Parroting GOP, media claim stimulus funding "guard rail to nowhere" -- but project was cancelled
Research ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI
Bill Sammon, Gretchen Carlson, and Investors Business Daily each claimed that the stimulus bill is funding what Sammon described as a "guard rail to nowhere." However, the Army Corps of Engineers has said that the project is "not going forward."
Discussing a report by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on "waste" in the economic recovery bill, Fox News vice president of news and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson, and Investors Business Daily each claimed on June 16 or 17 that the stimulus is funding what Sammon described as a "guard rail to nowhere." However, the Army Corps of Engineers released a statement on June 15 stating that the project is "not going forward."
On June 16, Coburn released a report he said "discloses 100 of the worst examples of waste" in the stimulus bill. One of the examples included "$1.15 million for installation of a new guard rail for the non-existent Optima Lake in Oklahoma." While referring to Coburn's report on the June 16 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, Sammon claimed: "[S]omebody dubbed it 'the guard rail to nowhere.' It's for a guard rail along a lonesome, desolate patch of highway by a waterless lake outside a town of 266 people -- $1.1 million. So, yeah, it's our tax dollars at work. There is a lot of waste there." Similarly, IBD claimed in a June 16 editorial that "Coburn found some real winners," including "a guardrail near a man-made lake that no longer contains any water, with a price tag of $1.1 million." And on the June 17 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson claimed: "What about the guard rail for the nonexistent lake? They wouldn't do that, would they? A million bucks? Nah. Yeah, they did."
However, on June 15, the Army Corps of Engineers released the following statement:
"Work on the Lake Optima guardrail project is not going forward as we explore other approaches to protecting public safety," said Mr. Gary A. Loew, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Programs Integration Division.
Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reported in a June 16 article that the White House said Coburn's report included "criticisms of projects that have already been stopped" and specifically highlighted the guard rail project:
The White House pushed back, trying to debunk the report before its official release. Poring over a draft of the report, aides to President Obama said Monday that the senator's research was flawed and in some cases driven by ideological differences.
The White House pointed out that certain projects highlighted by Coburn have been stopped. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put out a statement Monday [June 15] that it would drop plans to spend $1.1 million to repair a guardrail near a dry man-made lake in the Oklahoma panhandle -- project No. 7 in Coburn's report.
Ed DeSeve, a senior aide to Obama, said in a prepared statement: "With 20,000 projects approved, there are bound to be some mistakes -- when we find them, we have been transparent about it, and worked on a bipartisan basis to shut them down immediately. Sen. Coburn's report, however, is filled with inaccuracies, including criticisms of projects that have already been stopped, projects that never were approved, and some projects that are working quite well."
A June 11 article by KWTV-News 9 (Oklahoma City, OK) reporter Amy Lester also mentioned that the project was halted:
Plans for a million dollar guardrail have come to a halt. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is putting the brakes on a guardrail at Lake Optima in Texas County, after hearing criticism from city and state leaders who call the project a waste of money.
The guardrail is one of the projects funded by stimulus dollars. It would go up at Lake Optima, a lake that officials say barely exists at all. The Corps spokesperson tells us, they're now looking at alternatives.
Instead of replacing what they call a "deficient and damaged guardrail," they may close the road, put up warning signs or reduce the speed limit. The Corps is considering these options since they would cost a lot less than replacing the guardrail.
While Sammon spoke about the stimulus purportedly funding the guard rail, Fox News ran the following on-screen text:
While Carlson spoke, Fox News aired the following graphic:
Media Matters for America previously noted that Fox & Friends and Sammon spread the falsehood -- started by Republicans -- that the stimulus bill includes funding to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in the San Francisco wetlands.
From the June 16 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk with Martha and Trace:
TRACE GALLAGER (co-host): Well, forget the bridge to nowhere. How do you feel about your tax dollars going to fix a bridge to the local saloon? The sign points the way to Rusty's Backwater Saloon in Wisconsin. To get there, you need to cross a bridge that handles about 250 cars a day. And Uncle Sam is spending $840,000 to fix the bridge to Rusty's saloon.
It's just one example in a Republican report on pork in the president's stimulus program. The White House now responding to the findings in that report.
ROBERT GIBBS (White House press secretary) [video clip]: There are projects within the report that haven't been funded and have been canceled based on our own looking into this. So, again, I think the report appears to be in many, many cases, just flat-out wrong.
GALLAGHER: Let's bring in Washington managing editor and vice president of news, Bill Sammon. Bill, all of this pork brought to you by the company that wants to run your health insurance. I mean, you sometimes have to laugh, not to cry at some of these projects.
SAMMON: Well, in fact, there's a joke in this report that says: Why did the turtle cross the road? To get to the other side of the stimulus project. It's a reference to an underground walkway for turtles and other wildlife in Florida that was $3.4 million, because you can't have turtles getting hit by cars.
There was another project in there to study the effect of wind farms on sage grouse in Oregon. And there was yet another project -- somebody dubbed it "the guard rail to nowhere." It's for a guard rail along a lonesome, desolate patch of highway by a waterless lake outside a town of 266 people -- $1.1 million.
So, yeah, it's our tax dollars at work. There is a lot of waste there, but we shouldn't be surprised because, remember, Vice President Biden, the guy who was deputized by President Obama to be Sherriff Joe to make sure there was no wasteful spending out of the stimulus money, acknowledged to a business roundtable the other day that there was already some scamming going on, there's already some waste, and already some mistakes.
GALLAGHER: But how does any -- I mean, you're the political expert here, Bill. How does this stuff happen? I mean, if somebody really is watching the dollars, which they should be, how does this stuff happen?
SAMMON: Well, you know, a lot of desperate promises are made in the heat of the moment to pass the stimulus bill.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Thomas Coburn did this report that said -- this senator, Senator Coburn released the report --
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Right.
KILMEADE: -- and there's other examples of this.
DOOCY: Absolutely. How about -- because there was such a problem down in Lake Jackson, Florida, with turtle road kill, what they did was they spent $3.4 million on a turtle road, essentially. They're referring to it as an eco-passage. In fact, we highlighted that right here on this program. They got the money, extraordinarily.
CARLSON: What about the guard rail for the nonexistent lake? They wouldn't do that, would they? A million bucks? Nah. Yeah, they did.