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In the days following House passage of a Democratic minimum wage increase, media outlets have continued to report Republican accusations that the bill, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, caters to a company in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) district because it does not include a wage hike for American Samoa. These stories point out that Del Monte Corp., which is headquartered in Pelosi's district, owns one of American Samoa's largest employers, StarKist. But in reporting the accusation, many in the media have allowed to stand the suggestion that Pelosi's support of this bill stems from Del Monte's interest. In fact, Pelosi has supported several versions of the Fair Minimum Wage Act since it was introduced by Democrats in 1999, three years before Del Monte bought StarKist, and each has included a wage hike for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands but not for American Samoa.
Pelosi was a co-sponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1999 and co-sponsored subsequent versions of the bill, introduced in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Versions of the Fair Minimum Wage Act were also introduced in 2002 and 2004, but Pelosi was not a co-sponsor of these bills. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 passed the House 315-116 on January 10.
The most recent examples of media reports on this issue were in the January 23 edition of The Washington Times and on the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends. The Washington Times reported that Republicans were calling the American Samoa exemption a "fishy favor":
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters less than two weeks ago that she would close the loophole after coming under criticism from Republicans for what they termed a "fishy favor" to StarKist Tuna. StarKist has lobbied for years against raising the minimum wage in American Samoa, and its parent, Del Monte Corp., is based in Mrs. Pelosi's San Francisco district.
Fox & Friends also ran a story on the issue, during which on-screen text read "Fishy Favors."
From the January 23 edition Fox News' Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): She [Pelosi] pledged to raise the minimum wage and in fact the Democratic-controlled congress did pass that in their 100 Hours, but as we told you on this program, there was an exemption. And that was the fact that American Samoa would not have to pay their tuna processors more than their current $3.26. Now why American Samoa? Could it be the fact that in her home district is Del Monte, which of course, cans StarKist tuna.
As Media Matters for America previously noted, The Washington Times also advanced the false suggestion that Pelosi took campaign contributions from Del Monte, when in fact, she did not receive any money from the company.
The following media outlets reported the Republican accusations but did not report that each version of the Fair Minimum Wage Act exempted American Samoa:
- The Washington Times on January 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 23
- CNN's The Situation Room on January 12
- CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on January 12 and Lou Dobbs This Week on January 13
- Fox News' Hannity & Colmes on January 12 and 16
- Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume on January 12
- Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson on January 12
- The New York Post on January 13
- The Associated Press on January 13
- The Wall Street Journal (editorial) on January 16
- Fox News' Fox & Friends on January 23