Fox News continued its crusade against the Reagan-era affordable telephone service program for low-income Americans, which the network derisively refers to as "Obamaphones," with a misleading segment suggesting that the program has "runaway costs" and traps low-income Americans in poverty.
On May 28, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler published a proposal to amend and modernize the Lifeline program, which currently provides landline and cellular phone subsidies to qualifying low-income Americans. Wheeler's proposal would expand the user-funded program to include broadband internet services, which he called "essential communications services in the 21st Century."
On the May 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson and Fox Business host Charles Payne attacked the broadband proposal and claimed that the Lifeline telephone service system was "radically expanded" during the Obama administration leading to so-called "runaway costs" and fraud.
Payne, who tweeted prior to his appearance that the Lifeline program was tantamount to "further enslavement of the 'poor'," complained on-air that the subsidy was "yet another program that's going to make it really hard for people to get off the sofa" through "the transfer of wealth from the middle class to people of a little bit lower class." Finally, Payne insisted that the expansion of broadband access to low-income Americans delivers the message to "the people who are on the lower levels of the economic rung, we are actually saying to them 'you can't make it but we'll feather the nest a little bit more'":
PAYNE: I think the moral aspect of this is when we're trying to get people into society, you know, out of wherever they live and into the sort of economic spirit, the economic ladder if you will, it's tough. You take a pay cut.
PAYNE: You have all of these benefits and if you add them all up. All of them are at 150 percent above poverty, 130 percent above poverty. Obamacare subsidies, 400 percent above poverty! That keeps a lot of people insulated. So here's the thing. Are you really helping someone by making it more difficult for them to go into the workforce? Are you incentivizing them or disincentivizing them? It's pretty clear what's happening here.
From the May 28 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the May 27 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the May 21 edition of WXIA-TV's 11 Alive News Tonight:
From the May 21 edition of MSNBC's Politics Nation:
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From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News' misleading smear of food stamp recipients as surfing freeloaders found its way into a congressional hearing aimed at examining the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On May 20, the House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing addressing the "Past, Present, and Future of SNAP." Throughout the hearing, Fox News' misleading 2013 special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" that attempted to make a surfing freeloader "the new face of food stamps" was referenced several times as evidence of abuse within the program.
Fox's misrepresentation of food stamp recipients found its way into the hearing when two members on the committee used the special as anecdotal evidence of abuse within SNAP. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) used Fox's example of a "surfer out in California living on food stamps and eating lobster" as evidence of abuse within the program, though he "forg[o]t which network" aired the special.
Later, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) also referenced "the surfer that was on one of the news channels," claiming, "unfortunately, we see that in our districts, and I hear stories about that every day."
The surfer mentioned by Reps. Gibbs and Yoho was Jason Greenslate who featured in Fox's special as part of Fox News' longstanding history of maligning the poor and misrepresenting food stamp recipients. After it aired, the network delivered physical copies of the special to members of Congress in an attempt to influence a vote to cut SNAP benefits by billions of dollars.
What the special failed to note was the fact that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, the fraud and waste rate in SNAP is roughly only 1 percent. The special also ignored the fact that SNAP kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, many of whom are children, and that 82 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled American.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), fought to correct the record by pointing out the "surfer on food stamps" is "not the reality of the program, and it's our job to tell anybody who says it is, that it isn't" (emphasis added):
REP. MCGOVERN: I want to make sure the record is corrected on this, we heard a couple of times mention the guy who is a surfer on food stamps. That is not the reality of the program, and it's our job to tell anybody who says it is, that it isn't. The majority of people on this program are kids, are senior citizens, are those who are disabled. And of those who are able-bodied, the majority of them work. Given the opportunity between working at a job that pays a wage where I wouldn't have to rely on this benefit, or a job that I have to work full-time and I still need to rely on SNAP, I mean, we know what people would decide. So let's not demonize this program by taking some examples that may have appeared on some news show that I won't mention the name of the news show, but anyway. But the point of the matter is we ought to be talking, we ought to make sure that the narrative we are echoing here reflects the reality.
For three years running, The Wall Street Journal editorial board has championed an annual report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) claiming that federal regulations are a "hidden tax" that cost Americans almost two trillion dollars every year and nearly $15,000 per household. But The Washington Post Fact Checker has described the CEI report as "unbalanced" and "misleading" because it has serious methodological problems and completely ignores the economic benefits of regulations, and policy and economic experts who spoke to Media Matters agree that the report is heavily biased and hugely flawed.
The New York Post ran an op-ed pushing falsehoods and reckless speculation to attack Cheryl D. Mills, the former counselor and chief of staff to Hillary Clinton during her time at the State Department, in order to accuse her of having a "long track record of hiding Clinton documents."
"The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over," announced the World Health Organization on May 9, declaring a cautious end to the deadly wave that claimed 4,700 Liberian lives since last summer. That outbreak, of course, eventually sparked panic in the United States last September and October when a handful of Ebola cases were confirmed domestically. Ebola mania raged in the media for weeks and became one of the biggest news stories of 2014.
So how did the American media cover the latest, good-news Ebola story in the days following the WHO announcement? Very, very quietly.
By my count, ABC News devoted just brief mentions of the story on Good Morning America and its Sunday talk show, This Week. On NBC, only the Today show noted the development, while CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News set aside brief mentions. None of the network newscasts have given this Ebola story full segments, according to a transcript search via Nexis.
A scattering of mentions on cable news and a handful of stories including in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among others, rounded out the remaining coverage in the past week.*
Pretty amazing, considering that late last year the U.S. news media were in the grips of self-induced Ebola hysteria. During one peak week, cable news channels mentioned "Ebola" over 4,000 times, while the Washington Post homepage one night featured at least 15 Ebola-related articles and columns, many of which focused on both the international crisis and the political dynamic, and the problems Ebola was supposedly causing President Obama.
That's not to say the tragic outbreak was not a big story worthy of any news coverage. It was, but American media went into overdrive hyping concerns that a deadly domestic outbreak was imminent -- only to rapidly forget.
The recent look-away coverage from Ebola shouldn't come as a surprise. The American media lost complete interest in the story right after Republicans lost interest in the story, which is to say right after last November's midterm elections, when they brandished Ebola as a partisan weapon.
That's no exaggeration. From Media Matters' research:
From the May 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News is outraged that President Obama called out the network's horrible record on covering poverty, insisting they are simply an "honest messenger." Media Matters looks back on the worst of Fox's attacks on low-income Americans.
Fox News worried over the country's crumbling infrastructure following an Amtrak derailment, ignoring their own role in cheerleading persistent Republican efforts to obstruct investments in rebuilding infrastructure.
An Amtrak train bound for New York City crashed May 13 in Philadelphia, leaving at least six dead and over a hundred injured. Speed is being investigated as a possible factor in the crash, though an official cause is not yet known.
Speculating on possible causes for the deadly crash, Fox News' Fox & Friends decried the country's crumbling infrastructure. Co-host Steve Doocy asserted that "infrastructure in this country is falling apart," while former New York City mayor and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani added "We do know for sure, whether it is the cause or not, that the infrastructure in this country has not been fixed. It badly needs it," concluding, it's "an investment we have to make."
Yet Fox News itself and other right-wing media have long been champions of cuts to infrastructure spending, suggesting that federal, state, and local funds for infrastructure are being abused or stolen, and dismissing the role of Republican obstruction in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.
Indeed, the nation's infrastructure is crumbling due in part to Republican efforts to block public spending on infrastructure.
The vast system of public infrastructure in the United States -- ranging from roads and park trails to canals and ports -- is currently graded as D+, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) most recent report card for America's infrastructure, and would need an investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020 to improve.
One in ten bridges in the U.S. are structurally deficient, and states have been forced to convert roads to gravel due to a lack of sufficient funding for repairs. Nearly 14,000 dams are considered high-hazard, meaning failure of the dam would likely cause the loss of life.
But public investment in infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, according to analysis from the Financial Times, which attributes the record-low public investments to Republicans blocking President Obama's push for more spending on infrastructure.
Republicans have consistently blocked infrastructure spending proposals. And the recently passed GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets each call for significant cuts to highway construction and transportation infrastructure funding, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Both budgets would cut transportation funding by 22-28 percent over ten years, at a time when experts are urging more investment in infrastructure "in order to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and improve the performance and safety of our nation's highways, bridges, and transit systems."
Broadcast nightly news programs have remained silent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the past three months of weekday programming, even as Congress is scheduled to vote this week on whether to grant President Obama authority to finalize the terms of the massive trade deal. The coverage blackout continues a trend extending back to 2013.
On May 12, the Senate plans to vote on legislation that would grant "fast-track" trade promotion authority to Obama as he attempts to complete negotiations among the 12 member nations that comprise the TPP. "Once Congress grants a president trade promotion authority, lawmakers have the ability to vote up or down on a final trade agreement, but they forfeit the right to amend the deal or filibuster it," The New York Times explained.
Debates over the merits of the deal itself and of granting the president trade promotion authority have erupted among Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but coverage of the negotiations has been largely absent from evening news programming on the major broadcast networks.
A Media Matters analysis of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through May 10, 2015, found that the programs completely ignored the trade negotiations and related policy debates. Only PBS NewsHour devoted substantive coverage to the TPP, with 14 total segments:
Coverage of the TPP among major cable outlets has been similarly one-sided. Since August 1, 2013, MSNBC has mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 124 evening and primetime segments, the overwhelming majority of which (103) came during The Ed Show. Fox News trails far behind with just 12 mentions of the TPP over that time period, 10 of which have come since February 1, 2015. CNN has been almost completely absent from the discussion, registering only 2 mentions of the trade negotiations: