Ahead of President Obama's sixth State of the Union address, Fox News speculated that the president will boast about the nation's improving economy as a way to distract Americans from global unrest. However, pundits on the same network - even the same show - have repeatedly accused Obama of ignoring the economy and distracting voters with topics like national security and the minimum wage.
On the January 20 edition of Happening Now, Fox's White House correspondent Ed Henry reported that Obama would focus a large part of his 2015 State of the Union speech on the rebounding U.S. economy, which has recently logged strong jobs growth and improving public sentiment. But Henry suggested the real reason behind Obama's optimistic economic note is to distract voters from upheaval overseas, especially in Yemen:
HENRY: Remember, it was only a few months ago that the president and his aides were holding up Yemen as a success story on his counter-terror efforts. That has fallen apart, as has the president's claim that al-Qaeda is on the run, so they want to talk a lot more about the economy. Not so much on national security.
In contrast, Fox hosts previously accused the Obama administration of using foreign policy and national security to distract from issues like the economy. In May 2011, just days after the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) "when do we start talking about the economy again?" Personalities on the network also dismissed a historic deal with Iran to limit its nuclear capabilities as a distraction from problems with the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative media figures have also accused Obama of distracting voters from the economy by supporting a minimum wage hike and intervening in the Syrian Islamic State crisis. On Fox's Outnumbered, panelist Dr. Keith Ablow theorized that even the World Cup mania was a distraction concocted to help Obama.
Conservative media are invoking one of their favorite Benghazi hoaxes to accuse President Obama of reluctance to characterize the fatal shootings near Canadian Parliament as terrorism, despite the fact that Obama framed it in terms of "terrorism" the day of the shooting, just as he called the Benghazi attacks "acts of terror" the day after the 2012 assault.
On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson was surprised to find out that President Obama called out Fox News' Obamacare coverage during a speech. Carlson asked reporter Ed Henry "Why? My question to you, Mr. Henry, is why would he do this?"
President Obama delivered a speech on the economy at Northwestern University today, during which he brought up the Republican party's inability to focus their campaigns on attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pointing out that contrary to Fox News' coverage, the health care law is working well:
So I laid out what I know has happened over the six years of my presidency so far, and I've laid out an agenda for what I think should happen to make us grow even better, grow even faster. A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.
There's a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits -- it's because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace, and they're now manageable. There's a reason fewer Republicans you hear them running about Obamacare -- because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News -- (laughter) -- it's turns out it's working pretty well in the real world.
Carlson was confused as to why the president called out Fox News, but perhaps the reason is that just last week the network revived the debunked death panel myth amid news that Obamacare was working. As Vox reported, although the health care law is working "in the real world," in conservative media it's a disaster:
[C]osts are lower than expected, enrollment is higher than expected, the number of insurers participating in the exchanges is increasing, and more states are joining the Medicaid expansion. Millions of people have insurance who didn't have it before. The law is working. But a lot of the people who are convinced Obamacare is a disaster will never know that, because the voices they trust will never tell them.
This post has been updated for accuracy.
From the September 25 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News continued to hype reports of an imminent Islamic State terrorist plot against U.S. and Parisian public transportation hours after the U.S. intelligence community discredited the rumor as "total bunk."
News broke on September 25 that Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had informed reporters at the United Nations of "accurate reports from Baghdad" detailing a terrorist plot by the group calling themselves the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in advanced stages against subways in the U.S. and Paris, France.
The prime minister's remarks quickly spread across American media, but by early afternoon, U.S. intelligence officials had roundly discredited the rumor. As NBC News reported, "Virtually every major U.S. law enforcement agency and intelligence agency said they had no evidence of any such plot. The report is viewed as 'total bunk,' according to a senior intelligence official."
CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto tweeted:
Yet over an hour later, Fox News continued to hype fears over the discredited plot. On The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson repeated the Iraqi prime minister's warning despite noting that an Obama administration official had not confirmed the report, cautioning, "Apparently the plot has not been thwarted."
Rather than acknowledging the fact that multiple U.S. intelligence agencies had discredited reports of the plot, Carlson simply said, "The other threat we heard about today from the Iraqi prime minister, which, by the way, the FBI says this administration doesn't know anything about it, but the word was that the attacks could be imminent on our subway systems here and in Paris."
Fox News' chief White House correspondent Ed Henry misrepresented comments by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey to baselessly suggest the White House forced Dempsey to downplay the threat of the extremist group known as the Islamic State. In reality, the two statements from Dempsey that Henry referenced are not inconsistent in their evaluation of the Islamic State as a threat to the U.S., and the Defense Department had already denied the notion that it was directed to change its rhetoric.
Fox News figures have repeatedly claimed a surge of National Guard troops to the U.S. - Mexico border would stem the tide of people seeking refugee status in the United States, but National Guardsmen cannot apprehend people at the border or turn them away.
On the July 13 Fox News Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) said he is requesting troops on the border because "what you have to have is this clear presence on the border, where people understand that you no longer can just freely go and walk across the Rio Grande and stay in America from now on." In response, guest host Brit Hume said to Perry, "I get that that's the message governor. What I don't quite understand is how it is with the law being the way it is, the presence of more troops or forces on the border who are not legally able to apprehend these immigrants, these border crossers, is going to change anything without the law being changed first."
Perry returned to his demand for an increased National Guard presence, arguing that "you bring boots on the ground to send that message clearly, both visually and otherwise."
Right-wing and even mainstream media have eagerly pushed the suggestion that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is "Obama's Katrina" -- an inane comparison that repeatedly surfaces inside the conservative media echo chamber.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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From the May 1 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry held up Republican Sen. John McCain as a credible critic of President Obama's foreign policy toward Russia after the senator castigated the decision of several world powers to kick the nation out of the G8 -- but Henry neglected to inform viewers that McCain's position on the significance of such a move has shifted dramatically since 2008.
On the March 25 edition of The Real Story, Henry reported on criticisms from Republicans regarding the fact that the U.S. and other world powers kicked Russia out of the G8, a forum for the world's leading industrialized nations. Henry pointed to comments from McCain, who sarcastically dismissed the importance of the move, to cast President Obama as weak on Russia:
HENRY: You've got Republicans like John McCain saying today that basically look, if Russia's just a regional power, why does it appear that Vladimir Putin is holding the cards here, calling the shots if you will? Especially given the fact that there has been -- the only major action really by the President and European allies has been to kick Russia out of the G8. Here's John McCain today on Imus in the Morning on Fox Business:
MCCAIN: I'm sure that that has got to reduce Vladimir to tears, that he's not going to be able to be in the G8. Take over part of a country and you don't get to go to the next meeting in some wonderful European capitol.
Henry failed to point out McCain's contradictions in the past on revoking Russia's membership in the G8. When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, McCain vacillated several times on the efficacy of kicking Russia out of the G8. In a March 28, 2008 speech, McCain advocated for Russia's exclusion from the G8:
We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia. Rather than tolerate Russia's nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization's doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.
MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out McCain's inconsistency on the subject while writing for Washington Monthly, noting that McCain eventually decided excluding Russia would in fact be an effective method of improving the nation's behavior:
A few months later, the McCain campaign said the senator no longer believed what he said. A McCain adviser told McClatchy that the candidate's policy on Russia and the G-8 as "a holdover from an earlier period," adding, "It doesn't reflect where he is right now."
In July, however, McCain went back to the "earlier period," saying excluding Russia from the G8 would be "what's best for America" and might "improve" Russian behavior.
And more recently, McCain appeared on PBS's Charlie Rose to discuss the Ukraine situation on March 4, saying Russia should be thrown out of the G8 (emphasis added):
MCCAIN: I think, first, I would try the Magnitski which as you know targets individuals and their bank accounts and their ability to travel and all that. I would try that first. Then, obviously, I would look at other areas. You know, throw them out of the G-8, of course. It should be the G-7. A number of other cosmetic kind of don`t -- don`t go -- send our officials to the Paralympics.
But -- but we have to understand what this guy is all about. He`s an old KGB apparatchik. In 2008, the debate that I had with Barack Obama, I said at that time, watch Russia and watch Ukraine and unfortunately, these many years later, I was correct.
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
Right-wing media have seized on Senate Democrats' parliamentary change to eliminate filibusters for most presidential nominees to call for Republicans to block immigration reform or advance the notion that the change makes it less likely for Republicans to act on reform. In fact, Republicans repeatedly refused to act on immigration reform long before this change took place.
Fox News personalities claimed that a new rule change by Democrats in the Senate is hypocritical because both parties have obstructed when in the minority, ignoring the historically high level of GOP obstruction of President Obama's executive and judicial nominees.
On November 21, Democrats changed Senate rules so that "judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote."
During a November 21 broadcast of Fox News' America's News HQ, co-host Alisyn Camerota asked Geraldo Rivera whether GOP gridlock was to blame for Democrats moving to change Senate rules. Rivera responded, "You know, I wish we could pull up some of the newscasts from eight years ago during the Bush Administration and you would hear the same thing. ... This is a game that they have played historically since the third president--since Thomas Jefferson":
During a press conference on the rule change, Fox White House Correspondent Ed Henry questioned Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest about whether Obama was being obstructionist because in 2005 he said he would block Bush nominees because he wanted Bush to fix guidelines on lead paint. Henry asked, "wasn't that obstruction?":
But Fox' false equivalency ignores the fact that recent GOP obstruction is unprecedented. Fox personalities ignored the GOP filibustering of Obama's judicial nominees who have been described as highly-qualified, non-controversial, and diverse.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained that GOP obstruction was "the highest that's ever been recorded" during the last Congressional session. People For The American Way (PFAW) pointed out the "unprecedented" level of obstruction in a chart of cloture votes on executive nominees:
In fact, comparing Bush administration nominees to Obama's shows that the GOP is far more obstructionist today than Democrats were during the Bush presidency, with regard to the percentage of nominees confirmed and the amount of time nominees wait until confirmation vote. Right-Wing Watch, a project of PFAW, published several more charts illustrating these points:
Fox News' Ed Henry lied to defend the GOP's newest health care proposal, falsely claiming it would force federal employees to participate in exchanges the same way other consumers will.
On the October 15 edition of Fox's Your World, Henry -- Fox's chief White House correspondent -- reported that the latest House Republican bill to reopen the government included the Vitter amendment, a proposal by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that Henry claimed would make White House and congressional staff "live under ObamaCare and give up their generous subsidies that they already have." Henry went on to claim the amendment would make these federal employees "live under the exchanges like the rest of the country":
But Henry misrepresented what the Vitter amendment does. It doesn't force government employees to live under the exchanges like the rest of the country, it actually creates a special situation for those workers that would cause them to lose the employer contribution to their health plans that private sector employees enjoy, making their health plans significantly more expensive than the contribution from other exchange consumers. In a Politico op-ed, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explained that the Vitter amendment doesn't end special treatment for congressional employees, it creates a special circumstance: