Advancing a highly misleading talking point from ExxonMobil, Fox's "straight news" program Happening Now defended the oil giant on Friday from Obama's call to end tax subsidies for oil companies.
Fox Business reporter Elizabeth MacDonald said she "just got off the phone with ExxonMobil" -- and it showed. She clearly didn't bother to fact check what they told her.
MacDonald said that ExxonMobil's "U.S. tax bill came in at $12 billion bucks -- that was more than the $9 billion bucks they earned in after tax profits." This is straight from the talking points ExxonMobil distributes when getting heat from the fact that its rising profits require drivers' pain.
Taxes greater than their profits? Pretty compelling if true. But in fact, ExxonMobil's "tax bill" includes at least $5.6 billion collected from consumers in federal and state gasoline taxes. Drivers pay the tax, but Exxon counts those dollars as part of its own tax burden. They've been doing this for years and are apparently still able to fool some reporters.
This morning in a "straight news" segment, Fox News aired the following graphic supposedly showing "Taxes At The Pump":
There are several reasons why this graphic does more to confuse than to inform. First, Fox double-counted state taxes. They included the average state tax of about 23 cents per gallon both in the category "state" taxes and in the category "state & local" taxes. The total of both state and local taxes is 30.4 cents on average. Fox also placed $3.83 at the bottom, as if taxes are in addition to the price for gasoline. But the $3.83 figure already includes the taxes.
And in a continuing struggle with the concept of scale, Fox's three tax figures appear about 70 percent as large as the $3.83 displayed underneath, when mathematically they're less than 20 percent (and that's without correcting for the double-counted state taxes).
In an attempt to create a "solar scandal" that will be "even bigger than Solyndra," Fox News is claiming that SunPower, which recently received a federal loan guarantee, is a "failing company" that is creating jobs "not in America, but in Mexico." In fact, industry experts see SunPower as "a success story" and the loan guarantee supports the construction of a power plant in California, not Mexico.
Fox News repeatedly claimed that Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar, which recently filed for bankruptcy and moved production to China, received federal stimulus funds. In fact, the company did not, and analysts say the solar industry in China has boomed largely because of massive government subsidies and a more comprehensive and stable policy framework.
From the July 25 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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From the July 1 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
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UPDATE: Following the publication of this post, I emailed MacDonald and Fox Business Network for comment and clarification. I have not heard back, and will post a response if there is one.
Fox Business has since revised the article (the original version in question can be found here). The revised article added several references to the AFBF press release, and other references to the AFBF as an information source (e.g. "The American Farm Bureau Federation says" ... "The Farm Bureau says" ... "The AFBF says"). The FBN article does not include an acknowledgement of these changes, or an explanation as to why they posted a press release under a Fox Business staffer's name.
UPDATE 2 (7:17pm E.T.): Sometime after my first update, FoxBusiness.com posted the following editor's note to the article:
Editor's Note: The following story replaces an earlier version that inadvertently ran on FOXBusiness.com. The reporter mistakenly sent into the system a press release issued by the American Farm Bureau Federation instead of the story she had prepared on this subject. FOX Business regrets the error.
The front-page link goes to an article written "By Elizabeth MacDonald," an editor and on-air personality for Fox Business. There's just one problem: the text of MacDonald's article, virtually word-for-word, is from an American Farm Bureau Federation press release from November 12. (The title of MacDonald's article is slightly different from the AFBF - "Thanksgiving Dinner Costs Up Slightly this Year" vs. "Cost of Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Up Slightly in 2010"). The original piece is linked in AFBF's "News Release" archives.
At no point does FoxBusiness.com acknowledge that the text was written by the AFBF. In other words, readers of the Fox Business report are misled into believing that the report was written and reported by Fox Business staff about numbers from the AFBF -- and not that it was written by the AFBF itself.
Fox Business has aired at least 11 segments in the past three days falsely claiming that the impending expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of the year will lead to the "Largest Tax Hike Ever." Most of these segments failed to acknowledge that President Obama's proposed budget calls for retaining the tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans.
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Forbes on Fox:
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Talking with Betsy McCaughey about health care reform, Cavuto guest host Elizabeth MacDonald did not challenge McCaughey on falsehoods she advanced during the Cavuto segment, or on false claims that she has previously made on the issue.
On Forbes on Fox, Forbes national editor Mike Ozanian declared that the Employee Free Choice Act "should be called the anti-free choice, pro-slavery bill," and Ozanian, host David Asman, and others advanced a common distortion employed by opponents of the legislation -- that it would, in the words of on-screen text that ran during the segment, "Ban Secret Votes at Work." In fact, the bill would not "ban" secret-ballot elections; rather, it would take away employers' right to insist on holding a secret-ballot election to determine whether workers favored unionization.
The Fox Business Network's Elizabeth MacDonald and David Asman advanced Republican arguments, including those made by two senators appearing on the network, against the economic stimulus bill by promoting or agreeing with the false claim that the bill includes billions of dollars in funds for groups like ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Additionally, the bill requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for "neighborhood stabilization activities" be distributed through competitive processes.