A Fox News analyst invoked the discredited "death panels" myth to stoke fears that cancer clinics are turning away patients as a result of the 2010 health care reform law, even as those clinics say they are being forced to turn away patients because of automatic across-the-board budget cuts that took effect last month.
On April 3, Sarah Kliff of The Washington Post's WonkBlog reported that thousands of cancer patients will be turned away from clinics for chemotherapy treatment because of automatic cuts to Medicare:
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.
Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.
On April 5, Fox News analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the story and blamed not only sequestration, but President Obama's health care reform law, saying: "This is about people dying as a result of Obamacare and as a result of the sequester." Johnson then claimed that Medicare growth reduction, which is in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would lead to similar problems for Medicare patients. Later, Johnson used this situation to push the right-wing myths about "death panels" under the ACA.
Johnson's claim that the ACA resulted in cancer patients losing chemotherapy treatment is groundless. The Post's Kliff explained in her post how sequestration is solely responsible for this reduction in care:
Legislators meant to partially shield Medicare from the automatic budget cuts triggered by the sequester, limiting the program to a 2 percent reduction -- a fraction of the cuts seen by other federal programs.
But oncologists say the cut is unexpectedly damaging for cancer patients because of the way those treatments are covered.
Medications for seniors are usually covered under the optional Medicare Part D, which includes private insurance. But because cancer drugs must be administered by a physician, they are among a handful of pharmaceuticals paid for by Part B, which covers doctor visits and is subject to the sequester cut.
After promoting anecdotes from a firefighter to claim that polar bears are "doing just fine," Fox News has ignored new research that confirms they are still existentially threatened by climate change. This divide in coverage is illustrative of what University of Alberta scientist Dr. Ian Stirling called a "new element" of media -- "the deliberately misleading, and sometimes downright dishonest, treatment of the science around polar bears when it relates to climate warming." In conversations with Media Matters, Stirling and other leading polar bear scientists outlined eight tips for media outlets seeking to accurately cover the plight of the polar bears.
In February, Fox News repeatedly promoted a book by firefighter Zac Unger on his time in Churchill, Manitoba to claim that "the polar bears are doing just fine." Even though bears in that region are actually among the subpopulations in decline, Fox News suggested that the book undermined climate science. Dr. Andrew Derocher, a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International, called that premise "flawed" and told Media Matters that "scientific literature shows very clearly the loss of sea ice in the satellite record and the projections (many many scientific papers) show that the future will be particularly challenging for polar bears as the sea ice disappears." He added, "I've worked on polar bears for 30 years and the changes are incredibly easy to see but as scientists, we don't just look at bears, we measure them and analyze the data."
Stirling criticized Unger for "a very sad piece of deliberately misleading and dishonest writing" that "tells only parts of the story that suit him." Similarly, Derocher said it was "unfortunate" when "someone who clearly doesn't understand a subject well botches up the science." Furthermore, media should not rely on anecdotal information when there is "a lot of data" on sea ice and polar bear body condition. He added:
The book you mentioned was written by someone who spent a few months in 1 place with his family talking to people. What I did on my last trip to Kentucky doesn't qualify me to rewrite the history [of] the eastern US. I've worked on polar bears for 30 years. Many of my colleagues for even longer. You don't go to a plumber for heart surgery but when it comes to polar bears "everybody is an expert". In science, an expert has to demonstrate expertise. Hanging around in Churchill for a few months talking to the locals doesn't qualify as an expert. Our last paper on polar bears in Conservation Letters had something like 200 years of cumulative polar bear expertise. How it can be that media put the scientific perspective on par with a casual observer is beyond me.
In fact, some reports that rely on polar bear sightings to conclude they are doing "fine" may be unwittingly underscoring the urgency of sea ice melt. As lost habitat drives bears from their hunting grounds, they sometimes wander into towns and garbage dumps. This may lead to more contact with humans, and an overall impression that polar bears are abundant, even to the point of being a nuisance. In fact, as Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a former polar bear project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told Media Matters, a bear sighting in a new place "probably means the bears are having a hard time making a living where they used to make a living."
Unger promoted the popular media claim that polar bear populations have increased -- or are even "exploding" -- since the 1960s or 1970s, but those reports omit necessary context. Many of the starting-point estimates are based on a Russian calculation from the 1950s -- 5,000-8,000 bears -- that has never been broadly accepted by scientists. Amstrup told Media Matters that "we really don't know how many polar bears there were in the 60s [or 70s]" and it is "important to set the record straight." In 2008, Stirling told then-CNN Executive Producer for Science Peter Dykstra that the estimate was "almost certainly much too low."
In some places, thanks to conservation efforts like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and a subsequent international agreement, it does appear that polar bear populations have increased. According to Amstrup, Alaskan populations are a good example of such managed recovery. But in other areas, such as western Hudson Bay and the southern Beaufort Sea, populations are thought to be declining. And as Derocher pointed out, conservation biology is concerned with the future, normally examining issues three generations down the road. By this measure, polar bears are indeed in trouble, and looking back to the 1960s or 70s makes no sense:
What climate deniers like to pull out is that there are more polar bears now than in the 1960s. That doesn't matter and just because we've corrected excessive harvest rates (commercial hunting for example) in the 1960s doesn't make this argument any more relevant to the conservation of the species today moving forward in time.
Amstrup echoed this point, saying "the population on the Titanic was doing just fine until just before it slipped beneath the waves." Overall, the USGS has projected that changes in Arctic ice conditions could result in "loss of approximately 2/3 of the world's current polar bear population by the mid 21st century."
From the January 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
The right-wing media are claiming that the "liberal agenda" President Obama outlined in his second inaugural address is out of the mainstream, even though polling has shown that the majority of Americans agree with Obama's stances on marriage equality, sustainable energy, and other issues.
Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. falsely claimed that President Obama neglected to highlight economic problems such as poverty or joblessness in his second inaugural address.
Johnson appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss Obama's second inaugural address, calling it a "hard-left manifesto." But while he argued that Obama outlined "a very bizarre, disordered priority of what our national interests were," Johnson dishonestly criticized Obama for not addressing poverty, unemployment, and economic uncertainty.
In fact, the president did mention poverty, the insecurity that comes with job loss, and the economic fears many Americans share:
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. (Applause.) For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.
We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)
After President Obama announced an executive action clarifying that doctors are permitted -- but not required -- to discuss gun safety with patients, conservatives in the media trumpeted a number of falsehoods, including the baseless claim that Obama is requiring doctors to report all gun owners to law enforcement.
From the December 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
A Fox News contributor who network CEO Roger Ailes reportedly uses to communicate his views on-air suggested that he might support new gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre.
Peter Johnson, Jr., a Fox News legal analyst, said that "the government has the right to register and regulate... firearms" and suggested that we should consider restricting ownership of assault weapons in light of recent events during a monologue on the December 18 edition of Fox & Friends.
JOHNSON: People have the right under the Second Amendment to own firearms. The government has the right to register and regulate those firearms. At the same time we need to be thinking about where should we be allocating law enforcement resources. How can we better register?
Let's look at AK-47s and AR-15s. The numbers show that it's a small portion of the deaths and violence in America. But it's a high portion, it's a high proportion of these mass violence episodes. Let's look at everything in a dispassionate, smart, objective way that protects Americans and protects the Constitution both.
During the same segment, Johnson suggested that Americans should also examine the "entertainment industry" because of their support for "videos." The Washington Post has noted that data show no correlation between video game spending per capita and gun-related homicides.
Johnson's role at Fox is reportedly much greater than a typical contributor. In addition to his regular appearances on Fox & Friends, Johnson serves as Ailes' personal attorney, confers regularly with the Fox chief and is reportedly the outlet Ailes uses to channel his views on the network.
From the November 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News used the tragic story of a grieving father to continue smearing undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and attack the Obama administration's deportation policies. In fact, data shows that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated and do not commit crimes at higher rates than others. Moreover, the Obama administration's deportation of undocumented immigrants is at an all-time high.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Don Rosenberg to discuss the death of his son, Drew, who was killed in California when his motorcycle was hit by an unlicensed driver in 2010. As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders reported, Roberto Galo was charged in the incident for driving without a license and with felony negligent homicide for causing Drew's death. He is reportedly slated for release on Friday.
As Saunders noted, Rosenberg has called for Galo to be deported upon his release. However, Galo is "a legal immigrant with 'temporary protected status,'" which, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, means Galo cannot be deported under certain circumstances: Conditions in his home country temporarily prevent him from returning safely or his country is unable to adequately handle his return.
Galo is reportedly from Honduras, which affords its nationals and those without nationality who last resided in that country protected status in the United States until July 2013. However, those eligible under these conditions might forfeit protected status if they have been convicted of a felony or have committed two or more misdemeanors in the United States.
In introducing the segment, Doocy called Galo "an unlicensed illegal immigrant" while onscreen text repeatedly identified him as an "illegal immigrant."
Fox News website Fox Nation also highlighted the story, linking to Saunders' column with the headline, "Obama Won't Deport Illegal Alien Killer," even though she reported that Galo is in the country legally:
Fox appears poised to manufacture a scandal involving the New Black Panther Party appearing at a polling station in Philadelphia.
On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party appeared outside a polling station in Philadelphia, with one of them carrying a club. The Department of Justice (DOJ) under then-President George W. Bush brought a civil voter intimidation lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party and several of its members over the incident. After President Obama took office, the DOJ decided to pursue the case against the defendant carrying the club but dropped the lawsuit against the other defendants.
Fox and other right-wing media outlets obsessed about DOJ's decision to drop some of the claims, saying that DOJ was corrupt and refused to pursue charges against African Americans. The story never added up and was dismissed by a broad and bipartisan group of media and political figures.
Ultimately, DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility investigated the allegations against DOJ attorneys and determined that Justice Department attorneys "did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately, in the exercise of their supervisory duties in connection with the dismissal of the three defendants in the NBPP case." The investigation also found no evidence that decision-makers at DOJ "were influenced by the race of the defendants, or any considerations other than an assessment of the evidence and the applicable law."
But Fox appears ready to go through the same cycle again, highlighting a reported member of the New Black Panther Party who reportedly showed up outside the doors of a polling station and was shown on video opening a door for someone going inside. Co-host Steve Doocy stated that "the organization claims they are monitoring the 2012 election, but some critics say that it looks like intimidation like in 2008."
Fox invented a contradiction between a reported August 16 cable from State Department officials stating concerns about security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the Obama administration's statements that an anti-Islam video was a catalyst for the attack on the consulate.
Fox is reporting that it has exclusively obtained a classified cable from State Department officials on the ground in Libya to the office of the Secretary of State warning that the "Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi, and the consulate could not defend against a 'coordinated attack.' "
In a segment on the cable, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson asserted: "The big question still remaining for so many people is, who came up with the narrative about the video tape? Because it was pretty obvious that a month before there were security concerns with regard to possible terror. So who came up with the idea that floating the videotape idea would be enough to carry through the discussion quite possibly until after the election?"
But Fox's narrative is self-debunking. In addition to saying that officials had security concerns, the cable also reportedly said that officials had no information that militants in Benghazi "were targeting Americans."
Thus, the reported cable does nothing to contradict the administration's narrative that an anti-Islam video was a catalyst for the attack. Indeed, the people responsible for the attack reportedly said that they attacked the consulate because of the video.
Also, the report that there were growing security concerns in Benghazi, but no specific threats against the consulate is not news. For instance, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a September 27 briefing that there had been no specific, actionable threat in advance of the Sept. 11 consulate attack:
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: There was a thread of intelligence reporting that groups in the environment in western -- correction -- eastern Libya were seeking to coalesce, but there wasn't anything specific and certainly not a specific threat to the consulate that I'm aware of.
Nevertheless, Fox hyped the reported cable a "smoking gun."
From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
New York magazine is reporting that resident Fox News conspiracy theorist Peter Johnson Jr. acts as the on-air mouthpiece for Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.
Johnson is officially a legal analyst for Fox News and has appeared on the network at least 75 times* in the last six months. But rather than commenting on legal issues, he often uses his appearance on Fox to make bizarre attacks on President Obama and others.
In addition to appearing on Fox, Johnson serves as Ailes personal attorney, and New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that this election season, "when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air":
[I]f you want to know what Roger Ailes really thinks about the news these days, here's a tip: Pay close attention to Peter Johnson Jr., Fox News's legal analyst. The Columbia-educated lawyer is certainly not as familiar to most viewers as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, but inside the network, Johnson has become, in many respects, more influential, thanks to his ties to Ailes. To understand Fox right now, you have to understand the unique role Peter Johnson Jr. has come to play in Ailes's inner circle.
Consider this: Johnson is an on-air pundit, weighing in on topics as varied as Trayvon Martin, Occupy Wall Street, Obamacare, and Benghazi. He is a regular fill-in host on Fox & Friends. And he is Ailes's personal attorney who negotiated the network chief's new four-year contract with News Corp., said to be worth upward of $30 million a year. Fox executives frequently find Johnson conferring with Ailes privately. "He is a fixture in Ailes's office," one Fox source explained.
But Johnson's value to Ailes extends far beyond his work as a lawyer. This election season, when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air.
It makes one wonder if any of these comments by Johnson consisted of a message Ailes wanted to communicate:
* Text edited.