The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) bills itself as an event convened to "crystallize the best of the conservative thought in America" that will showcase "all of the leading conservative organizations and speakers." Media covering CPAC 2013 should know that the conference's speakers, from the most prominent to the lesser-known, have a history of launching smears, pushing conspiracy theories, and hyping myths about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.
Fox News parroted the accusation that Thomas Perez, a possible Labor Secretary nominee, "worked with hardcore Islamist groups" and approved of efforts to weaken airline security measures, but that accusation is based on comments Perez made at an interfaith conference where he emphasized the need to respect civil rights when improving security protocols.
The Los Angeles Times reported on March 10 that President Obama is likely to nominate Perez for Secretary of Labor. He is currently the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and has been repeatedly vilified by Fox News.
On Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne claimed Perez has a "controversial past" and was "said to have worked with hardcore Islamist groups and applauded those who lobbied against airline security measures."
Browne did not cite evidence for her claim, but her criticism echoed a Daily Caller piece from July 2012 that claimed Perez attended a meeting in D.C. in October 2011 with "hardcore Islamists" and "complimented the Islamists for lobbying against airline security measures," almost the exact words used on Fox & Friends First.
Perez's full remarks from the October 2011 meeting reveal he praised the work done by faith leaders around the country to help combat discrimination based on national origin in airport security screenings.
Perez spoke at the October 2011 Civil Rights Summit hosted by George Washington University Law School on Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans experiencing discrimination and hate crimes following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The event was attended by faith leaders and advocates from many religions, including an imam and a rabbi.
While there, Perez thanked the audience for giving the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security feedback on airport safety protocols, producing more effective measures that used "a scalpel, not a meat ax" to identify threats and emphasizing the need to protect civil rights:
I talked about reflection and recalibration and let me give you two examples of the need for continuing reflection and recalibration. You may recall the Christmas Day attempted bombing on the airplane. And you will recall the aftermath of that bombing in which certain protocols were put in place that made categorical targeting, that is to say, individuals from certain countries, were categorically being asked a series of additional questions. What did we hear in the aftermath of that? We heard a lot of feedback from people in this room and leaders across the country that we could do a better job. That we should be using a scalpel, not a meat ax. And that we should reconsider what's happening.
And a few months later, as you know, and thanks to you, we did just that. And the Department of Homeland Security recalibrated what it was doing, and I think as a result, it was a more effective mechanism. Because once again, we must always remember, as Jim Cole told us this morning: Don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's either safe streets, secure borders, and secure communities or protection of civil rights and civil liberties. It will always be both.
Fox News misleadingly claimed the hamburger chain Five Guys planned to raise prices as a result of President Obama's health care law, though only one franchise owner has announced plans to raise prices at his eight restaurants and Five Guys has publicly stated he does not represent the company.
Fox & Friends First host Heather Childers claimed "Five Guys says it is going to have to raise prices on its famous food to cover the added cost" of the health care law. The following image aired during the segment:
The Washington Examiner reported an individual franchise holder, Mike Ruffer, planned to raise prices at his eight outlets in one North Carolina area in order to meet the requirement of the new law that all of his full-time employees have access to health insurance.
The Huffington Post contacted Five Guys about Ruffer's announcement and received a response from the restaurant chain's public relations director Molly Catalano that Ruffer is an independent business owner and "does not represent Five Guys on this or any other subject matter."
Fox & Friends misleadingly claimed that federal revenue will be historically high this year to push against calls for additional tax increases. In fact, projected revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) remains below the historical average since World War II.
Fox News revived the debunked myth that President Obama "gutted" work requirements from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program despite the fact that the claim has repeatedly been shown to be false.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped a bill introduced by House Republicans last week that seeks to block the administration from granting waivers to states under the TANF program. Doocy claimed the bill would "make work a condition for receiving welfare," and repeated the debunked myth that those requirements have been "gutted under President Obama."
But the Obama administration has not removed work requirements from welfare. In July 2012, the administration announced that it would comply with governors' requests -- including Republicans -- to consider proposals to create more efficient ways to report on the work requirement for people receiving TANF benefits. According to Health and Human Services, any program that weakened or undercut welfare reform would not be approved, and waivers would only be granted to proposals that "move at least 20% more people from welfare to work."
The Center on Budget and Policies Priorities found that these waivers would strengthen welfare reform by "giving states greater flexibility to test more effective strategies for helping recipients prepare for, and retain jobs." The New York Times reported that the new requirements continued the administration's efforts "to peel back unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and allow states to spend federal money more efficiently."
As NPR reported, following 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney's use of the claim in a political ad, "every major fact-checking organization" found the attack to be false. Politifact rated the claim as "pants on fire" and The Washington Post's fact checker gave the claim four Pinocchios (its highest rating). Factcheck.org found no basis for the claim, explaining:
A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted 'a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.' The plan does neither of those things.
- Work requirements are not simply being 'dropped.' States may now change the requirements -- revising, adding or eliminating them -- as part of a federally approved state-specific plan to increase job placement.
- And it won't 'gut' the 1996 law to ease the requirement. Benefits still won't be paid beyond an allotted time, whether the recipient is working or not.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted that unlike Obama, the Bush administration "pushed for a welfare 'superwaiver' that would allow states to waive just about every requirement, including the work requirement," a proposal which passed in the House three times.
A Wall Street Journal editorial blamed the federal government for an increase in student loan debt, ignoring higher levels of college enrollment and the effects of the economic downturn.
The Journal attributed an increase in student loan debt since 2008 to the "federal student-loan explosion" following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which replaced government subsidies to private lenders with direct loans to students from the Department of Education. The Journal cited Federal Reserve Bank of New York data to claim the high levels of debt prove this new system has created "systemic risk":
The federal student-loan explosion means that this is the one giant exception to the needed consumer deleveraging that has occurred since the financial crisis. Americans have reduced their borrowing in most consumer markets. But U.S. student-loan debt increased 11% last year to $966 billion and has skyrocketed 51% since 2008, according to the New York Fed report. According to the Wall Street Journal, 43% of 25-year-olds had student debt in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from about 33% in the same period of 2008.
Talk about creating systemic risk.
But the Federal Reserve Bank of New York data that the Journal cites reveals that total student loan debt has steadily increased since 2005, years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The Federal Reserve attributed this upward trend in student loan debt to increased college enrollments and higher tuition rates.
A week after Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called Al Jazeera's expansion into American television a "trojan horse for terror," the show used exclusive footage from Al Jazeera to report on a deadly tourism accident in Egypt.
Following the announcement that Al Jazeera was purchasing Current TV to expand into U.S. markets, Doocy asked last week if Al Jazeera America would be a "Trojan Horse for terror." The following on-screen graphic was displayed when Doocy made his comments:
Doocy's smear did not stop Fox & Friends from airing Al Jazeera's footage of a hot air balloon crash in Egypt that killed 19 tourists. The footage included on-screen text identifying it as "Al Jazeera Exclusive."
Fox host Bill O'Reilly also recently attacked Al Jazeera, claiming that if you "misbehave ... on Al Jazeera, they behead you," and that Current TV's hosts were "going to be given burqas" before reporting on Al Jazeera America.
Fox News has previously used both Al Jazeera's live feed and its reporting during the Arab Spring protests, despite criticizing President Obama for reportedly watching the network's reporting.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly speculated that the government will invade personal privacy as a result of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, ignoring the fact that the order merely provides optional help for companies running critical infrastructure to combat cyber threats.
President Obama announced Tuesday during the State of the Union address that he had signed an executive order to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructure that impacts national security, the national economy, and public health and safety."
On Fox & Friends, Napolitano said the order "goes too far," making the accusation that the order will allow the government to read personal emails and eventually punish and restrict individuals for what they say on the internet, claiming that "your freedom of expression will shrink."
But as The New York Times reported, the order has nothing to do with the Internet use of individuals, and instead introduces an entirely voluntary program to help specific companies combat cyber threats:
The order will allow companies that oversee infrastructure like dams, electrical grids and financial institutions to join an experimental program that has provided government contractors with real-time reports about cyberthreats.
It will also put together recommendations that companies should follow to prevent attacks, and it will more clearly define the responsibilities for different parts of the government that play a role in cybersecurity.
The Times further noted that according to industry experts, the most important measures needed to protect against cyberattacks still require congressional approval. Senate Republicans twice rejected cybersecurity legislation last year.
And the American Civil Liberties Union has approved of the privacy measures included in the executive order. The Hill's technology blog reported:
The executive order also makes clear that agencies are required to implement privacy and civil liberties protections into their cyber activities, according to existing privacy principles and frameworks. Agencies are also required review the privacy and civil liberties impact of their work and publicly release those assessments.
Those privacy-focused measures won approval from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"The president's executive order rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don't negatively impact civil liberties," Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, in a statement. "For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information."
Fox News misleadingly claimed that an increase in the minimum wage would harm small businesses. In fact, data show that small businesses in states with a higher minimum wage experience better economic performance and job growth.
The Wall Street Journal ignored key parts of Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) Senate record to promote him as "bipartisan" and in "pursuit of legislative harmony." In fact, Rubio has a history of obstructionism, voting against major bipartisan legislation, blocking nominations, and filibustering Democratic initiatives in the Senate.