In Fox News' special, Trillion with a T, Bret Baier promoted or repeated several myths and falsehoods about President Obama and the economic recovery bill, including that some of the spending in the bill -- which Obama has now signed into law -- isn't stimulus; that the bill will lead to "the government deciding which procedures you can have and which ones you can't"; that it would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money; that the Obama administration advocated cutting the defense budget by 10 percent; and that Obama admitted "there might be some pork" in the bill.
In recent days, Fox News hosts and contributors have advanced the false claim -- pushed by Republican lawmakers -- that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid included a provision in the recovery bill directing that $8 billion be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.
Since Congress passed President Obama's economic recovery bill, several media figures have warned that Obama could suffer political consequences if the nation's economy does not improve substantially in a short amount of time. But Obama has consistently emphasized the long-term nature of economic recovery, repeatedly stating that the recovery "will likely be measured in terms of years and not months."
On Special Report, Carl Cameron uncritically reported, "The president wanted 75 percent of the package distributed in 18 months. Republicans say that's not going to happen with this package." Cameron then aired a clip of Rep. Jerry Lewis asserting, "Only 11 percent of the appropriations in this bill would be spent by the end of '09, 47 percent would be spent by fiscal year '10, 53 percent would not be spent until after October of 2-11." In doing so, Cameron misleadingly suggested that Lewis had been discussing the entire recovery bill, when Lewis was discussing only the appropriations provisions in the bill. According to the CBO, 74.2 percent of the total package would be spent within 19 months.
On Fox News' Special Report, Carl Cameron repeated a frequent GOP talking point in reporting that "there could be money ... for such organizations as ACORN" included in the economic recovery plan. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding; ACORN itself has said that it is ineligible for the funds and has no plans to apply for them.
CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight and Fox News' Hannity advanced the claim that the economic recovery bill contains $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco. In fact, the bill does not contain any language directing funds to San Francisco wetlands or the salt marsh harvest mouse in the San Francisco wetlands. Even the GOP aide who originated the claim has reportedly said that "[t]here is no language in the bill that says this money will go to this project."
Fox News' Glenn Beck aired an on-screen graphic with the headline, "THEN ... WAGNER ACT," which falsely asserted that if 30 percent of employees want a union, "it gets established." In fact, the Wagner Act, which was passed in the 1930s, required that for union representation to be established, a majority of employees in a bargaining unit within a company had to "designate or select" a union to represent them. The National Labor Relations Act as it stands today also contains a majority requirement.
Fox News reported as fact the reportedly false claim that the economic recovery bill contains $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse. Fox News hosts continued to do so even after the spurious claim had been debunked.
Bernard Goldberg revived the claim that, in 2002, RNC chairman Michael Steele had Oreo cookies thrown at him. In fact, Steele, then running for Maryland lieutenant governor, Robert Erlich, Steele's then-running mate, and Paul Schurick, Erlich's then-spokesman, have recounted several different -- sometimes contradictory -- versions of the alleged incident. Indeed, in November 2002, Steele reportedly speculated that Oreos allegedly present at the debate may just have been "someone having their snack."
Media Matters recently documented that Fox News anchor Jon Scott presented a Republican press release on the economic stimulus plan as Fox News' own work. But this is far from the first time Fox News has adopted Republican talking points into its "straight news" reporting or presented Republican research as "news."
Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck further advanced the false claim that the economic recovery package will allow the federal government to control or interfere with doctors' treatment decisions, echoing an assertion by Betsy McCaughey in a Bloomberg commentary. In fact, the provisions McCaughey referred to in her commentary address establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."
Fox News' James Rosen took a quote he attributed to Rep. David Obey out of context to advance the falsehood that provisions in the bill would permit the federal government to control health care. In fact, the bill contains no such provisions.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank, "who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody." In fact, Frank has advocated for policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership.
Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have repeatedly claimed that President Reagan's tax cuts were responsible for ending the recession in the early 1980s, suggesting that tax cuts, and not government spending, would be the best solution to the end the current recession. However, several economists have stated that while fiscal policy had some impact during that period, "[l]ower interest rates after mid-1982 permitted the recovery to begin," according to a 1983 CBO report. By contrast, a reduction in the federal funds interest rate is not available to the Federal Reserve today because the current rate is essentially zero.
During appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and Glenn Beck, Dobbs and Beck allowed Betsy McCaughey to advance the false claim that provisions in the economic recovery act would permit the government to control health care. In fact, the provisions she cited address establishing an electronic records system in part for the purpose of "reduc[ing] health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information." It does not say that the federal government will determine what constitutes "unnecessary care."