Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum has a habit of defending GOP talking points. During a conversation with Sen. Tom Coburn today, she continued the practice, scoffing at Democratic suggestions on how to help reduce the deficit and increase revenue:
MacCALLUM: I think everybody in this country, Democrats and Republicans across the board, know that there need to be some spending cuts in order to move -- in order to protect the country, basically, from complete default. But Democrats will tell you, as you hear all the time, that if you just, you know, tax wealthy people more, and you take, you know, raise taxes on oil companies, that you're going to go a long way to solving the problem. That's what they believe.
SENATOR COBURN: Well, they know that's not true.
Coburn went on to say that those Democratic proposals wouldn't make a dent in the deficit, adding that "this is all about politics, this is all about November, this is silly time in Washington -- unfortunately, it's silly time all the time in Washington 'cause there's no grownups up here." MacCallum replied: "I was just gonna say, I think a lot of folks feel like it extends throughout the year."
In fact, the Democrats' budget proposals amount to more than just "tax wealthy people more" and "raise taxes on oil companies" -- measures Fox News has stridently defended against in its rush to protect the rich and tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
Fox News is once again pushing the myth that President Obama "apologized" for the United States, following a speech by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in which he vowed to "never again apologize for America." In fact, Obama has never made such an apology.
Today, Fox News' America's Newsroom hosted a segment highlighting Rush Limbaugh's latest attack on Sandra Fluke. The theory behind the attack was so hard to believe that two of the three panelists, including a former spokeswoman for the House Republican Conference, called it "ridiculous" and "utterly absurd."
On Tuesday's edition of his radio show, Limbaugh returned to attacking Fluke, the Georgetown law student whom he infamously described as a "slut" and "prostitute," this time for supposedly "coordinating" with President Obama to scare students about their student loans.
Fluke responded to Limbaugh's attack later that night on MSNBC's The Last Word, pointing out the importance of affordable student loans and contradicting the notion that she is coordinating with Obama on the issue of student loans.
During a panel discussion of Limbaugh's attack on America's Newsroom today, panelists Gretchen Hamel and Judy Miller agreed that Limbaugh's theory that Fluke and Obama are coordinating is completely bogus. Hamel, a former spokeswoman for the House Republican Conference, said that Fluke's tweet "was a message being tweeted out by a number of people." Hamel also said: "I think this is just a coincidence. It's the White House having a simple message that is resonating." Miller, a Fox News contributor, called Limbaugh's theory "ridiculous" and said that "all it does is call attention to his previous faux pas."
Fox is again attempting to redefine fairness, this time by pushing the GOP-favored flat tax in the midst of debate over the Buffett Rule, which would set a minimum effective tax rate for millionaires. The flat tax is a plan Republicans have been trying to establish as far back as the 1990s.
Following the release of President Obama's tax returns, Fox jumpstarted its push for the flat tax, insisting that it would be a fairer tax system. But this is just the latest attempt by Fox to redefine "fairness" as a tax system that experts contend is designed to favor wealthier taxpayers.
Prior to an interview with Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, "straight news" anchor, Martha MacCallum asked her Twitter followers, "Should Mitt Romney go further with tax reform?" She then added: "Flat tax anyone?"
Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.
From the April 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Yesterday on Fox News, Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush and current co-host of The Five, rebutted the notion that Republicans "just want to drill." She said: "If that were true, then you wouldn't have these DOE [Department of Energy] loans in the first place, because those were passed by a bipartisan Congress."
Perino is right that DOE's clean energy loan guarantee program was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was the product of a Republican-controlled Congress and President Bush. In fact, as Politifact noted, Bush was touting the program as late as January 6, 2009. His administration advanced Solyndra's application for a loan guarantee and Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded and funded the program, including Solyndra's subsidy.
What's odd is that Fox has been criticizing Obama for pointing out this very same fact during his interview with Marketplace. Perino thinks Republicans deserve credit for creating the program. But when Obama says it, Fox claims he's "blaming" Republicans for Solyndra. In fact, right after Perino's comments, her co-hosts segued into bashing Obama for his remarks, with no one acknowledging the contradiction:
Fox even hosted Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) to criticize Obama's comments, without ever mentioning that both these politicians voted in favor of the 2005 law that created the loan guarantee program.
As women's health issues have dominated national media for the past few weeks, right-wing media figures have insisted that the current debate isn't about women's health, but is "a religious freedom issue," to quote Fox News' Gretchen Carlson. Carlson's comments came after the Obama administration had revised an earlier ruling that would have required some religiously affiliated schools and hospitals to cover employees' contraception costs; under the new rule, health insurers, not such religious institutions, would pay for contraception.
Now Fox figures are attacking another clarification of the rule issued on Friday, which stated that most colleges and universities must cover contraceptives, but that insurers will bear the costs for religious institutions. On the March 19 edition of Fox's America Live, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios was distraught over the ruling, shouting that it was "outrageous" for the administration to "make [universities] give these medications out to young girls." She later called the policy "social engineering at its worst."
Later, Rios attacked Title X, a federal program dedicated to family planning services. Rios was so "angry" about Title X that she claimed the "birth control" it provides once helped get a girl pregnant:
RIOS: For a long time, Title X has been giving birth control to minor girls without parental consent. This has been the law -- I've been angry about this for years. I know its effect. I know that there was a 14-year-old girl who got impregnated by her high school gym teacher in the Chicago suburbs because she got birth control from Title X.
Visibly baffled, Julie Roginsky, the Fox contributor opposite Rios, asked, "How did she get impregnated if she got birth control?" (Rios then walked back her comments: "No, she wasn't impregnated, I'm sorry. She was taking Depo-Provera.")
It's not clear what Rios was referring to, but it is clear that Title X has helped provide critical health services to millions of American women.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Harvard University international affairs professor Stephen M. Walt listed his "Top Ten Media Failures in the 2012 Iran War Scare" and provides examples of media outlets that he believes are responsible for those failures. One other media outlet that quickly comes to mind as an example of extremely poor Iran coverage is Fox News.
For some time now, Fox's coverage of the Iran debate has left much to be desired, and indeed, Fox has committed many of the "top ten media failures" that Walt identified.
"#1 Mainstreaming the war." Walt wrote that media outlets repeatedly push the idea that "war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc.," which could potentially "convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives." Fox has done this repeatedly. For example, Fox military analyst Jack Keane said on Happening Now: "I think it's inevitable" that the United States will have "some kind of conflict" with Iran. Regular Fox guest and former CIA official Michael Scheuer has likewise said that the U.S. is "going to war against the Iranians," and Fox News host Sean Hannity has even said that he thinks war with Iran "has already started."
"#2: Loose talk about Iran's 'nuclear [weapons] program.' " Walt stated that a "recurring feature of Iran war coverage has been tendency to refer to Iran's 'nuclear weapons program' as if its existence were an established fact." Fox has done this too. During an appearance on America's Newsroom, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner," co-host Martha MacCallum failed to point out that there are significant questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all.
Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is even trying to build a bomb. And in January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence committee does not have evidence to say that Iran is trying to build a bomb.
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News is calling for President Obama to somehow require a single national blend of gasoline instead of the multiple blends tailored for seasonal and local pollution conditions in accordance with the Clean Air Act Amendments and state regulations. But doing so would lead to increased pollution or increased gas prices and disrupt what a Bush administration task force called a "cost-effective" approach to cleaner air.
From the March 2 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From Fox's February 28 special coverage of the Arizona and Michigan Primaries:
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After weeks of dismissing news that the economy is improving and downplaying concerns over income inequality, Fox News is now trying to pivot the conversation away from economic growth to focus on deficit reduction, even as economists continue to warn that doing so would be bad for the economy.
Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson and anchor Martha MacCallum argued that the debt "needs to be an issue" in the presidential election, and urged Republican candidates to make debt reduction "the issue" in the campaign. When guest Christopher Hahn argued that debt reduction could wait until the economy is on firmer ground before making our primary focus deficit reduction, MacCallum scoffed: "Oh please!"
Economists warn that debt reduction should wait until the economic recovery is on firmer ground. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explained that prioritizing the deficit now "makes no sense":
There are no businesses that are going to hire additional workers because the government laid off school teachers or firefighters and we cut back spending on food stamps. Businesses hire more workers when they see more demand for their product. All of these actions that reduce the deficit, either on the spending or tax side, translate into less demand and therefore less employment. In short, those who want to cut the deficit now are lobbying for fewer jobs and higher unemployment.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has argued that a premature focus on deficits would be "counterproductive."
This tactic of shifting the debate away from jobs and economic growth to fixate on debt is nothing new at Fox. In the spring of 2010, while economists were arguing that more needed to be done to reduce unemployment and help grow the economy, Fox News insisted that debt was "our number one issue." At the time, Krugman argued that "jobs now, deficits later was and is the right strategy."
The effect of that hijacked debate was a credit downgrade that Fox News figures cheered.
It's not just economists who say it's not time to shift attention away from economic growth. Voters overwhelmingly say that jobs and the economy should be the focus of this year's election, not the debt. Voters are also more likely to say that the economy is moving in the right direction, rather than the wrong direction; and they are more likely to say that the Republican Party is moving in the wrong direction.
All of which could explain why Fox is trying to move the debate in a different direction.
From the February 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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