Right-wing media figures have repeatedly criticized Obama administration officials for claiming that the U.S. will default if the debt ceiling is not raised by October 17, instead claiming the U.S. could prioritize payments to bondholders as a way to avoid default. But economists note that the threat of default is real and that the prioritization alternative proposed by Republicans is not a long-term solution.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox Business host Melissa Francis erroneously claimed that previous government shutdowns in the 1990s did not harm the economy, a notion that is in direct opposition to economic evidence.
On the October 1 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, host Bill Hemmer discussed the ongoing government shutdown with Francis. During the discussion, Francis chided President Obama for claiming that previous shutdowns in the 1990s harmed the economy, claiming that data show "that wasn't the case."
Francis' argument rested upon the fact that over earlier shutdowns, GDP growth remained relatively strong and stabilized at levels above pre-shutdown rates. The Daily Caller presented a similar argument in an article on September 29, claiming the "economy boomed" during previous shutdowns.
While Francis is correct that growth remained strong over the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, this doesn't answer the question of what growth would have been like in absence of a shutdown.
According to Joel Prakken, senior managing director at Macroeconomic Advisers, those shutdowns shaved 0.25 percentage points off GDP growth for the end of 1995, mostly due to federal employee furloughs. Furthermore, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that the total cost to the federal government from those shutdowns at more than $2 billion in today's dollars.
While Francis is quick to dismiss that economic growth would be affected in the current shutdown, independent analysis shows this is not the case. According to Bloomberg:
Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics Inc. estimates a three-to-four week shutdown would cut growth by 1.4 points. Zandi projects a 2.5 percent annualized pace of fourth-quarter growth without a shutdown. A two-week shutdown starting Oct. 1 could cut growth by 0.3 percentage point to a 2.3 percent rate, according to St. Louis-based Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
Fox News expressed outrage after President Obama, in a speech supporting the Affordable Care Act, pointed out that viewers watching Fox were likely to think the health care law is "horrible." On the Septmber 27 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer complained about the president's speech, absurdly asking, "What has been reported on Fox News Channel that is not accurate?"
Below is a small sample of the misinformation and outright lies that Fox has directed toward the Affordable Care Act:
From the September 27 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News hyped a misleading Wall Street Journal article that claimed young adults will face higher insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without disclosing that only a small portion of the health care market would be affected
A September 25 article in The Wall Street Journal claimed that "for some buyers, prices will rise from today's less-comprehensive policies," and went on to say that "For consumers used to skimpier plans--or young, healthy people who previously enjoyed attractive rates--that could mean significantly higher premiums." Fox News host Neil Cavuto hyped the article during an appearance on America's Newsroom, claiming, "premiums are going up, they're going up markedly...for young people in particular, the means by which we pay for all of this, their premiums are going up smartly":
Both the Journal and Fox's segment ignored that the potential premium increase is for a very small subset of the insurance market. The Center for American Progress estimated that "only about 3 percent" of young adults have the potential to see premium increases, which makes up about half of one percent of all Americans:
Fox News personalities have claimed that Muslims are refusing to speak out against the deadly terror attack on a Kenyan shopping mall, despite the fact that Muslim leaders in the United States and in Kenya have condemned the attack as "heinous" and an "outrageous act of violence" that is against the teachings of Islam.
From the September 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox's Martha MacCallum preemptively attacked President Obama's upcoming remarks regarding healthcare costs in relation to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, claiming that the truth behind premium costs "flies in the face" of what Obama has previously said and would say in his speech. MacCallum predicted that Obama would incorrectly claim that healthcare costs are lowering -- but Obama reported that while rising healthcare costs are a continuing concern, the rate of increase in costs is at its lowest in 50 years, a fact he's acknowledged in the past.
Discussing Walgreens' recent decision to move some employees to private health insurance exchanges on America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that Walgreens made their decision because, as he paraphrased, they "can't afford the constant rising cost of healthcare and [they] cannot afford the cost of compliance with Obamacare." MacCallum, along with co-host Bill Hemmer, later responded to the news, saying (emphasis added):
HEMMER: But this is the beginning of a flood. We talked about it last week, when the big companies step up and say we're going to change the policy, many, many others will follow.
MACCALLUM: And it flies in the face of what you're hearing from the president, and we'll hear it today as well: That premiums are going down. That costs are going down. So if costs were truly going down, what would be forcing these companies to push people off of their rolls onto this, you know, 'Here's your check,' and, you know, 'good luck.'
Despite MacCallum's claim, what the president has previously acknowledged is that while healthcare costs are still rising, increases have slowed to their lowest rate in 50 years -- a fact that Fox failed to report.
OBAMA: Healthcare costs, which were and continue to be a major source of concern, are increasing at the slowest rate in 50 years, and for many of you, in terms of your bottom lines, employer based healthcare plans have gone up at about a third of what they were going up when I first took office.
Fox has a habit of pre-emptively dismissing, ignoring, and cutting away from Obama's speeches. MacCallum's misconstruance of Obama's remarks on healthcare costs is not surprising given the network's long history of reporting misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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The Republicans on the House Oversight Committee just released their latest report on last year's attacks in Benghazi. One of its conclusions was that "it is likely, based on email evidence, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's views played a role in the decision-making" regarding the Benghazi mission. This very carefully hedged and largely toothless allegation is part of the Republican PR strategy to create buzz around the report -- if you want to get reporters talking, you take a swipe at Hillary Clinton. And predictably, Fox News is giving the GOP a hand by lying about the report and overstating what it actually says.
House Oversight Committee member Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) went on Fox News' America's Newsroom this morning to discuss the report and hype up the Benghazi hearings his committee will hold later this week. Host Bill Hemmer was intrigued by the partisan report's findings, and described them for his viewers: "It also points to Hillary Clinton's views, and how they played a major role in the decision-making in Benghazi."
The report doesn't say that. Again, here's what the report says with regard to Clinton, with emphasis added:
E-mails reviewed by the Committee, however, show it is likely that Secretary Clinton's views played some role in the decision making on the future of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Hemmer transformed that uncertain and weakly supported conclusion into Clinton's views playing "a major role" in Benghazi decision-making. Chaffetz obviously didn't stop to correct Hemmer, because this is precisely what Chaffetz and the Republicans want -- irresponsible media coverage that helps stir up partisan rancor over Benghazi ahead of the hearings.
Fox News promoted research that erroneously suggests current federal debt stands at $70 trillion, a figure that amounts to a scare tactic devoid of relevant context.
On the August 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, hosts Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer suggested that the current figure of national debt is grossly underestimated. MacCallum claimed that, according to research by economist James Hamilton, "the true national debt is actually more like $70 trillion and that the government has been lowballing us for years." Hemmer then explained that the figure included Social Security, Medicare, and pension promises and claimed that "America could be in a whole lot of hurt."
The $70 trillion debt figure was also featured prominently in an article on FoxNews.com. According to the article:
Hamilton believes the government is miscalculating what it owes by leaving out certain unfunded liabilities that include government loan guarantees, deposit insurance, and actions taken by the Federal Reserve as well as the cost of other government trust funds. Factoring in those figures brings the total amount the government owes to a staggering $70 trillion, he says.
But according to experts, including liabilities in calculations of debt is inherently misleading.
The first problem is the way in which Fox misleadingly presents the figure as "debt." In an article responding to previous claims of debt being much higher than reported due to unfunded liabilities, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson explained that debt figures shouldn't include future liabilities:
Our $16 trillion in debt and our $87 trillion in "unfunded liabilities" represent two very different ideas: real past promises and projected future promises. Real past promises are, well, very real. We have to pay back our debt. Failing to do it would be an illegal and disastrous default. Unfunded liabilities are future promises, and, since they're not as real, we can change them whenever we want without destroying ourselves. For example, raising the taxable income ceiling and slowing the growth of benefits could reduce the Social Security gap to zero tomorrow.
Indeed, as Media Matters has previously noted, experts agree that citing unfunded liabilities typically amounts to nothing more than a scare tactic, mainly because, as the Congressional Budget Office explained, "no government obligation can be truly considered 'unfunded' because of the U.S. government's sovereign power to tax."
The second problem with Fox's promotion of the figure is that it removes important context, relying on a raw number instead of a relevant percentage. According to Hamilton's report, the bulk of the $70 trillion is due to obligations for Social Security and Medicare -- amounting to a total of $54.1 trillion. But while the figure may seem large, when expressed with relevant context, its gravity is greatly reduced.
In an interview with Media Matters, Josh Bivens, research and policy director at the Economic Policy Institute, explained that when compared with the size of the economy, the liabilities associated with Social Security and Medicare amount to roughly "one and a half percent of GDP." While the figure cited by Fox may be correct, omitting the size of liabilities relative to GDP unnecessarily stokes fears and misinforms viewers.
Furthermore, Bivens noted that other liabilities cited by Hamilton -- such as student loans, housing assistance, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. -- typically have assets directly attached to them that could generate revenue, a fact ignored by the report.
Fox News is turning to anti-immigrant and nativist organizations to further its failed narrative that Mexicans are gaming the immigration system by seeking asylum in the United States.
On August 12, Fox News repeatedly accused Mexicans coming into the United States from the U.S.-Mexico border of "taking advantage of a loophole" to enter the country, by invoking certain phrases like "credible fear" of drug cartels. In fact, petitioning for asylum based on "credible fear" of persecution is a legitimate and long-standing policy in immigration law.
Throughout the day, Fox News hosts and guests continued to push the narrative that immigrants were using these "bogus" asylum claims only to eventually disappear into the country after failing to attend their immigration hearings. As correspondent William LaJeunesse put it: "It's about overwhelming the system and getting released, getting a court date for which no one shows up."
To back up these assertions, Fox News relied on Pete Nunez, whom it identified simply as a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, to reinforce this last point. In numerous segments, Nunez claimed:
NUNEZ: Hundreds of thousands of people have never returned and the list of people for whom warrants are outstanding is phenomenal. So, yeah, we have a long history of people absconding from immigration hearings of one sort or another, they just blend back into the community.
According to the Department of Justice, only 11 percent of immigrants fail to appear for their immigration hearings.
None of the hosts pointed out, however, that while Nunez is indeed a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, he is also the chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and a member of the National Board of Advisors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). CIS is an anti-immigrant and nativist organization whose affiliation with hate groups has been thoroughly documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FAIR has similarly been designated a hate group by SPLC.
CIS has a long history of smears and inflammatory rhetoric against immigrants. It has also been exposed as a group that misrepresents evidence and data to substantiate dubious conclusions about immigrants. Frankly, in the words of the Center for the New Community, CIS "has proven not to be a credible voice in the debate on immigration." The American Prospect has charged that "convoluted logic and paranoia is typical of the research" CIS produces.
As to FAIR, SPLC has noted that its "leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements" and that one of the group's "main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans." FAIR has reportedly received funding from white supremacist groups.
Fox News suggested that Hillary Clinton was lying during congressional testimony about the Benghazi attack by cropping her comments and hyping baseless claims made by a discredited GOP activist. Fox News hosts also dredged up the misleading claim that Clinton dismissed the importance of Benghazi in her testimony.
On America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer hosted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to attack Clinton over Benghazi. During the segment, Hemmer reported on a baseless claim by lawyer and GOP activist Joseph diGenova that the administration is trying to cover up the theft of 400 surface-to-air missiles that were somehow linked to the Benghazi compound. DiGenova, who made these claims during an interview with the Washington, DC-area show Mornings on the Mall, could not name his sources, acknowledged that some of his information is not "verifiable," and provided no evidence to back up the allegation. More generally, diGenova is just not a credible source. Along with his wife, Victoria Toensing, he has donated extensively to Republican candidates and causes, and has a long history of investigating Democrats and defending Republicans, having been accused of lacking "impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism."
Hemmer contrasted diGenova's dubious allegation with a cropped clip of Clinton's January 23 congressional testimony in which she denied knowledge of weapons transfers from Libya to Turkey. Hemmer asked Paul whether Clinton was "not telling the truth":
Fox's attack is based on selectively cropping Clinton's comments. During her congressional testimony, Clinton was asked by Paul, "Is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?" Fox played a portion of her response, in which Clinton denied having any knowledge of a weapons transfer.
Below is the full transcript of her response to Paul's question in the January 23 hearings, with the portion that Fox omitted highlighted:
From the August 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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