2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
Fox News repeatedly conflated the emergency contraceptive Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) with abortion while covering two Supreme Court cases brought by companies that object to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control coverage benefits. However, experts agree that the morning-after pill is not abortion -- it prevents pregnancy but cannot stop pregnancy after fertilization takes place.
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
Fox News highlighted a Republican senator's dismissal of a deal with Iran that stalls the country's nuclear enrichment capabilities to frame the agreement as nothing but a distraction from problems with the Affordable Care Act.
As The Washington Post reported, Iran and six major countries reached a "historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions." Conservative media have already compared the negotiations with Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the 1930s. Now, after Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted in reaction to the deal's announcement "[a]mazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care," Fox News is promoting Cornyn's take.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Childers said "the nuke deal has dominated political talk, which means focus has shifted away from Obamacare. This now sparking many to believe that it is yet another attempt to distract from the disastrous rollout and the looming deadline to get the site up and running at full speed." Reporter Peter Doocy highlighted Cornyn's tweet, saying he "looks at the whole announcement very suspiciously."
Later on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy also parroted the argument during an interview with White House deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken, saying that "some" were critical of the proposal and had suggested that the White House was "trying to change the subject," and shift the conversation away from health care. From Fox & Friends (emphasis added):
DOOCY: Right, Tony, some people are skeptical, a little critical. They're going, why now? Oh, maybe because so they're trying to change the subject, Obamacare not working out. President's approval at 38 percent. What do you say?
BLINKEN: Well, I don't do health care, but I think we can probably figure out a way to insure tens of millions of Americans and prevent Iran from getting the bomb at the same time. The fact of the matter is, this was growing urgent. Iran was advancing down all three lines of activity. We wanted to stop that. We wanted to stop the program, and we wanted to see if we could get a comprehensive deal that resolves this once and for all. That's exactly what we now have the opportunity to do.
Such a claim ignores the facts behind the deal. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Obama promised years ago to engage with Iran about its nuclear program, and months of meetings were conducted to pave the way for the deal, beginning in March -- well before HealthCare.gov launched on October 1. And the deal with Iran is not the first action by the administration or Congress that Fox has called a distraction from Obamacare.
Fox News highlighted a new law in Washington, D.C., that will allow the city's undocumented residents to obtain limited driver's licenses, airing segments that were laden with anti-immigrant language but little other information. The context missing from the Fox broadcasts is that nearly half of the country has enacted or is thinking of enacting similar laws, which law enforcement officials argue promote road safety and offer other benefits.
On November 18, Mayor Vincent Gray signed the measure passed by the D.C. Council, which will go into effect in May 2014. As The Washington Post reported, the licenses will be stamped as "not valid for official federal purposes," meaning undocumented immigrants will not be able to use them for federal identification purposes like entering federal buildings or for boarding planes.
In two segments on the law, Fox & Friends First co-host Heather Childers used inflammatory language to refer to undocumented immigrants, saying: "Illegal aliens living in Washington, D.C., will be able to get driver's licenses." She went on to note that the law will go into effect "unless Congress intervenes."
Childers repeated her report later during the show, as a graphic read: "Licenses For Illegals."
What Fox News ignored, however, is that these licenses are hardly uncommon and they provide real benefits to law enforcement.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, 11 states and Puerto Rico have passed measures that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. In Minnesota, a measure has passed one chamber of its legislature, and 10 other states have introduced similar proposals this session.
The right is selectively quoting an Inspector General (IG) report to accuse the State Department of ignoring the recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB). In fact, the IG report noted that the State Department is making progress implementing the ARB recommendations and praised its leadership as a model for future ARB responses.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney falsely claimed that policies outlined in President Obama's housing speech will inflate a new housing bubble by "coercing" private banks to provide low interest rates and easy money to unfit borrowers, ultimately setting the stage for another financial collapse.
On the August 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Varney argued that the president's call to wind down government involvement in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, perhaps dissolving the two mortgage giants altogether, was in fact a ploy to over-regulate private industry. According to Varney, Obama eventually planned to force other banks to lend to the "poor credit borrowers" currently served by Fannie and Freddie. Varney and Fox host Heather Childers agreed that it was a policy of lending to so-called "poor credit borrowers" that caused the financial collapse more than five years ago. They went on to state that the president's proposal would set the precedent for another crash.
Varney continued his attack on the president's housing initiatives on the August 7 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co. with senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano who agreed that the president "wants to transform them [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] ... into something more sinister" through federal regulation of the banking industry for his own political gain.
Fox is once again attacking the president for policies he does not actually support. Furthermore, they are once again blaming the financial collapse on bad borrowers who were extended loose credit through government regulation, even though economists conclude otherwise.
On August 6, President Obama spoke at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona, on the merits of "responsible homeownership." The president outlined a vision to build upon stable growth in the housing market without burdening American taxpayers with the failures of risky borrowers and lenders. From the speech:
We've got to give more hardworking Americans the chance to buy their first home. We have to help more responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages, because a lot of them still have a spread between the rates they're paying right now on their mortgage and what they could be getting if they were able to refinance.
And we've got to turn the page on this kind of bubble-and-bust mentality that helped to create this mess in the first place. We got to build a housing system that is durable and fair and rewards responsibility for generations to come. That's what we've got to do.
The president specified that his plan will not bail out risky lenders and borrowers at the expense of the public, and that it would take steps to curtail some of the rampant market speculation that helped drive the housing bubble before the 2008-09 crash. The president indicated support for winding down the two government-backed mortgage giants; meanwhile, legislation to gradually dissolve Fannie and Freddie over the course of five years is already proceeding through the House and Senate.
President Obama also outlined a multi-step program that would allow borrowers to refinance at today's low rates, make more credit available to well-qualified borrowers, rebuild hard hit communities, and ensure affordable rent to families who opt not to buy a home.
The president also commented on the prospect of immigration reform providing a boost to the housing industry. According to The New York Times, a study by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals estimates that the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill could generate up to $500 billion in mortgage lending to new citizens and documented legal residents.
Contrary to Varney's continued accusations, economists argue that loose private sector lending, rather than government-sponsored loans to "poor credit borrowers," precipitated the housing market's collapse. While Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did contribute to the market's overall instability, a Brookings report finds that "Fannie and Freddie did not catalyze the market for subprime MBS [Mortgage Backed Securities]; rather, they started to hold such mortgages in the pools they purchased, perhaps because of shareholder pressure or to regain market share."
According to Brookings senior fellow Alice Rivlin, it was the private sector's "extraordinary decline in lending standards" that caused the crisis, and GSEs do not deserve the blame. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that GSEs began buying junk bonds "late in the game" as a response to pressure from private market, citing a Moody's investor document. Data comparing GSE lending to the private sector indicates that GSEs took fewer risks than the private sector.
Fox News used a flawed study to falsely claim that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase health insurance market premiums by 88 percent in the state of Ohio, ignoring the counter effect of the premium tax credit subsidy and deceptively suggesting that premium increases will affect the state's entire population.
Fox News host Heather Childers failed to disclose her employer's financial ties to NASCAR and controversies over the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of a NASCAR race during an interview with NASCAR chairman Brian France.
On the April 15 edition of America Live, France responded to allegations made by driver Brad Keselowski that he was unfairly targeted by NASCAR officials because of incidents leading up to the April 14 NRA 500 race. After France denied Keselowski's allegations, Childers allowed him to talk about NASCAR's Going Green initiative.
Childers failed to mention, however, that Fox Sports -- like Fox News, a division of News Corp. -- has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASCAR to televise races. Last year, Fox and NASCAR extended their contract to 2022. Fox will pay NASCAR a total of $1.76 billion to NASCAR under the terms of the current contract, which expires in 2014, and will pay an additional $2.4 billion under the eight-year extension. France stated regarding the extension:
NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with Fox and Fox Sports Media Group.
Fox News misleadingly claimed the hamburger chain Five Guys planned to raise prices as a result of President Obama's health care law, though only one franchise owner has announced plans to raise prices at his eight restaurants and Five Guys has publicly stated he does not represent the company.
Fox & Friends First host Heather Childers claimed "Five Guys says it is going to have to raise prices on its famous food to cover the added cost" of the health care law. The following image aired during the segment:
The Washington Examiner reported an individual franchise holder, Mike Ruffer, planned to raise prices at his eight outlets in one North Carolina area in order to meet the requirement of the new law that all of his full-time employees have access to health insurance.
The Huffington Post contacted Five Guys about Ruffer's announcement and received a response from the restaurant chain's public relations director Molly Catalano that Ruffer is an independent business owner and "does not represent Five Guys on this or any other subject matter."
Fox News covered up President Obama's willingness to compromise in the ongoing deficit negotiations, suggesting that he has put "nothing on the table" with regard to spending cuts. In fact, Obama has offered a proposal to Congress that includes $400 billion in savings to social insurance programs.
From the April 8 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
Loading the player reg...
UPDATE: In a statement to Mediaite, Fox News senior vice president for news Michael Clemente said, "The tweets have been addressed with Heather and she understands this was a mistake."
Heather Childers, a "straight news" anchor for the Fox News weekend program America's News Headquarters and co-host of Fox & Friends First, tweeted this afternoon: "Thoughts? Did Obama Campaign Threaten Chelsea Clinton's Life 2 Keep Parents Silent?" and linked to a blog post pushing a conspiracy involving the Obama campaign murdering, or threatening to murder, individuals to keep quiet questions about Obama's eligibility.
From Childers' Twitter:
Childers tweeted a post from godfatherpolitics.com by "da Tagliare," who asks in the title, "Did Barack Obama Campaign Threaten Life of Chelsea Clinton to Keep Parents Silent on Obama's Ineligibility?" The post passes on suggestions from film producer Bettina Viviano about Obama associates threatening individuals to hide secrets about Obama's eligibility. The post also forwards suggestions that the Obama campaign was involved in the murder of former head of the Arkansas Democratic Party, Bill Gwatney; threatened President Clinton; and "told him that his daughter Chelsea would be next if he opened his mouth."
Godfatherpolitics.com has declared that President Obama's birth certificate is a "fraud." Recent posts on the subject include: "World Media Picking Up Obama Birth Certificate Fraud While America's Media Remains Silent"; "Mr. President - Put Up or Shut Up!"; and "Alabama Supreme Court Justice Says Barack Obama Birth Certificate Would Not Stand Up in Court."
In response to a critical tweet from Media Matters executive vice president Ari Rabin-Havt, Childers wrote: "I know Media Matters strives 2b FACTUALLY correct so attach the article plz. I was asking 4 opinion." She did not respond to an email asking why she thought the blog post was noteworthy, and whether she thought it made any valid points. When I tweeted to Childers that I sent her a request for comment via email, Childers replied with the same tweet she sent to Rabin-Havt.
Childers has since deleted her tweets responding to Media Matters staff. A screenshot of Childers' Twitter timeline, taken at 2:34pm E.T.:
From the November 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Loading the player reg...
The July 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom included a segment on recent recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that listed eight categories of women's health care, including contraceptives, that should be classified as preventive services and therefore available under the health care reform law without co-pays or cost-sharing.
Not surprisingly, Fox's Heather Childers framed the story as being about whether the government should be involved in women's reproductive health.
But the segment took a particularly vicious and personal tone when Fox News contributor and vice president of Family-PAC Federal, Sandy Rios, attacked IOM recommendation supporter Dr. Cathleen London, calling her "a disgrace to our gender."
Rios criticized London as "a true feminist who makes no sense" and continued to display her own anti-woman agenda by proposing to "let women stop having irresponsible sex. ... Let's stop making excuses and providing a way to get women out of trouble when they should be responsible in their behavior."
Childers also jumped in agreed with Rios that it's "not too much to ask for everyone to stop having irresponsible sex."