Fox News used a dishonest graphic that inflated a comparison between the number of people receiving federal benefits to those working full-time by 500 percent to misleadingly imply more people receive government benefits than work.
The October 28 edition of Fox & Friends aired a graphic which purported to compare the number of people who received means-tested federal benefits to the number of people with full-time jobs in 2011. However, the chart used a truncated y-axis, and showed the number of people on welfare -- 108.6 million -- as approximately five times greater than 101.7 million, the number of people with full-time employment.
Moreover, Fox's comparison of the two figures compares apples to oranges.
Fox's 108.6 million figure for the number of "people on welfare" comes from a Census Bureau's account (Table 2) of participation in means-tested programs, which include "anyone residing in a household in which one or more people received benefits" in the fourth quarter of 2011, thus including individuals who did not themselves receive government benefits. On the other hand, the "people with a full time job" figure Fox used included only individuals who worked, not individuals residing in a household where at least one person works.
Furthermore, many people who receive federal benefits also work. The means-tested programs in the Census Bureau report included Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, which includes strict work requirements. In 2011, 6.4 million households with earnings also participated in food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. And public or subsidized rental housing provides rental assistance to low-income families -- families who have an income which is 50 to 80 percent below the median income for the area.
Fox has a history of displaying error-riddled and deceptive graphics to reinforce conservative attacks on the Obama administration, and has previously had to issue a correction for a dishonest graphic that misrepresented the unemployment rate.
But Fox seems to have not learned from its past mistakes, and ignored the facts to misleadingly attack federal benefit programs, with Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asking "is the number one occupation in this entitlement nation now, welfare?" while Fox Business host Stuart Varney baselessly suggested that President Obama personally encouraged "handouts" as a means of "buying votes."
Watch the full segment:
Fox News promoted a false attack on a federal program that expands access to free school meals by dismissing child hunger and claiming that the program will harm low-income families. But studies have shown the school meals program helps alleviate the high levels of hunger that exist among low-income children, improves their access to key nutrients, and increases academic performance.
Fox News whitewashed the record of the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association (AFA), falsely claiming an army training that highlighted the group's attacks on gay marriage was targeting Christians and "traditional" values.
On October 15, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes attacked a military training session in Mississippi on domestic hate groups that included the AFA, calling the training "anti-Christian activity." Co-host Steve Doocy claimed the AFA was a "well-established, traditional Christian ministry," that simply "opposes gay marriage." Starnes concluded by falsely claiming that the military was targeting Christian groups exclusively, despite the fact that an on-air graphic identified the Nation of Islam as one of several groups the military presentation identified.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated AFA as a hate group for promoting anti-gay attacks that harm individuals and threaten human rights. According to the SPLC (emphasis added):
The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both [the AFA and the Family Research Council] have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process.
Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's unofficial spokesman and the group's director of issues analysis, has previously called on the government to prohibit mosques from being built anywhere in the United States, suggested "the most compassionate thing" America can do is deport all Muslims, and wrote that "gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism."
The American Family Association has also enthusiastically endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin's draconian anti-gay laws, with Fischer stating that the country isn't being homophobic but "homorealistic."
A Wall Street Journal article promoted false Republican claims which disputed the devastating effects failure to raise the debt ceiling on October 17 would have on the U.S. economy, despite recent Journal reporting which admitted default could have "cataclysmic" consequences.
In an October 9 article headlined "Obama's Default Scenario Derided," the Journal noted that according to President Obama, "if Congress doesn't raise the country's debt ceiling soon, an economic crisis with skyrocketing interest rates and a crashing stock market could follow," as the U.S. would default on its pre-existing debts -- an understanding of the manufactured impending fiscal crisis which is supported by economists and the Treasury Department.
But rather than confirm this factual assertion, the Journal instead provided a platform for Republicans who baselessly "say they don't believe" default will lead to devastating negative effects and have even "questioned what the word 'default' really means." The Journal hyped Republican claims that the White House could choose to prioritize which payments to make once the deadline hits, and claimed these misleading remarks had credence because the U.S. has never defaulted before, making the potential crisis "unchartered waters."
In reality, the Treasury Department does not have the legal authority to prioritize payments if the debt ceiling is not raised, and economists agree that congressional failure to raise the debt limit could be catastrophic, setting in motion a financial crisis in the United States and around the globe.
The "debt ceiling" was officially breached on May 17 of this year. Since that date, the Treasury has implemented "extraordinary measures" to avoid defaulting on American sovereign debt obligations by shifting funds from various accounts. The New York Times reported that these measures will be exhausted by October 17:
Economists of all political persuasions have warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by the Treasury's deadline of Oct. 17 could be catastrophic. The world economy's faith in the safety of Treasury debt would be shaken for years. Interest rates could shoot up, and stock prices worldwide would most likely plummet.
The Journal itself has previously reported the devastating consequences the prospect of default is already having on the worldwide economy. On October 8, the Journal reported that short-term U.S. debt prices had fallen "amid rising investor concern about the prospect of a government-debt default, sending the yield on one-month U.S. Treasury bills to its highest level since the financial crisis." The same day, the Journal reported that China had warned the U.S. of default's "global ramifications," and that banks in the United Kingdom have begun "stockpiling cash" and preparing for "cataclysmic" consequences.
Domestically, money for government employees, the military, Social Security, Medicare, food safety inspections, and more could cease or be delayed, and CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik reported that "if a default happens, there's one analyst who says that the S&P 500 could drop 45 percent."
Furthermore, the claim that the administration could choose to prioritize some payments over others in order to avoid default is false. Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department assistant secretary and senior George W. Bush White House staffer called payment prioritization "fanciful," and Treasury Department Inspector General Eric M. Thorson reported to Congress that the Treasury had no means or capacity to prioritize certain payments over others. Slate economics blogger Matt Yglesias explained that Treasury has "no more legal authority to prioritize payments than they do to borrow extra money."
Fox hyped a discredited report on federal disability benefits to falsely claim that the Obama administration purposely made it easier to claim disability in order to keep the unemployment rate low. In fact, it is harder than ever to receive benefits as the percentage of approved claims has fallen since 2007, and experts agree disability is not connected to a decrease in the labor force.
National disability organizations have criticized a misleading CBS News 60 Minutes report on Social Security disability which relied on anecdotal evidence to deceptively portray the vital program as wasteful and unsustainable, despite the fact that award rates fell during the recession and that fraud is less than one percent of the program.
On October 6, 60 Minutes stoked fears that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is "ravaged by waste and fraud," relying on Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) bipartisan* investigation and anecdotal evidence to hype growth in the program while misleadingly claiming that it "could become the first government benefits program to run out of money."
In response, organizations that advocate for and support people with disabilities nationwide have criticized the report. Rebecca Vallas, co-chair of the Social Security Task Force at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities -- a coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations -- told Media Matters the coverage was "sensational" and did a "tremendous disservice" to people with disabilities:
The recent 60 Minutes broadcast is just the latest in an array of sensational and misleading media reports that have perpetuated myths and stereotypes about the Social Security disability programs and the people they help. These media reports do a tremendous disservice to viewers as well as to people with disabilities. Any misuse of these vital programs is unacceptable; however it is unfortunate and disappointing when media reports mislead their viewers by painting entire programs with the brush of one or a few bad apples, without putting them in the context of the millions of individuals who receive benefits appropriately, and for whom they are a vital lifeline -- as well as the many disability advocates around the country who work hard to protect the rights of individuals with significant disabilities and serious illnesses who have been wrongly denied Social Security disability benefits.
Lisa Ekman, Director of Federal Policy at Health & Disability Advocates, said the organization was "extremely disappointed that 60 Minutes chose to air such a one-sided story based on anecdote and supposition ... Misleading media reports like the one on 60 Minutes distract from focusing on the real issue of helping American workers with and without disabilities achieve economic security."
The myths pushed by 60 Minutes have been repeatedly debunked by experts. The report admitted that the vast majority of people applying for benefits are denied, but ignored the fact that the majority of appeals are also denied, and that award rates have actually fallen during the economic recession. In April, the Wall Street Journal called the claim that federal disability benefits were to blame for people leaving the labor force "exaggerated," explaining that disability was in fact the least common reason individuals left the workforce.
As the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker noted, the report also "completely ignored all the comments from experts in the field ... pointing out that fraud is in fact not rampant in the disability program." Indeed, the Government Accountability Office has repeatedly found that fraud accounts for approximately one percent of all disability payments.
Fox News cherry-picked enrollment data in the new health care exchanges to suggest the Affordable Care Act was a failure, ignoring the fact that thousands of people successfully enrolled in health insurance plans the first day.
On October 3, the hosts of Fox & Friends criticized media for accurately reporting thousands of people attempted to access the online health care exchanges on October 1, suggesting that because Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana got "zero enrollees" the first day the exchanges were open, the law was a failure. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that due to technical glitches on the enrollment sites caused by the heavy traffic, "no one can get in and they're frustrated and not getting involved and worried about their personal information leaking."
But thousands of people in other parts of the country have successfully signed up for health coverage through the online marketplaces, and many more have successfully created accounts with which they can enroll at later dates. The Huffington Post reported:
Kentucky's health insurance exchange, Kynect, enrolled almost 3,000 households into health coverage by 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, and nearly 110,000 people viewed more than 1.6 million pages on the website, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) announced in a press release. Kynect had started almost 10,800 applications and completed more than 6,900 of them, according to the press release.
Rhode Island's Health Source RI already has signed up some consumers, Kaiser Health News reported Wednesday, and Connecticut's Access Health CT reported enrollments Tuesday.
Colorado postponed online sign-up for the first weeks of enrollment, but about 6,900 people created accounts on Connect for Health Colorado and the website saw 104,000 unique visitors as of 3:15 p.m. Mountain Time on Wednesday, the exchange announced on Twitter.
More than 18,000 people created accounts on Nevada Health Link and more than 63,000 people visited the site by 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time, according to a statement on Twitter. More than 120,000 people went to Covered Oregon, which is not yet accepting online enrollment, by 8:00 a.m. PDT Tuesday, according to a statement on its website, as officials asked consumers for patience, the Oregonian reported.
Louisiana's The Times-Picayune reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield had no enrollees the first day, but that other companies offering insurance in Louisiana through the online marketplace had not yet received the data to determine their level of enrollment.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the main website for the exchanges, HealthCare.gov, had successfully enrolled customers into health insurance on October 1, but according to a spokeswoman the department is unlikely to be able to exactly determine how many have enrolled until November.
Right-wing media have frantically attempted to spin the success of the health care exchanges into failure since day one of open enrollment.
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol dismissed the devastating effects of the government shutdown claiming, "no one no one is going to starve in Arkansas," ignoring that thousands of people across the country already face the loss of vital food nutrition programs.
On the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Kristol claimed that the shutdown wasn't a "disaster," and dismissed The Huffington Post's Sam Stein's argument that the shutdown was forcing 85,000 people to lose nutritional assistance in Arkansas alone. Kristol responded that Congress should move to fund anything that was a genuine emergency, but that "a one or two week shutdown is not going to be the end of the world":
[I]t's not going to be the end of the world honestly even if you're on nutritional assistance from the federal government. The state of Arkansas can help out, localities can help out, churches can help out, I believe that no one is going to starve in Arkansas because of the shutdown.
Starvation is an extreme measure by which to judge the damage of the shutdown. Though no one may have died yet, people around the country are facing the loss of essential food services, including in Arkansas.
The Associated Press reported on September 30 that Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe felt the state was "not in a position to" fund services typically from the federal government, and that "that more than 85,000 meals for Arkansas children would not be provided and 2,000 newborn babies would not receive infant formula through the Department of Health's WIC program."
Right-wing media falsely claimed a finalized rule shows that taxpayer money will fund abortion coverage for members of Congress under the new health care law, when the ruling clearly states individuals will have to pay for any abortion coverage with their own money and no federal funds will cover the procedure.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ruled that members of Congress and their staffers purchasing health insurance coverage on the new health insurance exchanges, which opened for enrollment October 1, would be able to purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage but only with their own personal contribution to premium costs. Right-wing media instead falsely claimed taxpayer subsidies for the new health insurance plans would fund the medical procedures. A Drudge Report headline "Feds approve taxpayer subsidies for abortion coverage" linked to a Washington Times article that further pushed the false claim that the new ruling broke federal law on abortion funding.
Mark Levin similarly got the ruling wrong on his September 30 radio show, reading the Drudge Report headline and falsely claiming that President Obama had lied when he promised no government funds would pay for abortions.
But the OPM clearly stated September 30 that no federal funds "will be used to cover abortions or to administer plans that cover abortions," and that the ruling is legal because the OPM will ensure any plan that administers the procedures will be paid for by the individual and not a government contribution:
Coverage of Abortion Services
Under OPM's final rule, no Federal funds, including administrative funds, will be used to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions. Unlike the health plans for which OPM contracts pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8902, 8903 and 8903a, OPM does not administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange. Consequently, while plans with such coverage may be offered on an Exchange, OPM can and will take appropriate administrative steps to ensure that the cost of any such coverage purchased by a Member of Congress or a congressional staffer from a designed SHOP is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from a government contribution, consistent with the general prohibition on Federal funds being used for this purpose.
The lie that the Affordable Care Act will provide federal funds for abortion has been promoted by right-wing media for years, despite the lack of any evidence. The administration has made clear that even federal grants to health care providers cannot be used to fund abortion services.
Fox & Friends hosted Amy Frederick of the anti-Obamacare group 60+ Association to push a series of debunked falsehoods about how health care reform will affect seniors' insurance coverage. Contrary to Fox's claims, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides more health benefits to seniors, will strengthen Medicare, does not tax medical devices such as hearing aids and wheelchairs, and does not interfere with medical decisions seniors make with their doctors.