Fox News' Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that the "explosion of disability payments in this country" is an "undeniable" fact that contradicts President Obama's point that "we have not massively expanded the welfare state."
O'Reilly's comments came on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends during a discussion of his recent interview with President Obama. O'Reilly cited disability benefits as an example of what Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the "massively expanded the welfare state" and claimed that government is "getting conned like crazy" by disability beneficiaries. He failed to cite any further examples of the supposedly expanding "Nanny State" that Fox's on-air graphics hyped.
In reality, a recent study from the Social Security Administration's actuaries found that the total allowance rate for disability benefits has fallen significantly during Obama's presidency. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted, "[s]tandards don't become more lax in recessions, and stories that focus only on the growth in applications omit that crucial fact."
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When he said we have not massively expanded the welfare state, how could coffee not shoot out through your nose? I mean, that's just -- that is just not true!
O'REILLY: Well, it's theoretical and I wanted to stay away from that, but I had to hit him with the disability because that's the -- if you want to point to something that is undeniable, it's the explosion of disability payments in this country because as I pointed out, the workplace is safer than it was 20 years ago. Then what are all these people getting paid for? If you go into welfare, he'll go into recession. It's not my fault. I had to bail these people out. They're dying. If you go into unemployment, he's going to go there. He's going to use the economic maladies as justification. But if you go to something like disabilities where that's somebody who is going into the government saying look, I can't do this, give me money and the government says sure and doesn't check it out and everybody knows it. That's what I said, you see you're getting conned like crazy. It all goes back to the fact that he doesn't see this stuff as a welfare state. He sees it as necessary.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And that's the one thing that I don't get. That's an issue its not his fault, not his administration's fault, disability is exploding. That's where you focus on. 60 Minutes did 30 minutes on just the disability explosion in this country right now. And it would be apolitical and help our economy. But yet he doesn't see it that way. And unfortunately, we got three more years of this.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera apologized for calling Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman a "thug," a concession notable not only for Rivera's acknowledgement that the term had racial connotations but also because of the criticism Rivera faced for applying the term to Trayvon Martin.
Sherman became the target of heavy media criticism following comments he made about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in a January 19 post-game interview. As the sports blog Deadspin reported, the media used the term "thug" 625 times the day after Sherman's interview. Sherman later responded to the criticism by pointing out the racial undertones of the word "thug," arguing that "it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays."
On the January 31 edition of Fox & Friends, Rivera highlighted Sherman's comment and apologized for his role in the attacks:
RIVERA: I called Richard Sherman a thug when he ranted about Michael Crabtree. He said the use of the word thug was the new N-word. I pondered that. I have come to agree with Richard Sherman, the Stanford grad. I will never use the word thug in that context again.
Rivera's reversal is particularly noteworthy considering his past use of the term. In March 2012, Rivera came under fire for using the same term in an attack on Trayvon Martin. Rivera suggested that Martin's clothing choice was responsible for his death, saying that "it is reality" that minorities wearing hoodies "could attract the attention, not only of the cops, but of nutjobs apparently like this George Zimmerman." In July 2013, Rivera doubled down:
RIVERA: You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug. That's true. I stand by that.
The Wall Street Journal endorsed billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins' inflammatory suggestion that a "[p]rogressive Kristallnacht" may be soon be directed against the rich and dubbed subsequent criticism of the Nazi comparison "Perkinsnacht."
In a January 24 letter to the editor, Perkins hyped a supposed "progressive war on the American one percent" and compared it to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht, asking: "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?" In the following days, Perkins' letter received widespread criticism.
A January 29 Journal editorial -- headlined "Perkinsnacht" -- dismissed criticism of Perkins' Nazi reference as "unfortunate, albeit provocative," and claimed that Perkins' critics had proved his point: "the vituperation is making our friend's point about liberal intolerance -- maybe better than he did."
The Wall Street Journal isn't the first right-wing media source to throw support behind Perkins. On January 29, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin characterized the reaction to Perkin's letter as evidence of a "bullying epidemic" and "wealth-shaming" by "the grievance industry." Fox Business contributor Charles Payne went further, arguing that Perkins "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve."
The Wall Street Journal misleadingly attacked President Obama's decision to boost the minimum wage for federally contracted workers as an "ostentatious display of President Obama's intention to end run lawmakers and even the law," ignoring the fact that previous presidents set precedent for this type of action.
In his January 28 State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to issue an executive order that would require "federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour." As he said, "if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board responded to the president's announcement with the suggestion that Obama was acting like a "king" who "seems to think is a [sic] Democracy of One, or shall we say The One." The editorial attacked the president's plan as "the latest ostentatious display of President Obama's intention to end run lawmakers and even the law" and went on to deny the fact that increases in the minimum wage carry economic benefits or have any bearing on the "economy and efficiency" of the federal contracting process.
But the Journal ignored the fact that Obama isn't the first president to issue this type of order. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson took similar action to increase equal opportunity and nondiscrimination standards for federal workers. As The New York Times Taking Note blog reported:
Other presidents have used executive orders to upgrade labor standards for employees of federal contractors, including President Kennedy, who required federal contractors to have companywide equal employment opportunity plans, and President Johnson, who prohibited racial discrimination and other bias in hiring by federal contractors.
The non-partisan research center Demos has pointed to executive orders that "have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices" and further detailed presidential precedent:
From the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act to Executive Order 11246 of 1965, and a host of other laws and executive actions, our laws have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices. Yet as the nature and prevalence of federal contracting, lending and grant-making have changed, and some laws have been weakened, working people have fallen through the cracks.
In the past, presidents have used their authority to improve job opportunities for Americans working or seeking to work for federal contractors. For example, starting in 1941, successive administrations issued executive orders to fight employment discrimination in the contracting workforce. This effort culminated with President Lyndon Johnson's signing of Executive Order 11246, mandating equal employment opportunity and affirmative action for all individuals working for federal contractors. An executive order to raise and enforce workplace standards for contractors, grantees, and other private companies that do business with the federal government would follow this powerful and effective precedent.
Furthermore, the Journal's claim that a minimum wage increase would hurt businesses and doesn't affect the "economy and efficiency" of federal contracting flies in the face of the hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates, who have come out in support of such a plan.
Increases in the minimum wage have not been shown to significantly damage the job market. In fact, businesses that have chosen to boost employee wages have reaped economic benefits. As the Harvard Business Review found, "[i]n return for its generous wages and benefits, Costco gets one of the most loyal and productive workforces in all of retailing, and, probably not coincidentally, the lowest shrinkage (employee theft) figures in the industry [...] Costco's stable, productive workforce more than offsets its higher costs." According to the Economic Policies Institute:
[T]he weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
As the dilemma of growing income inequality has become the object of increasingly intense public scrutiny, Fox News has consistently resisted engaging in the subject with facts.
What Fox's viewers miss is real discussion of a problem that has been building for decades and undermines America's economic stability and growth. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stigliz, income inequality "reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance." And economists have found that income inequality has been "the most important" determinant of poverty in the past several decades.
Experts say that inequality is damaging, but preventable. They highlight policies like increasing the minimum wage, larger tax credits for low-wage workers, government-subsidized childcare, renewed investment in schools, universal health insurance, and expanded union rights as opportunities to reduce inequality -- policies that Fox has routinely helped to smear.
Fox News erased the devastating impact of a cut to unemployment insurance in North Carolina, citing a questionable University of Oslo study and pushing the North Carolina approach as a way to remove people from an unemployment "trap." In reality, North Carolina's jobless benefits cut pushed many job-seekers out of the employment search and into 8-hour long food bank lines.
Fox News misrepresented comments from health insurance CEO Mark Bertolini to stoke fears that current Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers would lead to a "double-digit" increase in health costs for 2015, though in fact Bertolini had said that cost projections are currently premature and has noted that enrollment numbers are "better than I thought they would have been."
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy used comments from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini to warn that insurance companies are "going to have to jack up prices" for plans in the health insurance exchanges. Co-host Brian Kilmeade later summed-up Bertolini's statement as a warning that the ACA exchanges could be "heading towards single payer":
KILMEADE: So basically what you're saying is since only 11 percent of the people who didn't have insurance have signed up for it, what he's concluded is that these people have shifted -- we've shifted the insured from the individual market, which the president told everybody is bad -- to the public exchanges, which could be heading towards single payer.
But Fox's interpretation of Bertolini's words doesn't match up with the quote they featured. According to the transcript that Fox aired, Bertolini made no predictions about the future of the healthcare exchanges or his company's involvement in the ACA. Instead, he simply noted that "we really don't have a good view on that," (emphasis added):
BERTOLINI: Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they're double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program? Those questions can't be answered until we see the population we have today.
Bertolini has also publicly registered his optimism about current enrollment statistics in the ACA exchanges overall. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported on January 17:
The early exchange demographics are actually better than expected. Bertolini's take on the age-breakdown of marketplace enrollees was really interesting -- and different from the reaction in Washington. While most of us journalists pointed out that the Obama administration is falling short of its young adult enrollment target, that doesn't really matter to Aetna. What matters to a health plan is who they expected to sign-up, and what type of age mixed they used to set their premium prices.
"Given the general demographics that CMS released yesterday, I'm not alarmed," Bertolini says. "They're better than I thought they would have been."
The Post reported that Bertolini made the optimistic long-term prediction that "that 75 million Americans will purchase their health coverage through an exchange by 2020" -- a far cry from suggesting that the exchanges could be heading toward collapse. From the Post:
Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Resources' ACA enrollment statistics show that, as early as December, the exchanges had enrolled enough young people to remain stable. From The Washington Post's Wonkblog:
The risk of a "death spiral" is over. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market's age distribution freezes at its current level -- an extremely unlikely scenario -- "overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues." So, in theory, premiums costs might rise by a few percentage points. That's a problem, but it's nothing even in the neighborhood of a death spiral.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration's reluctance to sidestep legal considerations that prevent the government from indiscriminately waging war without congressional approval and suggested that it was possible for the military to "just get the SOBs who killed our people."
On January 13, the House Armed Services Committee released a series of declassified transcripts of briefings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. The review debunked right-wing myths about the attack and further revealed that the administration has been hampered in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice because of the legal limits imposed by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorizes military action against al Qaeda and its "associated forces." According to the Senate report's transcript of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey's October 10, 2013 testimony, the attack's leaders do not fall under AUMF's authority:
DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, the individuals related in the Benghazi attack, those that we believe were either participants or leadership of it are not authorized use of military force. In other words, they don't fall under the AUMF authorized by the Congress of the United States. So we would not have the capability to simply find them and kill them, either with a remotely-piloted aircraft or with an assault on the ground. Therefore, they will have to be captured, and we would, when asked, provide capture options to do that.
Fox News reported on this revelation during the January 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy dismissed the legal constraints by claiming that the administration has "too many lawyers on the staff." Responding to co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's complaints that the rules are "awfully wordy" and "disheartening," guest host Clayton Morris claimed that "it doesn't make any sense" suggesting that it could be "some sort of excuse [...] for not having any assets in the area."
During the January 17 edition of Fox & Friends Hasselbeck and Fox's Geraldo Rivera downplayed the need for the AUF restrictions and claimed that the Obama administration's adherence to them constituted a politicization of the attacks. Rivera suggested Obama put aside "politics" by ignoring AUMF and "go get the SOBs who killed our people." From the show (emphasis added):
HASSELBECK: When things are ever-evolving, in terms of al-Qaeda and the changes that take course, it seems as though it evolved, and therefore this should also evolve, right in terms of who is approved and authorized.
RIVERA: You're being much too logical, Elisabeth, because to say that Ansar al-Sharia is al-Qaeda is to say that the Benghazi tragedy where Ambassador Stevens and the others were killed was an al-Qaeda operation. The politics of this country is such that we are divided now. Was it an al-Qaeda operation, was it a spontaneous militia --activity that grew out of the reaction to this anti-Muslim film --
CO-HOST STEVE DOOCY: The Senate said last week it was al-Qaeda-related.
GERALDO: Well now we have to convey that to our military leaders, and say, listen, as Congressman Peter King is now suggesting, for the purposes of the Authorization of Military Force[s] Act, we believe now that the people that killed our ambassador in Benghazi and our other three heroes was an al-Qaeda operation. Just for that. No more politics. Put it aside. Let's just get the SOBs who killed our people, get them with the best force we have, and that's the SEAL teams and drone strikes.
But Fox's assertion that the administration's concerns are "political" and that AUMF standards could be stretched to apply to any foreign actors perceived as a threat fundamentally misunderstands the legal constraints placed on the president by congress.
As The New York Times explained, the language of the original AUMF is limited, focusing specifically on the actors that "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001":
It gives the president the power to attack "nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
In early 2013, The Washington Post reported that administration officials have become increasingly concerned about the legality of continuing to rely on the 2001 document in responding to an increasingly decentralized threat (emphasis added):
The authorization law has already been expanded by federal courts beyond its original scope to apply to "associated forces" of al-Qaeda. But officials said legal advisers at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are now weighing whether the law can be stretched to cover what one former official called "associates of associates."
The debate has been driven by the emergence of groups in North Africa and the Middle East that may embrace aspects of al-Qaeda's agenda but have no meaningful ties to its crumbling leadership base in Pakistan. Among them are the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Ansar al-Sharia, which was linked to the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. They could be exposed to drone strikes and kill-or-capture missions involving U.S. troops.
Officials said they have not ruled out seeking an updated authorization from Congress or relying on the president's constitutional powers to protect the country. But they said those are unappealing alternatives.
The authorization makes no mention of "associated forces," a term that emerged only in subsequent interpretations of the text. But even that elastic phrase has become increasingly difficult to employ.
In a speech last year at Yale University, Jeh Johnson, who served as general counsel at the Defense Department during Obama's first term, outlined the limits of the AUMF.
"An 'associated force' is not any terrorist group in the world that merely embraces the al-Qaeda ideology," Johnson said. Instead, it has to be both "an organized, armed group that has entered the fight alongside al-Qaeda" and a "co-belligerent with al-Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
Moreover, the Post report highlighted that administration officials and independent experts' shared concerns about the legality using the authorization to target Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. Harvard national security law expert Jack Goldsmith said that tying the AUMF to groups like Ansar al-Sharia would be "a major interpretive leap" and stated that the "[t]he AUMF is becoming increasingly obsolete because the groups that are threatening us are harder and harder to tie to the original A.Q. organization."
The lack of nuance in Fox's attacks are nothing new for the network. Fox consistently prefers overhyped misinformation to evidence-based findings. The network has previously denied the findings of a lengthy investigation by The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick, which definitively debunked the myth that al Qaeda played a central role in planning the attack.
Just before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over a law designed to protect workers and patients at women's health clinics, the Wall Street Journal ignored the history of murder and violence women have faced at the hands of anti-choice activists, instead claiming that the law's "sole purpose" was to criminalize "peaceful" protests.
On January 15, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a challenge which could invalidate a 2007 Massachusetts law that created 35-foot "buffer zones" around local reproductive health center entrances. The law was designed as a response to public safety concerns after patients and staff at Massachusetts clinics faced a pattern of intimidation, harassment, and extreme violence from protestors -- including a fatal shooting of two women.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board's January 14 preview of the Supreme Court arguments did not mention violence once. Instead, the editorial repeatedly characterized anti-choice protesters as "peaceful," framing the law as simply a "chance to advance free speech" and ignored the events leading up to the law's passage to claim that the "real purpose of the state's abortion buffer zones is to limit, and criminalize, peaceful political speech."
But as the Boston Globe's Renée Loth explained, the implementation of Massachusetts' buffer zones law has helped dramatically reduce the level of intimidation that patients entering the clinics are forced to endure (emphasis added):
I was struck by the contrast to the common scene outside the health center in past decades, when antiabortion zealots screamed, chanted, blocked the doors, grabbed at women trying to enter, and photographed license plates. It was a time when women's health centers offering abortions were routinely bombed, burned, or doused with butyric acid. When staffers received letters purporting to contain anthrax. When John Salvi shot and killed two women and injured five others at two women's health centers in Brookline.
What's changed, according to many advocates, is the adoption of the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which creates a protected area for patients and employees a fixed 35 feet from the entrances to health centers. The law achieves a delicate balance between the free speech rights of abortion protesters and the rights of women to safely access the center. "It's a very peaceful coexistence," said Martha Walz, president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and a coauthor of the 2007 law. "We no longer have that in-your-face harassment. The tension levels are way down. The law is working for everybody."
The violence Loth cites included the infamous Brookline murders of 1994, when two receptionists were killed in a shooting by an anti-choice activist at a Boston-area clinic. The shooter was convicted on five additional counts of attempted murder "in the wounding of five other people."
Such public safety concerns remain a pressing issue nationwide. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called anti-choice violence "America's [f]orgotten [t]errorism" in 2012, emphasizing that buffer zones are necessary because patients and doctors at health facilities that offer abortion services remain targets of violent attacks "from murders to arsons to bombings."
As the First Circuit United States Court of Appeals noted during its previous consideration of the Massachusetts law, "the right of the state to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter healthcare facilities cannot seriously be questioned." The court recognized that the law places some restrictions on speech by moving protestors away from the entrances and farther down the public sidewalk, but emphasized the fact that "a diminution in the amount of speech, in and of itself, does not translate into unconstitutionality":
This case does not come to us as a stranger. At the turn of the century, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law that created fixed and floating buffer zones around abortion clinics. We rejected serial challenges to the constitutionality of that law.
The plaintiffs again appeal. They advance a salmagundi of arguments, old and new, some of which are couched in a creative recalibration of First Amendment principles.
Few subjects have proven more controversial in modern times than the issue of abortion. The nation is sharply divided about the morality of the practice and its place in a caring society. But the right of the state to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter healthcare facilities cannot seriously be questioned. The Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others.
In the context of abortion-related demonstrations, the Supreme Court has specifically recognized the interest of clinic patients [in the 2000 case of Hill v. Colorado] both "in avoiding unwanted communication" and "pass[ing] without obstruction." Consistent with this interest, the First Amendment does not compel prospective patients seeking to enter an abortion clinic to make any special effort to expose themselves to the cacophony of political protests. Nor does it guarantee to the plaintiffs the same quantum of communication that would exist in the total absence of regulation. A diminution in the amount of speech, in and of itself, does not translate into unconstitutionality. So long as adequate alternative means of communication exist, no more is constitutionally exigible.
The Supreme Court's decision on McCullen v. Coakley could have a significant impact on women's access to reproductive care nationwide, creating a ripple effect that could impede other states' efforts to maintain the safety of women seeking medical aid. At ThinkProgress, Robin Marty reported on the type of harassment that patients would increasingly face:
Without a buffer zone to protect patients, someone entering the clinic can be trailed from the moment a car door is opened to the moment the person enters the building. Just as bad, they can be followed closely from the moment they pass through the clinic doors until they are safely back inside the car.
Ultimately, if the Supreme Court strikes down the buffer zone in McCullen v. Coakley, every clinic sidewalk could potentially turn into the sidewalk in Louisville, where anti-abortion protesters can openly chase clinic patients, "exorcise" escorts, and block doors -- not with the metal or even human chains they used in the nineties, but with the emotional force of 100 bodies lining the street, shouting that you are a murderer.
That type of "freedom of speech" won't just be condoned; it will be actively encouraged at every clinic in every state in the country. The freedom to determine if you choose to carry a pregnancy to term, however? That could become a thing of the past.
Fox News misled viewers by claiming that new Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment statistics mean that the law will be unable to "balance the books" -- ignoring the many safeguards in the program designed to maintain cost stability and expert analysis that has found that the current number of young enrollees meets the bar for maintaining the program's sustainability.