Cable News Mostly Ignores Sharp National Decline In Homicides

Cable News Mostly Ignores Sharp National Decline In Homicides

U.S. homicide rates have significantly reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic, but cable news networks have largely failed to cover the decline despite previously fearmongering about the perceived increase in crime since 2020. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Newsmax made 17 mentions of the declining homicide rate since March 3, when Bloomberg’s Justin Fox cited crime data compiled by AH Datalytics to report: “The shocking rise in murders that began in the summer of 2020 looks as if it may have played out.”

Although homicide rates did spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, that spike now seems to be over — 90 cities in the U.S. have totaled a 12% reduction in homicides from 2022 this year so far, with large cities like New York leading the trend. While this data is preliminary, it suggests that homicide rates are normalizing to the pre-pandemic level.

Last December, The New York Times noted that the similar drop in homicides in 2022 from 2021 and 2020 went largely unnoticed by much of the media due to “bad news bias” that focuses on lurid headlines and stories about violent crime to drive engagement. One example of this bias came earlier this month, when The Washington Times published an article titled “Multiple U.S. cities experiencing decline in homicides, research firm says.” Yet the right-wing newspaper posted about the story on Twitter with a graphic highlighting three cities with increasing homicides. Reporter Lois Beckett noted that the tweet also misleadingly quotes one analyst that “the U.S. may be experiencing one of the largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded” to falsely suggest homicide rates are increasing.

Right-wing media have led the way on using crime as a talking point. Fox News focused on “America’s crime crisis” in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections to attack liberal criminal justice reforms while pushing failed conservative approaches to address crime. This right-wing fearmongering largely focused on crime rates in supposedly blue cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, even though the homicide statistics show they are among the safest large cities in the country.

Mainstream news outlets responded to right-wing media’s “crime crisis” narrative by mimicking it in their own coverage and often, uncritically repeated the right-wing framing that crime is worse in Democrat-run areas when the opposite is true. When New York Mayor Eric Adams won his election in 2021, mainstream media harped on the idea that crime rates have become a major focal point in the American electorate. CNN’s recent coverage of tech executive Bob Lee’s murder often used the tragedy as a platform to focus on San Francisco's “uptick in crime” rather than the reality of decreasing violent crime and homicides.

A Media Matters review shows that despite the news media’s focus on crime in the 2022 primaries and beyond, there has been little focus on the dramatic drop in homicides across the country. Since March 3, when Bloomberg noted the nationwide decline in homicide rates, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and Newsmax have mentioned it 17 times in total. While MSNBC and CNN made up the bulk of these mentions (6 and 5, respectively), Fox News and Newsmax each made note of the decline in murders only 3 times. Of those 6 collective mentions, Fox anchor Eric Shawn was the only person employed by either conservative cable network to note the drop in homicide rates; the rest were guests.


Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and Newsmax for the term “rate” within 20 words of either of the terms “murder” or “homicide” from March 3, 2023, when Bloomberg’s Justin Fox first wrote about preliminary 2023 data from AH Datalytics, through June 14, 2023.

We included mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on any topic mentioned the 2023 declining national murder rate or mentioned that the murder rate in a specific city had declined in 2023. We did not include instances when a speaker merely mentioned a low murder rate without comparing that rate to a prior time period.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.


Right-Wing Media Are Incessantly Promoting RFK Jr. Campaign

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has gained support for his campaign for president on the Democratic ticket from right-wing media personalities, who are touting his polling and suggesting the Democrats and media are trying to shut him down.

Kennedy has long fostered friendly relationships with prominent right-wing media personalities and outlets. He began his campaign by appearing on former Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight, where he was greeted with a glowing monologue from the host. When Tucker Carlson left Fox News, Kennedy sent out a message of support for the host and hinted that his ousting was related to his anti-big pharma message from that episode.

Before Kennedy announced his campaign, podcaster Steve Bannon reportedly spent months trying to convince him to run against President Joe Biden. Additionally, Kennedy appeared on Fox News to push COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

RealClearPolitics places Kennedy’s aggregate polling at 17 percent behind Biden’s 59 percent. Despite the slim chances, right-wing media are pushing the idea that Kennedy can be a force against Biden and giving him plenty of airtime to make his case. They are highlighting support for his campaign while arguing the Democratic Party and/or mainstream media are rigging the election against him.

Praise for RFK Jr.

  • Fox & Friends co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy said Kennedy is “making a lot of moves here, getting stronger, and you see President Biden falling as the Democrats are trying to rally everyone around him and kick everyone else out of the race.”
  • Faulkner Focus anchor Harris Faulkner claimed that all primary challengers to Biden are getting “iced out,” before pointing to Kennedy’s polling: “Kennedy now has 20 percent support among Democratic voters. … That number, by the way, has ticked up for Kennedy in just the last few days.”
  • America’s Newsroom co-anchor Bill Hemmer described Kennedy as an “old school Democrat,” adding that while he talks about pollution, he “doesn’t mention the Green New Deal. He doesn't talk about solar panels or electric vehicles or batteries.” His co-anchor Dana Perino added, “If you are a Democrat and you’re looking for an alternative, they are turning to him.”
  • Fox News co-host Geraldo Rivera claimed Kennedy would “do circles” around Biden in a debate.
  • Political consultant Doug Schoen predicted on Fox News’ Special Report that Kennedy would keep rising in the polls, saying, “I think Robert F. Kennedy Jr., based on his name, his message, and alienation from the incumbent, could get as much as 30 percent, which would be calamitous for the incumbent.”
  • Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowskitold Newsmax’s Eric Bolling: “I think, Eric, the big upset that's coming is that RFK Jr. may just win this nomination yet.”
  • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld suggested he would be willing to vote for Kennedy, saying that if he “turns his past into a plus, and fights the fentanyl war, he could get a lot of votes, including mine.”
  • Fox News host Laura Ingraham praised Kennedy’s ideas, asking if the Democrats are afraid of him or his ideas, “since all this information is now becoming accepted about the mRNA shot and of course all the suppression of dissenting medical views.”
  • Fox News host Jesse Watters praised Kennedy’s campaign so far, saying of Biden, “19 percent of Democrats are already siding with his primary opponent, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He's pulling the same numbers in the polls as DeSantis. So he's nothing to sneeze at. And if anybody deserves to debate Joe, it's him.”
  • Kennedy’s former publisher Tony Lyons appeared on One America News to defend Kennedy from anti-vaxxer allegations: “He's certainly not an anti-vaxxer. He is an anti-corruption person who wants to find real science, who wants to have a government that will really look at the science, that we're really look at our policies and start to do things that are not good for a handful of billionaires but are good for the American public.”
  • Former Fox News producer Kyle Becker tweeted, “RFK Jr. can run independent and save the country.”

Claims that the system is rigged against RFK Jr.

  • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade noted, “Other networks don't have any interest in interviewing him. They just kind of leave him alone. I mean, he comes on here all the time. He’s always welcome.” His co-host Ainsley Earhardt commented, “I think if the DNC is saying that Biden is the candidate, that’s who the media is going to focus on.”
  • Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell claimed: “Just like in 2016, the Democratic Party is trying to rig the election in favor of Joe Biden.”
  • On Hannity, Fox News contributor Charlie Hurt claimed, “The establishment of the Democrat Party is not going to let Robert Kennedy Jr. get the nomination because he doesn't do what they say.”
  • Watters attacked ABC News for its interview with Kennedy, claiming that “the Democrats and the media are rigging another primary,” and referred to Kennedy as a “real threat.”
  • Far-right blog Breitbartpublished a story headlined “Zuck Loves Biden: Facebook Prevents RFK Jr. from Launching Instagram Campaign Account.”
  • Former Newsmax and OAN host Emerald Robinson tweeted, “RFK Jr will not be allowed to run against Joe Biden — but you still think you live in a free country? Wake up: the hour is very late.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Kevin McCarthy

'Complete Sell-Out': Right-Wing Media Trash McCarthy's Debt Deal

As the June 5 deadline to raise the nation’s debt limit approaches, right-wing media are attacking House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for allegedly capitulating to Democrats’ demands in a tentative budget deal that passed the House on Wednesday evening and moved to the Senate.

The Treasury expects the government to run out of cash by Monday, June 5 if Congress does not raise the debt limit. The bipartisan agreement to raise the debt ceiling until January 2025 would limit spending, expand work requirements for SNAP recipients, end the pause on student loans repayments and interest accrual, and amend environmental impact statements. Despite these concessions from the White House, there are still many conservatives pushing for more.

Biden and McCarthy have both touted the agreement as a bipartisan deal and urged Congress to pass it. While some conservatives have praised the deal, many in right-wing media are willing to risk a default, urging Congress to reject the agreement and criticizing McCarthy for supposedly striking a bad deal that favors Democrats:

  • Fox News host Laura Ingrahamcomplained that because the debt ceiling deal is being touted by Biden and the Chamber of Commerce, “It should be up to them to get the votes they want. There’s no reason for us to help.”
  • In a series of posts on Gettr, former Trump adviser and current right-wing podcaster Steve Bannondecried the deal as a “total cave” to Democrats’ wishes and called McCarthy a “Total and Complete Sell-Out.” In a statement to Newsweek, Bannon said the debt ceiling agreement was “not acceptable” for conservatives, adding, "This shows no leadership whatsoever.”
  • Bannon also called for conservatives to primary any Republican member of Congress that votes for the agreement: “If you vote for this, you should be and must be primaried.”
  • Conservative radio host Buck Sextonwrote, “With the debt ceiling deal, we’re reminded that conservatism in 2023 is making a series of goal line stands, never crossing into the opponent’s half of the field, and calling that a win.”
  • Appearing on Newsmax’s Eric Bolling The Balance, former Trump adviser Peter Navarrocalled the debt ceiling deal “the McCarthy Memorial Day Weekend Surrender,” and went on to say that McCarthy “got basically nothing” and “took the first off-ramp.” Guest host Carl Higbie urged the House of Representatives to reject the deal, saying, “I'm hoping that enough people see a problem with this and send it back and say, ‘No, no, no. Make it better.’”
  • Former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs criticized McCarthy, tweeting, “The Speaker went to a horse-whipping, not a negotiation! … He got nothing and is waiting for a participation trophy!”
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirktweeted, “Mad about the debt ceiling deal? It’s the neocons who were holding this entire deal hostage. They refused to budge on any cuts to our woke military. We could have had a much better deal if we had a GOP willing to limit $ we send to countries that hate us.”
  • Fox & Friends Sunday co-host Rachel Campos-Duffysaid, “It's a win for McCarthy … but it's a loss for America because this is an unsustainable path, this printing and spending. Just look to Latin America. It doesn't end well, and I don't know how long we can keep doing this.”
  • Right-wing Twitter account Catturdtweeted, “If you didn't know Kevin McCarthy would cave on the debt limit - you don't know Kevin McCarthy.”
  • Fringe conspiracy theorist and failed GOP congressional candidate Laura Loomerwrote: “McCarthy debt ‘deal’ is a disaster,” adding that Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy “is one of the worst decisions he’s ever made.”
  • During an appearance on The Story, Fox contributor and former Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetzsaid, “I would not vote for this bill. I don't think it solves the problem. I think it perpetuates where we are. I just -- I could never vote as a fiscal conservative in favor of this bill. It perpetuates the status quo, I think.”
  • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardtasked, “Should he [McCarthy] have just let it default?” She reasoned, “Everybody would have blamed Biden at that point if you are not going to get what you want.”
  • On his radio show, Sean Hannity denounced the debt ceiling deal for not cutting enough spending, lamenting it would still continue to fund “pet projects that the Democrats want.”
  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling said McCarthy “gave away the ranch” to the Democrats with the current agreement, saying McCarthy lost all his leverage and “handed Joe Biden a second term.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wing Media Joins Assault On Fox Over Dominion Revelations

Right-Wing Media Joins Assault On Fox Over Dominion Revelations

As Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation suit against Fox News brings to light more private messages between hosts and executives, others in right-wing media have begun to attack the conservative news giant over revelations from the filing.

The latest tranche of documents in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit has shown Tucker Carlson attacking former President Donald Trump and mocking his lawyer Rudy Giuliani; executives suggesting that they distance themselves from Mike Lindell; and infighting between the daytime news shows and the nightly opinion shows.

Here are some of the most prominent right-wing figures lashing out at Fox News:

  • Steve Bannon has repeatedly used the lawsuit as ammunition against Fox News, saying at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the outlet had “a fear, a loathing, a contempt” for conservatives and on his show that the Murdoch family is “trying to destroy the United States.” On the program, Donald Trump Jr. called for former House Speaker Paul Ryan to be fired from Fox’s board of directors. Bannon also hosted conspiracy theorist Darren Beattie, and the two of them decried what Beattie called “McConnell, … Murdochs, the whole institutional apparatus at Fox,” saying that “of course they’re opposed to Trump. They’ve always been opposed to Trump.” [CPAC, 3/2/23; Real America’s Voice, War Room, 3/2/23, 3/6/23, 3/7/23]
  • Giuliani called Fox “pathetic” and promised that “there will be a day on which I unload on Fox.” On his YouTube show America’s Mayor Live, Giuliani — who was mocked by Carlson and his executive producer in texts released in the lawsuit — told his audience not to trust the network because of what he perceived as disrespect toward himself. [YouTube, America's Mayor Live, 3/3/23]
  • Newsmax host Eric Bolling said he “just can’t get past” Carlson’s “really disturbing” admission of hatred for Trump. Bolling was exasperated as he attacked Carlson, saying he “can’t understand how a guy who can portray himself as a huge Trump fan on television, saying he hates him passionately, is very, very much looking forward to the day he didn't have to cover Trump being in the White House every day.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling: The Balance, 3/8/23]
  • Islamophobic far-right activist Laura Loomer: “Anyone who still works for Fox News does the bidding of globalist Rupert Murdoch.” [Twitter, 3/7/23]
  • OAN host Dan Ball: “A lot of people are going to be a little upset with Fox ... as they should be.” Ball used his prime-time show on One America News Network to praise Bannon for attacking Fox at CPAC, bragging that “they’re not gonna find those types of texts and emails here at OAN when it comes to the 2020 election and President Trump, I can guarantee you that.” [OAN, Real America with Dan Ball, 3/6/2023]
  • White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes attacked Carlson: It seems like “he’s really not with us.” On his livestream, Fuentes commented that Carlson’s comments were “pretty shocking” because “everybody thinks Tucker is, like, secretly our guy.” He said people think that Carlson is “just diluting our worldview for a mass audience” but it seems more likely that “he’s really not with us.” [America First, 3/9/2023]
  • On The Glenn Beck Program, former Fox host Glenn Beck commented on the Dominion lawsuit, saying, “I have heard more and more people say, ‘I just don't trust it anymore. I don't, you know, I don’t watch it like I used to.’” Beck also claimed he was “hearing rumblings that [Fox] is coming apart at the seams on the inside.” [BlazeTV, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/3/23]
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the lawsuit proved “there was some real, real bad stuff going on at Fox News.” On The Hugh Hewitt Show, Christie criticized the network’s hosts for their dishonesty, adding that “they think these people are crazy, and then they’re putting them on the air to be able to spout the things that they think are untrue and crazy. And, I think that that skirts towards the area of actual malice.” [Salem Radio Network, The Hugh Hewitt Show, 3/1/23]
  • Daily Wire’s Andrew Klavan: Fox News was “afraid of their audience.” Klavan noted that the lawsuit was “embarassing” for Fox News personalities who “were having people like Sidney Powell on” while “discussing among themselves the fact that they thought this was completely absurd.” [The Daily Wire, The Andrew Klavan Show, 2/25/23]
  • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt accused Fox of going “off the rails” by “deciding to stop covering Donald Trump at all.” Schmitt had no problem with Fox’s coverage of election conspiracy theories, but used the lawsuit to promote his network and claimed Fox is “pretending” Trump isn’t running for president while an on-screen chyron read “Fox trying to erase Donald Trump.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 3/1/23]
  • Former OAN and Newsmax correspondent Emerald Robinson: Fox News is an “anti-Trump outlet.” Robinson added, “Murdoch is not your friend.” [Twitter, 2/28/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch's New York Post Conceals Embarrassing Fox Complicity In Big Lie

As Fox News’ Dominion defamation case embroils the network in scandal, Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has been shy about discussing the story. Since Dominion filed its lawsuit, the Post has not published one article about it.

Recent filings in Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against Fox News for pushing lies about the company after the 2020 election show that top brass knew the network was spreading false information about election integrity but either didn't intervene or even discouraged fact-checking, sometimes explicitly for financial reasons.

While the New York Post has the sixth highest circulation of U.S. newspapers, the paper has long focused on putting partisan politics ahead of news reporting, following the lead of its corporate cousin Fox News in pushing right-wing talking points on behalf of the GOP. A Media Matters Factiva search revealed that the Post stayed silent on the story for almost two years while its New York counterpart, The New York Times, has published 15 pieces on Dominion’s suit since it was filed in March 2021. Other top outlets the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post published nine and eight articles, respectively.

Meanwhile, the paper is not uninterested in media stories. The New York Post has recently published pieces attacking “media’s climate change propagandists,” calling out former CNN boss Jeff Zucker for bias, and criticizing the Pulitzer Prize in journalism as “empty” and political — all while leaving Murdoch’s name out of its headlines.

The other Murdoch-owned U.S. paper, the Wall Street Journal, managed to publish six pieces on the lawsuit, although they were buried in the business section. The paper’s coverage stands in stark contrast to the directive Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz received at the Murdoch-controlled network, where he was prevented from covering the lawsuit on air.

It is unclear if the Post is unable to exercise editorial control independent from the Murdochs or if it is uninterested in breaking away from its tabloid journalism style and reputation as a conservative mouthpiece.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Reject Political Media Mythology: Debt Ceiling Rise Isn't A 'Credit Card'

Reject Political Media Mythology: Debt Ceiling Rise Isn't A 'Credit Card'

With Republicans once again setting the stage for gridlock in Congress over raising the U.S. Treasury's statutory debt limit, and using interviews to push disingenuous analogies comparing the federal government’s budgeting practices to that of an average American household. The real danger is that mainstream media could fall for this misleading comparison and pressure Democrats into enacting painful cuts to popular social programs, while also letting Republicans off the hook for their role in manufacturing this crisis in the first place.

These comparisons between federal and household budgets go back many years, and they ignore some glaring differences: Unlike a household or business, the U.S. government issues its own currency and can roll over its own debt. The political utility of this comparison, however, is that it has enabled conservatives to target social programs, while they avoid answering for their own role in running up the public debt through unfunded tax cuts under Republican administrations.

Deceptive “credit card” analogy distracts from GOP’s role in running up deficits

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared on the January 15 edition of Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures in an interview designed to excuse his party’s role in manufacturing a crisis, by accusing President Joe Biden and Democrats of wasteful spending akin to running up credit card debt.

“So, what I really think we would do is treat this like we would treat our own household,” McCarthy said. “If you had a child, you gave them a credit card, and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn't just keep increasing it. You would first see, what are you spending your money on? How can we cut items out?”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) appeared on the January 22 edition of Sunday Morning Futures and also blamed Biden singularly for the levels of U.S. debt, using the credit card comparison. In outlining this flawed analogy, Scalise also gave away the political game by describing what he thinks should happen next.

“And so what happened is the credit cards are maxed out. That's basically how you hit the debt ceiling. It's the ability to print more money. And that expires when you hit the debt ceiling,” Scalise said. “And so the only way to address it is to control spending or to increase the debt ceiling, or a combination of the two.” (Scalise left out the obvious third possibility — of undoing the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy — while instead pushing an agenda to go after important government programs.)

Other elected Republicans have continued pushing this deceitful analogy via Fox News, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on the January 22 edition of Fox News Sunday.

As others have pointed out, McCarthy did not have a similar zeal for obstructing routine debt limit increases during the Trump administration, when he voted to extend the debt limit during unified Republican control of government, and later supported a deal between a Democratic-led House and a Republican president to suspend the limit. This all occurred against the backdrop of congressional Republicans helping Trump balloon the national debt and budget deficit through unpopular tax cuts benefiting America's wealthiest families and corporations.

But going beyond the point of hypocrisy, this false comparison enables other bad messaging and both-sides comparisons, which falsely equate congressional Republicans taking the economy hostage through debt ceiling brinkmanship with Democrats opposing the act of hostage-taking.

McCarthy's own “credit card” analogy doesn’t make any sense

Earlier this month on Peacock’s The Mehdi Hasan Show, Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton explained why the federal debt ceiling is not remotely the same as a personal credit card limit — and just how nonsensical and potentially catastrophic the whole arrangement really is.

STEPHANIE KELTON (ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY): We know that the limit on our credit card is imposed by the lender, right? It’s the lender who says, “I’m going to limit the amount of charges that I’m willing to allow you to put on the card, because I’m worried about your ability to repay the loan.” Now, the debt ceiling limit, who imposes that limit? It is not a lender; it is the borrower itself. It is the federal government, in the form of Congress, that is saying “we are self-imposing this absurd constraint.” Which, as you just said, does nothing to actually constrain spending. All it does is potentially impede the ability of the government to make the payments that Congress has already authorized.

So, the debt ceiling is a form of self-delusion and obviously the kind of thing that periodically takes us to the brink where, you know, we start to wonder whether we’re going to do something unprecedented that could create incredible chaos in the global financial system, which is to actually default on those payments.

MEHDI HASAN (HOST): And the credit card analogy is not just dumb, it doesn't even make sense. Because, what Steve Scalise is saying is, “Don't pay back your credit card bill.” That's essentially what they're saying, if they want to risk a debt default.

Last Thursday on CNN, University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers also explained this distinction. He further added that to the extent that levels of public spending and debt are an issue, McCarthy and other members of Congress are the ones who should be fixing that via normal legislative processes, instead of threatening to “to punch the American people in the face” by defaulting on the government’s bills and inevitably triggering both higher interest rates and higher taxes while undermining the integrity of the entire economy.

ERICA HILL (ANCHOR): And this something I think that Speaker McCarthy was really looking to do, so he compared the debt limit to a family’s finances saying, “look, Congress at this point can’t just keep raising the government’s credit card limit.” That’s an analogy I think most Americans can understand. And it’s one you called “cute,” but you also said it’s wrong. Why doesn’t that example work here?

JUSTIN WOLFERS (ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN): So, it’s wrong because the person who raises your credit card limit is the credit card company, it’s the lender. Speaker McCarthy is part of the government. The government’s the borrower. The only choice the borrower makes — and we all face it every month — is the credit card bill comes due, are you going to pay it or not?

So if Speaker McCarthy wants the U.S. government to spend less money, he needs to pass bills so that we spend less money. But right now, he’s got a credit card bill in the mail and he’s just stomping his feet and saying, “I’m not going to pay it.” This is the part, actually, where it’s a pretty good analogy. Most of your viewers know that’s a pretty bad idea, it’s a pretty good way of getting your credit cut off, raising interest rates. And what that means is if the U.S. government pays higher interest, you and I pay higher taxes.

Former Federal Reserve economist Louise Sheiner, currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has also explained that the debt ceiling does not accomplish any fiscal restraint in the first place and should be abolished. “The only way to change the level of the debt is to change your tax revenues that are coming in or your spending that's going out, and that requires direct legislation on those elements,” Sheiner told KPCC radio in an interview published January 21. “And I think the evidence suggests that, really, the debt ceiling has not had a disciplinary effect on the budget. It really is used more, I think, as a political football than as a really intentional way of addressing our long-term challenges.”

Mainstream reporters mustn’t fall for the “credit card” analogy

CNN Inside Politics anchor John King ominously said Thursday, “The government’s credit card comes due, and there is no plan to pay it down.” And during a panel discussion, Tia Mitchell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution claimed that the Biden administration was at risk of losing political support in the country because of it.

“And I think the people at home are looking at Congress — they’re not just looking at the White House, but they’re looking at Congress — and they’re saying, ‘We have to control our spending, because we only have so much we can put on our credit card. You need to do the same,’” Mitchell said. “Republicans understand that, and that’s why they want to have that conversation.”

About an hour later, CNN hosted Wolfers to explain exactly why the credit card analogy is wrong.

NBC News data reporter Brian Chung also used the credit card analogy Thursday on MSNBC: “Imagine that you have racked up $1,000 on your credit card, but you only have $800 to pay off that bill. That's the limit that we're talking about here. It's a cap on how much the government can borrow to pay its bills for spending that’s already been done, by the way, so it has nothing to do with whether money goes to defense or infrastructure, for example. … If they can’t pay its bills, then maybe they have to cut spending and funding and things like Social Security or Medicare.

NBC News senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake also pointed out that congressional Republicans obstruct this purported credit card limit only when there is a Democratic president, not under a Republican. But the discourse is still trapped by this flawed analogy.

Update (1/23/23): This piece has been updated to include additional transcripts.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wing Media Promote Lies, Conspiracies About Documents Found At Biden Office

Right-Wing Media Promote Lies, Conspiracies About Documents Found At Biden Office

Right-wing media are disingenuously comparing the recent discovery of classified documents among President Joe Biden’s vice presidential papers at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement — a Washington, D.C., nonprofit think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania — versus the ongoing scandal involving disgraced former President Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate in returning classified documents he’d kept at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

CBS News broke the story Monday, reporting that Biden’s personal attorneys discovered the documents while they were preparing to move out of office space at the Penn Biden Center in November 2022. The White House counsel’s office immediately notified the National Archives, and Biden’s attorneys have cooperated with the government on searching for and returning materials.

NBC News reported Wednesday that Biden aides have “discovered at least one additional batch of classified documents” in a separate location as they continue what was described as an “exhaustive” search for items that belong at the National Archives.

By contrast, the scandal involving Trump's mishandling of government records first exploded into public view in February 2022, after reports surfaced that the National Archives had recovered 15 boxes of materials from his private residence in Florida, including classified records. (At the time, the Trump team’s absurd excuse for mishandling government records was that they were accidentally packed away amid Trump’s failed coup and hasty transition out of office.)

When even more classified documents were later recovered during an FBI search of Trump’s home in August 2022, the public learned that he and his legal team had refused to cooperate in returning the documents for months, and had only partially relented after a monthslong legal fight with the National Archives that necessitated a federal subpoena.

Before the FBI search of his home, Trump’s legal team falsely asserted to federal authorities that they had returned all the materials sought by the Department of Justice. Trump then variously switched his story to claim that he had actually declassified the materials before removing them, or to claim that he was allowed to retain them because they were his personal records and not government property. Trump also threatened more violence from his supporters if he got into legal trouble.

Contrary to Trump’s sound and fury, Biden has publicly said he was “surprised” to learn of the story about documents stored in his former office, and that his attorneys “did what they should have done” in returning the documents promptly.

Right-wing media are completely ignoring these crucial distinctions in their rush to exaggerate Biden’s situation as being tantamount to Trump’s scandal. On the one hand is Trump’s clear evasion and refusal to cooperate with government requests to turn over official documents, which were illegally removed from the White House after Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the 2020 election and remain in office, compared to the Penn Biden Center taking it upon itself to notify the government and fully cooperate in returning documents that ought to have remained in federal custody.

These false comparisons seem to have multiple purposes. The first one is to muddy the waters on the investigation into Trump’s noncompliance with federal records laws. (CNN’s reaction to the Biden news initially fell for this line of thinking, though the network’s coverage has since improved somewhat.) In addition, right-wing media are trying to insist that despite his own team’s full cooperation, Biden really did commit some crime worthy of a serious criminal investigation, similar to the Trump case, or even impeachment by the newly Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And still others are pushing conspiracy theories that because Chinese donors have given money to the University of Pennsylvania, this would somehow give Chinese agents direct access to stored materials at the Penn Biden Center.

Comparisons to Trump Investigation

  • Fox News host Sean Hannity compared the mainstream media reaction to the Biden news with reactions to the Trump investigation: “The hysteria, well, it was as usual with anything Donald Trump, and the media mob, it was through the roof. Let’s see if they’ll apply this to Biden.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/9/23]
  • Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett claimed, “They don’t know what they’re talking about, but this certainly blows a hole in any ability of Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice to go after Trump for allegedly mishandling classified documents,” adding, “No, his name’s Donald Trump so we’re going to go after him with a vengeance and threaten him with crimes.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/9/23]
  • Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee sarcastically remarked about a potential raid on Biden’s office similar to what was done to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence: “Well, of course they’ll be treated the same. You and I both expect that, right?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/10/23]
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short explained the distinction that Trump’s legal team had not cooperated with the Justice Department, but still complained of a “double standard” by the government in the Biden case. Fox Business correspondent Jackie DeAngelis then falsely claimed without missing a beat that “the current sitting president when he was vice president did something very similar” as Trump. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Steve Doocy dismissed the “details are different in sheer numbers and stuff like that,” saying, “Nonetheless, when you have these kind of documents, just one counts. So it’s like, you know, people said, ‘Oh, he had 300, Biden only had 10.’ It just takes one.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News correspondent Alexandria Hoff compared Biden’s reaction to the discovery that Trump was sitting on hundreds of documents to the reaction of the documents in his office, “The president had been far more outspoken when it came to his predecessor’s possession of classified documents, which led to the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz asked, “Why aren’t they raiding the Penn Center? If there were classified documents there, do we know that they’ve got all of them? We just assume and take their word of somebody else?” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro claimed what Biden did was worse than Trump because Mar-a-Lago was more secure: “At least Mar-a-Lago was protected by the Secret Service. This is Penn. This is an academic institution.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News Radio host Guy Benson dismissed comparisons to Trump’s case, even as he apparently acknowledged the relative egregiousness of Trump’s behavior: “If you walk into a courtroom and you are trying to defend your client for robbery, you can’t say, ‘Well, the guy in the next courtroom over is convicted of two murders or accused of two murders so my guy isn’t so bad.’” [Fox News, Special Report, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing activist Mike Davis claimed that “President Trump had the absolute constitutional power under the commander-in-chief clause and the absolute statutory power under the Presidential Records Act to take — to declassify and take records,” before asking, “What are they doing about then-Vice President Joe Biden, who had no power to take these records? This is a clear violation of the Espionage Act for then-former Vice President Joe Biden to have these records.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/10/23]
  • Fox’s The Ingraham Angle ran the chyron: “Double standard emerges in Biden doc scandal.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News legal contributor Jonathan Turley: “So there’s a lot of questions there. But at the end of the day, the same underlying crime exists, even if there are differences in aspects of the case.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/10/23]
  • On Twitter, Hannity posted: “WHEN’S THE FBI RAID? Trump, Conservatives Unload Over Classified Docs Found at Biden Think Tank” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing strategist Chuck Castillo: “They found Classified Docs at BIDEN’S OFFICE from when JOE was VP... Joe DID NOT HAVE legal authority to un-classify anything as VP.. This was KNOWN prior to MIDTERMS and possibly before TRUMP’S FBI RAID... Let that SINK IN for a few minutes.” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Dan Bongino: “Another massive Biden scandal erupts, as the media moved quickly into cover-up mode.” [Telegram, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera: “Biden’s own document embarrassment should just give DOJ more reason to drop probe of Trump’s documents. Neither had criminal intent. Why bother with bullshit?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton: “So Biden’s lawyers ‘found’ the records with classified markings while ‘packing’ his records in preparation for an office move from Biden’s influence-peddling operation run through University of Pennsylvania? Interesting, I didn’t know legal services could include office movers.” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Washington Post columnist Hugh Hewitt, attacking a Politico article on the Biden White House’s cooperation: “Classic left-wing media spin: Article doesn’t even ask the most obvious question: Why wasn’t Biden case assigned to Special Counsel Jack Smith? It’s the same set of laws AND both subjects (Trump and Biden).” Previously, Hewitt argued in a September 2022 interview with Trump that every former president “has papers that should not be with them by accident,” only for Trump to continue to dispute the fact that he shouldn’t have possessed the materials. [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News contributor Leo Terrell: “Attention, CNN and MSNBC. Are you going to report on the undisputed fact that Joe Biden has classified documents in his possession?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]

Calls for Biden to be investigated, impeached, or arrested

  • Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller told Fox’s Laura Ingraham, “You need to appoint a special counsel to find out not only what is going on with these documents, but to look at every single residence, property, and office under Biden’s control to determine what other classified documents he has purloined in violation of federal law.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/9/23]
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh made a call for action in retaliation for the treatment of Trump: “We’ve got to call for investigations. We need to think about impeachment. This is, like, we have to treat it like a crisis because that’s what the left did. And we’re going to hold them to their own standard.” [The Daily Wire, The Matt Walsh Show, 1/10/23]
  • Mike Davis called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to take action, saying he “must appoint a special counsel to investigate this just like he did with President Trump. It is a more blatant conflict of interest for Garland to investigate this with his boss being Biden.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/10/23]
  • The Gateway Pundit ran the headline: “‘When is the FBI Going to Raid the fMany Homes of Joe Biden?’ Trump Responds to Reports of Classified Documents Found at Penn Biden Center” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/9/23]
  • Judicial Watch: “RETWEET if you think Congress should investigate Biden family corruption!” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza: “In one sentence, can anyone explain why Trump’s retention of classified documents constitutes a serious crime, if not outright treason, which should bar Trump forever from holding public office, while Biden’s retention of classified documents is benign and without consequence?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]

Conspiracy theories that the Biden documents are connected to the Chinese Communist Party

  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested that documents at the Penn Biden Center were exposed to Chinese donors, saying, “Penn, as an institution, takes an awful lot of money from the Chinese Communist Party. I am not making that up. In recent years, Penn has received more than $50 million from anonymous Chinese donors. So the question is: Were those donors peering at the classified documents, the national security secrets, that Joe Biden had been stashing at the fake think tank that Penn set up for him?” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/9/23]
  • Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon claimed that “the Chinese Communist Party financed the whole thing,” including “the whole University of Pennsylvania deal,” adding that the CCP “has bought and paid the Biden administration.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld fearmongered about Biden selling nuclear secrets to China: “I would not be doing my job if I didn’t raise the important questions that need to be raised about what actually happened. Do we know that there aren’t nuclear secrets in there? Perhaps he exchanged nuclear secrets to China for the 10%, that’s a question worth raising.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed, “They opened the Biden Center with Chinese money. He announces he’s doing the Biden Center at UPenn. And all of a sudden, China quadruples their donations to the University of Pennsylvania.” He then fearmongered, “In terms of national security implications here, where do you think the Chinese have greater access? To a think tank 15 minutes’ bike ride from the Chinese Embassy … or a basement at Mar-a-Lago.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/10/23]
  • Watters pushed the conspiracy again during his monologue: “The Chinese were paying Joe Biden a million dollars a year and it was just laundered through the Penn Biden Center. And just five miles away from the center was the Chinese Embassy.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/10/23]
  • Carlson again pushed the conspiracy theory, saying, “There was a lot of money being raised and it was being raised by the University of Pennsylvania and it was being raised from foreign governments after the Biden Center opened. See the connection here?” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/10/23]
  • New York Post columnist Miranda Devine said the university’s “long, incestuous symbiotic relationship with the Bidens” resulted in attracting “a lot of Chinese money.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Sean Hannity baselessly claimed, “Now to put it simply, thanks to Joe Biden, America’s most sensitive secrets were floating around in an unsecured office that was bought and paid for by the CCP.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing TV host Benny Johnson: “Tucker Carlson just nuked Joe Biden from space for hoarding classified documents in his ‘fake thinktank’ -- potentially for the Chinese donors of UPenn to see. Was Joe Biden selling American National Security to the Chinese Donors in his fake think tank? Like father like son.” [Twitter, 1/9/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Bosses Knew Network Spread Lies About Dominion Voting Systems

Fox News Bosses Knew Network Spread Lies About Dominion Voting Systems

Reports from Fox News in mid-November 2020 make it clear that the network knew it was peddling falsehoods about Dominion voting machines, yet many of its personalities continued to overwhelmingly spew conspiracy theories on prime-time cable television.

Dominion is suing Fox for defamation after the right-wing cable channel extensively pushed false claims about the 2020 election and Dominion’s voting machines. In the two-week period after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect, the network questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it almost 800 times, including by using Dominion as a scapegoat. Fox became an outlet that aired Trump campaign lies about Dominion voting machines getting hacked without any evidence. The channel’s coverage of the election mimicked the baseless claims of Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell.

For Dominion to prove that Fox acted with “actual malice,” the company must show that Fox knew the allegations made about Dominion were false, or that Fox acted in reckless disregard for the truth. In addition to pursuing how culpable the Murdochs were in this regard, Dominion lawyers are deposing Fox prime-time hosts and appear to have text messages that show employees knew Fox was peddling lies, according to Washington Post reporting.

While these lines of inquiry may be already sufficient to meet the “actual malice” standard, brief moments in Fox’s own programming also show the network was contemporaneously aware the Dominion allegations were lies, even if these few examples were drowned out. The Washington Post noted that Dominion may currently be trying to ascertain “whether Fox personalities who challenged election fraud claims on air faced any repercussions.”

Some articles and newsletters on from November 2020 included statements from Dominion rejecting the baseless conspiracy theories or Fox staffers mocking the conspiracy theories. On the channel’s programming, some Fox personalities made the effort to debunk what their own colleagues were pushing and encouraged the Fox audience to accept the election. This included directly fact-checking lies about Dominion, labeling such claims as disinformation, and explaining that no evidence for these conspiracy theories had been presented. Unfortunately, vastly outnumbered by Fox lies about the election, these moments were brief and few:

  • Fox correspondent Eric Shawn debunked Trump lies about Dominion, citing cybersecurity experts at the Department of Homeland Security to call it an example of “disinformation.” [Fox News, Special Report, 11/12/20]
  • Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy debunked guest Jonathan Turley’s claim that Dominion voting software “had glitches.” Doocy said: “With that Dominion software: Five counties in Michigan and Georgia had problems. And the Dominion software was used in two of the counties. And in every instance, largely, it was human error – a problem, but the software did not affect the vote counts.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/13/20]
  • Days later, Doocy and Turley acknowledged that there was no evidence for the Dominion conspiracy theories. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/16/20]
  • Shawn offered to “clarify the election facts as we know them right now,” debunking several baseless claims of voter fraud on-air, reading off the response from Dominion to one particular claim about the company. Shawn also noted that the conspiracy theories are “designed to undermine your faith in American democracy.” [Fox News, America’s News HQ, 11/15/20]
  • Fox correspondent Rick Leventhal said Rudy Giuliani “offered no evidence” for his claims that Dominion is “a radical left company with ties to Venezuela, outright accusing it of fixing the 2020 results.” [Fox News, Fox News at Night, 11/16/20]
  • Fox News anchor Dana Perino and contributor Karl Rove recognized on-air that the accusations were all potential grounds for lawsuits by Dominion against Giuliani and Powell. [Fox News, The Daily Briefing, 11/19/20]
  • Shawn interviewed Dominion representative Michael Steel for nine minutes to debunk specific right-wing allegations against the company. [Fox News, America’s News HQ, 11/22/20]
  • Just two days before the Jan. 6 insurrection, Doocy repeatedly pointed out that Trump’s supporters have shown no evidence to support Dominion conspiracy theories. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/4/21]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Slimes Fetterman After Its Poll Shows Oz Sinking

Fox News Slimes Fetterman After Its Poll Shows Oz Sinking

Fox News is in attack mode after its own polling showed Republican nominee Mehmet Oz trailing Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

The July 28 Fox News poll showed that Fetterman has an 11-point lead over Oz. Additionally, according to the poll, “just 35 percent of those backing Oz say they support him enthusiastically, while 45 percent have reservations. For Fetterman, 68 percent back him enthusiastically and only 18 percent hesitate.” These results, combined with data showing that Fetterman is outraising and outspending Oz, could spell disaster for the GOP hopeful. However, since this polling, Fox has demonstrated it’s a reliable partner to help Oz try to reset the race.

The network has long had a cozy relationship with Oz. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Oz became one of Fox News’ most prominent voices by downplaying the severity of the virus and promoting unproven therapeutics. Then during the GOP Pennsylvania primary, Oz received support and a platform from Fox News’ Sean Hannity, whom Oz later thanked in his victory speech. While not all Fox News anchors supported Oz during the primary, even holdouts like Laura Ingraham are now giving Oz friendly prime-time interviews to boost his campaign.

Fox’s attacks against Fetterman have increasingly focused on dispelling the idea that he is a populist by painting him as an elite who is focused on pushing far-left policies. The network has also highlighted the race even beyond focusing on the two nominees. It's run at least one news segment about relatively small numbers of Pennsylvanians changing their party identification as supposed examples of the Democratic Party losing touch with voters in the Keystone State.

Fox News personalities have repeatedly pushed narratives portraying Fetterman as an elitist and a far-left radical and have given favorable coverage to Oz while attacking Fetterman:

  • On August 3, Ingraham said Fetterman was only “playing the part” of a populist, adding, “It turns out that this giant man baby was getting allowance from his parents in excess of $50,000 a year. And it lasted not just for a few years but well into his 40s.” During the segment, the chyrons read “Exposing John Fetterman’s phony populism” and “‘Everyman’ Fetterman exposed as a fraud.”
  • The same night, Ingraham gave a softball interview to Oz over Fetterman’s background, and Oz called his opponent a “fraud.” Oz, an extremely wealthy former television star, added that he was the real everyman, saying, “I'm a son of an immigrant. I believe in the American dream because I lived it myself.” He claimed Fetterman has “never had to work to make some money because it was given to him.”
  • Ingraham also gave Oz a platform to refute Fetterman’s attacks on his New Jersey residence. She asked him, “They put Snooki out there to say you don’t live in Pennsylvania. But aren’t you living in the house that you and your wife were married in? I think I read that somewhere. Is that the case?”
  • On Fox News Sunday, anchor Bret Baier focused on Fetterman’s left-leaning policies and fearmongered about his abortion stance, saying Fetterman leads Oz “by nine points in our latest poll. And voter enthusiasm shows Fetterman voters twice as enthusiastic than Oz voters at this point. But when you talk about policy, he is not exactly a mainstream moderate Democrat. He is a Bernie Sanders, left wing, and if you ask the abortion question in a way — 'when are you OK with limits' — you don't get an answer.”
  • Brian Kilmeade discussed the Fox News poll with his panel on the July 31 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend. Kilmeade expressed confusion about Fetterman’s success so far, saying, “He isn't a moderate, and you would think that in a purple state that Pennsylvania is, that Trump won in 2016, you would think that that would be trouble and he can't pull a Tim Ryan and pretend he’s a moderate.”
  • During an appearance on the July 31 edition of Steve Hilton’s Fox News show, conservative radio host Clay Travis suggested a line of attack Oz can use against trans people. He made a direct appeal to Oz, saying, “He needs to try to get John Fetterman to answer a simple question that I believe will ultimately decide the election in Pennsylvania: Can men get pregnant? He needs to go on the offensive here. … Dr. Oz watches a lot of Fox News. I know that a lot of his people do as well. I hope they get this clip. And I just want Dr. Oz to say over and over again — as a doctor — ‘I believe there are two sexes. Men and women, and I believe women get pregnant. I’ve got a simple question for John Fetterman. He can answer from his basement: Can men get pregnant?’”
  • Ingraham bashed all Democratic Senate candidates in toss-up races, attacking Fetterman on energy costs: “A vote for John Fetterman in Pennsylvania is a vote for high energy prices.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

How Major Media Got Vaccine Mandate Story All Wrong

How Major Media Got Vaccine Mandate Story All Wrong

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

As vaccine mandates across the country are beginning to take effect, some mainstream media outlets have focused on the small number of people who have resigned or been fired for refusing to comply, rather than the efficacy of mandating vaccinations through employers.

Evidence shows that employer vaccine mandates have been effective at increasing vaccination rates among employees. Tyson Foods already increased its employee vaccination rate from 50 percent to 80 percent with another month to go before the company's November 1 deadline. Several hospitals saw almost 100 percent vaccinations among employees as their own deadlines hit.

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