Twice on February 20, MSNBC promoted Rick Santelli's rant the previous day over President Obama's proposed foreclosure reduction plan, which Santelli said "promot[es] bad behavior" and "subsidiz[es] the losers' mortgages." In neither case did MSNBC provide any substantive response to those criticisms.
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On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan perpetuated the myth that government efforts to expand affordable housing to underserved communities caused the financial crisis, a charge that has frequently taken the form of attacks on the Community Reinvestment Act. In fact, as Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has stated: "Our own experience with CRA over more than 30 years and recent analysis of available data, including data on subprime loan performance, runs counter to the charge that CRA was at the root of, or otherwise contributed in any substantive way to, the current mortgage difficulties."
Rush Limbaugh falsely stated that President Obama said "that we all must learn to live within our means and not expect the values of our homes to go up 10, 20 percent over our lifetimes ever again," later adding, "This is what I mean by him talking down the economy." In fact, Obama said that we should "not assume that housing prices are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent every year" [emphasis added].
On The O'Reilly Factor, Karl Rove falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank "was one of the more prominent opponents of [housing] reform in 2004 and 2005." In fact, Frank supported efforts to enhance regulatory oversight on mortgage brokers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2005, and he has long championed policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough falsely suggested that Rep. Barney Frank is only now, in the wake of the mortgage crisis, taking the position that the government should focus on the expansion of affordable rental housing, rather than enacting policies geared toward universal home ownership. In fact, Frank has long advocated that the government focus on expanding affordable rental housing.
Bloomberg columnist Caroline Baum asserted that "[a]s the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee," before he became chairman in 2007, Rep. Barney Frank "consistently opposed stricter regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." In fact, Frank has supported legislation to strengthen oversight over Fannie and Freddie, both as ranking member and as chairman. Further, Frank advocated for "a bill that would have enhanced the regulatory structure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" during a hearing from which Baum quoted in the column.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank, "who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody." In fact, Frank has advocated for policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership.
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that a homeless woman at President Obama's Fort Myers town hall event asked Obama for a "car" and "a new kitchen." In fact, Henrietta Hughes was simply saying that she needs housing. She stated: "[W]e need something more than a vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help."
Fox News' Greta Van Susteren allowed Sen. Lindsey Graham to advance the myth that the economic recovery legislation would "reward ACORN." In fact, neither the House version nor the proposed Senate version mentions ACORN. The false claim is based on a misrepresentation of a provision that would appropriate $4.19 billion for neighborhood stabilization activities, but which would be distributed through competitive processes; ACORN has denied that it is eligible, or plans to apply, for those funds.
On Special Report, Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer echoed other conservatives in claiming that the Community Reinvestment Act and efforts to expand affordable housing are at least in part to blame for the home foreclosure crisis. But as experts have noted, the CRA does not govern the vast majority of subprime lenders.
On MSNBC Live, Norah O'Donnell asked Dina ElBoghdady to "explain" why the "centerpiece of the federal program to help struggling homeowners has been a complete failure," but the two noted only HUD Secretary Steve Preston's assertion that, in O'Donnell's words, "it's Congress to blame." Neither O'Donnell nor ElBoghdady mentioned any Democratic criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act.
Radio host Lars Larson played a spoof "Barney Frank for President" advertisement, in which a person said: "Now remember, this Erection Day -- Election Day, vote for Barney Frank for President. I'm Barney Fag -- uh, Frank and I approve this massage -- message." Larson also baselessly suggested that Frank allowed his relationship in the 1990s with a Fannie Mae official to improperly influence his conduct as a member of the House Financial Services Committee. In fact, Frank repeatedly took actions over the years to strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Rush Limbaugh and KSFO's Lee Rodgers repeated a variation of the claim that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave "5 million illegal aliens" subprime loans that they have not paid back. Quinn & Rose's Jim Quinn also cited the 5 million statistic without citing a source for the figure. None of these radio hosts noted that HUD has reportedly stated that this statistic is false.
Conservative and other media figures -- echoing a reported strategy on the part of Republicans -- have attempted to lay blame for the financial crisis on proponents of the expansion of affordable housing. Those attacks are premised on several myths and falsehoods.