During a panel discussion at Georgetown University this week, President Obama lambasted FOX and the media at large, but mostly FOX, for their narrative of the poor as lazy, parasitic, sloths.
Over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction.
Yes it has, and particularly from the wing nuts at FOX. He then went on to say:
And, look, it’s still being propagated. I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. [Laughter.] They’re like, I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone — [laughter] — or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative — right? — that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress — which is much more typical — who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills.
FOX commentators were aghast. Conservatives were beside themselves and visibly had their feelings hurt. Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe apparently couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Saying that was “a little embarrassed,” for Obama and then sputtering, “The arrogance of it all,” like a southern belle shocked by uninvited advances from a gentleman caller.
Scarborough then turned to his panel and asked: “What about the specific clip about Fox News calling poor people leeches, sponges and lazy? Have you ever heard that on Fox News?”
“No, I have not,” was one response from Mike Barnicle. Then Scarborough leapt in and asked, “Has anybody ever heard that on Fox News?”
John Stewart, in a Wednesday episode of the Daily Show lays it out nicely in this segment of the show. No one does research like Stewart and the research for this segment wasn’t that hard to do.
And as if that weren’t enough, Charles M. Blow over at the New York Times lays it out nicely with a sampling of comments over the years.
In 2004, Bill O’Reilly, arguably the face of Fox News, said: “You gotta look people in the eye and tell ‘em they’re irresponsible and lazy. And who’s gonna wanna do that? Because that’s what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period. Period.”
In 2012, O’Reilly listed what he called the “true causes of poverty” including “poor education, addiction, irresponsible behavior and laziness.”
In 2014, during the week that marked the 50th anniversary of L.B.J.’s “War on Poverty,” O’Reilly again said that “true poverty” (as opposed to make-believe poverty?) “is being driven by personal behavior,” which included, according to him, “addictive behavior, laziness, apathy.”
O’Reilly isn’t the only one, Stuart Varney, stepping straight out of Downton Abbey, also in the clip above, pointed out on FOX that “poor people” have cell phones, refrigerators, and cars, so they must not be poor.
So, if you don’t look like you’re living in the Dust Bowl during the Depression, you’re not poor, is that it?