Fox News used Mitt Romney's claim that President Obama won the election by giving “gifts” to certain voters to press its argument that Americans who benefit from government programs mooch off wealthy people.
On November 14, Romney told donors to his campaign that the Obama campaign “focused on giving targeted groups a big gift.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Romney said “The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people.” Romney listed the Affordable Care Act and Obama's immigration policies as examples of these gifts.
On November 15, Fox & Friends embraced these comments. Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that in Europe “politicians have bought votes by handing out goodies to the population” for generations and that has led to unrest over austerity programs. He continued, “Now look over here. What position are we in in America right here? I say we're just getting started. We're throwing the handouts out left, right, and center.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interrupted, saying: “Mitt Romney mentioned that yesterday. He said he couldn't win because all these other people were giving things away.” Varney agreed, saying that American politicians are “buying votes with taxpayer money, handouts all over the place.”
Varney then criticized the president for wanting to “tax the rich” to reduce the deficit, saying: “The president thinks that if you tax the top 2 percent some more, you will pay for all the goodies, all the handouts that we've got going.”
In the past, Fox has repeatedly pushed similar arguments, trying to pit people who receive government benefits -- labeled as “takers” by Fox -- against the “makers,” Fox's term for the wealthy. Fox continued to press this theme during the 2012 presidential campaign. For instance, after video surfaced of Romney claiming that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims, are dependent on government, and thus wouldn't vote for him, Fox cheered on Romney's comments.
Fox personalities and other right-wing commentators have also pushed the same theme following Obama's reelection. Fox host Bill O'Reilly said that voters feel economic anxiety and just “want stuff,” while Fox host Eric Bolling said Obama is a “maker versus taker guy.” Fox contributor Monica Crowley said that the election showed that “more people now are dependent on government than not.” Rush Limbaugh compared the president to Santa Claus, saying that “small things beat big things” in the election and “people are not going to vote against Santa Claus.”
Unlike Fox, Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal strongly criticized Romney's comments. Jindal, who is slated to become the next leader of the Republican Governors Association, said that he thinks Romney's comments are “absolutely wrong” and that it doesn't “represent where we are as a party and where we're going as a party.” Jindal went further:
Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.
And, secondly, we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education. ... So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that's absolutely wrong.
CNN contributor Ana Navarro, who worked for the McCain and Huntsman campaigns to attract Hispanic voters, likewise criticized Romney's statements on Twitter: