GOP Communications Arm Fox News Attacks Democrats For Using Talking Points

Following audio of Sen. Chuck Schumer coaching other senators on language to use when discussing budgetary issues and a potential government shutdown, Fox News figures have attacked Democrats for coordinating talking points. Their criticism comes despite the fact that, among other things, Fox News itself consistently adopts GOP talking points as its own, has been caught broadcasting GOP press releases -- typos and all -- and its Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, has been caught instructing Fox's anchors and reporters to use GOP-friendly language in their reporting.

Fox Figures Mock, Attack Schumer For Using “Democratic Talking Points”

On Conference Call, Schumer Advised Democratic Colleagues To Call GOP Budget Cuts “Extreme.” From USA Today:

Speaking to several Democratic colleagues Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said they should all use the word “extreme” when describing the budget cuts that Tea Party Republicans were seeking in the ongoing budget negotiations. [USA Today, 3/30/11]

Doocy Claims Schumer Coaching Dems On Talking Points Is “Quite Embarrassing.” On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy reported on the story and said that Schumer was overheard on a conference call “paint[ing] the Republicans as extremists.” Doocy noted that Schumer “specifically wanted people to use that word” and called the incident “quite embarrassing.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade later claimed that “people like [Sen.] Harry Reid and company are going to go forward with the same message. This is the talking points. You just got the facts in the behind-the-scenes look at what Democrats are doing.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/30/11]

Kilmeade: “You Wonder Why” Democrats “Say The Same Thing In Every Interview.” Later on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade responded to audio of Schumer's call by saying:

KILMEADE: You wonder why everyone says the same thing in every interview, and leaders [say] the Tea Party is holding the hostage to the Republican Party. Republicans don't know what to do. Boehner is in a box. Why do they say it? Because he's saying it. This is how. And guess what the Majority Leader Harry Reid says? The exact same thing.

After playing a clip of Reid, Doocy said, “They both said exactly the same thing. What a coincidence.” [Fox & Friends, 3/30/11]

Van Susteren: Schumer Has “Egg On His Face Tonight.” On the March 29 edition of Fox News' On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren introduced a segment on Schumer by claiming, “Does Senator Charles Schumer have egg on his face tonight! This is one conference call the senator will never forget!” Later in the segment, Van Susteren said:

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's sort of interesting. I suppose that in the Republican caucus in both houses, they're given instructions, too. But it's rather -- you know, it's sort of enlightening for the rest of us to hear Senator Schumer find out -- he takes marching orders from his caucus. They're all using the word “extreme.” And I guess that it's sort of hard to think that if you're automatically tagging your opponent with “extreme,” it's sort of hard to get a negotiation, get any traction when negotiating. But he got caught with his pants down on this one. [Fox News, On the Record, 3/29/11, accessed via Nexis]

Hannity: “That's Just A Sort Of Class That We've Come To Expect From The Democrats.” On the March 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity played the audio of Schumer's remarks and responded by saying, "[T]hat's just a sort of class that we've come to expect from the Democrats." Fox Business host Stuart Varney responded by saying, "[T]hat was a disgrace to be playing politics." Fox News contributor Dana Perino stated: “What is interesting to me about that phone call is that, so Senator Schumer says, I was instructed by the conference to say this. And so, therefore, I'm saying it. When they realize that reporters were on the phone, they quickly shut up. More interesting sound bite to me was that right immediately on the heels of Senator Schumer saying what he had to say, Senator Boxer then repeats it.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/29/11, accessed via Nexis]

Cameron Hypes Schumer's Remarks, Airs GOP Reaction. On the March 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron promoted the Schumer story and aired clips of a GOP press conference held to respond to Schumer. Later, host Brett Baier again aired the clip. Both times, Special Report responded by airing House Majority Leader John Boehner's claim that, “Instead of them issuing marching orders, maybe what they should do is get to work and actually pass a plan.” [Fox News, Special Report, 3/29/11, accessed via Nexis]

Yet, Fox News Repeatedly Presents GOP Talking Points As “News”

Fox Figures Use GOP “Ram It Through” Language To Attack Health Care Reform. During the debate over the health care reform bill, numerous Fox figures, including Hannity and Van Susteren, as well as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- both of whom were employed by the network at the time -- mimicked Republican politicians' language by claiming Democrats were attempting to “ram it through” Congress. [Media Matters, 2/25/10]

Fox Adopts Opposition's Choice Of Phrase “Obamacare” For Health Care Reform. Fox has consistently referred to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare,” both in its straight news reporting and opinion shows. Despite acknowledging that the phrase is the name preferred by opponents to the health care bill, Fox figures have even gone so far as to replace the actual name of the bill with the phrase “Obamacare” when reading press releases that referred to the law as “the Affordable Care Act.” [Media Matters, 3/4/11; 3/23/11]

Scott Passes Off GOP Press Release As Original Reporting, Typo Included. In February 2009, Fox host Jon Scott purported to “take a look back” at how the economic recovery plan “grew, and grew, and grew.” In his report, Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release. Scott later apologized, but only for the typo. [Media Matters, 2/10/09; Media Matters, 2/11/09]

Fox & Friends Hosts Recite Misleading House GOP Press Release. During the October 22, 2009, broadcast of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts did a segment on the stimulus package in which they parroted a House Republican press release and repeated its claim that the stimulus' impact is “6 million jobs shy of what the administration promised us” since the administration stated “that 3.5 million jobs would be created.” Carlson added, “And, in fact, the United States has lost 2.7 million since the stimulus plan.” However, the administration estimated that by 2011 -- not September 2009, when the 2.7 million job losses since February were recorded -- 3.5 million jobs would be created or saved by the stimulus compared to the number of jobs that would have existed at the end of 2010 had the government not passed the legislation. Their numbers came directly from a GOP press release that relied on misleading comparisons and distorted data to attack the stimulus. [Media Matters, 10/22/09]

Fox & Friends Promotes Pawlenty Health Care Reform Ideas. From the February 12 edition of Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: Meanwhile, talk about health care reform, Tim Pawlenty, who by all accounts has got to be running for president it seems, or definitely testing the waters, on yesterday wrote a big editorial today about the five things that he would do, and we all could do, and that they hope Republicans bring up in the big summit to make health care reform a real reform.

DOOCY: Because the president has asked, “Give me some ideas.” Here they are.

KILMEADE: All right, here it is. First one: incentivize patients to be smart with consumers.


DOOCY: Also pay for performance, liability reform -- that's something that has been missing -- interstate health care insurance -- make it portable -- and modernize health insurance. Seems pretty simple.

KILMEADE: And also make it transferrable. [Fox & Friends, 2/12/10]

Fox Adopts GOP Talking Points On “Uncertainty” Of Economy. In advance of the 2010 midterm elections, Fox adopted Republican claims that failing to immediately vote to extend Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthy injects “uncertainty” into the economy that hinders hiring, a claim which both Reps. John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy had recently made on the Sept. 26, 2010, edition of Fox News Sunday. Following Boehner's and McCarthy's claim that “uncertainty” on tax cuts was hindering job creation, several Fox News anchors adopted the language as their own. For instance, on the September 27, 2010, broadcast of Fox & Friends, Doocy claimed: “People say the uncertainty is just killing people. Why can't we know what we're going to pay in taxes next year?” Carlson added:

CARLSON: People across America should be really, really upset about this. Steve touched on the big buzzword here, and that is uncertainty. That means that businesses are not going to continue to hire, or start hiring, they're not going to continue to lend to small business -- I mean, everyone is living in this cloud of unknown, including even people who work in payroll departments. [Media Matters, 9/27/10]

Busy Repeating GOP Talking Points, Fox News Forgets To Report Fannie/Freddie Facts. On both “opinion” and “straight news” programs, Fox News channeled the GOP talking points that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the financial crisis and are “getting a free pass” because they are not overhauled by Democrats' financial regulatory reform legislation. Following Boehner's statement on proposed financial reform legislation in which Boehner stated, "[H]ow you can attempt to fix it without going to the root of the problem, Fannie Fae and Freddie Mac, is really beyond me," many Fox hosts promoted and adopted Boehner's statement. For instance, on Fox & Friends, Carlson asked of Fannie and Freddie: “Why the heck are they not anywhere in financial reform?” Fox News' America Live host Megyn Kelly stated: “Well, they were public enemies number one and two in the economic meltdown. But when President Obama called for strict new regulations on the financial sector today, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were all but absent from the discussion. So are they really getting a free pass as we decide to crack down on all the fat cats?”

Fox repeatedly ignored that the Obama administration has initiated a separate effort to reform the housing finance system, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and have warned against moving too quickly on this front given the fragility of the housing market. Moreover, economists reject the notion that Fannie and Freddie were the root cause of the financial crisis. [Media Matters, 4/23/10]

Ailes Brings GOP Talking Points To ABC's This Week. Fox News president Roger Ailes made his debut as a panelist on ABC's This Week on January 31, 2010. However, he brought little to the roundtable beyond hackneyed conservative talking points repeatedly advanced by Republican leaders and his own network's stable of right-wing pundits. Ailes advanced GOP talking points related to the length of the health care bill, the claim that Obama wants “radical change,” and that profiling is necessary to protect Americans. [Media Matters, 1/31/10]

Echoing GOP, Fox Figures Falsely Claim Reid Included $8 Billion In Bill For High-Speed Rail. Fox News hosts and contributors advanced the false claim -- pushed by Republican lawmakers -- that Reid included a provision in the recovery bill directing that $8 billion be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, the bill did not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman. Numerous House Republicans had pushed the false claim that the legislation directed money to the California-to-Las Vegas rail line during floor debate on the bill several days prior to Fox News adopting the falsehoods. [Media Matters, 2/18/09]

Fox Insider: Network Talking Points Evolving From “Conservative Take On Things” To “Made Up.” In an interview with Media Matters, a Fox News insider replied to a question regarding what most viewers and observers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel by saying: “I don't think people would believe it's as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up.” [Media Matters, 2/10/11]

Doocy Proves He “Sounds Like” Rubio By Airing A Clip -- Of Rubio. During the October 7, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, then-Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek appeared on the program to discuss his campaign and his opponent, Republican Marco Rubio. After parroting GOP talking points, Meek told Doocy he “sounds like” Rubio. Doocy responded by airing a clip of Rubio. [Fox & Friends, 10/7/10]

Fox News Executive Bill Sammon Has Been Caught Instructing Anchors To Use GOP-Friendly Language On Air

Sammon Issued Memo Instructing Reporters To Replace “Public Option” With GOP-Preferred Term “Government Option.” At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase “public option.” Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts. [Media Matters, 12/9/10]

Sammon Instructed Fox Figures To Highlight Skepticism When Reporting On Climate Change. In the midst of global climate change talks in December 2009, Sammon sent an email questioning the “veracity of climate change data” and ordering the network's journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” [Media Matters, 12/15/10]