From the July 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News' dishonest campaign against Planned Parenthood took a new turn when the network promoted its own deeply misleading "Taxpayer Calculator" purporting to show how much an average American taxpayer has contributed to the health care provider over the past decade.
On the July 27 editions of Fox News' America's Newsroom and Happening Now, correspondent Shannon Bream continued her network's smear campaign against Planned Parenthood Federation of America centered around a deceptively-edited video alleging to show PPFA employees negotiating the sale of "fetal body parts for medical research." Bream promoted the efforts of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) to strip federal funding for the organization before referring viewers to a so-called "Taxpayer Calculator" created by the network to show people how much they have contributed to Planned Parenthood over the past decade. From America's Newsroom:
BREAM: Over the past 10 years, it's estimated Planned Parenthood has received more than $4 million [sic] in federal and state government funding. Here's a look at what you, the taxpayer, have contributed based on your income level. Now, if you want a more specific estimate on just how much you've given to Planned Parenthood, head to FoxNews.com and click on "Taxpayer Calculator." Martha.
MACCALLUM: That's going to get a lot of people's attention.
BREAM: It will.
First, and perhaps most egregiously, the on-screen graphic Fox shows during both segments falsely claims that Planned Parenthood received $4.3 billion-worth of federal funding "over 10 years." According to the "Taxpayer Calculator" Bream referenced during the segment, Fox News does not actually know how much public support comes from either federal or state sources (emphasis added):
Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have received $4.3 billion in government funding over the last ten years, according to the group's annual reports. Their government funding comes from both federal and state governments. We do not know exactly how much of Planned Parenthood's funding comes from the federal government.
According to Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report, the organization received $528.4 million from "Government Health Services Grants & Reimbursements," which amounted to just over 46 percent of its operational revenue as of June 30, 2014. Some of this funding came in the form of federal Medicaid reimbursements for health care services for low-income Americans, while other funds came from various local, state, and federal grants -- the Hyde Amendment "excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid."
After incorrectly assuming that all public money received by Planned Parenthood comes from the federal government, Fox News staff then based their taxpayer contribution calculations on the proportion of federal tax revenue derived from different income tax brackets. Federal income tax rates are higher than state and local income tax rates. In fact, seven states levy no income taxes at all while two others tax only capital gains and dividends, not traditional wages. Fox's sloppily constructed "average taxpayer share" does not reflect reality -- it's simply the highest estimate the network's research team could produce.
Finally, Fox's investigation of Planned Parenthood's revenue and the American taxpayer's contribution to that revenue provides no useful context for the viewer. In 2014, the federal government spent nearly 900 times more than Planned Parenthood collected from all government sources in 10 years; the $4.3 billion price tag Fox highlighted represents a miniscule portion of total government spending over the same period. Likewise, the 10-year burden shouldered by Fox's "average taxpayer" represents a tiny fraction of their total income over that period. According to Fox News, a taxpayer with earnings in excess of $2.5 million over a decade would contribute only about $40 annually. Meanwhile, the average taxpayer, with a median household income of roughly $52,000 per year, would contribute only about $1.50 per year to Planned Parenthood, according to Fox's own calculations.
The deceptive "Taxpayer Calculator" is a continuation of Fox News' long campaign of deceit against Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the work performed by the organization (97 percent) is not related to abortion services. Fox has demonstrated on many occasions that it has no clue what Planned Parenthood does or the vital services it provides for millions of men and women every year; including cancer screening and preventative treatment, contraceptive services, family planning, STI/STD screening, and assorted other women's health services.
From the July 25 edition of Washington's NewsChannel 8's Hispanic Agenda:
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Libre Initiative spokesperson and recurring Fox News guest host Rachel Campos-Duffy misled viewers about how minorities and young people have fared economically under President Obama, suggesting that his administration has made both groups worse off when the opposite is true.
On the September 28, 2014 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, President Obama argued that the United States "is definitely better off" economically than it was when he took office in January 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the "terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis" that he inherited to the response by "any leader around the world." Two days later, Fox New used those remarks to resurrect its misleading line of attack on Obama's economic record.
During the July 21 edition of Fox Business' Cavuto: Coast to Coast, Campos-Duffy picked it up again, claiming, that "single women, minorities, young people -- these people are doing worse than they were before Obama came into office." As evidence, Campos-Duffy cherry-picked data to mask positive trends in the economy, particularly among minorities and young people:
During her Cavuto appearance, Campos-Duffy repeated the same outdated claims she made in a January 8, 2014 National Review Online article in which she argued that Hispanic family incomes have dropped and "2.5 million more Latinos have fallen into poverty" during the Obama administration, proving that "the Obama economy has not been kind to Hispanics."
In her recent appearance on Fox, Campos-Duffy referenced that same argument from 18 months ago to make a false claim about the number of Hispanics currently living in poverty. According to September 2014 Pew findings, the number actually fell from 13.6 million to 12.7 million from 2012 to 2013 and "the drop in the poverty rates among Hispanics... contributed to the first decline in the nation's overall poverty rate since 2006." Additionally, "the median household income of Hispanics increased" for the first time since 2000. From Pew:
Hispanics are the only major racial or ethnic group to see a statistically significant decline in its poverty rate, according to 2013 Census Bureau figures released this week. The drop in the poverty rate among Hispanics - from 25.6% in 2012 to 23.5% in 2013 - contributed to the first decline in the nation's overall poverty rate since 2006.
Meanwhile, the median household income of Hispanics increased by 3.5% to $40,963, the first annual increase since 2000, according to the Census Bureau. Income changes for whites, blacks and Asians were not statistically significant.
Campos-Duffy claimed that minorities and young people were among those "doing worse than they were before Obama came into office."
The "Obama Economy" Has Provided Years Of Steady Recovery From The "Bush Recession"
Campos-Duffy also argued that Vice President Biden "is in trouble if he's going to run on an Obama economy," which ignores how the U.S. economy under President Obama has steadily improved since the recession that started under President Bush.
What Campos-Duffy failed to mention is that every American was affected by the recession. According to a September 2014 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), median income nationwide peaked in 1999, toward the end of the Clinton administration, before receding in the wake of two Bush-era recessions. Median income in the United States in 2013, the most recently available data, was less than it was in 1989, but the decline does not originate with the Obama administration. According to CAP, "America's middle class is struggling to recover from both the Great Recession and the decades of unequal economic growth that preceded it."
Still, other economic indicators are improving across the board, including in minority communities. Unemployment rates among minorities are decreasing steadily, in line with nationwide trends, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. As of June, the total civilian unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, which is the lowest since April 2008. For African-Americans and Hispanics, unemployment is at 9.5 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, evidence of the strongest labor market in either community since the first half of 2008, when the recession was less than six months old.
According to data from the BLS, unemployment rates peaked nationwide in October 2009 and then steadily declined for for nearly six years.
The American economy has not fully recovered from its deepest economic contraction since the Great Depression, but it is steadily improving in important ways for minorities and young people. According to the most-recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has contributed to sharp declines in uninsured rates for adults nationwide, which stood at just 11.4 percent at the end of June -- the lowest in the history of Gallup's tracking. The nationwide improvement has been particularly pronounced among minorities and young people:
Various conservative media outlets predicted that the ACA would be harm the U.S. economy, but the decrease in uninsured rates coupled with the steady decline in unemployment, particularly among minorities and young people, suggests that the so-called "Obama economy" has been kinder than Campos-Duffy claims. According to NBC News, Hispanics are "the group with the largest gains in insurance" because of the health care law.
Craig Harrington contributed research to this blog.
A Fox News report on the so-called "unintended consequences" of Seattle, Washington's municipal minimum wage increase included the unsubstantiated claim that better pay is encouraging workers to work less so that they stay in poverty and continue receiving government benefits. This report fits the network's anti-minimum wage, poor-shaming narrative, but ignores the many benefits of increasing the minimum wage.
In June 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved legislation increasing the city's minimum wage to $11 per hour for most employees on April 1, 2015 and to $15 per hour over the course of a 3-to-7-year phase-in period. The decision was praised by many groups like the National Employment Law Project (NELP) as a necessary step toward alleviating inequality and lifting low-wage workers out of poverty.
On the July 22 editions of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Happening Now, and Special Report, correspondent Dan Springer reported that Seattle is facing the "unintended consequences" of increasing its minimum wage. The worst of these consequences, he claims, is that some employees "make too much money to stay on certain welfare programs" and are requesting fewer hours because "the raises [are] pushing them over the income threshold and out of welfare programs like subsidized food, child care, and rent." In all three segments, Springer's evidence for this alleged poverty trap was an interview with Seattle-based radio host Jason Rantz, not with actual recipients who rely on government assistance.
Other so-called "consequences" of the increased minimum wage included restaurants raising prices and requesting patrons not to tip their wait staff. Springer also cited a comic book store in San Francisco (not Seattle) which blames that city's increased minimum wage for its lack of profitability:
The core of Fox's claim that many low-income Americans would rather stay on anti-poverty relief programs than work fits the network's long-standing campaign to attack and shame low-income workers. It is also a variation of the discredited "Welfare Cliff" argument frequently pushed by the network.
In addition, the claim that increased wages are boosting restaurant prices, and thereby hurting tipped workers, is blatantly misleading and plays into Fox's misinformation campaign against the minimum wage. For example, Ivar's Salmon House, a Seattle icon, increased its menu prices and no longer accepts tips. But, according to NPR, the restaurant decided to institute the full $15 minimum wage three years ahead of schedule for its employees and now automatically prices gratuity into the bill, which thus far has not hurt sales or workers. Several restaurants, including one in the District of Columbia, have responded to calls for an increased minimum wage by unilaterally raising their own pay and informing customers that it is no longer necessary to tip wait staff.
Conservative media have claimed for more than a year that Seattle's minimum wage would hurt the city's restaurants and small businesses, but a March 17 report by The Seattle Times revealed little anxiety about the pay increase. In fact, according to data from the Seattle Office of Economic and Financial Analysis, the city witnessed a small spike in restaurant permit requests in the month before wage increases were set to go into effect but otherwise requests have remained relatively flat. Finally, according to a June 4 report by Common Dreams, several of the most outspoken local opponents of Seattle's minimum wage increase have actually opened new restaurants and increased staff hiring since the ordinance went into effect.
From the July 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox host Sean Hannity allowed Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to walk back comments he made during a 2013 New York Times interview in which Kasich expressed his concern "about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor" emanating from his own party.
On the July 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity interviewed newly-declared Republican presidential candidate John Kasich at Ohio State University. Kasich used the softball interview to rehabilitate his conservative credentials while quietly disavowing his previous comments about the draconian agenda of GOP policymakers on Capitol Hill. When asked whether or not he truly believed "Republicans are waging war" on the poor, Kasich deflected the question by saying, "I don't know where that came from." Both then impugned the credibility of The New York Times while Kasich outlined the ways he plans to help poor and struggling Americans as president, including repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
HANNITY: Let me ask you, in the lead up to this, a lot of articles were written -- "Is John Kasich conservative enough?" Now, you were quoted in The New York Times as saying about your party, the Republican Party, that it's waging "a war on the poor." When you accepted Medicaid expansion, you went out there and you talked about St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he's not gonna ask me if I decreased the size of government but whether I helped the poor. Do you really believe Republicans are waging war on--
KASICH: No, no, but look, I don't know where that came from, but here's what I will tell you--
HANNITY: The New York Times.
KASICH: Yeah but, I-- Okay, well then it has to be true, okay? But here's the thing--
HANNITY: How dare I quote a New York paper.
In fact, during an interview with a New York Times reporter following his October 22, 2013 decision to accept Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio under the ACA , Kasich expressed his concern that "there seems to be a war on the poor" coming from Republican ranks, including the stigma that low-income Americans are "shiftless and lazy":
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In his grand Statehouse office beneath a bust of Lincoln, Gov. John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in Washington.
"I'm concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor," he said, sitting at the head of a burnished table as members of his cabinet lingered after a meeting. "That if you're poor, somehow you're shiftless and lazy."
But few have gone further than Mr. Kasich in critiquing his party's views on poverty programs, and last week he circumvented his own Republican legislature and its Tea Party wing by using a little-known state board to expand Medicaid to 275,000 poor Ohioans under President Obama's health care law.
Kasich's remarks were widely reported at the time by numerous reputable news outlets, including New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. A November 1, 2013 column by Salon editor-at-large Joan Walsh pointed out the hypocrisy of Kasich lamenting his party's "war on the poor" while he simultaneously pushed an initiative to cut food assistance for up to 130,000 Ohio residents. Kasich's supposed willingness to take on the GOP's backwards anti-poverty agenda is often pointed to as an indication of his seriousness as a president candidate.
Fox's decision to let Kasich disavow his "war on the poor" comment is interesting, particularly in light of recent criticism from Heritage Foundation economist and Fox News contributor Stephen Moore that the governor's stance on poverty is "not an answer that conservatives are very persuaded by." Moore's intuition may be right. Kasich is a distant 11th -place contender in the Real Clear Politics polling average of the 16 declared Republican candidates. Kasich is also far behind in the crucial Fox News Primary and is in desperate need of positive exposure on the network.
National Review likened Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to a Nazi.
In a July 20 post on National Review Online, National Review editor Kevin Williamson claimed that Sanders' political views equate to "national socialism," even as Williamson acknowledges Sanders' Jewish heritage and the fact that his family was killed in the Holocaust: (emphasis added)
Aside from Grandma Stalin there, there's not a lot of overtly Soviet iconography on display around the Bernieverse, but the word "socialism" is on a great many lips. Not Bernie's lips, for heaven's sake: The guy's running for president. But Tara Monson, a young mother who has come out to the UAW hall to support her candidate, is pretty straightforward about her issues: "Socialism," she says. "My husband's been trying to get me to move to a socialist country for years -- but now, maybe, we'll get it here." The socialist country she has in mind is Norway, which of course isn't a socialist country at all: It's an oil emirate. Monson is a classic American radical, which is to say, a wounded teenager in an adult's body: Asked what drew her to socialism and Bernie, she says that she is "very atheist," and that her Catholic parents were not accepting of this. She goes on to cite her "social views," and by the time she gets around to the economic questions, she's not Helle Thorning-Schmidt -- she's Pat Buchanan, complaining about "sending our jobs overseas." L'Internationale, my patootie. This is national socialism.
In the Bernieverse, there's a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.
[...]There are many kinds of Us-and-Them politics, and Bernie Sanders, to be sure, is not a national socialist in the mode of Alfred Rosenberg or Julius Streicher.
He is a national socialist in the mode of Hugo Chávez. He isn't driven by racial hatred; he's driven by political hatred. And that's bad enough.
Image via Marc Nozell via Creative Commons License
A new Media Matters report on the "single issue syndrome" found that Spanish-language Sunday shows continue to devote considerable attention to immigration at the apparent expense of issues equally important to the Latino community. In addition, although Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, only 4 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows between January 4 and May 3, 2015 were Hispanic - a drop of 42 percent from their 2014 appearances over a similar time period.
Conservative media appear to be drafting Donald Trump's talking points.
It's been one month since the real estate mogul officially entered the Republican primary, after years of using regular Fox News appearances to promote previously-elusive presidential ambitions and push absurd conspiracies. In that time, Trump has already managed to prominently trumpet at least four right-wing media myths to explain his positions on the economy, immigration, gun safety, and the presidency, launching the long-debunked claims back into the spotlight.
Trump exaggerated the nation's unemployment rate by nearly 800 percent during a Fox News appearance on July 15, telling Sean Hannity that unemployed, impoverished Americans are "very important," and declaring: "Somebody actually last week said we have a 40 percentunemployment, so I've been saying 19 - 21 percent, but somebody actually came out last week and said we have a 40 percent, and they might very well be right."
Just a couple weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly claimed that "the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5 percent ... It is 42.9 percent," citing a blog written by former Reagan official David Stockman.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, notably, June's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent.
Last week, Trump tripled the U.S.' undocumented immigrant population during a July 8 interview on CNN's The Lead, claiming, "We have 34 million [undocumented immigrants] in the country. I used to hear 11, now I hear it's 34 million." The real number of undocumented immigrants is nearly 20 million less -- experts confirm that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. actually hovers around 11 million, according to a Washington Post analysis that compared Census, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Pew Research Center data.
Trump appears to have relied on a year-old, long-debunked report from conservative website Breitbart.com. In 2014, Breitbart.com misrepresented a contracting bid the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for card stock to print a maximum of 34 million green cards and work authorization cards over a five year period, spinning the listing to claim the Obama administration was preparing a massive "executive amnesty." Neither of these cards are specific to undocumented immigrants. And as The Hill explained at the time, not only is such a contracting bid "typical," these cards are for use by immigrants who have been legally granted permanent residency and "a single recipient could receive up to five work permits over the life of the contract." Because this is not, in fact, an estimate of the undocumented population, both the White House and USCIS called suggestions that it was a "precursor" to the president's executive action on immigration "crazy" and "too clever."
Discussing his views on gun safety regulations in a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump revived conservative media's false claim that former President Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases. He asserted that "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases."
Trump's misinformation originated from conservative media's attempt to blame Clinton for the 2013 mass shooting at Washington D.C.'s Navy Yard facility, seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under former President George H.W. Bush -- which actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances. Military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.
Trump is even still pushing perhaps the most infamous conservative media myth of the Obama presidency -- birtherism. "I really don't know" where President Obama was born, Trump declared in a July 9 interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, an accusation that follows years of the candidate teaming up with Fox News to push the absurd conspiracy theories that Obama had not released a valid birth certificate and may have been hiding the fact that he was not born in America.
The pervasiveness of right-wing media talking points in Trump's positions is not surprising given that he's been a Fox News fixture for years. He reportedly met with Fox president Roger Ailes before announcing his presidential candidacy, and since then, the network has only increased his exposure. In Media Matters' most recent study of appearances by likely and declared Republican presidential candidates on the network, Trump topped the entire field in airtime. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, racking up 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime, 23 minutes more than his nearest competitor, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Since the beginning of May, Trump has the most airtime of any of the candidates.
Right-wing media outlets are hyping disclosures that health insurance premium rates could "skyrocket" for some plans in 2016 as proof of the Affordable Care Act's failure as a national policy, ignoring the fact that these reported rates are skewed and not final, and that previous "rate shock" predictions have fallen flat.
Right-wing media praised Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ahead of his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, highlighting his record as governor and his efforts to reduce the power of labor unions.
WisconsinWatchdog.org marked Republican Governor Scott Walker's presidential announcement with an article that made no mention of the economic struggles Wisconsinites have endured under his tenure and praised Walker campaign chair Michael Grebe without disclosing its conflict-of-interest connection to him.
While many members of Wisconsin's media have warned of Walker's "extreme" politics, "polarizing character" and disappointing economic record, WisconsinWatchdog.org cheered the governor's presidential campaign announcement in a July 13 article that praised his recall election survival and touted his successful crippling of unions. Watchdog.org said Walker is "once more on the precipice of history, set to bring his big government-reform message to the national stage."
WisconsinWatchdog.org also made little mention of Walker's shaky economic record in its discussion of his qualifications to become president. The article praised him for enacting damaging tax cuts and dismissed widespread criticism that he drained the state of revenue by parroting the state Republican party's argument that the tax revenue "came from the hard-earned money of Wisconsin taxpayers, and it belongs to them."
As local Capital Times reporter John Nichols told Media Matter's Joe Strupp, "The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story. Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."
WisconsinWatchdog.org previously tried to distort Walker's economic record by relying on a methodologically flawed report produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The "Rich States, Poor States" report by ALEC has been called "snake oil" by The Iowa Policy Project and labor advocacy group Good Jobs First for its promotion of deregulation and reliance on cutting public services. Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal called the maps in ALEC's report "a joke" because they ranked strong states like New York and California at the bottom of the list, and said, "ALEC is ranking states based on each state's level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business."
Bloomberg's more objective state ranking index, the Economic Evaluation of States, places Wisconsin in 38thplace using indicators like home prices and wage growth. Even by his own measure, Walker's record on job creation has come up short. His campaign promise to bring 250,000 new private sector jobs by the end of his first term "failed miserably" according to former mayor of Minneapolis R. T. Rybak, writing in an op-ed for The Hill. Fewer than 150,000 jobs were created during Walker's first term.
The governor's strong stance against raising taxes in the face of deficit spending created a budget fight that delayed his presidential candidacy announcement. While neighboring Minnesota has raised taxes and seen economic growth, Walker's continued push for spending cuts had members of his own party rebelling against his budget, which passed with the largest legislative Republican opposition so far in his tenure.
The Walker budget that finally passed last week included controversial and possibly economically harmful changes. Chief among these are a $250 million-dollar cut to higher education, provisions to weaken tenure protection at state schools, elimination of wage protections for construction laborers working on state projects, and the replacement of a provision that said workers must be paid a "living wage" with wording that says workers must only be paid "minimum wage." Current minimum wage in Wisconsin is projected to remain at $7.25 per hour until at least 2018.
WisconsinWatchdog.org's support of Walker comes as no surprise -- the website formerly known as the Wisconsin Reporter has a long history of defending him. During the "John Doe" investigations into possible campaign finance violations during Walker's 2010 and 2012 campaigns, WisconsinWatchdog.org ran more than 180 articles pushing back against his critics.
As part of the Franklin Center's Watchdog.org media group, WisconsinWatchdog.org operates aspart of a collective of state-based media outlets that use funding from the likes of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers to push conservative views and misinformation into state policy conversations. The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Bradley Foundation, which is run by Walker's campaign chairman, Michael Grebe. Though WisconsinWatchdog.org's article mentions Grebe, his position, and a reprints a quote from the Weekly Standard praising his experience, it never discloses Grebe's position as president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation.
As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker formally enters the presidential race, journalists in his home state say the national press should focus their reporting on his polarizing history fighting abortion rights, gay marriage, and public information disclosure, while also highlighting his push as a state assemblyman for mandatory prison time that has overwhelmed the state's prison system.
Many Badger State scribes also point to the state's poor economic record, while describing Walker as an "extreme" politician whose far-right approach may not work in a national race.
"He is not as charismatic as I think a lot of people think," said John Nichols, an associate editor at the progressive Capital Times in Madison. "The drama, the excitement associated with Scott Walker is that he did some extreme things that scared a lot of people."
"He's a pretty polarizing character," said political reporter Kate Pabich of WMTV, the NBC affiliate in Madison. "If he gets the GOP primary nomination he is going to have a hard time appealing to a national stage. The things he's done, the ultra-conservative things he's done, the 20-week abortion, the stance on gay marriage, will be an issue."
Pablich was referring to the state ban on abortion after 20 weeks, which passed in the Wisconsin Assembly just last week -- with no exceptions for rape or incest, reportedly at Walker's insistence -- and which is likely to get Walker's approval.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel capital reporter Jason Stein said the abortion ban is important because "that could be banned at the national level" if Walker is elected president.
Stein also said media should examine a so-called "right-to-work" law Walker signed in March that strips unions of vital resources by allowing private-sector employees to opt out of paying union dues, as well as his support for a severely restrictive public information overhaul that would have disallowed public access to many state records and documents.
"They were sweeping," Stein said of the public information restrictions. "They would have exempted the vast majority of legislative documents" from review, allowing "the administration as well as any other state agency to withhold deliberative materials used to arrive at a policy decision," he concluded.
After the restrictions were approved in the legislature's Joint Finance Committee, they were shelved following public outcry.
Stein, who co-wrote a book about Walker's 2011 collective bargaining battle with state unions, also urged national reporters to look at Walker's time as Milwaukee County Executive, adding, "There was much more gridlock and his not being able to accomplish what he wanted. He was head-butting a lot with a Democratic County board."
Capital Times' Nichols said Walker's claims about a great economic record in Wisconsin are misleading.
"The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story," he said. "Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."
He said Walker promised when he first ran in 2010 to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. But that fell far short, according to Politifact, which estimates only about 146,000 new jobs created during that time.
"For all of his talk of becoming an economic savior, he is weaker on economics than a lot of people think," Nichols said.
Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a former longtime reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, agreed.
"He did promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term, the numbers show he got about half that goal," Hall said. "The economy here continues to concern a lot of people. Yes, jobs are being created, but are they the right kinds of jobs?"
Hall also cited the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, which Walker created to spark job growth. A state audit in May by the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau found problems with its compliance and practices.
Jim Fitzhenry, a top editor for Gannett Wisconsin Media, which operates newspapers and websites in 10 cities, said few national outlets seem to know about Walker's support for tighter mandatory sentencing that has ballooned the state's prison population.
Known as "Truth-in-Sentencing," the restriction, passed by the Wisconsin state legislature in 1998, requires that many inmates serve their entire sentences without parole and increased the length of prison time for others.
Walker co-sponsored the legislation as a state assemblyman and helped lead it to passage as chair of the state assembly's Committee on Corrections and the Courts, according to a lengthy report on his past prison reform actions in The Nation earlier this year.
"It took away quite a bit of judicial discretion in sentences," Fitzhenry said. "Unlike a lot of his counterparts, Scott is still very much adamant for Truth-in-Sentencing."
The Nation report detailed how Truth-in-Sentencing overburdens the Wisconsin prison system so much that it had to contract with a private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America, whose executives have also contributed to Walker's campaigns.
A 2004 Journal Sentinel analysis of the law looked at data from Truth-in-Sentencing's first four years in existence and estimated that it would cost the state an additional $1.8 billion through 2025.
From the July 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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