2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
Media Matters looks back at the best of the worst of right-wing media's treatment of women in 2013.
Forbes columnist John Tamny's declaration on The Daily Show that food stamps are "cruel" and would be replaced by private charity if people were "literally starving" with "distended bellies" is in keeping with his past remarks on the program -- In his regular role as a Fox panelist, Tamny has lamented that food stamp recipients are not publicly shamed and embarrassed for receiving the benefits.
On the December 17 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Forbes columnist Tamny spoke to correspondent Jessica Williams about the $5 billion recently cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps). Tamny told Williams, "If I were in control, I would abolish SNAP all together. I think food stamps are cruel." He added, "I don't think anyone is happy if they're reliant on someone else, if they're taking a handout."
Tamny argued that if people were "literally starving," a "massive outpouring of charity" would "make up for that fact":
WILLIAMS: What does literally starving look like?
TAMNY: This is going to come off the wrong way, but I guess it's where people have literally distended bellies where they're getting almost nothing. We don't hear about the poor in this country starving on the streets.
He went on to deny that the food stamp program keeps people from starving.
The photographer who captured Obama's selfie with the Danish Prime Minister criticized the media frenzy surrounding the picture as 'unfortunate' and "sad" during an interview on NPR, citing a Media Matters report that found the majority of cable coverage of Nelson Mandela's memorial focused on the selfie and Obama's handshake with the Cuban president rather than Mandela himself.
When President Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt took a "selfie" together during the December 10 memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the photograph quickly became one of the biggest media stories of the week, eclipsing even Mandela.
According to a Media Matters report, a majority of cable news coverage of Mandela's memorial service focused on Obama's selfie and his handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro rather than on the service itself or Mandela's legacy.
Roberto Schmidt, the Agence France-Presse photographer who captured the selfie, criticized the obsessive coverage of the picture as unfortunate during an interview on the December 16 edition of NPR's On The Media. According to Schmidt, the photograph gave "refreshing" insight into the "human-side" of "dignitaries" and was not "shamefully disrespectful," but the media has "blown it out of proportion." He added:
SCHMIDT: [W]e put out close to 500 images that day and some of the images are very, very interesting, nice, strong images, showing the celebration for Nelson Mandela. And unfortunately, you know, the picture that got the most front-pages in dailies and websites around the world was the selfie.
Host Brooke Gladstone asked Schmidt about Media Matters' report about media coverage and the media storm surrounding his photo, and he decried it as "just sad," wondering what it "say[s] about our society" [emphasis added]:
Fox News allowed the president of Koch brothers-funded Generation Opportunity, which has created a series of anti-Obamacare ads, to characterize the organization as "independent" and funded by "a variety of donors."
On the December 9 edition of Fox News' On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren played a new attack ad from Generation Opportunity, which encouraged young Americans to "opt out" of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After providing Generation Opportunity President Evan Feinberg a platform to promote his organization and attack the ACA, Van Susteren asked, "Where do you get the money," specifically inquiring whether Generation Opportunity is funded by any "influential group." Feinberg maintained that Generation Opportunity is "an independent organization":
VAN SUSTEREN: Where do you get the money, because that looked like a pretty expensive ad. Where do you get the money?
FEINBERG: Oh, we've got a variety of donors, and we're just focused on working with people across the country who care deeply about helping our generation to fight for our own freedom.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I ask why, you know, I'm wondering if there is some very influential group that funds you and sort of, that, as a consequence you've got to take some marching orders from some other group, or how independent are you?
FEINBERG: Oh no, we're an independent organization that's able to fight for our peers and you see these ads are really creative opportunities to very inexpensively reach millions of young people.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto refused to listen to the facts about the nation's desperate need for more infrastructure spending, instead repeatedly shouting that prior funding must have been "stolen" because some infrastructure "still sucks."
This week Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is expected to introduce a bill raising the federal gas tax, which supports the Highway Trust Fund used to build transportation infrastructure, by $0.15 per gallon. On December 3, Blumenauer appeared on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto to explain his proposal. But rather than allowing a discussion on the reasoning behind the bill, Cavuto shouted over the congressman for more than nine minutes.
Over and over again, Cavuto demanded to know why additional revenue is needed for transit infrastructure, repeatedly interrupting Blumenauer to ask, "what's happened to all the money we've already allocated?" Cavuto indicated that additional spending would be wasteful, because, according to him, the nation's "infrastructure still sucks" despite present funds.
Cavuto even pushed the conspiracy theory that funds previously allocated for transit infrastructure were "stolen," as revenues from the gas tax would be. He shouted:
CAVUTO: Congressman, do you honestly believe -- working with the folks that you do -- that the money that you might get from this gas tax is going to be used exclusively and only for repairing roads and bridges and fixing our highways? Do you think that's really going to be the case? Does the history with the people you work with indicate that that will ever be the case? Really?
BLUMENAUER: Why do you say that? Where do you think it's gone? How did the --
CAVUTO: I don't know. Because our roads and bridges are for crap and this is after we've committed tens of millions of dollars each and every year through a variety of sources and they're still falling apart. So you're saying, maybe the difference - maybe the answer is more money, but the fact of the matter is, the money we've already spent we can't account for
BLUMENAUER: Where do you get that, you can't account for it? That's goofy --
CAVUTO: Can you account for $42 billion? Can you spell out for me, congressman, where that $42 billion has gone?
CAVUTO: If the goal was to fix roads and bridges and they're still -- accurately, to your point, falling apart -- methinks someone has stolen it, someone has taken it.
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
Rush Limbaugh ranted that Senate Democrats took a step towards "total statist authoritarianism" by passing the nuclear option in filibuster reform - an option Limbaugh believed was the "Constitutional Option" in 2004, when Republicans ruled the Senate.
On November 21, after years of unprecedented Republican obstruction, the Senate voted to eliminate the ability of the minority party to filibuster most presidential nominees, a measure often called the "nuclear option." The New York Times explained, "Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes."
Rush Limbaugh raged over the filibuster reform, accusing Democrats of seeking "total statist authoritarianism." He complained that, with this vote, "250 years of rules, Senate rules, out the window, as the Democrats have made it plain they're not interested in democracy. And that really is what this means. Not interested in democracy at all," going on to say that now, President Obama gets to "play dictator with judicial nominees."
The next day, Limbaugh even compared filibuster reform to a vote that would "allow women to be raped."
But Limbaugh's outrage is highly selective -- when Republicans controlled the Senate, he believed that requiring more than a majority vote for presidential appointees was "unconstitutional" and enthusiastically supported similar filibuster reform.
In December of 2004, while discussing the Democratic minority's filibusters of Bush's lower court judicial nominees, Rush Limbaugh even called the nuclear option the "Constitutional option," and encouraged Republicans to take it (emphasis added):