Debunking Fox & Friends' Dishonest Anti-Obama Attack Ad

Fox & Friends aired a video attacking President Obama by resurrecting dishonest and misleading attacks on his economic record. The video, which was produced in the style of a campaign ad against Obama, furthers Fox News' role as the communications and campaign arm of the GOP.

Fox & Friends' Anti-Obama Attack Video Is Loaded With Dishonest And Misleading Claims

CLAIM: The Debt Has Increased By $5.7 Trillion Due To Obama's Policies

REALITY: The Debt Increase Over Obama's Term Is Almost Entirely Due To Bush Administration Policies

Fox & Friends Ad Suggests Obama Responsible For Increase In Debt. The video aired on the May 30 edition of Fox & Friends included clips of Obama saying that he “pledge[d] to cut the deficit in half by the end of [his] first term in office” and that “all of us need to act more responsibly on behalf of a better economic future.” Following the statements, Fox & Friends aired this graphic showing the increase in federal debt over the course of the Obama administration:

Obama ad debt increase

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/30/12]

Ezra Klein: Bush Policies Responsible For Vast Majority Of Debt Increase Under Obama Administration. In a January 31 Washington Post column, Ezra Klein estimated that Obama's policies are responsible for $983 billion of the nearly $5 trillion increase in public debt over the course of his administration, while the remainder of the debt increase is attributable to Bush-era policies. From The Washington Post:

[I]f you're a deficit-obsessed voter, the clock doesn't answer the key question: How much has Obama added to the debt, anyway?

There are two answers: more than $4 trillion, or about $983 billion. The first answer is simple and wrong. The second answer is more complicated but a lot closer to being right.

When Obama took office, the national debt was about $10.5 trillion. Today, it's about $15.2 trillion. Simple subtraction gets you the answer preferred by most of Obama's opponents: $4.7 trillion.

But ask yourself: Which of Obama's policies added $4.7 trillion to the debt? The stimulus? That was just a bit more than $800 billion. TARP? That passed under George W. Bush, and most of it has been repaid.

There is a way to tally the effects Obama has had on the deficit. Look at every piece of legislation he has signed into law. Every time Congress passes a bill, either the Congressional Budget Office or the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the effect it will have on the budget over the next 10 years. And then they continue to estimate changes to those bills. If you know how to read their numbers, you can come up with an estimate that zeros in on the laws Obama has had a hand in.

A chart accompanying the column made in conjunction with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) illustrated the debt impact of Bush's policies versus Obama's:

Bush debt chart

[The Washington Post, 1/31/12; The Washington Post, 1/31/12]

CBPP: "[V]irtually The Entire Deficit Over The Next Ten Years" Due To Bush Policies, Economic Downturn." CBPP published an analysis of federal deficits in December 2009, which was most recently updated on June 28, 2010, titled, “Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers.” The report noted:

Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush's policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade -- that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.

The report also graphed the effects of Bush's policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the deficit. From the report:

CBPP policy debt effect

[CBPP, updated 6/28/10, emphasis in original]

For more on the impact that Bush's policies have had on the federal debt, click here.

CLAIM: Obama Responsible For Higher Unemployment Rate Than When He Took Office

REALITY: After Continuing The Upward Trend From The Bush Administration, The Unemployment Rate Has Dropped Under Obama

Fox & Friends Graphic Suggests Obama Responsible For Unemployment Increase. The Fox & Friends video played a clip of Obama saying, “It's time to create the good-paying jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.” The video followed the clip by airing an unidentified speaker claiming, “Instead of concentrating on job creation, President Obama has concentrated on growing government.” Fox & Friends then aired the following graphics:

Obama ad unemployment 1

Obama ad unemployment 2

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/30/12]

CBPP: “The Pace Of Monthly Job Losses Slowed Dramatically Soon After President Obama And Congress Enacted The Recovery Act.” As CBPP noted in an April 27 report, the trend of job losses at the end of the Bush administration “slowed dramatically soon after President Obama and Congress enacted the Recovery Act in 2009.” The report included a chart showing that unemployment continued its upward trend immediately after Obama took office, then began dropping. From CBPP:

CBPP unemployment chart

[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/27/12]

BLS: Unemployment Has Dropped From High Of 10 Percent To 8.1 Percent Under Obama. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes, the unemployment level began increasing in January 2008 and reached a high of 10 percent in October 2009 before declining to the current 8.1 percent rate. From BLS:


[Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 5/30/12]

Steve Benen: Initial Unemployment Claims Have Dropped Steadily Since Stimulus Passed. In an April 5 blog post, MaddowBlog's Steve Benen noted that initial unemployment claims have been dropping since the Recovery Act was passed. The blog featured a chart showing the decrease with the passage of the Recovery Act highlighted:

Maddowblog unemployment

[MaddowBlog, 4/5/12]

CLAIM: The Number of Americans Using Food Stamps Went From 28.2 Million To 46.2 Million During The Obama Administration

REALITY: SNAP Enrollment Increases Were Greater Under Bush, And The Increase Under Obama Is Largely Due To The Economic Downturn of 2008

Fox & Friends Video Suggests Obama Is Responsible For Increase In Food Stamp Use. The Fox & Friends video airs a clip of former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich claiming, "More people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history." The video also featured the following graphic:

Obama ad food stamps

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/30/12]

FactCheck.Org: Food Stamp Program “Has So Far Grown By 444,574 Fewer Recipients During Obama's Time In Office Than During Bush's.” In a January 18 “fact check” of what it called “Newt [Gingrich's] Faulty Food-Stamp Claim,” stated that “Gingrich strains the facts when he accuses Obama of being responsible,” writing: “Newt Gingrich claims that 'more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.' He's wrong. More were added under Bush than under Obama, according to the most recent figures.” The article continued:

Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. The number stood at 46,224,722 persons as of October, the most recent month on record. And it's also true that the number has risen sharply since Obama took office.

Fact Check food stamps

But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.

And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama's time in office than during Bush's.

It's possible that when the figures for January 2012 are available they will show that the gain under Obama has matched or exceeded the gain under Bush. But not if the short-term trend continues. The number getting food stamps declined by 43,528 in October. And the economy has improved since then. [, 1/18/12]

US News & World Report: Food Stamps Enrollment Was On The Rise “Well Before” Obama Took Office. From US News & World Report:

Food stamp usage has, as Gingrich suggested, increased dramatically during the Obama presidency, but hanging the increase on the president is difficult. Participation in the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the program to which “food stamps” refers, has increased from an average of 28.2 million people per month in FY 2008 to 46.2 million as of October 2011, the most recent month for which data is available. However, SNAP participation has been on the rise since well before President Obama took office. Nearly 17.2 million people in FY 2000 participated in the program, a figure that increased by nearly 64 percent by 2008. [US News & World Report, 1/17/12]

CBPP: Growth “Reflects The Fact That More Households Are Becoming Eligible Because Of The Recession.” According to CBPP, the “rapid caseload growth primarily reflects the fact that more households are becoming eligible because of the recession.” CBPP added: “SNAP caseloads can grow for two reasons: because more households are qualifying for the program and enrolling or because a larger share of eligible households are signing up. Both of these occurred in recent years.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/9/12]

CLAIM: Gas Prices During the Obama Administration Increased From $2.50/gallon to $3.68/gallon

REALITY: Obama Has Little Control Over Gas Prices, And Gas Prices Are In Decline From The 2012 High

Fox & Friends Video Suggests Obama Is Responsible For Rising Gas Prices. The video aired a clip of an unidentified speaker saying, “The American people are demanding a solution to high gas prices.” The video then featured the following graphic:

Obama ad gas prices

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/30/12]

Gasoline Prices Plummeted In Late 2008 In The Midst Of A Massive Recession. This chart shows that oil and gas prices fell sharply in late 2008 (displayed as an index to show the correlation between oil and gas prices):

Oil price graph

[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed 2/16/12]

Wash. Post In Feb. 2009: “The Overwhelming Cause Of The Collapse In Oil Prices Has Been The Faltering World Economy.” From a February 2009 Washington Post article:

Just one year ago, the price of oil finished trading at more than $100 a barrel for the first time, fueling speculation about a new era of oil prices. Yesterday, oil finished trading in New York at $39.15 a barrel, and that after surging 13 percent for the day.

The overwhelming cause of the collapse in oil prices has been the faltering world economy, which has fueled the drop in consumption.

Oil use in China, which most forecasters a year ago assumed would be the engine for increasing global demand, has screeched to a halt. [Washington Post, 2/20/09]

Former API Economist: Recession Is “One Way To Reduce Oil Prices, But Not A Very Attractive One.” In an email to Media Matters, Michael Canes, senior research fellow at the Logistics Management Institute, former chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, and a supporter of increased offshore drilling, wrote:

Most oil market experts believe that the rapid and sustained reduction in oil prices that began in 2008 and extended beyond occurred because the world economy began to slow down and ultimately to experience a deep recession. This is one way to reduce oil prices, but not a very attractive one. [Email to Media Matters, 3/7/11]

Gasoline Prices In Canada Have Followed Same Trend As U.S. The following chart shows that gasoline price trends are basically the same in Canada as in the U.S., underscoring the fact that prices are driven by the world oil market and not by Obama's policies. The difference between the two lines reflects the fact that the U.S. has relatively low gas taxes.

Canada gas graph

[, accessed 2/16/12]

Analysts: Speculation, Refinery Closures Currently Pushing Up Prices. From a February 14 Bloomberg Businessweek report:

Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. “Petrol demand is as low as it's been since April 1997,” says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. “People are properly puzzled by the fact that we're using less gas than we have in years, yet we're paying more.”

Kloza believes much of the increase is due to speculative money that's flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. “We've seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,” he says. “Each of the last three weeks we've seen a record net long position being taken.”

Refineries have also been getting squeezed by higher crude prices over the past several months, forcing some of them to shut down rather than operate at a loss, says [equity analyst Jason] Stevens. " [Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/14/12]

WSJ: Gas Prices Down 3.8% From Their 2012 Peak. In a May 7 article, The Wall Street Journal reported that "[t]he average price of regular gasoline dropped to $3.790 a gallon as of Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, down 3.8% from the 2012 peak of $3.941 reached April 2." From the article:

Many of the forces that drove gasoline up are reversing, and that is helping bring prices back down, though they still remain near record highs. Tensions over Iran's nuclear program have eased, while softening economies in the U.S. and Europe have curbed demand. At the same time, some refineries pegged for closure are coming back online, and bottlenecks in the supply of crude oil are becoming unclogged. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/7/12]

Fox Has Regularly Acted As A Campaign And Communications Arm Of The GOP

Fox Figures Used GOP “Ram It Through” Language To Attack Health Care Reform. During the debate over the health care reform bill, numerous Fox figures, including Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren, as well as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- both of whom were employed by the network at the time -- mimicked Republican politicians' language by claiming Democrats were attempting to “ram it through” Congress. [Media Matters, 2/25/10]

Jon Scott Passed Off GOP Press Release As Original Reporting, Typo Included. In February 2009, Fox host Jon Scott purported to “take a look back” at how the economic recovery plan “grew, and grew, and grew.” In his report, Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release. Scott later apologized, but only for the typo. [Media Matters, 2/10/09; Media Matters, 2/11/09]

Fox & Friends Hosts Recited Misleading House GOP Press Release. During the October 22, 2009, broadcast of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts, during a segment on the stimulus package, parroted a House Republican press release and repeated its claim that the stimulus' impact is “6 million jobs shy of what the administration promised us” since the administration stated “that 3.5 million jobs would be created.” Carlson added, “And, in fact, the United States has lost 2.7 million since the stimulus plan.” However, the administration estimated that by 2011 -- not September 2009, when the 2.7 million job losses since February were recorded -- 3.5 million jobs would be created or saved by the stimulus compared to the number of jobs that would have existed at the end of 2010 had the government not passed the legislation. Their numbers came directly from a GOP press release that relied on misleading comparisons and distorted data to attack the stimulus. [Media Matters, 10/22/09]

Doocy Proved He “Sounds Like” Rubio By Airing A Clip -- Of Rubio. During the October 7, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, then-Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek appeared on the program to discuss his campaign and his opponent, Republican Marco Rubio. After parroting GOP talking points, Meek told Doocy he “sounds like” Rubio. Doocy responded by airing a clip of Rubio. [Fox & Friends,10/7/10]

Fox Merged Bachmann/Palin Campaign Rally With Hannity. The April 7, 2010, edition of Fox News' Hannity was broadcast from the same location that earlier in the day had hosted a re-election campaign rally for GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann. During the show, Bachmann and Fox News contributor and rally attendee Sarah Palin joined host Sean Hannity on stage to promote “conservatives rallying in support of the values that will help the Republican party take back control of the congress this November.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/7/10 via Media Matters]

Fox's Huckabee Urged Viewers To “Call, Email” And “Write” To Congress To Oppose Health Care Reform." On the March 13, 2010, edition of Fox News' Huckabee, host Mike Huckabee called the health care reform bill “congressional castor oil” and a “horse pill sized health care bill” and “suggest[ed] that you call, email, write members of your Congress. Call them, keep calling until they answer.” [Fox News, Huckabee, 3/13/12 via Media Matters]

Fox Exec Bill Sammon Issued Memo Instructing Reporters To Replace “Public Option” With GOP-Preferred Term “Government Option.” At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase “public option.” Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts. [Media Matters, 12/9/10]

Sammon Instructed Fox Figures To Highlight Skepticism When Reporting On Climate Change. In the midst of global climate change talks in December 2009, Sammon sent an email questioning the “veracity of climate change data” and ordering the network's journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” [Media Matters, 12/15/10]