Fox News misleadingly hyped a minor rise in food stamp fraud in an attempt to demonize the program, failing to note it has one of the lowest fraud rates of all federal programs, fraud remains at historically low levels, and the slight increase in fraud reflects an increase in overall enrollment in food supplement initiatives.
On August 15, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new report on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, which found that benefit trafficking -- "when SNAP recipients sell their benefits for cash to food retailers, often at a discount" -- had risen slightly from 1.0 percent of total SNAP benefits in 2006-2008 to just 1.3 percent in 2009-2011.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade hyped this minor difference on the August 19 edition of Fox & Friends, focusing on the change in fraud levels while failing to report how little fraud was found in the program:
KILMEADE: 30 percent. That's how many more Americans, according to a new study, are selling food stamps for cash illegally. No, Steve, that's not legal. Nearly 48 million people receive food stamps. The program costs $80 billion a year.
In fact, according to the USDA, SNAP benefit trafficking has "remained relatively steady at approximately one cent on the dollar," and the program "continues to have one of the lowest fraud rates for Federal programs." Furthermore, rates of trafficking have declined since the 90s and the current rate of trafficking remains near historic lows:
According to the USDA, a "substantial portion" of the minor rise in benefit trafficking "is due to the growth in the program," as the total number of SNAP benefits jumped during the recent economic crisis from $36 billion in 2008 to $73 billion in 2011. The USDA also noted that the rise is partly due to the increased number of small and medium-sized businesses which are authorized to accept SNAP benefits, as small retailers accounted for 85 percent of the fraudulent redemptions identified.
The USDA has taken steps to decrease the small amount of SNAP benefit fraud, including permanently disqualifying over 1000 retailers that engaged in trafficking, suspending retailers suspected of serious fraud, more frequently reviewing high-risk retailers, and cracking down on fraud online.
Kilmeade's misleading report is just another example of how Fox News has shamelessly misrepresented the SNAP program and its beneficiaries in an effort to demonize food assistance and malign low-income Americans.
Fox previewed the Republican National Committee vote on Chairman Reince Priebus' proposed boycott of 2016 primary debates hosted by CNN and NBC over their planned productions about Hillary Clinton, but ignored the RNC's hypocrisy in not extending the ban to Fox News after reports surfaced that Fox Television Studios may produce the NBC miniseries.
Priebus announced on August 5 that the GOP planned to boycott any primary debates hosted by the news divisions of CNN and NBC if the networks' sister companies, CNN Films and NBC Entertainment, failed to abandon plans to produce and air programs about Hillary Clinton in advance of the 2016 presidential election. Like Media Matters, CNN and NBC on-air personalities expressed concerns about possible conflicts of interests and problems with objectivity regarding the Clinton productions.
During an August 6 interview on Fox's America's Newsroom, Priebus hinted that his true goal was avoiding moderators likely to refuse his candidates special treatment -- as he put it: "moderators who are not serving the best interests of the candidates." And after The New York Times reported on August 9 that Fox's sister company Fox Television Studios may end up producing NBC's planned Clinton miniseries, he admitted that the ban would not extend to Fox News.
But Fox & Friends' August 16 coverage of the RNC vote made no mention of Priebus' hypocrisy or of Fox Television Studio's possible involvement in the Clinton productions. Co-host Brian Kilmeade only said that delegates at the RNC would be "giving serious thought to boycotting the 2016 debates if CNN and NBC go ahead with plans to air special programs about Hillary Clinton" in an upcoming RNC vote. Fox correspondent Molly Line followed up with more detail, but similarly omitted the story's full context [emphasis added]:
LINE: Well, this meeting today really could have a big impact on debates, especially in the near future. The RNC expecting to have this vote today weighing in on whether or not to ban CNN and NBC essentially, for the RNC to refuse to participate in debates with those networks, because they're planning to air documentaries featuring Hillary Clinton. The vote would mean the RNC would not partner with those networks in the presidential primary debates in 2016, and they wouldn't sanction any primary debates that they sponsor. According to the RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer, they don't want a news organization tipping the scales in this election.
Fox News hosts mislead viewers and each other by hyping the cost of a White House plan to fund high-speed Wi-Fi for schools while obscuring the plan's small impact on individual taxpayers.
On June 6, the White House unveiled the ConnectED initiative, a plan that would give 99 percent of American students access to "high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless" at school by 2018. The plan would be funded through a minimal tax increase on mobile phone users, which the as The Washington Post reported, "could work out to about $12 in fees for every cellphone user over three years."
Fox News similarly reported on the August 15 edition of Fox & Friends First that the initiative would only cost individual consumers about five dollars per year.
But a few hours later on Fox & Friends, the hosts and contributors seemed unable to accurately report what the predicted cost would be for individuals. Though co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Fox Business contributor Charles Payne to specify how much the initiative would "cost each of us as individuals," Payne claimed the "administration doesn't say" and instead hyped the program's net cost and unspecified higher taxes on the middle class:
PAYNE: The administration doesn't say. There's some estimates say it costs like $6 billion but you know how these estimates are when the government gets involved. We know It's going to be multibillions and billions of dollars. It's going to hit individuals, this brings us to the third point. Middle-class taxes, you know, there won't be middle-class tax hikes, but we know already there have been. These are the kinds of things that are taxes on normal, regular people. This would be a tax on every single person watching the show who didn't get a free phone from the government, they are going to have to chip in.
Later, a Fox News reporter once again explained that the increase would only be about five dollars per year, but Carlson remained confused about the ConnectED program's expected cost to individual consumers, saying in a subsequent segment: "I think it would be about $5 a year, or maybe $5 a billing cycle. I'm not exactly sure. But the entire cost is $4 to $6 billion."
Payne and Carlson both followed the media's common practice of relying on abstract and sensational raw number figures when discussing budgetary issues while either ignoring or misreporting the context that would make those figures relevant to viewers. Economists have noted that focusing on raw numbers rather than budgetary percentages or individual costs in economic reporting is often little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the economy. And Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Fox News ridiculed a rise in group doctor visits as the network claimed that it will become more prevalent with the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's coverage of this trend ignored reporting that group treatment can be a successful strategy for reducing healthcare costs and improving patients' health.
On the August 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson, Jr. introduced one of the show's regular "Who's Ruining The Economy" segments with the question: "[I]s less one on one time with your doctor going to be the new future under Obamacare?" before welcoming Fox News contributor Charles Payne on to discuss the increasing trend of doctors offering group appointments. After Johnson ridiculed the group doctor visits as "group therapy ... people sitting around in underwear talking about their problems," Payne predicted that it would be one of the "gimmicks" that the ACA would come to rely on to address doctor shortages as health insurance enrollment increases:
PAYNE: And these numbers, I think, are probably underscoring what's gonna really happen. Because you and I know a lot of doctors who are saying you know I want to opt out of this whole thing completely, I'll just take cash. I mean, the best doctors will be able to command cash payments from good patients, or well-off patients. So, the reality is that those numbers are probably going to be significantly higher. And again, the gimmicks will be group therapy. The gimmicks will be, you know what, I can't see you but my nurse has been with me for a long time. She's equally qualified.
Fox neglected to mention that group doctor visits have been shown to be effective at improving doctors' efficiency and the standard of care that some patients receive.
As Johnson noted, group appointments have been on the rise in recent years. In 2005, just 5.7 percent of family physicians offered group sessions, but by 2010, the number had more than doubled to 12.7 percent. Dr. Edward Noffsinger, a physician who advises others on how to implement group appointments, says that patients have highlighted the advantages of the joint care. "Patients like the diversity of issues discussed," he told Kaiser Health News, adding, "they like getting 2 hours with their doctor." Patients may also learn more in a group setting, Kaiser Health News reported: "[d]octors say patients may learn more from each other than they do from physicians."
Research has shown that group appointments can improve the quality of care that patients receive. NPR highlighted an Italian trial of more than 800 type 2 diabetes patients which found that those randomly assigned to participate in group appointments for period of four years "had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass indexes." And according to Time, "[a]bout 85% of patients who try shared medical appointments don't go back to individual visits for everything from diabetes care to weight loss, physicals and skin cancer issues." Time also noted that "[w]hile group visits cost about the same as individual ones, if patients receive more information and are better able to improve and protect their health, they are less likely to develop serious medical conditions that require expensive care later on."
Media personalities on broadcast network Sunday shows advanced the right-wing myth that the Obama administration has given Congress a special exemption from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ignoring that the decision fixed a problem that would have treated congressional employees differently from all other Americans.
Following right-wing media's efforts to portray an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) rule clarification as an "exemption" or "dispensation" to congressional staffers, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol appeared on the August 11 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday and suggested that Congress was not "covered by the same rules as the rest of the country" with respect to the health care law:
On Meet the Press, CNN contributor Ana Navarro similarly focused on the decision, complaining of "strategic cut-outs" and claiming that the administration has "been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare":
NAVARRO: But I also think, you know, it's rather rich for the president to be throwing stones that way when what we've seen is an administration that has been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare whether it's for corporations or for congressional staff. So maybe he should talk about implementing the whole thing he passed and not doing these exceptions that I'm very disappointed Republicans and Democrats stayed quiet on the exceptions for the congressional staff that were made this last week. There should be more focus on well, if you passed it, live with it, instead of rather than making these very strategic cut-outs.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees the health benefits of federal government employees, responded to the ACA's Grassley amendment with a rule clarification. The amendment requires members of Congress and their staffs to enter the exchanges that were otherwise intended for people without access to employer-based coverage. OPM's decision allows the government to contribute to insurance premiums for members of Congress and staffers moved to the ACA exchanges.
In the Health Affairs blog, health care expert Timothy Jost noted that "[f]ar from exempting Congress from ACA requirements, as some have reported, the amendment subjects members to a legal requirement that will apply to no other Americans."
Jost further explained that Congress would have no way to pay for their employees' coverage through the law because the exchanges were meant to provide access to health care for individuals and small businesses, and that staffers would not receive a tax credit to help pay for coverage because their salaries are generally above the limit for premium subsidies. This would, in effect, force them to pay the full price of their insurance for no reason.
The Obama administration's compromise is to permit the federal government to contribute toward employee insurance on the exchanges, but to render those employees ineligible for any tax credits or subsidies.
"Members of Congress and their staff must go into the exchange," said an administration official. "No ands, ifs, or buts. They will not be eligible in any way for subsidies or tax credits. But they don't lose their current employer contribution."
Fox News hyped a poll showing that a majority of people think the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, would increase the deficit and raise their taxes and insurance premiums, claiming that these polls debunked what President Obama has said about the law. But nonpartisan estimates have consistently shown that the ACA lowers the deficit, IRS rules show that the law's payroll tax increases only affect high-income Americans, and reports show the law is already saving many Americans money.
Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich smeared Hillary Clinton by claiming that she lied in a speech honoring the victims of the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. But Pavlich is distorting Clinton's remarks.
Fox & Friends covered the announcement that NBC's entertainment division is planning to air a new mini-series focused on Hillary Clinton's "life as a wife, mother, politician and cabinet member" sometime before 2015. Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich used the segment as an opportunity to smear Clinton, saying:
PAVLICH: Although Diane Lane is a fantastic actress, I doubt she can act as well as Hillary Clinton did when she lied about that YouTube video in front of flag-draped caskets of Americans as they came home from being killed in Benghazi. So it's going to be really hard for her to top that performance.
But in her remarks, Clinton mentioned the wave of protests at U.S. embassies in the region, which repeated news reports said were in response to an anti-Islam video that was posted on YouTube. From Clinton's remarks [emphasis added]:
In the days since the attack, so many Libyans - including the Ambassador from Libya to the United States, who is with us today - have expressed their sorrow and solidarity. One young woman, her head covered and her eyes haunted with sadness, held up a handwritten sign that said "Thugs and killers don't represent Benghazi nor Islam." The President of the Palestinian Authority, who worked closely with Chris when he served in Jerusalem, sent me a letter remembering his energy and integrity, and deploring - and I quote - "an act of ugly terror." Many others from across the Middle East and North Africa have offered similar sentiments.
This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.
Pavlich's description of Clinton's "performance" is a reference to is the administration's early contention that an anti-Muslim YouTube video played a role in sparking the Benghazi attacks, which Fox has long attacked as a "lie" and some sort of cover-up. But unclassified talking points produced by the intelligence community linked the video to the Benghazi attack, and The New York Times reported that the Benghazi attackers "did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video."
Fox News attacked President Obama's July 25 suggestion that "phony scandals" are a distraction in Washington, claiming that he was referencing attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya and calling the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi "phony." Yet Obama made no mention of Benghazi, and it's Fox who has pushed dozens of phony Benghazi conspiracy theories since the attacks took place in September 2012.
Fox News continued its smear campaign against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, by hyping an evidence-free claim that recipients are using the program to send food overseas.
A July 21 New York Post story claimed that low-income New Yorkers were using SNAP funds to purchase food to send overseas. The Post based its claims on anecdotes from unnamed sources at two New York supermarkets that "confirmed the practice," but failed to include specifics. The anonymous woman that the Post provided as its sole example of the practice was not a SNAP beneficiary:
Last week, a woman stuffed dozens of boxes of macaroni and evaporated milk into a barrel headed for her family in Kingston, Jamaica. She said she didn't have welfare benefits and bought the food herself.
"This is all worth more than $2,000," she said. "I've been shopping since last December. You can help somebody else, someone who doesn't live in this country."
A man helping her pack the barrel said: "We're poor here, and they're poor. But what we can get here is like luxury to them."
You're paying for food stamps for foreigners? The New York Post reports that welfare recipients in New York City are buying groceries and sending them in giant barrels to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The Agriculture Department won't investigate. That will be up to individual states. Thanks.
Meet The Press host David Gregory misrepresented the Affordable Care Act's "medicare surtax" to suggest that it will be felt by "anybody who gets a paycheck in this country," though the provisions will only affect individuals with an annual income above $200,000.
Beginning with 2013 tax returns, new tax provisions included in the Affordable Care Act will begin to take effect. Though most Americans will only see a tax increase if they decide to forgo health coverage, some changes designed to increase fairness in Medicare funding will begin to affect the wealthiest Americans.
Gregory misled about this change during a discussion about the Affordable Care Act implementation process on the July 7 edition of NBC's Meet the Press. He noted that while he didn't understand all the "ins and outs" of the healthcare law, its Medicare tax increases were one thing that would be apparent to all working Americans on their paychecks.
Gregory's claim failed to recognize that both of the healthcare law's Medicare tax increases affect only the wealthiest of Americans. A 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax increase will apply to individual earners whose annual income exceeds $200,000 or households earning more than $250,000 - a group representing only 4.2 percent of taxpayers. An additional 3.8 percent tax will apply to the investment income of some Americans. As Forbes noted, "for individuals who have little or no net investment income, their 3.8% Medicare Surtax will be minimal if not zero."
According to the White House, the changes are designed to increase fairness in a system that is highly regressive. Currently, Americans with substantial unearned income do not pay into the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund as workers do, and payroll tax caps decrease the percentage that high-earners contribute.