Alex Morash

Author ››› Alex Morash
  • TV News Coverage Of Trump’s Policies Overwhelmed By His Wiretapping Lie

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

    Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.

    Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

    Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.

    With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.

    Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.

    The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.

  • Will Fox News Finally Take The Debt Ceiling Seriously?

    Fox Spent Years Urging Republicans To Default On The National Debt To Hurt President Obama

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Fox News personalities have urged them to use the threat of defaulting on the sovereign debt obligations of the United States government as a means of winning political concessions. With Republicans now in full control of Congress, will the talking heads at Fox finally come to terms with this monumental threat to the global economy and urge the GOP to raise the debt ceiling?

  • Will Fox Continue Its CBO Smear Campaign With More White House Talking Points?

    Fox News Spent Days Attempting To Discredit The CBO In Advance Of Its Report Outlining That Millions Will Lose Health Insurance Under GOP Plan

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News pushed White House talking points attacking the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in an attempt to discredit the nonpartisan scorekeeper before it released today’s report projecting the effects of the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare -- the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The report’s devastating findings -- that up to 24 million people would lose their health insurance coverage over the next decade under the GOP health care plan -- are now public. Will Fox News continue to borrow White House talking points to carry water for the disastrous plan?

    On March 13, the CBO reported that the number of Americans without health insurance would grow to a staggering 52 million people by 2026 under the GOP’s health care plan, AHCA, compared to an estimated 28 million who are projected to remain uninsured under current law. President Donald Trump’s administration and Republican leaders in Congress had tried to smear the CBO -- the nonpartisan research arm of Congress tasked with analysing the budgetary and economic impacts of legislative proposals -- in advance of the widely anticipated report, which many correctly predicted would find that the GOP plan will throw millions off their health insurance.

    White House officials began a campaign to discredit the CBO on March 8 when during a press briefing White House press secretary -- and renowned liar -- Sean Spicer questioned the work of the nonpartisan researchers at CBO, telling reporters that “if you're looking at the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place.” This was an about-face from what the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney, stated on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier that day when he claimed “the only question” on the CBO scoring was whether it will it be “really good” or “great” for the Trump administration. Despite his initial optimism, Mulvaney too joined in on attacking the CBO on the March 12 edition of ABC’s This Week, downplaying the effectiveness of the office’s analysis and misleadingly claiming that the agency did not score the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- also called Obamacare -- accurately. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, also blasted the CBO on the March 12 edition of NBC’s Meet The Press.

    In the hours leading up to the CBO’s March 13 report release, Fox News figures attempted to discredit the organization with talking points straight from the Trump administration. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed on Fox and Friends that the CBO was tricked into scoring the ACA inaccurately because it did not score the mandate as a tax, adding that the CBO fell “hook, line, and sinker” for some sort of Democratic plan to bring about single-payer health care. On America’s Newsroom, Washington Examiner columnist Byron York claimed the Trump administration’s allegation that CBO had inaccurately scored the ACA years ago was “absolutely true.” On Outnumbered, co-host Melissa Francis claimed “the CBO does get everything wrong” and complained that the CBO underestimated the cost of Medicaid expansion under the ACA. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney’s anti-CBO talking points were rebuffed by Harvard economist and former CBO director Douglas Elmendorf, who pointed out that the office correctly predicted that the number of uninsured would fall under ACA, it accurately projected premium increases under the law, and it actually overestimated the long-term cost of enacting Obamacare.

    As soon as the CBO’s devastating report on the short- and long-term effects of repealing Obamacare and enacting the AHCA was released this afternoon, Fox News turned to discredited New York Post columnist, former Trump economic adviser, and serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey to double down on its campaign against the CBO. McCaughey slammed the report as “implausible” for finding that tens of millions would lose health insurance coverage under the Republican health care plan, but happily accepted the same report’s finding of marginal deficit reductions stemming from the repeal of health insurance subsidies to low-income Americans. From the March 13 edition of Fox’s Your World with Neil Cavuto:

    According to an independent analysis of the CBO’s Affordable Care Act estimates from the Commonwealth Fund, the office’s health care policy analysis regarding the ACA actually “proved to be reasonably accurate” and was thrown off by Supreme Court decisions and GOP political obstruction that it had no way to forecast. Even James Capretta of the conservative American Enterprise Institute warned that it may “tempting for GOP leaders to say CBO is wrong” but it would be difficult to “make a credible case” that the repeal plan would not reduce the number of people with health insurance.

  • The Economy Created 2.1 Million Jobs In 2016, But The News Talked About Only 700 Of Them

    Trump’s Misleading Carrier Deal Was A Dominant Narrative During 2016 Coverage Of The Job Market

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Media Matters research for the fourth quarter of the year found that broadcast evening news fixated on then President-elect Donald Trump’s misleading announcement that he was responsible for saving hundreds of jobs at an American manufacturer while largely ignoring the roughly 2.1 million jobs gained by the U.S. economy in 2016.

    Television news fawned over Trump’s late-November participation in negotiations between state authorities and Indiana-based appliance manufacturer Carrier in which the company decided to move only half of its jobs to Mexico in exchange for tax subsidies. The same outlets continued to fall head over heels for Trump when he misleadingly declared on December 6 that he had brokered a deal with Japanese technology giant SoftBank to create “50,000 new jobs” in the United States. Some journalists were quick to point out that the media may be getting “bamboozled by these announcements,” and the Carrier deal was blasted as nothing more than “crony capitalism” -- a concept that even Sarah Palin understood. ​

    New research from Media Matters revealed that overall coverage of the economy during the fourth quarter of the year spiked after Election Day, in large part driven not by consistently positive economic indicators or discussions of the future of health care reform, but by Trump’s self-serving boasts about his alleged role as a job creator. Of the 275 qualifying economic news segments aired by cable and broadcast programs from October through December, 56 featured a significant discussion of Trump’s supposed deal making with Carrier and Softbank. The media obsession with Trump’s Carrier and Softbank announcements accounted for an absurd 47 percent of evening news segments on the economy for the final 32 days of 2016.

    Television news obsessed over Trump’s claims of saving 700 jobs at one plant and practically ignored the roughly 2.1 million jobs that had been created in 2016 as part the longest stretch of job growth on record. Media Matters identified 119 segments on the economy -- some discussing more than one issue -- from November 30 through December 31; of those, 56 discussed deals supposedly brokered by Trump to save or create jobs via Carrier and Softbank. Broadcast and cable evening news coverage of these deals eclipsed all other economic reporting during this time frame: 41 segments discussed tax policy, 30 segments discussed all other news surrounding economic growth or job creation, 26 segments focused on health care policy, 18 segments explored minimum wage policies, and 16 segments discussed economic inequality.

    Media all but ignored the big picture by staying so focused on Trump’s pronouncements, falling prey to what ThinkProgress editor-in-chief Judd Legum described as Trump’s “formula for manipulating the public.” News outlets have repeatedly learned the hard way not to trust Trump’s proclamations and “nonsense” supply-side economic proposals. Yet television news still gives Trump an exhaustive amount of attention -- the same type of attention that research found played a role in Trump’s political rise. Now, it could influence public perception of his presidency.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast Coverage Of The Economy Spiked After The Election

    Representation Of Economists Remained High In Fourth Quarter As Surprising Election Result Forced Outlets To Scramble For Explanations

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The final quarter of 2016 saw an increase in cable and broadcast news coverage of the economy from the prior three-month period. Yet the proportion of economic coverage that focused on economic inequality decreased sharply as attacks on progressive economic policies rose. Fox News led the charge in attacking progressive policies and health care reform throughout the fourth quarter of the year, while the leading defender of progressive initiatives, MSNBC, aired most of its economic coverage after Election Day. The relative proportion of economists booked as guests during economic news segments remained higher than in years past but dropped as a percentage from the third to fourth quarters of 2016. The proportional representation of women in cable and broadcast evening news discussions of the economy reached a record, but dispiriting, high in the fourth quarter at a mere 30 percent of all guests.

  • Economists And Experts Hammer Trump's Plan To Increase Military Spending At Expense Of Nearly Everything Else

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump’s plan to beef up the defense budget by an additional $54 billion at the expense of civilian domestic spending, which he will unveil tonight before a joint session of Congress, has been derided by economists and experts for being "wholly unrealistic" and “voodoo” economics.

    Bloomberg reported on February 26, that Trump’s first budget proposal would call for a $54 billion -- more than 9 percent -- increase in defense spending to be paid for with reductions to discretionary domestic spending, which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described as the budgetary equivalent of taking “a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle-class.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports of the president’s budget priorities in a February 27 press briefing, adding that Trump would discuss his budget plan in more detail during his February 28 address to Congress.

    Economists and experts have hammered Trump for months for proposing dramatic and seemingly unnecessary increases in defense spending. An October 19 article in New York magazine described Trump’s promises of new defense expenditures as “a random grab bag of military goodies, untethered to any coherent argument” because he lacked any vision or purpose for increasing funding to the military. According to figures compiled by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, American defense spending already eclipses the military spending of the next seven countries combined:

    The reception for Trump’s new budget outline has been similarly harsh. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman derided the president’s claim that a “revved up economy” could fund new tax cuts and spending increases as “deep voodoo” -- alluding to Trump’s embrace of trickle-down economics. Washington Post contributor and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) senior fellow Jared Bernstein slammed Trump’s “wholly unrealistic” budget outline in a February 28 column and chided the president for claiming that he can simultaneously increase military spending, cut taxes on high-income earners and corporations, and reduce the federal deficit -- all while leaving vital entitlement programs alone. In order to even approach a balanced budget in 10 years, Trump would have to remove almost everything else in the budget:

    According to a February 27 analysis from the CBPP, Trump's proposal, when coupled with his plan to boost infrastructure investments, would mean nondefense spending would see a whopping 15 percent reduction. The reason for the outsized hit to nondefense discretionary spending is that the programs covered by that part of the federal budget -- education, energy, affordable housing, infrastructure investments, law enforcement, foreign aid, some veterans' benefits, etc. -- only account for a small part of all federal spending. The largest part of the federal budget is mandatory spending for entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other veterans's benefits, and unemployment insurance. From the Congressional Budget Office:

    Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department are so onerous that more than 120 retired generals signed an open letter to congressional leaders warning of their ramifications. One co-signer told CBS News that such steep cuts would be “consigning us to a generational war,” and the letter itself quoted Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who argued during his time at the head of U.S. Central Command that “if you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

    ThinkProgress blasted Trump’s proposals to cut the State Department along with domestic spending in the name of increasing national defense because such cuts would actually undermine national security. The article cited recent congressional testimony from Center for American Progress senior fellow Larry Korb, who testified that “our national security will suffer” if the federal budget prioritized the Pentagon at the expense of other agencies.

    Trump is notorious for pushing bogus claims about the economy and the federal budget. He has been derided by hundreds of economists for pushing right-wing myths about the economy and the federal debt, and routine criticisms of his unfounded claims were a mainstay of the presidential campaign in 2016. As was the case last year, the budgetary, fiscal, and tax policies Trump has supported since taking office simply don’t add up.

  • Wall Street Journal Columnist Praises Trump’s $100 Billion Gift To Wall Street

    The Journal’s Greg Ip Calls Trump’s Watering Down Of Consumer Protections “Regulatory Relief”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s top financial columnist praised President Donald Trump for issuing executive orders aimed to scale back consumer protections in the financial industry because the rollbacks would boost profits for big banks, ignoring the reality that the rules were put in place to protect the public, not the banking industry.

    The Journal’s chief economics commentator, Greg Ip, hailed recent actions by Trump to curb government oversight of big banks in a February 8 column, claiming this would provide “regulatory relief” by addressing “a serious flaw” in banking regulations that focused merely on “financial stability and consumer protection” and “largely ignored the [regulatory] costs.” Ip noted that consumer advocate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi took issue with letting banks have more leeway, but he dismissed their concerns, stating, “The worriers should relax.” From The Wall Street Journal:

    The worriers should relax. In the 10 years since the financial crisis began, the regulatory pendulum has moved relentlessly in the direction of tougher restrictions on finance. Mr. Trump’s order reverses the direction of the pendulum but there is little sign his administration wants it back to where it was in 2007.

    His order does, however, address a serious flaw in the post-crisis regulatory crackdown: In pursuit of financial stability and consumer protection, it largely ignored the costs of forgone lending, economic growth and consumer choice. Mr. Trump has signaled those costs must now be taken into account. He has asked his Treasury Secretary (now awaiting confirmation) to report back in 120 days on how well current regulations promote growth, efficiency and competitiveness. Over time, that could generate a better balanced supply of credit to a wider range of companies and households without making the financial system much riskier.

    Ip continued that the consumer protections built into the Dodd-Frank Act, the CARD Act, and the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which requires financial advisers to work in their clients’ best interests, “have carved into banks’ profitability” since their pre-recession peak. Ip concluded that the rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis do little to prevent another financial crisis, except for rules that increased the amount of hard money a bank must hold in reserve relative to its debt risks. But Ip claimed the Trump administration “doesn’t appear to plan on rolling [capital requirements] back much.”

    The executive orders that Ip praised directed departments to account for the regulatory costs of consumer protections when deciding which rules to roll back, which the Journal’s own reporting has concluded could create a $100 billion windfall for investors by loosening capital requirements at banks. These capital requirements are the same ones that Ip argued stand “the best chance of preventing another financial crisis.”

    Ip argued that “a serious flaw” in the current slate of consumer protections is that they focus on protecting consumers and “in theory” could “reduce growth,” but in reality the three biggest banks reported strong fourth quarter earnings last year and CNBC reported that banks enjoyed record profits in the second quarter of 2016. These reports coincide with a February 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the regulatory structure created after Dodd-Frank “has contributed to the overall growth and stability in the U.S. economy.”

    Ip’s emphasis on bank profits fails to recognize that Dodd-Frank, the CARD Act, and the fiduciary rule are designed to minimize exploitation, not maximize profit. Dodd-Frank was enacted to protect the economy by empowering the Federal Reserve System with broader banking oversight and created new protections for consumers through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CARD Act created even more protections for consumers, including limiting interest rate hikes on credit cards. The fiduciary rule ensures consumers receive financial advice catered to their best interests rather than their adviser’s bottom line, something that Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) characterized as a“no-brainer” given that the investment advice industry “makes billions of dollars from conflicted advice.”

    If Ip really wants the Trump administration to focus on increasing bank profits, heaping praise on executive orders that will weaken the economy and undermine an already profitable financial industry is a bizarre place to start. Jeff Spross of The Week put it bluntly in a February 6 column blasting Trump’s regulatory rollback: “Who on Earth would view deregulating the financial industry as a good idea?” Writing for The Guardian, Nils Pratley didn’t mince words either, characterizing the concept that banks are over-regulated as a “half-baked idea” and “nonsense” while adding that there is little evidence of consumer protections standing in the way of the industry’s growth.

    Ip’s decision to defend Trump’s attempts to deregulate the financial sector may lend credence to reports that the Journal is intentionally taking a softer tone with the president and pressuring reporters “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints” in articles. The Journal’s behavior is not surprising, as its right-wing editorial board has led a years-long campaign against consumer protections.

  • The Daily Caller Used The White House Press Briefing To Advocate Gutting The CFPB

    Right-Wing Media Complain About CFPB Salaries As An Excuse To Destroy Financial Oversight

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Daily Caller reporter Kaitlan Collins recycled tired right-wing media complaints about employee salaries at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as an excuse to float the prospect of gutting the agency during today’s White House press briefing, neglecting to mention that the financial industry watchdog is not funded by taxpayers. The CFPB has long been a target of right-wing media misinformation campaigns aimed at undermining support for objective oversight of Republican-aligned special interests on Wall Street.

    During the February 9 press briefing, Collins asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer if President Donald Trump has “plans to revamp” the CFPB in light of recent reports that some of its employees stand to earn higher salaries in 2017 than Vice President Mike Pence. Collins further begged the question of whether or not Trump believes “he should be able to fire the head of the agency,” Richard Cordray, who has been under fire from congressional Republicans since assuming his position as director of the CFPB in January 2012. Spicer responded by saying “one of the things that you are going to continue to see from this president is a respect for taxpayers’ dollars, the money they spend and how they’re spent” and that federal employees should be paid “a fair wage for their service to this country.” From MSNBC Live:

    As part of a broader hit piece on the CFPB, The Daily Caller reported on February 7 that the agency pays 39 employees more than $230,000 -- the current annual salary for the sitting vice president of the United States. Other right-wing outlets -- RedState and the Washington Free Beacon -- joined in condemning the CFPB both for its higher salaries and for its supposed operation outside “normal government oversight,” obscuring the purpose behind the agency’s structure.

    While Spicer’s expressed concern for demonstrating “respect for taxpayers’ dollars” is welcome, the CFPB is not funded by tax dollars. The CFPB is funded entirely by the Federal Reserve System, which is also not taxpayer funded and actually serves as a source of additional revenue for the Treasury (emphasis added):

    The Federal Reserve does not receive funding through the congressional budgetary process. The Fed's income comes primarily from the interest on government securities that it has acquired through open market operations. Other sources of income are the interest on foreign currency investments held by the Federal Reserve System; fees received for services provided to depository institutions, such as check clearing, funds transfers, and automated clearinghouse operations; and interest on loans to depository institutions. After paying its expenses, the Federal Reserve turns the rest of its earnings over to the U.S. Treasury.

    Right-wing media have been complaining about CFPB salaries for years, but those complaints will carry extra weight if congressional Republicans find a willing accomplice in the White House to sign legislation cutting CFPB pay. A December 22 report from Bloomberg Law outlined how Republican-backed legislation would cut pay to CFPB employees by “as much as 25 percent” while pointing to October 2013 congressional testimony from AFL-CIO lawyer Daniel Silvers explaining the importance of the CFPB payscale:

    “Congressman, all the bank regulators have this ability,” Silvers said. “It’s impossible to be an effective banking regulator without the ability to hire competitively in the banking sector.” Congress has exempted the CFPB, the Fed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and some other financial regulators from the GS system, resulting in generally higher scales at those agencies.

    Today’s anti-CFPB talking points follow a Wall Street Journal editorial calling for CFPB head Cordray’s termination based on bogus charges of cost overruns in building renovations and discrimination on the part of his management team. The symbiotic, years-long campaign by right-wing media and their GOP allies to gut the consumer watchdog agency has been well-documented, and they make perfect sense given that the agency remains as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left in government after Trump’s election victory.

  • Watch Fox & Friends Accidentally Praise Obama's Last Jobs Report

    Fox Credits Trump With January Job Creation He Inherited From President Obama

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News gushed over the jobs report for January 2017, the last of former President Barack Obama’s presidency, calling it “fantastic news” but implicitly crediting Donald Trump, who wasn’t even in office when the data were collected, for the success by calling it the “first jobs report under President Trump.”

    Fox News correspondent Heather Nauert praised the January jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the February 3 edition of Fox & Friends, referring to it as “the first jobs report under President Trump” and labeling it as “fantastic news.” Nauert praised the report for showing that 227,000 new jobs were created in January, which she described as “a lot more than expected.” Nauert failed to mention Barack Obama, who was still the president of the United States for most of January. She concluded the segment by reiterating that this is “great news on the jobs front this morning” and suggesting Trump “would call that huge.” From Fox & Friends:

    Unfortunately for Fox’s pro-Trump narrative, the job creation in this report does not belong to his administration. University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, pointed out that the "reference week" for the latest jobs data ran through January 12, meaning the entire report predates the Trump administration by over a week. Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler, who runs the paper's fact-checking research, also noted that the report "still reflects the Obama administration.” Fox also neglected to mention that the report marks 76 consecutive months of job growth -- the longest on record -- for Obama.

    The positive coverage of the report is a complete turnaround for Fox, which went to great lengths to portray strong jobs reports in a negative light during the Obama administration.

    In February 2015, the economy added 257,000 new jobs, but Fox was concerned that the unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 points -- the same increase the rate showed in today’s report. In October of that year, Fox & Friends stumbled through a news alert in which a host claimed the economy created “only 271,000 jobs … last month” even though that report, like the data released today, also beat expectations. Last January, Fox’s spin was to claim that 292,000 new jobs was “modest by historical standards,” though it was well over this month’s 227,000. And in April 2016 the network parsed the jobs data to conclude that a report showing 215,000 new jobs was unimpressive because 47,000 of those were allegedly low-quality retail positions -- yet Nauert made no such comment about the 46,000 retail jobs included in today’s report. As Election Day drew near, Fox & Friends falsely claimed that steady jobs data for October 2016 were “underwhelming” and spun the news as a boon for Trump’s presidential candidacy.

    Media Matter’s predicted last month that Fox would retool its message on job growth to coincide with Trump’s presidency, arguing that the network’s “campaign of misinformation will likely come to a screeching halt next month.” Fox's spin on the jobs report this morning follows a consistent, deliberate, and predictable strategy of playing the role of Republican cheerleader and “propaganda machine.”

  • Wall Street Journal Invents Reasons For Trump To Gut Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Will Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Destroy The Consumer Watchdog Succeed Under Trump?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined Republican senators in urging the president-elect to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, for “a menu of reasons” ranging from the agency’s crackdown on racial prejudice in auto loans to the cost of building renovations.

    The CFPB was set up in the wake of the financial crisis as part of a new regulatory network constructed by the Dodd-Frank Act and has been a target of conservative media misinformation ever since, most of which has focused on the agency’s supposed overreach in protecting American consumers from predatory corporate behavior. The Journal’s editorial on January 9 calling on Donald Trump to fire Cordray “for cause” after Trump assumes the presidency followed calls for Cordray’s termination by Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Among the reasons the Journal claimed as justification for Cordray’s termination was the CFPB’s allegedly poor handling of anti-discrimination regulations, its supposed failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and reports of racial and gender discrimination from CFPB employees. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Meantime, Mr. Trump should fire Mr. Cordray for cause, and the President-elect has a menu of reasons. Take a CFPB auto-loan campaign, which involved guessing the race of a borrower by his last name, and then suing banks that seemed to offer better deals to people the government assumed are white. A House Financial Services Committee report detailed how Mr. Cordray and senior officers knew their statistical method was “prone to significant error” but hid that reality from the public.

    Mr. Cordray’s bureau routinely fails to show the reasoning behind its rules. In December the Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against CFPB for refusing to produce more than 1,800 pages of documents on how the agency came up with a regulation on arbitration. Such disclosures are required by the Freedom of Information Act.

    [...]

    An investigation of CFPB employment practices by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of black, Asian and female respondents reported that they had been discriminated against. About 10% claimed to have personally observed retaliation against another employee. The bureau neglected to fulfill seven Inspector General recommendations in this area. Mr. Cordray also stood by while a CFPB office renovation notched more than $100 million in cost overruns.

    The Journal’s supposed evidence that the CFPB is a “lawless and unprofessional agency [that] deserves a dose of political accountability” does not hold up to scrutiny.

    The Journal has attacked the CFPB before for standing up to discrimination in auto lending after the agency drafted new guidance on interest rate markups and facilitated compensation for American consumers who had been the targets of discrimination. In November 2015, the Center for Responsible Lending concluded that the CFPB’s regulatory changes had the added benefit of saving all consumers money. The Journal's complaint that CFPB is not forthcoming enough with FOIA requests specifically cites a lawsuit from Cause of Action, a Koch-funded front group. The editorial’s allegation of rampant discrimination at the agency also ignored that it was the CFPB that initiated a self-assessment of its employee evaluations, as part of the “standards for equal employment opportunity” mandated by Dodd-Frank, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report alluded to by the Journal actually found that the agency “has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.” Even the Journal’s accusation of mismanagement and cost overruns in the agency’s office renovation falls flat: The Federal Reserve Inspector General found that “construction costs appear reasonable” and that the agency’s building “costs are below the amount previously budgeted.”

    While the editorial attacked the CFPB, and Cordray, for problems that the agency took steps to fix years ago, it completely ignored the agency’s successes. According to a December 2, 2015, article in The New York Times, the CFPB has “seized upon its mission” to rein in abuses in financial services under Cordray, including cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges, arranging forgiveness of $480 million of student loans, and ordering the reimbursement of nearly $700 million to Citigroup customers swindled by illegal credit charges. Since its inception, the agency had “provided for $11 billion in relief for over 25 million customers,” according to the Times.

    The demands for Cordray’s termination mark the culmination of a years-long conservative campaign to undermine the agency. As New York magazine pointed out in a December 29 article, Cordray will be “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left after Republicans assume control of the federal government, and for conservatives, “Cordray’s success at enacting new regulations is a bug, not a feature.”