Fox News ignored growing evidence of a culture of political retribution in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office while instead attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for keeping an "enemies list" -- in reality, a list of endorsements Clinton sought in 2008 -- something Fox's own senior political analyst described as "perfectly reasonable," and dismissed as "not a huge deal."
Thousands of e-mails released last week revealed examples of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration exacting political retribution from a list of those people whom the governor or his aides believed had crossed him in some way. According to The Star-Ledger, a circle of Christie staff and allies appears to have taken political retribution to a new level when it conspired to send the borough of Fort Lee into traffic chaos by closing lanes to the world's busiest bridge." And a new Wall Street Journal report detailed how Christie allegedly treated Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) by cutting him off from state administrators after Fulop declined to endorse Christie in the gubernatorial election.
In a segment on Fox's America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum neglected to report those updates in the Christie scandal, choosing instead to juxtapose Christie's problems with a report that ran in both Politico Magazine and The Hill that detailed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and its efforts to gain lawmakers' endorsements. Both the original report and Fox News labeled the list of endorsements as "Hillary's Hit List."
Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume compared the Politico report to the Christie Scandal, claiming it "raises to some extent the question [about Clinton] you're now hearing raised about Chris Christie," asking whether or not she "fostered a climate" that encouraged aides to seek political retribution. Despite Hume's direct comparison, the reports regarding Christie detail numerous incidents of alleged abuse while the Politico report mentions no actual allegations of political retribution, only that the Clinton campaign tracked its political endorsements -- an act that Hume himself described as "perfectly sensible" and "not a huge deal."
When news of the Christie scandal originally broke, Fox News largely ignored it - an omission that CNN media critic Brian Stelter said may have been due to political considerations and Fox News chairman Roger Ailes' role as "Republican kingmaker" who "has in the past tried to enlist Chris Christie to run for president" and "has been said to be a big fan of Chris Christie." When it did cover the scandal, Fox pointed to Christie's handling of the scandal as a "lesson in leadership" while attacking Clinton and President Obama for their handling of what Fox perceives as similar scandals.
Hume attributed competing media organizations' coverage of Christie to political bias, explaining that "journalists look at a story and if it's somebody they don't particularly care for or whose politics they don't agree with -- when that person slips up it just seems, as they look at it, like a bigger story." Ironically, that explanation may explain Fox News' focus on Clinton.
Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
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.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who has repeatedly mocked low-income Americans, dismissed the War on Poverty as ineffective on its 50th anniversary, ignoring evidence that government anti-poverty programs have been vital in decreasing the poverty rate.
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to enumerate proposals and policy prescriptions that would come to be known as the War on Poverty. Many of these proposals were eventually signed into law, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and a permanent food stamp program.
Fifty years later, Fox Business host Stuart Varney dismissed the success of these programs. In a January 8 America's Newsroom segment, Varney cast doubt on the War on Poverty's effectiveness in reducing the poverty rate:
VARNEY: We have not made that much progress in reducing the poverty rate. 15 percent of Americans are still in poverty. It's roughly the same level as it was back in 1964. It did help feed hungry people, treat sick people, and it did raise the standard of living for many, many poor people. However, the proportion of people still living in poverty, pretty much the same as it was back in 1964, Martha.
The federal anti-poverty programs Varney discounts actually helped reduce the poverty rate from 26 percent to 16 percent from 1967 to 2011, according to a recent study by the Columbia Population Research Center at Columbia University. From the study (emphasis added):
The OPM shows the overall poverty rates to be nearly the same in 1967 and 2011 -- at 14% and 15% respectively. But our counterfactual estimates using the anchored SPM show that without taxes and other government programs, poverty would have been roughly flat at 27-29%, while with government benefits poverty has fallen from 26% to 16% -- a 40% reduction. Government programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half (from 29% to 16%) while in 1967 they only cut poverty by about one percentage point.
The New York Times' Economix blog put that data into graph form to show how vital government programs have been in keeping people out of poverty:
Indeed, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it is "simply not valid or accurate" to claim that federal efforts to alleviate poverty have largely failed.
Varney's refusal to acknowledge the progress made in the War on Poverty is in keeping with his record of shaming the poor. He has said that low-income Americans "have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit," argued that furloughed federal workers deserve to be "punish[ed]," and attacked government funding for feeding children and seniors.
In another attempt to cast the Obama administration's focus on income inequality as an Obamacare distraction, Fox contributor Karl Rove argued that raising the minimum wage "doesn't affect a lot of American workers." But raising the minimum wage would impact 30 million workers, or nearly 20 percent of the American workforce.
On the January 6 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Karl Rove dismissed the Obama administration's efforts to raise the minimum wage as yet another attempt to distract from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and falsely claimed that raising the minimum wage "doesn't affect a lot of American workers" (emphasis added):
HEMMER: You know, I'm trying to figure this out, Karl. Do you see that as a new front to argue politics in America today in order to set up the debate for the midterm elections next November? Or do you see it as a distraction away from the issues of Obamacare? Is it A or B or is it a mix of both then?
ROVE: Well it's a mix of both but I thought it was interesting yesterday on the Sunday talk programs, Todd, from NBC talked about how he had talked to members of the administration, Chuck Todd said he talked to the people in the administration about the agenda for 2014 and the administration talked about everything but Obamacare. This is first and foremost an attempt to pivot away from something that is incredibly damaging to the administration, the so-called Affordable Care Act, and again, as I said, short run, there's a little bit of advantage here in the next couple of weeks or months in talking about raising the minimum wage and which doesn't affect a lot of American workers.
Right-wing media have responded to a Supreme Court justice's decision to temporarily block the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate by falsely claiming that abortifacients are included in the coverage required by the health care law.
Fox News contributors Rich Lowry and Charles Payne erroneously asserted that income inequality cannot be mitigated, ignoring the causes of rising inequality and a multitude of policies proposed by economists.
On the January 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer hosted Lowry and Payne to discuss President Obama and recently inaugurated Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio's focus on reducing income inequality. Reacting to comments from Obama and de Blasio regarding inequality, Lowry claimed that while it may be a problem, it simply cannot be stopped (emphasis added):
LOWRY: The broader point, Bill, and this is something the president neglects when he talks about this, inequality is a trend across the decades, across all presidencies, across every developed advanced economy, it has to do with deep trends in our world - globalization, automation -- so there's no way it's going to be stopped. And when President Obama or Bill de Blasio says somehow they're going to end social and economic inequality, it's a pipe dream and they can only do damage by trying to do it.
Payne responded to Lowry's comments, saying, "I don't disagree" before Lowry later claimed that "if you honor just certain basic norms -- if you graduate from high school, if you get a full-time job, if you get married before you have kids -- the chances of you being poor are basically nil."
Lowry and Payne's assertion that income inequality is somehow a natural result of economic activity that cannot be mitigated through policy, however, is at odds with economists' opinions.
Economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has long argued that reducing income inequality is one of the United States' greatest current policy challenges, and has proposed a number of solutions, such as the institution of living wages, larger earned income tax credits, better access to education, and increased union rights. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, while agreeing that inequality is a wide trend, argues that "the trend [is] not universal, or inevitable." Stiglitz traces the recent surge in inequality to a number of government policies:
American inequality began its upswing 30 years ago, along with tax decreases for the rich and the easing of regulations on the financial sector. That's no coincidence. It has worsened as we have under-invested in our infrastructure, education and health care systems, and social safety nets. Rising inequality reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance.
Indeed, the Economic Policy Institute recently launched an educational project with Reich demonstrating that because inequality is the result of policy, it can be mitigated through policy changes.
Economists also discount Lowry and Payne's claim that any attempt to reduce inequality will harm economic growth. Multiple economists have argued that reducing inequality is a means to increase economic growth through enhancing the skills and purchasing power of a greater number of people.
Fox's Stuart Varney reversed economists' findings on unemployment benefits, claiming economists view an extension of benefits as "a trap" that discourages unemployed Americans from gaining employment, a notion that experts have repeatedly discredited.
On December 28, 1.3 million unemployed Americans lost their unemployment benefits with the expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Program, an emergency federal provision that extended unemployment benefits to workers when their state benefits ran out. The program began in 2008 to help those who lost their jobs in the recession, and because Congressional Republicans now oppose its renewal, Washington Post's Wonkblog explained, "the maximum length of time that states can offer jobless benefits will suddenly drop to 26 weeks or less."
Fox Business host Stuart Varney dismissed these now-lost unemployment benefits as a "trap" on the January 2 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, claiming that economists believe the benefits act as a disincentive for finding work (emphasis added):
VARNEY: Democrats essentially give you two reasons [for extending benefits]. Number one, it's the right thing to do: people are hurting, people are in need, it's the right thing to do to extend those unemployment benefits to over a million people who just lost those benefits. Second reason is the economy needs that spending power, it needs the people spending their jobless benefit check, and if you do that you create some jobs. That is the Democrats' argument. The counterargument from Republicans is, how long do you keep paying for? It's already roughly two years, you want to extend it some more, and if so, how do you pay for it? We're just going to run up the debt. And economists argue that if you extend even more you're extending the trap that many fall into, they cannot afford to take a job because if they took a job they would lose all kinds of benefits, unemployment benefit, food stamps, health care, you name it, they lose it. So this system we've got is a trap, and Republicans and many economists do not want to see that trap extended.
2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
From the December 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the December 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the December 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Soon after reports broke confirming the murder of an American teacher in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News exploited reports on that crime to push the phony scandal the network has attempted to create surrounding the September 11, 2012, attacks on American diplomatic facilities in that city.
On December 5, American chemistry teacher Ronnie Smith, who worked at an international school in Benghazi, was gunned down while jogging. At the time of publication, motive for the attack remained unclear and no one had claimed responsibility.
Hours after the news broke, America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum used a report on Smith's murder to pivot into a brief discussion of the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. While presenting a timeline of the 2012 attacks, MacCallum claimed "The Obama administration initially insisted that the Benghazi attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration that had broken out over an anti-Muslim film" -- comments that echo the months-long Fox News misinformation campaign to smear the president with phony reports about his handling of the tragedy.
But it was the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis -- not political appointees within the Obama administration -- that originally linked the video to the attacks. The president labeled the attacks an "act of terror" in his September 12 address to the nation regarding the incident. The Associated Press reported on September 13 that the "The Obama administration ... is investigating whether the assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya was a planned terrorist strike."
Fox's exploitation of the murder should come as no surprise. Following the 2012 attacks, Fox immediately exploited that tragedy to relentlessly spread falsehoods in an attempt to smear President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the administration's response. Most recently, the network has resorted to reporting months-old information as though it were a new development.
This post has been updated for accuracy.
A Fox News segment falsely labeled as a "bailout" a temporary system to pay health insurers money they are owed by the federal government to subsidize insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, even though the segment itself debunked the notion.
Despite the improvements that have been made to fix some of the numerous issues with HealthCare.gov, problems with parts of the website remain. Subsidies that help make the plans offered on the exchanges more affordable are paid directly from the government to insurers, but the online system that handles these payments is not ready. Bloomberg explained that a temporary system to make these payments to insurers has been set up:
The government's original plans called for the federal system to automatically determine consumer subsidies and issue payments to insurers. Instead, the companies will submit estimates that will be "trued up" by the government at a later date, according to a CMS memo provided to Bloomberg News. The work-around for insurers will be in place until the automatic payment system is ready, though CMS has no specific date for the fix, [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesperson Aaron] Albright said.
On December 4, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer said of the temporary payment system: "Some say it already looks like a bailout for the insurance companies. There's that B-word again." As he introduced The Washington Examiner's Byron York, Hemmer said "you could call it a bailout," which York agreed with.
But during the segment, York and co-host Martha MacCallum mentioned details that debunk Hemmer's claim that this is a bailout, noting that this is money the insurers will receive anyway and that the government and the insurers will later make sure the payments are accurate. Watch:
Daniel Durham, an executive at industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, explained to Reuters that "[o]nce the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to 'true up' payments." CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright told Bloomberg that this temporary process "is consistent with how payments have been made to issuers in the Medicare program."
No bailout involved.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum hid the radical implications of a Supreme Court case which could allow for-profit corporations to use religion to discriminate against women and deny employees basic health care coverage, claiming the corporations were merely asking "for some tolerance of their religious belief."
On November 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in two cases in which business owners -- Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties -- argue they should be exempt from an Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement which mandates that large, for-profit corporations must offer employees health plans that cover contraceptives at no additional cost.
On December 2, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum supported the corporations' arguments, claiming that allowing employers to pick and choose what to cover under their health plans based on their religious beliefs was simply an issue of "tolerance" and that the health care law was asking employers to "violate their conscience" by offering contraceptive care:
It seems to me, I mean all they're asking is for an exemption, and for some tolerance of their religious belief, so if a company is owned by someone who doesn't believe that that is ethical, that they should be able to offer a plan that is accepted under Obamacare but that is exempted, that exempts contraception.
I don't understand what the issue would be, with offering a separate version that that employer feels doesn't violate their conscience? How can you ask someone to violate their conscience in the plan that they choose to offer to their employees?
What MacCallum ignores is that religious organizations and certain religiously affiliated nonprofits are already provided exemptions from the contraception mandate. The question posed by these cases to the Supreme Court is whether or not these exemptions should be extended to for-profit, secular companies. If the court rules in favor of the corporations, it would be an unprecedented extension of religious freedom rights and could have radical legal implications, going against the basic tenets of corporate law.
It could also set a dangerous precedent, allowing employers to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against women, and potentially deny all Americans benefits for a wide range of basic medical needs.
Requiring businesses to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no additional cost "was put into place in order to eliminate gender inequality in healthcare," Gretchen Borchelt, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, explained. As Micah Schwartzman and Nelson Tebbe noted in Slate, exempting for-profit corporations would reinstate that inequality, undermining a purpose of health care reform:
[E]xempting large, for-profit corporations from the contraception mandate would significantly burden female employees, along with all the wives and daughters covered by the policies of male employees. Thousands of women would lose all insurance coverage for contraception. That loss would be very real, and it would frustrate a central objective of Obamacare: namely to ensure that women have equal access to critical preventative care.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the corporations, it will not just put women's basic health care in jeopardy. As MSNBC's Irin Carmon and Slate's Dahlia Lithwick have pointed out, corporations could potentially be allowed to opt out of covering anything that is religiously contested, including things like vaccinations, psychiatric care, and AIDS medications. What if your employer is an Orthodox Jew who wants to refuse coverage for any medication that comes in a gelatin capsule? What if she is a Christian Scientist who doesn't believe in visiting doctors?
Requiring for-profit companies to offer health plans which cover birth control is not an attack on religious liberties. It ensures that everyone, regardless of their personal religious belief, has access to basic health coverage which they can then choose to use or ignore.
Former Obama adviser David Plouffe went on ABC News' This Week to discuss the Affordable Care Act, and he noted that the program "is going quite well" in states where health care exchanges and Medicaid expansion have been implemented, and other states may follow suit after President Obama leaves office, at which point "it'll work really well." Plouffe's point was that the law is working where it has been fully implemented, and will work even better if Republican-led state-level opposition to expanding Medicaid disappears after the 2016 elections. Several conservative media outlets, however, have mischaracterized Plouffe's remark to claim that he said the ACA will not work until 2017.