Right-wing media personalities have incessantly attacked President Obama's six previous State of the Union addresses -- from calling the speeches "boring" to questioning his decision to invite a wounded veteran to the event -- and have even frequently waged the attacks before the addresses even occurred. Ahead of Obama's January 12 State of the Union address, Media Matters looks back at conservative media's long history of attacking annual addresses.
Before President Obama made his first official State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, right-wing media pundits called the speech "stupid" "propaganda." Fox host Sean Hannity repeatedly referred to the upcoming speech as "propaganda," and former Fox host Glenn Beck told his viewers "you don't even have to watch this stupid speech tonight. I'll watch it for you so you don't have to." Beck added, "I want to hang myself over watching this." Fox Business' John Stossel asked Obama to use the address to apologize for being "arrogant." After his speech, media personalities criticized Obama, and claimed he didn't show enough humility. Stossel said Obama "certainly didn't sound humbled," and only a few minutes into the address, National Review's John Hood criticized Obama's "cadence and rhythm" for coming "across as flippant and arrogant." The talking point wasn't anything new -- frequent Fox guest Ben Stein had predicted that "we'll see Obama with his fake modesty and his fake humility" before the speech took place. Once again, Glenn Beck joined the chorus: "the arrogance from the moment this guy walked in, the arrogance -- there's no humility there."
President Obama made his second State of the Union address on January 25, 2011, and the media predicted it would focus on theatrics instead of substance. Rush Limbaugh directed his listeners to watch a Golf Channel show he appeared in instead of the address, predicting that Obama would "lie for an hour and fifteen minutes." On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned whether Obama would be sincere, suggesting that the president was merely trying "to make sure he gets re-elected." After the speech, Limbaugh continued to attack Obama's sincerity, saying Obama "just doesn't believe" the "pro-America rah-rah" featured in the speech and suggesting that the speech was plagiarized. Fox & Friends' recap of the debate called the speech "boring."
Continuing their tradition of attacking Obama prior to the address, Fox News hosts criticized the focus on economic security and income equality. On Fox & Friends Kilmeade said that Obama would "bring up the class warfare stuff," while co-host Steve Doocy forcasted that it would "ignite the whole class warfare thing." Co-host of Fox's The Five , Andrea Tantaros predicted the address would be a "very divisive, very evil speech" that is "designed to get people in the audience who are sitting home on their duffs ... angry at their neighbors who are actually going out, who are working hard."
After the address, right-wing media largely continued their "class warfare" narrative. Fox's Doocy doubled down against Obama's focus on income inequality, saying that his comments regarding billionaires paying the same percentage of taxes as their secretaries were intended "to kick off his class warfare campaign." Fox Business' Dave Ramsey even claimed Obama "declared war on success in the name of this class warfare politics."
After President Obama's February 12, 2013 State of the Union Speech, right-wing radio host Mark Levin accused Obama of "lying to the American people" in a "Castro-like speech." Levin criticized the economy under Obama claiming he keeps "proposing more programs, more trusts, more partnerships, more agencies, more spending." A Fox Nation headline echoed Levin's comments: "Obama Pleads For Billions In New Deficit Spending." That same post, however, linked to a FoxNews.com article that reported the full transcript of Obama's comments, explaining that his proposals would be "fully paid for" and that "nothing [he's] proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."
Before the January 28, 2014 State of the Union, Fox News once again downplayed the address, asking, "Does it matter what the president says?" After the address, Rush Limbaugh was critical of Obama's guest, wounded Army Ranger Cory Remsburg's presence. Limbaugh claimed that Obama invited a wounded veteran to the address to say "look what George Bush is responsible for." Right-wing media also pounced on Obama's comments that climate change demands urgent action and that the debate over it is "settled." Their evidence against the claim? Cold weather and snow across the country.
In the most memorable vitriol from President Obama's January 20, 2015 State of the Union, Rush Limbaugh told his audience he had already written his response before the address: "I hope he fails." Limbaugh then bragged that "that has been my State of the Union response every year. I hope he fails. It is what it is. You can't get more clear cut than that." On his January 21 show, Limbaugh rehashed his reasoning behind boycotting the speech saying that he would have been "insulted as a conservative" and "lied to" and that the address would have been the "next Santa Claus list."
Note: this analysis did not include Obama's 2009 Address to Joint Session of Congress.
The National Review Online simultaneously questioned the legitimacy of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and overstated the constitutionality of voter ID laws that require citizens to produce unnecessarily redundant photo identification.
In an attempt to normalize Republicans' refusal to accept a duly enacted law already ruled on as constitutional by the Supreme Court - a degree of obstructionism that The New Yorker recently observed was last seen in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education - the NRO recently defended the GOP shutdown of the government by comparing it to the opposition to overly stringent voter ID laws. From an October 3 column:
[H]ow many times in the past 24 hours have you heard [President Obama and congressional Democrats] or their allies make the argument that Obamacare is a settled issue because 1) it was enacted by duly elected federal lawmakers and signed by a duly elected president, 2) the U.S. Supreme Court said it passed constitutional muster, and 3) it was championed by a reelected Obama and opposed by a defeated Romney? That's not how republics work -- no issue is ever truly settled -- but more important it's not how these same folks behave on other issues.
Take voter ID. Many states, including my own North Carolina, have seen voter ID became law through the actions of duly elected state lawmakers and governors. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that voter ID passes constitutional muster. State officials enacting voter ID have subsequently been reelected. But in the eyes of the Obama administration, voter ID is about as far away from "settled" as an issue can be. Attorney General Eric Holder has just announced a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's new election law, including the photo-ID requirement. The Justice Department continues to pursue or threaten similar litigation in other states.
A fair comparison? I think so. But there is an important difference between Obamacare and voter ID. The former is unpopular. The latter is supported by the vast majority of voters, including most Democrats, independents, and minorities. So conservatives are fighting an uphill battle to defeat an unpopular law. Liberals are fighting an uphill battle (I suspect) to defeat a popular law.
NRO's false equivalence between the ACA and voter ID laws is awkward at best. The ACA is well-settled federal law of the land. The constitutionality of state voter ID laws, on the other hand, is still very much in doubt.
In comments before and during President Obama's first State of the Union address, several media conservatives have accused him of being arrogant. Fox Business Networks' John Stossel said that he wanted Obama to apologize for being arrogant during his speech and John Hood stated on National Review's The Corner blog that Obama's "cadence and rhythm" "come across as flippant and arrogant."
National Review's John Hood thinks Barack Obama is arrogant:
Da-da-da-da, Da-da-da-dum [John Hood]
Ugh. We're only a couple of minutes into the president's address, and the cadence and rhythm of his speaking voice is already grating. They come across as flippant and arrogant. Hasn't anyone ever told him that?