Fox News repeatedly conflated the emergency contraceptive Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) with abortion while covering two Supreme Court cases brought by companies that object to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control coverage benefits. However, experts agree that the morning-after pill is not abortion -- it prevents pregnancy but cannot stop pregnancy after fertilization takes place.
In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
Absurd smears against a highly-qualified judicial nominee for her support of family planning, sex equality, and conservative attempts to dismantle gender stereotypes made the jump from right-wing blogs to the Fox News Channel.
On November 25, Fox News' Shannon Bream correctly reported that the former Connecticut attorney general, among a wide collection of bipartisan legal experts, supports the nomination of the eminently qualified Georgetown Law Professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit. Unfortunately, Bream proceeded to repeat right-wing media myths accusing Pillard of "radical feminis[m]" and hosted National Review Online contributor Carrie Severino to recycle the smears. From America's Newsroom, with co-host Martha MacCallum:
MACCULLUM: What are the critics saying that are opposed to her?
BREAM: Well they say she is way out of the mainstream and she deserves a lot of scrutiny. Here's a bit of what she has said when writing about abortion issue. Here's a quote from one of her articles: "Anti-abortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom not only enforce woman's incubation of unwanted pregnancies, but also prescribe a 'vision of the woman's role' as mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection." Here's Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network.
SEVERINO: Nina Pillard is probably the most extreme judge that has been nominated for this court and possibly for any court in the country. She has a very radical track record as a law professor, really seems to view everything from a radical feminist perspective, down to thinking that abstinence education violates the Equal Protection Clause and feeling like women are being objectified as breeders in the country.
BREAM: She has used that word referring to women as breeders if they are forced to carry pregnancies that they don't want to have. But at this point it looks like there is no blocking her, it is likely she will take a seat on that very important court.
Since Pillard was nominated, she has been subjected to sexist, retrograde, and false accusations that her views on reproductive rights are not in the mainstream. In fact, they are based on decades-old constitutional law, including a decision written by arch-conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
For example, the quote that Bream yanked out of context from a 2007 academic article in which Pillard noted that "antiabortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom not only enforce women's incubation of unwanted pregnancies, but also prescribe a "vision of the woman's role" as mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection[,]" is an explicit reference to the fact that justices on the Supreme Court have already incorporated equal protection principles into their reproductive rights precedent. Unmentioned by Bream, the quote was part of a discussion of the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which reaffirmed the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade.
The notion that damaging gender stereotypes can be at the core of restrictions on reproductive rights is also based on long-standing constitutional precedent.
Fox News reported that the Cleveland Clinic was instituting "massive layoffs" due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but when asked about the reports, a Clinic spokesperson told Media Matters, "We're not."
On November 25, The Daily Caller published an article titled, "Top U.S. hospital laying off staff due to Obamacare." On Fox Business' Markets Now, host Connell McShane reported on the "massive layoffs." America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer claimed that the Cleveland Clinic was going to "shed workers." Later, during the America's News HQ, Fox reporter Chris Stirewalt claimed that the layoffs "rocked the community there in northeastern Ohio."
But there's one problem: the Cleveland Clinic is not laying off any employees. Eileen Sheil, Cleveland Clinic's Executive Director of Corporate Communications, said in an e-mail to Media Matters, "There have been several mis-reports and they keep mentioning that we're laying off 3,000 employees. We're not." Sheil explained that Cleveland Clinic is offering voluntary retirement to 3,000 eligible employees and that the Clinic is also "working on many initiatives to lower costs, drive efficiencies, reduce duplication of services across our system and provide quality care to our patients." Sheil continued, "Many of these initiatives do not impact our employees."
Sheil told Media Matters that Fox had been notified of its error and that the Cleveland Clinic requested Fox's future reporting on the issue more accurately present the Clinic's plans. According to a Media Matters search, Fox had not corrected its mistake by the time of publication.
Despite Fox's reporting, Sheil reiterated the Clinic's support for the Affordable Care Act, stating:
We believe reform is necessary because the current state is unsustainable. The ACA is a step toward that change and we believe more changes will come/evolve as there are still many uncertainties. Hospitals must be responsible and do what we can to prepare and support the law.
Fox's continued focus on the Cleveland Clinic is due, presumably, to President Obama's frequent praise of the hospital. In September, host Greta Van Susteren acknowledged the network's flawed reporting on the Cleveland Clinic after it was cited by U.S. Sen. John Barasso (R-WY) on her program.
A month after claiming that President Obama's focus on immigration reform was intended to distract the American public from problems with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rollout, Fox News is at it again.
Previewing Obama's immigration reform speech in San Francisco in which Obama will reportedly urge the House to pass a reform bill before year's end, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked: "Forget Iran, forget Obamacare, President Obama wants to talk about immigration? Will changing the subject actually work, I say, with italicized work?" He added: "We report, you decide."
Later on in the broadcast, Kilmeade again asserted that Obama is "going to have a hard time changing the subject to immigration" in light of ACA problems. Anchor Bret Baier agreed, replying:
BAIER: He is, because -- listen. Every day, there is some story about Obamacare, and it's not just the website anymore, and we've gone over that. But the more and more people see the premiums, that's really the sticker shock. And I think you've got -- when you've got a White House trying to turn the page a number of different times, a number of different ways, he might have a challenge.
America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum struck a similar note, suggesting that Obama is "trying to move to these other topics in an attempt to change the subject a bit and perhaps salvage his second term."
In fact, as senior political analyst Brit Hume pointed out on America's Newsroom, "it's not surprising" that Obama is focusing on immigration reform:
HUME: These are issues -- Iran, immigration -- that the president was gonna have to address anyway, whatever his standing, whatever the condition of his health insurance reform plan. So it's not surprising that he would try to do that, particularly on immigration, which it wasn't so very long ago you recall Martha, had a real head of steam behind it.
And it looked as if after the results of the 2012 election, Republicans were eager to pass something to try to get themselves in the better graces of the Hispanic community. Some of the air is out of that tire; it's understandable that the president would try to re-inflate it and get it rolling again.
Indeed, Obama has repeatedly urged Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill by year's end and his speech today is intended, as Hume noted, to inject renewed urgency into the debate. Obama has maintained since his election in 2009 that immigration reform is a priority for his administration.
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox's Martha MacCallum hosted a guest to attack the Affordable Care Act who ended up supporting the changes the ACA has made to substandard insurance plans.
On the November 18 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum interviewed former health care executive Stan Hupfeld in a segment that described him as a top insurance industry official "warning against the Obamacare fix." However, in the interview that followed, Hupfeld recommended switching to ACA-compliant policies and underlined the reasons behind the cancellations of old, inadequate plans:
HUPFELD: Well the insurance companies, obviously, somewhere in the debate became supporters because they saw the opportunity for millions more uninsured to come their way. Part of the problem it seems to me, and certainly consistent with your last guest, was that many people with their old plans, with these very high deductibles, didn't really realize until they came to the point of having to use the plans, some of the inadequacies. You know, when you have a family of four each with a $5,000 deductible, for the average patient that shows up at the hospital, they're essentially uninsured because they can't, in most cases, meet those deductibles.
MACCALLUM: What would you recommend to people? If you got the cancellation notice and you were booted off your policy and you're still looking around trying to figure it out, would you say yes, I recommend you go back and continue that plan, or try your luck with some of these new things that the president claims will actually be cheaper in the end?
HUPFELD: Well obviously it depends on whether your circumstances, whether you're sicker and older or younger and healthier. I think for the most part, you'd be better off in trying to make the change now, to the new plan.
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.