Fox News' Shannon Bream and Megyn Kelly continued the network's general defense of anti-gay discrimination in separate reports on a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling concerning a photographer who was sued after refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Bream omitted critical context from the court's decision while Kelly pondered its slippery-slope implications, tactics in keeping with Fox's history of inaccurate and offensive reporting on the case.
In August, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Elane Huguenin -- owner of Elane Photography -- violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law when she refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple. Huguenin filed an appeal of the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
In the eyes of Special Report's Bret Baier, the central issue for the Court to consider in the case is "whether you must check your religious values at the door when you open a business," as he stated on the November 12 program. He then aired a package regarding the case by correspondent Shannon Bream, who did not explain the constitutional basis for the court's ruling, but instead cited only the concurring opinion's general reference to "the legal rights" of the same-sex couple.
The segment heavily featured the Huguenins' attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Jordan Lorence. Lorence accused the court of dictating that "once you agree to enter the workplace, the marketplace, you surrender all your constitutional rights."
Despite Fox's suggestion otherwise, this case does not concern religious freedom. The court held that because Elane Photography chooses to offer services to the public, it is engaged in commercial conduct that can be regulated by the state, and so it must comply with the state's Human Rights Act. Just as these businesses may not discriminate based on race or gender, it is likewise a violation to discriminate based on sexual orientation:
We conclude that a commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the antidiscrimination provisions of the NMHRA and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples. Therefore, when Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.
The purpose of the NMHRA is to ensure that businesses offering services to the general public do not discriminate against protected classes of people, and the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the First Amendment permits such regulation by state. Businesses that choose to be public accommodations must comply with the NMHRA, although such businesses retain their First Amendment rights to express their religious or political beliefs. They may, for example, post a disclaimer on their website or in their studio advertising that they oppose same-sex marriage but that they comply with applicable anti-discrimination laws.
The chairman of CBS News confessed to The New York Times that 60 Minutes' bogus Benghazi report is "as big a mistake as there has been" in the program's history.
Chairman Jeff Fager, who also serves as the executive producer of 60 Minutes, spoke to the Times following the network's decision to pull its October 27 report on the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi from CBS' website and YouTube. The report was heavily criticized by veteran journalists and media critics after The Washington Post reported that 60 Minutes' purported eyewitness to the attacks, Dylan Davies, had given contradictory statements to CBS and his employer regarding his whereabouts on that night.
On November 8, Fager told the Times that 60 Minutes would be issuing an on-air correction, adding that the debacle is "a black eye" to the network. The paper reported:
As it prepared to broadcast a rare on-air correction Sunday for a now-discredited "60 Minutes" report, CBS News acknowledged on Friday that it had suffered a damaging blow to its credibility. Its top executive called the segment "as big a mistake as there has been" in the 45-year-old history of the celebrated news program.
"It's a black eye and it's painful," Mr. Fager said in a phone interview. He declined to say whether there would be negative consequences for any of the journalists involved.
Fager's remarks come the same day that 60 Minutes' reporter Lara Logan issued an apology for the story, saying "we were wrong. We made a mistake."
Daily Beast contributor Eli Lake claimed that the Obama administration might have committed a "serious blunder" in its response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi by not sending enough military support. But Lake's claim, based on a Republican-led fixation on the timeline of events, never takes into account that military leaders have said they were unable to respond any faster or with any more force than they did that night.
Lake highlighted concerns raised by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (CA) who speculated in a letter to Speaker John Boehner that there was no lull in fighting in between attacks on the U.S. compound the night of September 11, 2012. The official timeline of events established that the attacks occurred in two waves, with an initial attack on the main facility and a second attack on an annex building more than four hours later. Lake entertained Nunes' theory, and wrote that the absence of a lull between those attacks could raise legitimate questions about the military's response:
If there was a lull in the fighting that night, as the [State Department's Accountability Review Board] report states, more air support or specialized counter-terrorism teams would likely not have made much of a difference. If the fighting continued throughout the night, however, or the witnesses allegedly say, the decision not to send more backup that evening would be a more serious blunder.
But the extent of a lull in fighting is entirely beside the point. Military experts have repeatedly testified that the response represented the best of our military's capabilities.
Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered the Marine Corps' Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), stationed in Spain, to get to Libya "as fast as you can" as soon as the first attack began. Their ability to respond began at that point. Fred Bruton, a former diplomatic security agent, and Samuel M. Katz, a journalist, explained the logistical issues at play that are far more relevant than the lull Lake fixates on:
There was never a question concerning U.S. resolve or the overall capabilities of the U.S. military to respond to Benghazi. There was, however, nothing immediate about an immediate response. There were logistics and host-nation approvals to consider. An immediate response was hampered by the equation of geography and logistics.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has said that criticisms of the military's ability to respond quickly enough that night are based on a "cartoonish impression of the military," has also said that he "would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft" over Benghazi given safety concerns about "the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi's arsenals." According to Gates, getting a force to Benghazi from outside the country "in a timely way would have been very difficult if not impossible."
Lake never explains how the absence of a lull in fighting would have changed the equation in any meaningful way.
There were special forces stationed in Tripoli, but the commander of Special Operations Command Africa ordered the troops to stay in Tripoli because they were needed to protect the embassy. Regardless of this decision, they would not have been able to get to Benghazi before the second attack concluded. An interview of a diplomatic official in Tripoli by congressional investigators established that the flight these special forces were scheduled to take, but did not, was to take off after 6:00 a.m., local time -- approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people.
Military experts including Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs retired Admiral Mike Mullen, all agree that the military did everything they possibly could that night.
In fact, even Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have determined there's no evidence to suggest aid was withheld because of a quick first attack. From an April report (emphasis added):
The House Armed Services Committee also examined the question of whether the Defense Department failed to deploy assets to Benghazi because it believed the attack was over after the first phase. The progress report finds that officials at the Defense Department were monitoring the situation throughout and kept the forces that were initially deployed flowing into the region. No evidence has been provided to suggest these officials refused to deploy resources because they thought the situation had been sufficiently resolved.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News lent credence to True the Vote's fearmongering over Obamacare and voter registration during the network's 2013 election night coverage, never acknowledging the extremist nature of the tea party group.
When signing up for health insurance on the HealthCare.gov exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), customers are prompted with the option to register to vote. This is due to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires state agencies engaged in public assistance to offer voter registration services, including the state and federally-run exchanges.
According to True the Vote (TTV), an activist tea party group which describes itself as an election watchdog organization, the registration option will "corrupt" voter rolls and lead to "bogus voter registrations." As evidence, the group links to a report from Demos, a liberal think tank, detailing how many Americans could potentially register to vote because of the ACA. True the Vote's theory is that health care navigators like Planned Parenthood -- organizations that assist people in exploring their insurance options in the exchanges -- will use the registration information "in political activities."
A November 5 Special Report package treated True the Vote's conspiracy theory as a damning revelation. Host Bret Baier introduced the segment by saying, "The president's plan is not just about making sure everyone has insurance. There is also a not-so-subtle political objective."
Fox correspondent Shannon Bream then profiled True the Vote's concerns, featuring TTV president Catherine Engelbrecht's claims that "the implications of this are mind-blowing."
BREAM: Pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, state agencies that provide public assistance are also required to give applicants the opportunity to register to vote. A number of states believe that includes the health care exchanges. ... The Demos document also stresses that navigators be trained to walk applicants through the voter registration process, but it's the navigators critics are worried about, saying groups with partisan agendas like Planned Parenthood shouldn't be handling voter information. True the Vote, which calls itself a citizen-led organization aimed at restoring integrity to the U.S. election system, says it's been unable to get any answers about how the voter registrations are being transmitted or verified. And worries about the potential for confusion.
What Fox never admits is that True the Vote is a discredited organization with a partisan agenda.
CBS News highlighted the complaints of a man upset with Affordable Care Act provisions that require all insurance plans to provide maternity care coverage, a reliance on anecdotal journalism that omitted the important benefits this coverage could provide -- like ending gender discrimination in the insurance marketplace and improving the nation's sub-par infant mortality rate.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all insurance plans, private and employer-based, to cover maternity and newborn care, one of the law's 10 categories of 'essential health benefits' that every policy must include.
CBS Evening News chose to present the impact of this mandatory maternity coverage as a superfluous benefit on its October 28 broadcast. Rather than interviewing a beneficiary of the coverage or a health expert who could discuss the motivation behind the requirement, CBS highlighted a male realtor upset that his plan included such benefits.
Correspondent Dean Reynolds introduced Aaron Galvin as a realtor whose old insurance plan did not provide the minimum level of benefits required by the ACA, and as such, he had to sign up for a new plan that did. Reynolds reported that, "It's a new plan he didn't want, with some basic but required coverage, like maternity care, he doesn't need. Galvin and his wife don't plan on having more babies."
The ACA's maternity care requirement puts an end to insurance companies' systemic discrimination against women -- many companies charge women higher rates than men for the same plans and deny coverage or increase premiums for women who become pregnant, actions which the law now prohibits. Without the ACA's mandate, only 12 percent of individual market plans currently cover maternity care, according to the National Women's Law Center. This is a shockingly expensive loophole, as the cost of maternity care and delivery can reach $25,000.
Rush Limbaugh wants to know why George Will can root for Obamacare to fail without consequence while he faced criticism for hoping Obama fails, sentiments that are "the same thing" according to the radio host.
Newly-crowned Fox contributor George Will appeared on Fox News Sunday's online after-show Panel Plus on October 27 to discuss glitches in Healthcare.gov. Will told the panel, "Of course I want Obamacare to fail. Because if it doesn't fail, it will just further entangle American society with a government that is not up to this."
To Rush Limbaugh, Will's remarks reflected the same sentiment Limbaugh himself expressed back in 2009. Because "if you want Obamacare to fail," Limbaugh reasoned, "you want Obama to fail."
Indeed, four days before then-President-elect Barack Obama took office in 2009, Limbaugh infamously declared that he "hope[s] Obama fails," a refrain he repeated that day and throughout Obama's presidency.
Part of the impetus behind this sentiment, Limbaugh explained at the time, is that he did not want the government involved in health care:
LIMBAUGH: Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work.
Now, Limbaugh is attempting to drag George Will under the bus with him. On the October 28 edition of his radio program, Limbaugh aired Will's remarks about his desire for Obamacare to fail, and claimed this was the "same thing" he had said in 2009 for "the exact same reasons":
Fox News is rewriting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to warn young people they could face prison time if they fail to pay the fine for not having health insurance -- a penalty the law expressly prohibits.
Commonly called the individual mandate, a provision of the ACA requires uninsured Americans to obtain health coverage by the end of March. Those who do not will owe the government a fine -- this year, $90 or 1 percent of income -- in part to help mitigate the cost to taxpayers of medical care for the willfully uninsured.
Fox & Friends took the repercussions of not paying this fine to the extreme. On the October 28 edition of the program, co-host Brian Kilmeade asserted that young people's motivation in paying the penalty will be "in order to avoid prison time or whatever ramifications."
PolitiFact rated statements like Kilmeade's a "pants on fire" lie. The Affordable Care Act specifically precludes jail time or any criminal prosecution as a penalty for those who do not gain insurance and refuse to pay the fine. The law clearly states, under the section "WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES":
In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
Fox's Bill Hemmer refused to accept a U.S. senator's correction and admonishment of the network's misreporting on the health care plans of Congress and congressional staff under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
During the fight over the government shutdown and Affordable Care Act, a favorite refrain of the right-wing media and the tea party has been the line that Congress is receiving exemptions and special treatment under the ACA that normal Americans cannot obtain. This is not true -- staffers receive the same employer-sponsored health care that most employed Americans receive.
A conservative pundit repeated this myth in an October 23 segment on America's Newsroom, and when Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) came on after a commercial break to discuss violence in Egypt, he wanted to correct the record -- but Fox host Hemmer wouldn't allow it.
Near the end of Corker's interview, Hemmer revealed that the senator was displeased with Fox's handling of the Congressional exemption story in the previous segment, saying in part, "You were listening to our program a bit earlier during the commercial break. You took strong exception to the fact that you think Congress is playing by the same rules that regular Americans are playing by when it comes to Obamacare."
Corker replied, "I think there's been a lot of misreporting and sort-of a myth around what's happening with Obamacare."
The senator then made three different attempts to tell the truth about congressional coverage.
Each time, Hemmer interrupted Corker. He parroted the myth that Congress receives special treatment and rebuked Corker's explanation with claims that people "get lost" in the facts.
Consumer Reports rebuked conservatives who misconstrued their position on Healthcare.gov, but that didn't stop Sean Hannity from repeating the spin in order to demonize health care reform.
In acknowledgement of the bumpy rollout of Healthcare.gov, the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) online insurance exchange, Consumer Reports spent the first weeks in October detailing updates to the site and guiding readers step-by-step on how to navigate the site's glitches.
The publication advised still-confused readers to hold off briefly on signing up:
If all this is too much for you to absorb, follow our previous advice: Stay away from Healthcare.gov for at least another month if you can. Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess they've made. The coverage available through the marketplaces won't begin until Jan. 1, 2014, at the earliest, and you have until Dec. 15 to enroll if you need insurance that starts promptly.
Conservative pundits pounced on the language. Sean Hannity cited it during an October 21 rant against the ACA on Hannity as evidence that health care reform has been discredited, yelling to guest Ann Coulter, "Consumer Reports, Ann, they're telling people, 'Stay away from the website!' "
Consumer Reports never warned consumers to stay away from the website for good, as Hannity intimates -- only for a few weeks while glitches are ironed out. And the publication isn't happy with the spin conservatives are using to attack the ACA. Also on October 21 -- more than three hours before Hannity cited the publication -- Consumer Reports chastised mischaracterizations of their position. They wrote:
A since-clarified NBC News report on repairs to the website for the new federal health insurance exchange is providing fodder for Fox News to continue its denigration of health care reform.
Observers on all sides of the debate have acknowledged that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) insurance exchanges site has been bumpy. That website, Healthcare.gov, up and running since October 1, has dealt with many glitches due to the large number of visitors to the site and other technical problems.
But this fact does not permit news outlets to fabricate problems.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace kicked off a discussion of the exchanges with Republican Senator Marco Rubio (FL) by telling him, "The federal website for Obamacare is once again down for repairs this weekend."
But Healthcare.gov was not down for the entire weekend, as Wallace suggested. The Fox anchor's comment mirrors a misleading report from NBC that the network subsequently clarified.
On Friday evening, NBC Nightly News misleadingly tweeted that the White House would be taking down Healthcare.gov for repairs: