Fox News pushed aside economic reality and Volkswagen's stated position surrounding unionization effort at a Tennessee plant, instead warning that a unionization push may generate too many benefits for workers and hurt the carmaker.
Workers at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee are voting this week on whether to unionize with the United Auto Workers (UAW). A final vote on the move is scheduled to take place by February 14, and in advance of the decision, outside conservative activist groups have mobilized a campaign to halt the unionization effort, succeeding in skewing local coverage of the issue.
Now Fox News is joining the union opposition effort. The February 13 edition of Fox & Friends stoked fears that unionization could hurt the U.S. economy and make manufacturing prohibitively expensive, something that Fox Business host Stuart Varney called "a very big issue":
PETER JOHNSON, JR.: What does this sound in terms of the economy, in terms of right to work, in terms of our ability in this country to manufacture in a way that's not too expensive?
VARNEY: Oh, it's a very big issue.
JOHNSON: Yeah. Tell us about that.
VARNEY: A very, very big issue. Foreign carmakers have, I think, 11 plants in more than a dozen states in America. They're nonunion, very successful automobile producers. Now, if the union comes into Volkswagen, do they now have union rules, work rules? Which really hurts the ability of a carmaker to move quickly with a new product. What about wage levels? What about benefits? Do those always go up because of unionization?
Varney purports to be concerned with economic growth and employer's rights, but it is at the expense of the facts.
The reality is that Volkswagen is not opposing the unionization effort in Tennessee.
A House committee report released Tuesday refuted claims that any stand-down order was given to prevent military support from reaching Benghazi, dismantling a central story in right-wing media mythology of a Benghazi cover-up.
The House Armed Services Committee report, released February 11, concluded that "There was no 'stand down' order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi." As The Washington Post explained, the report further determined that "no U.S. military assets could have arrived in Benghazi in time to affect the outcome of the attack, according to committee staff members who briefed reporters on the report."
The determination devastates one of right-wing media's favorite Benghazi hoaxes.
Fox News has persistently pushed the myth that the administration withheld military assistance during the Benghazi attack by issuing a "stand down order" to backup forces in Tripoli -- by June 2013, the network had repeated the charge at least 85 times in primetime segments. The accusations were vitriolic: In October 2012, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. asked if there was a "political calculation that was made to sacrifice Americans on the ground so we didn't kill innocents in front of the consulate," while the network's national security analyst, K.T. McFarland, claimed the supposed absence of aid to the consulate was "probably" politically motivated. Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that the administration had decided that Americans targeted in Benghazi "were expendable." And the allegations didn't stop there.
The House report is not the first investigation and testimony to debunk the claim that a "stand down" order was issued. A January 2014 Senate Committee on Intelligence review of the Benghazi attacks determined there was no evidence that any "stand down" order was given to responding units during the attack. Tripoli security team leader LTC. S.E. Gibson soundly debunked the notion that a "stand down" order was given in testimony from a declassified June 26, 2013, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, stating: "Madam Chairman, I was not ordered to stand down." The CIA has repeatedly denied that any "stand down" orders had been given, and noted that reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the CIA facility.
Yet just as the network often ignored previous determinations that debunked the "stand down" order myth, Fox's coverage on the House report thus far has either ignored or dismissed this newest evidence of the collapse of its "stand down" narrative. A Fox & Friends First headline segment that focused on the report ignored the "stand down" finding entirely, instead claiming that "the report also found U.S. military forces were left vulnerable at the time of the attack.
Economists are encouraged by reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase job flexibility by allowing workers to maintain health coverage outside employment, calling the impact good for workers and the economy. But to Fox News, increased flexibility just means increased laziness.
The right-wing bubble seems impervious to both experts and fact-checkers when it comes to economic truth and the Affordable Care Act.
This week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated economic forecast for the years 2014 to 2024. Right-wing media quickly pounced on its projection that the supply of labor would voluntarily decline by about 2 million workers over the next three years due to the ACA, twisting the findings to accuse the ACA of destroying 2 million jobs. Such misinformation from the conservative bubble was predictable, as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) put it on February 4:
Opponents of the ACA will try to paint these CBO estimates as evidence that the ACA has "killed jobs" or something like it. That's flat wrong. What the ACA has done is expand the menu of options available to Americans about how to obtain decent health insurance without having their income fall to poverty levels. That menu used to include one option--"go to work for a large employer."
Indeed, subsequent fact-checkers and experts discredited the right-wing media's spin -- As The Washington Post's FactChecker plainly said, "No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs," echoing Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman who explained that "CBO's analysis itself is about the choices that workers are making in the face of new options afforded to them by the Affordable Care Act, not something about firms destroying jobs."
But it appears it will take more than facts and experts to penetrate the right-wing echo chamber.
Fox News doubled down on its misinformation on the February 6 edition of Fox & Friends, with an on-air graphic that framed the increased worker flexibility as "Obamacare to cut 2M jobs":
The Wall Street Journal editorial board claimed to "pars[e] this supply-of-labor reasoning" in a February 5 editorial by refusing to acknowledge the distinction between labor supply and job availability:
For years liberals have lamented the jobs crisis and underemployment to castigate Republicans as mean-spirited for opposing more "stimulus" and more weeks of unemployment benefits. But if pervasive joblessness is an economic and social scourge, why celebrate a program that is creating more of it?
Liberals are also trying to spin the CBO report as an endorsement of ObamaCare's alleged health security. Mr. Furman cited the phenomenon known as "job lock," in which people don't switch employers or start their own business to preserve fringe benefits. But job lock is really about employment flexibility, rather than the government extending subsidies so people don't need or want jobs.
A National Review editorial on February 6 characterized the fact-checks as "hilarious," claiming that the ACA was "taking a blowtorch to the work force" and creating a "crater" of lost economic value while mocking the administration:
But the administration still does not seem to be able to get its collective head around the fact that American workers are not just hungry mouths that have to be filled with paychecks: They are people who provide economically valuable goods and services. Those 2.5 million out of the work force may be happier at their leisure, but the economy as a whole will be substantially worse off without their contributions. We could, in theory, simply have the federal government deliver checks to every household and allow each and every one to follow his bliss as he sees fit, but the shelves of the grocery stores soon would be empty. The depth of the Obamacare crater in the labor force isn't some abstract unemployment rate, but the lost value of the work those Americans would have done.
Plugging their ears on the CBO's determination also blinded right-wing media to the CBO's suggestion that the projected changes in the labor supply would increase opportunity for unemployed workers:
If changes in incentives lead some workers to reduce the amount of hours they want to work or to leave the labor force altogether, many unemployed workers will be available to take those jobs--so the effect on overall employment of reductions in labor supply will be greatly dampened.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham launched an ignorant smear against Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, suggesting that she has to choose between her "immigrant family background" or the Constitution.
Ingraham's smear is both rooted in the premise that immigrants are separate from mainstream American culture and is completely off the mark given the fact that Sotomayor is an American citizen and the daughter of American citizens.
In a February 3 speech before Yale Law students, Sotomayor commented on the fact that she was the first Supreme Court Justice to use the term "undocumented immigrant," instead of "illegal alien," saying "[t]o call them illegal aliens seemed and does seem insulting to me."
Ingraham highlighted Sotomayor's comment on her radio show the following day. Ingraham suggested that using the term "undocumented immigrant" demonstrated a failure of Sotomayor's duty "to defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America." According to Ingraham, the word choice shows that Sotomayor's "allegiance obviously goes to her immigrant family background and not to the Constitution of the United States."
Sotomayor is a Puerto Rican American who is both an American citizen and the daughter of American citizens. Puerto Ricans have had U.S. citizenship since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917. Ingraham's claim that Sotomayor's heritage somehow conflicts with her mission to uphold the Constitution is both baseless and nonsensical.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that the "explosion of disability payments in this country" is an "undeniable" fact that contradicts President Obama's point that "we have not massively expanded the welfare state."
O'Reilly's comments came on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends during a discussion of his recent interview with President Obama. O'Reilly cited disability benefits as an example of what Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the "massively expanded the welfare state" and claimed that government is "getting conned like crazy" by disability beneficiaries. He failed to cite any further examples of the supposedly expanding "Nanny State" that Fox's on-air graphics hyped.
In reality, a recent study from the Social Security Administration's actuaries found that the total allowance rate for disability benefits has fallen significantly during Obama's presidency. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted, "[s]tandards don't become more lax in recessions, and stories that focus only on the growth in applications omit that crucial fact."
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When he said we have not massively expanded the welfare state, how could coffee not shoot out through your nose? I mean, that's just -- that is just not true!
O'REILLY: Well, it's theoretical and I wanted to stay away from that, but I had to hit him with the disability because that's the -- if you want to point to something that is undeniable, it's the explosion of disability payments in this country because as I pointed out, the workplace is safer than it was 20 years ago. Then what are all these people getting paid for? If you go into welfare, he'll go into recession. It's not my fault. I had to bail these people out. They're dying. If you go into unemployment, he's going to go there. He's going to use the economic maladies as justification. But if you go to something like disabilities where that's somebody who is going into the government saying look, I can't do this, give me money and the government says sure and doesn't check it out and everybody knows it. That's what I said, you see you're getting conned like crazy. It all goes back to the fact that he doesn't see this stuff as a welfare state. He sees it as necessary.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And that's the one thing that I don't get. That's an issue its not his fault, not his administration's fault, disability is exploding. That's where you focus on. 60 Minutes did 30 minutes on just the disability explosion in this country right now. And it would be apolitical and help our economy. But yet he doesn't see it that way. And unfortunately, we got three more years of this.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera apologized for calling Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman a "thug," a concession notable not only for Rivera's acknowledgement that the term had racial connotations but also because of the criticism Rivera faced for applying the term to Trayvon Martin.
Sherman became the target of heavy media criticism following comments he made about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in a January 19 post-game interview. As the sports blog Deadspin reported, the media used the term "thug" 625 times the day after Sherman's interview. Sherman later responded to the criticism by pointing out the racial undertones of the word "thug," arguing that "it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays."
On the January 31 edition of Fox & Friends, Rivera highlighted Sherman's comment and apologized for his role in the attacks:
RIVERA: I called Richard Sherman a thug when he ranted about Michael Crabtree. He said the use of the word thug was the new N-word. I pondered that. I have come to agree with Richard Sherman, the Stanford grad. I will never use the word thug in that context again.
Rivera's reversal is particularly noteworthy considering his past use of the term. In March 2012, Rivera came under fire for using the same term in an attack on Trayvon Martin. Rivera suggested that Martin's clothing choice was responsible for his death, saying that "it is reality" that minorities wearing hoodies "could attract the attention, not only of the cops, but of nutjobs apparently like this George Zimmerman." In July 2013, Rivera doubled down:
RIVERA: You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug. That's true. I stand by that.
The Wall Street Journal endorsed billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins' inflammatory suggestion that a "[p]rogressive Kristallnacht" may be soon be directed against the rich and dubbed subsequent criticism of the Nazi comparison "Perkinsnacht."
In a January 24 letter to the editor, Perkins hyped a supposed "progressive war on the American one percent" and compared it to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht, asking: "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?" In the following days, Perkins' letter received widespread criticism.
A January 29 Journal editorial -- headlined "Perkinsnacht" -- dismissed criticism of Perkins' Nazi reference as "unfortunate, albeit provocative," and claimed that Perkins' critics had proved his point: "the vituperation is making our friend's point about liberal intolerance -- maybe better than he did."
The Wall Street Journal isn't the first right-wing media source to throw support behind Perkins. On January 29, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin characterized the reaction to Perkin's letter as evidence of a "bullying epidemic" and "wealth-shaming" by "the grievance industry." Fox Business contributor Charles Payne went further, arguing that Perkins "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve."
The Wall Street Journal misleadingly attacked President Obama's decision to boost the minimum wage for federally contracted workers as an "ostentatious display of President Obama's intention to end run lawmakers and even the law," ignoring the fact that previous presidents set precedent for this type of action.
In his January 28 State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to issue an executive order that would require "federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour." As he said, "if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board responded to the president's announcement with the suggestion that Obama was acting like a "king" who "seems to think is a [sic] Democracy of One, or shall we say The One." The editorial attacked the president's plan as "the latest ostentatious display of President Obama's intention to end run lawmakers and even the law" and went on to deny the fact that increases in the minimum wage carry economic benefits or have any bearing on the "economy and efficiency" of the federal contracting process.
But the Journal ignored the fact that Obama isn't the first president to issue this type of order. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson took similar action to increase equal opportunity and nondiscrimination standards for federal workers. As The New York Times Taking Note blog reported:
Other presidents have used executive orders to upgrade labor standards for employees of federal contractors, including President Kennedy, who required federal contractors to have companywide equal employment opportunity plans, and President Johnson, who prohibited racial discrimination and other bias in hiring by federal contractors.
The non-partisan research center Demos has pointed to executive orders that "have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices" and further detailed presidential precedent:
From the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act to Executive Order 11246 of 1965, and a host of other laws and executive actions, our laws have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices. Yet as the nature and prevalence of federal contracting, lending and grant-making have changed, and some laws have been weakened, working people have fallen through the cracks.
In the past, presidents have used their authority to improve job opportunities for Americans working or seeking to work for federal contractors. For example, starting in 1941, successive administrations issued executive orders to fight employment discrimination in the contracting workforce. This effort culminated with President Lyndon Johnson's signing of Executive Order 11246, mandating equal employment opportunity and affirmative action for all individuals working for federal contractors. An executive order to raise and enforce workplace standards for contractors, grantees, and other private companies that do business with the federal government would follow this powerful and effective precedent.
Furthermore, the Journal's claim that a minimum wage increase would hurt businesses and doesn't affect the "economy and efficiency" of federal contracting flies in the face of the hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates, who have come out in support of such a plan.
Increases in the minimum wage have not been shown to significantly damage the job market. In fact, businesses that have chosen to boost employee wages have reaped economic benefits. As the Harvard Business Review found, "[i]n return for its generous wages and benefits, Costco gets one of the most loyal and productive workforces in all of retailing, and, probably not coincidentally, the lowest shrinkage (employee theft) figures in the industry [...] Costco's stable, productive workforce more than offsets its higher costs." According to the Economic Policies Institute:
[T]he weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
As the dilemma of growing income inequality has become the object of increasingly intense public scrutiny, Fox News has consistently resisted engaging in the subject with facts.
What Fox's viewers miss is real discussion of a problem that has been building for decades and undermines America's economic stability and growth. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stigliz, income inequality "reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance." And economists have found that income inequality has been "the most important" determinant of poverty in the past several decades.
Experts say that inequality is damaging, but preventable. They highlight policies like increasing the minimum wage, larger tax credits for low-wage workers, government-subsidized childcare, renewed investment in schools, universal health insurance, and expanded union rights as opportunities to reduce inequality -- policies that Fox has routinely helped to smear.