Fox's Greta Van Susteren pushed the debunked myth that members of Congress have special exemptions from Obamacare by attempting to spin the fact that they may revert to federal benefits upon retirement as special treatment. In reality, not requiring retired members of Congress to stay on an exchange plan avoids giving them unfair advantage over other federal employees in retirement, and is in compliance with the wording of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren introduced a segment on an alleged Obamacare loophole by saying that "members of Congress and their staff members are being offered that escape hatch when they retire" which will allow them to "go back to their federal employee health coverage." Van Susteren's guest, former Republican senator and president of the conservative Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint, twisted the retirement stipulation as evidence that "the big guys get taken care of with one plan, but the average Joe gets to deal with a cash for clunkers type of health plan that we got with Obamacare":
This attempt to cast the fact that retired members of Congress are not required to stay on Obamacare as a loophole ignores the fact that the ACA did not specify how a member of Congress should be treated once they leave office and retire. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) decided that requiring retired members of Congress and their staffers to stay on an exchange plan would give them an unfair advantage of greater benefits than other federal employees in retirement (emphasis added):
Under a rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) late last year, members and staff who retire will be able to revert back to health coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). That's the same coverage thousands of other federal workers can use when they retire.
The FEHBP lets government retirees choose from a range of options, including health savings accounts, PPOs or HMOs. And none of it has anything to do with ObamaCare.
The OPM had not included a retirement escape clause in its August draft of the rule on congressional coverage. But this flexibility was added in its Oct. 2 final rule, after "numerous commenters" called on the OPM to reconsider.
The OPM ultimately agreed with those commenters and said that, when read closely, the law only applies to members and staff "while they are employed in those positions."
A Feb. 18 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) puts it plainly. "[T]he final rule allows members and designated congressional staff who are eligible for retirement to enroll in a FEHBP plan upon retirement," the CRS summarized.
The OPM decided that forcing members and staff to stay on ObamaCare would give them "broader health insurance options" than other federal employees upon retirement, which would be unfair.
"We make this change for the additional reason that, otherwise, Members of Congress and congressional staff would have broader health insurance options in the Exchange in retirement than are available to other Federal annuitants," the OPM said.
A report by the Congressional Research Service likewise flies in the face of claims by Van Susteren and DeMint that the ACA's retirement stipulation constitutes a special exemption or "escape hatch." According to the report, members of Congress and their staffers have to meet the same eligibility criteria to purchase a Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) plan in retirement as every other federal employee:
OPM indicates that Members and congressional staff designated as working for an official office of a Member (hereinafter "staff" or "designated staff") who purchase coverage through an exchange will have the ability to enroll in plans offered through FEHBP when they become annuitants, provided they meet the eligibility criteria to do so under 5 U.S.C. Section 8905.12 The eligibility criteria are generally the same criteria that all other federal employees must meet to continue FEHBP coverage in retirement.
This new myth that members of Congress have an "escape hatch" from Obamacare upon retirement is in keeping with Fox's ongoing attempt to manufacture Congressional "exemptions" from the law, an effort that has even been criticized by Republicans.
Fox News dedicated its first segment on Gov. Brewer's veto of Arizona's anti-gay bill to an interview with one of America's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders.
On February 26, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced that she had vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses and individuals to engage in legal discrimination by denying services to gay people on religious grounds. Brewer said that the bill "does not address a specific or pressing concern," and that it "is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences."
Fox's Megyn Kelly opened the February 26 edition of her show with a segment on Brewer's veto that featured Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council. Kelly gave Perkins a platform to lambast the veto as an example of "how fundamental freedoms are trampled," while citing a New Mexico couple who were prosecuted for refusing service to a same-sex couple as proof that the law differs from discrimination against mixed-race couples in that it "address[es] some very significant problems":
Fox News is stoking fears that in "Obama's America," Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (food stamps) may be used for lap dances and liquor, a shameless misrepresentation given that under USDA regulation, benefits may not be redeemed for cash or used for non-food items.
On the February 25 edition of The Five, co-host Eric Bolling cited an interview with surfing freeloader Jason Greenslate that aired on The O'Reilly Factor the night before. Like Fox's first profile of Greenslate during the August 2013 special titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge," wherein the network attempted to make the "blissfully jobless California surfer" the face of SNAP benefits, Bolling used Greenslate to suggest that the program is rife with fraud, suggesting that food stamps may be used in "strip clubs, liquor stores, [and] pot dispensaries":
BOLLING:He's playing the system, he's stretching the rules to their limits. But what would you expect with a $105 billion dollar program that's almost tripled under Obamanomics? That's what you would expect, right there, take a look at it. But what's next? Strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries? Oh, that's already going on, folks. Welcome to Obama's America.
Bolling went on to claim that Greenslate is "representative of literally millions of Americans," before concluding: "The SNAP program, it's not called food stamps anymore, it's called SNAP. Supplemental -- what, N -- Nutrition. Right. What about liquor, lap dances, and pot is nutritional?"
The Associated Press gave Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) space to parrot tired Benghazi myths about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts the night of the attacks in its coverage of the congressman's recent speech in New Hampshire.
On February 18, the Associated Press detailed Issa's criticisms of the Obama administration during a New Hampshire speech, highlighting Issa's accusation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta refused to send military aid to Americans under attack in Benghazi in September 2012 and his suggestion that Obama was absent as the administration planned its response to the attacks:
Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the "top two informed individuals who were awake."
"They didn't react," he said, adding later, "We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn't have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support."
Rather than acknowledge that Issa's claims have been soundly discredited, AP prefaced his remarks with the vague disclaimer, "Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president."
And yet, Issa's claim that Clinton and Panetta "didn't react" that night, which AP takes at face value, has been called "cartoonish" by military leaders, who have repeatedly testified that the response represented the best of our military's capabilities.
This week, all four major broadcast networks covered extreme weather and climate change on their Sunday morning political talk shows. Those programs have largely ignored global warming in recent years, making their effort to address the issue unusual and laudable. But several of the segments also demonstrated the vulnerability inherent in treating science as a political debate where both sides receive a platform to air their positions.
Major winter storms across the U.S. in the month of February, drought in California, and President Obama's call for a $1 billion climate change "resilience fund" sparked debates this week over the need for action against climate change. The science of global warming is settled: according to one survey, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and that "humans are causing global warming." But the Sunday shows, because they are built on a model of showing political conflicts, have difficulty putting that fact in context.
ABC's This Week and NBC's Meet the Press both featured debates between individuals who support and oppose the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, creating a false balance that could serve to confuse their viewers. Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, meanwhile, hosted a discussion in which no panelist stated that human-caused climate change is occurring while several claimed that it is not. CBS' Face the Nation, by contrast, featured an interview with a scientist who explained that "we know that climate change is happening and humans are contributing."
The broadcast Sunday shows devoted a paltry 27 minutes of coverage to climate change in 2013, according to a Media Matters study. Nearly 60 percent of that coverage came on Face the Nation; Meet the Press did not mention the issue all year. Face the Nation also featured the first interview of a scientist to discuss global warming by any of the programs in five years.
It's a good sign that the Sunday shows are addressing global warming, but treating it as just another political issue causes new complications.
Without fanfare, Fox News host Megyn Kelly finally acknowledged that the network's campaign to sink Susan Rice's potential nomination to President Obama's cabinet was rooted in fundamental dishonesty.
In 2012, Fox repeatedly pushed the smear that Rice, for political reasons, deceptively attributed the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi to violent protests over an anti-Islam video that were sweeping the Middle East and Africa. Together with scores of right-wing pundits, the network dragged Rice through the mud, despite the fact that she was simply citing intelligence community's talking points that attributed the Benghazi attacks to the video. At the height of Fox's dishonest campaign, Kelly questioned whether Rice was qualified to serve as Secretary of State:
I think now all of our viewers know [Rice], because she's the one who went on all the Sunday talk shows and told us that everything that happened in Benghazi was linked to this video, which we now know was not the case. Can she possibly ascend into the Cabinet, into this position in the Cabinet, given that?
Fox's messaging was clear: Susan Rice was a liar who could not be trusted to serve as Secretary of State.
And so it's shocking to hear Kelly now say that Rice was simply saying what the intelligence community told her to be their best assessment at the time. During a discussion with Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) on the February 11 edition of her Fox News show, Kelly referenced a House committee report released that day, and admitted that Rice's talking points reflected CIA intelligence that "the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the embassy in Cairo":
KELLY: Let me ask you about DOD [Department of Defense]. Because I know your report concludes that DOD officials believed nearly from the onset that this was a terrorist attack and not some sort of a protest gone awry. Now, I want to get specific, because so many people have said, 'So then why did Susan Rice go out and talk about protests? Why did she mention a video?' But the CIA talking points, the very first draft that went out and was circulated, that Susan Rice ultimately was provided, that top officials ultimately saw, talked about a protest. They did. The CIA actually came out, I want to look at it here, and said this is a draft from September 14th, 11:15 am, 'We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault.' So, tell me, does that -- does it or does it not answer the question about how our officials started to come out and talk about protests and the video?
Karl Rove has called into question the relevance and efficacy of using Monica Lewinsky as political ammunition to attack Hillary and Bill Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign -- comments that fly in the face of public statements made by RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
On the February 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Karl Rove criticized Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) recent attempts to smear possible presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by bringing up her husband's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Rove observed that "beating up on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky" and "spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton" do not constitute "a big agenda for the future of the country":
HEMMER: Rand Paul is out there banging on the Clintons every day. Now what's his strategy?
ROVE: Well, I'm not sure he has a strategy, I was intrigued the other day, somebody said why are you doing this and he said people keep asking me about it. I'm not certain that it is -- look, each one of these candidates needs to do two things in 2014. One is they need to make this about something bigger than their own personal ambitions. This can't be 'I want to run for president' --' It's got to be about something bigger than that, and frankly, Rand Paul spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country. The second thing that they need to do is they need to strengthen their skills as a candidate. Each one of these people has run and won in a state. Like Rand Paul has won in Kentucky, Chris Christie has won in New Jersey. But they are about ready to enter a contest that's going to be across 30 some-odd states for the primary, 35 or 40 states. They're going to cover most of all of the 50 states -- it's going to be a big complex thing, and they've got to strengthen their skills to get ready for it. I'm not certain again that beating up on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky is a particularly good thing to strengthen your skills for the 2016 contest.
Right-wing radio has been urging Speaker of the House John Boehner to back away from the immigration reform guidelines he had outlined last month -- this week he cowed to their demands, prompting The Wall Street Journal to highlight his fear of a talk-radio backlash.
Broadcast evening news programs devoted zero coverage to Senate Republicans' harmful block on extending long-term unemployment benefits. The failed measure received only minimal attention from national media throughout the day.
Right-wing media figures jumped at reports that Sandra Fluke is running for political office in California with sexist attacks and falsehoods about her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate.