely claimed that "the average UAW [United Auto Workers] worker" earns "[a] hundred and fifty-four dollars an hour if you look at -- you know, if you add in all of the benefits." In fact, a recent Barclays Capital analysis reportedly found that U.S. automakers "pay an average of $55 an hour in wages and benefits to hourly workers."
- Beck falsely asserted that U.S. does not fingerprint foreign visitors or collect rapists' DNA. Beck asserted that "[w]e can't fingerprint anybody who's coming into this country because that would be offensive" and that "[w]e can't take DNA samples from killers or rapists, but you can have your fingerprint taken if you want to sell your house." In fact, the Department of Homeland Security does take fingerprints from "aliens seeking admission to the United States" at U.S. entry points, and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "All 50 states require that convicted sex offenders provide a DNA sample."
- Beck falsely claimed Iowa marriage ruling "is actually about going into churches." Beck falsely asserted that the Iowa Supreme Court's decision striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage "is actually about going into churches ... and saying you can't teach anything else." In fact, the ruling does not affect religious institutions' definitions of marriage.
- Beck echoes tired falsehood that ACORN received stimulus funds. Beck echoed the false Republican talking point by stating, "By including ACORN, or groups like them, in the stimulus package, we have guaranteed them billions of dollars to buy more votes for the party that helps them the most." In fact, the stimulus bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding.
- Beck falsely claimed $1.4 million in stimulus spent on doors, which actually cost $246,100 to repair. Beck falsely claimed that the government spent $1.4 million of economic stimulus funds "to repair a door" at Dyess Air Force Base. In fact, the doors repaired were hangar doors and did not cost that much money. Recovery.gov actually states that the government awarded AFCO Technologies nearly $1.2 million to replace gas mains on the base, and $246,100 to repair doors in Building 5112.
- Beck falsely claimed Obama said he doesn't want health reform protesters to "do a lot of talking." Beck falsely claimed that President Obama was "reacti[ng] to the health care protests" when he said, "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking." In fact, Obama was not talking about public protests or even health care reform; he was discussing "folks on the other side of the aisle pointing at the federal budget and somehow trying to put that at our feet."
- Beck reports fake murder story from ACORN video as fact. After Andrew Breitbart posted a video of an ACORN employee in San Bernardino, California, claiming that she had killed her ex-husband, Beck joined Fox News colleagues Karl Rove, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity in promoting it without fact-checking it or indicating that they had contacted ACORN for a response to the claim. In fact, ACORN stated that the employee made up the story because she recognized that the actors in the video "were clearly playing with" her so she "matched their false scenario with her own false scenarios," and, indeed, the San Bernardino Police Department has said her claim is false.
- Beck, falsely claimed IPCC's Latif has "pulled the rug out" from under climate change consensus. Beck joined Sean Hannity in seizing on a World Climate Conference presentation on short-term natural climate variability by Mojib Latif, a prominent climate modeler, to suggest that, in Beck's words, Latif has "backed out now and said, 'We were wrong,' " about global warming because, according to Hannity, Latif stated that global temperatures are actually "cooling." In fact, Latif asserted that contrary to common "media" misperceptions of global warming as a "monotonic process" in which "each year is warmer than the preceding year," there are significant natural climate variations within the decadal timescale that do not change the "long-term warming trend."
- Beck falsely claimed Anita Dunn "worships" "her hero" Mao Zedong. Throughout most of his October 15 Fox News program, Glenn Beck falsely claimed that White House communications director Anita Dunn "worships" and "idolizes" "her hero" Mao Zedong. In fact, in the video that Beck aired as evidence to support his claims, Dunn offered no endorsement of Mao's ideology or atrocities -- rather, she commented that Mao and Mother Teresa were two of her "favorite political philosophers," and based on short quotes from them, she offered the advice that "you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths" or "let external definition define how good you are internally."
- Beck falsely accused Reid of lying about support for public option. Following reports that Senate leaders will include a public option in health care legislation, on Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck falsely suggested that only "35 percent of the population" supported a public option and accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of lying when he said, in co-host Gretchen Carlson's words, "the public wants this." In fact, polling consistently shows broad support for the public option, and the Fox News poll Beck is presumably referencing did not ask specifically about a public option.
- Beck falsely claimed that under the Senate health care bill, "You don't get a single benefit until 2014." On November 19, Beck falsely claimed that under the Senate health care bill, "All of the benefits of this bill don't kick in until when? You don't get a single benefit until 2014." According to a document released by Senate Democrats summarizing the "Immediate Benefits" of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the bill included numerous benefits that would "be available in the first year after enactment" of the bill. Indeed, Washington Post writer Ezra Klein published a list of benefits that the Senate bill would provide "before 2014."
- Reviving "born alive" falsehood, Beck claims Obama suggested it's OK to "put a spike in the baby's head." Beck falsely claimed that President Obama "suggested that [it] was OK" to "go into those pregnant women and pull the babies out of them and put a spike in the baby's head," echoing the oft-repeated right-wing falsehood that Obama did not support protecting babies who survived botched abortions. In fact, while serving in the state Senate, Obama opposed legislation to amend the Illinois Abortion Law because the amendment threatened abortion rights and was unnecessary since existing law already required doctors to provide medical care for babies who survived abortions.
- Beck falsely claims no jobs are being "saved or created." Beck falsely claimed that "jobs are not being saved or created" and that the Obama administration is "creating the make-believe 'saved or created' category" for jobs. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, which was heavily promoted by President Obama, created 1.6 million jobs, and the Bush administration repeatedly stated that its economic initiatives had "saved or created" jobs.
- Beck falsely claimed Robert Creamer "stole" $2 million from banks. Beck falsely claimed that progressive activist Robert Creamer "stole" $2 million from banks while serving as Executive Director of the Illinois Public Action Fund. In fact, Creamer was never accused of stealing any money and the judge in the case reportedly gave Creamer a lighter sentence because no one suffered any "out of pocket losses."
- Beck led charge advancing "Lie of the Year" contender that Holdren supported forced abortions and sterilizations. Beck repeatedly advanced the false claim that White House science and technology adviser John Holdren -- whom Beck called "our science czar" -- supported forced abortions and putting sterilants in drinking water. PolitiFact previously declared his claim "pants on fire" false and nominated it for "Lie of the Year," stating that Holdren and his coauthors "make clear that they did not support coercive means of population control." Beck's claim was Politifact.com's runner up for lie of the year.
Your response to being named "Misinformer of the Year," however, did not appear to be backed up "with any facts." For example, you claimed that death panels were "discovered by The New York Times" but the article you cite makes no mention of health care reform or death panels. You stated that you "didn't want" Van Jones "to be fired" but on the September 3 edition of your radio show you said that "[r]emoving Van Jones is not enough" and called on listeners to ask "Why is this man in [Obama's] administration?"
You've repeatedly professed your interest in accuracy, stating that you would immediately correct any errors on your broadcasts. Unfortunately, it's hard to take this claim of yours - like so many others - seriously. For example, it took you more than four months to correct your assertion that Van Jones was a "convicted felon" who had spent "six months in prison" - and you certainly haven't corrected any of the troubling errors we've highlighted above.
But just in case you are truly interested in setting the record straight, Media Matters is going take a cue from your October 13 show. We've installed a "Beck phone" at our Washington headquarters, accessible by dialing (202) XXX-XXXX. I challenge you to contact us anytime you believe one of our critiques of your show is deceptive or false. We'll be waiting for your call.
President, Media Matters for America