Right-wing media have a plan to solve the national crisis of poverty in America -- and it's all about "personal responsibility."
Roughly 45 million Americans live in poverty, 1 in 7 received food stamps just last year, and 20 percent of children under the age of 18 were impoverished in 2013. Politicians and media figures have offered many possible solutions to help low-income Americans break free from this systemic cycle of inequality, including expanding the social safety net and educational opportunities for all.
But over the years, conservative media have offered their own strategies. Watch as Media Matters looks back at the five easy steps they've proposed to help Americans living paycheck to paycheck find that "richness of spirit":
Fox News relied on claims from discredited gun researcher John Lott to falsely suggest that an FBI report inflated the occurrence of mass shootings, possibly for political reasons. In fact, the report in question covered only "active shooter situations" and explicitly noted in its introduction, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."
In September 2014, the FBI released a report on 160 active shooter situations that occurred between 2000 and 2013. The report counted 1,043 total casualties and noted that over the 13-year period, the incidence of active shooter incidents rose. In its report, the FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."
Lott, who often manipulates statistics to push a pro-gun agenda and is the inventor of the discredited "more guns, less crime" hypothesis, attacked the report in The New York Post last year with the false claim that the "FBI study discusses 'mass shootings or killings.'" Based on this false premise, Lott wrote that several of the incidents in the FBI report don't meet accepted definitions of mass shootings and therefore the report was "bogus" and being "used to promote a political agenda."
Lott's falsehoods on the FBI report are now being promoted on Fox News. On the March 25 edition of Fox & Friends First, host Heather Childers reported the claim of Lott's group, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), that FBI data on mass shootings "may have been overstated for political purposes." While Childers spoke, onscreen text warned viewers of the supposedly "SHODY [sic] STATS":
CHILDERS: Are the number of mass shootings getting blown out of proportion by the government? Well the Crime Prevention Research Center says that FBI stats on mass shootings are inflated. The CPRC says because of errors and biases, the FBI data shows twice as many mass shootings than really occurred. The organization says that the stats may have been overstated for political purposes.
Conservative media are alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to "punish" governors who do not acknowledge climate change by "holding disaster funds hostage." In reality, FEMA is simply updating its requirements for state disaster mitigation plans to ensure that they include consideration of climate change impacts, which is essential to reduce risk from hazards that states will face as the climate continues to change.
Fox News is fearmongering that the EPA is going to monitor the shower use of hotel guests because the agency gave a research grant to college students working on a wireless device that would allow hotels to examine guests' shower use and encourage water conservation. Fox News portrayed this as a "Big Brother move," despite a complete absence of evidence that the agency will actually monitor hotel guests' water usage. Further, research into water conservation -- including this project -- is desperately needed as the West Coast suffers from a historic drought.
The EPA recently awarded the grant, for $15,000, to student researchers at the University of Tulsa. The EPA's description of the grant says the device will "assist hotel guest[s] in modifying their behavior to help conserve water."
On the March 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Heather Nauert reported on the story by saying, "Well, forget about taking a long, hot shower on vacation, and if you think you're doing it in private, well, you might want to think again." A graphic in the segment also gratuitously claimed: "EPA To Start Monitoring Showers At Hotels":
Other right-wing media took the fearmongering even further, publishing stories with headlines like "The EPA wants to watch you in the shower" and "New EPA Proposal Would Spy On Hotel Guests In The Shower." Rush Limbaugh baselessly warned on the March 17 edition of his radio show that if the grant is implemented, "you're gonna have one in your house before too long." He went on to say, "Everybody's afraid of this administration. Everybody is. So then the EPA is gonna monitor the length of your showers -- My point is, if this ever really happens, this is not gonna stop at hotels. You're gonna have one of these in your house."
The EPA is not going anywhere near your shower. The agency is merely supporting research that would send data on water use to a central hotel accounting system -- much like a smart meter that supplies information to utilities about residents' electricity consumption habits. The device could ultimately help companies save money as well as protect the environment. Many hotels have several conservation efforts currently in place; it makes economic sense to do so.
CNN and Fox News repeatedly reported on the Keystone XL pipeline without connecting it to a major oil spill near the pipeline's proposed route. By contrast, MSNBC and others in the media have reported on the spill, which occurred in the Yellowstone River in Montana, in the context of concerns about Keystone XL's environmental risks.
Oil Pipeline Leaked 50,000 Gallons Of Crude Into Yellowstone River. On January 17, an oil pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline Co. spilled 1,200 barrels of crude oil -- or about 50,000 gallons -- into the Yellowstone River, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. Reuters reported:
A small but heavily subscribed pipeline that transports 42,000 barrels a day of crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken region is expected to remain closed on Tuesday after a weekend breach that spilled 1,200 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in the state's eastern Dawson and Richland counties on Monday while towns and cities downstream, including Williston, North Dakota, are monitoring their water systems in case of contamination.
However the water supply of Glendive, the town of 5,000 about 10 miles (16 km) downstream of the spill, has already been tested and found to have elevated levels of hydrocarbons. Water intakes in the river for the city have been closed, according to the EPA. The company, EPA and other agencies are trying to get other drinking water supplies for Glendive, the EPA's Mylott said. [Reuters, 1/20/15]
Fox News and other conservative media outlets are attacking gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) by falsely claiming that the group insulted slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. But CSGV did nothing of the sort. The attacks rely on blaming CSGV for statements made by commenters to its public Facebook page.
Kyle was a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who was well known for having 160 confirmed kills. In January 2013, Kyle published a book about his experiences, but was murdered just days later at a shooting range by a veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD. Kyle's life story has been turned into a movie, American Sniper.
During the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert falsely claimed, "This morning the anti-gun group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is blasting Kyle, inviting its Facebook users to trash the American hero." On-screen text included "Dishonoring A Hero" and "Anti-Gun Group Trashes Chris Kyle."
The January 13 edition of Fox & Friends First similarly claimed CSGV was "trashing Chris Kyle" and "taking swipes at the U.S. military's most lethal sniper," and later displayed a graphic asking, "Should This Group Be Trashing One Of Our Military Heroes Who Defended Our Freedom?"
The smear likely originated from a January 12 article at the conservative Washington Examiner that claims CSGV "is targeting Clint Eastwood's potential Oscar nominee 'American Sniper." As evidence, the Examiner links to an October 2, 2014, post by CSGV on its Facebook page that calls the upcoming movie an "Interesting project," while linking to a USAToday.com article about the film:
In advance of the Federal Communications Commission's February vote on net neutrality rules, media have promoted distortions of the proposed regulations, suggesting net neutrality is an unpopular, "Orwellian" takeover of the internet that may stifle innovation, hurt the economy, and raise costs for consumers. In reality, net neutrality has broad bipartisan support, promotes competition, and has been the guiding principle behind Internet innovation since its inception.
Fox News is moving the goalposts on how President Obama should respond to terrorist attacks, complaining that the White House's statement on a deadly attack on a Pakistani school did not mention "the Taliban." The network had previously attacked Obama for not using the words "terrorist" and "terrorism," two words that appear in the president's statement.
On the December 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, correspondent Ainsley Earhardt reported on the global reaction to a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan carried out by members of the terrorist group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Earhardt highlighted that the president's statement did not mention the Taliban:
EARHARDT: Brand new information about one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history: Pakistani Taliban insurgents storming an army school in Peshawar, killing more than 140 people, most of those young school children. Leaders across the globe condemning those brutal attacks, but the White House not mentioning the Taliban, at all. President Obama's statement reads this, quote "by targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once against shown their depravity."
Similarly, on-screen text during the December 17 edition of Fox & Friends First declared Obama's response was "Not A Full Statement" because the president did not mention the Taliban:
Fox News obscured the fact that Republican lawmakers are holding renewal of a terrorism insurance program hostage in order to continue chipping away at financial regulatory reform.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), first passed after 9/11 and subsequently renewed by Congress, allows the federal government to aid insurance companies in providing terrorism insurance to businesses. One of the biggest beneficiaries of TRIA are professional sports organizations like the NFL.
If TRIA is not renewed, these organizations could lose terrorism insurance coverage. Thus on the December 15 edition of Fox & Friends First, Fox Business contributor Lauren Simonetti claimed that the Super Bowl may be in danger of cancelation. According to Simonetti, "The reason is Congress," adding "unless this act is reauthorized by the end of the year," the Super Bowl could be canceled:
Conservative media are calling the Environmental Protection Agency's clarification of the Clean Water Act an "unprecedented land grab" that will regulate "nearly every drop of water." However, the proposed revision, which will help protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, will not add any new categories of waters but will clarify that upstream sources will be protected from pollution.
As the United States Senate voted on a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage, Fox News dedicated 15 times more coverage to the latest "developments" in its on-going campaign to create a political scandal from the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News attacked immigrant students who are set to become eligible for in-state college tuition in Virginia under existing state law, and misleadingly attacked the decision as providing an "illegal education."
On April 29, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the state's existing law defining residents eligible for in-state tuition does not exclude students approved under the U.S. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Virginia can now join 17 other states in providing in-state tuition rates for previously undocumented students at the commonwealth's public colleges and universities who are now lawfully present under DACA. During the April 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Heather Nauert claimed the Virginia decision was due to "the Dream Act, which was created by the Obama administration," and falsely disparaged the students as "illegals":
On Fox & Friends First, an on-screen graphic labeled the decision "illegal education":
Fox's misleading report on this law confused the Dream Act, a bill that would provide an eventual path to permanent residency and citizenship to eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, with DACA, an executive action signed by President Obama which allows some of those children to apply for legal living and working status on a temporary basis. As Fox's sister organization, Fox News Latino, explained, it is DACA, not the Dream Act, which led to the judgment of Virginia's attorney general that these students are legally eligible to receive the tuition:
In 2012, Obama created a special immigration status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), for immigrants between the ages of 15 and 32 who came to the U.S. before they turned 16. That status allows them to remain if they have graduated from high school or are enrolled as students and meet other conditions.
Herring said the new category amounts to lawful immigration status for those who hold it, and he is therefore empowered to implement the change. Herring's office estimated that 8,100 Virginia residents have obtained lawful status under the 2012 program and are now eligible for in-state tuition.
Fox's own Chris Wallace noted the popularity of providing more affordable tuition to undocumented students last month when he favorably highlighted a privately run program that provides aid to these students. Wallace praised the program as "a program supported by everyone from Grover Norquist to Mark Zuckerberg."
Fox News' incessant promotion of Cliven Bundy abruptly ended after the Nevada rancher's racist rant was published in The New York Times.
Bundy's public feud with the Bureau of Land Management over his refusal to pay grazing fees received extensive support from Fox News, which devoted nearly five hours of primetime coverage to the story, including numerous interviews with Bundy and his family. Sean Hannity provided him so much positive coverage, Bundy praised the Fox News host as a "hero."
That praise fell silent after Bundy used one of his daily press conferences to engage in an overtly racist tirade, claiming black people "abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton" and suggesting that they were better off under slavery. The day after Bundy's rant was published in The New York Times, Fox News' coverage of Bundy ended rapidly.
By noon on April 24, Fox had mentioned the rancher only twice, and never covered his racist comments. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy drew a parallel between Bundy's standoff and the situation of two Texas landowners, and Fox's Andrew Napolitano told viewers to "forget the battle in Nevada" to focus on events in Texas instead.
While Fox News did not cover Bundy's comments, Fox host Greta van Susteren spoke out on her blog, highlighting the Times' article and noting "Let me make this plain: I condemn what Cliven Bundy said about African Americans."
UPDATED: Here's the video of Bundy's racist rant:
Fox News promoted what they called a "blistering report" on Benghazi released by the Citizens' Committee on Benghazi, a group comprised of birthers, conspiracy theorists, and fringe right-wing activists.
On the same day Fox announced Katie Pavlich's role in a new show on the network, Pavlich created a false narrative that former IRS official Lois Lerner reached out to the Department of Justice about possible criminal prosecutions for tax-exempt groups. Fox went on to promote the story in several segments and continued to push it even after Pavlich corrected her initial report.
On April 16, Fox News announced it would launch a new show called Outnumbered to air on weekdays at noon. Fox contributor Katie Pavlich will be part of a rotating group of panelists on the show. The same day, Pavlich wrote on TownHall.com that new emails released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Lerner reached out to officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to discuss the possibility of criminal prosecutions for tax-exempt groups who lied about political activity on their filings. Gretchen Carlson pushed the report on The Real Story, repeating the claim that Lerner contacted officials at the DOJ to ask about criminally prosecuting the groups.
But Pavlich's claim that Lerner contacted DOJ officials first is false -- the emails show that in fact the DOJ reached out to Lerner first with a phone call. Pavlich updated and corrected her post to reflect that fact:
Editors note/correction: A previous version of this post stated and implied Lois Lerner contacted the DOJ about criminal prosecution when the emails state she in fact got a phone call from DOJ about the issue. While she was clearly in contact with DOJ about criminal prosecution for tax exempt groups, DOJ initiated the contact in this specific instance. Emails also show Lerner and Flax responded to both recommendations by Senator Whitehouse and DOJ to look into criminal prosecution. The headline to this post has also been updated.