Fox News hosts mislead viewers and each other by hyping the cost of a White House plan to fund high-speed Wi-Fi for schools while obscuring the plan's small impact on individual taxpayers.
On June 6, the White House unveiled the ConnectED initiative, a plan that would give 99 percent of American students access to "high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless" at school by 2018. The plan would be funded through a minimal tax increase on mobile phone users, which the as The Washington Post reported, "could work out to about $12 in fees for every cellphone user over three years."
Fox News similarly reported on the August 15 edition of Fox & Friends First that the initiative would only cost individual consumers about five dollars per year.
But a few hours later on Fox & Friends, the hosts and contributors seemed unable to accurately report what the predicted cost would be for individuals. Though co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Fox Business contributor Charles Payne to specify how much the initiative would "cost each of us as individuals," Payne claimed the "administration doesn't say" and instead hyped the program's net cost and unspecified higher taxes on the middle class:
PAYNE: The administration doesn't say. There's some estimates say it costs like $6 billion but you know how these estimates are when the government gets involved. We know It's going to be multibillions and billions of dollars. It's going to hit individuals, this brings us to the third point. Middle-class taxes, you know, there won't be middle-class tax hikes, but we know already there have been. These are the kinds of things that are taxes on normal, regular people. This would be a tax on every single person watching the show who didn't get a free phone from the government, they are going to have to chip in.
Later, a Fox News reporter once again explained that the increase would only be about five dollars per year, but Carlson remained confused about the ConnectED program's expected cost to individual consumers, saying in a subsequent segment: "I think it would be about $5 a year, or maybe $5 a billing cycle. I'm not exactly sure. But the entire cost is $4 to $6 billion."
Payne and Carlson both followed the media's common practice of relying on abstract and sensational raw number figures when discussing budgetary issues while either ignoring or misreporting the context that would make those figures relevant to viewers. Economists have noted that focusing on raw numbers rather than budgetary percentages or individual costs in economic reporting is often little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the economy. And Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Fox Business is claiming that because 2013 Arctic sea ice extent is unlikely to beat the 2012 record low, melting in the region is "slowing," an idea one climate scientist called "absolutely ridiculous" in the context of a long-term decline.
On Wednesday, Fox Business' Charles Payne launched a segment on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) State of the Climate report by claiming that the agency "has forgotten to mention ... that 2012 was one of the coolest years of the decade," thereby "slowing down the melting of Arctic ice this summer."
This statement was based on a lack of understanding of "regression to the mean" -- or in the case of climate change, regression to the new mean. This and other mathematical concepts seem to give Fox a lot of trouble.
Unfortunately for baby harp seals, Payne is wrong about Arctic sea ice melt "slowing" -- it seems he either didn't grasp the aforementioned idea or didn't read NOAA's report very carefully. The State of the Climate found record low Arctic sea ice extent in 2012 and included this chart illustrating monthly trends compared to the 1979-2000 average:
As Skeptical Science explained, it's unsurprising that 2013 will not likely beat that record low if you consider "regression toward the mean":
[N]ote that neither [of two statistical predictions for 2013 Arctic sea ice extent] predicts that 2013 will break the 2012 record (3.6 million square kilometers). There is a principle in statistics known as "regression toward the mean," which is the phenomenon that if an extreme value of a variable is observed, the next measurement will generally be less extreme, i.e. we should not expect to observe record lows in consecutive years. This is because when extremes are reached and records are broken, a number of different variables generally have to align in the same direction to make this happen.
Fox News ridiculed a rise in group doctor visits as the network claimed that it will become more prevalent with the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's coverage of this trend ignored reporting that group treatment can be a successful strategy for reducing healthcare costs and improving patients' health.
On the August 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson, Jr. introduced one of the show's regular "Who's Ruining The Economy" segments with the question: "[I]s less one on one time with your doctor going to be the new future under Obamacare?" before welcoming Fox News contributor Charles Payne on to discuss the increasing trend of doctors offering group appointments. After Johnson ridiculed the group doctor visits as "group therapy ... people sitting around in underwear talking about their problems," Payne predicted that it would be one of the "gimmicks" that the ACA would come to rely on to address doctor shortages as health insurance enrollment increases:
PAYNE: And these numbers, I think, are probably underscoring what's gonna really happen. Because you and I know a lot of doctors who are saying you know I want to opt out of this whole thing completely, I'll just take cash. I mean, the best doctors will be able to command cash payments from good patients, or well-off patients. So, the reality is that those numbers are probably going to be significantly higher. And again, the gimmicks will be group therapy. The gimmicks will be, you know what, I can't see you but my nurse has been with me for a long time. She's equally qualified.
Fox neglected to mention that group doctor visits have been shown to be effective at improving doctors' efficiency and the standard of care that some patients receive.
As Johnson noted, group appointments have been on the rise in recent years. In 2005, just 5.7 percent of family physicians offered group sessions, but by 2010, the number had more than doubled to 12.7 percent. Dr. Edward Noffsinger, a physician who advises others on how to implement group appointments, says that patients have highlighted the advantages of the joint care. "Patients like the diversity of issues discussed," he told Kaiser Health News, adding, "they like getting 2 hours with their doctor." Patients may also learn more in a group setting, Kaiser Health News reported: "[d]octors say patients may learn more from each other than they do from physicians."
Research has shown that group appointments can improve the quality of care that patients receive. NPR highlighted an Italian trial of more than 800 type 2 diabetes patients which found that those randomly assigned to participate in group appointments for period of four years "had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass indexes." And according to Time, "[a]bout 85% of patients who try shared medical appointments don't go back to individual visits for everything from diabetes care to weight loss, physicals and skin cancer issues." Time also noted that "[w]hile group visits cost about the same as individual ones, if patients receive more information and are better able to improve and protect their health, they are less likely to develop serious medical conditions that require expensive care later on."
In an effort to downplay the necessity of increasing the minimum wage, right-wing media figures have forwarded the notion that minimum wage jobs are primarily for teenagers and are a "stepping stone" to higher paying future employment. However, the prospects for upward mobility among minimum wage workers remain grim.
As Congress considers legislation promoting energy efficiency, Media Matters examines the facts behind such efforts. Contrary to persistent myths in the media, increasing energy efficiency of appliances and buildings is a cost-effective way to benefit the environment and economy, and has historically enjoyed bipartisan support.
As fast food workers in 7 cities walked the picket line fighting for better wages and working conditions the conservative media turned its focus towards a solution to help lift up our working men and women out of poverty -- mock them.
To respond to the day long strike, Fox trotted out Richard Berman, failing to identify him as a highly paid consultant to the food and beverage industry. He proceeded to threaten fast food workers, claiming if they demanded incomes allowing them to live above the poverty line, the only solution would be to replace them with iPads.
On Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox Business's Charles Payne claimed that the striking workers' demand for a living wage was akin to rewarding "mediocrity."
From an air conditioned studio in Rockefeller Center, the handsomely compensated Fox contributor asserted that a wage of $15 per hour earned spending countless hours on your feet without a break, in front of a hot stove, serving hundreds of customers, would be "cursing" those workers, ridding them of the impetus to "get better," "go to college," or "improve" their lot in life.
At the luxurious wage of $15 per hour minimum wage workers would spend their days "play[ing] video games" and "hav[ing] large families."
Payne, who has a long history of suggesting that the poor live in comfort, that our social safety net keeps people in poverty, and that there needs to be more "stigma" surrounding food stamps, represents the conservative id surrounding the issue of poverty.
While 4 in 5 Americans will "struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives," the right believes the solution to all of their problems is scorn.
From the July 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the July 27 edition of Fox News' Cavuto on Business:
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Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama's focus on immigration reform, saying that the top priority should be the economy and jobs. In fact, immigration reform is an economic issue: studies show that it would boost economic output and lower unemployment.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News' Cavuto On Business:
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Fox News disregarded economic evidence to claim that legislation providing a living wage in Washington, D.C. would deprive the city of jobs and keep workers in poverty, and defended Walmart after the company declared it would nix plans for locating new stores in Washington should the living wage bill pass.
The Washington, D.C. City Council recently proposed and passed legislation that would require retail outlets with a parent company yielding $1 billion or more in annual revenue to pay a living wage of $12.50 per hour to workers. In a July 9 op-ed in the Washington Post, regional general manager for Walmart U.S. Alex Barron claimed that the legislation would require the company to cancel plans to build three new stores in the district and potentially jeopardize the survival of three existing locations.
On the July 10 edition of Your World, Fox Business personalities Charles Payne and Elizabeth MacDonald quickly came to Walmart's defense. MacDonald claimed, "Walmart brings economic development time and again, we've seen that, they bring other stores that create jobs in the area."
Payne responded by claiming that the City Council was doing a disservice to the poor, and that implementing the living wage legislation would deprive them of job opportunities.
MacDonald's and Payne's assertions about Walmart's positive economic influence are in direct contrast to evidence.
A study conducted by economists David Neumark, Junfu Zhang, and Stephen Cicarella directly disproves MacDonald's theory that Walmart brings new jobs to areas in which stores are located. The authors found that counties with Walmart locations witness a net reduction in retail employment:
The employment results indicate that a Wal-Mart store opening reduces county-level retail employment by about 150 workers, implying that each Wal-Mart worker replaces approximately 1.4 retail workers.
Fox's Charles Payne responded to a Media Matters inquiry about his recent paid promotions for company stocks by declining comment on all but one question. Payne, or his firm, also appears to have scrubbed a webpage on his company's website connecting him to one of the company stocks in question.
Media Matters reported earlier today that Payne, a contributor and frequent guest host for Fox News and Fox Business, was compensated to promote the now worthless stocks of three companies (Brainy Brands, NXT Nutritionals, and Generex) since joining Fox. The practice of compensated stock endorsements is currently prohibited by Fox rules, and resulted in the recent contract termination of contributor Tobin Smith.
Payne responded to a Media Matters inquiry by declining to comment except for one question. Media Matters had asked Payne:
1) How many times has Payne, or his firm, received compensation to promote the stock of a company since October 2007?
2) How much did Payne, or his firm, receive to promote Brainy Brands Company, NXT, and Generex?
3) All three companies' stock prices appear to be virtually worthless now. Do you have any comment on how these stocks have fared given Payne's forecast?
4) Can you confirm that Payne was involved in setting up the websites Afterthecrashwinners.com, Investafterthecrash.com, and Postcrashgains.com?
5) MarketWatch reported that Fox rules state "no Contributor to FBN, nor his/her firm, and/or family members are allowed to accept financial consideration of any kind whatsoever to issue research, advertisements, or to otherwise promote individual stocks or securities." Did Payne's compensation to promote the stocks of Brainy Brands, NXT, and Generex violate this policy?
6) In 1999, Payne reached a settlement with the SEC to settle a claim without confirming or denying wrongdoings. Is Fox aware of the SEC settlement?
Payne responded this afternoon: "Never heard of any of the websites your [sic] mentioned and only affiliated with www.wstreet.com. There are no other comments to you or your organization."
A webpage on Payne's Wall Street Strategies site -- housed at www.wstreet.com/brainybrands/default.asp -- previously advertised an offer for "Charles Payne's FREE 10-day Bonus Report--Spotlight on a Winner: How Brainy Brands Is Poised to Take Over the Multibillion-Dollar Early Education Industry (a $19 value)." Media Matters linked to the webpage in its original report, and the URL was functioning prior to posting. Now, however, the URL redirects to www.wstreet.com/signup/newsletter.asp, which doesn't contain any mention of Brainy Brands. The original page is still accessible via Google Cache and is screenshotted here (see a Google search for the site here). The page carried a 2011 copyright date.
Charles Payne, a contributor and frequent guest host for Fox News and Fox Business, was compensated to promote the stocks of at least three companies since joining Fox. The practice of compensated stock endorsements is currently prohibited by Fox rules, and resulted in the recent contract termination of contributor Tobin Smith.
According to a Media Matters review, Payne was paid $40,000 to promote The Brainy Brands Company, "$25,000 by a third party" to promote NXT Nutritionals Holdings, and an undisclosed amount for a "consulting arrangement" to promote Generex Biotechnology Corporate.
The share prices of the companies Payne was paid to tout are now essentially worthless.
Payne forecasted lofty gains for investors who bought those stocks. He projected in 2011 that Brainy Brands could hit $4.50 a share in three years. At the time of the pitch, Brainy Brands was trading at around $1.35 -- it's now below 1 cent. Payne claimed in 2009 that NXT could "turn $10,000 into $25,000." At the time, NXT was trading for $2.00 -- it's now below 1/10th of a cent. And Payne claimed in November 2007 that Generex, then at $1.58, was a long term "screaming buy" which could hit $7.00. It's now trading at roughly 4 cents.
Aside from rosy projections, Payne's sponsored stock pitches shared a common theme: using his cable news and Fox credentials to assure skeptical investors that his advice was trustworthy. A direct marketing company which worked with Payne stated it brandished Payne's Fox News connections "to build credibility" with his potential customers. The stock pitches were also used as a vehicle to entice readers to join Payne's subscription newsletter.
Fox policy prohibits contributors from receiving compensation to promote a stock. MarketWatch -- which, like Fox, is owned by News Corp. -- reported on June 18 that a spokesman said "no Contributor to FBN, nor his/her firm, and/or family members are allowed to accept financial consideration of any kind whatsoever to issue research, advertisements, or to otherwise promote individual stocks or securities." As a result of the rule, Fox News fired contributor Tobin Smith, who regularly releases sponsored research reports (Smith claimed his contract "did NOT include any exclusion from me or my company sponsored research").
While Fox currently prohibits financial arrangements like Payne's, it's not clear whether his actions specifically violated Fox rules. MarketWatch quoted Smith claiming that the rule was instituted in "late" 2012, or after the three Payne stock promotions studied in this report first occurred. It's also not clear if Payne has been compensated for stock promotions after 2011. Regardless, even if Payne's actions occurred before an official Fox policy, he still used Fox's brand to engage in practices that the network now thinks is problematic enough to prohibit and fire an employee.
Fox and Payne did not respond to requests for comment.
Payne and his company, Wall Street Strategies, have a problematic history related to the disclosure of paid stock endorsements. In 1999, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that while not "admitting or denying" wrongdoings, Payne "agreed to pay a civil penalty of $25,000." The SEC alleged of Payne:
The Complaint alleges that on at least eight occasions, Wall Street Strategies recommended that its clients purchase Members stock through recorded messages on its telephonic stock recommendation service. The Complaint also alleges that Payne failed to disclose that he received payments from Members to promote Members stock.
More about Payne's alleged actions are contained in this May 1997 SEC release.
In this report:
After months of struggling with how to report on good economic news, Fox News finally found a new strategy to attack consistently positive labor market gains: move the bar to an unreasonable height. While downplaying the May 2013 jobs report that was better than expected, Fox misleadingly cited employment growth during the Reagan administration and proposed a new standard for growth so unreasonably high that it has only been met three times in the past 30 years.
On the June 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, contributor Charles Payne downplayed the May 2013 jobs report -- a report that was better than expected -- saying, "You know, in the grand scheme of things, none of us should really like the number." He then compared the number to the September 1983 jobs report when the economy added 1.1 million jobs. Later, Payne guest hosted Fox Business' Varney & Co. where contributor Monica Crowley claimed, "At this point in the recovery, you should be generating 300 -- 500,000 jobs a month." She also brought up the September 1983 report.
PAYNE: You know what, all things considered, what you just laid out: it's better than expected. But you know, in the grand scheme of things, none of us should really like the number. It's extraordinarily mediocre with what we've gotten in the past. You know, the way we've come out of recessions in the past, we've had some amazing, robust times. I mean, going all the way back to Reagan where one month we actually had one million jobs created in a single month. For us to still be well under 200,000 is really disheartening. But you know, the good news is, a lot of people thought it could have been worse.
MACCALLUM: Wow, that's an - I just want to go back to what you just said. So during the Reagan recovery there was a single month period where we added a million jobs?
PAYNE: One single month. A million - by the way, we had a whole lot less people too.
But Payne and Crowley ignored the context of the 1983 report. While Payne portrayed it as just one example of the so-called "Reagan recovery," according to The Wall Street Journal's Market Watch blog, it was actually an outlier. Market Watch also pointed out that about 640,000 of the 1.1 million jobs can be attributed to striking AT&T employees returning to work. In reality, the average monthly job growth during the Reagan administration was 168,000.
Crowley's assertion that the economy "should be generating 300 -- 500,000 jobs a month," is also unreasonable. When Market Watch evaluated a similar claim by Gov. Mitt Romney, it found that job growth had only surpassed the 500,000 mark three times in the past 30 years. From Market Watch:
How rare is it for 500,000 jobs to be created in a month? The last time was in May 2010 -- when the U.S. hired thousands of workers to conduct the Census. (The next month, payrolls shrunk by 167,000.)
Lest Romneyites think that only President Barack Obama struggled to make that grade, neither President Bush, older or younger, saw job creation that strong. President Clinton had one-plus 500,000 month, when in September, 1997, 507,000 positions were created. (Aided by the return of striking UPS workers.) President Reagan enjoyed a spectacular 1.11 million-job month in September 1983, but that was the only plus-500K mark and was boosted by roughly 640,000 AT&T workers returning from a strike.
Payne and Crowley's claims represent a new line of attack, but this isn't the first time Fox News has reset the bar on how it characterizes economic news. As the economy has consistently improved, Fox News has repeatedly struggled to portray good news in a negative light. In some cases, it has even cut its economic coverage in half.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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