Fox News seized on a recent claim that IRS agents were training with assault weapons to mainstream anti-government fears while downplaying the dangerous nature of working in law enforcement with the IRS -- officers routinely face death threats, and investigate cases ranging from drug trafficking to counter-terrorism. Fox contributor Monica Crowley even attempted to link the IRS to a widely debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory.
While investigating a debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) reported that IRS law enforcement agents were training with AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles. Fox host Martha MacCallum and Crowley used this report to stoke fears about the motives of the IRS, with Crowley stating, "why IRS agents, which are basically number crunchers ... would need to have weapon is a really outstanding question." Emphasis added:
MACCALLUM: And now we're learning that they're training, some of them, and there is a, we should point out, a law enforcement arm or section of the IRS so that, they, you know, they have that. But really? Semi-automatic weapons necessary to deal with taxes?
CROWLEY: Right. I mean, just when you hear -- think you've heard it all, Martha, something more outrageous comes at us here. I mean, why IRS agents, which are basically number crunchers and dealing with the public, dealing with the taxpayers, why they would need to have weapons is a really outstanding question. You mentioned that there's a law enforcement arm to the IRS, and that's true. But another outstanding question here is how widespread this is going to be in terms of is your local IRS agent going to be packing heat when you go in for your audit? We don't know. And I think when you get this news on the heels of the severe abuse of power that we've been talking about with the IRS in addition to the Department of Homeland Security also amassing massive numbers of weapons and ammunition, you have to wonder what are these domestic agencies doing with this, these kinds weapons and ammo?
MACCALLUM: And you would think local police would, you know, provide backup if necessary. We realize sometimes they go into some tough situations. We did a little research on this. No IRS enforcer has ever been killed in the line of duty, but they have been -- they've had to use those weapons eight times and accidentally fired the weapons eleven times over the last couple years, Doug, so that's not too reassuring.
But Duncan's report references the IRS' enforcement division, not, as Crowley speculated, civilian IRS employees. IRS' law enforcement officers are more than just "number crunchers." In fact, according to Politico, IRS investigations have resulted in "convictions of crimes ranging from offshore bank accounts, to Medicare fraud, to money laundering and drug trafficking operations." They also investigate crimes related to counter-terrorism. By virtue of working with the IRS, agents also receive a growing number of death threats, and have been targeted repeatedly by members of the violent "Tax Protest" movement, who have committed multiple attempted bombings, arsons, attempted kidnappings, and attempted murders. MacCallum's claim that no IRS "enforcer" has ever been killed in the line of duty is also false. IRS Agent Michael Dillon was shot and killed while attempting to collect a settlement made by the IRS with James F. Bradley.
Crowley then mentioned that this comes, "in addition to the Department of Homeland Security also amassing massive numbers of weapons and ammunition..." Her claim references a debunked conspiracy theory popularized by Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist with influence in right wing media, who recently claimed the government may have used a "weather weapon" to create the tornado that devastated Moore, OK.
Fox has routinely pushed conspiracy theories, including those of Alex Jones, while ignoring its own role in perpetuating these falsehoods. Fox's tendency to hype anti-government conspiracy theories continued recently when its president, Roger Ailes, pushed another widely debunked claim that, "the federal government is about to hire 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce healthcare."
After months of struggling with how to report on good economic news, Fox News finally found a new strategy to attack consistently positive labor market gains: move the bar to an unreasonable height. While downplaying the May 2013 jobs report that was better than expected, Fox misleadingly cited employment growth during the Reagan administration and proposed a new standard for growth so unreasonably high that it has only been met three times in the past 30 years.
On the June 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, contributor Charles Payne downplayed the May 2013 jobs report -- a report that was better than expected -- saying, "You know, in the grand scheme of things, none of us should really like the number." He then compared the number to the September 1983 jobs report when the economy added 1.1 million jobs. Later, Payne guest hosted Fox Business' Varney & Co. where contributor Monica Crowley claimed, "At this point in the recovery, you should be generating 300 -- 500,000 jobs a month." She also brought up the September 1983 report.
PAYNE: You know what, all things considered, what you just laid out: it's better than expected. But you know, in the grand scheme of things, none of us should really like the number. It's extraordinarily mediocre with what we've gotten in the past. You know, the way we've come out of recessions in the past, we've had some amazing, robust times. I mean, going all the way back to Reagan where one month we actually had one million jobs created in a single month. For us to still be well under 200,000 is really disheartening. But you know, the good news is, a lot of people thought it could have been worse.
MACCALLUM: Wow, that's an - I just want to go back to what you just said. So during the Reagan recovery there was a single month period where we added a million jobs?
PAYNE: One single month. A million - by the way, we had a whole lot less people too.
But Payne and Crowley ignored the context of the 1983 report. While Payne portrayed it as just one example of the so-called "Reagan recovery," according to The Wall Street Journal's Market Watch blog, it was actually an outlier. Market Watch also pointed out that about 640,000 of the 1.1 million jobs can be attributed to striking AT&T employees returning to work. In reality, the average monthly job growth during the Reagan administration was 168,000.
Crowley's assertion that the economy "should be generating 300 -- 500,000 jobs a month," is also unreasonable. When Market Watch evaluated a similar claim by Gov. Mitt Romney, it found that job growth had only surpassed the 500,000 mark three times in the past 30 years. From Market Watch:
How rare is it for 500,000 jobs to be created in a month? The last time was in May 2010 -- when the U.S. hired thousands of workers to conduct the Census. (The next month, payrolls shrunk by 167,000.)
Lest Romneyites think that only President Barack Obama struggled to make that grade, neither President Bush, older or younger, saw job creation that strong. President Clinton had one-plus 500,000 month, when in September, 1997, 507,000 positions were created. (Aided by the return of striking UPS workers.) President Reagan enjoyed a spectacular 1.11 million-job month in September 1983, but that was the only plus-500K mark and was boosted by roughly 640,000 AT&T workers returning from a strike.
Payne and Crowley's claims represent a new line of attack, but this isn't the first time Fox News has reset the bar on how it characterizes economic news. As the economy has consistently improved, Fox News has repeatedly struggled to portray good news in a negative light. In some cases, it has even cut its economic coverage in half.
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley tried to tie the White House to the IRS' inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations by seizing on reports that IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House more than other senior staff -- a theory undermined both by reports explaining the complexity of White House visitor logs and the IRS' crucial role in health care implementation.
On Fox News' Happening Now, Crowley claimed that Shulman visited the White House 157 times, and that "118 of those visits happened when the IRS was targeting conservatives and other groups, religious groups, and so on." The Daily Caller similarly reported that Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, which it claimed was "more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the president's Cabinet."
During the segment, Crowley noted this number seemed especially high in comparison to number of visits made by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who reportedly made "fewer than 50 visits in this time frame."
But Crowley's source for these claims, the White House public visitor records, makes comparisons between visiting officials unreliable at best. Crowley's attack also ignores the role of the IRS in implementing the health care law, which proved to be the main reason behind Shulman's visits.
At least six Fox News contributors have reportedly signed on to an open letter opposing the comprehensive immigration reform legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Fox News, which has admitted it is the "voice of opposition" on certain issues, has long ignored and even fostered such unethical behavior from its personalities.
According to Yahoo! News, conservative radio hosts, along with tea party and other conservative groups, have signed a letter opposing the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, a proposal from a bipartisan group of senators to reform immigration law. Among the "National Conservative Leaders" who have reportedly signed the letter are six current Fox News contributors:
However, their affiliation with Fox News was not mentioned in the letter.
Radio hosts Mark Levin and Lars Larson, who also signed the letter, are regular Fox News guests as well. Daily Beast editor and CNN contributor David Frum also signed the letter.
The letter expresses "serious concerns" with the bill and urges Senators to vote against it:
We oppose this bill and urge you to vote against it when it comes to the Senate floor. No matter how well intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable. Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch.
Reforming our immigration system is an important priority. But S.744 is such a defective measure that it would do more harm than good. We urge you to vote against it and against any cloture vote to bring up the bill. Only then can a constructive, measured debate take place on how to improve America's immigration policy.
The letter also repeats some common myths about immigration, including the debunked notion that granting undocumented immigrants legal status "[h]urts American job-seekers, especially those with less education." The letter also compares the Senate immigration bill to the health care law, calling it "bloated and unwieldy."
Fox News has been criticized for unethical behavior in the past and for operating like a political organization. In fact, Crowley crossed the ethical line during the 2012 presidential election when she spoke at an anti-Obama rally sponsored by the Koch-funded conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity.
Fox News has long styled itself as an anti-immigrant network even as it purports to reach out to Latino viewers. Rush Limbaugh, for example, stated in January that it's "up to me and Fox News" to defeat immigration reform. As Yahoo! News noted however, Limbaugh was "notably absent" from the list of signatories.
From the May 17 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News contributor Monica Crowley suggested that President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acted irresponsibly following the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, by claiming they were "unaccounted for" even though Obama and Clinton are both documented to have been active at the time of the attack.
On the May 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Crowley revisited the long-debunked myth that Obama and Clinton were absent or inactive following the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. During her guest segment on a congressional hearing that took place the previous day, she claimed "the two leaders of the U.S. Government" were "unaccounted for that night. We have no narrative of where they were or what they were doing."
In fact, news reports and congressional testimony have shown that both Obama and Clinton were active and engaged while the Benghazi attack was taking place. Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, testified in a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing -- which was both over-hyped and selectively ignored by Fox News -- that Clinton called him on the night of the attack for a report of the events. He testified:
HICKS: I think at about 2 p.m. -- 2 a.m., sorry -- the Secretary, Secretary of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the phone and she asked me what was going on and I briefed her on the developments. Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi. And I told her that we would need to evacuate and she said that was the right thing to do.
During a February 7 congressional hearing, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified that the White House was fully engaged during the attack. Associated Press reported that when Obama learned of the attack, he responded immediately, telling Panetta and General Martin E. Dempsey to "deploy forces as quickly as possible." In addition, the White House also released a photo of Obama with his national security team and Vice President Joe Biden being briefed on Benghazi on September 11, 2012:
From the April 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News figures invoked the trial of Kermit Gosnell to attack Planned Parenthood and President Obama, who is scheduled to address the organization this week.
On Fox's America Live, host Megyn Kelly and contributor Monica Crowley invoked the murder trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell to attack Obama and Planned Parenthood. During the segment, Kelly claimed Planned Parenthood was "under fire for reportedly knowing about some of the horror stories from the Gosnell clinic but not doing more with that information" and downplayed reports that Planned Parenthood officials encouraged women who complained about Gosnell's clinic to report their experiences to the Department of Health:
But Fox's attack on Planned Parenthood is based on a distortion of the actual story. Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, explained that Planned Parenthood staff was made aware of the clinic's conditions, but not necessarily the illegal activities that occurred there. When staff members were informed of these conditions, they encouraged patients to report them to the Department of Health.
In a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Steinberg confirmed that the reports of Gosnell's clinic were confined to complaints about "the uncleanliness of the facility":
Following a pipeline rupture in Arkansas, Exxon Mobil is reportedly cleaning up thousands of barrels of oil in a residential neighborhood. As efforts to contain and clean the spill were ongoing, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley advocated Exxon Mobil becoming a sponsor of Yellowstone National Park, adding: the "free market solves everything."
On the March 1 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Monica Crowley suggested Exxon Mobil, one of the world's largest oil companies, would be an "appropriate" sponsor for one of America's largest national parks. Arguing for smaller government, she went on to compare the proposed partnership to private companies owning sports stadiums and the privatization of the US Postal Service, arguing that "profit motive" would ensure efficiency:
As Crowley made her endorsement, cleanup efforts continue in Mayflower, Arkansas, after an unspecified amount of oil leaked from an Exxon Mobil pipeline. Reuters reports that the Pegasus line "can transport more than 90,000 barrels per day" and that Exxon Mobil "had no information on when the pipeline last underwent maintenance." From the same article:
The Pegasus pipeline, which ruptured in a housing development near the town of Mayflower on Friday, spewing oil across lawns and down residential streets, remained shut and a company spokesman declined to speculate about when it would be fixed and restarted.
Exxon, which was fined in 2010 for not inspecting a portion of the Pegasus line with sufficient frequency, had yet to excavate the area around the Pegasus pipeline breach on Monday, a critical step in assessing damage and determining how and why it leaked.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly argued against another accurate statement about President Obama, calling the claim that spending growth has decreased under Obama's administration "crazy."
After screaming "bullshit" at Fox News contributor Alan Colmes for accurately pointing out that Obama has proposed specific spending cuts, O'Reilly again dismissed Colmes when he pointed out that President Obama has slowed the growth of federal spending more than any president since Eisenhower. O'Reilly called Colmes' statement "crazy" and retorted that "President Obama is the biggest spending president" and has spent more all other presidents combined:
But Colmes is right -- under Obama's administration, federal spending has grown at the slowest rate since 1956. As Bloomberg pointed out:
From the March 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the March 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the February 27 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News contributor Monica Crowley attacked an immigration reform proposal by claiming the federal government has failed to protect the U.S.-Mexico border. However, recent reports show that undocumented migration from Mexico has come to a halt, and border security is at an all-time high.
After a bipartisan group of senators announced a proposal to overhaul the U.S. immigration system that will focus on -- among other initiatives -- border security and opening a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the country, Crowley blasted the federal government for failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, causing states like Arizona to take matters of border security into their own hands. Crowley said drastic measures are needed because "the federal government either has not or will not enforce [the U.S.-Mexico] border."
However, Crowley's suggestion that current border security is not capable of enforcing our laws is wrong. An April 2012 report by the Pew Hispanic Center explained that net migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. has been reduced to zero and may be headed in the other direction:
After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants--most of whom came illegally--the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed, according to a new analysis of government data from both countries by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Among the causes for lower undocumented immigration, the report points to heightened border enforcement, increased amount of deportations, and the growing danger of illegal border crossings.
Fox News' Monica Crowley defended a controversial ad by the National Rifle Association that used President Obama's children to criticize him over his support for strengthening gun laws. But just minutes later, Crowley accused Obama of exploiting children for political gain for inviting them to his press conference on gun violence.
In the ad, the NRA accuses Obama of being an "elitist hypocrite" for stating that he is "skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools" though his children attend a school protected by armed guards.
Discussing the issue on Fox's America Live, Crowley defended the NRA's use of Obama's children, saying:
CROWLEY: [Y]ou have to be very, very careful, especially when you're talking about the president's children, but the bigger point that they're trying to make here is that the president's children do not go to school in a gun-free zone. They are protected, they have secret service protection --
MEGYN KELLY (host): They're accusing him of hypocrisy.
CROWLEY: -- and that's totally fine. But, yes, what it's actually saying is his children are more worthy of gun protection than yours.
Minutes later, Crowley lashed out at the president, accusing him of exploiting children by inviting them to the press conference:
CROWLEY: Here is why it's so cynical to be using children in this context. Number one, because of the violence part of the gun control debate which is what we're talking about. But secondly because it's -- it puts the opponents of any of these gun control measures in a very difficult box.
I understand why the president did it and some could say he was very smart to do it, but it's very, very tough, if not impossible to argue against children. You saw those kids today. They're beautiful angelic children not unlike the ones gunned down in the Newtown massacre. Very difficult to argue against children. That's why they were used, but I find that use of kids really exploitative.