From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Earlier this afternoon, we pointed out that Fox Business host Stuart Varney used an appearance on Fox News' America Live to claim that President Obama is deliberately insulting the United Kingdom -- one of our closest allies -- because of his family's supposed decades-old resentment of that nation's colonial rule of Obama's father's Kenyan homeland.
Seeking to explain Obama's purported "betray[al]" of British nuclear secrets to Russia, Varney cited an "increasing feeling in Britain that the administration in America doesn't like the British, for whatever reason." Varney provided four reasons why the British supposedly have that feeling, one of which was the administration's return of a bust of Winston Churchill that had sat in the Oval Office during the Bush administration. Host Megyn Kelly homed in on the bust example, asking why Obama would do such a thing. Varney then alleged that Obama had returned the bust because "President Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the [British] colonial administration in his native Kenya."
That is an extraordinary and -- if true -- damning allegation. Such allegations, when made on an avowed "straight news" program, demand evidence. But Varney offered no evidence whatsoever. Instead, Varney portrayed his claim as conventional wisdom that is "out there."
One of two things is true: Either Fox News is sitting on a story that would be massively damaging to the Obama administration, or they are employing a hack who pushes libelous, evidence-free speculation during its news reports.
Roger Ailes must immediately demand that Varney produce evidence for today's claims; not shadowy Beckian "connections" but actual proof that President Obama's familial antipathies are driving his foreign policy.
If Varney cannot produce such evidence, he should be fired immediately.
In another devastating blow to the purported separation between Fox's "news" and "opinion" programming, Fox Business host Stuart Varney today used an appearance on Fox News' America Live to delve into one of the most paranoid, race-baiting myths of the right-wing fever swamp: the entirely baseless claim that on assuming office, President Obama returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the British government because his family "disliked" the British colonial government in Kenya.
A variant of this highbrow birther conspiracy theory is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Dinesh D'Souza, among others. While Varney attributes the return of the bust to how "Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the British colonial rule in Kenya," Beck and D'Souza have instead cited the torture of Obama's paternal grandfather by the British during the Mau Mau Uprising. These claims are ridiculous, baseless, and an obvious attempt to raise fears among their viewers of Obama's priority being Africans, not Americans.
Of course, no evidence has ever emerged to link the return of the Churchill bust to the experience of Obama's family.
From the February 2 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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The right-wing media have seized on a Wikileaks cable to claim the Obama administration "betrayed" the United Kingdom by revealing data to Russia regarding the sale of nuclear material. In fact, the information was passed in compliance with nuclear arms treaties and "with respect to the longstanding pattern of cooperation," as officials in both the U.S. and U.K. governments have confirmed.
It's only a few weeks into 2011, but I feel I must nominate Fox Business' Stuart Varney for what could turn out to be the most inane statement of the year by a conservative host. During an interview with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on the February 3 edition of his show, Varney advanced the notion that Cuccinelli's investigation into climate scientist Michael Mann, a former University of Virginia professor, has no bearing on the "argument about whether there is global warming or not." This claim doesn't pass the laugh test -- not even a little bit. As I detailed a few weeks ago, the only reason Mann is under attack is because skeptics (falsely) assert that he tampered with data to support the case for global warming.
On the show, after pressing Cuccinelli on whether he "was going after" Mann, Varney stated: "This is not an argument about whether there is global warming or not -- obviously not." Varney added: "That's not part of the debate here." Cuccinelli replied: "Correct."
In fact, the whole investigation is about trying to discredit the science behind global warming.
From the January 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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On Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney bizarrely claimed that the Social Security "trust fund is empty" because it "is full of IOUs from the Treasury" that won't be "IOUs any longer, by the year 2037." In fact, without any changes, Social Security will be fully funded through 2037, and the trust fund holds a $2.5 trillion surplus, funded by Treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and are widely considered to be the safest investment around.
From the January 25 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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On Fox News' America Live, Fox Business host Stuart Varney falsely claimed that pensions are the "biggest reason" states are facing budget shortfalls and that pensions "are one of the biggest expenses [states] have." In fact, short-term budgetary challenges facing states are the result of the financial crisis, not pensions, and current pension obligations account for just 3.8 percent of the average state's yearly expenditures.
This morning, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson and guests Stuart Varney and Noelle Nikpour went right to work planting a seed in viewers' minds: Is President Obama's appointment of General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt as head of a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness a "payback" or "pay off?"
Here's Varney kicking off the baseless accusations that Obama "paid off" Immelt for what Varney claimed was Immelt's "dutiful services running NBC for the Democrats":
VARNEY: You could also say this is a payoff. This is Mr. Immelt of GE, which owned, formerly, NBC, which was turned into an arm of the Democratic Party in the run-up to the elections of 2008 and for the next two years after that. Maybe he's being paid off for his dutiful services running NBC for the Democrats.
Later on Fox & Friends, Carlson adopted Varney's claim and used it to invite Nikpour, a Fox News contributor, to attack Obama. Echoing Varney, Carlson asked, "Is putting Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, payback -- because GE used to control NBC and NBC rooted very loudly for President Obama when he was campaigning. Is it payback?" Nikpour responded by saying, in part: "It's all about paying back someone who's helped you along the campaign. I mean, he's shown this with the unions and for everything else. It's payback. It's pay-to-play system; it's a Chicago-style of politics."
So, in Fox & Friends' world, it's not at all possible that Obama's selection of Immelt, as The Associated Press reported, "underscor[es] the administration's efforts to build stronger ties to the business community."
Nope. It's a "payoff" that's indicative of the administration's "Chicago-style of politics."
From the January 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News has repeatedly attempted to discredit an HHS study estimating how many people have pre-existing conditions. In doing so, Fox falsely claimed the study said 129 million people would "lose their coverage" if Republicans repealed the health care reform law, when in fact, HHS said this number represents those who, in the absense of health care reform, would face higher premiums or benefit cuts in the individual insurance market.
Right-wing media love stories that fit into their narrative that government is ballooning wildly out of control, taxing more than it should, getting away with all sorts of waste and fraud, etc. So it's no surprise that they pounced on the news this week that Illinois will be increasing state income taxes. Personal income taxes will go up from 3 percent to 5 percent, while corporate income taxes will increase from 4.8 percent to 7 percent.
This is certainly a newsworthy story deserving discussion and debate. It is not, however, what Fox used it as: a platform to telegraph its Chicken Little insistence that such increases mean the sky is falling out in the Midwest.
Fox & Friends ran several segments on the story during their January 12 program. In one, they invited Fox Business host Stuart Varney on the show to bemoan the rising tax rates. Varney had some pretty strong words about the great state of Illinois:
VARNEY: Well, I'm going to say that Illinois is as close as we're coming in America to a failed state. I mean, it is certainly the poster child for massive debt and irresponsible politics. In the dead of night, last night, they passed this 66 percent increase in personal income taxes. But there's more. They actually raised the corporate tax rate to the highest level in the industrialized world. That's what they did.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): So who the heck wants to live in Illinois anymore?
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): This should not surprise you. They're in this great big hole; they've got all the red ink. They're not going to cut spending. They're not going to cut pensions for those union members. What else could they do but raise taxes? [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 1/12/11]
On-screen text during the segment read: "A 66% increase in income taxes! Illinois to raise rates from 3% to 5%."
First of all, it's pretty disingenuous to suggest that Illinois' only budget fix is to raise taxes. A January 12 AP article on Illinois' budget plan notes:
The tax increase will be coupled with strict 2 percent limits on spending growth. If officials spend above those limits, the tax increase will automatically be canceled. The plan's supporters warned that rising pension and health care costs probably will eat up all the spending allowed by the caps, forcing cuts in other areas of government. [Associated Press, 1/12/11]
As for the corporate income tax, I don't know what math Varney is using to back up his claim that Illinois "raised the corporate tax rate to the highest level in the industrialized world." The bill indeed raises the corporate tax rate by quite a bit, from 4.8 percent to 7 percent. [Chicago Tribune, 1/13/11] But there are 24 states right here in the U.S. with top corporate tax brackets exceeding 7 percent, as this chart from the Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA) shows. Even including a 2.5 percent personal property replacement tax puts Illinois taxes at "the third-highest rate in the U.S.," notes a January 12 Chicago Tribune article:
Corporations also pay a 2.5 percent tax on income, called the personal property replacement tax, which is collected by the state and flows to local governments. The two rates taken together come to 9.5 percent, the third-highest rate in the U.S., according to the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan Washington-based research group. [Chicago Tribune, 1/12/11]
So, it's high, yes, but it's not even the highest corporate tax in the U.S., let alone "the industrial world" (Denmark's national corporation tax is 25 percent, for example).
Which gets us back to the original story of Illinois' "66 percent increase!" on taxes. Again, personal state income taxes increased from 3 percent to 5 percent. Just how high is 5 percent, relative to the rest of the states?
Not very. Here's an FTA chart comparing the 2010 individual income tax rates of all 50 states, plus D.C.:
[Federal Tax Administrators, updated 1/1/10]
The lowest tax brackets for the majority of states are indeed lower than 5 percent -- but conversely, 31 states, of the 43 that have an income tax, plus D.C., have a top tax bracket greater than 5 percent. So 5 percent doesn't seem that outrageous, relative to many other states in the country.
Even Fox & Friends guest host Alisyn Camerota pointed out this very fact during today's edition of the show. She even got co-host Steve Doocy to agree with her. From the broadcast:
CAMEROTA: OK, so the personal tax has gone from the individual tax increase to 5 percent from 3 percent. OK? In Illinois.
CAMEROTA: And, you know, OK, I understand that that is painful in Illinois. But in New York and New Jersey, it's like, cry me a river people in Illinois, because the personal tax in these states here on the East Coast are much higher, at about 9 percent.
DOOCY: So, this -- absolutely. And we -- we got that tax monkey on our back here. And it's -- OK, it's a gorilla in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and places like that. [Fox & Friends, 1/14/11]
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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