Fox News used a dishonest graph to distort the Obama administration's record on border enforcement and claim that the border is less secure. Fox's chart painted a misleading picture of Southwest border apprehensions by using an arbitrary time period and an improper scale -- even as illegal border crossings under President Obama are at historic lows.
In several segments on Fox News, correspondent William La Jeunesse highlighted the graph to claim that the Southwest border "is actually less secure," pointing to what he called the "double-digit surge" in border apprehensions from 2011 to 2013 to make his point:
La Jeunesse reported that the numbers for October-April 2013 were released exclusively to Fox News from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a report on Happening Now, La Jeunesse touted the graph and highlighted the fact that apprehensions of Central American nationals have risen 13 percent -- leading him to claim that by this standard more people are getting into the United States illegally.
La Jeunesse gave a similar report on Your World using the same graph.
However, the graph La Jeunesse used suffers from several misleading characteristics. First, it depicts an arbitrary time period: October through April, though we're only a few days into the month, for the years 2011 to 2013 -- which takes into account only half of Obama's first term. Moreover, the graph has a skewed scale -- making the 27,000 jump from 2011 to 2013 seem more dramatic than it actually is.
Fox News personalities are hyping fears that a supervised release of undocumented immigrants will lead to more crime. But the immigrants affected by this policy are still subject to deportation and face restrictions such as checking in with authorities and wearing ankle monitoring bracelets.
Fox News used debunked statistics to support its suggestion that guns may "deter more crimes than they cause." In fact, evidence shows that guns are involved in nearly 70 percent of homicides, but are rarely used successfully in self-defense.
In the weeks following the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Fox News has repeatedly pushed the misleading claim that owning guns makes people safer.
On the Wednesday edition of Fox News' Happening Now, correspondent William La Jeunesse gave a report on gun violence and mass shootings. La Jeunesse began by saying, "America has a record-high number of guns, but a lower crime rate. So is it demographics, police work, or because guns deter more crimes than they cause?" La Jeunesse went on to claim that "Americans use guns every day to stop crime, up to 2.5 million times a year. ... Others lower that figure to 1 million."
But La Jeunesse's report is misleading. His figure of 2.5 million gun owners stopping crime annually has been debunked. This number comes from the discredited research of criminologist Gary Kleck. The director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, David Hemenway, concluded that Kleck's study was conducted with "serious methodological deficiencies" that led the self-defense figure to be "an enormous overestimate." In order for Kleck's figures to be correct, Hemenway wrote, victims of burglaries would had to have used guns in self-defense over 100 percent of the time.
In an effort to discredit President Obama's plan to increase taxes on the wealthy, conservative media outlets have pushed a number of myths to suggest that a large number of Americans will be negatively affected. In reality, only a small percentage of taxpayers would be affected by Obama's proposals.
In an attempt to protect wealthy Americans from increased taxation, Fox erroneously reported the estate tax will affect a large number of small farms and businesses. In reality, President Obama's plan to increase the estate tax would only marginally increase the number of small farms and businesses subject to taxation, and those affected would experience low effective tax rates.
On Fox & Friends, reporter William La Jeunesse ran a segment highlighting California rancher Kevin Kester and his take on potential increases in the estate tax. Throughout the segment, La Jeunesse continually, and erroneously, referred to the estate tax as the "death tax," accompanied by the following chyron:
From the November 16 edition of Fox & Friends:
Of course, the entire purpose of the segment is to create the appearance that the estate tax, which is intended to be a tax on the very wealthy, falls on a large number of small farms and businesses. However, this is simply not the case.
The report highlights that President Obama plans to alter current estate tax policy, lowering the maximum exemption from $5 million to $3.5 million and imposing a 45 percent rate on estate values exceeding that amount. This proposal is simply a reversion to 2009 estate tax exemptions and rates.
According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities using Tax Policy Center data, "only 40 small business and farm estates nationwide will owe any estate tax in 2012." CBPP previously estimated the change in the number of small farm and business estates affected by a reversion to 2009 policy:
Despite rhetoric from estate-tax opponents portraying small businesses and farms as being severely burdened by the estate tax, only 60 small farm and business estates in the entire country would owe any estate tax next year under the 2009 rules, TPC estimates. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/24/2012, emphasis original]
In short, only 20 new small farm and business estates would be affected by President Obama's proposal. The same report notes the effective tax rate is far lower than the headline 45 percent rate due to "special provisions targeted to farm and business estates." Taking such provisions into account yields an estimated effective tax rate of 11.6 percent, which is lower than the current capital gains rate.
Attempting to characterize taxes on the wealthy as affecting a large number of Americans is not new for Fox, which has taken particular care to push those misleading claims in light of current federal budget negotiations.
Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse highlighted fears from gun owners about President Obama's call to reinstate the assault weapons ban and suggested that those fears could sway the presidential election. In so doing, Fox is ignoring the fact that an assault weapons ban is favored by most Americans and that research suggests that the gun lobby has relatively little influence on election outcomes.
During the November 1 edition of Happening Now, La Jeunesse claimed that President Obama "stunned gun owners with his plans for a second term" when he indicated support for restrictions on assault weapons during the October 16 presidential debate. He further indicated that "gun owners could cause a problem" for Obama in some swing states, warning that "gun owners do vote."
But by harping on the importance of gun owners in presidential elections, La Jeunesse helped advance a false National Rifle Association narrative that exaggerates the influence of the gun lobby. An analysis conducted by The American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (a former Media Matters staffer) found that NRA intervention has almost no influence on election outcomes. Waldman's report further showed that claims that the NRA had a significant impact on the 2000 presidential election -- a claim often repeated by the NRA and the media -- is baseless.
In focusing on the opinions of the handful of gun owners he interviewed, La Jeunesse also ignored the fact that large majorities of Americans say that they would support a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
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.
In multiple segments on Fox News, reporter William La Jeunesse wrongly suggested that top earners in California would face an effective tax rate of 52 percent if plans by Governor Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama were implemented. Fox's calculation is based on a simple addition of top tax rates, which ignores key details of U.S. and California tax codes to provide an inflated rate.
On America's Newsroom, La Jeunesse claimed that if both tax plans were approved, "California's wealthy would pay 52 cents of every dollar earned in income taxes." From America's Newsroom:
Later, on Happening Now, La Jeunesse repeated the figure:
While both President Obama and Governor Brown have proposed increasing the rate on top income earners to 36.9 and 13.3 percent, respectively, Fox's claim that their plans would lead to an effective 52 percent tax on the highest income earners is misleading. It appears that the figure is calculated by simply adding state and federal tax rates. However, this method ignores two key points -- state income tax is deductible from federal taxable income, and both California and federal tax rates are progressive, applying different rates to different income brackets.
To illustrate the extent to which Fox exaggerates these numbers, Media Matters did some calculations of its own. Using progressive tax rates currently in place in California and the federal government, along with the proposed changes made by Brown and Obama, Media Matters constructed a simple effective tax rate for a California resident earning $2 million in income.
Based on the California tax rates, we estimate that under Jerry Brown's proposed tax plan, a $2 million earner would pay approximately $242,856 in state taxes. This amount is deducted from taxable federal income, bringing it down to $1,757,144. Under President Obama's tax plan, total federal taxes would amount to approximately $652,803 for a total state and federal tax bill of $895,659.
Based on these calculations, the effective tax rate for a person who earns $2 million in California is about 44.8 percent, well below Fox's inaccurate figure of 52 percent. The above calculation, of course, is not entirely representative of the tax burden felt by a high income earner, as it does not account for other factors such as local taxes and itemized deductions that could increase or decrease the effective tax rate. However, preliminary analysis suggests that Fox's incorrectly calculated and consistently reported 52 percent is an overestimate.
Since President Obama's election, right-wing media have tried to find wrongdoing by top Obama administration officials. The pseudo-scandal they have contrived have resulted in investigations, congressional hearings, and right-wing media bluster, but they have not resulted in any evidence of wrongdoing by top Obama administration officials.
Fox News reported Thursday that "two pro-gun advocates who reported extensively on the Fast and Furious scandal" have filed a complaint against Attorney General Eric Holder with the District of Columbia's Office of Bar Counsel. Somehow the network never got around to mentioning that one of those "advocates" is Mike Vanderboegh, the ex-militia blogger infamous for urging his readers to commit vandalism against Democrats and for inspiring an alleged terrorist plot to kill federal employees.
Last year, Fox News featured Vanderboegh in two separate reports on Fast and Furious, identifying him as an "online journalist" and an "authority on the Fast and Furious investigation." The network did not disclose Vanderboegh's past ties to the militia and Minuteman movements, history of conspiratorial rantings, or the fact that he made headlines in 2010 for telling his readers to respond to the passage of health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic offices, then took credit after that occurred.
Fox ceased to cite Vanderboegh on-air after prosecutors in Georgia said that one of four alleged members of a militia group in that state had repeatedly cited Vanderboegh's novel Absolved as the source of their alleged plot to kill numerous government officials. In Vanderboegh's novel, which was self-published online, underground militia fighters declare war on the federal government over gun control laws and same-sex marriage, leading to a second American revolution.
In June, Vanderboegh predicted that if health care reform were found to be constitutional, it would trigger a violent insurrection against "government tyranny," stating, "You may call tyranny a mandate or you may call it a tax, but it still is tyranny and invites the same response."
But Fox correspondent William La Jeunesse included none of this context in passing on Vanderboegh's allegations on Happening Now:
The Prius is now the world's third best-selling car line, but before it became a clear success story, it was the target of attacks from conservative media similar to those now being leveled against electric vehicles.
In 2000, the year the Prius was released in the U.S., Diane Katz and Henry Payne wrote at the Wall Street Journal that hybrid cars are not "what the public wants." The next year, the Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels declared the Prius would "never" deliver a profit for Toyota and hyped how "demand has been weak" for hybrids. That these conservative pundits have clearly been proven wrong with time is a lesson for today's pundits who suggest that current electric car sales mean that electric cars will never be successful. As Bloomberg reporter Jamie Butters noted in a video report, "a lot of people will criticize the sales of the Chevy Volt by GM or the Nissan Leaf, but when you really look back they're selling at significantly higher opening volumes than the Prius when it came out 15 years ago."
Even after Prius sales had significantly ramped up, conservative media were still downplaying the market for hybrids in the U.S. In 2004, a Fox News guest declared that "Americans don't want hybrids":
As automakers are starting to bring electric vehicle (EV) technology into the mainstream, conservative media outlets have repeatedly misled consumers about electric cars by trying to paint them as environmentally harmful and unsafe, among other false claims.
From the January 17 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the December 8 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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In March 2010, right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh made headlines across the country after he urged his followers to respond to health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic offices and then took credit after it actually happened.
Eighteen months later, Fox News has repeatedly featured the former militia and Minuteman leader as an "authority" on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
In January, Vanderboegh was among the first to break the story that ATF agents had knowingly allowed gun trafficking suspects to take weapons across the border into Mexico. According to Republican congressional investigators, the operation was intended to allow law enforcement to identify other members of the trafficking network that for years has directed assault weapons into the hands of Mexican cartels, with the goal of bringing those cartels down.
But according to Vanderboegh, the failed operation was actually part of a secret plot against the Second Amendment directed from the highest levels of government (a theory Fox News itself has at times promoted). He has also pushed bizarre theories linking the program to Hillary Clinton not running for President and to the so-called "Cloward-Piven strategy."
Vanderboegh has been featured in two packaged reports by Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse, the most recent of which aired on September 27; the blogger was also cited by the correspondent in a FoxNews.com article earlier this month. Fox has identified Vanderboegh as an "online journalist" and an "authority on the Fast and Furious investigation," leaving his extremist past, use of violent rhetoric, and propensity for conspiracy theories unmentioned.
Vanderboegh's extremism is no secret; he was the subject of an 1100-word, front-page Washington Post profile after he responded to the passage of health care reform by writing a blog post headlined: "To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW." In the post, he urged his readers that "if you wish to send a message that [then-Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows." As the Post reported in their profile of the former militiaman, "In the days that followed, glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York."
The Post found Vanderboegh "unapologetic," reporting that he told them "he believes throwing bricks through windows sends a warning to Democratic lawmakers that the health-care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war." Asked about an incident in which a brick was hurled into the glass doors of a Democratic office in Rochester, NY, Vanderboegh said, "I guess that guy's one of ours. ... Glad to know people read my blog."
After the Post profile, Vanderboegh drew fire from the left, right, and center. MSNBC's Ed Schultz described him a "whacko," while colleague Rachel Maddow pointed to how Vanderboegh's "efforts to inspire violent action around the country [are] apparently derived from his belief that he leads millions of people who think the same things he does." Jonah Goldberg called him an "idiot" and a "buffoon" whose behavior "is simply wrong, reprehensible, and childish." The Daily Beast's John Avlon wrote that the "parallels, intentional or not, to the Nazis' heinous 1938 kristallnacht ... are hard to ignore."