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.
Right-wing media have claimed that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is "the ideological heir" to Ronald Reagan, while ignoring a big part of what makes this statement true: Reagan and Ryan both supported policies that vastly increased the federal deficit.
Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt claimed Ryan was the "ideological heir to Reagan's movement." Fox News contributor KT MacFarland said: "With a Romney-Ryan ticket, it's like Reagan again." And Fox host Andrea Tantaros claimed Ryan "sounds very Reaganesque."
But none of them mentioned one of the most important similarities between Ryan and Reagan: the fact that, while they talked about reining in deficits, they both supported policies that vastly increased the deficit.
According to the Office of Management and Budget's historical data, during his presidency, Reagan saw federal spending increase by 22 percent. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the federal deficit nearly doubled under Reagan, going from about $790 billion to $1.55 trillion.
Reagan also signed debt ceiling increases 18 times during his presidency.
Similarly, Ryan's most recent budget would explode the deficit over the next decade.
Last week, two new reports -- released by the Brennan Center of Justice at the NYU School of Law and the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, respectively -- further undermined the conservative media's discredited claims that voter ID laws do not have a discriminatory impact on persons of color and are not intended to be discriminatory on the basis of race. These reports are timely because as restrictive voting rules in conservative-leaning states increasingly materialize, civil rights advocates are noting that these state laws look very much like poll taxes- voter suppression tactics long prohibited. In response, the right-wing media has recycled multiple messages to disavow the impermissible racial discrimination of these laws.
Right-wing media try many different smokescreens in addition to just denying the racial effect of voter ID laws and redistricting altogether. For example, they have disputed the veracity of data to the contrary, argued that these tactics are not in fact barriers, and raised the specter of voter fraud, which experts have demonstrated is practically non-existent. However, it is still the first defense -- that these efforts have no racial effect -- which feeds most effectively into the right wing's preferred "colorblind" narrative.
This right-wing media denial of the racial effect usually has two components in an attempt to whitewash voter suppression, claiming that whatever effect these laws have on communities of color is wholly incidental. That is, there may be a discriminatory impact, but there is no discriminatory intent. Although the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal may have been the most recent mainstream purveyor of this message -- condemning any criticism of the recent wave of conservative-backed voter ID laws as "racial politics" -- they are far from alone in the right-wing media.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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After erstwhile team player Chief Justice John Roberts led the Supreme Court in upholding the Affordable Care Act, Fox News has spent the day trying to convince themselves, if not the rest of us, that this is excellent news for Republicans and Mitt Romney -- to the point of arguing that President Obama's "cynical" political team would have preferred the law be struck down entirely so the whole issue would just "go away."
A little while ago, Megyn Kelly sat down to talk with Chris Stirewalt, Fox News digital politics editor, about the electoral implications of the Supreme Court ruling. Stirewalt argued -- in all seriousness -- that President Obama's re-election team in Chicago were pulling for a full repeal.
STIREWALT: I can sum it up this way: at the White House, it's a good day. The president's probably very happy that he was vindicated by the Supreme Court. But out in Chicago, at the president's campaign headquarters, this can not have been the happiest news. I'm sure, from a cynical political perspective, they much rather would have had this issue go away and the Supreme Court take it down so the president could go rally the troops. Instead, it's Romney's troops who are rallied.
This is a real stretch, and here's Nate Silver of the New York Times explaining why:
It is not as though, if the law had been struck down, Republicans would have stopped talking about the folly of the legislation. Members of the public, in mostly opposing the law, had not been objecting to its technical details, some of which they actually supported when quizzed about the specific aspects of the health care overhaul.
Instead, it was to the impression that it represented an overreach on behalf of Mr. Obama -- at a time when there is profound skepticism about the direction of government and the efficacy of its policy -- that left him vulnerable.
When the dust settles, it seems implausible that Mr. Obama would be have been better off politically had his signature reform been nullified by the court. Then Mr. Obama's perceived overreach would have had the stench of being unconstitutional.
Stirewalt's analysis is, thus far, the absurd apex of Fox News' health care coverage today. It was preceded by a parade of GOP officials chest-thumping about how they're so angry and energized now, fond reminiscence of the heady days of 2010 when shaky-cam videos of barely coherent tea partiers screaming at Democrats were all the rage, and endless repetitions of the word "tax" (in accordance with Republican messaging).
From the May 11 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Right-wing media have been on the attack against President Obama since he responded to a question about the Supreme Court's consideration of the Affordable Care Act by pointing out that conservatives criticize "unelected" judges who engage in "judicial activism" to "overturn a duly constituted and passed law." As we pointed out yesterday, Obama is correct: conservatives have for years railed against "unelected" judges who rule in ways they dislike.
Today, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt found a new angle from which to approach the issue. In an interview with Megyn Kelly, the host of Fox "straight news" program America Live, Stirewalt criticized Obama for pointing out that conservative commentators criticize "unelected" judges, saying: "Now, no offense to Charles Krauthammer and no offense to any of the circuit judges in the country, but they're not the president of the United States." In fact, former President George W. Bush criticized "unelected" judges who made rulings he thought were incorrect.
And here are remarks Bush gave to the Federalist Society's 25th annual gala, in 2007:
For the judiciary, resisting this temptation is particularly important, because it's the only branch that is unelected and whose officers serve for life. Unfortunately, some judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting. Such judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy -- and it needs to stop.
And in 2008, Bush commented that the "concept of a 'living Constitution' gives unelected judges wide latitude in creating new laws and policies without accountability to the people."
From the December 6 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the September 28 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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