Fox Distorts Obama's Comments To Claim He Ignored The Economy In First Term

Fox & Friends ignored parts of President Obama's recent interview with the Des Moines Register to accuse him of admittedly ignoring the economy when he took office. In fact, Obama emphasized in the interview that he had done as much as possible to fix the economy given constant Republican obstruction.

Fox News Claimed Obama Admitted In An Interview That He Ignored The Economy In Favor Of Health Care Reform

Fox Claimed Obama Said He Ignored The Economy And Had No Regrets. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy suggested that President Obama had something to hide when he initially requested that an interview he did with the Des Moines Register's editorial board be kept off the record. Co-host Gretchen Carlson responded that when he was asked “whether or not it was a mistake to try and get health care passed before -- many people argued -- trying to get jobs back in America,” Obama said: “Absolutely not.” While Doocy and Carlson spoke, Fox aired captions claiming: “Economy on the back-burner: President made Obamacare top priority” and “Economy ignored? President has no regrets.”

DOOCY: Yesterday we told you at this time that Barack Obama, trying to get the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, the big influential paper out in Iowa, he did a half an hour interview and then at the end of it said, you know what, this is all off the record, right? Well Mitt Romney had done a one hour interview, it was not off the record, it was on the record, and in fact you can hear it on their website.

But this kind of blew up in their face because people said, what was the president hiding what he told the Des Moines Register? Well, because it did backfire, they did backtrack, and now they have released the audio and as it turns out now we know perhaps why the President of the United States didn't want the interview released.

CARLSON: So here is a part of that transcript from when he's talking about the economy, and whether or not it was a mistake to try and get health care passed before -- many people argued -- trying to get jobs back to America. So here's the quote. He asked if he had regretted doing that: “Absolutely not ... Mitch McConnell has imposed an ironclad filibuster from the first day I was in office. And that's not speculation ... He gave a speech saying, my task is to defeat the President.”

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): That's not true. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/25/12]

Reality: In Interview, Obama Spoke About How He Focused On The Economy While Passing Health Care Reform

Obama Actually Said He Focused On The Economy And Was Stymied From Doing More By Republican Obstruction. During his interview with the Des Moines Register, President Obama explained all the measures he took to improve the economy upon taking office including the Recovery Act (commonly referred to as the stimulus), the auto industry rescue, stabilization of the nation's bank, and health care reform itself. Obama also stated that Republicans would have blocked other legislation from passing even if Democrats had not passed the health care reform bill:

Q: Yes, that begs a question from us, Mr. President. Some say you had a super majority in your first two years and had this incredible opportunity, but because of what you were talking about, as you were running, you had to go to get Obamacare done. Do you have any regrets taking on some of the economic issues, some of the issues that we're talking about for your second term, that when you had the chance, so to speak, during your first -- do you have any regrets that you didn't do that at that time?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely not, Laura. Remember the context. First of all, Mitch McConnell has imposed an ironclad filibuster from the first day I was in office. And that's not speculation. I mean, this is -- it's amply recorded. He gave a speech saying, my task is to defeat the President.

So we were able to pass emergency action with the stimulus, but we had to get two votes from Republicans. One of them essentially was driven out of the party -- Arlen Specter, who recently passed away. We then -- because Al Franken hadn't been seated, didn't have 60 votes until essentially -- there was a four- or five-month span. But at that point, we had already put in place the Recovery Act. We had already moved forward to help states avoid teacher layoffs and so forth.

And we were already in the process of stabilizing the banks. We had already engineered the process that would save the auto industry. And there was not going to be any appetite among Democrats or Republicans to take additional actions until we saw the progress that was making -- that needed to be made.

And our health care system is one-sixth of our economy. And if we have a situation where spending on health care at every level is going up at 6, 7, 10 percent a year, and we've got millions of people without coverage or inadequate coverage, the suggestion that that's not a central economic priority for the country is just something that I wouldn't buy.

And the suggestion somehow that if we hadn't pursued Obamacare, somehow we would have gotten additional stimulus out of the Republicans, for example, that we could have primed the pump more, that's just not borne out by any of the evidence.

In fact, the first stimulus, when we were contracting at 8 percent a quarter, as I was on my way up -- a month after I'd been elected, or two months after I'd been elected -- as I was on my way up to meet the House Republicans to share with them my ideas about how we should pass this Recovery Act, they already said they'd vote against it. [Des Moines Register, 10/24/12]

From The Beginning Of His Time In Office, Obama Pursued Initiatives To Improve The Economy

Obama's First Speech To Congress Focused On The Economy. Obama's first address to Congress on February 24, 2009, focused on the economy, as CNN noted in an article that included the transcript of his speech. The headline CNN used read: “Obama speech to Congress focuses on economy.” From Obama's speech:

I have come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others, and rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your family.

You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost, the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.

The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories, in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. [, 2/24/09]

February 2009: Obama Signed Stimulus Bill. On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, which the Associated Press described as “an ambitious package of federal spending and tax cuts designed to revive the economy and save millions of jobs.” [Associated Press, 2/17/09]

May 2009: Obama Signed Credit Card Reform Into Law. From the White House website:

Today, President Obama signs the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, marking a turning point for American consumers and ending the days of unfair rate hikes and hidden fees.

Americans need a healthy flow of credit in our economy, but for too long credit card contracts and practices have been unfairly and deceptively complicated, often leading consumers to pay more than they reasonably expect. Every year, Americans pay around $15 billion in penalty fees. Nearly 80 percent of American families have a credit card, and 44 percent of families carry a balance on their credit cards. To tackle these problems, the Administration moved swiftly with the Congress to enact reforms. [, 5/22/09]

July 2009: GM Exited Bankruptcy. On July 10, 2009, General Motors exited bankruptcy protection with the assistance of the Obama administration. From Reuters:

A whirlwind 40-day bankruptcy for GM concluded with the closing of a deal that sold key operations to a new company majority-owned by the U.S. Treasury.

The development, which follows a similar fast-track reorganization of Chrysler, represented a victory for the Obama administration and its commitment to save jobs and prevent a liquidation of the largest U.S. automaker.

At the same time, the U.S. government has taken on substantial new risks as a 60 percent owner of the new GM with a $50 billion equity investment and $10 billion in debt and perpetual preferred shares.

Analysts said the government intervention had given GM a new chance and sharply lower operating costs, but left management facing deep challenges given the weak economy and GM's long-running slide in market share. [Reuters, 7/10/09]

October 2009: Obama Announced Small Business Lending Initiatives. On October 21, 2009, the Obama administration announced several initiatives it sought to help small businesses acquire loans. The New York Times reported:

On the Small Business Administration side, the administration will ask Congress to raise the loan limit on the 7(a) lending program to $5 million; on the 504 program to between $4 million and $5.5 million, depending on the type of loan; and on the microloan program to $50,000. These caps are identical to those proposed in legislation by Senator Olympia Snowe, the Maine Republican, whose support is crucial to the administration on another front -- health-care reform.

In addition, community banks will be able to borrow up to 2 percent of their “risk-weighted assets” in TARP money at 3 percent interest (down from 5 percent) for five years. In exchange, banks will have to demonstrate how they plan to increase small business lending and they will have to follow up with quarterly reports.

Finally, microlending community groups in poor urban and rural areas that are regulated by the Treasury Department and known as community development financial institutions will be able to borrow money from the federal government at 2 percent interest for eight years. [The New York Times, 10/21/09]

Health Care Reform Was Part Of Obama's Economic Agenda

Urban Institute: “Cost-Containment Provisions In The ACA Will Boost The Economy And Employment Over Time.” In a 2011 report released examining how the Affordable Care Act “will impact labor costs and the demand for labor,” the Urban Institute stated that the Affordable Care Act will contain the costs of health care, which will lead to economic and jobs growth over time.

There are many cost-containment measures in the ACA, and other proposals could build on those measures if adopted. Cost containment would have somewhat opposite effects than the effects of coverage expansion. To the extent the cost-containment efforts are successful, they will reduce the growth in health care costs. This will reduce the demand for labor as well as incomes in the health care sector, but it will increase the discretionary income that individuals and families have to spend elsewhere. Thus, if these efforts are successful, there will be additional spending outside the health sector that will increase demand for labor in other sectors.


Curtailing the growth in health care costs will mean lower costs for businesses and individuals. The CEA [Council of Economic Advisers] has estimated that reducing the growth in health care costs by 1 percentage point per year would result in a 4.0 percent higher GDP by 2030, due to a higher national savings rate, more capital formation and higher output. Faster growth in GDP would mean more jobs, lower unemployment, and higher family incomes.


Cost-containment efforts, if successful, will have somewhat opposite effects, reducing the growth in spending on Medicare and Medicaid, which will reduce the taxes or borrowing the federal government has to undertake. Cost-containment that reduces the federal budget deficit would result in faster economic growth, more employment and higher family incomes. Cost-containment would also free up private dollars to be spent in non-health areas of the economy. [Urban Institute, “How Will the Affordable Care Act Affect Jobs?” 3/21/11]

MIT Economist: “The Affordable Care Act Will Boost The Economy.” MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber, who consulted with the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act, wrote that the Affordable Care Act will create jobs in the medical profession and lead to an increase in consumer spending, which will “provide short-run stimulation to the economy and more hiring” and may “greatly improve the economy in the long run.”

Forget death panels. Lately critics of the Affordable Care Act have been promoting a different claim--that “Obamacare” is a job-killer. Specifically, they say, it will stifle the economy with regulations and taxes. But the economic literature doesn't support this claim. If anything, it suggests the opposite: The Affordable Care Act will boost the economy.

By now, most people who follow politics know that the law will result in more than 30 million additional Americans getting health insurance. But what few realize is that, by expanding insurance coverage, the law will also increase economic activity. These newly insured individuals will demand more medical care than when they were uninsured. And while it takes many years to train a family physician or nurse practitioner, it doesn't take much time to train the assistants and technicians (and related support staff) who can fill much of this need. In many cases, these are precisely the sort of medium-skill jobs that our economy desperately needs -- and that the health care sector has already been providing, even during the recession.

More immediately, the increase in economic security for American families will also mean an increase in consumer spending. Many uninsured consumers are forced to set aside money in low interest liquid accounts to make sure they have enough to cover unexpected medical costs. With the security provided by health insurance, they can free that money up for consumption that is much more valuable to them. When the federal government expanded Medicaid in the 1990s, my own research has shown, the newly insured significantly increased their spending on consumer goods. More purchases of consumer goods will provide short-run stimulation to the economy and more hiring.


In sum, we know that the ACA will increase jobs in the medical sector in the short run, above and beyond any partial offsets from new excise taxes on that sector. We know that the ACA will improve the functioning of our labor market in the medium run, by allowing workers to move to the positions in which they are most productive and satisfied. We know that there will be little economic drag from taxes on the wealthy or the small equity payments imposed on employers. And there is a good chance that the ACA will greatly improve the economy in the long run by controlling the rate of health care cost increase. The choice between protecting our most vulnerable citizens and improving our economy is a false one--fully implementing the ACA will make both our citizens and our economy more secure. [The New Republic, 7/9/12]

And Republicans Engaged In Historic Levels Of Obstruction To Block Obama's Initiatives

Republicans Held Secret Meeting On How To Block Obama's Agenda On The Very Day He Was Nominated. Journalist Robert Draper reported that on the day of Obama's inauguration, Republicans in Congress and conservative strategists held a secret meeting in which they plotted ways to “put the brakes on Obama's legislative platform.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the group: “You'll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown”:

As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

The event -- which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured -- serves as the prologue of Robert Draper's much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”

According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama's legislative platform.

“If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”


“You will remember this day,” Draper reports Newt Gingrich as saying on the way out. “You'll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.” [The Huffington Post, 4/25/12]

Republican Senate Leader McConnell: “The Single Most Important Thing We Want To Achieve Is For President Obama To Be A One-Term President.” In an October 23, 2010 interview with the National Journal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” [The Washington Post, The Fact Checker, 9/25/12]

Congressional Experts: Republicans Are “At The Core Of The Problem” Of A Dysfunctional Washington. In an April 27 Washington Post op-ed, Brookings Institution senior fellow Thomas E. Mann and American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman J. Ornstein stated that Washington politics are more dysfunctional than they had ever witnessed and “the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party”:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach. [The Washington Post4/27/12]