In Sean Hannity's newest effort to blame Democrats for the ongoing government shutdown, the Fox News host amplified a right-wing distortion of an exchange between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and CNN's Dana Bash to smear Reid as having an "angry, bitter" attitude toward children suffering from cancer.
CNN's Dana Bash asked Reid during an October 2 press conference if Democrats would be supportive of a House bill that would reinstate funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That funding, which includes a program that provides access to clinical trials for children with cancer, was halted after House Republicans refused to pass a bill to fund government operations in an effort to derail the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Bash then asked, "If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?" Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) replied to Bash, "Why pit one against the other?" and Reid, who was critical of the Republican idea that Congress could "pick and choose" which parts of the government to fund, added, "Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own." Reid's comments referenced his push for a bill that would fund the entire government, including the NIH.
Hannity knocked Reid's comments as "partisanship at a really despicable level," before rhetorically asking Reid how he would feel if a member of his own family had been affected. Later in the show, Hannity claimed that, "Harry Reid says he wouldn't want to help one kid with cancer." At one point, Hannity accused Reid of being, "cold, callous, heartless, mean spirited, hateful," among other things:
HANNITY: All this casual cruelty of Harry Reid, he's going to subordinate literally compassion and decency for partisanship? He won't keep the parks open. He won't allow the vets to do go to World War II? He's not gonna fund the NIH even if it's gonna help one kid with cancer? I mean, that's pretty sick. What a twised, old -- I'm sorry.
Hannity's characterization of the exchange unfairly distorted Reid's remarks by ignoring the context in which they were made. Reid was not dismissing the idea of funding cancer treatment for children. Rather, he was dismissing the notion that that funding the NIH should be accomplished via a lone spending bill when it could instead be achieved with the passage of a "clean" continuing resolution that would fund the entire government -- a bill Republicans are refusing to pass. His question asking Reid how he'd feel if it affected his own family was particularly callous given the fact that Reid's wife is a cancer survivor.
Hannity's take on Reid's comments mirrored other right wing media figures' reactions, of which Politico's Dylan Byers wrote, "I can't imagine the intellectual leaps and bounds you'd have to go through to arrive at the conclusion that Sen. Reid doesn't care about cancer patients."
Hannity's efforts to shift blame for the government shutdown away from Republicans are laughable considering that he was one of conservative media's loudest cheerleaders of the shutdown strategy -- cheerleading that his own colleagues have acknowledged can lead to the very hyper-partisan congressional dysfunction that helped cause the shutdown in the first place.
Photo Credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr
From the October 2 edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley:
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Fox News falsely claimed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would force families to receive home visits from government officials to assess at-risk children, when in reality an initiative authorized by the law simply expands existing programs in states that are entirely voluntary and which research shows have improved maternal health and child development.
On the August 21 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed "a brand new federal program" would spend $224 million to send "government home inspectors to your house" to help at-risk children, and asked if this was "Obamacare trumping your right to privacy and snooping on you and your family." Fox Business' Stuart Varney agreed that it was "an intrusion directly into your home and the way you raise your children," and the two proceeded to claim that "the Obama snooper" would visit families randomly and unannounced. On-screen text described the program as "Nanny state solutions: Forced home visits for 'at-risk' kids."
But the program is voluntary. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $224 million in grants from the ACA's Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) to support states' existing home visit programs that bring "nurses, social workers, or other health care professionals to meet with at-risk families that agree to meet with them in their homes" [emphasis added]. And in a 2010 grant announcement, the federal government defined the covered home visits "as an evidence-based program, implemented in response to findings from a needs assessment, that includes home visiting as a primary service strategy ... and is offered on a voluntary basis."
In Rhode Island, for example, families can request a home visit through community health services, or health care providers can refer families that are interested in the program. The service will then work with families to "provide them the available programs and resources they want."
The programs offer a variety of services, including educating parents about child development and supporting school readiness, linking low-income mothers to prenatal health care, ensuring children have access to health care and immunizations, helping families access supplemental food programs and financial aid, and encouraging healthy parent-child relationships to reduce incidents of child abuse. The Department of Health and Human Services conducted an extensive review of the research on several different home visit models, and found evidence that many of the programs improved maternal health, child development, reductions in child maltreatment, and family economic self-sufficiency.
Similarly, The New York Times reported that a 2007 study of high-risk families -- including parents who were under 18, unmarried, low-income, or had inadequate prenatal care -- found that infants were more than twice as likely to survive if their family had received home visits with health workers before and after birth.
From the July 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the July 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News' Peter Johnson Jr., used a severely ill girl to smear health care reform with falsehoods.
After spending months on a pediatric donor list without success, on June 12, Sarah Murnaghan, a 10 year old diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, received a needed lung transplant. This follows her family's successfully petition to the Department of Health and Human Services and the federal judiciary to have her placed on an adult transplant list. Murnaghan was initially placed a pediatric organ transplant wait list as opposed to an adult transplant wait list, due to her age. NYU medical ethicist Art Caplan explained the purpose behind different transplant lists to USA Today: "Adult lungs don't fit well in children's bodies, and that makes it hard to transplant them. You are looking at using a piece of lung instead of a whole lung, and that makes it makes it a more difficult procedure and less likely to work." Fox's Peter Johnson, Jr., took a personal interest in Murnaghan's attempt to be placed on an adult transplant list.
Johnson politicized Murnaghan's difficult situation by dubiously asserting that her difficulty with receiving the lung would be commonplace once health care reform is fully implemented. He baselessly reasoned that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a board created by the health care reform law and designed to contain Medicare costs would deny some people the health care they need, claiming that this was his "fear going forward":
JOHNSON Jr.: I think the lesson of Sarah, the Murnaghan and the Ruddock family is that a lot of us, going forward are going to face this type of travail. When you have advisory boards like the organ advisory board, when you have independent advisory boards that are created by Congress under Obamacare to reduce Medicare, when you have boards appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Service, when you politicize medicine, girls like Sarah, boys like Javier Acosta may die when they shouldn't die. And so that's really the lesson of Sarah.
And the question that we all face as Americans going forward, are we going to have to hire lawyers? Are we going to have to call people at Fox News? Are we going to have to stand out in front of hospitals and in front of Washington offices and say, please give us the health care that the doctors say we can provide, but you are holding back. That is my fear going forward. So a lot on the left are saying 'oh you want to make this about death panels. Sarah would've died, but for public attention and a pro bono law firm. And so I'm afraid what we're facing as a result of Obamacare is new Obamacare courts where hundreds of thousands of Americans will have to go into court and get the health care that they need. That's my great fear this morning.
Contrary to what Johnson says, IPAB is prohibited by law from making "any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits" for Medicare recipients. Indeed, PolitiFact Ohio found the claim that IPAB "can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments to be a "pants-on-fire" level falsehood.
In using Sarah Murnaghan's situation to attack Obamacare, Johnson Jr. does the very thing he decried; he "politicize[d] medicine."
Right-wing media have perpetuated myths about the implications of widespread contraceptive use in response to the legal debate and resultant decision to increase access to the morning-after contraceptive pill. Such misinformation has been found to increase risky contraceptive behaviors.
Fox News' Sean Hannity mischaracterized a Department of Health and Human Services website dedicated to educating girls about making positive health decisions, taking the website out of context in order to claim it encouraged young children to have sex.
On his radio show, Hannity hyped a CNS News article that claimed a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, girlshealth.gov, informs girls age 10 to 16 "about birth control, gay sex, and mutual masturbation." Hannity described the website as "spreading the wonders of anal sex and mutual masturbation courtesy of the Obama administration." Hannity went on to complain about "a graphic depiction of sex" on the website, claiming "that's government-run health care":
But Hannity's description of the website is incredibly misleading. The site is dedicated to educating girls about how to make safe and positive health decisions, including promoting abstinence. The website was created to "help girls learn about health, growing up and issues they may face" by giving them "reliable and useful health information":
Rush Limbaugh claimed young people support marriage equality because Planned Parenthood for America has indoctrinated them through "anything goes" sex education. The program Limbaugh criticized teaches abstinence along with contraception education.
On the March 29 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh read from a Washington Times Communities article by Paul Rondeau, executive director of the American Life League. Rondeau claimed the federal government's Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) teaches "anything goes sex" where "no type of sex is wrong." Limbaugh used the post to claim young people support marriage equality because "unbeknownst to you kids have been exposed to this for years":
In fact, PREP began only after the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 and teaches abstinence among other education programs to discourage sexually transmitted infections and pregnancies among students. PREP began after the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that support of same-sex marriage has increased steadily in the entire population for the last 10 years.
Fox Nation attacked Michelle Obama by asking if she is turning the Easter Egg Roll into a "fat camp" by adding physical activities and healthy meals to the agenda. In fact, first ladies commonly incorporate their policy initiatives into the annual event.
Fox Nation highlighted a Cybercast News Service article that claimed the first lady was trying to transform the Easter egg roll into a "fat camp" by "inflict[ing] exercise," upon "kids who just want to celebrate the season." From Fox Nation:
The inclusion of health-related activities does not mean the Easter Egg Roll has become "fat camp." According to the White House's official website, all events, including the Easter egg roll itself, will proceed as scheduled, along with exercises and cooking demonstrations to highlight Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity. From WhiteHouse.gov:
Media outlets cherry-picked facts from a recent Health and Human Services report on the Head Start education program to promote the myth that the program is a failure. However, neither the HHS report nor other studies confirm those claims, and reports actually show the program has had a positive impact both early on and later in students' lives.
Fox News asked whether young children participating in yoga is leading to the "wussification of America." Fox & Friends guest Larry Winget praised yoga during the segment, explaining he didn't "want all those yoga Nazis coming after me on this thing."
The graphic below appeared during an earlier tease of the segment:
Conservative media have claimed that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on "cheap," "clean" coal that will cause blackouts and massive layoffs. In fact, the Obama administration has simply implemented long overdue and legally required clean air regulations to protect public health without hurting electric reliability or employment, and much of the transition away from coal is due to the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.
Fox News trumpeted critics' complaints that the USDA's Summer Food Service Program might feed children who aren't in need. However, as even Fox acknowledged, meal sites operate only in low-income areas where at least half of children qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year. Fox also failed to fully acknowledge the benefits of the program.
Fox News attacked a partnership between Planned Parenthood and a Los Angeles area high school for entering into a partnership that has reportedly reduced teen pregnancies without any significant parental objections.
As part of their continuing assault on Planned Parenthood, Fox News called the school's clinic, which is run by Planned Parenthood, "controversial" and promoted the objections of critics of the program. In his report on the program, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy stated:
DOOCY: A controversial move in California: Some high schools there in California now allowing Planned Parenthood to set up shop at some high schools. They'll provide students with free birth control, counseling, and pregnancy tests at the high school. Critics say this should be done by parents and not through the school.
Almost everything about Doocy's short statement is wrong. According to the Los Angeles Times, one school, Roosevelt High School, is partnering with Planned Parenthood to staff a reproductive and primary health care clinic. But the article reported that, according to the local Planned Parenthood chapter, parents in the school want their children to have access to reproductive health care. From the article:
Planned Parenthood's Los Angeles executive director, Sue Dunlap, said Latino families generally want access to information and care. "We really don't experience the traditional narrative of angry parents not wanting access to reproductive care in the schools," she said. "It's really the opposite."
Moreover, there is a reason why students are given opportunities to make their own health care decisions instead of it only being "done by parents." Requiring parental consent for students to receive birth control at the clinic would actually be a violation of California law. According to a report on the Los Angeles County government's website, in California, "a minor may receive birth control without parental consent." The same goes for health care related to a pregnancy. Furthermore, with regard to contraceptive and pregnancy treatment, "[t]he health care provider is not permitted to inform a parent or legal guardian without the minor's consent."