Fox responds to CBO score of health care bill by portraying CBO as untrustworthy

Following the Congressional Budget Office's score of the health care reform reconciliation package, Fox News has attempted to portray the nonpartisan CBO as untrustworthy and unreliable. By contrast, after the CBO gave a “favorable” score to the GOP health care plan, Fox praised the office as “nonpartisan” and advanced false GOP claims about the CBO's findings.

Fox News does damage control, attempts to portray CBO as untrustworthy and unreliable

Beck mocks CBO score of health care reform: “Well, that's a party in my pants.” On the March 18 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, Beck asked, “How would the CBO numbers even make any difference? You know, 'Only 900 and' -- what is it -- '$954 billion.' Ooh. Well, that's a party in my pants. Thank you for sending that one by. How does that make a difference?”

Doocy: "[C]an you really rely on the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office comes out with?" On the March 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed, “Democrats say it will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion over the first decade.” After guest host Dana Perino responded by saying, “Well, but there are other members who say that it actually will cost $2.4 trillion over the 10 years once you add it all up,” Doocy asked, “Because, can you really rely on the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office comes out with?”

Perino: "[C]an we trust these numbers?" Introducing an interview with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on the same edition of Fox & Friends, Perino said, “Nine hundred and forty billion dollars over the next decade. That's the preliminary price tag for the Democrats' health care bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It also says the plan will cut the federal deficit by $130 billion in that time, but can we trust these numbers?” Weiner said the score “came out really better than we thought it would. It was a great savings number, and so the deficit hawks now have things that they can point at and say, 'You know what? This really does save money.” Perino then asked him, “But do you think ... that those numbers can be trusted later on?”

Johnson Jr.: “I don't expect or anticipate that their numbers are real.” On the same edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that the “average person” would say, "[I]f a plan costs $940 billion, tell me how I'm saving 130 billion. So it doesn't make any sense." Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. then noted that Perino had asked, “Do we really trust these numbers?” and claimed that “if you read carefully the latest CBO things, they say, 'Well, we don't usually project out another 10 years.' And there's so many variables and so many wiggle words that I don't expect or anticipate that their numbers are real.” He later said, “I think we're being spun.”

Hannity calls CBO score “budgetary gimmicks and tricks.” On the March 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity called the CBO score of the health care bill reflected “budgetary gimmicks and tricks” and said that it is "[f]lat-out dishonest" that the score didn't contain separate legislation that cancels scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. After guest Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) claimed “the only way that [Democrats] pay for those additions is to reduce seniors' health care benefits on their Medicaid or raise taxes,” Hannity responded, "[W]hy would the CBO not highlight this to give a truly educational, informational, you know, scoring of this to the American people?"

Hemmer asks Juan Williams “do you believe” the CBO long-range forecast. On the March 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Juan Williams called the CBO score a “deal-maker” because it will “reassure those independents and, by extension, those Democrats that have been on the fence because they are deficit hawks” because of the deficit reduction. Co-host Bill Hemmer then said to Williams, “That's 20 years out. You've lived in Washington a long time. Do you believe that?”

Fox Nation headline: “CBO Score Called a 'Lie.' ” On March 18, Fox Nation posted a National Review article under the headline “CBO Score Called a 'Lie.' ” From Fox Nation:

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By contrast, Fox News touted “favorable” CBO score of the GOP health care bill

Fox's Shively touted “favorable” CBO report on GOP health care bill and advanced false GOP claim that GOP plan would lower premiums more than Democrats' plan. On the November 5, 2009, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Caroline Shively adopted the GOP spin by reporting, “Now, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans have gotten favorable reports from the Congressional Budget Office on the cost of their health care bill. GOP lawmakers say that means premiums for millions of families will be almost $5,000 lower under their plan, compared to the cheapest plan in the Democrats' exchange.” In fact, the $5,000 difference Shively cited ignored premium caps in the House Democrats' plan. As Media Matters for America has noted, because the Democrats' health care bill provides premium caps on a sliding scale based on income, the lowest amount that a family would have to pay in premiums is significantly less than the GOP alternative.

America's Newsroom attributes Republican talking point to CBO. On the November 5 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha McCallum claimed, “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is saying that the Republican bill ... will carry lower costs for Americans. The CBO estimates that health insurance premiums would be nearly $5,000 cheaper under the Republican reforms than the Democratic ones.” In fact, the CBO never made that claim. The comparison was based on calculations done by Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee. From America's Newsroom:

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Fox & Friends report obscures that GOP plan wouldn't cover uninsured, wouldn't significantly lower premiums, would reduce deficit less than Democrats' plan. Shively's Fox & Friends report ignored that the GOP plan would not cover most uninsured Americans. Shively also did not report that the CBO estimates indicate that House Democrats' bill lowers the deficit more than the GOP's proposal.