You Built That: Fox Finds Fault With The Shutdown They Cheered

Following news that the government shutdown will bar the Pentagon from providing death benefits to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Fox News is ignoring the role the network and the Republican Party played in causing the painful closure.

The federal government has been shut down since October 1 after House Republicans refused to vote on the Senate funding bill unless President Obama agreed to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). To mitigate public outcry over withheld federal paychecks, cancelled food inspections and cancer treatment, and closed national parks, Republicans have attempted a piecemeal approach of proposing narrow bills to keep specific government programs funded, while President Obama and Democrats have demanded that the full government be reopened.   

Fox News' Sean Hannity has been leading the charge for a government shutdown for the better part of 2013, repeatedly pushing congressional Republicans to hold the government hostage unless demands to alter the ACA are met.

Hannity, it turns out, was in good company. According to a new report in The New York Times, the tea party caucus in Congress and conservative activists have been planning the shut down over Obamacare since 2012. Financed by the likes of Freedomworks and the billionaire Koch brothers, the Times exposed how the congressmen practiced defending their shutdown by arguing they desired to fund the entire government, just not the ACA.

On October 8, one week into the government shut down, news surfaced that the Pentagon is unable to pay death benefits to families of soldiers killed at war in Afghanistan over the weekend because of the shutdown.

Fox reacted to this news by blaming President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). On The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, reporter Jennifer Griffin decried this “horrible impact” of the shutdown and argued that “the president should be asked about this.”  

Carlson and Griffin brainstormed Republican-backed strategies -- e.g., the pair discussed the feasibility of a piecemeal CR bill funding payments to veterans' families -- but they ignored any solution that includes the GOP passing a single CR funding the entire government.  

GRIFFIN: There's also another issue that's just come up in the last few moments here at the Pentagon. And that is the issue of horrible impact that the furlough is happening [sic] on the families of those who were killed over the weekend in Afghanistan. We've now learned that the Pentagon is not allowed to pay death benefits to those families. There were four rangers killed over the weekend in Afghanistan. Their bodies are being returned to Dover Airforce Base tomorrow. The military wants to know why can't their families be given that $100,000 that is usually given in the first three days after someone is killed, money that helps families get through this very, very difficult time. Also those family members are not being flown out to Dover to meet the caskets when they return, which typically the Pentagon pays for. All of this an impact of furlough. And the president should be asked directly about this, bcause it's one of the more horrific examples that we've seen in terms of the impact of this partial government shutdown.


The president likely to be asked about it. But the real question is, will Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid allow piecemeal legislation to be passed? So far he has not been willing to do so. But this one of these egregious examples of family members who are, in their time of mourning, suffering because of this partial shutdown.

In reality, this shutdown that is halting death benefits is the same shutdown Fox helped create, which Griffin's complaint fails to acknowledge.

On October 1, Fox went to work for Republicans, downplaying the impact of a closed government, because as one Fox contributor claimed, “the worst that happens is some museums close.” even began referring to the shutdown as a government "slimdown."

Once the harmful effects of the shutdown began to take root, Fox cheered the resulting damage. Contributor Laura Ingraham called furloughed government workers going without pay “a dream for a conservative” while news host Martha MacCallum wondered why we need the furloughed EPA workers at all. At the same time, Fox figures directed congressional Republicans to “hold the line” and keep the government shut down.  

The network has reacted similarly to other effects of the shutdown it disliked. When World War II veterans were unable to access the war memorial because of the closure, Fox pointed the finger at Obama and accused him of intentionally inflicting pain on veterans.

But not all Fox figures got the message that the network is burying its role in praising the government closure. On the same day Griffin reported the shutdown halted death benefits to fallen soldier's families, Fox's Brit Hume exclaimed that the shutdown is “just not that big a deal” while Ingraham cheered, “I'm beginning to enjoy it.”