The announcement that The Washington Post is partnering with and hosting the conservative and libertarian-leaning blog The Volokh Conspiracy is evidence that the Post may be moving to the right in the wake of the paper's acquisition by Jeff Bezos.
On January 21, The Washington Post announced that it had entered into a partnership with The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog that has operated since 2002 and largely focuses on legal issues but has strayed into other areas, including climate denialism. The Post praised the blog in its announcement of the agreement, calling it a "must-read source [that] will be a great addition to the Post's coverage of law, politics and policy." In his first official post, the blog's founder, Eugene Volokh, revealed that the Post granted him "full editorial control."
The move was celebrated by right-wing media outlets such as the American Spectator, which praised Washington Post owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for highlighting a blog that provides legal commentary "from a [generally] libertarian or conservative perspective," writing, "Perhaps it should stand to reason that a man who made a fortune offering people choices, should offer the same alternatives to his readership. What a novel concept in today's news atmosphere." TownHall editor Conn Carroll cited the acquisition as evidence that Bezos was "clearly moving" the Post "in a libertarian direction."
Breitbart.com's John Nolte also cheered the decision to host The Volokh Conspiracy, writing that it will "give the Post the sorely needed voices of legitimate conservatives, but unlike Klein the Volokh Conspiracy won't attempt to hide their ideology."
Fox News' Andrea Tantaros baselessly claimed that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports sex-selective abortion and distorted his Women's Equality Act after Cuomo criticized "extreme conservatives" in New York.
In an appearance on Albany, N.Y., public radio station WCNY's Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo condemned the actions of extreme conservatives, saying, "Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that's not who New Yorkers are." After the New York Post highlighted his comments under the headline "Gov. Cuomo to conservatives: Leave NY!," Cuomo's office argued that he had been taken out of context and that in that same appearance, Cuomo "went on to say 'it is fine' to be anti-gun control, and anti-choice - as he respects both positions."
In an appearance on the January 21 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Tantaros attacked Cuomo for his comments and attempted to portray him as out of the mainstream by baselessly claiming that Cuomo "believes in gender selection, so if you are having a girl and you don't want a girl, you can just get rid of it and have a boy" and that the governor believes "you can have an abortion any time":
But Tantaros offered no evidence to support her claim that Cuomo supports sex-selective abortion, instead parroting talking points from right-wing groups such as the Chiaroscuro Foundation who made the dubious accusation that because the Women's Equality Act -- a proposed law championed by Cuomo -- does not explicitly outlaw sex-selective abortion, the governor supports it.
An inflammatory Fox Nation headline declared that "A Ton of ObamaCare Navigators Are Criminals," even though there is no clear evidence that the small number of navigators in question have been convicted of any crimes.
A January 16 post on Fox Nation attacked the Affordable Care Act's navigators, officials hired and trained to guide consumers through health care options and the application process, by posting a National Review Online article under the headline "A Ton of ObamaCare Navigators Are Criminals":
But Fox Nation's inflammatory headline is not supported by the NRO article, which only identifies a small number of navigators in New Mexico who may or may not have criminal backgrounds. After a review of public records, NRO found that 38 of the certified counselors "had a match in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database." The post went on to explain that being matched in the NCIC is not evidence that the individual committed a crime:
Serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that 25 million consumers in the small-group health insurance market would lose coverage due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), citing a controversial and widely criticized 2011 survey that admitted it "was not intended as a predictive analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act."
In a January 14 New York Post op-ed, McCaughey claimed the ACA "will hurt twice as many people as it helps" by making "employer-provided policies illegal" for millions of Americans. As evidence, McCaughey pointed to a February 2011 survey to claim that "a conservative estimate is that 25 million people, out of the 60 million in small group plans, get dropped in 2014":
Even the chance that ObamaCare's "employer mandate" will go into effect in 2015 isn't apt to deter employers from dropping coverage. The penalty for not complying with the mandate would add only 98 cents an hour for a 40-hour worker -- a bargain compared with the $1.79 cost of providing coverage plus the enormous amount of red tape, reporting requirements and fees that ObamaCare piles on employers who provide coverage. In truth, the law discourages employers from insuring their workers, making it far easier and cheaper to send them to the exchanges.
That's why the management consultants at McKinsey & Co. warned in 2011 that nearly a third of employers surveyed already were considering dropping coverage, with the figure rising among those familiar with the law's requirements.
So a conservative estimate is that 25 million people, out of the 60 million in small group plans, get dropped in 2014. Add that to the 5 million or so whose individual-market already canceled on Jan. 1, and you have a lot of losers.
McCaughey's "conservative estimate" was extrapolated from a two-year-old survey conducted by management consultant company McKinsey & Company that "offers a snapshot of attitudes that suggests the shift away from employer-provided health insurance could be greater than expected." But in the introduction to McKinsey's post on its own survey, the firm admits that the survey "was not intended as a predictive analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act." The survey's methodology further warns:
Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture outrage against the Affordable Care Act by promoting the misleading claim that the health care law includes a taxpayer-funded bailout for health insurance companies. In fact, the provision, known as reinsurance, is funded by the insurance companies themselves, not taxpayer money.
(Flickr image via southerntabitha)
2013 will be remembered as the year of health care policy. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) dominated media outlets across the spectrum, especially following the implementation of the law's health care exchanges in October. Yet often lost in all the noise was factual reporting on the new law. Much right-wing and even mainstream media coverage pushed misleading, hyperbolic, and outright false attacks about the ACA.
Right-wing media figures greeted the health care law's exchanges with inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric.
In an October 11 appearance at the Values Voters' Summit, recently-hired Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson declared that Obamacare "is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," later deciding, "It is slavery, in a way." Carson's comparison of slavery to a law that grants universal access to health insurance was not remarkable for the right-wing media. In an appearance on NPR's Morning Edition, George Will approved of GOP efforts to repeal the law by likening them to the Fugitive Slave Act, saying "the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them." On Fox News' Hannity, right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt compared defunding the ACA to repealing prohibition and slavery.
Conservative media were not the only ones to make outrageous comparisons. Media figures across the ideological spectrum attempted to link technical problems with Healthcare.gov to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. The comparison, of course, ignores the thousands of lives lost in the hurricane, as Media Matters pointed out:
Fox News' Steve Doocy falsely claimed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes wellness programs "illegal" when, in fact, the law expands them.
On the December 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy interviewed attorney Eric Miller, who had received notice from his insurer that he was being transferred to a new health insurance policy. Miller's old plan provided incentives for healthy behavior, such as mandatory doctor visits and exercise. After Miller complained that his new plan would not offer the same benefits, Doocy claimed "so you got a discount under your old plan because you were healthy. But under Obamacare, that's going to be illegal, right?":
The ACA not only does not make wellness programs illegal, it provides added incentives and grants to expand such programs. A Department of Labor fact sheet pointed out that the law "creates new incentives and builds on existing wellness program policies":
Fox Business host David Asman baselessly speculated that health care reform's Medicaid expansion could bankrupt states, a prediction at odds with economic experts who have declared the expansion "a very favorable financial deal for states."
The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people whose income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government covers the full cost of new enrollees. After 2016, the federal government will continue to pay 90 percent of the program's cost.
On the December 11 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Asman warned that new Medicaid enrollees who became eligible for coverage due to the Affordable Care Act's would be covered at "an extraordinary extra cost to taxpayers." Asman went so far as to claim the cost could bankrupt states:
ASMAN: States are spending 30 - 40 percent of their entire budget on Medicaid. And as these more people sign on to Medicaid because of Obamacare, they're going to not only cost us taxpayers more money on the federal level, but they may make some states go bankrupt, because they won't be able to keep up with all those extra Medicaid patients.
Expanding Medicaid would not only not bankrupt states, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), it "will add very little to what states would have spent on Medicaid without health reform." CBPP found that "Expanding Medicaid is thus a very favorable financial deal for states":
Right-wing media figures have rushed to defend President Ronald Reagan's record on apartheid and South Africa in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death.
Reagan's record came under increased attention following the death of the former South African president and anti-apartheid activist. In an interview with Salon, Whitman College historian David Schmitz discussed Reagan's policy toward South Africa, which included opposition to Mandela's party, the African National Congress, labelling Mandela and the ANC as "terrorists," and vetoing sanctions against the pro-apartheid government that ruled South Africa at the time:
What about U.S. policy toward the opposition groups like the ANC and Nelson Mandela?
They called the ANC terrorists. It was just continuing this notion that the ANC members are the extremists and the South African government has these moderates, and you're going to end up with one extreme against the other if you don't work with the government. Clearly, it never worked. This was a flawed policy.
Would you argue that Reagan's foreign policy extended the life of the regime in South Africa?
Yes. It gave it life. It gave it hope that the United States would continue to stick with it. It gave it continued flow of aid as well as ideological support. It delayed the changes that were going to come. Then you had the big crackdowns in '86 and '87. So there was harm in the lengthening. There was harm in the violence that continued.
Despite his history, right-wing media figures defended Reagan's history after Mandela's death. CNN host Newt Gingrich claimed that Mandela's death was "being used inappropriately" by critics of Reagan:
A New York Times article highlighted positive stories of people gaining coverage from the Affordable Care Act's exchanges -- a departure from the media's history of ignoring the law's success stories in favor of overwhelmingly negative coverage.
The media has overwhelmingly turned to negative anecdotal stories in covering the implementation of the ACA's exchanges. In The American Prospect, Paul Waldman argued that the media's tendency to use negative "exemplars" in health care coverage dramatically overemphasizes negative consequences of the law, often employing misleading reporting in order to manufacture "victims" of the law:
As the Affordable Care Act approaches full implementation, we're seeing a lot of exemplar stories, and I've been noticing one particular type: the story of the person who seems to be getting screwed. If it were true that most Americans were indeed being made worse off by the law, that would be a good thing; we'd learn their stories and get a sense of the human cost of the law. The trouble is that in the real world, there are many more people being helped by the law than hurt by it, and even those who claim to be hurt by it aren't being hurt at all.
Journalists have a natural inclination to cover bad news over good and to be skeptical of the government, which is usually healthy. But if you aren't careful it can also lead to misleading reporting. If you're going to do a story presenting one person as a victim of the law, it might be a good idea to make sure they are what you say they are.
Waldman cited a report from the NBC Nightly News as an example of how the media's coverage of health care consequences can be misleading. The segment highlighted a Los Angeles real estate agent whose premiums were higher after her insurer cancelled her plan and she looked for replacement coverage on the exchange. Waldman pointed out that the segment left out crucial context, such as whether she was eligible for subsidies and what level of coverage her current plan provided. A CBS News segment had similar problems, interviewing a woman named Dianne Barrette who lost her existing coverage and found replacement plans to be much more expensive. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple criticized the report, pointing out that Barrette's current plan was "a pray-that-you-don't-really-get-sick 'plan'" and "could well have bankrupted her."
Fox News' Sean Hannity faced criticism after hosting three couples who professed to be "victims" of the health care law. After Eric Stern, a former senior adviser to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, contacted the three couples after the show aired, he found that none of them had actually been negatively impacted by the law or had even attempted to shop for coverage on the exchanges that they were complaining about: