You Didn't Say That: How Fox Helps Romney By Distorting Obama Quotes

Over the past year, Fox News has repeatedly taken President Obama's remarks out of context or distorted his words in order to attack him. The Romney campaign has amplified several of these attacks, and in turn, Fox News has at times hyped those attacks.

Fox Manufactured Distortion Of Obama's “You Didn't Build That” Remarks


Obama: Individual Drive, Infrastructure, Teachers Contribute To Business Success. During a July 13 speech in Roanoke, Virginia, Obama touted the role that infrastructure and education, in addition to individual drive, play in the success of business owners:

OBAMA: [L]ook, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own.  You didn't get there on your own.  I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you've got a business -- you didn't build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn't get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. 

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That's how we funded the GI Bill.  That's how we created the middle class.  That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That's how we invented the Internet.  That's how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You're not on your own, we're in this together. [, 7/13/12, emphasis added]


July 16: Fox & Friends Deceptively Edits Obama's Comments On Small Business Success. During the July 16 edition of Fox & Friends, a deceptively cropped clip of Obama's appearance was aired, in which Obama was only shown saying:

OBAMA: If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen.


The point is that, when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

Co-host Gretchen Carlson called the misleading clip “most startling.” [Media Matters, 7/16/12]

July 16-18: Fox Devotes More Than Two Hours Of Airtime To Their “You Didn't Build That” Lie. In the two days that followed Fox's initial misrepresentation of Obama's remarks, the network devoted 42 segments and more than two hours of airtime to misrepresenting Obama's “you didn't build that” remarks. [Media Matters, 7/18/12]

July 26: Fox & Friends Tried To Rebut Charge That Video Was Deceptively Edited With New Deceptively Edited Video. Fox & Friends subsequently offered to rebut assertions that it had misrepresented Obama by claiming to show the context of Obama's remarks. But the new clip that Fox & Friends aired still omitted the relevant context. [Media Matters7/26/12]

For more on how Fox distorted Obama's remarks about infrastructure and business owners, click here, here, and here.


Romney Repeated Fox's “You Didn't Build That” Distortion. The day after Fox deceptively edited Obama's remarks, Romney repeated the distortion and characterized it as “insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it's wrong.”  [Media Matters7/17/12]

Romney Campaign Adopted The “You Didn't Build That” Distortion As A Major Part Of Its Campaign. The Romney campaign has put out press releases and television ads touting small business owners telling Obama that they did build their businesses. [, 7/30/12;, 7/30/12]

... AND REPUBLICANS USED THE MISLEADING ATTACK AS A CONVENTION THEME “GOP Convention Session To Be Themed 'We Built This!' ” A article reported: “The GOP is turning what some see as a presidential slight aimed at business owners and entrepreneurs into a theme for a night of the Republican National Convention next week, titling Tuesday night's session 'We Built This!' ” [, 8/21/12]

Fox Distorted Obama's Remarks On Private-Sector Job Growth While Whitewashing Romney's Dismissal Of Public Workers


Obama: Job Growth In The Private Sector “Is Doing Fine.” During a June 8 press briefing, Obama accurately noted that the private sector has added millions of jobs in the past two and a half years:

[OBAMA]:  The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone.  The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government -- oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in. 

And so, if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is, how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry.  Because the recipes that they're promoting are basically the kinds of policies that would add weakness to the economy, would result in further layoffs, would not provide relief in the housing market, and would result, I think most economists estimate, in lower growth and fewer jobs, not more. [, 6/8/12, emphasis added]

Obama Later Clarified “Doing Fine” Comment. During a Q&A with reporters later on June 8, Obama clarified his remark:

OBAMA: Listen, it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That's the reason I had the press conference. That's why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger.

The economy is not doing fine. There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak and too many homes underwater. And that's precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference.

Now, I think if you look at what I said this morning and what I've been saying consistently over the last year, we've actually seen some good momentum in the private sector. We've seen 4.3 million jobs created -- 800,000 this year alone -- record corporate profits. And so that has not been the biggest drag on the economy.

The folks who are hurting, where we have problems and where we can do even better, is small businesses that are having a tough time getting financing; we've seen teachers and police officers and firefighters who've been laid off -- all of which, by the way, when they get laid off spend less money buying goods and going to restaurants and contributing to additional economic growth. The construction industry is still very weak, and that's one of the areas where we've still seen job losses instead of job gains. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/8/12]

For more on private-sector job growth under Obama, click here.


Romney Responded By Suggesting We Don't Need “More Firemen, More Policemen, More Teachers.” From a June 8 campaign speech by Romney in Iowa:

ROMNEY: Now, this morning, the president had a press conference. I don't know if you heard it. But he called a press conference and pulled people in. He said a number of things, and one of the most interesting things he said was this: He said the private sector is doing fine. He said the private sector is doing fine. Is he really that out of touch? I think he is defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people.


ROMNEY: For the president of the United States to stand up and say that private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who's out of touch. And we're going to take back this country and we're going to get America working again.

And his answer for economic vitality by the way was of course pushing aside the private sector, which he said is doing fine; instead, he wants to add more to government. He wants another stimulus. He wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?

The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.  [CBS News, 6/8/12; CNN, 6/8/12, via Media Matters, 6/15/12]


Fox's MacCallum: Obama's Remarks “Feed Into [The] Narrative” That “Some Jobs Are Better” Than Others.  On the June 11 edition of America's Newsroom, during a discussion with Fox News contributors Kirsten Powers and Rich Lowry about Obama's remarks, co-host Martha MacCallum said:

MacCALLUM: You know, one of the issues, Kirsten, obviously, is that it feeds into that narrative that he thinks that, you know, some jobs are better, more valuable than others. There's this notion out there that he is anti-business. And small businesses are the largest drivers of the private sector. It's not you know, JPMorgan; it's folks who own stores, people who've gone out of business. How much traction has he lost with that group who looks up and goes, “Really? Really? We're fine? We don't feel fine.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 6/11/12, via Media Matters]

Fox's Special Report, The Five Attack Obama's Claim By Comparing Public Worker Unemployment With Other Industries. The June 11 edition of Fox News' The Five featured a chart comparing private-sector workers' wages and unemployment rate with those of federal employees under text reading, “Doing Fine”?

govt employment

Special Report with Bret Baier also featured a chart comparing the unemployment rate for “government workers” with the unemployment rates in other industries, and during the broadcast, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said: “On Friday, [President Obama] fretted that the economy was suffering because too many public employees face layoffs. In fact, as you just heard, the unemployment rate among government workers in May was 4.2 percent, roughly half the national average, and the lowest of any sector.” [Media Matters, 6/12/12]

For more on why recent public-sector job losses have been severe and unusual, click here.


Fox Obsessed Over Obama's “Doing Fine” Comment, But Whitewashed Romney's Attack On Public Workers. Between June 8 and 12, Fox discussed Obama's comments almost four times as often as they discussed Romney's suggestion that we don't need “more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.” Similarly, the network ran video of Obama's comment nearly seven times more often than video of Romney's attack on public workers. [Media Matters, 6/15/12]

Fox Twisted Obama's Comments About How Clinton's Plan To Reduce Deficit Worked


Obama Called For Return To Clinton Tax Rates And Said, “We Tried Our Plan -- And It Worked.” From a July 24 Obama campaign speech in Oakland, California:

OBAMA: I'm running because I believe you can't reduce the deficit  -- which is a serious problem, we've got to deal with it -- but we can't reduce it without asking folks like me who have been incredibly blessed to give up the tax cuts that we've been getting for a decade.  (Applause.)  I'll cut out government spending that's not working, that we can't afford, but I'm also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs -- (applause) -- the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well. 

Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan -- and it worked.  That's the difference. (Applause.) That's the choice in this election.  That's why I'm running for a second term. [, 7/24/12] Obama Was Talking “About The General Democratic Approach To Taxes” -- Not His Own Past Plan. From an August 13 post:

[W]hat did the president mean by “our plan”? He was talking about his proposed deficit-reduction plan, not his past economic plan, and about the general Democratic approach to taxes -- as exemplified by Clinton's 1993 tax hikes.

It is clear from that July 23 speech -- and several others just like it -- that the president was contrasting the tax proposals offered this campaign season by himself and his Republican rival. In his speech, Obama claims Romney will “gut” federal investments to “things like education and research” to “give more tax breaks to millionaires,” while the president will “cut out government spending that's not working,” and raise taxes on those who earn more than $250,000. [, 8/13/12]


Fox's Hannity And Dobbs Air Truncated Versions Of Obama's Quote. On July 24, Fox News host Sean Hannity said before airing two clips from Obama's Oakland speech: “So, the President goes out today, I am going to play two cuts back to back. He says, we don't need top-down economics, he's playing the class warfare card. And then he claims that his plan worked. Let me roll these for you.”

Hannity then played two truncated clips of Obama's remarks:


OBAMA: We don't need more top-down economics. I've got a different view. I believe that the way you grow the economy is from the middle out.


I believe that you grow the economy from the bottom up. I believe that when work and people are doing well, the country does well.

Just like we tried their plan, we have tried our plan and it worked. That's the difference.


That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.


On the same day, Lou Dobbs also aired a truncated clip from Obama's speech, then said, “Hard to believe that Mr. Obama would tell an Oakland audience how well his plan is doing, with that city suffering an unemployment rate of nearly 14 percent, more than 5 percentage points above the national average.” [Media Matters, 7/26/12]


Restore Our Future Creates Ad Accusing Obama Of “Deny[ing] Reality” For Saying “We Tried Our Plan And It Worked.” An August 12 ad released by Restore Our Future, a super PAC founded by former Mitt Romney campaign staffers, includes a truncated clip of Obama saying, “We tried our plan and it worked” and claims the clip shows Obama “deny[ing] reality.” [, 8/13/12]

Fox Distorted Obama's Words To Manufacture Attack On Navy SEALS


Reuters: “Special Ops Group Attacks Obama Over Bin Laden Bragging, Leaks.” From an August 14 Reuters article:

A group of former U.S. intelligence and Special Forces operatives is set to launch a media campaign, including TV ads, that scolds President Barack Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and argues that high-level leaks are endangering American lives.

Leaders of the group, the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc, say it is nonpartisan and unconnected to any political party or presidential campaign. [Reuters, 8/14/12]

Politico: “Obama Doesn't Take SEAL Group Attacks 'Seriously.' ” An August 20 Politico article about the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund and a second group, Special Operations Speaks, quoted Obama as saying:

“I don't take these folks too seriously. One of their members is a birther who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary,” Obama told The Virginian-Pilot. “You've got another who was a tea party candidate in a recent election.” [Politico, 8/20/12]


Fox Nation Posts Politico Excerpt Under Headline, “Obama Takes On Navy SEALS: 'I Don't Take These Folks Too Seriously.' ” Fox Nation linked to the Politico article with a misleading headline making it appear as though Obama had attacked all Navy SEALS.

navy seals

[Fox Nation via Media Matters, 8/20/12]

Fox Distorted Obama's Praise Of Auto Industry To Suggest He Wanted “Bailouts For Everyone”


Obama Says Successful Comeback Of Auto Industry Can Be Repeated “In Manufacturing Across America.” During an August 9 speech in Colorado Springs, Obama spoke about the auto industry's comeback and said that we can “make sure advanced, high-tech manufacturing jobs take root here” in part by enacting tax breaks for companies that “insource”:

OBAMA: We are in this thing together. That's the choice in this election. And that's why I'm running for President of the United States of America. (Applause.) 

 This difference in vision, it shows up on all sorts of issues. When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, 1 million jobs at stake, Mr. Romney said, “let Detroit go bankrupt.” I said, let's bet on America's workers. (Applause.) And we got management and workers to come together, making better cars than ever, and now GM is number one again and the American auto industry has come roaring back. (Applause.) 

 So now I want to say what we did with the auto industry, we can do it in manufacturing across America. Let's make sure advanced, high-tech manufacturing jobs take root here, not in China. Let's have them here in Colorado. (Applause.) And that means supporting investment here. 

Governor Romney talks about his private sector experience. But he invested in companies that were called “pioneers” of outsourcing. I don't want to outsource. I want to insource. (Applause.) Let's reform our tax code and let's make it simpler. And let's make sure that we're providing tax breaks to companies that are investing here in Colorado Springs, here in Colorado -- not overseas. (Applause.) They're the ones who need tax breaks. [, 8/9/12]


Fox's Varney Used Deceptively Edited Video To Ask If Obama Wanted “Bailouts For Everyone.” On the August 10 broadcast of his Fox Business show, host Stuart Varney began a segment by asking, “Is President Obama really saying bailouts are good for everyone? Listen to what he said yesterday and you decide.” A shortened clip from Obama's speech was played, and then Varney asked, “Really? Bailouts for everyone? More government help, that's the answer? Is that what the president is implying and saying?” [Fox Business, Varney & Company, 8/10/12, via Media Matters]

Fox Misrepresented Obama Quote To Attack Him Over Leak Investigations


Obama Signed Letter Calling For Special Counsel To Investigate Corruption Scandal Surrounding Jack Abramoff. In February 2006, Obama was one of 36 senators to sign a letter calling for a special counsel to investigate the corruption scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The letter said, in part: “This scandal has shaken the public's confidence in our government and all involved must be pursued vigorously.  A special counsel will ensure the public's confidence in the investigation and prosecution and help to restore its faith in our government.” [, 2/2/06]


Fox & Friends Falsely Claimed Obama Called For Special Counsel In Plame Case To Call Obama Hypocritical. During the June 18 broadcast of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts attacked Obama for not appointing a special counsel to investigate possible national security leaks under his own administration.

During one segment, Fox aired a quote from the letter that Obama had signed calling for a special counsel into Jack Abramoff's dealings. Fox & Friends falsely claimed that the quote showed Obama calling for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration's leak of the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Co-host Steve Doocy then suggested Obama was hypocritical for supposedly calling for a special counsel in the Plame case while not appointing one in the current national security investigation; Doocy said, “When it came to the Valerie Plame case, Mr. Obama ... said you gotta have a special counsel, you just gotta. Today, don't gotta.” [Media Matters, 6/18/12]

For more on Fox's distortion of Obama's call for a special counsel in the Abramoff case, click here.

Fox Twisted Obama's Comments On Bank Of America To Paint Him As Anti-Capitalist


Obama Says Banks Don't Have “Some Inherent Right To” A “Certain Amount Of Profit” If Customers Are Being Treated Unfairly. During an October 2011 interview, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Obama if he was able to stop a new $5 service fee that Bank of America had announced. From the interview:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Basically the questions boil down to ... these are the type of things government should get involved in and put a stop to. Can you put a stop to that?

OBAMA: What we did was, we put a stop through the financial reform act of them charging fees for credit cards.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the banks are saying it's creating these new charges.

OBAMA: Well, what the banks are saying is, that rather than take a little bit less of a profit, rather than paying multi-million dollar bonuses, let's treat our customers right. And this is exactly why we need this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that we set up, that is ready to go. And what we need is a confirmation of the person I've appointed, Richard Cordray, treasurer of Ohio. Back in Ohio, Republicans and Democrats both think he's terrific and he's fair. But this is exactly why we need somebody whose sole job it is to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you stop this service charge?

OBAMA: Well, you can stop it because -- if you say to the banks, you don't have some inherent right just to, you know, get a certain amount of profit if your customers are being mistreated -- that you have to treat them fairly and transparently. And my hope is, is that you're going to see a bunch of the banks who say to themselves, “You know what? This is actually not good business practice.” Banks can make money, they can succeed the old-fashioned way -- by earning it. By lending to small businesses. By lending to consumers. By making sure that, you know, that we are building the economy together.

But, you know, without the kinds of protections that we're starting to see -- the Republicans try to roll back -- we're going to continue to have these kinds of problems. And this is exactly the sort of stuff that folks are frustrated by. [ABC News, accessed 9/6/12, via, emphasis added]


Fox Nation Claimed Obama Said He Could Stop Bank Of America From Making “A Certain Amount Of Profit.” In a post linking to Obama's interview with Stephanopoulos, Fox Nation framed Obama's comments this way:


[Fox Nation, 10/4/12, via Media Matters]