Stuart Varney

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  • Myths & Facts: The Minimum Wage

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    On June 25, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law and established the first nationwide minimum hourly wage. The relative value of the minimum wage has fluctuated considerably over time, but it has steadily eroded since reaching an inflation-adjusted peak in 1968 -- the $1.60 per hour wage that year would be worth roughly $11.05 today. For several years, in the face of a growing movement to lift local, state, and federal minimum wages to a livable standard, right-wing media opponents have frequently promoted a number of misleading and discredited myths about the minimum wage’s economic effects.

  • Amid Economic Turmoil, Right-Wing Media Spin Brexit As Good For Trump

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & NINA MAST

    Right-wing media are reacting to the U.K. referendum to leave the European Union -- commonly referred to as Brexit -- by labeling the result a “very, very ominous sign for Democrats in the United States,” saying Donald Trump “looked like a genius” for saying the U.K. should leave the European Union, and claiming that “Hillary [Clinton] lost and Trump won.” Meanwhile, mainstream media warn of economic ramifications from the vote.

  • Fox Business Makes The German Cinema Standoff All About Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In the middle of an unfolding standoff between police and a gunman at a movie theater in Germany, Fox Business host Stuart Varney repeatedly pivoted to promoting Donald Trump, calling the incident “a plus” for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    On the June 23 edition of Varney & Co., Varney dedicated two segments to the developing situation, speculating in each that the situation might benefit Trump’s campaign. First, Varney and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley, a Trump apologist,  agreed that the situation -- initially reported as a “mass shooting” -- would “absolutely” benefit the GOP front-runner because he has “emphasized the need for strong national security policy.” 

    Next, Varney asked Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News judicial analyst, what impact the incident might have on U.S. immigration policy. Napolitano responded, “When a crisis like this happens, it should benefit Donald Trump,” because “he portrays himself as the stronger, sterner protector of our shores.” He advised Trump to “express outrage and … determination” to “one up Mrs. Clinton.” Napolitano has a history of pushing conspiracy theories and recently used the horrific mass shooting in Orlando to promote debunked right-wing media myths about gun violence. He is also reportedly a likely Supreme Court nominee, should Trump become president.    

    Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares echoed Fox’s promotion of the GOP candidate, saying that if the shooting was “politically motivated terrorism,” it will benefit Trump because it will prove that “terrorism is active in Europe.”

    Varney has track record of inserting praise of Trump’s foreign policy positions into his reporting. On May 19, when an EgyptAir flight crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, the Fox Business host framed the tragedy as “a plus” and “politically good for Donald Trump.” On March 22, he also let Phares erroneously claim the United States doesn’t have a vetting process for Syrian refugees, whom Trump has incorrectly labeled as a threat to national security.  

  • Fox Outraged At New White House Campaign For Immigrant Heritage Month

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Fox’s Stuart Varney expressed outrage at a “misleading” campaign created by the White House, aimed at raising awareness about immigration and refugees by highlighting the stories of celebrity immigrants. 

    Varney asked how taxpayers could be “paying for a political message” during the June 6 edition of Fox News’ Your World. Varney called the campaign “misleading” for not distinguishing between “many people’s opposition to illegal immigration, and support for legal immigration.” Capital Research Center’s Matthew Vadum criticized the left’s refusal to use the term “illegal alien,” claiming that the term is supposed to “stigmatize them, they’re lawbreakers”: 

    According to Bustle, celebrities including Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, and Lupita N’yongo joined the White House to spread awareness about immigrants and refugees for Immigrant Heritage Month in June. In a video for the campaign, celebrities discussed “the importance of immigrants in the history and fabric of America.” Part of the #IAmAnImmigrant campaign, the video draws attention to immigration reform and refugees, and encourages others to share immigration stories on the website. Actresses Kerry Washington and Gina Rodriguez tweeted their support for the campaign:

  • Conservatives Spark Attack On Latino Civil Rights Organization For Helping Hispanic Homeowners

    Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim That Settlement Payments From Institutions Responsible For The Financial Crisis Create “Liberal Slush Fund” For Progressive Groups

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Right-wing media have spent years attacking the Department of Justice’s handling of multi-billion dollar settlements from financial institutions partly responsible for the housing and financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. Conservative outlets falsely allege that the DOJ used settlement payments to create a “liberal slush fund” to disburse millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations like the nonpartisan National Council of La Raza (NCLR), even though these groups are certified housing counseling agencies.

  • Right-Wing Media Assail Expansion Of Overtime Pay Protections To Millions Of Workers

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing media assailed new overtime rules released by the Department of Labor (DOL) on May 17, which expand overtime pay protections to 4.2 million American workers previously exempt from compensation under outdated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule updates the minimum salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year, and pegs the threshold to inflation going forward.

  • Fox Business Mocks Clinton's Voice In KY Speech, Ignores Her $30 Billion Plan For Coal Country

    Right-Wing Media Have Spent Years Attacking Hillary Clinton For The Sound Of Her Voice

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business completely ignored the economic details of policy proposals outlined by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a recent speech in Bowling Green, Kentucky, including a $30 billion plan to revitalize coal country, opting instead to mock the sound of her voice.

    On May 16, Clinton gave a 31 minute speech outlining economic policy goals she intends to achieve as president, according to The Courier-Journal. These goals included “reducing college debt, raising wages of workers, giving equal pay for equal work and improving the Affordable Care Act,” as well as her “$30 billion plan to revitalize coal country.” Clinton’s coal country revitalization plan creates protections for coal miners’ pensions, ensures adequate funding for local public schools, and provides job training and small business assistance for places once dominated by coal -- an industry that has seen economic forces lead to its decline.

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) to listen to Clinton’s voice during the speech and critique it during an interview on the May 17 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Varney thought “she used a Southern accent.” Bryant joked that Clinton could join the Blue Collar Comedy Tour if not elected president, and claimed that her supposed “pandering to the crowd” was “a little insulting.” At no point during the discussion did either man reference the policies Clinton actually outlined in her speech.

    Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked Clinton’s voice for nearly a decade while ignoring the substance of her remarks. Attacks against Clinton’s voice by right-wing media ranged from her volume, to her allegedly offensive Southern accent, and her supposed use of “a blackface voice” when addressing an African-American audience. A Fox contributor once suggested that Clinton would “speak with a lisp” if she attended an event hosted by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. These sexist attacks on Clinton’s voice are well documented and attempt to distract from the content of the candidate's positions.

    Watch the full exchange from the May 17 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): One more thing for you, governor. Hillary Clinton was campaigning in Kentucky, and I think she used a Southern accent, and I want you to listen to it and critique it for a second. Roll tape.

    PHIL BRYANT: Do I have to?

    [...]

    VARNEY: Alright, governor, I do have an accent myself. Would you care to critique the accent you just heard?

    BRYANT: You know, if she doesn't get elected president, there may be an opening on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour for her with that accent. We'd have to get her a little better jokes, but of course it's a little insulting to hear that type of thing happen. But, she’s pandering to the crowd, Stuart. Some politicians do it, I won't hold that against her too much, and she needs to work a bit on it and maybe throw a “y'all” in there. But what we want to hear is what she is going to do about appointing Supreme Court judges [sic]. She’s been silent on that issue so far, and I’d like to hear if it’s going to be a Bernie Sanders, or who some of her Supreme Court nominees may be when she gets to be president of the United States.

  • Fox Business Pushes Four Lies About Smart Guns In 45 Seconds

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A brief segment on Fox Business Network about President Obama’s push to develop smart gun technology included falsehoods about Obama’s plan, the availability and reliability of smart guns, and law enforcement’s position on the issue.

    On April 29, President Obama announced a plan for the Defense Department (DOD), Homeland Security Department (DHS), and Justice Department (DOJ) to assist in the development of technology that allows only the authorized user of a firearm to fire it. As Obama explained, the purpose of the initiative is “identifying the requirements that smart guns would have to meet in order for law enforcement to purchase and use them effectively - and keep themselves and the public safer in the process.”

    During the May 3 broadcast of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich offered a litany of falsehoods to attack the Obama administration’s announcement:

    1. Varney opened the segment by claiming Obama “might use executive orders to push for smart guns.”

      In fact, Obama’s announcement was an update on his administration’s January announcement of executive actions, not orders. Conservative media frequently mislabel executive actions -- where, in this case, federal agencies are operating within their respective purviews to help expedite the development of technology – by terming them executive orders in an attempt to make claims about supposed Obama administration overreach.

    2. Calling smart guns “actually very dumb,” Pavlich claimed that “there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back.”

      First, several federal executive departments that administer law enforcement agencies – DOJ, DOD, and DHS -- are involved in carrying out the administration’s plan, not opposing it.

      There has been only one high-profile law enforcement group that has been outspoken on Obama’s plan, and that group has a major conflict of interest. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Jim Pasco, was quoted in several news outlets criticizing Obama’s plan, without the disclosure that the FOP’s charity has received large amounts of money from the National Shooting Sporting Foundation, a gun industry trade group that often attacks smart gun technology. A 2010 investigation by The Washington Post identified several instances where the interests of clients at Pasco’s lobbying business aligned with positions subsequently taken by FOP.

    3. Pavlich claimed that “smart gun technology has been on the market for years now.”

      While smart gun technology has been in development for years, smart guns are not yet available for purchase by the general public in America, except for in rare instances. This is because gun dealers largely refuse to stock the first market-ready smart gun, the Armatix iP1, a semi-automatic handgun that uses radio-frequency identification technology. In 2014, a Maryland gun dealer was the subject of death threats and harassment from gun rights activists after the dealer announced his intention to sell the iP1. He later canceled his plan to sell the firearm. A similar incident occurred in California when a gun store attempted to sell the iP1.

    4. Pavlich claimed smart gun technology is “not reliable” and “when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.”

      Pavlich’s claim echoes a frequent attack from the National Rifle Association, which often makes false claims about the reliability of smart gun technology. Smart guns have to meet certain reliability benchmarks to be sold. For example, to be sold in California, the iP1 had to be able to fire 600 rounds with a malfunction rate of less than 1 percent.

      Obama’s announcement on smart guns also said the DOD would continue to allow manufacturers to use a testing facility in Maryland to improve reliability.​ According to a leading developer of the technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the next generation of smart guns will have an operational failure rate “comparable to mechanical failure rate in many consumer side-arms.”

    From the May 3 broadcast of Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY: President Obama, he might use executive orders to push for smart guns. What do you make of this?

    KATIE PAVLICH: Well, the problem with smart guns is they’re actually very dumb. And there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back on President Obama’s idea that smart guns should be used, not only just in law enforcement, but across the country. The fact is that smart gun technology has been on the market for years now and people don’t buy them because they are not reliable. The president’s argument is that, look you have to be able to have guns that can only be fired by their owners, but when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.

  • Fox & Friends Follows Conservative Playbook To Spin GDP Report, Mislead On Obama’s Economic Record

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    On the April 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney joined co-hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy for a segment slamming President Obama’s record on the economy. The segment was a response to Obama’s recent interview with The New York Times, during which the president discussed how markedly the economy has improved since 2008 and what he hopes will be his economic legacy. The segment seemed to unwittingly mirror the right-wing playbook for downplaying positive economic gains during Democratic administrations by relying on false conservative talking points to dismiss economic growth and tout failed tax policies:

    Fox’s 3 Percent Growth Target Is Arbitrary And Ignores American History

    The segment opened with Kilmeade and Varney making the false claim that Obama is “the only U.S. president who could not deliver a single year of three percent growth.” It is not clear why Fox News is fixated on growing the economy at an average rate of three percent annually. Regardless, Kilmeade’s claim that Obama is “the only” president not to clear that bar is false.

    According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which only has consistent annual data from 1930 to the present, Republican president Herbert Hoover didn’t just fail to hit three percent growth, he failed to hit zero percent growth. The economy contracted at a rate of -8.5 percent in 1930, -6.4 percent in 1931, a staggering -12.9 percent in 1932, and -1.3 percent in 1933. The contraction in 1933 may have been greater, had Franklin Delano Roosevelt not replaced Hoover in the White House in March of that year, initiating substantial government stimulus projects known as the New Deal. Reliable GDP estimates prior to 1930 are difficult to find, but those data that are available show four consecutive Republican presidents overseeing economic growth of less than 2 percent from 1871 to 1885. Over the course of the next 45 years the economy swung wildly between boom and bust cycles, including several deep depressions, before the Great Depression and FDR’s subsequent creation of oversight mechanisms that work to maintain relative economic stability.

    Varney Consistently Misleads On The Economy

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney is supposed to be a serious voice for analysis and expertise at the network, but Varney is a serial minformer, who creates confusion on economic issues.

    In November 2014, Varney predicted that a Republican takeover of the Senate would usher in an era of “3 to 4 percent” growth, which he now complains hasn’t happened. The economy grew at a 2.4 percent pace in 2014, and continued to grow at a rate of 2.4 percent after the GOP took over complete control of Congress in 2015. Yesterday, when the Commerce Department figures were first released, Varney wondered if the economy growing at a slightly slower rate than experts had predicted was proof that we are “sliding toward recession” -- his comments came just moments after an actual economist was on CNBC debunking the idea.

    In the past week, Varney has attacked impoverished children for soaking up too many government benefits and watched idly as an economist easily debunked conservative demands for more tax cuts and deregulation to spur the economy. Since the start of the year Varney has been an unceasing source of misinformation on the minimum wage, has misled on the funding structures of public-sector unions, has lamented a proposal to pay people for the hours they work, and has attacked “ridiculous” anti-poverty programs that help struggling families and save taxpayers money.

    Fox News Follows The Conservative Misinformation Script To Perfection

    In an April 28 blog post, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman explained how Republicans mislead the American public about the health of the economy by ignoring positive economic trends. The focus of Waldman’s comparison was the “objective reality” of progress and areas for improvement specified by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the “laughable fantasy” of “an absolute (economic) nightmare” outlined by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, but it could have just as easily been any of the personalities at Fox News. This April 29 Fox & Friends segment that mislead on GDP is one very good example.

    In Waldman’s piece, he hit Trump for pretending tax cuts are the solution to economic growth -- they are actually a proven failure. Varney often repeats this same tax cut talking point at Fox. When Earhardt asked on Fox & Friends “what is the reason for these bad numbers” on the economy, Varney slammed “massive regulation, constant government borrowing” and “overspending to raise the debt” -- exactly the talking points for which Waldman hit Trump the day before.

  • Fox's Varney Dubiously Claims US Is "Sliding Toward Recession" After Economy Grows Slightly Less Than Expected

    Stuart Varney: "It Is Legitimate To Use The Word Recession" Despite Seven Consecutive Quarters Of Economic Growth

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney misleadingly used the Commerce Department's most recent economic growth estimate to claim the United States is "sliding toward recession." In reality, there are many reasons to believe economic activity will pick back up in the spring and summer this year.

    On the April 28 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Varney used the Commerce Department’s quarterly GDP report, which estimated economic expansion to be 0.5 percent in the first three months of 2016, to claim America is “sliding toward recession.” Guest Julie Roginsky attempted to correct Varney's characterization of the economy, explaining that the United States' economy is still growing and has created nearly 15 million new jobs over the course of “73 consecutive months of job growth,” but she couldn't budge the host from his talking points. Varney concluded the segment by claiming that the economy's supposed "downtrend" creates a "political problem" for Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton:

     

    The last recession, which the National Bureau of Economic Research defines as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months,” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, first quarter economic growth has typically lagged behind growth for the rest of the year since the economy emerged from the Bush-era Great Recession:

    Varney’s warning that a recession may be imminent does not match expert analysis. On April 28, The Washington Post reported that “most analysts say that the United States faces little risk of recession.” Reuters reported that "a pick-up in activity is anticipated" in the coming months "given a buoyant labor market." In fact, while Varney was pushing his dire warning about the state of the economy, Bank of America economist Ethan Harris was on CNBC's Squawk Box explaining how one could assume a recession is happening in the first quarter of almost every year “if you don’t adjust the data,” because “the winter hits” and the “shopping season ends.” In an interview with ABC News, economist Ian Shepherdson acknowledged that the current data "looks grim, but the second quarter will be much better."

    Varney is a serial misinformer on the economy, repeatedly attempting to spin data to claim President Obama’s economic policies have failed, even though the president’s economic legacy of the last seven years shows the unemployment rate has been cut in half, annual deficits have gone down, GDP has grown, and the United States enjoyed the third-longest stock market upswing in its history. Varney’s spin on economic data has gone so far that on December 4 -- in response to a strong November jobs report that beat most economists' expectations -- he managed to conclude that the pace of job creation was "mediocre," and on January 8 he downplayed the December jobs report as merely "modest" even though it was arguably the strongest jobs report of 2015.