Media outlets have provided cover for Fox News to push a false narrative that President Clinton and former White House advisor Larry Summers support extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That false narrative in turn helps conservatives push an agenda of cutting taxes on the rich.
In comments that have been the focus of the media's attention, Clinton explicitly said "I don't think the president should" extend the Bush tax cuts for upper earners, and Summers explicitly said that the people who had benefited most from the economy in the last 30 years must "do their fair share" to reduce deficits.
Nevertheless, several mainstream media outlets initially treated Summers' and Clinton's comments as at odds with Obama's policy. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both had to issue corrections to their false reporting about Summers' comments.
Although the Journal and the Times issued corrections, CBS News' online story still features the headline "Summers backs extension of Bush tax cuts," while The New York Times' revised story still claimed Summers "appeared to signal that he favors a temporary extension of all the tax cuts." And a Journal story states that "Mr. Clinton suggested that Congress temporarily extend all the Bush-era tax cuts when they expire at year's end. That undercut Mr. Obama's stance that he would veto a continuation of the tax cuts for the highest-income taxpayers."
With this cover, Fox News figures have repeatedly falsely claimed yesterday that Summers and Clinton disagreed with Obama on tax policy. And Republican politicians jumped into the act, using the manufactured split between Obama and other Democrats to push for tax cuts.
On the June 6 edition of Hannity, Rep. Paul Ryan claimed the quote showed "People from the left and right on economics agree don't raise taxes in this kind of an economy. The president, though, is so into this class warfare ... that he's willing to trash all the advice he's getting from people in his own party about what it is to do to prevent us from going into a recession."
Now, Fox News is on day two of pushing the false storyline involving Clinton, Summers, and Obama. Fox & Friends ran several segments that perpetuated the falsehood. In one segment, for example, co-host Gretchen Carlson said that "Democratic surrogates [are] coming out against President Obama's plan." Co-host Brian Kilmeade later said of Summers' comments: "[P]eople concluded that he meant by that don't raise taxes. Let the Bush tax cuts remain."
As can be expected, Fox News has used the opportunity to be even more dishonest. Indeed, despite having run several segments on Summers this morning, Fox never reported the part of Summers' statement in which he said that "we've obviously gotta do things to control the deficit" such as "look[ing] to the people who've gotten the most gains from the economy over the last 30 years" and "asking them to do their fair share at a time when the country's got to pull together to work through some difficult problems," statements that are firmly in line with Obama's position.
And Fox not only distorted Summers' original comments, they also distorted his attempts to correct media misinterpretation of his comments. After Summers issued a statement in response to the media's widespread misinterpretation of his appearance, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that "somebody got to him and he had to backtrack." He then read Summers' second statement after saying "this is completely different" from Summers' original one.