Even though President Obama has signed fewer executive orders than many of his predecessors from both political parties, Fox News has dedicated a significant amount of air time to suddenly questioning long-established presidential powers.
On February 18, Fox legal analyst Shannon Bream dedicated an entire segment to Obama's supposed lawlessness in his rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Special Report with Bret Baier, highlighting the "Stop This Overreaching Presidency" or "STOP" resolution, an effort by congressional Republicans to "institute legal action to require the President to comply with the law." Experts more familiar with federal litigation and the U.S. Constitution have noted, however, that these sorts of lawsuits can only be filed in real cases or controversies where a plaintiff has actually suffered a legally cognizable harm. As explained by the Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University Law School:
Legal actions cannot be brought simply on the ground that an individual or group is displeased with a government action or law. Federal courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes (see Case or Controversy). Only those with enough direct stake in an action or law have "standing" to challenge it. A decision that a party does not have sufficient stake to sue will commonly be put in terms of the party's lacking "standing".
Fox News contributor Dennis Kucinich was included in the segment and floated "impeachment" as an alternative.
It might be difficult to find "an individual or business owner who could point to concrete damage he has or will suffer because of the president's unilateral changes to the health care law," as Bream suggests, because the changes to the law have served to ease implementation of the ACA. Those in search of the requisite legal standing to challenge the extension of deadlines run into the problem that this phased-in enforcement of the law is to benefit companies and consumers, not to "damage" them. Conservative Senator (and former Supreme Court clerk) Mike Lee explained this to The Weekly Standard: "It's not immediately apparent to me who it is that would have standing to show that they would be injured by this ... The people directly affected by the employer mandate are employers. But I would imagine that the administration would argue, if sued on this by an employer ... 'You can't show you've been injured by this. We're letting you off the hook.'"
Fox News figures covered up controversial tactics by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who falsely promised that Volkswagen would reward workers at a Chattanooga plant with a new SUV production if they voted against unionizing.
On February 14, the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, TN voted against joining the United Auto Workers union by a vote of 712 - 626. Fox News' America's News HQ reacted to the vote by calling it a "major win for Republicans like Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who say unions just would push away auto manufacturers." Fox then aired comments from Corker who claimed, "How many companies from South Korea or Japan or Germany, how many of them do you think make a stop in Detroit to look at locating there? None. Not a one. And it's because of the culture that the UAW's largely contributed":
But what Fox omitted from its report is that Corker is at the center of controversy for this advocacy against the union. On February 13, the day before the vote was scheduled to take place, Corker claimed that if the workers of the Chattanooga plant rejected the union, Volkswagen would "reward the plant with a new product to build":
Corker has long been an opponent of the union which he says hurts economic and job growth in Tennessee, a charge that UAW officials say is untrue.
"I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga," said Corker, without saying with whom he had the conversations.
But Corker's claim was immediately rebuffed by Volkswagen, who had remained neutral and even "tacitly endorsed the union." In a statement released following Corker's comments, the company stressed that unionization would have no impact on its decision about where to build the new product, saying "There is no connection between our Chattanooga employees' decision about whether to be represented by a union and the decision about where to build a new product for the U.S. market." None of this information was presented in Fox's report.
Fox News disingenuously blamed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for a "coverage gap" that could leave 5 million low income Americans without health insurance. In doing so, Fox absolved the sins of the Republican governors whose refusal to expand Medicaid is responsible for the gap and will cost states money.
The ACA allows states to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people whose income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government covers the full cost of new enrollees for the first three years. However, many states have refused to expand their Medicaid coverage under the law, "thanks largely to hostility to the law among GOP governors," according to The Washington Post's Greg Sargent.
On the February 10 edition of Fox's America's News HQ, host Bill Hemmer condemned the coverage gap as "another problem growing out of Obamacare." Fox business host Melissa Francis explained that 5 million Americans fall into a gap where they earn too little for federal subsidies but too much for Medicaid benefits and argued that many states did not expand Medicaid benefits under the ACA because they can't afford it:
FRANCIS: The Kaiser Foundation studies this and they say there's about 5 million people between the ages of 18 and 64 who fall into this gap. And it all comes from that Supreme Court decision that said that we couldn't force states to expand Medicaid. Now places like Alabama where this one gentleman who is the example lives, they have said that they can't cover more people with their state program because they simply can't afford it. So that's how these people got left out in the middle but there is a lot of them, 5 million.
FRANCIS: The states, though, are pushing back and saying look, we didn't expand Medicaid because we can't afford it, and even though the federal government will pay for it for 3 years, after that it's on us and we just simply can't afford this. So it's going to be a really tough problem to fix.
Right-wing media figures rushed to claim the Affordable Care Act will destroy 2 million jobs, citing a new Congressional Budget Office report, but that's not what the report found -- the CBO report projected that the law will give workers the freedom to voluntarily reduce their employment after gaining health insurance.
The CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 on February 4, which projected in part that the number of full-time workers would decline by about 2 million by 2017. Right-wing media quickly pounced on the report to distort the CBO's projections about the ACA's effect on future employment.
In a post on her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin claimed the report "confirms what critics have been saying all along: Obamacare is killing jobs and squelching growth." On Fox, America's News HQ co-host Alisyn Camerota claimed "a bombshell new CBO report" found that "Obamacare will be much worse for the economy than previously predicted," and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs added it is "another round of devastating numbers for all Americans because the result of this is there will be fewer jobs":
The CBO makes it clear that the decrease in workers is not due to jobs being lost -- rather, the ACA will allow workers to choose to work less. The projected change is in the supply of labor, not the demand for labor, and thus the CBO noted that the decrease would not lead to a corresponding increase in unemployment or underemployment (emphasis added):
The reduction in CBO's projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses' demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).
The media has extensively reported on the Republican National Committee's decision to boycott MSNBC following an offensive tweet for which the network subsequently apologized. But they've spent far less attention on the fact that the RNC denounced MSNBC while on Fox News -- a network that has frequently aired offensive and derogatory comments.
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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Fox News "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow baselessly speculated about the mental health of the Columbia Mall shooter, ignoring proof that access to firearms, not mental health conditions, is the most significant factor in most gun violence.
On January 25, Darion Marcus Aguilar shot and killed two people before committing suicide at a mall in Columbia, Maryland. Two days later, Dr. Keith Ablow appeared Fox's America's News HQ to discuss the shooter's possible motive. Ablow dismissed the ready availability of guns, instead surmising that the shooter showed signs of "serious mental health care problems":
ABLOW: The anti-gun people are going to say, 'oh, it's the gun, it's the gun, it's the gun.' It isn't the gun. We have a crisis in terms of mental health care where I promise you that there were signs that this individual too was experiencing serious mental health care problems.
House GOP leaders reportedly distributed a memo instructing members on how to demonstrate compassion when discussing unemployment. And even as news of the memo leaked, conservative media were demeaning unemployed Americans as "lazy" and calling "hunger" a superior policy to jobless benefits.
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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Right-wing media voices have coalesced around the myth that unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed do not need to be extended because the economy is improving and benefits have existed for too long. These arguments, however, ignore key realities about long-term unemployment, namely that it remains elevated despite an improving economy.
In a January 3 segment on America's News Headquarters, Fox News host Gregg Jarrett erroneously stated that the legal use of the word "shall" in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) meant implementation delays are absolutely barred.
Jarrett argued that because the word "shall" was used in the ACA's section that incentivizes large employers to provide health insurance by 2014, the Obama administration's delay of this "employer mandate" is illegal. In an interview with his Republican guest, current Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, Jarrett continued, "'shall' -- and you learned this in law school -- is a mandatory word. It is not fungible." Abbott confidently agreed, saying that "as a former Texas Supreme Court justice myself, I can tell you that courts consistently apply that word, 'shall,' to mean that it provides the executive branch no latitude in how they are going to apply the law."
From the December 19 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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Fox Business host David Asman baselessly speculated that health care reform's Medicaid expansion could bankrupt states, a prediction at odds with economic experts who have declared the expansion "a very favorable financial deal for states."
The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people whose income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government covers the full cost of new enrollees. After 2016, the federal government will continue to pay 90 percent of the program's cost.
On the December 11 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Asman warned that new Medicaid enrollees who became eligible for coverage due to the Affordable Care Act's would be covered at "an extraordinary extra cost to taxpayers." Asman went so far as to claim the cost could bankrupt states:
ASMAN: States are spending 30 - 40 percent of their entire budget on Medicaid. And as these more people sign on to Medicaid because of Obamacare, they're going to not only cost us taxpayers more money on the federal level, but they may make some states go bankrupt, because they won't be able to keep up with all those extra Medicaid patients.
Expanding Medicaid would not only not bankrupt states, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), it "will add very little to what states would have spent on Medicaid without health reform." CBPP found that "Expanding Medicaid is thus a very favorable financial deal for states":
Fox's Andrew Napolitano mischaracterized the the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, pretending the law would force employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion.
On Fox's America's News HQ, network senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano hyped a legal challenge to the ACA by Notre Dame University, which refiled a lawsuit this week contesting the law's birth control mandate. Napolitano claimed the suit is "based upon Obamacare's imposition of an obligation on Notre Dame -- full disclosure, I'm an alumnus of Notre Dame -- which forces it to acquire health insurance which provides coverage for contraception and abortion, both of which violate Catholic core teaching."
Notwithstanding Napolitano's incorrect characterization, the ACA does not require employers to pay for insurance covering abortions. Instead, it requires states to provide at least one health plan that does not cover abortion in order to accommodate employers whose religious beliefs conflict with providing abortion coverage:
Fox News' John Bolton described a historic diplomatic deal between Iran and six world powers as "abject surrender" and attributed failure to a series of economic sanctions against Iran that many experts believe were responsible for bringing the nation to the bargaining table. Bolton followed up by advocating for airstrikes against Iran, a tactic some experts describe as "futile."
CNN's Fareed Zakaria reported that a new agreement between Iran and the U.S. over Iran's nuclear program "essentially freezes Iran's program for six months -- and rolls back some key aspects of it -- while a permanent deal is negotiated." Zakaria added that "[i]n return, Iran gets about $7 billion of sanctions relief, a fraction of what is in place against it. The main sanctions -- against its oil and banking sectors -- stay fully in place."
On the November 25 edition of Fox's America's News HQ, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton criticized the deal as "abject surrender" to the Iranians. Bolton claimed sanctions "were never going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons anyway" because" sanctions need to be administered by a living breathing president," and in Bolton's mind, Obama isn't capable of success on this front. Bolton added that we must accept one of two propositions; a nuclear Iran, or support Israeli airstrikes.
But experts point out that strong sanctions put in place by Obama in 2010 have helped to bring Iran to the bargaining table, a fact Fox and Bolton failed to discuss. In February, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained in an interview on CBS This Morning that "the sanctions are working."