Fox News ignored President Obama's explicit demand for accountability in the wake of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups. The network's omission gave it cover to accuse Obama of not taking the IRS's actions seriously and to call for a special prosecutor.
Obama first addressed the IRS controversy during a May 13 joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, where he condemned the IRS's behavior with the caveat, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable."
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama granted the IRS no such caveat. He released a statement definitively naming the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable:
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog's report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I've directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General's recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again.
Yet the next day, America Live host Megyn Kelly and Fox's digital political editor Chris Stirewalt pretended Obama issued no such condemnation.
Instead, Kelly claimed that even after the IG's report was released, "we still have the president saying, 'Well, if they did it, if they did it, if they did it." She ranted, "I don't understand, more so today than the other day, why the president used that word 'if.' 'If these people did this, if these people did that.' Now that I've seen the Inspector General report -- and you're telling me -- now Fox News just got it last night. But other news organizations had it leaked to them early. You're telling me President Obama couldn't have got it when it was complete on Monday?"
Kelly and Stirewalt used their mischaracterization of Obama's response to call for a special prosecutor into the IRS's actions. Stirewalt told Kelly that if he were the president, he would "find a Republican of good standing" to appoint as an independent investigator. Kelly responded with the charge, "Where is the harm to this administration, if as these IRS employees state, no one outside of the IRS had anything to do with this, this was just IRS employees deciding to target conservatives. So if the White House and no one else had anything to do with it, where is the harm? Why doesn't the president just say 'absolutely'?"
Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt attacked a program that would help people seeking health insurance understand the new health care reform law, baselessly suggesting that "unions and community advocacy groups" might use the program to steal patients' personal information -- even though Stirewalt admitted that "there's no evidence" Fox's claims were true.
On April 3, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations for health care navigators, assistants who would provide "unbiased information" to help consumers understand the new health care law and enroll in insurance plans, as a post on Health Affairs Blog noted.
Kelly, appearing to echo a Washington Examiner post, led a segment on the April 4 edition of America Live by describing navigators' roles and then saying, "But now some are raising red flags, saying the rules allow these jobs of the navigators to be filled by organizations with political agendas, including unions and community action groups."
Kelly failed to explain why allowing union members to become navigators would be problematic, and the words "union" and "community action" do not appear in the proposed rules.
In fact, while the rules do include standards on who can apply for navigator jobs, these standards center on conflict-of-interest problems: since navigators will be required to provide unbiased information about insurance plans, the rules prohibit health insurance issuers or their lobbyists from becoming navigators.
Fox News is continuing their effort to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by falsely claiming it shows a man pointing a gun at children.
Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt criticized a recent ad produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns that features a man with a shotgun calling for expanding the background check system, claiming that the man had the gun "sort of pointing back at the kids" who are playing behind him. Laughing, Stirewalt claimed that this allegedly unsafe behavior was "too hilarious" given that the ad's title is "Responsibility," adding, "I don't think too many Arkansans will be convinced that these people know what they are talking about."
In fact, as video from the ad Fox aired during the segment makes clear, the man in the ad is not pointing his shotgun in the direction of the children.
Stirewalt also joined several other conservative media figures in falsely claiming that the man in the ad had "his finger on the trigger" in an unsafe manner. But as Media Matters has documented, this is a false claim that critics are making based on a misunderstanding of where the trigger is on the firearm.
Right-wing media outlets have advanced a number of myths regarding automatic across-the-board spending cuts -- commonly called the sequester -- in order to hide the facts behind an inherently harmful economic policy.
Fox News ignored previous Republican praise for the law that created the upcoming sequester -- across-the-board government spending cuts -- to blame President Obama for potential negative effects if the cuts occur as scheduled on March 1.
The 2011 Budget Control Act created the sequester as an incentive for Congress to agree on deficit reduction measures. If Congress didn't pass those reductions above a certain threshold, the spending cuts in the sequester would automatically take place. A deal at the beginning of the year delayed the start of those cuts, which are now scheduled to take effect March 1.
Despite prior GOP praise for the law that created the sequester, Fox News is blaming Obama for its negative consequences. Responding to the president's request that Congress find a way to avoid the sequester, a Fox Nation headline on Wednesday declared: "Obama Seeks to Void Cuts He Signed Into Law." That same day, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the sequester "the invention of the White House." On Tuesday's edition of America Live, Fox's Chris Stirewalt said of the sequester: "remember, this was [Obama's] idea."
After the 2011 Budget Control Act passed, however, senior House Republicans hailed it as a potential game-changer on spending cuts -- a fact that Fox News has been hiding as the network blames Obama for the creation of the sequester. After it passed, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the law "will finally begin to change the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars." Speaker of the House John Boehner touted the law as "a positive step forward that begins to rein in federal spending." House Budget Committee Chairman and former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said:
The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy. I applaud Speaker Boehner's leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama's demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls.
But the sequester contains spending cuts that will seriously weaken the economic recovery. MarketWatch reported that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the sequester would halve U.S. economic growth this year, and the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that it would cut one million jobs if it took effect. Recognizing these harmful effects, Obama is now urging Congress to find a way to further delay the sequester to find a permanent replacement to it.
Rush Limbaugh said that "it's up to me and Fox News" to stop immigration reform. Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt appears to be answering the call, characterizing possible provisions for same sex couples in immigration reform as a "poison pill" proposal from President Barack Obama as part of a campaign to "enrage the right, divide the GOP and set the table for a Democratic victory in 2014."
BuzzFeed reports that the White House framework for immigration reform will include provisions for opening up green card eligibility for same sex couples. Heterosexual couples routinely have access to permanent resident visas via marriage, while same sex couples do not because the Defense of Marriage Act bars federal recognition of same sex marriages.
Stirewalt's column again spotlights the role of Fox and other elements of the conservative media in policing the Republican Party in order to prevent the passage of legislation alongside Democrats. President Obama discussed this dynamic in an interview with The New Republic: "If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it."
As Reuters reported, "There are at least 28,500 same-sex couples in the United States in which one partner is a U.S. citizen and the other is not, and 11,500 same-sex couples where neither partner is a U.S. citizen." By that measure, proposals on this issue would affect at least 80,000 people in a same sex relationship.
Immigration Equality, a pro-reform group, estimates that 45% of these couples also have children, who of course would be directly affected by these immigration reforms.
Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have each attacked President Obama for his recent comments pointing out their influence on the political process. But both Fox News and Limbaugh have indeed influenced Republican politicians' actions in the past.
In a recent interview with The New Republic, Obama said he believes that bipartisan legislation is more likely to pass if a Republican member of Congress isn't "punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest."
Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt discussed Obama's comments on Monday's broadcast of America Live. Kelly claimed Obama was "saying if somebody disagrees with him, if these Republicans disagree with him, it has to be because someone has manipulated them" and said that his comments sounded "dismissive of heartfelt beliefs that Republicans may hold, or their constituents may hold."
Stirewalt agreed, saying that Obama "imputes to his critics the worst possible motives." Stirewalt also claimed that Obama feels that "anybody who opposes him on these things is doing so because they're a coward, because they're being controlled by Rush Limbaugh or because of what's being said by the purveyors of opinion on the Fox News Channel."
Limbaugh also discussed Obama's comments on his radio show Monday and concluded that Obama is "trying to goad me into saying something extreme -- like that would ever happen -- so that he can kick off a new boycott." He then said listeners had told him they fear that "talk like this from the president has a chilling effect on free speech and the freedom of the press," and responded by saying sarcastically, "My friends, Obama would never do anything to try to limit Fox, or me and my right to express myself. ... Only dictators like Hugo Chavez do things like that."
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly criticized President Obama for blaming "gun rights supporters" for recent spikes in gun sales, which Obama said were motivated by fearmongering about upcoming gun violence prevention measures, but omitted the role of conservative media figures -- particularly on Fox -- in promoting the issue.
On the January 15 America Live, Kelly highlighted the following statement from President Obama in response to a question at his press conference the previous day about long lines at gun shows and gun stores in recent months:
As far as people lining up and purchasing more guns, I think that we've seen for some time now that those who oppose any common-sense gun control or gun safety measures have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government is about to take all your guns away. And there's probably an economic element to that. It obviously is good for business.
In her conversation with Fox Digital Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt, Kelly highlighted the concerns of "gun rights advocates," saying:
And in the day or so, 24 hours or so since he's made those remarks, there's been a considerable amount of pushback from gun rights supporters who say he just doesn't get it, that it's not that anybody has scared them, on their side or otherwise into believing something's going to happen that's not going to happen, it's that they're listening to the actual proposals being debated right now on Capitol Hill and they are concerned about their Second Amendment rights based on what they're hearing directly from the President and his surrogates.
Stirewalt agreed, asserting that Obama was "impugning the motives of those on the other side of this debate."
Media figures have smeared President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), by misrepresenting Hagel's support for sanctions against Iran and his support for Israel. The media have also cast doubt on the bipartisan support for Hagel's nomination.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt used a recent poll that asked whether Americans believe the federal government protects or threatens their individual liberties to resurrect previous smears by right-wing media and Republicans that suggests half the country is dependent on government.
During the December 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Kelly and Fox News digital politics editor Stirewalt highlighted a recent poll by Rasmussen saying 45 percent of likely U.S. voters see the federal government as a "protector" of individual rights, while 46 percent say the government is a "threat" to those rights.
Kelly said that the poll shows the rhetoric between "red vs. blue" (Republicans vs. Democrats) is sharply divided on whether the federal government protects or threatens individual rights. Kelly explains that people who fall into the "blue" category believe the government can "save" them, while those in the "red" feel the government needs to "stay out of my business." Fox contributor Chris Stirewalt went on to look at what he claimed is the "underlying question": "Does the government give you things? Do you have a right to things like, for example, health insurance or other things? Or do you believe you have a right to be protected from the government?"
Stirewalt further suggested that conservatives believe that the Constitution is meant "to protect you from the government," while liberals believe the government should "provide for the needs of the individual." This prompted Kelly to note that the number of people who see the government as a "protector" has gone up, suggesting, in her mind, that this is "a shift in favor of big government."
In fact, the actual wording of the Rasmussen poll question was much different than Stirewalt and Kelly led on. The question simply stated, "Is the federal government today a protector of individual rights or a threat to individual rights?"
Fox's twist on the poll echoed comments made by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney's infamous remarks suggested that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent upon government" echoed right-wing "makers vs. takers" rhetoric -- an argument that has been repeatedly promoted on Fox News. This is also the same idea behind the conservative media's suggestion that people voted for President Obama and Democrats because they see Obama as "Santa Claus" and just "want stuff."
Fox News mischaracterized a new proposal to set emissions limits for existing power plants, suggesting that Environmental Protection Agency regulation would make electricity rates increase and likely draw the opposition of "carbon state Democrats." In fact, the plan is expected to lead to lower power bills through improved energy efficiency, and allows states with carbon-intensive power to make cost-effective and realistic steps toward sustainable power.
Laying out a plan for President Obama to address climate change in his second term, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a proposal to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act using a flexible approach that can be tailored for each state and would minimize economic impacts. William Reilly, a former EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush, stated of the plan: "This is an imaginative proposal that addresses some real needs. It deserves to be carefully analyzed and taken seriously by all the affected interests."
But Fox News' America Live claimed that "this kind of proposal would obviously have huge economic impact that could spread across industries." Fox News Digital Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt said that under any EPA regulation of existing power plants, Americans "may see their power bills go up and they may see scarcity down the road." He offered that "there are enough carbon state Democrats" that could try to prevent the EPA from acting.
But EPA regulations could actually lower power bills. The NRDC proposal gives plant owners credit for energy efficiency increases, which, according to the analysis from a widely-used modeling firm, would lead to lower power bills. Grist's David Roberts explained:
The fact that energy efficiency counts as compliance is crucial to the economics of NRDC's proposal. If avoided carbon counts toward reducing average fleet emissions, then every utility, in every state and region, has access to inexpensive compliance measures.
Remember: Efficiency saves ratepayers money. According to modeling of the NRDC proposal done by ICF International, by complying through efficiency measures, utilities could achieve the proposed carbon standards while slightly reducing power bills. And every dollar not spent on power is a dollar of annual economic stimulus.
Megyn Kelly opened the October 8 edition of Fox News' America Live by attacking the Obama campaign for describing Mitt Romney's debate performance as untruthful, and contrasting it with reactions to Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie" outburst during President Obama's 2009 speech to Congress on health care reform. But she didn't note that Wilson's accusation was actually false, while many of Romney's assertions were provably false. Kelly also absurdly equated statements on political talk shows with actions in Congress, which are governed by rules of protocol.
Right-wing media are offering GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney advice for the upcoming presidential debate. They suggest Romney should push economic myths to attack Obama's record, "smack the president," and get under Obama's skin.
Fox News figures have routinely invoked Ronald Reagan while discussing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan. Most recently, Fox compared Ryan to the former president by splicing together their quotes and saying that Ryan and Reagan are physically and ideologically similar.
Fox News is obscuring the negative impact of Congressman Paul Ryan's Medicare plan on seniors by accusing President Obama and the Democrats of "stoking fears" about the plan. In fact, Ryan's plan would adversely affect current and future seniors, forcing them, among other things, to pay more for prescription drugs, and it would create a voucher system that would drive up health care costs.