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).
From the March 13 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the February 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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The re-emerging right-wing myth that low-income Americans aren't paying their "fair share" in taxes relies on flawed data: a report from the Heritage Foundation highlighting the fact that nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax. In fact, while nearly half of Americans pay little to no federal income tax, nearly three-quarters pay other federal taxes, and nearly all pay state and local taxes; Americans who pay neither income nor payroll taxes are seniors, students, people with disabilities, and others who are not part of the working population.
From the February 16 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Conservative media are pushing for Israel or the United States to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, claiming that inaction will cause great harm to Israel. In doing so, however, they are ignoring questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all and minimizing the dangers of war with Iran.
In a February 6 Townhall.com piece, Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison, senior fellows with the Family Research Council (FRC), argued that Israel should "strike [Iran] now" as its "very survival is on the line," adding, "As worrisome as an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities might be, Iran with a nuclear weapon is infinitely more." They concluded:
Today, surrounded by mortal enemies, with their backs to the wall, Israelis are told to take more "risks for peace" by a US. administration that is outraged by the sight of too many Jews in Jerusalem.
If we wait until the Iranians have sunk their nuclear weapons deep into hardened bunkers it will be too late. The Obama administration will not act in time. Later, will be too late.
Israel: Don't wait; hit the Iranian nuclear facilities now. The world will thank you for it.
During the February 7 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said that "[t]here is a rise of Islamic extremism that is happening under [Obama's] watch, and he's not doing a thing," adding, "[h]e ought to be dropping bunker buster bombs on Iran's nuclear sites."
On February 8, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens appeared on Fox News' Happening Now to discuss his recent piece on whether Israel should bomb Iran. During the segment, Stephens said that "Israel should bomb Iran if it's going to strike decisively," adding: "If it's going to have a surgical attack that will set the Iranians back by six months or one year then the question becomes, What's the point of that? But if it's going to use a strike as a first stage in a broader program of regime change joined by the United States, then that's worthwhile." Stephens concluded the segment by saying:
As the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put it, Iran is now entering what he calls a zone of immunity. They will have too much material too deeply buried to be susceptible to an Israeli strike. And that window is closing for them. Unless they take advantage of this opportunity they will have to live with a nuclear Iran, which will be devastating for Israel's interest.
And on the February 12 edition of Fox News' America's News Headquarters, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said that "if we don't become very serious and convince the Iranians that we will use significant military force to stop them they're going to just keep moving straight ahead," adding, "I think we're going to have to be prepared to use military force." He concluded:
I want this administration to get realistic and get tough about Iran. Stop this nonsense about talking to them, which goes back to when he was debating Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton told him to his face that he's naïve. Stop it. Cut it out, Mr. President. They don't want to talk to you. You know what they want to hear from you? That you're tough. That you are capable of attacking them if that is necessary and that you're not going to sit there and labor over it. That you are willing to do it if that is necessary to stop them from becoming a nuclear power. And he should say to them, in the toughest language he can come up with, there's no way on earth I'm going to let you become a nuclear power. It's just too darn dangerous.
There are several things wrong here.
From the February 10 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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For weeks, the right-wing media have been attacking the Obama administration for drafting regulations that required most employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women. While the regulation exempted churches and other religious institutions, conservatives screamed that it would violate the religious conscience of Catholic hospitals and other employers. Today, President Obama announced an accommodation in which insurance companies would directly offer contraception coverage to employers who have religious objections to such coverage.
The Catholic hospitals -- who conservative media say they are trying to protect -- support the accommodation. According to the Associated Press: "The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that had fought against the birth control requirement, said the organization was pleased with the revised rule. 'The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed,' Sister Carol Keehan said in a statement."
Despite the support from Catholic hospitals, Fox's supposedly "straight news" division is already laying the groundwork to attack the accommodation.
Discussing the accommodation, Fox News' Happening Now host Jon Scott said "There's no guarantee, I have to think, that this accommodation is going to be acceptable." Scott also said: "Saying that the church doesn't necessarily have to pay for the birth control option, that the insurance companies have to, that doesn't seem like it's going to necessarily fly."
It will be hard to make the case that Obama has done anything less than bend over backwards to achieve consensus. Catholic hospitals support the accommodation; the Catholic group Catholics United supports the accommodation; and recent polls have shown that the majority of Catholics support insurance plans that cover contraception.
But Fox seems ready to keep trying to drum up outrage.
The recent announcement that the Obama administration would require most employers to provide birth control caused immediate outrage throughout Fox News and the right-wing media. (Churches and other religious institutions are exempt.) Today on Fox News' Happening Now, Jon Scott explained to fellow Fox News host Chris Wallace that critics are calling "the birth control mandate an attack on religious freedom" while "supporters say it's about woman's access to family planning and health care." Chris Wallace -- supposedly part of the network's straight news division and anchor of Fox News Sunday -- decided that the supporters of the mandate were totally wrong.
Wallace said: "I don't think it's just about birth control. I really think this controversy is about government intrusion. There are a lot of people who aren't Catholics who are very upset about this because they think the government shouldn't be in the business of telling anybody in any religion what they have to do. And so it becomes a question of government limits or government intrusion in the lives of institutions or of people." Wallace also said: "This idea of mandates is something I think you don't have to be Catholic to be upset about."
Wallace's comments directly contradicted comments that Democratic senators had made about the contraception issue. For instance, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said: "We have news for Republican: This is about contraception. The attacks on women's rights never come without being disguised as something else."
And it's ridiculous to suggest that this isn't about access to contraception. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, "[e]mployer-based coverage is the primary form of health insurance for 64% of women of reproductive age, but a sizable minority of women lack coverage for contraceptives." Notably, poorer and college-aged women are the ones who struggle the most with the cost of prescription birth control.
But that's Fox's straight news division for you: always ready to rebut the progressive position regardless of the facts.
From the January 31 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox figures have suggested that President Obama is anti-Catholic or anti-religion following the administration's recent decision requiring church-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance plans that cover contraceptives for women. But polling has shown that a majority of Catholics have said that insurance policies should cover contraceptives; moreover, the Obama administration has repeatedly engaged the faith-based community -- including Catholic leaders -- and has directed millions in funding to religious groups. This follow's Fox's long history of portraying Obama as hostile toward religion.
From the January 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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While I can't claim to have heard every piece of commentary uttered about President Obama's State of the Union address, I can state quite comfortably that Fox News host Chris Wallace offered the most vapid commentary on the affair:
There were a lot of small-bore things. There was a trade unit he created and a financial crimes unit and worker retraining. The only problem there, again, is this is year four of the Obama presidency. If these were such good ideas, why didn't he do them in years one, two and three?
Set aside the unprecedented obstructionism Obama has faced from congressional Republicans, who have made no secret of their plans to manufacture a "Waterloo" moment for Obama, and who have stated that their top goal is to ensure that Obama is a one-term president.
Wallace's critique implies that the clock has already run out on Obama and new ideas.
You know who else had ideas in the fourth year of his presidency? Ronald Reagan. There he was, all three years into his time in office, laying out the state of the union and pushing ideas big and small that he didn't do in years one, two, or three.
Reagan isn't even alone. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also used State of the Union addresses to present ideas -- even after they had already been president for three whole years.
In fact, that the president of the United States would present ideas on how to strengthen the state of the union is the whole point of the thing:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient
Figures in the right-wing media have a puzzling habit of attacking Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's hair. They have coupled this with other sexist attacks -- for instance, Rush Limbaugh's description of her as "one of those women you're happy somebody else married."