As congressional leaders debate a framework for comprehensive immigration reform that will likely grant undocumented immigrants legal status, conservative media are engaged in promoting myths and falsehoods about what reform means for the country.
Fox's Charles Payne attacked President Obama for stoking fears about the debt ceiling and blamed him for the economic consequences. But experts agree that Obama's concerns are justified, as failing to raise the debt limit could lead to higher deficits, and higher interest rates, which could have dire consequences for the economy.
During a January 14 press conference, President Obama warned that failure to raise the debt ceiling "would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy."
On the January 14 edition of Fox News' America Live, Fox Business contributor Charles Payne responded by claiming the debt ceiling debate would not be having an effect on the economy if the president "weren't going on a cross country tour, if you weren't doing these -- if you weren't hyping it." Payne went on to accuse Obama of "helping stoke the flames" of economic uncertainty by informing people about the debt ceiling:
In The Washington Post, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer admitted that right-to-work laws lead to lower wages for workers -- conflicting with the narrative promoted by Fox News that such laws increase wages.
In his column, Krauthammer claimed that recently passed right-to-work laws in Michigan were "inevitable" and that "the entire Rust Belt will eventually follow because the heyday of the sovereign private-sector union is gone." Krauthammer wrote that such laws could possibly bring down unemployment, but he also admitted that President Obama's statement that right-to-work laws give workers "the right to work for less money" was correct:
Principle and hypocrisy aside, however, the president's statement has some validity. Let's be honest: Right-to-work laws do weaken unions. And de-unionization can lead to lower wages.
Obama calls this a race to the bottom. No, it's a race to a new equilibrium that tries to maintain employment levels, albeit at the price of some modest wage decline. It is a choice not to be despised.
I have great admiration for the dignity and protections trade unionism has brought to American workers. I have no great desire to see the private-sector unions defenestrated.
Right-wing media falsely claimed that workers at organized work places are compelled to pay dues that go toward union political activities and that so-called "right-to-work" legislation in Michigan would give workers a choice about paying for these activities. In fact, workers at unionized work places already can choose whether to pay for political activities of their union.
The Republican-majority Michigan legislature today approved a so-called "right-to-work" law that would significantly reduce the power of organized labor in that state. The legislation prohibits unions from collecting dues from nonunion employees.
Fox has been aggressively defending this "right-to-work" law, falsely claiming it will benefit workers and the state economy and touting it as a "victory for capitalism." The network continues to defend this type of legislation despite the fact that "right-to-work" laws have had a significant and negative effect on state economies, employment, and employee compensation.
Here, Media Matters looks at some of the worst anti-union rhetoric from Fox.
From the December 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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In an effort to discredit President Obama's plan to increase taxes on the wealthy, conservative media outlets have pushed a number of myths to suggest that a large number of Americans will be negatively affected. In reality, only a small percentage of taxpayers would be affected by Obama's proposals.
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News revealed its closing argument against President Obama, which consisted of a falsehood-laden attack on the president's record.
The right-wing media falsely reported that Alabama-based utility companies were turned away in New Jersey for hurricane disaster relief because they use non-union labor. However, multiple Alabama utility companies mentioned in these media reports say the claims are "rumors" and simply "not true," and New Jersey utility companies have also denied that non-union working crews have been turned away.
Local Alabama news station WAFF was quoted in multiple right-wing news reports after it claimed that three utility crews from Alabama were not allowed to help with storm aid in New Jersey because they were non-union. Predictably, Fox News picked up the report almost immediately. During the November 2 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts asserted that non-union crews were not allowed to help in New Jersey hurricane relief, and frequent guest Charles Payne added that this is "one of the more despicable aspects of what we are seeing":
Following this report, Drudge linked to other right-wing websites making similar claims under the headlines "Non-union crews turned away from NJ..." and "'No Red Tape'?":
Later on Fox, host Gretchen Carlson issued a minor update explaining that many of their viewers had in fact seen Alabama crews working in New Jersey.
WAFF, the source of the original reports, has since updated its post about these claims. It continues to report claims from an Alabama-based Decatur Utilities employee that his crew was presented with documents by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) that required union affiliation in order to provide disaster relief. However, WAFF clarifies that Decatur Utilities' general manager said crews "were not turned away but were made to believe that affiliating with the union was a requirement to work."
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox personalities are attempting to discredit the October jobs report before its release on November 2 by suggesting that if the unemployment rate drops as it did in September, the numbers may have been manipulated by the Obama administration. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest the government's numbers are manipulated.
From the November 1 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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Fox figures claim that many federal disability benefit payments are fraudulent because the number of people in the program has increased under the Obama administration. In fact, improper payments of disability benefits are minimal and experts agree the higher levels of disability benefits are a direct result of the recession.
Fox Business contributor Charles Payne furthered Fox's history of unemployment rate trutherism by declaring that the unemployment rate was actually "11½ percent." But despite Fox's repeated economic falsehoods, the unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8 percent by the measurement that government and economists have used for decades.
During a discussion about the automatic budget cuts that will take place in early 2013 if Congress fails to avert them, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade declared that the so-called "fiscal cliff" could "send our unemployment rate over 10 percent to around 12 percent." Payne responded, "To be honest with you, it's already around 11½ percent."
In fact, by the standards the government has used for decades, the unemployment rate is currently 7.8 percent. But in an attempt to deflect from dropping rates, Fox News figures have attempted to claim that other, higher measurements are the "real" unemployment rate, including using a higher number known as the U-6 rate that does not actually measure unemployment.
Fox has also attacked lower unemployment numbers as being somehow manipulated by the Obama administration to look good. Most recently, Fox played a lead role in promoting the conspiracy theory that the 7.8 percent rate was "altered for political gain" in order to help Obama get re-election, despite the fact that economists agree such an idea is "implausible" and a "fantasy."