Fox News is now acknowledging that Tesla Motors is a "success story," but only a year ago the network declared the company "failed." This distortion played into its attempts to boost then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama only "pick[s] the losers."
Discussing the Obama administration's investments in green technology, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett recently stated that Tesla is a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs acknowledged on Monday night that it is one of the "winners." Tesla recently announced that it made a profit in the first quarter of 2013 after exceeding sales goals for its electric sedan, and the company plans on paying back its Department of Energy loan guarantee five years early.
But an oft-aired Fox News graphic previously listed Tesla as "failed," a claim that Romney later echoed. In fact, several of the companies that Fox News declared "failed" are still successfully operating (circled in green), and contributing to technological advances that could help us transition to a clean energy economy, as can be seen in this interactive graphic created with ThingLink:
The companies circled in yellow did not actually receive any funds from the loan guarantee programs, instead receiving either grants, tax credits, or no federal funds at all. Nevada Geothermal Power's project, at far left and not circled in the graphic above, is still operating and part of the 87 percent of loan guarantee funds under the 1705 program awarded to projects that experts say pose almost no risk to the taxpayer. By lumping all of these programs together from the more than 1,460 companies that have received such awards, Fox News was able to paint a distorted picture of the Obama administration's energy policies.
Fox News is using the struggles of Fisker, an electric carmaker that received federal loans, to claim that the government only picks "losers." But just one week prior, the network declared Tesla, which received loans from the same program, a "success story."
On Monday's edition of Fox News' America Live, Lou Dobbs treated the struggles of Fisker, which has reportedly hired a law firm to prepare for a possible bankruptcy filing and cut staff, as a reason that "we have got to get this government, and this administration, out of picking winners and losers, because all they pick are losers." In 2009, the company received a $529 million conditional loan guarantee through the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, of which it received $192 million before DOE froze the loan. Later in the segment, Dobbs added: "I've looked at the winners and the losers. I cannot find the winners."
Dobbs might have started by watching Fox News, which reported the previous week on Happening Now that Tesla, another hybrid electric automaker that received ATVM funds, was a "success story":
Indeed, Tesla recently announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early. The company has seen sales of its Model S electric sedan, which was named 2013's car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend, exceed goals set by the company.
Fox News hyped a letter from a group with birther ties to renew conspiracy theories about the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, last September.
On April 8, a group of Special Operations veterans released a letter calling for an investigation on the Benghazi attack and posed various questions stemming from long-debunked conspiracy theories, many of which have been pushed by Fox News figures. That same day, several Fox News programs including Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, Happening Now, and America Live devoted entire segments to the letter. From Happening Now:
The group that penned the letter, Special Operations Speaks, was founded by Larry Bailey, a former Navy SEAL who has admitted to being a birther and has touted the conspiracy theory that President Obama's real father was actually the late communist writer Frank Marshall Davis:
"In his books, Obama said his mentor was a fellow named Frank Marshall Davis. Frank Marshall Davis was a member of Communist Party USA, he wrote for the communist party's Hawaii newsletter, he was a close friend of Obama's mother, and there's a strong case that Frank Marshall Davis rather than Barack Obama, Sr. was Barack Obama, Jr.'s father and that Barack Obama, Sr. was just an administrative father of convenience," Bailey said.
Bailey has also referred to the president as "one of the most unlikeable and unprepared politicians we've ever had," and in a fundraising email for Special Operations Speaks announced, "We are in a war with Barack Obama ... We absolutely MUST remove that anti-American machine from power."
In reporting on the letter, none of the Fox News programs made any mention of Bailey's birther background or his admitted personal dislike of the president.
Fox News' coverage of weekly jobless claims in the first quarter of 2013 overwhelmingly focused on negative aspects of the labor market and broader economy. However, weekly claims numbers have been consistently improving, beating Fox's own standard for signs of a positive labor market.
According to Fox News, economists believe when the weekly number of initial jobless claims filed stays below 375,000, it's a sign the labor market is healthy enough to reduce the unemployment rate.
Fox News host Bill Hemmer cited that threshold on the January 10 edition of America's Newsroom, while showing a chart with a bright yellow line across it at the 375,000 mark: "Economists say that weekly claims must consistently fall below 375,000, shown by that yellow line on the screen right there, to indicate that the job market is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate." When the next week's numbers came out on January 17, Hemmer's co-host Martha MacCallum again touted Fox's chart showing the threshold, noting, "You always want to look at the chart, in terms of the long-time trend here." She continued, "Economists say that the weekly claims number has to consistently fall below 375,000 as indicated by that yellow line."
For the first quarter of 2013, weekly jobless claims have consistently fallen below Fox News' threshold of 375,000, signifying an improving labor market.
The final report of the quarter, released on April 4, represents the first one-week spike over the 375,000 threshold in 2013, but the more telling number - the four-week moving average of weekly initial claims - remains well below Fox's bright yellow line. (Other news outlets report that the economists' consensus about the threshold is 400,000 weekly claims, and economist Frank Lysy says that new jobless claims occur at a rate of 310,000 to 320,000 per week when the economy is at close to full employment.)
Despite consistent signs that the labor market is improving (by Fox News' own standards), Fox was overwhelmingly negative when reporting on weekly jobless claims.
When the weekly claims beat consensus expectations or declined from the previous week, Fox News anchors regularly used the positive news to highlight other, unrelated metrics, such as rising gas prices or federal spending. When weekly claims did not meet expectations or rose from the previous week, anchors regularly used the news to paint a negative picture of the economy.
Overall, Fox News was about 13 times more likely to present weekly jobless claims with a negative rather than positive tone. Furthermore, Fox's negative coverage greatly overshadowed neutral reporting.
Media Matters reviewed every Thursday edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, and Happening Now from January 3, 2013 to April 4, 2013 and recorded the amount of time spent discussing the weekly jobless claims report.
We identified "positive coverage" as that which indicated weekly claims were improving, or made broader positive implications for the labor market and overall economy. Positive coverage of the economy that was introduced in direct relation to the weekly claims report was also counted.
We identified "negative coverage" as that which indicated weekly claims were deteriorating, or made broader negative implications for the labor market and overall economy. Negative coverage of the economy that was introduced in direct relation to the weekly claims report was also counted.
We identified "neutral coverage" as that which directly reported the information in the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims report.
When tone of coverage was unclear, Media Matters chose to err on the side of neutrality.
We did not include coverage of topics that were unrelated to the weekly claims report, even if they were brought up in a segment that was primarily focused on the report. For example, the January 3 edition of Fox & Friends contained a segment that introduced the weekly jobless report and pivoted to discussing the Hurricane Sandy relief bill. In this instance, time spent discussing the Hurricane Sandy relief bill was left out of the analysis. When it was unclear whether coverage of a topic was brought up in relation to the weekly claims report, Media Matters chose to exclude it from the analysis.
In segments where coverage related to the weekly claims report was introduced before the report itself, Media Matters chose to begin time recording when the report was initially introduced.
Fox News used a dishonest graph to distort the Obama administration's record on border enforcement and claim that the border is less secure. Fox's chart painted a misleading picture of Southwest border apprehensions by using an arbitrary time period and an improper scale -- even as illegal border crossings under President Obama are at historic lows.
In several segments on Fox News, correspondent William La Jeunesse highlighted the graph to claim that the Southwest border "is actually less secure," pointing to what he called the "double-digit surge" in border apprehensions from 2011 to 2013 to make his point:
La Jeunesse reported that the numbers for October-April 2013 were released exclusively to Fox News from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a report on Happening Now, La Jeunesse touted the graph and highlighted the fact that apprehensions of Central American nationals have risen 13 percent -- leading him to claim that by this standard more people are getting into the United States illegally.
La Jeunesse gave a similar report on Your World using the same graph.
However, the graph La Jeunesse used suffers from several misleading characteristics. First, it depicts an arbitrary time period: October through April, though we're only a few days into the month, for the years 2011 to 2013 -- which takes into account only half of Obama's first term. Moreover, the graph has a skewed scale -- making the 27,000 jump from 2011 to 2013 seem more dramatic than it actually is.
Fox News fearmongered about the costs of proposed federal food safety regulations without informing viewers that foodborne illnesses sicken millions of Americans annually and lead to the deaths of 3,000 people per year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed two food safety regulations -- not yet finalized and still subject to public input -- which, among other safeguards, would require "science- and risk-based standards at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities."
On the April 2 edition of Happening Now, Fox News host Jon Scott and correspondent Shannon Bream reported in detail what one conservative policy group estimated the rules, if adopted, would cost the agriculture industry. While the Fox figures paid brief lip service to the issue of public health -- Bream said that "it's a worthy goal, of course, keeping the food supply safe" -- they omitted any other discussion of consumer safety and the problem of foodborne illness outbreaks.
Specifically, Scott and Bream failed to inform viewers that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year, and contaminated food is responsible for 3,000 deaths annually.
While Bream cited "critics" who claim the new regulations "may be completely unnecessary," a rash of E. coli, salmonella and listeria outbreaks made national headlines in 2012 as the proposed rules were being crafted. Here are a few food safety stories Fox News ignored while questioning the need for stronger food safety rules:
Fox News host Jon Scott questioned the amount of media coverage paid to last week's historic Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality, saying that only "three or four percent of the population is actually gay" and suggesting media should have spent more time covering more impactful issues.
Scott's March 29 criticism was based on a Mediaite post about coverage of the hearings. Here's a look at some of the stories covered by Happening Now that week:
Fox News host Jon Scott looped the opposition to marriage equality into the fight against gun violence, claiming that conservatives are lined up in front of the Supreme Court "trying to defend traditional marriage" in part because gun violence is exacerbated by the institution's decline.
On the March 27 edition of Happening Now, Scott hosted Fox News contributor Juan Williams to discuss the nexus between race, gun violence, and the family unit. Scott then tied the discussion to the debate over the Defense Of Marriage Act, saying that a rise in gun and gang violence and drug use was "why so many hundreds of conservatives are lined up outside the Supreme Court right now trying to defend traditional marriage, because they say marriage is an important building block to the society."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the vast majority of protestors outside of the Supreme Court were supporters of marriage equality. The Times described the conservative DOMA protestors Scott cited, noting they "waved signs reading 'Kids do best with a mom and dad' and 'Appeal to Heaven'."
But science contradicts Scott's implication that children raised in same-sex parent households are prone to violence or drug addiction. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a 25-year study in 2004 that concluded there is no link between parents' sexual orientation and the emotional health of their children, and the American Psychological Association came to a similar conclusion in a 2004 compilation of research concerning same-sex parenting:
Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
Fox News continued to stoke fears that immigrants are a threat to public safety by advancing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's argument that granting undocumented immigrants driver's licenses might endanger American citizens. Fox has repeatedly sought to equate immigrants with an increase in crime, even as experts argue that crime drops as immigration rises.
Discussing a lawsuit challenging Brewer's decision, Fox News anchor Uma Pemmaraju suggested on Happening Now that Brewer is right to deny undocumented immigrants driver's licenses because it could jeopardize public safety. Pemmaraju stated: "What about when she raises issues about the safety of the citizens -- the fact that we already have situations that threaten our people here? We don't need another added burden."
In fact, experts contend that licensing undocumented immigrants will do the exact opposite -- increase public safety and promote the rule of law since it would encourage people who would otherwise be on the road anyway to get the training needed to obtain the license.
In June 2012, the Obama administration announced it would grant "deferred action" to certain undocumented immigrants under 31, exempting them from deportation for a period renewable every two years. Those who qualify are eligible to obtain work permits and Social Security cards. Though they do not have full legal status, they are considered to be lawfully present in the United States under the program.
Two months later, Brewer issued an executive order denying driver's licenses and IDs to the undocumented youths, claiming that state law barred these immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses.
This action was unusual. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least 38 states, including the District of Columbia, have announced they will issue or plan to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants who have deferred status. Only two -- Arizona and Nebraska -- have explicitly said they will deny them. A number of states have cited the benefit to public safety as reason to issue driver's licenses, saying it would promote the rule of law and cut down on traffic violations and unlicensed drivers.
From the March 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News anchor Jon Scott let the media off the hook for their unskeptical coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq ten years ago.
Former Meet The Press moderator Marvin Kalb, appearing on Scott's program, Happening Now, had excoriated the media earlier in the show for failing to critically examine the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had possessed weapons of mass destruction. Numerous media observers have pointed out that while some journalists pointed out at the time the flaws in the administration's case for war, the media at large did not question its claims.
But Jon Scott, who also hosts Fox News' weekly media criticism show Fox News Watch, disputed Kalb's claim that the media were complacent in the lead-up to the war. Pointing out that intelligence officials had said that Iraq possessed WMD, Scott asked, "How much more skeptical was the press supposed to be?"
Kalb replied by pointing out that Scott was "setting up the Bush administration's case," and explained that it was the media's responsibility to "stand up and say 'let's think about this before we march into war."
Fox News pushed long-debunked myths about health care reform in order to promote Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) reported plans to repeal the law as part of his upcoming budget.
Fox News spent less than 11 minutes highlighting the February jobs report that showed the unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent, about half the time the network spent covering the August 2011 jobs report that indicated no net addition of jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' unemployment report for the month of February revealed that 236,000 jobs were added, causing the unemployment rate to fall from 7.9 to 7.7 percent. This marks the first time the unemployment rate has been below 7.8 percent since 2008, and the lowest unemployment rate during the entirety of the Obama presidency.
Despite the significance of this development in the labor market, Fox News has been noticeably quiet on the subject in their morning programs, especially when contrasted with how they have covered previous negative economic news. On September 2, 2011 when initial reports showed no net addition of jobs for the month of August, Fox discussed this negative news for roughly twice the amount of time as the positive news on March 8, when the February jobs report was released.
Furthermore, the majority of Fox's coverage discussing the drop in unemployment used the news as a foil to bring up unrelated indicators or downplay its significance.
The fact that Fox spent little time discussing the drop in unemployment continues their documented history of downplaying positive economic news.
Media Matters viewed coverage of Fox News from 8:30 AM (when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its report) to 12:00 noon on September 2, 2011 and March 8, 2013 and recorded the amount of time spent discussing the unemployment reports. We included teases and straight news segments. The analysis includes the shows Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, and Happening Now.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the February 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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