As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) woos young voters ahead of an expected 2016 presidential bid, it's become conventional wisdom among many Beltway pundits that Paul could broaden the GOP's appeal with his ostensibly tolerant views on social issues - never mind that that this narrative is completely divorced from Paul's traditional conservative positions on such topics.
Paul's effort to win over Millennials and other constituencies historically suspicious of the GOP came to the fore with his March 19 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, where Paul condemned government surveillance programs as a threat to privacy.
The chattering class proclaimed that the speech was emblematic of Paul's appeal as an unconventional, "intriguing" Republican. And despite Paul's conservative stances on issues like marriage equality, reproductive choice, and creationism, many media outlets have also pointed to Paul as the kind of candidate who could help move the GOP away from its hardline social positions. It's a narrative that even some of Paul's conservative critics have come to accept, as Charles Krauthammer showed when he called Paul "very much a liberal on social issues."
A look at media coverage of Paul helps explain where Krauthammer got that notion.
Conservative media's recent smear that surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is controversial because he supports doctors discussing safe gun ownership with their patients is curious given frequent complaints from right-wing media -- albeit false -- that health care reform posed a threat to the inviolable doctor-patient relationship.
Right-wing media personalities continued their tradition of attacking President Obama for filling out NCAA college basketball brackets, this time attacking Obama for filling it out while Russia annexed Crimea.
Fox News attempted to distinguish between Chief Justice John Roberts and civil rights litigator Debo Adegbile by arguing that Adegbile is unqualified to pass Senate nomination because his defense of a murderer was politicized, due to his alleged participation in rallies supporting his former client. However, Fox is conflating Adegbile with a former colleague of his, who GOP senators suggested had politicized the trial of his former client, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
On March 5, the Senate procedural vote that would have allowed a confirmation vote on Adegbile's nomination to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed, despite the fact that Adegbile is a mainstream nominee who is regarded as one of the preeminent civil rights experts of his generation by a wide spectrum of authorities, including law enforcement executives and the American Bar Association. The Senate's failure to confirm Adegbile reflects right-wing media attempts to distort his record with lies about his background and racially charged attacks, which have included labeling Adegbile a "cop killer's coddler" and a "cop-killer advocate." These attacks reference Adegbile's defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose death sentence was successfully contested by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), which Adegbile headed at the time.
In light of the blocked confirmation, many have pointed out that defending a reprehensible murderer has not been a disqualifier for other high-profile government nominees, such as current Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who also once represented a death-row inmate convicted of killing eight people in Florida.
On the March 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier attempted to distinguish Justice Roberts from Adegbile by arguing that Adegbile, unlike Roberts, "became more political in his support" of his client. Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded that blocking Adegbile's confirmation was "the right thing," because although Adegbile "didn't choose the case," "the one thing that sways it here is that he participated in rallies":
Fox News' Charles Krauthammer argued that the Obama administration is "unwise" for taking all U.S. military action "off the table" in response to Russia's recent invasion into Ukraine -- an apparent 180º from his position on military action when Russia invaded Georgia during President Bush's tenure.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Baier reported that in response to Russia's invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine, "U.S. officials say they still see no scenario, no scenario, involving military action of any kind." Fox contributor Krauthammer scoffed at the administration's stance against the use of military force, arguing "I think that's unwise to take everything off the table. What if there's a full-scale invasion all the way to Kiev? You're going to do nothing?"
Fox attempted to revive the lie that the Affordable Care Act contains health care rationing in the form of "death panels" by pushing misleading claims about the law's prescription drug coverage.
On Fox's Special Report, guest host Doug McKelway asked the show's panel about a provision in the ACA that he claimed "is drastically limiting the availability of some drugs." Fox contributor Stephen Hayes claimed "patients with diseases and conditions that require medication not approved by Washington bureaucrats" may "have to go without it with potentially very serious implications." McKelway asked if the prescription drug provisions were "rationing or, as some people have said, the so-called death panels." Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded: "We're learning how much rationing is the essence of Obamacare -- the rationing of doctors, the rationing of hospitals. Here we begin to understand the rationing of drugs. Next, and in the end, will be rationing of care."
Fox's description of the ACA's prescription drug coverage is misleading, and McKelway's "death panel" reference is outright irresponsible. The reality is that the way the ACA treats prescription drug coverage is in line with how private insurance companies have handled coverage for years.
Although Fox omitted it from its coverage, the ACA actually expands prescription drug coverage, including it as one of the 10 essential health benefits that all plans must provide. But just like the vast majority of currently offered health plans, plans offered under the ACA's health care exchanges will not provide full coverage to every prescription drug. These plans will be offered along with what's known as a drug formulary, a guide to what drugs the plan covers and how they cover it. As Think Progress' Igor Volsky pointed out, the use of a drug formulary is standard practice among health care plans:
Under the law, insurers must offer drug benefits as part of 10 essential health care benefits, meaning that millions of uninsured Americans will now have drug coverage for the very first time. But the coverage won't be limitless. Insurers will continue to rely on drug formularies -- as they currently do in the private market and Medicare Part D -- to decide which prescriptions are covered and which are not.
The ACA requires that issuers provide the greater of one drug from each category or class, or offer as many drugs in each category as are covered by a benchmark plan. The law allows states the choice of four different benchmarks, which Gottlieb helpfully lists in his article: 1) One of the three largest small group plans in the state by enrollment; 2) one of the three largest state employee health plans by enrollment; 3) one of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment; or 4) the largest HMO plan offered in the state's commercial market by enrollment.
States -- not the federal government -- select the benchmark and insurers then offer coverage for the drugs listed in those formularies. "What the vast majority of states have chosen is a common small business plan, so you know it's saying what will be available in the exchanges and in the individual market generally is what's popular among small businesses now and that seems like a reasonable place to start," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt explained.
The law also has provisions for people who rely on a drug that isn't covered by their plan's formulary. Patients can apply for exceptions in the case of medical need:
What if a drug I take is not on the list?
Your doctor can ask for an exception for medical need so that the insurer will cover it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging insurers to respond to such requests within three days. If your request is denied, you can go through your state's appeals process, which usually is handled by insurance regulators. If you still can't get coverage and need to take the drug, you'll have to bear the full cost out of pocket, as it won't count toward your deductible or your co-insurance maximum.
Right-wing media accused President Obama of unprecedented overreach resembling that of a "dictator" for the ordinary administrative agency rule-making process surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) employer mandate.
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer misleadingly claimed that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is projecting that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won't reduce the uninsured population. In fact, the CBO's projections show that the ACA cuts the number of uninsured nearly in half by 2017.
On the February 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Krauthammer claimed that the new CBO projections from the report show that the law won't reduce the number of uninsured people:
KRAUTHAMMER: [Y]ou get this crazy paradox where the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that the number of uninsured Americans in 10 years will be 31 million. When Obama launched Obamacare in 2009, he explained the moral imperative was because there were 30 million uninsured Americans. So here we're going to go through a complete revolution of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the dislocation of doctors, hospitals, patients, and plans everywhere, including insurers, in order to achieve a result in a decade where we have essentially the same number of uninsured. So what was this all about?
But Krauthammer is wrong in claiming that the ACA will not change the number of uninsured Americans. There are different ways of counting the uninsured, and the president in 2009 was using a far more conservative number than the CBO uses in its report. As Jonathan Cohn explained in The New Republic when debunking a similar claim:
[C]onservatives would have you believe CBO thinks the new health law won't put a real dent in the number of uninsured. That's not at all what CBO said.
CBO actually starts with a much higher baseline for the number of uninsured -- 57 million non-elderly Americans -- because of the data it uses. (Estimates of the uninsured vary a lot depending on which survey you choose and how you define the term.) And the Affordable Care Act, according to CBO, will reduce that number significantly. Without the law, CBO says, the number of uninsured Americans would stay at roughly 57 million. But thanks to the various coverage expansions -- not just the creation of new private insurance marketplaces, but also the expansion of Medicaid and ability of young adults to stay on their parents' plans--the number of uninsured will decline markedly. By 2017, according to CBO, Obamacare will have reduced the number of Americans without insurance by nearly half -- or more, if you don't count undocumented workers.
Right-wing media figures revived the specter of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to portray him as the face of legal abortion in a dishonest attack on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and pro-choice advocates.
In separate posts, Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer both invoked Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in May, 2013 for illegal procedures performed at his Philadelphia clinic.
In an NRO post, Goldberg highlighted Davis' successful filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill in the Texas state legislature by describing the effort as "going on against the backdrop of the sensational Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania" and recounted details of Gosnell's crimes. Krauthammer pushed similar tactics in his op-ed, suggesting Republicans pursue a "strategy for seizing the high ground on abortion" by invoking Gosnell, and claiming his strategy would "[c]hallenge the other side on substance. And watch them lose":
Last year's Kermit Gosnell trial was a seminal moment. The country was shown a baby butcher at work and national sentiment was nearly unanimous. Abortion-rights advocates ran away from Gosnell. But they can't hide from the issue.
This tactic of trying to tie legal abortion to Gosnell is a familiar strategy among anti-choice media figures, despite the fact that Gosnell's crimes bear no resemblance to legal abortions.
The attempt to tarnish safe, legal abortions by invoking the crimes of a single doctor distorts the conversation about abortion by hiding the fact that the majority of abortions in America are safe and conducted early in the pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute reported that 88% of pregnancies occurred in the first trimester. Pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed responses to a congressional inquiry by 38 state attorneys general and found that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe."
Restricting access to abortion risks pushing women towards unsafe procedures. The American Journal of Public Health found that women are more likely to seek unsafe and unlawful operation with access barriers to legal abortion:
Several studies indicate that the factors causing women to delay abortions until the second trimester include cost and access barriers, late detection of pregnancy, and difficulty deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. In part because of their increased vulnerability to these barriers, low-income women and women of color are more likely than are other women to have second-trimester abortions.
Image via mirsasha under a Creative Commons License
Scrambling to mitigate news that conservative filmmaker and Fox News darling Dinesh D'Souza was indicted for felony federal campaign finance violations, the network suggested that Democrat Pierce O'Donnell's 2012 misdemeanor convictions for the same crime is evidence that the Obama administration is targeting political enemies -- but O'Donnell was originally charged with even more felony counts than D'Souza.
D'Souza, known for his conspiratorial film 2016: Obama's America, was indicted this week "by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," according to Reuters. D'Souza allegedly repaid people who, at his direction, contributed $20,000 to New York Republican senate candidate Wendy Long, well beyond the legal contribution limit.
His allies in the conservative media handled news of the indictment by accusing the Department of Justice of seeking to silence people on President Obama's "enemies list" in the custom of "Nazi Germany" and "Stalin."
Fox's evening news show Special Report attempted to further this conspiracy theory by pointing to the case of Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney who pled guilty to making approximately $26,000 in illegal campaign contributions to disgraced former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. The program repeatedly suggested political retribution was at play because O'Donnell "faced only a misdemeanor conviction" for a near identical crime to D'Souza's, who is charged with a felony. Correspondent Doug McKelway and contributor Charles Krauthammer raised these claims in different segments during the program.
But there is a fatal flaw in Fox's argument: O'Donnell was actually indicted for three felonies, more serious charges than D'Souza faces.
Conservative media figures have sharply criticized the recent push by Democratic politicians to alleviate poverty and reduce economic inequality. However, most of this criticism is grounded in a number of myths about the causes, effects, and importance of growing economic inequality in the United States.
Fox News stoked fears about the security of HealthCare.gov, all but ignoring the fact that a top official testified to Congress on January 16 that the website is secure.
The January 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier featured a panel discussion on the security of the health care website consisting of Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, Fox News Legal Analyst Andrew Napolitano, and frequent Fox guest A.B. Stoddard. Baier and his guests roundly panned the website's security, relying on testimony by cyber security expert David Kennedy, who claimed that HealthCare.gov remains insecure:
From the January 3 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Here we go again.
One year after creating a fact-free bubble in the run up to the last election, media conservatives are once again denying reality, this time in service of reanimating the Benghazi hoax that ensnared news organizations throughout 2012, denying authoritative evidence that should finally put an end to the hoax.
An exhaustive New York Times investigation into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, published on December 28, discredited the key elements of the right-wing campaign to politicize the attack -- a desperate attempt to bring down the Obama administration and sink a possible presidential run by Hillary Clinton.
Significantly, the Times definitively debunked the myth that al Qaeda played a central role in planning the attack.
Daily Beast contributor Eli Lake, who has been a key validator of the Benghazi hoax, pushed back against the Times, insisting that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack. Contrary to what the Times reported, Lake claimed, "evidence has emerged in the last year that does show the participation of militias and fighters with known ties to al Qaeda." Lake specifically cited comments made by Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Lake's insistence that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack is in line with Fox News' response to the Times report. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a Fox News contributor often portrayed as legitimate voice in the national media, accused the Times of covering for Democrats with its report.
This denial of reality is reminiscent of the way the right retreated to a bubble throughout the 2012 election, and poses a real threat to Americans' understanding of international terrorism.
The relentless campaign to insist that al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Benghazi misinforms the public understanding of that terrorist group and the role that local extremist groups play in international relations. In responding to critics of its reporting, the Times editorial board explained:
Americans are often careless with the term "Al Qaeda," which strictly speaking means the core extremist group, founded by Osama bin Laden, that is based in Pakistan and bent on global jihad.
Republicans, Democrats and others often conflate purely local extremist groups, or regional affiliates, with Al Qaeda's international network. That prevents understanding the motivations of each group, making each seem like a direct, immediate threat to the United States and thus confusing decision-making.
As The New Yorker's Amy Davidson noted, a failure to acknowledge the complexities of extremist groups could lead to tragic real-world results:
Not every angry Muslim, not even every angry Sunni Muslim, is part of Al Qaeda. Using the name so generically and broadly is a deliberate decision not to understand who our enemies are, or to care--if they don't like us, they are Al Qaeda, and we can stop listening.
And how, then, are we supposed to know who our friends are? Insisting that any Muslim who attacks us is Al Qaeda also means that, when we are standing around handing out guns to strangers--something we do a little too often--we'll assume that those who don't strike us as Al Qaeda types won't attack us.
From the November 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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