Fox News dismissed the devastating effect that delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have on the millions of Americans who would be left without adequate insurance and be forced to delay treatment for serious health conditions.
During her November 6 testimony to Congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed back on congressional demands to delay implementation of parts of the new health care law, noting that a delay of the law could mean delaying access to necessary and life-saving medical treatment for Americans who currently lack insurance or are underinsured (via Nexis):
SEBELIUS: Now, some have asked, why not just delay implementation of the new law until all of the problems are fixed? And there's a pretty straightforward answer: Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn't delay people's cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's. Didn't delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn't delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills. It doesn't delay the higher costs all of us pay when uninsured Americans are left with no choice but to rely on emergency rooms for care.
So for millions of Americans, delay is not an option. People's lives depend on this. Too many hard-working people have been waiting for too long for the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.
We want to save families from going bankrupt. We want to save the lives of more of our friends and neighbors by allowing them to detect medical issues early. We want to keep prices down. Delay is not an option.
The next morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed Sebelius' warning as "disingenuous," and implied that only people in third-world nations lacked access to adequate health care:
KILMEADE: She also said something I thought was totally disingenuous. When asked over and over again by Max Baucus and other Democrats, why don't you delay, she says, well, doing so wouldn't delay people's cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. What are we, Cambodia? Are we some third-world nation? Are we all in the waiting room until this passes and this website gets up? That's, these are the types of statements where people feel as though this is one big game.
In fact, more than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2012, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a one-year delay to the individual mandate -- the portion of the health care law that penalizes individuals for not signing up for insurance by March 2014 -- would cause at least 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014. The majority of the uninsured are low-income working families.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck misleadingly hyped a specific security concern with the HealthCare.gov website without mentioning that the problem has been fixed.
On November 7, Hasselbeck interviewed South Carolina resident Tom Dougall, who explained that he had entered personal information into HealthCare.gov only for it to erroneously be sent to someone else who logged into the website. Hasselbeck used this incident to scare people into thinking it could happen to them, asking Dougall if anyone should "be logging onto a site that puts them at risk for security fraud, identity fraud."
But the Fox News segment never brought up the fact that the particular software issue that lead to the leak of Dougall's information has been fixed. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Senate on November 5 that "she became aware of the mistake on Monday and told the committee a 'software fix' had remedied the problem." McClatchy DC further reported:
A top Obama administration official on Tuesday tried to assure anxious senators that Americans' personal information was secure on the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which erroneously provided a South Carolina man's personal information to a man in North Carolina last week.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the problem was caused by a piece of software code that needed to be fixed. She said the fix was made, tested and the system is working properly.
Bataille said it was the only such incident reported to HHS, but she would not speculate about whether other, similar incidents have occurred.
Many problems have been made apparent since HealthCare.gov launched. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on November 6, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the government is working on fixes for a "couple of hundred" problems with the website. The problem highlighted by Hasselbeck was a serious issue, and she should have mentioned that this particular software problem has been resolved.
The Wall Street Journal came out swinging in favor of a Supreme Court decision that could force state-based lawsuits brought by state attorneys general out of their jurisdictions and into federal court despite complaining about federal encroachment on state powers in another Supreme Court case the very same day.
In a November 5 editorial, the WSJ supported an outcome in Mississippi v. AU Optronics that would make it more difficult for states' attorneys general to bring successful lawsuits on behalf of their citizens by forcing state cases into federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), a forum where class actions are increasingly harder to win. The WSJ, clearly a fan of insulating the wealth of large wrongdoer corporations from class action lawsuits, not only disfavors attorneys general filing lawsuits to protect its citizens, but also erroneously called CAFA an "illegal loophole":
When Congress rewrote the law on class-action lawsuits in 2005, it didn't figure on being thwarted by the nation's top law enforcers. Now the Supreme Court has a chance to close what has become a large and illegal loophole.
The High Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in Mississippi ex rel. Jim Hood, Attorney General vs. AU Optronics. The protagonist is Mississippi AG Jim Hood, who is famous for moonlighting as a job creator for his trial-lawyer donors. The question is whether Mr. Hood's "state" lawsuits are really an attempt to circumvent the 2005 federal Class Action Fairness Act (Cafa).
In 2006 the Justice Department conducted a grand jury probe into alleged price-fixing by makers of liquid crystal display screens (LCDs). Some companies settled with the feds, others refused and weren't charged. The trial bar piled on with 100 or so copycat class actions.
In 2011 Mr. Hood filed his own lawsuit on behalf of his state, municipalities and Mississippians who purchased LCDs. His suit named the same six manufacturers targeted by the private class-action litigation, and 176 of his 206 paragraphs of allegations were verbatim or near-verbatim copies of the private litigation. This was no surprise since one of the two law firms Mr. Hood hired to prosecute his state suit -- Zimmerman Reid -- has also filed private LCD class actions.
This all looks like a run around the 2005 class-action reform. That law allows defendants hit with civil claims by 100 or more persons to seek removal to federal court, where the rules on classes are stricter and defendants can avoid biased state juries.
Mr. Hood also claims that he can bring his suit because he is its only "named plaintiff." He wants the Justices to ignore that he is asserting claims on behalf of thousands of LCD purchasers, and that Cafa is clearly aimed at any "mass action" that could result in a "monetary" judgment.
The WSJ seems happy to throw the idea of states' rights under the bus, even though in a different November 5 editorial, it lamented "dagger[s] aimed at the heart of federalism," protesting that "[t]he last century has seen Washington wrest ever more power from the states" and that "Congress needs constitutional guardrails or it will drive the states off the road." But when corporate wealth is at risk, the WSJ is suddenly terrified at the thought of states handling their state law-based legal issues in their own courts.
Although all of President Obama's qualified nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are currently at risk of being refused an up-or-down vote by unprecedented Republican obstructionism, right-wing media have targeted Georgetown law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard in particular with misguided smears.
After months of support from conservative talk radio and other right-wing media, commonwealth Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli failed to win the race to become Virgnia's next governor. Even before Election Day, conservative commentators like Mark Levin had already begun lashing out at "RINOs" and Republicans like Karl Rove for not sufficiently supporting Cuccinelli.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate made history this week when they successfully filibustered the nomination of Rep. Melvin Watt (R-N.C.) to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt received 56 Senate votes, four short of the 60 necessary to end the filibuster.
The move represented the latest round of raw, extremist obstructionism that Republicans have proudly practiced for the last five years, particularly when it comes to mounting extraordinary efforts to block presidential appointments that in the past were considered to be routine.
The historic element of the Watt rejection was that throughout American history it has been virtually unheard for a sitting member of Congress to be filibustered -- to be denied the courtesy of a final vote -- when selected by the president to fill an administration position. Prior to this week's partisan blockade of Watt, a Congressional rejection like his hadn't happened since before the Civil War, in 1843.
That important historical context should have been included in every story about the Watt filibuster, but it wasn't. That's not surprising considering the Beltway press corps seems to have made a conscious decision during the Obama presidency to omit virtually all context with regards to the Republicans' continued radical behavior as they cling to filibusters to methodically block, stall and reject most White House policy proposals, as well as countless nominations.
The pliant coverage over the years has likely only enabled Republicans to push ahead with their corrosive strategy, knowing there's certainly no downside with regards to adverse media attention. After all, Republican moved to recently shut down the government, yet lots of journalists suggested the radical, destructive move was because "both sides" just couldn't agree, essentially blaming Democrats for Republican extremism.
Note that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently announced he was going to block all Obama nominations until he got more answers about the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi. Although as CNN's Jeffrey Toobin noted, Republicans block Obama picks as a matter of general principle, so it's not like Graham even needs a stated reason for the obstruction.
Watt wasn't the only presidential pick rejected by Republicans on October 31. They also blocked Patricia Millett, who was nominated to fill one of three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Despite the fact Millett had previously served as an assistant solicitor general, and represented the administration before the Supreme Court 32 times, under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Republicans denied her the right to an up or down vote.
It's telling that Republicans barely even bother to give reasons for the filibusters any more, and that the press doesn't find that odd.
From the November 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the October 31 edition of Fox News' The Real Story:
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Conservative Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will cherry-picked outlier examples of campaign finance violations while ignoring legitimate concerns about the potential for big-money donors to corrupt elections and balloted measures .
In his October 30 column, Will attacks campaign finance reform and celebrates the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for large donors to corrupt elections with outsized contributions. Will highlights a pair of lower-court cases where judges struck down regulations on political speech that affected seemingly small-time civic participation to downplay the danger of political corruption, conveniently overlooking how these decisions might make it easier for large corporations to obfuscate their own political participation:
Brick by brick, judges are dismantling the wall of separation that legislators have built between political activity and the First Amendment's protections of free speech and association. The latest examples, from Mississippi and Arizona, reflect the judiciary's proper engagement in defending citizens from the regulation of political speech, a.k.a. "campaign finance reform."
In 2011, a few like-minded friends and neighbors in Oxford, Miss., who had been meeting for a few years to discuss politics, decided to work together to support passage of an initiative amending Mississippi's Constitution. The amendment, restricting the power of the state and local governments to take private property by eminent domain, was provoked by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo ruling that governments could, without violating the Fifth Amendment ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"), take property for the "public use" of transferring it to persons who would pay more taxes to the government.
The Mississippi friends and neighbors wanted to pool their funds to purchase posters, fliers and local newspaper advertising. They discovered that if, as a group, they spent more than $200 to do these simple things, they would be required by the state's campaign finance law to register as a "political committee." And if, as individuals, any of them spent more than $200 supporting the initiative, they must report this political activity to the state.
Mississippi defines a political committee as any group of persons spending more than $200 to influence voters for or against candidates "or balloted measures." Supposedly, regulation of political activity is to prevent corruption of a candidate or the appearance thereof. How does one corrupt a "balloted measure"?
The answer to this question should be obvious, and even Will begrudgingly admits "there is some slight informational value in knowing where money supporting a voter initiative comes from." Although Will doesn't mention it, the judge in the Mississippi case clearly left the door open for future regulations of political speech, giving a nod to the possibility of improper influence with respect to ballot initiatives:
Significantly, the Court does not hold that Mississippi may not regulate individuals and groups attempting to influence constitutional ballot measures. Instead, the Court holds only that under the current regulatory scheme, which is convoluted and exacting, the requirements are too burdensome for the State's $200 threshold.
Nevertheless, Will goes on to call the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United -- one that allowed a tsunami of corporate money to enter the election process -- an "excellent" one. But even Citizens United noted the corrupting danger of unchecked money in the political system, and transparency was explicitly recognized as the critical protection against such a problem.
From the October 31 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the Cabinet official responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act. That she would testify before Congress about the problems with the law's implementation makes all the sense in the world, given that it is her responsibility. In certain corners of the conservative media, however, Sebelius' October 30 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was an act of political cowardice by President Obama, who, by sending Sebelius before Congress, was using her as a "human shield."
Here's the lede to Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger's October 31 column:
A reader remarked last week that Barack Obama is running out of human shields. With the father of ObamaCare unavailable to explain the greatest fiasco of his presidency to Congress, the American people had to settle Wednesday for his surrogate, Kathleen Sebelius.
And here's Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros on the October 30 edition of The Five:
In a report on the renewed judicial nominations struggle over three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Fox News' Shannon Bream incorrectly reported that the court was balanced evenly and that past Democratic opposition to highly controversial Republican judicial nominees is equivalent to the blanket obstructionism President Obama's nominees are currently facing.
Appearing on Special Report with Bret Baier, Bream advanced the right-wing myth that filling the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit would "tip the balance" ideologically and is unnecessary, given its "lighter" caseload. From the October 29 edition of Special Report:
BREAM: The problem is this is the D.C. Circuit Court. And what's important about it is it is the key appeals court for looking at federal regulations and federal agencies, things like the EPA, the IRS. So it's something that looks at administrative action that goes around Congress. So it is a real check on administrative power. Now, this is the court that looked at the NLRB recess appointments, those appointments that the president made to the National Labor Relations Board, and found them unconstitutional. So it's very important. It's balanced right now evenly between judges who were appointed by Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, so adding even one new nominee of the president to this court is going to tip the balance. By the way, four of the current Supreme Court justices served on this court. It's very important.
BRET BAIER: But Democrats rightly point out there are a lot of empty seats so why shouldn't they be filled?
BREAM: Yeah, there are three vacancies. The President has tapped three different lawyers to fill those seats, including one who is currently a judge in a lower court. And basically, there were vacancies back when President George W. Bush was fighting to fill these seats as well. Back then Democrats said the court doesn't have enough of a workload to justify filling all of these seats. It's what Republicans are saying now and they add the workload has gotten even lighter in the last eight years. One of the judges currently sitting on the bench said this, quote, "if any more judges are added now, there won't be enough work to go around." That's from one of the current folks who's on this court.
Bream's report on Republican obstruction of Obama's judicial nominees parrots repeatedly debunked right-wing talking points. Bream is correct that the D.C. Circuit Court is a significant part of the federal court system -- it is considered second only to the Supreme Court in terms of its impact on federal law. It is strange, then, that she would uncritically report on Republican efforts to prevent the court from operating at full capacity. Moreover, her characterization of Democratic opposition to George W. Bush's D.C. Circuit nominees is demonstrably false -- that opposition did not result in the elimination of any seats, and ultimately four of Bush's nominees were confirmed. And unlike Bush's judicial picks, President Obama's nominees have faced unprecedented obstruction from Senate Republicans.
CNN host Newt Gingrich declared that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' congressional testimony was worse than Richard Nixon's alleged crimes during the Watergate scandal, another round in the right-wing media's campaign to find their own Watergate scandal with which to smear the Obama administration.
During Sebelius' ongoing testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee about HHS' role in producing the Healthcare.gov, CNN Crossfire host and former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich commented via Twitter that Sebelius' "dishonesty" in her testimony "exceeds anything president [sic] Nixon was accused of."
Nixon, of course, was nearly impeached for his administration's involvement in and attempted cover-up of the wiretapping of Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The Supreme Court had to order Nixon to hand over tape recordings implicating himself in the cover-up, and he subsequently resigned from the presidency.
Perhaps conservative media should consult this helpful Media Matters flowchart in the future: Is It Watergate?
UPDATE: CNN Newsroom host Wolf Blitzer confronted Gingrich regarding his Nixon comparison, explaining, "I just want to know if you want to revise making a comparison to Nixon." When pressed by Blitzer on whether Gingrich believes Sebelius committed any crimes -- like Nixon allegedly did -- Gingrich said, "We don't know yet." Later, when Blitzer called Gingrich's comparison "overblown," Gingrich jokingly offered to "modify" his tweet, to say that Sebelius's testimony "equals anything" of which Nixon had been accused, admitting that "'exceeds' may have been too strong."
BLITZER: On the point comparing it to Nixon, comparing what she did -- what this secretary did to Nixon, that is, I mean just between you and me, that's a little overblown.
GINGRICH: Well, what do you say about an administration which, you just pointed out, the actual number may be 16 million Americans losing their policies. Now, this affects life and death. It affects --
BLITZER: You're talking about the president. Here, you said -- and I'll read it again just to be precise and then you can tell me if you want to revise it. 'Sebelius dishonesty in testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of.'
GINGRICH: Ok, I will -- I will modify it: 'Equals anything.' How is that. Exceeds may have been too strong. I think to go under oath and say with a straight face there was not an outage in a site you've been covering for a month.
Washington Post columnist Charles Lane recycled erroneous Fox News claims about California's new TRUST Act, which details how state officials can constitutionally participate in federal immigration policy.
On October 21, Lane provided misleading talking points to right-wing media on the topic of an appellate judge's recent admission that strict voter ID has proven to be voter suppression. A week later, the exchange was reversed, with Lane repeating debunked misinformation on the TRUST Act previously broadcast by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.
In his most recent column, Lane falsely claimed that the TRUST Act was "in tension" with the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States, which reaffirmed long-standing Supremacy Clause precedent that forbids state law from conflicting with federal immigration law. Like O'Reilly's confused analysis before him, this is a conflation of the unconstitutional attempts of Arizona to usurp federal immigration powers with the separate - and unchallenged - constitutional justification behind the TRUST Act. From the October 29 edition of the Post:
California's new law limits cooperation with the federal Secure Communities program, under which the fingerprints of arrestees that local police routinely send to the FBI also get routed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
When ICE registers a "hit" against its database, it tells the state or local jail to hold the individual for up to 48 hours so that federal officials can pursue deportation if appropriate. Between March 2008 and September 2011, Secure Communities led to more than 142,000 deportations.
California's new law forbids police to detain anyone under Secure Communities unless the individual has been convicted of or formally charged with certain serious crimes such as murder or bribery -- but not, say, misdemeanor drunk driving.
It's the mirror image of a provision of Arizona's immigration law that essentially required Arizona police officers to check with ICE about everyone they arrested. The Obama administration opposed that as unwanted and unnecessary meddling in federal decision making -- but it was the only aspect of Arizona's crackdown that the Supreme Court upheld.
So: If the Supreme Court says that one state (Arizona) may pester federal immigration authorities with more information about detainees than they asked for, can another state (California) deny the feds information they might seek?
But the surviving provision in Arizona's troubled immigration law (SB 1070) mentioned by Lane involved communication between state and federal officials, whereas the TRUST Act delineates immigration detention powers. These are two entirely separate areas of enforcement underpinned by separate legal justifications.
Contrary to Lane's argument, that is not a "mirror image."
Fox News aired a video compilation critical of President Obama, without mentioning a Republican National Committee research document that reflects Fox's "report."
On October 29, Fox & Friends showed video of Obama and administration officials explaining that the president was not made aware of problems with the HealthCare.gov website, reported NSA surveillance of foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an Inspector General report about the IRS' handling of groups seeking tax-exempt status, and other things that the show labeled "DC scandals."
The Fox & Friends segment bears a striking similarity to a RNC document posted to GOP.com on October 28 titled "The Bystander President." Each "scandal" highlighted by the RNC document appears in the Fox segment, except that Fox left out the RNC mention of bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and added the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious and a reference to the network's manufactured Benghazi "scandal." Nowhere in the segment did the Fox & Friends hosts say that these claims came from a Republican document -- unlike MSNBC's Morning Joe, where co-host Mika Brzezinski said, before playing a similar video, that "Republicans are calling President Obama the quote 'bystander president.' A memo on the RNC's website points out numerous examples of a president who appears to be left in the dark."
Fox News has a history of disguising GOP talking points as its own reporting. In February 2009, Fox host Jon Scott criticized the planned economic recovery package that later passed as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, with a series of news sources that came directly from a press release by Senate Republicans -- including the same typo. In October 2009, Fox & Friends parroted a misleading House Republican press release that was critical of the stimulus. The list of GOP talking points presented as Fox News reporting goes on.