Fox columnist speculates that Trump's weak press conference with Putin was to "protect some agreements"
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All the howling falsehoods the former VP told in his defense of torture
The torture program set up by the George W. Bush administration in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks was a brutal, illegal, and slipshod travesty for which there has been no reckoning. All of the people who designed, implemented, and justified the brutal and useless interrogations of terrorism detainees have successfully ducked accountability for a variety of reasons: Republicans actively support torture, Democrats voluntarily abandoned their opportunity to impose accountability for the program, and both parties are apt to excuse flagrant abuses committed in the name of “national security.”
This is why we have the grim spectacle of President Donald Trump (whose stated position on torture is that it should be used as sadistic punishment) nominating as CIA director Gina Haspel, who oversaw the torture of detainees and later led the effort to destroy videotaped evidence of interrogations. It’s also why former Vice President Dick Cheney can go on cable news and give lie-filled defenses of the horrific interrogation program he shepherded into existence.
Cheney sat down with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo this week and oozed out a series of falsehoods about his torture program -- lies that elicited precisely zero challenges from Bartiromo. Let’s run through the many misleading claims and outright bullshit Cheney spewed in defense of his shameful legacy.
“It [the torture program] was set up in a way that what we did was, in fact, consistent with our fundamental statutes and agreements that were in place.”
The legal basis of the torture program was a dishonest and contradictory memo, drafted and acted upon in complete secrecy, that put the United States in direct conflict with the Geneva Conventions and served primarily to protect the people who wanted to make torture the policy of the United States. To protect CIA officials and political appointees from prosecution under the War Crimes Act of 1996, the Bush administration pushed legislation to redefine which acts constituted a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Cheney and crew did not act within existing law -- they concocted bizarre secret legal rationales and sought to change laws where necessary to protect themselves.
“And it [torture] worked. We were able -- waterboarding was applied, actually, to only three individuals. One of those was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.”
Torture did not work. Torture does not work.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the Bush torture program found that it was ineffective at obtaining intelligence. The CIA officials who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed quickly determined that the technique had “proven ineffective,” that they’d “lost ground” with Mohammed’s interrogation, and that “the potential for physical harm is far greater with the waterboard than with the other techniques, bringing into question the issue of risk vs. gain.” In the end, “no information provided by Mohammed led directly to the capture of a terrorist or the disruption of a terrorist plot,” per The New Yorker.
And Cheney would like everyone to focus on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed because he is genuinely evil and a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist -- someone who, per Cheney’s obvious implication, deserved to be tortured. He’d be less enthusiastic to talk about Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times and nearly drowned because the U.S. government believed he was a top-level Al Qaeda operative. He wasn’t, and the government has since acknowledged as much.
That’s to say nothing of detainees who were tortured and died while in U.S. custody. And let’s not forget the innocent people who were swept up by the government, like the Afghani man who was tortured so brutally that he begged his CIA interrogators to kill him, or the pregnant woman who was beaten in the abdomen and chained to a wall.
“He’s [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] the guy who got waterboarded more than anybody else. I think what we did helped ultimately produce the intelligence we needed to be able to get [Osama] bin Laden.”
Nope. The Senate torture report debunked this claim, noting that “the most critical -- or the most valuable” information that led to bin Laden’s death “was not related to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques,” that the CIA was targeting the courier who ultimately led U.S. forces to bin Laden before any of its detainees provided information on him, and that “CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques withheld and fabricated information about” the courier.
“If it were my call, I would not discontinue those [torture] programs. I’d have them active and ready to go. And I’d go back and study them and learn.”
This is an interesting comment in that Cheney’s desire to go back and “study” the torture sessions “and learn” from them at least sort of recognizes that they were a beastly disaster. Unfortunately, the current nominee for CIA director led the agency’s internal effort to destroy videotaped evidence of its torture sessions, which makes it more difficult to “learn” from the abuses it committed.
“If you know Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the mastermind behind all of this, if you know he is number two to bin Laden in terms of the attack, if you know he’s probably the guy who knows more than anybody else except bin Laden what’s next, what’s their next target, how many people are they going to kill and how they are going to do it, and then you tell me that the only method we have is ‘please please pretty please tell us what you know.’ Well, I don’t buy that.”
This is Dick Cheney, a liar and a villain, falsely arguing that the only options available to interrogators were a) asking nicely and b) torture. If those were, in fact, the only options, then the case for torture would seem more plausible. But the Army Field Manual lays out a whole range of permissible interrogation techniques and details how to effectively use them. Right now, all military and intelligence personnel are legally bound to follow the Army Field Manual when conducting interrogations. And, as has already been established, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s interrogators quickly determined that torturing him wasn’t productive.
“I think the techniques we used were not torture.”
“A lot of people try to call it that, but it wasn’t deemed torture at the time.”
“The techniques we used are techniques we use on our own people in training. We didn’t go and make them up someplace.”
Cheney is referring here to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training. And he is correct that the torture program was based on SERE training techniques, which are used to prepare American military personnel should they be captured and … you guessed it … tortured. To that point, the SERE program was developed based on interrogation methods used by the Chinese military which were designed not to extract information, but to elicit false confessions.
“The president signed off, I signed off, the National Security Council signed off. They did a good job, they got the intelligence they needed, and we were safe from any further mass-casualty attacks in the seven and a half years on our watch. Now people want to go back and try to rewrite history. But if it were my call, I’d do it again.”
It’s an amazing thing that the former vice president of the United States can go on TV and declare -- proudly -- that he and the president he served with made torture the official policy of the United States. It’s a howling outrage that a statement like this isn’t viewed as a confession of culpability in grotesque human rights violations. But that’s what happens when no accountability is imposed for one of the most shameful chapters in the war on terror.
The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture
In the coverage leading up to and following CIA acting Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become director, multiple Fox News personalities and guests have asserted that torture helped lead to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, the Senate’s 2014 investigation of the CIA torture program indicates that there is no evidence for this claim.
In recent days, Fox figures and guests have made bold claims that torturing detainees at secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” resulted in valuable intelligence that helped track down the former leader of Al Qaeda:
In 2014, the Senate investigated the CIA’s torture program. According to a Vox summary of the 525-page document, the Senate report reveals that the CIA extracted “key intelligence” on bin Laden courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti -- “‘including information the CIA would later cite as pivotal’ in finding Bin Laden” -- by 2002. However, “the CIA didn't acquire any intelligence on al-Kuwaiti via torture until 2003. The CIA had begun trying to find and identify al-Kuwaiti well before any of that information was in.”
In 2004, the CIA torture program did capture a man named Hassan Guhl who told the U.S. government that al-Kuwaiti was a bin Laden assistant and that the Al Qaeda leader "likely lived in a house with a family somewhere in Pakistan," according to Vox. However, “Ghul told the CIA all of that before they decided to torture him.” The Senate report explains that “during and after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Ghul provided no other information of substance on al-Kuwaiti." From the Senate’s report on CIA torture, via NPR:
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On Hannity, Giuliani revealed that Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the hush money payment
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and current member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, revealed on Fox News’ Hannity that Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen through retainer fees for a hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. After Giuliani’s bombshell revelation, Fox hosts and personalities scrambled to respond to the news with reactions ranging from downplaying Giuliani’s disclosure to saying that the idea that Trump did not know what he was reimbursing his lawyer for “is unworthy of belief.”
Sean Hannity was noticeably startled after Giuliani’s revelation.
Laura Ingraham, host of Fox’s Ingraham Angle: “I love Rudy, but they better have an explanation for that. ”
Fox’s Brit Hume: “Is that what we’re down to? A dubious campaign finance reporting violation?”
Rudy Giuliani tells @seanhannity POTUS reimbursed the $130,000 lawyer Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels, which would mean it was not an illegal campaign contributions by Cohen.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) May 3, 2018
Is that what we’re down to? A dubious campaign finance reporting violation?
— Brit Hume (@brithume) May 3, 2018
Fox & Friends hosts: “No one cares about Stormy Daniels.”
Fox News chief judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano: “If Rudy wants the public to believe that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen $135,000 and didn’t know what it was for, … that is unworthy of belief.”
Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria : “CNN was reporting this as such a bombshell. I don’t know, James, are you surprised? Is this -- I mean, I sort of knew that the president knew it and paid it back. ... I assumed.”
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After Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the next secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), withdrew his name from consideration, Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo discussed potential replacements the president could consider with a panel that included Trump sycophant and Fox News host Pete Hegseth.
Hegseth has long been considered a possible choice to serve as VA secretary in the Trump administration. He met the president multiple times after the 2016 elections to discuss the possibility of his nomination. Even after Trump chose David Shulkin as his new secretary, the president still reportedly called Hegseth during a meeting with Shulkin to ask his opinion about reforming the VA system.
Today, while discussing the news of Jackson’s withdrawal, Bartiromo turned to Hegseth and asked if he “would want the job.” From the April 26 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo:
MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): There's a cabal that wants to destroy Donald Trump --
PETE HEGSETH (FOX NEWS HOST): Correct.
BARTIROMO: -- and they want chaos around him. Your name has been floated out there.
HEGSETH: Yeah, it has.
BARTIROMO: Would you want the job?
HEGSETH: Well, listen, if the president asks me to serve, great. But he hasn't until this point, so we'll see.
Later, Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell said that Hegseth would make “an excellent candidate … to be the new VA secretary”:
GIANNO CALDWELL (FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST): I’m sad to see [Jackson] go, but I know that there’s some other good people that can step in his place. I think an excellent candidate would be Pete [Hegseth] to be the new VA secretary, so --
MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): Well, we talked about that earlier, you’re absolutely right.
Like other Trump officials, Zinke heavily favors the president's favorite network
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has appeared on Fox News four times more often than on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined, Media Matters has found. And for the last nine-plus months, as Zinke has been increasingly dogged by scandals, he has not given interviews to any major channels other than Fox networks.
In exhibiting a clear preference for Fox News during his 13-plus months in office, Zinke is following the same pattern as many of President Donald Trump’s other cabinet officials and top aides, including Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.
Zinke has gotten soft treatment on Fox News. During his interviews, the network's hosts and journalists rarely asked about his scandals. Instead of confronting him with tough questions, they let him peddle Trump administration talking points and trumpet brand-burnishing policies such as “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”
Zinke gave 13 interviews to Fox News and one each to CNN, MSNBC, and CBS. From March 1, 2017, when Zinke was sworn in, to April 17, 2018, Zinke appeared on Fox News 13 times. He granted only one on-air interview apiece to the other major cable news networks, CNN and MSNBC. On broadcast TV, Zinke appeared only on CBS; he gave no interviews to ABC or NBC.
Zinke appeared most often on Fox & Friends, a show that shapes Trump’s decision-making. Here are all of Zinke's appearances on Fox News during his time as interior secretary:
Fox & Friends’ interviews with Zinke were good examples of how he was treated across the network. When the hosts were not feting him for his Navy Seal service or lauding him for enacting Trump's deregulatory agenda, they allowed Zinke’s statements on policy to go unchallenged. Zinke's September 20 appearance on Fox & Friends stands out for its breeziness. Host Brian Kilmeade accompanied Zinke on a tour of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and neglected to ask the secretary about a controversial recommendation Zinke had made just days earlier to shrink four national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah.
Here are Zinke's appearances on major networks other than Fox:
Zinke’s preference for Fox extended to the Fox Business Network, which he has appeared on seven times, compared to once on rival CNBC. Fox Business, like Fox News, regularly echoes Trump administration talking points and attacks the administration's perceived enemies. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs even has the ear of the president, who has invited Dobbs to participate in senior-level meetings via phone.
Here are Zinke's appearances on Fox Business programs:
Zinke's sole appearance on CNBC was on Squawk Box on June 29, 2017.
Zinke started getting a notable amount of bad press last summer after an article published on July 26 revealed that he tried to strong-arm Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) into voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since then, Zinke, like Pruitt and others in Trump's cabinet, has been at the center of numerous scandals involving excessive travel expenses, favors for donors, and undisclosed financial ties to companies that could benefit from his agency’s decisions.
All of the TV interviews Zinke did with networks other than Fox or Fox Business happened prior to July 26, 2017, after which point his controversies began generating significant media attention.
Once scandals cropped up, Zinke retreated fully to his safe space. For more than nine months now, Zinke has not granted a single interview to any major TV network other than Fox News or Fox Business.
On September 28, The Washington Post and Politico reported that Zinke spent more than $12,000 of taxpayer funds to charter a flight from Las Vegas to near his Montana home on a plane owned by oil and gas executives. Commercial flights between the airports run daily and cost as little as $300, the Post reported. Zinke's jaunt was widely reported across cable news the week after the story broke, but more widely on MSNBC and CNN than on Fox.
From September 28 to October 4, MSNBC ran 27 segments that mentioned Zinke’s travel, while CNN ran 23. The networks' hosts, correspondents, and guests usually brought up Zinke’s travel scandal during wider conversations that included mention of other cabinet members' extravagant travel.
During the same period, Fox News ran 12 segments about Zinke’s travel -- roughly half as many as each of the other cable news networks. Most of Fox's mentions of Zinke's travel were news alerts restating basic facts from the Post article. When Fox News hosts and correspondents discussed the story on air, they usually downplayed or excused the scandal. For example, on America’s News Headquarters on September 29, White House Correspondent John Roberts said that Zinke was “taking The Washington Post to task” before airing Zinke’s defense for taking private flights. Later in the show, host Sandra Smith remarked, “Zinke makes a fair point,” and noted that he got approval for other controversial flights he took on government planes.
On April 16, 2018, the Interior Department’s (DOI) inspector general released a report that found Zinke's $12,375 charter flight "could have been avoided." Zinke took the chartered flight so he would have time in his schedule to give a motivational speech to a hockey team owned by a major donor to Zinke's former congressional campaign. The speech did not mention Zinke's work at the Department of Interior. The inspector general’s report concluded, "If ethics officials had known Zinke’s speech would have no nexus to the DOI, they likely would not have approved this as an official event, thus eliminating the need for a chartered flight. Moreover, had ethics officials been made aware that the Golden Knights’ owner had been a donor to Zinke’s congressional campaign, it might have prompted further review and discussion."
Kevin Kalhoefer contributed research to this report. Charts by Sarah Wasko.
Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis and iQ media to find Zinke’s on-air TV appearances from the date he was sworn in as secretary of the interior on March 1, 2017, to April 17, 2018: “Zinke OR Zinky OR Interior Secretary OR Secretary of the Interior OR Secretary of Interior.” We used the same terms to search cable news networks’ coverage of Zinke’s travel controversy from September 28 to October 4, 2017.
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Fox Business allowed Newt Gingrich to attack the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) without disclosing that he’s been paid by a group trying to kill the government agency.
During a November 28 appearance on Mornings with Maria, Gingrich discussed the ongoing leadership conflict at the agency and complained that the CFPB has been “a playground for [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and her left-wing anti-capitalist, anti-free enterprise friends. It was a very abusive agency, it's an agency which did enormous damage.”
The business network did not disclose that the Fox News contributor has worked as a paid adviser for the US Consumer Coalition, a secretive group that is attempting to dismantle the CFPB. He’s also worked as a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, a public relations firm whose clients include the US Consumer Coalition. Gingrich acknowledged his ties to both groups during a December 2015 congressional hearing. He co-authored an October 2016 Medium post attacking the CFPB with Brian Wise, who heads the Consumer Coalition and Wise Public Affairs. Both groups did not return requests for clarification about their current financial relationship with Gingrich.
Gingrich previously hid his anti-CFPB financial connections when he wrote a July 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the CFPB and promoting the US Consumer Coalition. The op-ed did not disclose any of his financial ties, simply identifying Gingrich as a former House speaker. Following criticism by Media Matters and The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, the Journal issued an "amplification" that Gingrich is "a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition, which opposes some policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
Fox News and Fox Business have a long history of failing to disclose the conflicts of interest of their guests and on-air personalities, including Gingrich. Fox News’ Dana Perino recently failed to disclose that anti-CFPB guest Shannen Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” as noted in his recent Weekly Standard column. Perino didn't note the connection despite quoting from that column during the segment.
UPDATE: Following the publication of this piece, FoxNews.com posted a November 30 op-ed by Gingrich in which he attacked "the dangerously unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." That op-ed also did not include any disclosures about Gingrich's paid anti-CFPB work
Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC have each aired 15 segments on the contract
News reports have raised numerous questions about the $300 million contract that Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings, a relatively inexperienced then-two-person firm based in Montana, to rebuild power lines in Puerto Rico. Members of Congress from both parties have called for investigations into the contract. Mainstream media outlets, including MSNBC and CNN, have given the story widespread coverage, but as of midday on October 27, Fox News had yet to even mention the Whitefish contract.
E&E News first reported on Whitefish Energy Holdings’ contract with PREPA in stories on October 6 and October 9. E&E News revealed that PREPA decided not to take advantage of a mutual aid program among 1,100 electric companies that could have helped to quickly restore power on the island, where about 75 percent of residents still have no electricity. Instead, PREPA awarded a contract to the Montana-based firm, which at the time had only two full-time staffers. From the October 6 article:
The American Public Power Association, based in Washington, confirmed today that the troubled Puerto Rico public utility that serves more than 3 million people on the island has decided not to request assistance from the group of 1,100 U.S. electricity companies standing ready to help.
The association coordinates mutual aid disaster assistance for U.S. public power companies, which include the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). "The request for help was not activated," said group spokeswoman Meena Dayak. "We do have people who are ready to help."
Nearly 90 percent of Puerto Rico's electricity customers remain without power. Instead of activating a mutual aid arrangement that might have speeded up recovery time, the utility turned to Whitefish Energy Holdings, a small contractor based in Montana, to coordinate outside help. The utility has given no explanation for that decision.
In the following days, Utility Dive, The Weather Channel, and Montana Public Radio also published stories on Whitefish’s questionable contract. On October 19, Whitefish put out a press release announcing that the contract was worth $300 million, which was followed by additional reports by The Associated Press and The Washington Post. The contract, which is nearly 300 times larger than Whitefish’s next-largest project and the largest restoration contract in Puerto Rico, granted Whitefish an initial payment of $3.7 million for “mobilization of personnel and equipment” and allows Whitefish to charge hourly rates for workers' time that NPR described as "eye-popping."
A leaked copy of the contract also revealed that it bars government agencies from auditing or reviewing “cost and profit elements” of the deal and prevents PREPA from making "any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work."
The Post reported on October 23 that Whitefish Energy is based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, that Zinke and Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski know one another, and that Zinke’s son worked for the company during one summer. Post reporters wrote that “Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico” and “Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved,” but they also reported that Techmanski had reached out to Zinke’s office after procuring the contract.
On October 24, Buzzfeed reported that Joe Colonnetta, the head of HBC Investments, one of Whitefish Energy’s major funding sources, had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, but stated, “It’s unclear whether Colonnetta, who did not respond to a request for comment, has specific connections to Whitefish, or whether his stake in Whitefish Energy is simply a business investment.”
The revelations about PREPA’s contract have attracted widespread media coverage, as have a Twitter spat between the company and the mayor of San Juan, and the connections between Whitefish and Zinke. In the wake of this press coverage, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for investigations into the contract.
Yet Fox News has remained silent about the controversial contract, even as the other major cable news networks have covered it extensively.
Media Matters reviewed cable news coverage of the Whitefish story from October 6, the date of the initial report on Whitefish’s contract, to noon ET of October 27 and found that Fox News had not aired a single segment on the story.
During that period, the Fox Business Network aired just two segments on the story. The network first mentioned the contract during a headline rundown on the October 25 episode of FBN:am, in which the hosts expressed surprise that a company of Whitefish’s size received such a large contract.
The second segment was on the October 27 episode of Mornings with Maria. Guest host Megan McDowell, Fox News correspondent Lea Gabrielle, and Republican strategist and former Trump surrogate Erin Elmore interviewed Whitefish spokesman Ken Luce. The five-and-a-half-minute interview included softball questions such as: “What do you say to these investigations? Are they warranted?”, “When did the company hire you?”, “What are the facts that you think aren’t being reported?”, and “How well and how is Whitefish financed for this?”
Fox News’ lack of coverage stands in stark contrast to the other major cable networks’ extensive coverage of the controversial contract. Between October 6 and noon ET of October 27, CNN and MSNBC aired a combined 30 segments on the Whitefish story.
MSNBC aired 15 segments on Whitefish’s contract with PREPA, including an interview with Luce on the October 27 episode of MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle that was much more hard-hitting than Fox Business' interview with Luce. Unlike the Fox Business hosts, anchor Ruhle asked Luce how Whitefish won the contract, as well as how Whitefish justifies contract provisions that bar government audits and that prohibit PREPA from making claims for delayed work, adding, “How does that serve the people of Puerto Rico and the American people?”
MSNBC also aired a segment on the October 24 episode of MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson that featured one of the authors of the October 23 Washington Post story, Aaron Davis, who explained, “Whitefish Energy … has never done anything quite on this scale, or even remotely close to this scale. And now they have, according to the company yesterday, 280 employees and subcontractors working in Puerto Rico. Now compare that to the day after Hurricane Irma came through Florida, and there were 16,000 utility workers who were at the border of Florida waiting to come in under a mutual aid agreement. We don’t think it could have been that many waiting on a boat ready to get into Puerto Rico, but there could have been, according to many people we talked to, thousands. And there wasn’t.”
CNN also aired 15 segments that mentioned Whitefish's contract, including a report on the October 25 episode of CNN Newsroom in which correspondent Rene Marsh discussed the details of the contract and noted similarities between statements issued by Whitefish and Zinke’s office.
CNN also ran an on-the-ground report by correspondent Bill Weir that first aired on the October 19 episode The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer -- and was aired on the network seven additional times -- that featured a brief interview in which Weir asked Techmanski how his company won the contract and who initiated the contact between Whitefish and PREPA.
UPDATE: After the original timeframe of the study and publication, Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier aired a brief report on the Whitefish story on October 27 that focused on the White House and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's claims to have had "nothing to do with" Whitefish being awarded the contract to help rebuild the electrical grid in Puerto Rico. Fox News Tonight also aired a segment on the story late the same night.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Whitefish” or “white fish” in coverage (4 a.m. to midnight ET) on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Fox Business Network from October 6, the date of the initial story on Whitefish’s contract, to noon of October 27. The interview that first aired on CNN’s Situation Room was subsequently aired seven more times and was counted as eight segments.
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:
The U.S. added jobs for a record 83 straight months. That streak ended in September.*
* Pending revisions. pic.twitter.com/DUwOAvNVrT
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) October 6, 2017
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”: