Fox News' Chris Stirewalt adopted the false, GOP-inspired label of "government run health insurance" during Fox's coverage of House hearings on the Affordable Care Act health reform rollout.
On the November 13 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum used a House hearing on the health exchange website to ask Stirewalt to comment on problems in the rollout of Obamacare's exchanges. Stirewalt claimed that problems accessing the website are a major problem because people have been "compelled against their wishes to purchase government run health insurance."
But the ACA is not "government-run" health insurance. The Affordable Care Act creates exchanges in which consumers can purchase health insurance that will be managed and operated by private health insurers. The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog pointed out that the ACA "builds on the existing private insurance" much like Massachusetts health insurance reform of 2006. Politfact called the claim that the ACA is a "government takeover of health care" the 2010 "Lie of the Year," explaining that the law "relies largely on the free market":
Media fell for another misleading leak from the House Oversight Committee when they hyped allegations that the Obama administration ignored HealthCare.gov security warnings -- though the warnings were for a portion of the site that will not be operational until early 2014.
On November 11, a CBS News report cited selectively leaked partial transcripts from Affordable Care Act (ACA) opponent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to claim that "the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." The network was criticized by Maddow producer Steve Benen when he found that the warnings referenced a function of the health care website that won't be active until early 2014 and has nothing to do with the parts of the website that are currently in use. A Democratic staffer Benen talked to also said that this part of the website "will not submit or share personally identifiable information."
CBS' faulty report aired just days after the network faced widespread criticism and was forced to apologize for failing properly vet an unreliable source that was prominently featured in the network's October 27 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi attack. But CBS wasn't the only outlet to promote misleading claims from the leaked Oversight Committee transcript.
On November 11, The New York Times reported that The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Henry Chao, "[t]he chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace," was "not aware of tests that indicated potential security flaws in the system, which opened to the public on Oct. 1," citing excerpts released by Issa. The same day, FoxNews.com claimed that Obamacare security concerns had been "withheld," but never mentioned that its story was based on a partial transcript. CNN's New Day, and Fox News' America's Newsroom and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren all ran the story on November 12. The Associated Press repeated the claim "Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues" as late as November 13 -- after contradictory reports had surfaced.
The media's failure to confirm the suggestions made by partial transcripts from the House Oversight Committee is a significant oversight, considering the committee chairman Darrell Issa's history of releasing misleading material the press.
From the November 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Right-wing media claimed opposition to the Affordable Care Act influenced the Virginia governor election despite polls that show the health reform law was an insignificant factor in the race.
Fox News has stoked outrage over the plan changes in the individual health insurance market, charging Obama with "government malpractice" and calling him a liar for supposedly not informing people that plans would change. But Fox's hyperbolic attacks ignore the fact that these changes are not only common in the individual market, but also that the administration announced them years ago.
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Fox News hyped a poll asking viewers whether members of Congress should be exempt from the Affordable Care Act, even though they are actually not exempt -- a poll finding that reflected Fox's misleading coverage of the issue.
On the October 31 edition of Happening Now, correspondent Mike Emanuel claimed that senators are "trying to interpret the law more broadly" to exempt their staff from enrolling in Obamacare. Emanuel promoted a new Fox poll claiming that the vast majority of people surveyed want "members of Congress & their staff " to live under Obamacare.
Fox News is calling mileage-based user fees that several states are considering "Orwellian," implying the government would be able to track your vehicle without permission and perhaps even "shut your car off." But the network's segment left out that such proposals generally include devices that cannot track your location and certainly cannot turn off your car, satisfying both the American Civil Liberties Union and several conservative organizations.
In a segment featuring no voices in defense of mileage-based user fees (MBUF), Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum declared such proposals the "most Orwellian thing I've ever heard." MacCallum hosted Berkeley Varitronics Systems President Scott Schober, who suggested the government may be able to "shut your car off" if you do not pay the fees. MacCallum added that if "somebody is stalking you and they want to know where you're going, they could very well hack right into this system and follow you." The segment was so conspiratorial that fellow Fox News anchor Jon Scott joked that "I see the black helicopters over your studio right now":
Ryan Morrison, Founder and CEO of True Mileage, Inc. -- a company that designs devices that could be used for MBUF -- said this "definitely sounds like misinformation." In a phone conversation with Media Matters, Morrison said "no company or departments of transportation are looking into devices that could shut off a car." He added that "certainly no one would be able to do anything like that with our devices, and the only time that I've heard of something like that is with a LoJack" for stolen vehicles.
In addition, according to Morrison, most proposals are suggesting allowing citizens to choose whether to install devices without GPS-tracking -- such as his company's -- or to install ones that do have GPS-tracking -- in order to save money when they travel out of state or on less congested roads. For instance, Oregon, which has moved forward with a pilot program for a MBUF (also known as a "vehicle-miles traveled" (VMT) fee), would allow participants to choose devices that do not have GPS tracking and delete personal data after 30 days. The American Civil Liberties Union is reportedly "satisfied with the privacy protections" in Oregon's program.
Fox News immediately pounced on a 60 Minutes Benghazi report to continue a baseless smear campaign against Hillary Clinton in an attempt to make sure the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate will "be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road."
After CBS' 60 Minutes aired a segment of correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan's year-long investigation of the Benghazi attacks regarding a long-answered "lingering question," Fox's America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum hosted Tea Party News Network's Scottie Nell Hughes and contributor Leslie Marshall to discuss the report. These politically-oriented guests were selected in an apparent attempt to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as MacCallum admitted to the pair, "the reason we're talking to you about this is because it is going to be politically relevant and it may be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road." One such attack discussed was the long-debunked myth that the administration told the military to "stand down" rather than proceed with a Benghazi rescue mission.
MACCALLUM: Yeah, they had made repeated cries for help, for increased security. Those were turned down. And the reason we're talking to both of you about this is because it is going to be politically relevant and it may be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road. She, we also remember, shook her hands in the air and said 'what difference does it make whether it was a bunch of crazy individuals or something that was planned and plotted.' I am paraphrasing a bit of what she said, but you all remember it well.
MARSHALL: That is great paraphrasing, taking one sentence a bit out of context.
HUGHES: They asked for help, a month before there was a meeting where they sat there and laid out the entire plan that this embassy was going to be under attack, and that night when the calls for help went out and the soldiers wanted to go in and help, there was a call somewhere from this administration to stand down. We don't know who made that call.
MARSHALL: Really, really?
MACCALLUM: The "Stand Down" order is very controversial, but we know they did not go in and help.
After Marshall called out MacCallum for taking Clinton's Benghazi testimony out of context, Hughes turned the conversation to the myth that the Obama administration told the military to "stand down" and cancel any planned rescue missions -- one of Fox's favorite myths.
In fact, multiple sources, including the commander of the Special Forces team that was allegedly told to stand down and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, have all said that no such order was given. The House Armed Services Committee also released a statement putting the myth to rest, stating that, according to testimony and "contrary to news reports," the commander "was not ordered to 'stand down.' "
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer cited an unnamed report to continue the network's dishonest attacks on the Affordable Care Act by claiming that HealthCare.gov may cost taxpayers over $1 billion -- an assertion that overstated the actual cost by more than $700 million.
On the October 25 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, host Hemmer asked whether HealthCare.gov, the website established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to connect Americans with health insurance exchanges, would be "the first billion-dollar website?" Hemmer then told contributor Katie Pavlich, "Government keeps throwing money after problems which shows you how government gets fat and very, very expensive," before concluding, "These people have lost their minds." The on-screen text read, "Rpt: Final Obamacare Website Costs Could Top $1 Billion."
However, as reported in a Washington Post fact-check, yesterday's congressional hearings regarding the ACA website revealed that government contracts to create the website amounted to a total value of less than $300 million. According to The Washington Post:
In the testimony, a reference was made to the fact that the TCV (total contract value) was $292 million. That is the least important number, as in effect it is like a credit card limit. What is more important is what has been already spent or obligated.
To sum up: The floor for spending on the Web site to date appears to be at least $170 million, with an upward potential of nearly $300 million.
While neither Hemmer nor Pavlich revealed the source of the report they were using to make their claims, a Media Matters search found only a Newsmax article with a similar contention. That article in turn referenced a report from Bloomberg Government. But according to Bloomberg, their study covered "all health law-related contract awards to the firms since the ACA was enacted in March 2010," not just the those related to the ACA website. That study may also be overstating the costs, considering "it assumed that most recent IT awards by the Department of Health and Human Services are ACA-related because the law's implementation has consumed an increasing share of the department's time and resources."
Fox is doubling down on misleading its viewers about the costs of the ACA -- almost literally. It was previously called out for inflating HealthCare.gov's costs to $634 million.
Fox News cut away from President Obama's speech on immigration reform while MSNBC and CNN did not. Instead of covering the president's speech, Fox chose to return to its nearly two-hour-long coverage of House Republicans' committee hearing on Healthcare.gov glitches.
While MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News all covered the beginning of President Obama's speech on immigration reform live, Fox News promptly cut away after only two minutes and forty seconds to take a commercial break before returning to its nearly-two-hour-long coverage of House Republicans' hearing on the glitches affecting Healthcare.gov. MSNBC and CNN aired the less-than-10-minute speech in its entirety.
When Fox's America's Newsroom returned from break, co-host Bill Hemmer brought the focus back to the congressional hearings, mentioning Obama's immigration speech only to theorize that it was planned to distract from the hearing "going on right down the road."
Hemmer must have forgotten that Fox frequently cuts away from remarks given by the president -- often using trivial news stories as an excuse -- when he accused Obama of attempting to distract from the House's hearing.
Fox's Bill Hemmer refused to accept a U.S. senator's correction and admonishment of the network's misreporting on the health care plans of Congress and congressional staff under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
During the fight over the government shutdown and Affordable Care Act, a favorite refrain of the right-wing media and the tea party has been the line that Congress is receiving exemptions and special treatment under the ACA that normal Americans cannot obtain. This is not true -- staffers receive the same employer-sponsored health care that most employed Americans receive.
A conservative pundit repeated this myth in an October 23 segment on America's Newsroom, and when Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) came on after a commercial break to discuss violence in Egypt, he wanted to correct the record -- but Fox host Hemmer wouldn't allow it.
Near the end of Corker's interview, Hemmer revealed that the senator was displeased with Fox's handling of the Congressional exemption story in the previous segment, saying in part, "You were listening to our program a bit earlier during the commercial break. You took strong exception to the fact that you think Congress is playing by the same rules that regular Americans are playing by when it comes to Obamacare."
Corker replied, "I think there's been a lot of misreporting and sort-of a myth around what's happening with Obamacare."
The senator then made three different attempts to tell the truth about congressional coverage.
Each time, Hemmer interrupted Corker. He parroted the myth that Congress receives special treatment and rebuked Corker's explanation with claims that people "get lost" in the facts.
Right-wing media dishonestly accused President Obama and the Justice Department of "McCarthyism," "extortion," and carrying out a "vendetta" against JPMorgan Chase (JPM) after the two parties reached an historic $13 billion settlement over the company's role in the 2008 financial crisis. The attacks characterized the settlement as politicized "medieval justice," excusing JPM's responsibility for its own alleged wrongdoing and those of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual -- two entities which played a large role in the collapse that were later acquired by JPM.
From the October 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Fox News completely ignored the role of political brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling in prompting a credit downgrade warning, erroneously claiming that the warning was prompted by concerns over long-term debt stabilization.
On October 15, credit rating agency Fitch placed the United States on a negative rating watch, threatening to downgrade the country's debt from "AAA" status if the debt ceiling is not raised in a timely manner.
On the October 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum interviewed Fox Business' Stuart Varney regarding Fitch's downgrade threat, asking why the stock market has not reacted negatively to the warning. The conversation eventually turned to the United States' long-term debt prospects, with MacCallum asking if rating agencies have become less concerned about the national debt. Varney responded by claiming that not only are rating agencies still concerned about debt, but also that Fitch's warning was primarily in response to the United States' long-term debt:
MACCALLUM : It used to be that the credit rating agencies were very concerned about the long-term financial stability of the United States of America. Is that no longer the case Stuart?
VARNEY: No, they are still concerned. That's what this warning was all about. We have failed to get our long-term debt under control.
Varney's assessment of Fitch's warning is false.
At no point in their discussion did MacCallum or Varney mention the primary reason Fitch placed the United States' credit on negative watch: brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling. In its warning, Fitch directly cited political obstacles to raising the debt ceiling as a "high" driver of the rating watch (emphasis added):
The U.S. authorities have not raised the federal debt ceiling in a timely manner before the Treasury exhausts extraordinary measures. The U.S. Treasury Secretary has said that extraordinary measures will be exhausted by 17 October, leaving cash reserves of just USD30bn. Although Fitch continues to believe that the debt ceiling will be raised soon, the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.
While Varney contends that debt worries were a primary driver in prompting the warning, Fitch explicitly stated that current and near term debt levels (as a percentage of the economy) are consistent with the agency's "AAA" rating. Fitch did suggest that public debt should be put on a downward trend in the medium to long term, but noted this concern was secondary to the more immediate and potentially disastrous problem of failing to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans have held firm in their unwillingness to raise the debt ceiling without extracting political concessions, most related to defunding, delaying, or eliminating provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
Virtually every other news outlet noted that Fitch was primarily concerned about brinkmanship and failure to raise the debt ceiling. Instead of noting this fact, Fox chose to continue its history of raising false alarms over the nation's debt load.