2/10/2005

Another lying liar who lies: Brit Hume of FOX

From Franken's blog:

As Media Matters noticed, here’s Brit Hume, the Fox News Channel’s top news anchor, on February 3: 

"In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, “Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,” adding that government funding, quote, “ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Hume’s claim is that FDR wanted to replace Social Security with private accounts. Hume is lying. Here’s the FDR statement that Hume is misquoting:

"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

So, FDR was proposing three things: a temporary “old-age pension,” for seniors who wouldn’t have time to pay into the Social Security system; a compulsory-contribution annuity--meaning, Social Security as we know it today--which would become a “self-supporting system,” and, third, voluntary individual accounts. Ultimately, the old-age pensions would be supplanted by the self-supporting annuity system (meaning, Social Security.)
Hume turns this completely on its head. He pulls two unrelated bits out of the FDR quote, and adds the wrods “government funding” between them. Because it’s so carefully done, it’s clear that it’s deliberate. And it’s a nasty form of dishonesty. Hume is manipulating Americans’ trust of FDR in order to build support for dismantling FDR’s legacy.
That same day on Fox, Hume’s dishonest point was echoed by Bill Bennett: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time."
It’s just not true. But we know where it came from--Brit Hume.
Although it won’t be as explosive politically, this is worse than Dan Rather’s memo scandal. First of all, it's deliberate. Secondly, it's untrue. Dan Rather was guilty of being insufficiently skeptical of forged, true documents. But Brit Hume, Fox News Channel's #1 anchor--not commentator, not editorialist, anchor--is deliberately perverting the words of a hero to destroy the hero's legacy. 
Brit Hume should resign.
Tell Fox:
Show email: special@foxnews.com
Brit Hume’s email: brit.hume@foxnews.com
FOX News Channel
1-888-369-4762
Comments@foxnews.com
1211 Avenue of the Americas

UPDATE FROM FRANKEN'S SHOW TODAY:
Hume has responded to some listener emails by claiming our quote from him was taken out of context. But the context doesn’t help his case in the slightest. Here’s what he said:

"Senate Democrats gathered at the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial today to invoke the image of FDR in calling on President Bush to remove private accounts from his Social Security proposal. But it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it. In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, “Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,” adding that government funding, quote, “ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Hume would be absolved if the full context had included something like,
"Now, when I say “government funding,” it might sound like I’m referring to regular old government-run Social Security. But I’m not. I’m referring to a little-known element of FDR’s initial proposal: temporary, government-funded pensions for people who were too old, in 1935, to pay into the Social Security system themselves. That’s what he wanted to phase out. Also, when I say FDR thought “self-supporting annuity plans” should ultimately replace the government funding, you might think I’m referring to the “voluntary contributory annuities” that I just characterized as private investment accounts. Again, you’d be wrong. Although I didn’t mention it, FDR’s original proposal used the phrases “compulsory contributory annuities” that would become a “self-supporting system” to describe what would become the Social Security system as we know it today. So, he was saying that Social Security would replace the temporary pension--not that private accounts would replace Social Security. Just wanted to get that clear."
Of course, that’s not what Hume said. (After the passage quoted above, Hume went on to talk about Harry Reid.) Mr. Hume wanted context; we provided context--and he comes out of it looking worse.
Actually, the context did clarify one thing: Hume was definitely claiming Roosevelt wanted “private investment accounts.” But according to the Social Security Administration, the voluntary accounts in Roosevelt’s proposal would just put extra money into the Social Security Trust Fund--not into private investments. Moreover, they were meant to be on top of the regular Social Security system, rather than carved out of it.)
So, top to bottom, Hume is dishonestly distorting FDR’s proposal in order to provide political cover to the Republican Party. That’s not news, that’s hackery; and the closer you look, the worse it gets. Al stands by his position: Hume should resign.

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