Stuart Varney | Media Matters for America

Stuart Varney

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  • Fox's Stuart Varney hypes wage growth under Trump. In fact, real wage growth has gone down.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney appeared on Fox & Friends to hype economic growth under the Trump administration, claiming “wages are rising 25 percent faster under President Trump than they did under President Obama.”

    From the July 31 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    STUART VARNEY (FOX BUSINESS NETWORK): The expansion of the economy coincided right at the time when we got the tax cuts, right at the time after we got deregulation. It pumped up the economy, and what you’ve got now is, essentially, tax cuts taking effect. Unemployment came down. Worker bonuses reached the highest levels ever, and the [Congressional Budget Office], the congressional bean counters basically, they say that wages are rising 25 percent faster under President Trump than they did under President Obama.

    But, according to the Center for American Progress, while nominal wage growth has ticked up slightly, “workers’ wages are flat or even slightly down, in real terms, over the last year” because “inflation has picked up more than wage growth.” Moreover, despite Varney’s claims that the Republican tax cuts “pumped up the economy,” according to the Center for American Progress, “real wages are flat or slightly down since the tax bill passed.”

    Furthermore, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s wage growth tracker showed that wages are in fact growing at a slower rate than they were in November 2016 under President Obama.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets great PR from … Fox News

    Conservative media try to discredit a rising Democratic star by advertising her platform

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Back when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored her upset win over House Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley in the NY-14 Democratic primary, conservative media had to scramble to find ways to attack her. Ocasio-Cortez came rocketing from relative obscurity to national prominence in the space of a few hours, leaving her newfound enemies at Fox News and elsewhere with little to go on. So, they made do with what they had: her policy platform.

    Sean Hannity memorably put Ocasio-Cortez’s entire platform up on screen and broadcast to the world the fact that she ran on universal health care and a federal jobs guarantee, and also endorses “solidarity with Puerto Rico,” “support[s] seniors,” and backs “women’s rights.” Hannity’s intention was ostensibly to allow what he considered to be the manifest extremism of her platform to speak for itself. He achieved the complete opposite: He made Ocasio-Cortez’s platform look great, and the candidate herself endorsed his failed attack.

    You could perhaps chalk up Hannity’s faceplant to the fact that Ocasio-Cortez was not a known quantity at the time and the angry right just didn’t know what else to do with her. But it keeps happening. Fox News and conservative media seem to have convinced themselves that the way to attack Ocasio-Cortez is to just quote her and point at her policy platform on the assumption that everyone will recoil in horror at the awful socialism.

    Just yesterday, Fox Business threw up a video of Ocasio-Cortez speaking at a rally in Kansas, followed by sneering mimicry from host Stuart Varney.

    Once again, a conservative media figure saw something self-evidently shocking and disqualifying in a Democratic candidate arguing for “a living wage to lead a dignified life.” And, once again, Ocasio-Cortez seized on the earned media to restate her policy.

    The Daily Caller got into the game by sending one of its conservative writers to a Missouri rally where Ocasio-Cortez spoke in support of Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush. The ensuing write-up read like a parody of cloistered conservatism:

    But then Ocasio-Cortez spoke, followed by Bush, and I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage.

    • I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.
    • I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a "living wage" was a human right.
    • Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government's job to make sure that those things were provided.

    The abject terror of … health care and education for children. The Daily Caller writer appeared on Fox & Friends this morning, where she talked about the supposed insidiousness of Ocasio-Cortez talking “about things that everybody wants, especially, like, if you're a parent.”

    It’s a bizarre dynamic because the people attacking Ocasio-Cortez recognize that her platform does have political appeal (the supposedly “radical” planks, like Medicare-for-all and a federal jobs guarantee, actually poll decently well). But they keep on posting clips of her saying popular things, and then they just call her a “socialist” or grimly wonder who will pay for these plans to educate children and keep them healthy.

    This is a product of the suffocating ideological bubble conservative media exist in and help to maintain. People like Stuart Varney and the editorial staff at the Daily Caller are communicating with an audience that, they assume, will understand implicitly that a video clip of Ocasio-Cortez preaching for a living wage and the dignity of everyday life is a damaging, scandalous indictment of her politics. It’s “socialism,” that catch-all epithet that conservative media have spent decades applying to everyone to the left of Mitt Romney, and it merits only mockery and casual dismissal. Sure, they say, what she’s arguing for sounds nice, but it’s ridiculous and disqualifying because … uh … roll that tape again.

  • Everything right-wing media tried to blame for the Trump administration’s family separation policy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump’s administration implemented a new “zero tolerance” prosecution policy at the border that led to unprecedented and systematic separation of immigrant families and locking kids in cages, right-wing media flailed around trying to blame the administration’s policy on anybody or anything except Trump.

    The president’s media enablers blamed Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, “the law on the book,” Democrats in Congress, the media, the families themselves, and even “the Illuminati of K Street” for the Trump administration’s policy:  

    Blaming the families themselves

    • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that families “are choosing to be separated” by coming to the United States in the first place. Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, saying “the part that is troubling ... is the conscious decisions the parents are making” in trying to bring their children to America.

    • Recently pardoned felon Dinesh D’Souza rhetorically questioned whether the “deported aliens” were “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox’s David Bossie said that if parents “don’t become criminals, they’re not separated” from their children.

    • Fox’s Tomi Lahren said, “If you do not want to be separated, do not cross the border illegally. Follow our laws, follow the process. That's the best way to ensure that your family stays together.”

    Blaming former presidents

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that family separation at the border "is an entirely manufactured crisis. It’s entirely manufactured. This has been going on for years. It happened during the Obama administration."

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp declared, “Obama and Trump have [the] same child protection policy.”

    • Turning Point USA Communications Director Candace Owens falsely claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration.

    • Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk falsely stated, “All of this happened for 8 years under Obama.”

    • CNN commentator Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook that claimed that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009.

    • Breitbart claimed Trump’s “new ‘zero tolerance’ policy worked during the presidency of George W. Bush,” referring to an initiative that began in 2005 and has not worked.

    • Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs stated that “previous presidents, including Bush and Obama, long ignored” family separation at the border until Trump “mov[ed] to stop” the practice.

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity claimed, “This is nothing new and took place in previous administrations as well.”

    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said that family separation has been “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.”

    Blaming a nonexistent law

    Blaming media, claiming they were using family separation as a distraction

    • Fox’s Brian Kilmeade said that Trump’s media detractors “had to reach for something else” after Trump “put a lot of the skeptics to bed … and they found it with the so-called separation of kids and parents.”

    • Rush Limbaugh claimed that media is inundating Americans with “manufactured crises” like family separation to distract from the Department of Justice inspector general report and strong economy.

    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson, host of one of the most racist hours on television, said that reporting on family separation is just the media pursuing their goal “to change your country, forever.”

    • NRATV commentator Dan Bongino claimed that media reporting on family separation is “propaganda, nothing more.”

    • Hannity accused the media of harboring an “obsession” with “the so-called policy” of separating children from their parents in order to mislead Americans.

    • Twitter troll Bill Mitchell predicted, “Every Sunday news show will be about Trump's #FakeNews ‘concentration camps’ and NOTHING about the OIG.”

    • Sinclair Broadcast Group’s propagandist Boris Epshteyn devoted his “must-run” segment on family separation to attacking the media for their “politically driven” attempts “to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters.”

    Blaming Democrats, claiming they were using family separation for political ends

    • According to The Gateway Pundit, Democrats “would rather the problem persist so they can continue to wring their hands over another manufactured crisis to distract from the damning IG report and robust economy.”

    • Fox Business’ Stuart Varney complained that Democrats “hijacked” a hearing on the IG report “within seconds of it beginning,” and “poured out [their] scorn for President Trump” instead.

    • Fox’s Trish Regan commented that Democrats “would much rather cry on television like [Rep.] Elijah Cummings [D-MD] did” than stop family separation, because “it plays to any hatred they can gin up, as we go into ‘18, for Donald Trump.”

    • National Review’s David French wrote, “I have a feeling that for some partisans, it’s fascism to impose the policy and fascism to try to end it -- at least so long as the GOP is in charge of the process.”

  • Fox Business smears White House reporter for playing audio of crying detained children

    Larry O'Connor complains reporters covering Trump's family separation policy are "short on facts," but he misrepresents the ProPublica article he's criticizing

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    An audio recording from ProPublica of young detained children at the border crying out for their parents, along with Border Patrol agents apparently joking about the children’s cries, received widespread attention after it was released on June 18. A Fox Business segment went after New York magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi for playing the audio during a White House press briefing, with the host at first criticizing it as “unverified” before his guest slimed reporters in general and then lied about the ProPublica story accompanying the audio.

    The Trump administration enacted a new policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border without authorization and has taken the children away from family groups that cross the border and detained them separately from their parents. Conservative media have been scrambling to lie about it, downplay the effect of sticking young children in camps away from their parents, and even justify it by preying on racial fears. And on the June 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Company, guest Larry O’Connor smeared “political reporters here in Washington” for “finding a slimier place in the gutter to dwell” by covering this Trump policy, especially for playing the ProPublica audio. He accused reporters of being “short on facts” on this issue, before lying about ProPublica’s coverage:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced the press, called on Congress to act. One reporter played the sound of migrant children crying -- the audio of course not verified, but it was played anyway in the middle of a press conference … . Joining us now, Washington Times associate editor Larry O'Connor. Larry, I see plenty of emotion from the media and from Democrats, but I do not see any of them offering a solution. What say you?

    LARRY O'CONNOR: Yeah. And they're also short on facts. You know, Stuart, the moment you think that the political reporters here in Washington have reached the lowest depths of cynical deceit in their campaign against this president, they find a slimier place in the gutter to dwell, and we saw that yesterday in this press briefing. That audio that they played -- first of all, it’s completely unverified, those children who were crying, except for one child. ProPublica obtained this audio, they published it, and if you dive deep into their article, tons of paragraphs down to the bottom, they talk about this one El Salvadoran girl that is on this tape. Well, yeah, she was separated by her parents. Her parents actually separated her from themselves. They gave this girl to a smuggler, a human smuggler in El Salvador, and sent her on this 2,000-mile treacherous, deadly journey to America. That's not the Americans government, that's not the Trump administration. We need some facts in this. This is an important issue. There are children at stake. But all of the mess and the noise that we're getting from journalists, that's not helping anything.

    Contrary to O'Connor’s allegation, the ProPublica article makes clear that the 6-year-old girl's parents did not "separate her from themselves" -- the Trump administration’s new policy did that. According to the girl's aunt, the girl was with her mother the entire journey until they got to the border and were separated there.

    From the article (emphasis added):

    The aunt said what made the call even more painful was that there was nothing she could do. She and her 9-year-old daughter are seeking asylum in the United States after immigrating here two years ago for the exact same reasons and on the exact same route as her sister and her niece. They are from a small town called Armenia, about an hour’s drive northwest of the Salvadoran capital, but well within reach of its crippling crime waves. She said gangs were everywhere in El Salvador: “They’re on the buses. They’re in the banks. They’re in schools. They’re in the police. There’s nowhere for normal people to feel safe.”

    She said her niece and sister set out for the United States over a month ago. They paid a smuggler $7,000 to guide them through Guatemala, and Mexico and across the border into the United States. Now, she said, all the risk and investment seem lost.

    The aunt said she worried that any attempt to intervene in her niece’s situation would put hers and her daughter’s asylum case at risk, particularly since the Trump administration overturned asylum protections for victims of gang and domestic violence. She said she’s managed to speak to her sister, who has been moved to an immigration detention facility near Port Isabel, Texas. And she keeps in touch with her niece, Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, by telephone. Mother and daughter, however, have not been able to speak to one another.

    O’Connor concluded the segment by asserting that “the facts are still on the President’s side.” It’s unclear which facts he was referring to.

  • Right-wing media’s latest pathetic attempts to smear Google as leftist radicals

    The two latest conservative “scandals” about Google actually have innocuous explanations, but that’s never stopped right-wing media from making dishonest “censorship” claims before, and it won’t now either

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservatives are using a pair of stories about Google search results to pile onto their claims that the tech company is intrinsically biased against conservatives. This claim is farcical nonsense, and it fits perfectly into a right-wing pattern of playing technology companies for fools with misleading or completely false accusations. 

    On May 31, Vice reported that Google search results for the California Republican Party listed “Nazism” as the party’s ideology in the knowledge panel, a section on the right side of the search page that quickly summarizes basic information on search queries. Then, on June 1, Vice also reported that the knowledge panel for North Carolina State Sen. Trudy Wade, a Republican, featured an image of her with “BIGOT” written at the bottom in red letters. Google has corrected both of these issues with its knowledge panels, which are automatically populated with information from a number of sources, some of which, like Wikipedia, anybody can edit any time. 

    Right-wing media predictably cry that Google has an anti-conservative bias

    Conservative media are using these stories to smear Google as a left-wing operative determined to take down Republicans. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade repurposed an argument from the Hoover Institute’s Niall Ferguson to suggest that Silicon Valley was upset at the Trump campaign’s prolific use of social media during the 2016 election and was trying to tilt the midterm elections for the Democrats. Fox’s Stuart Varney lied about the Trudy Wade image, falsely claiming that “a Google staffer put a ‘bigot’ sign” on Wade’s photo. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said the California Republican Party search result showed that “evidence is mounting that conservative voices are either being suppressed” or “being falsely depicted as hateful extremists” on Google. And Breitbart News scandalized Wikipedia’s relationship with the knowledge panel, claiming that Wikipedia allegedly has a pro-CNN bias. 

    Members of Congress even got involved in the reactionary pile-on. House intelligence committee chairman and all-around embarrassment Devin Nunes (R-CA) told Fox Business that “we [would] have to move obviously to hearings on these issues” if Google continued to “get involved in politics” and “censor conservatives and Republicans.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested to MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt that Google lied when it blamed the “Nazism” search result on Wikipedia, because he had “looked at Wikipedia” earlier “and it didn’t say ‘Nazism’” anywhere. 

    The right wing’s claims of bias are dishonest bullshit 

    As Google explained at the time, Nazism appeared in the California Republican Party knowledge panel because Google pulled the information from the party’s Wikipedia page, which had been “vandalized,” meaning it was deliberately incorrectly updated. Wired magazine reported that Wikipedia edit logs confirm that a user falsely edited the page to show “Nazism” as a core belief for the state party and that the note went undetected on the site for a week. It appeared on the Google knowledge panel because the search engine automatically “scrapes” Wikipedia to populate the feature. The edit logs might explain why McCarthy didn’t see “Nazism” on the page when he looked: The story broke on May 31 and he tweeted about it the same day, but Wikipedia had removed the “Nazism” claim from the California Republican Party page the day before

    Similarly, with Trudy Wade, Google removed the “bigot” image from her knowledge panel as soon as the issue was brought to its attention, but the search engine told her that she needed to ask the owner of the image to “take down or update the content” in order to completely remove it from search results. Wade complained during an appearance on the Sunday, June 3, edition of Fox & Friends Weekend that the image was still up, Matt Comer -- a North Carolina LGBTQ activist who first posted the image -- tweeted that Wade never contacted him, suggesting she is more interested in media hits than in actually getting the image removed.

    Furthermore, Paul Blest at Splinter News followed the money and found -- shockingly! -- that Google actually likes Republicans, especially Rep. McCarthy. For the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, political donations to Google’s PAC were split roughly evenly between Republicans and Democrats; in fact, Republicans got a bit more in 2016 than Democrats did. Additionally, McCarthy was one of the Google PAC’s “biggest recipients” in 2016 and got $10,000 in 2016 and another $5,000 in 2018 so far.

    Dishonest bullshit is the right wing’s trade, and business is booming

    As Media Matters has documented for over a decade, right-wing media outlets are expert traders in bullshit, and that trend has not slowed in the age of social media. Most recently, this trend has manifested itself with pro-Trump websites claiming the algorithmic changes at Facebook are censoring their content -- a charge pro-Trump social media figures Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson are leading, while occasionally betraying their profound ignorance

    However, users across the political spectrum have seen their Facebook page views decline since the platform rolled out new rules against fake news and hate speech. In Diamond and Silk’s specific case, the drop in their video views was not even as significant as that of the left-leaning MSNBC prime-time program The Rachel Maddow Show, which “has a much larger [Facebook] page and is the most popular cable news program in the country.” 

    None of these facts have remotely slowed down Diamond and Silk’s quest to gain attention for their invented grievance. They push their deceit on Fox News and the network actively helps them spread lies about so-called “censorship.” They even brought their perjurious carnival show to the U.S. Congress. Republicans repeatedly asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about this alleged “censorship,” and the focus on the two vloggers took time and attention away from more serious issues Zuckerberg perhaps should have discussed with elected leaders.

    Compounding this problem is Google’s reliance on unaccountable third parties for its knowledge panels and search results, including, when it comes to Wikipedia, volunteer labor. While most Wikipedia users likely engage with the site in good faith, vandalism clearly remains a problem and those problems can sometimes trickle out into the larger world. Among conservative circles, there have been and continue to be active movements around astroturfing -- or falsifying the origins of -- online debate. In 2014, BuzzFeed News uncovered “Operation Lollipop,” an organized effort by users of far-right image boards and men’s rights websites to impersonate feminists and start fights among real activists. Then, on June 4, BuzzFeed News also reported on a far-reaching effort from similar extremist websites to flood comment sections on Disqus with hate speech in order to dominate the conversation and recruit new bigots. There is too much bad faith online for Google to be so reliant on the honor system.

    The simple truth about right-wing media and alleged censorship on social media is that fake news, conspiracy theories, and online harassment are all more prevalent in conservative circles than in others. So if conservative media spaces are feeling the impact of policy changes meant to combat such misinformation more harshly than others (if they are indeed feeling such an impact), then perhaps it’s right-wing audiences and content creators who are abusing the platforms, not the other way around.