Conservative media have long alleged that progressives are waging a "war on Christianity" in the United States. Now many of these same media figures are waging their own war on the man who leads the world's largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church's Pope Francis, for addressing the urgent issue of climate change.
Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change reveals his belief that there is a moral obligation to act swiftly on climate change, which disproportionately harms the world's poor. But conservative media are relentlessly attacking the pope over the encyclical, calling it "insipid" and "blasphemous," and fearmongering that the Catholic leader is a "Marxist" pushing for "a new world order," among other things.
Fox News renewed its attacks against federal overtime protections ahead of a rumored announcement that the Department of Labor will extend guaranteed overtime to qualifying employees earning up to $52,000 annually.
Throughout the day on June 10, Fox News and Fox Business personalities derided an expected proposal from the Labor Department that would expand guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers who currently work uncompensated hours. During a news update on Fox Business' Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, contributor Cheryl Casone said the rule was being called "frankly, a job killer." On Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney complained that President Obama was attempting to lift wages "by fiat," and claimed that the overtime rule would harm "the assistant managers of this world, who will no longer become assistant managers." On Cavuto: Coast to Coast, host Neil Cavuto quoted Rep. Tim Walberg's (R-MI) opposition to overtime protections, adding that "you can't fathom" why the Labor Department would act to expand overtime.
On Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott was joined by reporter Kevin Cirilli of The Hill and Weekly Standard editor Daniel Halper to discuss political and economic repercussions of such a regulatory change. Halper blasted the administration for engaging in supposed "left-wing economic engineering" before concluding that the rule change might "end up hurting the average worker":
HALPER: You have to give it to President Obama, he promised to govern with a pen and the phone, and he is. He's coming through. He's going around Congress ... the problem with this left-wing economic engineering is that it might not work, right? It might help some people, but it's probably going to hurt a lot of other people. Why should an employer, for instance, increase the hours of its current employees, give a lot of overtime, if it will cost them a lot more?
The employer, their bottom line, is to worry about their bottom line -- to worry about making money. And if this costs them too much money, well they're just going to find a way around it. And it's going to end up hurting the average worker and laborer. And, it's not going to achieve its stated goal, no matter how noble it may be.
In fact, economists believe expanding overtime protections to include more salaried employees is vital to long-term economic recovery. Under current federal guidelines, salaried employees are only guaranteed overtime pay if they earn up to $23,660 per year. Raising the threshold to $52,000 would expand overtime protections to at least 6.1 million additional American workers, and bring the policy roughly in line with federal standards last witnessed in 1975, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities predicted that the rule might actually boost job creation by encouraging employers to hire more part-time help.
Fox has a long history of opposing overtime protections while ignoring any economic benefits. The network attacked the administration in March 2014 when President Obama initially requested that the Labor Department review its standards. Despite admitting that they did not know what the administration would propose, Fox personalities called the regulatory change a job killer and complained that it amounted to "forced income redistribution." Fox figures worried that paying people for the hours that they actually work "undercuts work ethic" and created a "disincentive to stand out." Fox host Bill O'Reilly surmised that the president "may be actually hurting" workers by extending overtime protections, while Fox's Jon Scott wondered if the proposal was just an election-year distraction.
From the June 8 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
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Some conservative media pundits suggested 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may have disqualified himself from the presidency after his opposition to the National Security Agency's bulk phone collections program caused parts of the PATRIOT Act to lapse.
Fox personalities criticized President Obama for calling climate change "an immediate risk to our national security" during his U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement address. But security experts agree with the president that global climate change does threaten U.S. national security.
Conservative media personalities quickly jumped to Senator Rand Paul's (R-KY) defense after his contentious Today interview with host Savannah Guthrie.
Fox hosts falsely attacked the Obama administration for pledging to reduce its carbon emissions, claiming that the U.S. is the only country doing so and that the move will prove unpopular. But 32 other countries -- which account for 58 percent of global emissions -- have already committed to reducing carbon pollution in advance of international climate change negotiations that will occur in December, and both the Obama administration's plan for reducing emissions and its intention to sign a global climate agreement are supported by more than two-thirds of Americans.
Fox News' Special Report used a story about a train derailment and oil spill in West Virginia to push for the passing of the Keystone XL pipeline, a common pattern for Fox, which has a long history of exploiting tragedies to push for the pipeline's construction.
Congressional Republicans are borrowing from years of right-wing media attacks on federal disability benefits to justify their recent attempt to snarl funding for Social Security programs.
On January 6, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a change to legislative rules that restricts the historically routine transfer of tax money from the Social Security retirement fund to the Social Security disability program. Such transfers have helped keep both Social Security programs solvent. In practice, the rule change makes these reallocations nearly impossible by requiring that they be "accompanied by 'benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of both funds.' " As the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik explained, because the disability fund is on track to "run dry as early as next year," this could mean "disability benefits for 11 million beneficiaries would have to be cut 20%."
In a January 6 statement justifying the rule change, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) called the disability program "fraud-plagued." And during a January 14 event in New Hampshire on the long-term future of safety-net programs, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) claimed many who receive disability benefits are "gaming the system" and downplayed disabilities, saying, "over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club."
In advance of the Federal Communications Commission's February vote on net neutrality rules, media have promoted distortions of the proposed regulations, suggesting net neutrality is an unpopular, "Orwellian" takeover of the internet that may stifle innovation, hurt the economy, and raise costs for consumers. In reality, net neutrality has broad bipartisan support, promotes competition, and has been the guiding principle behind Internet innovation since its inception.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano branded the principle of net neutrality as "Orwellian" after President Obama spoke out in favor of an open internet for consumers.
On Monday, President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt the "strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality," emphasizing that "[a]n open internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life."
But according to Fox's legal analyst Napolitano on the November 10 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co, Obama just "wants to take the choice of buyers and sellers out of the market." After host Stuart Varney accused the president of seeking "to regulate the internet," Napolitano concluded that the entire principle of net neutrality "is Orwellian."
A flagship report found that acting on climate change and improving the economy go hand in hand, which was reported by business media outlets across the globe. But three prominent outliers left their audiences in the dark: CNBC, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal.*
On September 16, many major business media outlets from Fortune Magazine to BusinessWeek reported on a recent analysis finding that the next 15 years are essential for acting on climate change, and that it is possible to do so while simultaneously growing the global economy. The report, titled "The New Climate Economy" and carried out by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, refutes the "false dilemma" between economic growth and climate change mitigation -- an important finding for businesses that want to thrive in the decades ahead. From Reuters:
Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use, an international report said on Tuesday.
Yet the report was ignored by three prominent business media outlets -- a disservice to their business audiences who deserve to know the economic risks of global warming. The outlets that ignored the findings of the "New Climate Economy" report may not come as a surprise: CNBC, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal all have a sordid history with reporting on climate change.
When the "Risky Business" report was released earlier this year -- another report detailing the economic costs of climate change inaction -- CNBC was caught soliciting a writer to talk about "global warming being a hoax" to rebut the report's findings. The network's on-air coverage of "Risky Business" featured Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen criticizing the acceptance of global warming as "Orwellian groupthink." Media Matters analyses found that CNBC misled their audience on global warming in the majority of their reporting on the topic in 2013.
Fox Business also regularly offers demonstrably false reporting on global warming. Co-hosts have often claimed that global warming is over, or even that we are in a period of global cooling. When the Risky Business report was released, Fox Business mocked its findings of heat-related mortalities and dismissed the report entirely as using "scare tactics."
Similarly, Wall Street Journal dismissed the findings of the Risky Business report, with its editorial board calling one of its authors' suggestions for a carbon tax as economically harmful as the 2008 financial crisis. The Journal has downplayed and dismissed the impacts of climate change and other environmental threats for decades, and gives a frequent platform to "skeptics" that urge inaction on climate change and dismiss the basic science behind the consensus.
The New Climate Economy was heralded by political leaders around the world advocating a transformation in the global economy. By ignoring it, these outlets are showing that their priorities are at odds with businesses that want to prosper in a changing climate.
*Based on a search of internal video archives from September 15 to 12 p.m. September 17 for "climate" for Fox Business and CNBC, and a Factiva search for "climate" for Wall Street Journal.
From the July 31 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company: