Right-wing media continue to push the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a "death panel" provision, and years after the birth of this smear, it continues to have an impact on public perception and find its way into Republican legislation.
When the House first introduced the health care bill that would eventually become the ACA in 2009, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed the bill would "require" end-of-life counseling for seniors to "tell them how to end their life sooner." The baseless claim was later amplified by Sarah Palin and the notion quickly gained steam as the right-wing media echo-chamber championed the idea.
Despite being conclusively debunked as Politifact's "lie of the year" in 2009, conservative media still persist in trumpeting the death panel lie. In 2014, Fox News' Eric Bolling compared the Veteran Affairs health care system to the ACA, citing them as examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system." He concluded, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is." Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Sean Hannity, and other conservative media outlets trotted out the death panel lie last year as well, in the midst of good news about enrollment and reductions in the nation's rate of uninsured people.
The death panel falsehood is still reflected in both the public's perception of the health care law as well as the Republican legislative agenda. As Sarah Kliff explained in a March 23 post for Vox, 26 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats still agree that "a government panel helps make decisions about patients' end-of-life care" is "part of the law."
The myth even continues to make its way into GOP legislation critical of the health care law. The Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg noted in a March 22 post that despite having been debunked, "the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has hold on the party" and was "written explicitly" into the House GOP's 2016 budget proposal:
Experts and professional fact-checkers have debunked the notion that the Affordable Care Act would empower a faceless government board to deny critical health-care procedures, the Obama-era equivalent of pushing inconvenient seniors onto ice floes. But the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has a hold on the party, its illogic written explicitly into the House's budget.
"This budget repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected, unaccountable board of 15 bureaucrats charged with making coverage decisions on Medicare," the document reads.
National Review ignored overwhelming evidence showing second-generation Latinos besting their parents by every socioeconomic indicator to claim that the Latino community in America has "so far been unable to achieve the upward mobility of previous immigrant groups."
On March 20, National Review published an article by Washington Examiner's Michael Barone suggesting that the Latino community in America has "so far been unable to achieve the upward mobility of previous immigrant groups." Barone pointed to "second-generation Hispanics hav[ing] more negative health outcomes, higher divorce rates, and higher incarceration rates than their immigrant elders" to argue that "so far the Hispanics who crossed the southern border don't seem to have moved upward as rapidly as Italian-Americans did in the last century.
But Barone ignored key economic indicators illustrating that U.S. born children of Latino immigrants are substantially better off than their immigrant parents. According to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center, second-generation Latinos have higher household incomes than immigrant Hispanics, more of them complete college, and 93% of second-generation Latinos speak English "well or very well, a stark difference from first-generation Hispanics."
At the beginning of last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set in motion his plan to pressure Democrats to vote on the existing version of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act without changes: he'd hold hostage the vote to confirm Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
Legislators from both parties overwhelmingly support the trafficking bill. But Senate Democrats oppose a provision added to the trafficking bill by Republican Senator John Cornyn that would apply the Hyde Amendment -- a legislative rider that has been attached to appropriations bills for decades that prevents the use of certain taxpayer dollars for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother -- to a victim's fund established by the legislation. Because the victims' fund would be paid for with both private dollars and federal funds, the Cornyn provision would therefore expand the scope of the Hyde Amendment; for the first time it would make private funding streams subject to federal restrictions.
Having filibustered the bill three times and blocked a Cornyn proposal to funnel the victims' fund through the appropriations process (where the Hyde Amendment would automatically apply), democrats made it clear they were not budging. At the same time conservatives were losing the argument against allowing a vote on the Lynch nomination as even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined the calls to confirm her.
As you'd expect, while the right-wing media has long been opposed to Lynch, it shifted gears to focus on the trafficking legislation. Dog whistles sounded as not-altogether-accurate arguments worked to turn the once non-partisan human sex trafficking issue into a battle over abortion rights.
The emerging narrative falsely suggested that Democrats were trying to use taxpayer funds for abortion. The Federalist asserted democrats' filibuster was proof that the party is controlled by the "abortion lobby" saying, "the abortion lobby opposes this bill because it doesn't provide public funding for elective abortions." A report on Breitbart News blamed "abortion industry groups" for pressuring lawmakers to reject the legislation fearing that the legislation would put "the case for taxpayer funding of abortion at risk."
In their criticism of Democrats, some pretended that the abortion language was just an extension of "longstanding federal policy," while others noted the expansion of the Hyde Amendment to private funding streams, but downplayed the significance that shift could have in setting a new precedent.
Fox News' Dana Perino left out the expansion when she recently said that Democrats are "jerks" on the trafficking issue because Hyde language is even in the Affordable Care Act (which, unlike the victims' fund, is funded through the appropriations process). However, the Affordable Care Act is included in the appropriations process while the trafficking legislation is not.
In The Wall Street Journal, conservative commentator Kimberly Strassel noted the language expansion, but downplayed its significance in part because as Senate Republicans have said, the language had been in the bill all along and was approved on a bipartisan basis in committee. Democrats have said that at the time they were not aware of the change (the House version contained no such provision); regardless, while its unclear exactly when they knew, they now know in time to stop the bill from moving forward.
It's the men, women, and children who survive sex trafficking who have been largely absent in the conversation about why it matters if the Hyde Amendment is applied to the victims' fund in the trafficking bill. More than 100,000 American children and teens are victims of sex trafficking, according to a recent PBS report. Anti-trafficking advocates estimate the domestic number could be as high as 300,000, noting that there are 2.8 million kids (half are girls) who are living on the streets and are among the most vulnerable to sex traffickers. But it can happen to anyone, of any race or socio-economic background; rural, urban, or suburban.
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz downplayed the bloody arrest and subsequent national media coverage of a black University of Virginia (UVA) student, arrested during an alleged dispute over his ID, claiming "such arrests are common in this college town."
The Washington Post reported that Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is under scrutiny after the violent arrest of UVA student Martese Johnson, who "sustained head injuries that left him with bloody streaks down his face" following St. Patrick's Day celebrations near the UVA campus in Charlottesville. Photos of Johnson's bloody face sparked widespread outrage and protests over the use of excessive police force.
During a segment on March 20 edition of Special Report, Kurtz criticized the national media attention claiming that this was a local story with "no evidence that race was a factor" in the arrest. Kurtz later downplayed the arrest as typical, asserting that "bartenders tell us such arrests are common in this college town."
Major Hispanic news outlets failed to cover a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which found that 4.2 million Hispanic Americans have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act provisions have taken effect.
On March 16, HHS reported that 16.4 million Americans, including 4.2 million Hispanic Americans, gained health insurance coverage since "several of the Affordable Care Act's coverage provisions took effect."
But major Hispanic media outlets have failed to cover the report. A Media Matters study found that from March 16 to March 19, top Hispanic news shows, Univision's Noticiero Univision and Noticiero Univision Edición Nocturna and Telemundo's Noticiero Telemundo made no mentions of the HHS report or the official ACA enrollment numbers disclosed this week.
According to NBC News, Hispanics are "the group with the largest gains in insurance" because of ACA. The New York Times reported that the "proportion of Latinos who were uninsured dropped to 29.5 percent, from 41.8 percent," far greater than the decline for white Americans from 14.3 percent to 9 percent.
Information concerning the ACA, enrollment and the law's benefits are especially important to the Hispanic community and polls have consistently found that Latinos rank health care as one of the issues most important to them. But Hispanic media outlets continue to ignore health care as an important issue, despite the fact that Latinos still lead in the share of uninsured Americans.
The Wall Street Journal is recycling old news to scandalize donations from foreign individuals to the Clinton Foundation by funders who were previously disclosed by the Clintons as early as 2008.
The Clinton Foundation, a global charity, agreed not to accept donations from foreign governments while Clinton was secretary of state, in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest. The Journal baselessly suggested on March 19, however, that the foundation may have been inappropriately sidestepping this ban by still "raising millions of dollars from foreigners with connections to their home governments" from more than a dozen individuals since Clinton became secretary of state in 2009. The article noted that the donations were for "charitable, not political reasons," but went on to hype "political criticism" over the donations.
A Fox News panel subsequently used the article to baselessly push that there may be a "conflict of interest" with donations to the Clinton Foundation from these individual donors.
But this is yet another attempt to recycle old stories in order to sensationalize charitable donations to an organization with global reach.
The Clintons publically released their donor list in 2008, ahead of Hillary Clinton's confirmation at the State Department which the Journal wrote about at the time. The Journal's 2015 report covers donations to the Clinton Foundation from several of the same foreign individuals referenced in those reports:
· Donations from Victor Dahdaleh were referenced in a December 2008 Journal article.
· Donations from Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi were referenced in a separate December 2008 Journal article.
· Donations from Viktor Pinchuk were referenced in a January 2009 Journal editorial.
Moreover, many of the donors hyped by the Journal have made numerous charitable contributions to a variety of organizations. For example, Wang Wenliang donated to "Singapore, Harvard and New York Universities as well as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank," as the Journal noted.
A Navy Commanding Officer debunked conservative media's defense of a Navy chaplain, who was disciplined after discriminating against female and LGBT students, stating that the chaplain's ability to express his religious beliefs "has not been restricted or substantially burdened."
On February 15, chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder was given a "detachment for cause" from his unit after an investigation by the Navy found him guilty of repeated inappropriate and discriminatory behavior against students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) in South Carolina, including telling a student that "the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus" and shaming a student for having premarital sex.
The anti-gay legal group Liberty Institute is now representing Modder, alleging in a March 9 complaint to the Navy that Modder has been discriminated against due to his religious beliefs. Fox News correspondent and serial misinformer Todd Starnes also jumped on the story, publishing a report defending the chaplain's discriminatory actions. Conservative media parroted Starnes' narrative, and praised chaplain Modder as a hero for religious liberty.
The claim that Modder was "discriminated" against due to his religious beliefs also gained traction with other anti-LGBT organizations, including the hate group Family Research Council, which collected over 80,000 signatures in a petition demanding Modder's reinstatement and securement of "his religious freedom."
But in a Navy memorandum released on March 16 in response to the Liberty Institute's complaint, Commanding Officer, Capt. J.R. Fahs rejected the conservative narrative that the disciplinary action was a result of Modder's religious beliefs (emphasis added):
In your case, I find that your ability to express your religious beliefs during pastoral counseling has not been restricted or substantially burdened. Rather, the decision to relieve you from your duties is based on your failure to uphold the core capabilities of chaplains as stated in reference (c), and the professional standards of conduct and the guiding principles of the Chaplain Corps
Specifically, under the core capability of "care," you have the duty to be sensitive to the religious, spiritual, moral, cultural, and personal differences of those you serve. Your inability to comfort and counsel in a manner that was respectful of the counselee while maintaining dignity and professionalism... led you to be relieved of your duties. I note that you dispute some of these allegations, but after considering your denials, I find the multiple allegations in references (e) and (f) to be credible. In making my determination I considered all applicable Navy rules and policies... and consulted with the Navy Chief of Chaplains office.
While I support your religious freedoms and sincerely held beliefs, my decision to relieve you was based on your failure to comply with references (c) and (d); not the exercise of your religion.
Starnes acknowledged the memorandum in a March 17 opinion article but refused to drop his Christian persecution accusations, titling his piece "Showdown: Navy forces chaplain to choose between faith and job." Starnes conceded that the Navy "rejected Modder's claim that he was being singled out because of his Christian faith," but dismissed the Navy's investigation by alleging that the chaplain "may have been the target of a set-up."
It is puzzling why a gay officer would continuously seek the counsel of a chaplain who clearly held to the Bible's teachings on both homosexuality and marriage.
It would be like a vegetarian getting upset at a barbecue joint for not serving tofu.
The Navy's response to Modder's behavior dismantles conservative media's argument that someone's religious beliefs create a blank check to ignore their job responsibilities and engage in discrimination.
National Review editor Rich Lowry is painting Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee to be the next attorney general, as a controversial pick who should "never be confirmed," because she has suggested that the president's executive actions on immigration are lawful. Not only is Lowry's analysis of the legality of the actions contradicted by experts, his erroneous description of such prosecutorial discretion as "executive action" has been debunked, and presidents generally do not nominate chief enforcement officers who promise to go after their sponsor.
Right-wing media have been hard-pressed to find a legitimate reason to oppose Lynch's nomination, instead relying on specious attacks and, in one instance, going after the wrong Loretta Lynch. Lowry's March 18 op-ed for Politico was likewise devoid of any substantive critiques of Lynch's legal positions or her qualifications. Still, Lowry argued that Senate Republicans should "never" confirm Lynch because she believes -- as is the wide consensus among legal and immigration experts -- that the president's executive actions on immigration, a modified Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), are lawful.
As all the Republicans opposing her nomination make plain, the issue is her belief that President Barack Obama's executive amnesty is lawful.
This isn't a mere matter of policy or personal preference. It implicates her view of the constitutional order that she will be sworn to uphold. Whether she thinks the executive branch can in effect write laws on its own is a threshold question. Her answer in the affirmative should be disqualifying, no matter how impressive her career has otherwise been, or how historic her confirmation would be.
On the merits, when should Republicans bring her up for a vote -- now delayed because Democrats are filibustering a sex-trafficking bill? Never. When should they confirm her? Never.
The Senate shouldn't confirm any attorney general nominee, from whatever party, of whatever race, ethnicity or gender identification, who believes the president can rewrite the nation's laws at will.
Project Veritas is "a multi-million dollar non-profit P.R. machine to promote the James O'Keefe brand," according to a former employee who says he was fired after he refused to force a colleague to incite protesters into making violent anti-police comments.
Rich Valdes worked for O'Keefe's Project Veritas from February 2014 to January 2015. A New York Post article this week reported that "former top staffer" Valdes says he was fired from the organization for "being unwilling to strong-arm" another Veritas operative into attending a January anti-police brutality event organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network. The Post reported that the operative's would-be assignment included telling protestors things like, "I wish I could kill some of these cops," to elicit shocking reactions.
Valdes expanded on the incident that he says led to his dismissal in an interview with Media Matters.
Valdes said O'Keefe wanted him to send the other activist, whom Valdes describes as a "Muslim operative," to a January National Action Network event related to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being put in a chokehold by a New York police officer in July 2014.
"In this particular situation, James came to my desk and asked me to send this particular operative into the field," Valdes recalls about the incident, which he says took place in the organization's Mamaroneck, N.Y., offices. "And he was really anxious and he said, 'do whatever it takes, do whatever it takes, tell him to say whatever he's got to say, get me the content.' Content is king."
Media Matters has reached out to the operative for comment, with no response yet. O'Keefe referred questions to a Project Veritas spokesman who confirmed Valdes' past employment, but declined to comment on the controversy or specific details of his work.
"He gave me some examples ... about saying he was a Muslim and kind of commiserating with the folks," Valdes told Media Matters about O'Keefe's pressure. "He tells me, 'tell your guy [to say to others] that, you know, that he had a kid and that he's a Muslim and you don't know what it's like to get stopped by the cops because they think you're a terrorist and they want to search your kid, and that I wish I could have a cop here now.' So as he's saying this at my desk, I'm writing it down."
Valdes said he emailed the operative with the request; he provided Media Matters with copies of the emails.
"He responded very quickly saying that he didn't want to do it, he didn't think it was legal, this, that and the other thing," Valdes recalled about the operative's reaction. "I had a discussion with our producer and with James and the consensus was, 'see what you can do, get him to do it.'"
Valdes said he sent another email and tried to convince the operative "that this is not very different from what you've done in the past, you've posed as someone you weren't in the past to get some undercover response from some people." But he said the man "thought it was really different and he felt it was illegal to talk about killing cops. I myself understood."
A Daily Caller article made a sweeping generalization to claim that global warming did not harm the South Pacific Islands when a deadly cyclone recently struck. But scientists quoted within the article itself explained definitively that climate change-induced sea level rise actually did worsen the cyclone's devastating impacts.
Cyclone Pam tore through the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu last weekend, killing 24 people and displacing tens of thousands of others. In response, President Baldwin Lonsdale of Vanuatu made an impassioned appeal to world leaders to act on global warming, stating that "climate change is contributing" to the nation's intense cyclones.
The conservative news site Daily Caller was quick to find fault with Lonsdale's remarks. In a March 18 article headlined: "Report: Global Warming Did Not Devastate South Pacific Islands," writer Michael Bastasch claimed that "scientists are hesitant to blame rising carbon dioxide levels for wreaking havoc on Vanuatu."
What some of the scientists had to say, however, actually agreed with the idea that climate change increased the storm's impacts -- specifically, that global warming-driven sea level rise made the effects of the cyclone far worse.
In fact, Bastasch himself ultimately noted in the article that the scientists unwilling to directly attribute Cyclone Pam to global warming were (emphasis added): "instead pointing out that sea level rises caused by global warming, not the cycles themselves, are causing more damage."
Global warming-driven sea level rise is indeed a primary factor for cyclone damage -- particularly in low-lying islands such as Vanuatu -- as it contributes to bouts of sudden extreme flooding known as storm surges. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that storm surges from hurricanes pose "the greatest threat to life and property" in coastal areas. During Cyclone Pam, the Vanuatu islands reportedly experienced storm surges as high as eight meters -- over 26 feet. Vice News reported that a 2014 NOAA study "found that changes in both ocean and atmospheric temperatures had combined to substantially increase the potential intensity of storms in the area where Pam hit."