ACORN, the disbanded community organizing group and conservative boogeyman that was baselessly credited with everything from the financial crisis to stealing the 2008 presidential election, has been resurrected to attack the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, over his history with the group and its last chief organizer, Bertha Lewis.
The organization, which for decades worked to help the poor, became a favorite conservative media target after discredited conservative activist James O'Keefe released videos purporting to show ACORN employees helping child prostitution traffickers. The "severely edited" videos gave the false impression that O'Keefe visited various ACORN offices in a pimp costume -- a lie that was parroted by mainstream media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times. The videos were so misleading that O'Keefe reportedly paid a $100,000 settlement to a former ACORN employee who filed suit against him, claiming that O'Keefe had illegally taped their conversation in a California ACORN office.
Despite conservatives' assertions that the videos exposed criminality on the part of ACORN, three separate investigations cleared ACORN employees of any criminal wrongdoing -- and law enforcement officials criticized O'Keefe for the misleading nature of his videos.
Reporting throughout 2008, from both conservative and mainstream media sources, also tarred the organization with overhyped claims of voter registration fraud. These reports criticized ACORN for turning in forms from its voter registration drives that were possibly fraudulent. But those reports omitted that many states have laws that require organizations collecting voter registration forms to turn in every single form -- even forms that the organizations suspect are fraudulent. This misleading media narrative was so persistent that a 2009 poll found that a majority of Republicans believed that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama.
Now, more than three years after ACORN formally disbanded, conservative media are reviving the specter of ACORN after de Blasio won the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor. A September 24 New York Post story explored de Blasio's relationship with ACORN and Lewis, and quoted de Blasio saying that he is proud of his past work with her.
The right is selectively quoting an Inspector General (IG) report to accuse the State Department of ignoring the recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB). In fact, the IG report noted that the State Department is making progress implementing the ARB recommendations and praised its leadership as a model for future ARB responses.
Fox & Friends dishonestly claimed that President Obama would be fully responsible for a government shutdown, despite the fact that House Republicans have tied the government's funding to defunding the new health care law, a plan that other Republicans have dismissed as unworkable.
On October 1, much of the federal government will shut down if Congress is unable to pass a measure allowing them to pay for past spending. The Hill reported that House Republicans were insisting on defunding the president's health care law in exchange for keeping the federal government open:
The House on Friday is poised to approve a stopgap spending bill that strips out funding for President Obama's signature healthcare law.
The continuing resolution, pushed by Republican leaders at the behest of conservatives, will serve as the first volley in a 10-day battle that will determine whether much of the federal government shuts down on Oct. 1. It cleared a test vote in the House on Thursday, 230-192, setting up a final vote for Friday.
Once approved by the House, the measure will move to the Senate, where Democratic leaders have vowed to restore funding to ObamaCare and could try to increase spending levels to soften the blow of sequestration.
Backed into a corner by conservatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday challenged Senate Republicans to "pick up the mantle and get the job done" by fighting for the House measure in the upper chamber.
President Obama has made it clear that he would veto any bill that defunded the health care law, and would only support measures that allowed the government to function while further debate on spending took place. Late Friday morning, Talking Points Memo reported that the House passed its plan to fund the government but with funding for the health care law stripped out.
Fox & Friends used the veto threat to dishonestly pin the blame for a possible government shutdown solely on Obama. On September 20, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggested Democrats and Obama were "the obstacle on the course." Co-host Steve Doocy went further, putting the blame for a possible shutdown squarely on the president, claiming Republicans are ready "to pass a plan today to keep the government from shutting down. But there's one thing standing in the way -- the President of the United States."
In fact, Republican senators have criticized the House GOP's move as unrealistic and said that Congress, not Obama, will get the blame for any government shutdown. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said that the Senate "will not repeal, or defund" the health care law, and to think that it can be done "is not rational." McCain also noted that Americans "reacted in a very negative fashion towards Congress" for the government shutdown in the 1990s, and told the Washington Examiner that the House plan is a "suicide note." Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) similarly commented that he's "not in the shut down the government crowd." Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who previously called a Republican idea to defund the law by forcing a government shutdown a "dumb idea," said he still thinks "it's a dumb idea, because you can't defund Obamacare." The Huffington Post reported that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) "continues to see the legislative strategy as a political dead end for the GOP," and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said she doesn't think the House GOP "should shut down the government" to stop the health care law.
During her first week as a Fox News host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck ran daily "Eyes On Obamacare" segments that pushed falsehoods and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On September 16, Hasselbeck hosted FoxBusiness.com reporter Kate Rogers to spread fear about some insurers dropping out of some states' individual health care markets, alleging that the law would increase the cost of health insurance.
But a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation early in September found that the cost of obtaining health insurance will be lower than expected:
This report -based on 17 states and the District of Columbia that have made data publicly available -provides a preview of how premiums will vary across the country, and how much consumers in different circumstances will actually pay after taking into account the tax credits available under the ACA.
While premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected. For example, we estimate that the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office imply that the premium for a 40-year-old in the second lowest cost silver plan would average $320 per month nationally. Fifteen of the eighteen rating areas we examined have premiums below this level, suggesting that the cost of coverage for consumers and the federal budgetary cost for tax credits will be lower than anticipated.
The Department of Health and Human Services also released a report on September 16 that shows 56 percent of uninsured Americans could obtain health insurance for less than $100 per month. From the report's press release:
A new report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that 56 percent, or nearly six in ten of the people who don't have health insurance today may be able to get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace for less than $100 per month.
Of the 41.3 million individuals who are uninsured and eligible for coverage, 23.2 million (56 percent) may qualify for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or tax credits to purchase coverage for $100 or less per month. The amount an individual will save on premiums depends on their family income and size. Today's report uses data about family income and size from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to estimate the number of uninsured individuals who will qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums.
Today's report also shows that if all 50 states took advantage of new options to expand Medicaid coverage, nearly 8 out of every 10 people (78 percent) who currently do not have insurance could be paying less than $100 a month for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. While some states are expanding their Medicaid programs in 2014, other states are not doing so.
Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich dishonestly criticized the independence of the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya by hyping the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed four of the ARB's members. Federal law mandates that the secretary of state appoint four of the five members of each Accountability Review Board.
During a September 19 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida asked Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, vice chairman of the ARB, to confirm that Clinton appointed four of the five members of the board. After Mullen confirmed that, Mica commented "it looks like sort of an inside job of investigation, the Department of State looking at the Department of State." Mica also commented that the ARB did not interview Clinton for its report.
Pavlich, who was commenting on the hearing through her Twitter account, seized on this fact to criticize the ARB report, calling it a "whitewash":
Pavlich later made the same point in a post on Townhall.com, where she's an editor, this time to impugn the independence of the board:
During the hearing, Republican Rep. John Mica pointed out Clinton appointed four out of the five members of the ARB board investigating the Benghazi attack. The ARB describes itself as "independent."
But the secretary of state is required by federal law to appoint four of the five members of an Accountability Review Board:
A Board shall consist of five members, 4 appointed by the Secretary of State, and 1 appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence. The Secretary of State shall designate the Chairperson of the Board. Members of the Board who are not Federal officers or employees shall each be paid at a rate not to exceed the maximum rate of basic pay payable for level GS-18 of the General Schedule for each day (including travel time) during which they are engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Board. Members of the Board who are Federal officers or employees shall receive no additional pay by reason of such membership.
Pavlich has previously smeared Clinton over the Benghazi attack on Fox News.
In a Fox News interview, Rudy Giuliani repeated long-debunked myths about the deployment of military assistance and President Obama's location during the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
The attacks against a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans and took place one year ago today have spawned countless myths and falsehoods throughout the conservative media. Fox News operated as a driving force behind many of these claims.
On the September 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Giuliani pushed two of these myths when he said, "I have significant questions about the action of the United States government that night, including our president -- I still don't know where he was that night. And why we didn't immediately deploy as much force as possible to the area."
These falsehoods aren't new to Fox's airwaves. Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade have also expressed ignorance of President Obama's whereabouts the night of September 11, 2012, despite the fact that, since October 11, 2012, the White House Flickr page has displayed this photo of Obama discussing the situation in Benghazi that night in the White House:
Additionally, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before Congress in February that he and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in a meeting with Obama when they received word of the attacks in Benghazi. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also testified in January that she was in contact with Obama throughout that night.
In his congressional testimony, Panetta also said that President Obama ordered him and Dempsey to "[d]o whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there" that night. Following their discussion, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. But those forces, along with other military forces that conservatives have insisted could have helped out, could not arrive in time.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove repeated long-debunked falsehoods about the military response to the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
During Fox News Sunday on September 8, a panel discussion turned to the upcoming anniversary of the attacks in Benghazi. During the segment, Rove falsely asserted that no military assets were ordered to assist the Americans under attack in Benghazi. Rove soon raised his voice and, over and over again, repeated his false claim that no help was sent to Benghazi.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade falsely asserted that State Department official Patrick Kennedy was not interviewed during an investigation into the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador and three security personnel. In fact, Kennedy was interviewed by the State Department's Accountability Review Board (ARB).
In a September 4 Fox & Friends interview with Samuel Katz and Fred Burton, authors of Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, Kilmeade asked Burton who he would have interviewed had he been running the investigation into the attack. Kilmeade's questioning asserted that State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy was never interviewed about the attack:
KILMEADE: You want Patrick Kennedy, too?
BURTON: I think Patrick Kennedy should be interviewed. I think Patrick Kennedy is all over this case.
But Kennedy was interviewed by the ARB, which was conducted by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. On May 12, Pickering told CNN's Candy Crowley "[w]e interviewed Pat Kennedy" in response to criticism from Republicans that the ARB report was incomplete. Furthermore, Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA) said during a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing:
By the way, defend in statements that Undersecretary Kennedy was not interviewed by the ARB by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen. That is a misstatement of fact. He most certainly was. You can look it up. It is documented. He was interviewed, and he provided evidence. And that evidence was evaluated.
So it is not true that Undersecretary Kennedy was not part of that process. He most certainly was, and I would ask Mr. Chairman that the record so reflect.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren even tweeted Rep. Connolly's statement at the hearing:
Despite this Benghazi myth being debunked months ago, Fox & Friends hosts and guests continue to insist that a top State Department official was never interviewed about the Benghazi attack just to dishonestly attack the Obama administration.
Fox News covered up Republican support for defense cuts, letting Republican Congressman Mike Turner (OH) blame President Obama for the cuts, despite the fact that Turner himself voted for them.
On September 3, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Rep. Turner, who linked across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, to possible military intervention in Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. During the interview, Turner complained that "the president has left sequestration in place." Turner later commented that Obama "has allowed sequestration to be impacting our men and women who are every day getting up for our national security."
But Turner, along with more than 200 other Republicans, voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which House Republican leadership hailed as a victory. Congress passed the law to incentivize further deficit reduction measures, and when Republicans refused to compromise in considering additional tax revenue and more targeted spending cuts to offset sequestration, the cuts were triggered.
Contrary to Congressman Turner's repeated assertions that the president decided to let the cuts remain, it is Republicans' refusal to pursue alternatives to the cuts that keep them in place.
Fox News falsely claimed that the Lifeline program to provide low-income Americans with cell phone access is funded by taxpayers. In fact, it's funded entirely by fees charged to phone providers and other telecommunications companies, some of which pass on the costs to customers' phone bills.
On Fox & Friends August 27, Gretchen Carlson interviewed Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley about the Lifeline program, which according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services." The program also pays for free cell phones for some low-income Americans.
During the segment, both Carlson and Finley falsely asserted that the Lifeline program is taxpayer-funded, referring to it as an "entitlement program." On-screen text also pushed this false claim:
Despite these claims, often repeated by Fox News, the Lifeline program is not funded by taxpayers or the U.S. Treasury. As FactCheck.org noted in May 2012, "Lifeline is funded by telecom customers who pay a universal service fee as part of their phone bills. The fee technically is not a tax but a cross subsidy, the rules of which are determined by the Federal Communications Commission." The article further noted that the U.S. Treasury "does not collect or handle the funds" collected by the universal service fee.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services further explained how the fee is assessed:
All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers of telecommunications must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues. These companies include wireline phone companies, wireless phone companies, paging service companies, and certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers.
Some consumers may notice a "Universal Service" line item on their telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from its customers by billing them this charge. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs. These charges usually appear as a percentage of the consumer's phone bill. Companies that choose to collect Universal Service fees from their customers cannot collect an amount that exceeds their contribution to the USF. They also cannot collect any fees from a Lifeline program participant.
Carlson's disregard for the facts was in direct contrast to her insistence, less than an hour before on Fox & Friends, that it was her Fox colleagues' "responsibility as journalists to try and keep the bar up high on intelligence to try and inform people of what's going on in the world."