The panelists on Fox News' media criticism show, Fox News Watch, had themselves a pity party over a recent study showing that Fox News was ranked ninth among all news outlets in the number of questions they got to ask at presidential news conferences in President Obama's first term. "Why does the president not like to call on us?" asked host Jon Scott. "Because he doesn't want to be embarrassed," was Fox contributor Kirsten Powers' response.
But did the president really unfairly shun the Murdoch network? Not particularly. In fact, there are a bunch of top-flight news outlets that should be jealous of the attention Fox received.
Let's look at this with a bit more perspective.
According to the study, Fox was called on 14 times in four years. That's more than The Washington Post (11), USA Today (9), The Wall Street Journal (8), McClatchy Newspapers (5), NPR (5), Politico (2), and Time (1). The network was only just behind CNN and The New York Times, both of which were called on 16 times. Fox News' 14 questions were nearly triple the combined total for Spanish-language news outlets Telemundo (3) and Univision (2).
So no, Fox's 14 questions were not the most of any news outlet, but they were more -- in some cases significantly more -- than many other large media organizations got to ask.
As for the idea that fear of "embarrassment" is why the president chose not to call on Fox as frequently as they would have liked over the past four years, it's possible that's true. Then again, it also might have had something to do with this. Or this. Or this. Or this...
Fox News figures have tried to use an investigative panel's recent report on the Benghazi attack to congratulate their network on its coverage of the attack. But the report actually debunks several incorrect and misleading narratives Fox pushed about Benghazi.
On December 18, the independent Accountability Review Board, which was set up by the State Department to investigate the Benghazi attack, released their findings in a report that "sharply criticized the State Department" for oversights that led to insufficient security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, as The New York Times reported.
During the December 19 broadcast of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Fox News contributor Sarah Palin for her thoughts on the report, and Palin answered, in part, "Kudos to Fox News for being the news outlet that stayed on top of this story. Americans deserve these answers." Van Susteren responded that she felt "some level of pride" for Fox's Benghazi coverage, because of "all the sort of heat we took from people, saying that it wasn't a story." She added, "[T]here's been a lot of resistance to my national security colleagues getting this information. So, I do take some pride with them."
Similarly, Fox contributor Kirsten Powers suggested on Special Report that the Benghazi report wasn't even necessary because of the program's coverage of the attack, saying, "Well, it's interesting that that report -- you could have known all that if you'd just watched this show. So, it's sort of funny that they had to do an investigation to figure all of that out."
In fact, the review board's report actually discredits Fox's coverage of the attack.
Fox News figures attacked President Obama's defense of Ambassador Susan Rice during a press conference, claiming his statement that critics of Rice "should go after me" was "absurd and chauvinistic." Fox has a history of attacking Obama and Rice, most recently by invoking Libya smears in order to derail Rice's potential nomination as secretary of state.
Fox News has seized on what it believes is a new angle to continue making an issue of the Obama administration's response to the Libya terrorist attack. Discussing President Obama's news conference on Wednesday, Fox treated Obama's statement that the White House chose Ambassador Susan Rice to discuss the attack publicly as new and "significant," claiming Obama's admission is "one of the most important parts" of what he said during his press conference.
It's unclear why Fox believes Obama's statement is significant considering Rice's position as a top official in the Obama administration.
In her capacity as one of the United States' top diplomats -- she was nominated by President Obama as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in January 2009 -- Rice is a member of the Obama administration whose job is to speak for the White House on government decisions and policy.
Not only that, but the White House's reasons for why it specifically asked Rice to discuss the situation in Benghazi publicly have been known for at least a month. The Washington Post reported on October 15: "The White House has said that it turned to Rice to make the administration's case on the Benghazi attack because it made sense to have a top diplomat speak to the loss of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens."
On September 16, five days after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Rice appeared on the Sunday talk shows to talk about what the administration knew about the attack. In the interviews, Rice made clear that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
OBAMA: [L]et me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace. As I've said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.
If Senator [John] McCain and Senator [Lindsay] Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.
Discussing his comments on Fox News' America Live, however, host Megyn Kelly and Fox contributor Kirsten Powers expressed surprise at Obama's statement that Rice's appearances on the Sunday talk shows were "at the request of the White House."
Powers claimed the admission was "probably one of the most important parts" of what Obama said, "which is admitting that the White House is the one who told her what to say and that this did come from the White House, which had been mostly been speculated upon."
Fox's Kirsten Powers dreamed up an alternate meaning for Vice President Joe Biden's statement that the White House didn't know about requests for additional security for the diplomatic compound in Benghazi. But a security adviser has confirmed that Biden's comments were accurate.
During the October 11 vice presidential debate, ABC's Martha Raddatz questioned Biden about requests for additional security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi prior to the September 11 attack. Biden told Raddatz, "We weren't told [the Benghazi consulate] wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again."
On today's edition of Fox's Happening Now, Powers said, purporting to know Biden's intended use of the word "we," "I guess the defense now is that the White House didn't know. But when Joe Biden says 'we' didn't know, he's saying the administration didn't know. And we know that that's false." Referring to an October 10 congressional hearing on the attack, Powers added, "We know that from the hearing."
But a deputy national security adviser had already confirmed Biden was correct. Foreign Policy's blog The Cable reached out to Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for communications, and reported that "Rhodes said that Biden speaks only for himself and the president" -- not for every administration official -- "and neither of them knew about the requests at the time."
Indeed, officials never testified that they made security requests directly to the White House, but said they contacted the State Department. Rhodes pointed out that this was "natural because the State Department is responsible for diplomatic security, not the White House."
The Fox News campaign to defend Mitt Romney's debate dishonesty reached its logical extreme as contributor Kirsten Powers criticized Obama's camp for crossing an imaginary line forbidding campaigns from accusing their opponents of lying. Never mind that it's a line Mitt Romney himself crossed before he had any evidence to support it.
Romney has been criticized for numerous dishonest and misleading claims he made during the October 3 presidential debate. His statements earned several "false" and "mostly false" ratings from PolitiFact. After the debate, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom even admitted that people with pre-existing conditions may be unable to find health insurance coverage under Romney's plan, contrary to what the presidential aspirant said during the debate.
Yet when Powers appeared on Fox's America Live to discuss the aftermath of the debate, she criticized the Obama campaign for focusing on Romney's actual dishonesty, claiming: "There are a few lines in politics that usually aren't crossed, and one of them is people usually actually don't call other people liars."
So how does Powers account for Romney's statements leading up to the debate essentially warning that Obama would use the forum to lie?
In contrast to the Obama campaign, which has identified actual false claims made by the GOP nominee, Romney weighed in weeks before a single word was uttered at the debate to suggest that Obama would be dishonest:
"The challenge that I'll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren't true," Romney told ABC News recently. "I've looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it's difficult to say, 'Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren't quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?' "
During the very debate Powers discussed, Romney compared the president to a dishonest child:
ROMNEY: I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it's a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it's just not the case. Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it. But that -- that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.
Perhaps it's only OK to call your opponent a liar when you don't have evidence to back up the charge.
From the August 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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On America's Newsroom, Fox News promoted a Republican congressman's claim that a halt to government regulations will lower the unemployment rate, and then misled viewers over regulations' negligent effect on business and unemployment. In the last six years, regulations were responsible for less than 1 percent of all job loss, and small business owners have cited demand, not regulation, as their biggest obstacle to job creation.
Fox News contributor and National Review editor Rich Lowry claimed that because of the current economic situation, "it makes even less sense to pile new regulations on top of business to make the job of hiring people even more difficult than it is." Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers added that "regulation of small businesses is a problem" and agreed that government regulations "have been too much." Host Bill Hemmer then asked: "Why doesn't the White House do something about [regulation]? Unemployment's above 8 percent."
In reality, government regulations have a negligible impact on the unemployment rate. In 2011, government regulation was the impetus behind only 0.4 percent of all jobs lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For 2012 thus far, regulation is responsible for merely 0.28 percent of total new unemployment. Business demand for goods and services is responsible the vast majority of layoffs, as BLS shows:
From 2007-2009, during the economic recession, the BLS found that government regulation accounted for around 4,300 layoffs -- 0.3 percent of all those who lost their jobs. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) noted that these numbers are especially significant when compared with the number of jobs lost during the recession due to regulatory failures:
The 4,300 figure itself deserves further context. It does not take into account any offsetting job creation that the regulations may have spurred, such as jobs created from the increased demand for the products from companies in compliance with the regulations. More broadly, the 4,300 figure pales in comparison to any accounting of the jobs lost in this period due to the regulatory failures that contributed to the economy's financial crisis.
That extended mass layoffs resulting from government regulations/intervention are a small sliver of all such layoffs is not an anomaly of tough economic times (when more layoffs naturally reflect the lack of demand). In 2007, a year of modest job growth, just 0.3% of extended mass layoffs were attributed to government regulation/intervention.
Small business owners agree. In a 2011 survey of about 1,200 small business owners, more than 80 percent cited economic factors and lack of demand as the primary obstacles facing their business.
Right-wing media have marked the 40th Anniversary of Title IX by attacking equal opportunity efforts for women in the "STEM" fields of science, technology, engineering, or math. The historic civil rights law prohibits discrimination in federally-funded education programs or activities on the basis of sex.
Conservative media has not only argued that such affirmative action is unconstitutional, but has gone farther and argued that the law does not apply beyond scholastic sports and requires quotas. They also insist that women simply do not want to study or work in science-or math-related fields. The first three claims are demonstrably incorrect; the fourth assertion contradicts numerous studies and cannot satisfactorily explain the disproportionate under-representation of women in these educational fields.
On the July 25 edition of Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson hosted a segment that touched on all of these discredited arguments in an interview with Hans Bader, Counsel for Special Projects for the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute. Bader concluded the interview by asserting that women are heavily underrepresented in the STEM fields because they naturally choose "organic subjects like people, plants, animals, biology, psychology." Carlson then ended the interview, noting that there "could be" a counter argument to this last claim.
Bader's Fox and Friends appearance is only the most recent example of conservative attacks on the Obama Administration's efforts to utilize Title IX for the promotion of equal opportunity in science and math education.
For example, Sabrina Schaeffer and Carrie Lukas of the conservative Independent Women's Forum did the same on June 18 and June 22 in the Huffington Post and U.S. News, respectively, Fox News Political Analyst Kirsten Powers took aim at sex-based affirmative action on July 17 in USA Today, and New York Post columnist Kyle Smith used the front page to launch a July 14 op-ed that was particularly reliant on sex stereotypes.
These conservative commentators repeated Bader's false claims: that Title IX's scope is limited to athletics, the Obama administration is proposing quotas, equal opportunity efforts disregard women's aversion to science and math, and affirmative action on the basis of sex is unconstitutional.
All of these conservative critiques are incorrect or unsubstantiated.
Following President Obama's State of the Union address, right-wing media predictably declared his speech speech "boring," "dull," and "flat" -- terms they have consistently used to describe most speeches Obama has given in the past two years.
From the November 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the October 23 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch:
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From the September 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Yesterday I noted that Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers authored an unconvincing column blaming the Obamas for the media freakout over the First Lady's vacation to Spain. By Powers' reasoning, the right-wing will turn pretty much anything into an example of the Obamas' alleged "elitism," so it's stupid for the White House to give conservatives ammunition in the form of a "lavish foreign vacation." My contention is that if, as Powers acknowledges, the right-wing will turn anything (including Dijon mustard, for crying out loud) into an attack on Obama's "elitism," then it makes no sense to worry about how they will view the "optics" because they're just going to scream "out of touch" no matter what you do.
And, conveniently enough, Glenn Beck has helped prove my point.
Last night on Fox News, Beck attacked President Obama for playing a game of pickup basketball with NBA stars. The game was played for an audience of wounded veterans. There were no television cameras or other media allowed. According to Beck, this showed the president is "out of touch with the average American." And just for good measure, he said Obama "prefers arugula," a silly attack that's now three years past its expiration date.
So, is Obama to be faulted for consorting with professional basketball players because he provided ammunition for Beck to attack him as "out of touch"? Or are we to fault the sort of right-wing media culture that enables a deceitful snake like Glenn Beck to pervert something as worthwhile as a basketball game for wounded soldiers and twist it into an attack on his political adversary?
One certainly seems to make more sense than the other.
Let's take a trip back to July 2007. The many presidential candidates of both parties are dividing their time between the early primary states, and the economy's bottom was still many months from falling out. Then-underdog Barack Obama asked farmers at a campaign stop in Iowa: "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula? I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff." The reaction from pundits and Republicans was swift and uniform -- Obama was betraying his elitism by talking about this exotic "arugula" substance in front of middle-American farmers who don't have the time or money to waste on big-city salad greens.
Of course, Iowa farmers grow lots and lots of arugula, and it's sold in supermarkets all across the state. But no matter -- Obama said "arugula" and "Whole Foods" in the same sentence which meant he didn't understand middle-America.
The Obama-as-an-elitist trope became one of the big media talking points for the rest of the campaign, as pundits and Republicans criticized Obama for -- and it's still remarkable to recall this -- drinking orange juice and vacationing in "foreign, exotic" Hawaii. In the end, all the hand-wringing over Obama's alleged inability to connect with "regular" voters was for naught, as voters making less than $50,000 preferred Obama to McCain 60-38 percent, and 57 percent of voters thought Obama was "in touch with people like you."
I bring all this up because Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers has an op-ed in the New York Post this morning slamming Michelle Obama for taking a "well-publicized, expensive vacation in southern Spain" because it "was a PR gift to her husband's opposition."