Fox Business host Stuart Varney tried to undermine a guest during a segment lamenting the Democratic Party’s supposed “move to socialism,” but his right-wing rhetoric couldn’t hold up to criticism.
On July 14, Varney invited Occidental College political scientist Caroline Heldman -- a self-described socialist and strong supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign -- to discuss Sanders’ impact on progressive politics. After a cordial start, the conversation quickly devolved as the host began shouting over his guest when she said that “there hasn’t been a radical shift to the left” in the Democratic Party. Varney became increasingly irate after Heldman argued that “Bernie Sanders isn’t even a socialist, he’s just a New Deal Democrat.” Several minutes of increasingly tense exchanges followed, during which Varney talked down to his guest, claimed that her position on taxation was “totally immoral” and “unconstitutional,” and labeled her opinions “nonsense.” He eventually turned the rest of the segment over to a Republican strategist and lobbyist who attacked Heldman after her appearance was over and she could no longer defend herself:
This was not Heldman’s first run-in with a rude and overzealous Fox host armed with little more than contempt and partisan talking points. In April 2010, Heldman went after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly for courting “racial fearmongering” in his attacks against progressive policies. In April 2011, Fox host Eric Bolling brushed off her advocacy for expanded worker rights as “a part of our American fabric” with a thoughtless and sexist nickname: “Dr. McHottie.” A few months later, in December 2011, Heldman slammed Bolling for promoting baseless fears about in-person voter fraud. And in a March 2013 appearance on MSNBC’s Politics Nation, Heldman remarked that she had “never met a group of people who is so upset that the economy is rebounding than the folks over at Fox.”
As for Varney’s attempt at a substantive critique of Heldman, he claimed at the end of the segment that she could not identify an example of high taxation coinciding with increased economic growth. She had provided that example, the economic boom of the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, when higher taxes did not stymie economic growth. Varney also claimed that the wealthy pay too high a share of income taxes in this country, seemingly citing a Wall Street Journal article from 2015 that says the top 20 percent of earners contribute 84 percent of income tax revenue. But many economists have argued for higher tax rates; Dirk Krueger and Fabian Kindermann even said the “optimal” tax rates for the top 1 percent of U.S. earners could be as high as 90 percent.