The right-wing obsession with Benghazi took center stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as two prominent speakers, John Bolton and Sen. Mitch McConnell, focused on the attacks in an attempt to drive more media coverage of their manufactured scandal.
The first day of the American Conservative Union's annual convention featured speeches from prominent conservatives. Within two hours of CPAC's opening remarks, two of those speakers used their time to invoke the September 11, 2011 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, promising to continue using the tragedy as a political attack. Former U.N. ambassador and Fox News contributor John Bolton called Benghazi the "paradigm of the Obama doctrine failure," even saying, "Under Barack Obama, you can murder his personal representative and get away scott-free."
He then turned his remarks into an attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pledging to tell Clinton, "We know what difference it makes, even if you don't." Earlier, McConnell attacked media coverage of the Benghazi tragedy, suggesting that the media were "trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary [Clinton]" by not repeating right-wing myths.
Benghazi's prominent placement at CPAC is hardly surprising, considering the effort on the part of the right-wing media to maintain focus on their distorted version of the tragedy to attack President Obama and Clinton.
Fox News launched a new false attack on the Affordable Care Act's risk corridor provision, suggesting that the program which shuffles money between private insurance companies would cost taxpayers $5.5 billion.
On the March 5 edition of Fox's America's News HQ, co-host Greg Jarrett and Fox Business host David Asman promoted the GOP claim that the ACA's risk corridor provision is a "taxpayer funded bailout" for insurance companies, suggesting that an estimated $5.5 billion in payments over the next year contradicted President Obama's promise that there would be no more bailouts and that the ACA would not add to the deficit. Asman further claimed the administration is "calling it a temporary pool of money. Now maybe if you believe that Obamacare wasn't going to cost a dime, you'll buy that explanation. But most of the time when the government sends money in to that degree, into these companies, it doesn't get the money back":
The distortion that risk corridors are an insurance company bailout is a frequent theme on Fox, but this latest narrative is especially misleading. What the Fox hosts failed to acknowledge is that the estimated $5.5 billion payment doesn't come from taxpayers, but from the insurance companies themselves. The risk corridor provision transfers money from insurance companies with healthier risk pools to companies with less healthy risk pools with higher than anticipated costs.
While the federal government may be required to subsidize some of the payment in extreme circumstances, White House officials expect that the entire risk corridor cost over the next year will be borne by the insurance companies themselves. As Bloomberg reported:
Fox News is helping promote Sen. Tom Coburn's misleading report on health care spending, which attacked the Affordable Care Act by cherry-picking data on the rise of spending in health care systems.
The Oklahoma Republican released a report this week titled "The History of Federal Health Care Spending," which attempted to rebut projections that the ACA will reduce the deficit and lower health care costs by presenting data on the cost growth of other federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare. The report argued that that "the government's spending on health care programs usually outpaces economic growth" and that "compared with initial government estimates and outlays, most programs have experienced exponential growth."
On Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer said the report revealed "stunning numbers," while Fox contributor Charles Gasparino endorsed the report's suggestion that the growth in government health care programs contradicted positive projections of the ACA's impact, claiming "when government is this much enmeshed in a program like this, it always leads to disaster":
But Fox's hype ignores the crucial flaw in Coburn's report -- it omits crucial context about why the programs' costs have increased and how they perform at controlling costs when compared to private health insurance.
While it's true that spending on programs such as Medicaid and Medicare have increased over the last 50 years, the cause of those rising costs are not a result of government involvement, but due to the fact that overall spending on health care has increased exponentially. A 2010 report in Health Affairs which tracked Medicare spending over roughly 20 years found that much of the growth "is attributable to rising spending on chronic conditions -- specifically diabetes and hypertension, both of which rose considerably in treated prevalence over the past two decades."
Notably, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that "Since Medicare's inception, however, growth in annual spending per beneficiary has been approximately one percentage point lower than private health insurance spending":
Ted Nugent canceled a planned interview on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront after comparing the network to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels and lashing out at host Wolf Blitzer for condemning Nugent's inflammatory rhetoric, including attacking President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel."
On her CNN show, Burnett revealed that Nugent had canceled the interview two hours before it was scheduled to air, citing illness.
Nugent came under widespread criticism after calling Obama a "subhuman mongrel" at a gun show. On February 18, CNN host Wolf Blitzer condemned Nugent's comments, noting that the phrase "subhuman mongrel" bore resemblance to "untermensch," which is "what the Nazis called Jews ... to justify the genocide of the Jewish community." Blitzer also highlighted the controversy surrounding Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, for whom Nugent made appearances as part of Abbott's campaign for Texas governor.
Nugent responded to Blitzer and CNN by lashing out at Blitzer and tweeting "CNN Joseph Goebbells Saul Alinsky propaganda ministry mongrels" and "So much media has lost its soul lying Saul Alinsky Joseph Geobbells [sic] freaks."
After hyping the interview on his Twitter account, Nugent did not tweet about the cancellation.
Fox News cropped and distorted President Obama's remarks on rising income inequality to falsely claim the president supports equal incomes for all Americans.
On The February 15 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, Fox host Eric Bolling played a clip of President Obama's December 4, 2013, speech on rising income inequality and contrasted it with recent comments made by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Bolling used the contrast to claim that Obama's solution to the problem of inequality was to make all incomes equal, whereas Christie supported equality of opportunity. Later in the segment, Bolling used his distorted depiction of Obama's stance to ask "isn't that what Communism is all about?":
Bolling's characterization of President Obama's comments is wildly distorted. Nowhere in the speech that Fox aired does Obama advocate equal incomes. In fact, in a portion of the speech that Fox did not air, Obama explained that "we don't promise equal outcomes" but have "strived to deliver equal opportunity." The transcript of Obama's speech is below with the small portion Fox chose to air in bold:
They may not follow the constant back-and-forth in Washington or all the policy details, but they experience, in a very personal way, the relentless decades long trend that I want to spend some time talking about today, and that is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America's basic bargain that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American. That's why I ran for president. It was the center of last year's campaign. It drives everything I do in this office.
Now, the premise that we're all created equal is the opening line in the American story. And while we don't promise equal outcomes, we've strived to deliver equal opportunity -- the idea that success doesn't depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit. And with every chapter we've added to that story, we've worked hard to put those words into practice.
Fox News figures covered up controversial tactics by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who falsely promised that Volkswagen would reward workers at a Chattanooga plant with a new SUV production if they voted against unionizing.
On February 14, the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, TN voted against joining the United Auto Workers union by a vote of 712 - 626. Fox News' America's News HQ reacted to the vote by calling it a "major win for Republicans like Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who say unions just would push away auto manufacturers." Fox then aired comments from Corker who claimed, "How many companies from South Korea or Japan or Germany, how many of them do you think make a stop in Detroit to look at locating there? None. Not a one. And it's because of the culture that the UAW's largely contributed":
But what Fox omitted from its report is that Corker is at the center of controversy for this advocacy against the union. On February 13, the day before the vote was scheduled to take place, Corker claimed that if the workers of the Chattanooga plant rejected the union, Volkswagen would "reward the plant with a new product to build":
Corker has long been an opponent of the union which he says hurts economic and job growth in Tennessee, a charge that UAW officials say is untrue.
"I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga," said Corker, without saying with whom he had the conversations.
But Corker's claim was immediately rebuffed by Volkswagen, who had remained neutral and even "tacitly endorsed the union." In a statement released following Corker's comments, the company stressed that unionization would have no impact on its decision about where to build the new product, saying "There is no connection between our Chattanooga employees' decision about whether to be represented by a union and the decision about where to build a new product for the U.S. market." None of this information was presented in Fox's report.
Fox attempted to revive the lie that the Affordable Care Act contains health care rationing in the form of "death panels" by pushing misleading claims about the law's prescription drug coverage.
On Fox's Special Report, guest host Doug McKelway asked the show's panel about a provision in the ACA that he claimed "is drastically limiting the availability of some drugs." Fox contributor Stephen Hayes claimed "patients with diseases and conditions that require medication not approved by Washington bureaucrats" may "have to go without it with potentially very serious implications." McKelway asked if the prescription drug provisions were "rationing or, as some people have said, the so-called death panels." Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded: "We're learning how much rationing is the essence of Obamacare -- the rationing of doctors, the rationing of hospitals. Here we begin to understand the rationing of drugs. Next, and in the end, will be rationing of care."
Fox's description of the ACA's prescription drug coverage is misleading, and McKelway's "death panel" reference is outright irresponsible. The reality is that the way the ACA treats prescription drug coverage is in line with how private insurance companies have handled coverage for years.
Although Fox omitted it from its coverage, the ACA actually expands prescription drug coverage, including it as one of the 10 essential health benefits that all plans must provide. But just like the vast majority of currently offered health plans, plans offered under the ACA's health care exchanges will not provide full coverage to every prescription drug. These plans will be offered along with what's known as a drug formulary, a guide to what drugs the plan covers and how they cover it. As Think Progress' Igor Volsky pointed out, the use of a drug formulary is standard practice among health care plans:
Under the law, insurers must offer drug benefits as part of 10 essential health care benefits, meaning that millions of uninsured Americans will now have drug coverage for the very first time. But the coverage won't be limitless. Insurers will continue to rely on drug formularies -- as they currently do in the private market and Medicare Part D -- to decide which prescriptions are covered and which are not.
The ACA requires that issuers provide the greater of one drug from each category or class, or offer as many drugs in each category as are covered by a benchmark plan. The law allows states the choice of four different benchmarks, which Gottlieb helpfully lists in his article: 1) One of the three largest small group plans in the state by enrollment; 2) one of the three largest state employee health plans by enrollment; 3) one of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment; or 4) the largest HMO plan offered in the state's commercial market by enrollment.
States -- not the federal government -- select the benchmark and insurers then offer coverage for the drugs listed in those formularies. "What the vast majority of states have chosen is a common small business plan, so you know it's saying what will be available in the exchanges and in the individual market generally is what's popular among small businesses now and that seems like a reasonable place to start," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt explained.
The law also has provisions for people who rely on a drug that isn't covered by their plan's formulary. Patients can apply for exceptions in the case of medical need:
What if a drug I take is not on the list?
Your doctor can ask for an exception for medical need so that the insurer will cover it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging insurers to respond to such requests within three days. If your request is denied, you can go through your state's appeals process, which usually is handled by insurance regulators. If you still can't get coverage and need to take the drug, you'll have to bear the full cost out of pocket, as it won't count toward your deductible or your co-insurance maximum.
Fox News host and conservative firebrand Eric Bolling proposed a health care alternative that bears striking resemblance to the public option, a government-issued insurance program that was originally considered as part of the health care reform law that was the target of his network.
On the February 11 edition of Fox's The Five, Bolling reacted to news that the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate was being delayed for some businesses by suggesting Republicans replace the ACA's mandate to purchase insurance with an optional government-issued alternative. Bolling said this plan would have the benefit of driving "all the prices down" in the health care market, and expressed puzzlement about "why the Republicans don't do this":
Bolling is right that a government-issued health care alternative would inject competition into the market and lower health care costs, but his suggestion that Republicans propose it is mystifying. In fact, that exact proposal, known as the public option, was originally included in but later removed from versions of what would later become the Affordable Care Act in both the House and Senate, and was attacked by Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch as "a Trojan horse for a single-payer system." In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove, who would later become Bolling's colleague at Fox, claimed that "If Democrats enact a public-option health-insurance program, America is on the way to becoming a European-style welfare state."
Bolling's support for the plan is surprising for a number of reasons. First, he was clearly aware of the existence of the public option. During his tenure at Fox Business, he covered the proposal on the air, exploring Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) support for a version of the public option. Also his current network, Fox News, led opposition to the public option, even going so far as to direct its journalists to replace the phrase "public option" with "government option" or "government-run plan," phrases that were shown from a pollster to generate disapproval.
Bolling is one of Fox's most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act, legislation that he has labeled a "socialist system" despite the fact that it involves significantly less government involvement than the plan he appeared to endorse.
Right-wing media figures rushed to claim the Affordable Care Act will destroy 2 million jobs, citing a new Congressional Budget Office report, but that's not what the report found -- the CBO report projected that the law will give workers the freedom to voluntarily reduce their employment after gaining health insurance.
The CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 on February 4, which projected in part that the number of full-time workers would decline by about 2 million by 2017. Right-wing media quickly pounced on the report to distort the CBO's projections about the ACA's effect on future employment.
In a post on her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin claimed the report "confirms what critics have been saying all along: Obamacare is killing jobs and squelching growth." On Fox, America's News HQ co-host Alisyn Camerota claimed "a bombshell new CBO report" found that "Obamacare will be much worse for the economy than previously predicted," and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs added it is "another round of devastating numbers for all Americans because the result of this is there will be fewer jobs":
The CBO makes it clear that the decrease in workers is not due to jobs being lost -- rather, the ACA will allow workers to choose to work less. The projected change is in the supply of labor, not the demand for labor, and thus the CBO noted that the decrease would not lead to a corresponding increase in unemployment or underemployment (emphasis added):
The reduction in CBO's projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses' demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).
ABC's The View reportedly plans to mainstream conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch by featuring her as a guest co-host on the February 3 program.
The decision to give Loesch a national platform on a highly-rated television show is troubling considering Loesch has gained notoriety for her inflammatory rhetoric, expressing extreme views on topics from gun control to reproductive access.
Loesch made headlines in January 2012 for her reaction to an internet video that appeared to show members of the Marine Corps urinating on the corpses Taliban fighters. On her St. Louis-based radio show, Loesch defended the alleged act, saying that she would "drop trou and do it too" if she was in a similar situation. Loesch criticized "a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were Marines caught urinating on corpses -- Taliban corpses," and later defended her comments on a Breitbart.com blog post by claiming she was "defending [the Marines] from overly-dramatic hysteria."
At the time, Loesch was an CNN contributor, and the network reportedly suspended her soon after these remarks.
Loesch was also one of the few right-wing media figures to excuse former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) for his "legitimate rape" remarks. After Akin declared that it is rare for women who had been the victim of "legitimate rape" to become pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Loesch took to Twitter account and dismissed Akin's comments, claiming he "failed a soundbite" and attacking his critics for "hypocritical overreactions."