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Stuart Varney: Ignore Trump’s political failures, praise “MAGAnomics”
Fox Business host Stuart Varney celebrated the first six months of the Trump administration by ridiculously claiming that the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump are responsible for adding trillions of dollars to the economy and lifting wages for low-income workers around the country. Varney’s claims are the latest in a long-running right-wing media fantasy that the Republican Party’s economic agenda will unleash the American economy, which conveniently ignores more than six years of steady economic progress under the Obama administration.
On July 20, Trump celebrated the six-month anniversary of his inauguration as president of the United States. By any objective measure, Trump’s presidency has already been one of the strangest and most chaotic in living memory. The Trump administration is consumed by scandals of its own making, and, according to a Washington Post report published on Trump’s six-month anniversary, the president is beginning to ask his political and legal advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself.”
Despite these facts, the team at Fox News and Fox Business attempted to find a silver lining for the Trump presidency by falsely crediting his administration for the continued overall health of the American economy. In a July 20 op-ed published by FoxNews.com and a corresponding segment on Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney credited Trump with “add[ing] $4.1 trillion to the nation’s wealth” thanks to a post-election stock market rally. Varney also preposterously claimed that “during [Trump’s] presidency,” long-established American tech giants “Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook” have “emerged as global technology leaders.” Varney’s ridiculous claims were promoted by the network’s social media accounts and parroted again from the Trump-friendly confines of Fox & Friends during a segment in which Varney also credited Trump for wage growth witnessed by low-income workers. From the July 21 segment:
Fox’s claim that Trump is responsible for low-income wage increases stems from a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, which said that “full-time earners at the lowest 10th percentile of the wage scale” witnessed a 3.4 percent year-to-year wage increase in the second quarter of 2017, according to data from the Department of Labor. Contrary to Fox’s argument that Trump deserves credit for the increase, the Journal pointed to consistently low unemployment rates and minimum wage increases enacted by states and municipalities across the country as primary drivers of the uptick, which continued an accelerating wage trend for low-wage workers dating back to 2015. Minimum wage increases have been found to correlate with significant gains to low-income earnings, as the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) reported on September 5, and 19 states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of the year:
In addition to falsely crediting Trump for years-long wage growth trends, the team at Fox News also claimed that Trump is responsible for a $4.1 trillion increase in stock market capitalization since Election Day, citing the Wilshire 5000 composite index. It is true that American stock markets have gained value since November, but as CNN business correspondent Christine Romans pointed out last month, stocks had been gaining value for years before Trump’s election. Indeed, the Wilshire 5000 index, like other major stock indices, has been consistently climbing since bottoming out in March 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession and financial crisis.
Fox’s promotion of Trump’s supposed economic success was not lost on the network’s number one fan, as the president posted a video of Varney’s celebratory July 20 segment on Twitter just this morning:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2017
Fox has repeatedly pushed misleading economic data to hype Trump since the start of his administration, and the network has even fought against increased minimum wages, which are partly responsible for the wage growth its hosts now celebrate. Fox’s sycophantic devotion to Trump runs so deep that Varney even once admitted his unwillingness to criticize the president, a complete reversal from the tone of his coverage during the Obama administration.
Fox has adopted Conway’s oft-repeated lament that media outlets aren’t covering Trump’s supposed accomplishments enough
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has spent months demanding media outlets end “presumptively negative” coverage of the president and devote more time to his accomplishments. Now, Fox has begun adopting her wishes by repeating her criticism -- to the point that she praised them in a recent interview for doing so.
In the weeks following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Conway has repeatedly criticized interviewers for focusing on events or statements by the administration that make Trump look bad and tried to steer conversation to what the administration views as positive developments and news.
This is a strategy she has followed no matter what Trump has said or done. After the president called the press the “enemy of the American People” in March, Conway asserted on Fox that journalists have a “responsibility” to “not be presumptively negative” in their coverage of Trump. In April, Conway told Fox host Jeanine Pirro that “the mainstream media are making Americans suffer from information underload on all the great things the president is doing” by instead covering Trump’s scandals. Trump has reinforced Conway’s admonishment of the media with his own tweets. (However, media have noted that many of Trump’s supposed accomplishments either have little or nothing to do with him, or are just political theater with little substance.)
Fox News recently showed that it has taken Conway’s criticism to heart and adopted her idea of what media coverage of the Trump administration should look like.
On June 11, MediaBuzz host and media critic Howard Kurtz noted that during “infrastructure week,” the May 16-19 week in which the administration attempted to heavily promote Trump’s plans for infrastructure repairs, “the media attention was so focused” on former FBI Director James Comey and Russia that the president’s agenda was not covered. He concluded: “There is some responsibility on the part of the media to keep reporting on things that actually affect the lives of most Americans and not just Washington scandal stuff.”
The next day, Fox Business host Stuart Varney went on Fox & Friends to gush over the country’s economic performance and lambaste other news outlets for not adopting a 100 percent optimistic view of the economy in their headlines. After co-host Steve Doocy stated that “the mainstream media has a whole different story” on the economy, Varney went all-in on criticizing news outlets for their continued coverage of Trump’s scandals, declaring it a “disgrace” and “a crying shame” that they weren’t devoting more time to the economy’s performance under Trump:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Well, numbers don't lie. The economy on the rise under President Trump, but the mainstream media has a whole different story. Here's some of the headlines, The New York Times claiming "weak spots remain," Washington Examiner citing a "roller coaster economy," and Bloomberg going as far as calling the president's economic agenda "almost dead."
STUART VARNEY: I think it's a disgrace, quite frankly. Here we have the media concentrating en masse, Russia, Russia, Russia. Comey, Comey, Comey, plots, investigations. All of that is front page news all the time. What's going on in people’s lives -- better jobs, wages, housing improving, the improvement in our economy, our financial way of life -- that goes uncovered, and that's a crying shame.
Less than 30 minutes after Varney’s tirade, Fox & Friends interviewed Conway, and co-host Brian Kilmeade said to her that “these other media outlets are trying to kill you.” Conway responded by praising Fox for doing what she’s been demanding of news outlets for months (emphasis added):
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Kellyanne you are a genius at politics. Every time the president mentions Comey or Russia, it doesn't work to his advantage. It works to the Democrats’.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: I know he’s …
KILMEADE: So if you agree with that, maybe you don't, if you agree with that and the president wants to get his agenda through, wouldn't he be better off not doing anything about those things, letting others do it?
CONWAY: He is likely watching and getting your advice right now, Brian. But at the same time, I don't know why people just can't cover both. In other words, if I hear one more time, well we wanted to cover infrastructure, we wanted to cover jobs and workforce development. We really wanted to talk about this incredible economy of 4.3 percent unemployment, lowest in 15 years. Fewer unemployed since 2007, I believe. And certainly the confidence numbers are way up. For the last decade, they haven't been this high. So why can't people cover both stories?
KILMEADE: Because they are trying to kill you. Because these other media outlets are trying to kill you.
CONWAY: No kidding. No kidding, but he’s the president.
KILMEADE: That’s just it. So don’t give them the bloody knife.
CONWAY: They need to, quote, “accept the election results.” All the things that I was asked and the president was asked and everybody was asked six weeks to Sunday, from that October 19 debate in Las Vegas when he said, “I will keep you in suspense.” And the next day he said in Ohio at a rally, “I will accept them if I win.” And people freaked out and they’re still freaking out. So -- but I think that the responsibility is to cover all of the above. And look, the media has a great responsibility and a great role here. They can be telling the veterans that hey, you’re now --
KILMEADE: But they're not.
CONWAY: Well, but they should. And you at least give us a platform to talk about facts, to talk about all the great things that are happening that impact real people's lives.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): That's because, Kellyanne, they care more about politics than they do about America. I mean, they’re not reporting on this.
And on June 16, Conway reappeared on the network to again trash the media for supposedly not covering the president properly. Conway said Fox was the only network not criticizing the president “as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt questioned how the media would cover Trump’s upcoming change in Cuba policy later that day:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: I did a really clever thing. I went back and looked at exactly what was being discussed on all of the TV shows except [Fox & Friends] at 7:09 a.m. on Wednesday when this happened, and it's a really curious exercise because as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field in a trail of blood, you should go back and see what people were saying about the president and the Republicans at that very moment. Of course, they had to break in with the news of this tragedy and since then there’s been some introspection, some quieter, more muted voices, toning down the rhetoric, but look at Twitter: If I were shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement. This is the world we live in now.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Yeah, we’re going to have to watch and see how [the media] cover things going forward. That was all before the shooting happened. It will be interesting to see how the mainstream media covers President Trump’s trip to Miami today. What is he doing down in Miami today, Kellyanne?
CONWAY: So down in Miami today, the president is doing a very exciting for the Cuban people. Our unity is with the Cuban people, not the oppressive Cuban regime that has benefitted from these changes in the Obama administration policies that helped the military, the security, and the intelligence entities there benefit from U.S.-derived funds. That has to stop and that will stop.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on June 11 to echo misleading claims from Fox News that job growth in his first four full months in office was proof of his economic success. Both Fox and the president failed to notice, however, that it was the weakest February through May stretch of job growth since the end of the Great Recession.
On the June 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Clayton Morris and economist Peter Morici claimed that Trump’s presidency had been a boon for the economy, hyped that 594,000 jobs had been created in Trump’s first four full months in office, and slammed media outlets for reporting that Trump’s economic agenda has stalled. Roughly an hour later, the president started tweeting what seemed like talking points pulled from the Fox segment. He decried mainstream reporters, whom he derisively labeled “fake news,” in a tweet claiming media outlets refuse to report “great economic news” since he was elected. Trump continued by boasting that the economy had added “600,000+” jobs:
...way up. Regulations way down. 600,000+ new jobs added. Unemployment down to 4.3%. Business and economic enthusiasm way up- record levels!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2017
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the economy in fact created 594,000 jobs from February through May of this year. Projections for April and May are preliminary and subject to change, but by comparison to previously established trends for the same timeframe, Trump has little to boast about. More jobs were created during the same four-month window in each of the past seven years under President Barack Obama.
On June 12 edition of CNN’s Early Start host Christine Romans picked apart various aspects of Trump’s claims on the economy. Romans discussed that while the stock market has gone up since Trump was elected, it had been rising for eight years making the latest gains just “icing on what has been a very big, juicy cake.” Romans also noted that Trump’s job growth claims neglect to mention how job creation was slower than the last three years:
These simple facts did not stop the pro-Trump sycophants at Fox News from continuing to push their favorable talking points. On the June 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Stuart Varney laid out the same argument that Trump had tweeted and added that “it’s a disgrace” that news outlets had been focused on Trump’s scandals instead of giving the president credit for a strong economy. Later on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, guest Melissa Francis again pushed the 594,000 jobs created between February through May as proof of a strong economy under Trump.
Since Trump was elected, Fox has pivoted from mischaracterizing reports on the economy to blast Obama to mischaracterizing reports on the economy to hype or defend the Trump administration. Fox personalities frequently heap praise on economic indicators weaker than those they had once excoriated. The network has also reversed completely on how it reports jobs data, giving Trump credit for jobs he didn’t even create, and reporting glowingly on job creation under Trump that had become routine under Obama.
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Within hours of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and negotiate a better deal, other world leaders made it clear that renegotiation is not an option. But right-wing media and the administration are continuing to push the fanciful notion that Trump can negotiate a more favorable pact.
[T]he United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord … but but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an -- really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.
The White House talking points about the decision stress the idea that the Paris accord was a bad deal for the U.S. -- bad in all caps, lest you miss the point:
The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans. … The deal was negotiated BADLY.
This frame -- that Paris is a bad deal and Trump can get a good deal -- had been pushed by right-wing media in the days leading up to his decision, and the claim continued to make the rounds after the announcement was made, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
On May 30, David Bossie -- a former deputy campaign manager for Trump and a Fox News contributor who is being considered for a role in the White House -- went on Fox News Radio and called for the Trump administration to renegotiate the Paris deal:
My recommendation is: You get out of Paris, you get out of the Paris treaty, you get out right now, and then you let Scott Pruitt, your EPA administrator, who is very good and a great negotiator, go out and negotiate new deals, deals that are good for America and the rest of the world combined.
On June 1, before Trump made his announcement, Stuart Varney of Fox Business' Varney & Co. argued that former President Obama did a terrible job negotiating the Paris deal and Trump could do much better:
The Obama team gave virtually everything away -- our money and our jobs -- and received only vague promises of future good behavior. In my opinion, it was a lousy deal. So maybe our president will do the same as he did with NAFTA -- that is, threaten to withdraw, then negotiate a better deal. … He did, after all, write the book The Art of the Deal.
And Fox Business tweeted out the point too:
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) June 1, 2017
During Trump's speech, Breitbart's Curt Schilling tweeted out his approval of the president's plan to renegotiate the deal:
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) June 1, 2017
But other world leaders are not interested in sitting down at the table with the U.S. again, as they quickly made clear.
Shortly after Trump's announcement, the leaders of France, Italy, and Germany issued a joint statement refuting the notion that the Paris deal is up for renegotiation:
We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.
And a group of ministers from 24 nations -- known as the High Ambition Coalition, which pushed to make the Paris agreement as strong as possible -- also threw cold water on the idea of renegotiating:
Our commitment to the Paris Agreement is unshakeable. We have every reason to fight for its full implementation.
“Apparently the White House has no understanding of how an international treaty works," said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who led the negotiation process leading up to the Paris agreement. "There is no such thing as withdrawing and then negotiating.”
And the current secretariat of the UNFCCC also put out a statement saying that the agreement "cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party."
Bloomberg summed up the situation in headline: "Everyone But Donald Trump Is Standing By the Paris Climate Agreement."
Even after world leaders made their opposition to renegotiation crystal clear, right-wing media continued to push the myth that the president could get a new and improved deal.
"One of the [things] I'm looking forward to, and I've seen some of: Donald Trump's ability to renegotiate a better deal and better positioning for the United States of America," said Eboni Williams, a co-host of The Fox News Specialists, on June 2.
"If the Paris accord was actually meant to save the environment, the globalists would be happy to renegotiate the deal with President Trump," wrote Kit Daniels at Infowars on June 3.
Administration officials also went on Fox News to keep pushing the "better deal" idea.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox & Friends on June 2, "You also heard [Trump] leave the door open to renegotiating a better arrangement, to maybe re-entering the Paris accord under new terms and new conditions. … In withdrawing from the Paris accord, and in offering to renegotiate it in a way that is more fair, more equitable to our economy and every economy in the world, again you see President Donald Trump is being leader of the free world." Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt did not push back on that assertion.
And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke went on Fox News' America's Newsroom on June 2 to defend Trump's move: "It was a bad deal. I think the president has said he’s going to renegotiate it, offer to renegotiate it. … If we're going to sit down, let's make sure the agreement has shared burden." Fox host Bill Hemmer neglected to point out that other countries have said they will not sit down to renegotiate the deal with the Trump administration.
New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, speaking on The New Yorker's "Politics and More" podcast on June 2, slapped down the renegotiation idea: "When Trump says, 'I'm going to negotiate a better deal,' well that's a lie, that's just not possible."
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who played a key role in negotiating the Paris agreement, was even more forceful on this point during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on June 4:
When Donald Trump says, well, we're going to negotiate a better deal, you know, he's going to go out and find a better deal? That's like O.J. Simpson saying he's going to go out and find the real killer. Everybody knows he isn't going to do that.
Even if other countries were willing to sit back down at the table, it's highly unlikely the U.S. would get a better deal. That's because the U.S. already got a favorable deal when the Paris agreement was negotiated in 2015.
The Paris deal "is more fair to the U.S. than previous agreements because it includes all the major economies of the world, not just the rich countries, so both developed countries and developing countries have skin in the game," Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Law and Policy Program, told The Washington Post after Trump made his announcement.
"Paris already gives countries tremendous flexibility, and no penalties," Michael Gerrard, a professor of environmental law at Columbia and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told the Post.
The Obama administration had wanted to take part in the agreement, but it knew that a climate treaty couldn't get ratified by the U.S. Senate. So the entire global community bent over backward to accommodate the U.S. political system -- crafting a nonbinding accord that's looser than a treaty and making action pledges voluntary with no enforcement mechanisms.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before the negotiations that a good agreement would be “binding,” but she and other like-minded leaders gave in to the U.S. on this point.
As The Guardian reported just after the Paris negotiations took place in December 2015, "Under US insistence, the 31-page agreement was explicitly crafted to exclude emissions reductions targets and finance from the legally binding parts of the deal. … The other exclusion zone was any clause in the agreement that would expose the US to liability and compensation claims for causing climate change."
Ultimately, many world leaders and climate advocates thought the U.S. got too good of deal -- so good that the resulting agreement was disappointingly weak.
From The Guardian: "The US – and European – position was a huge disappointment for the low-lying and small island states, which argued they needed recognition that their countries could pay the ultimate price for climate change in terms of land loss and migration."
“The United States has hindered ambition," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., said in December 2015. "Using the world’s atmosphere and the suffering of the vulnerable as a guide, the United States is failing -- by a long shot -- to do what climate science and justice demand. This holds true for the United States' greenhouse gas reduction pledge, its provision of funds for developing countries to take climate action and its obstruction of progress on loss and damage.”
Despite the United States' successful effort to water down the Paris agreement, other countries, both rich and poor, still stepped up to the plate with meaningful action pledges. As The Economist noted just after Trump made his announcement, "All [of the Paris agreement's] signatories—which is to say, every country except Syria, Nicaragua and now America—have undertaken to reduce emissions against business-as-usual targets." This despite the fact that many of those countries have contributed very little to the problem of climate change, while the U.S. is the biggest carbon polluter in history, as The New York Times pointed out.
So now other countries are moving forward without the U.S. The Europeans are planning to work more closely with China and India. The leaders of France and India have announced that they're going to cooperate jointly on fighting climate change. Instead of getting a better deal, the U.S. is cut out of the dealmaking.
Fox News used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) underwhelming jobs report for the month of May as proof that Congress needs to pass President Donald Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda that, in reality, would strip working- and middle-class Americans of basic public services and hand top income earners a gigantic tax cut.
On June 2, BLS released its jobs report for May 2017, which estimated the United States added 138,000 new jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.3 percent. The jobs number fell below economists’ expectations and The Washington Post declared that the report showed that the “job market stumble[d]” last month. While the number of new jobs reported was weaker than expected, The New York Times noted the overall health of the economy was still strong enough for the Federal Reserve to possibly raise interest rates and pointed out that wage growth was up 2.5 percent from this time last year.
In response to this news, Fox pushed the absurd claim that the report is proof that big business needs Congress to pass Trump’s economic agenda of tax cuts and gutting consumer protections to stoke further economic growth and job creation. During the June 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Steve Hilton, host of The Next Revolution, used the jobs report to claim the U.S. was in a “jobs crisis” and needed Trump’s economic agenda to be enacted. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney described the jobs number as “lousy” and “disappointing” while correspondent Ashley Webster claimed the jobs number shows the American economy is “in a holding patterning” that is “waiting on Washington” to act. Fellow Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo added that “what this jobs number tells us is that business is still cautious” and companies are “sitting on cash” because they are “strangled by all of the regulatory environment” and waiting for Congress to pass Trump’s agenda:
In reality, Trump’s economic agenda has been described as a “repugnant grab bag” of tax cuts for top-income earners that guts funds for Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food assistance, medical research, disease prevention funding, disability insurance, and even college student financial aid while watering down consumer protections to give Wall Street investors a $100 billion windfall. Trump’s budget proposal to slash funding for vital health assistance programs has been described as “ruthless” and would exact a huge human cost from those who lose access to care.
Far from being a jobs savior, Trump’s economic agenda has faced heavy criticism from economists for relying on “voodoo” economic theories that falsely claim tax cuts will lead to economic growth. Research from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and Brookings Institution have found no link between tax cuts and economic growth. Economist Jason Furman has also slammed Trump’s tax cut agenda for proposing to add trillions of dollars to the federal debt in ways that could hamper economic growth. Trump’s tax proposals have been blasted by economists and experts across the political spectrum, who have argued that his restrictive approach to international trade and immigration, if enacted, may actually dampen economic activity. Even Trump’s proposals to reduce supposedly burdensome regulations in the financial industry fly in the face of facts -- Trump has proposed dismantling the Dodd-Frank Act, but the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that Dodd-Frank protections have “contributed to the overall growth and stability in the U.S. economy.”
Fox figures have attempted to use the monthly jobs report to advance the president’s agenda since he first took office. Fox used the reports to claim unearned victories for the president, and even once used a jobs report described as “weak” to declare it was “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency. Last month, a Fox Business panel attempted to spin the April jobs report as a reason to pursue Trump’s tax and regulatory policies with no evidence to back up its claims. Next month will likely produce more of the same.
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Labor rights advocates and progressive political activists commemorated May Day with marches in the United States and around the world in solidarity with immigrants and workers, but their mostly peaceful demonstrations were smeared by right-wing outlets, which painted them as violent outbursts led by anarchists.
May 1 or May Day has been commemorated internationally as a workers rights holiday for over 100 years and this year it happened to roughly coincide with the culmination of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. Trump’s tenure thus far has been typified by toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric and aggressively anti-worker policies and hundreds of thousands of activists peacefully marched this May Day in Washington, D.C. and across the country demonstrating their opposition to his agenda. While clashes broke out in some cities, most marches in the U.S. and around the world were peaceful.
In response to the demonstrations, fringe right-wing outlets like The Gateway Pundit, ZeroHedge, and Infowars, along with the Russian government propaganda outlet RT, used the few isolated instances of violence to paint a picture that all protesters were violent communists and anarchists. Right-wing conspiracy site WorldNetDaily warned, “Movements like this always end in death, poverty and misery.” Breitbart.com had a bevy of articles on May Day that claimed protesters were “radical left-wing activists,” alleged the crowd sizes at the protests did not live up to expectations, hyped violence that broke out in Portland as being endemic to other demonstrations and mocked Facebook for letting workers take the day off to join up with “communists and Black Bloc enforcers” at May Day protests.
Fox News’ portrayals of the May Day rallies depicted a similar dystopia. On the May 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney discarded the notion that the demonstrations had anything to do with “workers, or workers rights, or trade unions” and claimed May Day had been hijacked by “the violent left” to protest Trump. Varney continued to lambast May Day protesters on his Fox Business program while guest Tom Sullivan claimed the demonstrators were actually communist agitators who “just changed their names” to blend in with progressivism. From the May 2 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:
Meager Growth Under Obama Meant We Were “Sliding Toward Recession”; For Trump, Fox Predicts A “Bounce Back”
The latest report from the Commerce Department found American economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 fell just short of most economists’ expectations. A virtually identical report one year ago was met with a chorus of outrage and hyperbole from the professional antagonists at Fox News, but their doomsaying has mellowed completely with President Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.
On April 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a report detailing the rate of change in real gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year. The report showed GDP had increased just 0.7 percent during the time frame, which was both below expectations and the “weakest growth in three years.” According to The New York Times, the indicator “upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017,” while The Washington Post added that underwhelming economic performance “highlights the challenge this administration … will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.” During a segment on CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans noted that “the main culprit” holding back economic growth is “some nervousness among consumers,” whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy:
At Fox News, however, the GDP report was met with muted reactions and renewed criticism of the supposedly weak economy Trump inherited from President Obama. Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted at the outset of the April 28 edition of Varney & Co., that the report was “very, very weak” before predicting “the Left [will blame] President Trump” for sluggish first-quarter growth while guest John Lonski surmised that the economy would “bounce back” in the second quarter of the year. Later in the program, after a guest complained about the economy settling into a cycle of slow growth, Fox Business anchor Ashley Webster pleaded, “It’s just the first three months, give it time,” before predicting higher rates of growth over the next three months stemming from deregulation. Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald added that “this is an overhang … of the Obama years” while complaining that “this is what the president has inherited.” From Varney & Co.:
The measured response from Fox’s cast of characters is a far cry from how they responded to a virtually identical GDP report published by the BEA on April 28, 2016. Varney falsely characterized first-quarter GDP growth of last year -- which at 0.5 percent also missed expectations before being upwardly revised -- as proof that the economy was “sliding toward recession” and ignored other indicators showing the economy was improving. One day later, Varney continued lambasting Obama during an appearance on Fox & Friends in which he pushed the unsubstantiated claim that the post-recession recovery was a historic failure.
This is not the first time a Fox personality has backtracked on mischaracterizations of the economy in order to hype or defend the Trump administration. The network has completely reversed its tone toward the monthly jobs reports since Trump took office, giving him credit for jobs he didn’t create, fawning over job creation that had become routine under Obama, and heaping praise on economic indicators identical to those they had once excoriated.
President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been defined, in part, by his administration’s hostility to the press. As Media Matters has documented, Trump has attacked the press well over 100 times to date. As Trump vilifies the press, Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests help cheer him on by supporting, enabling, and condoning his attempts to discredit mainstream media outlets.
Multiple media outlets and figures uncritically reported on President Donald Trump’s planned executive order promoting policies that encourage the federal government to “buy American” and “hire American” wherever possible. These outlets and figures did not note that the executive order only calls for a review of current policy, and does not meaningfully change it, and some other outlets buried those crucial details in their reporting.
Trump Apologists Cannot Understand Why Protests Aimed At Trump’s Tax Returns Would Coincide With Tax Day
Fox News echoed the insults and attacks President Donald Trump leveled against tens of thousands of Americans that took part in over 180 rallies and events in 48 states over the weekend in protest of the president’s refusal to disclose his tax returns.
On April 15, the day that federal tax returns are typically due to be filed, organizers in Washington, D.C. and across the country led Tax March demonstrations in protest of Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns to the public. Trump attacked the protestors in a series of tweets the following day, complaining that his “tax returns are being brought up again,” diminishing the nationwide demonstrations as “small organized rallies,” and suggesting that demonstrators were paid to oppose him. Trump concluded by exclaiming “the election is over!”
I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
Taking their cue from Trump, Fox News media personalities proceeded to blast the Tax March. On the April 17 edition of Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee questioned “the timing of this” and wondered if the protests were a distraction given “everything that’s going on in the world.” Guest Adam Goodman, a Republican strategist, agreed with her assessment adding that “for many, as I think you can now see, the campaign isn’t over, it’s never over.”
The April 17 edition of Fox’s Outnumbered led its segment bashing the protesters by displaying Trump’s tweet calling for the protestors to be “looked into” and co-host Meghan McCain deflected criticism of Trump’s unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax information because he was not legally required to release it. Guest Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall, complained that the Tax March and other protests against Trump’s presidency made him feel “fatigue,” and wondered “why this issue, why a giant protest now?” Later that evening, on Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery piled on the criticism, calling the protesters “a collection of free wheeling leftists” who are “bored” with the Trump administration and disgruntled Clinton supporters who have not gotten over the election.
Fox continued to mock the protesters and playdown the importance of Trump releasing his tax returns into the following day. On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor and the Trump campaign’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, falsely claimed “the American people don’t care” if Trump discloses his tax returns and that the marchers were “paid professional protesters.” Later that morning, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano acknowledged Trump’s taxes were an important issue during the campaign but reiterated Trump’s talking point that “the campaign is over” and “this is no longer relevant.” Host Stuart Varney, however, admitted that the tax returns might reveal Trump could make “enormous” gains from the tax cuts he campaigned on.
While Trump’s devotees and apologists at Fox regurgitated his rhetoric, investigative reporter and tax specialist David Cay Johnston -- who had previously obtained a copy of Trump’s 2005 tax returns -- explained on the April 18 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live that complete tax disclosure remains important in rooting out conflicts of interest and understanding how much Trump would benefit from his tax agenda:
Fox News defended Trump hiding his tax returns throughout the 2016 election season and seems poised to continue. The network has repeatedly held Trump to a different standard than other presidents and politicians.
Stuart Varney: “If We’d Have Had 98,000 New Jobs In Any Month During The Obama Administration, We Would Be All Over Them”
Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted on air to a clear double standard on how he and Fox cover the monthly jobs report for presidents of different political parties. Less than an hour after a disappointing jobs report was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Varney revealed that if a similarly “weak” report had been published under President Barack Obama, he would have castigated the president as a “failure” -- something he admittedly wouldn’t do to President Donald Trump.
On April 7, the BLS reported that the American economy added just 98,000 jobs in March while the unemployment dropped slightly to 4.5 percent. The report also revised down the number of jobs created in January and February by 38,000. Though the improved unemployment rate is the lowest in 10 years, the number of new jobs created was far lower than the 175,000 jobs economists expected for the month. Less than an hour after the report was announced, Varney called it “a very weak jobs report” but refused to lay blame on Trump. Varney admitted that, had this report come out during the Obama administration, “we would be all over them” for the supposed “failure of the president's economic policy.”
Varney repeatedly downplayed positive economic indicators during the Obama administration. Indeed, one year ago, he tried to spin the March 2016 jobs report by questioning the “quality” of the 215,000 new jobs created. Months earlier, he had claimed that 292,000 new jobs created in December 2015 were “modest by historical standards,” even though it was one of the strongest reports of the entire year and showed nearly three times the number of jobs shown in the March 2017 report.
Varney’s momentary break of character shines a light on his network’s “fair and balanced” charade, but the spectacle has been on full display since Trump took office. Fox News praised a solid January jobs report as “fantastic news,” and wrongly credited Trump for creating jobs that actually predated his inauguration. A month later, Fox personalities, including Varney, lauded a solid February jobs report as proof that Trump is simply “winning everywhere” and held it up as evidence of the “‘beginnings,’ of a potential Trump Economic Era.” Even this morning, Fox News initially declared that the same jobs report Varney described as “weak” would stand as part of “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency.
Watch Varney’s admission on the April 7 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:
— Alex Morash (@AlexMorash) April 7, 2017
STUART VARNEY (HOST): Look, if we'd have had 98,000 new jobs in any month during the Obama administration, we would be all over them.
ASHLEY WEBSTER: Yes.
VARNEY: Failure of the president. Failure of the president's economic policy. Okay? Why shouldn't I say that now about Mr. Trump?
JOHN LONSKI: Well go ahead.
VARNEY: No, I’m not gonna do that.
LONSKI: But we haven’t had the president in office for long, and you haven’t had enough time really to put together a policy. They tried it on the health care front. Maybe they tried too quickly. Maybe that hurt them.