Fox News distorted Fitch Rating's threat to potentially downgrade credit rating for the U.S. government, blaming the threat on President Obama's proposal to avoid a government default by raising the debt ceiling. In fact, Fitch threatened to downgrade the U.S. credit rating if Congress uses the debt ceiling as leverage to exact spending cuts, which is what Congressional Republicans have proposed.
During America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that Fitch threatened to downgrade its U.S. credit rating because the company did not like Obama's January 14 press conference, in which he said he would not negotiate with Congress over whether to raise the debt ceiling.
Contrary to Varney and MacCallum's claims, Fitch stated in a press release that it would consider downgrading the U.S. credit rating if Congress delayed raising the debt ceiling in order to enact its preferred policies. In its January 15 press, Fitch stated that explained that threatening not to raise the debt ceiling "is an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline":
In Fitch's opinion, the debt ceiling is an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceiling risks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible.
Fitch did say that if the United States did not come up with "credible medium term deficit reduction plan" after the raising of the debt ceiling, it would also consider downgrading its rating of U.S. credit worthiness, but Fitch made it clear that Congress should not use the debt ceiling as leverage to enact such a plan.
In response to a compromise on tax policy, conservative media are again comparing the United States to Greece. According to right-wing logic, the deal brings America even closer to the violence and discord in Greece, Italy, Ireland, France, and just about every European country whose citizens have protested austerity measures.
Of course, conservative media figures have spent at least three years ringing this same alarm. Economic experts have spent just as much time dismissing this panicked comparison, but to little avail. This Media Matters video, drawing on three years of television coverage of deficits and spending, shows the prevalence and longevity of the Greece talking point:
Right-wing media have inconsistently responded to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) failed attempt to pass his proposed "Plan B" to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff" standoff, including praising conservative Republicans who opposed the measure, expressing regret that the measure didn't pass, questioning the viability of Boehner's speakership, and blaming President Obama for the plan's failure, despite Obama's concessions to the GOP.
Conservative media figures have long insisted that top marginal income tax rates effectively target small businesses. This "zombie lie" has sprung up throughout President Obama's first term as an argument against Democratic proposals to renew the Bush-era rates only for middle- and low-income Americans. Despite continual efforts by experts to debunk this claim, media figures continue to repeat these lies in the 2012 edition of the fight over high-income tax rates.
A Fox News graphic compared so-called "right-to-work" laws to states with "Forced-Unionism." But workers in states that have not passed right-to-work laws are not forced into unions.
On the December 10 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor John Fund claimed that right-to-work laws similar to the one recently passed in Michigan have benefitted workers and state economies, despite evidence showing that these laws do not increase employment and lead to lower wages. During the segment, Fox News aired a graphic contrasting states who have passed right-to-work laws with "forced-unionism" states:
But workers in states without right-to-work laws are not forced into unions. In a 2011 post for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, economist Dean Baker pointed out that workers always have a choice whether to work for a union, whether or not their state has passed right-to-work laws:
Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum is recommending that lawmakers respond to the debate over how to avoid a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts by adopting a tax policy long advocated by Republicans.
In a November 28 Fox News Radio appearance, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum criticized President Obama for claiming that the rich haven't been paying their fair share of taxes, and advocated that lawmakers "flatten out the tax code and make it more equal across the board." Despite co-anchoring America's Newsroom, one of the programs Fox defends as featuring objective, "A-section of the newspaper" coverage, MacCallum has frequently adopted Republican positions and falsehoods.
MacCallum's remarks came during a discussion of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who recently said that increasing taxes on the rich as part of a deal to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff" wouldn't hurt economic growth and would "raise the morale of the middle class." MacCallum said that the idea that the rich aren't paying their fair share "is so poisonous" and "engenders animosity, and there really isn't any need for it. But the president has definitely perpetuated that line of thinking."
MacCallum added that wealthy earners are "already paying about sixty percent of the tax base in the country. So, and I don't really think it matters over, you know, the difference between the Clinton tax rate and now three percent or two percent, but it's a philosophy in terms of where that tax base needs to be spread out." Economist Paul Krugman has noted that "the rich are paying more taxes because they're much richer than they used to be. When middle-class incomes barely grow while the incomes of the wealthiest rise by a factor of six, how could the tax share of the rich not go up, even if their tax rate is falling?"
The Fox anchor concluded by pushing the idea that "tax reform should be very seriously considered to flatten out the tax code and make it more equal across the board." Republicans have proposed various forms of a flat tax for decades. Steve Forbes made the flat tax a central part of his 1996 presidential campaign, while House Republicans and presidential candidates Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry offered flat tax proposals last year.
From the November 28 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
MACCALLUM: This idea, I think, is so poisonous, this sort of, like, "They're not paying their fair share" idea. It just -- it engenders animosity, and there really isn't any need for it. But the president has definitely perpetuated that line of thinking. You know, "They're not paying their fair share. That's all I want," he says, "is for everybody to pay their fair share." They're already paying about sixty percent of the tax base in the country. So, and I don't really think it matters over, you know, the difference between the Clinton tax rate and now three percent, two percent, but it's a philosophy in terms of where that tax base needs to be spread out.
Should it be -- you know, I think tax reform should be very seriously considered to flatten out the tax code and make it more equal across the board.
Fox attacked unions over the liquidation of Hostess Brands after negotiations with its bakers union failed, but Fox ignored the fact that the company faced myriad financial problems. Similarly, Fox attacked Wal-Mart employees for striking, but failed to acknowledge the workers' concerns. Fox has run a long-standing campaign against unions.
Fox News placed the blame for the planned liquidation of Hostess Brands squarely on a labor dispute with one of the company's unions. In fact, Hostess' unions had previously made significant concessions when the company went through a failed bankruptcy, and Hostess had many problems beyond labor costs, including an inability to adjust to changes in consumer tastes, which contributed to its bankruptcy.
Fox News tried to undermine President Obama's tax plan by pushing six debunked tax myths in advance of negotiations on how to avoid a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts. In reality, Obama's proposal to let tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire will grow the economy and is supported by a majority of Americans.
Conservative media are falsely criticizing President Obama for taking an "absolutist line" on deficit reduction and refusing to compromise in order to reduce the deficit. In fact, Obama has proposed far more spending cuts than revenue increases, a position that is to the right of many deficit plans with more tax increases.
Three Fox hosts have allowed Congressman Allen West (R-FL) to repeat his unsubstantiated allegations that election official wrongdoing led to his failing bid to retain his seat. The Fox hosts not only failed to push back on West's legally unfounded position, but neglected to report that these complaints are about Florida election system problems that have been ignored or exacerbated by the state GOP.
In support of his refusal to concede the race to represent Florida's 18th Congressional District - despite the fact that the state has already certified Democrat Patrick Murphy's victory - West has been complaining that "irregularities" in county officials' performance during the ballot tabulation process, the change in voting tallies as the tabulation proceeded, the outcome of a partial recount, and the accounting of more ballots than voters, requires another partial recount of all votes cast during the early voting period. On the November 12 edition of Fox's Hannity, West made all of these accusations to host Sean Hannity, who responded that he thought a vote shift away from West to Murphy during the counting process was "unbelievable."
West repeated these claims to Fox host Greta Van Susteren on the November 13 edition of On The Record, and again on November 14 in a recorded interview with Fox host Martha MacCallum for America's Newsroom. Like Hannity, these Fox hosts did not press West on his insinuations of election malfeasance. The most obvious example was Van Susteren, who referenced West's second lawsuit filed in a Florida state court seeking an early vote recount in defiance of state law, but made no mention of his first failed lawsuit. That lawsuit, which also sought to "count paper ballots and to impound voting machines," had been denied on November 9 by a state judge. In addition to noting that West's motion had "woefully failed to establish a proper demand for injunction," the judge scolded West for contesting the election results in court when "the Supreme Court of Florida 30 years ago has said the courts should not get involved in the election process under facts and circumstances which we have here today."
More significantly, Hannity, Van Susteren, and MacCallum all failed to report that West's unsubstantiated complaints about the dysfunctional Florida election process is partly attributable to recent voter suppression efforts. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, the incoming Republican House Speaker has already "conceded" that Florida's difficult election process and its "embarrass[ing]" irregularities may have been caused by early voting and registration changes pushed through by Republicans in the state legislature. In conjunction with budget cuts that targeted county election offices, recent GOP attempts to restrict opportunities for voting resulted in the predictable and widely reported chaos that West now complains about.
The swing in vote tallies, however, is an old problem and one that none of the Fox hosts addressed. Not only is West complaining about a losing margin more than three times that of Gore's for the entire state of Florida in the presidential election of 2000, West is also complaining about a swing in votes from himself to Murphy that is only about a quarter of the infamous Volusia County swing in votes away from Gore for Bush. Further, the optical-scan voting machines at the center of West's complaints are of the same make as those used in Volusia in 2000, as reported by election integrity expert and Salon contributor Brad Friedman, but that important context was absent from Fox's segments on the issue.
The make of the voting machines is also relevant to West's challenge of the partial recount of early votes in St. Lucie County. The election supervisor there has already explained the partial recount of some votes was necessary because of an electronic memory cartridge failure. Hannity, Van Susteren, and MacCullum not only failed to report this fact, they also failed to report such memory cartridge failure is an extremely common problem in Florida, as was extensively detailed by the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Finally, the discrepancy between voters and votes tallied that West references has already been explained by multiple outlets as a consequence of tabulation machines erroneously counting two-page individual ballots as multiple ballots. This too was unreported by Fox News as it continues to give Allen West a platform to advance his unproven reasons for refusing to concede, without challenging the problems with his claims and providing the necessary context of a Florida election system badly in need of reform.
Fox News is obscuring the national debate over how to balance the deficit while pushing myths that falsely discredit the Obama administration's record. Contrary to the Fox mythology, a downgrade of U.S. debt is not imminent, many economists believe the previous downgrade was due to Republican obstructionism, and raising taxes on the wealthiest households will not hurt employment.
Fox personalities are attempting to discredit the October jobs report before its release on November 2 by suggesting that if the unemployment rate drops as it did in September, the numbers may have been manipulated by the Obama administration. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest the government's numbers are manipulated.
Coal jobs and coal production in Ohio have increased since 2007, but a Fox News report ignored this fact while claiming that the "universal perception" in Ohio is that the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "has made [coal] jobs more scarce." Fox News host Martha MacCallum began the segment by asking, "What has the EPA done to deserve such a bad reputation in this part of Ohio?," which reporter Steve Brown deftly avoided answering.
From the November 1 edition of America's Newsroom:
The report featured plenty of video roll of various "war on coal" yard signs and billboards scattered across southeastern Ohio. But, despite being focused on the community's "universal perception" of the EPA (rather than a reality-based discussion of the coal industry), the report featured no public opinion polls and only a single-question interview with a former coal miner.
Even after Fox News posed the leading question, "Is EPA a dirty word out here?," the interviewee could not articulate any specific EPA actions that have caused harm to his community. In fact, the miner began his answer with a reference to the booming oil and natural gas industry -- a coal competitor that poses a major threat to the coal industry in Ohio regardless of the EPA.
And even as long overdue health regulations from the EPA were enacted, coal jobs and coal production are actually up in Ohio. Politifact Ohio wrote yesterday "jobs and coal production in Ohio have increased" since 2007 "by every measurement we could find."
Avoiding reality to shill for coal industry executives and parrot Republican talking points is nothing new for Fox News. It has been shamefully silent on GOP obstructionism that threatens the health of coal miners and earlier this year, and Fox News starred in a coal industry ad attacking the EPA.
Fox News is still defending Mitt Romney's controversial remarks that 47 percent of American voters "pay no income tax" and "believe that they are victims," even though Romney himself walked back his comments.
On the October 26 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum defended Mitt Romney's comments that 47 percent of the electorate support President Obama because they are dependent on the government. During an interview with Romney adviser Jim Talent, MacCallum rehashed Romney's argument, saying that voters who receive government assistance would vote for Obama because they were afraid Romney would take away their benefits:
MacCALLUM: You know, Governor Romney got a lot of heat for the 47 percent comment. But it does beg the question in terms of the numbers of people in the country who do accept, you know, some kind of government benefit, and what kind of impact it has on them when they go to the voting booth and they say, you know what, I'm not so sure, I think Governor Romney might want to take away some of the benefits that I do receive currently from the government, and I don't want to sign up for that.
After the clip of Romney disparaging 47 percent of Americans as "dependent on government" and unwilling to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives" surfaced in September -- an argument Fox had been advancing in the months prior to the video's release -- Fox news personalities tried to distract from and whitewash the remarks while simulaneously defending what he said.
But in an October 5 interview with Fox's Sean Hannity, Romney disavowed the comment, stating that "I said something that's just completely wrong" - undermining the defense of the remark that Fox and other right-wing news outlets had been performing.