Ashley Webster | Media Matters for America

Ashley Webster

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  • As hundreds of newspapers plan editorials to denounce Trump’s war on the press, Fox hosts attack the newspapers

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News and Fox Business hosts are slamming hundreds of newspapers as “anti-Trump” and “fake news” for coordinating to publish editorials on August 16 denouncing President Donald Trump’s war on the press.

    Trump and his administration publicly attacked news organizations and specific journalists hundreds of times in just his first year in office. Though he routinely attacked news organizations during his presidential campaign and the transition period between his election and inauguration, Trump’s anti-press rhetoric reached a new low in February 2017, when he began calling news organizations “the enemy of the American people”:

    Trump repeated his comments multiple times, though he eventually added the disclaimer that only “fake news” is “the enemy of the people” -- a bogus claim because he’s spent years labeling a broad range of mainstream news outlets and journalists as “fake news.”

    Many newspapers have decided that they’ve had enough and are pushing back. Led by The Boston Globe, more than 100 newspaper editorial boards around the country are reportedly planning to publish editorials on August 16 “on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press.” Each newspaper will be writing its own editorial in this coordinated effort.

    Fox, which has both served as a platform for Trump’s attacks on the press and promoted his attacks on its own, is now criticizing the newspapers participating in this effort as anti-Trump and “fake news.” On August 13, five Fox News and Fox Business hosts took offense to the coordinated editorial release protesting Trump’s anti-press rhetoric. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt said these newspapers are releasing editorials “attacking the president” and that “there is just kind of a mainstream, somewhat leftist bias coming from a lot of our media companies.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented that The Boston Globe “said essentially they’re going after the president.” Varney & Co. guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman both defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to the planned editorials as “anti-Trump screeds” by “coordinated national left-wing fake news.” And Fox host Laura Ingraham, while criticizing media coverage of antifa actions against reporters, mocked the newspapers’ coordinated effort as “not collusion or anything.”

  • Right-wing media falsely call crucial ACA subsidies "bailouts" to defend Trump's decision to halt them

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump and right-wing media have repeatedly referred to cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments -- a key subsidy under the Affordable Care Act that helps working class people afford insurance -- as a “bailout” for the insurance industry to defend Trump’s decision to cease making the payments. Fact-checkers have refuted the characterization of these payments as “bailouts,” and experts note that failure to make these payments could wreck havoc on the insurance industry and would end up costing the federal government billions.

  • Fox uses “lousy” May jobs report to push Trump's job-killing economic agenda

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) underwhelming jobs report for the month of May as proof that Congress needs to pass President Donald Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda that, in reality, would strip working- and middle-class Americans of basic public services and hand top income earners a gigantic tax cut.

    On June 2, BLS released its jobs report for May 2017, which estimated the United States added 138,000 new jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.3 percent. The jobs number fell below economists’ expectations and The Washington Post declared that the report showed that the “job market stumble[d]” last month. While the number of new jobs reported was weaker than expected, The New York Times noted the overall health of the economy was still strong enough for the Federal Reserve to possibly raise interest rates and pointed out that wage growth was up 2.5 percent from this time last year.

    In response to this news, Fox pushed the absurd claim that the report is proof that big business needs Congress to pass Trump’s economic agenda of tax cuts and gutting consumer protections to stoke further economic growth and job creation. During the June 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Steve Hilton, host of The Next Revolution, used the jobs report to claim the U.S. was in a “jobs crisis” and needed Trump’s economic agenda to be enacted. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney described the jobs number as “lousy” and “disappointing” while correspondent Ashley Webster claimed the jobs number shows the American economy is “in a holding patterning” that is “waiting on Washington” to act. Fellow Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo added that “what this jobs number tells us is that business is still cautious” and companies are “sitting on cash” because they are “strangled by all of the regulatory environment” and waiting for Congress to pass Trump’s agenda:

    In reality, Trump’s economic agenda has been described as a “repugnant grab bag” of tax cuts for top-income earners that guts funds for Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food assistance, medical research, disease prevention funding, disability insurance, and even college student financial aid while watering down consumer protections to give Wall Street investors a $100 billion windfall. Trump’s budget proposal to slash funding for vital health assistance programs has been described as “ruthless” and would exact a huge human cost from those who lose access to care.

    Far from being a jobs savior, Trump’s economic agenda has faced heavy criticism from economists for relying on “voodoo” economic theories that falsely claim tax cuts will lead to economic growth. Research from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and Brookings Institution have found no link between tax cuts and economic growth. Economist Jason Furman has also slammed Trump’s tax cut agenda for proposing to add trillions of dollars to the federal debt in ways that could hamper economic growth. Trump’s tax proposals have been blasted by economists and experts across the political spectrum, who have argued that his restrictive approach to international trade and immigration, if enacted, may actually dampen economic activity. Even Trump’s proposals to reduce supposedly burdensome regulations in the financial industry fly in the face of facts -- Trump has proposed dismantling the Dodd-Frank Act, but the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that Dodd-Frank protections have “contributed to the overall growth and stability in the U.S. economy.”

    Fox figures have attempted to use the monthly jobs report to advance the president’s agenda since he first took office. Fox used the reports to claim unearned victories for the president, and even once used a jobs report described as “weak” to declare it was “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency. Last month, a Fox Business panel attempted to spin the April jobs report as a reason to pursue Trump’s tax and regulatory policies with no evidence to back up its claims. Next month will likely produce more of the same.

  • Fox’s Legendary Hypocrisy Is On Full Display With Today’s Underwhelming GDP Report

    Meager Growth Under Obama Meant We Were “Sliding Toward Recession”; For Trump, Fox Predicts A “Bounce Back”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The latest report from the Commerce Department found American economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 fell just short of most economists’ expectations. A virtually identical report one year ago was met with a chorus of outrage and hyperbole from the professional antagonists at Fox News, but their doomsaying has mellowed completely with President Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.

    On April 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a report detailing the rate of change in real gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year. The report showed GDP had increased just 0.7 percent during the time frame, which was both below expectations and the “weakest growth in three years.” According to The New York Times, the indicator “upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017,” while The Washington Post added that underwhelming economic performance “highlights the challenge this administration … will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.” During a segment on CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans noted that “the main culprit” holding back economic growth is “some nervousness among consumers,” whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy:

    At Fox News, however, the GDP report was met with muted reactions and renewed criticism of the supposedly weak economy Trump inherited from President Obama. Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted at the outset of the April 28 edition of Varney & Co., that the report was “very, very weak” before predicting “the Left [will blame] President Trump” for sluggish first-quarter growth while guest John Lonski surmised that the economy would “bounce back” in the second quarter of the year. Later in the program, after a guest complained about the economy settling into a cycle of slow growth, Fox Business anchor Ashley Webster pleaded, “It’s just the first three months, give it time,” before predicting higher rates of growth over the next three months stemming from deregulation. Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald added that “this is an overhang … of the Obama years” while complaining that “this is what the president has inherited.” From Varney & Co.:

    The measured response from Fox’s cast of characters is a far cry from how they responded to a virtually identical GDP report published by the BEA on April 28, 2016. Varney falsely characterized first-quarter GDP growth of last year -- which at 0.5 percent also missed expectations before being upwardly revised -- as proof that the economy was “sliding toward recession” and ignored other indicators showing the economy was improving. One day later, Varney continued lambasting Obama during an appearance on Fox & Friends in which he pushed the unsubstantiated claim that the post-recession recovery was a historic failure.

    This is not the first time a Fox personality has backtracked on mischaracterizations of the economy in order to hype or defend the Trump administration. The network has completely reversed its tone toward the monthly jobs reports since Trump took office, giving him credit for jobs he didn’t create, fawning over job creation that had become routine under Obama, and heaping praise on economic indicators identical to those they had once excoriated.

  • Voter Fraud Myths Pushed By Trump Have Long Been Propagated By Right-Wing Media

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    Throughout his campaign, and continuing now as President, Donald Trump has made a series of baseless claims alleging mass voter fraud in order to either preemptively cast doubt on the election results, or to dispute the fact he didn’t win the popular vote. Trump’s allegations, which ranged from “people are going to walk in” and “vote ten times,” to claiming “he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes,” and most recently his decision to ask for “a major investigation into voter fraud” are based on a series of myths that right-wing media have pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.

  • Fox Business Spins Gallup Consumer Confidence Poll To Push “Trumponomics”

    Report Fails To Mention Only Group With A More Positive Outlook Since The Election Is Republicans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business spun the first post-election consumer confidence report to misleadingly claim economic confidence “increased sharply” after Donald Trump’s election, failing to note the confidence numbers swung based on party affiliation.

    During the November 16 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., guest host Ashley Webster used the latest consumer confidence report from Gallup to push so-called “Trumponomics” as “a winning formula” for the American economy. Conservative columnist Liz Peek added that she thought the Gallup numbers showed Americans were “cheered up by the idea that Republicans have [control of all three branches of government]”:

    In reality the Gallup poll found the only Americans who are “cheered up” by Republicans having complete control of the federal government are other Republicans. Gallup concluded that Donald Trump becoming the president-elect of the United States “transformed the way Republicans and Democrats view the economy” but it was “too early to say” if these numbers will hold.

    Republicans, who had been unduly pessimistic about the economy under President Obama, substantially lifted their outlook on the economy after the election. According to Gallup, Republican opinions of whether or not the economy was getting better or worse went from -65 points before the election to +5 points after, while Democratic opinions on the same topic shifted from +26 points before the election to -1 point after. At the same time, Republican opinions of the current state of the economy also improved markedly after Election Day, with GOP opinions improving from -21 points to -5 points, while Democratic opinions sagged from +26 points to +17 points.

    Republican economic optimism may be short-lived after Trump takes office, as experts have expressed fear that his proposals for budget-busting tax cuts for the rich and unfunded deficit spending may create a short term “sugar high” followed by an economic crash. Trump’s proposals to severely restrict immigration and international commerce could create the conditions for another recession in the United States and his proposed monetary policies could imperil the financial system. The spending cuts and restrictions to vital anti-poverty programs proposed by Trump and congressional Republicans would push millions of working-class Americans into poverty, while his anti-trade policies could cost 4 million jobs.

    From the November 9-13 Gallup U.S. Daily Survey:

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Year-Old Story To Baselessly Claim Obama Lied About Clinton's Private Server

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media outlets have breathlessly scandalized a stolen email released by WikiLeaks showing President Obama received emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. These outlets claim the email proves Obama lied when he claimed to have learned about her private email server from news reports about it, even though the White House clarified over a year ago that while the president knew her email address, he did not know about the server.

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Conflate “Voter Fraud” With Voter Registration Inaccuracies

    Fox News Host: “That's Troubling. I Only Know Of One Person That Has Risen From The Dead, So 20, That's A Problem”

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    Right-wing media have baselessly stoked fears of widespread voter fraud based on out-of-date or inaccurate voter registration rolls to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s claims that “dead people” and “illegal aliens” are voting. But in doing so they’ve falsely conflated possible registration fraud with the practice of in-person voter fraud; both types are rare, and the latter is virtually nonexistent.

  • Fox Business Pushes Almost Every Minimum Wage Myth In Just 90 Seconds

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Stuart Varney Discusses Minimum Wage

    A brief Fox Business panel led by host Stuart Varney used recent minimum wage legislation in California and New York as an excuse to push a series of myths about the supposed negative consequences of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

    On the April 5 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Varney continued his misinformation campaign against proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour with guests Elizabeth MacDonald, Michael Murphy, and Todd Horwitz falsely claiming the increase will hurt small business, lead to low-wage job losses, and result in "robots" replacing human workers:

    Varney led a panel making similarly misleading remarks on the March 28 edition of Varney & Co., during which professional stock trader Keith Fitz-Gerald claimed the proposal to raise California's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023 "goes against every law of capitalism," and Fox Business correspondent Ashley Webster falsely claimed the proposal "puts the smaller businesses out of business."

    Right-wing media have repeatedly pushed the myth that businesses are opposed to raising the minimum wage while spreading debunked claims that raising the minimum wage leads to job losses. Contrary to Fox Business' claims that business oppose raising the minimum wage, The Washington Post reported on April 4 that a leaked poll conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found "80 percent of respondents [business executives] said they supported raising their state's minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed it." The advocacy organization Small Business Majority found that 60 percent of small-business owners supported raising the minimum wage to at least $12 per hour.

    Economists have repeatedly debunked the claim that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs and the myth that it will lead to greater workforce automation and robots taking jobs away from workers. Researchers at Cornell University found that raising the regular and tipped minimum wages for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in the industry and concluded that business groups opposed to wage increases should just embrace "reasonable increases."

  • Fox Dismisses Video About Systemic Racism As "Dumb," Instead Highlighting Complaints From "Outraged" Parents

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & DAYANITA RAMESH

    Fox News levied a series of complaints and attacks against a Black History Month video by the African American Policy Forum that portrays the barriers of institutional and historical anti-black racism. Fox ignored the substance of the video, which was shown to students at a Virginia high school, and instead focused on complaints that the video is "trying to make students feel guilty for being white." Fox's diatribe against the video underscores a long-standing pattern of shortsighted race coverage at Fox and in mainstream media.