Fox News is peddling its recent misleading special on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, to members of Congress in an attempt to influence an upcoming vote on legislation that would cut SNAP benefits by $40 billion. This effort reveals the network's ties to the Republican Party as well as its ongoing campaign to demonize those who accept SNAP benefits.
On August 9, Fox News aired a special investigation into SNAP titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge." The special purported to demonstrate rampant fraud in the program by presenting Jason Greenslate, "a blissfully jobless California surfer" who has exploited of SNAP benefits, as the typical SNAP recipient. In reality, Greenslate bears no resemblance to the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients, many of whom are elderly, children, or rely on the program for a short time while looking for work.
According to recent reporting from Politico, Fox has found a new use for its misleading special, distributing it to members of the House in anticipation of a vote on a bill that would reduce SNAP by $40 billion:
The reductions double the level of 10-year savings previously proposed by the House Agriculture Committee on a bipartisan vote in June. The great fear in the agriculture community is that Cantor is pushing the House so far to the right on the nutrition issue that he will kill any chance of enacting farm legislation before the current law runs out Sept. 30.
Nonetheless, the Virginia Republican has a powerful cast of backers behind his vision of what's being dubbed "Welfare Reform 2.0." The Heritage Foundation, with close ties to Cantor and his top staff, has lent support in the fight. And over the August recess, Fox News aired a sympathetic report entitled "The Great Food Stamp Binge" -- videos of which are now being distributed by Fox staff to House members.
POLITICO inquiries to Fox News regarding the videos have gone unanswered since Saturday. But both Republican and Democratic offices confirmed that copies have been dropped off unsolicited in recent days, and the broadcast has already provided colorful fodder in promoting the Cantor package.
Politico also noted that GOP leadership is already touting the Fox special, pointing to Greenslate to attack SNAP:
But the young man featured in the Fox report is a political nightmare for food stamp advocates: long haired, collecting $200 a month in benefits, buying lobster for a backyard cookout, and bragging of his idle surfing days on the beach.
It's an image so powerful that the GOP leadership eagerly speaks of him in the plural. "Newscasts tell stories of young surfers who aren't working but cash their food stamps in for lobster," read a recent alert sent out last week by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) office last week.
In August, MSNBC's Chris Hayes detailed Fox's war on SNAP and the misinformation the network has put forth in an attempt to demonize recipients: