One of the favorite talking points that often comes from Fox News detractors is the claim that the News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) cable news is somehow an organ of the Republican Party. It's a claim that former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn made, along with countless other accusations from prominent Democrats.
However, these Democrats would be doing themselves and their audiences a favor to take notice of two Fox News anchors, "Your World" host Neil Cavuto and the weekend edition of "America's News HQ" co-host, Gregg Jarrett. The two recently challenged two Republican members of Congress, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill.
On the Dec. 12 broadcast of Fox News Channel's "America's News HQ," host Gregg Jarrett took on Grassley, who made an appearance to rail against federal spending, but all the while having so-called "pork project" money earmarked for his home state (emphasis added).
"The omnibus bill contains more than 5,000 earmarks and many Americans might be appalled to know that nearly $4 billion of their money is being spent on such things," Jarrett said. "[T]here you've got $200,000 for the Washington National Opera, $2.7 million for surgical operations in outer space, more than $600,000 for research on irritable bowel syndrome, $800,000 for jazz at Lincoln Center, $300,000 for music programs at Carnegie Hall. And senator in your state, $400,000 earmarked for the Orchestra Iowa Music Education Program in Cedar Rapids. How can that expenditure, indeed most of these earmarks be justified?"
It's worth noting that Jarrett has been known for his tough interviews on this issue, taking on House Appropriation Committee member and House Ethics Committee ranking Republican Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala. in 2008.
And Grassley didn't justify the money earmarked for Iowa, but claimed he was against all earmarks, and noted his support for an amendment offered by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., which would eliminate all earmarks.
"Well, the really overriding issue here is this 12 percent increase that you have in this and you could take these earmarks out or you can not have the earmarks and still spend the money in a generic way and you can not have 12 percent increases," Grassley said. "I look at earmarks this way, the same way that Sen. DeMint looks at them, and he offered an amendment about a year or two ago that would not allow any earmarks in any bills and I think that that's the fairest way to do it. In other words, all 50 states have a level playing field and I voted for the DeMint amendment not to have any earmark."
Jarrett later asked Grassley why he couldn't just remove the money earmarked for his state, if he was such an adamant opponent of them and this exchange ensued, in which Grassley stammered and could not say if he was the force behind that particular earmark:
JARRETT: Can you remove it? Why don't you remove it?
GRASSLEY: No, you can't remove it now because this is a conference report and conference reports are not amendable.
JARRETT: Did you insert it?
GRASSLEY: I would -- I don't know whether I inserted it. Now, maybe I should know that.
JARRETT: How could you not know?
GRASSLEY: Here is why I don't know, is because there is 400 earmarks that I got from my constituents that I submitted to the Appropriations Committee. I'm not on the Appropriations Committee, so I don't know what went through the final decision making of what was left in or not left in. And then sometimes both senators and congressmen put in for the same earmark. So out of 400 earmarks, you're asking me right now do I know if I put in that specific earmark. I don't know.
JARRETT: Don't you think that you should know?
GRASSLEY: I know from the standpoint of the records in my office, but I don't know right now if you're asking me to remember that here.
JARRETT: And how many earmarks did you submit?
GRASSLEY: We get requests for 400 earmarks. I don't know how many out of the 400 we submitted and the reason I don't know that is because, see, it's over 12 bills over a period of 10 months that this process goes on. But I did vote for the DeMint amendment that we shouldn't have any earmarks whatsoever. And then what you should do in the case of the opera that you're asking about, that opera, if the money is going to be given for that, it should be given on a competitive bid basis, would be the best way to do it and that's the way you would have to do it with the DeMint amendment was adopted.
And on the Dec. 11 broadcast of Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," Cavuto took to a similar line of question with Schock in an interview about out-of-control federal spending.
"You know, no offense, sir, but you are no shrinking violet on this pork train. I mean, you have committed $3 million to reallocate a base entrance to the Lincoln Capital Airport. I don't know what that involves. Maybe it is perfectly justified," Cavuto said. "You spend another $800,000 on something called Illinois Height Modernization for the Illinois State Geographical Survey and another 250 grand for the Oak Ridge Cemetery improvements. I certainly hope some very important people are buried there."
Schock defended his earmarks by saying elected members of Congress were better stewards of taxpayer money than "unelected bureaucrats" inside the executive branch.
"If earmarks are the problem, then what would you say about the $787-billion stimulus bill, the largest spending bill in our country's history, which the president, rightfully so, says, there were no earmarks?" Schock said. "How about giving all the federal money to unelected bureaucrats who never have to justify where the money goes, who never have to face an electorate or an election to be reelected?"
But Cavuto challenged Schock once again, using the Republican congressman's own words posted on his Web site.
"Well, Congressman, I don't know which guy you are," Cavuto replied. "Are you criticizing that spending or are you the guy doing the actual spending? I went to your Web site. I see -- and quite to your credit -- you say, ‘I cannot support vast increases in spending on current programs that are pork-laden, that have nothing to do with stimulating the economy, and instead stimulates government.' Yet, you appear, maybe for completely justifiable reasons, sir, to be doing the same exact thing."