In 2011, as President Obama and congressional Democrats pushed for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, Fox ramped up its defense of the rich while accusing Obama of attempting to incite a class war. Along the way, Fox relentlessly attacked poor and unemployed Americans, union workers who fought back against attempts by Republicans to strip their right to collectively bargain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been highlighting increasing income inequality in America. Here, Media Matters looks back at Fox's year of class warfare.
"We Should Be Supporting" The "Mega-Wealthy": Fox Fiercely Defended The Rich
Throughout 2011, Fox figures obsessively defended the wealthy against any possible tax increases proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats -- even claiming that the rich should pay less in taxes while the poor should pay more. Some Fox figures claimed that "most Americans say" that "patriotism is paying less taxes," while others claimed that those making $200,000 a year are not rich and that increasing their taxes would be unfair.
Laura Ingraham Complained That Raising The Tax Rate For The Wealthy Is "Demoniz[ing] The Rich." On the April 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham referred to a plan to raise the taxes of the wealthiest Americans as a plan that "demoni[zes] the rich." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/12/11, via Media Matters]
Fox Regular Jonathan Hoenig on Cashin' In: "Wealthy Earners Should Pay Even Less. The Poor Should Pay Much More" In Taxes. On the March 5 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, Fox News regular Jonathan Hoenig said: "Wealthy earners should pay even less. The poor should pay much more" in taxes. [Fox News, Cashin' In, 3/5/11, via Media Matters]
Peter Johnson Jr.: "Most Americans Say" That "Patriotism Is Paying Less Taxes." On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said: "What we have on this tax day is a White House that says, 'If you don't pay more taxes, then you're not being patriotic.' There's a lot of other Americans, and most Americans, who say the opposite: that patriotism is paying less taxes." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/11, via Media Matters]
Kilmeade On Taxes: "We Should Be Supporting" The "Mega-Wealthy," Not "Punish[ing] Them." On the July 22 edition of Fox & Friends, guest Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), said that "we can't ... continue to cut taxes for the mega-wealthy in this country when we have a debt and deficit problem." Co-host Brian Kilmeade replied: "The mega-wealthy are paying the majority of taxes for the entire nation, and they're the ones who are going to bring us out of this. You would think, rather than punish them, we should be supporting them." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/22/11]
Fox Continued To Claim That $200,000 Per Year Income Is Not Rich. On the April 21 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested that people making $200,000 a year in income are not rich, saying of Obama's plan to let tax cuts for the wealthy expire: "It's not just billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg who may pay more taxes. ... It's the people making $200,000 and above. There's a huge disparity between that and the billionaires." Carlson's comment followed many similar remarks Fox News anchors made in 2010, when they repeatedly claimed someone making $200,000 or $250,000 per year is "not rich." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/21/11, via Media Matters]
Fox Used "Misleading" Statistic To Claim The Number Of Millionaires Is Decreasing And That Obama's "Plan To Redistribute The Wealth Is Working." On the August 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney used a Wall Street Journal editorial to claim that "[t]he number of millionaires, of people making the million dollars a year, [is] down very, very sharply." The August 20 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday echoed this claim and suggested it showed that Obama's "plan to redistribute the wealth is working."
- In Fact, Economists, Experts Called WSJ Editorial "Misleading" For Using A "Narrower Measure Of Worth." Economists and experts contacted by Media Matters said the Journal's definition of "millionaire" was "misleading" because it was based on households' income, rather than using the more traditional measure of wealth or investible assets. Both the Tax Policy Center and the Center for Economic and Policy Research have pointed out that in fact the wealth of the wealthiest Americans has increased dramatically in the past few decades. [Media Matters, 8/18/11; Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 8/20/11, via Media Matters]
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They "Prefer Not To Go To Work": Fox Repeatedly Attacked Poor And Unemployed Americans
Poor and unemployed Americans were not spared from vicious attacks from Fox in 2011. Fox figures suggested that unemployed Americans are lazy, while the poor were scolded for not being suitably "ashamed" for their poverty and for lacking a "richness in spirit." Fox also seized on a Heritage Foundation report about the ownership of appliances among the poor to downplay the hardships faced by Americans in poverty.
John Stossel: People Affected By Government Shutdown "Shouldn't Be Getting Those Handouts Anyway." On the April 6 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, while talking about a possible government shutdown, Fox Business host John Stossel claimed that "most of us" wouldn't notice a shutdown and that those "who would notice shouldn't be getting those handouts anyway." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 4/6/11, via Media Matters]
Ben Stein Claimed That "A Lot Of" The Unemployed "Would Not Prefer To Go To Work." On the April 30 broadcast of Fox News' Cavuto on Business, Stein said that "a lot of" unemployed Americans "would not prefer to go to work." [Fox Business, Cavuto on Business, 4/30/11, via Media Matters]
Fox Business Scolded Poor People For Not Being "Ashamed" Enough By Their Poverty. During the May 19 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., Varney attacked anti-poverty programs as evidence that the U.S. now has an "entitlement mentality." Fox contributor Charles Payne then scolded people in poverty for not being "embarrassed" about needing public assistance:
PAYNE: [T]here's no doubt that these are good programs. I think the real narrative here, though, is that people aren't embarrassed by it. People aren't ashamed by it. In other words, there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on food stamps. There was a time when people were embarrassed to be on unemployment for six months, let alone demanding to be on it for more than two years.
I think that's what Stu is trying to say, is that when the president says Wall Street is at fault, so, you are entitled to get anything that you want from the government, because it's not really your fault, no longer is the man being told to look in the mirror and cast down a judgment on himself. It's someone else's fault. So food stamps, unemployment, all of this stuff, is something that they probably earned in some indirect way. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 5/19/11, via Media Matters]
Steve Doocy: "The Progressive Income Tax Has Not Been So Fair." On the August 3 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts repeatedly called for taxes to be raised on the lowest-income Americans. Carlson said: "Most people would say, hey, things should be fair. But what does that mean when you factor in that 50 percent of the nation doesn't even pay federal income tax? Is that fair?" Doocy later said: "You know, historically, the tax system in this country, the progressive income tax, has not been so fair." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11, via Media Matters]
Fox Hosts Hyped Appliance Ownership To Downplay Hardship Of Poverty In America. In July, Fox News hosts cited a Heritage Foundation report about the ownership of appliances among the poor in America to downplay the hardships of the poor in the U.S. On the July 20 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly asked, "So, how can you be so poor and have all this stuff?" [Media Matters, 7/22/11]
Stuart Varney On Low-Income Americans: "Many Of Them Have Things -- What They Lack Is The Richness Of Spirit." During the August 25 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co. at Night, host Stuart Varney hyped a Heritage Foundation study showing that many Americans in poverty own appliances, saying: "The image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor really is not accurate. Many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit. That's my opinion." [Fox Business, Varney & Co. at Night, 8/25/11, via Media Matters]
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Attacks On The Social Safety Net
Fox figures and guests repeatedly attacked spending on social safety net programs such as Social Security, food stamps, and unemployment insurance. They repeatedly claimed that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and questioned the stimulative effect of unemployment insurance during an economic downturn.
Fox Guest Peter Schiff: "One Of The Most Anti-Poor People Rules Is The Minimum Wage." On the September 21 edition of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade hosted author and businessman Peter Schiff, who claimed that minimum wage rules negatively affect employment for young and poor people. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/21/11, via Media Matters]
Gary B. Smith: "It's Not Just Wrong To Say Minimum Wage Is Good ... I Think It's Irresponsible." On the September 3 edition of Fox News' Bulls & Bears, Fox News contributor Gary B. Smith claimed that "it's not just wrong to say minimum wage is good, it's -- I think it's irresponsible." [Fox News, Bulls & Bears, 9/3/11, via Media Matters]
Eric Bolling: "You Can't Disagree" That Social Security "Is A Ponzi Scheme." During the September 8 broadcast of Fox & Friends, guest host Eric Bolling and host Brian Kilmeade discussed Gov. Rick Perry's (R-TX) claim that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Bolling concluded that "you can't disagree that [Social Security] is a Ponzi scheme." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/8/11, via Media Matters]
Steve Moore: "How Do You Put More People To Work By Giving People More Money Not To Be Working?" During the September 5 broadcast of Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest host Gregg Jarrett and The Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore dismissed the simulative effect of unemployment insurance by asking, "How do you put more people to work by giving people more money not to be working?" [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/5/11, via Media Matters]
For the truth on the stimulative effect of unemployment insurance, SEE HERE.
Glenn Beck Likened Food Stamps To "Cakes and Circuses" Used By Roman Emperors To "Control The People." During the June 7 broadcast of Fox News' Glenn Beck, which has since been canceled, host Glenn Beck claimed that food stamps were comparable to "cakes and circuses" used by Roman Emperors to "control the people." From the broadcast:
BECK: Cakes and circuses, think of this. Given the cakes, can anybody give me an example of cakes being handed out by our government? Anybody hand -- if you are the emperor of Rome you gave people cake. Well, we are not giving people cakes now, but food -- food stamps. You want to control the people, the emperor knew, give the people cake and then entertain them. Isn't it interesting how entertainment -- we're not, really, really. What difference -- what are you going to do about this? [Fox News Channel, Glenn Beck, 6/7/11, via Media Matters]
THE SOCIAL COMPACT
Bill O'Reilly: The Social Compact Is "The Government... Tak[ing] From The Wealthy And Giv[ing] To The Poor." During the April 18 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that the "social compact" or "social contract" has helped lead to the U.S. facing "ruin because it owes more than $14 trillion dollars." He further claimed the social compact means "the government must take from the wealthy and give to the poor." [Fox News Channel, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/18/11, via Media Matters]
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Zombie Lie: 50 Percent Of Americans Don't Pay Taxes
Throughout 2011, Fox News figures repeatedly advanced the false claim that 50 percent of Americans don't pay any taxes. Fox figures regularly used the falsehood to argue it isn't "fair" that the wealthy pay the "bulk" of taxes while half the country doesn't pay "any at taxes at all." In reality, while the bottom 50 percent of wage earners pay little federal income tax, they still pay payroll and sales taxes, and in many cases, state and local taxes as well.
Neil Cavuto: "More than Half Of American Households ... Do Not Pay Any Taxes At All." During the July 27 broadcast of Your World, host Neil Cavuto claimed that "the rich already pay a lot in taxes" and said that "more than half of American households ... do not pay any taxes at all." He then asked, "Is that fair?" [Fox News, Your World, 7/27/11, via Media Matters]
Kilmeade: "Fifty-One Percent Of The Country Isn't Paying Any Taxes At All." During the July 26 broadcast of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade, in an attempt to rebut the idea that the wealthy should pay more taxes, claimed, "Fifty-one percent of the country isn't paying any taxes at all. And you have the people who are paying the bulk of the taxes being called out for not paying more." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/26/11, via Media Matters]
For the truth about the false claim that "51 percent of the country" doesn't pay any taxes, SEE HERE.
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"Violent" "Angry Mob[s]": Fox's Relentless Assault On Unions
From the Wisconsin statehouse protests for collective bargaining rights to the Boeing and National Labor Relations Board conflict, Fox News figures continued their assault on unions in 2011. Fox figures called unions, union protesters, and their leaders "angry mob[s]," "violent," and "thug[s]." Others claimed unions represent "useless workers" like "kindergarten teachers" and said unions have "destroyed every company in which they've been intimately involved."
Jonathan Hoenig: "Unions Have Destroyed Every Company In Which They've Been Intimately Involved." On the November 12 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, Hoenig claimed, "Unions have destroyed every company in which they've been involved." [Fox News, Cashin' In, 11/12/11, via Media Matters]
Peter Johnson Jr. On Video Of WI Students Protesting: "Is That Something Out Of ... Red China?" On the March 19 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Johnson responded to a video of chanting student protesters at the Wisconsin statehouse by saying, "Is that something out of, I don't know, red China or something?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 3/19/11, via Media Matters]
With Zero Evidence, Kilmeade Called Chanting WI Union Protesters "Violent"; On-Screen Text Called Them An "Angry Union Mob." On the March 3 edition of Fox & Friends, while talking about the protests in Wisconsin defending collective bargaining rights, Kilmeade claimed that a Republican lawmaker tried to find his way into the statehouse while there was "an angry mob on the outside" that got "violent." On-screen text read, "GOP lawmaker chased down by angry union mob," and, "Violent protesters corner state Republican." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/3/11, via Media Matters]
Michelle Malkin Called Richard Trumka "Thug In Chief At The AFL-CIO"; Accuses Him Of A "Bloody Legacy." On the February 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin said that " 'get[ting] a little bloody' is the union way" and then referred to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka as "the thug in chief at the AFL-CIO." She later accused Trumka of having a "bloody legacy." [Fox News, Hannity, 2/23/11, via Media Matters]
Johnson: "We Understand The Value Of Unions," But They're "Begin[ning] To Destroy A Country." During a June 20 discussion on Hannity of Boeing's conflict with the National Labor Relations Board, Johnson said: "We understand the value of unions. They've done some great things over time. But when they begin to destroy a country ... We're staggered by the numbers. We can't afford what they're asking for." [Fox News, Hannity, 6/20/11, via Media Matters]
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Fox's All-Out Assault On The Occupy Wall Street Movement
In the fall of 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street movement -- along with its message of fighting income equality -- began to spread across the country, Fox responded by vigorously attacking and demonizing the Occupy movement and protesters. Fox portrayed protesters as violent "Communist[s]" and "Nazi[s]" and repeatedly mocked them as "dirty" and "un-American." Fox's Liz Trotta even said that the Occupy Wall Street website included the "ravings of what sound like the Unabomber."
Bolling Wore A Tinfoil Hat While Mocking Occupy Wall Street Protesters. During the October 14 broadcast of Fox News' The Five, Bolling donned a tin foil hat and held a misspelled sign reading, "Ocupy The Five," to mock Occupy Wall Street protesters. Co-host Andrea Tantaros added that the Occupy Wall Street protesters needed signs like Bolling's because "they haven't brushed their teeth in weeks. How else do they communicate?" [Fox News, The Five, 10/14/11, via Media Matters]
Kilmeade Asked If "The Biggest Nightmare For A Parent" Is Spotting Your Kid At An 'Occupy' Protest. During the November 10 broadcast of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade claimed that "the biggest nightmare for a parent" would be to see his or her child at an Occupy protest. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/10/11, via Media Matters]
Doocy Promoted Anti-Occupy Wall Street Blog That Told Occupiers To "Suck It Up, You Whiners." During the October 11 broadcast of Fox & Friends, Doocy discussed CNN contributor and Red State editor Erick Erickson's countermovement to Occupy Wall Street, "We are the 53 percent." Doocy highlighted the countermovement's website directing Occupy Wall Street protesters to "suck it up, you whiners." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/11/11, via Media Matters]
Bolling: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Are "Communist, Nazi ... Pot Smoking, Sex-Addicted Morons." During the October 19 broadcast of The Five, Bolling called Occupy protesters "communist, Nazi ... pot smoking, sex-addicted morons." [Fox News, The Five, 10/19/11, via Media Matters]
Malkin: Occupy Movement Protesters "Are The Spawn Of The Worst Excesses Of The Ideological Left." During the November 16 broadcast of Hannity, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin claimed the Occupy Wall Street protesters "are the spawn of the worst excesses of the ideological left." [Fox News Channel, Hannity, 11/16/11, via Media Matters]
Fox & Friends Applauded NYPD's Eviction Of OWS Protesters: "Good Riddance." During the November 15 broadcast of Fox & Friends, text reading "Good Riddance" was aired during a tease about New York City police evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, 11/15/11 via Media Matters]
Varney: It's "Un-American" For People To "Want Their Children To Grow Up And Demonstrate On Wall Street" During the October 28 broadcast of America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer read the results of a Fox poll asking, "What would you want your own child to be?" The options were "Wall Street executive," "Occupy Wall St. protester," or "neither." Twenty-six percent of respondents claimed that from the given options they would like their children to grow up and be Occupy protesters. Varney said the fact that "one quarter" of respondents had answered this way was "un-American." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/28/11, via Media Matters]
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Fox Relentlessly Accused Obama Of Inciting Class Warfare
Fox figures repeatedly reacted to any of President Obama's jobs and deficit reduction plans that included proposals to raises taxes on the wealthy by claiming Obama was inciting class warfare. During 2011, Fox relentlessly accused Obama of "soak[ing] the rich" and attempting to "divide and conquer" the country by inciting "class warfare."
Doocy: "The President Is Talking About Raising Taxes, And, You Know, Effectively Class Warfare." On the September 19 broadcast of Fox & Friends, Doocy claimed that Obama's deficit reduction plan was "effectively class warfare." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/19/11, via Media Matters]
Sean Hannity: Obama "Could Not Help But Resort To Using The Same Kind Of Class Warfare" In His Speech On Jobs Bill. During the September 12 broadcast of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said of Obama's speech about his jobs plan: "And, as usual, the president could not help but resort to using the same kind of class warfare and false choices that we've gotten used to over the past two-and-a-half years." [Fox News, Hannity, 9/12/11, via Media Matters]
Bolling: "Class Warfare" Is "Emanating Out Of The White House." During the August 22 edition of The Five, co-host Eric Bolling said to fellow panelist Dana Perino: "All right, Dana, what about the class warfare that seems to be, I don't know, emanating out of the White House? Is it only the White House, or is it the right, too?" [Fox News, The Five, 8/22/11]
Doocy Called Obama's Deficit Reduction Tour The "Soak The Rich Tour." On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy reacted to reports that Obama would travel to Nevada and California to promote his deficit reduction plan by saying, "Rather than the deficit reduction tour, call it the 'Soak the Rich Tour.' " [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/11]
Johnson: Obama's "Clear Strategy" Is "Divide And Conquer" With "Class Warfare." On the September 20 edition of Fox & Friends, Peter Johnson Jr. said that Obama's deficit-reduction plan, which included increasing taxes on the wealthy, was evidence of Obama's "clear strategy" to "divide and conquer" and "anger the middle ... of America" with "class warfare." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/20/11, via Media Matters]
Molly Line Declared Obama "Wants To Use The Rich To Fix His Spending Problem." On the July 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Molly Line claimed that Obama "wants to use the rich to fix his spending problem." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/18/11, via Media Matters]
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