PBS' Frontline recently aired a documentary titled "Climate of Doubt," examining how conservative groups, frequently funded by the fossil fuel industry, have pushed Republicans to reject the scientific consensus on manmade global warming. Here, Media Matters looks back at how Fox News has contributed to that "Climate of Doubt," often teaming up with industry to misrepresent science and attack all efforts to address this threat.
From the October 22 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Conservative media outlets pushed at least eleven misleading attacks on President Obama's energy policies that have become talking points used by Mitt Romney's campaign. The conservative media bubble has largely prevented voters from hearing the facts about clean energy programs, fossil fuel production and environmental regulation under the Obama administration.
Following the first presidential debate, Fox has enthusiastically echoed Mitt Romney's call to end public funding for Sesame Street and other public broadcasting. Fox's attacks on public broadcasting have focused on criticism of Big Bird.
Frequent Fox News guest Rep. Jason Chaffetz is pursuing investigations into the September attacks on a U.S. consulate in Libya, capping a month-long campaign in the right-wing media. This is just the latest example of the right-wing media working with Chaffetz to pursue fringe theories and far-right campaigns.
Fox's Neil Cavuto attacked President Obama for "congratulating" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on winning the recent presidential election. But the White House did not congratulate Chavez at all; rather they congratulated the Venezuelan people for a high participation and a "peaceful election process," a response nearly identical to the one issued by President Bush in 2006.
During the October 9 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto reacted to a statement by White House press secretary Jay Carney on the Venezuelan election by asking if the White House gave "its blessings to a dictator critics say is muscling into his job for life?" When asked for commentary on the White House's response, Fox News contributor John Bolton suggested it "was a big mistake" and "very sad commentary." Bolton went on to attack Obama, claiming "it may have been Chicago-style politics that attracted the approval" of the White House:
However, the White House statement never congratulated Hugo Chavez on his victory. In a press gaggle en route to Bakersfield, California, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters pointed out "differences with President Chavez" but congratulated Venezuela on "a high level of participation" and a "relatively peaceful election process":
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News' Stuart Varney and Charles Krauthammer have accused the Obama administration of breaking the law for advising federal contractors not to issue warnings of layoffs that may occur in the wake of budget "sequestration." But the administration is in fact correctly following the WARN Act, which explicitly disallows blanket notices to all Department of Defense (DOD) contractors before Congress specifies what contracts are to be cancelled.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires federal contractors to inform their employees of the impending loss of their jobs 60 days prior to layoffs. Both Varney and Krauthammer misrepresent the law's requirements by arguing DOD contractors must issue sequestration layoff warnings before the presidential election, contrary to the legal advice of the Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and independent experts. In fact, because budget cuts mandated by sequestration are not currently specified and would not take place immediately, WARN Act layoff warnings would be inappropriate at this juncture and are not "the law...written in stone," as erroneously asserted by Varney on the October 2 edition of America's Newsroom, nor is the administration's position "absolutely lawless," as claimed by Krauthammer on the October 2 edition of Special Report.
As explained by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress' inability to negotiate a long-term budget plan triggers "sequestration -- a form of automatic cuts that apply largely across the board -- [which] is now scheduled to occur starting in January 2013 and to cover the period through 2021." The CBPP has also pointed out that these automatic cuts to the federal budget include unspecified cuts to DOD spending -- including payments to defense contractors - which even after sequestration is formally triggered, would not be clear until months later. According to CBPP, "[w]hile the limit on spending authority will be imposed at the beginning of the year, the actual reductions in spending will occur over the course of the year and into subsequent fiscal years."
Therefore, as The New York Times has reported, "no one knows what 'sequestration,' the term for the automatic cuts, will look like, not lawmakers, not the military." Contractors are even more unlikely to know what the cuts will look like, as they won't be alerted by their agency until after Congress acts in January. Because no one knows which programs will be cut, and thus, which employees will be laid off when -- or if -- sequestration occurs, defense contractors cannot send out notices to those affected without notifying their entire workforce, a type of blanket alarm explicitly disallowed by the WARN Act.
From the September 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News personalities have called for the United States to cut off foreign aid to several countries in the wake of protests and attacks on U.S. consulates abroad. However, top military officials and Republicans say cutting foreign aid is "foolish" and bad for national security.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto and his guest hyped Mitt Romney's claim that he "paid [a] 20 percent effective tax rate" based on the release of some of his tax information last week. But the rate released by Romney is a misleading calculation which tax experts have noted can "distort the rate you've paid."
On Your World, host Neil Cavuto and Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson promoted the summary released by the Romney campaign claiming that Romney has paid an average effective tax rate of 20.2 percent over the past 20 years. Benson claimed Romney's tax summary "totally blows up a bunch of Obama ads that said, 'Look, Mitt Romney pays lower tax rates than you do.' Actually, the effective tax rate he's been paying over the last 20 years is almost double that."
But Benson and Cavuto failed to note that the rate released by Romney is a simple average -- or the average of all the tax rates he has paid over that 20-year period -- and not a weighted average, which calculates the rate based on the total amount he paid and his total income over that time.
The distinction is significant, as the simple average released by Romney can be misleading. Following the release, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent pointed out that the way the Romney campaign calculated the tax rate "obscures the fact that income may have fluctuated quite markedly from year to year." Sargent quoted Tax Policy Center senior fellow Roberton Williams, who explained why the simple average is misleading:
"Let's say you have 10 years in which you paid 13 percent in taxes, and 10 years in which you paid 27 percent," Williams told me. "If you average those rates, you'll get an overall rate of 20 percent. But if the 13 percent years were high income years, and the 27 percent years were low income years, then his total taxes paid as a share of total income over the 20 years would be less, perhaps significantly less, than 20 percent.
"You can be a person like Romney and have a highly fluctuating income year to year," Williams said. "Some years Romney's income could be much lower than in other years. When you average just the rates, you can distort the rate you've paid relative to your income over the whole period."
During a live analysis of Romney's release, The Wall Street Journal's Liam Denning pointed out that a "weighted average would give a more accurate picture," but "that is a step Mr. Romney has said he won't take":
We checked with the Romney campaign and the 20-year tax-rate average is a simple one (i.e., the average of the percentage in each year) rather than a weighted one (i.e., where you add up all the tax paid across the 20 years and divide it by all the income).
It's a potentially important difference because the simple average treats each year equally -- whether Romney earned, say, $5 million in that year or $30 million. It is especially important if Romney paid a low tax rate in a year in which he earned a lot but paid a high tax rate in years when he earned less. The weighted average would give a more accurate picture.
Of course, releasing the actual underlying year-by-year data would clear up any confusion -- but that is a step Mr. Romney has said he won't take.
From the September 24 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the September 19 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Did you hear that Barack Obama said something about wealth redistribution once? No, not that time. A different time, 14 years ago. Mitt Romney went on Fox News yesterday to talk about it, and now a slew of media outlets are quoting Romney contrasting himself with 1998-version Obama, saying he strongly disagrees with the very concept of wealth redistribution: "We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution. The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth."
Romney's interviewer, Neil Cavuto, did nothing to challenge Romney on this, but that's really not surprising given that he's less a "journalist" and more a cheerleader for plutocracy. But a number of media outlets simply quoted Romney trashing "redistribution" without noting that Romney has boasted that his tax plan will "keep the current progressivity of the code." That is no different from saying: "My tax plan continues the current policy of wealth redistribution."
Here's Romney himself describing his own tax scheme to NBC's David Gregory on Meet the Press last week:
ROMNEY: Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those-- those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise, they'd get a tax break. And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention. I am not reducing taxes on high income taxpayers. I'm bringing down the rate of taxation, but also bringing down deductions and exemptions at the high end so the revenues stay the same, the taxes people pay stay the same. Middle income people are going to get a break. But at the high end, the tax coming in stays the same.
We're going to take Romney's words at face value here, even though analysts across the board say the numbers in his plan don't add up. Romney wants to eliminate tax deductions and loopholes that "high income taxpayers" currently enjoy. That way, their tax burden stays the same, and Romney can afford to reduce the tax burden on "middle income people." That is wealth redistribution, plain and simple.
Indeed, Romney said as much himself in the same interview, claiming that his plan maintains the "progressivity" of the tax code:
ROMNEY: Well, because first of all I've got Princeton, Harvard, Wall Street Journal and AEI all saying actually that we can bring down the rates. And if we limit or eliminate some of the loopholes and deductions at the high end, we keep the current progressivity of the code and we get the same revenue coming into the government. And one marvelous thing we get is more growth of the economy. And my-- my-- my tax policy is designed to find a way to encourage more-- more hiring in this-- in this country. I'm-- I'm very concerned that we have 23 million people that are out of work or stopped looking for work or under-employed. And so everything I want to do with regards to taxation follows simple principles, which is bring our rates down to encourage growth, keep revenue up by limiting deductions and exemptions and make sure we don't put any bigger burden on middle income people. In fact, I want to lower the burden on middle income people.
So when he Romney says something like "the right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth," someone should ask the Republican nominee if his own policies risk throwing the country off "the right course."
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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