Right-wing media outlets pushed the false claim that the Healthcare.gov website includes a language stating that consumers they have "no reasonable expectation of privacy," ignoring the fact that the phrase is part of standard website language and does not change current legal protections for health care information.
A Weekly Standard post by Jeryl Bier attacked the health care law's exchange website, claiming a statement in the "terms and conditions" page is "another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters." Bier's evidenced his claim by explaining, "Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov" is the phrase "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." The misleading claim was repeated by several right-wing media outlets including Fox Nation who posted the story under the headline "Hidden in ObamaCare Site: Applicants Surrender Right to Privacy" and NewsMax who claimed "Obamacare May Endanger Personal Data Security."
But the right-wing media's fearmongering about privacy concerns is unfounded. The Atlantic Wire pointed out that the phrase is part of standard legal language for similar "Terms and Conditions" pages and is only "hidden" because it was removed by developers, making the phrase not legally enforceable. The article adds that "[t]here are several ways in which" the analysis "is incorrect" (emphasis added):
Fox Nation is claiming that "Wind Turbines [are] Making Cape Codders Sick" based on an ABCNews.com article. But the story of a resident in that article illustrates that there is no demonstrated impact of wind turbines on health, while substantial evidence suggests that reported health effects are psychological rather than physical in origin.
ABC News' article began with the story of a resident of Falmouth, Massachusetts, who lived near a wind turbine: "Sue Hobart, a bridal florist from Massachusetts, couldn't understand why she suddenly developed headaches, ringing in her ears, insomnia and dizziness to the point of falling 'flat on my face' in the driveway." However, in an online interview with an anti-wind activist, Hobart admitted that she had suffered from ringing in her ears for "quite a while," but claimed it had gotten worse "since the turbines." Hobart, who has compared living near a wind turbine to being in the "line of fire" in a "war zone," attributed various other symptoms to "wind turbine syndrome" in that interview, saying she had "no appetite" in her home and was experiencing "just unrest -- just not being able to settle down -- not really feeling relaxed."
ABC News claimed that based on these self-reported symptoms, "a doctor at Harvard Medical School diagnosed Hobart with wind turbine syndrome, which is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." However, in an email to Media Matters, the doctor in question, Dr. Steven Rauch, clarified that there is "no way I can make a definite diagnosis of WTS [Wind Turbine Syndrome]":
Her symptoms were consistent with a diagnosis of WTS but there are no standard diagnostic criteria nor objective tests to confirm the diagnosis. There is no way I can make a definite diagnosis of WTS nor is there any way I can definitely exclude the diagnosis.
A 2011 literature review published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Journal stated that "[g]iven that annoyance appears to be more strongly related to visual cues and attitude than to noise itself, self reported health effects of people living near wind turbines are more likely attributed to physical manifestation from an annoyed state than from infrasound." That review also noted that infrasound is "ubiquitous" in the world, emitted from, among other things, air-conditioning units, cars, and even ocean waves.
A New York Magazine report explained there is significant evidence that "wind turbine syndrome" may be psychological in origin, even if, as with a placebo effect, residents experience real physical impacts:
Large-scale population surveys conducted by scientists in Sweden and the Netherlands have found that stress and sleep disturbances were more likely if the turbines were visible and less likely if the individuals benefitted economically from them. Other studies found that having a bad attitude about the turbines and subjective sensitivity to noise were more likely to lead to annoyance and negative health effects than actual exposure to audible sound or infrasound. (Back in 2007, three years before the Falmouth turbines were even built, a handful of residents expressed concern about the potential for illness after reading about symptoms online, and those health effects were even written up in the local newspaper.) And in recent lab tests, subjects who were told to expect side effects from infrasound ahead of time felt some of those symptoms even when they were exposed to sham infrasound.
Hobart is not alone in reporting health effects from the wind turbines. Other Falmouth residents have testified that "wind turbine syndrome" may be behind a wide variety of symptoms, including "eye discharge," "high blood pressure," "drinking," and "anger." But these residents are a minority. New York Magazine reported that "[o]f the nearly 200 or so households located within a half-mile of a turbine in Falmouth, only about 24 complain of symptoms."
Why would some residents complain of symptoms while many others do not if the origin is physical rather than related to a predisposition against the turbines? And why would those that have installed wind turbines on their property have lower rates of "wind turbine syndrome" than those farther away if it is not related to the revenue they're receiving?
In an online post Hobart said, "I am OVER with the peer review double-blind scientific bullshitometer they all hide behind." However, without double-blind studies, biases such as these can be introduced to studies on "wind turbine syndrome," severely undermining their findings.
For instance, it may be more than a coincidence that the pediatrician who coined the term "wind turbine syndrome" and promoted the stories of people such as Hobart, Dr. Nina Pierpont, is married to an anti-wind activist who compared the fight against the "wind bastards" to the Civil Rights movement:
As Rosa Parks did, when she sparked the Civil Rights movement: you need to refuse to give up your seat to the wind bastard on the bus.
Fox Nation promoted a story claiming that a transgender student was "harassing" female students in the school bathroom, citing wildly inaccurate reporting from a conservative Christian news site that has been debunked by the school's superintendent.
On October 14, Fox Nation touted an article by the Daily Mail which stated that a transgender student in at Colorado's Florence High School was "harassing female students in the girls room." According to the report:
A male student at Florence (CO) High School who claims to be transgendered has caused controversy by harassing female students in the girls room, but will not face any discipline - this despite vocal protests from the girls' parents.
According the school's superintendent, however, CBN's story is based on the complaint of a parent opposed to allowing transgender students to use appropriate bathroom facilities - not on any actual reported incidents of harassment. In an interview with The Transadvocate, Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti stated:
VENDETTI: Nothing has actually been verified with us. This is one parent basically bringing their viewpoint about this situation to the media because they weren't getting the responses that they hoped they would get from the district, from parents of students at the high school, or from the board and myself. So I think it's just an attempt to elevate the situation to a point where maybe some more attention can be drawn to that in the hope of having a different outcome. But to our knowledge and based on our investigation, none of those things have actually happened. We do have a transgender student at the high school and she has been using the women's restroom. There has not been a situation.
Vendetti's comments aren't surprising - fears about harassment or misbehavior in schools where transgender students are allowed to use appropriate school facilities have proven to be overblown.
But right-wing commentators, and especially Fox News personalities, have been desperate to promote the myth that equal treatment for transgender students will increase rates of sexual abuse in schools, even going so far as to cite their own alleged desires to harass women in restrooms. Citing a completely fabricated example of harassment as proof that their transphobic fears are justified is par for the course.
Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
From the September 7 edition of Fox News' Forbes on Fox:
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Fox News continued its smear campaign against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, by hyping an evidence-free claim that recipients are using the program to send food overseas.
A July 21 New York Post story claimed that low-income New Yorkers were using SNAP funds to purchase food to send overseas. The Post based its claims on anecdotes from unnamed sources at two New York supermarkets that "confirmed the practice," but failed to include specifics. The anonymous woman that the Post provided as its sole example of the practice was not a SNAP beneficiary:
Last week, a woman stuffed dozens of boxes of macaroni and evaporated milk into a barrel headed for her family in Kingston, Jamaica. She said she didn't have welfare benefits and bought the food herself.
"This is all worth more than $2,000," she said. "I've been shopping since last December. You can help somebody else, someone who doesn't live in this country."
A man helping her pack the barrel said: "We're poor here, and they're poor. But what we can get here is like luxury to them."
You're paying for food stamps for foreigners? The New York Post reports that welfare recipients in New York City are buying groceries and sending them in giant barrels to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The Agriculture Department won't investigate. That will be up to individual states. Thanks.
In a press briefing July 19, President Obama responded to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago...the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that - that doesn't go away." Right-wing media figures responded to the president's remarks with attacks.
Fox Nation highlighted a PJ Media post that suggested America may be "headed for a Tahrir Square of our own" under the headline "Is America In A Pre-Revolutionary State This July 4?"
Fox Nation republished July 2 article by Roger L. Simon of PJ Media article that described the Affordable Care Act as "the monster of all monsters" and called the IRS "a kind of post-modern American Gestapo."
The PJ Media article went on to ask if America and wondered if the United States is "headed for a Tahrir Square of our own with the attendant mammoth social turmoil, possibly even violence":
A Fox Nation headline mischaracterized President Obama's recent speech in Africa, falsely claiming that President Obama warned the continent of Africa about the United States.
Fox Nation highlighted a June 30 Washington Times article by claiming that Obama, in his speech, warned Africa to "Be Wary of [the] USA." Fox Nation included a portion of the Times article, which was titled "Obama to Africa: Be wary of foreign powers, even United States":
But the Fox Nation headline distorted what Obama was saying. In the speech, Obama emphasized the role that the U.S. would play in the future economic development of African nations, but also explained the importance of due diligence when considering foreign business opportunities, context that was included in the original article, but excluded by Fox Nation:
"When we look at what other countries are doing in Africa, I think our only advice is make sure it's a good deal for Africa," Mr. Obama told reporters in Johannesburg.
"If somebody says they want to come build something here, are they hiring African workers? If somebody says that they want to help you develop your natural resources, how much of the money is staying in Africa? ... Don't just assume that folks come here and they're automatically benefiting Africans. And that includes the United States. Ask questions in terms of what we do."
Right-wing media misleadingly hyped a congressional hearing to falsely claim that disability fraud is leading to increased claims and depleting the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. However, testimony from a Social Security Administration official at the hearing revealed that fraud is not a major problem in the disability program and demographic changes explain increased disability claims.
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama over the cost of his upcoming diplomatic trip to Africa, ignoring or dismissing the fact that the security measures that have driven the trip's budget are in line with those used by previous presidents on similar trips.
On June 13, The Washington Post reported on an internal document that detailed some of the security precautions being taken during President Obama's scheduled trip to Africa later this month, which will include the first lady, and will seek to forge stronger economic ties with African nations and address global health problems. According to the document, hundreds of Secret Service agents will be dispatched where the president and his family will be, a naval ship will be standing by for medical emergencies, and fighter aircraft will fly in 24-hours security shifts. The document "does not specify costs" for the trip, but the Post cited speculation from a source familiar with the trip that it "could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years."
The Post also stated that "the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past" and quoted Ben Rhodes, an Obama adviser on national security, who said that the security requirements "are Secret Service-driven." The story also mentioned that a safari was being considered during the trip but was canceled, and that previous presidents had made similar trips, with President Bush bringing his daughters along on one that included a safari:
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush's two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
But in their eagerness to criticize President Obama over the cost of the trip, right-wing media ignored or dismissed these facts. The Drudge Report only highlighted the speculation that the trip could cost $100 million and that the safari was canceled. A blog post from The Weekly Standard drew attention to the canceled safari without mentioning the African safari that Bush and his family went on.
Mark Levin, on the other hand, decided that these precedents were irrelevant when he attacked Obama on his radio show. Levin said that he'd "never seen a presidential family take so many trips" and that Obama "doesn't deny himself or his family a damn thing." Levin stated that Obama is "on welfare, presidential welfare" and that "Obama believes that this is his time to live like a king" and that "his wife is the imperial first lady." He concluded by dismissing the fact that previous presidents have made similar trips by claiming "this president's propaganda is different from other presidents, this president's Marxist class warfare is different than other presidents."
Fox Nation highlighted Levin's attack on Obama with the headline, "Levin slams Obama's $100 million Africa trip: He lives like a billionaire off you and me!"
Right-wing media have repeatedly used dishonest and misleading charts from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to decry spending on nutrition assistance and other programs for needy Americans.
Fox News, Fox Nation, and The Weekly Standard have, over the course of many months, taken charts from Sessions' staff depicting spending on food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and other spending on low-income Americans in grossly misleading ways with out-of-context numbers. On June 12, Fox & Friends First cited Sessions when airing a graphic showing spending on SNAP being more than five times greater than spending on veterans job training and education programs:
Similar charts appeared on Fox Nation and The Weekly Standard. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projection that is cited on the graph does not list any spending on veterans job training and education, so that number cannot be verified. But the White House projects that spending on this program will increase over the next five years, after it already grew dramatically after 2009 -- while spending on SNAP is projected to decrease over the same five-year period.
But it is ridiculous to compare a veterans education program -- which is limited to only military veterans and thus a very small segment of the population -- to SNAP, which is an income security program (indeed, it is listed as such in the CBO document) and is open to every American that meets eligibility requirements. And many veterans and their families are eligible for SNAP and active-duty service members and their families use the benefits. But if one was to look at income security spending for veterans, CBO projections show that more is actually spent on veterans -- a total of $801 billion on income security for veterans over 10 years, and a much larger amount than the veterans program highlighted by Sessions and the right-wing media.
During the segment, Fox Business' Diane Macedo noted that "the USDA also provides bonuses totaling about $50 million per year to states that meet high enrollment targets." These awards, which Sessions brought up on Fox News in June 2012, date back to the Bush administration, and have their origin in the 2002 farm bill.
Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin joined the chorus of right-wing voices fearmongering about health care officials, known as "navigators," which have been used by previous administrations to inform consumers about health care options.
In her syndicated column, Malkin attacked the health care navigators, people employed by the government to assist Americans in understanding their options under the health care reform law. Malkin claimed the navigators would be "yet another Obama threat to Americans' privacy," saying Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has a "sordid snooping history" and concluding "you can't trust sleazy Sebelius to navigate anything with her broken ethical compass." Malkin's column was highlighted by Fox Nation:
But the health care navigator program existed before President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Sara Rosenbaum, writing at the George Washington University's HealthReformGPS blog, pointed out that the program is modeled after the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which has been used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to inform Medicare beneficiaries about programs like prescription drug benefits and Medicaid Advantage programs. Health care expert Timothy Jost questioned the controversy over the program, writing:
The Affordable Care Act's navigator program was modeled after the successful State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) which has offered assistance to Medicare beneficiaries trying to figure out the complexities of Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan offerings. The original concept of the ACA navigator program was that exchanges would give grants to community and small business organizations to educate and provide unbiased information to individuals and small employers to help them navigate the new health insurance marketplace and enroll in health insurance plans. Navigators will be particularly helpful to millions of uninsured Americans who will be purchasing health insurance on their own for the first time and who will be eligible either for Medicaid or for premium assistance tax credits. Many of these consumers will be unfamiliar with health insurance or not literate in English.
In addition, according to proposed regulations and contrary to Malkin's privacy claims, the navigators will undergo training in order to guarantee personal information is kept confidential:
The Exchange regulations, at 45 CFR § 155.260(a), establish privacy and security standards for Exchanges, and § 155.260(b) provides that Exchanges must require Navigators and other non-Exchange entities to abide by the same or more stringent privacy and security standards as a condition of contract or agreement with such entities. Consistent with these requirements, we propose that the training for Navigators and non-Navigator assistance personnel must include training designed to ensure that they safeguard consumers' sensitive personal information including but not limited to health information, income and tax information, and Social Security number.
Malkin is not the first right-wing media figure to fearmonger about health care navigators. Rush Limbaugh claimed that navigators will register voters as Democrats and "smear Republicans," adding "it doesn't say that, I just know what this is." Fox News host Megyn Kelly claimed the program could "allow these jobs of the navigators to be filled by organizations with political agendas, including unions and community action groups."
David Martosko of the Daily Mail Online provided former Vice President Dick Cheney a platform to criticize the Obama administration's failure to anticipate the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, without noting that seven attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities occurred during the Bush administration.
In his article, Martosko quotes Cheney saying that the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks was "a failure of leadership" for not anticipating an attack on September 11, which Cheney said the Bush administration always expected following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Martosko's interview of Cheney was promoted by the Drudge Report, Fox Nation, and Breitbart.com.
But none of these outlets promoting Cheney's opinion noted that the U.S. suffered fatal attacks on embassies and consulates during the Bush administration. Between 2002 and 2008, seven attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates took place in Pakistan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Serbia, and Yemen.
Additionally, there have been many attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets -- including embassies -- for decades, and far more have occurred during previous administrations than under President Obama. Mother Jones put together the following graphic based on data from the State Department and the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism:
Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush's presidency, when there were many times more attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets than under Obama.
The right-wing media is promoting a study by the conservative policy group Heritage Foundation which claims immigration reform will cost $6.3 trillion dollars and damage the economy. This claim has been repeatedly debunked, even by conservatives, and is a revision of a 2007 study that utilized "fatally flawed" methodology.