Fox News reporters parroted false claims tying Silicon Valley Bank's failure to Black Lives Matter
The right-wing echo chamber eagerly promoted misleading claims about SVB's corporate donations for charitable initiatives
The right-wing media echo chamber pushed a completely fictional talking point that Silicon Valley Bank had supposedly donated $73 million to Black Lives Matter, based on distortions from a far-right think tank. And in Fox News’ rush to amplify the falsehoods, which fit the network’s preposterous political narrative that SVB was a “woke bank,” purported “news” personnel behaved no differently from the network’s opinion hosts.
As a prime example of Fox’s “news” personalities pushing blatantly partisan falsehoods, on the morning of March 15, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy claimed: “Roughly $73 million went to Black Lives Matter-related causes” from the bank.
And later that night, Fox host Sean Hannity said that Silicon Valley Bank “diverted a massive amount of money to left-wing causes. Now, get this, this is what we have discovered, that includes a whopping $73 million to BLM-related groups.”
This is the same network that, as recently unearthed text messages and emails have shown, will actively reprimand and penalize its alleged “straight news” reporters for debunking misinformation pushed by its opinion hosts and their guests. As such, nobody in the network would have any incentive to even try to unearth the facts, because Fox News is not in any sense a real news organization.
Actual SVB donations to Black Lives Matter: $0.00
The charge itself that SVB contributed over $70 million to Black Lives Matter or closely aligned organizations is based on a supposed “BLM-funding database” maintained by the Claremont Institute, a right-wing and openly anti-democracy organization that is also closely tied to disgraced former law professor John Eastman, who was closely involved in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
The Associated Press confirmed that the database does not show any spending to Black Lives Matter, and obtained a comment in which Claremont explained it was including “reparative initiatives,” which it called “race-based, discriminatory hiring programs; race-based, sub-prime lending; partisan voter initiatives; and DEI efforts.” The AP also obtained a comment from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which confirmed it did not receive $70 million from the bank, and added: “Even if we did, the idea that this type of contribution would be controversial is rooted in a pathology that Black organizations don’t deserve to be funded.”
In addition, professor Rodney Ramcharan at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business explained to the AP what actual evidence of bank failure due to “woke” business practices might look like, if such a thing existed. “The bank would have suffered loan losses—writing down bad loans made to ‘woke’ firms,” he explained. “So this is not a matter of opinion, but actual data. Instead, there are no unusual loan losses or loan loss provisioning.” (Claremont had cited “sub-prime lending” as a component of such alleged “woke” practices.)
The database labels any donations that support Black people as “BLM”
Writing for the newsletter Popular Information, Judd Legum, Rebecca Crosby, and Tesnim Zekeria reported that the Claremont Institute’s own database shows a total of $0 in donations to any officially branded Black Lives Matter organization. Instead, the organization’s database also includes spending that it describes as being for “organizations and initiatives that advance one or more aspects of BLM’s agenda.”
Under this amorphous criteria, Popular Information found that Claremont had included a pledge that SVB made in 2021 to spend $50 million over the course of five years for the company’s internal initiative to connect women, Black people and Latinos with startup funding and leadership connections in venture capital. Nearly all the rest came from a $20 million pledge to “support additional COVID-19 relief” and establish a “full-ride, needs-based University Scholarship program to students at Arizona State University, Florida A&M University, Tulane University, and Xavier University.” Both Florida A&M and Xavier University of Louisiana are prominent historically black colleges and universities. (It’s unclear why Claremont lumped in funding for Arizona State and Tulane.)
Talking Points Memo editor-in-chief Josh Marshall also examined the rest of the database on supposed BLM-related corporate spending, and found that Claremont’s appraisal of corporate spending throughout the business world essentially boiled down to “it seems adjacent to Black people, so that’s ‘BLM.’” These included any corporate donations to such longstanding organizations as the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP, or minority-focused business groups such as the Executive Leadership Council or the Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering, the latter of which was founded in 1976 by DuPont. (Also tagged as “BLM” spending in the Claremont’s database were corporate grants to the American Heart Association and U.S. Vaccine Adoption Grants.)
Keep in mind, Popular Information had also pointed out that the database defines the BLM agenda as allegedly being to “undermine capitalism, the nation state, and Western civilization.” By extension, Claremont is essentially accusing any corporate spending on Black education, health outcomes, or business development to be part of a plot to destroy Western civilization. This is the fabulist message that Fox’s reporters and the rest of the right-wing media ecosystem were so eager to spread.
Fox News drove the right-wing echo chamber’s amplification of false SVB claims
Fox’s alarmist coverage of the supposed link between SVB’s corporate giving and the BLM movement clearly spanned both its purported “straight news” side and opinion hosts, with the two camps voicing the exact same line over and over on Fox News, Fox Business, and the network’s digital properties.
- Fox host Jesse Watters asserted that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) “donated $74 million to Black Lives Matter." [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 3/14/23]
- Fox host Tucker Carlson: “Silicon Valley Bank, brace yourself, spent more than $73 million on donations to BLM and related organizations.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/14/23]
- Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt: SVB donated “more than $73 million to Black Lives Matter.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/15/23]
- Fox Business: “Silicon Valley Bank donated millions to Black Lives Matter-related groups, social justice causes, records show.” [FoxBusiness.com, 3/14/23]
- Fox White House correspondent Peter Doocy also pushed this, which Fox anchor Dana Perino failed to contradict. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 3/15/23]
- Fox host Sean Hannity: “Now, SVB was California's woke trendy bank. So, naturally, instead of safeguarding every penny deposited, SVB diverted a massive amount of money to left-wing causes. Now, get this, this is what we have discovered: That includes a whopping $73 million to BLM-related groups, five billion dollars in commitments to climate change.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/15/23]
- Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo: “Silicon Valley Bank donated more than $73 million to groups tied to Black Lives Matter.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 3/15/23]
- Fox Business host Larry Kudlow: “Apparently some more bad, there is such a slew of crazy left-wing stuff surrounding this Silicon Valley Bank. I mean this is some weird bank. First of all, they gave $73 million to the Marxist BLM, Black Lives Matter movement at the height of COVID and the race riots in 2020.” [Fox Business, Kudlow, 3/15/23]
- Fox Business guest Vivek Ramaswamy: “We’re now seeing reports about the amount of money they committed to BLM and related movements.” [Fox Business, The Bottom Line, 3/14/23]
- Fox Business guest Stephen L. Miller: “We had to bail this bank out. They’ve given millions of dollars in BLM initiatives and DEI initiatives.” [Fox Business, Kennedy, 3/15/23]
- Fox Business guest Mark Tepper: SVB “had pledged $74 million to left-leaning organizations and charities, including BLM.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 3/16/23]
- Fox Business host Stuart Varney expressed shock at the number, while correspondent Lauren Simonetti said “the question is were they distracted. Were executives too concerned about diversity, gender, climate that they missed the financial problem.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 3/16/23]
- Fox Business host Larry Kudlow: “This bank in Silicon Valley was a rogue bank. They did insane things. The board was full of Hillary Clinton donors, they had one person there with banking experience, they gave $75 million to Black Lives Matter two years ago, $5 billion apparently to climate causes and diversity causes, that’s just nonsense. … This is a rogue bank.” [Fox News, America Reports, 3/16/23]
- Fox Business host Larry Kudlow: “It’s a rogue bank, there is no question about that. The mistakes they made were fundamental mistakes also, you know. The duration was wrong. The asset-liability matchbook was all wrong. But you don't give $75 million to Black Lives Matter at the height of racial tensions in the middle of the pandemic. You don't commit $5 billion to all kinds of climate change, diversity, equity, and things of that sort, you don't do that.” [Fox Business, The Bottom Line, 3/16/23]
Fox was not alone in spreading this falsehood; many right-wing media outlets pushed the same lies. A New York Post headline read: “SVB donated $73M to Black Lives Matter movement, social justice causes.” An article from The Federalist was headlined: “Silicon Valley Bank Pledged Nearly $74 Million To Black Lives Matter Causes.” The Washington Times, citing The Federalist, wrote: “SVB donated more than $73 million to the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes.” A Washington Examiner headline read: “SVB collapse: Bank donated over $70 million to Black Lives Matter groups before closure.” Gateway Pundit declared in its headline: “Woke Silicon Valley Bank Gave Over $73 Million to Black Lives Matter Movement.” A Daily Caller headline stated: “Silicon Valley Bank Committed Over $73 Million To BLM And Social Justice Causes Before It Collapsed.” And it went on and on and on.
In an amazing turn of events, Breitbart actually issued a correction, noting that “the Claremont Institute’s definition of ‘Black Lives Matter’ included a far wider range of organizations,” and giving credit that “left-wing writer Judd Legum appropriately flagged these issues.”
So as of now, Breitbart has exhibited more journalistic responsibility than the entire roster of Fox News, including one of the network’s White House correspondents.