Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Fox News pushed the myth that increased access to emergency contraceptives encourages sex among teenagers. In fact, research shows access to these drugs does not increase teens' sexual activity.
Wall Street Journal online editorial page editor James Taranto ignored the thousands of hate crimes committed against minorities each year, misleadingly fixating on four allegedly falsified incidents to claim minority oppression "scarcely exists."
In a May 2 Journal post, Taranto focused on four incidents in which individuals allegedly falsely claimed they were the victims of hate crimes, and claimed that these "phony" accusations were "common, especially on college campuses." He concluded:
Oppression of minorities, and certainly of women, scarcely exists in America in the 21st century. Genuine hate crimes happen, but they are very rare. Few societies in history have offered more security to the previously downtrodden. But the presence of security only makes the need for identity and stimulation more pressing. Hate-crime hoaxes are an extreme way of meeting those needs.
Taranto's fixation on a small number of discredited cases hides the reality that hate crime in the United States is not as rare as he claims. According to the FBI's most recent data, law enforcement agencies reported thousands of hate crimes in 2011 alone:
- In 2011, 1,944 law enforcement agencies reported 6,222 hate crime incidents involving 7,254 offenses.
- There were 6,216 single-bias incidents that involved 7,240 offenses, 7,697 victims, and 5,724 offenders.
- The 6 multiple-bias incidents reported in 2011 involved 14 offenses, 16 victims, and 7 offenders.
These crimes included murder, rape, assault, intimidation, and destruction or theft of property. According to the data, most of the crimes were motivated by racial bias, followed by bias against sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and national origin, and disability.
However, these numbers likely underestimate the true amount of hate crime in the United States. Business Insider explained that hate crimes are vastly under-reported to the FBI, as the data "is highly dependent on reports from local police, some of whom are better at reporting hate crimes than others."
Indeed, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Justice, only 35 percent of hate crimes from 2007 to 2011 were reported to the police. Accounting for hate crimes not reported to authorities, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that there were 181,190 violent hate crimes in 2011. An additional 13,200 violent hate crimes were motivated by gender bias, which the FBI does not track. The percentage of violent hate crimes that resulted in an arrest declined from 10 percent in 2003 - 2006 to 4 percent in 2007 - 2011.
Taranto's baseless dismissal of oppression is unsurprising given his history, including claiming that the "legal regime ... is highly indulgent of sexual-harassment allegations" and attacking the Voting Rights Act.
Fox & Friends spent more than 13 minutes of airtime to questioning whether women can drive or park well, including a "park-off" pitting male and female hosts against each other in a "battle of the sexes."
On May 1, the hosts hyped a home video of a female driver parallel parking in Belfast, Ireland, and co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade challenged Gretchen Carlson and meteorologist Maria Molina to a "park-off," in which the men competed against the women to see which team could park better. Carlson hyped the event as "stereotypes played out to perfection," while Doocy referred to it as "the battle of the sexes park-off."
The show devoted several segments to the topic, including mentions while reading other news headlines, for a total of 13 minutes and 39 seconds of airtime.
Sexism has long had a home at Fox & Friends. In June 2010, Kilmeade referred to women as "babes, chicks," and "skirts" during a segment on which cars appeal to women. In September 2010, Kilmeade advised a sports reporter who allegedly suffered sexual harassment from football players to "[g]et a Whoopi Goldberg outfit, like a big tent." Kilmeade, Doocy, and Fox News host Geraldo Rivera repeatedly used sexual innuendo when discussing Victoria's Secret models in January 2013. Fox & Friends guests have also made sexist comments on the show.
A Wall Street Journal article debunked the myth that federal disability benefits are to blame for the shrinking labor force, "exaggerated" claims that have previously been pushed by the paper itself.
An April 29 Journal article headlined "Real Culprit Behind Smaller Workforce: Age" explained that the recent decrease in the labor force -- the number of employed and unemployed Americans who are currently seeking work -- "has more to do with retiring baby boomers than frustrated job seekers abandoning their searches." The article noted that claims that Americans are voluntarily leaving the workforce to receive Disability Insurance instead of working, for example, "may be exaggerated," and explained that retirees and students made up a far more significant portion of those leaving the labor force. The article included the following graph, showing disability was the least common reason for individuals leaving the workforce in March 2013:
However, the Journal has previously pushed the myth that Disability Insurance accounted for much of the dropping labor force participation rate. An April 10 article headlined "Workers Stuck in Disability Stunt Economic Recovery" claimed that workers receiving disability benefits were costing the economy billions by not instead participating in the labor force, and quoted economist Michael Feroli's claim that "worker flight to the Social Security Disability Insurance program accounts for as much as a quarter of the puzzling drop in participation rates, a labor exodus with far-reaching economic consequences." These claims are in direct contradiction to the Journal's most recent reporting.
According to Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker, research shows if more individuals who receive disability benefits worked, it would have a relatively minor effect on employment figures. Harold Pollack, an expert on disability policy at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, dismissed the idea that disability benefits might be "luring away people who could work." Despite these facts, media continue to attack federal disability benefits by pushing the false claim that disability programs harm the economy.
Fox News forwarded the notion that it might be appropriate for school children to be forced to work in exchange for free school meals, after a Republican lawmaker in West Virginia proposed such a requirement for a new law curbing child hunger.
On Fox & Friends First, on-screen text asked viewers whether students should have to "work for their school meals":
As The Washington Post blog "She The People" explained, the idea that students could be forced into labor in exchange for food comes from a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, who suggested the requirement be added to a bill intended to ensure no child goes hungry:
"I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it," said Ray Canterbury, a Republican from Greenbrier and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, during debate over Senate Bill 663, also known as the Feed to Achieve Act.
The bill -- the first of its kind in the nation -- would create a partnership between private donations and public funds to make breakfast and lunch available for free to every student, kindergarten through high school senior, in West Virginia. It's based on a model program in Mason County that's improved attendance and decreased discipline problems, according to the school district's food service director.
Free meals are provided through the National School Lunch Program to students whose family's income is 130 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines. For this past school year, that means a family of four with an annual income of $29,965 qualifies. Children with household incomes of 185 percent or less of the poverty guidelines can get reduced-price meals under the program, which -- I was surprised to learn -- was established in 1946 by the National School Lunch Act.
West Virginia's Feed to Achieve Act wants to go beyond that by making sure no child goes hungry at school, but Canterbury repeated the theme of "there is no such thing as a free lunch" during the delegates' discussion of the bill, which had passed the state Senate unanimously.
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Washington Examiner senior political columnist Tim Carney is using the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell to demonize an exceptionally rare type of legal abortion that is used to save the life of a mother.
Gosnell has been charged with eight counts of murder, horrific acts committed under the guise of women's health services that are detailed by a grand jury report and which an expert on reproductive health explained are not in line with legal abortion procedures.
In an April 16 Examiner column, Carney fixated on remarks made by Dr. Tracy Weitz, a reproductive health professor at the University of California, during a conference call with pro-choice group RH Reality Check. Carney highlighted her descriptions of a particular abortion procedure to imply that the only difference between Gosnell's methods and legal abortions was whether or not the procedure was performed "when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered."
But as Dr. Weitz explained in her response to Carney, the procedures Gosnell is alleged to have done have "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States" and his actions are "nowhere in the medical literature." Similarly, Salon's Irin Carmon explained that "[n]o one who supports the provision of safe abortion care to women excuses any of what Gosnell is accused of, from willfully gruesome conditions to sadistic treatment to infanticide."
Carney's bogus analogy of legal abortion procedures to the Gosnell case further ignores the fact that legal "late-term" abortions -- which is not a medical term -- are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions in the United States, and are significantly restricted by law. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, the vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetus "viability," which occurs at approximately 20 to 24 weeks, prior to the third trimester. Some states provide an exception, allowing a medical professional to perform a late-term abortion when the life of the mother is threatened, and in even fewer states, cases of "fetal abnormality."
Furthermore, contrary to Gosnell's alleged actions, legal abortion is very safe. As Carmon reported, a medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
But these life-saving procedures are under threat as right-wing media figures such as Carney continue to demonize legal, affordable, safe, and rare abortions by implying that they are similar to Gosnell's horrors. As Salon's Carmon further noted, many women went to Gosnell "because they felt they had no alternative." The case is an indictment of the anti-choice movement, revealing the need for safe, affordable, and legal abortion services that protect the health of women.
Right-wing media are encouraging Republican senators to filibuster gun violence prevention legislation, continuing a long history of trying to influence GOP politics through recommended obstructionism.
Fox News figures claimed the U.S. should emulate the United Kingdom by slashing funding to federal disability programs and changing eligibility requirements, despite the fact that U.S. eligibility requirements are already stringent, that the new U.K. benefits tests were largely overturned on appeal, and that research shows changes to disability programs in the U.K. will force thousands of individuals with disabilities into poverty.