As part of Fox News' witch hunt against Obama administration “czars,” Fox News asserted that “czars are not subjected to congressional oversight.” In fact, many of the Obama administration officials the network has labeled “czars” have been confirmed by the Senate or were appointed to positions created through legislation passed by Congress; additionally, a number of the officials had counterparts in the Bush administration.
Fox lists 30 “czars,” claims they “are not subjected to congressional oversight”
Fox graphics list 30 czars. Fox & Friends displayed pictures of 30 Obama administration officials under the title “President Obama's Czars.” From Fox & Friends:
Fox & Friends graphic, hosts asserts czars are not subject to oversight. Moments after airing the “President Obama's Czars” graphics, Fox News aired a graphic stating that “Czars are not subjected to congressional oversight.” Additionally, during the segment, co-host Gretchen Carlson said of the “czars” : "[T]hey don't answer to Congress because, [co-host] Brian [Kilmeade], they don't have to be confirmed." Kilmeade replied, “Yup.”
From the September 11 edition of Fox & Friends:
Of 30 “czars” Fox listed, 10 were confirmed by the Senate or are in positions created by statute
Eight “czars” were actually confirmed by the Senate. The Senate's list of confirmed civilian “Executive Nominations” includes the following administration officials listed by Fox as “Obama's czars” :
- R. Gil Kerlikowske, confirmed as the Director of National Drug Control Policy on May 7; listed by Fox as the “drug” czar;
- Dennis Blair, confirmed as the Director of National Intelligence on January 28; listed as the “intelligence” czar.
- Cass Sunstein, confirmed as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget on September 10; listed by Fox as the “regulatory” czar.
- John Holdren, confirmed as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on March 19; listed by Fox as the “science” czar.
- Herbert Allison, confirmed as the Department of the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability on June 19; listed by Fox as the “TARP” czar.
- Ashton Carter, confirmed as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics on April 23; listed by Fox as the “weapons” czar.
- Aneesh Chopra, confirmed as an associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on May 21 and also named Chief Technology Officer of the United States by President Obama; listed by Fox as the “technology” czar.
- David J. Hayes, confirmed as Deputy Secretary of the Interior on May 20 and appointed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as “lead official for Interior and the Obama Administration in coordinating the federal response to California water supply” on June 28; listed by Fox as “California water” czar.
Two other Fox “czars” are appointed to positions specifically created by statute:
- The position occupied by Vivek Kundra, the chief information officer for the Office of Management and Budget, was created by the E-Government Act of 2002. Fox listed Kundra as “information” czar.
- The position occupied by Earl Devaney, chairperson of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Fox listed Devaney as “stimulus accountability” czar.
At least 13 Obama “czars” had counterparts in the Bush administration
Fox & Friends forwards claim that there were only “a couple of czars” during the Bush administration. During the segment, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) asserted that there were only “a couple of czars in previous administrations.” Carlson agreed, replying “Right. And a lot of people are wondering, is this just friends of Obama who need work and, you know, pay back a favor. Or do they actually have the kind of power that a Cabinet secretary would have -- who, by the way, has to be confirmed.”
Six of the “czars” confirmed by the Senate filled positions that existed during the Bush administration. According to the Library of Congress' Thomas database, Kerlikowske, Blair, Sunstein, Holdren, Carter, and Chopra all filled positions that were previously held by Bush administration appointees; Blair's position was created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004. Additionally, Kundra's position was created in 2002.
In at least six other cases, Bush administration officials held similar or identical positions to those of the officials listed by Fox:
- Joshua DuBois, listed by Fox as “faith-based” czar, is the director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. During the Bush administration, Bush first appointed John Dilulio as the director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
- George Mitchell, listed as by Fox as “Mideast peace” czar, is the special envoy to the Middle East. Retired Marine General Anthony C. Zinni served as “U.S. special envoy to the Middle East” during the Bush administration.
- J. Scott Gration, listed by Fox as “Sudan” czar, serves as special envoy to Sudan. During the Bush administration, former Sen. John Danforth, Andrew S. Natsios, and Richard S. Williamson served as special envoys to Sudan.
- John Brennan, listed by Fox as “terrorism” czar, serves as the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. Bush created the position of “assistant to the president for homeland security” and appointed Tom Ridge to that position. Frances Townsend and Ken Wainstein later held the same position during the Bush administration.
- Richard Holbrooke, listed by Fox as “Afghanistan” czar, is the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. During the Bush administration, Zalmay Khalilzad held the position of special presidential envoy for Afghanistan before becoming the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
- Jeffrey Crowley, listed by Fox as the “AIDS” czar, is the director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. During the Bush administration, Joseph O'Neill held the same position.
Fox engaging in witch hunt for “czars”
Fox has led charge against Obama administration officials they have called “czars.” As Media Matters for America has documented, Fox News personalities have been leading the charge against Sunstein, Van Jones, Holdren, and other Obama administration officials and nominees they have described as “czars” -- often by unearthing and criticizing statements the officials had made in the past rather than critiquing their job performance or credentials for those positions -- with Sean Hannity, for example, declaring that “my job starting tomorrow night is to get rid of every other ['czar'].”
From the September 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: Welcome back. All right, you're looking at the screen, and you're hearing the music. President Obama has appointed more than 30 czars who have a major influence on public policies. And even though these advisers are not Cabinet positions, they don't answer to Congress because, Brian, they don't have to be confirmed.
KILMEADE: Yup. Joining us right now, a guest who wants to change all that, from North Carolina, Congressman Patrick McHenry. Congressman, why now? Why, when we put up with czars through other administrations, do you think a line in the sand has to be drawn now?
McHENRY: Well, I think it should have been drawn in the sand a long time ago. The Constitution is clear, Brian, that the advice and consent of the Senate is required for high-ranking administration officials. And either these czars are high-ranking administration officials making policy, which is counter to the Constitution, or they're simply figureheads collecting a salary.
It's apparent that they -- they seem to be making some big decisions, whether it's the health care czar, the green jobs czar who resigned over the weekend, or the international climate change czar, Carol Browner, who's trying to coordinate policy with the Department of Energy and the EPA. So it seems to me that it raises questions, no matter the administration. And I think what's apparent is that the Obama administration has done what previous administrations have done, but they've done it in a much wider way.
CARLSON: Yeah, right.
McHENRY: Look, the government spends money, and they're spending a lot more money. The government's been involved in health care, but they want government to take over health care. They've had a couple of czars in previous administrations; now they have dozens and dozens of czars in the first eight months.
CARLSON: Right. And a lot of people are wondering, is this just friends of Obama who need work and, you know, pay back a favor. Or do they actually have the kind of power that a Cabinet secretary would have -- who, by the way, has to be confirmed. Here's my question for you, Congressman. I have really been sitting back and waiting for Republicans to stand up and speak out about this. You seem to be the first person to bring it to national attention that you actually have a problem with it.