The Columbus Dispatch

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  • Fox News Hyped Ohio AG’s False Claims About Planned Parenthood But Didn’t Report That They Cost The State Over $45,000

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    In December 2015, when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine argued that fetuses from Planned Parenthood were “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill,” Fox News covered his baseless allegations. In contrast, no Fox News show followed up to note that Ohio taxpayers would cover $45,447 in legal fees Planned Parenthood incurred while fighting the attorney general’s misleading claims about its practices.

    On December 11, DeWine held a press conference in which he alleged that fetuses from Planned Parenthood were illegally “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill.” DeWine issued his claims after the state conducted a five-month investigation into Planned Parenthood, spurred by allegations made by the now-discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that abortion providers were illegally selling fetal tissue. While DeWine concluded that fetal tissue was not being sold, he said his office discovered that Planned Parenthood’s means of fetal tissue disposal violated state law requiring that fetal remains be “disposed of in a humane manner.”

    State media called into question DeWine’s so-called “investigation” findings. The Akron Beacon Journal wrote that “it is hard to overlook the political theater at work” in DeWine’s allegations. The Columbus Dispatch noted that no Ohio abortion clinic had ever been cited for improper handling of fetal remains. WBNS-10TV in Columbus, OH, also reported that the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection said that no intact fetuses were buried there, that the disposal company and landfill have not been cited for any legal violations, and that nobody from the attorney general's office had contacted the Kentucky facilities to investigate.

    But while Ohio state media dug into the substance of DeWine’s remarks about Planned Parenthood, Fox News instead provided a platform for DeWine to further his baseless allegations. Fox News co-host Martha MacCallum interviewed DeWine during the December 15 edition of America’s Newsroom, where he reiterated his claims that fetal remains were “taken to a landfill in Kentucky and dumped in that landfill.” He went on to say that his office “think[s] [Planned Parenthood clinics] are in violation of the law.” MacCallum told DeWine: “It strikes me that what this story and what the investigation that you’ve done, it sheds more light on the realities of this process, which a lot of people just really, frankly, don’t want to know more about because it’s very difficult to even think about.”

    In addition to Fox News, other right-wing media sites piled on with headlines about “steam-cooked” fetuses being “illegally dump[ed]” into landfills. (And neither of those outlets reported on the resulting cost to taxpayers either.)

    Shortly after DeWine made his remarks, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block any attempts by DeWine to impede access to abortion services. After a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, DeWine ended the state’s legal actions with those claims. However, the process DeWine launched ended up costing Planned Parenthood $45,447 in legal fees, which Ohio state officials agreed to pay in a settlement -- meaning Ohio taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the attorney general’s unfounded claims, a consequence Fox News hasn’t covered. While Fox News has called for investigations based solely on CMP videos, the network doesn’t provide equal time when those investigations find no wrongdoing while costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

    By amplifying the false allegations while not reporting on the consequences, right-wing media are spreading lies and distortions.

  • Columbus Dispatch Revives Obamacare Launch Issues To Continue To Attack Law


    A Columbus Dispatch editorial revived attacks against the problems associated with the flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which have largely been fixed, to continue to attack the law as a whole. Yet, despite pointing out flaws from early in the process, the editorial neither mentions the thousands who have received insurance coverage through the law nor the other benefits the law provides Ohioans.  

    The June 12 editorial discussed the confirmation of Sylvia Burwell as the new secretary of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services but immediately pivoted into a discussion of the flawed rollout of the health care exchanges, reviving old issues such as the website's initial technical problems. The Dispatch used the launch problems to claim that "The Affordable Care Act remains a deeply flawed law that was an ill-though-out, politically driven document."

    Reviving attacks on the initial rollout of the law leaves out 8 months of improvements and stated plans for future fixes. After website issues were addressed, thousands more Americans were able to use the website in November to enroll for health care coverage, contributing to the 8 million people who gained health insurance nationally due to the ACA and surpassing expectations. In addition, as Wired reported, a new group of programmers has been working on "Marketplace 2.0" which will add new features and a simpler interface to the website for the next enrollment period beginning November 15.

    Despite the Dispatch's focus on the initial rollout, the law is much more than a website and has provided tangible benefits to Ohioans that the editorial omitted. According to the Dispatch's own reporting, 155,000 Ohioans selected affordable plans through Ohio's federally run exchange as of May. Moreover, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, 308,000 Ohioans were able to obtain insurance through Medicaid, with 184,670 enrolling as newly eligible through the hard fought Medicaid expansion plan pushed by Gov. John Kasich (R). The numbers reflect the gains in insurance coverage but only provide a small glimpse at the law's overall impact leaving out the myriad benefits the law brought to Ohioans including allowing young adults to remain insured on their parent's plans until 26, barring insurance companies from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions, and ensuring that insurance rates are not going to increase just because of the applicant's gender or that someone would be dropped from coverage because of illness.

    This post has been updated for clarity.

  • Columbus Dispatch Misleads On New IRS Obamacare Rule


    A Columbus Dispatch editorial claimed the IRS was attempting to punish employers for sending their employees to Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges instead of providing employer-based insurance. However, the rule would ensure that employers don't get a special benefit for sending their employees to the exchanges, which they are still allowed to do, while preserving the employer-based health care system.

    The May 30 editorial criticized an IRS rule first reported in the New York Times that claimed the rule meant that the IRS would stop "any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges" by subjecting certain businesses to a tax penalty of $100 per day for each worker that is sent to the individual marketplace instead of provided insurance by the employer. The Dispatch, which has often used its editorial page to mislead about the ACA, extrapolated this claim to float the theory that "the move is an acknowledgement" by the administration that people don't like the exchanges and the law is making things worse for "millions of Americans":

    In this context, a report in The New York Times over Memorial Day weekend takes on greater meaning. The story revealed that the Internal Revenue Service has issued a rule that punishes employers that end company-sponsored health plans and dump employees onto the new government health-care exchanges.


    The move is an acknowledgement that many who have gone to the exchanges have found the policies more expensive and less desirable than expected. The law has made things worse for millions of Americans in the name of extending coverage to a relatively small number of people.

    The Dispatch's theory that the new rule is an effort to shield people from the exchanges and the purported ill effects of the law is not accurate. The IRS rule is actually an effort to ensure that certain companies can't take advantage of a loophole allowing them to take tax deductions for moving their employees to the exchanges. As Modern Healthcare explained, the rule is intended to prevent companies from "double-dipping" by "threatening massive fines against companies that offer employees tax-advantaged money to help them buy federally subsidized health plans on the Obamacare insurance exchanges." The article continued:

    The need for the new IRS rules came about because tax consultants have been aggressively hunting for ways to combine the tax write-offs that come with traditional group coverage with the federal subsidies available to buy individual coverage through an insurance exchange, said Joel Ario, a managing director at Manatt Health Solutions and a former HHS director over insurance exchanges.

    "There are two mutually exclusive worlds, and there are people who keep trying to figure out how to use money from one in the other," Ario said. "That's what the IRS is trying to prevent."

  • Unnoticed Fossil Fuel Influence Could Soon Dismantle Ohio's Clean Energy Policies

    STUDY: Local Papers Continue To Miss ALEC Influence In Clean Energy Debate

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Ohio may soon become the first state to freeze its clean energy mandates after a relentless effort from utilities. But the state's major newspapers continue to overlook that the legislators behind the bill are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council -- an organization that connects corporations, including fossil fuel interests, to legislators -- despite repeatedly quoting the organization's members.

  • Columbus Dispatch Stokes Fears Of Obamacare Data Manipulation


    The Columbus Dispatch incorrectly claimed that an effort by the Census Bureau to achieve a more accurate health care picture will eliminate the ability to gauge whether the law has achieved the goal of insuring the previously uninsured.

    The April 28 editorial criticized a decision by the Census Bureau to alter the way it measures who has insurance coverage in an effort to achieve clearer results, claiming instead that the change "will make it impossible to get an apples-to-apples picture of how many Americans reported having health-insurance coverage before and after the law."

    On April 15, the Census Bureau announced it would change the way it determines who had or did not have insurance coverage in the Current Population Survey (CPS) in an effort to obtain more accurate results. This process began under the Bush administration and, according to the Census Bureau, is "the culmination of 14 years of research." A statement released by the Bureau explained the reasoning behind the change:

    The recent changes to the Current Population Survey's questions related to health insurance coverage is the culmination of 14 years of research and two national tests in 2010 and 2013 clearly showing the revised questions provide more precise measures of health insurance through improved respondent recall.

    This change was announced in September 2013 and implemented because the evidence showed that reengineering the questions provides demonstrably more accurate results. The Census Bureau only implements changes in survey methodology based on research, testing, and evidence presented for peer review.

    Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, reinforced this when he told The New Republic that the Current Population Survey (Census) was never really an accurate way to measure the uninsured. That's because the question asked by the Census measured the insured as a point in time, "but it's of course always been ambiguous what point in time." 

  • Columbus Dispatch Doesn't Understand How Unemployment Benefits Work


    The Columbus Dispatch claimed that unemployment insurance [UI] benefits create a disincentive to work to attack President Obama's recent call to extend them into 2014. However, multiple economists have found that unemployment benefits are not disincentives to work during economic downturns, and that not extending them will hurt the economy and result in job loss.