In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
From the April 13 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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From the April 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the April 11 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the April 11 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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The desert tortoise has become a symbolic scapegoat for right-wing media figures running defense for an anti-government cattle rancher who's threatening to wage a range war against federal law enforcement officers.
Conflict has erupted in Nevada between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the family and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy, a man who has refused multiple court orders to remove his cattle from public land. Bundy has stated that he does not recognize federal law and in fact argued in court in 1998 that the United States government didn't own the land in question (he lost). Now BLM officers and contract cowboys have begun confiscating Bundy's herd. And the scofflaw rancher has emerged as a right-wing folk hero after repeatedly stating that he owns firearms and is willing to "do whatever it takes to gain our liberty and freedom back."
At the center of the controversy -- according to right-wing media figures -- is the formerly endangered (and still threatened) desert tortoise. When Bundy's grazing rights were modified by BLM in 1993, it was in part to protect the species, which inhabits the same publicly-owned desert areas trodden by Bundy's cattle and was at the time on the brink of extinction.
That's where the connection to the tortoise ends, however. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay grazing fees required by the new rules. This led to an escalating series of reprisals from the judicial system that culminated in an order to confiscate Bundy's cattle in order to repay $1 million in fines and fees that over 20 years later remained unpaid. The current enforcement has less to do with protecting the tortoise, and more to do with Bundy's refusal to comply with the law or recognize the legitimacy of the federal government.
Nevertheless, right-wing supporters of Bundy's stand have tried to pin the conflict on the tortoise and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is being depicted in negative terms ranging from being dismissed as irrelevant and economically harmful to becoming the basis for conspiracy theories about unlawful land grabs by Big Government.
On Fox, the situation afforded the network the opportunity to perpetuate the conservative narrative that the ESA unjustly puts the rights of wildlife above the rights of people. One host declared, "We're not anti-turtle, but we are pro-logic and tradition." His co-host sarcastically (and inaccurately) described the government's position as "get the cows off so they can have the desert tortoise live there in peace."
David Blackmon, a Forbes contributor, penned a piece titled, "Using Snipers To Protect A Tortoise." (It's since been taken down, but cached here). In it, Blackmon argued that protecting the desert tortoise was merely a pretext being used by the government "with the clear expectation of running the Bundys off the land entirely."
As evidence that the protection of the tortoise is a scam, some in conservative media have pointed to the Bureau of Land Management itself, claiming it's been euthanizing tortoises and/or "planting" them in the desert in order to make a case that they're endangered.
In fact, a BLM tortoise conservancy in Nevada was forced to shut down due to budget cuts. Prior to its closure, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center had to make the difficult decision to put down the tortoises that carried disease or were too feeble to survive on their own. The others were released back into the wild.
But despite how real the concerns about the future of desert tortoise may be, the reality is that the right-wing media is simply providing cover to a rancher who refuses to obey the law.
Conservative media have rallied behind Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a political activist known for her toxic anti-Islam rhetoric after Brandeis University cancelled plans to grant her an honorary degree. Right-wing media have painted Hirsi Ali as a champion for women's rights, but instead appear to use her views on gender as a rhetorical gateway to attack the religion of Islam and highlight Hirsi Ali's view that Islam is a religion of violence and a "cult of death."
On April 8, Brandeis University announced that it would reverse course in awarding an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) known for her critical views of Islam. The New York Times reported that while Brandeis has invited Hirsi Ali to speak, it could not "overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with" its values, labeling her past statements as the reason it revoked the degree.
Since the announcement, conservative media figures have rushed to defend Hirsi Ali, some using her life experience to explain away her Islamophobic comments. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called the move an "example of a war on women" and argued that the university had "caved to Muslim thugs." Fox News' Sean Hannity said the university's decision was an "example of left-wing appeasement." On April 10, Fox contributor Monica Crowley asked, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Where are people who, like Ali, have left the faith and are willing to courageously speak about it? And yet when somebody does show the guts and gets out there to do it, this is how they're treated?"
But Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam -- once referring to the religion as "a destructive nihilistic cult of death" in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also "advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that 'violence is inherent in Islam' and that 'Islam is the new fascism'." In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.
Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not "associating Islam with extremism." In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam "is at war with America" and wrote that Western civilization "needs to be actively defended" against Islam.
Although Hirsi Ali has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights, her narrative that violence and misogyny are inherent to the religion of Islam is problematic, but it is also what has recently propelled her into the conservative media spotlight. Right-wing outlets such as Fox have been notorious for amplifying Islamophobic voices in an effort to spread fear that Muslims are 'taking over,' while pushing the idea that Islam is adverse to Western values.
Conservative media have greatly enabled anti-Islam propaganda, and have had a significant role in propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion and is therefore something the United States must fight against. On April 9, Fox host Andrea Tantaros exemplified this when she defended Hirsi Ali by arguing "we are" at war with radical Islam because "they are going to kill us, as the Qur'an states according to Bernard Lewis and many other scholars, they're going to kill us, Sean, until we are all Muslims or ruled by Muslims."
Fox and other conservative voices such as Pamela Geller, Zuhdi Jasser, and the National Review use figures like Hirsi Ali to boost their own anti-Islamic positions as legitimate, giving them cover to continue spreading anti-Muslim hate. Conservative media's rush to uphold Hirsi Ali's story is therefore much more a defense of their own Islamophobic narratives than of Hirsi Ali herself.
Violence against women in any form is a serious issue in many societies, and to limit the discussion by portraying it as a problem specific to the Muslim community, while dehumanizing an entire faith, is irresponsible, inimical to the cause of women's rights, and it is Islamophobic.
As Evelyn Alsultany, author of Arabs And Muslims in the Media and associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Media Matters, Hirsi Ali "has not promoted any kind of true understanding of Islam, but has provided justification for the public and the government to perpetuate racism." Alsultanty explains further:
While she has brought attention to oppression that some Muslim women face, she has done so by simplistically blaming Islam. As a result, she has powerfully contributed to naturalizing the idea that Islam in and of itself is the enemy of democracy and civilization. This idea has serious consequences. It has led to Muslims in the West facing a spectrum of experiences, from hostile questions about their faith to hate crimes. It has provided justification for the U.S. to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, that has negatively impacted the lives of Muslim women through war.
Communications director to the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ibrahim Hooper similarly pointed out that Hirsi Ali's rhetoric hijacks legitimate issues and "demonizes Islam." As Alsultany concludes, "we need to find a way to discuss a serious problem -- violence against women in a way that does not present the problem as exclusive to Muslim women."
Fox News attacked Denver public schools by claiming they were hiring "illegal alien" teachers who are unqualified to teach. But the teachers in question have legal status to work in the U.S., have an alternative license to teach from the state of Colorado, and are working toward being fully licensed.
Fox News continues to reverse the success of the federal clean energy loan program by cherry-picking from a small minority of failures, magnifying the trend of mainstream media distorting the program's success.
In an April 11 segment titled "Who's Ruining the Economy?" Fox & Friends denounced the Department of Energy's (DOE) low carbon vehicle program despite its success. Fox Business host Stuart Varney pointed to a few companies that received government assistance and later filed for bankruptcy, saying "they thought they could pick winners. They picked losers." He went on to decry the announcement that the DOE will revamp their advanced technology vehicles manufacturing (ATVM) program, saying "they're not reversing course at the sight of failure, they're actually speeding up down the same road":
Fox News' myopic view of the loan program is a lie by omission -- 98 percent of the funds in DOE's clean energy loan programs have been successful. Of the 31 ventures awarded DOE loans, only four have been discontinued -- a far greater success rate than that of venture capital investments, which typically consider three in ten successes to be a successful portfolio.
From the April 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media responded to news that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning by lobbing personal attacks against the secretary and demonizing health care reform.
Fox News minimized the influence of political spending by the Koch brothers in order to paint Democrats as hypocrites on the issue of campaign finance.
After championing the impact Koch ad money has had on shaping public opinion on Obamacare during the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway hid the influence Koch Industries' funding actually has on elections. McKelway cited an OpenSecrets.org list of the "top all-time donors," emphasizing that despite the $30 million spent on advertisements, the list ranks Koch Industries as only 59th out of 156 donors. In an attempt to attack Democrats as hypocrites for their criticisms of the Koch brothers' political spending, McKelway highlighted the fact that the top donor on Open Secret's list was ActBlue, a Democratic PAC:
Fox News baselessly claimed that the Obama administration plans to give up control of a key Internet administrator to the United Nations,ignoring Obama administration officials' repeated insistence that it will not let a governmental organization run the agency.
On the April 10 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett claimed that the Obama administration was to "give up" direct oversight of the Internet and "transfer control to an international body controlled by foreign governments." Guest Jordan Sekulow agreed, claiming that the Obama administration plans to cede control of the Internet to the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jarrett advanced Fox's previous distortion of the plan, falsely suggesting that nations like China and Russia may now be able to control the Internet and that the plan would lead to the U.N. taxing the Internet. Sekulow agreed, saying that the ITU "is run by dictators" and "authoritative regimes."
But there is no evidence to support Jarrett's claim that the U.S. intends to give control of ICANN, the agency that administers the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS), to the ITU. In a March 14 press release, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) announced it will proceed with a 1998 plan to transition U.S. control over ICANN to a multi-stakeholder body, explicitly stating that "NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution."
In his April 10 congressional testimony, Commerce Department assistant secretary Lawrence Strickling reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment that no government or inter-governmental body would control ICANN [emphasis added]:
STRICKLING: We need to ensure that the broad Internet community--companies, technical groups, civil society and governments--continue to work together as equal partners in crafting the rules of the road for the Internet through the multistakeholder model. Some authoritarian regimes however do not accept this model and seek to move Internet governance issues, including the DNS, into the United Nations system in order to exert influence and control over the Internet.
Some have argued that what NTIA is doing is tantamount to "giving away the Internet".That could not be further from the truth. There is no one party--government or industry,including the U.S. Government--that controls the Internet. The Internet is a decentralize dnetwork of networks. What we have in fact done, is demonstrate leadership and strategic vision by laying out a framework with clear conditions to finalize a process that has been ongoing for 16 years.
With the March 14 announcement, NTIA has taken the next step in the 16-year process to privatize the coordination and management of the DNS. ICANN last month began the process of convening stakeholders for the first of many public discussions on this topic. During this period, NTIA's role will remain unchanged. As we have said repeatedly, we will not accept a transition plan that would replace the NTIA role with one led by governments or an inter-governmental organizationand we have established a framework of four principles that the process must address. This must be a careful and thoughtful process. If a plan that meets these criteria cannot be implemented by September 30, 2015, we can extend the contract for up to four years.
Further, Internet experts have stated that the U.S. plan to relinquish control of ICANN actually weakens the power of the ITU. Politico quoted Nick Ashton-Hart, the Geneva representative for the Computer & Communications Industry Association and a former ICANN official, as saying that "If the U.S. was to try and maintain the master key, it would have been more likely to result in the fragmentation of the Internet," because other countries could claim a similar role. Politico also quoted Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) stating that if the federal government hadn't relinquished its oversight, the ITU could continue to argue that ICANN functioned as a pawn for the U.S. government.
Fox News hosted Washington Times staff writer Stephen Dinan to criticize the Obama administration on border enforcement, arguing that the 2 million immigrants deported by the Obama administration is "the wrong number" to use to judge whether the administration's enforcement policies have been successful because very few of those deported were longstanding undocumented immigrants. However, an immigration policy focused on apprehending and deporting undocumented immigrants who contribute daily to the U.S. economy and have longstanding ties to the country would cost billions of dollars and stifle economic growth in the United States.
On Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Dinan dismissed the Obama administration's deportations record, stating that removing "people who've just arrived through the border" as opposed to the "rank-and-file illegal immigrants who are living here, working here, holding jobs." Dinan added that these long-term immigrants are "the people that you want to go after in the interior."
DINAN: By my calculations, people -- of the 11 million people who are living and working in the U.S. as illegal immigrants in the last year or so, only about 1 percent of those were deported last year. So your chances of being deported under the Obama administration if you're actually inside the country are almost nil.
Right-wing media figures have repeatedly championed mass deportation as a policy worth pursuing to curb illegal immigration, even though such a policy has been criticized as untenable. Moreover, as studies show, an enforcement-only policy would result in substantial economic costs.
A 2010 study by the Center for American Progress (CAP) estimated that the United States would need to spend at least $285 billion over five years to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. That figure includes the cost of apprehending immigrants, detaining them for an average of 30 days, legally processing them, and transporting them back to their birth countries.
In these challenging economic times, spending a king's ransom to tackle a symptom of our immigration crisis without addressing g root causes would be a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Spending $285 billion would require $922 in new taxes for every man, woman, and child in this country. If this kind of money were raised, it could provide every public and private school student from prekindergarten to the 12th grade an extra $5,100 for their education. Or more frivolously, that $285 billion would pay for about 26,146 trips in the private space travel rocket, Falcon 1e.
Put another way, $285 billion is a little more than what the federal government spent to maintain the Medicaid health program in 2013.
However, that cost to the federal government would be compounded by the loss of economic activity generated by undocumented immigrants.
In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.
On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":
The NIPCC ["Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change"] report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")
Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers:
The evidence is clear and consistent: secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer in adults who don't smoke. EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk. Even though the lung cancer risk from secondhand smoke is relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk is often involuntary. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke varies tremendously among exposed individuals. For those who must live or work in close proximity to one or more smokers, the risk would certainly be greater than for those less exposed.
EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the U.S.; of these, the estimate is 800 from exposure to secondhand smoke at home and 2,200 from exposure in work or social situations.