Stuart Varney | Media Matters for America

Stuart Varney

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  • Fox & Friends finally admits right-wing media's favorite economic statistic is misleading

    After years of hyping declining labor force participation rate, Fox & Friends points out that the statistic isn’t useful for measuring economic activity

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    This morning, Fox & Friends pointed out that the labor force participation rate, a favorite statistic cited by Fox News during the Obama administration to dismiss economic successes, can be a misleading indicator of the health of the job market. Fox spent years using a declining labor force participation rate to portray the job market in a negative light while hyping grossly exaggerated claims about the so-called “real unemployment rate.” And President Donald Trump also used the network’s purposeful distortion of the labor force statistic during the 2016 election campaign.

    In 2010, the Pew Research Center reported that “10,000 Baby Boomers” will reach retirement age “every day for the next 19 years,” and, as The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out in 2014, “The composition of the labor force has been affected by the retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation.”

    On the December 5 edition of Fox & Friends, when co-host Brian Kilmeade mentioned the lagging labor force participation rate during a discussion of the health of the economy under Trump, co-host Steve Doocy was quick to point out that the statistic was misleading because “a lot of those people are retired.” The about-face is yet another example since Trump's inauguration in which Fox has abandoned its conspiratorial portrayals of the labor market, often going out of its way to put a positive spin on numbers they would have trashed during the Obama administration:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): There’s two things I'm looking at, the trade deals and the workforce. So only 60 percent of the workforce is working right now. How do we get those people into the game?

    STUART VARNEY: I don't have an answer to your question. I do believe, however, that when you restore prosperity and you've got real growth, people will be enticed back into the labor force because there’s a decent job available. It makes sense to go back into the labor force, if that’s the case.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): But also, a lot of those people are retired.

    VARNEY: Yes, a lot of the people are retired, that’s very true.

    KILMEADE: Yeah, I don't want to make them work again. I mean they’re fine.

    DOOCY: Move to Florida.

    VARNEY: I should be retired.

  • 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."

  • After years of nitpicking Obama, Fox sees nothing to worry about in September jobs report

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Fox News / Screengrab

    Fox News seemed unfazed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) estimate that the economy lost 33,000 jobs last month -- a figure far short of most economist’s expectations. The network’s rosy interpretation of an aberrant monthly jobs report stands in stark contrast to years of nitpicking and misrepresentation during the Obama administration, and it reveals once again that Fox is working to prop up President Donald Trump.

    According to the BLS’ monthly employment report for September 2017, the economy lost 33,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent. Job creation for the months of July and August was revised down by a combined 38,000, meaning that the average pace of job creation over the past three months fell to just 91,000. According to a BLS statement, part of the job loss in September was the result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which may have disrupted data collection and likely prevented some businesses from hiring. The storms devastated parts of Texas and Florida and are expected to exert downward pressure, at least temporarily, on the overall economy.

    The impact of the hurricanes was no surprise, but economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal still predicted roughly 80,000 new jobs to be created last month. As Business Insider reported, if the economy did indeed lose jobs in September (final revisions are due in December), it would mark the first negative month of job creation since 2010. As New York Times reporter Ben Casselman noted, the economy had created jobs for 83 consecutive months:

    During the Obama administration, the team at Fox News would have pounced on a jobs report with such a stark negative jobs number. Indeed, when the jobs figure from December 2016 merely came in under expectations, Fox claimed it was proof that the Obama economy was sputtering and “sick.” Fox completely reversed the tone of its economic coverage after Trump’s inauguration, and that reversal was on full display this morning.

    Fox & Friends covered the report for mere seconds before moving on to other news, but co-host Abby Huntsman worked in mentions of the hurricanes and lower unemployment rate while glossing over job losses:

    On Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, the host and guests spent several minutes hyping record stock market valuations and stressing that the September jobs number should be ignored due to damage from the hurricanes. After correspondent Adam Shapiro unveiled the report, guest Joanie Courtney pivoted away from the job losses to highlight “positive news in this report,” including wage growth and a slight uptick in labor force participation. The rest of the panel then spent the next several minutes explaining why stock investors should not be worried by a single monthly hiccup:

    On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney opened his show by bragging that what he calls “the Trump rally” on the stock market has created trillions of dollars of wealth since Election Day. Varney dismissed the job losses in September before claiming that the backbone of the economy was “humming along.” In a later segment, Varney returned to bragging about the supposed “Trump rally” -- he has promoted this fiction for months, crediting Trump for positive economic trends inherited from the prior administration -- with author and investment analyst Hunter Lewis. To Varney’s surprise, Lewis immediately threw cold water on boasts about the economy, warning that he believes the stock market is “in a bubble” and may actually be headed for “a nasty correction”:

  • Fox pushes absurd claim that Trump’s election boosted economy by $4 trillion

    Stuart Varney: Ignore Trump’s political failures, praise “MAGAnomics”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney celebrated the first six months of the Trump administration by ridiculously claiming that the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump are responsible for adding trillions of dollars to the economy and lifting wages for low-income workers around the country. Varney’s claims are the latest in a long-running right-wing media fantasy that the Republican Party’s economic agenda will unleash the American economy, which conveniently ignores more than six years of steady economic progress under the Obama administration.

    On July 20, Trump celebrated the six-month anniversary of his inauguration as president of the United States. By any objective measure, Trump’s presidency has already been one of the strangest and most chaotic in living memory. The Trump administration is consumed by scandals of its own making, and, according to a Washington Post report published on Trump’s six-month anniversary, the president is beginning to ask his political and legal advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself.”

    Despite these facts, the team at Fox News and Fox Business attempted to find a silver lining for the Trump presidency by falsely crediting his administration for the continued overall health of the American economy. In a July 20 op-ed published by FoxNews.com and a corresponding segment on Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney credited Trump with “add[ing] $4.1 trillion to the nation’s wealth” thanks to a post-election stock market rally. Varney also preposterously claimed that “during [Trump’s] presidency,” long-established American tech giants “Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook” have “emerged as global technology leaders.” Varney’s ridiculous claims were promoted by the network’s social media accounts and parroted again from the Trump-friendly confines of Fox & Friends during a segment in which Varney also credited Trump for wage growth witnessed by low-income workers. From the July 21 segment:

    Fox’s claim that Trump is responsible for low-income wage increases stems from a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, which said that “full-time earners at the lowest 10th percentile of the wage scale” witnessed a 3.4 percent year-to-year wage increase in the second quarter of 2017, according to data from the Department of Labor. Contrary to Fox’s argument that Trump deserves credit for the increase, the Journal pointed to consistently low unemployment rates and minimum wage increases enacted by states and municipalities across the country as primary drivers of the uptick, which continued an accelerating wage trend for low-wage workers dating back to 2015. Minimum wage increases have been found to correlate with significant gains to low-income earnings, as the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) reported on September 5, and 19 states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of the year:

    In addition to falsely crediting Trump for years-long wage growth trends, the team at Fox News also claimed that Trump is responsible for a $4.1 trillion increase in stock market capitalization since Election Day, citing the Wilshire 5000 composite index. It is true that American stock markets have gained value since November, but as CNN business correspondent Christine Romans pointed out last month, stocks had been gaining value for years before Trump’s election. Indeed, the Wilshire 5000 index, like other major stock indices, has been consistently climbing since bottoming out in March 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession and financial crisis.

    Fox’s promotion of Trump’s supposed economic success was not lost on the network’s number one fan, as the president posted a video of Varney’s celebratory July 20 segment on Twitter just this morning:

    Fox has repeatedly pushed misleading economic data to hype Trump since the start of his administration, and the network has even fought against increased minimum wages, which are partly responsible for the wage growth its hosts now celebrate. Fox’s sycophantic devotion to Trump runs so deep that Varney even once admitted his unwillingness to criticize the president, a complete reversal from the tone of his coverage during the Obama administration.

  • Kellyanne Conway gives a big thumbs-up to Fox's Trump coverage

    Fox has adopted Conway’s oft-repeated lament that media outlets aren’t covering Trump’s supposed accomplishments enough

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has spent months demanding media outlets end “presumptively negative” coverage of the president and devote more time to his accomplishments. Now, Fox has begun adopting her wishes by repeating her criticism -- to the point that she praised them in a recent interview for doing so.

    In the weeks following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Conway has repeatedly criticized interviewers for focusing on events or statements by the administration that make Trump look bad and tried to steer conversation to what the administration views as positive developments and news.

    This is a strategy she has followed no matter what Trump has said or done. After the president called the press the “enemy of the American People” in March, Conway asserted on Fox that journalists have a “responsibility” to “not be presumptively negative” in their coverage of Trump. In April, Conway told Fox host Jeanine Pirro that “the mainstream media are making Americans suffer from information underload on all the great things the president is doing” by instead covering Trump’s scandals. Trump has reinforced Conway’s admonishment of the media with his own tweets. (However, media have noted that many of Trump’s supposed accomplishments either have little or nothing to do with him, or are just political theater with little substance.)

    Fox News recently showed that it has taken Conway’s criticism to heart and adopted her idea of what media coverage of the Trump administration should look like.

    On June 11, MediaBuzz host and media critic Howard Kurtz noted that during “infrastructure week,” the May 16-19 week in which the administration attempted to heavily promote Trump’s plans for infrastructure repairs, “the media attention was so focused” on former FBI Director James Comey and Russia that the president’s agenda was not covered. He concluded: “There is some responsibility on the part of the media to keep reporting on things that actually affect the lives of most Americans and not just Washington scandal stuff.”

    The next day, Fox Business host Stuart Varney went on Fox & Friends to gush over the country’s economic performance and lambaste other news outlets for not adopting a 100 percent optimistic view of the economy in their headlines. After co-host Steve Doocy stated that “the mainstream media has a whole different story” on the economy, Varney went all-in on criticizing news outlets for their continued coverage of Trump’s scandals, declaring it a “disgrace” and “a crying shame” that they weren’t devoting more time to the economy’s performance under Trump:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Well, numbers don't lie. The economy on the rise under President Trump, but the mainstream media has a whole different story. Here's some of the headlines, The New York Times claiming "weak spots remain," Washington Examiner citing a "roller coaster economy," and Bloomberg going as far as calling the president's economic agenda "almost dead."

    [...]

    STUART VARNEY: I think it's a disgrace, quite frankly. Here we have the media concentrating en masse, Russia, Russia, Russia. Comey, Comey, Comey, plots, investigations. All of that is front page news all the time. What's going on in people’s lives -- better jobs, wages, housing improving, the improvement in our economy, our financial way of life -- that goes uncovered, and that's a crying shame.

    Less than 30 minutes after Varney’s tirade, Fox & Friends interviewed Conway, and co-host Brian Kilmeade said to her that “these other media outlets are trying to kill you.” Conway responded by praising Fox for doing what she’s been demanding of news outlets for months (emphasis added):

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Kellyanne you are a genius at politics. Every time the president mentions Comey or Russia, it doesn't work to his advantage. It works to the Democrats’.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: I know he’s …

    KILMEADE: So if you agree with that, maybe you don't, if you agree with that and the president wants to get his agenda through, wouldn't he be better off not doing anything about those things, letting others do it?

    CONWAY: He is likely watching and getting your advice right now, Brian. But at the same time, I don't know why people just can't cover both. In other words, if I hear one more time, well we wanted to cover infrastructure, we wanted to cover jobs and workforce development. We really wanted to talk about this incredible economy of 4.3 percent unemployment, lowest in 15 years. Fewer unemployed since 2007, I believe. And certainly the confidence numbers are way up. For the last decade, they haven't been this high. So why can't people cover both stories?

    [CROSSTALK]

    KILMEADE: Because they are trying to kill you. Because these other media outlets are trying to kill you.

    CONWAY: No kidding. No kidding, but he’s the president.

    KILMEADE: That’s just it. So don’t give them the bloody knife.

    CONWAY: They need to, quote, “accept the election results.” All the things that I was asked and the president was asked and everybody was asked six weeks to Sunday, from that October 19 debate in Las Vegas when he said, “I will keep you in suspense.” And the next day he said in Ohio at a rally, “I will accept them if I win.” And people freaked out and they’re still freaking out. So -- but I think that the responsibility is to cover all of the above. And look, the media has a great responsibility and a great role here. They can be telling the veterans that hey, you’re now --

    KILMEADE: But they're not.

    CONWAY: Well, but they should. And you at least give us a platform to talk about facts, to talk about all the great things that are happening that impact real people's lives.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): That's because, Kellyanne, they care more about politics than they do about America. I mean, they’re not reporting on this.

    And on June 16, Conway reappeared on the network to again trash the media for supposedly not covering the president properly. Conway said Fox was the only network not criticizing the president “as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt questioned how the media would cover Trump’s upcoming change in Cuba policy later that day:

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: I did a really clever thing. I went back and looked at exactly what was being discussed on all of the TV shows except [Fox & Friends] at 7:09 a.m. on Wednesday when this happened, and it's a really curious exercise because as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field in a trail of blood, you should go back and see what people were saying about the president and the Republicans at that very moment. Of course, they had to break in with the news of this tragedy and since then there’s been some introspection, some quieter, more muted voices, toning down the rhetoric, but look at Twitter: If I were shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement. This is the world we live in now.

    [...]

    AINSLEY EARHARDT: Yeah, we’re going to have to watch and see how [the media] cover things going forward. That was all before the shooting happened. It will be interesting to see how the mainstream media covers President Trump’s trip to Miami today. What is he doing down in Miami today, Kellyanne?

    CONWAY: So down in Miami today, the president is doing a very exciting for the Cuban people. Our unity is with the Cuban people, not the oppressive Cuban regime that has benefitted from these changes in the Obama administration policies that helped the military, the security, and the intelligence entities there benefit from U.S.-derived funds. That has to stop and that will stop.

  • Fox hypes misleading job creation numbers to credit Trump on the economy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    President Donald Trump took to Twitter on June 11 to echo misleading claims from Fox News that job growth in his first four full months in office was proof of his economic success. Both Fox and the president failed to notice, however, that it was the weakest February through May stretch of job growth since the end of the Great Recession.

    On the June 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Clayton Morris and economist Peter Morici claimed that Trump’s presidency had been a boon for the economy, hyped that 594,000 jobs had been created in Trump’s first four full months in office, and slammed media outlets for reporting that Trump’s economic agenda has stalled. Roughly an hour later, the president started tweeting what seemed like talking points pulled from the Fox segment. He decried mainstream reporters, whom he derisively labeled “fake news,” in a tweet claiming media outlets refuse to report “great economic news” since he was elected. Trump continued by boasting that the economy had added “600,000+” jobs:

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the economy in fact created 594,000 jobs from February through May of this year. Projections for April and May are preliminary and subject to change, but by comparison to previously established trends for the same timeframe, Trump has little to boast about. More jobs were created during the same four-month window in each of the past seven years under President Barack Obama.

    On June 12 edition of CNN’s Early Start host Christine Romans picked apart various aspects of Trump’s claims on the economy. Romans discussed that while the stock market has gone up since Trump was elected, it had been rising for eight years making the latest gains just “icing on what has been a very big, juicy cake.” Romans also noted that Trump’s job growth claims neglect to mention how job creation was slower than the last three years:

    These simple facts did not stop the pro-Trump sycophants at Fox News from continuing to push their favorable talking points. On the June 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Stuart Varney laid out the same argument that Trump had tweeted and added that “it’s a disgrace” that news outlets had been focused on Trump’s scandals instead of giving the president credit for a strong economy. Later on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, guest Melissa Francis again pushed the 594,000 jobs created between February through May as proof of a strong economy under Trump.

    Since Trump was elected, Fox has pivoted from mischaracterizing reports on the economy to blast Obama to mischaracterizing reports on the economy to hype or defend the Trump administration. Fox personalities frequently heap praise on economic indicators weaker than those they had once excoriated. The network has also reversed completely on how it reports jobs data, giving Trump credit for jobs he didn’t even create, and reporting glowingly on job creation under Trump that had become routine under Obama.

  • Right-wing media continue to push myth that Trump can get a better deal than Paris

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    via flickr creative commons user neurotic_buddha

    Within hours of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and negotiate a better deal, other world leaders made it clear that renegotiation is not an option. But right-wing media and the administration are continuing to push the fanciful notion that Trump can negotiate a more favorable pact.

    Trump claims Paris was a bad deal and he can get a better one

    When Trump made his announcement on June 1 -- a move cheered by many in conservative media -- he said he intended to renegotiate:

    [T]he United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord … but but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an -- really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.

    The White House talking points about the decision stress the idea that the Paris accord was a bad deal for the U.S. -- bad in all caps, lest you miss the point:

    The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans. … The deal was negotiated BADLY.

    Right-wing media push bad-deal/good-deal frame

    This frame -- that Paris is a bad deal and Trump can get a good deal -- had been pushed by right-wing media in the days leading up to his decision, and the claim continued to make the rounds after the announcement was made, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

    On May 30, David Bossie -- a former deputy campaign manager for Trump and a Fox News contributor who is being considered for a role in the White House -- went on Fox News Radio and called for the Trump administration to renegotiate the Paris deal:

    My recommendation is: You get out of Paris, you get out of the Paris treaty, you get out right now, and then you let Scott Pruitt, your EPA administrator, who is very good and a great negotiator, go out and negotiate new deals, deals that are good for America and the rest of the world combined.

    On June 1, before Trump made his announcement, Stuart Varney of Fox Business' Varney & Co. argued that former President Obama did a terrible job negotiating the Paris deal and Trump could do much better:

    The Obama team gave virtually everything away -- our money and our jobs -- and received only vague promises of future good behavior. In my opinion, it was a lousy deal. So maybe our president will do the same as he did with NAFTA -- that is, threaten to withdraw, then negotiate a better deal. … He did, after all, write the book The Art of the Deal.

    And Fox Business tweeted out the point too:

    During Trump's speech, Breitbart's Curt Schilling tweeted out his approval of the president's plan to renegotiate the deal:

    Nobody wants to renegotiate with the U.S.

    But other world leaders are not interested in sitting down at the table with the U.S. again, as they quickly made clear.

    Shortly after Trump's announcement, the leaders of France, Italy, and Germany issued a joint statement refuting the notion that the Paris deal is up for renegotiation:

    We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.

    And a group of ministers from 24 nations -- known as the High Ambition Coalition, which pushed to make the Paris agreement as strong as possible -- also threw cold water on the idea of renegotiating:

    Our commitment to the Paris Agreement is unshakeable. We have every reason to fight for its full implementation.

    “Apparently the White House has no understanding of how an international treaty works," said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who led the negotiation process leading up to the Paris agreement. "There is no such thing as withdrawing and then negotiating.”

    And the current secretariat of the UNFCCC also put out a statement saying that the agreement "cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party."

    Bloomberg summed up the situation in headline: "Everyone But Donald Trump Is Standing By the Paris Climate Agreement."

    Right-wing media still insist Trump can negotiate a better deal

    Even after world leaders made their opposition to renegotiation crystal clear, right-wing media continued to push the myth that the president could get a new and improved deal.

    "One of the [things] I'm looking forward to, and I've seen some of: Donald Trump's ability to renegotiate a better deal and better positioning for the United States of America," said Eboni Williams, a co-host of The Fox News Specialists, on June 2.

    "If the Paris accord was actually meant to save the environment, the globalists would be happy to renegotiate the deal with President Trump," wrote Kit Daniels at Infowars on June 3.

    Administration officials also went on Fox News to keep pushing the "better deal" idea.

    Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox & Friends on June 2, "You also heard [Trump] leave the door open to renegotiating a better arrangement, to maybe re-entering the Paris accord under new terms and new conditions. … In withdrawing from the Paris accord, and in offering to renegotiate it in a way that is more fair, more equitable to our economy and every economy in the world, again you see President Donald Trump is being leader of the free world." Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt did not push back on that assertion.

    And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke went on Fox News' America's Newsroom on June 2 to defend Trump's move: "It was a bad deal. I think the president has said he’s going to renegotiate it, offer to renegotiate it. … If we're going to sit down, let's make sure the agreement has shared burden." Fox host Bill Hemmer neglected to point out that other countries have said they will not sit down to renegotiate the deal with the Trump administration.

    Informed commentators mock renegotiation claims

    New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, speaking on The New Yorker's "Politics and More" podcast on June 2, slapped down the renegotiation idea: "When Trump says, 'I'm going to negotiate a better deal,' well that's a lie, that's just not possible."

    Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who played a key role in negotiating the Paris agreement, was even more forceful on this point during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on June 4:

    When Donald Trump says, well, we're going to negotiate a better deal, you know, he's going to go out and find a better deal? That's like O.J. Simpson saying he's going to go out and find the real killer. Everybody knows he isn't going to do that.

    The U.S. already had a favorable deal

    Even if other countries were willing to sit back down at the table, it's highly unlikely the U.S. would get a better deal. That's because the U.S. already got a favorable deal when the Paris agreement was negotiated in 2015.

    The Paris deal "is more fair to the U.S. than previous agreements because it includes all the major economies of the world, not just the rich countries, so both developed countries and developing countries have skin in the game," Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Law and Policy Program, told The Washington Post after Trump made his announcement.

    "Paris already gives countries tremendous flexibility, and no penalties," Michael Gerrard, a professor of environmental law at Columbia and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told the Post.

    The Obama administration had wanted to take part in the agreement, but it knew that a climate treaty couldn't get ratified by the U.S. Senate. So the entire global community bent over backward to accommodate the U.S. political system -- crafting a nonbinding accord that's looser than a treaty and making action pledges voluntary with no enforcement mechanisms. 

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before the negotiations that a good agreement would be “binding,” but she and other like-minded leaders gave in to the U.S. on this point.

    As The Guardian reported just after the Paris negotiations took place in December 2015, "Under US insistence, the 31-page agreement was explicitly crafted to exclude emissions reductions targets and finance from the legally binding parts of the deal. … The other exclusion zone was any clause in the agreement that would expose the US to liability and compensation claims for causing climate change."

    Ultimately, many world leaders and climate advocates thought the U.S. got too good of deal -- so good that the resulting agreement was disappointingly weak.

    From The Guardian: "The US – and European – position was a huge disappointment for the low-lying and small island states, which argued they needed recognition that their countries could pay the ultimate price for climate change in terms of land loss and migration."

    “The United States has hindered ambition," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., said in December 2015. "Using the world’s atmosphere and the suffering of the vulnerable as a guide, the United States is failing -- by a long shot -- to do what climate science and justice demand. This holds true for the United States' greenhouse gas reduction pledge, its provision of funds for developing countries to take climate action and its obstruction of progress on loss and damage.”

    Despite the United States' successful effort to water down the Paris agreement, other countries, both rich and poor, still stepped up to the plate with meaningful action pledges. As The Economist noted just after Trump made his announcement, "All [of the Paris agreement's] signatories—which is to say, every country except Syria, Nicaragua and now America—have undertaken to reduce emissions against business-as-usual targets." This despite the fact that many of those countries have contributed very little to the problem of climate change, while the U.S. is the biggest carbon polluter in history, as The New York Times pointed out.

    So now other countries are moving forward without the U.S. The Europeans are planning to work more closely with China and India. The leaders of France and India have announced that they're going to cooperate jointly on fighting climate change. Instead of getting a better deal, the U.S. is cut out of the dealmaking.

  • 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.

  • Right-Wing Media Portray May Day Demonstrations As Violent Anarchy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Labor rights advocates and progressive political activists commemorated May Day with marches in the United States and around the world in solidarity with immigrants and workers, but their mostly peaceful demonstrations were smeared by right-wing outlets, which painted them as violent outbursts led by anarchists.

    May 1 or May Day has been commemorated internationally as a workers rights holiday for over 100 years and this year it happened to roughly coincide with the culmination of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. Trump’s tenure thus far has been typified by toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric and aggressively anti-worker policies and hundreds of thousands of activists peacefully marched this May Day in Washington, D.C. and across the country demonstrating their opposition to his agenda. While clashes broke out in some cities, most marches in the U.S. and around the world were peaceful.

    In response to the demonstrations, fringe right-wing outlets like The Gateway Pundit, ZeroHedge, and Infowars, along with the Russian government propaganda outlet RT, used the few isolated instances of violence to paint a picture that all protesters were violent communists and anarchists. Right-wing conspiracy site WorldNetDaily warned, “Movements like this always end in death, poverty and misery.” Breitbart.com had a bevy of articles on May Day that claimed protesters were “radical left-wing activists,” alleged the crowd sizes at the protests did not live up to expectations, hyped violence that broke out in Portland as being endemic to other demonstrations and mocked Facebook for letting workers take the day off to join up with “communists and Black Bloc enforcers” at May Day protests.

    Fox News’ portrayals of the May Day rallies depicted a similar dystopia. On the May 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney discarded the notion that the demonstrations had anything to do with “workers, or workers rights, or trade unions” and claimed May Day had been hijacked by “the violent left” to protest Trump. Varney continued to lambast May Day protesters on his Fox Business program while guest Tom Sullivan claimed the demonstrators were actually communist agitators who “just changed their names” to blend in with progressivism. From the May 2 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.: