“Damage Control”? Fox Still Pushing Its Discredited Take On Obama And Small Business

Fox News is characterizing President Obama's response to the Fox-manufactured “you didn't build that” controversy as “damage control.” This comes after Fox promoted its deceptively edited clip for days -- and after independent fact-checkers have discredited attacks on Obama based on the deceptive editing.

Fox Claims Obama Campaign In “Damage Control” Mode

On-Screen Text: “Obama Campaign Steps Up Damage Control Over 'You Didn't Build That' Remark.” During the July 26 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly reported that President Obama's campaign released an ad responding to Mitt Romney's distortion of Obama's “you didn't build that” comments. On-screen text during the segment read: “Obama Campaign Steps Up Damage Control Over 'You Didn't Build That' Remark.'”

[Fox News, America Live, 7/26/12]

Fox's Kelly Suggests That “The Damage” From Obama's Comments “May Be Lasting.” During her report on Obama's response to attacks over his “you didn't build that” remarks, Kelly suggested that “the damage” from Obama's comments “may be lasting,” citing a poll showing Obama's approval rating among business owners. From America Live:

KELLY: It has been two weeks since the president made the now-infamous “you didn't build that” remarks, but the damage may be lasting. A new Gallup poll shows that nearly 60 percent of American business owners now disapprove of the president's job performance. Just 35 percent approve. To counter the new GOP war cry “we did build it,” team Obama just released a new television ad featuring the president himself, in which he dismisses the attacks against him, accusing his opponent of slicing and dicing his comments. [Fox News, America Live, 7/26/12]

But Fox Has Pushed This False Narrative From The Beginning ...

  • Fox & Friends Deceptively Edited Obama's Comments On Small Business. The morning show cut Obama's remarks in a way that made it seem like he was suggesting business owners didn't deserve credit for their success. In fact, Obama was noting that community support and public investment are important factors in business success. [Media Matters, 7/16/12]
  • The Following Day, Mitt Romney Repeated Fox's Distortion. [Media Matters, 7/17/12]
  • In The First Two Days Of Pushing The Story, Fox Spent More Than Two Hours Of Airtime Promoting The Falsehood. Coverage of the story ran on both Fox's “news” shows and its opinion programming. [Media Matters, 7/18/12]
  • On Day 3, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch Endorsed The Falsehood On Twitter. In a tweet, Murdoch wrote “Yesterday Obama went off script, showed real self ie government omnipotent, individuals secondary. Must be big damage.” [Media Matters, 7/19/12]
  • As Part Of “The Fox Cycle,” The Network Attacked Nonpartisan Journalists For Ignoring The Made-Up Story. [Media Matters, 7/19/12]
  • After More Than A Week, Fox Tried To Keep The Story Alive By Suggesting Obama Was “Doubling Down” On His “Insulting” Remarks. Fox & Friends used Obama's comments that “we did not build this country on our own. We built it together” as a pretext to revive the “didn't build that” smear. [Media Matters, 7/25/12]
  • On Fox News Radio, Fox's Martha MacCallum Said Obama's Comment “Shock[ed] Me” And That They Show “Some Level Of Resentment” Toward Small Business. [Media Matters, 7/25/12]
  • Fox & Friends Tried To Rebut Charge That Video Was Deceptively Edited With New Deceptively Edited Video. In this video, rather than play a video clip of Obama that includes all context context, the show played an extended video that still omitted the crucial piece of context: Obama's references to teachers, “this unbelievable American system,” as well as government research, roads, and bridges. [Media Matters, 7/26/12]          
  • Fox Hosted Karl Rove And His New Anti-Obama Attack Ad Repeating “Didn't Build That” Falsehood. Rove, cofounder of conservative super PAC American Crossroads, used a Fox appearance to promote the organization's new ad “Replay,” which mimics Fox's misleading editing of Obama's remarks. [Media Matters, 7/25/12]

... Even As Independent Analyses Say The Criticism Is Bogus

Wash. Post's Kessler: “Focusing On One Ill-Phrased Sentence” Amounts To “Pretend[ing] That Obama Is Talking About Something Different.” The Romney campaign released an ad that copied Fox's editing of Obama's remarks, and the candidate himself claimed Obama's remarks were akin to suggesting that “Steve Jobs didn't build Apple.” The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler gave those comments three “Pinocchios.” From The Washington Post:

Obama certainly could take from lessons from [Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth] Warren or [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt on how to frame this argument in a way that is less susceptible for quote-snipping. And Romney certainly could answer Obama's argument by engaging in a serious discussion about whether the wealthy should pay much more in taxes as a matter of social good and equity. That would be grounds for an elevated, interesting and important debate.

But instead, by focusing on one ill-phrased sentence, Romney and his campaign have decided to pretend that Obama is talking about something different -- and then further extrapolated it so that it becomes ridiculous. That's not very original at all. [The Washington Post, 7/23/12]

FactCheck.org: “Taking Snippets Of” Obama's Speech “Ignores The Larger Context Of The President's Meaning.” A FactCheck.org analysis detailed Obama's remarks and some of the attacks coming from Republicans. From FactCheck.org:

There's no question Obama inartfully phrased those two sentences, but it's clear from the context what the president was talking about. He spoke of government -- including government-funded education, infrastructure and research -- assisting businesses to make what he called “this unbelievable American system that we have.”

In summary, he said: “The point is ... that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”


We don't know what the president had in mind when he uttered those words, and his intent is not clear. Regardless, our conclusion is the same: Taking snippets of his speech ignores the larger context of the president's meaning that a business owner does not become successful “on your own.” [FactCheck.org, 7/23/12]