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Gertz reports: "Another day, another dishonest Fox News chart. This time Fox is twisting the data to support Newt Gingrich's claim that President Obama is the 'food stamp president' because 'more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.'"

File photo: US food stamps. (photo: Public Domain)
File photo: US food stamps. (photo: Public Domain)

Dishonest Fox Chart: Food Stamps Edition

By Matt Gertz, Media Matters for America

30 January 12


nother day, another dishonest Fox News chart. This time Fox is twisting the data to support Newt Gingrich's claim that President Obama is the "food stamp president" because "more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history."

On today's edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Mike Huckabee agreed, saying that "what Newt says remains factual: more people have gotten on food stamps under Barack Obama as he's president than ever before. So it's true." Guest host Eric Bolling agreed, adding that "under Obama the program has increased by 45 percent in three years." During the segment, Fox amplified the point with the following chart:

This chart adds to Fox News' record of using misleading charts to deceive their viewers. It features mismatched data that does not answer the question of whether "more people have gotten on food stamps" under Obama than any under other president (spoiler alert: they haven't).

The data for Presidents Richard Nixon through George W. Bush comes from this table of average food stamp participation by fiscal year, but the reason each specific fiscal year's data was selected for each president is a mystery. It appears that Fox's intention was to select the year of each presidency with the highest participation. However, the fact that the data is compiled by fiscal year seems to have caused their employees some confusion, which we will detail below. Moreover, the chart does not compare those fiscal year averages to a comparable figure, the average number of beneficiaries in a fiscal year of the Obama presidency. Instead, the 46.2 million figure Fox labels "Obama (2012)" refers to the number of beneficiaries in October 2011, the first month of fiscal year 2012 and the most recent month in which data is available.

Fox's data does not show how many people were added to the rolls under the tenures of the various presidents, which would indicate whether Gingrich, Huckabee, and Bolling are correct in stating that "more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history." Instead, the data appears to attempt to answer the question of whether more people are currently enrolled in food stamps than were enrolled under any other president., by contrast, created a chart aimed at determining whether the "food stamp president" claim is accurate, based on month-to-month figures rather than the more confusing fiscal year data. Their chart shows that more recipients were added to the rolls under George W. Bush's tenure than under Obama's: reported:

But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.

And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama's time in office than during Bush's.

It's possible that when the figures for January 2012 are available they will show that the gain under Obama has matched or exceeded the gain under Bush. But not if the short-term trend continues. The number getting food stamps declined by 43,528 in October. And the economy has improved since then.

A look at the data further reveals that Obama's tenure also has not seen the largest increase in food stamp participants by percentage. CBS News noted that the increase in food stamps enrollment "hardly makes Obama the 'best food stamp president in American history,' " pointing out that the "percent increase in beneficiaries during Mr. [George W.] Bush's presidency was higher than it has been under Mr. Obama."

In addition to answering the wrong question, Fox selects data on an inconsistent and frankly confusing basis. The figures selected show that the network either did not apply a consistent standard as to whether or not fiscal years that feature a change of president are counted for the outgoing president, or were not seeking to provide the year of each presidency featuring the highest number of food stamp beneficiaries.

Fox uses fiscal year 1993's figure of 27 million beneficiaries for George H.W. Bush; that period ran from October 1, 1992 through September 30, 1993, largely covering a period in which Bill Clinton was president. This suggests that Fox is including any fiscal year in which a president served at all as qualifying for inclusion.

Under that standard, Fox should have used fiscal year 2009 for George W. Bush, when the food stamps program had 33.5 million beneficiaries. That would have created a substantially smaller gap between that bar and Obama's.

Note that by featuring the peak food stamp enrollments of the Clinton and first Bush presidencies, the chart wipes out how participation plummeted from fiscal year 1994 through the end of Clinton's second term, and subsequently rose dramatically under the second Bush presidency.

Whichever standard Fox is using, Reagan's figure of 21.6 million in fiscal year 1983 is not the highest of his presidency.

Of course, both the chart and the Fox segment ignore the reason so many Americans are currently on food stamps: the economic downturn that began during the George W. Bush administration. That isn't data we'll see on Fox any time soon. your social media marketing partner


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+105 # pernsey 2012-01-30 21:07
If Fox News says it...its more then likely dishonest.

Fox News = Spin, dishonesty, and uber right wing slant. Facts need not apply.
+91 # BradFromSalem 2012-01-30 21:20
I can't believe that anyone buys the crap that Obama is the Food Stamp President. What the heck does that mean? It is a totally meaningless orphaned piece of data. It has no context, as Media Matters points out. It is equivalent to shouting out "We're Number 1!" (You are Number Six) Number 1 at what? Being a jerk?

And then Fox goes on to try to give it context and only effectively strips it of any lingering connection to real data analysis.

Lets just keep teaching to the test and soon nobody will realize that phony stats are not stats, they are just phony.
+27 # Erdajean 2012-01-31 00:22
Yeah, it's of no matter if what they say is a lie -- what matters is, does it work for them? Does the average dolt with a beer in front of the TV believe it? SURE -- and gets as mad as hell at "liberals" for wanting to feed people. Whether we can turn this unspeakable tsunami of stupidity, to keep everything true and human and decent from swamping, is the task before us.
But first, we've got to find candidates who are willing to face a relentless flood of lies and abuse, for a chance to honestly serve the people. The biggest order of our times.
+28 # AndreM5 2012-01-31 10:02
"What the heck does that mean?"

Like every bit of Fox propaganda, this is pure red-meat code. It is the current version of Raygun's fictional "welfare Queen in a Cadillac." That one didn't require any factual basis either, but as code for racism it worked very well.
+103 # lincolnimp 2012-01-30 23:16 say food stamps like it's a bad thing. I'm looking forward to a world in which food stamps will not be needed, but until that beautiful day, I say "increase them and feed all the hungry".... I'm just saying
+21 # BradFromSalem 2012-01-31 06:59

Are trying to put Fox out of business? No food stamps to complain about, no poor and hungry people to blame all the world's ills on. All they will have left is telling us which bar we can find Lindsay Lohan showing off how pretty she is.
+22 # Regina 2012-01-31 00:06
The Republican dingbats conveniently omit the fact that their 8-year toot drove more people into neediness, making them eligible for the assistance that was denied them until Obama became president. DUH! The food stamps are the help -- the preceding regime with its unfunded wars and its disgusting stupidity in the face of natural disasters (remember Katrina and the formaldehyde-lo aded trailers?) was the perpetrator that made such help necessary. But of course the 1%-owned media don't explain this to the slogan-gullible electorate.
+8 # barbaratodish 2012-01-31 00:20
Maybe Fox TV included in their "data" any pictures on postage, etc., stamps that included food! lol
+24 # pernsey 2012-01-31 00:35
I think saying Obama is the food stamp president is a round about racial slur. Thats just my opinion, but if Fox Noise says it, Im sure Im right.
+13 # BradFromSalem 2012-01-31 12:05
Ya think?

It ain't round about. It is direct from the mouth of one of original zealots of right wing code words, Newt (the lizard) Gingrich. (Actual lizards I am truly sorry about the unfortunate linkage.)
0 # pernsey 2012-01-31 21:05
Quoting LiberalLibertarian:
Ya think?

It ain't round about. It is direct from the mouth of one of original zealots of right wing code words, Newt (the lizard) Gingrich. (Actual lizards I am truly sorry about the unfortunate linkage.)

Yeah I do!
+4 # unitedwestand 2012-02-01 02:29
I actually had a newt lizard once, he was not that smart, he just looked like he was. One day when I wasn't home, he thought he could have it all, jumped out of his water tank, didn't find him again until I moved a large piece of furniture a year later. He was all dried up too. :->
+12 # heraldmage 2012-01-31 00:35
Fox news = lies + liars, misrepresentati ons & fabrications.
Fox news = war hawks fabricating conflict to control of natural resources & force compliance with USA economic policy or starve.
That worked in the early - mid 1900's won't work now.
When will USA citizens realize they are being manipulated by right wing media to assure the continuation of capitalism and neo-feudalism.
WE can stop it. It is time for the 99% to become politically active. Not by joining the Dems but by taking over the Green Party before its convention create 99% / Green Party Platform & support candidates for Congress, State & local positions no uncontested elections.
The only way for the people to win this battle is to take control of the government at all levels through the electoral process
+19 # istealllamas 2012-01-31 01:10
I mean, I think Fox News is full of shit and all that, and what they said here was technically wrong, but it's kind of silly to quote the FactCheck story that says Obama's food stamp growth has been 14.2 million, while Bush's was 14.7 million (over a period that was five years longer).

Also, all the links in this article are messed up.

Anyway, Obama wouldn't be the "food stamp president" if we had a more reasonable distribution of wealth in this country. But yeah, fuck it, let's just make the rich people richer, and when the poor people have to get food stamps to get by, let's blame Obama. Makes sense. Oh, conservatives, you're just so REASONABLE.
+14 # MizKatz 2012-01-31 01:18
If Newt-Fox et. al. repeats it over and over again, it becomes "fact." It is up to the Dems and ObamaPeople to REFUTE, REFUTE, AND REFUTE...they and he cannot go on ignoring these toxic crazies because they won't go away. They distract. They do damage.

Here we are -- early into Obama's fourth year as President and crazy Orly Taitz is still pouring lighter fluid on the unextinguished embers of the Birther movement, as other fringe mental cases are starting up with theories about Obama's true sexual orientation, and now Newt is rolling out the 2012 version of Reagan's Chicago Welfare Queen through Fox's megaphone. Funny how we hear so little from him and MSM about his own indictment and fall from grace.
+11 # lotuslover 2012-01-31 01:30
If I remember right, the Food Stamp program replace the surplus Commodities program. Food Stamps were (are) run by the Department of Agriculture and in large part was designed to move food--as opposed to surplus flour and butter--off the shelves of grocers. It, not coincidentally, also moved crops and livestock off the farm by increasing demand among those who otherwise couldn't buy as much food. Conservatives love to trash Food Stamps the Program. They are, in fact, trashing a proven government program that is as effective as much of the military procurement processes--thin k F35 spare engine program, or the Bradly Fighting Machine. 'Cept with Food Stamps, poor people get better nutrition and their kids have a better chance of growing up healthy.
+15 # universlman 2012-01-31 02:00
looks like huckabee and the other foxes would like to see them starve
+19 # nancyw 2012-01-31 02:09
Of course they never admit to the fact that Bush caused the increased economic problem to begin with. Who can fix that man's 8 years of destruction with 3 years of Obama's presidency? Or anyone's presidency. It didn't get worse. It got better for many. At least there is a food stamp program for those in need.
+13 # AndreM5 2012-01-31 10:06
With anything approaching enlightenment and intellegence in Washington (meaning a stunning absence of lobbyists), we should be well on our way to recovery by now. 3 years is enough to make a dent but the measures were too small, neutered by Boner. we allowed Congress to be taken over by loons who drove us off a cliff.
+12 # Regina 2012-01-31 11:54
Don't forget to factor in the three years of Republican NO-O-O for any Obama ideas, including those they previously proposed and sponsored. And they got their paychecks all through their national DISservice.
+12 # MainStreetMentor 2012-01-31 05:48
Faux News doesn't want to be accurate ... just prolific. Sadly, the persons who watch that devious Rupert Murdoch generated "side-show" ... believe it.
+7 # stonecutter 2012-01-31 06:06
Beautiful comment.

For some reason (As Cagney said in "White Heat", "Maybe I AM nuts!"), I always remembered a scene from the original 1953 "War of the Worlds", when Gene Barry explains how the ominous Martian "death ray" may actually work: he describes a special atom that holds all matter together, and if the ray blasts that atom, matter ceases to exist; tanks, buildings and people go poof! Run for the hills!

The "atoms" of trust and credibility that were the bona fides, the glue of respected authority in the government and media for most ordinary Americans, have been blasted asunder by a "death ray" of cynicism and sustained top-down class warfare, masked as noble concern for deficits and debt. It's Grover Norquist's so far successful "Starve the Beast" strategy. The "true-believers " of the tea party, most of whom should be aligned with the left based on their own economic interests, instead are co-opted by the 1% as useful idiots in this charade. Their atomic fears, ignorance and racism easily trump their moral compass and even their wallets. There's a photo circulating on FB of Reagan and his crew standing in a tight circle, probably in the White House, drinks in hand, celebrating something and listening to a shared joke. They're laughing heartily at the punchline. The caption reads "And then we told them wealth would 'trickle down'".
That photo sums up the effects of the 1% "death ray" on the rest of us. Poofff!
0 # Hey There 2012-02-01 14:30
All good comments here. I'd click twice on yours but we are only allowed one click
+8 # 666 2012-01-31 06:08
this is exactly the mindless stupidity embraced by "no child left behind" - a population of people too dumb to think for themselves. someone should make a movie... oh wait, they already did "Idiocracy".
+5 # fernly2 2012-01-31 06:19
Hitler and other despots would deny food, shelter, and education for the purpose of genocide. I see a mustache on the 1%. For the rest of us pass HR1489 and imitate NAWAPA--the only logical
way to reduce the use of food stamps.
+11 # SouthBrun 2012-01-31 06:44
Food stamps have such a negative connatation from Fox and the Republicans, that you could almost deduce that the stamps were for all expense paid vacations. WRONG! Basic food is not a paid vacation.It is not The Wheel of Fortune!
+18 # walt 2012-01-31 06:51
After eight years of Bush, it's a wonder the number needing food stamps isn't greater!

He sold the country out with exporting jobs, two wars, and incredible debt!

Will he ever be held accountable for the lies for war??
+12 # Nominae 2012-01-31 06:52
Folks, it is a slow news day indeed when we need to point out that a Propaganda Channel like Fox news is still producing lies and propaganda. That's what they do.

"In other news today, Joseph Goebbels is still dead". But Fox carries on.

Remember, Roger Ailes could not introduce Fox up in Canada, bcuz Canada still has laws against lying during a "news" segment.

That fact alone pretty much says it all.
-20 # 2012-01-31 06:57
The name-calling also strikes me as inane so I agree with the basic thrust of the article in that respect. And I don't even particularly blame Obama for our economic woes -- they were baked into the system before he took office. I do blame him for not taking the necessary steps to eliminate the causes of our economic woes but that is another story.

That said, it seems equally unfair to compare Bush's eight year growth figure with Obama's three year growth figure. If it were a relevant statistic (and I don't believe it is), one would need to compare the RATE of growth in the program to adjust for the inequal time periods. And by that measure, Obama has presided over a dramatically higher rate of growth in enrollment than Bush.

In my neighborhood, food stamps have become an alternative currency. People trade them in for drugs and booze/cigarette money at a fairly high exchange rate. At a minimum Obama's Administration should do something to limit the fraud in the system and I see nothing like that in the cards.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+19 # BradFromSalem 2012-01-31 12:19

I truly doubt that the percentage of folks that trade their food stamp cards for drugs, etc. is significant. The fact is that much of the fraud that used to take place has been eliminated. Those stamps you see in the photo atop this article are hardly used anymore. Nowadays the recipient gets a debit card. Each item's UPC is checked against a database to determine if that item is food stamp eligible.

There will always be fraud in any government program, but why is it that when the fraud is committed in a program designed to help poor people, a single case of fraud is enough to condemn the entire program?

Could it be connected to Right Wing Elitism and Subconscious Racism?

Not possible. Right Wingers are not elitists or Racists, they are merely people that have jobs, unless Black people took them away because of affirmative action. Is that the story we are supposed to believe?
+9 # cordleycoit 2012-01-31 08:13
Imagine people so stupid they believe Fox News.News services lie and Fox was stated to lie. Look at what happened at the Wall Street Journal, once the gold standard, now Dreck
+13 # Karlus58 2012-01-31 08:25
The only meaningful question to arise from this chart is facing us right in the nose.....Why? Why has there been an increase in the necessity for our citizens to utilize the Food Stamp program? I'd like to see how they spin this obvious question.
+10 # pernsey 2012-01-31 10:12
Quoting Karlus58:
The only meaningful question to arise from this chart is facing us right in the nose.....Why? Why has there been an increase in the necessity for our citizens to utilize the Food Stamp program? I'd like to see how they spin this obvious question.

They would make something up and tout it as fact until the Fox audience sheeple repeat it as fact. Like they always do!
+16 # Jim 2012-01-31 08:35
Caring for the poor, many of whom were relegated to their current shakey economic status by shoddy GOP tax policy and de-regulation, is somehow a bad thing? When these socialism hating super-Christian s speak so viciously against everything Jesus spoke for, lived for and died for, they really are falling into the trap that the corporate agenda sets. What a sad scenario. America is creating hell on earth for millions; lending a helping hand would be what - anti-American?
+19 # wsh 2012-01-31 09:07
Maybe, just MAYBE, if the Rep.-controlled Congress hadn't gutted the Presidents jobs initiatives and stimulus packages, some of the people currently on food stamps could BUY their own food since they'd be working...

If Faux News were honest about it (Hah! What a laugh!), they'd call the 111th and 112th Congresses, "The Food Stamp Congresses".
+12 # kyzipster 2012-01-31 09:30
Even if Fox and the rest of the Republicans did have the facts on their side, it doesn't change the fact that Obama inherited the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Of course people are suffering.

Republicans have managed to blame the catastrophe of the conservative era of the last 30 years on Obama, that is the story.
+6 # Interested Observer 2012-01-31 09:36
Fox News is a lying lackey of the corporate state, and its majority stake in the GOP. We knew that,so this is barely news. What the charts seem to show is the irrelevance of Bush, Obama and any successors. A colorblind view shows that the trend is up and there is no significant bump at the boundary of administrations . Someone will have to show me the end in sight. The evisceration of the middle class and increased retention of wealth at the top over an increasingly subsistence mentality below is proceeding apace.
+11 # reiverpacific 2012-01-31 12:19
Al that this shows is that statistics can be spun to make them say anything you want.
It's a whole sub-section of economics a.k.a. Socio-Economic Engineering (my term) and colored to appeal to the opiate-seekers who are glued to their fick'rin' screens.
The proof of the stinking pudding is the lack of work and opportunity still persistent and people sleeping in the streets -and they haven't even mentioned the small business community which hasw been decimated -no bail-out there; -and no safety net either.
Again, one is reminded of Dicken's now much more than seasonal phrase "Are there no prisons? No workhouses?"
Food stamps wouldn't even exist if it were up to Rep's and I expect to see claims increase as long as the owner-class prospers inversely.
+7 # tbcrawford 2012-01-31 12:42
Sadly, real education has been denied the 99%. If folks want good TV, check out Moyers and Company for starters. Welcome back Bill...
+2 # bobby t. 2012-01-31 15:03
100% of "some" people can be fooled 100% of the time. let's concentrate on those people. g.w. that somewhere recently....and that is fox's mantra too. it is easier to see things in black and white, literally and figuratively. what if it said, more poor redneck white people are getting food stamps under obama?
+4 # 1984 2012-01-31 16:44
George Wacko Bush used to make a "to the nation" speech on TV very very often. They were mostly speeches relating to the war effort in Iraq---telling us what he did and why. I remember thinking "Wow! He can go on TV anytime he wants and of course promote his program without anyone else there to debate it.
Well, I wish Obama would do the same thing and tell the public about
Fox's would need to be worked into a speech about a non campaign issue...but it can be done. In general he has not taken advantage of this forum
+7 # cypress72 2012-01-31 16:58
Newt Gingrich has been caught in many, many lies. Why do you even pay attention to him?? Pray that he is the Republican nominee and Obama will do so much damage to him and the Republicans Party that they may lose the House and they certainly won't win the Senate. Get out the vote if you want to win in November.
-1 # berensmann 2012-02-01 00:06
The poor get food stamps and the wealthy get tax breaks...fair, no?
+1 # Feral Dogz 2012-02-02 12:32
No, not fair. No food stamp recipient ever got rich scamming the system the way the rich do.
0 # stonecutter 2012-02-01 09:16
Last night on MSNBC in the post-Florida primary coverage, after Al Sharpton engaged the spokesperson for the Gingrich SuperPAC in a heated exchange about Gingrich's coded race-baiting campaign rhetoric in Florida, Rachel Maddow thanked the Gingrich guy for coming on and said "It was a lot of FUN".

FUN? A guy comes on to excuse, rationalize or deny Gingrich's transparent race-baiting appeal to the northern Florida electorate, which rewarded him with victory in virtually all counties in that region of the state, and Maddow, the current "Joan of Arc" of the left, an open Lesbian, obsequiously tells this guy, after Sharpton angrily takes him apart, that it was "FUN".

Was this a staged performance? Do these fools come on, complicit with the anchors questioning them, arguing with them, to provide the audience with a "fun" viewing experience? This toadie, claiming to "know" Newt as a caring, compassionate guy who just wants to lift all Americans, including blacks, up and out of poverty-at the same time he's labeling Obama the "food stamp" president or the "singing, entertainer in chief"-is defending raw racial politics in the deep south, where Newt has his best chance of countering Romney the "MA Moderate". Sorry, Rachel, it's the opposite of fun to listen to this garbage, notwithstanding your persistent need to kiss ass with these right wingers, in order to obnoxiously demonstrate your bona fides as a respectful, "balanced" pundit. Not "fun".
-2 # jerryball 2012-02-01 15:11
Hey, if Newt, the Junior College Blowhard, says it, it may be true? If Fox strains to prove it ... well Alex Trebeck will likely dismiss it.
-2 # ozken 2012-02-01 19:42
Interestingly, the phonosemantic effect that the word Gingrich has on people is small, mean, bad, short, angular. Phonosemantic means that that when people hear the word it generates unconsciously these negative words. I wonder why? Not.
0 # reiverpacific 2012-02-04 18:08
Quoting ozken:
Interestingly, the phonosemantic effect that the word Gingrich has on people is small, mean, bad, short, angular. Phonosemantic means that that when people hear the word it generates unconsciously these negative words. I wonder why? Not.

0 # rabbitty 2012-02-01 21:58
I wish some group could take them on and beat them out of the studios. They are lying filth. I saw a poll where 47% of the people think faux news is the best. That evokes a jaw drop. Who are these people who so willingly believe a lie?
The rethugs want an ignorant population. Another poll said that conservatives and racists and tea party types are linked to a lower IQ. Less able to adapt, more fearful. I would feel sorry for them if they were not so smug about themselves.
0 # Feral Dogz 2012-02-02 12:45
Conservatives' ignorance and stupidity coupled to their digusting sense of entitlement makes fertile ground for Fox's cultivation of racism with the manure of lies.

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