As the budget battle in Wisconsin continues to unfold, Fox News has capitalized on every opportunity to attack unions and those protesting in Madison. So when word got out that it could cost the state of Wisconsin up to $7.5 million to clean up after the protesters, it didn't take long for the story to make its way to Fox.
Fox Nation picked up the story on March 3, highlighting a report by Todd Starnes on Fox News Radio and using it to mock a Democratic state lawmaker who "scoffed at" the $7.5 million estimate, saying "that's a lot of bottles of Formula 409."
As it turns out, the actual cost of cleaning up the State Capitol will likely be nowhere near $7.5 million. Last night, The Associated Press reported that cleanup costs could be as low as $350,000. But that didn't stop Fox & Friends from complaining about the millions of dollars' worth of damage done this morning.
The Fox & Friends Saturday hosts seized on the $7.5 million estimate, claiming that cleanup efforts "could actually make the budget worse there in Wisconsin," and even alleging that the protesters had drawn on the marble walls in marker (though the video the hosts point to actually shows people cleaning around a cable and wiping what appear to be shoe scuff marks off the floor):
DAVE BRIGGS (co-host): This weekend, the situation there on the Capitol in Wisconsin is they have to clean up the mess left by all of the protesters, and that could actually make the budget worse there in Wisconsin, because it might cost $7.5 million just to clean up -- literally clean up the mess left by all these protesters. And there's a group now forming a committee just to do that.
CLAYTON MORRIS (co-host): Yeah, and, you know, as we're looking at some of these pictures here, and one gentleman we had on earlier, you can see, it's like they took Sharpie and wrote on the marble.
ALISYN CAMEROTA (co-host): Oh, that's horrible.
MORRIS: And, you know, look at this -- they're having to scrub off like Sharpie and marker. Do they not care about their own Capitol building enough that they actually deface it this way?
CAMEROTA: Well, the guest that we had on earlier on Fox & Friends, he's affiliated with the Tea Party, he says it doesn't have to cost that many millions -- I'm going to go out there tomorrow and just bring a bucket and pail, and we're going to try and get our friends together and we're going to go, because we do have pride about our state Capitol -- we're going to go and clean up. He had put it on Facebook and only gotten about 20 -- a response of about 20. Maybe now that he's been on Fox & Friends more people will join him in this effort tomorrow.
BRIGGS: Yeah. He's a Tea Party supporter. The Facebook group is called "it's time to take out the trash," and they are starting out there at one o'clock tomorrow in Madison if you're interested.
Contrary to what Fox & Friends would have you believe, the AP reports that the necessary restoration of the Capitol's marble will be "very limited." Likewise, the Wisconsin State Journal notes that union leaders "consult[ed] with Capitol Police on policies that would tread as gently as possible on the century-old statehouse" and even used a specific kind of tape that police told them would be the "gentlest on the stone walls and railings."
However, these reports have done nothing to hinder the right-wing media's attempts to blame the protesters in Wisconsin for adding to the state's budget woes. This morning, Glenn Beck's website The Blaze continued to cite the $7.5 million estimate, claiming that cleanup costs "range from $347,500 to $7,500,000, depending on who you ask" (emphasis added).
Actually, the very article The Blaze cites points out that the new estimate is an updated number provided by the very same state office that estimated cleanup costs could reach $7.5 million:
Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch admitted Friday the $7.5 million quoted by DOA lawyer Cari Ann Renlund was "at the high end of the range" and that actual cleanup costs could be as low as $347,500.
Huebsch defended the discrepancy at an afternoon press conference, saying the estimate represented the "best information available at the time" based on a memo by state architect Daniel Stephans.
But in the memo, released to the media Friday, Stephans acknowledged his estimate "was nothing more than an educated guess."
Likewise, only after Fox promoted the outrageously overestimated cost of cleaning up the Capitol -- allowing them to promote the Tea Party while they were at it -- did they note the new, dramatically less expensive numbers a few times in their daytime coverage. Here's one example of the brief mention Fox gave to the new estimates:
This is just further evidence that not even the facts can stand in the way of the right-wing media's attacks on the protesters in Wisconsin.