Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Fox News fearmongered about the costs of proposed federal food safety regulations without informing viewers that foodborne illnesses sicken millions of Americans annually and lead to the deaths of 3,000 people per year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed two food safety regulations -- not yet finalized and still subject to public input -- which, among other safeguards, would require "science- and risk-based standards at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities."
On the April 2 edition of Happening Now, Fox News host Jon Scott and correspondent Shannon Bream reported in detail what one conservative policy group estimated the rules, if adopted, would cost the agriculture industry. While the Fox figures paid brief lip service to the issue of public health -- Bream said that "it's a worthy goal, of course, keeping the food supply safe" -- they omitted any other discussion of consumer safety and the problem of foodborne illness outbreaks.
Specifically, Scott and Bream failed to inform viewers that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year, and contaminated food is responsible for 3,000 deaths annually.
While Bream cited "critics" who claim the new regulations "may be completely unnecessary," a rash of E. coli, salmonella and listeria outbreaks made national headlines in 2012 as the proposed rules were being crafted. Here are a few food safety stories Fox News ignored while questioning the need for stronger food safety rules:
Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.
Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.
While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."
Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.
The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.
Video by Alan Pyke.
Fox News guest host Shannon Bream pushed the absurd notion that the fraud rate in federal disability benefits is 100 percent, claiming that 8.8 million people in the United States are collecting disability benefits "under false pretenses." In fact, 8.8 million is the total number of workers who received Social Security Disability Benefits in 2012.
Previewing an America Live segment on disability benefits fraud, Bream claimed, "There are reportedly 8.8 million people in the U.S. collecting disability benefits under false pretenses."
In fact, the total number of workers who received disability benefits in 2012 was 8.8 million. Claiming that 8.8 million people fraudulently received disability benefits is tantamount to claiming that every disability payment to a worker in 2012 was fraudulent.
In a report published in March 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that improper payments of disability benefits are not a widespread problem. GAO noted that "[f]ederal agencies reported improper payment estimates totaling $115.3 billion in fiscal year 2011, a decrease of $5.3 billion from the revised prior year reported estimate of $120.6 billion. Based on the agencies' estimates, OMB estimated that improper payments comprised about 4.7 percent of the $2.5 trillion in fiscal year 2011 total spending for the agencies' related programs." Of that $115.3 billion, Medicaid payments accounted for $21.9 billion, Supplemental Security Income payments accounted for $4.6 billion, and Disability Insurance payments accounted for $4.5 billion.
Moreover, eligibility criteria for disability benefits are stringent, and more than half of all disability claims are denied. According to data from the Social Security Administration, only 34.8 percent of applicants were successfully awarded disability benefits in 2010, down from 56.1 percent a decade earlier.
Fox News relied on dubious arguments from a conservative group with a history of ethical problems to cast doubt on how the Obama administration is implementing government regulations related to the health care reform law.
In a segment titled "Regulation Nation," anchor Jenna Lee claimed that the health care law's new regulations are on the "fast track" because the public hasn't been afforded enough time to offer input on them before their passage. Correspondent Shannon Bream added that this was in contrast to a 1993 executive order from former President Clinton, which required a minimum of 60 days for comment.
Bream based her reporting on the work of right-wing group Americans for Limited Government, which has a history of ethical problems that include fraud and financial disclosure issues. The group has also been accused of engaging in character attacks.
In fact, the Obama administration has complied with regulatory rules. Moreover, despite Bream's assertion that comment periods should last at least 60 days, there is no required minimum period.
Federal Register guidelines state that "in general, agencies will specify a comment period ranging from 30 to 60 days," but they may also use shorter periods "when that can be justified." Clinton's 1993 executive order recommended that a comment period last at least 60 days "in most cases."
An executive order President Obama signed in January 2011 improving regulation and regulatory review reaffirmed Clinton's order, reading:
To the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days.
Bream ended the segment by claiming that "there have been nearly 6,000 federal regulations proposed just in the last 90 days."
According to the government's regulation website, regulations.gov, there have been 5,803 new postings in the last 90 days. However, more than 4,000 of those are "notices," which include updates to previous regulations, scheduled hearings, grant applications, and meeting announcements. Less than 1,500 are listed as new regulations and rules.
Fox previously used the term "Regulation Nation" to launch a weeklong attack on federal regulations just as the Republican Party announced its push for repealing regulations. Fox also has a history of attacking health care reform.
Fox News' Special Report falsely suggested that the recent growth of the food stamp program was due to President Obama's 2009 economic stimulus, asserting that the bill "eviscerated" work requirements for food stamps. In fact, most of the growth in the program was due to economic factors, primarily the recession, and 46 states had received work requirement waivers before Obama took office.
Fox News is suggesting that the Environmental Protection Agency is targeting the logging industry, citing water runoff standards as an instance of "overregulation." But the EPA actually exempted the industry from the standards in question and is siding with them in a Supreme Court case on the matter.
On Monday's edition of Fox News' evening news show Special Report, reporter Shannon Bream claimed that the Obama administration has recently proposed "6,000 new regulations," and suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency was adding to this "overregulation" with standards for water runoff from logging roads:
But Fox got it backwards -- the EPA is actually "backing Oregon and the timber industry," according to CNN. A 2010 Circuit Court of Appeals decision ruled that rain runoff from roads used for logging required permits under the Clean Water Act as this runoff can be deadly to downstream wildlife. The logging industry appealed the ruling, but before the case got to the Supreme Court the EPA issued final rules that reportedly "exempted logging road runoff from storm water permit requirements." The EPA states that it "did not intend for logging roads to be regulated as industrial facilities," but the industry is asking the Supreme Court to nevertheless rule on the case.
As for Fox's claim that the administration has imposed "6,000 new regulations," these notices "run the gamut from meeting notifications to fee schedules to actual rules and proposed rule changes," according to the conservative website CNSNews.com.
From the August 6 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Right-wing media have distorted efforts by President Obama's re-election campaign to restore early voting for all Ohio voters, claiming the campaign is suing to restrict voting for members of the military. In fact, the Obama campaign's lawsuit seeks to restore early voting for all Ohioans, including members of the military and their families.
Special Report guest host Shannon Bream falsely claimed that the Obama campaign is suing to prevent military voters in Ohio from having extra time to cast their ballots. In reality, the lawsuit seeks to allow all voters in Ohio to cast their ballots during the window open to military personnel and their families. The lawsuit does not seek to restrict voting by military families in any way.
Correspondent Ed Henry followed with a misleading report that included a clip of Mitt Romney saying that it would be a disservice to members of the military to try to impede them from voting. But Henry did not cite any evidence that the lawsuit is intended to impede military voting.
As The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on July 18, "Now, only uniformed military personnel, their spouses and their voting-age dependents [in Ohio] can vote through Monday, the day before the Nov. 6 election. Everyone else must vote by the Friday before Election Day. The campaign says that means all Ohio voters aren't being treated fairly and that's a violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause" (via Nexis).
From the August 3 edition of Special Report:
Conservative media have continued to cover up the fact that many Catholic and other religious institutions have come out in support of the Obama administration's policy that ensures women have access to affordable insurance coverage for birth control while making sure no religious organization has to pay for this coverage. Their concealment of this fact came in response to evangelical Wheaton College's announcement that it will join a lawsuit against the policy.
Fox News is falsely accusing the Obama administration of "thumbing its nose" at the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down most of Arizona's controversial immigration law. In fact, the federal government is continuing to enforce immigration law in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court decision.
The court on Monday struck down most of the law, but allowed the so-called "show me your papers" provision of the law to go into effect. In response, the Department of Homeland Security announced that federal officials will not respond to every traffic stop at which Arizona authorities claim to have an undocumented immigrant in their custody. Federal officials will continue to take into custody immigrants with a criminal record and other people who meet federal immigration enforcement authority. DHS is also rescinding its immigration enforcement partnership program with Arizona.
While this announcement is in no way at odds with the court's ruling, Fox News is citing as evidence that the Obama administration is in defiance of the court.
Sean Hannity claimed that Obama was "basically thumbing his nose at the judiciary branch."
Other Fox commentators made similar comments. Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed that Obama was acting "high handed and lawless." And Fox News host Greta Greta Van Susteren claimed the president "snub[bed] his finger, a little bit, at the full court."
In fact, the DHS announcement is perfectly consistent with the Supreme Court's decision. The Supreme Court said that ICE must "respond to any request made by state officials for verification of a person's citizenship status." And DHS will indeed continue to verify an individual's immigration status on request. But the Supreme Court did not impose additional limitations on the federal government such as a requirement that the federal government must arrest all the people that Arizona wants arrested.
Under the court's ruling, the federal government retains its well-established power to use its discretion to decide who it wants to deport.
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the May 21 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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In a National Review blog post, Katrina Trinko falsely accused Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren of plagiarism. She alleged that Warren lifted passages for her 2005 book All Your Worth, which she co-wrote with her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi, from another book:
Trinko has since deleted that blog post and published a correction:
I took down my earlier post on Elizabeth Warren plagiarizing from the book Getting On the Money Track. On Amazon.com, the Warren book All Your Worth is listed as having been published January 9, 2006. As it turns out, that is the paperback publication date; the hardback book was published in March 2005. As such, it appears that Getting on the Money Track (published in October 2005) plagiarized from All Your Worth, not the other way around.
I apologize for the error.
On Fox News' flagship news program, Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream repeated National Review's false report:
Will Special Report issue a correction on Monday?