Fox News hid a House Republican tactic that ensured a government shutdown by citing discredited author Ed Klein to misleadingly blame White House adviser Valerie Jarrett for the shutdown.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed on October 16 that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was "the architect of the shutdown," continuing the network's pattern of excusing Republicans of blame for the impasse. But the federal government shut down on October 1 after Republicans refused to fund the government without unrealistic policy changes to the Affordable Care Act, and reports from after the shutdown began explained how Republicans changed congressional rules to ensure federal gridlock. Talking Points Memo (TPM) explained:
The House and Senate were at an impasse on the night of Sept. 30. The House's then-most-recent ploy for extracting Obamacare concessions from Senate Democrats and the White House -- by eliminating health insurance subsidies for Congress members and their staffs -- had been rejected by the Senate. The 'clean' Senate spending bill was back in the House's court.
With less than two hours to midnight and shutdown, Speaker John Boehner's latest plan emerged. House Republicans would "insist" on their latest spending bill, including the anti-Obamacare provision, and request a conference with the Senate to resolve the two chambers' differences.
Under normal House rules, according to House Democrats, once that bill had been rejected again by the Senate, then any member of the House could have made a motion to vote on the Senate's bill. Such a motion would have been what is called "privileged" and entitled to a vote of the full House. At that point, Democrats say, they could have joined with moderate Republicans in approving the motion and then in passing the clean Senate bill, averting a shutdown.
But previously, House Republicans had made a small but hugely consequential move to block them from doing it.
So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.
Congressional experts told TPM that such a move is highly unusual:
"I've never heard of anything like that before," Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.
"It is absolutely true that House rules tend to not have any explicit parliamentary rights guaranteed and narrowed to explicit party leaders," Sarah Binder, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM. "That's not typically how the rules are written."
When House Democrats attempted to bring the Senate bill funding the government to a vote on October 12, they were told by a presiding Republican member that they could not do so due to the GOP leadership's rule change. A House Republican aide later confirmed the rule change to CNN.
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News whitewashed the record of the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association (AFA), falsely claiming an army training that highlighted the group's attacks on gay marriage was targeting Christians and "traditional" values.
On October 15, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes attacked a military training session in Mississippi on domestic hate groups that included the AFA, calling the training "anti-Christian activity." Co-host Steve Doocy claimed the AFA was a "well-established, traditional Christian ministry," that simply "opposes gay marriage." Starnes concluded by falsely claiming that the military was targeting Christian groups exclusively, despite the fact that an on-air graphic identified the Nation of Islam as one of several groups the military presentation identified.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated AFA as a hate group for promoting anti-gay attacks that harm individuals and threaten human rights. According to the SPLC (emphasis added):
The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both [the AFA and the Family Research Council] have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process.
Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's unofficial spokesman and the group's director of issues analysis, has previously called on the government to prohibit mosques from being built anywhere in the United States, suggested "the most compassionate thing" America can do is deport all Muslims, and wrote that "gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism."
The American Family Association has also enthusiastically endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin's draconian anti-gay laws, with Fischer stating that the country isn't being homophobic but "homorealistic."
Fox News cherry-picked early Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment numbers to claim that the new health system rollout was underperforming by enrolling just 51,000, ignoring state figures that more than double that number.
On the October 11 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy cited claims from two Department of Health and Human Services employees that 51,000 people had signed up for new health coverage under the ACA in the first week of open enrollment, noting, "Remember, we thought it would be in the millions" and claiming that "at this rate, they extrapolate, by the end of this year, just 2 million people will have been signed up. Remember, they need to have at least 7 million people sign up." Co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that these numbers showed that the federal exchange had "failed miserably," and Doocy pointed out that the exchange in Obama's home state of Hawaii had registered "zero" people.
Fox failed to note that the "7 million" figure was a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the overall enrollment expected by January as a result of the full healthcare overhaul, not just enrollment expected on the federally-run exchange. Fox ignored the tens of thousands of additional enrollees from the states that are operating independent exchanges. A Washington Post graphic mapped the states that are running their own health insurance marketplaces:
According to Bloomberg, 28,699 additional people signed up for California's health exchange and New York enrolled a further 40,000 -- together more than doubling Fox's figure. The New York Times reported that another 30,706 applications were submitted in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Washington, and Rhode Island by October 8.
Fox's single example of the progress state-based exchanges are making was Hawaii, which did not open for enrollment on schedule and " hasn't been able to sell any insurance in Hawaii because of problems with the software at the heart of the marketplace." The state is aiming for an October 15 relaunch.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly claimed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will require doctors to disclose patients' health information to law enforcement and encourage patient dishonesty about health concerns, ignoring the fact that the ACA expands existing doctor-patient confidentiality protections.
On October 10, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that "the fine print" on the new health care exchange sites reveals that "your information can be used by law enforcement and for audit activities" and that "your e-mail could become public record." Napolitano further claimed that digital health records meant the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could now share private health information like cocaine use "with law enforcement or with the IRS," and suggested that the law would encourage doctors to report private health information to law enforcement rather than treat their patients, "incentiviz[ing] us to keep the truth from our doctors."
Doocy and Napolitano's claim that the ACA will incentivize lying to doctors relied on the false suggestion that the new law negates the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actess (HIPAA), which in part established standards on how electronic medical information can be shared. But according to the American Medical Association, the new health law actually "expands" HIPAA rules. The National Conference of State Legislatures explained that under the ACA, the new rules "expand privacy measures," strengthening patients' rights and protections and strengthening the government's ability to enforce the privacy law against other business interests.
Under the ongoing HIPAA privacy standards, "covered entities" -- including doctors, clinics, nursing homes, pharmacies, health insurance companies, health care clearinghouses, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military and veterans health care programs -- are explicitly required "to protect the privacy and security of health information and must provide individuals with certain rights with respect to their health information."
Without patients' written authorization, the Privacy Rule prohibits these entities from sharing confidential health information with law enforcement officials except in very limited circumstances, including when a court order has been issued or when required by law. University of Virginia's Health Sciences Center summarizes these instances (emphasis added):
Confidentiality is the basis of the Physician-patient relationship. If the patient is uneasy about disclosing pertinent and privileged information, the ability of a physician to provide adequate care is severely compromised. It should be made clear to the patient that this information will not be disclosed unless required by law. The medical record is to be kept private with certain exceptions including:
- Treatment of minors
- HIV+ Patients
- Abuse of a Child or Adult
- Transportation Safety
- Duty to report harm/wounds
The digital privacy standards established by HIPAA continue to apply under the ACA, but the law includes some modifications to the Privacy Rule to expand patient protections. From the ACA's "Final modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules":
- Make business associates of "covered entities" directly liable for compliance with certain of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules' requirements.
- Strengthen the limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising purposes, and prohibit the sale of protected health information without individual authorization.
- Expand individuals' rights to receive electronic copies of their health information and to restrict disclosures to a health plan concerning treatment for which the individual has paid out of pocket in full.
- Require modifications to, and redistribution of, a covered entity's notice of privacy practices.
- Modify the individual authorization and other requirements to facilitate research and disclosure of child immunization proof to schools, and to enable access to decedent information by family members or others
- Adopt the additional HITECH Act enhancements to the Enforcement Rule not previously adopted in the October 30, 2009, interim final rule (referenced immediately below), such as the provisions addressing enforcement of noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules due to willful neglect.
From the October 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
Like a little kid counting down the days until Christmas, Fox News' Sean Hannity was giddy with anticipation in recent weeks and months. As the threat of a federal government shutdown drew closer, he casually dismissed any concern about its impact and welcomed its arrival.
Hannity was just one of many voice joining the right-wing cacophony, as Obama's fiercest critics eagerly touted the shutdown, cheered the GOP's radical strategy, and vowed to support the obstructionism. ("Hold the line," the talker recently urged.) The shutdown was to be celebrated and Republicans who engineered it were commended for their accomplishment.
Not everyone on Fox News agrees with the strategy. But the cable channel has certainly served as a generous source of cheerleading, as have lots of Tea Party-aligned media outlets. Dutifully praising the unprecedented move of tying a bill funding the government to the demand that a previously passed law (Obamacare) be defunded, the GOP Noise Machine eagerly rushed into battle on behalf of the party's shutdown wing, convinced that a major political victory was at hand.
But it hasn't worked out that way.
Dealt an incoherent hand by Republican activists in Congress who seem to jump back and forth between proudly defending the shutdown's continuation and demanding Obama and Democrats end it immediately, the party's press allies have been caught up in confused messages and jumbled, often contradictory, talking points. (It's not really a shutdown, it's just a "slimdown.")
And this time Democrats aren't the only ones lashing out at Tea Party-leaning House members and denouncing them as radicals. So are other members of the Republican Party. That ongoing intramural skirmish is trampling any rational messaging the GOP might have hoped would shift public opinion. After all, if even some Republicans think their colleagues botched the shutdown ("The entire effort has been totally disingenuous"), voters are likely to agree.
That contradiction has been mirrored on Fox News and throughout the right-wing media since the shutdown went into effect. The Noise Machine that cheered the GOP's shutdown strategy is now powerless to help the party recover from an unfolding public relations debacle.
With the Republican Party playing defense in the face of overwhelming polling results that confirm the shutdown is deeply unpopular and that Republicans are getting blamed more than Democrats for the impasse, the right-wing media megaphone Republicans rely on has stumbled badly this week.
Right-wing media are accusing President Obama of using "scare tactics" to score political points with the upcoming debt limit deadline, but professional economists agree that debt limit brinkmanship could end in disaster.
On October 2, President Obama sat down for an interview with CNBC correspondent John Harwood in which he said that Washington's political posturing was "different" this time, and that major financial institutions "should be concerned" by Republican threats to not raise the debt ceiling before October 17. But the right-wing media response to President Obama's caution has been to downplay the looming deadline while accusing the president of engaging in "scare tactics."
On the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade questioned if the president was hoping to "trigger a stock market sell-off":
In a later segment, the Fox & Friends crew was joined by Fox Business host Stuart Varney to discuss the effect the president's statements might have on financial markets. Varney and the hosts agreed that the president's rhetoric was designed to drive markets down and thus provide him with "extra leverage" in the debt ceiling fight:
Fox & Friends smeared President Obama with the false claim that he sent more security guards to keep veterans away from Washington, D.C.'s World War II memorial than were sent to the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya when it was attacked in September 2012.
When the federal government began a shutdown on October 1 after Republicans repeatedly demanded concessions to weaken or stop the Affordable Care Act in exchange for keeping the government open, national parks and monuments were closed as there were no longer funds to keep them staffed. Veterans participating in the Honor Flight program were eventually allowed to visit the World War II memorial.
On October 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy used the confusion over the status of the memorial to continue the network's inexhaustible obsession with Benghazi, saying, "as it turns out, it looks as if more personnel were sent in to the World War II memorial to keep people out than the State Department actually sent to Benghazi by two. They sent five people to Benghazi, the White House sent seven people to make sure that nobody got in to the war memorial."
An ABC News reporter was present at the memorial for several hours and didn't spot seven security guards keeping veterans away, but did observe the barricade being pushed aside without incident allowing the veterans to see the monument. One security guard was even spotted helping an elderly vet walk up a steep decline.
The National Park Service has also stated that it will not keep the veterans from visiting the memorial, calling their visits a First Amendment issue that supersedes the shutdown.
"The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks," the NPS said in a statement.
Politico reported on October 1, after a different group of veterans visited the memorial, that a National Park Service spokeswoman said "there [was] no risk of anyone getting arrested" at the time.
Fox News cherry-picked enrollment data in the new health care exchanges to suggest the Affordable Care Act was a failure, ignoring the fact that thousands of people successfully enrolled in health insurance plans the first day.
On October 3, the hosts of Fox & Friends criticized media for accurately reporting thousands of people attempted to access the online health care exchanges on October 1, suggesting that because Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana got "zero enrollees" the first day the exchanges were open, the law was a failure. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that due to technical glitches on the enrollment sites caused by the heavy traffic, "no one can get in and they're frustrated and not getting involved and worried about their personal information leaking."
But thousands of people in other parts of the country have successfully signed up for health coverage through the online marketplaces, and many more have successfully created accounts with which they can enroll at later dates. The Huffington Post reported:
Kentucky's health insurance exchange, Kynect, enrolled almost 3,000 households into health coverage by 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, and nearly 110,000 people viewed more than 1.6 million pages on the website, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) announced in a press release. Kynect had started almost 10,800 applications and completed more than 6,900 of them, according to the press release.
Rhode Island's Health Source RI already has signed up some consumers, Kaiser Health News reported Wednesday, and Connecticut's Access Health CT reported enrollments Tuesday.
Colorado postponed online sign-up for the first weeks of enrollment, but about 6,900 people created accounts on Connect for Health Colorado and the website saw 104,000 unique visitors as of 3:15 p.m. Mountain Time on Wednesday, the exchange announced on Twitter.
More than 18,000 people created accounts on Nevada Health Link and more than 63,000 people visited the site by 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time, according to a statement on Twitter. More than 120,000 people went to Covered Oregon, which is not yet accepting online enrollment, by 8:00 a.m. PDT Tuesday, according to a statement on its website, as officials asked consumers for patience, the Oregonian reported.
Louisiana's The Times-Picayune reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield had no enrollees the first day, but that other companies offering insurance in Louisiana through the online marketplace had not yet received the data to determine their level of enrollment.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the main website for the exchanges, HealthCare.gov, had successfully enrolled customers into health insurance on October 1, but according to a spokeswoman the department is unlikely to be able to exactly determine how many have enrolled until November.
Right-wing media have frantically attempted to spin the success of the health care exchanges into failure since day one of open enrollment.
Fox News misleadingly claimed Senate Democrats were to blame for the government shutdown, ignoring the role Republicans in the House and Senate have played in refusing to negotiate over government funding.
On the October 2 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy attacked Senate Democrats for not showing up to a Republican photo opportunity, in which congressional Republicans including Sen. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) sat on one side of a table facing empty chairs. Doocy claimed, "none of the Democrats showed up to try to resolve the Senate shutdown":
Fox also hyped an October 1 tweet from House Majority Leader Cantor that claimed that House Republicans were "ready to negotiate with the Senate," criticizing the Senate Democrats in an on-screen graphic for leaving House Republicans "alone at table to compromise."
But House Republicans' October 1 offer to negotiate was little more than a photo opportunity since, as The New York Times pointed out, they have shown no willingness to back down from their "threat of blackmail." From The New York Times editorial board:
Finally, at the last minute, when there was still time to end the charade with a straightforward spending bill, Mr. Boehner made the most absurd demand of all: an immediate conference committee with the Senate. Suddenly, with less than an hour left, he wanted to set up formal negotiations?
For six months, the Senate has been demanding a conference with the House on the 2014 budget -- talks that might have prevented the impasse in the first place. But the House leadership has adamantly refused, knowing it would not succeed in getting all the cuts to taxes and spending that it demands. For Mr. Boehner to call for a conference near midnight was the height of hypocrisy.
Having let down the public, Republicans will now, inevitably, scramble to save their reputation. They are desperate to make it appear as if President Obama and the Democrats are the ones being intransigent, hoping voters will think that everyone is at fault and simply blame "Washington." Mr. Boehner even mocked the president on Monday for refusing to negotiate over health reform, as if he actually expected Mr. Obama to join in wrecking a law that will provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans under threat of blackmail.
Fox's newest attempt to blame Senate Democrats for the government shutdown ignores that the controversy is the result of an unprecedented effort by House Republicans to demand concessions in exchange for doing their job. As USA Today noted, the GOP's demands "are both preposterous and largely unrelated to budgetary matters" and "[n]o president of either party could accept that kind of badgering. No president should."
Though the media has repeatedly presented a false equivalence between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats' actions in advance of the shutdown, attempts to shift the full weight of the blame away from the GOP ignores the fact that threatening to shut down the government in order to repeal duly-passed legislation is a "dramatic break from the past." In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait highlighted the importance of remembering that "one party is pursuing this as a conscious strategy." The Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin also reported that congressional experts and historians agree that "[e]ven compared to the famous government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the current GOP bargaining position is unprecedented in its political extremism":
"It's unheard of to shut the government down because you want to repeal a law," said Tiefer.
"That seems quite beyond the pale," said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder.
Former Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress official Louis Fisher said he was shocked when he saw what he now recognizes as a foreshadowing of today's crisis, when Republican senators refused for two years to confirm Richard Cordray -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless President Obama agreed to change the bureau's structure.
"That is really amazing, to say you're not going to confirm unless the underlying statute is rewritten," Fisher said. "That was breathtaking to me."
"The Republican Party is caught between politics and its responsibility, as a majority party of the House of Representatives, for governance," said [University of Maryland professor of government and politics the Frances] Lee. "Governance always requires disappointing your base."
It's easier when you're in the minority, she said. "The party out of power can take advantage of its lack of responsibility for governing."
Today's GOP "wants to behave like a party that has no power at all, but unfortunately for it, it does," she said. "The politics of defunding Obamacare are great with its base, but it has an institutional role which it cannot evade."
Fox News host Steve Doocy jumped the gun to call the Affordable Care Act (ACA) a failure before its full implementation.
During the September 27 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy misleadingly suggested that the health care reform law had failed to insure many Americans who currently lack health insurance coverage:
DOOCY: Remember during the original argument about whether or not we should go ahead and pass the Affordable Care Act, also now known as Obamacare, very famously Karl Rove said on this program, he said, you know, 85 percent of the country has health care and likes it. So why blow up the entire system for 15 percent? There is a new poll out this morning that says that, take a guess, how many people in this country, what percentage have insurance now for the very first time because of the Affordable Care Act? How many? What percent?
CO-HOST ELISABETH HASSELBECK: I mean, I'd go 20. Let's go 20 percent.
DOOCY: One percent.
HASSELBECK: Oh, great.
DOOCY: One percent of the country now has insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.
HASSELBECK: That's it?
DOOCY: Yeah, we were told we're helping out 15 percent. But so far, just one.
But Doocy's critique completely misrepresented the timeline of the health care law's implementation. The public exchanges, which will offer new insurance coverage options to Americans who currently do not receive employer-sponsored health insurance, will not open for enrollment until October 1, and the new coverage won't begin to take effect until January 1, 2014. Expanded Medicaid access also doesn't take effect until January 1. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in May that, once it is fully in effect, the ACA's exchanges will help provide coverage to 24 million currently uninsured Americans by 2023, and the Medicaid expansion will cover an additional 13 million.
Doocy also ignored the many benefits that the law has already put into effect for individuals that currently have insurance. Nearly three years after the law's enactment, 6.1 million Americans with Medicare who reached the Part D coverage gap ("donut hole") saved more than $5.7 billion on prescription drugs. Additionally, 71 million Americans received coverage for preventive care in 2011 and 2012, and 78 million Americans saved a total of $3.4 billion on their health insurance premiums in 2012.
Fox News dishonestly claimed that consumers in the health care law's exchanges would have limited options, ignoring reports that the exchanges will offer significantly more choice than is currently available in the individual market.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "You cannot force a private company to get into these exchanges. And if they all bail out like Aetna's done in a lot of states, like United's done in a lot of states, next thing you know, they're only going to have one option and it's going to be a federal option, a nationalized health care system because none of the private sector wants to get involved." Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, claiming "That's kind of subterfuge is - a lot of people are saying that's the ultimate end game for President Obama and the Democrats, is the single-payer where the government pays for everything":
But Fox's characterization of choices in the health care exchanges is misleading. Despite some insurers not initially providing plans in the exchanges, consumers in the majority of markets will have several health care options to choose from. The New York Times reported that, as of May, 2013, "More than 120 insurance companies have filed applications with the federal government":
Fox News is resorting to dishonest misrepresentations of President Obama's record of deficit reduction by cherry picking data and completely disregarding Bush-era deficit levels.
On the September 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade were joined by Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney for a falsehood-laden discussion of the federal budget and budget deficit. Varney argued that President Obama first ran up the deficit before hemming it down, claiming that in the president's "first full year in office" the federal budget deficit was approximately $1.4 trillion.
Fox provided a graphic of deficit spending from 2008 to projected 2013 levels, claiming that the deficit is up 137.7 percent since 2008.
The 137.7 percent deficit increase cited by Fox is ostensibly calculated by comparing the 2012 deficit to that of 2008. This figure, however, completely misrepresents deficits under the Obama administration, by picking erroneous start and end dates.
The federal budget deficit in fiscal year 2009 was $1.4 trillion. However, fiscal year 2009 began on October 1, 2008, months before President Obama was sworn into office. Attributing the 2009 budget deficit to President Obama is simply incorrect.
According to the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) budget and economic outlook report for 2009 -- released prior to President Obama's first inauguration -- the federal budget deficit was projected to be $1.2 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year. Citing turmoil in the housing and financial markets, the CBO projected deficits to rise to their largest percentage of GDP since the Reagan administration. From the report:
A drop in tax revenues and increased federal spending (much of it related to the government's actions to address the crisis in the housing and financial markets) both contribute to the robust growth in this year's deficit.
The report noted that the projected deficit also included the initial $180 billion cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the estimated $200 billion takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Choosing 2012 deficits as the end point for analysis of deficit growth is also erroneous. Why Fox didn't choose the most recent data -- projected levels for fiscal year 2013, which ends on September 30 - as the end point remains a mystery.
If Fox had chosen the correct starting and end points for its analysis of deficits under President Obama, a completely different picture of deficit reduction would emerge. Indeed, according to the latest CBO budget and economic outlook released in May, deficits are projected to fall to less than 3.4 percent of GDP in 2014, the lowest level in years. Current deficit projections for 2017, President Obama's final fiscal year, are estimated to fall to just 2.4 percent of GDP. None of these facts were featured in Fox's reporting.
Fox & Friends has dedicated three segments in one week to a discussion of the debt, debt ceiling, and deficit. Each time their reports have been plagued by misunderstanding or mischaracterizing the facts.