Fox Nation attacked Michelle Obama by asking if she is turning the Easter Egg Roll into a "fat camp" by adding physical activities and healthy meals to the agenda. In fact, first ladies commonly incorporate their policy initiatives into the annual event.
Fox Nation highlighted a Cybercast News Service article that claimed the first lady was trying to transform the Easter egg roll into a "fat camp" by "inflict[ing] exercise," upon "kids who just want to celebrate the season." From Fox Nation:
The inclusion of health-related activities does not mean the Easter Egg Roll has become "fat camp." According to the White House's official website, all events, including the Easter egg roll itself, will proceed as scheduled, along with exercises and cooking demonstrations to highlight Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity. From WhiteHouse.gov:
Right-wing media are claiming that the federal government spent money on research grants and other expenses for puppets during the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, despite the fact that the grants were all paid prior to the budget cuts.
On Wednesday, Breitbart.com attacked the administration for stopping tours of the White House as a result of budget cuts in a post titled "U.S. Spends $1.18 Million On Puppets Amid Sequester," and claimed the government could "cut federal 'puppet expenditures' to keep the people's house open." The website listed spending from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other sources, as federal spending on "puppets and puppetry-related expenses."
Fox Nation hyped the Breitbart.com post, labeling it a "report":
Fox & Friends joined in on Thursday when co-host Steve Doocy said: "1.18 million, that's how much the government has spent on puppets since 2009. That's enough to pay for more than a year's worth of White House tours."
However, the grants and contracts that Breitbart.com cited were all paid prior to 2013. A screenshot of the search terms used by Breitbart.com reveals the most recent grants were paid in fiscal year 2012, which ended on September 30, 2012. Sequestration took place on March 1, 2013, almost six months later.
Despite the claims of Fox News and Breitbart.com, these expenditures have nothing to do with the cancelation of White House tours. The spending cited by Breitbart.com did not come out of the budget of the Secret Service, which made the decision to stop providing security for the tours due to its own budget cuts under the sequester.
A misleading NPR report has become fodder for a right-wing media campaign to scapegoat federal disability benefits, despite the fact that the rise in disability claims can be attributed to the economic recession and demographic shifts, and that instances of fraud are minimal.
NPR reported that the rise in the number of federal disability beneficiaries was "startling" and claimed it was explained by unemployed workers with "squishy" claims of disability choosing to receive federal benefits rather than work. Right-wing media called the report "brilliant," and used it to further the myth that the increase in the number of individuals receiving disability benefits reveals fraud in the system.
Breitbart.com's Wynton Hall wrote that NPR's "eye-opening" piece uncovered a disability program "fraught with fraud." Fox Nation promoted the piece with the headline, "Every Month, 14 Million People Get a Disability Check from the Government..." The National Review Online's blog called the piece "brilliant," while the Washington Examiner's editorial offered it as evidence that disability benefits provide "a voluntary life sentence to idle poverty." The Drudge Report linked to the NPR story and to the Breitbart.com article:
But as Media Matters previously noted, these reports failed to include crucial facts that explain the rise in disability benefits. The recent financial crisis and the rising rate of child poverty have made more children eligible to receive benefits through the Supplemental Security program, while the growth in the number of adults receiving benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance since the 1970s is largely explained by increases in the number of women qualifying for benefits. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, as women have joined the workforce in greater numbers over the past few decades, more women are eligible for disability benefits, resulting in higher numbers of beneficiaries.
Furthermore, in a report published in March 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that improper payments of disability benefits are not a widespread problem, and accounted for less than four percent of total improper payments made by federal agencies in fiscal year 2011.
Several right-wing media outlets are selectively quoting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to claim that he believes you "check your personal freedoms at the door" in New York. In reality, Bloomberg explained that in certain commonsense circumstances, such as the prevention of drunk driving, it makes sense for the government to act to promote public health even when it curtails personal freedom.
During a March 24 interview on NBC's Meet The Press, during a discussion of New York City's health policies, moderator David Gregory asked Bloomberg "Where is it too far for government to go?" Bloomberg replied:
BLOOMBERG: I do not think we should ban most things. I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom, and that is, for example, if you're drinking, we shouldn't let you drive, because you'll kill somebody else. If you are carrying a gun, we shouldn't let you on an airplane. There's a lot of things that we do -- if there's asbestos in the classroom we should remove the kids from the classroom until you clean the air. But in terms of smoking, if you want to smoke, I think you have a right to do so and I would protect that. If you want to own a gun, I certainly think it's constitutionally protected. You certainly have a right to have a gun if you want. If you want to eat a lot and get fat, you have a right to do it. But our job as government is to inform the public.
Right-wing media are taking out of context Bloomberg's statement that "I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom" and ignoring the rest of his comment to smear him.
Conservatives in media are hyping the argument of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that a ban on assault weapons would be similar to the government deciding which books people are allowed to read, even though Cruz's argument is based on a misunderstanding of constitutional law and courts have held that assault weapon bans are constitutional.
During a March 14 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a party line vote advanced an assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the floor of the Senate, Cruz drew an equivalence between banning assault weapons and an act of Congress "to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books" or a law stating that the Fourth Amendment "could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights":
CRUZ: It seems to me that all of us should be begin as our foundational document with the Constitution. And the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The term "the right of the people," when the framers included it in the Bill of Rights they used it as a term of art. That same phrase "the right of the people" is found in the First Amendment, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for readdress of grievances, it's also found in the Fourth Amendment, "the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures." And the question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment. Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books, and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?
Cruz's comments were promoted by Fox Nation, The Blaze, Red State, Breitbart.com, PJ Media, The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit. Breitbart.com wrote that Cruz "destroys" Feinstein's argument for an assault weapons ban. Red State ran a headline that Feinstein was struck by a "Ted Cruz Missile." The Daily Caller titled its article on Cruz's comments, "Ted Cruz offends Dianne Feinstein by bringing up the Constitution."
The praised heaped upon Cruz by conservative media outlets ignores that the junior Texas senator's constitutional argument is flawed because it fails to acknowledge longstanding and widely accepted limitations on all of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Fox Nation highlighted a Washington Times column that called President Obama an "economic terrorist" and "a spending jihadist."
A March 5 Fox Nation post highlighted a Washington Times column that accused Obama of making "terroristic threats" over the government spending cuts known as sequestration. The column, written by Charles Hurt, described Obama as an "economic terrorist" and "a spending jihadist," and claimed that the president "is willing to wreck the economy and inflict dire pain on you all because he is gambling that by trimming the federal government, you will feel pain."
From Hurt's column, headlined "Barack Obama, the spending jihadist":
Mr. Obama's terroristic threats have been amply noted everywhere. Planes will fall from the skies, starvation in the streets, teachers will be sent home.
That's right, you, the American voter, have become Mr. Obama's voodoo doll, and he is jabbing you all over with sharp pins and placing demonic hexes on you right now as you read this. This is gonna hurt and you are going to feel it!
In four short years, Obama has gone from hopeful orator promising a bright new future to economic terrorist, a spending jihadist. He is willing to wreck the economy and inflict dire pain on you all because he is gambling that by trimming the federal government, you will feel pain. And if you feel that pain, you will blame Republicans.
Last year conservative media decried a Justice Department investigation into Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. as a politically-motivated "abuse of power." But now the company itself has admitted they were probably in violation of the law.
Sheldon Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm. He reportedly spent nearly $150 million to influence the 2012 election via donations to a super PAC allied to Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove's American Crossroads).
During the campaign, Adelson reportedly alleged that he was making such large donations in part because he had been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, which was investigating whether Sands operations in China had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. But in its most recent annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Las Vegas Sands Corp. admitted that the company's own audit committee believes there were "likely violations" of that law:
As part of the annual audit of the Company's financial statements, the Audit Committee advised the Company and its independent accountants that it had reached certain preliminary findings, including that there were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA and that in recent years, the Company has improved its practices with respect to books and records and internal controls.
Right-wing media outlets have advanced a number of myths regarding automatic across-the-board spending cuts -- commonly called the sequester -- in order to hide the facts behind an inherently harmful economic policy.
A Fox Nation headline falsely claimed that President Obama called for "billions in new deficit spending" during his State of the Union speech, and linked to a FoxNews.com article that debunks its claim by including the president's statement that his proposals would not add to the deficit.
A Fox Nation post on the president's State of the Union speech declared in its headline: "Obama Pleads For Billions In New Deficit Spending."
The post included this quote from Obama's speech: "Most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let's be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan." Fox Nation also noted that Obama pressed "for new spending aimed at helping the economy grow."
But the FoxNews.com article that Fox Nation links to reported that Obama said his proposals would be "fully paid for" and included his statement that "nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."
The transcript of the president's speech shows that he did not call for "billions in new deficit spending" (emphasis added):
Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let's be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. (Applause.) A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. (Applause.) Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs. And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda. I urge this Congress to pass the rest. (Applause.) But tonight, I'll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat -- nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. (Applause.) That's what we should be looking for.
Right-wing pundits frequently use former President Ronald Reagan's name to apply a stamp of approval on anything or anyone they deem symbolic of the ideal conservative -- even when Reagan's actual record on issues ranging from taxes to the deficit deviated far from the ideological standards of today's conservative movement.
Republican darling du jour Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) is the latest to receive the Reagan badge. Ahead of his delivery of the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Karl Rove said Monday that "in Rubio, the Republicans have got probably one of their best communicators since Ronald Reagan." On MSNBC's Morning Joe, The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis called Rubio "Reaganesque." And in November 2012, pundit Cal Thomas published a column on Townhall.com titled, "Marco Rubio: A Hispanic Reagan?"
Rubio is just the latest in a long line of Republican politicians to receive the ubiquitous accolade:
Mitt Romney: Fox News figures repeatedly linked former presidential candidate Romney to the Gipper during both opinion and news shows in the months leading up to the 2012 election. Bill O'Reilly said that Romney "is going to mirror the ghost of Ronald Reagan," while political correspondent Carl Cameron said Romney, on his bus tour, spent a lot of time "sort of echoing Ronald Reagan."
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI): Fox News figures from K.T. MacFarland to Megyn Kelly compared Ryan to Reagan as part of their cheerleading for Ryan after he was chosen as Romney's vice presidential candidate.
Gov. Chris Christie (NJ): Fox Nation highlighted a column by the director of the American Enterprise Institute with the headline, "Christie's Starting to Look Like Reagan."
Sarah Palin: A post on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com said that Palin "carries the torch of liberty and American exceptionalism in the palm of her lovely hand" before calling her the "surviving embodiment of the spirit of 1776 and the Reagan reformation."
Gov. Scott Walker (WI): On Sean Hannity's Fox show, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher called Walker "the Ronald Reagan of our time."
Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA): Karl Rove, on Hannity's show, called Virginia governor Bob McDonnell "a Reaganite conservative."
Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA): In February 2008, Rush Limbaugh called Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan."
Right-wing media figures have splashed the "Reagan" label about so freely that they're in danger of rendering the compliment meaningless.
As Fox News continues to ponder its stance on immigration and other issues relevant to the Latino community, Fox News chief Roger Ailes suggested to The New Republic that the recently-launched Fox News Latino is designed in part to turn Latino audiences into political conservatives.
Ailes told The New Republic on Monday that he "sees the Latino audience as a 'tremendous business opportunity,'" which helps explain the 2010 launch of Fox News Latino, a mostly English-language website aimed at younger Hispanic generations. From The New Republic (emphasis added):
"The contributions being made by Latinos are extraordinary, and we need to talk about them," Ailes says. The Fox News Latino stylebook uses "undocumented immigrant," and the site downplays immigration stories compared with some of its rivals. "Fox News Latino has a mission to point out the positives of the Latino population, operating within the framework of making America great," Ailes says.
That's not as blandly neutral as it sounds. "Hispanics who get on government programs are doing only a little better than they were in the old country," Ailes elaborates. "Fox News Latino will show people how opportunities exist, that whenever we are overregulated, or there is too much government, we lose freedom. We lose power. That is, historically, one hundred percent true."
Fox News Latino often reports the same stories as other Fox outlets, but with a far more pro-immigrant tone. Its coverage is frequently at odds with other Fox entities, specifically the notoriously anti-immigrant Fox Nation.
Ailes denied allegations of Fox's pandering coverage in his interview with The New Republic, stating,"'There's an assumption that Fox News Latino is softer on Latinos than Fox News in general ...That's ridiculous.'"
Ailes' admission of political motive comes as no surprise following Fox's recent change of tune on immigration after the GOP's poor showing among Latinos in November's election. Though News Corp head Rupert Murdoch has long advocated for immigration reform, Fox News hosts only arrived at the same conclusion after Latinos came out in record numbers to vote for President Obama.
Conservative media are pushing selectively cropped footage of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey as evidence that President Obama was "AWOL" the night of the Benghazi attack. In reality, Panetta and Dempsey emphasized that Obama's involvement was appropriate and that the White House was kept "well-informed" throughout the night.
After outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before Congress on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, The Weekly Standard selectively cropped a portion of his testimony and blogged that Panetta found Obama to be "absent" the night of the assault. The Weekly Standard's attack on Obama subsequently made the conservative media rounds to Fox Nation, The Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and Fox News.
In its post titled "Panetta: Obama Absent Night of Benghazi," where this smear seemingly originated, The Weekly Standard highlighted Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R-NH) questions to Panetta as proof of Obama's absence:
AYOTTE: Did you have any further communications with him that night?
AYOTTE: Did you have any further communications - did he ever call you that night to say, "How are things going? What's going on? Where's the consulate?"
PANETTA: No, but we were aware that as we were getting information on what was taking place there, particularly when we got information that the ambassador, his life had been lost - we were aware that that information went to the White House.
AYOTTE: Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?
AYOTTE: No one else called you to say, "How are things going?"
Fox News ignored previous Republican praise for the law that created the upcoming sequester -- across-the-board government spending cuts -- to blame President Obama for potential negative effects if the cuts occur as scheduled on March 1.
The 2011 Budget Control Act created the sequester as an incentive for Congress to agree on deficit reduction measures. If Congress didn't pass those reductions above a certain threshold, the spending cuts in the sequester would automatically take place. A deal at the beginning of the year delayed the start of those cuts, which are now scheduled to take effect March 1.
Despite prior GOP praise for the law that created the sequester, Fox News is blaming Obama for its negative consequences. Responding to the president's request that Congress find a way to avoid the sequester, a Fox Nation headline on Wednesday declared: "Obama Seeks to Void Cuts He Signed Into Law." That same day, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the sequester "the invention of the White House." On Tuesday's edition of America Live, Fox's Chris Stirewalt said of the sequester: "remember, this was [Obama's] idea."
After the 2011 Budget Control Act passed, however, senior House Republicans hailed it as a potential game-changer on spending cuts -- a fact that Fox News has been hiding as the network blames Obama for the creation of the sequester. After it passed, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the law "will finally begin to change the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars." Speaker of the House John Boehner touted the law as "a positive step forward that begins to rein in federal spending." House Budget Committee Chairman and former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said:
The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy. I applaud Speaker Boehner's leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama's demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls.
But the sequester contains spending cuts that will seriously weaken the economic recovery. MarketWatch reported that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the sequester would halve U.S. economic growth this year, and the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that it would cut one million jobs if it took effect. Recognizing these harmful effects, Obama is now urging Congress to find a way to further delay the sequester to find a permanent replacement to it.
Based on flimsy evidence and leaps of logic, conservative media outlets are pretending that, in the words of Newsmax, "Reagan's Childhood Home to Become Parking Lot for Obama's Library." But the story doesn't pass the smell test.
The "childhood home" is an apartment Reagan lived in for less than a year as a young child, and its planned demolition is part of an expansion by the University of Chicago that has nothing to do with President Obama's presidential library. Obama hasn't chosen which state his presidential library will eventually be in, let alone where people will need to park for it. Further, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney has declared the story "false."
While easily dismissed, the story serves as an illustrative example of the way the conservative echo chamber can twist facts and turn baseless speculation into their controversy du jour.
In the wake of Solyndra's bankruptcy, Fox News went on the attack against solar energy, exaggerating its cost and downplaying its potential in an effort to paint investments in solar as a waste of money. But despite Fox's myopic focus on one company's demise, the U.S. solar industry is booming, as a comprehensive new Media Matters fact sheet on solar energy shows.
Solar energy is among the fastest growing industries in the U.S., providing enough electricity to power more than a million homes. It is estimated that the U.S. installed as much solar capacity in 2012 as it did over the last decade, and experts say that the U.S. has "enormous long-term potential for sustainable market growth." Solar power is increasingly affordable and is on track to becoming as cheap as our current electricity in only seven years. But in the midst of record solar industry growth, Fox News clings to the narrative that solar power "doesn't work," and that fossil fuels are America's only viable energy option:
Turning a blind eye to solar industry successes, Fox News chooses to focus instead on a few solar manufacturers that have struggled amidst falling silicon prices. Although experts say the consolidation of the solar industry is actually a sign of maturation and will make solar more affordable for consumers, Fox points to these companies to declare that the "ENTIRE Solar Industry" is on the "Brink Of Collapse." And more than a year after Solyndra declared bankruptcy, Fox continues to cite it as proof that President Obama's clean energy investments were ineffective.
But investments in solar are helping this emerging technology break into the entrenched energy market, a role that the U.S. government has historically played. Subsidies create a level playing field for solar to compete with the fossil fuel industry, which has long benefited from federal assistance and the freedom to pollute the environment without paying for the damage. They also enable the U.S. to compete with heavily subsidized solar companies in China and Europe. The great strides that the U.S. solar industry has made indicate that these investments are working and can help America lead the way on clean energy solutions.