Fox News completely ignored the role of political brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling in prompting a credit downgrade warning, erroneously claiming that the warning was prompted by concerns over long-term debt stabilization.
On October 15, credit rating agency Fitch placed the United States on a negative rating watch, threatening to downgrade the country's debt from "AAA" status if the debt ceiling is not raised in a timely manner.
On the October 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum interviewed Fox Business' Stuart Varney regarding Fitch's downgrade threat, asking why the stock market has not reacted negatively to the warning. The conversation eventually turned to the United States' long-term debt prospects, with MacCallum asking if rating agencies have become less concerned about the national debt. Varney responded by claiming that not only are rating agencies still concerned about debt, but also that Fitch's warning was primarily in response to the United States' long-term debt:
MACCALLUM : It used to be that the credit rating agencies were very concerned about the long-term financial stability of the United States of America. Is that no longer the case Stuart?
VARNEY: No, they are still concerned. That's what this warning was all about. We have failed to get our long-term debt under control.
Varney's assessment of Fitch's warning is false.
At no point in their discussion did MacCallum or Varney mention the primary reason Fitch placed the United States' credit on negative watch: brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling. In its warning, Fitch directly cited political obstacles to raising the debt ceiling as a "high" driver of the rating watch (emphasis added):
The U.S. authorities have not raised the federal debt ceiling in a timely manner before the Treasury exhausts extraordinary measures. The U.S. Treasury Secretary has said that extraordinary measures will be exhausted by 17 October, leaving cash reserves of just USD30bn. Although Fitch continues to believe that the debt ceiling will be raised soon, the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.
While Varney contends that debt worries were a primary driver in prompting the warning, Fitch explicitly stated that current and near term debt levels (as a percentage of the economy) are consistent with the agency's "AAA" rating. Fitch did suggest that public debt should be put on a downward trend in the medium to long term, but noted this concern was secondary to the more immediate and potentially disastrous problem of failing to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans have held firm in their unwillingness to raise the debt ceiling without extracting political concessions, most related to defunding, delaying, or eliminating provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
Virtually every other news outlet noted that Fitch was primarily concerned about brinkmanship and failure to raise the debt ceiling. Instead of noting this fact, Fox chose to continue its history of raising false alarms over the nation's debt load.
Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum suggested that voters are less likely to blame Republicans for the government shutdown than they did during the mid-90s shutdown because they're watching Fox News.
During an appearance on Fox News Radio, MacCallum, who co-hosts America's Newsroom, referenced comments from colleague Brit Hume to remark that during previous shutdowns, "you didn't have a lot of things." She added, "Fox News Channel was just beginning. People are very -- it's a different world in terms of what people understand about what's going on. In those days, it was much easier to pin the problems in this on the Republicans ... I'm not sure that they're going to punish the Republicans to the extent that they did last time around. I think they get it, and I think that they're very divided on it."
MacCallum's remarks from the October 9 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
MACCALLUM: I thought it was very interesting what Brit Hume said yesterday on our show, and that was that, you know, seventeen years ago, the last time we went through this, you didn't have a lot of things. You know, you didn't have -- you know, Fox News Channel was just beginning. People are very -- it's a different world in terms of what people understand about what's going on. In those days, it was much easier to pin the problems in this on the Republicans. I think that people are very tuned in to this issue and we know that. Because we know they're watching, we know they care about it, and I think that, I'm not sure that they're going to punish the Republicans to the extent that they did last time around. I think they get it, and I think that they're very divided on it.
Members of the media, especially Fox News, have undertaken a campaign of false equivalency by assigning blame to both Republicans and President Obama on the government shutdown. But congressional experts have noted that the Republicans' extreme positions have led to the current government shutdown.
Fox News continued to hype the myth that the debt ceiling raises the national debt, smearing President Obama's comments at an October 8 press conference as false. In reality, the debt ceiling does not raise the debt or authorize additional spending, but instead enables the U.S. government to finance existing legal obligations.
Fox host Martha MacCallum falsely accused the Obama administration of closing national parks in order to play political games.
On the October 2 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum asked if the Obama administration had closed national parks because of "politics," saying "is this just a political, you know, game, really, to say, 'Oh, well, if you're not going to let us, you know, move forward with this, well then we're just going to shut down all of these places, and it's going to look bad publicly for you?'":
National parks are not closed because of political games, but because the shutdown mandates that nonessential employees be furloughed, including park personnel. According to the National Park Service's contingency plan, the shutdown requires the suspension of "all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life of the protection of property":
A Fox News anchor suggested that since the majority of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees have been furloughed under the government shutdown, we should simply do without them even after it has been resolved. However, EPA employees furloughed include those in charge of cleaning up hundreds of hazardous waste sites and enforcing clean air and water laws.
On Wednesday, Fox News' America's Newsroom noted that less than 7 percent of the over 16,000 EPA employees would be working during the government shutdown (about 1,000 total employees). Co-anchor Martha MacCallum laughed that "some" have "asked why we need the other 15,000 EPA workers at all," adding that these were "valid questions":
The "some" who are asking this are several Republican lawmakers behind the government shutdown. For instance, Rep. Steve Stockman who has rallied for the shutdown, tweeted a Washington Examiner article suggesting furloughed employees may be "non-essential" long-term, and re-tweeted a follower celebrating the idea that they wouldn't return:
Right-wing media have used temporary technical glitches exacerbated by a flood of interest to demagogue against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. In reality, the technological issues are caused in part by high levels of traffic, which demonstrate that millions of Americans are signing up for the health care program.
As the ACA's new health insurance exchanges launched on October 1, millions of Americans visited health exchange websites, prompting an overload of Internet traffic that contributed to technical glitches. According to White House Deputy Senior Adviser David Simas, healthcare.gov has logged 1 million visits in the past day, a rate that already dwarfs the number of visits ever received by medicare.gov:
The primary website to enroll in new coverage options under ObamaCare has gotten 1 million visits in the past day, according to a White House official.
David Simas, a White House deputy senior adviser focused on ObamaCare implementation, said healthcare.gov has logged 1 million visits in the past day. The volume of Web traffic has overwhelmed the new marketplaces, which opened for enrollment Tuesday morning.
"1 million visit HealthCare.gov in last day. 5x more users than ever on Medicare.gov at once. Millions want to #GetCovered," Simas said on Twitter.
The right is selectively quoting an Inspector General (IG) report to accuse the State Department of ignoring the recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB). In fact, the IG report noted that the State Department is making progress implementing the ARB recommendations and praised its leadership as a model for future ARB responses.
From the September 25 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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On Fox News, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore defended the GOP plan to cut billions from the food stamp program by falsely claiming the cuts wouldn't hurt children, that the program suffers from "immense" fraud, and that millionaires could qualify for benefits. But studies show fraud is extremely rare and millions of families will be negatively affected by the cuts.
On the September 20 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Moore downplayed the proposed $40 billion cuts to the program, claiming the benefits weren't "slashed" but "trimmed" and justified the move by saying there is an "immense amount of fraud" in the program that "you could live in a million-dollar mansion and still get food stamps," and that "families with children would not be affected by any of this":
Contrary to Moore's claim that children would not be impacted by the cuts, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the proposal would leave 3.8 million people without benefits, many of whom are in low-income families. The bill would also limit schools meals for hundreds of thousands of children:
- 1.7 million unemployed, childless adults in 2014 who live in areas of high unemployment -- a group that has average income of only 22 percent of the poverty line (about $2,500 a year for a single individual) and for whom SNAP is, in most cases, the only government assistance they receive (this number will average 1 million a year over the coming decade);
- 2.1 million people in 2014, mostly low-income working families and low-income seniors, who have gross incomes or assets modestly above the federal SNAP limits but disposable income -- the income that a family actually has available to spend on food and other needs -- below the poverty line in most cases often because of high rent or child care costs. (This number will average 1.8 million a year over the coming decade.) In addition, 210,000 children in these families would also lose free school meals;
- Other poor, unemployed parents who want to work but cannot find a job or an opening in a training program -- along with their children, other than infants.
CBPP included a table explaining how American households would be hurt by the cuts:
Fox News' Martha MacCallum scapegoated individuals with mental health conditions by suggesting that increased institutionalization is a solution to mass shootings, ignoring the dangers that poses to individuals with these conditions and the need for greater gun safety.
On the September 19 America's Newsroom, MacCallum suggested that Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooting suspect, should have been institutionalized for a mental health condition, asking if we have "become so PC that we do not understand" the need to institutionalize some "categories of people." She also criticized the medical system for only institutionalizing people who have previously been convicted of a crime:
Have we not become so PC that we do not understand that there are categories of people -- many people who do not deserve to be institutionalized, but some do. And if this man had been institutionalized, something that we, you know, seem to never do any more in this country -- in fact, Adam Lanza's mother, according to the reports after Newtown, wanted to institutionalize her son. She was worried that he would do something. But unless you have been convicted, you cannot be institutionalized. So what do we do about this?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Alexis never reported that he was depressed or that he was considering harming himself or others prior to the shooting. He sought treatment solely for insomnia. Doctors said he was "alert and oriented" and never asked for an appointment with VA mental health specialists.
MacCallum's solution raises as many questions as it answers, most critically who gets institutionalized and when.
Institutions, or psychiatric hospitals, can play a role in treatment for people with severe mental health conditions, but they are not the most effective solution in every case.
Fox's Martha MacCallum preemptively attacked President Obama's upcoming remarks regarding healthcare costs in relation to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, claiming that the truth behind premium costs "flies in the face" of what Obama has previously said and would say in his speech. MacCallum predicted that Obama would incorrectly claim that healthcare costs are lowering -- but Obama reported that while rising healthcare costs are a continuing concern, the rate of increase in costs is at its lowest in 50 years, a fact he's acknowledged in the past.
Discussing Walgreens' recent decision to move some employees to private health insurance exchanges on America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that Walgreens made their decision because, as he paraphrased, they "can't afford the constant rising cost of healthcare and [they] cannot afford the cost of compliance with Obamacare." MacCallum, along with co-host Bill Hemmer, later responded to the news, saying (emphasis added):
HEMMER: But this is the beginning of a flood. We talked about it last week, when the big companies step up and say we're going to change the policy, many, many others will follow.
MACCALLUM: And it flies in the face of what you're hearing from the president, and we'll hear it today as well: That premiums are going down. That costs are going down. So if costs were truly going down, what would be forcing these companies to push people off of their rolls onto this, you know, 'Here's your check,' and, you know, 'good luck.'
Despite MacCallum's claim, what the president has previously acknowledged is that while healthcare costs are still rising, increases have slowed to their lowest rate in 50 years -- a fact that Fox failed to report.
OBAMA: Healthcare costs, which were and continue to be a major source of concern, are increasing at the slowest rate in 50 years, and for many of you, in terms of your bottom lines, employer based healthcare plans have gone up at about a third of what they were going up when I first took office.
Fox has a habit of pre-emptively dismissing, ignoring, and cutting away from Obama's speeches. MacCallum's misconstruance of Obama's remarks on healthcare costs is not surprising given the network's long history of reporting misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Frequent Fox guest Chris Plante falsely claimed that President Obama isn't interested in working with Republicans to reduce the deficit, ignoring Obama's efforts to reduce the budget through bipartisan efforts like the Budget Control Act of 2011.
On the September 12 edition of America Live, host Martha MacCallum discussed the upcoming budget debate in Congress with conservative radio host Chris Plante. After MacCallum asked whether the debate will lead to a government shutdown, Plante said that "the president claims he wants to cut spending, the man with the trillion dollar deficits," and blame Republicans. Plante added that Obama "doesn't want to do anything reasonable to get our spending under control":
But, Obama has worked with congressional members of both parties to decrease the deficit. President Obama signed the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained will reduce discretionary spending by "more than $1 trillion over the ten years from 2012 through 2021."
As food insecurity remains high, Fox News touted a plan by Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich to impose work requirements on food stamp recipients, despite concerns that Ohio does not have enough jobs to accommodate those who would have their benefits put in jeopardy.
On the September 10 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Martha MacCallum and guest Chris Plante expressed support for Kasich's proposal to require some food stamp recipients to spend 20 hours a week working or engaging in work-related activities such as job training. MacCallum likened the program to college work-study programs, saying, "Nobody thinks that that model is an inappropriate model or an unfair or mean model, so what's wrong with it?" Plante called the program "a reasonable and honest and decent approach to getting people back to work," claiming, "we live in a world now where Democrats, the Democrat party has put themselves in the unfortunate position where they are now incentivized as a political party to keep as many people on the public dole as possible":
But according to The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio officials point out that the availability of jobs and qualifying activities is lower than the number of people who fall under the new requirement:
Right-wing media have rushed to heap praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin for a proposal to allow Syria to avoid U.S. air strikes by surrendering all of its chemical weapons to the international community, despite the fact that Russia was responding to statements by Secretary of State John Kerry and that President Obama supports the solution.