When is the U.S. economy not a topic worth addressing on the Sunday morning talk shows? Apparently when there's lots of good news to discuss.
At least it seemed that way this past Sunday when all four of the network Sunday morning talk shows ignored last week's surprisingly strong jobs report, which indicated nearly 300,000 news jobs were created in the month of June. Consequently, the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, the lowest level since September 2008.
The jobs surge meant America had logged its highest January-through-June job-growth rate since 1999. (The U.S. has added 1.4 million jobs since December, making it the best half-year since the recession ended.) And over the past 52 months of jobs growth, businesses have created nearly 10 million jobs.
Also ignored by all the Sunday hosts and guests was the fact that the Dow Jones stock exchange on Thursday for the first time surpassed the 17,000 mark, "another in a string of records for the index that has lifted portfolios in a five-year bull market for stocks," according to the Associated Press. Indeed, "The Dow has climbed more than 10,500 points since its Great Recession low of 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009."
More from the AP:
The jobs report is the latest piece of data to show the economy continues to improve steadily. On Wednesday, payroll processor ADP said private businesses added 281,000 jobs in June, up from 179,000 in May. Also this week, the Institute for Supply Management said the U.S. manufacturing expanded for the 13th consecutive month.
Keep in mind, none of this was discussed on Face The Nation, Fox News Sunday, Meet The Press, or This Week; shows which, in theory, debate and analyze the weeks' most important news developments. But do they?
Two weeks ago I noted the same Sunday shows completely ignored news of the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, an alleged ringleader of the Benghazi terror attack of 2012. For nearly two years, the topic of Benghazi had been endlessly debated and discussed on the Sunday shows via hundreds of segments, very often casting the Obama administration in a negative light. But when good news emerged about apprehending a possible key suspect, the Sunday shows all turned away.
The Benghazi capture reflected positively on the Obama administration. It was news that the Republican Party did not seem happy about. And it was news that the Sunday shows deemed to be un-newsworthy. Coincidence?
Increasingly, the Sunday shows seem to revolve around inviting Republican guests onto the shows and letting them vent about whatever they think the Obama administration is doing wrong. Period. But when the U.S. economy shows signs of robust growth? When the stock market continues to hit new historic highs? Republicans aren't very interested in talking about Obama successes so, it turns out, neither are the Sunday shows.
Here are some of the topics that were discussed this week on the Sunday programs, instead of strong employment gains and an historic stock market performance:
*Summer reading lists
*"The story of trailblazing chef Leah Chase [who] took a stand against Jim Crow"
*Conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza new documentary, America
*A poll suggesting Obama is "worst president" since World War II
*The World Cup soccer tournament
*Martha-Ann Alito's volunteer activities
*"An author who has made an unusual career at finding American history in everyday places."
The Washington Post debunked a right-wing conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News tying the crash of former IRS official Lois Lerner's computer to a letter the IRS received from the House Ways and Means committee 10 days earlier. The Post pointed out that the letter addressed a different subject than the controversy linked to Lerner.
Media responded to the news that the Obama administration secured the release of prisoner of war (POW) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban by parsing whether or not the administration violated longstanding policy by negotiating Bergdahl's release. In reality, experts say the U.S. has a long history of such negotiations, and Bergdahl's release was conducted using an intermediary nation.
From the June 1 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers debunked the suggestion that problems at the Veterans Health Administration bode ill for those insured under President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
On May 15, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee after the VA's inspector general launched an investigation into what The Washington Post described as "multiple reports of alleged preventable deaths and attempts to cover up treatment delays at VA health clinics." Conservative media have suggested these events prove government provides inferior health care and have attacked Obamacare and pushed for the privatization of the VA's health system.
On the May 25 edition of Fox News Sunday, George Will echoed these claims, stating that the unfolding story shows that "big government is too big for meaningful oversight and effective management" and citing the Postal Service and Amtrak as other examples.
Asked by host Chris Wallace whether she agrees with the notion that "it's the VA now and it will be Obamacare later," Powers pointed out that Obamacare and the veterans health system are very different. She went on to explain that "this idea that somehow putting things off into the private sector is going to make everything work also doesn't work if you consider your experiences, at least experiences I've had with insurance companies, health insurance companies," and noted that Republicans "funnel" all their arguments through the notion that "big government is a problem." Watch:
POWERS: They're not the same thing. Of course, the VA is really government-run health care where you have the government controlling everything. That's not what Obamacare is. Obamacare is more like insurance. You don't have the doctors working for Obamacare. So I don't think it's the same thing. I also think the private sector has a lot of problems. You know, Amtrak, if you have a problem with Amtrak, well I have a lot of problems with USAir and American and United. So this idea that somehow putting things off into the private sector is going to make everything work also doesn't work if you consider your experiences, at least experiences I've had with insurance companies, health insurance companies. So this is not a surprising argument coming from Republicans. It is always their argument. Take anything that is happening in the world and this is the argument that they funnel it through. It's always proof that big government is a problem. So it's not surprising.
As The Washington Post editorial board noted, "studies have shown that the VA system, which serves almost 6.5 million veterans annually, as a whole outperforms the rest of the health care system by just about every metric." Indeed, VA hospital patients consistently receive better care than individuals in the private sector and have higher customer satisfaction.
From the May 18 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Right-wing media have criticized the Obama administration's participation in the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, claiming that "hashtag diplomacy" is not enough. But these allegations ignore the fact that the administration has offered Nigeria assistance from the start, and has sent a team of specialists to aid the search.
Fox News' attempt to connect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the brutality of extremist group Boko Haram was demolished by former United States Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
On the May 11 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace highlighted Fox's latest anti-Clinton smear, attacking the former Secretary of State for not officially designating the Nigerian group Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
This claim has already been thoroughly debunked. As Media Matters has explained, the State Department's initial decision not to issue an official FTO designation stemmed from a reluctance to elevate Boko Haram's profile among militant organizations, which experts say can embolden such groups. Under Clinton, State instead chose to put Boko Haram's top leaders on the terrorist list, offering a $7 million bounty for the organization's leader.
Responding to Wallace, Campbell further demolished the claim:
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton has come under fire this week, because of the fact that back in 2011 she rejected calls by the FBI and the intelligence community to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. As a Bush-appointee to be ambassador, do you think that's fair, the criticism of Secretary Clinton?
CAMPBELL: No I don't think that's fair, and along with a good many other Nigerian experts, at the time, we all opposed designation.
Fox News has hosted Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, at least 65 times in the past two years and will reportedly provide him a platform again as one of the featured guests on Fox News Sunday.
In the wake of the manufactured scandal over a newly-released email sent by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the Sunday news shows, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would "create a new select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans." On May 5th, the House GOP selected Gowdy, an established Benghazi hoaxer, to lead the committee.
Fox Broadcasting announced that Gowdy would exclusively appear on the May 11 broadcast of Fox News Sunday to "discuss what the committee hopes to accomplish and who they plan to call to testify." Gowdy will reportedly appear along with the head of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA).
Gowdy is one of Fox's favorite guests. A search of Nexis reveals that Gowdy has appeared on Fox's evening and primetime shows and Fox News Sunday 65 times in the past two years. That streak is likely to continue as the network has been one of the most vocal proponents of forming a select committee to investigate Benghazi, especially following the release of the Rhodes email.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of Fox's evening and primetime news coverage and Fox News Sunday between May 8, 2012, and May 8, 2014, using the search term guest:(Gowdy).
From the May 4 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
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From the April 13 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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Fox host Chris Wallace reacted to a U.S. Senate investigation into the Bush administration's torture policies by claiming he "would have waterboarded" Al Qaeda terrorist "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." Wallace's remark came after it was reported that the investigation concluded waterboarding Mohammed didn't provide critical information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, as defenders of the technique had claimed.
Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary and conclusions of a lengthy report about the Bush-era CIA's detention and interrogation program. The White House will now have to approve the release. The Associated Press reported that aides and people briefed on the report said the investigation found waterboarding was ineffective.
With regard to Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, the AP reported the "Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical" and "confirmed only what investigators already knew":
The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused 9/11 mastermind who was waterboarded 183 times. Mohammed, intelligence officials have noted, confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al-Qaida courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
The Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical, according to the aides. Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, they said. And Mohammed neither acknowledged al-Kuwaiti's significance nor provided interrogators with the courier's real name.
The debate over how investigators put the pieces together is significant because years later, the courier led U.S. intelligence to the sleepy Pakistani military town of Abbottabad. There, in May 2011, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.
Essentially, they argue, Mohammed, [senior al-Qaida operative Abu Faraj] al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier. And when they denied the courier's significance or provided misleading information, investigators would only have considered that significant if they already presumed the courier's importance.
The classified Senate report adds more support to other national security experts who have concluded that waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not provide effective information leading to bin Laden's capture.
During an April 4 appearance on The Mike Gallagher Show, Wallace previewed Fox News Sunday by saying he'd talk about "enhanced interrogation and whether or not the CIA covered up what was actually going on. I personally, I would have waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." On Fox News Sunday, Wallace noted the investigation's reported conclusion "that the enhanced interrogation produced little intelligence of significance." In 2009, Wallace similarly remarked that when it comes to waterboarding, "I'm with" fictional 24 character "Jack Bauer on this."
Listen to Wallace's remark below:
Fox News has hired back Liz Cheney as a contributor after her unsuccessful Senate run. Cheney's rehiring is the latest example of the cushy platform Fox News provides for Republicans before and after they run for political office.
Cheney announced last July that she was challenging Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, and left her post as a Fox News contributor. Fox had frequently turned to Cheney on national security issues, and her appearances featured little more than the usual Republican platitudes against the Obama administration. Like others, Cheney found ways to use her Fox platform to set up her future run.
Cheney's campaign failed to gain traction, and was notable for a series of missteps, including the filing of a false application for a fishing license, and a family feud over Cheney's opposition to marriage equality. Cheney received support from Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Andrea Tantaros. She dropped out of the race in January, citing family health issues.
The former Bush administration official returned to Fox News as a contributor on the April 6 edition of Fox News Sunday. Little changed, as Cheney defended Bush against a Senate report criticizing Bush's torture program, and claimed that that legislators should spend more time investigating the already thoroughly investigated Benghazi. PolitiFact criticized Cheney for falsely claiming the "numbers of people that support Obamacare and like it have been steadily dropping."
Cheney joins a long list of Republicans who have found a home at Fox News after unsuccessful campaigns. That list includes Herman Cain, Al D'Amato, Mike Huckabee, John LeBoutillier, KT McFarland, Angela McGlowan, Oliver North, Sarah Palin, Jeanine Pirro, Pete Snyder, and Allen West. Keith Ablow and Geraldo Rivera both considered, but decided against recent campaigns, while Scott Brown left Fox in March to run for Senate in his newly adopted state of New Hampshire.
Both McGlowan and Snyder were Fox News contributors who left the network to run for office, and were subsequently rehired. On the flipside, former contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were not hired back after their presidential runs (Gingrich criticized Fox News during the campaign, prompting Fox News head Roger Ailes to claim he's angling for a job with CNN -- where Gingrich is now a host).
Fox News Sunday and Fox's Sunday Morning Futures misleadingly suggested there weren't enough young and healthy Americans enrolled in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But experts have explained that there were already enough young enrollees to help keep health care costs down in the days before the final deadline for enrollment, and that young adults were more likely to sign up for insurance at the last minute.
Fox News invited Paul Wolfowitz, a former Bush administration official and current development scholar for conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, to push the repeatedly debunked claim that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may actually increase the number of uninsured.
On March 23, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Wolfowitz, an Iraq War architect who noted his past employment with the World Bank had little to do with health care, to weigh in on the ACA enrollment numbers.
Wolfowitz baselessly claimed that the health reform law may increase the number of uninsured Americans:
WALLACE: We haven't heard from you on Obamacare as former head of the World Bank. What do you think of how it has gone so far?
WOLFOWITZ: I wouldn't say the World Bank has much to do with it. But you know, it seems to me, I hear numbers, I think it's correct, that five million people had their plans canceled, the ones they were promised they could keep. Presumably, some of that five million of new enrollees are just people who got kicked out and are back in. This was supposed to reduce the number of uninsured. It may actually have increased the number. I think Nancy Pelosi famously said we have to pass the bill so you'll know what is in it. Well, they've passed the bill, there's are so many changes by administrative fiat, I don't think the authors any longer know what's is in it. It's -- you cannot reform 17 percent of the economy with 900 pages of legislation that nobody's bothered to read.
But the suggestion that the ACA may have increased the number of uninsured Americans has been debunked by multiple fact checks. On March 17, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler weighed in on a similar claim from Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) that there has been "a net loss of people with health insurance," writing that Boehner's claim "flies in the face of the facts" and issuing it "four pinocchios" -- the rating it issues for "whoppers." Kessler also cited two data points that demonstrate how the ACA has increased the number of people with insurance:
So what does this add up to? Taking the lowest-range estimates, we still end up with nearly 9 million people added to the insurance rolls, more than enough to swamp Boehner's 6 million figure, which as we noted is a pretty useless number to begin with.
- 3.4 million -- HealthCare.gov sign-ups, assuming 80 percent paid, though February
- 2.4 million -- lowest estimate for new Medicaid enrollment through January
- 2.2 million -- young adults added to parents' plans (2010 average to first two quarters of 2013)
- 500,000 -- off-exchange enrollments
Charles Gaba, a blogger who has tracked the state-by-state numbers at ACAsignups.net, including known off-exchange enrollments, meanwhile calculates the actual current figure though mid-March at nearly 14 million. Even if you take a conservative estimate for paid plans and reduce the number of young Americans added to plans, you end up with about 13 million. That makes Boehner's "net loss" claim seem especially absurd.
Politifact similarly rated the "net loss" claim "false." As its March 18 article noted, Boehner's suggestion omitted several "important factors," including Medicaid enrollments, young adults who have been able to remain on their parents' plans, and notably, what happened to people who received cancellation notices because their insurance plans were not ACA compliant:
Some of those policies, about half, were restored when Obama administratively allowed canceled plans to continue for another year and later through 2016.
Many others were moved to new plans, either through their insurance company or by purchasing a new policy on the marketplaces set up for Obamacare. The administration estimated that of the people with canceled plans, just 500,000 were left without coverage, and catastrophic coverage was extended to those individuals.
That's not to say this wasn't a difficult ordeal for people who lost their plans, especially if they thought the law would allow them to keep their coverage. But most of them were able to find new plans, meaning Boehner's 6 million uninsured people basically vanishes.