Fox News tries to tell you that infrastructure isn’t really infrastructure

In campaign against Biden’s proposals, the network keeps moving the goalposts

Fox News is mounting a rhetorical push against President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan announced on Wednesday and is trying to declare that a number of projects mentioned in the bill aren’t “infrastructure” — even when they obviously are.

According to Fox's purported “news side” personalities as well as segments from opinion hosts, only roads and bridges actually qualify for the label — which leaves out the following: The electrical grid, broadband internet, building construction, plumbing networks, and who knows what else.

On Thursday morning’s edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer asked Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg why only a portion of the spending money was “dedicated to roads and bridges,” instead highlighting the bill’s investments in “electric grid improvements, broadband, water systems, and on and on it goes.”

Buttigieg then explained what was wrong with this argument: The electric grid, broadband internet, and other technologies are part of the infrastructure of a modern economy.

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Citation From the April 1, 2021, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom

BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): Quick glance, what's in the package, here it is: $620 billion to rebuild roads, bridges, and highways, $400 billion on home care for the elderly and disabled, $174 billion in tax incentives for sales of electric vehicles, $650 billion on electric grid improvements, broadband, water systems, on and on and on it goes. The Washington Post crunched the numbers. We crunched the numbers. We’d find that 5.5% of the $2 trillion — well, 5.6 of the $2 trillion proposal is only dedicated to roads and bridges. Why is that? 

PETE BUTTIGIEG (SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION): Well, we're talking about roads and bridges. We're talking about rail and transit. We're talking about airports and ports.

As you mentioned, we're talking about things like the grid. I don't know why anybody would say it's a mistake to invest in the grid after what we just witnessed in Texas. We saw U.S. citizens living in Texas, melting snow in their bathtubs to be able to flush their toilets — in the United States of America. That is unacceptable. So yes, infrastructure includes energy infrastructure.

You know what else is part of infrastructure now? Broadband. I'm proud of the fact, even though it’s a little outside my lane on the transportation side, I’m proud of the fact that we’re going to finally get broadband out to every American, because we know, especially in rural areas, how much that’s cutting people off from opportunity.

This line of argument, suggesting that various areas of technology don’t really count as “infrastructure,” began even before Biden delivered his speech. And it also becomes clear that Fox’s goalposts have kept on moving.

On Wednesday’s edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy said that there are “still some infrastructure priorities in this package,” such as money for roads and bridges, as well as to replace all the lead pipes still being used in the country, and $213 billion for environmentally sustainable housing.

But other items, shown in a list on screen, included “$174 billion to ‘win’ electric vehicle market” — as if the emerging market of electric vehicles doesn’t require a public strategy.

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Citation From the March 31, 2021, edition of Fox News Your World with Neil Cavuto

But then in the very next hour on The Five, co-host Jesse Watters contrasted the problem of potholes on the highways with building “a lot of electric car charging stations for all the Tesla drivers,” though the bill also includes basic money for roads. He also complained about the environmental improvements to buildings, casting it as wasteful: “If they retrofit every single building here in Manhattan, I'm going to have a headache with all the hammering. It's enough already.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2021, edition of Fox News’ The Five

Similarly, Sean Hannity remarked on Wednesday night that a large portion of the bill would be dedicated to such purportedly non-infrastructure projects as “retrofitting millions of homes and hospitals and other buildings in an environmentally conscious way and other funds would go towards building new green schools.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Hannity

Hannity also brought on South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who declared: “I was shocked by how much doesn't go into infrastructure. It goes into research and development. It goes into housing, and pipes, and different initiatives, green energy, and it really is not an honest conversation we're having about what this proposal is.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2021, edition of Fox News' Hannity

The next morning, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt reaired the clip of Noem’s comments. Keep in mind, of course, that Doocy’s earlier segment had included the replacement of lead pipes and housing improvements as part of the genuine “infrastructure” components of the package. But now, the network will run that clip of Noem as a serious statement, even after it was widely reported and lampooned the night before.