Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz published an opinion piece in USA Today using Fox News talking points to advocate for the full defunding of Planned Parenthood.
That could result in millions of Americans losing access to crucial health care -- all thanks to a handful of lies pushed by conservative media.
Cruz's August 20 op-ed relies heavily on the deceptive videos from the Center for Medical Progress, which used possibly-illegal methods to capture undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood figures. Those videos cropped out crucial context to demonize the organization's abortion procedures. Cruz provides no evidence of wrongdoing, but demands both that Planned Parenthood's federal funding must end and that the Department of Justice must prosecute "any potential criminal actions."
The videos have been repeatedly debunked by mainstream media outlets, and a poll has shown that they have done little to change the fact that a majority of Americans still support Planned Parenthood receiving federal funding.
But that doesn't appear to matter to right-wing media or the GOP. Instead, conservative media figures have promoted the videos and continued to loudly condemn Planned Parenthood, and Republican politicians have happily joined the chorus and called for the organization to be defunded.
And the deception is plentiful. Cruz falsely claims the CMP videos show "senior Planned Parenthood officials ... heartlessly discussing killing unborn children in order to sell their body parts," echoing an allegation made in conservative media. They do nothing of the kind; as many have noted, in reality the videos feature discussions of legal donations and the associated minor reimbursement fees. Cruz misleadingly claims that "Planned Parenthood receives about 45% of its funding from government sources," without explaining that much of that is in the form of Medicaid dollars, as low-income families use Planned Parenthood for STD testing, cervical cancer screenings, breast exams, and birth control prescriptions.
And Cruz parrots the newest right-wing media attack: the dishonest argument that "ending taxpayer funding of abortion providers will have little impact on a woman's access to healthcare" because providers such as "Community health centers, charities, state health departments and other government entities" already provide those services.
This is a false, and dangerous, claim.
There are many places in the country where Planned Parenthood is the only health provider. About half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in rural areas, where there are often no local providers at all, or none who have the capacity to offer reproductive health services.
When you close a Planned Parenthood clinic in those areas, you create a public health crisis -- for women and men.
In Indiana, for example, after funding cuts forced five Planned Parenthood clinics to close back in 2011, the state became the center of "an exploding HIV outbreak." The Planned Parenthood clinics -- which had not provided abortions -- had been the only providers to offer HIV testing to both men and women before they were shuttered. Now the state is struggling to deal with the avoidable epidemic.
And in Texas, Republican lawmakers now reportedly regret their systematic defunding of Planned Parenthood, because of the "devastating effect" cuts have had on health care in the state. According to Joseph Potter, the principal investigator at the Texas Policy Project at the University of Texas (emphasis added):
The drastic budget cuts caused many clinics to close, and those that remained open had to curtail their services, especially providing the more expensive and more effective contraceptive methods such as IUDs and implants. Many Texas lawmakers, including Republican legislators, now realize that these massive cuts adversely affected women and were a mistake.
Potter's investigation further found that many of the remaining health care providers "simply do not have the trained personnel and experience in women's health care" necessary to provide the services the Planned Parenthood clinics had, and many women faced severe challenges in trying to change their health care provider. Ultimately, fewer Texas women "have received contraceptive services, fewer use highly effective methods, some have had unintended pregnancies, and some have had abortions they would not have had if not for these policies" (emphasis added).
Potter concluded: "If Congress were to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, many of the challenges that Texas now faces would play out on a much grander national scale."
Over 6.5 million Americans live in Indiana; nearly 30 million live in Texas. And that's just the beginning, if conservative media and GOP politicians have their way.
This is how the playbook works: deceptive videos made by right-wing activists get promoted by conservative media outlets. They get enough attention, and provide enough shock-value, that it gives GOP politicians ammunition to pick up the lies and run with them in legislation across the country.
This has happened before, and will likely happen again, because right-wing activists know they can manipulate the media to push their propaganda.
So now Ted Cruz, a senator and a Republican presidential candidate, is advocating in the pages of the highest circulation paper in the country for a full-scale government attack on health care, using myths and deception ready-made for him by this right-wing propaganda machine.
But how many millions of Americans have to lose access to health care before the cycle stops?
An NPR article on the government inquiry into classified emails cited two former government officials to criticize Hillary Clinton's handling of her private email server when she was secretary of state. However, the article did not disclose that the former officials have conservative ties, with one of them advising GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
In the August 19 article, NPR extensively quoted Ron Hosko, who was identified only as previously leading "the FBI's criminal investigative division." Hosko suggested that emails which were sent to Clinton -- and which have since been retroactively classified in an interagency dispute over classification levels -- might represent "serious breaches of national security":
"I think that the FBI will be moving with all deliberate speed to determine whether there were serious breaches of national security here," said Ron Hosko, who used to lead the FBI's criminal investigative division.
He said agents will direct their questions not just at Clinton, but also her close associates at the State Department and beyond.
"I would want to know how did this occur to begin with, who knew, who approved," Hosko said.
NPR did not mention that Hosko is currently the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), a right-wing non-profit that claims to defend police officers fighting criminal charges, but which has come under scrutiny for financial ties to other conservative groups, such as the Federalist Society and the American Spectator. The chairman of LELDF is Alfred Regnery, the former president of conservative publisher Regnery Publishing, whileboard members include Ken Cuccinelli, the former Republican nominee for governor of Virginia; J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican politician and senior fellow at the Family Research Council; and Edwin Meese III, a former Reagan administration official who reportedly helped orchestrate the devastating 2013 government shutdown.
In December 2014, Hosko also wrote a column for USA Today arguing that "police weren't the problem in Ferguson." The column blamed the Obama administration and "radical activists" for "exacerbating the problems in Ferguson" and contributing "to an epidemic that will most adversely affect those for whom they claim to advocate."
The NPR article also cited an interview that former NSA Director Michael Hayden gave on MSNBC's Morning Joe, where Hayden said about Clinton's email use: "Put legality aside for just a second, it's stupid and dangerous."
"I've signed on as an adviser to Gov. Bush because he asked me and because he represents what I feel is the right position, which is the Republican internationalist position," Hayden said. "If you're looking for one sentence as to what a new president should do with regard to foreign policy: Get involved, and stay involved."
Fox News hosts Eric Bolling and Sean Hannity falsely claimed the latest video attacking Planned Parenthood "proves" that the organization has failed to obtain proper consent from women for fetal tissue donations. In fact, as other media outlets have noted, the accusations in the video are focused on a separate organization known as StemExpress.
At the 2016 Republican primary debate last night, the Fox News moderators appeared reasonable, effective, and pointed in their questions to the candidates. And that was the point of the whole charade.
Fox did exactly what Media Matters predicted they would. Moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace took advantage of the low expectations mainstream journalists and many Americans have of their network. They knew millions of people who don't watch Fox as obsessively as we do would be tuning in, many of them expecting to see the brand of Fox they've heard so much about, full of conservative bias and incoherent arguments. And they knew how much power rested in surprising those viewers -- in convincing even just a handful of mainstream journalists that Fox can be legitimate.
The strategy worked. Because the moderators managed to look like real journalists for a little over two hours, they're getting intense praise from mainstream media outlets, such as Politico (emphasis added):
For more than two hours, the trio that won widespread praise in 2012 for hard-hitting questions once again demonstrated that Fox News would offer no safe harbor for Republican candidates.
And the New York Times (emphasis added):
There was more than just good television at stake. For the journalists of Fox News, the debate offered a potentially defining moment in front of millions of people, during one of the most anticipated political events of the year. This was an opportunity to demonstrate that their network is not, as its critics have charged, a blindly loyal propaganda division of the Republican Party, that Fox journalists can be as unsparing toward conservatives as they are with liberals, and that they can eviscerate with equal opportunity if they choose.
But that last clause from the Times is crucial: "if they choose." Because the other 364 days a year, Fox News does not choose to hold Republicans accountable for their extreme and misinformed positions on women's rights or welfare or immigration; instead they do create that "safe harbor" for Republicans to come up with their wild misconceptions and hateful rhetoric -- the same misconceptions they "choose" to blast those same Republicans for last night.
Fox has two fundamental goals: make lots of money by broadcasting entertaining television, and bolster the Republican Party. Last night, they succeeded in doing both, even in the moments where it might have seemed like they had no patience for the Republican candidates' pandering.
Because Fox chief Roger Ailes knows that the best way for Fox to bolster the Republican Party in the long-term is for mainstream journalists to trust Fox -- for the "blindly loyal propaganda division" to appear, even just for one night, as credible. Propaganda doesn't work, after all, if you know it's propaganda.
So even if many of their questions actually did reinforce Republican orthodoxy (such as claiming that deceitful videos attacking Planned Parenthood shed "new light on abortion practices"), the Fox moderators made sure they spent most of their time looking like attack dogs ready to take on the Republican candidates.
But it's worth looking closely at how that played out, and what exactly mainstream media outlets are now praising. Getting the most attention is perhaps one of the biggest of the so-called "Megyn Moments" of the night, in which Kelly momentarily appears out-of-step with Fox rhetoric and calls out a bit of right-wing nonsense. Her tendency to do this every once in a while successfully distracts from her standard misinformation, and helps feed the exact narrative about Fox's potential for credibility that they were desperate to encourage last night.
"Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter," she began. "However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'"
Quickly dismissing Trump's attempt to shrug these comments off with a crude joke, she beat on: "Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?"
To be clear, it is definitely remarkable to hear a Fox News host even mention the "war on women," something the network and the Republican Party have worked hard to minimize. And Trump deserves to be held accountable for these comments.
But it's not exactly an act of remarkable journalism to ask such a question -- pointing out Trump's raging sexism is something any competent journalist should be expected to do.
Moreover, Fox has had ample time to hold him accountable for these comments before. Trump has been winning the "Fox News Primary" for the last three months, appearing on the network more times than any other Republican candidate in the race.
Yet his sexism has certainly not been a regular topic of the fawning interviews he typically receives on the network. Instead, Fox has worked very, very hard to promote Trump, and the fact that he was standing at center stage last night due to his soaring poll numbers was certainly aided by the network.
While network figures have criticized Trump in the past, Fox's shift during the debate to fully acknowledging Trump's nasty side is notable. But it once again says more about Fox's calculus for the evening and our own low expectations than it does about Trump himself.
In his review of the evening, Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman explained that according to his sources, key to that calculus was Fox's fear that the winner of the night would be Trump, at the expense of the network's moderators:
During a meeting at Fox late last week, according to a source, senior Fox executives discussed a more worrisome scenario: What would happen if Trump won over the audience and moved the crowd to boo moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace on live television? What if Trump was able to direct his base of supporters to stop watching Fox? To prevent that from happening, Ailes needed a way to keep the audience firmly on the side of his moderators.
The questions posed last night to all of the candidates were carefully considered, and key to the strategy behind those questions was keeping the audience on Fox's side, not on the side of the actual candidates running for president. That isn't a strategy for good journalism, or for aiding a thoughtful electoral process. That's a strategy of control.
Fox may have realized they can no longer control Trump; but they're definitely trying to maintain full control over the mainstream narrative about their "credibility," and thus the Republican primary.
A Wall Street Journal editorial conflated the public charity known as the Clinton Foundation with the private, personal Clinton Family Foundation in a misleading attack on Hillary Clinton's charitable giving -- and their misinformation made its way straight to Fox News primetime.
Clinton recently released her tax returns as part of her presidential campaign, and the returns reveal that she and her husband Bill donated nearly $15 million to charity from 2007-2014. The vast majority of that money went to their private philanthropic Clinton Family Foundation.
As Nonprofit Quarterly explained, the Clinton Family Foundation acts "a clearinghouse for the family's personal philanthropy." According to the Family Foundation's 2014 tax filing, Hillary and Bill Clinton are the only donors, and the Family Foundation distributes their money to various charities and nonprofits, including New York Public Radio, the American Nurses Foundation, the American Heart Association -- and the separate William J. Clinton Foundation.
The William J. Clinton Foundation -- which was recently renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation -- is the highly-respected international charity that has garnered significant media attention since Clinton announced her run for president. It is the foundation that helps AIDS/HIV sufferers around the world get better medicine, and battles global health crises, economic inequality, childhood obesity, and climate change.
But in its August 4 editorial, the Journal conflated the two charities in their attack on Clinton's giving.
The Journal suggested that it was inappropriate for the Clinton family to give the vast majority of their charitable contributions to their own foundation, because, they claimed, the foundation "isn't exactly the Little Sisters of the Poor," and instead "While the foundation does contribute to charitable causes, it also doubles as a vehicle to promote the first family's political ambitions and public profile."
Though they correctly named the "Family Foundation," the Journal went on to claim that the foundation spends "an outsized portion of its money, for instance, picking up the travel and other expenses for the whole family":
The foundation has also functioned between campaigns and stints in public office as a jobs program and financier for various Clinton operatives. Sidney Blumenthal, who was banned by the White House from a job at the State Department, was paid by the foundation while he was dispensing bad advice on Libya to Mrs. Clinton. Foreign governments, unions, wealthy Democrats and corporations donated to the foundation knowing its political importance to the woman who could be the next U.S. President.
The Clintons play by their own political rules, and taking a nearly $15 million tax write-off to assist their electoral ambitions is merely the latest.
The problem is that the Family Foundation -- which received the nearly $15 million -- doesn't appear to have done most of those things. The global Clinton Foundation is the one which reportedly paid for some travel expenses and for the salaries of some Clinton advisers, but it received only a portion of the family's total charitable giving (a little over $1.8 million out of roughly $3.7 million in contributions in 2014, for example).
As Michael Wyland explained at NonProfit Quarterly (emphasis added), "it's understandable that the two foundations could be confused. However, a national publication expressing its official opinion about a presidential candidate's charitable activities should be expected to perform some due diligence."
Unfortunately, Fox's Bill O'Reilly also failed to perform that due diligence. Picking up on the Journal story, O'Reilly blasted Clinton's charitable giving during his August 5 show:
The Wall Street Journal reporting today in an editorial that although the Clintons donated about $15 million to charity between the years 2007 and 2014, all but 200,000 of that was given to the Clinton Foundation. Which pays travel and other expenses for the Clinton family and gives them a forum to promote public policy, in addition to helping various causes like combating world hunger. The Clintons wrote off $15 million in charitable deductions on their taxes.
The email situation's murky, and we're glad the FBI is finally involved. But the charity situation is not confusing. For seven years the Clintons funded their own foundation, which in part benefits them, and took a huge deduction in doing so.
I have a foundation. I know what I'm talking about.
Donating to their own internationally-renowned public charity seems like a logical thing the Clintons would do -- the fact is much of the Clintons' contributions also went to a variety of other charities, through their private Family Foundation.
The New York Times was forced to issue two corrections after relying on Capitol Hill anonymous sourcing for its flawed report on emails from former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Clinton debacle is the latest example of why the media should be careful when relying on leaks from partisan congressional sources -- this is far from the first time journalists who did have been burned.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet "refused to publish" a letter from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which expressed "grave concern" with a recent flawed Times report on Clinton's email use.
The July 23 Times story, which has now been corrected twice and which came under heavy criticism from the Times' public editor and veteran journalists, originally falsely claimed that two inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton's email use. In reality, the probe was not criminal and was not focused on Clinton personally. "Despite the overwhelming evidence," Byers noted, "the Times did not remove the word [criminal] from its headline and its story, nor did it issue a correction, until the following day."
Byers explained that in response, the Clinton campaign "sent a nearly 2,000-word letter to the executive editor of The New York Times this week." The campaign then forwarded the letter to reporters after "Baquet refused to publish it in the Times":
"We remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made," Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri wrote in the letter to Dean Baquet, which the campaign forwarded to the On Media blog late Thursday night.
"I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was," Palmieri continued. "The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing 'criminal' from the headline and text of the story."
"In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton," Palmieri wrote. "Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many 'degrees of separation' for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times."
Palmieri's letter, which runs 1,915 words long, includes three other complaints: 1. That the "seriousness of the allegations... demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication. 2. That the Times "incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction." And 3. That the Times' "official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling."
"I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times," Palmieri writes in closing. "But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future."
A third video deceptively attacking Planned Parenthood has been released, and, like the previous two, the highly-edited video shows no evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics have broken any laws by allowing women to voluntarily and safely donate fetal tissue from abortions. Media should know seven key facts about the video, including that the group behind it may have obtained the footage illegally; that the video features a lab technician who admits PPFA only receives legal reimbursement for actual costs; and that the video is largely about a separate for-profit research tissue supply company.
A Department of Justice official reportedly contradicted a New York Times article on Hillary Clinton's email use, clarifying that the DOJ investigation into State Department email practices is not criminal, as was initially reported.
On July 23, the New York Times initially cited anonymous "senior government officials" to claim former Secretary of State Clinton was the target of a DOJ "criminal investigation" for her use of a private email account while at State.
The Times then made a major change to that report, walking it back to instead claim there was merely a referral from two inspector generals for a potential "criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account." At the time, the paper said they would not issue a correction, claiming there had been no "factual error."
Now, however, Times' John Harwood reports a second major problem: the investigation is not actually "criminal." Harwood tweeted that a "Justice Dept official" was "contradicting earlier reports" to confirm that the "'referral' related to Hillary Clinton's email is NOT for a criminal investigation":
Justice Dept official says "referral" related to Hillary Clinton's email is NOT for a criminal investigation - contradicting earlier reports-- John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 24, 2015
Washington Post reporter Sari Horwitz similarly tweeted that the DOJ is "now correcting their earlier statement & saying the referral regarding Clinton emails was not a criminal inquiry."
It is currently unclear whether the multiple "senior government officials" the Times initially cited in their report are the same sources now reversing their statements, or if there are several officials leaking differing information.
Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Andrea Tantaros advocated for entirely eliminating Planned Parenthood's federal funding, which helps provide critical women's health services across the U.S., by wildly misrepresenting what the organization spends on abortion and the services they provide.
Congress long ago barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion, but the release of two deceptively edited videos -- which attempt to smear the organization's legal practice of allowing women to choose to donate fetal tissues from their abortions to biomedical research -- has nevertheless reanimated anti-choice activists' campaign to defund the nonprofit.
Jumping off of the controversy, O'Reilly stated unequivocally on his July 22 show that "Planned Parenthood should be defunded, period. I don't want my tax dollars going to them."
Fox contributor Juan Williams attempted to push back, explaining that by defunding all of Planned Parenthood, "you're talking about taking away medical access to millions of women." But O'Reilly insisted "It wouldn't take away anything," and Fox host Tantaros agreed:
TANTAROS: I want to jump in on the women's health point because that's actually a crock. Look, you don't have to be pro-life to be horrified by these videos. A number of my pro-choice friends are horrified by these videos, the same way they were horrified by Kermit Gosnell. And look, here's my view on Planned Parenthood. It provides services now, those services are provided under Obamacare. So, we don't really need Planned Parenthood.
O'REILLY: 90 percent of their services are abortion-related.
TANTAROS: But here's my deal, I don't want to pay for it. It's a business, let private funding go to Planned Parenthood, taxpayer dollars should not have to go to crazy towns like San Francisco and to places like Planned Parenthood.
In fact, Obamacare does not guarantee women access to the critical health services Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics across the country provide, nor are "90 percent of their services" abortion related.
The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cover preventative women's health care services and prenatal care, and has already saved women over $1 billion dollars on birth control by reducing co-pays and deductibles. The law also established funding to construct health centers to increase access to health care.
But the law does not guarantee that there are clinics accessible to provide women these health services. Some local pharmacies may stock prescription birth control, for example, but they aren't equipped to perform pap smears, conduct exams for breast cancer, or provide treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
That kind of critical women's health care is provided at the hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics. According to their most recent annual report, from October 2012 to September 2013 their clinics performed almost 900,000 pap tests and breast exams, over 3.5 million birth control information and service requests, and nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for STIs.
The same report (once again) confirmed that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services were abortion-related.
As Vox's Sarah Kliff recently explained, Planned Parenthood receives "more than $500 million annually in government funding, mostly through Medicaid and grants," and that money is crucial to helping them provide this health care to millions of American women. "Because Planned Parenthood is such a large provider in this space," Kliff writes, "it's hard to see other clinics stepping in to fill the gap that [defunding] would leave."
Anti-choice attempts to shutter women's health clinics -- including Planned Parenthood centers -- around the country have already created a massive health crisis in states like Texas, where 13 million women live but currently only have access to a handful of clinics.
Fox has repeatedly hyped this most recent deceptive campaign against Planned Parenthood, with the network devoting 10 full segments in just one day to hyping the video's false claims.