As fact checkers investigated and debunked claims made in an ad attacking the Affordable Care Act, Fox News and other conservative media used a cancer patient's illness to defend the spot's dishonesty.
The episode is part of an ongoing pattern in the conservative media of promoting anecdotal Obamacare horror stories that have fallen apart under scrutiny.
Fox News is now suggesting that minor contradictions in Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' life story constitute a more important political "scandal" than accusations of corruption and political retribution by NJ Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott accused "op-eds and pundits [for] tearing into [Christie's] character," while ignoring the "political scandal in Texas." This scandal, according to Scott, was that Davis' life story had "holes" in it, partly because she didn't pull "herself up by her stilettos" and instead relied on some financial help from her second husband in order to attend law school:
Scott: The interesting thing about Wendy Davis is this story that has propelled her to state-wide stardom, maybe even national stardom. She says she was married at 19, teenage mother, divorced, lived in a trailer, made it through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School, and now she is where she is today, a state senator and maybe the next governor of Texas. The problem is, there are some holes in that story.
The suggestion that she pulled herself up by her stilettos and made it through Harvard Law School doesn't exactly jive with the fact that her husband, her then-husband, paid for it all, then as soon as it's all paid for, she left him, and he got custody of the two girls.
Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor, argued during the segment and in a Washington Examiner piece that Christie's record as governor of New Jersey was being scrutinized by media "because he might be a successful presidential candidate," and that Davis should come under similar media scrutiny for these details of her life because her run for governor could potentially "turn Texas blue," a move which would have national significance.
But the reason to scrutinize Christie's record is not that he might run for president. It's that he has been accused of corruption and petty political retribution in his position as the current governor of New Jersey. At no point during the segment did either Scott or Barone delve into the details of "Chris Christie's problems," but they are far more than minor contradictions in a timeline of life events.
Christie has admitted that his administration caused a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, in what is alleged to have been political payback against a local mayor. Though the governor claimed he was unaware of his staff's actions, and later removed two top aides, his administration was subsequently accused by a different mayor of holding Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage for political reasons.
There are at least three separate legal investigations examining the accusations launched against the Christie administration.
In contrast, Davis is not currently under investigation for possibly abusing the power of her office as state senator. There are some small, legitimate questions about her presentation of her life story, but those questions have been blown out of proportion by conservative media, who have launched an absurd and often sexist campaign against her. Right-wing radio hosts and Fox contributors have implied she is an unstable and unreliable mother, unfit for public office, and have attacked her for defying gender norms by leaving her spouse to pursue her career (a move many male politicians have made, with little media fanfare).
Scott's sexist joke about Davis' stilettos is just the latest example of these demeaning attacks, and furthers the network's desperate attempt to bury the Christie scandal by deflecting attention to unrelated stories.
Fox has previously attempted to compare Christie's scandal to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and to the IRS scandal, in which bureaucrats largely based in Cincinnati allegedly devoted inappropriate scrutiny to conservative groups. The network also devoted less than 15 minutes of coverage to Christie on the day the scandal broke, and mentioned the revelations about Hurricane relief only once the day they emerged.
Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
Right-wing media are dishonestly blaming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the fact that Chad Henderson, a low-income college student, will "pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income," ignoring the fact that Henderson would have been eligible for subsidized health care if his state had not rejected the healthcare reform law's Medicaid expansion.
On October 3, several media outlets highlighted Henderson as an early ACA enrollment success story. Henderson, a 21-year-old student at Chattanooga State University, told Washington Post's Wonkblog that he had been without health insurance for 14 years but successfully signed up for coverage through one of the law's new online exchanges. Henderson will pay $175 per month in premiums, which he said fits his budget. Right-wing blogs later hyped the cost of Henderson's insurance plan to claim it's unaffordable.
The Blaze reported that "Henderson, who reportedly earns $11,500 annually, will pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income" and quoted the Cato Institute's Michael F. Cannon to claim that "it appears that Obamacare quadrupled Chad's premiums," citing an eHealthInsurance.com quote for a plan he could have purchased. Michelle Malkin's blog also highlighted Cannon's claim. A Washington Examiner article headlined "$175 premium for a young, healthy student? Thanks, Obamacare!" responded: "Ouch! Wasn't Obamacare supposed to lower premiums?" and on October 3, the Drudge Report promoted the Examiner story:
These reports failed to mention that Henderson would have been able to receive subsidized coverage under the health care reform law's Medicaid expansion if his state had not chosen to opt out after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states didn't have to expand their Medicaid coverage. From Wonkblog's story about Henderson:
Henderson is a part-time worker at a day-care center. He did not qualify for tax credits to purchase health coverage because his income is below the poverty line. Since Georgia is not expanding the Medicaid program, that meant Henderson was essentially responsible for his entire premium.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (joined by a coterie of Senate Republicans) spoke on the Senate floor for about 21 hours in opposition to funding the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." Cruz's speech was not a filibuster, it had to end before today's scheduled vote on the Senate's bill to continue funding the government, and was never a threat to derail legislation that was passed and signed into law three years ago.
As such, much of the media coverage of Cruz's speech has focused on the political circus Cruz has whipped up. Since he couldn't actually alter the legislative process and has few supporters on either side of the aisle, it's not unreasonable to think that Cruz is doing this for his own benefit. Washington Examiner political writer Timothy Carney has sensed this tone in the media coverage of Cruz's fake filibuster and sounds the familiar "LIBERAL BIAS" klaxon, arguing that Texas state senator Wendy Davis' (D) filibuster to halt passage of a restrictive anti-abortion rights bill this past summer was similar to Cruz's but "the media spin was different."
The circumstances surrounding Cruz's and Davis' speeches, however, are pretty different. "Davis's filibuster was no more likely than Cruz's to change the law," Carney wrote. Perhaps so, but Davis' filibuster was an extraordinary measure taken in response to extraordinary measures deployed by Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican-dominated legislature. Davis' filibuster came at the end of a special legislative session convened by Perry specifically to pass the abortion law, and after it failed to pass Perry had to call yet another special session to pass the bill, and a third after that to deal with the business the legislature couldn't attend to because it was wrapped up in the abortion debate. Cruz was operating within the regular business of the Senate and there was a hard deadline on how long he could continue.
Politically, Davis' filibuster became a flashpoint in the national abortion debate because it split activists along the well-established lines, and abortion rights supporters worked doggedly to elevate Davis' profile while opponents worked to marginalize her. It also helped to highlight the intense state-level fights over abortion rights that had not registered on the national media's radar. With Cruz, that dynamic doesn't exist. He has a few supporters in the Senate, and most Republicans -- including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn -- aren't backing him. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board dismissed his anti-Obamacare campaign with more than a whiff of contempt: "The supposedly intrepid General Cruz can view the battle from the comfort of HQ while the enlisted troops take any casualties."
And Cruz is relitigating a fight that has long since been resolved. Most of the country already knows of and has an opinion of Obamacare. It was a central theme of the 2012 election and the guy who was for it won easily. The only thing Ted Cruz has brought to the table is Ted Cruz. Steve Benen put it just right: "Cruz seems to be generating quite a few headlines for himself. But as a qualitative matter, was Davis' speech a more important, consequential, and impressive display? I don't consider it a close call."
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard writes today that the Republican National Committee is looking to "scrap the old model of having reporters and news personalities ask the questions at candidate forums" for the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. Apparently the RNC is weighing the idea of replacing those debate moderators with "heavyweight" conservative radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. Given that this is all based on anonymous sourcing and that this is coming from Paul Bedard, who will print pretty much anything, I encourage you to please accept this grain of salt. However, the prospect of Hannity or Limbaugh in the debate moderator's chair has already received favorable reactions from the highest levels of the RNC, to include chairman Reince Priebus, who called it "a very good idea."
It's possible that Priebus et. al. are just humoring the supporters of this idea, but if they are in fact considering a debate format moderated by talk-radio blowhards, that's a pretty clear sign that the much-ballyhooed Republican "rebranding" document that the committee put out earlier this year is, for all intents and purposes, defunct. And it was the talk-radio blowhards who killed it.
The RNC's 2012 postmortem, wryly titled the "Growth & Opportunity Project," attempted to take stock of what went wrong in the Republican effort to evict Barack Obama from the White House, and why it was that so much of the party had convinced themselves that Mitt Romney was headed toward a landslide victory. The diagnosis? Epistemic closure:
The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.
Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us. We need to remain America's conservative alternative to big-government, redistribution-to-extremes liberalism, while building a route into our Party that a non-traditional Republican will want to travel. Our standard should not be universal purity; it should be a more welcoming conservatism.
"Our standard should not be universal purity." If that's not the standard anymore, then inviting Rush Limbaugh to moderate a GOP debate would be a funny way of showing it. The man has built his empire and influence by evangelizing pure conservatism and blasting everyone to the left of Antonin Scalia as a despicable liberal. Sean Hannity doesn't attract or persuade new Republican voters; he preaches to the converted and makes a handsome living by ginning them up to spittle-ejecting levels of outrage.
Sean Hannity promoted a claim that dangerous "global cooling" is coming, adding sarcastically on his radio show, "I thought all scientists agreed on this -- apparently not." Sadly for Hannity, the claim did not come from a scientist -- in fact, it came from John Casey, a man that even climate "skeptics" labeled a "scam artist."
Here's a helpful list for Hannity to refer to next time he is looking for support:
When 97 percent of climate scientists accept manmade global warming, it's no wonder that those in denial are getting desperate for an "expert."
The Washington Examiner is promoting a press release from a man predicting "global cooling" who even a climate "skeptic" has called a "scam artist."
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard writes that the "war between former Vice President Al Gore and his critics over global warming is about to hit the boiling point" with a "new claim" from John Casey that "global cooling" is coming. Who is John Casey? The Examiner says that Media Matters called Casey a scam artist "[b]ecause his predictions go against the mainstream." In fact, in 2010 Media Matters quoted blogger Tom Nelson -- who calls climate change a "hoax" -- warning that he thinks Casey is "a scam artist" trying to trick the "skeptic community" into bankrolling him.
Casey created the "Space and Science Research Corporation" (SSRC), which boasts that "it has a dedicated list of 'Supporting Researchers' who have committed their name and assistance to the mission of the SSRC." Four of these seven researchers are also listed as experts on Casey's other website, the "International Earthquake and Volcano Prediction Center," perhaps because they make no claim of expertise in climate change, instead stating that they study earthquakes and volcanoes.
Casey also has no background in climate science, possessing only an undergraduate degree in physics and math and a master's in management. Since we pointed that out in 2010, Casey has pumped up his biography, adding that he is "one of America's most successful climate change researchers and climate prediction experts," even though he does not appear to have ever published a single peer-reviewed paper on the subject.
Instead he wrote a self-published book on climate change "put together" with the help of an astrologer-cum-thoroughbred horse-racing advocate who claims to be the illegitimate daughter of Ernest Hemingway. He claims his book, Cold Sun, is "internationally acclaimed," citing one of his own volcano-specialist "Supporting Researchers" and an anonymous Amazon.com review. In it, Casey predicts that there will be "catastrophic shortages in the world's food supplies" from "global cooling," and that the first indicators of this will "be felt at any time and certainly by December 2012" (2012 was actually one of the 10 warmest years on record globally and the warmest year on record in the U.S.). Despite his claims of international prominence, neither Skeptical Science nor DeSmogBlog -- which maintain extensive records on the industry of faux-experts sowing doubt on climate change -- have ever written a single word about him.
The Washington Examiner relied on a dishonest chart from a nativist organization to push the myth that undocumented immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes in the United States would receive a reprieve from repercussions under immigration reform legislation.
The Washington Examiner used a chart from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist hate group -- which details the criminal repercussions for those seeking legal status, as well as for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. According to the chart, undocumented immigrants who commit certain crimes would face less dire consequences than U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who commit the same offense:
Furthermore, the following chart published June 21 by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit organization that opposes liberalization of immigration law, compares the consequences for an array of crimes and discovered that while illegal immigrants might be exonerated and legalized, U.S. citizens and legal immigrants face years of incarceration or temporary expulsion from the country.
Both FAIR and the Examiner are misleading about the repercussions of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The chart makes it seem as if there are no criminal repercussions for undocumented immigrants who commit these crimes under the Senate's immigration reform legislation, but undocumented immigrants who are arrested for a crime must go through the criminal justice system just like U.S. citizens, and if convicted, can serve jail time or pay fines.
Right-wing media outlets cherry-picked data from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the Senate's immigration reform proposal to incorrectly claim that the bill would hurt American workers. In fact, the CBO report found that the Senate immigration reform bill would have temporary and small negative effects but over the long term would greatly benefit both American workers and the economy, which is reinforced by past studies.
Breitbart.com is promoting the theory that Hitler was secretly gay, playing into one of the most extreme and damaging anti-gay smears in right-wing politics: that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust.
In a May 9 post, Breitbart.com touted "new evidence" that Hitler was gay, citing a Washington Examiner article that highlighted notes taken from interviews with several of Hitler's doctors. The "evidence" of Hitler's alleged homosexuality includes the claims that Hitler took female hormones and did not sleep in the same bedroom as his girlfriend and eventual wife, Eva Braun:
There is new evidence that Adolph Hitler was gay. Doctors who treated Hitler were interviewed by the U.S. Army after World War II, and the notes from those interviews have now been made public.
Army interrogator Herman Merl, who was a medical technician who interviewed Hitler's doctors, Karl Brandt and Hitler's primary physician, Theodor Morell, wrote "Homosex" in the space provided for Hitler's sexuality. The doctors told Merl that Hitler did not sleep with girlfriend Eva Braun in her bedroom, and he himself received female hormones. Merl wrote, "Eva Braun = separate rooms" and "female hormone - injection 50,000 units." He added, "His sexual life and intercourse with Eva Braun was told to me."
The theory that Hitler was secretly gay isn't new in right-wing circles - anti-gay extremists like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association have been making similar claims for years. In fact, the "Hitler was gay" claim is part of a broader anti-gay smear which posits that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler intentionally sought out homosexuals for his "inner circle" because their "unusual brutality" made them well-suited to carry out mass genocide.
That myth has been widely debunked, of course, and the reality is that gay people were the victims, not the perpetrators, of the Holocaust.
Breitbart.com's post, with its blaring headline and ominous picture, continues a long tradition in right-wing media of grasping at straws to suggest some link between homosexuality and one of worst human rights atrocities in history.
Right-wing media have seized on a study of Medicaid recipients to attack the program by focusing on certain parts of the findings while health care experts point out that the program successfully expanded access to care and eased health-related financial problems, the primary focus of Medicaid.
In 2008, the state of Oregon held a lottery to expand Medicaid coverage to 10,000 people. Because the selection was random, researchers began a controlled study on how the coverage affected the participants. After the results were posted in The New England Journal of Medicine, right-wing media seized on the findings to attack both Medicaid and health care reform. On May 2, Fox Nation posted a Washington Examiner article on the study under the headline "Landmark Study Shatters Liberal Health Care Claims." In the article, Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein noted that the study's authors found that enrollment in Medicaid led to "lower rates of depression," but Klein wrote that "the study suggests that expanding Medicaid ... does not improve" the health of recipients. On Your World, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, used the findings to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
On May 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the Medicaid study "[b]ad news for Democrats who support Obamacare." On-screen text during the segment stated that the study found that Medicaid is "ineffective":
But while Fox used the study as an opportunity to attack various aspects of health care reform, experts have pointed out that the study's findings, while not entirely positive, show that the program aided the new enrollees in several ways. In a Health Affairs blog post, Dr. John Lumpkin, who served for 12 years as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, wrote that the study showed that "coverage alone will not necessarily lead to good health," but also pointed to the "big impact on family finances" and the fact that "expanding Medicaid was shown to substantially reduce depression." Dr. Lumpkin concluded:
So far, the Oregon Health Insurance Study shows us that people who obtained Medicaid coverage received more health care services in the first two years--especially needed preventive care--and had less depression and financial worries. Their health outcomes weren't significantly better, but at least they are now participating in the health care system and getting the care they need, without plunging their families deeper into poverty. From this vantage point, the glass seems more than half full.
Washington Examiner senior political columnist Tim Carney is using the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell to demonize an exceptionally rare type of legal abortion that is used to save the life of a mother.
Gosnell has been charged with eight counts of murder, horrific acts committed under the guise of women's health services that are detailed by a grand jury report and which an expert on reproductive health explained are not in line with legal abortion procedures.
In an April 16 Examiner column, Carney fixated on remarks made by Dr. Tracy Weitz, a reproductive health professor at the University of California, during a conference call with pro-choice group RH Reality Check. Carney highlighted her descriptions of a particular abortion procedure to imply that the only difference between Gosnell's methods and legal abortions was whether or not the procedure was performed "when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered."
But as Dr. Weitz explained in her response to Carney, the procedures Gosnell is alleged to have done have "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States" and his actions are "nowhere in the medical literature." Similarly, Salon's Irin Carmon explained that "[n]o one who supports the provision of safe abortion care to women excuses any of what Gosnell is accused of, from willfully gruesome conditions to sadistic treatment to infanticide."
Carney's bogus analogy of legal abortion procedures to the Gosnell case further ignores the fact that legal "late-term" abortions -- which is not a medical term -- are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions in the United States, and are significantly restricted by law. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, the vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetus "viability," which occurs at approximately 20 to 24 weeks, prior to the third trimester. Some states provide an exception, allowing a medical professional to perform a late-term abortion when the life of the mother is threatened, and in even fewer states, cases of "fetal abnormality."
Furthermore, contrary to Gosnell's alleged actions, legal abortion is very safe. As Carmon reported, a medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
But these life-saving procedures are under threat as right-wing media figures such as Carney continue to demonize legal, affordable, safe, and rare abortions by implying that they are similar to Gosnell's horrors. As Salon's Carmon further noted, many women went to Gosnell "because they felt they had no alternative." The case is an indictment of the anti-choice movement, revealing the need for safe, affordable, and legal abortion services that protect the health of women.
A misleading NPR report has become fodder for a right-wing media campaign to scapegoat federal disability benefits, despite the fact that the rise in disability claims can be attributed to the economic recession and demographic shifts, and that instances of fraud are minimal.
NPR reported that the rise in the number of federal disability beneficiaries was "startling" and claimed it was explained by unemployed workers with "squishy" claims of disability choosing to receive federal benefits rather than work. Right-wing media called the report "brilliant," and used it to further the myth that the increase in the number of individuals receiving disability benefits reveals fraud in the system.
Breitbart.com's Wynton Hall wrote that NPR's "eye-opening" piece uncovered a disability program "fraught with fraud." Fox Nation promoted the piece with the headline, "Every Month, 14 Million People Get a Disability Check from the Government..." The National Review Online's blog called the piece "brilliant," while the Washington Examiner's editorial offered it as evidence that disability benefits provide "a voluntary life sentence to idle poverty." The Drudge Report linked to the NPR story and to the Breitbart.com article:
But as Media Matters previously noted, these reports failed to include crucial facts that explain the rise in disability benefits. The recent financial crisis and the rising rate of child poverty have made more children eligible to receive benefits through the Supplemental Security program, while the growth in the number of adults receiving benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance since the 1970s is largely explained by increases in the number of women qualifying for benefits. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, as women have joined the workforce in greater numbers over the past few decades, more women are eligible for disability benefits, resulting in higher numbers of beneficiaries.
Furthermore, in a report published in March 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that improper payments of disability benefits are not a widespread problem, and accounted for less than four percent of total improper payments made by federal agencies in fiscal year 2011.