REPORT: Time and again, Fox News doctors video to smear progressives

Media Matters has documented numerous examples of Fox News hosts and correspondents cropping comments by progressives and Democratic political figures in a manner that misrepresents them.

On three occasions from April 24 to May 1, Media Matters for America documented Fox News figures airing clips of progressives that were cropped in a way that misrepresented their statements. For example, White House correspondent Wendell Goler cropped a comment by President Obama and took it out of context to falsely suggest that he supports creating a health-care system “like the European countries.” In fact, Obama was paraphrasing the town hall question he had been asked before explaining why he opposed such a system.

These examples are not anomalous for Fox News -- while it purports to be “fair and balanced” and claims, “We report, you decide,” Media Matters has documented dozens of similar examples over the years. Fox News has misleadingly cropped the comments of progressives such as Obama, former Vice President Al Gore, Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and former President Bill Clinton. Those comments dealt with a wide range of topics, including health care, earmarks, the financial crisis, the 2008 presidential campaign, and global warming.

In 2006, Media Matters noted a pattern in which correspondents on Fox News' Special Report aired cropped clips of Democratic senators commenting on President Bush's warrantless wiretapping that did not include those senators' objections to the program's legality.

Below, Media Matters presents a non-comprehensive list of the most misleading instances in which Fox News figures aired cropped clips of progressives that were taken out of context.

  • During the May 1 edition of Special Report, saying it was a “description of how the president hopes his nominee will interpret the law,” congressional correspondent Major Garrett aired a clip in which Obama stated: “I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.” Garrett then said: “That aggravates those who believe justices should follow the Constitution and legislative intent.” But Garrett omitted the very next sentence, in which Obama stated: “I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role.”
  • On the May 1 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, during a segment suggesting that Gore has profited from his advocacy of renewable energy and climate change mitigation, guest host Laura Ingraham presented clips of Gore's April 24 congressional testimony that had been edited to remove his statements that he donates the money he makes from his climate-related work to a nonprofit organization.
  • During the April 24 edition of Special Report, Goler claimed that Obama “doesn't want to do it halfway” on health care, and then aired a clip from a March 26 online town hall event of Obama saying, “If you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health-care system like the European countries?” Following the clip, Goler reported: “His critics worry universal health care would mean government-run health care.” In fact, Obama actually said, "Now, the question is, if you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health-care system like the European countries?" [emphasis added] In doing so, Obama was paraphrasing the town hall question he had been asked -- “Why can we not have a universal health-care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?” -- before explaining why he opposed such a system.
  • On the April 3 edition of his television program, Sean Hannity played a clip of Obama saying in an April 3 speech in Strasbourg, France: “In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” Hannity then said: “And the liberal tradition of blame America first, well, that's still alive.” Hannity later asked: “Why is there this anti-Americanism in Europe?” In fact, immediately after the part of the speech Hannity played, Obama criticized anti-Americanism in Europe as well as Europeans who “choose to blame America for much of what's bad.”
  • During the March 16 edition of The Live Desk, co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that “after weeks of economic doom and gloom, the Obama administration is now singing a slightly different tune. Take a look at what was said in recent interviews this weekend.” Fox News then aired clips of administration officials purportedly giving an optimistic view of the economy, which included a clip of Biden stating: “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” After the clips aired, MacCallum contrasted the administration's purported remarks from “this weekend” with what then-Sen. Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he criticized Sen. John McCain for stating that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times.” However, Biden did not make his remarks during an “interview[]” over the past weekend; Biden made his remarks at a September 15, 2008, campaign event, and, like Obama, was criticizing McCain for his remarks -- not echoing McCain. On the next day's Live Desk, MacCallum apologized for “inadvertedly us[ing]” the clip.
  • On April 7, 8, and 9, several Fox News personalities -- including Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Fox & Friends co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy -- aired cropped video of Frank's exchange with Harvard University student Joel Pollak, who asked Frank during an event at the Harvard School of Government, "[H]ow much, if any, responsibility do you think you bear" for the financial crisis. The Fox News personalities suggested or stated that Frank had refused to answer Pollak's question or had denied any responsibility for the crisis. In fact, in portions of the exchange not aired by the Fox News personalities, Frank said, “The answer is, yes, I do take responsibility for something.” Frank later added that after filing “a bill in 2006, when I was still in the minority, to say hedge funds should be registered,” in 2007, he “was approached by people who said, 'No. No. You can't do too much regulation,' and I backed off. I wish I hadn't.” Frank also noted that he did, in fact, work on legislation to deal with mortgage lending, stating that in 2007, his committee passed restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and on subprime lending.
  • On the March 6 edition of his Fox News program, Hannity falsely claimed that Obama made a “campaign promise” to allow “no earmarks.” After purporting to “go to the videotape” and “show the audience at home” Obama's “campaign promise” of “no earmarks,” Hannity aired a number of clips from the 2008 presidential campaign in order to claim that Obama was breaking his promise, when, in fact, in three of the clips, Obama was referring to reforming the earmark process, and in a fourth, he was asserting that an opponent was being hypocritical for taking earmarks and then advocating against them. In the fifth clip, which was actually taken from a January 6 media availability -- not during the presidential campaign, as Hannity suggested -- Obama stated: “We are gonna ban all earmarks -- the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review.” However, Obama was referring to his desire to “ban all earmarks” from his “recovery and reinvestment plan,” which he specifically distinguished from “the overall budget process.”
  • Like Hannity, O'Reilly aired Obama's statement, “We are going to ban all earmarks,” and falsely characterized it as a promise to ban them from all legislation, not from the recovery plan. On the March 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly aired Obama's statement, then said, “President Obama pledging last January to end earmarks in federal spending.” Later in the show, referring to earmarks included in the omnibus appropriations bill, O'Reilly stated, “But Obama's on record -- we just played the clip -- that he's going to do away with this. And then he takes 9,000 of them and signs it?”
  • On the October 17, 2008, edition of Special Report, Washington correspondent James Rosen stated of Samuel Wurzelbacher -- commonly known as Joe the Plumber -- “Even Obama himself has gone to work on this working stiff,” and aired a cropped quote of Obama saying, “How many plumbers you know making a quarter-million dollars a year?” In fact, the context of that remark makes clear that Obama was actually criticizing McCain, not Wurzelbacher, as Rosen falsely claimed.
  • On the July 8, 2008, edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity aired a deceptively cropped statement from Clinton's July 5 remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival in asserting that Clinton was “obviously taking a shot at Senator McCain.” In fact, as the full statement and context of Clinton's remarks make clear, Clinton was discussing what former South African president -- and political prisoner -- Nelson Mandela means to him. Hannity provided no evidence to support his assertion that Clinton's comments were a “shot at Senator McCain.”
  • During the January 31, 2008, edition of America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill falsely asserted that Clinton said “we need to slow” the economy in order to combat global warming. Hill cropped Clinton's comments, airing only his statement: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut our greenhouse gas emissions, because we've got to save the planet for our grandchildren.” But Clinton did not say that we “have to slow down our economy” to fight global warming. Rather, he said that “rich” countries could take that approach, but then he said why he thought it wouldn't work, asserting that the “only way” to fight global warming is to prove that doing so “is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy.”