“The Rich Suffered More”: The Worst Of Fox News' Poor-Shaming

Fox News is outraged that President Obama called out the network's horrible record on covering poverty, insisting they are simply an “honest messenger.” Media Matters looks back on the worst of Fox's attacks on low-income Americans.

President Obama Calls Out Fox News For Disparaging Treatment Of The Poor 

President Obama: Fox News' Coverage Of Poverty Suggests The Poor “Don't Want To Work, Are Lazy.” President Obama called out Fox News for their slanted coverage of poverty while speaking at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University on May 12:

THE PRESIDENT: And over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there's been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom.  And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leaches, don't want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction.

And, look, it's still being propagated.  I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu -- they will find folks who make me mad.  I don't know where they find them.  (Laughter.)  They're like, I don't want to work, I just want a free Obama phone -- (laughter) -- or whatever.  And that becomes an entire narrative -- right? -- that gets worked up.  And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress -- which is much more typical -- who's raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can't pay the bills. [Remarks by the President in Conversation on Poverty at Georgetown University, 5/12/15

Fox News Feigns Disbelief Over Criticism Of Their Poverty Coverage

Fox Hosts: Our Coverage Is “Honest,” And Those Who Don't Wish To Be Poor Should Get A Job. On May 13 Fox & Friends hosts and Fox Business host Stuart Varney discussed their confusion over why Obama criticized the network for slanted coverage of those in poverty. Varney claimed Fox News was simply “an honest messenger.” Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, lamenting that if those in poverty “don't want to be poor,” they should just get a job. [Fox News, Fox & Friends5/13/15]

Fox Correspondent: Obama Is “Insulting The Intelligence Of The American People” By Criticizing Fox. During the May 12 edition of The Kelly File, Fox's chief Washington correspondent James Rosen claimed that Obama was “insulting the intelligence of the American people” by criticizing the network in his speech.. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 5/12/15]

Fox Contributor: Obama Has “A Distorted View Of Fox.” On Special Report, Fox contributor Stephen Hayes complained that Obama's comments on the network's coverage of poverty showed he has “a distorted view of Fox [News].”  [Fox News, Special Report5/12/15]

Fox's Coverage Of Poverty Persistently Smears The Poor As Lazy, Entitled, And In Need Of More Stigma

Fox Repeatedly Hyped “Obama Phones” As Poor People's Incentive To Vote For Obama. Prior to President Obamas's 2012 re-election, Fox News repeatedly hyped a video of “an Obama supporter touting her 'Obama phone'” to disparage recipients of federal programs. Frequent Fox guest and then-National Review writer Mark Steyn claimed on Fox & Friends that “the 'Takers' were able to out-vote the 'Makers'” and that the American Dream was being thwarted by Democrats, who “bribe people with the Obama phones.” Steyn was repeating claims made by Fox's Sean Hannity on his radio program, where Hannity suggested voters supported Obama in order to receive an “Obama phone.” Yet “Obama phones” never existed -- the federal program offering subsidized phone service has existed since 1996 and was expanded to include cell phones under President George W. Bush. [FoxNews.com, 9/29/12] [Fox News, Fox & Friends,11/8/12] [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show10/2/12]

Fox's Poster-Boy For Food Stamp Recipients Is A “Blissfully Jobless California Surfer.” Fox's 2013 special “The Great Food Stamp Binge” championed the so-called “blissfully jobless California Surfer,” Jason Greenslate, who misused the program, as the face of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps). Although Greenslate bears no resemblance to the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients, many of whom are elderly, children, disabled, or rely on the program for a short time while looking for work, the network nevertheless shamefully featured him in an attempt to mischaracterize beneficiaries as freeloaders. [Media Matters8/9/13]

Andrea Tantaros: I'd “Look Fabulous” If I Lived On Food Stamps. In November 2012, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros dismissed the plight of hungry Americans and claimed that she would “look fabulous” if she were forced to try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, the amount that SNAP participants in New Jersey receive. [Fox Business, Varney & Co.11/21/12]

Stuart Varney On The Poor: “Many Of Them Have Things -- What They Lack Is The Richness Of Spirit.” In August 2011, Fox Business host Varney defended himself from criticism by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart by claiming he was simply “telling the truth about poor people,” before asserting that for the poor, “many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co. at Night8/25/11]

Varney: “The Rich Suffered More Than You.” During a February segment on America's Newsroom, Varney tried to spin a report finding that income inequality had not actually risen since the recession, due in part to income losses incurred by the wealthiest one percent during the financial crisis. Despite historically troubling levels of income inequality, Varney nevertheless still concluded that that “the rich suffered more than you.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom2/17/15]

Charles Payne: There's Not Enough “Stigma” Directed At Food Stamp Recipients. In March 2013 on America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne alleged that federal benefit programs trap people in poverty and complained that there wasn't enough “stigma” directed at poor Americans for using food assistance programs:

PAYNE: I know there's a big thing trying to de-stigmatize food stamps, but the good part about the stigma is it actually does serve as an impetus to get people off of it. I'll be quite honest with you. When I was growing up there was a point when we had food stamps and people in our building did, but if I was in the store buying something and my friend who lived upstairs one flight from me came in, there's no way in the world I would let him see me using food stamps. They're trying to take that stigma away. They're telling more people they should use it. [Fox News, America's Newsroom3/28/13]

Bill O'Reilly: “How Can You Be So Poor And Have All This Stuff?” In July 2011, O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs cited a misleading report from the Heritage Foundation about the ownership of certain kitchen appliances by the poor in order to question the severity of poverty in the United States. Pointing the report,  O'Reilly asked, “How can you be so poor and have all this stuff?” To which Dobbs responded “Amen, brother.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor7/20/11]

Fox Wondered If Children Should Work For Free School Meals. In April 2013, Fox News asked viewers if school children should be forced to work in exchange for free school meals, after a Republican lawmaker in West Virginia proposed such a requirement for a new law intended to combat child hunger. [Fox News, Fox & Friends First4/25/13]

Fox Contributor Lamented That “The Sense Of Shame Is Gone” From People Using “Entitlements.” During a May 2012 appearance on Fox & Friends, network contributor and New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin lamented that “the sense of shame is gone” from enrolling in government anti-poverty programs, which has helped lead to an “explosion of entitlements”:

GOODWIN: Well, it's interesting. The thing I write about in here is the idea that shame used to be part of this. In other words, people didn't want to accept a handout because they were ashamed to do it. There was a kind of social contract that said you don't do it. You're independent, you're reliant. That was part of the American founding virtue, as Charles Murray calls them.

And yet now we look at them, we see this explosion of entitlements. The sense of shame is gone. So I focus this week on food stamps, which I think is a real cultural issue, because it's now 47 million people in the country are on food stamps. [Fox News, Fox & Friends5/21/12]

Steve Doocy: Are Low-Income, Disabled People Just “Moochers? Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy questioned why the number of low-income Americans receiving federal disability benefits had increased since 1960, asking, “Are more people getting sick and disabled, or are we just wasting more money?” Later, he asked, “Has the number of people on disability gone up because they are moochers, or because more people need help?” [Fox News, Fox and Friends12/6/12]

O'Reilly: Only An “Infinitesimal” Number Of People Would Be Impacted By A Minimum Wage Increase. On the January 21 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly and network contributor Eric Shawn undermined Obama's recently proposed minimum wage initiative and diminished the number of Americans that would be impacted by the policy. O'Reilly asserted that only “a very low number” of people make “minimum wage anyway,” falsely claiming that the number of people who would be impacted by the change would be “infinitesimal” and saying Obama has been “misleading everybody” by insisting a raise would have a big effect. According to experts, such a move would give 27.8 million Americans a raise. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor1/21/15]

Payne: After Thanksgiving, People “Take Their Welfare Checks And Bum Rush” Wal-Mart. In October 2011, Charles Payne claimed one could understand why people were poor in America by going to Wal-Mart after Thanksgiving, and watching people on welfare benefits “bum rush” the store. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/3/11]

Fox Contributor Compares Public Pensions To “Ponzi Schemes,” Laments That More Stigma Isn't Attached To Welfare. In August 2014, Fox contributor Charles Gasparino attacked government benefit programs, claiming that public pensions were in fact “Ponzi schemes” and lamenting that more “stigma” isn't attached to receiving federal aid or “living in a housing project.” [Fox News, Happening Now8/21/14]