O'Reilly Smears Fox News' Electric Car “Success Story”

Bill O'Reilly labeled electric carmaker Tesla Motors a failure, claiming it had net losses. But Tesla has actually turned a profit, leading Fox News to label it a “success story” just last week.

O'Reilly stated that Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan guarantee, had "$523 million in losses." But Tesla actually made a profit in the first quarter of 2013, and has arranged to repay its loan five years early. O'Reilly's figure is from a 2011 Investor's Business Daily editorial, as Raw Story first noted. In 2011, Tesla had annual net losses of $254 million, adding to previous losses, but CEO Elon Musk always saw Tesla turning a profit in 2013 once its car production ramped up.

In fact, Fox News itself labeled Tesla a “success story,” and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs reluctantly acknowledged that it was one of the “winners” of the Obama administration's clean energy programs.

Tesla received its loan guarantee from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, which was established in a 2007 bill that received broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Another company that received a loan guarantee under that law is Fisker Automotive, an electric carmaker that is reportedly preparing for a possible bankruptcy filing, leading to another onslaught of Fox News coverage.

If Tesla pays back its loan guarantee as expected, it won't cost the government a dime. Yet that loan guarantee will have helped Tesla obtain capital to manufacture its award-winning cars that it likely would not have been able to obtain otherwise. In short, the company's success makes it clear that the program is functioning as intended.

Media Matters Chart: Congress Set Aside $7.5 Billion To Cover ATVM Losses

If Fisker files for bankruptcy, we run the risk of not recouping the $192 million that it received from the Department of Energy before its loan guarantee was frozen. But Congress knew that not every company that received loans through the ATVM program would succeed, and set aside $7.5 billion to cover any losses -- none of which has been used so far.