Fox News host Jon Scott dismissed President Obama's efforts to raise the minimum wage and strengthen overtime pay protections for millions of workers as a distraction from the economy -- an unusual sentiment, given that experts believe both measures would have a stimulative effect on the economy.
On March 13, President Obama used his executive authority to direct the Labor Department to change standards in order to increase the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. From The New York Times:
Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars' worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama's directive would significantly increase that salary level.
In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee's primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.
On the March 13 edition of Fox's Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott questioned whether raising the minimum wage would be "sufficient to distract people from the jobs and the economy and maybe Obamacare." In a later discussion with Washington Times columnist Charlie Hurt, Scott derided President Obama's plans to strengthen overtime pay protections as a "political tactic" meant to "score political points." Hurt agreed, and concluded that, like raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime pay rules "doesn't really help the economy in any great way":
Right-wing media are upset that President Obama sat down for an interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis on "Between Two Ferns."
From the March 7 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Conservative media were unfazed by Rep. Paul Ryan's suggestion that low-income parents don't care for their children if they receive free school lunches, a response that stays true to their history of shaming low-income people.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped kick off the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6 with a speech on the direction of the Republican Party as the 2014 and 2016 elections approach. Ryan shared an anecdote about a child receiving free lunch from school to paint Democrats as out of touch (emphasis added):
RYAN: The Left is making a big mistake here. What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Gov. Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn't want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch. One in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the Left does not understand.
Right-wing media saw nothing objectionable in Ryan's comments. National Review Online praised his argument with the headline, "Paul Ryan's Moving Story That Explains the Difference Between Hard Work and Dependency," a take which echoes Fox News' narrative that free school lunches for children create dependency rather than encouraging hard work.
On Fox's Happening Now, correspondent Carl Cameron, reporting from CPAC, characterized Ryan's speech as taking a "middle-of-the-road tone."
Ryan's comments fit in well with conservative media's history of shaming the poor, and in particular, free school lunch programs for children of low-income families. In the past, Fox has even suggested children be forced to work for their meals.
Where else might Ryan have heard this before?
From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, an argument that an energy expert called "patently absurd."
In response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean peninsula, Fox News personalities have been pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built on an accelerated timetable, claiming that it would "weaken" Russia. But their argument has no basis in reality, as the pipeline could not realistically be built in a timetable sufficient to respond to the imminent crisis, and the tar sands oil it would deliver would not dent the global market enough to impact Russia. Energy analyst Chris Nelder explained in an email to Media Matters:
Keystone XL proponents will seize on any shred of justification for the project, no matter how tenuous. The suggestion that a very long-term project like Keystone XL, which will take a year or more to construct on any timetable, and which will deliver refined products like gasoline and diesel to a global market -- not just markets around Russia -- would somehow address the immediate situation in Crimea, is patently absurd. Further, delivering 830,000 barrels per day once it reaches full capacity will not meaningfully undercut Russia specifically in a global market that consumes 92 million barrels per day.
Yet at least six Fox News hosts and contributors have used the crisis in Crimea to push a pro-tar sands agenda:
O'Reilly: Build Keystone Pipeline To Weaken Russia. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said that "the Keystone pipeline must be approved. Why? Because Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy ... the more oil and natural gas the U.S.A. and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage. I fervently hope President Obama understands that."
KT McFarland: Obama Should Tell Putin: "I Will Allow Keystone Pipeline To Go Ahead": In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News foreign policy contributor KT McFarland wrote a mock conversation on what she hopes Obama told Putin during their March 1 phone call:
I will allow the Keystone Pipeline to go ahead, again on an accelerated basis. That will not only give a boost to the American and Canadian economies, it will start driving down the price of oil.
McFarland made a similar argument on-air when she suggested "go[ing] after the economic weapon: Build the Keystone pipeline."
From the March 3 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the February 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the February 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Right-wing media outlets are falsely claiming that workers voluntarily reducing hours due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is evidence that the law is harmful to the economy, ignoring economists' opinions about its role in reducing economic insecurity.
From the February 3 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Virginia Senator Mark Warner is currently polling 20 points ahead of his Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in the 2014 midterm election, a margin that, to Fox, shows Warner is "running for his life."
The January 30 edition of Fox's Happening Now debated whether Democratic candidates are "in trouble this election cycle over Obamacare," jumping off a recent Politico article about 2014 midterms strategy.
Fox contributor Pete Snyder -- the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013 -- used the segment to hype Republican Ed Gillespie's 2014 Senate challenge to Democratic incumbent Mark Warner (VA). Snyder repeatedly claimed that Warner is "in the fight of his life" against Gillespie, "a proven conservative," because of Warner's vote in favor of health care reform. Snyder cheered, "I'm throwing my weight behind Ed," before concluding, "Mark Warner is running for his life."
Fox News is now suggesting that minor contradictions in Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' life story constitute a more important political "scandal" than accusations of corruption and political retribution by NJ Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott accused "op-eds and pundits [for] tearing into [Christie's] character," while ignoring the "political scandal in Texas." This scandal, according to Scott, was that Davis' life story had "holes" in it, partly because she didn't pull "herself up by her stilettos" and instead relied on some financial help from her second husband in order to attend law school:
Scott: The interesting thing about Wendy Davis is this story that has propelled her to state-wide stardom, maybe even national stardom. She says she was married at 19, teenage mother, divorced, lived in a trailer, made it through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School, and now she is where she is today, a state senator and maybe the next governor of Texas. The problem is, there are some holes in that story.
The suggestion that she pulled herself up by her stilettos and made it through Harvard Law School doesn't exactly jive with the fact that her husband, her then-husband, paid for it all, then as soon as it's all paid for, she left him, and he got custody of the two girls.
Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor, argued during the segment and in a Washington Examiner piece that Christie's record as governor of New Jersey was being scrutinized by media "because he might be a successful presidential candidate," and that Davis should come under similar media scrutiny for these details of her life because her run for governor could potentially "turn Texas blue," a move which would have national significance.
But the reason to scrutinize Christie's record is not that he might run for president. It's that he has been accused of corruption and petty political retribution in his position as the current governor of New Jersey. At no point during the segment did either Scott or Barone delve into the details of "Chris Christie's problems," but they are far more than minor contradictions in a timeline of life events.
Christie has admitted that his administration caused a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, in what is alleged to have been political payback against a local mayor. Though the governor claimed he was unaware of his staff's actions, and later removed two top aides, his administration was subsequently accused by a different mayor of holding Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage for political reasons.
There are at least three separate legal investigations examining the accusations launched against the Christie administration.
In contrast, Davis is not currently under investigation for possibly abusing the power of her office as state senator. There are some small, legitimate questions about her presentation of her life story, but those questions have been blown out of proportion by conservative media, who have launched an absurd and often sexist campaign against her. Right-wing radio hosts and Fox contributors have implied she is an unstable and unreliable mother, unfit for public office, and have attacked her for defying gender norms by leaving her spouse to pursue her career (a move many male politicians have made, with little media fanfare).
Scott's sexist joke about Davis' stilettos is just the latest example of these demeaning attacks, and furthers the network's desperate attempt to bury the Christie scandal by deflecting attention to unrelated stories.
Fox has previously attempted to compare Christie's scandal to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and to the IRS scandal, in which bureaucrats largely based in Cincinnati allegedly devoted inappropriate scrutiny to conservative groups. The network also devoted less than 15 minutes of coverage to Christie on the day the scandal broke, and mentioned the revelations about Hurricane relief only once the day they emerged.
Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland ignored key findings in a new bipartisan Senate report on the attacks in Benghazi to revive calls for a special prosecutor or select congressional committee to further investigate the attacks, despite the fact that the new exhaustive report is largely in line with previous investigations.
On the January 15 edition of Happening Now, McFarland discussed the newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report, declaring it a "bombshell." She went on to conclude that the report proved Benghazi is "not a phony scandal" and that it showed the need for a special prosecutor or special select committee to investigate "more unanswered questions."
Fox has supported efforts to establish a special prosecutor or select committee to investigate Benghazi in the past. In May 2013, Fox turned to Whitewater deputy counsel Robert Bittman to express support for a similar investigation into Benghazi. That July, six separate Fox shows promoted a doomed right-wing effort to force the House to convene a select committee to investigate the attacks.
McFarland did not detail what "unanswered questions" are left to investigate, but the report concluded that there "were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts" in the Obama administration's early attempts to explain how the attack happened. According to the New York Times, the report "is broadly consistent with the findings of previous inquiries" into the attacks, and it "does not break significant new ground on this issue."
Fox has used the release of other investigations into Benghazi to fan the flames of this "scandal" even when the results debunk their favorite narratives. This report similarly debunks many myths about Benghazi that Fox has pushed for many months.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. said in a statement that she hopes the report "will put to rest many of the conspiracy theories and political accusations about what happened in Benghazi." It won't if Fox News has its way.
Fox News made light of the real threat that domestic violence and stalking pose to women during a discussion of a man's arrest for violating a restraining order.
On January 10, Thomas Gagnon was jailed for reportedly sending his ex-girlfriend, who had a restraining order against him, an email invitation to join Google+.
While discussing Gagnon, Happening Now co-host Jon Scott downplayed the gravity of violence against women by suggesting that men don't take restraining orders seriously because they "know there are a lot of overly-vindictive women out there." Guest Fred Tecce similarly made light of stalking, joking that the email should have said "I'm cold hanging out here hiding in the bushes behind your house." Tecce and fellow guest Arthur Aidala quickly swept aside co-host Jenna Lee's observation that the perpetrator may have had a history of violence, as Tecce joked that "she had to get a restraining order because the guy was trying to get his ring back and she just didn't want to give it back to him":