Fox selectively highlighted an incomplete data point in a positive new study on the Affordable Care Act's effect on the uninsured as proof that the law is a failure.
On April 8, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research institution, released a study on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has affected the number of Americans with health insurance. The study found a net gain of 9.3 million Americans with health insurance from September 2013 to March 2014 and that the share of uninsured Americans has dropped from 20.5 percent to 15.8 percent. The report estimated a lower enrollment number than the White House's 7.1 million, but added an important caveat:
Although a total of 3.9 million people enrolled in marketplace plans, only 1.4 million of these individuals were previously uninsured. Our marketplace enrollment numbers are lower than those reported by the federal government at least in part because our data do not fully capture the surge in enrollment that occurred in late March 2014.
On the April 9 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Steve Doocy seized on the 3.9 million figure from the RAND report to claim that the Obama administration's estimate of 7.1 million people enrolled in the marketplace is incorrect. Co-host Steve Doocy cited RAND's finding that 1.4 million people who enrolled were previously uninsured to claim "we blew up everything for one percent" of the previously uninsured:
DOOCY: [Hasselbeck] just said that only 1.4 million Americans got their insurance through the exchanges. We blew up everything for one percent? Think about back to the last election where the Democrats made a big thing about the one percent, and the Republicans and the one percent. Well, everybody should make a big deal about how we blew up the entire healthcare system for one percent.
After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the GOP acknowledged it needed to change its stance on immigration and Hispanic outreach. But conservative media figures lashed out at Jeb Bush after he expressed compassion for undocumented immigrants.
Fox News spun the testimony of a former CIA deputy director to claim that intelligence gathered by officers on the ground during the 2012 Benghazi attacks was "dismissed" by leadership -- a claim that ignored context provided by Morell as well as a Senate investigative report that debunked the narrative months ago.
On April 2, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Fox News covered the hearing extensively throughout the day. On America's News HQ, correspondent Catherine Herridge claimed Morell revealed a "stunning statement," saying that top CIA officials "essentially dismissed" intelligence officers on the ground as a matter of course and concluding that Morell's testimony amounts to "a body blow for many intelligence officers who are putting their necks on the line."
HERRIDGE: One of the extraordinary headlines we had in the last few minutes was also from Morell and it's a pretty stunning statement. What he said is that the analysts -- and we've heard this consistently -- he relied on the findings of the analysts in Washington who were thousands of miles from the scene of the attack. And he also testified that those analysts did not have access to eyewitness accounts on the ground when they said they believed the attacks came out of a protest.
Herridge's report took Morell's testimony grossly out of context and ignored older findings that elaborate on the intelligence gathering process. As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence explained in its report on the attacks published in January, a lack of clear eyewitness accounts on the ground in Benghazi made it necessary to rely on other sources:
A dearth of clear and definitive HUMINT or eyewitness reporting led IC analysts to rely on open press reports and limited SIGINT reporting that incorrectly attributed the origins of the Benghazi attacks to "protests," over first-hand accounts from U.S. officials on the ground. CIA's January 4, 2013, Analytic Line Review found that "[a ]pproximately a dozen reports that included press accounts, public statements by AAS members, HUMINT reporting, DOD reporting, and signals intelligence all stated or strongly suggested that a protest occurred outside of the Mission facility just prior to the attacks."
In fact, Morell himself testified as to the reason the eyewitness accounts on the ground weren't given to analysts in an exchange with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), context that didn't make its way into Herridge's report:
BACHMANN: I thought I just heard you say, Mr. Morell, that the information taken from the eyewitnesses on the ground wasn't given to your analysts. That they looked at the press reports, the intelligence product, SIGINT, HUMINT. Is that true?
MORELL: Ma'am, what you have to understand, ma'am, is that the information didn't come all at one time. The information came in pieces over time. And when the analysts wrote their piece on the 12th, that was published on the 13th, the information that they had said there was a protest. The information, they had no information that said there was no protest. There may have been people, on the ground, who knew there was no protest, but they had not yet been interviewed, and those interviews had not yet been disseminated. In fact they were not disseminated for some time. In fact they were not disseminated until after the analysts changed their judgment about a protest. So there's a flow of information here that is really important to keep in mind as you think about how the analysts are trying to do their job here.
Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry held up Republican Sen. John McCain as a credible critic of President Obama's foreign policy toward Russia after the senator castigated the decision of several world powers to kick the nation out of the G8 -- but Henry neglected to inform viewers that McCain's position on the significance of such a move has shifted dramatically since 2008.
On the March 25 edition of The Real Story, Henry reported on criticisms from Republicans regarding the fact that the U.S. and other world powers kicked Russia out of the G8, a forum for the world's leading industrialized nations. Henry pointed to comments from McCain, who sarcastically dismissed the importance of the move, to cast President Obama as weak on Russia:
HENRY: You've got Republicans like John McCain saying today that basically look, if Russia's just a regional power, why does it appear that Vladimir Putin is holding the cards here, calling the shots if you will? Especially given the fact that there has been -- the only major action really by the President and European allies has been to kick Russia out of the G8. Here's John McCain today on Imus in the Morning on Fox Business:
MCCAIN: I'm sure that that has got to reduce Vladimir to tears, that he's not going to be able to be in the G8. Take over part of a country and you don't get to go to the next meeting in some wonderful European capitol.
Henry failed to point out McCain's contradictions in the past on revoking Russia's membership in the G8. When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, McCain vacillated several times on the efficacy of kicking Russia out of the G8. In a March 28, 2008 speech, McCain advocated for Russia's exclusion from the G8:
We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia. Rather than tolerate Russia's nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization's doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.
MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out McCain's inconsistency on the subject while writing for Washington Monthly, noting that McCain eventually decided excluding Russia would in fact be an effective method of improving the nation's behavior:
A few months later, the McCain campaign said the senator no longer believed what he said. A McCain adviser told McClatchy that the candidate's policy on Russia and the G-8 as "a holdover from an earlier period," adding, "It doesn't reflect where he is right now."
In July, however, McCain went back to the "earlier period," saying excluding Russia from the G8 would be "what's best for America" and might "improve" Russian behavior.
And more recently, McCain appeared on PBS's Charlie Rose to discuss the Ukraine situation on March 4, saying Russia should be thrown out of the G8 (emphasis added):
MCCAIN: I think, first, I would try the Magnitski which as you know targets individuals and their bank accounts and their ability to travel and all that. I would try that first. Then, obviously, I would look at other areas. You know, throw them out of the G-8, of course. It should be the G-7. A number of other cosmetic kind of don`t -- don`t go -- send our officials to the Paralympics.
But -- but we have to understand what this guy is all about. He`s an old KGB apparatchik. In 2008, the debate that I had with Barack Obama, I said at that time, watch Russia and watch Ukraine and unfortunately, these many years later, I was correct.
Will Mark Levin's vulgar analysis of Hillary Clinton finally be enough to keep top GOP officials off his show?
On the March 21 edition of his radio show, Levin highlighted a Gallup poll showing that the majority of respondents, 18 percent, feel Clinton's gender is the most positive aspect of her potential presidency. Levin summarized the results by asking "Hillary Clinton's gender? Do they mean her genitalia is her top 2016 selling point? Is that what that means?" Levin later said "But the key is it's her genitalia. That's why so many people would vote for her. I wonder if Bill Clinton would vote for her because of that. He seems to -- well, he likes genitalia but maybe not hers":
Levin has a long history of offensive commentary on his radio show. He has accused President Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
Despite this rhetoric, prominent conservatives have given tacit approval to Levin's views by appearing on his show. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) called into his show as recently as February. Levin hosted House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to talk about the new budget agreement reached in December. Levin criticized Ryan's budget deal with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) later that month.
Levin's hateful rhetoric has also earned him praise from the conservative community -- he was recently named the winner of the Conservative Political Action Conference's Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award. He is also listed as one of the speakers on the NRA's "Leadership Forum" in April, speaking alongside other prominent conservative GOP leaders like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Fox News dismissed the importance of addressing climate change after Democrats in the Senate staged an all-night session to speak about its dangers on March 10.
Fox News is helping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) rehabilitate his political career even as investigations into the George Washington Bridge scandal continue, suggesting that Christie's appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) indicates a comeback for the governor.
While other conservative media figures have panned Christie's March 6 CPAC appearance, Fox celebrated the "standing ovation" he received and characterized the appearance as a "comeback." Fox Nation proclaimed,"The Comeback Has Begun!"
On the March 7 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha McCallum painted a sunny picture of Christie's reception at CPAC, saying, "Now, you know America loves a comeback kid, so is Chris Christie that comeback kid right now?" MacCallum went on to ponder Christie's 2016 presidential prospects: "And then you have Chris Christie, who says, 'Look, you know what? We have to win elections.' And he is seen as somebody who may have an easier time of it on a national stage."
Later in the segment, MacCallum asked guest Stephen Sigmund, "If you were advising him, Stephen, what would you tell him to do from here on in to sort of get past this Bridgegate thing and put himself back on track?"
"This Bridgegate thing" caused Christie's popularity to plummet after news broke that his aides played a central role in shutting down several lanes of the George Washington Bridge for four days in September, intentionally triggering disastrous traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee as a means of political retribution.
Christie's chances of getting past the scandal soon, as MacCallum suggests, seem thin -- it is still being investigated by both the New Jersey Legislature and the FBI as evidence linking Christie to the lane closures builds.
Fox has gone through extraordinary lengths to shield Christie, who is widely presumed to be running for president in 2016, from the scandal's fallout, even complaining that the media won't simply move on from the scandal. Indeed, Fox's history of cozy relationships with Republican presidential contenders is well-documented.
Conservative media were unfazed by Rep. Paul Ryan's suggestion that low-income parents don't care for their children if they receive free school lunches, a response that stays true to their history of shaming low-income people.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped kick off the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6 with a speech on the direction of the Republican Party as the 2014 and 2016 elections approach. Ryan shared an anecdote about a child receiving free lunch from school to paint Democrats as out of touch (emphasis added):
RYAN: The Left is making a big mistake here. What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Gov. Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn't want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch. One in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the Left does not understand.
Right-wing media saw nothing objectionable in Ryan's comments. National Review Online praised his argument with the headline, "Paul Ryan's Moving Story That Explains the Difference Between Hard Work and Dependency," a take which echoes Fox News' narrative that free school lunches for children create dependency rather than encouraging hard work.
On Fox's Happening Now, correspondent Carl Cameron, reporting from CPAC, characterized Ryan's speech as taking a "middle-of-the-road tone."
Ryan's comments fit in well with conservative media's history of shaming the poor, and in particular, free school lunch programs for children of low-income families. In the past, Fox has even suggested children be forced to work for their meals.
Where else might Ryan have heard this before?
Fox News ran with misleading figures and false comparisons after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel outlined a five-year Pentagon budget to stoke fears that the budget will harm the military.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker dismissed sexual assault legislation requiring that consent be present at all times during a sexual encounter.
In her February 21 column, Parker weighed in on the firestorm surrounding Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto's suggestion that both parties are equally to blame in sexual assault cases where both the victim and attacker are intoxicated. Parker wrote that Taranto's argument was "inartful," and concluded that because of their stronger "physicality," "it is for men to not take advantage of women who are bereft of their faculties, no matter the state of their own."
Despite her conclusion, Parker nonetheless lamented "one of the problems with gender issues," wherein "someone always takes things too far, making ridiculous what should be treated with scientific precision." As if to prove her own point, Parker made that observation after seemingly dismissing legislation requiring that "yes needs to be persistent throughout" a sexual encounter:
What got Taranto going was a New York Times article about bystander intervention in campus rape. Basically, if a drunk guy is getting aggressive with a girl, you're supposed to stop him. What was once simple citizenship is now innovative behavior modification. Elsewhere the zeitgeist was buzzing about proposed legislation in California that would codify the terms of consent in sexual relations among college students. Saying "yes" apparently isn't good enough. Now yes needs to be persistent throughout the act.
The comic possibilities are nearly irresistible, but my survival instinct prompts me to exercise restraint. Herein lies one of the problems with gender issues. Someone always takes things too far, making ridiculous what should be treated with scientific precision.
The California legislation in question was introduced earlier this month. According to The Sacramento Bee, it would put "the responsibility on a person who wants to engage in sexual activity to ensure that he or she has explicit consent from a partner." Despite the "comic possibilities" Parker sees, the language of the legislation seems non-controversial:
Consent must be present throughout sexual activity, and at any time, a participant can communicate that he or she no longer consents to continuing the sexual activity. If there is confusion as to whether a person has consented or continues to consent to sexual activity, it is essential that the participants stop the activity until the confusion can be clearly resolved.
Slate's Amanda Marcotte has explained why affirmative consent standards are important:
Women should not be assumed to be consenting to sex unless they say otherwise in blunt language, especially since research shows that most people tend to refuse to go along with activities, sexual or otherwise, with demurring language instead of blunt refusals.
That doesn't mean that the law would require partners to draft a contract before having sex, but it would mean that a rapist would have a harder time pretending that he didn't understand what it meant when a woman repeatedly asked to go home and refused to kiss him back and wiggled away when he tried to take off her clothes, all because she broadcast her refusals politely instead of yelling "no" at him.