Fox News misled viewers about trends in household income, job creation, and the use of food stamps while claiming that President Obama's policies are to blame for a supposedly stagnant economy.
During an interview that aired on the September 28 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama argued that the United States "is definitely better off" economically than it was when he took office in 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the "terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis" that he inherited to the response by "any leader around the world."
On the September 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney attempted to refute Obama's claim of economic achievement over the past six years, citing three major indicators -- household income, part-time job creation, and food stamp participation -- to make their case.
In each instance, Fox cherry-picked data to obscure positive trends in the overall economy:
News of a massive student protest in Colorado against a "conservative-led school board proposal" has prompted Fox News to rethink its stance on student freedoms.
Earlier this week, hundreds of students across six high schools in Arvada, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms amid news of a "conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority." The Associated Press reported that the curriculum proposal would establish a committee to ensure certain history materials "don't 'encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law'":
Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read "There is nothing more patriotic than protest."
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
On September 25, Fox & Friends hosted Ken Witt, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, which oversees the Arvada schools, to discuss the protests. Amid chyrons like "Political Pawns" and "Teachers Are Using Students," Witt alleged that the real issue was not the history curriculum proposal, but rather the upcoming teachers union contract :
WITT: That's the unfortunate situation that's going on. I believe that there is a significant amount of union conflict right now that we would like to not have. The issue is that it's easy to get children out. It's easy to use kids as pawns and it's not right. We have a union contract that's expiring in August of this year.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck parroted Witt's allegations, saying, "What concerns me is that what I'm hearing from you, and correct me if I am wrong, is that there is someone else behind this planting it and using these students for their own gain."
Conservative media figures have been attacking climate change policies by claiming that they would harm the poor. But their feigned concern contradicts previous attacks on aid for the poor -- and the climate policies in question would actually help developing countries the most.
On September 23, President Obama spoke at the United Nations' climate summit to call for strong international action on climate change. His remarks were immediately met with mockery and criticism in conservative media, with Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Greg Gutfeld claiming that climate action would hurt the poor. On Fox News' The Five, co-host Gutfeld complained that climate action is a way for "rich people" to "deny" resources to others, going on to say "there are no poor people in this fight." And on the September 23 edition of Limbaugh's show, Rush ranted that climate change regulations are going to keep "[t]hird world countries" poor:
LIMBAUGH: Do you know who these climate change regulations, this dream of limiting carbon emissions, do you know who it'll really affect? Third world countries are going to be kept poor. They are not going to be allowed economic growth.
So all of these things Obama and his buddies are dreaming about would keep poor people poor, and never allow them to make their way up.
But Limbaugh and Gutfeld -- and many conservative media pundits -- have a history of attacking policies that would help the developing countries for which they claimed to express concern. Limbaugh previously denounced United States' international aid efforts, lamenting that the U.S. is "practically the only one loaning any money" despite the fact that U.S. international aid programs at the time were less generous than some from other countries. Limbaugh also likened a United Nations Development Programme proposal to finance global problems to "rap[ing] the U.S. for $7 trillion."
Meanwhile, Gutfeld has mocked the serious security threat that small islands face from rising sea levels due to climate change, despite that many experts have determined that small islands "are expected to lose significant proportions of their land," and that many will become uninhabitable if global warming continues unabated. One such small island resident, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands, delivered a moving poem during the U.N. climate summit about how climate change could impact her child, and has impacted many nations already:
From the September 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted a new documentary on his show, suggesting it backs up his own views on energy. However, the film, Pump, calls for an end to America's "oil addiction," and makes several points that Hannity often fails to account for when pushing for more drilling.
On the September 18 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity promoted the new documentary Pump to call more drilling in the United States. He interviewed the film's producer Yossie Hollander and John Hofmeister -- former C.E.O. of Shell and current director of several oil and gas companies -- to discuss alternatives to oil that can be produced domestically. Hannity implied throughout the segment that their goals were in line, concluding by asking: "How many problems would we solve by doing what you guys are advocating? And what I'm advocating?"
But the message that Pump is trying to communicate is far different from Hannity's strong support for oil, according to reviews and clips from the film itself. Here are three things Hannity could learn if he watched the documentary Pump:
Hannity frequently touts domestic oil extraction and oil pipelines as ways to achieve energy independence. During the show, he asked his guests: "If we were to use our energy resources here at home, oil, gas, coal, all of these things, how long can we be independent?" to which Hofmeister responded, "We'd see ourselves through the century."
Yet on the film's website, a somewhat contradictory quote from Hofmeister is splayed on the homepage:
Hannity showed part of the trailer on his show, but cut it off right before the narrator stated: "Until we have a moment of truth with ourselves, this country is destined to not only be addicted to oil but addicted to all the terrible trappings that come with oil."
A flagship report found that acting on climate change and improving the economy go hand in hand, which was reported by business media outlets across the globe. But three prominent outliers left their audiences in the dark: CNBC, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal.*
On September 16, many major business media outlets from Fortune Magazine to BusinessWeek reported on a recent analysis finding that the next 15 years are essential for acting on climate change, and that it is possible to do so while simultaneously growing the global economy. The report, titled "The New Climate Economy" and carried out by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, refutes the "false dilemma" between economic growth and climate change mitigation -- an important finding for businesses that want to thrive in the decades ahead. From Reuters:
Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use, an international report said on Tuesday.
Yet the report was ignored by three prominent business media outlets -- a disservice to their business audiences who deserve to know the economic risks of global warming. The outlets that ignored the findings of the "New Climate Economy" report may not come as a surprise: CNBC, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal all have a sordid history with reporting on climate change.
When the "Risky Business" report was released earlier this year -- another report detailing the economic costs of climate change inaction -- CNBC was caught soliciting a writer to talk about "global warming being a hoax" to rebut the report's findings. The network's on-air coverage of "Risky Business" featured Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen criticizing the acceptance of global warming as "Orwellian groupthink." Media Matters analyses found that CNBC misled their audience on global warming in the majority of their reporting on the topic in 2013.
Fox Business also regularly offers demonstrably false reporting on global warming. Co-hosts have often claimed that global warming is over, or even that we are in a period of global cooling. When the Risky Business report was released, Fox Business mocked its findings of heat-related mortalities and dismissed the report entirely as using "scare tactics."
Similarly, Wall Street Journal dismissed the findings of the Risky Business report, with its editorial board calling one of its authors' suggestions for a carbon tax as economically harmful as the 2008 financial crisis. The Journal has downplayed and dismissed the impacts of climate change and other environmental threats for decades, and gives a frequent platform to "skeptics" that urge inaction on climate change and dismiss the basic science behind the consensus.
The New Climate Economy was heralded by political leaders around the world advocating a transformation in the global economy. By ignoring it, these outlets are showing that their priorities are at odds with businesses that want to prosper in a changing climate.
*Based on a search of internal video archives from September 15 to 12 p.m. September 17 for "climate" for Fox Business and CNBC, and a Factiva search for "climate" for Wall Street Journal.
On-air graphics displayed during Fox News hyped the number of poor Americans that have access to basic necessities like internet access and air conditioning in order to downplay the seriousness of poverty and attack efforts to address it through government programs.
A September 16 segment on Fox's The Five criticized the war on poverty claiming that 50 years later, more Americans are in poverty today than when President Lyndon B. Johnson first began implementing social programs to lift Americans out of poverty. During the segment, the show displayed chyrons that said "The Typical Family That The Census Identifies As 'Poor' Has AC, Cable TV, And A Computer," while another reported that "40% Of Poor Have A Wide-Screen HDTV And Internet Access." From the show:
Fox News' chyrons parrot a report by the Heritage Foundation claiming "that the actual living conditions of the more than 45 million people deemed 'poor' by the Census Bureau differ greatly from popular conceptions of poverty" because many of the poor have "consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago."
The amenities Fox News bemoans are necessary for survival. In 2011 access to internet was deemed a "human right" by the United Nations. And the Center for American Progress further explained that the services and appliances the Heritage Foundation cites are "everyday necessities" and that using them to measure poverty is "misleading":
These arguments are mean and misleading on several accounts. First, the electronic devices that Heritage cites are everyday necessities today. Who has iceboxes anymore? Who doesn't need a cell phone to find a job or keep one? Fortunately, these appliances are all significantly cheaper these days, but not so the real everyday basics such as quality child care and out-of-pocket medical costs, both of which have risen much faster than inflation, squeezing the budgets of the poor and middle-class alike. In fact, if anything, those who we consider poor today are far more out of the social mainstream in terms of their basic income than when our poverty measure was first set in the 1960s.
To avoid a real discussion of these issues, the Heritage Foundation craftily creates indexes that rank households on skewed measures of "amenities" that suggest that no further federal action is needed to buoy the standard of living of poor and working-class families. Such indexes are heartless and foolish. Heartless because they ignore the fact that it takes much more than a few appliances to support a family. And foolish because they lend credence to the calls for cutting the supports that research has shown are necessary for every child to become a healthy and productive adult.
In fact, poverty is a serious problem for those Americans without access to medical care, education, stable housing, access to legal services and healthy food.
Experts find that government programs actually help to alleviate "vast amounts of poverty" in the US. Forbes found that "When we measure all those goods and things the child poverty rate is 1 or 2%." The Washington Post reported that "when you take government intervention into account, poverty is down considerably from 1967 to 2012, from 26 percent to 16 percent."
Reuters and CNBC uncritically promoted a new report claiming that government regulations cost the economy over $2 trillion each year, ignoring any benefits of regulation. But the study uses the same flawed methodology as an earlier report by the same authors that was so widely panned that even the organization that commissioned it distanced itself from it.
Conservative media are claiming that unemployed Americans are "lazy" because they supposedly spend too much time "shopping" and not enough time working or looking for work. But the data they cite includes the activities of stay-at-home parents, students, people with disabilities, and retirees who are "not employed."
On September 8, fringe conservative website CNS News published an article claiming "an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping ... than to be looking for a new job. " The article ostensibly cited data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), an annual survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). CNS claimed that "only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed" engaged in job searches or job interviews on "an average day." Meanwhile, according to CNS, 22.5 percent of the "unemployed" engaged in shopping "for items other than groceries" on "an average day."
Unfortunately, CNS did not link to its internal data or provide methodology for its reporting, leaving readers to take the website's claims at face value.
Digging into the technical notes of the ATUS reveals that the BLS does not categorize individuals as "unemployed," but rather as "not employed." This distinction is important, as it includes individuals who fit the classification of being unemployed -- not working but actively looking for work -- as well as individuals who are "not in the labor force" for other reasons, including retirement, educational pursuit, and disability. So-called "discouraged workers," the small percentage of the population who involuntarily leave the labor force due to a lack of opportunity, would also count as "not employed" by ATUS classification.
CNS' insinuation that the so-called "unemployed" spend too much time engaged in non-work activities like "shopping" is based on a fatally skewed statistical error. But that fact has not stopped right-wing media outlets from using CNS' assumptions to fuel their campaign against the unemployed.
From the September 10 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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George Will promoted a "key issue" of a lobbying group in his Washington Post column just two weeks after giving the keynote address at its conference.
Journalism ethicists have recently raised concerns about Will's ethical practices, and have urged greater transparency and disclosure in his Post columns. Will has been criticized for failing to reveal his connections to Wisconsin's conservative Bradley Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a massive political group backed by the industrialist Koch brothers.
Will wrote an August 15 Washington Post column criticizing the "distracting crusade against the minor and sensible business practice called 'inversion,'" in which corporations leave the United States for a country with a lower corporate tax rate. He added that a "sensible corporate tax rate would be zero. This is so because corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them, necessarily passing on the burden as a cost of doing business. And studies suggest that corporations' workers bear a significant portion of the burden."
Will gave the keynote address to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Retail Advocates Summit on July 30 in Washington, D.C. NRF is a trade and lobbying organization that represents "the interests of the retail industry through advocacy, communications and education." The group's annual DC summit brings "retailers who are passionate about policies they believe in can come to Washington to be advocates for change."
The summit listed as one of its "key issues" "Lower business tax rates," writing that "Corporate tax reform would benefit retailers in a number of ways, like allowing companies to make decisions based on business strategies rather than tax implications and increasing investment and job creation by passing along tax reduction to their customers."
NRF states on its website that it "has led the retail industry's push for tax reform and is an original steering committee member of the RATE Coalition, which represents a broad range of industries dedicated to the issue. In the course of dozens of meetings with lawmakers, policy experts and opinion leaders, and through reports and testimony, NRF has emphasized that reform of the existing tax system--not bumper-sticker proposals to abolish the IRS or scrap the tax code--is the proper path to economic prosperity."
The lobbying group posted a July 22 public policy article arguing that inversions are "evidence of the need for the United States to reform its federal tax system" in the form of lower corporate taxes.
Will, who is also a Fox News contributor, is represented by Washington Speakers Bureau, which lists his fee as "$40,001 & up." NRF did not respond to a request for comment.
The Society of Professional Journalists recently updated its Code of Ethics to include new provisions regarding transparency. The group's ethics chair cited Will's AFP disclosure failure as an example of a conflict journalists should attempt to avoid.
From the September 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) responded to guest radio host Erick Erickson's recent remarks that people who work in fast food have "failed at life," calling the statement "degrading" and "out of touch" with hard working Americans.
On the September 4 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson called minimum wage workers failures stating:
If you're a 30 -something year- old person and you're making minimum wage, you've probably failed at life. It's not that life dealt you a bad hand. Life does not deal you cards. It's that you failed at life.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released a statement on Erickson's "degrading remarks" about fast food workers.
Fast food workers often work 2 to 3 jobs just to put food on the table and to take care of their families. Erick Erickson is clearly out of touch if he thinks this is something to attack. He ought to interview these workers on his radio show - maybe then he will learn what real work is.
Over the last year, the Progressive Caucus has been privileged to stand side by side with Americans from all across the country as they organize and rally for fair wages. We have met thousands of hard working men and women, many of whom work far more than 40 hours per week. Contrary to Erickson's remarks, not one of them has failed at life.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed downplayed the seriousness of food insecurity in the United States, claiming that government research on the topic "isn't about hunger" and dismissing the millions of Americans who faced uncertain access to food last year.
On September 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report on household food security in the United States, finding that 17.5 million households in the country were food insecure in 2013, meaning that they had "limited or uncertain" access to "nutritionally adequate and safe food."
In response to the USDA report, The Wall Street Journal published a September 3 opinion piece by James Bovard attacking government focus on food insecurity as a measurement of widespread hunger in the United States. Bovard suggested thatmembers of food-insecure households are not legitimately hungry because "widespread hunger" has been "debunked" by another USDA report that found children in low-income households consume more calories on average than those in higher-income households. Bovard cited the higher consumption of calories by children in low-income households as evidence of a "paradoxical relationship between food stamps and food insecurity" and demanded more transparency on what food stamp benefits are being spent on.
But by denying the legitimacy of measuring food insecurity, Bovard erased food insecurity's pervasive impact across the United States. Although hunger and food insecurity are in fact separate issues, as Bovard pointed out, the USDA underscores that they are still "related." According to the USDA, "Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited access to food, while hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity." The USDA began to distinguish between food insecurity and hunger in the department's research due to a "lack of consistent meaning of the word" hunger.
Citing higher calorie consumption among children in low-income households as evidence that debunks child hunger is also misleading. As the Food Research and Action Center points out, food insecure and low-income people are especially vulnerable to obesity, due to "[l]imited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable foods," which are primary factors in those living in poverty consuming higher-calorie foods. The center says that healthy food is often more expensive and less available than energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods.