Fox News contributor Erick Erickson launched his latest personal attack on Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, whom he proudly labeled "Abortion Barbie," by absurdly suggesting that a 1996 lawsuit in which Davis made a routine legal claim in a defamation lawsuit disqualified her to hold public office.
In a post on his conservative website RedState, Erickson highlighted a 1996 lawsuit in which Davis sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for defamation. Erickson seized on language from the suit, in which Davis claimed the editorial had caused "damages to her mental health," a required element of her alternate Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim, to argue Democrats would regret supporting her campaign for governor:
Back in 1996, Wendy Davis lost an election for the Fort Worth, TX City Council. After the election, she sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the local newspaper, for defamation. In short, Davis did not like being criticized by the media (something she won't have to worry about this go round), so she sued for those criticisms claiming they defamed her.
The Texas Court of Appeals and then the Texas Supreme Court both threw out her case. But it is worth noting that Davis, in making her case, claimed that the nasty newspaper, by virtue of criticizing her, damaged her "mental health."
More worrisome regarding her mental stability, Davis sued the newspaper months after losing her city council and claimed that she "ha[d] suffered and [was] continuing to suffer damages to her mental health."
Think about that. The best candidate the Texas Democrats could find to run is a lady who admits in open court that a newspaper editorial caused her mental health to be damaged.
As explained by the Digital Media Law Project of Harvard University's Berman Center for Internet & Society, "Plaintiffs who file defamation lawsuits often add an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim as an alternative theory of liability." Within these IIED claims, a plaintiff must prove the emotional distress, or "damages to her mental health." In other words, Erickson wants his subscribers to "think about" the routine legal boilerplate of Wendy Davis' lawyers from 1996.
Erickson's suggestion that Davis is unfit for public office because of a defamation lawsuit is only the latest in his string of absurd or vicious personal attacks against her. In August, Erickson labeled Davis "Abortion Barbie" after she declined to comment on the case of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell:
Following the October 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, media outlets hyped several anecdotal stories of people who will be negatively affected by the law. These stories have ranged from the misleading to the outright false.
Media outlets have been promoting the stories of individuals whose plans are being canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act. But many of those canceled plans offer an inadequate level of coverage, which carries many of the same risks as not having insurance at all.
ABC's The View hosted Betsy McCaughey to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA), praising her as a "health care policy expert" and ignoring her history of misinformation, including inventing the persistent lie that the health care law contains "death panels."
On the October 29 edition of The View, co-host Barbara Walters introduced a segment with McCaughey by calling her a "health care policy expert" and asking if health care consumers "were not told the truth by the Obama administration," saying, "they are about to lose their current medical plans and they don't know what they are getting instead." The View provided no background about McCaughey aside from naming her as the author of a book opposing the ACA.
McCaughey, who is by no means a "health care policy expert," has no credibility to comment on the ACA. In 2009, during the legislative debate over the bills that would later become the ACA, McCaughey distorted language in the House version of the bill to claim that it would "absolutely require -- that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care." McCaughey's misinformation was echoed throughout the right-wing media, leading to the lie that the ACA contains "death panels" that will judge whether patients are deserving of life-preserving care.
McCaughey's history of health care misinformation doesn't end at death panels. In fact, during her appearance on The View, she solicited a question about senior care in order to push another of her debunked health care claims: that the ACA cuts benefits for Medicare patients. McCaughey has long pushed this false claim, consistently ignoring the fact that the ACA explicitly stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits will not be affected.
After CBS News ran a deceptive segment highlighting a Florida woman's increased health care costs, Fox News reportedly contacted the woman to appear on three of its shows. CBS has run several misleading segments on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since the implementation of the law's exchanges.
On CBS' This Morning, political correspondent Jan Crawford highlighted the story of Dianne Barette, a Florida woman who received notice that her plan did not meet the ACA's minimum coverage requirements. In the segment, Crawford said Barette "pays $54 a month. The new plan she's being offered would run $591 a month, ten times more than what she currently pays." According to the Washington Post's media blogger Erik Wemple, after the CBS story aired, Barette was contacted by three Fox News shows, Fox & Friends, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren.
Wemple, who also interviewed Barrette, pointed out a detail the CBS report failed to mention: in addition to being inadequate, the coverage Barrette currently receives doesn't cover hospitalizations, something that "could well have bankrupted Barrette under her current insurance." From Wemple's article:
More coverage may provide a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of Barrette's situation: Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn't cover "extended hospital stays; it's not designed for that," says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? "Outpatient only," responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover "most of my generic drugs that I need" and there's a $50 co-pay for doctors' appointments. "It's all I could afford right now," says Barrette.
In sum, it's a pray-that-you-don't-really-get-sick "plan." When asked if she ever required hospitalization, Barrette says she did. It happened when she was employed by Raytheon, which provided "excellent benefits." Ever since she left the company and started working as an independent contractor, "I haven't been hospitalized since then, thank God." Hospitalization is among the core requirements for health-care plans under Obamacare.
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer allowed Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to push the discredited claim that health care website contractors were pressured to change an aspect of HealthCare.gov by the White House days after those contractors explicitly denied any pressure from administration officials.
On the October 27 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Schieffer asked Issa about the purpose of congressional subpoenas from the House Oversight Committee, which Issa chairs. Issa responded by claiming contractors had admitted that White House officials pressured them to drop a tool that allowed exchange customers to get a price estimate before registering on the website. Issa's accusation was the shorter version of one he made earlier in the week, in which he claimed in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, "We are concerned that the administration required contractors to change course late in the implementation process to conceal ObamaCare's effect on increasing health insurance premiums."
Schieffer never pushed back on Issa's accusation, even though officials from the contractor, CGI Federal, denied any White House pressure to remove the tool from the website. A press release from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) pointed out that in congressional testimony, CGI senior vice president Cheryl Campbell refuted Issa's claims, testifying that she was not aware of any orders from the White House to remove the price estimate tool:
The media has heavily focused on problems faced by the Affordable Care Act website's implementation problems at the expense of stories showing that the exchanges have allowed many people to successfully access affordable health care coverage.
Right-wing media outlets pushed the false claim that the Healthcare.gov website includes a language stating that consumers they have "no reasonable expectation of privacy," ignoring the fact that the phrase is part of standard website language and does not change current legal protections for health care information.
A Weekly Standard post by Jeryl Bier attacked the health care law's exchange website, claiming a statement in the "terms and conditions" page is "another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters." Bier's evidenced his claim by explaining, "Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov" is the phrase "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." The misleading claim was repeated by several right-wing media outlets including Fox Nation who posted the story under the headline "Hidden in ObamaCare Site: Applicants Surrender Right to Privacy" and NewsMax who claimed "Obamacare May Endanger Personal Data Security."
But the right-wing media's fearmongering about privacy concerns is unfounded. The Atlantic Wire pointed out that the phrase is part of standard legal language for similar "Terms and Conditions" pages and is only "hidden" because it was removed by developers, making the phrase not legally enforceable. The article adds that "[t]here are several ways in which" the analysis "is incorrect" (emphasis added):
The Wall Street Journal's economics blog debunked the claim that the Affordable Care Act is leading to increased part-time unemployment -- a myth that has been repeatedly pushed on the Journal's editorial page.
According to The New York Times, Fox News has declined to comment on The Benghazi Hoax¸ Media Matters' new e-book that lays out Fox's attempt to use the attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, as a political weapon.
A post on the Times' Caucus blog highlighted plans to advertise the e-book on Fox's airwaves. According to the post, a spokeswoman for Fox did not respond to a request to comment on The Benghazi Hoax:
David Brock, who is the founder of Media Matters -- a liberal watchdog group -- and who is one of Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton's most ardent defenders, has written an e-book titled "The Benghazi Hoax." He plans to advertise it on the Fox News Channel, the outlet he says has been the most vocal in its criticism of the State Department's handling of the attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that led to the death of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state at the time.
The advertisement includes a montage of Fox News pundits weighing in on Benghazi. One calls it a scandal worse than Watergate. Another says, "The Democrats are very good at watching Americans die."
Mr. Brock then appears, with an American flag waving at the bottom of the screen. "We all agree that politicizing a terrorist attack crosses a line, but that's what Fox has done since tragedy struck in Benghazi," he says in the ad. "You, the Fox viewer, lose out when you don't get the facts, so we wrote a book about the Benghazi hoax. Get the facts for yourself."
A spokeswoman for Fox News did not immediately respond to requests for comment.