Trade | Media Matters for America

Trade

Issues ››› Trade
  • Fox anchor repeats Trump’s lie about the economic harm from his tariffs on imports from China

    Economists say Trump’s tariffs have hurt America’s economic growth

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News anchor Sandra Smith parroted a tweet from President Donald Trump crediting the recent 3.2% GDP growth in part on his tariffs on imports from China. But economists, including those with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), have explained that Trump’s tariffs have actually slightly depressed U.S. GDP growth.

    Economists warned at least a year ago that Trump’s tariffs would hurt the U.S. economy. Now, a May 10 CNBC article quoted Oxford Economics economist Greg Daco, who estimated that “the tariffs in place since last year depressed U.S. gross domestic product by about 0.1 percentage point this year.” Daco further estimated that Trump’s new tariffs and China’s retaliatory tariffs would “cut U.S. GDP by 0.3 percentage point next year, costing the U.S. economy about $62 billion.” Daco’s estimate of the tariffs’ effect so far matches a January estimate by the CBO that Trump’s tariffs “will limit growth of U.S. real gross domestic product by an average of 0.1 percent each year for the next 10 years if they remain in place at current levels.” Fox has previously downplayed the negative economic impacts from Trump’s tariffs, but Smith ignored them entirely when she repeated Trump’s lie.

    From the May 13 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    SANDRA SMITH (CO-ANCHOR): You know, it’s amazing to see the president in his words this morning, he’s been tweeting a lot this morning. Here’s one of them: “The unexpectedly good first quarter 3.2% GDP was greatly helped by tariffs from China. Some people just don't get it.” You know, in the wake of that monstrous GDP number and the big drop in the unemployment rate and the added jobs that we recently saw, some who don't usually give the president credit for the growth in the economy were giving him credit there. Here is the president saying you’re not giving me enough credit for what this has already done to the United States.

  • Fox continues to praise Trump’s tax cuts and trade policies despite General Motors layoffs

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    General Motors announced plans earlier this week to close five plants in North America, including ones in Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio, and to lay off an estimated 14,000 workers. Fox News personalities reacted to the announcement with surprise and anger, but doubled down on their defenses of President Donald Trump’s tariffs and tax policies despite economists warning that these policies would hurt the workers and the economy.

    Fox hosts were briefly baffled at the news that GM will be closing five of its plants, but hurried to spin the news to absolve Trump of any blame. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade complained that GM “got a huge corporate tax cut” because “the thought was that the American industry would start bringing industry home.” Fox Business host Charles Payne quickly glossed over the impact of Trump’s tariffs before arguing that the layoffs are “not a bad thing” because “this is about demand.” Fox News host Neil Cavuto offered no pushback to Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) claim that “dramatic tax cuts … are now bringing jobs back to this country.” And Fox Business panelist Lindsey Bell offered the weirdly optimistic justification that GM employees are “being laid off into this robust job market” with “7 million job openings,” making it “a better environment to be laid off in.”

    GM’s plant closures can be attributed to many factors, but it is clear that GOP tax cuts and Trump’s reckless trade wars have played a significant role. Though Trump relentlessly campaigned on saving American jobs, economists warned that the GOP tax plan “encourages even more shifting of operations and jobs overseas”; other experts predicted that Trump's trade policies would also cost American jobs. In June, GM said that Trump’s trade war with China could lead to “less investment, fewer jobs, and lower wages for our employees.” Now, according to NBC News, “GM has estimated those tariffs have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars,” while “Ford - which announced last month it would be making an unspecified number of cuts as part of a ‘redesign’ of the company — says the tariffs have cost the company $1 billion so far.”

    But Fox hosts and guests still used GM’s announcement as an opportunity to double down on their support of Trump’s economic policies. A Fox Business panel pushed for even more tax cuts to passed in the lame duck session before Democrats take control of the House in January. Fox guest Peter Morici claimed that the Trump tariffs “had very little effect on General Motors” and argued that “Mr. Trump has to get a lot tougher on China.” Fox’s Laura Ingraham argued that “until China starts behaving like a global trading partner in a truly free and open market, we shouldn’t be doing any business with China” and asserted, “We should treat them as we treated the Soviet Union.” Ingraham went on to praise Trump’s policies, saying that he is doing “exactly what he should be doing.” On her prime-time show, Fox Business host Trish Regan claimed that Trump “is making the right move” because “he has taken on the Chinese and their tariff system in a way that previous presidents never did.”

    When Trump’s tax cut and tariffs were first announced, Fox personalities praised the tax cuts and downplayed the president’s decision to start a trade war with China, despite numerous expert warnings of the detrimental impact of these policies.

    As the tax cuts debate continued in 2017, Kilmeade speculated in August that Democrats were opposed to the cuts because they were afraid that “the economy will grow at such a rate it will be impossible for them to win an election.” In September 2017, Fox host Sean Hannity cheered the tax cut on his radio show, saying that it would lead to wealthy people “spending money and buying boats” which “keeps people working” and “stimulate the economy and build the factories in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.” (Two of the GM factories being closed are in Michigan and Ohio.) In October 2017, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt denied that the GOP tax cuts would mostly benefit the wealthy, arguing that “if you read the tax plan, that’s not at all what it says.” (According to experts, the tax cut “would deliver 80 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent” by 2027.)

    Similarly, on the issue of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on various imports, many Fox hosts and contributors speculated if they would ever be implemented and downplayed their negative effects. In April, Fox Business host Stuart Varney brushed off concerns over tariffs as “an emotional response to the words ‘trade war.’” Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy also minimized the effects of Trump’s trade war, claiming “there are no tariffs” and that “it’s all a suggestion, it’s all a negotiation.” Fox contributor Tammy Bruce asserted that Trump’s trade war with China “will, in the end because of his ability to negotiate, work out well.” Hannity confidently claimed that he didn’t “think there’s ever going to be a trade war,” while Outnumbered host Dagen McDowell said that we don’t know if these “tariffs will ever be put in place.” Fox’s Geraldo Rivera likened China’s retaliatory tariffs to “chump change” and expressed confusion about why the market responded “so emotionally.”

    These callous remarks about Trump’s trade war came despite experts’ conclusion that the U.S. “consumers would bear the brunt of the immediate damage,” while “the impact on Chinese consumers, by contrast, would be modest.” A more recent study concluded that due to Trump’s trade policies, “in 2019, each US household would lose the equivalent of $2,357.” But it is clear that Fox cares more about cheering on Trump's irresponsible economic policies than covering their disastrous effects on American workers.

  • Trump's tariffs could hurt millions of Americans, but media focus instead on presidential drama

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 31, CBS News reported on retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, targeting numerous products including American steel and aluminum, playing cards, motorcycles, and tobacco. European Commission president Jean-Paul Juncker said that Trump’s move “leaves us with no choice but to proceed … with the imposition of additional duties on a number of imports from the U.S.”

    News reports and experts say the tariffs will hurt Americans in a number of ways. Though the steel and aluminum industries stand to benefit, “almost every US industry” that uses these metals will be faced with higher manufacturing costs, which “will likely get passed on to consumers.” These higher costs could “kill hundreds of thousands of jobs” as companies scramble to offset artificially high prices. Retaliatory tariffs levied by other nations are threatening a wide range of businesses, from agriculture to commercial production. According to The New York Times, even Trump’s own Council of Economic Advisers concluded that the tariffs would hamper economic growth.  

    But media coverage of U.S. allies’ responses to Trump’s economic attack centered on  the sensationalism and drama of the moment. Though CNN interviewed or cited economists in a few segments on the tariffs’ effects for American workers and business, the majority of the punditry  focused on the shock value of levying tariffs against U.S. allies. CNN also interviewed Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign economic advisor whom CNN hired as its in-house defender of the president who dodged policy questions to muddy the facts and obsequiously push the Trump agenda (which is how interviews with former or current Trump officials usually go); the network did not interview any workers who could potentially be hurt by the retaliatory tariffs.

    Fox News, meanwhile, played up the personal drama Trump incited with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fox personalities said that “the public spat between these world leaders [Trump and Trudeau] is something to watch,” argued that Trudeau should “maybe … realize it’s not personal,” and generally attacked Trudeau for, among other things, “trying to out-alpha President Trump.” Lou Dobbs hailed Trump’s defeat of our allies’ “globalist conspiracy,” and on Dobbs’ show, sworn Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka denounced Canada’s response to Trump because Canada “started it.”  When Fox figures tried to analyze the tariffs, they usually didn’t get beyond spouting worn-out taglines such as the electorate wanted the “disrupter-in-chief” to provide “a complete change in direction.” Jesse Watters got creative, however, when he positively compared Trump’s tariffs to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, a 1930 tariff commonly understood to have “exacerbated the Great Depression.” (Fox & Friends did feature one dairy farmer who, predictably, supported Trump’s agenda.)

    Much of the coverage on MSNBC also focused on the spectacle and/or provided a superficial analysis of Trump’s actions. But anchors Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, along with correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, did do substantial reporting on how the tariffs might impact American laborers, coverage which often included the workers themselves, during their combined three hours of hosting time., Velshi and Ruhle dedicated segments to explaining the far-reaching nature of the tariffs from U.S. allies (as well as an earlier round of tariffs from China) and how they might affect laborers and consumers alike.

    On-site reporting focused on affected farmers, and several reports focused even further on specific industries -- pork products, potatoes, and bourbon among them -- targeted by the tariffs.

    Ruhle, Velshi, and Hillyard notwithstanding, a common facet of tariff coverage was, as Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth said, the “unpredictability” of the situation, because it “makes for good TV.” With Friday’s White House announcement of another $50 billion in tariffs against Chinese products, media need to move beyond the drama and focus on the substance and the potential devastation to some Americans.

  • Fox News isn't covering Ivanka Trump's new China trademarks potentially worth millions

    After Ivanka’s trademarks were approved, President Trump promised to “save jobs” at ZTE, a Chinese telecom that traded with Iran and North Korea. Ivanka then got more trademarks.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On May 28, The New York Times reported that Ivanka Trump received seven new trademarks from the Chinese government six days before her father, President Donald Trump, “vowed to find a way” to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE from bankruptcy. Fox News has yet to cover the story.

    The Times article noted, “Even as Mr. Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.” According to experts, “the timing appeared to be a coincidence, given how quickly Ms. Trump won her previous trademark requests from the Chinese authorities,” but one of the experts quoted in the piece noted, “From application to registration, this is very fast.” Another expert disagreed on the speed, but acknowledged that Ivanka’s position and fame likely played a role in the approval process. And according to American ethics experts, the trademarks, along with the family’s existing businesses in China, suggest that Chinese officials may be giving the president’s daughter “extra consideration” because she’s “the president’s daughter — a person who also works in the White House.” The trademarks are potentially worth millions.

    Trump’s action to “save jobs” at ZTE came after the Chinese telecommunications company was “left paralyzed after American officials forbade companies in the United States” from selling goods to ZTE, after the company violated U.S. trade controls on Iran and North Korea. The American intelligence community has also warned that ZTE products “may pose an unacceptable risk” of espionage. Ivanka Trump was granted an additional two trademarks eight days after the president’s announcement. 

    Unlike other networks, Fox News has yet to find time to cover the Times story published yesterday. But it has discussed the following about the president’s daughter:

    • On May 28, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt suggested Chelsea Clinton criticized Ivanka’s complicity in her father’s actions because she wants to run for president, and diaper enthusiast and Turning Point USA Director of Urban Engagement Candace Owens bragged about meeting the first daughter.
    • A Special Report package mentioned an American diplomat who had “accompanied Ivanka Trump to the South Korean Olympics in February.”
    • On May 29, RNC spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany mentioned on Fox & Friends an initiative Ivanka has worked on with the World Bank.

    Trump’s orbit, from campaign to the presidency, is certainly not short on corruption and scandal, and this is not the first such story that Fox News has ignored or downplayed. The network has dutifully and reliably downplayed story after story -- usually related to the Russia investigation(s) -- that puts the president in a bad light.

  • Fox News figures are downplaying Trump’s moves towards a trade war with China

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump ramps up a potential trade war with China, Fox News and Fox Business figures have been downplaying the damage his actions could do.

    Since the beginning of 2018, President Donald Trump has been rolling out increasingly aggressive tariffs on Chinese goods. In January, the president announced new tariffs targeting solar panels and washing machines, goods that primarily come from China. In March, he announced further tariffs on steel imports. And this week, the U.S. announced $50 billion worth of new tariffs, prompting the Chinese government to retaliate, placing tariffs on “128 American-made products” and asserting that the U.S. tariffs “violate World Trade Organization rules.”

    Following the news of China imposing retaliatory tariffs, CNN interviewed several economists who expressed concern that the increased economic hostility between the two nations might soon spiral into an all-out trade war. Joseph Brusuelas, chief U.S. economist at accounting and consulting firm RSM, told CNN, “This is a classic lose-lose proposition, no one wins.” After Trump threatened to impose additional tariffs, and the Chinese government promised to respond in kind, experts warned that additional tariffs would hurt both countries.

    Despite experts’ concerns, Fox News and Fox Business figures are downplaying fears of a trade war:

    • On America’s Newsroom, Fox’s Maria Bartiromo dismissed concerns about trade, commenting that she’s “not worried” about trade fears because she looks “at the broader picture.”

    • On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy downplayed Trump’s trade moves by claiming, “there are no tariffs,” arguing that “this is the starting point,” and “it’s all a suggestion, it’s all a negotiation.”

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce argued that “this is not about a trade war,” and compared America’s trade deficit with China to “a battered woman situation.” She also asserted that ““this will, in the end, because of Trump’s ability to negotiate, work out well.”

    • During the same broadcast, Fox Business’ Charles Payne claimed that “President Trump [has reminded] us that we’re not in a trade war,” because, “China already won that.”

    • On Fox News Radio's The Brian Kilmeade Show, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade dismissed the possibility of a trade war, claiming, “I do believe this is what we call the pre-fight, and so far, it's hype. It doesn't mean there's actually going to be a Showtime, HBO main event.”

    • Trump sycophant Lou Dobbs dismissed those who claim there is no trade war, claiming that there already is a trade war with China, but the United States simply wasn’t “fighting it until this president arrived in Washington.”

    • Fox Business' Stuart Varney explained away stock market backlash to Trump's tariffs as "an emotional response,” and claimed that “all this talk of a trade war” is “overblown.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Ron Meyer referred to China’s retaliatory tariffs as “minor.”

    • Fox’s Charles Payne claimed that the stock market drop following the announcement of China’s retaliatory tariffs was actually Wall Street “not only overreacting but trying to intimidate the White House."

    • On America’s Newsroom, Bartiromo claimed that she’s “not afraid of a trade war.” and that Trump’s actions are “more of a negotiation.”

    • During an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Payne dismissed fears about a trade war by claiming “we’re already in a trade war. We have been fighting with one hand behind our backs.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that China’s retaliatory tariffs were insignificant and represented “chump change,” and expressed his confusion about why the market responded “so emotionally” to China’s tariffs.

    • During the same broadcast, Fox’s Trish Regan expressed her dismay at unfair Chinese trade policies, and said, “If it takes throwing around the idea of a few tariffs … maybe that works. Maybe it is, indeed, the art of the deal.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity dismissed concerns about a trade war on his radio show, claiming, “I don’t think there’s ever going to be a trade war.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Dagen McDowell defended Trump’s “approach with China,” claiming that there is a “method to this madness,” and that we don’t know if these “tariffs will ever be put in place.