Republican presidential-hopeful Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has faced criticism from Hispanic news media for his extreme conservative policy positions on health care and immigration, which are out of line with the majority of Latino voters.
Conservative media figures issued apocalyptic warnings and predictions about the consequences of passing health care reform. Yet in the five years since President Obama signed the bill into law, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by the largest amount in four decades, insurers can no longer deny coverage for preexisting conditions, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare subsidies will cost $209 billion less than projected.
On the anniversary of health care reform's passage, Media Matters looked back at right-wing media's most dire predictions.
In November 2009, Glenn Beck declared that the possible passage of health care reform "will be a nail in the coffin of America" and would cause the public to "all wallow in misery." Obamacare would be "the end of prosperity in America forever ... the end of America as you know it."
Rush Limbaugh argued in 2009 that Obamacare was "aimed at robbing you of your humanity and forcing you to bow down to the state." He predicted, "All of us will be slaves" because "the road to serfdom ... is paved in Obamacare."
The next year, Limbaugh forecast that health care reform would lead to "250 million uninsured."
Radio host Jim Quinn argued in January 2010 that the passage of Obamacare would bring "an insurrection. You're going to see an uprising." According to Quinn, "Your taxes are going to go through the roof. It's going to be a bloodbath."
CNBC's Jim Cramer predicted in March 2010 that Obamacare would topple the stock market, arguing it was the "single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher." (Notably, the DOW and Nasdaq neared all-time highs in March 2015.)
Cal Thomas claimed on Fox News in 2010 that while they may not "pull the plug on Granny" due to Obamacare, "they will deny her care because she's costing too much and she's too old."
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.
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 cited an unnamed "independent expert" to cast doubt on the veracity of recent Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, which have exceeded 16 million Americans and are reported to have driven the largest reduction in uninsured persons in 40 years.
On March 16, the Obama administration announced that 16.4 million Americans had enrolled in insurance through the health care law since it took effect. As The New York Times reported "Since the first open enrollment period began in October 2013, the officials said, the proportion of adults lacking insurance has dropped to 13.2 percent, from 20.3 percent."
But at Fox News, high enrollment numbers and a plummeting rate in those uninsured was barely mentioned. According to a Media Matters count, the network mentioned the 16.4 million Americans who enrolled in health insurance just once in the days following the announcement in an attempt to discredit the findings. On the March 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier briefly reported on the enrollment numbers, offering the unevidenced claim that "an independent expert says the reality is fewer than 10 million people have signed up."
Fox has consistently downplayed and twisted Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, going as far as to skew on-air graphics to misleadingly suggest less Americans were signing up for insurance through the health care law than had been originally projected.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reported that the government's numbers differed from those of "an independent expert," who concluded only about 9.7 million people gained insurance. The lower number was based on a survey by Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, who "took into account insurance losses" during some of the years the ACA was in effect.
Fox's Dana Perino lashed out at Senate Democrats, calling them "jerks" for preventing a Republican attempt to expand the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of taxpayer funded abortions, to include fees collected from criminal human traffickers. Republicans' latest anti-abortion manuever now jeopardizes the passage of a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill.
The Justice For Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill once fast-tracked for approval is now on hold after Senate Democrats discovered language in the bill "that would extend the longstanding Hyde Amendment barring the use of taxpayer funds for abortions to the new Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund," according to the Washington Post. Senate Republicans have demanded that the bill, which would establish a fund for victims of human trafficking using money collected through fines levied against convicted smugglers, "be subject to the limitations" outlined in the Hyde Amendment.
During the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino chided Senate Democrats for demanding the removal of the anti-abortion language from the bill, claiming that "the human trafficking bill is not moving forward today because Democrats are jerks on this issue":
Currently, the Hyde Amendment only forbids federal tax dollars from funding abortions. The Washington Post explained that although the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act does not specifically mention the word "abortion," the Hyde Amendment language would apply "to the new fund, which is supported by a proposed $5,000 assessment on those convicted of a wide variety of federal crimes related to sexual abuse and human trafficking." Furthermore, the anti-abortion language in the bill, unlike the Hyde Amendment which must be renewed each year, would be permanent, leaving trafficked victims of sexual violence cut off from abortion related services.
Fox News' Special Report promoted "GOP alternatives" proposed by Republican presidential hopefuls that would supposedly replace the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court strikes down the law's health insurance tax credits. But Fox's flagship program glossed over the fact that the GOP alternatives would not repair the damage and leave millions of Americans without health care coverage.
On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the opening arguments of the King v. Burwell case. The case involves whether the language of a subclause in the ACA, "Exchanges established by the State," could prevent the IRS from providing tax credits to consumers who purchased insurance over the federal exchange.
During the March 11 edition of Special Report, Fox senior political correspondent Mike Emanuel highlighted "alternatives" proposed by GOP presidential contenders. The proposals ranged from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to shift health care choice back states, to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's plan to repeal ACA:
But none of the plans promoted by Fox proposed a way to help the millions of Americans left without a way to purchase affordable health insurance. As US News & World Report's Robert Schlesinger writes, the GOP "has yet to produce a plan encompassing the latter half of their 'repeal-and-replace' mantra."
Nevertheless, despite the lack of a solution for this potential human and economic disaster, right-wing media continue to baselessly pretend there is a fallback plan in the event this attack on the ACA is successful.
A RAND Corporation study released in February found that, if the Court rules against the federal exchanges, 8 million people would lose their coverage, and unsubsidized health insurance premiums would increase by 47 percent.
The Wall Street Journal called on Supreme Court justices to "vindicate federalism" by striking down health care subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but ignored the proven economic consequences such a ruling would have on the states, which has led the court in the past to refuse to inflict such harm because of those same federalist concerns.
At issue in the latest health care challenge, King v. Burwell, is whether ACA subsidies are available over the federal health care exchange website, which operates in 37 states. During oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concern that the challengers' interpretation of the law -- which would deny subsidies to upwards of eight million Americans -- might be unconstitutionally coercive to those states that declined to set up their own exchange. This coercion argument was at the heart of the last ACA challenge in 2012, when the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to threaten to deny money to states that refused to expand Medicaid, because the economic consequences would have been devastating.
In a March 5 editorial, the Journal argued that denying federal subsidies to states that refused to set up exchanges "is not the same" as denying federal funds to states that refuse to accept the Medicaid expansion. But in a brief to the Supreme Court, the states who have had to make both choices disagreed, and pointed out that the King challengers themselves had admitted this type of coercion was the same:
In [the 2012 health care challenge], the Court explained that cutting off all Medicaid funding to States that declined Medicaid expansion constituted "much more than relatively mild encouragement -- it is a gun to the head." It "crossed the line distinguishing encouragement from coercion," serving "no purpose other than to force unwilling States" to comply. In the court of appeals, Petitioners argued that the scheme they attribute to Congress was "the same" in its coercive nature as one invalidated in . In this Court, Petitioners prefer understatement, saying that "Congress could quite reasonably believe that elected state officials would not want to explain to voters that they had deprived them of billions of dollars by failing to establish an Exchange." Either way, it is a novel kind of pressure to threaten to injure a State's citizens and to destroy its insurance markets in order to force State-government officials to implement a federal program.
To avoid the comparison, the Journal also downplayed the likely destabilization of the insurance markets in the event the federal tax credits are struck down, echoing a false claim from the King challengers' lawyer, Michael Carvin, who argued in court that there was "not a scintilla of evidence" that the health insurance market would enter a death spiral without the current subsidies. The Journal editorial argued that "in the 1980s and 1990s, eight states including Kentucky, Washington and New York imposed the same rules -- without subsidies. In other words, the regulations are supposedly valuable by themselves to achieve liberal policy goals."
Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is adopting right-wing media's talking points yet again, this time implausibly claiming that the Republican-controlled "Congress would act" with an alternative if the court strikes down the Affordable Care Act's health insurance tax credits.
On March 4, the justices heard King v. Burwell, a case that could make insurance subsidies unavailable to some Americans. At issue in the suit is whether a subclause in the law that says subsidies can be disbursed through "Exchanges established by the State" prohibits the IRS from providing tax credits to consumers who bought insurance over the federal exchange. Despite the fact that experts agree that the law clearly makes the subsidies available to everyone, right-wing media have called on the Supreme Court to rule otherwise.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has repeatedly said that there is no contingency plan in the event of an adverse decision in King, and that there is no fix the administration can make to remedy the problem without inviting further legal challenges. Right-wing media jumped at Burwell's comments, criticizing the administration for not having a back-up plan while promoting a series of Republican "alternatives" should the court ultimately strike the subsidies down.
Conservative outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have done their part to push these plans by hosting numerous op-eds and segments with the authors of these questionable proposals. On the March 4 edition of Fox & Friends, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) joined hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck to promote one such alternative. After Cassidy claimed that the Obama administration has "nothing to say" to consumers who might lose their subsidies, Doocy remarked that "the administration says they don't have a plan B, but apparently the Republicans do." National Review Online has also argued that the Republicans have a viable alternative plan, writing in a recent post that "Senate Republicans aren't leaving anything to chance" and that "there's some conservative intellectual firepower behind" their ideas.
As The Hill reported, these alternatives are "a direct appeal to the Supreme Court justices" that are "intended to make it easier for the court to strike down the subsidies, since Republicans believe the court is more likely to rule in their favor if it believes a plan is in place to limit the fallout."
According to the Urban Institute, 8.2 million Americans, disproportionately women and children, may become uninsured as a consequence of King v. Burwell. But for right-wing media, pointing out the dangerous consequences of the loss of health care subsidies is nothing more than a "scare tactic."
The Wall Street Journal is once again promoting a right-wing challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by repeating misinformation about the case, calling on the Supreme Court to strike down some health care subsidies while falsely claiming the law's "plain text" renders them illegal.
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a case that could block the availability of federal health care subsidies. The plaintiffs in King argue that because a subclause of the ACA states that subsidies are available "through Exchanges established by the State," consumers who buy insurance over the federal exchange aren't eligible to receive tax credits from the IRS to offset the cost. Without subsidies, people who live in one of the 37 states that don't operate their own health care exchange would be unable to afford insurance.
In a March 2 editorial, the Journal made its final pitch before oral arguments, calling the challenge an opportunity for "the Justices to vindicate the law's plain text." The editorial, like the challengers in King, ignored the context of the ACA as a whole and claimed that the decision to strike down the subsidies should be an easy call for the Supreme Court because the "English language is clear" and the law is unambiguous:
In King, the High Court will scrutinize this IRS decree using the traditional canons of statutory construction. The English language is clear: Congress wrote that subsidies would be available on state exchanges only, so Washington cannot deputize itself as the 51st state -- especially when the black-letter law is as consistent, tightly worded and cross-referenced as the Affordable Care Act.
To take one example, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was empowered to grant unlimited sums of money to states to establish exchanges. But the law appropriated not a penny for the federal exchanges, and HHS raided internal slush funds to build them. If there is no legal difference between the federal and state exchanges, why did HHS need this budget ruse?
ObamaCare's history shows Democrats made a deliberate choice. As they tried to assemble 60 votes in the Senate, holdouts like then Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson intensely desired state partners. Because the federal government couldn't commandeer the sovereign states by mandating participation, the subsidy bait was Congress's constitutional option to encourage buy-in.
The Journal's attempt to make the plaintiffs' case by arguing that the subsidies are illegal because the Department of Health and Human Services had to rely on a "budget ruse" to build the federal exchanges ignores the facts. According to a report from The Washington Post, the Republican-controlled Congress "repeatedly rejected the Obama administration's requests for additional funds" to implement the ACA, including those exchanges Republican-controlled states refused to set up.
Following former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's announcement that he is exploring a 2016 presidential run, Hispanic media outlets have celebrated his Mexican-American family and fluency in Spanish, portraying them as appealing to Latino voters. This focus on biographical details has come at the expense of reporting on Bush's positions on health care and climate change -- issues on which his positions are at odds with the interests of most Latinos.
For instance, Jorge Ramos, host of Univision's Al Punto, helped feed the narrative of Bush as a "Hispanic candidate" (Spanish-language video clip) during a January 18 conversation with Carlos Gutierrez, who was commerce secretary under George W. Bush. Throughout the discussion, Ramos left Bush's policy stances unquestioned, relying on Gutierrez's glowing review of Bush's personal leadership qualities. At one point, Ramos suggested that Bush could be grouped with other potential Republican presidential candidates who are Latino.
Other Spanish-language outlets like the newspaper El País have also credited Bush's Mexican wife and children with making him a "Hispanic candidate," calling these personal factors an "advantage" to win the Latino vote. Briefly glossing over his "moderate" foreign policy stances -- a popular trope in English-language media -- El País highlighted Bush's Mexican wife yet again to address Bush's claims that he is not like his brother George W. Bush. MundoFox, a Spanish-language cable channel that is partly owned by Fox News' parent company, has celebrated Bush's ability to speak Spanish fluently as well as his Mexican wife to position him as a GOP front-runner several times since Bush's announcement in December.
When Hispanic media outlets do cover Bush's policy positions, they rarely go beyond the single issue of immigration. And while it is encouraging to see positive coverage of Bush's multicultural family and bilingualism, a review of Al Punto episodes and close monitoring of El País' and MundoFox's websites following Bush's announcement reveal that they have not covered his conservative stances on climate change and health care reform.
On climate change, Bush has admitted denialism, claiming that "the science has been politicized." As The Guardian's Suzanne Goldberg wrote, Bush is in "lock-step with the other climate deniers in the Republican party."
According to recent polling from The New York Times, Stanford University, and the nonpartisan environmental group Resources for the Future, 63 percent of Hispanics, compared to 49 percent of whites, agreed that the "federal government should act broadly to address global warming." Furthermore, 54 percent of Hispanics said that global warming is "extremely or very important to them personally, compared with 37 percent of whites." The Times quoted Latino Decisions researcher Gabriel Sanchez pointing out that "Hispanics often live in areas where they are directly exposed to pollution, such as neighborhoods near highways and power plants." Sanchez also said that Latinos are key advocates in the fight for climate change awareness: "There's a stereotype that Latinos are not aware or concerned about these issues. ... But Latinos are actually among the most concerned about the environment, particularly global warming." Experts agree that Hispanics are "particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts."
Similarly, Bush has criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA), calling it "flawed to its core" and a "job killer." However, the Los Angeles Times highlighted a September report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund that found the ACA "has dramatically increased coverage among Latinos," who are "a historically underinsured community." As the Times reported, the report found, ¨Overall, the percentage of Latinos ages 19 to 64 lacking health coverage fell from 36% to 23% between summer 2013 and spring 2014.¨ And according to the New York Times blog The Upshot, the "biggest winners from the law include people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas." The Times also noted that parts of Nevada, New Mexico, and southern Texas -- all places with high percentages of Latinos -- are among the areas with the "largest increases in the health insurance rate."
Fox News is reporting on an unsubstantiated rumor that the Obama administration has a "secret plan B" to deal with the fallout of an upcoming Supreme Court case that could invalidate tax credits for millions of Americans. But administration officials have repeatedly denied that such a plan exists -- and there is little the administration could do to restore the credits if the court strikes them down.
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, a case that could block the availability of health care subsidies for consumers who purchased insurance over the federal exchange, which operates as the sole health insurance marketplace in the 37 states that don't operate their own. The lawsuit is based on a right-wing misinterpretation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that claims that the law allows the IRS to provide tax credits only to those who bought insurance over "Exchanges established by the State," and not the federal government. In addition to the congressional authors of the ACA, the vast majority of health and legal experts agree that this strained reading of the law is not only incorrect, but contrary to the way the Supreme Court generally interprets statutes -- as a whole, and in context.
Despite the lawsuit's clear flaws, right-wing media have acted as a booster for its potential to gut the ACA -- and only recently figured out that without the subsidies, millions of Americans would be faced with ruinous health care costs. As The New York Times explained, "if the court decides to limit federal tax credits, the result could essentially be the creation of two American health care systems. The haves -- in mostly Democratic states -- may not be impacted, while the have-nots -- in 37 mostly red states -- could face spiraling costs."
But now Republicans are attempting to shift the blame to the Obama administration by claiming that the administration actually does have a super-secret contingency plan, and multiple statements to the contrary are an effort "to influence the court ahead of the March 4 arguments," according to The Hill.
Even though the administration has said that there is no such plan -- secret or otherwise -- Fox News was happy to pass along this unsubstantiated rumor on the February 26 edition of America's Newsroom. In a report about a congressional hearing on the ACA, Fox's Doug McKelway stated that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell would be facing questions about the administration's "contingency plans" if the tax credits are struck down. McKelway went on to report that "there are rumors circulating that senior HHS officials do have a secret plan B should the Supreme Court rule against Obamacare":
A Michigan pediatrician refused to work with the baby of a same-sex couple, citing her anti-gay religious beliefs. It's another case that highlights the potential dangers of conservative media's campaign to champion "religious freedom" in the face of anti-gay discrimination.
In October of 2014, Krista and Jami Contreras brought their six-day-old baby Bay Windsor to meet her pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan. The couple, who legally married in Vermont in 2012, soon discovered that Roi had refused to come into the office and see them, citing her religious beliefs. The couple was instead met by a different pediatrician, who they had not selected.
Four months later, they received a letter from Roi apologizing and explaining her decision:
After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. I felt that was not fair to the two of you or to Bay.
Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.
The Contreras incident is yet another example of the dangerous consequences of right-wing media's campaign to justify anti-gay discrimination under the banner of religious liberty. For years, conservative media have used "religious liberty" as a rallying cry while lobbying against basic legal protections for LGBT people. Now, in the face of a potential Supreme Court loss on the issue of same-sex marriage, "religious liberty" has become the central argument for a number of state RFRA bills promoted by right-wing media that would greatly expand the right of businesses and individuals to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds.
Roi's refusal to work with the Contreras family is not illegal - though it does violate the rules of the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, which both strongly oppose discriminating against patients on the basis of sexual orientation. Nor is what happened to the Contreras family an isolated incident. Studies have found that LGBT people face high rates of discrimination in health care, especially in states that have adopted "broad religious exemptions" from medical non-discrimination laws:
Conservative media have endlessly peddled horror stories of wedding photographers, florists, and bakers who were legally prohibited from refusing to offer their services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. But as the Contreras family's experience demonstrates, the right-wing insistence on broad religious liberty protections could impact far more than just same-sex weddings.
While Fox News continues to disregard journalistic best practices in reporting on transgender people, MSNBC has repeatedly demonstrated how to properly cover stories about transgender medical treatment, inviting actual transgender guests to offer expert testimony about the importance of health care for the transgender community.
When Private Chelsea Manning - the former soldier currently serving a 35-year prison term for leaking thousands of classified documents - came out as transgender in August 2013, major media outlets proved just how ill-prepared they were to cover transgender stories. Both Fox News and CNN repeatedly misgendered Manning, disregarding GLAAD's Media Reference Guide, which calls on news organizations to refer to transgender people by their preferred gender pronouns.
Manning is back in the news after a February 13 report by USA Today revealed that Manning has been approved to receive hormone therapy as part of her transition. And the story has once again highlighted the need for responsible coverage of transgender stories:
While MSNBC took steps to include transgender voices and cover Manning's transition with intention and accuracy, Fox News ignored journalistic guidelines while continuing to mock and degrade transgender people in its coverage. (CNN briefly mentioned the story without editorial comment)
Fox continued to misgender Manning when discussing her healthcare. Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated Press, New York Times, GLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns. In addition to misgendering Manning, Fox continued its year old tradition of playing music to mock transgender people.
Fox also neglected to mention that denying transgender prisoners with treatment could have severe health consequences - instead fixating on the cost of Mannings' treatment.
In sharp contrast, MSNBC's Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid both provided exemplary, accurate coverage of Manning's story. Both Farrow and Reid held to the GLAAD best practice that "transgender people are the experts to talk about transgender people," and invited transgender women and activists - Allyson Robinson and Jennifer Boylan - on as expert guests to educate viewers about transgender health care. In doing so, the two gave viewers an opportunity to learn about the necessity of trans health care.
MSNBC proved that it is easy to follow the guidelines in covering transgender stories by using correct pronouns, and ensuring accurate coverage by inviting the experts - transgender people themselves - to educate viewers about transgender issues.
Video created by Coleman Lowndes.