Multiple Fox News personalities have suggested the Justice Department's lawsuit against Standard & Poor's is 'political retribution,' either papering over or outright ignoring the facts behind the suit. However, the S&P investigation began well before U.S. credit was downgraded, and a raft of internal emails suggest the company may have knowingly inflated securities ratings.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney dismissed seasonal factors for the recent rise in gasoline prices to push a debunked claim that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy is causing gas prices to increase.
During a segment on Fox & Friends about the 17 cent rise in gas prices over the past week, Varney dismissed the "usual suspects" for the price increase such as "the refiners, the oil companies, the conspiracy theorists, or supply and demand" and offered his own explanation, saying: "I think it's because Ben Bernanke is printing dollars, like, up a storm, and that is lowering the value of the U.S. dollar. And that means that oil goes up."
In fact, various factors unrelated to the Federal Reserve influence seasonal oil price fluctuations.
Gas prices routinely increase in the springtime thaw as refineries slow production for routine maintenance and transition to summer-blend gasoline. Gregory Dacko, a senior economist at IHS Global Insight, explained that at this time of year, refineries "are cleaning their machines and making sure everything is functioning properly ahead of the high demand season." AAA spokesperson Avery Ash also pointed out that "Various summer-gasoline blends are required in many regions to meet local air quality standards, but the fuels cost more to produce and the changeover process can disrupt supplies in the spring."
Greater international demand has also spurred increases in the price of crude oil. Recent projections of Chinese oil demand have risen for 2013, prompting the International Energy Agency to increase its world oil-demand forecasts. The continuing economic recovery has led to increased speculative investment, which the San Francisco Chronicle partially credits for higher gasoline prices.
Fox News host Stuart Varney claimed that federal discretionary spending is "out of control." In fact, discretionary spending has already been reduced by $1.5 trillion, and non-defense discretionary spending is projected to be at the lowest level in 50 years.
Fox News figures downplayed concerns about the debt ceiling, pointing to the government's ability to make interest payments on its debt even in the event of a shutdown. But the process used to focus payments on the debt, known as prioritization, could have disastrous consequences for the government and the economy, and may not be permitted by the limits on the Treasury's authority.
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.
Fox News promoted a proposal by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to eliminate the state income tax and increase sales tax by a corresponding amount, saying that with such a plan, "everybody wins." In fact, the plan would seriously harm middle and lower income tax voters while providing little or no benefit to the economy.
After ignoring reports that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh and Fox Business host Stuart Varney tried to push back against well-established evidence of climate change by citing instances of cold weather.
On the January 11 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh said, "Twenty-seven degrees outside San Diego right now, 27 degrees, and they're talking about global warming" :
Similarly, Varney cited examples of "snow in Jerusalem" and "a deep freeze in China and in Europe," then said that "the green is demanding a carbon tax to prevent global warming." Varney added, "Climate's always changing, isn't it?"
Fox News misrepresented how Darden Restaurants and Denny's are responding to the Affordable Care Act in order to suggest that the Affordable Care Act is harming workers and driving up prices.
An owner of a number of Wendy's restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska announced that the franchise would cut employees' hours to avoid providing health care for many of its workers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney dishonestly argued that the decision by this one Wendy's franchise owner was part of larger trend, citing moves by Darden Restaurants and Denny's to bolster his claim.
But Varney's reference to Darden Restaurants and Denny's is wrong. Darden, the owner of the Olive Garden, announced in October that the company would scale back employee hours to avoid having to provide health insurance. Darden subsequently backed off and confirmed it would not move full-time employees to part-time status.
In the case of Denny's, John Metz, the owner of dozens of Denny's restaurants, announced a plan to institute a five percent surcharge to all his customers' checks but later did not go through with his plan. After Metz announced his plan, Denny's chief executive John Miller contacted him to express that the surcharge was "inconsistent with our values." Miller told the Huffington Post in an email that he was disappointed "that [Metz's] comments have been interpreted as the company's position." Miller added:
"Unfortunately, the comments of this franchisee, who represents less than 1 percent of our system and who owns restaurants in other concepts, has been portrayed as reflective of the entire Denny's brand," Miller said. "I am confident his perspective is not shared by the company or hundreds of franchisees/small business owners who make up the majority of the Denny's community. Specifically, his comments suggesting that guests might reduce the customary tip provided to their server as an offset to his proposed surcharge are inconsistent with our values and approach to business throughout our brand."
Metz did not go through with the 5 percent surcharge.
These fast food restaurants have rescinded their plans to cut hours or increase prices, in part as a result of strong negative public reaction. In addition, a study conducted by the Urban Institute found that the health care law would have a "negligible impact" on most business' costs and could save money for small businesses employing 100 or fewer workers.
On America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney ignored key economic data in claiming that the December jobs report is proof of "a new normal, bumping along the bottom, settling for this high rate of unemployment, 7.8 percent."
Varney began the segment by warning that "you can spin it any which way, but the fact is, this is a weak report," and ended it by claiming that tax increases assure that high jobless rates are "the new normal."
But Varney's assertion is spin as well, based on a myopic reading of economic data -- Varney and other conservatives who proclaim high unemployment the "new normal" ignore three discrete piles of information that undermine their claim.
First, private-sector job creation in Obama's first term has far exceeded that fostered by the Bush recovery:
The above chart measures from the first full month of each man's presidency. Despite beginning in a deeper economic hole, the beginning of the Obama recovery was marked by a faster turnaround and stronger overall growth in the private sector. By another metric -- annual averages for private-sector job gains -- this "new normal" is also superior to Bush's old normal. This is true whether one counts their full terms in office, or just the years in which the private sector posted annual gains. And it is hardly evidence of a horrifying "new normal" of "bumping along the bottom" due to taxation.
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:
From the December 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that higher taxes on millionaires caused wealthy residents to flee from California and Maryland, leading to lower tax revenues for those states. However, studies show that very few affluent citizens migrate after "millionaire taxes" are imposed, and that the recession is to blame for the decline of millionaires in Maryland.
A new study showing that polar ice is melting faster than before has convinced even Fox's Stuart Varney, who previously said climate change was a "scientific conspiracy." The Fox Business host acknowledged that the study, which adds to the extensive body of science showing the threat of manmade climate change, is "hard evidence" from an "authoritative source."
The study, published in the journal Science, shows that polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than they did in the 1990s, contributing to sea level rise. On his Fox Business show, Varney expressed concern that this "hard evidence" of global warming might bolster efforts to address the problem:
Varney's apparent acceptance of this latest scientific evidence of climate change marks a reversal from just two days ago, when he incorrectly claimed that a "study from Britain's Meteorological Office" found that there has been "no increase in the global temperature" over the last 16 years -- a rumor from a discredited tabloid report. He has repeatedly cast doubt on climate science, insisting that "the debate is not over" and calling climate change a "scientific conspiracy."
But this latest study, which combined past measurements to arrive at what the Associated Press called a new "scientific consensus" that Greenland is melting at a quicker pace and that "as a whole the Antarctic ice sheet is melting," seems to have changed Varney's mind. The following chart from AP shows how melting polar ice sheets are increasingly contributing to rising sea levels, threatening coastal communities:
In an attempt to discredit higher taxes on the wealthy, Fox's Stuart Varney claimed that high taxes lead to out-migration of residents. However, experts have found that while migration is due to an array of issues, taxes are not the primary cause.
On Fox & Friends, Fox Business' Stuart Varney claimed that states that have experienced high rates of out-migration "all have very high tax rates on top income earners." He went on to suggest that if President Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthy is enacted, the U.S. will experience a lack of revenue, a slowing economy, and high unemployment.
The segment is based on a Fiscal Times article that outlines five states (Ohio , New Jersey, California, New York, and Illinois) that have experienced decreases in residency, allegedly due to higher taxes.
Fox Business host Staurt Varney concluded a softball interview with National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre by telling the NRA top executive the segment had been an "excellent commercial for the NRA."
LaPierre used his appearance as an opportunity to denigrate efforts to pass a new assault weapons ban. He falsely suggested that there are no differences between assault weapons and other guns, calling the term assault rifle "an invented term by the people who hate the Second Amendment in this country to confuse the American public."
Instead of engaging in a discussion about the merits of an assault weapons ban, which LaPierre's organization stridently opposes, Varney played footage of an Arizona gun dealer suggesting that Obama "is going to implement more than just an assault weapons ban" and asked LaPierre open-ended questions such as, "I'm not sure I exactly understand what is an assault weapon as defined by the gun control people. Can you tell me?"