Contradicting Fox's reporting, Cavuto suggested the bailout bill would not have failed "if Nancy Pelosi had just shut up earlier"

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

Fox News' Neil Cavuto contradicted reporting by Fox News by suggesting that the financial bailout bill would not have failed if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "had just shut up earlier and not characterized it one way or the other" in a speech she gave before the vote. However, Fox News producer Chad Pergram reported before Pelosi spoke that Republicans "may only have 40 to 60 of their members" supporting the bill, a number that Pergram said "leaves us very short there." Additionally, several GOP House members have said that Pelosi's speech did not cause Republicans to switch their votes.

Contradicting reporting by Fox News, on the September 29 edition of Fox News' America's Election Headquarters, Fox News host Neil Cavuto said of the failure of the financial bailout bill "that none of this, I don't think, would have happened if [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] had just shut up earlier and not characterized it one way or the other" in a speech she gave before the House vote. Earlier in the program, Fox News uncritically aired statements by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) blaming Pelosi for the bill's failure. Additionally, America's Election Headquarters co-host Heather Nauert uncritically reported that an unnamed source told Fox that Pelosi's "partisan speech has caused our members to go berserk and may cost us the remaining chance to pass the bill." However, contrary to Cavuto's assertion and Nauert's report that Pelosi's speech was responsible for the bill's failure, Fox News senior House producer Chad Pergram reported nearly an hour before Pelosi's speech began that he was "hearing from the Republican side of the aisle, they may only have 40 to 60 of their members" supporting the bill, a number that Pergram stated "leaves us very short there."

Further, while the vote was occurring, Pergram cited an unnamed Republican source's comment that Pelosi's speech was "a little partisan"; that "some members went berserk at this"; and that "they were very worried that this could actually hurt their efforts to bring this across the finish line." But Pergram added: "Now, I wonder if that's a bit of spin, maybe to try to hang this on the speaker, and be able to blame her if this, in fact, goes down, and the market craters." And, after the vote, on Fox News' Studio B, host Shepard Smith said to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "[O]ur House of Representatives producer, Chad Pergram, who is as plugged in in the House of Representatives as anyone in any network in America, has been reporting on Fox News Channel all day long that there were never, under any circumstances, more than 70 Republican votes."

Sixty-five Republicans and 140 Democrats ultimately voted for the bill -- 12 votes short of the number needed for passage.

Later that evening, on Fox's Special Report with Brit Hume, correspondent Molly Henneberg reported that "[s]ome of the House GOP conservatives who voted against the bill say Pelosi's speech had nothing to do with it," and aired a clip of Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) saying, "We are not babies who suck our thumbs. We had very principled reasons for voting no." Media Matters for America has documented several other Republican House members saying that Pelosi's speech did not cause Republicans to switch their votes.

From the September 29 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

JON SCOTT (host): The crucial vote just about an hour away now. Fox's senior House producer, Chad Pergram, is live from Capitol Hill. He joins us now by phone. All right, this vote, coming up in about an hour or so, Chad. Any guesses as to how it's going to go?

PERGRAM: I'll tell you what. This is really an exceedingly tough vote. Lawmakers are literally all over the map on this, and it's because the stakes are so high. You know, coming together, coalitions in Congress to pass or defeat bills is a very specialized bit of alchemy. Nobody really knows how many Republicans might go for this, how many Democrats might go for this.

I'm hearing that there are about 130 members of the Democratic caucus that would go for this. That's about 105 short, out of their total membership. But they need about 90 Republicans, if that's the case. And I'm hearing from the Republican side of the aisle, they may only have 40 to 60 of their members, and that leaves us very short there. This is going to be a tense hour here. We're at D-day, H-hour, as they said at Normandy, and we don't know how this is going to go. There's going to be a lot of knuckle-cracking and arm-twisting in the next hour, if you hear that coming out of Capitol Hill here.

From the September 29 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:

MARTHA MacCALLUM [host]: So, we've got 427 congressmen -- what is that number -- who have voted right now. Four hundred and twenty-seven. How many votes -- how many votes are left? You have several people who are not voting, I think --

PERGRAM: There's seven -- there's seven votes right now of people who have not voted. I can't tell in the chamber -- 'cause what they do, behind the dais, there's a board where you can tell if everybody has voted. It lists each member's name with a green light, or a red light, or an orange light if you vote "present." I can't see that from this point here.

One point I should make, though. I got this from a Republican source shortly before the vote started. They thought that the speech given by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a little partisan, and the source tells me that some members went berserk at this -- that was the term that was used, berserk -- and they were very worried that this could actually hurt their efforts to bring this across the finish line.

Now, I wonder if that's a bit of spin, maybe to try to hang this on the speaker, and be able to blame her if this, in fact, goes down, and the market craters.

From the September 29 edition of Fox News' Studio B with Shepard Smith:

SMITH: Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, is on the Hill now and has been good enough to stand by as all of this is going on, and we appreciate the fact that you are allowing us to give balance here. Was this about hurt feelings, as the Democrats are so vocally insisting today, senator? And if not, what was it?

GRAHAM: This is exhibit A as to why the Congress is at 12 percent. The question that must be asked is: Why would Nancy Pelosi make such a speech at such a crucial time regarding our nation's financial status? You know, Congressman Frank is funny and clever, but there's nothing funny about this. Why would you poison the well right before the speech?

There are 13 votes that need to be gathered. I think they can be, but this just didn't start today. Last week, Harry Reid said John McCain must vote for the Paulson proposal -- no Democrat will unless John votes for the Paulson proposal. Wednesday, Secretary Paulson went to the House Republicans and laid out his plan, and it was asked, "How many are for the Paulson proposal?" Four people raised their hand. The Paulson proposal wasn't getting any support because it wasn't what we needed. John comes back after I urge him to, because we're going nowhere, and from the time he steps onto the floor of the Senate and the House here, he gets nothing but criticized. And right before the vote, Nancy Pelosi gives a blame speech.

Here's the answer -- go back at it. The Democrats are in charge in the House. Try to find 13 votes for the good of the nation, and knock this off. This is killing America's ability to get credit, to be able to borrow money to buy a home, to go to college, to be able to grow your business. We're 13 votes away, and Speaker Pelosi, I think, exhibited exactly what's wrong with this place. But forget about that. Let's get it right. If anybody who thought we had a deal before John came, now you know we never did, and we never will, until people put the country first. So, I hope we'll put the country first, muster the political courage and the maturity to pass legislation to protect America when she needs protecting.

SMITH: Senator, our House of Representatives producer, Chad Pergram, who is as plugged in in the House of Representatives as anyone in any network in America --

GRAHAM: Yeah.

SMITH: -- has been reporting on Fox News Channel all day long that there were never, under any circumstances, more than 70 Republican votes.

GRAHAM: Right. Absolutely.

SMITH: What I'm curious to know is -- help me understand the strangeness of Washington, Senator Graham. Why in the world would the Speaker of the House -- before two days of Jewish holidays, where they know they cannot get work done -- why in the world would you call a vote when you're 100 percent sure that there aren't enough Republicans, and knowing that 90-plus Democrats are gonna vote against this? Why call the vote? And once you do, why cut off debate? Why not take people back in the cloakroom and twist arms? Why just give a blame speech and not try harder?

GRAHAM: I think that's the main thing. Why would you give a speech blaming failure before the vote occurs at a time when America needs confidence?

From the September 29 edition of Fox News' America's Election Headquarters:

(begin video clip)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER [R-OH]: We've put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today. But the speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get to go south.

REP. ERIC CANTOR [R-VA]: Right here is the reason I believe why this vote failed. And this is Speaker Pelosi's speech that, frankly, struck the tone of partisanship that, frankly, was inappropriate in this discussion.

(end video clip)

HEATHER NAUERT [co-host]: The $700 billion economic recovery package gets rejected in the House of Representatives today -- 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans voting against it. Some Republican members never liked the bill from the get-go, but today some are saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's speech put the nail in the coffin. It's a speech that she gave just before the vote started. A source telling Fox News that her, quote, "partisan speech has caused our members to go berserk and may cost us the remaining chance to pass the bill." Here's a quick sample:

PELOSI [video clip]: $700 billion dollars, a staggering number, but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country, policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton's surpluses. Four years in a row -- budget surpluses, on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion dollars in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around. And now, eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an "anything goes" economic policy, has taken us to where we are today.

NAUERT: Things are getting really nasty on Capitol Hill. Hello, everyone. I'm Heather Nauert.

ALEXIS GLICK [co-host]: And I'm Alexis Glick. Welcome to a special edition of America's Election Headquarters: Saving Our Economy.

NAUERT: The stock market not liking this news today -- the Dow Jones industrials plummeting, closing down 777 points. It's the biggest daily point loss of all time.

GLICK: So, what does this mean for the market, and for the U.S. economy? Should you be nervous? Well, host of Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto joins us now. Neil, just moments ago -- you and I were talking about this earlier today -- but moments ago, we heard from Treasury Secretary [Henry] Paulson about the dire need to get something done immediately. Is his voice being heard? What happens next?

CAVUTO: You know, I don't think it is being heard. I think he's very frustrated, because you and I were looking at the possibilities, Alexis, for Fox Business Network, too. I mean, in order to get some of those 93, 94 Democrats who voted against this onboard, to a man or woman, a lot of them felt that there wasn't enough in there for Main Street, presumably for Main Street, you offer mortgage relief. Some of the Republicans who voted for this say, "That's way too expensive." So, the ones who supported this would probably vote against it if it includes a lot of expensive add-ons for mortgage relief.

So, there we are at the Mexican standoff again. And this point decline that we see today, that while a record in points, I'm sure you guys also pointed out, it is not a record in percentage terms. In fact, in percentage terms, down about 7 percent, it wouldn't even crack the top 10. But, nevertheless, it is an eye-popping number. And we'll probably see more of that if they just sort of stumble around this and point fingers or just aim fingers.

GLICK: You know, Neil, I, I hate to suggest to this, but some will think that this is the kind of medicine we needed to show the American people that this isn't just about Wall Street or just about rescuing investment banks. I mean, we have seen Washington Mutual and Wachovia Bank taken over in the past couple of days. Is this perhaps what we need to get people off the fence to say, "You know what, maybe this is going to affect me in my backyard"?

CAVUTO: Well, it's a very good point, Alexis. And a lot of the people, especially some of the Democrats who were conducting press conferences today -- from Barney Frank, et al. -- they've been saying that: "See, this is what we meant when we said there's hell to pay if you don't do this." And -- and they hope that in an ironic kind of crass way, what happened to the markets will serve as a reminder what could happen again if they don't skedaddle on this.

But, I don't know if that's going to be enough, because the differences, really -- I don't know what you've been finding out, Alexis or Heather -- but from the people I've talked to, there really is like a chasm between Democrats and Republicans on this. Republicans already are very leery of committing themselves to this humungous spending program, even though, of course, they were big spenders when they were in the majority. But this is just over the top for them.

Democrats are very nervous signing on to something that they know their constituents can't stand, and they know offers very little relief for Main Street, even though that was not its initial intention. So, I have a feeling this drags on awhile. And even if they do cobble together a package that is likable to the leadership on both sides, the devil is getting those party members onboard, and that was the problem today. The leadership liked it, and then it fell apart.

But, I think you're right to point out, and this is not casting political aspersions, that none of this, I don't think, would have happened if Nancy Pelosi had just shut up earlier and not characterized it one way or the other. She might be right, but all -- it got a lot of folks angry because they were saying, "You were editorializing on a vote before we had the vote," and sort of giving away the gift horse, for the other side of a horse.

From the September 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

MOLLY HENNEBERG [Fox News correspondent]: Almost immediately after the $700 billion financial bailout bill went down in the House, 228-205, with two-thirds of Democrats and about a third of Republicans voting for it, House GOP leaders, who supported the measure and said they thought they had the votes this morning, said there was a reason why more Republicans didn't go for it.

BOEHNER: I do believe that we could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House.

HENNEBERG: He's talking about remarks Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made on the House floor shortly before the vote began. She blamed the financial crisis on, quote, "the failed Bush economic policies."

PELOSI: For too long, this government, in eight years, has followed a right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation.

HENNEBERG: Republicans say such comments so angered a number of their colleagues they switched their decision and voted against the bill.

REP. ROY BLUNT [R-MO]: We did think we had a dozen more votes going to the floor than we had. No more than that, but we thought we had a dozen more.

HENNEBERG: Democratic leaders found that laughable.

REP. BARNEY FRANK [D-MA]: We don't believe they had the votes, and I think they are covering up the embarrassment of not having the votes. Give me those 12 people's names, and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them.

HENNEBERG: Some of the House GOP conservatives who voted against the bill say Pelosi's speech had nothing to do with it.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN [R-MN]: We are not babies who suck our thumbs. We had very principled reasons for voting no.

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