Fox News launched a smear campaign against a historic California law that would allow transgender public school students to have access to school facilities and athletic teams that match their gender identity. The network peddled a number of myths about the measure, adding to Fox's long history of promoting damaging transphobic misinformation.
Fox News promised to continue highlighting segments from its report, "The Great Food Stamp Binge," an hour-long attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders. One participant in the report, an advocate against hunger, described it a "tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies."
On the August 12 edition of Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream played an excerpt of Bret Baier's report on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (commonly referred to as food stamps) and promised to continue highlighting parts of the report throughout the week:
Later that evening, Fox's Bill O'Reilly also pushed the report, contending that SNAP shows that the Obama administration "encourag[es] parasites to come out and take as much as they can with no remorse."
Media Matters has noted that the report is a wild misrepresentation of SNAP recipients. One advocate featured in the report, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, called it a "tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies" that "could win the Pulitzer Prize ... for fiction." From Berg's statement:
Once again, Fox News is blaming the victim, claiming that low-income families - who are victims of the continued collapse in the U.S economy and the failure of the U.S. political system to fix it - are somehow to blame because they need temporary help from SNAP benefits to feed their families. That's like blaming those who drowned on the Titanic for the ship's faulty design and reckless piloting. Ignoring the fact that most SNAP participants are working, or are senior citizens, children, people with disabilities, and veterans, the show repeatedly gives the false impression that the program encourages laziness instead of work. Even though there are 47 million Americans now receiving SNAP benefits, the show focuses on one individual - yes, one - who abuses the system.
[T]he Fox show is a tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. In fact, were it not for the half-truths, the report would have no truths at all.
This post has been updated.
After Oprah Winfrey told Entertainment Tonight that she had experienced what she felt was a case of racial discrimination during a shopping trip, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh appeared skeptical that an African-American woman of wealth and fame could still be discriminated against and wondered whether the real reason for the poor treatment was "because 'The Oprah's' fat."
During a trip to Switzerland in late July, Winfrey was shopping at an upscale boutique where a store clerk reportedly told Winfrey that she could not afford a purse that Winfrey had asked to see. Winfrey, whom the clerk apparently did not recognize, has an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion according to CNN. The Swiss Office of Tourism has since apologized to Winfrey for the incident.
Limbaugh, who refers to Winfrey as "The Oprah," responded to Winfrey's claim with skepticism, saying, "Obviously [the store owner] who thought [Oprah] was a black person, couldn't afford anything, and she wanted you out of the store." Later, Rush asserted that "we don't know that the sales person based her judgment on The Oprah's skin color," before asking, "Maybe it's because The Oprah's fat? Well that's another -- how was The Oprah dressed? I mean she didn't look like The Oprah obviously. Was she wearing jump suit with tennis shoes? Maybe Air Jordans that weren't laced up?"
LIMBAUGH: Apparently last night on Entertainment tonight, figures, Nancy O'Dell interviewed media mogul The Oprah and during a discussion about whether The Oprah still experiences racism - what is she the highest paid woman on tv in the world - so naturally they'd do a discussion on whether Oprah still experiences racism. I mean it makes total sense doesn't it? She's got her own TV network, she's got her own magazine, she's one of the richest people in the world, probably the richest media person in the world on the talent side of things
LIMBAUGH: Well obviously [the store owner] is a racist scum, who thought [Oprah], as a black person, couldn't afford anything, and she wanted you out of the store. That's what we're all to conclude. Why not mention the brand name? Who was it? Gucci? Louis Vuitton? Is that how you pronounce it? Vuitton? Who was it? Tell us who it was.
LIMBAUGH: Now I look at this a whole different way. If I were Oprah I would be so thankful I could go some place and not been recognized. I'd be happy about it.
LIMBAUGH: We do not know [if] the salesperson based her judgment on The Oprah's skin color. The salesperson obviously thought that The Oprah couldn't afford the what is it -- $38,100 bag. Maybe it's because The Oprah's fat. Well, that's an -- how was The Oprah dressed? I mean, she didn't look like The Oprah, obviously. Was she wearing [a] jumpsuit with tennis shoes, maybe Air Jordans that were not laced up? I mean, who knows?
Limbaugh has a history of making racially inflammatory remarks.
Fox News' Stuart Varney renewed his attacks on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, to hype an upcoming special on that government assistance program and to promote a new Fox News poll that paints SNAP in a negative light. Fox has repeatedly shamed, mocked, and decried the lack of stigma directed at those on government assistance programs, and Varney's segment continued that campaign.
On the August 8 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney discussed a new opinion poll Fox conducted regarding SNAP benefits. During the segment, host Bill Hemmer lamented that we are "a nation on the dole" while Varney complained that SNAP benefits are too easily accessible and criticized efforts to raise awareness of SNAP in underserved communities They ignored the fact that SNAP spending and enrollment is projected to decline as the economy continues to recover. This segment was offered as a preview of an upcoming Fox report titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge."
Varney, who once said that many low-income Americans "have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit," is commonly the spokesperson for Fox's campaign to 'mock the poor,' and he merely continued Fox's ongoing campaign against government assistance programs and on the recipients of those programs themselves -- a campaign that has even gained influence in Congress. Varney is infamous for his repeated efforts to dismiss and demonize those people who require government assistance. As Varney himself has admitted, "I am being mean to poor people. Frankly, I am."
Rush Limbaugh took his attacks on the Obama administration to an absurd new level by mining information from an obscure right-wing blog whose allegations surrounding the manufactured Benghazi scandal offer only the pretense of credibility. The story from Conservative Report Online relied on anonymous sources who claim that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was the decision-maker during the Benghazi attacks -- a claim Limbaugh exploited to argue that Jarrett issued a stand down order to American armed forces that night.
On his August 6 radio program, Rush Limbaugh used a posting by Chip Jones on the Conservative Report to claim that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett ordered U.S. security forces to "stand down" during the September 11, 2012 attacks on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi -- something that never happened. Limbaugh says the "shocking report" claims, "Valerie Jarrett gave the orders to stand down in Benghazi to all the -- Valerie Jarrett who constitutionally is not in the chain of command and cannot do that!" Rush continues, "And that's why this, if true, is a bombshell!"
According to Jones, "confidential sources close to Conservative Report have confirmed that Valerie Jarrett was the key decision-maker for the administration, the night of the Benghazi terrorist attack on 9/11/2012." Jones offered no evidence to support his claim other than the word of anonymous sources, but Limbaugh still ran with it, concluding that Valerie Jarrett gave a "stand down" order that was never actually given.
Jones has a history of making absurd, hyperbolic claims about the Obama administration, and about President Obama himself, whom he calls "the Redd Foxx President." For example, Jones once pointed to the security details that protect Obama administration officials such as Ambassador Susan Rice and Attorney General Eric Holder to ask, "Is President Obama choosing to value people of color over Caucasians?"
Right wing media have demonstrated an uncanny willingness to run with conspiracy theories that fit their anti-Obama narratives, regardless of the lack of evidence that supports their claims and even if those claims defy reality. Limbaugh's dalliance with Chip Jones and the Conservative Report is no exception.
After President Obama acknowledged the fact that language in the Vietnamese declaration of independence was inspired by its American counterpart, Fox News attacked Obama's remarks as "stupid" and wondered whether he had offended Vietnam War veterans -- an attempt by Fox to manufacture yet another phony scandal.
On July 25, President Obama met with Vietnam's president, Truong Tan Sang, in hopes of strengthening trade ties and military cooperation. During the press conference that followed, the president acknowledged the fact that the Vietnamese declaration of independence used language inspired by America's declaration in an effort to stress the long, if troubled history between the two nations.
Fox analysts Ralph Peters and Oliver North agreed that Obama's statements were "stupid." Peters accused the president of being uneducated, saying, "This guy doesn't know our past." In a previous segment, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt theorized that the President Obama "may not have studied that or been aware of," our history with Vietnam, or perhaps got "carried away rhetorically in trying to make his guest feel at home."
All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
After declaring President Obama's July 24 address on the economy to be the "same old speech," Fox News immediately pivoted back to what the president described as "phony scandals," despite Fox's already extensive coverage and the lack of any new developments. Fox's scandal driven focus remained, even though the economy is chief among the concerns of most Americans.
On the July 25 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade played a short clip of President Obama's economic address while the on-screen graphic described it as the "same old speech." After the clip, in which the president accused conservatives of "taking their eye off the ball" by focusing on "this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals," Kilmeade pivoted away from any discussion on the economy and directly back to those "phony scandals," asking Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), "Do you think, Senator Burr, it's the right tack to call them phony scandals?"
Fox News' attempt to hijack the conversation about the economy -- which most Americans consider a top priority -- and steer discourse back into the realm of Fox News fantasy scandals is unsurprising given its long history of moving from manufactured scandal to manufactured scandal. When facts come out and the scandal collapses, the network ignores the facts until it can find a new manufactured scandal with which it can attack the Obama administration. If the new scandal collapses, it's back to square one.
Fox's focus on "phony scandals" crowds out good economic news -- news which Fox often struggles to cover correctly. Fox was the only network to cut away early from the president's speech -- after a commercial break, they came back instead to the announcement of the name of the new British prince.
After calling today's presidential address on the economy "a case of political déjà vu," America Live guest host Shannon Bream claimed that the economy has "mostly struggled" since Obama took office, despite evidence to the contrary.
The July 24 edition of Fox News' America Live opened with a preview of President Obama's economic speech taking place at Knox College in Illinois. Bream immediately framed Obama's economic record negatively, saying, "Critics argue, they think it's just going to be more of the same, returning to themes of higher taxes and higher spending, leaving some thinking he's just out of ideas. President Obama took office, since then the economy has mostly struggled." She then asked, "If the critics are right and there's nothing new here, what is the speech really all about?"
But in fact, housing prices have consistently risen, the Dow Jones Industrial average, also on the rise, has posted record highs, and private sector job growth has steadily increased since February 2010:
Although the economy has improved, Republican obstructionism "has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity," Guardian columnist Michael Cohen argued. Economic experts have argued that lowering public sector spending has held the economy back and government spending cuts have consistently lowered GDP growth in recent years, but Bream made no mention of Republican plans to gut the president's proposals to remedy this.
Reacting to Detroit's recently announced bankruptcy, Fox News' Gregg Jarrett and Chris Stirewalt repeatedly conflated Detroit automakers with the City of Detroit in order to attack President Obama for breaking a campaign promise to not "let Detroit go bankrupt." However, the President's statement was clearly in reference to the Detroit automakers that received government assistance, not the city itself.
According to The New York Times, "Detroit, the cradle of America's automobile industry and once the nation's fourth-most-populous city, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest American city ever to take such a course." After it was reported that the White House did not plan to offer financial assistance to the City of Detroit, Jarrett and Stirewalt questioned whether President Obama had gone back on a statement he made in October 2012 when he said, "We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt." Jarrett asserted, "The president did vow, 'I will not let Detroit go bankrupt.' But you know, he did, didn't he?"
But, as CBS News reported at the time, Obama's statement was in reference to an op-ed written by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in which Romney said, "Let Detroit go bankrupt." According to CBS, the president was responding to that op-ed by pointing to the success of his administration's bailout of the auto-industry."
OBAMA: Just a few years ago, the auto industry wasn't just struggling - it was flatlining. GM and Chrysler were on the verge of collapse. Suppliers and distributors were at risk of going under. More than a million jobs across the country were on the line - and not just auto jobs, but the jobs of teachers, small business owners, and everyone in communities that depend on this great American industry.
But we refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt.
As Slate's Matthew Yglesias wrote, President Obama and others often used the term "Detroit" to refer to the auto industry. According to Yglesias, "If you or someone you love is going around and finding old quotes in which the words 'Detroit' and 'bankruptcy' appear but it's absolutely clear from context that 'Detroit' is being used as metonymy for auto companies rather than as a way of referring to the municipality then please stop."
Fox News reported on House Republicans' removal of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) from an agriculture bill by parroting Republican falsehoods about the program. The report hyped Republicans' false accusations that SNAP, commonly known as food stamps, is rife with fraud and has no vetting process without challenging the claims. The segment also ignored what others in the media have reported -- that separating SNAP funding from the farm bill could lead to major cuts in the program.
Last week, House Republicans passed an agriculture bill, commonly known as the farm bill, without including funding for the SNAP program. The move stripped SNAP from the farm bill, where it has been since 1973, according to the New York Times.
During the July 15 edition of Fox News' America Live, correspondent Shannon Bream reported on the removal of SNAP, claiming the vote would not end SNAP and that no one would be cut off due to the House-version of the farm bill. Bream highlighted Republicans' purported opinions on the program: "Republicans say the system is filled with fraud and that claims made by applicants aren't vetted or verified in any way."
In fact, SNAP has a very low instance of fraud. The trafficking rate, when a SNAP benefit is exchanged for cash, is only one cent per dollar, and that's down from 1993 when it was four cents. The chief economist of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Chad Stone, wrote:
[SNAP] has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program. SNAP error rates (benefit overpayments and underpayments) are at an all-time low; just 3 percent of benefits went to ineligible households or exceeded the allowable benefit for eligible households. Moreover, honest mistakes by recipients, eligibility workers, data entry clerks or computer programmers - not fraud - account for an overwhelming majority of such overpayments.
Rules for SNAP eligibility vary by state, but applicants must verify household income is below a certain standard and that assets do not exceed a given amount.
Ironically, according to the Times, non-SNAP programs contained the farm bill suffer higher fraud and abuse rates than SNAP.
While Bream's claim that the House-passed farm bill does not cut SNAP is technically correct, she ignored what many others in the media have acknowledged -- that, as the Washington Post wrote, "The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money." Fox's Trace Gallagher even introduced the segment by referring to a "food fight ... where lawmakers are taking aim at the exploding cost of food stamps."