As Dems criticize Covid misinformation, many take Fox Corp. money
This article is part of SactoPolitico.com’s ongoing “Shame of Our Campaigns” series. For past pieces in the series, click here.
Nothing characterizes the blind hypocrisy and moral shallowness of the political industrial complex more than its consistent refrain to “Do as I say, not as I fundraise.”
Take earlier this month when the Biden White House scolded Spotify and other platforms for not doing more to combat Covid misinformation on their for-profit streaming services. This came as Spotify received widespread criticism for hosting Joe Rogan’s top-rated podcast that had shown a reckless disregard for sharing accurate public health information.
Said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Feb. 1, “We want every platform to continue doing more to call out mis[information] and disinformation.”
Plus on Dec. 21, President Biden was even more pointed: “Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices. But those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media.
“These companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters,” he said. “It’s wrong; it’s immoral; and I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it. Stop it now.”
And atop the cable TV heap for circulating Covid “lies and misinformation” is Fox News. But while Democrats and the White House speak of the immorality of such companies profiting from publicly dangerous misinformation, 66 Democrats in Congress and five prominent Democratic groups who have taken a combined $225,000 from the Fox Corp. PAC over the last three years were spared any scolding.
Sacramento’s Jimmy Fremgen (D) is a first-time Congressional candidate who has foresworn donations from all corporations and their PACs. He is running against fellow Sacramento Democrat Rep. Doris Matsui in the redrawn CA-6. Matsui – along with her fellow Sacramento County Rep. Ami Bera – accepted Fox PAC donations last year: Matsui $2,500 and Bera $5,000.
“As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Matsui is clearly in a conflict of interest by accepting donations from the companies that she is supposed to regulate,” Fremgen said. “It’s another example of members of Congress saying one thing and doing another when they think no one is looking. They should return it or use the money to fund direct service events in their districts.”
The Democrat accepting the most money from Fox Corp. was N.J. Rep. Frank Pallone, who accepted $16,000 to his campaign committee and leadership PAC combined. Other prominent Democrats included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ($5,000) and half of the Democrats’ House Leadership team: James Clyburn of South Carolina ($2,000), Hakeem Jefferies of New York ($1,000) and Pete Aguilar of California ($11,000).
The five Congressional Democratic groups each received $5,000 each in 2021. They were the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Congressional Black Caucus PAC, New Democrat Coalition Action Fund, Moderate Democrats PAC and CHC Bold PAC (Committee for Hispanic Causes PAC).
Thus a natural question is why profiteering by outlets like Fox Corp. and Spotify from misinformation is unacceptable while accepting revenue (donations) to benefit a campaign is fine. The White House was contacted for comment, but did not respond.
Over the years, Fox News and its online platforms have amplified many other disproven conspiracy theories for partisan and profit purposes. These included phony questions about President Barack Obama’s citizenship, false claims of tampered Dominion Voting machines, and many other aspects of Donald Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen 2020 election.
Fox News reporting and on-air personalities have also lent legitimacy to far-fetched conspiracy theories claiming murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was the source of the documents leaked in 2016 by Wikileaks. Fox eventually retracted it’s Seth Rich reporting, and paid a reported multimillion-dollar settlement to the Rich family last year. A $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by Dominion against Fox also remains active.
Given this, you’d think Fox PAC money would be automatically unacceptable in Democratic circles. But this was not even the case in one of the more liberal states in the U.S.: California, which featured by far the most Democrats in Congress (12) accepting donations from the Fox PAC over the last three years. They were were:
$11,000 — Rep. Pete Aguilar and leadership PAC
$5,500 — Rep. Scott Peters
$5,500 — Rep. Eric Swalwell
$5,000 — Rep. Ami Bera
$2,500 — Rep. Karen Bass
$2,500 — Rep. Jimmy Panetta
$2,500 — Rep. Doris Matsui
$2,000 — Rep. Nanette Barragan
$1,500 — Rep. Maxine Waters
$1,000 — Rep. Tony Cardenas
$1,000 — Rep. Ted Lieu
$1,000 — Senator Dianne Feinstein leadership PAC
This included four members of the moderate New Democrat Coalition and five members of the Progressive Congressional Caucus.
The hypocrisy and irony of these Democrats accepting Fox money runs deep in each case. For example, Bera is a medical doctor who has taken the Hippocratic Oath, but has no qualms accepting campaign funds from a corporation that regularly promotes anti-mask and anti-vaxx messaging.
But such contradictions are a staple of most candidates’ fundraising records. SactoPolitico wrote about this previously with reports on the huge amounts raised from many of the nation’s most heavily and repeatedly fined companies and the largest opioid makers and distributors found liable for the ongoing Opioid Epidemic.
“You can’t say you oppose the Citizens United decision and benefit from the corruption it unleashed on our elections,” Fremgen added. “There are people struggling to find housing and mental health services here in Sacramento, I’m sure they’d love to see our local elected officials use their energy to improve outcomes in our community rather than raise more corrupt corporate cash.”
But it’s all part of the shame of our campaigns and just one variation on that same old refrain of “do as I say, not as I fundraise.”