At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
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 proposed that uninsured young adults should reject coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because they can gain it at any point after an accident to cover medical expenses -- irresponsible advice that could wreak havoc on millennials' financial futures.
Gretchen Carlson hosted Fox contributor Guy Benson on the October 11 edition of her new daytime program The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson to discuss whether young adults will sign up for health coverage on the exchanges. The two repeatedly suggested that "healthy" millennials may pay for coverage "they are not going to need," going so far as to suggest it would be more fiscally responsible for young adults to go uninsured until a major trauma occurs:
BENSON: If they say, 'forget it I'm going to wait, pay the relatively cheap tax and then if I get sick and if I get into an accident, then the insurers have to take me because I have a pre-existing condition,' it just makes more sense to do that --
CARLSON: You just brought it full circle for us.
BENSON: -- from a dollars and cents perspective. I'm not trying to make a political point there, I'm trying to make an economic point. And a lot of people are realizing that.
Benson's advice is not only wrong, it's dangerous.
While insurers are required to cover people with pre-existing health conditions under the ACA, coverage isn't available all the time. Those seeking insurance through the exchanges can sign up only during the open enrollment period, which starting next year will run from approximately October 15 -- December 7 annually. Exceptions are made for qualifying life events like marriage or birth of child -- not for sudden illnesses or accidents.
Young adults who opt out of coverage will be responsible for the full costs of these events. And when the average hospital stay or treatment for a broken leg is approximately $10,000 without insurance, footing the bill would likely be unaffordable.
It's not just Fox doling out this irresponsible advice to millennials -- conservative activist groups with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers have been running ads to scare young adults away from gaining coverage. At the same time, Fox has actively avoided acknowledging that many young adults are in fact eager to buy health insurance under new ACA provisions.
Conservative media are selectively and deceptively quoting from an exchange between CNN's Dana Bash Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to make it appear as if he dismissed the plight of cancer-stricken children being denied access to clinical trials due to the shutdown of the federal government. In fact, Reid said that legislators should fully fund the government, rather than force different groups to fight over funding.
Specifically, conservatives are claiming that Reid replied to a reporter's question, "If you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you?" by saying "why would we want to do that?" In fact, Reid was responding to Sen. Chuck Schumer, who had interjected, saying "why pit one against the other?"
On October 1, the federal government was shut down after conservative Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless that funding was tied to the defunding or delay of Obamacare. As part of an effort to avoid political damage from that unpopular decision, House Republicans have called for piecemeal bills that would fund some parts of the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health and national parks.
Eugene Robinson's Friday Washington Post column that throws buckets of cold water on the Benghazi "cover-up" is well worth a read, but it touches only briefly on one aspect of the Benghazi story that emerged this week that merits further exploration: the degree to which "whistleblower" Gregory Hicks was "muzzled."
Since testifying at the House Oversight Committee hearing on May 8, a media narrative has emerged that Hicks, after speaking to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in Libya following the attacks, faced intimidation at the hands of the State Department, beginning with a phone call from Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Depending on which conservative media figure is talking, Mills is said to have "excoriated," "reprimanded," "punished," and even "demoted" Hicks right then and there. Going by Hicks' own testimony, none of that is true.
To recap: following the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Rep. Chaffetz traveled to Libya to interview witnesses and survivors. Hicks, who had become chief of mission following the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, was one of the people Chaffetz sought to interview. Right-wingers like Guy Benson, writing at Townhall.com, have alleged "US Ambassador Chris Stevens' second in command, Gregory Hicks, was instructed not to speak with a Congressional investigator by Sec. Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills."
This is not true. Hicks testified that the State Department had instructed him not to speak to Chaffetz without a State attorney present -- a condition Hicks says was unusual, but which the State Department says is standard procedure. In any event, Hicks ended up speaking to Chaffetz without the attorney present because, according to his testimony, the lawyer lacked the proper security clearance. Also, Hicks testified that he spoke with Mills only after speaking with Chaffetz.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto and his guest hyped Mitt Romney's claim that he "paid [a] 20 percent effective tax rate" based on the release of some of his tax information last week. But the rate released by Romney is a misleading calculation which tax experts have noted can "distort the rate you've paid."
On Your World, host Neil Cavuto and Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson promoted the summary released by the Romney campaign claiming that Romney has paid an average effective tax rate of 20.2 percent over the past 20 years. Benson claimed Romney's tax summary "totally blows up a bunch of Obama ads that said, 'Look, Mitt Romney pays lower tax rates than you do.' Actually, the effective tax rate he's been paying over the last 20 years is almost double that."
But Benson and Cavuto failed to note that the rate released by Romney is a simple average -- or the average of all the tax rates he has paid over that 20-year period -- and not a weighted average, which calculates the rate based on the total amount he paid and his total income over that time.
The distinction is significant, as the simple average released by Romney can be misleading. Following the release, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent pointed out that the way the Romney campaign calculated the tax rate "obscures the fact that income may have fluctuated quite markedly from year to year." Sargent quoted Tax Policy Center senior fellow Roberton Williams, who explained why the simple average is misleading:
"Let's say you have 10 years in which you paid 13 percent in taxes, and 10 years in which you paid 27 percent," Williams told me. "If you average those rates, you'll get an overall rate of 20 percent. But if the 13 percent years were high income years, and the 27 percent years were low income years, then his total taxes paid as a share of total income over the 20 years would be less, perhaps significantly less, than 20 percent.
"You can be a person like Romney and have a highly fluctuating income year to year," Williams said. "Some years Romney's income could be much lower than in other years. When you average just the rates, you can distort the rate you've paid relative to your income over the whole period."
During a live analysis of Romney's release, The Wall Street Journal's Liam Denning pointed out that a "weighted average would give a more accurate picture," but "that is a step Mr. Romney has said he won't take":
We checked with the Romney campaign and the 20-year tax-rate average is a simple one (i.e., the average of the percentage in each year) rather than a weighted one (i.e., where you add up all the tax paid across the 20 years and divide it by all the income).
It's a potentially important difference because the simple average treats each year equally -- whether Romney earned, say, $5 million in that year or $30 million. It is especially important if Romney paid a low tax rate in a year in which he earned a lot but paid a high tax rate in years when he earned less. The weighted average would give a more accurate picture.
Of course, releasing the actual underlying year-by-year data would clear up any confusion -- but that is a step Mr. Romney has said he won't take.
Fox News figures have routinely invoked Ronald Reagan while discussing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan. Most recently, Fox compared Ryan to the former president by splicing together their quotes and saying that Ryan and Reagan are physically and ideologically similar.
Fox News likes to promote the idea that President Obama is trying to buy votes through welfare benefits. Fox is now taking it a step further by explicitly pushing the claim that people who receive government benefits are the base of the Democratic Party.
On Your World, Townhall's Guy Benson discussed an effort in Massachusetts to send voter registration forms to people who receive government benefits, which the state is required to do as part of a legal settlement. Benson said, "If I were a lefty or a liberal, I'd want the same thing. Get the natural base of the Democrat Party, people who are reliant on government, get them out to the polls."
On Hannity, The Washington Times' Kerry Picket echoed Benson, claiming that the Massachusetts program was being used "to actually get the Democratic base vote out."
On The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly echoed a similar theme. Discussing a Fox News poll showing Obama favored by 49 percent of respondents, O'Reilly said that "included in that 49 percent have to be everybody getting welfare payments, because Romney's saying he's going to do away with all that."
But wasn't Ann Coulter saying just the other day that the Democratic base was "stupid single women"?
From the October 22 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money with Eric Bolling:
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