Fox News revived the debunked myth that President Obama "gutted" work requirements from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program despite the fact that the claim has repeatedly been shown to be false.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped a bill introduced by House Republicans last week that seeks to block the administration from granting waivers to states under the TANF program. Doocy claimed the bill would "make work a condition for receiving welfare," and repeated the debunked myth that those requirements have been "gutted under President Obama."
But the Obama administration has not removed work requirements from welfare. In July 2012, the administration announced that it would comply with governors' requests -- including Republicans -- to consider proposals to create more efficient ways to report on the work requirement for people receiving TANF benefits. According to Health and Human Services, any program that weakened or undercut welfare reform would not be approved, and waivers would only be granted to proposals that "move at least 20% more people from welfare to work."
The Center on Budget and Policies Priorities found that these waivers would strengthen welfare reform by "giving states greater flexibility to test more effective strategies for helping recipients prepare for, and retain jobs." The New York Times reported that the new requirements continued the administration's efforts "to peel back unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and allow states to spend federal money more efficiently."
As NPR reported, following 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney's use of the claim in a political ad, "every major fact-checking organization" found the attack to be false. Politifact rated the claim as "pants on fire" and The Washington Post's fact checker gave the claim four Pinocchios (its highest rating). Factcheck.org found no basis for the claim, explaining:
A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted 'a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.' The plan does neither of those things.
- Work requirements are not simply being 'dropped.' States may now change the requirements -- revising, adding or eliminating them -- as part of a federally approved state-specific plan to increase job placement.
- And it won't 'gut' the 1996 law to ease the requirement. Benefits still won't be paid beyond an allotted time, whether the recipient is working or not.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted that unlike Obama, the Bush administration "pushed for a welfare 'superwaiver' that would allow states to waive just about every requirement, including the work requirement," a proposal which passed in the House three times.
A Wall Street Journal editorial blamed the federal government for an increase in student loan debt, ignoring higher levels of college enrollment and the effects of the economic downturn.
The Journal attributed an increase in student loan debt since 2008 to the "federal student-loan explosion" following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which replaced government subsidies to private lenders with direct loans to students from the Department of Education. The Journal cited Federal Reserve Bank of New York data to claim the high levels of debt prove this new system has created "systemic risk":
The federal student-loan explosion means that this is the one giant exception to the needed consumer deleveraging that has occurred since the financial crisis. Americans have reduced their borrowing in most consumer markets. But U.S. student-loan debt increased 11% last year to $966 billion and has skyrocketed 51% since 2008, according to the New York Fed report. According to the Wall Street Journal, 43% of 25-year-olds had student debt in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from about 33% in the same period of 2008.
Talk about creating systemic risk.
But the Federal Reserve Bank of New York data that the Journal cites reveals that total student loan debt has steadily increased since 2005, years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The Federal Reserve attributed this upward trend in student loan debt to increased college enrollments and higher tuition rates.
A week after Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called Al Jazeera's expansion into American television a "trojan horse for terror," the show used exclusive footage from Al Jazeera to report on a deadly tourism accident in Egypt.
Following the announcement that Al Jazeera was purchasing Current TV to expand into U.S. markets, Doocy asked last week if Al Jazeera America would be a "Trojan Horse for terror." The following on-screen graphic was displayed when Doocy made his comments:
Doocy's smear did not stop Fox & Friends from airing Al Jazeera's footage of a hot air balloon crash in Egypt that killed 19 tourists. The footage included on-screen text identifying it as "Al Jazeera Exclusive."
Fox host Bill O'Reilly also recently attacked Al Jazeera, claiming that if you "misbehave ... on Al Jazeera, they behead you," and that Current TV's hosts were "going to be given burqas" before reporting on Al Jazeera America.
Fox News has previously used both Al Jazeera's live feed and its reporting during the Arab Spring protests, despite criticizing President Obama for reportedly watching the network's reporting.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly speculated that the government will invade personal privacy as a result of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, ignoring the fact that the order merely provides optional help for companies running critical infrastructure to combat cyber threats.
President Obama announced Tuesday during the State of the Union address that he had signed an executive order to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructure that impacts national security, the national economy, and public health and safety."
On Fox & Friends, Napolitano said the order "goes too far," making the accusation that the order will allow the government to read personal emails and eventually punish and restrict individuals for what they say on the internet, claiming that "your freedom of expression will shrink."
But as The New York Times reported, the order has nothing to do with the Internet use of individuals, and instead introduces an entirely voluntary program to help specific companies combat cyber threats:
The order will allow companies that oversee infrastructure like dams, electrical grids and financial institutions to join an experimental program that has provided government contractors with real-time reports about cyberthreats.
It will also put together recommendations that companies should follow to prevent attacks, and it will more clearly define the responsibilities for different parts of the government that play a role in cybersecurity.
The Times further noted that according to industry experts, the most important measures needed to protect against cyberattacks still require congressional approval. Senate Republicans twice rejected cybersecurity legislation last year.
And the American Civil Liberties Union has approved of the privacy measures included in the executive order. The Hill's technology blog reported:
The executive order also makes clear that agencies are required to implement privacy and civil liberties protections into their cyber activities, according to existing privacy principles and frameworks. Agencies are also required review the privacy and civil liberties impact of their work and publicly release those assessments.
Those privacy-focused measures won approval from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"The president's executive order rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don't negatively impact civil liberties," Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, in a statement. "For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information."
Fox News misleadingly claimed that an increase in the minimum wage would harm small businesses. In fact, data show that small businesses in states with a higher minimum wage experience better economic performance and job growth.
The Wall Street Journal ignored key parts of Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) Senate record to promote him as "bipartisan" and in "pursuit of legislative harmony." In fact, Rubio has a history of obstructionism, voting against major bipartisan legislation, blocking nominations, and filibustering Democratic initiatives in the Senate.
In light of reports that right-wing Media Research Center president Brent Bozell was called a "hater" for his criticism of Republican leaders, Media Matters for America recalls 10 of the worst examples of Bozell's hateful rhetoric.
Fox News questioned recent remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defending the Obama administration's response to the terrorist attack in Libya, claiming that the administration had ample time to act to prevent the deaths of four Americans. But Fox omitted remarks from Panetta that directly contradicted the network's narrative that the attack unfolded over several hours.
During a weekend interview on CNN, Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the military response to the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, stating that there were two 20-minute attacks at the U.S. Consulate, separated by six hours:
DEMPSEY: You know, it wasn't a seven-hour battle. It was two 20-minute battles separated by about six hours. The idea that this was one continuous event is just incorrect. And the nearest -- for example, the nearest aircraft -- armed aircraft, happened to be in Djibouti, the distance from Djibouti to Benghazi is the distance from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. There is some significant physics involved. And the time available, given the intelligence available, I have great confidence in reporting to the American people that we were appropriately responsive given what we knew at the time.
PANETTA: This is not 911. You cannot just simply call and expect within two minutes to have a team in place. It takes time. That's the nature of it. Our people are there. They are in position to move, but we've got to have good intelligence that gives us a heads up that something is going to happen.
On Monday, host Martha MacCallum cast doubt on Panetta's remarks, specifically his statement referring to the 911 call, claiming it will be a "tough statement for him to defend" given that the attack was "a 7- or 8-hour exchange." Panetta and Dempsey are scheduled to testify this week before a congressional inquiry into the Libya attack.
But MacCallum aired only a short portion of Panetta's remarks, omitting Dempsey's statement that the attack happened in two separate, short incidents.
CNN's Candy Crowley asked Sunday if President Obama pursued immigration reform "at the risk of not focusing on the economy," ignoring the fact that experts agree immigration reform will strengthen the economy, leading to higher wages, more jobs, and more tax revenue.
On CNN's State of the Union, Crowley pointed to the contraction in GDP in the last quarter of 2012 and the small increase in unemployment in January, and implied President Obama was not focused on these issues, saying "we've heard since the beginning of January gun control and immigration reform ... Does the President pursue immigration and gun control at the risk of not focusing on the economy?"
In fact, experts agree immigration reform will strengthen the economy. According to UCLA professor and immigration expert Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, passing comprehensive immigration reform would add at least $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy over ten years, generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue, and create 750,000 to 900,000 new jobs. Labor economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University also found that higher levels of immigration coincide with lower levels of unemployment, and a Brookings Institution report concluded that immigrants raise the standard of living of American workers "by boosting wages and lowering prices."
In a post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Ezra Klein pointed out that immigration could ease many of the economic problems associated with an aging population and low birth rate:
The economic case for immigration is best made by way of analogy. Everyone agrees that aging economies with low birth rates are in trouble; this, for example, is a thoroughly conventional view of Japan. It's even conventional wisdom about the U.S. The retirement of the baby boomers is correctly understood as an economic challenge. The ratio of working Americans to retirees will fall from 5 to 1 today to 3 to 1 in 2050. Fewer workers and more retirees is tough on any economy.
There's nothing controversial about that analysis. But if that's not controversial, then immigration shouldn't be, either. Immigration is essentially the importation of new workers. It's akin to raising the birth rate, only easier, because most of the newcomers are old enough to work. And because living in the U.S. is considered such a blessing that even very skilled, very industrious workers are willing to leave their home countries and come to ours, the U.S. has an unusual amount to gain from immigration. When it comes to the global draft for talent, we almost always get the first-round picks -- at least, if we want them, and if we make it relatively easy for them to come here.
President Obama has proposed immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, better enforcement of immigration laws, and reforming the legal immigration system. According to recent polls, a majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor allowing undocumented immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens.
As congressional leaders debate a framework for comprehensive immigration reform that will likely grant undocumented immigrants legal status, conservative media are engaged in promoting myths and falsehoods about what reform means for the country.