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

Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a piece today [1] 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 [2]. (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 [3]):  “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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [3] 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.