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:
Fox's Andrew Napolitano mischaracterized the the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, pretending the law would force employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion.
On Fox's America's News HQ, network senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano hyped a legal challenge to the ACA by Notre Dame University, which refiled a lawsuit this week contesting the law's birth control mandate. Napolitano claimed the suit is "based upon Obamacare's imposition of an obligation on Notre Dame -- full disclosure, I'm an alumnus of Notre Dame -- which forces it to acquire health insurance which provides coverage for contraception and abortion, both of which violate Catholic core teaching."
Notwithstanding Napolitano's incorrect characterization, the ACA does not require employers to pay for insurance covering abortions. Instead, it requires states to provide at least one health plan that does not cover abortion in order to accommodate employers whose religious beliefs conflict with providing abortion coverage:
Book review magazine Kirkus Reviews praised The Benghazi Hoax as a "strong defense of the Democratic response" to right-wing myths about the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
In a review of The Benghazi Hoax, an e-book authored by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt that details the right-wing media's attempt to turn a tragic attack into a political scandal, Kirkus Reviews praised the e-book's response to conservative misinformation about Benghazi:
Beyond these facts, so much remains up for grabs, with conservatives claiming that the compound should have been better protected and should have received reinforcements, that President Barack Obama is soft on terrorism and tried to shift blame, and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has lied about her role and responsibility in the tragedy. To the contrary, asserts Media Matters for America founder Brock (The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy, 2004, etc.) in this strong defense of the Democratic response, a conspiracy of conservative lies has kept this controversy alive, primarily through the Fox News talking heads and other "hoaxsters," including Mitt Romney and senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte. They have progressed from the scapegoating of Obama to an attempt to derail Clinton's campaign as the front-runner to be nominated as his successor. "The reality is that there are two Benghazis," writes the author, one in which "the most basic facts would get twisted, contorted, even invented out of thin air to create bogus narratives" by "a Republican noise machine."
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
After Rush Limbaugh compared recently enacted filibuster reform to a vote "allow[ing] women to be raped," a spokesman defended the host by saying, "Limbaugh has spent 25 years illustrating absurdity by using extrapolated analogies." Indeed, Limbaugh has a long history of making outrageous, offensive comparisons and invoking rape when discussing politics.
Sean Hannity called the Senate's passage of filibuster reform a "lawless maneuver" despite having supported it in 2005 under Republican President George W. Bush.
After the Senate voted to change the rules on judicial nominees to allow confirmation with a simple majority vote, Hannity called the move a "lawless maneuver," saying "Democrats break the rules":
But in 2005, under a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress, Hannity called judicial nominations one of the "specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a supermajority," arguing that it was "unconstitutional to filibuster":
HANNITY: Senator [John McCain], one last question before we let you go here.
There are seven specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a supermajority. I believe it's unconstitutional to filibuster. It is not about advice and consent now to ask for a supermajority on judicial nominations. I believe that is not constitutional.
There's been a lot of talk about what we describe as the "constitutional option," which is that the Republicans would unite and vote, and there would be an up-or-down vote on all of the judicial nominations. Do you think that's the right thing to do? Will you support [then-Senate Majority Leader] Senator [Bill] Frist if he does it?
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out, of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations that have occurred in the history of the U.S. Senate, half have occurred during the Obama administration.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly distorted a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as risk corridors, falsely claiming the law subsidizes insurance companies if they don't make a profit under the new health care system.
On the November 19 edition of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly hosted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to discuss Rubio's Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he described risk corridors as a "bailout for Obamacare." During the segment, O'Reilly adopted Rubio's attack, claiming that "one of the little-known parts of Obamacare is an option for the feds to reimburse private health insurance companies if they are not making enough money under the affordable health care law. In effect, the feds would subsidize private insurance companies if they don't make profit from Obamacare." Rubio described the provision by claiming "any shortfalls that may happen as a result of the law, that they are going to come in and make up for it. And according to the rule the way they've written it, it could be any amount":
But risk corridors are not a bailout. The provision is a way of stabilizing the insurance market by protecting insurers who cover higher-risk individuals by transferring costs from insurance plans that cover healthier people. A Health Affairs policy brief explained that risk corridors are "particularly useful in a period of transition, such as is likely to be the case in 2014 when many sicker people and those with preexisting health conditions will be buying coverage through insurance exchanges for the first time":
Fox's Megyn Kelly misrepresented a recent Justice Department memo to make it appear as though employer-provided health plans would be forced to change under the Affordable Care Act. But group plans that existed before the passage of the law remain unaffected unless insurers and employers choose to substantially alter them.
The Affordable Care Act exempted insurance plans that existed before March 23, 2010 from many of its regulations, allowing insurers to continue offering those plans on the condition that they did not significantly change either the benefits offered or the overall cost. Those policies are known as "grandfathered plans."
On the November 18 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly highlighted language from an October 2013 Department of Justice brief which estimated that most plans would lose their grandfathered status over time. Kelly claimed the memo contradicted President Obama's assertion that the vast majority of insurance cancellations were in the individual market, as opposed to employer provided plans. Kelly hosted Andrew McCarthy who used the brief to call the ACA "a massive fraudulent scheme" in a National Review Online post. During the segment, McCarthy claimed the brief predicted that consumers in the group market would "lose their coverage."
But the brief does not say that people who are insured in group plans, such as employer-sponsored insurance, will lose their coverage. Rather, it points out that group health plans could merely lose grandfather status if they're changed. As the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in their 2012 Employer Benefits Survey, under the ACA insurance plans do not lose grandfathered status unless the insurer makes "significant changes that reduce benefits or employee costs." In fact, according to the Kaiser survey, the primary reason firms chose not to grandfather a health plan was to maintain flexibility in making future plan choices.
After attacking Obamacare by highlighting easily debunked personal anectodes, Fox hosted another guest who falsely claimed the health care law would harm him personally without checking to make sure his story was accurate.
In a November 14 Salon post, former senior counsel to Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), Eric Stern wrote about a conversation he had with Bill Lawrence, a man featured on Fox's The Kelly File after writing a letter to Fox News explaining that he and his partners "had to sell our company because we couldn't afford the almost $400,000 in either penalties and fines or insurance premiums that we would have to pay as a result of ObamaCare." In the uncritical interview, host Megyn Kelly responded to Lawrence by asking his "thoughts on having your livelihood directly affected based on what politicians in Washington felt was best for you."
Stern contacted Lawrence after the segment aired and Lawrence admitted that he had sold his Texas-area car wash for multiple reasons, many of which had nothing to do with the ACA:
Rush Limbaugh highlighted a series of ads produced by private Colorado nonprofits that promote the contraception provisions of the Affordable Care Act to revive attacks on Sandra Fluke, the law student and reproductive choice advocate that he labeled a "slut."
Nonprofit organizations ProgressNow Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative released a series of ads encouraging Colorado residents to apply for insurance through the state's health insurance exchanges. The ads included messages that highlighted increased access to contraception through insurance coverage. The Denver Post reported that the ads were targeted at young people and have ignited controversy:
In one of the most discussed "Got insurance?" ads, produced by the liberal ProgressNow Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a young woman holds a packet of birth-control pills and stands next to a young man, his hand wrapped around her waist.
So what's she thinking?
"OMG, he's hot! Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers," read the words in the risqué advertisement.
While the groups say the aim is to encourage young people to enroll in the state's new health insurance exchange -- a pillar to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act -- some have said it belittles women. It also adds to the partisan back-and-forth over the new health care law.
Limbaugh used the ads to recall Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified before congress about reproductive access, leading Limbaugh to label her a "slut" and "prostitute." On the November 13 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh claimed he was vindicated by the ads and revived his attack on Fluke:
LIMBAUGH: All right, now, here's the ad. I'm gonna turn the Dittocam on. You've heard me read the text. Here is the ad. That ad is promoting promiscuity. That ad is associating promiscuity with Obamacare. Obamacare will get you your birth control pill so you can get him and you can get her. And you can get each other between the covers. You don't have to worry about anything because Obamacare's got you covered because you got insurance.
Let me show you this one more time. I have to pull this down because I've got the Dittocam really focused in. I think back, ladies and gentlemen, when I predicted, I warned everybody that's where this was headed. I forget that woman's name now, Snerdley, the one that was in that fake congressional hearing press conference. But she was sitting there, and she was basically saying, "Look, I want to have limitless, endless sex, I want you to pay for it. It's costing me $3,000 a month for my birth control, but I can't afford that with my tuition and everything else and I want you all to pay for it." And I was like any normal, responsible person, I was insulted by this, that we were being told we have to pay for this, which is behavior we don't sanction. We don't think there's anything good that can come of it.