Serial health care misinformer and right-wing media figure Betsy McCaughey pushed the conspiracy theory that health care outreach efforts are a secret plan to register voters as Democrats.
In an Investor's Business Daily column, McCaughey attacked grants that fund outreach and education about President Obama's health care law. McCaughey claimed, "The lion's share of the money is going for what the exchange budget terms 'outreach.' In truth, the money is going to build Democratic Party enrollment." She continued:
Assisters will also guide the uninsured to sign up for whatever non-health social services they may be eligible for, including welfare, food stamps and housing assistance, according to the manual prepared by the Community Health Councils for California's implementation.
Anyone who remembers the days of James Curley, Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall gets the picture. If you were poor or a newcomer to this country, you went to the local ward boss and got whatever you needed in exchange for your vote.
The difference is that back then, politics was local. Now the Obama health law is institutionalizing this corrupt style of politics across the country. Whether you live in California or New York, local community activists and unions will be recruiting people to enroll in ObamaCare and sign up to be part of the permanent, beholden Democratic voting majority.
McCaughey is not the first right-wing media figure to push this claim despite lack of evidence to support it. Fox News host Megyn Kelly and contributor Michelle Malkin have both attacked outreach efforts in an attempt to push a political agenda. Rush Limbaugh also claimed that officials employed by the government to help Americans evaluate health care options will register voters as Democrats and "smear Republicans." But outreach efforts for health care legislation are not new -- the State Health Insurance Assistance Program has been conducting similar outreach for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D programs.
McCaughey has a long history of misinforming about health care, including the claim that the health care law will lead to euthanizing seniors, that the law contains "death panels," and that it will limit preventive care
Displaying a remarkable lack of self-awareness, Rush Limbaugh tried to convince a caller that "it's a pretty safe bet" that liberals always lie and conservatives never do -- an assertion he backed up with a series of his own lies on everything from abortion to minority vote suppression and the IRS.
On the June 18 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh addressed a caller who expressed interest in hearing both sides -- liberal and conservative -- of any given debate before coming to his own conclusion on the issue. Limbaugh chastised the caller for informing himself in this manner, telling him, "The liberals lie. I do not form my opinions on what both sides say. I form my opinions on what I know to be right." Limbaugh concluded that it's a "pretty safe bet" that liberals are always lying, while conservatives don't lie. In his attempts to prove his theory, Limbaugh turned to some misinformation of his own on the subject of abortion and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
From the June 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the June 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the June 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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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."
Fox News president Roger Ailes used the platform provided for him while accepting a prize from a right-wing foundation to repeat discredited claims that the Affordable Care Act will create 16,000 armed IRS agents and that President Obama was absent on the night of the Benghazi attacks.
Ailes was honored during the 2013 Bradley Prizes, awards given by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which gives tens of millions of dollars annually to a "Who's Who" of right-wing movement organizations. The prize, which recognizes "individuals of extraordinary talent and dedication," includes a stipend of $250,000, which Ailes said he was donating to a charity for senior citizens.
According to remarks posted on the Fox News website, Ailes said that "The federal government is about to hire 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce healthcare." He also said, "I have come to the conclusion that even I don't care what the president of the United States was doing that night. However, I would like to know what the commander in chief was doing that night."
Both of Ailes' attacks have been pushed by Fox News -- and both are based on falsehoods.
On the April 16, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, then-Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich attacked reports that approval for health care reform was growing by claiming the law would hire "16,000 IRS agents as health police":
GINGRICH: But my general experience is that, you know, you don't have people walk up to you in an airplane and start attacking you very often, or you're in really deep trouble. I think what [Sen.] Harry [Reid] ought to do is get in a car and drive around Nevada, where people are overwhelmingly opposed to hiring 16,000 IRS agents as health police.
The figure, which was based on a report by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, was described as "wildly inaccurate" by FactCheck.org which described the claim as coming "from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation":
The GOP analysts assume that the $10 billion would not be spread evenly over the decade, but would reach $1.5 billion annually in later years. That's reasonable, given that major provisions of the new law don't take effect until 2014. But even accepting that, the peak figure could just as easily be $750 million a year, if the CBO's lower guess proves to be correct. So the number of new IRS workers implied by the GOP's own logic could be closer to 5,000 than to 16,500, after adjusting for overhead costs and inflation.
Ailes' second attack -- that Obama was missing on September 11, 2012, during the attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya -- also appeared regularly on Fox News, where Fox figures repeatedly demanded to know where Obama was during the attacks. In addition to reports by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that White House staff was "engaged with the National Military Command Center pretty constantly" throughout the attack and testimony by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Obama gave orders to deploy forces immediately after learning about the attack, the White House Flickr page shows Obama meeting with aides in the Oval Office on the night of the attack:
Ailes also said during his remarks: "Traditional American culture influenced me greatly as I created the Fox News Channel for Rupert Murdoch. We knew that a fair and balanced news channel could succeed, as long as no views were rejected and conservative views were allowed to be heard."
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.
Rush Limbaugh mischaracterized the effects of the emergency contraceptive pill known as Plan B while lecturing listeners on the "cultural decay" caused by the pill's accessibility to teenage girls. Limbaugh repeatedly referred to the pill as an "abortion pill," describing details of the contraceptive's process that defied reality and displayed a complete misunderstanding of basic female anatomy on the part of the conservative radio host.
On June 10, the Obama administration announced it would drop its insistence on age restrictions for the sale of Plan B, paving the way for consumers of any age to purchase the emergency contraceptive without a prescription.
The next day, Limbaugh addressed a caller who challenged the host's repeated assertions that Plan B caused abortions. Limbaugh initially accepted the caller's accurate assertion that the pill does not terminate pregnancies of any kind, with the caveat that the pill promoted teenage sex and "cultural decay" regardless of this fact.
But after a commercial break, Limbaugh recanted, falsely claiming that the pill does in fact terminate pregnancy, if pregnancy is established at the moment of fertilization rather than at the moment a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall.
"Plan B prevents the egg from implanting," said Limbaugh. "It does not prevent conception." He continued describing Plan B's interactions, claiming it "delays the release of the fertilized egg to the uterus."
In fact, emergency contraceptives like Plan B prevent fertilization, not implantation, and in no way terminate pregnancy.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum and guest Dr. Manny Alvarez misrepresented the science behind Plan B and ignored the legal reasons behind the pending over-the-counter availability of this emergency contraceptive.
Leading her segment by incorrectly describing the contraceptive as an abortifacient for use "after sex they think may have resulted in a pregnancy," MacCallum hosted Alvarez, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, to repeat his discredited claims about Plan B's alleged dangers. Specifically, Alvarez claims that "from a scientific point of view," Plan B is only "safe for women." Both MacCallum and Alvarez professed ignorance as to the real reasons the one-pill form will soon be available without a prescription. From the June 11 edition of America's Newsroom:
ALVAREZ: From a scientific point of view I know, yes, Plan B is safe for women. But since when is a 10-year-old a woman? All the advocates that say oh this is a great success for women's health rights and all of that, I get the whole thing if you want to say women, fine, but a 10-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 12-year-old - those are kids. They're not even teenagers.
MACCALLUM: I sent my daughter to buy, you know, the d-level of allergy medicine the other day at CVS and they wouldn't sell it to her without an ID that showed she was 18. You can't buy cold medicine, you can't get your appendix taken out without your parents standing right by your side at the hospital. But you can do this with no problem. Explain what kind of world we live in when that is the situation.
ALVAREZ: The rationale is really something that I can't put my head around it.
Fox News used a flawed study to falsely claim that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase health insurance market premiums by 88 percent in the state of Ohio, ignoring the counter effect of the premium tax credit subsidy and deceptively suggesting that premium increases will affect the state's entire population.
The National Review editorial board used the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell to push for an abortion ban it acknowledges to be unconstitutional that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases when the health of the mother is at risk.
Gosnell was convicted on May 13 for murdering three infants while breaking Pennsylvania abortion laws and preforming procedures that bore no resemblance to legal women's health services. Despite these facts, right-wing media have repeatedly sought to use Gosnell's violent acts to attack legal and safe abortion procedures in the United States.
A June 11 National Review editorial took these efforts further by using the Gosnell conviction to promote legislation that would severely limit access to safe, life-saving procedures. The editorial board hyped a bill introduced to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that seeks to ban abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions to the ban in cases when the health of the mother is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest, and only permits abortions in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. The National Review acknowledged that "the bill is at odds with current Supreme Court jurisprudence," but urged Congress to "fight" for it anyway, claiming the Gosnell conviction revealed current abortion laws are immoral.
The National Review's endorsement of Franks' bill by linking it to the Gosnell murders ignores the realities of legal abortion in the United States. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Supreme Court has become increasingly anti-choice, repeatedly limiting the rights of women to terminate pregnancies. Currently, the Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are "legal so long as the fetus isn't 'viable,' which is usually around 24 weeks," and abortions performed after that point are already severely restricted by law. The vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetal viability or 24 weeks, and just a few provide an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Abortions after week 21 are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions, and are very safe. A medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
As Salon's Irin Carmon noted, many women went to Gosnell's clinic "because they felt they had no alternative." The Gosnell case revealed the need for women to have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion services -- the same services that Franks' bill seeks to unconstitutionally limit and outlaw. Right-wing media's support for this legislation and continued demonization of abortion puts women's legal right to protect their health under threat.
Rush Limbaugh rehashed the widely debunked myth that President Obama's Affordable Care Act will result in death panels to smear Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, claiming that "Obamacare establishes death panels and right now Sebelius is it."
Limbaugh used the case of Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old girl awaiting a lung transplant, as evidence that "The government's making the decision who lives and dies. That's what Obamacare is." Later, Limbaugh responded to a caller, saying, "Yes Virginia, there are death panels."
Despite Limbaugh's accusation, Politico reported that the Murnaghan case is not tied to the Affordable Care Act. According to Politico, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network sets policy for transplants, not Sebelius, and Republicans, not the Affordable Care Act, are pressuring Sebelius to intervene.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has failed to mention efforts by conservatives in Ohio to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in the House budget.
Since Republican House lawmakers introduced a substitute bill on April 9 that included the anti-Planned Parenthood measures, several other Ohio newspapers mentioned the proposal to effectively block federal funding for women's health services provider, which could lead to a loss of about $1.7 million. The Akron Beacon Journal penned an editorial attacking the House bill for its planned cuts and The Columbus Dispatch followed suit with an editorial that called for the proposed cuts to be "stripped from the budget." The Cincinnati Enquirer has not produced original content on the stripping of funds, but has published two Associated Press articles which mentioned the plan to strip funding for the women's health organization.
This is the third time this year Ohio Republicans have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, the legislature is attempting to "reprioritize" federal family planning funding to make "Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family planning providers the lowest priority in getting federal funding." The article further explains that out of the 37 clinics operated by Planned Parenthood in the state, only three provide abortions and that it is illegal to use federal funds for abortion procedures:
House Republican foes of abortions rights inserted language into Gov. John Kasich's mid-budget review bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of up to $1.7 million in federal funding controlled by the state Department of Health.
The language added by GOP abortion opponents, which mirrors a separate bill that sits in committee, reprioritizes federal family planning funds in a way that makes Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family planning providers the lowest priority in getting federal funding.
"Clearly, the intent of this legislation is to make sure the federal funds are exhausted before Planned Parenthood has the opportunity to apply for it," said Gary Dougherty, state legislative director for Planned Parenthood. Dougherty [said] Planned Parenthood would lose about $1.7 million.
Dougherty said only three of the 37 family planning centers run by Planned Parenthood provide abortions, and noted that it's illegal under federal law to use federal funding for abortions.
In lieu of giving the funds to Planned Parenthood, the bill would give crisis pregnancy centers top priority for funding. As CityBeat, a Cincinnati news site, explained, the money would be used primarily to fund abstinence-only services. However, a 2013 report by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found that crisis pregnancy centers exhibit a "pattern of using medically inaccurate information and scare tactics" with their patients.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal hyped the need for entitlement reform, calling for an increase in eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare, means-testing or tying benefits to a beneficiary's income, and competition for Medicare. However, the Review-Journal neglected to mention that health care cost growth has been slowing down and that enacting these policy prescriptions would hurt seniors and low-income Americans.