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.
On Hannity & Colmes, The Wall Street Journal's John Fund falsely claimed that ACORN "almost got a slush fund in the housing bailout bill a few weeks ago." In fact, neither the September draft proposal nor the final version of the bill contained any language mentioning ACORN.
On his radio show, Neal Boortz baselessly suggested that Rep. Barney Frank "was protecting Fannie Mae for about seven or eight years in the 1990s because his lover, his boyfriend was working for Fannie Mae, pushing out these subprime mortgage packages." Boortz provided no evidence to support his suggestion that Frank allowed his personal relationship to affect his work in Congress. In fact, Frank repeatedly took actions over the years to strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The New York Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain saying of Sen. Barack Obama: "[A]s recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, a good idea." The article did not mention that McCain was distorting Obama's comments from a September 2007 speech, as several media outlets -- including the Times -- noted when McCain previously made the same accusation against Obama.
On The O'Reilly Factor and in a FoxNews.com article, Bill Sammon suggested that Rep. Barney Frank allowed his relationship in the 1990s with Herb Moses, a Fannie Mae official at the time, to improperly influence his conduct as a member of the House Financial Services Committee. However, in his article, Sammon cited only an anonymous Republican congressional staffer and a member of the conservative Media Research Center. Sammon also misrepresented Frank's record by reporting that Frank "spent years blocking GOP lawmakers from imposing tougher regulations" on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without noting that during the period in question, Frank supported legislation to increase regulation of Fannie Mae and create a government regulatory agency that would oversee some aspects of the company.
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported that Judy Black, whom he identified as "a policy director (read: lead lobbyist) for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck's DC arm" and "the wife of McCain strategist Charlie Black," forwarded a PowerPoint presentation on the "campaign contributions that Fannie and Freddie provided to leading Democratic members of Congress." But Ambinder did not point out that Charlie Black has lobbied for Freddie Mac.
On the Fox News special Saving Our Economy, Bret Baier repeated or failed to challenge numerous false assertions about the role of affordable housing initiatives in the financial crisis and Democratic responses to the crisis.
In a blog post, Jay Carney claimed that Sen. John McCain's "campaign has released a 60-second ad that uses Bill Clinton's words to pin the blame for the mortgage crisis on Democrats" without noting that in the interview clipped in the ad, Clinton actually said that "the biggest mistake" was the SEC's repealing of a regulation on short selling, when President Bush was in office.
Several conservatives in the media have recently blamed the Community Reinvestment Act for the current financial crisis -- when, in fact, the CRA does not apply to institutions making the vast majority of troubled loans underlying the crisis. It applies only to depository institutions, such as banks and savings and loan associations. Experts have estimated that 80 percent of high-priced subprime loans were offered by financial institutions that are not subject to the CRA.
In a column, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank "sat by as mortgage brokers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made bad loans." Also, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace did not challenge a similar claim by Sen. Jon Kyl that efforts by the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress to regulate Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae "were stopped at every turn by Democrats." In fact, more than a year ago, Frank sponsored a bill to create the Federal Housing Finance Agency, granting that agency "general supervisory and regulatory authority over" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and directing it to reform the two companies' business practices and regulate their exposure to credit and market risk.
Fox News' Stuart Varney misrepresented the cost of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, falsely asserting that the "House, right now, [is] voting on that $300 billion housing bailout bill." During the segment, on-air captions read "$300B Bailout Bill," and "House Voting On $300B Housing Bailout Bill." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill "would increase budget deficits (or reduce future surpluses) by about $24.9 billion over the 2008-2018 period."