The White House released a series of statements, reportedly initiated by new press secretary Tony Snow, attacking specific media reports and editorials as misleading. Conservatives in the media have touted the statements as indicative of a new willingness on the part of the White House communications office, led by Snow, to call the press on its misinformation. But Media Matters for America has found that, of the six "Setting the Record Straight" releases issued from May 8 to May 11, at least four are highly misleading.
Chris Matthews claimed that the Democratic Party "hasn't done jack" to improve the economic well-being of poorer and middle-class Americans. In fact, during the Clinton administration -- the last period during which Democrats had significant control over national economic policy -- the economy added more jobs per year, unemployment decreased, and personal per capita income increased more per year than it has under President Bush.
Wall Street Journal articles on the $70 billion GOP tax bill ignored entirely the disproportionate benefit to the wealthy of the GOP package.
Stephen Moore selectively cited Internal Revenue Service statistics in order to buttress his assertion that "[i]n the aftermath of the Bush investment tax cuts, the federal income tax burden has substantially shifted onto the backs of the wealthy." In fact, the reason that the total share of income tax paid by those making more than $200,000 increased between 2002 and 2004 is that the number of people earning at least that much increased substantially, as did the average income of people within that bracket. However, filers earning at least $200,000 actually paid an average of 4 percent less federal income tax in 2004 than they did in 2002, even though their average incomes increased 10 percent during the same period.
Fox News' Carl Cameron misleadingly suggested that "Senate Democrats, along with a handful of moderate Republicans" were to blame for adding billions of dollars in spending projects to an emergency supplemental appropriations bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane relief, and bird-flu preparedness.
ABC World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas -- repeating a false characterization by the Bush administration that has been repeatedly debunked -- described the revised estimates for when the Social Security and Medicare programs' respective trust funds will become depleted as "the day when the Social Security and Medicare programs run out of money." In fact, neither program would "run out of money" when its trust fund became depleted.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto asked whether the May 1 "Day Without Immigrants" protests were "freedom of expression or economic terrorism."
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Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed that "the federal government and the state and local governments take about 50 percent of our income." Hannity's claim is contradicted by the conservative Tax Foundation, which has calculated that Americans' total tax burden has never exceeded 33.6 percent of income in a given year.
CNN's Dana Bash falsely claimed that a controversial provision inserted into an emergency spending bill by Mississippi Republican Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran would fund a rail line that Lott and Cochran "want to be built." In fact, the $700 million appropriation would fund the senators' efforts to move the existing CSX freight line despite the fact that, following Hurricane Katrina, CSX rebuilt the line at a cost of between $250 million and $300 million.
Time White House correspondent Mike Allen granted anonymity to Bush administration sources promoting new White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten's five-point "recovery plan," which Allen reported 'is aimed at pushing him [President Bush] up slightly in opinion polls and reassuring Republican activists." Allen also allowed an unnamed "Republican frequently consulted by the White House" to attack Democrats over rising diplomatic tensions with Iran.
On the April 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Pat Buchanan falsely claimed that "the Dow Jones [Industrial Average] hit a record today" and that "the stock market is at an all-time high." In fact, none of the three major U.S. stock market indices reached record highs on April 20.
Fox News' Jim Angle falsely suggested that the U.S. has begun to close its trade deficit with China. Noting that Chinese President Hu Jintao "said China is shifting away from a reliance on exports to the U.S. to fuel its economy and moving, instead, toward more consumption at home," Angle uncritically reported that, according to President Bush and Hu, "that is already happening, to some extent, as U.S. exports to China increased last year by 21 percent." However, Angle failed to note that imports from China to the U.S. increased nearly 24 percent during the same period, further widening the U.S.-China trade deficit by 25 percent over 2004.
NBC News' Andrea Mitchell falsely suggested that the United States, unlike China, does not import oil from Venezuela and Nigeria. However, according the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States imports significant quantities of oil from Venezuela and Nigeria. In fact, in January 2006, Venezuela was the second-largest source of imported oil to the United States, after Canada.
Bill O'Reilly asserted that homeless people will "not support themselves" because they "want to get drunk, or they want to get high ... or they don't want to work [because] they're too lazy." In fact, debilitating mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and manic depression, physical and sexual abuse, abject poverty, and other involuntary health conditions such as diabetes and cancer are among the leading causes of homelessness in America; additionally, 25 percent of the homeless population is reportedly under the age of 18.
Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that "[m]ost Republicans didn't want" the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. In fact, in both the House and the Senate, congressional Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement.