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In the middle of an unfolding standoff between police and a gunman at a movie theater in Germany, Fox Business host Stuart Varney repeatedly pivoted to promoting Donald Trump, calling the incident “a plus” for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
On the June 23 edition of Varney & Co., Varney dedicated two segments to the developing situation, speculating in each that the situation might benefit Trump’s campaign. First, Varney and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley, a Trump apologist, agreed that the situation -- initially reported as a “mass shooting” -- would “absolutely” benefit the GOP front-runner because he has “emphasized the need for strong national security policy.”
Next, Varney asked Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News judicial analyst, what impact the incident might have on U.S. immigration policy. Napolitano responded, “When a crisis like this happens, it should benefit Donald Trump,” because “he portrays himself as the stronger, sterner protector of our shores.” He advised Trump to “express outrage and … determination” to “one up Mrs. Clinton.” Napolitano has a history of pushing conspiracy theories and recently used the horrific mass shooting in Orlando to promote debunked right-wing media myths about gun violence. He is also reportedly a likely Supreme Court nominee, should Trump become president.
Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares echoed Fox’s promotion of the GOP candidate, saying that if the shooting was “politically motivated terrorism,” it will benefit Trump because it will prove that “terrorism is active in Europe.”
Varney has track record of inserting praise of Trump’s foreign policy positions into his reporting. On May 19, when an EgyptAir flight crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, the Fox Business host framed the tragedy as “a plus” and “politically good for Donald Trump.” On March 22, he also let Phares erroneously claim the United States doesn’t have a vetting process for Syrian refugees, whom Trump has incorrectly labeled as a threat to national security.
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NRF Claims Overtime Expansion Will “Demote” Working Americans “To Clock-Punchers”
Right-wing media and Republican politicians blasted the Labor Department’s decision to update and expand overtime protections, clearly taking their cues from the National Retail Federation (NRF) -- a business association known for spreading falsehoods on worker rights. The NRF and its allies are portraying overtime expansion as something that will hurt workers and the economy, ignoring the association’s own report, which found that the change would likely result in new jobs and fewer unpaid hours for retail workers.
The Department of Labor released an update to overtime rules for salaried employees on May 17, raising the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 -- an announcement that was denounced by right-wing media. Conservative outlets claimed the rule was “interfering” with businesses and would result in less flexibility and possibly lower pay, citing the NRF’s 2016 report “Rethinking Overtime” as proof, but they failed to acknowledge that the NRF has consistently opposed better pay for workers, fair scheduling, and collective bargaining rights. Contrary to claims that the expanded overtime will harm the economy, the NRF’s own report found the overtime rule would lead to over 117,100 new part-time jobs.
The Wall Street Journal decried the updated overtime rule in a May 18 editorial, claiming employers will lower salaries as a result. The Journal cited the NRF study, which found that businesses will “shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status” and bizarrely pointed to the study’s finding that one in 10 workers on salary will work fewer hours (which are already unpaid) as proof that the rule is not in the best interests of employers or workers. Townhall also pushed the narrative that salaried workers working fewer unpaid hours is a negative, citing NRF’s report.
During NRF’s campaign against overtime expansion, the lobbying group has claimed the new rule is “outrageous” and will force employers “to demote their middle management professionals to clock-punchers.” On the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, NRF senior vice president David French called the rule “a massive overreach.” Earlier that day on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, correspondent Kevin Corke said the rule will mean “more red tape and fewer advancement opportunities” and falsely claimed that “most of the people impacted by this change will not see any additional pay.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed NRF’s statement on the May 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claiming the overtime rule imposes “more red tape on job creators, which translates into fewer opportunities for people.” In statements released May 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the overtime rule as “more red tape” while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed it was an “absolute disaster” that will end up “hurt[ing] the very people it alleges to help.”
Despite the coordinated condemnation from conservative media outlets and politicians, overtime expansion is vitally important in a country where 50 percent of full-time workers already work more than 40 hours per week. In an April 21 op-ed in The New York Times, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich argued that many Americans are unaware that overtime protections have eroded over generations, and he noted that working unpaid overtime limits worker productivity and hiring. Reich also pointed out that the proliferation of unpaid overtime contributes to soaring corporate profits.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that overtime expansion will “reduce excessive hours of unpaid work” while adding at least 120,000 jobs in the retail sector -- the very one the NRF claims to represent. The rule change is also expected to change employer behavior; some employers will hire more workers, while other employers will become more efficient. Employees in many instances work unnecessary hours because company cultures value “how much people work (or seem to)” instead of “the quality of their output,” according to an article by professors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan in the June 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review.
The NRF has a history of pushing a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. The group opposes collective bargaining and fair scheduling, and was an outspoken opponent of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour when the debate first gained prominence in 2014.
Right-wing media assailed new overtime rules released by the Department of Labor (DOL) on May 17, which expand overtime pay protections to 4.2 million American workers previously exempt from compensation under outdated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule updates the minimum salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year, and pegs the threshold to inflation going forward.
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Right-Wing Media Have Spent Years Attacking Hillary Clinton For The Sound Of Her Voice
Fox Business completely ignored the economic details of policy proposals outlined by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a recent speech in Bowling Green, Kentucky, including a $30 billion plan to revitalize coal country, opting instead to mock the sound of her voice.
On May 16, Clinton gave a 31 minute speech outlining economic policy goals she intends to achieve as president, according to The Courier-Journal. These goals included “reducing college debt, raising wages of workers, giving equal pay for equal work and improving the Affordable Care Act,” as well as her “$30 billion plan to revitalize coal country.” Clinton’s coal country revitalization plan creates protections for coal miners’ pensions, ensures adequate funding for local public schools, and provides job training and small business assistance for places once dominated by coal -- an industry that has seen economic forces lead to its decline.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) to listen to Clinton’s voice during the speech and critique it during an interview on the May 17 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Varney thought “she used a Southern accent.” Bryant joked that Clinton could join the Blue Collar Comedy Tour if not elected president, and claimed that her supposed “pandering to the crowd” was “a little insulting.” At no point during the discussion did either man reference the policies Clinton actually outlined in her speech.
Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked Clinton’s voice for nearly a decade while ignoring the substance of her remarks. Attacks against Clinton’s voice by right-wing media ranged from her volume, to her allegedly offensive Southern accent, and her supposed use of “a blackface voice” when addressing an African-American audience. A Fox contributor once suggested that Clinton would “speak with a lisp” if she attended an event hosted by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. These sexist attacks on Clinton’s voice are well documented and attempt to distract from the content of the candidate's positions.
Watch the full exchange from the May 17 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): One more thing for you, governor. Hillary Clinton was campaigning in Kentucky, and I think she used a Southern accent, and I want you to listen to it and critique it for a second. Roll tape.
PHIL BRYANT: Do I have to?
VARNEY: Alright, governor, I do have an accent myself. Would you care to critique the accent you just heard?
BRYANT: You know, if she doesn't get elected president, there may be an opening on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour for her with that accent. We'd have to get her a little better jokes, but of course it's a little insulting to hear that type of thing happen. But, she’s pandering to the crowd, Stuart. Some politicians do it, I won't hold that against her too much, and she needs to work a bit on it and maybe throw a “y'all” in there. But what we want to hear is what she is going to do about appointing Supreme Court judges [sic]. She’s been silent on that issue so far, and I’d like to hear if it’s going to be a Bernie Sanders, or who some of her Supreme Court nominees may be when she gets to be president of the United States.
A brief segment on Fox Business Network about President Obama’s push to develop smart gun technology included falsehoods about Obama’s plan, the availability and reliability of smart guns, and law enforcement’s position on the issue.
On April 29, President Obama announced a plan for the Defense Department (DOD), Homeland Security Department (DHS), and Justice Department (DOJ) to assist in the development of technology that allows only the authorized user of a firearm to fire it. As Obama explained, the purpose of the initiative is “identifying the requirements that smart guns would have to meet in order for law enforcement to purchase and use them effectively - and keep themselves and the public safer in the process.”
During the May 3 broadcast of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich offered a litany of falsehoods to attack the Obama administration’s announcement:
In fact, Obama’s announcement was an update on his administration’s January announcement of executive actions, not orders. Conservative media frequently mislabel executive actions -- where, in this case, federal agencies are operating within their respective purviews to help expedite the development of technology – by terming them executive orders in an attempt to make claims about supposed Obama administration overreach.
First, several federal executive departments that administer law enforcement agencies – DOJ, DOD, and DHS -- are involved in carrying out the administration’s plan, not opposing it.
There has been only one high-profile law enforcement group that has been outspoken on Obama’s plan, and that group has a major conflict of interest. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Jim Pasco, was quoted in several news outlets criticizing Obama’s plan, without the disclosure that the FOP’s charity has received large amounts of money from the National Shooting Sporting Foundation, a gun industry trade group that often attacks smart gun technology. A 2010 investigation by The Washington Post identified several instances where the interests of clients at Pasco’s lobbying business aligned with positions subsequently taken by FOP.
While smart gun technology has been in development for years, smart guns are not yet available for purchase by the general public in America, except for in rare instances. This is because gun dealers largely refuse to stock the first market-ready smart gun, the Armatix iP1, a semi-automatic handgun that uses radio-frequency identification technology. In 2014, a Maryland gun dealer was the subject of death threats and harassment from gun rights activists after the dealer announced his intention to sell the iP1. He later canceled his plan to sell the firearm. A similar incident occurred in California when a gun store attempted to sell the iP1.
Pavlich’s claim echoes a frequent attack from the National Rifle Association, which often makes false claims about the reliability of smart gun technology. Smart guns have to meet certain reliability benchmarks to be sold. For example, to be sold in California, the iP1 had to be able to fire 600 rounds with a malfunction rate of less than 1 percent.
Obama’s announcement on smart guns also said the DOD would continue to allow manufacturers to use a testing facility in Maryland to improve reliability. According to a leading developer of the technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the next generation of smart guns will have an operational failure rate “comparable to mechanical failure rate in many consumer side-arms.”
From the May 3 broadcast of Varney & Co.:
STUART VARNEY: President Obama, he might use executive orders to push for smart guns. What do you make of this?
KATIE PAVLICH: Well, the problem with smart guns is they’re actually very dumb. And there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back on President Obama’s idea that smart guns should be used, not only just in law enforcement, but across the country. The fact is that smart gun technology has been on the market for years now and people don’t buy them because they are not reliable. The president’s argument is that, look you have to be able to have guns that can only be fired by their owners, but when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.
Stuart Varney: "It Is Legitimate To Use The Word Recession" Despite Seven Consecutive Quarters Of Economic Growth
Fox Business host Stuart Varney misleadingly used the Commerce Department's most recent economic growth estimat
On the April 28 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Varney used the Commerce Department’s quarterly GDP rep
The last recession, which the National Bureau of Economic Research defines as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months,” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, first quarter economic growth has typically lagged behind growth for the rest of the year since the economy emerged from the Bush-era Great Recession:
Varney’s warning that a recession may be imminent does not match expert analysis. On April 28, The Washington Post reported that “most analysts say that the United States faces little risk of recession.” Reuters reported
Varney is a serial misinformer on the economy, repeatedly attempting to spin data to claim President Obama’s economic policies have failed, even though the president’s economic legacy of the last seven years shows the unemployment rate has been cut in half, annual deficits have gone down, GDP has grown, and the United States enjoyed the third-longest stock market upswing in its history. Varney’s spin on economic data has gone so far that on December 4 -- in response to a strong November jobs report that beat most economists' expectations -- he managed to conclude that the pace of job creation was "mediocre," and on January 8 he downplayed the December jobs report as merely "modest" even though it was arguably the strongest jobs report of 2015.
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Fox’s Stuart Varney Continues Promoting Minimum Wage Myths
Fox Business dedicated multiple segments this morning to criticizing low-wage workers taking part in living wage demonstrations around the country. The segments almost exclusively featured minimum wage opponents, and continued Fox’s heavy reliance on restaurant executives who peddle misinformation about the supposed negative consequences of paying employees minimum wages of $15 per hour.
On the April 14th edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney repeatedly assailed low-wage restaurant, homecare, and university workers who are taking part in nationwide demonstrations organized by the Fight for $15. Over the course of six segments, Varney was joined by numerous guests who attacked the protesters for demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and pushed frequently debunked myths that increased wages would destroy jobs and hurt business. On two occasions, Varney allowed restaurant executives -- White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson and Bennigan’s CEO Paul Mangiamele -- to claim that increased wages would actually hurt workers:
Fox has repeatedly pushed myths that businesses are opposed to raising the minimum wage while spreading debunked claims that raising the minimum wage leads to job losses. Varney is a serial misinformer on the minimum wage, and his decision to elevate anti-living wage talking points from industry executives fits a long-standing trend at his sister network.
Contrary to Fox Business' claims that minimum wage workers will move up to better jobs quickly, a July 2013 study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found entry-level workers are “going nowhere fast” because low-wage restaurants offered little room for promotion -- and an April 2016 report from NELP happens to credit the Fight for $15 with successfully raising wages for 17 million American workers since 2012. Contrary to claims that business owners oppose raising the minimum wage, The Washington Post reported on April 4 that a leaked poll from Republican pollster Frank Luntz found "80 percent of respondents [business executives] said they supported raising their state's minimum wage." Economists have repeatedly debunked the claim that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs, and researchers at Cornell University argued that since minimum wage increase have "not had large or reliable effects" on restaurant and hospitality industry employment, minimum wage opponents would be better off embracing “reasonable” increases.
Guest host Charles Payne joined other panelists on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. in criticizing comments by billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn that no one likes coming into contact with low-income Americans -- especially other low-income Americans. Payne, who nevertheless called Wynn one of his “heroes,” has a history of poor-shaming on Fox that fits right in with Wynn’s remark.
Fox News’ misinformation campaign against the minimum wage has shifted into high gear following the passage of statewide increases in California and New York. The network is now hyping worries from senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano that a $15 minimum wage is a subversive attempt to “bribe the poor for votes,” which will result in dramatic price increases and job losses while driving more low-wage workers onto public assistance programs.
In an April 6 op-ed published by the right-wing Washington Times, Napolitano suggested that politicians are raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour “to win the votes of those they promised to help” while claiming that increased wages would have drastic negative economic consequences. On the April 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Napolitano claimed that raising the minimum wage would result in price increases that put necessities beyond the reach of low-wage workers, destroy jobs, and expand reliance on public assistance. Later that morning, Napolitano appeared on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. and claimed that “poor people will lose their jobs because they simply are not worth” a $15 wage. From Fox & Friends:
Counter to Napolitano’s claim that raising the minimum wage would lead to dramatic price increases, researchers at Purdue University concluded in a July 2015 report that increasing the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $15 per hour would result in only a 4.3 percent increase in restaurant prices. According to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, a 4.3 percent increase in the cost of a Big Mac in the United States would be roughly 22 cents. Researchers at Cornell University found that raising the regular and tipped minimum wages for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in the industry and price increases have not been large enough to “dramatically affect overall demand." Right-wing media have a long history of claiming that minimum wages destroy jobs and inflate prices, but the overwhelming majority of economic research shows no such relationship.
Napolitano’s poor-shaming stance on the supposedly lesser value of low-skilled and low-income workers mirrors similar comments from Fox Business host Charles Payne, who on multiple occasions has slammed minimum wage increases as rewarding and encouraging "mediocrity." In fact, according to ThinkProgress, a $15-per-hour minimum wage would not even be a living wage in many states, including California or New York -- workers today already need to make closer to $22 per hour. Furthermore, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), minimum wage workers have been undervalued for decades; if the federal minimum wage had kept up with increasing worker productivity since the 1970s, it would have reached $21.72 per hour by 2012.
Napolitano falsely claimed that increasing the minimum wage would drive more low-income Americans into poverty by destroying opportunities for employment, and that it would result in an increased reliance on public assistance programs. On the contrary, according to research by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on an abandoned 2014 proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by July 2016, the wage increase could have decreased reliance on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as “food stamps,” by $4.6 billion annually. In February 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that a $10.10 federal minimum wage would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty while injecting billions of dollars into the consumer economy. A December 2013 study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) similarly found that the modest wage increase would have directly or indirectly lifted wages for nearly 30 million American workers. Conservative media personalities like Napolitano frequently bemoan the supposed ill effects of raising the minimum wage, completely ignoring the heavy public cost that historically low minimum wages across the country already carry. An October 2013 report by the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center found that low wages in the fast-food industry alone cost taxpayers $7 billion annually by increasing the strain on public assistance.
Napolitano’s claim that minimum wage increases are a political tool meant to curry favor and “bribe the poor for votes” is a common right-wing media theme. Fox News personalities, often led by Fox Business host Stuart Varney, frequently claim that Democrats support policies aimed at alleviating poverty only as a means of “buying votes.” For years, Fox has claimed that the Lifeline program -- a Reagan-era telecommunications subsidy for low-income families -- was a Democratic plot to “bribe” and “enslave” American voters. In fact, tens of millions of Americans across the political spectrum rely on these vital programs, and Republican politicians are actually more likely than their Democratic counterparts to represent constituents who use food stamps -- a program that low-income families would be less reliant on if minimum wages were increased.