Fox twists joke from 1985 into false claim that Chris Coons is a "self-described Marxist"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Fox News has repeatedly attacked Delaware Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons as "a self-described Marxist." But this false claim is entirely based on what Coons referred to as a "joke" in an article he wrote for his college newspaper in 1985.

Grasping at straws, Fox attacks Coons as "a self-described Marxist"

Beck and O'Reilly: Coons "admitted" that "he's a Marxist." On the September 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck said "Let's not talk about [Christine] O'Donnell. Let's talk about the challenger, the Democratic challenger. ... He's a Marxist." Bill O'Reilly responded, "Right. He's admitted it":

BECK: Let me talk to you. Let's not talk about O'Donnell. Let's talk about the challenger, the Democratic challenger.

O'REILLY: He's a loon.

BECK: He's a Marxist.

O'REILLY: Right. He admitted it.

BECK: Yes, he admitted it.

O'REILLY: I can't even make fun of you for calling him that.

BECK: You're telling me that she's unelectable but a Marxist is?

O'REILLY: You know and Delaware it's a tiny state.

BECK: Come on.

O'REILLY: They might be people from Romania.

BECK: Nobody. Nobody. The people of Romania would never vote for a Marxist.

Bolling: Coons "is a self-described Marxist." From the September 18 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday:

ERIC BOLLING: And you know what the real interesting part is everyone came out and said -- even the Republican establishment came out and said "She can't win. She can't win." But you want to know something? Her opponent now is a self-described Marxist. He - in college he wrote a paper calling himself a Marxist. So you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Hannity: Coons is "Delaware's bearded Marxist." From the September 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY: Now the latest Rasmussen poll shows O'Donnell trailing her Democratic challenger Chris Coons by 11 points. But when voters start to learn more about Coons, well, that lead may quickly evaporate.

During his undergraduate days Coons wrote about the development of his ideology in his college newspaper. Now the article was called, quote, "Chris Coons: The Making of A Bearded Marxist."

And now some unpopular Democrats are coming out of the woodwork to support Delaware's bearded Marxist, chief among them Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Hannity previously criticized media for reporting that then-candidate for governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell espoused controversial ideas about women in his graduate thesis. Hannity said, "that was, let's see, 20 years ago" and accused the Washington Post of trying to "smear, besmirch, demonize, and impact that election" by reporting on McDonnell's thesis. However, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hannity had aggressively attacked Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton for college theses they wrote more than 20 years ago.

Fox Business: "Mainstream media ignoring Democrat's Marxist paper?" From the September 20 edition of Fox Business Network's America's Nightly Scoreboard:

Fox Business chyron

Fox Nation: "Chris Coons: 'Bearded Marxist.'" On September 16, Fox Nation posted the headline: "Chris Coons: 'Bearded Marxist.'" Fox Nation linked to a May 3 Politico report about Coons college article.

Coons in 1985: "My friends now joke" that semester in Kenya turned him into a "bearded Marxist"

In 1985 article for college newspaper, Coons discussed process of questioning America before "reexamining my ideas" and "return[ing] to love America." In the May 23, 1985, article for his college newspaper, The Amherst Student, Coons wrote (PDF) that he questioned his previously-held political beliefs and "America" during his time at Amherst, including a semester spent in Kenya. In the article, Coons noted that his "friends now joke" that students return from Kenya as "bearded Marxists":

I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway. My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists.

[...]

When I returned last summer, I traveled all over the East Coast and saw in many ways a different America. Upon arriving at Amherst this fall, I felt like a freshman at an unfamiliar school all over again. Many of the questions raised by my experiences of the last year remain unanswered. I have spent my senior year reexamining my ideas and have returned to loving America, but in the way of one who has realized its faults and failures and still believes in its promise. The greatest value of Amherst for me, then, has been the role it played in allowing me to question, and to think. I had to see the slums of Nairobi before the slums of New York meant anything at all, but without the experiences of Amherst, I never would have seen either.

Coons spokesman also said "bearded Marxist" phrase was a play on a joke. The Politico article to which Fox Nation linked reported on Coons' college article, claiming it "may not go over so well in corporation-friendly Delaware." Politico reported on the response from Coons' spokesman:

Dave Hoffman, a Coons campaign spokesman, said the title of the article was designed as a humorous take-off on a joke Coons's college friends had made about how his time outside the country had affected his outlook.

Hoffman said the trip to Kenya helped lead to Coons's decision to become a Democrat.

Coons previously worked for manufacturing corporation. According to Coons' biography, he "worked as an attorney for Delaware-based W.L. Gore & Associates, one of the 200 largest privately-held companies in the U.S." before working for New Castle County. According to its company overview, "W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. manufactures and sells fluoropolymer products. The company provides fabrics, and cable assemblies and components for the electronics industry" and offers consumer products.

Coons proposed New Castle County's "largest-ever budget reduction." The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) reported on May 25, 2009, that Coons' spending plan included a property tax increase and that "With a multimillion-dollar slashing designed to get the government's deficit under control, the $228 million plan stands as the county's largest-ever budget reduction." The article further stated:

Nothing was spared from cuts during this budget process. Coons chopped $23 million in spending before he unveiled his plan in March, and hacked another $6 million since then.

In what Coons repeatedly has called a "shared sacrifice," he has spread the burden to county employees -- negotiating a 5 percent wage reduction with a majority of them. [Accessed via Nexis]

On May 26, 2010, the News Journal reported on Coons' 2011 budget, which included pay cuts for county employees:

New Castle County employees will continue to get 5 percent less pay in their checks in the 2011 fiscal year under contract concessions that County Council approved Tuesday night as part of its $235 million annual budget.

Last year, the 1,500 county workers agreed to a 5 percent salary reduction in exchange for no layoffs. County Council members, nonunion employees and political appointees of the administration also will continue the 5 percent salary rollback implemented last year.

Unionized police and emergency services employees had already agreed to pay cuts, but labor unions for management, maintenance, parks, clerical and technical workers held out until agreements were reached in April and earlier this month, said New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.

The concessions, which will save the county $2.1 million next year, were necessary to balance the county's $235.5 million operating budget without raising property taxes, Coons said.

"This year, we're not raising property taxes and we're not restoring people's pay cuts," Coons said.

Last year, Coons got County Council to raise property taxes by 25 percent, eliminate 97 open jobs, cut spending drastically and implement the pay cuts to close a $40 million budget deficit. [Accessed via Nexis]

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