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  • Fox melts down after polls show vast majority favor taxing the rich more

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After new polling was released showing the overwhelming popularity of raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Fox News and Fox Business figures blasted voters as “brainwashed” and ignorant and even claimed that some taxes on the wealthy are “anti-human.”

    A Fox News poll released at the end of January showed that a vast majority of registered voters -- 70 percent in total -- support raising income taxes on families making more than $10 million per year, and 65 percent support raising income taxes on those making more than $1 million per year. A Morning Consult/Politico poll released on Monday showed 61 percent of registered voters favor a wealth tax on households worth more than $50 million. Two other recent polls also found majority support for increasing taxes on the rich. But Fox hosts and guests decried these proposals as “one big giant con” amounting to a “war on the wealthy.”

    First up on Monday was the Fox Business show Varney & Co., where host Stuart Varney -- who has previously declared himself among the top 1 percent of income earners in America -- delivered a monologue bashing a Democratic proposal to strengthen and expand Social Security as just “another tax hike proposal from the Democrats.” He said, “The Democrats’ 2020 campaign is an endless series of tax hikes, massive tax hikes with massive new spending. Tax-and-spend on steroids.” He suggested that Democrats’ proposals to tax the richest Americans are aimed at undermining President Donald Trump, declaring that Democrats “hate Trump and can’t tolerate any success, even prosperity.” Varney also warned his viewers that Democrats “resent wealth. And if you’ve got it, they want it.”

    Following Varney’s monologue, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee compared Democratic lawmakers to armed robbers: “The Democrats have got a new uniform they're all supposed to wear. It’s ski masks and carrying blue steel revolvers, because they all believe that, instead of robbing 7-Elevens, they’re just going to rob everybody who has a job, everybody who’s making wages.” He also suggested that the Democrats’ aim was to “kill the economy and put people back on the welfare rolls and get them off those nasty jobs they're getting.” When Varney asked why “this form of socialism, this grab bag of take-money-off-the-rich,” was so popular, Huckabee blamed liberals in teaching positions for having “indoctrinated people coming up through the education system that there’s something really wrong with people who have been successful.” Huckabee continued by blaming American voters, saying, “We have a real economic ignorance going on in America.” Later in Varney’s show, Fox contributor Bill McGurn claimed that Democrats simply “don’t like wealth,” prompting Varney to ask if “jealousy of wealthy people [is] the norm.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne claimed “there’s a racial element” to raising taxes on the rich and said Democrats are “trying to use tax policy [as] a social justice tool to rewrite the wrongs of yesteryear,” adding, “It’s a punitive action.” Later in the day on his Fox Business show Making Money, Payne declared the Democrats’ tax proposals “the war on the wealthy” and rhetorically asked if Democrats can “win on class warfare.” On Tuesday, Payne returned to America’s Newsroom to blame the education of America’s children for the popularity of taxing the rich: “The idea of fairness has been promoted in our schools for a long time. And we're starting to see kids who grew up in this notion that fairness above all, and now they are becoming voting age and they are bringing this ideology with them.”

    On the Fox Business show Cavuto Coast to Coast, Reagan administration economist Art Laffer slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) proposal to greatly increase the estate tax rate for billionaires, saying, “There is no tax that is more vulgar, in my mind, than the death tax.” After a short rant, Laffer declared that the estate tax is “the most anti-family, anti-human tax I know of.”

    Fox Business show Bulls & Bears featured several panelists who ranted against Democratic proposals to tax the rich more. Host David Asman kicked the discussion off by asking, “Isn’t demonizing the rich an attack on the American dream?” Gary Kaltbaum, who runs his own investment firm, responded by calling the proposals “a war on the wealthy” and “just one big giant con because these socialists hate successful people.” Jonathan Hoenig, who owns the aptly named investment fund company Capitalistpig, ranted that American voters “have been brainwashed -- I mean, Americans writ large have been brainwashed in schools” into supporting tax increases on the rich, and claimed, “We’ve never seen this explicit hatred for success, envy of people who produce something.” Hoenig concluded that taxing the rich will run America into “the poor house.”

    And Fox Business host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery used her daily monologue to dismiss the popularity of taxing the rich as a “rush on both sides to fan the flames of jealousy” and called Democrats’ proposals “an emotional and irrational appeal that amounts to redistribution.” She ominously warned rich people: “God help you if you find success in the new world. Even if capitalism is still marginally more popular, socialism has a better PR team. And when it gains a foothold, they're coming to neuter your golden nuggets.”

  • Right-wing media figures goad Trump into vetoing any spending bill that doesn’t include border wall funding

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After criticism from right-wing figures who usually push pro-Trump propaganda, President Donald Trump has backed away from previous plans and instead set up a potential government shutdown by demanding money for a border wall be included in any stopgap government funding bill.

    Fox News spent last week pushing for a government shutdown, cheering on Trump when he firmly declared that he would be “proud to shut down the government.” But after the White House signaled earlier this week that it would back off its $5 billion demand to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in a resolution to keep the federal government funded until next year, right-wing media figures began criticizing Trump and goading him into shutting down the government.  Many of his most ardent supporters began to perceive his decision to sign the bill as weak, calling on the president to change his mind and refuse to sign any proposed spending bill that does not include funding for the wall.

    Responding to these criticisms, Trump sent a flurry of tweets adamantly defending his position just one day after CNN reported that the president “has become increasingly sensitive to criticism” from his base over the border wall. Trump then renewed his call for funding, telling lawmakers that he will not sign any bill that does not include funding for the border wall in an apparent nod to his supporters.

    Here is a timeline of some of that recent criticism:

    December 19

    Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren, who has previously made it clear where she stands on the border wall, said on Fox & Friends that “if we need a government shutdown” to build a wall, “then a shutdown is exactly what we need.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy declare that “effectively, the Democrats win because they didn’t want any money for wall. And the swamp wins because runaway spending, which is in the current budget, continues.”

    Doocy later in the show said that Trump will “look like a loser” to his supporters who “drew that line in the sand and said, ‘This is worth shutting down.’”

    Fox & Friends guest Michelle Malkin said that she’s “not going to sugarcoat it” and “not going to spin it” if Trump backs down, describing his decision as “a cave” and “a blink.”

    On Fox’s Outnumbered, Fox Business host David Asman emphasized the importance of the wall to Trump’s supporters, saying that “if [Trump] is viewed by his base as caving on the issue, no matter how they try to spin at the White House, already some of the base is beginning to fray a little bit.” Referring to the White House’s pledge to find funding for the wall elsewhere, Fox host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery claimed that “if this were the Obama administration … we would all be up in arms.”

    Rush Limbaugh attacked the Senate-passed resolution, saying, “Trump’s gonna get less than nothing because this compromise strips out the $1.6 billion for the wall that the Senate Appropriations Committee had already approved weeks ago.” He added, “You can’t say for four years, 'Well, I gotta do this and this and this and this and this before I can accomplish this ... He doesn’t have limitless time to do this."

    Ann Coulter unloaded on Trump in a podcast with The Daily Caller, accusing him of being “a joke presidency who scammed the American people.” Coulter said that she will not vote for Trump in 2020 without a border wall, adding, “nor will, I think, most of his supporters.” (Coulter had also vowed earlier in the week to not support Trump in 2020 if the wall was not built.) Within hours of these comments, the president unfollowed Coulter on Twitter.

    Fox regular and former NRATV host Dan Bongino filled in as guest host for Sean Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show on Wednesday, discussing the spending bill and the border wall, which he described as “essentially the Trump-MAGA agenda.” Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, claimed that “the fact is is this: The president should veto this bill. This breaks the promise with his supporters.” Though Schlapp admitted that a shutdown “doesn’t mean you get all you want, but you send a message to the liberals” and “that’s why it’s critical for the president to not sign a bill which is a white flag.”

    Erick Erickson criticized the negotiating skills of Trump and Republicans:

    On her Fox News show, Laura Ingraham chastised Trump for not getting the funding, declaring that “not funding the wall is going to go down as one of the worst, worst things to have happened to this administration. … It’s a scandal that it hasn’t been built.” Fox regular and Trump legal adviser Joe diGenova agreed with Ingraham, saying: “I hope that when this thing runs out in February, the president says, ‘That’s it, no more. A wall or I’m shutting it down.’”

    Breitbart's Joel Pollak said that he would prefer a shutdown:

    December 20

    Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee said on Fox & Friends that Trump “has got to look in the mirror and remind himself he ran … on the idea of we’re going to secure the border.” Huckabee also downplayed the impact of a shutdown, saying that “the things that really matter to most Americans day-by-day will be funded.” Guest co-host Jedediah Bila responded by saying that “this is his signature issue, this is what arguably he won on,” claiming that she doesn’t “understand how he survives this personally, for his own legacy.”

    Fox host Pete Hegseth, who is known to speak directly to Trump, called for Trump to shut down the government.

    On Fox & Friends, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch called on Trump to shut down both the government and the border until he receives funding, saying that she “would love to see the president … just go ahead and shut down the border, and then shut down the government.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, James Freeman of The Wall Street Journal downplayed the significance of a government shutdown, claiming that “if you look at recent history, shutdowns don’t actually do that much political damage.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor and former acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan said that Trump “needs to veto any sort of continuing resolution” so that “he can stand up and say, ‘I have done everything I can to protect our border.’”

    Ben Shapiro said Trump should veto "any funding that doesn't include the wall."

    Shortly after it was announced that Trump would refuse to sign the bill to keep the government open, Limbaugh said that "the president has gotten word to me that he is either getting funding to the border or he’s shutting the whole thing down." Earlier in the show, Limbaugh had told him to do exactly that in order to be "a hero" to the far right.

  • After Elizabeth Warren published DNA test results, right-wing media move the goal posts

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    After years of accusing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) of misrepresenting her heritage, right-wing media are digging in their heels now that she has publicly released DNA test results that revealed “strong evidence” that she has Native American ancestry. Reporting surrounding the release also noted that Harvard Law School, where she has taught, did not consider her claim of Native American ancestry in deciding to hire her. But the “strong evidence” for her heritage is only causing right-wing media to move the goal posts.

    Since 2012, conservative media have been strangely obsessed with Warren and her family heritage. Originally popularized by Boston talk radio personality/columnist Howie Carr and the Scott Brown for Senate campaign in 2012, the attacks against Warren’s ancestry reached national audiences during the 2016 campaign. Then-candidate Donald Trump picked up the assertion that Warren had misrepresented her heritage, making it a regular theme at his campaign rallies. The fixation on her heritage eventually reached Fox News, with the hosts of Fox & Friends Weekends pushing a challenge for Warren to take a DNA test to “prove, once and for all, her Native American ancestry.”

    On October 15, The Boston Globe reported that Warren had taken a DNA test “that provides ‘strong evidence’ she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations.” More importantly, even though Warren marked “Native American” on her Harvard University employment application -- which has been central to the absurd and racist claims about her family that have dogged her since her 2012 Senate campaign -- the Globe noted that there was “clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools.”

    But now, the problem for conservative media is not that Warren may have misrepresented her heritage or that it played a role in her hiring, it is that she doesn’t have enough Native American ancestry.

    Now that every angle of their stupid argument has been debunked, right-wing media are simply digging in their heels. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro ditched any argument about Warren’s employment at Harvard or the veracity of the DNA results and simply referred to those who trust Warren’s word about her family and the Globe’s “exhaustive review” as the “real bitter clingers.” The immensely credible and not-racist Daily Caller tweeted that Warren is “Like between .09 and 3 percent cherokinda.” And CRTV’s Michelle Malkin posted an incomprehensible tweet calling Warren “#Fauxcahontas.”

  • Fox Business ran defense for Scott Pruitt by baselessly attacking a CNN investigation

    CNN reported on the EPA chief helping a mining company. Fox Business Network didn't like that at all.

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Fox Business Network has aggressively and baselessly attacked a CNN investigation into moves made by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt that will help a proposed mining project in Alaska. The network aired four segments last week that criticized CNN's story.

    In an October 10 report aired on Anderson Cooper 360°, CNN correspondent Drew Griffin noted that Pruitt met on May 1 with the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, a Canadian-owned company proposing to build a gold and copper mine in southwest Alaska that could threaten a major salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. Just over an hour after that meeting that took place, CNN discovered, Pruitt ordered his staff to withdraw proposed protections for Bristol Bay that had been put forward by the Obama administration, potentially clearing the way for the controversial Pebble Mine to go forward. Also on that same day, Pruitt agreed to settle a lawsuit that the mining company had filed against the EPA, according to CNN.

    On October 18 and 19, Fox Business Network ran four separate interviews that bashed CNN's report, one with the Pebble Limited Partnership's CEO and three with John Stossel, a Fox commentator. Here are the segments:

    • one: on Varney & Co. on October 18, host Stuart Varney interviewed Stossel;
    • two: also on Varney & Co. on October 18, Varney interviewed Pebble CEO Tom Collier;
    • three: on After the Bell on October 18, host David Asman interviewed Stossel;
    • four: on Kennedy on October 19, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery interviewed Stossel.

    Stossel also slammed CNN's report in a written piece published on the Fox News website on October 18 and in a video posted on October 13 on Reason.com, which is run by the libertarian Reason Foundation. Stossel currently works for the Reason Foundation, which gets funding from the Koch brothers. Stossel also works for the Charles Koch Institute's Media and Journalism Fellowship program. Foundations affiliated with the Koch brothers have funded the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which in 2013 ran a campaign in support of the Pebble Mine.

    On all four Fox Business Network segments, the hosts and interviewees did not dispute any of the specific facts reported by CNN, but they used highly charged language to try to discredit CNN. They repeatedly called CNN's investigation a "smear," and in two of the segments the words "CNN smear" appeared on the screen. Varney derided CNN as the "Clinton News Network," called CNN's report "a hit piece," and said to Collier, "They set you up." Stossel accused CNN of bias: "I don't think they're particularly biased against Pruitt; they're biased against the Trump administration and business." Montgomery said, "It is dishonest reporting."

    With these comments, the Fox Business personalities were echoing President Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on CNN. Trump has called it the “Clinton News Network,” accused it of being “dishonest,” and even tweeted a video of himself attacking a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head.

    The Fox Business Network has a friendly relationship with Pruitt. The EPA chief has made seven appearances on the network since he took office in February, most recently on October 17.

    The network also has a friendly relationship with Trump. Trump has given two exclusive interviews to Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo, one that aired on April 12 and another on October 23. Trump has mentioned or retweeted Fox Business or its hosts at least half a dozen times since becoming president, and never in a negative light. And the White House has linked at least eight times to Fox Business Network articles from the daily news roundup it posts on its website, previously called "1600 Daily" and now named "West Wing Reads."

    As USA Today reported on October 13, the Fox Business Network has been doing well "amid the ascension of Donald Trump into the White House." The article continued, "To some, the network's gains have come by playing a game similar to that of fellow channel Fox News, hitching its star to candidate and now-President Trump and ignoring news that would hurt the president," though it observed that some of the network's hosts have criticized Trump recently. An October 17 story in Business Insider made similar points, noting the network's "lineup of right-leaning programming and embrace of President Donald Trump's economic and cultural vision." Business Insider found that Fox Business Network used phrases like "liberal media" and "left-wing media" as often as Fox News did.

    So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Fox Business Network went to bat for Pruitt and attacked CNN for its report on Pebble Mine.

    But all four segments Fox Business aired on the Pebble Mine contained errors in fact, as outlined below.

    Fox Business Network got its facts wrong

    False: Salmon are nowhere near the proposed mine site.

    "This mine is 100 miles from those salmon," Stossel said on Kennedy. "The fish are nowhere near where the mine is anyway," Asman said on After the Bell. Collier and other Fox Business personalities also noted that the site is at least "100 miles" from Bristol Bay.

    True: The proposed mine site sits right within salmon habitat.

    While the proposed mine site is more than 100 miles from Bristol Bay, it's entirely false to say that the mine site is 100 miles away from the salmon. The mine site is in a wetland area right in the middle of salmon habitat. Salmon not only inhabit Bristol Bay but migrate through and spawn in the rivers and tributaries that feed into the bay. As the EPA noted in a 2014 assessment of the potential impacts a mine could have in the area, "the Pebble deposit is located in the headwaters of tributaries to both the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers," and, "Approximately half of Bristol Bay’s sockeye salmon production is from the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds."

    Damaging the salmon's habitat or Bristol Bay's watershed, even many miles from the bay itself, could have major impacts on the fishery. The EPA determined that the Pebble Mine could cause "irreversible" habitat loss because of "the extent of streams, wetlands, lakes, and ponds both overlying the Pebble deposit and within adjacent watersheds."

    Bristol Bay is home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, producing 46 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon, generating an estimated $1.5 billion in economic activity a year, and supporting more than 14,000 jobs. The salmon also play a central role in sustaining the cultures of local Native Alaskan tribes that stretch back at least 4,000 years.

    False: The Obama administration completely blocked the Pebble Mine.

    During his first segment, Varney said, "This was the EPA under President Obama saying no, before you even think about submitting a plan, don't do it because you’re not going to get it." In the second segment, Varney said the mine project "was rejected, out of hand, right from the get-go" by Obama's EPA. Collier agreed, saying, "Obama wouldn't even let us file a permit application." Stossel then claimed during the third segment, "they didn't even let the guy submit a proposal."

    True: The Obama administration did not block the mining company from filing a permit application.

    In 2014, the Obama EPA proposed environmental standards that a mine tapping the Pebble deposit would have to meet, after the agency conducted a three-year, peer-reviewed scientific assessment that found a large-scale mine would pose serious threats to the Bristol Bay fishery. The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to restrict projects like proposed mines that would threaten water quality in Bristol Bay.

    But the Obama EPA did not block the mining company from submitting a proposal or permit application for Pebble Mine. If a mine proposal met the restrictions EPA laid out for the Bristol Bay area, it would be able to move forward in the process, as EPA made clear when it proposed the restrictions in 2014: "Proposals to mine the Pebble deposit that have impacts below each of these restrictions would proceed to the Section 404 permitting process," the agency wrote.

    Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm that has worked to prevent Pebble Mine, explains further:

    EPA proposed to ban, not the Pebble Mine itself, but the unacceptable habitat loss from any proposed mine.

    [...]

    Any version of the Pebble Mine which would not cause the habitat loss EPA proposed to ban could proceed to the ordinary permitting process.

    In other words, the agency proposed reasonable, tailored restrictions necessary to protect the Bristol Bay ecosystem and fisheries.

    [...]

    If the Pebble Mine can be built without causing those impacts, the EPA’s protective action is no obstacle to it.

    As The New York Times reported in May of this year, the Obama EPA's process "concluded with the determination that the mine, as planned, would risk the long-term health of the ecosystem, but it did not wholly block the granting of a permit."

    It's worth noting that the mining company had been promising to file a permit application and release its plans since 2004, during the George W. Bush administration, but it never carried through. In 2013, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was so frustrated by the delay that she wrote a letter chastising the company for "failure to describe the project and submit permit applications," noting that "years of waiting" had fed "anxiety, frustration and confusion" in local communities.

    False: The Obama EPA's decision was driven by "collusion" with "rich green lawyers" and environmental groups that have no scientific expertise.

    Stossel and Fox Business hosts repeatedly characterized the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit environmental organization that has opposed the Pebble Mine, as a "rich" group that had been "colluding" with Obama's EPA. "NRDC is not scientists, it's mostly lawyers," Stossel added. Varney referred to "rich green lawyers driving this train."

    True: The Obama EPA's decision was based on a transparent multi-year scientific process.

    Under Obama, the EPA spent three years conducting an extensive scientific assessment to determine the potential impacts on the Bristol Bay fishery of a large-scale mine to tap the Pebble deposit. The review went through two drafts, two rounds of peer review, and a public comment period. The EPA's decision to propose restrictions on a mining development in the area was based on this in-depth review. Pruitt's move to withdraw those restrictions, in contrast, was made without consulting EPA's scientific staff. As CNN reported, "according to multiple sources, he made that decision without a briefing from any of EPA's scientists or experts."

    Varney talked about "rich green lawyers driving this train," but opposition to the mine has been led by locals and Alaskans. According to the EPA website, the agency "initiated this assessment in response to petitions from nine federally recognized tribes and other stakeholders who asked us to take action to protect Bristol Bay’s salmon populations." And it's not just tribes who are opposed: 62 percent of likely Alaskan voters opposed the Pebble Mine in a 2014 poll, and 85 percent of commercial fishers in the Bristol Bay area opposed it in a 2011 poll. State leaders are not fans of the mine either, as The New Yorker reported in July of this year: "Governor Bill Walker, an independent, has spoken out against the mine, and the G.O.P.-dominated state legislature has grown increasingly skeptical—a particularly important development, since a 2014 ballot measure, supported by two-thirds of voters, gave it veto power over any mine proposal in Bristol Bay."

    NRDC -- which has been active in opposing the mine project, working in tandem with local communities -- does have lawyers on staff, but it also has a Science Center and employs at least 60 scientists who have PhDs or master's degrees in their fields.

    False: The Pebble Mine is an energy project.

    Host Montgomery misrepresented the proposed mine as an energy project, talking about the importance of "extracting the energy" from Alaska and wondering whether environmentalists "want us to rely on Saudi Arabia forever."

    True: The Pebble Mine would extract minerals including gold and copper.

    The mining project proposed by the Pebble Limited Partnership would extract copper, gold and molybdenum, not oil, gas, or coal. Stossel did not correct Montgomery’s apparent misunderstanding, but instead joined in to bash the environmentalists who want people to rely on "magical wind power and solar power."