Scrambling to mitigate news that conservative filmmaker and Fox News darling Dinesh D'Souza was indicted for felony federal campaign finance violations, the network suggested that Democrat Pierce O'Donnell's 2012 misdemeanor convictions for the same crime is evidence that the Obama administration is targeting political enemies -- but O'Donnell was originally charged with even more felony counts than D'Souza.
D'Souza, known for his conspiratorial film 2016: Obama's America, was indicted this week "by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," according to Reuters. D'Souza allegedly repaid people who, at his direction, contributed $20,000 to New York Republican senate candidate Wendy Long, well beyond the legal contribution limit.
His allies in the conservative media handled news of the indictment by accusing the Department of Justice of seeking to silence people on President Obama's "enemies list" in the custom of "Nazi Germany" and "Stalin."
Fox's evening news show Special Report attempted to further this conspiracy theory by pointing to the case of Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney who pled guilty to making approximately $26,000 in illegal campaign contributions to disgraced former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. The program repeatedly suggested political retribution was at play because O'Donnell "faced only a misdemeanor conviction" for a near identical crime to D'Souza's, who is charged with a felony. Correspondent Doug McKelway and contributor Charles Krauthammer raised these claims in different segments during the program.
But there is a fatal flaw in Fox's argument: O'Donnell was actually indicted for three felonies, more serious charges than D'Souza faces.
Conservative media figures have sharply criticized the recent push by Democratic politicians to alleviate poverty and reduce economic inequality. However, most of this criticism is grounded in a number of myths about the causes, effects, and importance of growing economic inequality in the United States.
Fox News downplayed the connection between income inequality and poverty in an attempt to dismiss government efforts to reduce the growing problem.
On the January 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway dismissed concern over the nation's rising income inequality as a simple issue of "class resentment." He attributed the problem of inequality to capitalism's system of rewards and punishments, because "some people are better, smarter, harder-working, or luckier than others," later adding, "numerous studies show the greatest predictor of poverty is not income inequality."
Fox News pushed a number of discredited myths to attack renewed calls for raising the minimum wage, ignoring research and prevailing opinions' of economists.
On November 7, President Obama expressed support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which seeks to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Reacting to the renewed call to raise the minimum wage on the November 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, reporter Doug McKelway dedicated a segment to discussing its potential economic effects. McKelway expressed doubt over the economic merits of raising the minimum wage and claimed that it would force companies to "cut back by getting rid of workers or increasing the price of goods they make or sell."
Instead of informing viewers with research about the effects of raising the minimum wage, McKelway's report largely hinged upon an interview with construction contractor and conservative activist Brett MacMahon and anecdotal evidence. Had McKelway attempted to give a fact-based report on the minimum wage, viewers would know that increasing it has been found to have a positive impact on job creation and economic growth.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which recently examined research on the minimum wage since 2000, "[t]he weight of that evidence points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage." Indeed, CEPR's findings back up previous studies, one of which found that hiring responses to minimum wage hikes are more likely to be positive than negative.
A minimum wage analysis published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) revealed the broader impact of gradually raising the federal minimum wage above $10 per hour by July 1, 2015. According to EPI, increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would result in over $51 billion in additional wages paid to roughly 30 million American workers. The wage increase would stimulate nearly $33 billion of increased GDP growth while creating as many as 140,000 new jobs.
According to EPI tabulations, increasing the minimum wage would have its largest impact on workers at the lower end of the income bracket, but the positive side effects would still be felt by hundreds of thousands of households with income in excess of $150,000 annually.
McKelway continued pushing his inaccurate minimum wage reporting later on Fox News' America's News HQ. The segment focused heavily on the alleged negative impact an increased minimum wage would have on young and teen workers. However, according to the aforementioned EPI study, a gradual wage increase similar to that supported by President Obama would largely affect workers aged 20 years or older, with teenage workers only representing a little more than 11 percent of those receiving increased wages.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour is supported by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which claims such a wage increase would positively impact "nearly one in every five workers in the country." Furthermore, a February 2013 survey of economists conducted by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found wide support for President Obama's previous call for raising the minimum wage to $9.00.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Fox News' Doug McKelway offered a series of misleading facts about the food stamp program in an effort to defend Republicans from criticisms that their attempt to cut funding for the program would take eligibility away from millions of people.
During a September 19 Happening Now segment on the House Republicans' plan to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), McKelway aired Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) criticizing the proposal by saying the cuts would save money "by snatching food out of the hands of millions of neediest children and their families." McKelway asked, "But would it really?" before claiming the program "has expanded exponentially since President Obama took office" and that the "system is easily abused." McKelway also responded to Reid's criticism by highlighting Fox's Great Food Stamp Binge -- an hour-long special Fox is reportedly distributing to members of Congress in advance of votes on SNAP -- that demonized SNAP recipients and attempted to make a California musician who openly takes advantage of the program "the new face of food stamps":
But despite McKelway's deflection, Reid's criticism was accurate. A report by the Health Impact Project found that SNAP "reduces household food insecurity by 18 to 30 percent," and found that the House Republicans' bill could cause "as many as 5.1 million people" to lose eligibility:
Fox News is glossing over the near-unanimous consensus* on climate change by citing a fringe study that claims the phenomenon is minor and "not dangerous." But the network did not mention the latter's industry ties or dubious pedigree -- or that a major report is expected to undercut it later this month.
Happening Now first mentioned the questionable study Wednesday, in a segment on a hearing in the House of Representatives. Host Gregg Jarrett and Fox News reporter Doug McKelway suggested that two new pieces of evidence weaken testimony offered in support of the science behind climate change: a leaked draft of the forthcoming U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report, which McKelway claimed "will acknowledge temperatures have remained stable for the last 15 years or so," and a just-released study from a similarly-named front group, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which concludes that warming will likely be "modest and cause no net harm." Based on these, McKelway concluded, "evidence of global warming is coming under increased scrutiny and increased doubt."
However, Fox News omitted what is expected to be the signature finding of the IPCC, an unpaid group that works to summarize the state of climate science and has been called "inherently conservative" in its approach -- that "the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause" of climate change (short-term trends do not undermine this verdict).
The Equal Pay Act was signed into law on June 10, 1963, by President Kennedy to prohibit wage discrimination based on sex. Fifty years later, as the issue of gender income inequality continues to affect America, conservative media figures have consistently tried to downplay and minimize these concerns.
Fox News is claiming that a top climate scientist said global warming "doesn't equal warming," when he actually pointed out that much of recent warming has gone into the oceans.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that much of the warming since the year 2000 has been absorbed by the ocean. In a story on the new findings, Reuters quoted Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, as saying "Global warming is continuing but it's being manifested in somewhat different ways":
"Global warming is continuing but it's being manifested in somewhat different ways," said Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. Warming can go, for instance, to the air, water, land or to melting ice and snow.
Warmth is spreading to ever deeper ocean levels, he said, adding that pauses in surface warming could last 15-20 years.
However, on Tuesday's edition of Special Report, Fox's flagship nightly news show, Trenberth's words were warped beyond recognition. Claiming that there may be "a breach in the wall of climate science," Fox News played a clip of industry-funded climate misinformer Marc Morano alleging that Trenberth "is announcing that global warming doesn't mean rising temperatures. In other words, that warming doesn't equal warming."
Actually, Trenberth noted that air temperatures make up only a small fraction of the way we measure climate change. As this chart from a study published in Physics Letters A shows, oceans have absorbed much of recent warming -- a factor that Fox News completely ignored:
Breitbart.com and National Review Online (NRO) are using today's Equal Pay Day holiday to misinform about gender wage inequality. Right-wing media have routinely downplayed and obscured legitimate concerns about wage inequality.
Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. According to a White House proclamation released on Equal Pay Day in 2012, "National Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day's pay for an equal day's work."
Breitbart.com and NRO both posted a video today that claims the gender wage gap is a myth, positing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video comes from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."
Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that "in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent." According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. The claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has also been debunked, mostly recently in the AAUW's 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report.
Breitbart.com and NRO's misleading claims about gender wage inequality follow a long trend of right-wing media's misinformation on equal pay. Here are just a few examples since 2012:
Fox News suggested that unemployment benefits and other government assistance programs contribute to the nation's unemployment numbers, and even claimed that people are quitting their jobs to become eligible for benefits. In truth, unemployment benefits stimulate the economy and create jobs.
Reporting on news that jobless claims dropped by 27,000 last week, America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer wondered if "government programs might be keeping unemployment rates higher than they should actually be." Fox correspondent Doug McKelway answered that "some small business owners" say that "it's not unusual at all for people to quit work these days, because they know they can get more from unemployment and other benefits than from hard work." He continued, "Americans are not working as much today, and there is ample evidence that it's not just an economy stuck in neutral but it may be the increasing government incentive not to work."
Despite Hemmer and McKelway's claims, studies show that unemployment benefits stimulate the economy and create jobs. In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that increasing aid to the unemployed would have a bigger impact on the economy than reducing taxes. The Economic Policy Institute's Lawrence Mishel explained that unemployment insurance is "such good stimulus" because "virtually every dollar spent on extending unemployment insurance benefits goes directly, and immediately, toward the purchase of local goods and services, providing an extremely efficient demand boost." And near the end of 2012, CBO concluded that extending unemployment benefits through 2013 would create 300,000 more new jobs than would otherwise be created.
What's more, the notion that one could quit work in order to receive unemployment benefits is nonsensical -- In order to be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI), the Labor Department makes clear, you must be "unemployed through no fault of your own (determined under State law)." And importantly, as CBO explained, "To maintain eligibility for benefits while unemployed, UI recipients must search for a new job and, in some states, must accept a reasonable job offer."
While hyping a GOP-led attack on the National Labor Relations Board, Fox News continued its pattern of misleading viewers about the NLRB's actions regarding Boeing's facility in South Carolina.
Reporting on the December 13 edition of America's Newsroom about a newly released report from the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee, which criticized the NLRB as engaging in "militant advocacy for unions," Fox correspondent Doug McKelway claimed that the NLRB tried to "shut down" the Boeing plant:
McKELWAY: The best example of all this may be the NLRB's attempt to shut down Boeing's new assembly line in right-to-work South Carolina. Boeing spent billions, employed thousands of highly paid nonunion workers, while at the same time expanding operations at its unionized Washington state plant. Unionized employment actually increased in Washington state, yet the NLRB tried to have the South Carolina plant shut down.
In fact, the NLRB has a history of pursuing cases similar to the action it took against Boeing. The NLRB accused Boeing of moving a production line for the 787 Dreamliner from Washington state to South Carolina because Washington state employees "engag[ed] in ... lawful strikes" and Boeing wanted to discourage such activity in the future -- the type of action the NLRB has long pursued.
Fox misrepresented recent remarks by Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to suggest that she is undermining Democrats' attempts to rebut charges that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is unfit to be Secretary of State. In fact, Feinstein has strongly defended Rice, saying that the attack on Rice "has to stop."
The attacks on Rice stem from her appearance on Sunday morning political shows on September 16 to describe what the administration had learned about the attacks on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Since then, Fox and congressional Republicans have sought to scandalize Susan Rice's appearance in those interviews and use them as ammunition in a campaign to prevent her from being nominated as secretary of state. But David Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time of the Benghazi attack, has reportedly testified that Rice's comments were based on unclassified talking points provided by the intelligence community that Petraeus himself approved.
Rice's opponents have disingenuously seized on the fact that language in the talking points Rice used originally pointed to Al Qaeda affiliates as the perpetrators of the attack, but the language was changed to refer more generally to "extremists."
During the November 20 edition of Fox & Friends First, correspondent Doug McKelway reported on the attacks on Rice and claimed: "The fallout from the scandal is now dimming Ambassador Rice's prospect for the job of secretary of state." McKelway then reported that House Republicans had sent a letter opposing Rice and added: "Congressional Democrats' defense of the White House in this matter is partly being weakened also by the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a Democrat, who has vowed to find out who specifically took the Al Qaeda language out of the CIA talking points."
Feinstein said she would hold hearings on the Benghazi talking points during a November 18 Meet the Press appearance. But during the same appearance, Feinstein strongly defended Rice, saying she had reviewed all of Rice's comments on the Sunday shows and did not understand why Rice "was being pilloried" for her comments:
FEINSTEIN: What has concerned me about this is really the politicization of a public statement that was put out by the entire intelligence committee, which Susan Rice on the 16th, who was asked to go before the people and use that statement, did. I have read every one of the five interviews she did that day. She was within the context of that statement. And for this, she has been pilloried for two months. I don't understand it. It has to stop. If it continues, it's going to set up once again a partisan divide in these -- the House and the Senate, which Congressman Rogers and I have tried to overcome and have overcome with some success with respect to the intelligence committees.
Fox previously cherry picked comments made by Feinstein's during her recent Meet the Press appearance, to make it seem as though she was going to investigate whether the White House had nefariously edited intelligence community talking points regarding the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
During the second presidential debate, a town hall participant asked how the candidates planned to fix workplace inequality, "specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn." Fox News reporter Doug McKelway labeled this figure a "myth," but research shows that even when adjusting for all variables known to affect earnings, women are consistently paid less.
This week Fox News reporter Doug McKelway has repeatedly made a claim that only two months ago he said was false.
It has to do with the EPA's recently proposed rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from future power plants. In a report on March 27, McKelway acknowledged that the rule applies only to "new U.S. power plants," saying it "grandfathers in existing coal plants" and "grants a 12-month waiver for plants under construction."
But yesterday, as we noted, McKelway was on America's Newsroom saying the rule could shut down a quarter of existing coal plants. He said the same thing last night on Special Report, and the companion article posted at FoxNews.com wrongly asserts that "older plants" are subject to the new standard.
Bad memory? Bad intent? Bad journalism, at any rate.
The FoxNews.com article also said 200,000 jobs in the coal industry are threatened by the rule, a claim that Fox Nation turned into a headline. We cannot find the source of this figure and Fox did not cite anyone. Again, the newly proposed rule does not apply to existing coal plants.
In fact, some major coal-powered utilities basically shrugged at the rule, saying they didn't have plans to build any new coal plants anyway. As energy analyst Rob Barnett concluded in recent report, the proposed rule "probably wouldn't shift current investment patterns in the power sector" since "natural-gas plants already have a compelling price advantage."