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 contributor Kirsten Powers attacked the new health care law for requiring all new insurance plans to cover essential services such as maternity care and mental health care, ignoring the fact that individuals with these conditions are often discriminated against in the insurance market and that requiring coverage for these services will help the economy and reduce economic insecurity.
On the November 12 edition of Special Report, Powers complained that under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance plans are now required to cover benefits such as maternity care and mental health care, despite the fact that an individual might not ever need to use these services:
POWERS: The idea that they think that 50-year-olds should have maternity care is very concerning to me. You know, people are being forced to pay for things that they will not use. It is not for them to tell people -- I don't need to be told I need to have mental health coverage. If I wanted it, I would have gotten it. And I think people are getting a little fed up, even Democrats, with this stuff.
In fact, without the ACA's requirement that essential health benefits be covered by new insurance plans sold on the exchanges, Powers may not have been able to get mental health coverage or maternity care if she wanted it. Individuals who needed those services before the law's passage were routinely discriminated against while trying to obtain necessary health insurance, by being required to pay significantly more for coverage, left unable to get a plan offering specific coverage, or rejected from health insurance all together.
As CNNMoney explained, previously insurance companies were able to keep costs down for many by offering plans without some essential benefits, like maternity care and mental health services, and cherry picking "among applicants to only pick the healthiest ones." The New York Times reported that in 2011, "62 percent of women in the United States covered by private plans that were not obtained through an employer lacked maternity coverage," and a Washington Post columnist explained that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 20 percent of people currently in the individual market have "no coverage for mental-health cases, including outpatient therapy visits and inpatient crisis intervention and stabilization." (Approximately 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health condition per year, and half of all Americans will experience one in their lifetime.) Many individual market insurance plans did not offer these services.
The entire concept behind the Affordable Care Act was to change this, ensuring that all Americans, regardless of their personal finances or current health states, could have access to quality, comprehensive health insurance that covered their needs. The law thus mandates ten essential health benefits -- including maternity care and some mental health services -- that all new insurance plans must include at minimum for every American.
Powers' argument also ignored that requiring insurance companies to cover these essential services in all health plans has significant economic benefits.
From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
Fox contributors Kirsten Powers and Monica Crowley mischaracterized a Texas bill that would have limited reproductive rights by downplaying the restrictive measures in the bill, which would have closed almost all abortion-providing facilities in Texas, and repeatedly invoking convicted criminal Kermit Gosnell.
On the June 26 edition of Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly hosted Monica Crowley and Kirsten Powers -- both Fox News contributors -- to discuss Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a measure that failed to pass after Texas Senate Democrats held a successful filibuster.
During the segment, Powers claimed that concerns from reproductive rights groups were exaggerated, adding: "I don't think that many clinics are going to close." Crowley agreed, saying reproductive health advocates "always try to go right to hyperbole -- that women are going to have to flee to Tijuana because they're not going to have access in Texas to abortion. It's all ridiculous."
Crowley went on to claim that restrictions in SB5 were "completely reasonable" and that they were "a direct response to the horrors of the Gosnell case." She also used the story to revive the disgusting and long-debunked myth that Obama voted as a state senator to support the killing of infants who were born alive.
Because of a restriction in SB5 that would, according to Bloomberg.com, "require abortions to be done in ambulatory surgical centers by doctors with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic," it's estimated that almost 90% of facilities that provide abortions in Texas -- the percent that do not currently meet that high threshold -- could be forced to close. The Washington Post explained how the bill would impact reproductive access by imposing requirements that only five existing centers would meet:
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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As police and federal officials hunt down the suspected Boston marathon bombers, USA Today contributor, Daily Beast columnist, and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers made this absolutely baffling assertion via Twitter: "Just b/c the bombing suspects were Muslim, that doesn't make it 'terrorism' any more than a crazy abortion clinic bomber is a terrorist."
The intent behind this tweet isn't immediately clear, but the message it conveys -- that an anti-abortion zealot who sets off a bomb inside of an abortion clinic is not a terrorist -- is absolutely false. The FBI treats attacks against abortion service providers as acts of terrorism and anti-abortion movements that resort to violence as terrorist groups.
Abortion clinic bombers are terrorists. This shouldn't need clarifying.
UPDATE: After the publication of this post, Powers tweeted the following about abortion clinic bombers:
Conservative media critics have been adamant this week in accusing news organizations of ignoring the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with killing seven babies and a mother. According to the grand jury report, Gosnell was running a "house of horrors" in which he performed illegal late-term abortions by delivering live babies who were then killed by his staff, all under unsafe conditions. Convinced the liberal media is censoring the story because of its alleged support for abortion, critics have been lamenting the lack of coverage and demanding the disturbing local trial be treated as big national news.
On Fox News' Special Report yesterday, contributor Jonah Goldberg complained that "the media is not covering" the story. Fox News employee Kirsten Powers penned a USA Today column criticizing the country's leading newspapers for not putting the Gosnell story on "the front page." (Powers singled out the New York Times and the Washington Post for allegedly downplaying the Philadelphia trial.)
And on Thursday, Rupert Murdoch's flagship American newspaper, The New York Post, weighed in with an unsigned editorial, "Dead Silence," which condemned the supposed "media blackout" surrounding the story.
Like most of the conservative attacks, the Post's editorial saw a clear case of media bias [emphasis added]:
The trial is receiving intensive coverage in Philadelphia and across the conservative press and Web sites. But national networks and newspapers? Not so much.
The reason seems obvious: Much of our press corps skews to one side on abortion. So even though what Gosnell is charged with is closer to infanticide - an unlicensed abortionist profiting mightily by killing the newborn babies of poor, minority women - somehow it's not news.
Isn't that a scandal, too?
Here's the thing: Up until Thursday's editorial condemning the so-called liberal media for not covering the Gosnell trial, the New York Post hadn't covered the Gosnell trial. Not only hadn't the Post put the story on its front page, where Powers demanded it belonged, but Murdoch's Post hadn't covered the story at all*. Meaning, the Post had been part of the media "silence" surrounding the story; the same silence the Post yesterday condemned.
Note that Murdoch's Wall Street Journal also has not covered the Gosnell trial, according a search of the paper's archives, via the Factiva database.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before Congress about the September 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Media Matters reviews the falsehoods conservative media have pushed regarding Clinton and her response to the attack.
The panelists on Fox News' media criticism show, Fox News Watch, had themselves a pity party over a recent study showing that Fox News was ranked ninth among all news outlets in the number of questions they got to ask at presidential news conferences in President Obama's first term. "Why does the president not like to call on us?" asked host Jon Scott. "Because he doesn't want to be embarrassed," was Fox contributor Kirsten Powers' response.
But did the president really unfairly shun the Murdoch network? Not particularly. In fact, there are a bunch of top-flight news outlets that should be jealous of the attention Fox received.
Let's look at this with a bit more perspective.
According to the study, Fox was called on 14 times in four years. That's more than The Washington Post (11), USA Today (9), The Wall Street Journal (8), McClatchy Newspapers (5), NPR (5), Politico (2), and Time (1). The network was only just behind CNN and The New York Times, both of which were called on 16 times. Fox News' 14 questions were nearly triple the combined total for Spanish-language news outlets Telemundo (3) and Univision (2).
So no, Fox's 14 questions were not the most of any news outlet, but they were more -- in some cases significantly more -- than many other large media organizations got to ask.
As for the idea that fear of "embarrassment" is why the president chose not to call on Fox as frequently as they would have liked over the past four years, it's possible that's true. Then again, it also might have had something to do with this. Or this. Or this. Or this...
Fox News figures have tried to use an investigative panel's recent report on the Benghazi attack to congratulate their network on its coverage of the attack. But the report actually debunks several incorrect and misleading narratives Fox pushed about Benghazi.
On December 18, the independent Accountability Review Board, which was set up by the State Department to investigate the Benghazi attack, released their findings in a report that "sharply criticized the State Department" for oversights that led to insufficient security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, as The New York Times reported.
During the December 19 broadcast of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Fox News contributor Sarah Palin for her thoughts on the report, and Palin answered, in part, "Kudos to Fox News for being the news outlet that stayed on top of this story. Americans deserve these answers." Van Susteren responded that she felt "some level of pride" for Fox's Benghazi coverage, because of "all the sort of heat we took from people, saying that it wasn't a story." She added, "[T]here's been a lot of resistance to my national security colleagues getting this information. So, I do take some pride with them."
Similarly, Fox contributor Kirsten Powers suggested on Special Report that the Benghazi report wasn't even necessary because of the program's coverage of the attack, saying, "Well, it's interesting that that report -- you could have known all that if you'd just watched this show. So, it's sort of funny that they had to do an investigation to figure all of that out."
In fact, the review board's report actually discredits Fox's coverage of the attack.
Fox News figures attacked President Obama's defense of Ambassador Susan Rice during a press conference, claiming his statement that critics of Rice "should go after me" was "absurd and chauvinistic." Fox has a history of attacking Obama and Rice, most recently by invoking Libya smears in order to derail Rice's potential nomination as secretary of state.
Fox News has seized on what it believes is a new angle to continue making an issue of the Obama administration's response to the Libya terrorist attack. Discussing President Obama's news conference on Wednesday, Fox treated Obama's statement that the White House chose Ambassador Susan Rice to discuss the attack publicly as new and "significant," claiming Obama's admission is "one of the most important parts" of what he said during his press conference.
It's unclear why Fox believes Obama's statement is significant considering Rice's position as a top official in the Obama administration.
In her capacity as one of the United States' top diplomats -- she was nominated by President Obama as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in January 2009 -- Rice is a member of the Obama administration whose job is to speak for the White House on government decisions and policy.
Not only that, but the White House's reasons for why it specifically asked Rice to discuss the situation in Benghazi publicly have been known for at least a month. The Washington Post reported on October 15: "The White House has said that it turned to Rice to make the administration's case on the Benghazi attack because it made sense to have a top diplomat speak to the loss of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens."
On September 16, five days after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Rice appeared on the Sunday talk shows to talk about what the administration knew about the attack. In the interviews, Rice made clear that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
OBAMA: [L]et me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace. As I've said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.
If Senator [John] McCain and Senator [Lindsay] Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.
Discussing his comments on Fox News' America Live, however, host Megyn Kelly and Fox contributor Kirsten Powers expressed surprise at Obama's statement that Rice's appearances on the Sunday talk shows were "at the request of the White House."
Powers claimed the admission was "probably one of the most important parts" of what Obama said, "which is admitting that the White House is the one who told her what to say and that this did come from the White House, which had been mostly been speculated upon."
Fox's Kirsten Powers dreamed up an alternate meaning for Vice President Joe Biden's statement that the White House didn't know about requests for additional security for the diplomatic compound in Benghazi. But a security adviser has confirmed that Biden's comments were accurate.
During the October 11 vice presidential debate, ABC's Martha Raddatz questioned Biden about requests for additional security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi prior to the September 11 attack. Biden told Raddatz, "We weren't told [the Benghazi consulate] wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again."
On today's edition of Fox's Happening Now, Powers said, purporting to know Biden's intended use of the word "we," "I guess the defense now is that the White House didn't know. But when Joe Biden says 'we' didn't know, he's saying the administration didn't know. And we know that that's false." Referring to an October 10 congressional hearing on the attack, Powers added, "We know that from the hearing."
But a deputy national security adviser had already confirmed Biden was correct. Foreign Policy's blog The Cable reached out to Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for communications, and reported that "Rhodes said that Biden speaks only for himself and the president" -- not for every administration official -- "and neither of them knew about the requests at the time."
Indeed, officials never testified that they made security requests directly to the White House, but said they contacted the State Department. Rhodes pointed out that this was "natural because the State Department is responsible for diplomatic security, not the White House."