Actually, Obama’s critique of Foxx was on the mark

Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a piece today implying that President Obama was somehow unfair to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx when he took her to task for the inane comments she recently made about student loans on, of all places, the Gordon Liddy Show. (As an aside, the mere fact that a member of Congress would go on the radio with that deranged old criminal ought to be grounds enough to criticize her).

Anyway, the N&O piece criticizes Obama for, it would seem, slightly misquoting Foxx. As it turns out, however, Obama was on the mark and the article gets its facts wrong.

Here is what Obama said: “One Republican congresswoman said just recently – I am going to quote this because I know you guys will think I’m making this up. She said she had ‘ very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.”’

Here is what Foxx really said (according to the Huffington Post):  “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that.”

Wow! What a shocking omission! Obama left out the specific dollar amounts Foxx mentioned. Is that really deserving of a news story? And does it really then provide justification for the N&O to tack on the following paragraph about Foxx’s supposed Horatio Alger upbringing?

“Foxx worked as a janitor in her high school in the Bronx, according to the Huffington Post. It took her seven years to get her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1968 at age 25 without borrowing any money, according to Huffington Post.”

The statements in this paragraph aren’t even right. The Huffington Post article does not say that Foxx worked as a janitor in a Bronx high school (which sounds extra tough). It says that her official Congressional Biography says that she worked for some indeterminate time as a janitor in the high school she attended in North Carolina.  

And actually, to make things even more amusing, her congressional biography (to which HuffPo linked) doesn’t even mention the janitor gig. A Wikipedia bio does, but it doesn’t say how long it lasted, etc…

So big deal! She had a job in high school.

Also, it’s also worth noting that the article’s statement that it took her seven years to graduate from UNC (thus implying that she somehow tirelessly worked her way through) is also not confirmed by any bio I can find. All we know is that she graduated seven years after she got out of high school. For all we know, she took three years off and then graduated in four. The HuffPo article also doesn’t say anything about her graduating without any debt.

Lastly, it’s also worth asking how much tuition and fees were at UNC ins the mid-1960’s when Foxx attended. I’ll wager they weren’t more than a few hundred bucks per semester. Even allowing for inflation, there’s no way Foxx faced the burden confronting kids and their families today.

The bottom line: Obama was right to criticize Foxx, his statement was essentially accurate, the N&O story was silly and inaccurate and the tacked on paragraph making Foxx out to be some kind of heroine is not supported by any readily available and credible source.





  1. Tim

    April 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I cancelled my subscription to the N&O after more than 14 years after they printed a love letter to Art “let’s buy democracy” Pope. After reading this article and the original blog entry on the N&O, I see I did not make a poor decision.

  2. Andrew

    April 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Most folks are canceling their N & O subscriptions- it’s a totally worthless paper now.

  3. Frank Burns

    April 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    The News and Observer were correct in challenging Obama. Rep Fox was talking about these kids getting so much debt they put themselves in the hole when they graduate. $80,000 is a lot of debt for an Arts and Sciences major. Surely they could have stayed in the dorm instead of getting that apartment and living high on the hog. It is very irresponsible. This irrresponsibility is right in line with Obama’s spending pattern. He doesn’t work towards any budget, just spend, spend, spend.

  4. Melody

    April 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Unfortunately, Frank, you haven’t reviewed recent tuition, room, and board fees at UNC. For an in-state student, it costs 20K per year. This includes $5520 of housing for 9 months. If you do the math, living in a dorm costs $614 a month. I would consider dorm living to be ‘high on the hog.’ Here’s the link: http://admissions.unc.edu/Aid_and_Scholarships/Tuition_and_Fees/default.html

    I ended up getting a PhD from a Danish university where I was paid to attend college. I graduated debt free, when many of my colleagues are in debt from American universities to obtain the same degree. Now my salary pays for my living expenses and does not go towards paying back student loans.

    It is funny what a government can offer students, even international students, when their focus is on education and health care.

  5. Gene Hoglan

    April 26, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Rob Christensen labors under the delusion people dislike his column because he’s a super-centrist but really it’s because he just plain sucks.

  6. Andrew

    April 26, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Rob enjoys everything he writes !

  7. Jack

    April 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

    The comment referred to by President Obama revealed that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is callus toward students, her constituents and the people of North Carolina in general. When she insulted the students for their fiscal irresponsibility she insulted their parents of the same.

    Odd that when President Bush would spend, spend, spend trillions of dollars it was for the good of the country. When President Obama spends, spends, spends it’s due to fiscal irresponsibility rather than seen as cleaning up after the Bush administration.

    The Right-Wing-Nut-Jobs couldn’t care less about the people. Their language, attitude and actions in North Carolina and in Washington tell it all.

  8. gregflynn

    April 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

    When Foxx entered UNC-CH tuition was under $100 per semester.

  9. Rob Schofield

    April 26, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Thanks, Greg, Was trying to find that info.

  10. Sandi

    April 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    And let us not forget the money Foxx gets from the for-profit “universities”, like Phoenix, etc. And they disproportionately depend on Federally subsidized student loans. So, she’s talking out of both of her faces.

  11. david esmay

    April 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    @Frank, as the father of four college students, one graduated, two in college, and one at a CC, you and Foxx are both talking out of your backsides. Out kids don’t live high on the hog, they are getting by on scholarships, loans and working. My daughter was accepted to a graduate school that only accepts six students a year and had to opt out because we simply couldn’t afford it. The cost of higher education is being pushed out of the reach of the people who need it most. My daughter was lucky and got a well paying job that had nothing to do with her field of study. Going to college is an investment in yourself, but you shouldn’t have to leverage your future to get a degree. When I went to college 30 years ago it cost about 500 a semester, books 100-200, rent 125 a month, one of my kid’s books cost what I paid in rent. Everything has increased in cost exponentially, except wages.

  12. Frank Burns

    April 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    David, I don’t doubt that costs have gone up, but that’s the fault of the colleges and we keep giving in to tuition increases and never question them. Why don’t we? When costs go up higher than the rate of inflation, something is horribly wrong. I had to pay off my student loan, but I worked during holidays and summers to reduce what I had to borrow. Getting $80,000 or more in debt is not responsible.

  13. Frank Burns

    April 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I see that Mrs Obama spent $467,000 of US taxpayer money on her lavish Spanish vacation. Do you feel this is setting a good example for stewardship of tax payer funds? I see a pattern with this coupled with GSA fun trips, Secret Service wild times, and on and on. There is a culture of no regard for placing restrictions on spending. Is this what you are referring to in spending for the good of the country?

  14. Alex

    April 27, 2012 at 6:41 am

    It’s funny to me that Pelosi’s Democratic Congress created this whole darn mess in 2007, and are now trying to blame someone else. Now the government is in hock for over a trillion in loans because of them. They are the ones who put in the 6.8% escalation clause.

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