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Fox News Issues Preemptive Spin on Feds' Pay Raise

Reported by Judy - June 14, 2006

Nothing gets a conservative American's dander up like the thought of politicians getting a pay raise. Now that the federal government is in Republican hands, however, it's a different story entirely. Fox News' "Dayside" on Wednesday (June 14, 2006) defended the pay raise as well deserved for a bunch of hard-working folks.

Under the pay raise as explained by co-hosts Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick, an average member of Congress will make $168,500 a year. The Speaker of the House (currently Dennis Hastert) will make $212,000, the same as the vice president. The president will make $400,000.

Huddy, of course, couldn't get her facts straight. "Our lawmakers just gave themselves a raise," she said. The 27th amendment, however, says that pay raises cannot take effect until after the next election. So unless Huddy is predicting that all members of Congress will be re-elected, they are not voting themselves a pay raise. The 27th amendment was designed to prevent exactly that.

Huddy apparently missed the drift of the segment because she went on to claim that lawmakers used to say no to pay raises, and appeared on the verge of being critical of the idea when Jerrick noted: "I don’t know that I have a big problem with this because they do work hard.” (Yeah, running the deficit up to record levels and cutting taxes for the rich by day while fending off corruption prosecutions by night is tough duty. Hardly have time to work in a poker game and romp with a prostitute at the Watergate with a schedule like that.) After hearing Jerrick, Huddy added that the raise was "just a couple percentages."

Jerrick also stuck up for Bush's $400,000 salary, as Fox News played video of Bush coming back from his fast trip to Iraq."There he’s in the same suit as when he left a couple days ago. The poor guy has to sleep on these trips of 6,000 miles. It’s a tough job. I think it’s worth that.” Poor Bush, sleeping in couch for 6,000 miles. Not!

Then Huddy went on to note that many members of Congress have outside income. Imagine that. They had lives and jobs before going to Congress. So who does she single out? Maybe Dick Cheney with his millions from Halliburton or George Bush with all his oil money? Of course not. She pounces on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California who owns a vineyard in California with her husband worth $5 million to $25 million. In a quick aside, Jerrick mentions that Fox News recently reported how much money Cheney and Bush has, but doesn't say when that was or how much they had. Just a covering-his-butt comment.

On one level, the Fox News' propaganda message embedded in this bit of "news" was that Republican lawmakers and George Bush work hard and deserve their money. But Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are suspect because they have millions of dollars of their own.

More broadly, however, Fox News is providing pre-emptive spin for Republican lawmakers up for re-election who may be subject to criticism from Democratic challengers over the pay raises. Democratic Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, both of Wisconsin, both have rejected the pay raise, for example. In Iowa, Bruce Braley is pledging not to take a pay raise, as are some Democratic congressional candidates in Pennsylvania.

Fox News' goal with this segment is to inoculate viewers in such congressional districts against feeling any outrage about pay raises if they hear it mentioned. Just remember what Huddy and Jerrick said: They work hard for their money.

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