On April 15, Fox News hosted a town hall for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). After the town hall, Fox hosts and guests began to misrepresent and smear his policy proposals.
Bernie Sanders participates in Fox News town hall
Bernie Sanders participated in a Fox News town hall, answering questions about health care, taxes, and wealth inequality. In his April 15 town hall event with Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spent the evening “swatting down tough questions from the hosts about health care, defense spending and his newfound wealth.” [Politico, 4/15/19]
After the event with Sanders, Fox News proceeded to bash him and mislead its audience about his policies
Fox News falsely represents Sanders’ tax policies
Fox anchor falsely claims Sanders “said everybody should pay 52%” in taxes. According to The New York Times, 52% was the top marginal tax rate Sanders proposed during his 2016 campaign, which would affect only high-income taxpayers. From America’s Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): I think you can find some contradictions in what he said. Look, the taxes show that he paid 26% taxes, but with Bret and Martha, he said everybody should pay 52%.
BYRON YORK (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well you know, that kind of put him in the middle of the Democratic Party because Bret and Martha were asking about proposals among Democrats that the top federal income tax rate -- individual rate -- be 70 or 80 or 90%. And he said, “No, no, no, it wasn't that high. And then in our last campaign, I called for 52%.” And then the bigger question of course was, well, why don't you just pay that? You can. Clearly [Sanders] doesn't want to do that. Kind of like in campaign finance reform when people say they want to take the money out of politics but as long as it's legal, they'll take those contributions. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/16/19; The New York Times, 4/15/19]
Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt: “If you don't work, but I work really hard, where is the fairness in taking half of my paycheck to give it to you who is not working at all?”
STUART VARNEY (FOX BUSINESS HOST): You're going to pay these high tax rates. He deflected. All right, look: Here is a guy who is -- he's a 1 percenter. He's a millionaire. And he's a socialist. I’ve got a problem with that. He is trying to make sure that we, the rest of us, on our way up, don't accumulate the kind of pile that he has already got at 77.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): And on the way out, with the estate tax.
VARNEY: It is outrageous. He wants to raise the estate tax dramatically to take it off you. Now look, where is the fairness in this? Where is the fairness in taking more -- wait, wait, wait. Bernie Sanders constantly goes back to the idea he has a fair plan. He is for fairness in our society. Where is the fairness in taking more than half of anyone's income? Where is it?
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Stuart, it's his dynamic. It's different than anybody -- you know, when he first burst on scene a couple of years ago, he's a democratic socialist. It's about socialism.
VARNEY: Where is the fairness in confiscating our money when we've saved all our lives for that money to pass on to our children and our grandchildren? Where is the fairness in confiscating that?
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Or where is the fairness in if you don't work, but I work really hard, where is the fairness in taking half of my paycheck to give it to you who is not working at all?
VARNEY: It's a different concept of fairness, is it not? To me, fairness is allowing people with the brains, talent, drive, and ability to climb that food chain and get to the top and stay there and be proud of it. Fairness to him is taking it off you. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/19]
Fox Business host says Sanders tax plan is “grossly unfair”: “No government should take more than half of anyone's income.”
STUART VARNEY (HOST): But what concerned me more was the issue of fairness. Bernie Sanders thinks it's fair to take more money off wealthy people, more money out of their estate, tax their income well above 50%. I say that is grossly unfair. I want to lay down this rule. No government should take more than half of anyone's income, regardless of what they make. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 4/16/19]
Fox guest claims Sanders’ policies means “we’re talking about more than a $20,000 increase in taxes” per taxpayer.
MAYA MACGUINEAS (PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET): We have looked at all of his plans, and we’re talking about on an annual basis. If you look at health care, free tuition, family leave, child care. Those proposals will all have a price tag of over $20,000 per taxpayer. So, I don't know whether they plan to finance all of that or add that to the very large national debt, but the costs are certainly high. And I know trillion’s kind of hard to get your arms around, but when you bring it down to the per taxpayer, we’re talking about more than a $20,000 increase in taxes. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/19]
Fox also attacks Sanders' health care plan and says he would ruin capitalism
Fox political editor says that “the most dangerous part of Bernie Sanders’ platform far and away is the abolition of private insurance as we understand it.”
CHRIS STIREWALT (FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR): That's why Democrats are concerned, because when you run and say, “Yes, I'm going to raise taxes, but it’s only going to be on the rich,” that gives Republicans the opportunity to say, “Yeah, but it’s not just the rich.” And also the most dangerous part of Bernie Sanders' platform far and away is the abolition of private insurance as we understand it. The idea that the 80% of Americans, the 150 million or more Americans who get their health insurance through work, through private insurance, on the individual market, all of that stuff gets exploded and once that comes into clear view, it gets really hard to sell. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/16/19]
Fox Business host claims that Sanders’ health care proposal’s “price tag could bankrupt the entire country.”
LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY (HOST): You're damn right, Bernie, because that's what capitalism is. It's making something you're proud of and sharing it with other people. So they can of their own volition go out and experience it. And that's why capitalism is so much better than socialism. Thank you for teeing that up, Bern. He also promised “Medicare for All” even though the price tag could bankrupt the entire country because as he put it, “health care is a human right.” [Fox Business, Kennedy, 4/16/19]
Fox guest fearmongers that Sanders’ proposals would “target the core of free market capitalism as we know it.”
RAJ SHAH (FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY): Bernie Sanders' health care plan would cost $30 trillion. His Green New Deal would cost $90 trillion. He has no real way to pay for it other than taxing people to oblivion and ending private health insurance and fossil fuel production as an industry as we know it. These are pretty radical ideas that would target the core of free market capitalism as we know it. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/16/19]
On a Fox “straight news” show, guest Art Laffer says Bernie Sanders being elected president would cause a total market collapse.
ART LAFFER (REAGAN ADMINISTRATION ECONOMIC ADVISER): It's just plain economics. Whenever you redistribute income, you reduce total income, and that is what he's doing. And I am very afraid that if he were elected, we would have an enormous crash in the market. Now that crash would come in anticipation of his election, but it's much like Obama, who I believe was the reason why we had the Great Recession. As he got closer and closer to winning, the markets collapsed. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/15/19]
Fox suggests Sanders is a hypocrite for being a millionaire and that he should volunteer to pay extra taxes
Fox anchor asks if Sanders volunteered to pay extra taxes.
SANDRA SMITH (CO-ANCHOR): Well, there he was, Democratic 2020 front-runner Bernie Sanders at last night's Fox News town hall. The senator releasing 10 years’ worth of tax returns just minutes before the event. Peter Doocy is live in Bethlehem, PA. Peter, did Sen. Sanders ever volunteer to pay more taxes last night?
PETER DOOCY (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT): Yes, but only if he is the president. Sen. Sanders explained that he voted against the Trump tax reform bill, but he is not going to do anything else to try to work around this legislation that has benefited him since book royalties started to pile up. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/16/19]
Fox guest: “Only in America can you write a book about the ills of capitalism and get rich off of it.”
RAJ SHAH (FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY): I think only in America can you write a book about the ills of capitalism and get rich off of it, which is what Bernie did. Look, nobody has ill will toward Bernie or anybody for being successful and making money and paying their fair share in taxes. What we want to know is why does Bernie have ill will toward everybody else who is trying to strive, make a living, move up in life and earn more money? Why does he want to tax them to oblivion? I mean, he tried to make that personal but this is about the American people. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/16/19]
Fox & Friends host calls Sanders out for calling “for an economy that works for everybody, not just the 1%” when he “is part of the 1%.”
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): And just before Bernie took the stage at 6:30 last night, at 6:00 he released 10 years’ worth of his taxes. And you know, Bernie through his career has called for an economy that works for everybody, not just the 1%. And according to the taxes, Bernie is part of the 1%. In the years 2016 and 2017, thanks to the economy and selling his book, he made over a million dollars in those two years. This past year he paid an effective federal tax rate at 26%. And when you think about it, you know, he has railed against the 1% and capitalism, and he was asked about, “Well, Bernie, isn't this proof that capitalism works?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/19]
On a Fox “straight news” show, a guest calls Sanders a “silver-tongued old fox” and said that he hopes Sanders “doesn’t try to stop everyone from making money once he’s made his.”
ART LAFFER (REAGAN ADMINISTRATION ECONOMIC ADVISER): He made a lot of money and I love him for doing that. I wish everyone else could too, and I hope he doesn't try to stop everyone from making money once he's made his. But no, he's done a very good job of making money and he should be a capitalist, but his policies really aren't there, as you and Bret so cleverly uncovered. But he is a silver-tongued old fox, isn't he? [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/15/2019]
Frequent Fox guest Andy Puzder calls Sanders “a very, very successful capitalist” who “wants everybody else to pay a lot more in taxes but apparently isn't very interested in paying more himself.”
ANDY PUZDER (FORMER TRUMP LABOR SECRETARY NOMINEE): Not only that, he paid -- if you go back two years, he made over a million dollars and paid one penny on the dollar to charities. The last two years, he’s paid a little over three cents on the dollar to charity. He doesn't pay much to the government, he doesn't pay much in charity. As Art said, he's been a very, very successful capitalist and he isn't even apologetic about it. He says, “Look, I'm not going to apologize for the money I made writing a book.” It’s much like what President Trump said, he doesn't apologize for his wealth. The only difference is that Bernie Sanders wants everybody else to pay a lot more in taxes but apparently isn't very interested in paying more himself. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/15/2019]
Fox Business host claims that “the hypocrisy was on full display.”
CHARLES PAYNE (FOX BUSINESS HOST): The personification of the American dream right there, right? Writes a bestseller, and he becomes a millionaire and he’s paying -- he paid an effective tax rate of half of what he’s demanding millionaires pay. So the hypocrisy was on full display. The combativeness was there. You know, but he was able to lay out his Medicare for All in a way that makes it sound very attractive because, you know, there wasn’t -- you didn’t have to get into the nuances of ultimately, you do ultimately have to say who pays for it. And it’s so easy to say “millionaires and billionaires paying their fair share.” We know that that's not true. I mean, this is a trillion-dollar plan. I mean Maya MacGuineas, she was on Fox & Friends this morning, she said it would cost the average family $20,000 additional. You know so, you can't pay for these pie-in-the-sky plans just by taxing the wealthy more. It’s just not going to happen. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/16/2019]
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade criticizes Sanders for attacking Fox
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade: “Lose the anti-Fox stuff.”
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): That was it. I give him so much credit for showing up, but lose the anti-Fox stuff because when you rip into Fox -- if you want to go at us personally, that's obviously your decision -- but when you go after Fox, you are going after the audience, 40% of which are independents and Democrats. And if you look at the stat before he walked in -- and I hope someone shared a pie chart with him -- don't put down Fox because with it, you put down the biggest audience in cable. Not just bigger than MSNBC and CNN. Bigger than ESPN. Bigger than TNT. So he should have been smarter when he did that. So he came in with a chip on his shoulder. But he’s always competitive by nature, even -- he rarely smiles even at his events. But when pressed, he put out a white paper. He has been talking about this stuff forever. He should have welcomed the follow-up questions from Martha instead of, “Why don't you pay more?” He had to have known that question was coming. And the estate tax basically says, that he has out there, give away all your money when you die.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): He was very combative at times and Bret even said, “Can we get over the Fox thing?” But you know, the crowd there, there were a lot of Democrats in the crowd, a lot of independents that asked some fair questions. And I applaud him for coming on Fox. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/19]
Kilmeade: “Everything was either a deflection, what about Trump, and a put-down about Fox.”
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Everything was either a deflection, “what about Trump,” and a put-down about Fox. That was his decision and that was his way of parrying -- I guess that’s a tactic, I guess skilled politicians deflect. But I just, it got a little tiresome after an hour.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Bret actually asked him, he said, “Can we get over the Fox thing?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/19]