Fox News host Steve Doocy and contributor Michelle Malkin invented new border conspiracy theories to attack comprehensive immigration reform proposals after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) visited the Southwest border fence.
McCain -- who was in Nogales, Arizona, at the Southwest border with four members of the "Gang of 8" on a border tour -- tweeted, "Just witnessed a woman successfully climb an 18-ft bollard fence a few yards from us." On Fox & Friends, Doocy claimed that he believed the event was staged so that the administration could blame lax border security on sequestration. Co-host Gretchen Carlson pushed back on the conspiracy, claiming that this sort of event "happens frequently":
DOOCY: I think there's a possibility that this could've almost been a PR stunt. I mean, let's face it, you've got these U.S. senators there who are working on immigration reform, you've got all those cameras down there, and you've got the sequester going on, where they're going, we're going to have to cut back.
The Secretary of Homeland Security can say, look, you know, I'm having to cut back all my hours. Look at that lady, she just scaled an 18-foot bollard fence, and you all got it on camera.
CARLSON: Well, unfortunately, I think it happens frequently, and so maybe it was just by chance.
Malkin later appeared on the program to respond to McCain's tweet, noting that it prompted her editor to ask, "Did John McCain give her a boost up?" due to his support for comprehensive immigration reform:
MALKIN: There were a lot of aggravated and bemused observers of John McCain. The question came up and one of my editors put it this way, "Did John McCain give her a boost up?" Because of course he is now leading the charge for exactly the kind of - I don't care what you call it - regularization, comprehensive immigration reform. It walks, it talks, and it squawks like another massive illegal alien amnesty and all it's going to result in is more of the kind of activity that they tweeted yesterday about at the border. More illegal immigration.
Right-wing media are claiming that the federal government spent money on research grants and other expenses for puppets during the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, despite the fact that the grants were all paid prior to the budget cuts.
On Wednesday, Breitbart.com attacked the administration for stopping tours of the White House as a result of budget cuts in a post titled "U.S. Spends $1.18 Million On Puppets Amid Sequester," and claimed the government could "cut federal 'puppet expenditures' to keep the people's house open." The website listed spending from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other sources, as federal spending on "puppets and puppetry-related expenses."
Fox Nation hyped the Breitbart.com post, labeling it a "report":
Fox & Friends joined in on Thursday when co-host Steve Doocy said: "1.18 million, that's how much the government has spent on puppets since 2009. That's enough to pay for more than a year's worth of White House tours."
However, the grants and contracts that Breitbart.com cited were all paid prior to 2013. A screenshot of the search terms used by Breitbart.com reveals the most recent grants were paid in fiscal year 2012, which ended on September 30, 2012. Sequestration took place on March 1, 2013, almost six months later.
Despite the claims of Fox News and Breitbart.com, these expenditures have nothing to do with the cancelation of White House tours. The spending cited by Breitbart.com did not come out of the budget of the Secret Service, which made the decision to stop providing security for the tours due to its own budget cuts under the sequester.
Fox News hosts speculated that uniforms made in Mexico for the U.S. Border Patrol could end up in the wrong hands and ultimately fuel situations similar to those in Afghanistan -- where Taliban fighters wearing Afghan security or coalition uniforms have launched attacks on U.S. soldiers. In fact, no such attack related to Border Patrol uniforms has yet to be reported. Moreover, these uniforms have been manufactured in Mexican factories by an American company for nearly a decade.
In six different instances over two hours, Fox & Friends hosts suggested that Mexicans would be able to use the uniforms to cross the border illegally without notice. Though Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham acknowledged that factories in Mexico manufacture a host of uniforms for American companies, she went on to say of the Border Patrol uniforms:
INGRAHAM: If they're made down there, presumably they could be stolen down there. And we know what happens in insider attacks in Afghanistan where we've lost incredible men who have donated and served this country so proudly.
But as a June 2004 Washington Times report explained, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract allowed VF Solutions, an American company now known as VF Imagewear, to subcontract its work to Mexico, Canada and the Dominican Republic:
The new uniforms were supplied through a contract with VF Solutions of Nashville, Tenn., which agreed to produce 30,000 shirts and pants for CBP agents and inspectors for the 2003-04 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. But the contract allows the company to subcontract its work to other facilities in the United States, Mexico, Canada and the Dominican Republic.
Right-wing media are attempting to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by claiming that it depicts unsafe gun handling.
According Fox News, conservative bloggers, and the National Rifle Association's news program, an ad calling for expanding the background check system features a man with his finger on the trigger of a firearm that is not ready to be fired, an unsafe practice. In fact, footage from another ad featuring the same firearm clearly indicates that the right-wing media are wrong about where the gun's trigger is; the man's finger is actually nowhere near the trigger in either ad.
The claim originated with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, who claimed in a March 25 article that ads recently released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) are "irresponsible" because the man in the ad "violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association." Miller specifically claims that "the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot," and comments, "To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch the trigger."
Miller was referencing this moment from the ad "Responsible":
But another ad released by MAIG, "Family," which features the same man and firearm, shows the position of the trigger on that particular firearm to be much closer to the buttstock than where the man's index finger is in "Responsible":
Based on the trigger location clearly seen in "Family," the trigger of the firearm would sit approximately behind the base of the man's hand in "Responsible" making it impossible for his finger to be on the trigger or within the trigger guard.
Miller's claims have nonetheless been picked up by The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Hot Air, and a Townhall column authored by Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and have also been featured on Fox & Friends and the NRA's Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel.
Fox News hosts absurdly claimed that the opportunity to register to vote while applying for food stamps entrenches voters in a "cycle of dependency." But most food stamp participants remain on the program for limited periods of time, and the voter registration inclusion is a national policy that has been in place for decades.
On March 22, Fox hosts Stuart Varney and Steve Doocy used a discussion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, to forward the Republican myth that the program generates a culture of dependency that locks liberal governments into positions of power. Discussing the use of SNAP benefits in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, both hosts mocked the voter registration option on SNAP applications, ignoring the fact that it has been national policy since 1993 to allow the opportunity to register to vote at state offices that handle public benefits.
DOOCY: Extraordinarily, a third of the people in that entire city, a third, are on food stamps. And what's happened now, the cycle of dependency, first the people were relying on the food stamps and now the businesses rely on the people with the food stamps. So without the food stamps, the businesses would go belly up.
DOOCY: And Stuart, Rhode Island is a very liberal state. We know that, we've talked about that before. [...] You were telling me about when you apply for a SNAP card, what do they do?
VARNEY: Well, the mayor of Woonsocket, this Leo Fontaine, his honor, he held up the food stamp application forms and he went through it, he showed them it; this is what you get when you apply for food stamps. And then he turned to the back of the package of papers, there is a voter registration form.
DOOCY: Of course!
VARNEY: So you sign up to vote at the same time you sign up for food stamps.
VARNEY: And you are encouraged thereby, I believe, to go out and vote for the party, vote for the politician that continues the food stamp program.
DOOCY: Complete circle.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, the SNAP program has proven successful at stabilizing families during tough times, and helps facilitate the transition to self-sufficiency. The USDA also reported that half of all new participants leave the program in under nine months.
Additionally, the USDA has reported that "41 percent of all SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings," and "for most of these households, earnings were the primary source of income." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CPBB), in 2010, more than three times as many SNAP households worked as relied solely on federal benefits for their income. The share of SNAP families with children and an earned income has remained stable during the recession, and the program's number of participants is projected to decline in the coming decade. The SNAP program also includes a special work requirement for adults who are able to work and are without dependents.
Fox News lifted part of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece to attack a federal farm subsidy program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture while Fox News Latino contributor Rick Sanchez dismissed the USDA's history of discriminating against female and Hispanic farmers.
The USDA is currently allowing female and Hispanic farmers to apply for claims of up to $50,000 if they were previously unfairly treated during the federal farm subsidy loan process because of discriminatory practices at the USDA. According to the checklist included in the claim application, applicants must submit official documentation of discrimination -- such as a notarized witness statement, and in some cases a copy of their original loan application -- before their claim can be deemed eligible for review.
An op-ed published March 20 on the Journal's website by James Bovard ignored these facts to ridicule charges of USDA discrimination against female and Hispanic farmers:
Are you a woman or a Hispanic who planted a backyard garden between 1981 and 2000? Did you ever dream of asking for a loan for help growing more? If so, you might be a victim of discrimination and entitled to a $50,000 payout from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On March 22, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy repeated this portion of the Journal op-ed almost word for word to similarly mock individuals seeking compensation from past discrimination:
DOOCY: Are you a woman or Hispanic who planted a garden between the years of 1981 and 2000? Did you dream of asking for a loan to grow your garden but you didn't get a loan to grow a garden? If so, you could be a victim of discrimination and entitled to $50,000. That sounds crazy, right? It's not. People will actually wind up with money.
During the segment, on-air text referred to the money as an "entitlement" and "reparations":
As NPR reported in November, the USDA "has a long history of discriminating against farmers who are women, Hispanic, Native American and African American," leading to lawsuits which have cost the government billions. In 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged these civil rights violations at a Senate appropriations subcommittee and committed to "closing this rather sordid chapter of USDA history."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has detailed "key steps" the USDA needs to take to ensure "fair and equitable services to all customers" following these numerous reports of discrimination. As of August 2012, the GAO determined that the USDA had fully addressed only half of the GAO's recommendations.
Doocy was not the only Fox figure to dismiss the evidence of discrimination in the program. MundoFox and Fox News Latino contributor Rick Sanchez further claimed the program was part of a government plan to make Hispanics "dependent on a nanny state," and dismissed the allegations of discrimination, saying: "It doesn't matter if you're a transvestite from Honduras or whether you're a white guy from Iowa ... [t]oday it's women and Hispanics. Tomorrow it's going to be Asians and then it's going to be this and then it's going to be that and pretty soon, look, we don't have enough money as it is."
Right-wing media previously attacked similar payments from the USDA to African American and Native American farmers as "reparations," despite a report from the Congressional Research Service which noted that a USDA review commissioned in 1994 found that in the early 1990s "minorities received less than their fair share of USDA money for crop payments, disaster payments, and loans."
Fox & Friends attempted to recruit Dr. Ben Carson as the next Fox News candidate, after News Corp. spent weeks promoting him as a rising political star.
On March 16, Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and hinted during his speech that he might be interested in running for office, telling the audience: "Let's say you magically put me in the White House."
During his appearance on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, the hosts repeatedly pressed Carson on whether he was interested in running, asking when he would decide to "get into the political fray" and whether any political strategists had spoken to him. Co-host Steve Doocy further said that while it was "a long time before the next election," Carson would be retiring soon. This prompted guest co-host Alisyn Camerota to assure Carson that they were "counting down the days" until his retirement, when he would be available to run for office:
CAMEROTA: Well Dr. Ben Carson, always great to talk to you, we're counting down the days 'till your retirement as we know you are, and it's about 130 right now. So thanks.
CARSON: How about 102?
CAMEROTA: Oh, 102? Got it, I'll change the calendar.
News Corp., which owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, has promoted Ben Carson as a potential candidate ever since Carson delivered a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial the day after the speech headlined "Ben Carson for President," that encouraged readers to watch the video of his speech and highlighted Carson's ideas on a flat tax rate and health care. Fox News also celebrated Carson throughout the month, with Doocy praising Carson as "fantastic" and Sean Hannity asking Carson in an interview "would you ever run for president, sir? ... I would vote for you in a heartbeat."
Fox News has a history of creating and promoting conservative candidates for political office. Prior to running for president, Herman Cain was a frequent guest of Fox News and was touted as a possible presidential contender on the network. During former Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown's successful 2010 Senate run, the network openly helped him advocate for his candidacy, helped him fundraise, and smeared his opponent. And Fox News hosts promoted Marco Rubio's fundraising efforts during his run for Senator in Florida while the network praised him as a "political star."
Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.
Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.
While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."
Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.
The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.
Video by Alan Pyke.
Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt misled viewers to believe that the U.S. Postal Service used taxpayer dollars to provide upscale accommodations and activities for a leadership conference, even though the USPS does not receive taxpayer funds for operational costs, and conference attendees have to finance their own entertainment.
In an effort to deal with budget shortfalls, the USPS has used its annual National Postal Forum Conference as "a revenue-generating opportunity," Postal Service spokeswoman Zy Richardson told Government Executive. The agency said that last year's conference brought in about $160 million in revenue from new sales.
But Fox hosts highlighted the conference as a waste of taxpayer dollars, focusing on the supposed extravagance of the event and mocking its stated goal of developing "sales leads":
STEVE DOOCY: Because let's face it, it's so depressing, demoralizing, working at the Postal Service these days. Don't you think those guys should just be able to go out and, you know, blow a bunch of dough, and blow off some steam?
BRIAN KILMEADE: Not really.
EARHARDT: Your money, your tax dollars.
According to the USPS website, the agency does not receive any taxpayer dollars to cover its operational costs. Like other expenses, the National Postal Forum Conference is funded by the agency's $65 billion in annual revenue from the sale of postage, products, and services.
The National Postal Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the responsiveness and efficiency of the U.S. mail system, designed the conference "to find innovative solutions and learn about the latest technologies that are shaping the mailing industry's future." Richardson emphasized that the conference "is a public event that anyone can attend. It's not a secret, internal event."
Doocy's suggestion that the conference's cost covers expensive activities like golf is also incorrect. As Government Executive reported:
[T]he golfing is not included in the registration fees for the conference and any Postal Service employee participating must pay his or her own way to participate.
Right-wing media fabricated a split between White House press secretary Jay Carney and President Obama on the reason for White House tour cancelations, ignoring the fact that both explained that the tours were cancelled because of the impact of automatic budget cuts on the Secret Service.
During a March 13 White House afternoon press conference, Carney explained that tours of the White House were cancelled because the Secret Service decided to cut security on the tours to spare their agents further furloughs due to automatic budget cuts known as sequestration (emphasis added):
CARNEY: We had to cancel the tours. It's our job to cancel the tours. They cannot cancel them so -- because we run -- this is not a tour of the Secret Service building. It's a tour of the White House and the grounds. And we run the tours and invitations and that process. So the White House, as we have said, canceled the tours, confronted with the choice made by the Secret Service -- which we concur with, but it is certainly their choice because it's their budget -- that it was the right thing to do not to add further furloughs to the future for Secret Service agents, the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect senior officials in our government, and that the result would be cutbacks in staffing, hours in an area like tours, which is so labor-intensive.
Carney's statement echoed the remarks made by Obama on this topic during an ABC news interview aired the morning of March 13 (emphasis added):
OBAMA: You know, I have to say this was not- a decision that went up to the White House. But th- what the Secret Service explained to us was that they're gonna have to furlough some folks. What furloughs mean is- is that people lose a day of work and a day of pay.
And, you know, the question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we've got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck who suddenly are seein'-
Despite the consistency of Carney and Obama both explaining that the Secret Service made the choice to pull back on White House tour security to avoid more furloughs, right-wing media latched onto Carney's remarks and claimed that he broke from Obama's explanation.
Based on Carney's and Obama's remarks, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed on March 14 that they "need to get on the same page" regarding the cancelation of White House tours.
On March 13, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Carney's comments proved Obama "lied" about the reason for the White House tour cancelation, saying that while "some say it's unseemly to accuse a president of lying, and it may be unseemly. People don't want to believe that, but that's exactly what happened here."
Fox & Friends questioned the authenticity of President Obama's most recent outreach to Republicans while ignoring GOP leaders' numerous rebukes of the president's past attempts to reach across the aisle.
In a widely publicized March 12 article, The National Journal's Ron Fournier questioned the sincerity of Obama's current outreach to Congressional Republicans, including dining with GOP senators and visiting Capitol Hill. Fournier quoted an anonymous senior White House official as describing the president's efforts as a "joke" and a waste of time.
On March 13, Fox & Friends seized on the article to question whether Obama was sincere in his efforts to reach out to Republicans. Co-host Steve Doocy came to the conclusion that Obama isn't actually serious about this latest bipartisan effort:
DOOCY: We've been speculating, what was the motivation for this charm offensive? Well now, thanks to Ron Fournier of National Journal, we know that it is simply a tactic. The president of the United States is not serious about actually reaching across the aisle, but he saw that his poll numbers were imploding thanks to the sequester.
In the same segment, guest co-host Alisyn Camerota emphasized the importance of outreach that the president has supposedly neglected:
CAMEROTA: That's what you're supposed to do! You're supposed to go and meet with your adversaries so that you can work out some sort of bargain.
But Fox made no mention of the fact that this is not the first time that Obama has reached out to -- and been rebuffed by -- Republican leaders:
Fox & Friends hyped a report on unpaid taxes owed by federal employees to claim the Obama administration's position on taxes was hypocritical, ignoring earlier Fox News reporting that federal employees were less delinquent in tax payments than the general population.
An IRS report on federal employees behind on their 2011 tax payments found that current and retired federal employees still owed $3.5 billion in taxes as of September 2011. After Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy stated how much federal employees owe in unpaid taxes, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham responded by suggesting that the amount in unpaid taxes revealed the hypocrisy of President Obama's tax policies and claiming the Obama administration thinks "rules are for the little people and the sacrifice that has to happen in the United States happens in the hinterlands."
But Fox & Friends ignored reporting on this topic from its lead-in show, Fox & Friends First. A segment on the preceding program showed that federal employees pay their taxes on time at a more frequent rate than the general population:
According to a report from the Associated Press, the IRS report found:
Overall, the 9.8 million workers included in the data had a delinquency rate of 3.2 percent. That's better than the general public. The IRS says the delinquency rate for the general public was 8.2 percent.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox & Friends misleadingly claimed that federal revenue will be historically high this year to push against calls for additional tax increases. In fact, projected revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) remains below the historical average since World War II.
Fox News revived the debunked myth that President Obama "gutted" work requirements from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program despite the fact that the claim has repeatedly been shown to be false.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped a bill introduced by House Republicans last week that seeks to block the administration from granting waivers to states under the TANF program. Doocy claimed the bill would "make work a condition for receiving welfare," and repeated the debunked myth that those requirements have been "gutted under President Obama."
But the Obama administration has not removed work requirements from welfare. In July 2012, the administration announced that it would comply with governors' requests -- including Republicans -- to consider proposals to create more efficient ways to report on the work requirement for people receiving TANF benefits. According to Health and Human Services, any program that weakened or undercut welfare reform would not be approved, and waivers would only be granted to proposals that "move at least 20% more people from welfare to work."
The Center on Budget and Policies Priorities found that these waivers would strengthen welfare reform by "giving states greater flexibility to test more effective strategies for helping recipients prepare for, and retain jobs." The New York Times reported that the new requirements continued the administration's efforts "to peel back unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and allow states to spend federal money more efficiently."
As NPR reported, following 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney's use of the claim in a political ad, "every major fact-checking organization" found the attack to be false. Politifact rated the claim as "pants on fire" and The Washington Post's fact checker gave the claim four Pinocchios (its highest rating). Factcheck.org found no basis for the claim, explaining:
A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted 'a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.' The plan does neither of those things.
- Work requirements are not simply being 'dropped.' States may now change the requirements -- revising, adding or eliminating them -- as part of a federally approved state-specific plan to increase job placement.
- And it won't 'gut' the 1996 law to ease the requirement. Benefits still won't be paid beyond an allotted time, whether the recipient is working or not.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted that unlike Obama, the Bush administration "pushed for a welfare 'superwaiver' that would allow states to waive just about every requirement, including the work requirement," a proposal which passed in the House three times.