On August 26, Fox News hosts repeatedly demanded that the Obama administration make a statement about the shooting of Christopher Lane, an Australian student attending college in Oklahoma, ignoring the fact that days earlier Obama had offered words of comfort to the student's family.
America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum falsely claimed that Obama "so far has been silent" on the alleged murder of Lane and noted that, since Obama previously "put himself into the middle of these situations" by speaking on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, "it raises the question of why he would not, you know, comfort this family, why he would not reach out and make a comment."
Later, on Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity again falsely accused Obama of promoting a "double standard" for being "quick to respond" to Martin's death but failing to speak out about Lane's shooting in the 10 days since the alleged murder had occurred.
But Obama reached out to Lane's family days before either MacCallum or Hannity's criticisms. On August 24, the Australian newspaper Herald Sun reported that Obama, through White House spokesman Matt Lehrich, had released a statement offering his condolences:
As news of the random shooting death continued to make headlines in the US, the President took time out from a tour selling his college reforms to make a statement about the tragedy.
He said through White House spokesman Matt Lehrich that Lane's family and friends were going through trying times.
"As the President has expressed on too many tragic occasions, there is an extra measure of evil in an act of violence that cuts a young life short. The President and First Lady's thoughts and prayers are with Chris Lane's family and friends in these trying times," Mr Lehrich said in a statement to the Sunday Herald Sun.
A spokesman for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said that "[t]he governor thinks the president did the right thing by reaching out to the Lane family and the people of Australia." Obama's words followed an August 22 tribute to "honor the strength and bravery of Chris' family as they deal with this unspeakable tragedy" from the U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich, who stated:
Like everyone else, we are struggling to understand how anybody could commit such a terrible and random act of violence. I've personally pledged to Chris' family our help in bringing Chris home as soon as possible, and to provide them with all the support within our power. We thank local law enforcement authorities in Oklahoma for their quick work and their efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
Fox News has previously attempted to frame Lane as a white equivalent to Trayvon Martin, using the incident in its ongoing campaign to hype "race-related crime" -- even after local District Attorney Jason Hicks told Fox that there was no evidence of racial motivations in the case.
Fox News' morning programming ignored Women's Equality Day, yet took time to highlight "National Dog Day."
In 1971, Congress passed a joint resolution designating August 26 Women's Equality Day, on the date of the 1970 Women's Strike for Equality. The commemorative holiday celebrates the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, and is intended to call attention to women's ongoing struggle for equal treatment in the United States.
In advance of the holiday, President Obama issued a proclamation highlighting how far equal rights for women have progressed since the 19th Amendment was ratified. He noted that legislation such as the Violence Against Women's Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act continued to advance women toward equality, and reaffirmed the need to "renew our commitment to securing equal rights, freedoms, and opportunities for women everywhere," through further action such as the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act.
Fox News failed to mention Women's Equality Day on the morning of August 26, yet took the time to cover National Dog Day, airing pictures of Fox & Friends hosts' pets:
Over 40 years after the Women's Strike for Equality, women have not reached parity in America. Women continue to make less than their male counterparts, earning just 80.9 percent of what men earn -- a gap of about $163 dollars less per week. In fact, the gap between men and women's earnings widened in 2012.
Furthermore, research has demonstrated the benefits that programs that provide women with affordable access to universal preschool, paid family and medical leave, and affordable contraception could achieve for women's employment and the economy. But Fox has repeatedly ignored how such programs could assist women and their families and dismissed the hurdles that women continue to face in pursuit of full equality, instead turning to demonizing these programs and fearmongering about how greater equality for women is leading to the dissolution of society.
Media Matters searched internal TV archives and closed captioning for the terms "Equality Day" and "dog" between 5 am and 1pm on August 26 on all Fox News shows.
The Wall Street Journal reported that stagnant wages are "crippling" economic growth, debunking previous Journal editorials which have argued that minimum wage increases "hurt the poor and least skilled" and cause job losses.
An August 26 Journal article reported that stagnant low wages in America have contributed to the slow pace of the economic recovery, noting that "[c]onsumers remain the biggest driver of the U.S. economy, but without more money coming in, it will be difficult for them to spur robust growth." The article noted that wages have continually fallen below inflation rates while the insecurity of the job market hurts workers' ability to push for higher pay, "crimping their spending and potentially the recovery."
However, the Journal has previously argued against wage increases for low-income workers. A July 5 editorial claimed "minimum-wage laws most hurt the poor and least skilled" because they "drive down urban employment" and "have cost cities tens of thousands of jobs." Similarly, a March 20 editorial claimed "forcing employers to pay more for labor merely prices young or low-skilled workers out of the work force." These claims are contradicted by the Journal's recent reporting and economic research.
Multiple studies have found that minimum wage increases either increase employment levels or have no discernible effect on jobs. In 2011, the Center for Economic and Policy Research concluded that wage increases were more likely to have a positive effect on employment.
But according to the Department of Labor, the minimum wage is now lower than its historical average, and inflation has already negated the modest minimum wage increase that was implemented in 2009.
The failure to increase minimum wages plays a role in the stagnation of all wages. As the executive director of the National Employment Law Project noted, "the recent decline in real wages is part of a 30-year trend that we attribute to factors such as the declining real value of the minimum wage." The Economic Policy Institute also found that low minimum wages contributed to weak wage growth for the middle class in particular, and were a key factor in the growing levels of economic inequality in the U.S.:
Contrary to some political rhetoric of late, wage stagnation for American workers and rising inequality is not due to lack of effort ... Rather it is due to certain policies that have weakened the bargaining position of low- and middle-wage workers. Among these policies is the refusal to set the minimum wage at a level where it establishes a well-enforced wage floor at 50 percent of the average wage.
Furthermore, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago have projected that raising the minimum wage to $9 would help increase real income while boosting household spending by $48 billion -- resulting in an overall 0.3 percent increase in GDP.
Responding to President Obama's statement that Republican members of Congress are afraid of Rush Limbaugh, the radio host claimed that Republicans are not listening to him -- despite Limbaugh's regular boasting about his influence on the Republican agenda and Republican politicians routinely backpedaling their criticism of him.
Fox News criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for inconsistency in his decision to reinstate four State Department officials who were suspended in the wake of the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, but ignored findings from the State Department's Accountability Review Board that supported Kerry's determination that no employees' actions were grounds for termination.
On August 19, The Daily Beast reported that Kerry decided to reinstate the four State Department employees who had been put on administrative leave in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks. The decision came after a review by Kerry and some of his top aides confirmed the State Department's Accountability Review Board's (ARB) finding that "no employee breached their duty or should be fired." Though the suspended officials would not face formal punishment, the review did not find them "blameless," and in accordance with ARB recommendations, all four will be reassigned.
On the August 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cited the initial ARB report before suggesting that the move to reinstate the suspended employees ignores its results [emphasis added]:
ANNA KOOIMAN [co-host]: Again, mid-level, not the top. We haven't seen any arrests from any of this. And these people, yes, they're back on the job, which is good for them, they feel, I imagine. But they have been publicly humiliated and been targeted and identified as being responsible in some ways over the last eight months. And is this fair to them?
KILMEADE: Well Tom Pickering and Admiral Mullen evidently put together a report the administration accepted and embraced, and they concluded that these mid-level guys didn't tell the people above them. All right. So they were relieved temporarily. Told to hand in their badges. Then they got word yesterday, come to work on Tuesday. So who is right? Was it a bad report, bad conclusions put together by Mullen and Pickering, or are they being ignored now by the the Secretary of State, Kerry, which means that he has a better inquiry, better than the one that was commissioned by the administration?
If Kilmeade had taken the time to review the ARB report, he would have known that it "did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty." In fact, Kerry's review "reaffirmed" the ARB's findings and largely supported the Department's eventual decision to assign some blame but not proceed with formal disciplinary action. From the ARB:
The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection. However, the Board did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty.
Fox News misleadingly hyped a minor rise in food stamp fraud in an attempt to demonize the program, failing to note it has one of the lowest fraud rates of all federal programs, fraud remains at historically low levels, and the slight increase in fraud reflects an increase in overall enrollment in food supplement initiatives.
On August 15, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new report on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, which found that benefit trafficking -- "when SNAP recipients sell their benefits for cash to food retailers, often at a discount" -- had risen slightly from 1.0 percent of total SNAP benefits in 2006-2008 to just 1.3 percent in 2009-2011.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade hyped this minor difference on the August 19 edition of Fox & Friends, focusing on the change in fraud levels while failing to report how little fraud was found in the program:
KILMEADE: 30 percent. That's how many more Americans, according to a new study, are selling food stamps for cash illegally. No, Steve, that's not legal. Nearly 48 million people receive food stamps. The program costs $80 billion a year.
In fact, according to the USDA, SNAP benefit trafficking has "remained relatively steady at approximately one cent on the dollar," and the program "continues to have one of the lowest fraud rates for Federal programs." Furthermore, rates of trafficking have declined since the 90s and the current rate of trafficking remains near historic lows:
According to the USDA, a "substantial portion" of the minor rise in benefit trafficking "is due to the growth in the program," as the total number of SNAP benefits jumped during the recent economic crisis from $36 billion in 2008 to $73 billion in 2011. The USDA also noted that the rise is partly due to the increased number of small and medium-sized businesses which are authorized to accept SNAP benefits, as small retailers accounted for 85 percent of the fraudulent redemptions identified.
The USDA has taken steps to decrease the small amount of SNAP benefit fraud, including permanently disqualifying over 1000 retailers that engaged in trafficking, suspending retailers suspected of serious fraud, more frequently reviewing high-risk retailers, and cracking down on fraud online.
Kilmeade's misleading report is just another example of how Fox News has shamelessly misrepresented the SNAP program and its beneficiaries in an effort to demonize food assistance and malign low-income Americans.
Fox previewed the Republican National Committee vote on Chairman Reince Priebus' proposed boycott of 2016 primary debates hosted by CNN and NBC over their planned productions about Hillary Clinton, but ignored the RNC's hypocrisy in not extending the ban to Fox News after reports surfaced that Fox Television Studios may produce the NBC miniseries.
Priebus announced on August 5 that the GOP planned to boycott any primary debates hosted by the news divisions of CNN and NBC if the networks' sister companies, CNN Films and NBC Entertainment, failed to abandon plans to produce and air programs about Hillary Clinton in advance of the 2016 presidential election. Like Media Matters, CNN and NBC on-air personalities expressed concerns about possible conflicts of interests and problems with objectivity regarding the Clinton productions.
During an August 6 interview on Fox's America's Newsroom, Priebus hinted that his true goal was avoiding moderators likely to refuse his candidates special treatment -- as he put it: "moderators who are not serving the best interests of the candidates." And after The New York Times reported on August 9 that Fox's sister company Fox Television Studios may end up producing NBC's planned Clinton miniseries, he admitted that the ban would not extend to Fox News.
But Fox & Friends' August 16 coverage of the RNC vote made no mention of Priebus' hypocrisy or of Fox Television Studio's possible involvement in the Clinton productions. Co-host Brian Kilmeade only said that delegates at the RNC would be "giving serious thought to boycotting the 2016 debates if CNN and NBC go ahead with plans to air special programs about Hillary Clinton" in an upcoming RNC vote. Fox correspondent Molly Line followed up with more detail, but similarly omitted the story's full context [emphasis added]:
LINE: Well, this meeting today really could have a big impact on debates, especially in the near future. The RNC expecting to have this vote today weighing in on whether or not to ban CNN and NBC essentially, for the RNC to refuse to participate in debates with those networks, because they're planning to air documentaries featuring Hillary Clinton. The vote would mean the RNC would not partner with those networks in the presidential primary debates in 2016, and they wouldn't sanction any primary debates that they sponsor. According to the RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer, they don't want a news organization tipping the scales in this election.
Fox News hosts mislead viewers and each other by hyping the cost of a White House plan to fund high-speed Wi-Fi for schools while obscuring the plan's small impact on individual taxpayers.
On June 6, the White House unveiled the ConnectED initiative, a plan that would give 99 percent of American students access to "high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless" at school by 2018. The plan would be funded through a minimal tax increase on mobile phone users, which the as The Washington Post reported, "could work out to about $12 in fees for every cellphone user over three years."
Fox News similarly reported on the August 15 edition of Fox & Friends First that the initiative would only cost individual consumers about five dollars per year.
But a few hours later on Fox & Friends, the hosts and contributors seemed unable to accurately report what the predicted cost would be for individuals. Though co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Fox Business contributor Charles Payne to specify how much the initiative would "cost each of us as individuals," Payne claimed the "administration doesn't say" and instead hyped the program's net cost and unspecified higher taxes on the middle class:
PAYNE: The administration doesn't say. There's some estimates say it costs like $6 billion but you know how these estimates are when the government gets involved. We know It's going to be multibillions and billions of dollars. It's going to hit individuals, this brings us to the third point. Middle-class taxes, you know, there won't be middle-class tax hikes, but we know already there have been. These are the kinds of things that are taxes on normal, regular people. This would be a tax on every single person watching the show who didn't get a free phone from the government, they are going to have to chip in.
Later, a Fox News reporter once again explained that the increase would only be about five dollars per year, but Carlson remained confused about the ConnectED program's expected cost to individual consumers, saying in a subsequent segment: "I think it would be about $5 a year, or maybe $5 a billing cycle. I'm not exactly sure. But the entire cost is $4 to $6 billion."
Payne and Carlson both followed the media's common practice of relying on abstract and sensational raw number figures when discussing budgetary issues while either ignoring or misreporting the context that would make those figures relevant to viewers. Economists have noted that focusing on raw numbers rather than budgetary percentages or individual costs in economic reporting is often little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the economy. And Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Fox News ridiculed a rise in group doctor visits as the network claimed that it will become more prevalent with the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's coverage of this trend ignored reporting that group treatment can be a successful strategy for reducing healthcare costs and improving patients' health.
On the August 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson, Jr. introduced one of the show's regular "Who's Ruining The Economy" segments with the question: "[I]s less one on one time with your doctor going to be the new future under Obamacare?" before welcoming Fox News contributor Charles Payne on to discuss the increasing trend of doctors offering group appointments. After Johnson ridiculed the group doctor visits as "group therapy ... people sitting around in underwear talking about their problems," Payne predicted that it would be one of the "gimmicks" that the ACA would come to rely on to address doctor shortages as health insurance enrollment increases:
PAYNE: And these numbers, I think, are probably underscoring what's gonna really happen. Because you and I know a lot of doctors who are saying you know I want to opt out of this whole thing completely, I'll just take cash. I mean, the best doctors will be able to command cash payments from good patients, or well-off patients. So, the reality is that those numbers are probably going to be significantly higher. And again, the gimmicks will be group therapy. The gimmicks will be, you know what, I can't see you but my nurse has been with me for a long time. She's equally qualified.
Fox neglected to mention that group doctor visits have been shown to be effective at improving doctors' efficiency and the standard of care that some patients receive.
As Johnson noted, group appointments have been on the rise in recent years. In 2005, just 5.7 percent of family physicians offered group sessions, but by 2010, the number had more than doubled to 12.7 percent. Dr. Edward Noffsinger, a physician who advises others on how to implement group appointments, says that patients have highlighted the advantages of the joint care. "Patients like the diversity of issues discussed," he told Kaiser Health News, adding, "they like getting 2 hours with their doctor." Patients may also learn more in a group setting, Kaiser Health News reported: "[d]octors say patients may learn more from each other than they do from physicians."
Research has shown that group appointments can improve the quality of care that patients receive. NPR highlighted an Italian trial of more than 800 type 2 diabetes patients which found that those randomly assigned to participate in group appointments for period of four years "had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass indexes." And according to Time, "[a]bout 85% of patients who try shared medical appointments don't go back to individual visits for everything from diabetes care to weight loss, physicals and skin cancer issues." Time also noted that "[w]hile group visits cost about the same as individual ones, if patients receive more information and are better able to improve and protect their health, they are less likely to develop serious medical conditions that require expensive care later on."
Media personalities on broadcast network Sunday shows advanced the right-wing myth that the Obama administration has given Congress a special exemption from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ignoring that the decision fixed a problem that would have treated congressional employees differently from all other Americans.
Following right-wing media's efforts to portray an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) rule clarification as an "exemption" or "dispensation" to congressional staffers, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol appeared on the August 11 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday and suggested that Congress was not "covered by the same rules as the rest of the country" with respect to the health care law:
On Meet the Press, CNN contributor Ana Navarro similarly focused on the decision, complaining of "strategic cut-outs" and claiming that the administration has "been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare":
NAVARRO: But I also think, you know, it's rather rich for the president to be throwing stones that way when what we've seen is an administration that has been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare whether it's for corporations or for congressional staff. So maybe he should talk about implementing the whole thing he passed and not doing these exceptions that I'm very disappointed Republicans and Democrats stayed quiet on the exceptions for the congressional staff that were made this last week. There should be more focus on well, if you passed it, live with it, instead of rather than making these very strategic cut-outs.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees the health benefits of federal government employees, responded to the ACA's Grassley amendment with a rule clarification. The amendment requires members of Congress and their staffs to enter the exchanges that were otherwise intended for people without access to employer-based coverage. OPM's decision allows the government to contribute to insurance premiums for members of Congress and staffers moved to the ACA exchanges.
In the Health Affairs blog, health care expert Timothy Jost noted that "[f]ar from exempting Congress from ACA requirements, as some have reported, the amendment subjects members to a legal requirement that will apply to no other Americans."
Jost further explained that Congress would have no way to pay for their employees' coverage through the law because the exchanges were meant to provide access to health care for individuals and small businesses, and that staffers would not receive a tax credit to help pay for coverage because their salaries are generally above the limit for premium subsidies. This would, in effect, force them to pay the full price of their insurance for no reason.
The Obama administration's compromise is to permit the federal government to contribute toward employee insurance on the exchanges, but to render those employees ineligible for any tax credits or subsidies.
"Members of Congress and their staff must go into the exchange," said an administration official. "No ands, ifs, or buts. They will not be eligible in any way for subsidies or tax credits. But they don't lose their current employer contribution."