In recent months, conservative media figures have undermined efforts by labor groups to organize across the United States, demonizing labor unions in the process. These anti-union attacks are largely reliant on myths alleging negative side-effects of union participation.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano made the evidence-free claim that Attorney General Eric Holder personally approved low-level Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) undercover stings that have recently come under criticism because of their use of faulty investigative techniques.
ATF storefront sting operations -- where undercover law enforcement agents set up sketchy storefronts to attract drugs and firearms which are then taken off the street -- came under scrutiny in January 2013 with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's investigative reporting on a Milwaukee sting known as Operation Fearless. According to the Journal Sentinel, Operation Fearless "resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store." A follow-up report identified six other problematic storefront stings conducted by ATF.
The ATF has acknowledged flaws in the storefront sting process and has issued new guidelines that aim to prevent future debacles. At the same time ATF has also pointed to more than 250 convictions obtained and over 1,300 firearms recovered as a result of the stings. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General is also conducting a review of four of the 37 undercover storefront operations conducted by ATF. The ATF is cooperating with the investigation and currently has no active storefront sting operations.
Fox News is trying to pin the blame for the failed stings on Holder. On the March 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy introduced the idea of Holder's supposed involvement in the stings by stating, "So it's a dumb idea, it's a bad idea, it's an illegal proposition. Okay, who's at the head of the Department of Justice? Eric Holder. Would this have been approved by him?"
Napolitano replied, "I don't know personally if it was approved by him, but it's almost inconceivable after Fast and Furious that something of this magnitude could happen without him knowing. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he had to approve it because it involved too much expenditure of money and too much manpower. They set it up in 40 different cities."
This baseless accusation is the latest attempt by Fox News to use failed ATF law enforcement operations as a way to bludgeon Holder.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
When it comes to public education, Fox News loves to demonize the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for K-12 students crafted by governors and state school officials across the country. The network has falsely characterized the standards as everything from too difficult to partisan brainwashing, and given credence to the lie that Common Core is a federally mandated program.
On February 26, while discussing Obamacare enrollment numbers, Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert invoked Common Core, saying, "I think they're doing Common Core math down in Washington. It doesn't all add up. You just throw some numbers together."
Nauert's misleading comparison is just the latest in a string of attacks on Common Core from Fox News, making it apparent that the network fails to understand how the standards work.
As fact checkers investigated and debunked claims made in an ad attacking the Affordable Care Act, Fox News and other conservative media used a cancer patient's illness to defend the spot's dishonesty.
The episode is part of an ongoing pattern in the conservative media of promoting anecdotal Obamacare horror stories that have fallen apart under scrutiny.
Just days after one Fox host made the lucid acknowledgement that the network's campaign against Susan Rice was based on dishonest smears about the genesis of her 2012 Benghazi talking points, another Fox host attempted to exploit Rice's recent appearance on Meet the Press by relapsing into the same debunked accusations against her.
Beginning in 2012, Fox repeatedly pushed the smear that then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice deceptively attributed the September 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi to the violent protests that had broken out in other parts of the Middle East and Africa in response to an anti-Islam YouTube video. The network persisted in dragging Rice through the mud until Fox host Megyn Kelly briefly broke ranks on the February 12, 2014 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File and admitted Rice had simply cited the best intelligence available at the time.
Days later, after Rice made a nearly identical argument on Meet the Press, Fox apparently couldn't let an opportunity to continue inventing Benghazi news hooks go to waste. On February 24 the hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends were back to pushing the networks' tired smears:
Substantial evidence supports Rice. A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January 2014 stated that "[s]ome intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video." It also determined that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- directly refuting Fox's efforts to drag both Rice and another official, then-CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, through the mud.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that the "explosion of disability payments in this country" is an "undeniable" fact that contradicts President Obama's point that "we have not massively expanded the welfare state."
O'Reilly's comments came on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends during a discussion of his recent interview with President Obama. O'Reilly cited disability benefits as an example of what Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the "massively expanded the welfare state" and claimed that government is "getting conned like crazy" by disability beneficiaries. He failed to cite any further examples of the supposedly expanding "Nanny State" that Fox's on-air graphics hyped.
In reality, a recent study from the Social Security Administration's actuaries found that the total allowance rate for disability benefits has fallen significantly during Obama's presidency. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted, "[s]tandards don't become more lax in recessions, and stories that focus only on the growth in applications omit that crucial fact."
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When he said we have not massively expanded the welfare state, how could coffee not shoot out through your nose? I mean, that's just -- that is just not true!
O'REILLY: Well, it's theoretical and I wanted to stay away from that, but I had to hit him with the disability because that's the -- if you want to point to something that is undeniable, it's the explosion of disability payments in this country because as I pointed out, the workplace is safer than it was 20 years ago. Then what are all these people getting paid for? If you go into welfare, he'll go into recession. It's not my fault. I had to bail these people out. They're dying. If you go into unemployment, he's going to go there. He's going to use the economic maladies as justification. But if you go to something like disabilities where that's somebody who is going into the government saying look, I can't do this, give me money and the government says sure and doesn't check it out and everybody knows it. That's what I said, you see you're getting conned like crazy. It all goes back to the fact that he doesn't see this stuff as a welfare state. He sees it as necessary.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And that's the one thing that I don't get. That's an issue its not his fault, not his administration's fault, disability is exploding. That's where you focus on. 60 Minutes did 30 minutes on just the disability explosion in this country right now. And it would be apolitical and help our economy. But yet he doesn't see it that way. And unfortunately, we got three more years of this.
Fox News deflected from its role manufacturing scandals about the Benghazi attack by complaining that President Obama pointed to the network as a source of misinformation during a Super Bowl interview with Bill O'Reilly.
On February 2, Fox New host Bill O'Reilly conducted a live interview with President Barack Obama which aired before Super bowl XLVIII. During the interview, Obama responded to O'Reilly's claim that "your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn't want that out" by pointing out that "they believe it because folks like you are telling them that," later noting "these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them."
During the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Obama for pointing to Fox's role in pushing the manufactured scandal, complaining that the president "actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes":
HASSELBECK: When Bill O'reilly, yesterday, sat down with the president, he asked him some tough questions and he said 'look let's go over some game tape here, you know, there have been some mistakes like Benghazi, the IRS scandals that's been bugging you.
HASSELBECK: Let's maybe review the tape and see what's wrong. Now most coaches would say this happened or the defense failed. No. He actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes.
Later, Kilmeade likened this to other administrations claiming, "Bill Clinton didn't blame the New York Times for his scandal. George Bush didn't blame every media outlet for running down the war or for Katrina. Why attack the people who are asking you questions?"
But Obama was right, Fox led the charge in misinforming about every aspect of the Benghazi attack, including the false claim that Obama refused to call the attack an act of terror. In a May 13, 2012, press conference, Obama responded to an AP reporter's question by saying "The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism." In the days following the attack, Obama repeatedly called it an "act of terror."
Fox has repeatedly dodged the facts on Benghazi, hyped supposed "lingering questions" while ignoring the transcripts that answer them, and used its own Benghazi trutherism as a way to avoid discussing issues that could damage Republicans.
From the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
On January 28, President Obama gave his fifth State of the Union speech during which he addressed the urgent need to act on climate change. Conservative media pundits latched on to the cold winter weather in the area during his speech to laugh off global warming, despite the clear long-term warming trend.
Fox News hyped Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's economic record, claiming that the governor's economic plan generated a nearly $1 billion budget surplus while ignoring that the current surplus is built upon a projected structural deficit and that the state ranks 28th in the nation for job creation under Walker's tenure.
Fox News erased the devastating impact of a cut to unemployment insurance in North Carolina, citing a questionable University of Oslo study and pushing the North Carolina approach as a way to remove people from an unemployment "trap." In reality, North Carolina's jobless benefits cut pushed many job-seekers out of the employment search and into 8-hour long food bank lines.
Fox News thinks it's "heartbreaking" that a "one-sided" pro-fracking film was rejected from a film festival in Minnesota, questioning the right to "freedom of speech." But the screening was canceled simply because it did not live up to the festival's standards.
On January 23, Fox and Friends hosted Phelim McAleer, director of the pro-fracking film called FrackNation, to complain about the film's cancellation from the Frozen River Film Festival. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck lamented that the cancellation "has to just be heartbreaking," that Ireland-native McAleer came to America "to express [his] freedom of thought [and] expression." In McAleer's eyes, the festival organizers "don't want the people of Minnesota to be exposed to an alternative point of view." Co-host Steve Doocy ended the segment by asking, "Freedom of speech? You be the judge."
Doocy has previously answered his own question, acknowledging that "a private company can do anything they want" and it's "not [a] free speech [issue]."
A chyron during the segment stated that "MCALEER REJECTED INDUSTRY FINANCING FOR FILM." However, a review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that "scores of energy industry associates" donated to the film's Kickstarter campaign, which was promoted by several pro-industry lobbying groups. What's more, McAleer and his co-director Ann McElhinney previously produced two anti-environment films openly funded by the fossil fuel industry. They are both listed as "experts" on the Heartland Institute's website, an organization infamous for climate change denial. It's no wonder that the San Francisco Chronicle previously dubbed McAleer "climate denial's Michael Moore" for his misleading film portraying global warming as "junk science."
The festival organizers cited the film's industry ties as one reason that they decided to cancel it, following in the footsteps of the Sundance Film Festival and Telluride's Mountian Film Festival (Frozen River's partner festival).
While Fox News noted that the film was called "methodically researched" by the New York Times, other movie reviewers have panned it. A Los Angeles Times review called it a "one-sided attack piece" that "doesn't add much to the conversation." The New York Daily News gave it a whopping one-star review, and wrote, "the accuracy of this crowd-sourced documentary -- funded by small donations on Kickstarter -- seems as reliable as a Wikipedia entry."
Fox News is misleadingly touting the results of a recent poll to falsely claim that a majority of Americans don't care about inequality and believe that government should do nothing to reduce it.
On the January 23 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck discussed the recent policy pivot by Republicans and Democrats toward addressing income inequality. During the segment, the results of Fox News poll in which respondents were asked to prioritize pressing economic issues were displayed on screen:
Doocy used the results of the poll to claim that Americans are unconcerned about rising income inequality:
DOOCY: This is what you're concerned about. Forty percent of you are worried most about jobs and unemployment. About the same number worried about the deficit and how much the government spends. Meanwhile, you wind up with "income inequality" at only 12 percent.
Later that day on America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley returned to the poll, claiming that the results also showed most Americans do not want the government to take action to reduce income inequality. During the segment, the following graphic ran on the screen:
Fox, and the poll they cite, are creating a false choice between reducing income inequality, creating jobs, and addressing the deficit.
Numerous economists, including Jared Bernstein, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman have argued that rising inequality is bad for the economy and creates a drag on economic growth. Furthermore, in their recent book, "Getting Back to Full Employment," Bernstein and economist Dean Baker outlined proposals that could create jobs while lifting wages and reducing reliance on government safety net programs, thereby positively impacting job creation while reducing some pressure from the federal budget. In the view of many prominent economists, Americans do not have to choose between jobs, deficit reduction, or reducing economic inequality; sensible policies can be implemented to address each issue.
Additionally, while MacCallum suggested that few Americans want government action to reduce inequality, the actual poll shows that participants were never asked about inequality. Instead of being asked "How do you feel about income inequality" as Fox showed on air, the actual question in the poll was "How do you feel about the fact that some people make a lot more money than others?"
Differences in individual earnings, which the poll asked about, and structural inequality -- the idea that a small share of earners at the top capture nearly all income gains -- are not the same thing.
When Americans are asked directly about whether or not government should do anything to mitigate income inequality, the results are quite different from what Fox claims. According to a January 23 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today, 69 percent of Americans believe that government should do "a lot" or "some" to reduce inequality.
Furthermore, a majority of respondents -- 54 percent -- support raising taxes on the wealthy and expanding programs for the poor in order to help close the income gap.
Media Matters research shows that Fox, along with other right-wing media outlets, consistently misrepresents the issue of economic inequality. These skewed poll results are just the latest in a long line of examples.
Fox News misrepresented comments from health insurance CEO Mark Bertolini to stoke fears that current Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers would lead to a "double-digit" increase in health costs for 2015, though in fact Bertolini had said that cost projections are currently premature and has noted that enrollment numbers are "better than I thought they would have been."
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy used comments from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini to warn that insurance companies are "going to have to jack up prices" for plans in the health insurance exchanges. Co-host Brian Kilmeade later summed-up Bertolini's statement as a warning that the ACA exchanges could be "heading towards single payer":
KILMEADE: So basically what you're saying is since only 11 percent of the people who didn't have insurance have signed up for it, what he's concluded is that these people have shifted -- we've shifted the insured from the individual market, which the president told everybody is bad -- to the public exchanges, which could be heading towards single payer.
But Fox's interpretation of Bertolini's words doesn't match up with the quote they featured. According to the transcript that Fox aired, Bertolini made no predictions about the future of the healthcare exchanges or his company's involvement in the ACA. Instead, he simply noted that "we really don't have a good view on that," (emphasis added):
BERTOLINI: Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they're double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program? Those questions can't be answered until we see the population we have today.
Bertolini has also publicly registered his optimism about current enrollment statistics in the ACA exchanges overall. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported on January 17:
The early exchange demographics are actually better than expected. Bertolini's take on the age-breakdown of marketplace enrollees was really interesting -- and different from the reaction in Washington. While most of us journalists pointed out that the Obama administration is falling short of its young adult enrollment target, that doesn't really matter to Aetna. What matters to a health plan is who they expected to sign-up, and what type of age mixed they used to set their premium prices.
"Given the general demographics that CMS released yesterday, I'm not alarmed," Bertolini says. "They're better than I thought they would have been."
The Post reported that Bertolini made the optimistic long-term prediction that "that 75 million Americans will purchase their health coverage through an exchange by 2020" -- a far cry from suggesting that the exchanges could be heading toward collapse. From the Post:
Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Resources' ACA enrollment statistics show that, as early as December, the exchanges had enrolled enough young people to remain stable. From The Washington Post's Wonkblog:
The risk of a "death spiral" is over. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market's age distribution freezes at its current level -- an extremely unlikely scenario -- "overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues." So, in theory, premiums costs might rise by a few percentage points. That's a problem, but it's nothing even in the neighborhood of a death spiral.