Fox News was quick to criticize President Obama for emphasizing how climate change is a core threat to national security, arguing the president should have focused instead on foreign terrorist organizations during his Coast Guard Academy commencement speech. In fact, the Coast Guard will be at the forefront of the nation's response to the significant challenges afoot due to the earth's changing climate.
Obama spoke at length about the national security threats presented by climate change during his May 20 commencement address at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. The president highlighted how "climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict" around the world, citing severe droughts in the Middle East and North Africa that have contributed to the rise of extremist groups, rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms sparking humanitarian crises, and the impact of Arctic sea ice reduction on international maritime rivalries.
Fox News roundly mocked the address, charging that Obama "seems to have utterly lost his way" on national security issues. Others disapproved of the Coast Guard Academy as the setting for his climate remarks, suggesting it reflected poorly on Obama's priorities and management of the resources of the U.S. military.
But the Coast Guard is perhaps the most appropriate of the five armed service branches to focus future planning efforts on combating the effects of a changing climate. As the president stated, "the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core" of the Coast Guard's mission.
The breakup of Arctic sea ice presents new challenges for the Coast Guard. Shortly before retiring from the service, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp discussed how climate change affects the Coast Guard's mission in an interview with Defense News:
Part of our maritime governance is to make sure that ships and cargo get safely in and out of our ports. So if the water rises, how does that affect our aid navigation system? How does that affect dredging with the Army Corps of Engineers? These are marine safety type issues.
In July 2014, Papp was appointed as U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic Region for the express purpose of advising American strategy with regard to climate change in the world's northern oceans.
Sea level rise, another direct result of climate change, is occurring faster than previously predicted and threatens low-lying areas of the United States and neighboring countries. According to the United Nations, sea level rise could be up to four times more pronounced in island nations, many of which dot the Caribbean Sea and are likely destinations for Coast Guard humanitarian relief operations.
Climate change exacerbates the impact of extreme weather events and has been shown to supercharge hurricane systems that target the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf coast every year. When these storms destroy communities and threaten American lives, the Coast Guard is among the first responders on-scene to rescue and care for stranded victims. The Coast Guard's "dangerous and exhausting" rescue missions proved to be a lonely silver lining during the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina.
Despite Fox News' protests, the Coast Guard is "on the front lines of climate change and national security."
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox's Martha MacCallum repeated the age old conservative adage that anti-poverty programs failed, despite evidence demonstrating that government programs aimed at reducing poverty have worked.
This week Georgetown University will host a "summit of Catholic, evangelical and other religious leaders" who are "coming together to make overcoming poverty a clear moral imperative and urgent national priority." The summit featured President Obama, who called out Fox News for it's "constant menu" of slanted poverty coverage that ignores "typical" stories like that of a waitress "who is raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can't pay the bills" in favor of coverage that suggests "the poor are sponges, leches, don't want to work, are lazy [and] are undeserving."
During the May 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said she hopes the summit leads to new ideas that decrease poverty, because statistics show that anti-poverty programs "have not worked." MacCallum cited the "record numbers of dollars" spent on welfare programs, claiming that "a lot of it gets wasted."
At least three government programs like Social Security, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicaid have been effective at combating poverty. Overall, the poverty rate has dropped from 19 percent in 1964 to 14.5 percent today. Moreover, without anti-poverty programs, the number of Americans living in poverty in 2012 would have been double its recorded rate, according to an analysis by Columbia University researchers.
Social Security, long hailed as one of the most successful anti-poverty government programs, ensures seniors have a cost of living adjusted stream of income. According to The New York Times Economix Blog, without Social Security, the official elderly poverty would stand at 44 percent as opposed to 9 percent with the program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty. Without Social Security, 22.2 million more Americans would be poor, according to the latest available Census data (for 2012). Although most of those whom Social Security keeps out of poverty are elderly, nearly a third are under age 65, including 1 million children ... Depending on their design, reductions in Social Security benefits could significantly increase poverty, particularly among the elderly.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP or food stamps) provides nutrition assistance to over 40 million Americans. According to a New York Times report, SNAP reduced the poverty rate by nearly eight percent in 2009, at the height of the Great Recession. A USDA study found "an average decline of 4.4 percent in the prevalence of poverty due to SNAP benefits, while the average decline in the depth and severity of poverty was 10.3 and 13.2 percent, respectively."
Medicaid ensures that over 66 million Americans have access to affordable healthcare and has "greatly reduced the number of Americans without health insurance." Expanded access to health insurance through Medicaid has effectively reduced the poverty rate. A 2014 study found that Medicaid decreased poverty rates "by 1.0 percent, 2.2 percent, and 0.7 percent among children, disabled adults, and the elderly." Recent expansions in the program have also led to a healthier society. As noted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Expansions of Medicaid eligibility for low-income children in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a 5.1 percent reduction in childhood deaths. Also, expansions of Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women led to an 8.5 percent reduction in infant mortality and a 7.8 percent reduction in the incidence of low birth weight.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration by reviving the false claim that in 2012 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began asking gun purchasers about their race and ethnicity on background check forms. In fact, ethnicity questions have been on the background check form for more than a decade.
On the April 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, guest host Martha MacCallum and Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano trumpeted the efforts of GOP lawmakers to stop the ATF from asking gun buyers about race. Napolitano argued, "I can only think that insisting upon knowing the race of the person, is perhaps so this Obama administration, so decidedly anti-gun, could say, oh by the way, such and such a percentage of whites buy -- and the amount of non-whites that buy is a smaller percentage, and we don't like that."
During the segment, an on-screen "Fox Facts" graphic wrongly claimed that ATF began "requiring gun buyers to answer questions about race & ethnicity on firearm applications" in 2012.
Contrary to the "Fox Facts" assertion, a question about race and ethnicity has been on the firearm background check form since at least 2001.
From the April 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox hosts falsely attacked the Obama administration for pledging to reduce its carbon emissions, claiming that the U.S. is the only country doing so and that the move will prove unpopular. But 32 other countries -- which account for 58 percent of global emissions -- have already committed to reducing carbon pollution in advance of international climate change negotiations that will occur in December, and both the Obama administration's plan for reducing emissions and its intention to sign a global climate agreement are supported by more than two-thirds of Americans.
Conservative media figures railed against a New York high school at which a student recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic for National Foreign Language Week, connecting the language with terrorism and demanding the Pledge be said in English.
Right-wing media are accusing President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of supposedly fostering a culture that led to the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri.
Right-wing media are scandalizing President Obama's refusal to conflate terrorism with all of Islam, attacking the president for not focusing on "Islamic extremism" in the three-day White House summit to combat violent extremism. But the conservative outrage ignores the fact that conflating terrorism with an entire religion would harm U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by alienating allied Muslim nations and play into the hands of terrorists who claim the U.S. is at war with Islam.
Fox host Martha MacCallum rehashed Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson's repeatedly debunked allegation that Hillary Clinton's State Department staff had "sifted through" and removed damaging Benghazi documents before turning them over to investigators, just days after a second witness has allegedly undermined Attkisson's report according to a letter from the ranking Democrat on The House Select Committee on Benghazi.
In a September 2014 report for The Daily Signal, Sharyl Attkisson baselessly claimed that Hillary Clinton's State Department staff scrubbed "damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya." Although Attkisson's report was denied by the State Department and relied solely on speculations from disgruntled former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell, Fox News quickly heralded it as a "bombshell" and "smoking gun."
A recently published November 2014 letter penned by the ranking Democrat on the House Benghazi Select Committee, Elijah Cummings, further undermined Attkisson's allegations, explaining that a second witness who Raymond Maxwell said could "corroborate his allegations" actually denied them, saying "he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department."
Despite the new developments, Fox News revived the discredited claim on the January 28 edition of America's Newsroom. Discussing the Benghazi Select Committee's third hearing, co-host Martha MacCallum attempted to assuage committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)'s claim that the Obama administration is withholding Benghazi documents, pointing to "the story a while back about documents being sifted through at the State Department over a weekend." MacCallum also went on to suggest "it could be that some of what you're looking for simply isn't around anymore."
Fox News is burying Republican policy positions that exacerbate income inequality in order to help the GOP rebrand itself as a party for the middle class. This effort follows years of Fox figures blasting Democratic policies designed to alleviate income inequality as "class warfare."
Fox News personalities attacked President Obama for not using the words "Islamic" or "Islam" to describe terrorism in his 2015 State of the Union address, but they ignored that the official GOP response, delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), didn't mention Islam either.
Fox News misleadingly asked whether President Obama's new tax initiative which proposes to cut taxes on the middle class was "raising your taxes?" In reality, Obama's plan lowers middle class taxes and is funded by closing tax loopholes and increasing capital gain taxes on the top one percent of earners.
Fox News celebrated Duke University's decision to cancel planned weekly broadcasts of Muslim calls to prayer from the campus chapel, crediting viewers and outraged citizens' public outcry over the "unequal treatment" being given to Islam relative to Christianity for the university's reversal. But Fox reports glossed over the real reason behind Duke's move: security threats stemming from an anti-Islam backlash to the plan.
Duke University abandoned plans to allow Islamic students to broadcast a weekly call to prayer from the university chapel after receiving a "credible and serious security threat," according to a university spokesman. Raleigh's WRAL noted that the initial decision to allow the three-minute long calls to prayer "caused a national furor," citing a Facebook post by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, in which he attacked Duke's decision because "followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn't submit to their Sharia Islamic law."
Fox News, which also responded to the initial announcement with outrage, celebrated the university's reversal. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy validated the public outcry, saying "There is no amplified Christian message ... It just seemed like they were including the Muslim faith, but they were excluding all the others." He attributed Duke's reversal to viewers contacting the university: "A lot of you made your opinion known, a lot of people contacted Duke, and they have done a 180."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade consoled Duke's Muslim community by saying, "If you do want to pray at the right time, you can get a watch."
Doocy briefly acknowledged that a security threat played into the university's decision, but glossed over its impact or the nature of the threat. Later, a news report on Fox's America's Newsroom ignored the security threat entirely, as host Martha MacCallum quipped, "Community outcry prompted this change ... They got some word from donors as well, from what I hear. That helped them expedite that decision."
While Fox celebrated the successful outcry, Omid Safi, director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center, told The Atlantic that there were "numerous verified instances of credible threats" against members of the university community:
"My disappointment is primarily directed toward people who find it acceptable to have recourse to violence, even the threat of violence, to make the point they want to make--particularly if they see these threats as being substantiated by their own religious conviction," Safi said. "We all know about the Muslim community having our crazies, but it seems like we don't have a monopoly on it."
These threats follow weeks of ramped up Islamophobic vitriol on Fox News and right-wing media as a whole, in which conservatives have largely abandoned even the appearance of tolerance after attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. One Fox host brazenly confessed, "I'm an Islamophobe ... You can call me it all you want. "He was joined by a carousel of extreme voices pushing myths about the dangers of the Muslim community.
Fox News diminished the importance of paid sick and parental leave for working families and other employees as unnecessary "giveaways," ignoring the fact that paid sick leave policies have proven to save the economy billions of dollars annually, improve businesses, and predominately help low-income workers and women.
On January 15, President Obama launched an initiative to urge federal agencies and private-sector businesses to provide paid sick and family leave to working parents and other employees. And as The New York Times reported, pushed Congress to pass measures that will "let workers earn up to a week of paid sick time a year," provide federal workers "an additional six weeks of paid parental leave," and "encourage states to create paid family and medical leave programs." As The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted, "The U.S. remains the world's only wealthy nation that does not mandate a minimum of paid sick leave, vacation leave or parental leave."
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Stuart Varney dismissed the initiatives as a "giveaway" and a political ploy aimed at making Republicans "look bad." Host Martha MacCallum flippantly diminished the importance of paid sick leave for working families and other employees saying, "What happened to, if you are really sick and you really can't come to work you don't come to work, and then if you are not really sick then you don't get any sick days?":
But Fox's dismissal ignores the fact that paid sick days have been shown to save the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, "Paid sick days help to decrease the productivity lost when employees work sick... which is estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion annually." Paid sick leave also contributes to workplace stability by removing the cost of replacing workers and the risk of infecting other workers.
Additionally, The Center for Economic Policy Research found that Connecticut's paid sick leave law had a negligible financial impact on the businesses that had to change their policies to comply with the law. Furthermore, these businesses reported minimal abuse of sick leave policies and a host of benefits:
The largest increases in paid sick leave coverage after the law went into effect were in health, education and social services; hospitality; and retail. Part-time workers, rarely covered before the law took effect, benefited disproportionately from its passage. Few employers reported abuse of the new law, and many noted positive benefits such as improved morale and reductions in the spread of illness in the workplace.
And paid sick leave policies predominately help low-income workers and women. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog pointed out, low-income workers are four times less likely to get paid sick leave than the top 10 percent of private sector wage earners. And a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to need paid sick leave to care for their sick children, and the poorest moms have the fewest benefits with "only 36 percent of moms below 200 percent of the federal poverty level" having paid sick leave.