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.
Fox News' Steve Doocy falsely claimed the federal budget deficit had increased by 137 percent under President Obama, when in fact the deficit as a percentage of the total economy has fallen to its lowest level since 2008.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi argued on the September 22 edition of CNN's State of the Union that Republicans who insisted on further cuts to government spending during budget negotiations were harming the economy, noting that spending has already been significantly reduced and that "President Obama, when he became president, he said I'm going to cut the deficit in half in four years. He did it in four years and three months."
On Fox & Friends the following morning, co-host Steve Doocy mocked Pelosi's math, claiming that Pelosi "says the president has cut the deficit by half" when "according to the CBO, it's gone up 137 percent."
This is false. The Congressional Budget Office reported September 17 that the annual federal budget deficit had fallen this year to "its smallest size since 2008: roughly 4 percent of GDP [gross domestic product], compared with a peak of almost 10 percent in 2009":
The economy's gradual recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, the waning budgetary effects of policies enacted in response to the weak economy, and other changes to tax and spending policies have caused the deficit to shrink this year to its smallest size since 2008: roughly 4 percent of GDP, compared with a peak of almost 10 percent in 2009. If current laws governing taxes and spending were generally unchanged -- an assumption that underlies CBO's 10-year baseline budget projections -- the deficit would continue to drop over the next few years, falling to 2 percent of GDP by 2015. As a result, by 2018, federal debt held by the public would decline to 68 percent of GDP.
A CBO chart further showed how the revised May 2013 projection of the federal deficit revealed the deficit had fallen dramatically since 2011 and would continue dropping through 2015 under current laws:
Fox News' Gregg Jarrett repeatedly pressed Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) to declare that the Obama administration has been engaged in a "cover up" of the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
On the September 21 edition of America's News Headquarters, co-host Jarrett demanded to know why a reluctant Meehan would not describe the administration's response to Benghazi as a "cover up," asking the congressman several times why he wouldn't use the phrase. Watch:
JARRETT: Is this a cover up, and is it blatant?
MEEHAN: Well, it is certainly not a thorough investigation in the way that it was advertised. And that's the key. They've been relying on this as if it was a dispassionate--
JARRETT: You don't want to call it a cover up.
MEEHAN: -- and thorough investigation, and it's not.
JARRETT: How come you don't want to call it a cover up?
MEEHAN: Well, you know, you can call it a cover up. I think they asked the right questions --
JARRETT: No, why don't you call it a cover up? That's what I'm asking.
MEEHAN: Because I think -- I want to see accountability. I think that they're asking questions, but they're failing to ask the right people the questions, all the way to the top.
JARRETT: Well and it's been a year, which is ridiculous.
During his interview of Meehan, Jarrett continued his trend of pushing a number of debunked falsehoods about Benghazi, including falsely claiming that President Obama was sleeping the night of the attacks and that no rescue effort was sent to Benghazi. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has stated that Obama was "well-informed" during the attack, and a photo of Obama meeting in the Oval Office with his National Security advisors the night of the attacks has been available on the White House Flickr page since October 2012. Furthermore, as experts have repeatedly made clear, help was sent to Benghazi, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called out those who claimed more could have been done to rescue those in Benghazi for having a "cartoonish impression of the military."
Jarrett's desperate attempt to get Rep. Meehan to use the label is not the first time Fox News has suggested there is a Benghazi "cover up," and continues the network's repeated creation and promotion of lies, smears, and conspiracies related to the attacks.
Watch the full segment:
Fox News' Martha MacCallum scapegoated individuals with mental health conditions by suggesting that increased institutionalization is a solution to mass shootings, ignoring the dangers that poses to individuals with these conditions and the need for greater gun safety.
On the September 19 America's Newsroom, MacCallum suggested that Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooting suspect, should have been institutionalized for a mental health condition, asking if we have "become so PC that we do not understand" the need to institutionalize some "categories of people." She also criticized the medical system for only institutionalizing people who have previously been convicted of a crime:
Have we not become so PC that we do not understand that there are categories of people -- many people who do not deserve to be institutionalized, but some do. And if this man had been institutionalized, something that we, you know, seem to never do any more in this country -- in fact, Adam Lanza's mother, according to the reports after Newtown, wanted to institutionalize her son. She was worried that he would do something. But unless you have been convicted, you cannot be institutionalized. So what do we do about this?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Alexis never reported that he was depressed or that he was considering harming himself or others prior to the shooting. He sought treatment solely for insomnia. Doctors said he was "alert and oriented" and never asked for an appointment with VA mental health specialists.
MacCallum's solution raises as many questions as it answers, most critically who gets institutionalized and when.
Institutions, or psychiatric hospitals, can play a role in treatment for people with severe mental health conditions, but they are not the most effective solution in every case.
Fox News falsely claimed the Obama administration had done little to address issues of mental health following recent mass shootings, hiding the fact that gun violence prevention legislation backed by President Obama included mental health provisions and that the president has signed multiple measures aimed at increasing Americans' access to mental health services.
On September 17, President Obama called on Congress to strengthen background checks for gun purchases following the mass shooting at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard by a former Navy reservist who had clearance to access the base as a civilian contractor and who had passed a background check to purchase the gun he brought with him.
On September 18, Fox & Friends criticized the call for stronger gun laws following the tragedy, with co-host Brian Kilmeade saying "the focus really should be on mental illness" and accusing doctors of letting dangerous individuals out "wild in society." Co-host Steve Doocy then criticized President Obama over the tragedy, saying that "[a]fter the Newtown massacre, what did the President of the United States say? He said his administration, quote, 'would bring mental illness out of the shadows.' What have they done so far? They've had a conference in June. Nothing has happened."
Doocy and Kilmeade's fixation on mental health as the solution to gun violence is misplaced, as studies have shown that people with mental health conditions are more often the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. In fact, 96 percent of violent crimes "are committed by people without any mental-health problems at all."
But Doocy was also wrong: Obama and Senate Democrats have supported gun violence prevention legislation which addressed mental health issues, and Obama has signed multiple measures to increase access to mental health services for those who need them.
The Wall Street Journal promoted Republican revisionist history portraying previous debt ceiling negotiations as bipartisan, ignoring the Republican obstructionism that led to the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.
If Congress is unable to raise the U.S. debt ceiling -- which allows Congress to pay for past spending -- much of the government will shut down by October 1, and by mid-October, the Treasury Department will lose the ability to pay its debts, thereby hurting the economy. Divisions among House Republicans have stalled efforts to pass the necessary legislation, with many insisting on significant cuts to government spending and delaying President Obama's health care law.
On September 12, the Journal reported Speaker of the House John Boehner's response to the administration's refusal to negotiate on these "nonstarter" proposals, claiming it was a departure from "decades" of previous negotiations that found "bipartisan solutions":
Congress faces a deadline in mid-October to pass legislation that would raise the debt limit. Mr. Obama has said he would refuse to negotiate with Republicans on terms for raising the borrowing limit and that Congress must allow the Treasury to pay for spending already approved by lawmakers.
But Mr. Boehner (R., Ohio) told reporters Thursday that stance was a departure from numerous precedents, in which the White House and Congress agreed to budget changes in exchange for a debt-limit increase.
"For decades, the White House, the Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and the debt," Mr. Boehner said, alluding to deficit-reduction deals passed under former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, among others. "So, President Obama is going to have to deal with this, as well."
The Journal failed to note that Boehner's rosy painting of history hid the unprecedented crisis of August 2011 caused by Republican obstructionism. Raising the debt ceiling had been a routine procedure until then, when Republicans held the economy hostage by threatening not to support any increase without equal amounts of spending cuts. Economists at the time cautioned that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economies, and a June 2011 letter to congressional leaders signed by 235 prominent economists warned:
Failure to increase the debt limit sufficiently to accommodate existing U.S. laws and obligations also could undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government, with potentially grave long-term consequences. This loss of trust could translate into higher interest rates not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and consumers, causing all to pay higher prices for credit. Economic growth and jobs would suffer as a result.
Obama ultimately signed a bill that averted the crisis, ending the "bitter partisan stalemate that had threatened to plunge the nation into default and destabilize the world economy."
The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens used the possibility of military intervention in Syria to rewrite the history of the Iraq war, falsely claiming the Bush administration's case against Iraq was supported by solid evidence.
Stephens, the Journal's foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor for international opinion pages, criticized the Obama administration's case for intervention in Syria by comparing it to Bush's decision to invade Iraq, which he claimed was made based on "highly detailed" intelligence revealing weapons of mass destruction. Stephens claimed the "testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix" supported the Bush administration's case for war, and accusations that the Bush administration lied were "libel" and "cheap slander":
Then there's the intel. In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration's evidence of Assad's use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The "dossier" consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as "we assess with high confidence" and "we have a body of information," and "we have identified one hundred videos."
By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council. It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that "there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared," that his inspectors had found "indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized," and that Iraq had "circumvented the restrictions" on the import of missile parts.
The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn't shock Democrats that the White House's "trust us" approach isn't winning converts. When you've spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don't be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.
So what should President Obama say when he addresses the country Tuesday night? He could start by apologizing to President Bush for years of cheap slander. He won't.
But Hans Blix told CNN in 2004 that the Bush administration "chose to ignore" his team's concerns about the lack of solid evidence in favor of war, and that prior to the invasion the evidence of WMDs in Iraq was revealed to be "shaky":
"I think it's clear that in March, when the invasion took place, the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart," Hans Blix, who oversaw the agency's investigation into whether Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
Blix described the evidence Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 as "shaky," and said he related his opinion to U.S. officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"I think they chose to ignore us," Blix said.
Furthermore, an investigation into the lead up to the Iraq war found that statements President Bush made about Iraq misled the American people and Congress by inaccurately depicting the available intelligence. The 2008 Senate Intelligence Committee's report found that "policymakers' statements" in particular misrepresented the nature of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that Bush's allegations "that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership" were "not substantiated by the intelligence." The report also found that statements by Bush and Vice President Cheney indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give WMDs to terrorists for use against the U.S. "were contradicted by available intelligence information."
While there are serious questions about the wisdom of using military force in Syria, any debate must include the facts -- not the Journal's fanciful rewriting of history.
In a desperate attempt to revive the manufactured Benghazi "scandal" in advance of its one-year anniversary on Wednesday, Fox News hyped a misleading ABC interview with Benghazi witness Gregory Hicks that was discredited by the State Department.
Fox & Friends hyped former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Hicks' claim that he had been "punished" for speaking out about Benghazi, furthering Fox's campaign of scandal-mongering about the Benghazi attacks in advance of Wednesday's anniversary. On September 9, the show aired a small portion of Hicks' ABC interview, in which he claimed that he had been "punished" and his career had been stalled following his congressional testimony on the attacks, while on-screen text claimed that "nearly one year later, still no answers" on Benghazi:
But Fox left out the portion of the interview where George Stephanopoulos read part of the State Department response to Hicks' claim, which discredited Hicks' remarks. State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach responded to Hicks' interview by telling ABC News that "The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way," and explained that Hicks' departure from his position in Libya was voluntary and that the State Department is currently "working with him through the normal personnel process and assignment timetable to identify his next permanent assignment." Gerlach concluded that "the State Department does not tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on ANY ISSUE, including Benghazi."
Fox's campaign went so far as to equate the Benghazi attacks, in which four Americans were killed, with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, in which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed. Co-host Gretchen Carlson conflated the two anniversaries, saying "this week, coming up on Wednesday, it's the one-year anniversary of not only 9-11, but Benghazi and what happened there," and later in the show Fox & Friends aired an image of events that are distracting Americans from the conflict in Syria, including the "9/11 & Benghazi Anniversaries" this Wednesday.
Fox News hosted discredited right-wing activist Hans von Spakovsky to misleadingly claim that a voter ID law in Texas would make voting easier, despite a federal court's findings that the law was racially discriminatory and placed a high burden on low-income Americans.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced August 22 that it will sue to block Texas' attempt to reinstate a voter ID law that was previously voided on the grounds that it was racially discriminatory, explaining that it violates the Constitution and "was adopted with the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group."
Fox & Friends guest co-host Anna Kooiman interviewed von Spakovsky on August 30 to attack the DOJ's decision, during which von Spakovsky claimed that high minority voter turnout in the 2012 election proved that voter ID laws did not suppress the vote and that the DOJ "lost" when it attempted to fight a voter ID law in South Carolina. Kooiman pointed to von Spakovksy's assertion that voter ID cards actually "speeds up" the voting process, which he claimed is "exactly right."
Kooiman then implied that voter ID laws are not racially discriminatory in Texas because more white individuals in total are in poverty than Hispanics and blacks -- ignoring that fact that whites make up 80 percent of Texas' population, and so of course have more total individuals in poverty.
Von Spakovsky is a right-wing voter ID activist who has been exposed as resorting to shady tactics in his quest to limit voter participation, and his research on this topic has been thoroughly discredited. As Justin Levitt, previously of the Brennan Center, explained, von Spakovsky's misleading claim that high voter turnout means voter ID laws don't suppress voters is a "correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it." And von Spakovsky's claim that South Carolina offered a good model for Texas to fight the DOJ's challenge hid the fact that the court explicitly agreed with the DOJ's concerns that the South Carolina law could be racially discriminatory as enacted, and warned it would be blocked in the future if that occurred.
Furthermore, his claim that the use of state-issued identification cards to vote "speeds up" the process ignores the fact that this law disenfranchises American citizens. As MSNBC.com reporter Zachary Roth noted, according to Texas's data, "anywhere from 605,000 to 795,000 registered voters--between 4% and 6% of all registered voters in the state--lack the required form of ID."
And acquiring the qualifying identification in order to cast a regular ballot comes with a high cost, placing a burden on low-income voters -- a burden which falls "disproportionately" on African Americans and Hispanics living in Texas. The federal court that struck down Texas' law in 2012 found the "evidence conclusively shows that the implicit costs of obtaining [a] qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."
As The Nation's Ari Berman noted, according to the DOJ's 2012 objection to the Texas law, "Hispanic voters [were] between 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely than whites to not have the new voter ID" in Texas.