Fox & Friends suggested that donations to Rep. Steny Hoyer played a role in the awarding of a government contract to a Maryland company, but Hoyer's office has denied any involvement, which Fox & Friends did not note.
On July 10, Fox & Friends suggested that donations to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) played a role in the awarding of a government contract to a Maryland company. However, Hoyer's office has stated that Hoyer "had no involvement whatsoever with this contract." Fox & Friends did not provide Hoyer's office's denial nor did the hosts give any indication they attempted to contact Hoyer's office.
Guest co-host and Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said that a Maryland-based firm, Smartronix, "that has ties to Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer just got a whopper of a contract. Smartronix will get $18 million to fix up recovery.gov." Napolitano later asked: "[H]ow is it decided who gets this money? Does it have anything to do with politics? Could politics possibly be playing a role?" During the discussion, onscreen text read: "Recovery.gov Is a Gold Mine For Firm That Has Ties To Steny Hoyer" and "firm execs gave $19,000 to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)."
As Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert has noted, The Washington Examiner's David Freddoso wrote a blog post on the issue on July 9, titled, "Hoyer-linked firm wins $18M Recovery.gov contract." Freddoso later updated the post to state that "Stephanie Lundberg, Hoyer's spokesman, said the House Majority Leader had no involvement in the awarding of the contract to Smartronix, and that his office didn't even know about the award until last night." From Freddoso's July 9 post on the Examiner Beltway Confidential blog:
Stephanie Lundberg, Hoyer's spokesman, said the House Majority Leader had no involvement in the awarding of the contract to Smartronix, and that his office didn't even know about the award until last night, presumably as a result of a posting on the ABC News blog, The Note.
Lundberg also strongly objected to what she called "the suggestion in your headline that this was awarded to them because of Mr. Hoyer. He had no involvement whatsoever with this contract, and you should change the headline. That crosses the line." Lundberg also said Smartronix is "just a small company in our district, in St. Mary's County, they have no political involvement, they were just supporting their hometown congressman."
St. Mary's County, MD, is at the lower tip of the Southern Maryland peninsula and is home to multiple Navy facilities, including the Naval Air Station Patuxent.
Update by Mark Tapscott
The National Journal Group's Nextgov website also reported that Hoyer's office denies that he was involved with the contract. Correspondent Gautham Nagesh wrote in a July 9 article: "Records of campaign donors show Smartronix executives have given $19,000 to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., since 1999, but the lawmaker's office said Hoyer did not know anything about the contract, and the office was informed about the award only Tuesday night."
During the segment, Fox & Friends showed the following onscreen text:
Fox & Friends also did not note that, as Boehlert stated, the donations were reportedly over a 10-year period.
From the July 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
NAPOLITANO: A Maryland firm that has ties to Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer just got a whopper of a contract. Smartronix will get $18 million to fix up recovery.gov.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): But why do they need all that money? Jerry Brito is the co-creator of StimulusWatch.org. Glad to know that you're out there, Jerry, with an organization --
BRITO: Thank you very much.
CARLSON: -- that's watching over the stimulus money, because, by all accounts, our own administration in Washington is admitting that they don't know where a lot of this money has gone. Are you surprised?
BRITO: Well, I mean, I'm not sure if they're admitting that they don't know where the money has gone, I just think, at this point, they have not released that data. They need to make the data available, you know, right away.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): What do they need this money for? I mean, 18 -- this is an incredible amount of money to overhaul a website that should have been up and running and ready to go already.
BRITO: I think you're right that the website should have been up hopefully sooner than it has been. Really, you only probably need about a million dollars to build a website like this. So, it's really $9.5 million in the next six months to build this website.
That has been a shocking figure. But the problem is, though, right now, we haven't seen the contract. So we don't know what we're getting for this money. That's really important that they --
NAPOLITANO: Jerry, who decides and how is it decided who gets this money? Does it have anything to do with politics? Could politics possibly be playing a role?
BRITO: Well, I don't know about politics, but can I tell you this: This is a contract that was offered by GSA only to its alliance contract members, right. So, there are 59 companies in the country that are eligible to bid on this contract. Of those 59, it seems that only 2 or 3 actually bid on this contract. When you have such a small pool of eligible bidders, you're probably going to see a higher price tag.
CARLSON: But wouldn't the administration have better PR if they said, hey, we're going to hardly spend a dime on this website because, by the way, what we're reporting to you is all the money that we're spending that's yours? I mean, wouldn't a PR firm look at this and say you should spend as little money as possible to send out a really great message to the taxpayer that we're looking out for every dollar that we're taking from you?
BRITO: Yeah, I think this is definitely a PR nightmare so far for two reasons. Number one, this is a website that's supposed to be about transparency. And they have been very non-transparent about how they have chosen the contractor, what we're getting for the $9.5 million, possibly 18 million. We don't know any of this. It's very opaque.
The other thing is, is that you probably could have gotten this website almost for free because all you have to do is make the data available in a raw format. Right --
BRITO: -- so you make all of the data available and a third party like StimulusWatch.org, like Fox News, like a newspaper company, can take this data and build their own website. And there are lots of folks out there who want to have this data so they can build presentations of how much -- of where the money is being spent, right? You might have a union that wants to take the data and show --
BRITO: -- where the money is being spent over where unemployment is; or you might want to have some folks find fraud, waste, and abuse.
CARLSON: All right. Well, Jerry Brito, StimulusWatch.org co-creator. Thanks very much for keeping a watch on some of this stuff for us.
BRITO: Thank you.