Fox & Friends Grossly Misrepresents Obama's Town Hall Speech

During the April 20 broadcast of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts discussed President Obama's recent town hall speech, falsely accusing the president of blaming a 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse on “budget holdout[s]” and of linking Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget outline to homelessness, while also again falsely claiming that Obama “doesn't seem to want to cut” spending from the budget.

Fox & Friends Hosts Repeatedly Make False Claims About Obama's Town Hall Speech

CLAIM: Obama Blamed The “Budget Holdout For The Collapse Of The Minneapolis Bridge.” During the April 20 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson stated: “Should we cut a deal with the Dems, or another bridge could collapse. That was the president's message yesterday, blaming budget holdout for the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge in 2007.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/20/11]

FACT: Obama Cited Bridge Collapse To Illustrate U.S. Infrastructure Issues. From the president's April 19 speech in Annandale, VA:

OBAMA: According to the Republican budget that was passed, for example, we would have to eliminate transportation funding by a third. We'd have to cut transporting funding by a third. You remember when that bridge in Minnesota collapsed with all those people on it? And there was a big hue and cry: How can this happen in America? Well, the National Society of Engineers, they've looked around and they give us a D when it comes to infrastructure. Our roads, our bridges, our sewer systems are all deteriorating.

We don't even have a serious high-speed rail infrastructure in this country. Our broadband lines are slower than places like South Korea. Well, so what, we cut transportation by another third, and what's going to happen to America? We're just going to have potholes everywhere? (Laughter.) We're just going to have bridges collapsing everywhere? Are we going to continue to have airports that are substandard? Are we going to go to other countries and suddenly realize that China and South Korea and all of Europe all have better infrastructure than we do, and we think that businesses are going to come here and invest? Or do we think that at some point companies say, you know what, America has got a second-rate infrastructure and it costs us too much money because our trucks going over those potholes are getting messed up?

So that's the choice that we're going to have to make. [, 4/19/11]

CLAIM: Obama Suggested That “Republicans Actually Do Want Homeless People On The Streets.” Also during the April 20 broadcast of Fox & Friends, Carlson stated: “So here's the thing. The allegation there, if you look deep beneath the speech and what he's saying, is that Republicans actually do want homeless people on the streets there.” Later in the broadcast, co-host Steve Doocy accused Obama of using “scare tactics” to sell his budget proposal, saying of Obama: “He's trying to pitch his deficit reduction plan, but did it sound to you like he was using some scare tactics? He was talking about how the GOP wants no government, and also how Paul Ryan's plan would put more homeless people on the street.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/20/11]

FACT: Obama's Speech Cites Lack Of Homelessness As A Goal Of A “Fair” Society. From the president's April 19 speech in Annandale, VA:

OBAMA: I think that there is a huge opportunity for us to be able to work together, particularly on this deficit issue. As I said, we now agree that it's a problem. Everybody agrees it's a problem. Everybody agrees about how much we have to lower the deficit by over the medium term, and that we've got to deal with long-term health care costs in order to get this under control. So it's pretty rare where Washington says this is a problem; everybody agrees on that; and everybody agrees on about how much we need to do to solve the problem.

The big question that is going to have to be resolved is, how do we do it? And there is -- I don't want to lie to you, there is a big philosophical divide right now. I believe that you've got to do it in a balanced way. I believe that you've got to, yes, have spending cuts, but you can't cut things like education or basic research or infrastructure down to the bone.

I believe that people who have been really blessed in this society like me and have a very, very, very good income can afford to pay a little bit more -- nothing crazy, just go back to the rates that existed when Bill Clinton was President. That wasn't that long ago -- (applause) -- that that's a fair thing to do, especially if it makes sure that seniors are still getting their Medicare and kids are still going to Head Start. Why wouldn't I want to make that sacrifice? Look, and I think most wealthy Americans feel the same way.

I want to live in a society that's fair -- not just out of charitable reasons, but because it improves my life. If there are young people out there who are going to good schools and have opportunity, if I'm not driving by and seeing homeless folks on the streets, why wouldn't I want to have a society where I knew that the American Dream was available for everybody?

So the question is, how do we achieve the same goal? Can we do it in a more balanced way? And the House Republican budget that they put forward, they didn't just not ask the wealthy to pay more; they actually cut their taxes further. [, 4/19/11]

CLAIM: Obama “Doesn't Seem To Want To Cut Anywhere” From Budget. Also from the April 20 broadcast of Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: But the president didn't -- doesn't seem to want to cut anywhere. The only thing we understand he's looking to do is raise revenue by raising it on what he claims are rich people. He says they can no longer sit back, wait, and relax. When do high-earners sit back, wait, and relax? So, that was his message.

Also I picked up yesterday - I just couldn't believe the link to homelessness and Paul Ryan's plan. The links to bridge collapsing and cutting back on infrastructure costs -- the fact is that you have to make some tough decisions, the president just said. One of those tough decisions might be Pell Grant cuts, but not if he's standing in front of a young audience, so you do that. And the president is right in saying this politically. Maybe not for the country but politically, because even though the majority of the country disapprove of the way he's handling the economy, they also disapprove of Medicaid cuts. Almost 70 percent of the country are against any type of Medicaid cuts, which would be what Paul Ryan is suggesting. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/20/11]

FACT: Obama Has Repeatedly Proposed Spending Cuts To Reduce The Deficit.

  • Obama Proposed Spending Cuts In Fiscal Policy Address. In his April 13 address on fiscal policy, Obama proposed increasing tax rates on the wealthy while also cutting spending. From Obama's April 13 address:

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week. That step alone will save us about $750 billion over 12 years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs that I care deeply about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments that we need to grow and create jobs. We will invest in medical research. We will invest in clean energy technology. We will invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education. We will invest in job training. We will do what we need to do to compete, and we will win the future.

The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. Now, as Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America's interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America's national security is America's debt. So just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. And we can do that while still keeping ourselves safe.

Over the last two years, Secretary Bob Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but we're going to have to conduct a fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it's complete.

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Now, here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer. Their plan essentially lowers the government's health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government's health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare's purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid. [, 4/13/11]

  • Washington Post: Obama's Plan “Combine[s] Deep Cuts ... With Higher Taxes On The Wealthy.” In an April 13 article, The Washington Post reported that Obama “offer[ed] a plan to trim borrowing by $4 trillion over the next 12 years by combining deep cuts in military and domestic spending with higher taxes on the wealthy.” [Washington Post, 4/13/11]
  • In Town Hall Speech, Obama Frequently Cited Intended Spending Cuts. From the president's April 19 speech in Annandale, VA:

OBAMA: So what my plan does is it starts with combing the budget for savings wherever we can find it. And we had a good start a few weeks ago, when both parties came together around a compromise that cut spending but also kept the government open and kept vital investments in things that we care about. We need to build on those savings, and I'm not going to quit until we've found every single dime of waste and misspent money. We don't have enough money to waste it right now. I promise you that. We're going to check under the cushions -- you name it. (Laughter.)

But finding savings in our domestic spending only gets you so far. We're also going to have to find savings in places like the defense budget. (Applause.) As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not cut a penny if it undermines our national security. But over the last two years, the Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has taken on wasteful spending that doesn't protect our troops, doesn't protect our nation -- old weapons systems, for example, that the Pentagon doesn't want, but Congress sometimes keeps on stuffing into the budget. Well-connected special interests get these programs stuck in the budget even though the Pentagon says we don't need these particular weapons systems.

So we've begun to cut those out. And Secretary Gates has found a lot of waste like that and has been able to save us $400 billion so far. I believe we can do that again. Four hundred billion dollars -- even in Washington, that's real money. That funds a lot of Pell Grants. That funds a lot of assistance for communities like this one. (Applause.)

We'll also reduce health care spending, and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid through some common-sense reforms that will get rid of, for example, wasteful subsidies to insurance companies. (Applause.) Reforms that can actually improve care -- like making it easier for folks to buy generic drugs, or helping providers manage care for the chronically ill more effectively. And we can reform the tax code so that it's fair and it's simple -- (applause) -- so the amount of taxes you pay doesn't depend on whether you can hire a fancy accountant or not.


So that's the first part of the plan -- cutting spending in a way that is fair and asks for shared responsibility. [, 4/19/11]