Karl Rove has joined other media conservatives in downplaying the severity of job losses in the public sector by touting data showing the unemployment rate among government workers in May was 4.2 percent. However, that statistic doesn't change the fact that public sector job cuts in this recovery have been more severe compared with previous recoveries, and experts note that these cuts threaten the recovering economy and impact job growth in the private sector.
Rove, a Fox contributor and anti-Obama super PAC co-founder, appeared today on the Fox "straight news" program America's Newsroom and downplayed Obama's concerns about public sector jobs. "Friday was, of course, the president's comment where he said, The private economy is doing fine. What I'm worried about is state and local government workers," he said, adding: "Unemployment among state and local government employees is 4.2 percent, almost half the national average."
By touting the statistic that the unemployment rate among government workers in May was 4.2 percent, Rove is downplaying the severity of public sector job cuts. Indeed, public sector job cuts in this recovery have been more severe compared with previous recoveries and threaten the recovering economy.
In the context of ongoing efforts by conservatives to paint President Obama as hostile toward the private sector, Fox "straight news" host Martha MacCallum remarked that Obama's recent comments about private-sector jobs growth "feed into [the] narrative" that Obama values public-sector jobs over private-sector jobs. In fact, since Obama took office, the private sector has added millions of jobs, while the public sector has suffered severe and unusual job losses.
Brad Blakeman, a Republican strategist and former Bush White House aide, today pushed the GOP narrative that President Obama favored health care reform over fixing the economy. This narrative doesn't hold up to the facts, including that Obama pushed through the first of many economic initiatives a month after he was elected -- more than a year before health care reform became law.
In an appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, Blakeman lashed out at Obama, saying, "If health care is struck down, this president has an awful lot of explaining to do to the American people as to why he concentrated on health care at the expense of the economy."
The narrative that Obama chose health care reform over the economy is busted by the facts.
Obama's first speech to Congress, on February 24, 2009, focused on the economy, as CNN noted in an article that included the transcript of his speech. The headline CNN used read: "Obama speech to Congress focuses on economy."
On February 17, 2009, Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, which was described by the Associated Press as "an ambitious package of federal spending and tax cuts designed to revive the economy and save millions of jobs."
Obama also signed credit card reform into law in May 2009, assisted General Motors in exiting bankruptcy protection in July 2009, and announced several small business lending initiatives in October 2009.
Moreover, Obama administration measures have helped grow the economy. A May 2012 CBO report estimated that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.1 percentage points and 0.8 percentage points" and "increased the number of people employed by between 0.2 million and 1.5 million" during the first quarter of 2012. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger stated on June 1 that "the economy has added private sector jobs for 27 straight months, for a total of 4.3 million payroll jobs over that period."
Blakeman's remarks come on the heels of media figures, including Rush Limbaugh and The Washington Examiner's Byron York, amplifying Mitt Romney's discredited allegation that Obama knowingly slowed down the economic recovery by pushing for health care reform.
When will media outlets begin correcting this false narrative?
After previously attacking President Obama for not having a plan to create jobs, Fox News is now hypocritically attacking him for faulting Congress for its failure to pass his American Jobs Act.
Last September, Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, a bill that was estimated to "likely add 1.9 million payroll jobs and grow the U.S. economy 2 percent." The bill was successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans a month later.
The Obama campaign has recently put out an ad promoting the American Jobs Act, criticizing Republicans in Congress for not passing his proposals yet, and urging Congress to pass his proposals now.
Fox News has responded by attacking Obama for "blam[ing] Congress," criticism that mirrors a recent attack by Romney that Obama is "blam[ing] Congress for the faults that he's put in place himself."
For instance, on the June 8 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum told the Examiner's Byron York "the president is going to come out and you expect that he will blame Congress for not implementing some of his job creating ideas. Is that going to fly well with the American people? I mean, I don't know how much water that holds at this point."
But Fox's criticism puts the network in the awkward position of having to admit that Obama has a jobs plan, a fact at odds with the message Fox ran with last year.
Fox "straight news" host Martha MacCallum today pushed the narrative that former President Bill Clinton is advocating the extension of all the Bush tax cuts. In fact, according to Clinton's office, he "does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again."
On Tuesday, Clinton discussed in an interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended into 2013. Later that day, Clinton's office released a statement saying that the former president opposes extending the Bush tax cuts for the highest earners, but believes that all of the tax cuts may have to be temporarily extended because it will be difficult for Congress to come to a long-term agreement until after the election. From USA Today:
Two questions have been raised regarding President Clinton's interview on CNBC today.
First, on extending the Bush tax cuts, as President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again. In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election.
Despite Clinton's clear statement opposing the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, MacCallum today reported that Clinton favors extending all the Bush tax cuts. During an interview with Alan Colmes and Tucker Carlson, MacCallum remarked that Clinton "said that extending all the Bush tax cuts until next year would be quote, The best thing to do, and that timing is at odds with what the president has said."
Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland has again claimed that Iran is on the verge of having nuclear weapons, despite the fact that there are significant questions as to whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all.
During an appearance on Fox's "straight news" program America's Newsroom, McFarland told co-host Bill Hemmer that "Iran is an expansionist country on the verge of getting nuclear weapons."
However, there are significant questions about whether Iran is even planning to acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is trying to build a bomb. According to Greg Thielmann, former State Department intelligence analyst and former Senate Intelligence Committee senior staffer, and Benjamin Loehrke, senior policy analyst at Ploughshares Fund (a global security foundation), the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) November 8, 2011 report is consistent with that finding.
Moreover, in January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence community does not know whether Iran will try to build a bomb.
Of course, the claim that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons is particularly rich coming from McFarland, as she has been warning for years that Iran is just around the corner from having nukes. In December 2008 McFarland said, "Iran is probably two years away from a nuclear weapon. Now, that's really frightening. But that's two years." In April 2010 she said that "in a couple of months time -- 6 months, 9 months -- we're going to be faced with this choice: bombing Iran or letting Iran get the bomb." And just earlier this year she distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner."
Mitt Romney won the Texas Republican primary last night, clinching the GOP's nomination for president. In response, Fox News has engaged its function as the Republican Party's communications arm and mounted an all-out push to promote Romney and attack President Obama.
This morning, Fox & Friends aired a four-minute anti-Obama attack ad. Not from any campaign or super PAC, but from Fox itself -- the video opens with the text "Fox & Friends Presents":
The ad was loaded with dishonest and misleading claims.
Later, America's Newsroom, which is one of Fox's "straight news" shows, aired a portion of host Bill Hemmer's softball interview with Mitt and Ann Romney in San Diego. Hemmer said of the interview, "If you're looking for policy, that's really not the intention for why we went to California. This is really trying to get to know this man, because he's going to be in your living rooms now for at least the next six months and possibly a lot longer after that."
Hemmer's co-host, Martha MacCallum, then suggested that the purpose of the interview had been to increase Romney's poll numbers.
From the May 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the May 25 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Following the Obama campaign's ad highlighting Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, right-wing media are hysterically calling the ad an attack on private equity and even "an attack on capitalism" itself. But the ad clearly and specifically targets Romney's own work at Bain Capital -- which Romney and his campaign have repeatedly touted as crucial experience for dealing with the economy -- not private equity or capitalism as a whole.
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News is attempting to downplay and discredit its own poll, which found that if the election were held today, voters would re-elect President Obama by a 7-point margin. This is hardly the first time Fox has tried to distort poll findings to advance a certain narrative.
Latching onto a Congressional Research Service report commissioned by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Fox News suggested today that government investments in clean energy hurt our military. But experts agree that investments in clean energy technology and climate mitigation benefit our national security.
The report found that the federal government has spent more than $68 billion since 2008 on climate-related activities. The majority of these funds went to the Climate Change Technology Program, which invests in renewable energy and other energy technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Although only a small fraction of that funding -- about 0.01% -- went to the Defense Department, Fox anchor Martha MacCallum suggested that climate change programs are being funded at the expense of national security, asking: "Is the White House putting green energy ahead of defense?" And the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore added: "I do think this national security issue is really the crux of the issue about whether we want money that should be spent to keep us safe and keep us secure going for green programs."
Let's put things in perspective. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Pentagon has spent $776 million on climate change programs over the past 4 years. This accounts for approximately 0.0002% of total defense spending over that time frame -- hardly excessive to address a problem that military experts agree poses a major national security threat.
Conservatives have seized on Vice President Biden's remarks during an Ohio campaign speech about the issues facing the middle class, characterizing Biden as "unhinged" and "deranged," and claiming the administration is perpetuating "class-warfare." But with tax levels for the wealthy at historic lows set against the stark contrast of middle-class wage stagnation and reduced economic mobility, there is every justification to be passionate about the issue.
During the May 16 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News "straight news" anchor Martha MacCallum and Fox News contributor and The Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson echoed complaints from the Republican chaired House Oversight Committee about the documents the Justice Department has released responding to their subpoena of files related to the failed Fast and Furious operation:
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well there were 22 questions in the last subpoena. 13 of them remain unanswered. The Justice Department hasn't forwarded documents that the House Oversight Committee has requested. And by the way some of those questions, that's the majority of questions, remain unanswered, some of them pertain directly to Attorney General Eric Holder. The Justice Department's position appears to be we can investigate this internally and so we don't need to comply with Congress. I think this is a collision course. Remember this subpoena was issued in October. It's been more than six months now and they have refused to comply. And they have not invoked executive privilege by the way. So it's not even clear on what grounds they are refusing to comply. I don't think there is any question, at least at this point, that there is going to be a contempt citation.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Well we'll see. And it feels like stalling and feet dragging to a great extent on the part of the Department of Justice.
MACCALLUM: Because they are saying they can't fire anybody, they are doing their own investigation. That is going to take quite some time, most likely until after the election is over and that until they finish that investigation--snicker snicker--and until that investigation is over they feel it wouldn't be right to come out and talk about who they think knew more than they say they knew or exactly when Eric Holder became aware of this program that saw a law enforcement agent killed.
Carlson's comments echo the reporting of his employee, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle, who has written numerous articles about Fast and Furious over the past few months. His pieces almost invariably include the line, "Holder has failed to comply with Issa's Oct. 12, 2011, subpoena," or some variation thereof and often include the claim that DOJ has been nonresponsive to 13 of the subpoena's 22 questions.
These reports minimize the fact that DOJ has released extensive and detailed information about what documents the agency has released to Issa. According to DOJ, responsive documents to 16 of the 22 questions contained in Issa's subpoena have been turned over to the House Oversight Committee or been made available for viewing by Oversight Committee staff. DOJ has stated that no responsive information exists to one of the questions. Additionally, DOJ has stated it does possess documents responsive to the five remaining questions in the subpoena and additional documents responsive to the other categories, but that it is unable to release this material because it is either relevant to ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions or is deliberative and therefore protected by executive privilege.
But Fox News and The Daily Caller would rather regurgitate Republican talking points than admit that there are two sides to this story.