Fox News allowed the president of Koch brothers-funded Generation Opportunity, which has created a series of anti-Obamacare ads, to characterize the organization as "independent" and funded by "a variety of donors."
On the December 9 edition of Fox News' On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren played a new attack ad from Generation Opportunity, which encouraged young Americans to "opt out" of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After providing Generation Opportunity President Evan Feinberg a platform to promote his organization and attack the ACA, Van Susteren asked, "Where do you get the money," specifically inquiring whether Generation Opportunity is funded by any "influential group." Feinberg maintained that Generation Opportunity is "an independent organization":
VAN SUSTEREN: Where do you get the money, because that looked like a pretty expensive ad. Where do you get the money?
FEINBERG: Oh, we've got a variety of donors, and we're just focused on working with people across the country who care deeply about helping our generation to fight for our own freedom.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I ask why, you know, I'm wondering if there is some very influential group that funds you and sort of, that, as a consequence you've got to take some marching orders from some other group, or how independent are you?
FEINBERG: Oh no, we're an independent organization that's able to fight for our peers and you see these ads are really creative opportunities to very inexpensively reach millions of young people.
Fox News downplayed the gravity of income inequality -- proven insurmountable for a majority of the poorest Americans and detrimental to economic growth -- in order to tout a report which found that 20 percent of adults in the U.S. will be among the top 2 percent of earners at some point in their lives.
On December 9, NBC News published an Associated Press report which found that 20 percent of U.S. adults enter the wealthiest 2 percent of earners at some point in their lifetimes [emphasis added]:
Fully 20 percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding outsize influence on America's economy and politics. This little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality.
Made up largely of older professionals, working married couples and more educated singles, the new rich are those with household income of $250,000 or more at some point during their working lives. That puts them, if sometimes temporarily, in the top 2 percent of earners.
On the December 9 edition of Your World, host Neil Cavuto touted the AP study as "good news" and ignored its negative implications, such as the finding that those in the top 2 percent are "less likely to support public programs, such as food stamps or early public education, to help the disadvantaged":
CAVUTO: You ever want to be in the top 2 percent? Well, you've got a 1 in 5 chance of making it -- it's true, 21 percent of Americans have been there, making the 250,000 bucks or so it takes to be among those rarefied few. That's good news, right? Well, not if you're the mainstream media. It's seen as a problem, not a triumph. To quote the Associated Press, this little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality. Biggest barrier, so now, this is a problem?
Fox News contributor Charles Payne dismissed the importance of closing the income gap, saying, "People make it all the time in this country." But findings from a recent Pew report refute Payne's claim, particularly where Americans at bottom of the income ladder are concerned. According to the report, "43 percent of Americans raised at the bottom of the income ladder remain stuck there as adults, and 70 percent never even make it to the middle."
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley later described the administration's efforts to reduce income inequality as "a war on wealth" and "a war on success." However, many economists agree that policies aimed at reducing inequality also spur economic growth. Economist Robert Reich has argued for decades that economic inequality "is bad for everyone," including the very wealthy, because it hinders economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has also contended that income inequality leads to "less growth and less efficiency."
During their discussion, Cavuto and his guests ignored the harsh realities faced by Americans excluded from the top income bracket. According to another AP report, "4 in 5 American adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives." And contrary to Cavuto's optimistic outlook, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the poverty rate increased by 2.7 percent from 2007 to 2012.
Fox News is actively promoting what it claims are "shocking" details about newly hired immigration enforcement attorneys at the Department of Homeland Security, asserting that the Obama administration is "stacking" the agency with "pro-open borders amnesty attorneys," because the lawyers either previously worked in immigration law or for immigrants' rights organizations.
Fox News hosted discredited former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams twice in two days to attack the Obama administration over its recent DHS hires, attacks which were also highlighted on the Fox Nation website. Adams, who is best known as the fabulist behind the New Black Panther Party pseudoscandal, accused the Obama administration in a piece for the conservative PJ Media of improperly hiring these attorneys, claiming that the hires "undermine confidence that the federal government will vigorously enforce federal laws, notwithstanding any congressional 'mandates' to do so." Adams listed all the attorneys hired, along with information about their employment history or immigration background.
Among the work experience Adams cited were stints with immigrants' rights organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Advancement Project, the National Immigration Law Center, and the American Immigration Council. He also highlighted the work experience of an attorney who volunteered for Planned Parenthood, and those of two others who studied Arabic in Africa while in college.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck teased an interview with Adams by claiming that "a shocking new report" shows that "President Obama [is] stacking his immigration enforcement office with pro-open borders amnesty attorneys." She added: "Are illegal immigrants getting a free pass thanks to the government?"
During the segment, co-host Steve Doocy said: "Even if the Obama Administration can't officially change immigration policy, these lawyers can help illegal immigrants stay in the country regardless of the law." He added: "The Obama administration, they're brilliant in getting around the rules." Adams then repeated his allegations, including that the lawyers are "all on the far left, open borders side of the equation."
Adams singled out two lawyers he claimed supported his points that they would follow an ideological agenda: Jennifer Lee and Maura Ooi.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal erroneously claimed that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is providing special treatment to part of his staff by not requiring them to purchase insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange, despite the fact that the law does not require leadership staff members to participate in the exchange.
A December 7 Review-Journal editorial attacked Sen. Reid for not forcing his leadership staff off of their employer-based coverage and onto the health insurance exchanges before misleadingly claiming that the GOP had "no culpability" in obstructing improvements for the ACA:
The Affordable Care Act requires the official staffs of each federal lawmaker to abandon their medical coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefit program and purchase subsidized insurance through the law's exchanges. But, as reported Thursday by the Review-Journal's Steve Tetreault, the law allows the staff of congressional committees and leadership offices to stay off the exchanges and keep their current benefits, if their lawmaker bosses so decide.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nonetheless diverted their entire staffs to the exchanges to obtain health insurance. Sen. Reid did not.
Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Sen. Reid, said her boss is following the law and has proposed a fix to the staff coverage discrepancy, but Republicans won't go along. Imagine that: The GOP, which has no culpability in this mess, actually wants something in return for votes that are politically beneficial to Democrats whose poll numbers are tanking.
The attack on Sen. Reid is an attempt to score political points in an on going partisan battle over the ACA. The Review-Journal and conservative opponents are criticizing Reid for following the Grassley Amendment, an amendment to the ACA proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that forced members and legislative staff onto the exchanges instead of allowing them to keep their own employer-based insurance as millions of Americans have under the ACA. This tweak to the ACA law made the decision to place leadership committee staff on the exchanges optional.
Fox News has reportedly paid a former PR executive at the company "approximately $8 million in hush money" after firing him this summer.
Brian Lewis, a former executive vice president at Fox News, was fired in July amid reports that he had been giving information about the company to Gabriel Sherman, a New York magazine contributing editor working on a (likely unflattering) biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
Citing an unnamed network executive "with knowledge of the negotiations," Gawker reports today that Lewis was paid roughly $8 million by the network as part of a settlement.
As Gawker lays out, when Lewis was abruptly fired, Fox cited "vague 'financial irregularities" as the reason for the move, prompting Lewis' lawyer to attack the network for "telling lies." In an August statement to Gawker, Lewis' lawyer essentially threatened that his client might reveal harmful information about Ailes and the network.
According to the anonymous Fox executive quoted by Gawker -- who suggested that the settlement number would have been much higher if Lewis had significantly damaging information about Ailes -- the claims of "financial impropriety" leading to Lewis' firing were "complete bullshit."
As suspected, the network was reportedly livid about Sherman's forthcoming book, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How Roger Ailes and Fox News Remade American Politics, which has driven a wedge in the network's public relation's team.
A New York Times article highlighted positive stories of people gaining coverage from the Affordable Care Act's exchanges -- a departure from the media's history of ignoring the law's success stories in favor of overwhelmingly negative coverage.
The media has overwhelmingly turned to negative anecdotal stories in covering the implementation of the ACA's exchanges. In The American Prospect, Paul Waldman argued that the media's tendency to use negative "exemplars" in health care coverage dramatically overemphasizes negative consequences of the law, often employing misleading reporting in order to manufacture "victims" of the law:
As the Affordable Care Act approaches full implementation, we're seeing a lot of exemplar stories, and I've been noticing one particular type: the story of the person who seems to be getting screwed. If it were true that most Americans were indeed being made worse off by the law, that would be a good thing; we'd learn their stories and get a sense of the human cost of the law. The trouble is that in the real world, there are many more people being helped by the law than hurt by it, and even those who claim to be hurt by it aren't being hurt at all.
Journalists have a natural inclination to cover bad news over good and to be skeptical of the government, which is usually healthy. But if you aren't careful it can also lead to misleading reporting. If you're going to do a story presenting one person as a victim of the law, it might be a good idea to make sure they are what you say they are.
Waldman cited a report from the NBC Nightly News as an example of how the media's coverage of health care consequences can be misleading. The segment highlighted a Los Angeles real estate agent whose premiums were higher after her insurer cancelled her plan and she looked for replacement coverage on the exchange. Waldman pointed out that the segment left out crucial context, such as whether she was eligible for subsidies and what level of coverage her current plan provided. A CBS News segment had similar problems, interviewing a woman named Dianne Barrette who lost her existing coverage and found replacement plans to be much more expensive. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple criticized the report, pointing out that Barrette's current plan was "a pray-that-you-don't-really-get-sick 'plan'" and "could well have bankrupted her."
Fox News' Sean Hannity faced criticism after hosting three couples who professed to be "victims" of the health care law. After Eric Stern, a former senior adviser to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, contacted the three couples after the show aired, he found that none of them had actually been negatively impacted by the law or had even attempted to shop for coverage on the exchanges that they were complaining about:
Politico turned to the American Enterprise's Institute's Danielle Pletka, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) with a history of smearing Democratic appointees, as one of the "smart foreign policy thinkers in both parties" cited to judge Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy as Secretary of State.
Politico Magazine's December 8 profile, which is now making the rounds of the pundit class, claimed that Republicans can easily dismiss Clinton's foreign policy achievements -- and question her viability as a candidate for President -- by following Pletka's lead and attempting to smear her with the deaths of four Americans during the 2012 attacks in Benghazi:
What does that Republican take look like? For sure, there will be a focus on Benghazi, where the GOP has questioned whether Clinton and other administration officials were activist enough--and truthful enough--about responding to the attack in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, that led to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other American personnel; a case summed up by the American Enterprise's Institute's Danielle Pletka as "unwillingness to take risks, unwillingness to lead, willingness to stab a lot of people in the back. And dead people." Pletka's broader view of Clinton's record is a harsher version of what I hear from many Democrats: "the Washington consensus," Pletka says, "is that she was enormously ineffective ... [though] no one was quite sure whether she was ineffective because she wanted to avoid controversy or because she wasn't trusted by the president to do anything."
Pletka has a long history as an ideological partisan dating back to her time as an aide to Helms' Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1992 to 2001. Despite his history of racism and extreme conservatism, Pletka defended his "conviction" and "old fashioned" values following his death in 2008.
As vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka is a top advocate for neoconservative policies. She has backed military strikes in Iran while dismissing the news that the U.S. reached a historic deal with Iran over their nuclear program in exchange for reducing the sanctions. Military experts have warned that such an action could have dire consequences. Pletka has also defended torture, saying that while she's "not a big fan," she still thinks it's necessary in wartime.
Pletka was also part of the conservative campaign to smear Chuck Hagel as an anti-Semite prior to his nomination as Secretary of Defense, despite the fact that Hagel's positions were mainstream and in no way anti-Israel. Pletka devoted a USA Today opinion piece and an AEI blog headlined "Chuck Hagel, anti-Semite?" to the subject and concluded that while she couldn't tell one way or the other, there were still "reasonable questions" to be asked about Hagel's "view of the Jews."
Pletka's baseless insinuation that Benghazi somehow undermined Hillary Clinton's work as Secretary of State builds on a year-long campaign by conservative activists and politicians to try to use the tragic attacks to disqualify her from a future presidential run. Such attacks are based on a multitude of myths and falsehoods.
Pletka's criticism as channeled by Politico that Clinton had few accomplishments as Secretary also ignores a significant portion of Clinton's work at State -- including opening up Myanmar by becoming the first secretary of state in 50 years to make an official visit to the nation; negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in late 2012, which many credit for averting an all-out war; building an international consensus to remove Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power; and tightening sanctions to the highest level ever on Iran.
Image via colgateuniversity
The Daily Caller mocked a rainbow flag-themed Christmas light display in Rome as "so gay." Rome's government opted to hang the lights on the city's main shopping street to combat homophobia after the recent high-profile suicide of a bullied gay teen in the city.
In a December 9 article, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens reported on the display, calling it a departure from the "unexciting and noncontroversial monochrome white" lights hung along Via del Corso last year. Owens explained that this year's display was a response to the "alleged bullying" of a 14-year-old gay teen who committed suicide:
The traditional lights hanging along Rome's main shopping street are rainbow flag-themed this Christmas season.
The municipal government in Italy's capital city chose the multicolored motif for the mile-longish stretch of Via del Corso to convey its stance against homophobia, reports the Daily News.
The message is pertinent in Rome because a 14-year-old gay teenager committed suicide a few months ago in response to alleged bullying and his belief that his family would not accept his sexuality.
Last year, the famous lights over Via del Corso were an unexciting and noncontroversial monochrome white. In 2011, designers used the colors green, white and red to mark 150 years of Italian unification.
Owens - whose derisive reporting on LGBT teens has itself contributed to the problem of anti-LGBT cyberbullying - omitted evidence indicating that the late teen's bullying was more than just "alleged." Roman police officials found homophobic text messages on the teen's phone after he left a suicide note lamenting, "I am a homosexual, no one understands my drama and I do not know how to make it acceptable to my family."
The August suicide came mere months after another widely publicized suicide by an openly gay Roman teenager who encountered vicious homophobic bullying. For Owens, though, the Via del Corso display isn't so much an opportunity to highlight the widespread problem of anti-LGBT harassment and violence as it is another chance to snark about LGBT people and their allies.
It's unclear whether, in describing the lights as "so gay," Owens was expressing his aesthetic distaste for the display. He has, after all, written that "foolish" and "stupid" are perfectly legitimate definitions for the word "gay."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson lashed out at gay rights activists for fighting against anti-LGBT business discrimination, suggesting that they are "evil" and that their effort to ensure equal treatment for LGBT customers is an intolerant campaign to "silence good."
In a December 9 post for his RedState.com blog, Erickson responded to a Colorado judge's recent ruling that a Denver baker violated the state's anti-discrimination law when he refused to serve a same-sex couple. Erickson endorsed anti-gay discrimination on the basis of religious views, writing that the ruling further imperils religious liberty and provides yet another example of how "your sexual preference instead of your faith" matters more in modern society (emphasis added):
Surely there are plenty of bakers who would bake a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the gay men who wanted the cake. But they went to Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, CO. When Phillips declined because of his religious beliefs, Mullins and Craig went to the ACLU, which in turn complained to the state that Phillips was discriminating.
There will be no accommodation between gay rights activists and those seeking religious freedom to opt out of the gay rights movement. Gay rights activists demand tolerance for their lifestyle, but will not tolerate those who choose to adhere to their religious beliefs.
Increasingly, courts around the country are siding with the gay rights movement against those relying on the first freedoms of the country. While many would prefer to sit this out, they will be made to care.
Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominate and then it seeks to silence good. We are more and more rapidly arriving at a point in this country where Christians are being forced from the public square unless they abandon the tenets of their faith. In our secular society, Christianity is something you do on a Sunday and who you sleep with defines you.
For Christians defined by their faith, this paradigm of being defined by your sexual preference instead of your faith is deeply troublesome and will see more and more of these stories crop up.
Legal experts have already debunked Erickson's claim that anti-discrimination laws pose a threat to private religious views. As University of Pennsylvania law professor Tobias B. Wolff and Slate's Mark Joseph Stern have noted, there's a clear difference between holding anti-gay views personally and operating a business in the public marketplace that discriminates against people because of who they are.
Erickson professes his dislike for the notion that "who you sleep with defines you," but it's Erickson himself who's obsessed with denying people rights simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. Would Erickson feel as comfortable telling an interracial couple that "there are plenty of bakers who would bake a cake for them," but that racist bakers should have the right not to provide them one?
That Erickson sees nothing wrong with subjecting same-sex couples to the whims of business owners' personal views underscores the right-wing media's apparent belief that "who you sleep with" is perfectly legitimate grounds for public discrimination.
For Erickson to cloak his defense of anti-gay discrimination in a purported concern for "tolerance" is particularly rich, given his willingness to solicit donations for the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization working internationally to criminalize homosexuality.
As the calendar races towards 2014, and Congressional members log their final few days in session while facing daunting deadlines for a long list of pressing and unfinished initiatives, the press has been busy chronicling the futility, assigning collective blame, and giving the president permanent failing marks.
According to historians, 2013 is on track to become the least productive single legislative year in modern American history. And it's not even close. In 1995, 88 laws were passed, setting the previous low-water mark. This year, it's doubtful 70 will make it to the president's desk. (And lots of the bills that have passed are ceremonial or rather trivial in nature.) The press is not happy about the trend.
"The paltry number of bills Congress has passed into law this year paints a vivid picture of just how bad the gridlock has been for lawmakers," announced NBC. The Wall Street Journal noted this year's session has been "long on partisanship, indecision and brinkmanship." USA Today bemoaned the inability "to find common ground." And the Los Angeles Times pointed to "partisan dysfunction" as the main Congressional culprit.
See? "Congress" remains in the grips of "gridlock" and "brinkmanship." Congress just can't find "common ground" and suffers from serious "dysfunction."
So that's why immigration reform, the farm bill, a budget deal, unemployment benefit extensions, workplace discrimination legislation, and the defense spending bill haven't been passed or dealt with yet? And that's why the government was shutdown for 16 days in October?
Wrong. The current Congress obliterated all previous records for diminished output because the Republican Party, and especially those in the Republican-run House, purposefully bottled up as many initiatives as possible and unleashed "procedural sabotage." (They even obstructed disaster relief aid for victim of Hurricane Sandy.)
Yet eager to maintain a political symmetry in which both sides are equally responsible for so little getting accomplished, the press gives Republicans a pass for their purposeful dysfunction.
By the way, are you also experiencing media flashbacks to the government shutdown, which the Republican Party proudly engineered by reneging on a budget deal they had agreed to with the last-minute demand that Obama essentially repeal his signature legislative accomplishment of his first term, the Affordable Care Act? Back then, the one-sided shutdown maneuver was nearly universally portrayed as bipartisan "Washington dysfunction at its absolute worst" (ABC News), a "partisan logjam" (Wall Street Journal), and a "fiscal stalemate" (The Hill).
Yet today, even as some Republican members brag about how little they've allowed Congress to accomplish, even as a plurality of voters says the GOP's top priority is to cause trouble for the president, while a majority blame Republicans for the lack of productivity in Washington, the press still prefers to portray the Capitol Hill standstill as bipartisan "gridlock."
Because, of course, both sides are always to blame.