In recent days, Fox News hosts and contributors have advanced the false claim -- pushed by Republican lawmakers -- that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid included a provision in the recovery bill directing that $8 billion be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.
A New York Times essay by Jason DeParle highlighted a resurgence of the use of the word "welfare" among conservatives, this time to attack President Obama's economy recovery plan. Indeed, while economists agree that provisions in the legislation targeting needy people are among the most economically stimulative, Media Matters documents below the pervasiveness of what DeParle called the "weaponiz[ation]" of the "very word, welfare," in the media, particularly, but not exclusively on Fox News, to denounce the stimulus bill.
In numerous instances, the media have falsely stated or suggested that a CBO analysis of less than half of the economic recovery bill examined the entire bill, resulting in the false suggestion that the analysis, in the words of the Politico, "shows very little money will be spent in the first six or so months after enactment" of the recovery plan. But as the AP noted, the CBO analysis did not "cover tax cuts or efforts by Democrats to provide relief to cash-strapped state governments to help with their Medicaid bills." Six days later, some outlets were still making the false suggestion.
On Fox News' Happening Now, Newt Gingrich echoed a common distortion employed by opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, claiming that it "tak[es] away your right to a secret-ballot vote before being forced to join a union." In fact, the legislation does not eliminate employees' rights to a secret ballot; as The New York Times reported, "Business groups have attacked the legislation because it would take away employers' right to insist on holding a secret-ballot election to determine whether workers favored unionization."
On Hannity & Colmes, Newt Gingrich falsely asserted that following 9-11, Dennis Hastert "did not get a private plane," adding that "[t]here's no reason for anyone but the president and vice president of the United States to have that level of security." In fact, at the time, the House sergeant-at-arms, the Defense Department, and the White House agreed that military planes should be made available to the speaker of the House for national security reasons, and Hastert was the first speaker to use one.
On his radio and television programs, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's use of a military jet for transportation was unprecedented. In fact, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the House sergeant-at-arms, the Defense Department, and the White House agreed that military planes should be made available to the speaker of the House for national security reasons, and the first speaker to use such a plane was Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in 2001.
Discussing actions by individual protesters of Proposition 8, Newt Gingrich stated: "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion."
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On CBS' Face the Nation, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich falsely claimed that Indiana and Utah -- both governed by Republicans -- have the "lowest unemployment rates in their respective regions." However, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics records, neither Utah nor Indiana has the lowest unemployment rate in its region, and several states with lower unemployment rates are governed by Democrats.
On The Sean Hannity Show, Newt Gingrich said of Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Berlin: "I think saying that you are the -- a citizen of the world, talking to 200,000 Germans is very dangerous because the average American does not want to elect a president of the world." In fact, Obama referred to himself in the Berlin speech as "a citizen -- a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world." Further, he is not the first U.S. public official to refer to himself as a "citizen of the world"; President Reagan did so in a June 1982 speech to the United Nations.
On Hannity & Colmes, Newt Gingrich ridiculed Sen. Barack Obama for encouraging people to properly inflate their tires and falsely suggested that that constituted Obama's only "energy strategy." In fact, Obama has proposed a "Plan for a Clean Energy Future," which includes proposals to "invest $150 billion over 10 years in clean energy," "improve energy efficiency 50 percent by 2030," "support next generation biofuels," and "double fuel economy standards within 18 years." And, Gingrich's ridicule aside, the Department of Energy and the EPA, as well as Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charlie Crist, have all referred to the fuel economy benefits of properly inflated tires.
In a discussion with Newt Gingrich on Fox News, Sean Hannity mischaracterized Sen. Barack Obama's comments about taking unilateral action against terrorism targets in Pakistan, if necessary, suggesting that Obama advocated "invading Pakistan." Rather, in an August 2007 speech, Obama said: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets [in Pakistan] and President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will." Further, just two days earlier on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Gingrich himself spoke in favor of taking action against terrorists in Pakistan.
Responding to Barack Obama's noting, in addressing controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that his white grandmother had "uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes," Newt Gingrich said on Fox News: To reduce a 20-year relationship with a public figure to his grandmother is just wrong. It's emotionally powerful, but it's just wrong." Separately, Fox News' Brit Hume said of Obama's statement: "[S]ome may find it deceptive, but ... it was pretty clever."
Newt Gingrich and Fred Barnes both falsely suggested that the media have ignored allegations that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid improperly reported a land deal and have focused exclusively on Republican scandals. In fact, Time, CNN and Fox News have devoted significantly more coverage to the Reid deal than to a controversial land deal that benefited Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert.