Media figures cheered Republican Mitt Romney's performance in the first presidential debate, claiming he offered specifics and an economic plan to contrast with that of President Obama. In fact, independent analysis shows Romney provided vague details at best.
From the October 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Two Fox News Sunday panelists suggested that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not properly emphasize the fact that there is an ongoing investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, in the interview that they were referring to, and throughout her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Rice repeatedly noted that the investigation was ongoing and that its results would ultimately reveal what happened.
This suggestion feeds into the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been purposefully deceptive in its public statements about the investigation.
Today on Fox News Sunday, Christian Science Monitor reporter Liz Marlantes questioned why Rice, during a September 16 appearance on Fox News Sunday, didn't simply say, "We're investigating, we don't really know very much yet." Later, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham similarly asked why Rice didn't say, "We have an ongoing investigation, and I'm really not going to say anything more. We're going to learn more."
But in her September 16 appearance, Rice stressed the fact that it was important not to jump to conclusions before the investigation was completed, but shared the administration's "best current assessment" (emphasis added):
RICE: Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment.
In her appearances throughout September 16, Rice repeatedly emphasized that the investigation was ongoing and would provide the definitive answer to what happened. Her statements mirrored those of other administration officials.
From the September 30 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
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In the past month, Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly misrepresented and smeared women's health activist Sandra Fluke and falsely claimed that she has advocated for universal taxpayer-funded contraception. In fact, as she made clear in her testimony in front of a congressional panel in February, Fluke was voicing support for the health care mandate that requires private health insurance plans -- which women already pay for -- to cover women's preventive health services without a co-pay.
The mandate is intended only for private health insurance companies where premiums are paid by individuals, often through their employer -- not the taxpayer. Religious organizations are exempt from complying with this requirement.
O'Reilly has criticized and misrepresented Fluke's testimony five times in the last four weeks, most recently on September 18 during his interview with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart:
After Stewart described Fluke as speaking "about an issue close to her heart," O'Reilly interjected, "and her hand in my wallet at the same time." He then asked, "Do you want to pay for this woman's birth control?" adding, "She wants everybody['s contraception] to get paid for."
A Nexis search reveals that in addition to Tuesday night, O'Reilly has said:
In addition, O'Reilly has repeatedly attacked or facilitated attacks on Fluke on his show:
Note to Mitt Romney: This is what happens when you run for president on the back of Fox News and embrace the dark anti-Obama conspiracies that fuel the right-wing media.
On Monday, the Republican nominee was forced to hold a rare, late-night press availibility to respond to Mother Jones' report on a video of Romney taken surreptitiously at a closed-door Florida campaign fundraiser in May where the candidate tells donors that "there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
The notion that Obama voters are lazy victims who rely on the government for sustenance from birth to death represents Romney's open embrace of Fox News and the same insulting allegation that it, along with other right-wing talkers, has been making for the last four years. Here, the Republican's long-standing caricature of the lazy welfare recipient gets dramatically expanded to include tens of millions of Americans who vote Democratic and who apparently worship big government and disdain hard work.
The sweeping generalization Romney uses to denigrate so many voters, and the fact he did it behind closed doors while speaking to wealthy donors, is what turned the comments into a significant campaign news event. Writing off nearly half the electorate as selfish dependents who refuse to take responsibilities for their own lives isn't usually how White House candidates frame their campaigns.
What's telling though is how, once again, the fingerprints of Fox News and the right-wing media are all over the Romney campaign and its latest misstep.
Fact: Fox and friends have been railing for years about how Obama is purposefully making more people dependent on the government (an "entitlement state") so he can turn that dependency into votes. Obama, according to the fevered rhetoric from the far-right swamp, wants to radically extend the reach of the government in an effort to extract voter loyalty. "He'd rather you be a slave and be economically dependent upon him," is how Fox favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL) put it.
Remember Glenn Beck's unhinged comparison to Obama as drug-dealer-in-chief?
If he's not a socialist, if he's not a Marxist, then he must be a heroin dealer. I believe our new president is pushing a much more powerful version of heroin, and he is getting people strung out.
Meanwhile, discussing welfare work requirement reform this summer (and while completely misrepresenting the changes the Obama administration implemented at the behest of Republican governors), Fox contributor Laura Ingraham claimed the changes were designed to be a "push for election turnout." Explained Ingraham: "Give more free stuff to people and hope that they come to the polls."
And of course Rush Limbaugh has been relentlessly promoting the unsavory talking point, claiming the Democratic president doesn't "want people leaving the welfare rolls" because "those are voters that are getting away."
All of this strange right-wing media rhetoric has apparently soaked in and has been embraced by the Romney campaign. In fact, just last week, an unnamed Romney adviser complained to National Review that the reason the media are allegedly rooting for Obama is because "the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make."
Again, with this twisted notion that the (socialist!) Obama administration is trying to control people's lives by expanding the size of government, and that Americans who receive government services automatically support Democrats. (No unemployment recipient has ever voted Republican?) Indeed, the Atlantic mapped out where Romney's 47 percent of no-income-tax-paying voters live, and it turns out "those people are disproportionately in red states -- that is, states that tend to vote Republican."
This is the kind of fringe, conspiratorial rhetoric that campaigns usually leave to the periphery. And for good reason. But Mitt Romney is the Fox News candidate and apparently that means echoing every dark, incoherent attack that the talk channel can conjure up.
Fox used a dishonest comparison of two different measures of unemployment to suggest the unemployment rate has nearly doubled since President Obama took office.
During a segment criticizing the Obama administration for its messaging on the economy, a Fox & Friends graphic claimed that the "real unemployment rate" had increased from 7.8% in 2009 to 14.7% now:
But in order to make the claim that unemployment had increased from 7.8% to 14.7% during Obama's time in office, Fox had to conflate two different statistics and completely distort Obama's jobs record.
The 7.8 percent figure is the official unemployment rate from January 2009. This statistic reports on people who are unemployed and actively looking for a job. But as of the latest report, the official unemployment rate is 8.1 percent (0.3 percent higher than it was in January 2009), not 14.7 percent.
The 14.7 percent figure is a completely different measurement of the unemployed, which in addition to those who are actively looking for work, also counts people who are unemployed and discouraged from looking for a new job, part-time workers who prefer full-time employment, and more. This alternative measure of unemployment, which conservatives often call the "real" unemployment rate, was 14.2 percent in January 2009 -- 0.5 percentage points lower than it is today.
Indeed an accurate chart of this statistic would show that the rate has declined in recent years:
Fox has repeatedly attacked Democrats for a party platform that does not specifically use the word "God." By contrast, Fox figures downplayed the importance of the GOP platform last week, saying that Romney "doesn't write the platforms" and "doesn't have to abide" by them.
From the August 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the August 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News is not disclosing its clear conflict of interest in defending Chick-fil-A against criticism over the fast-food restaurant's stance on marriage equality, as the controversy stands to benefit HarperCollins, a publishing company owned by Fox News' parent company, News Corporation.
Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy set off a controversy when, during a July 16 interview, he said that his company supports "the biblical definition of the family unit." Cathy later said in a radio interview, "As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' "
Amid calls to boycott the company over the anti-marriage equality remarks, The Jim Henson Company, which created toys for Chick-fil-A, spoke out against the restaurant, writing on Facebook: "[W]e have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors. Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD." Chick-fil-A then announced it had pulled the Henson toys, citing safety concerns.
Following the split with The Jim Henson Company, Chick-fil-A replaced the toys with the children's books The Berenstain Bears. As reported by NBC News, a statement on the Berenstain company website "said the books' publisher, HarperCollins, has been working on this marketing project for more than a year." The statement read, in part:
The Berenstain family does not at this time have control over whether this program proceeds or not. We hope those concerned about this issue will direct their comments toward HarperCollins and Chick-fil-A.
While all this has been going on, Fox has been defending Chick-fil-A while not disclosing that it has an interest in doing so. Both Fox and HarperCollins, the publisher of the Berenstain Bears books, are subsidiaries of News Corporation. If the HarperCollins marketing project suffers as a result of a decline in sales brought about by the Chick-fil-A controversy, News Corp. stands to take a hit to its bottom line.
From the July 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the July 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox's Laura Ingraham dismissed a recent rule change regarding welfare work requirements as an attempt by the Obama administration to buy votes, a charge right-wing media have frequently leveled at Obama after his attempts to improve antipoverty programs. But the rule change was reportedly requested by GOP governors, and a 2005 version of the waivers was supported by several GOP governors, including Mitt Romney.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham lent Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) a helping hand as the congressman sought to do damage control on his recent attack on wounded veteran Tammy Duckworth.
During a July 1 campaign speech, Walsh claimed that Duckworth, his opponent, was unlike "our true heroes" because her military service is "all she talks about":
WALSH: Understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, "Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!" He didn't want to do it, wouldn't do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That's what's so noble about our heroes. Now I'm running against a woman who, my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, it's the last thing in the world they talk about. That's why we're so indebted and in awe of what they've done. [emphasis added]
Following widespread criticism of Walsh's comments, Ingraham, while filling in for Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor tonight, hosted the congressman and helped clean up after him.
Ingraham began the interview with a softball question: "Do you think Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in a Blackhawk helicopter accident in Iraq in combat -- do you think she's a hero?" Walsh replied, "Oh absolutely, Laura, and I've said that hundreds of times," but then added that "all [Duckworth] does is film me talking to people, and the left-wing blogs just went crazy with it."
Ingraham went on to remark that Duckworth has said "blistering things about the tea party movement" and Walsh, and that it seems as if Walsh is in a position where he has to "watch every word" he says to avoid being "branded as insensitive to her plight as a disabled American and as a war hero." She continued:
INGRAHAM: So, I guess, what do you do? You have to argue with her, you have to be sensitive, you have to be tough, but you gotta be careful. I mean it's a tough mix, but you gotta watch your Ps and Qs, I guess.
Ingraham concluded the interview by saying that Duckworth is a "war hero with whom" Walsh disagrees on the issues, and adding: "Most disabled people that I know just want to be treated like everybody else and they don't want to be babied."
In her interview with Walsh, Ingraham downplayed that Walsh's initial remarks created a distinction between Duckworth and "our true heroes" in the military. In fact, after being given the chance to walk back his statement earlier today, Walsh called Duckworth a hero but qualified it by stating that "unlike most veterans I have had the honor to meet since my election to Congress, who rarely if ever talk about their service or the combat they've seen, that is darn near all of what Tammy Duckworth talks about."
Ingraham's effort to help Walsh with damage control comes the same day that CNN contributor Erick Erickson defended the congressman.