National disability organizations have criticized a misleading CBS News 60 Minutes report on Social Security disability which relied on anecdotal evidence to deceptively portray the vital program as wasteful and unsustainable, despite the fact that award rates fell during the recession and that fraud is less than one percent of the program.
On October 6, 60 Minutes stoked fears that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is "ravaged by waste and fraud," relying on Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) bipartisan* investigation and anecdotal evidence to hype growth in the program while misleadingly claiming that it "could become the first government benefits program to run out of money."
In response, organizations that advocate for and support people with disabilities nationwide have criticized the report. Rebecca Vallas, co-chair of the Social Security Task Force at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities -- a coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations -- told Media Matters the coverage was "sensational" and did a "tremendous disservice" to people with disabilities:
The recent 60 Minutes broadcast is just the latest in an array of sensational and misleading media reports that have perpetuated myths and stereotypes about the Social Security disability programs and the people they help. These media reports do a tremendous disservice to viewers as well as to people with disabilities. Any misuse of these vital programs is unacceptable; however it is unfortunate and disappointing when media reports mislead their viewers by painting entire programs with the brush of one or a few bad apples, without putting them in the context of the millions of individuals who receive benefits appropriately, and for whom they are a vital lifeline -- as well as the many disability advocates around the country who work hard to protect the rights of individuals with significant disabilities and serious illnesses who have been wrongly denied Social Security disability benefits.
Lisa Ekman, Director of Federal Policy at Health & Disability Advocates, said the organization was "extremely disappointed that 60 Minutes chose to air such a one-sided story based on anecdote and supposition ... Misleading media reports like the one on 60 Minutes distract from focusing on the real issue of helping American workers with and without disabilities achieve economic security."
The myths pushed by 60 Minutes have been repeatedly debunked by experts. The report admitted that the vast majority of people applying for benefits are denied, but ignored the fact that the majority of appeals are also denied, and that award rates have actually fallen during the economic recession. In April, the Wall Street Journal called the claim that federal disability benefits were to blame for people leaving the labor force "exaggerated," explaining that disability was in fact the least common reason individuals left the workforce.
As the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker noted, the report also "completely ignored all the comments from experts in the field ... pointing out that fraud is in fact not rampant in the disability program." Indeed, the Government Accountability Office has repeatedly found that fraud accounts for approximately one percent of all disability payments.
Conservative media viciously attacked Texas State Senator Wendy Davis after she announced her candidacy for governor, linking Davis to infanticide and calling an image of her with kids "sick" and "disgusting."
In an attempt to smear unrelated civil rights law by linking it to the tragic Navy Yard shootings, right-wing activist Hans von Spakovsky argued that background checks for arrests without convictions could stop gun violence.
Never one to miss an opportunity to shoehorn an attack on civil rights law into a different subject, widely discredited National Review contributor von Spakovsky used the disturbing mass murder committed by a veteran of color to criticize employment law that guards against unnecessary racial discrimination in hiring practices. From his recent op-ed in The Washington Times that claimed "Obama policy would have exempted the Navy Yard shooter from scrutiny":
But what if The Experts had actually turned up these criminal arrests for gun-related violence [in a background check] and refused to hire Alexis? If the company had done so, it might have violated the hiring policy the Obama administration is trying to force on private employers. It could have been accused of discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency controlled by Obama appointees.
In April 2012, the EEOC issued enforcement guidance severely restricting the use of criminal background checks by employers when hiring new employees. The EEOC claims that because blacks and Hispanics are arrested and convicted at higher rates than whites, the use of a criminal-background check will have a "disparate impact" on minorities and, therefore, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Unfortunately, the terrible tragedy in the Navy Yard graphically illustrates why the Obama administration's push to force employers to stop using criminal background checks is not only legally wrong, but dangerous.
Rather, the EEOC is utilizing long-standing anti-discrimination law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits those employment or hiring policies that have an unjustified discriminatory effect on persons of color. Therefore, criminal background checks per se are perfectly acceptable if they are pertinent to the job at hand.
Recently, however, blanket employment screening has become so commonplace that it flags offenses that are not only minor, but also unnecessary for the occupation in question. Because the databases that background checks rely on have an alarmingly high number of false positives based on "incomplete or inaccurate information," and because communities of color disproportionately suffer from encounters with the criminal justice system, multiple reports indicate that this new trend is making the unemployment rate for persons of color worse.
Fox News has reported on a number of alleged cases of Christian persecution in the military, relying heavily on the claims of a San Antonio pastor with a history of peddling misinformation about efforts to protect LGBT people.
On September 30, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes published an article warning that the Air Force is "punishing evangelical Christians" - a right-wing myth he's been peddling unsuccessfully for months.
His article relied largely on statements made by Steve Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. According to Branson, persecution of Christian service members is on the rise thanks to the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military:
"There is an atmosphere of intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base," said Steve Branson, the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. "Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen. There is a culture of fear in the military and it's gone to a new level with the issue of homosexuality."
"The religious persecution is happening," the pastor said. "It's getting bigger every day. Gay and lesbian airmen can talk about their lifestyle, but the rest have to stay completely quiet about what they believe."
Starnes primarily relied on the case of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, who baselessly claims he was reprimanded for opposing marriage equality despite repeated denials by the Air Force, to support this conspiracy theory.
Aside from Monk's story, Starnes' only evidence of a military-wide anti-Christian conspiracy is what Branson claimed to have been told at a private meeting with "at least 80 airmen" at his church:
Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.
"They're getting mirandized several times a month - but most of the accusations never stick," Branson tells me. "Branson said he's getting email and letters from military personnel across the country - telling him their stories of religious persecution - and asking for help.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a media advocacy and civil rights organization, is calling on Fox News to apologize for a derogatory segment demonizing the children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In an open letter addressed to Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, NHMC president Alex Nogales called the segment "unacceptable," writing: "It is one thing for Fox News to routinely spread hate towards Latino and immigrant adults. It is quite another to demonize innocent children."
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed the findings from Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In the letter, Nogales wrote that the phrase "Children of the Corn" "likens immigrant children to the murderous cult of fictional children depicted in Stephen King's horror story and its universally-familiar film adaptations. It covertly insinuates that Latino and immigrant children are to be feared." He continued:
NHMC urges that Fox News and Chris Wallace immediately issue an apology to Latino children, and that you send a formal memo to all Fox News staff, urging refrain from all anti-Latino and anti-immigrant smears, especially those directed at innocent children.
Nogales went on to note that studies show that such negative rhetoric "may breed hate and impact the health of not only members of the targeted group, but anyone that hears these messages." Indeed, a September 2012 NHMC report found that Fox News viewers and conservative radio listeners are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets.
The NHMC study stated that Fox News audiences were "more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%)" -- all myths Fox News has repeatedly advanced.
Nogales concluded by saying that "Fox News must do better," adding, "At a time when Fox News' parent company is trying to attract Latino eyeballs, Fox News must understand that Latinos will not embrace the brand that hates them."
NHMC, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1986 with the mission of increasing Hispanic representation in the news, now boasts nine chapters nationwide and seeks to "eradicate the negative Latino stereotypes depicted in all forms of media." In February, it honored actor Michael Peña, comedian John Leguizamo, and host Mario Lopez for "helping erase negative Latino stereotypes in Hollywood."
The Special Report segment has also been criticized by Latino news sites and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In a post that called the segment "disappointing," NAHJ president Hugo Balta condemned Fox for airing it, saying it was "riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images."
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.
National Review Online reporter Katrina Trinko criticized mainstream media outlets for characterizing the homophobic head of Barilla Pasta as "anti-gay."
In a September 28 article titled, "The Gay-Marriage Double Standard," Trinko defended recent comments made by Barilla Chairman Guido Barilla in which he stated that he would "never" run an ad with a "homosexual family," adding "Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role." Barilla went on to say that if gay customers "don't like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand."
Trinko criticized media outlets for describing Barilla's comments as "anti-gay," asserting that other anti-gay comments had failed to generate similar condemnation:
The mainstream media is giving widespread -- and negative -- coverage to comments made by pasta king Guido Barilla.
Just check out these headlines: "Italian pasta baron's anti-gay comment prompts boycott call" (Reuters); "Pasta maker Barilla under fire for anti-gay comments" (CNN Money); "Pasta Barilla boycotted after CEO's 'homophobic' remarks" (MSNBC); and "Barilla pasta executive in hot water for anti-gay comments" (New York Daily News). Even a post on the Los Angeles Times website that has a more neutral headline ("Guido Barilla says pasta maker will never show gay families in ads") goes straight for the anti-gay accusation in the first sentence: "Is Barilla pasta taking a page out of the Chick Fil-A anti-gay playbook?"
So what exactly did Barilla, who heads a huge pasta company, say that was so awful? Did he propose that gay relationships be illegal? Did he make hateful comments about gays and lesbians, like movie star Alec Baldwin, whose July homophobic tweets such as "I'm gonna find you George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I'm gonna f**k you . . . up" not only didn't get him axed from his Capital One spokesman role, but also didn't prevent him from getting hired to host an MSNBC show? No. What Barilla did was to announce that he doesn't approve of adoption by gay couples, and he doesn't plan to feature a family with gay parents in Barilla ads. That's it. In fact, Barilla even added that he supports gay marriage.
However, supporting gay marriage, but not gay adoption, isn't good enough to suit the mainstream media, which has a long history of ditching objectivity when covering LGBT issues. [emphasis added]
According to Trinko, comments can't be accurately described as "anti-gay" unless they explicitly include hate speech or call for the outright criminalization of homosexuality. It's an absurd standard, meant to whitewash the homophobic content of Barilla's statements.
In his comments, Barilla suggested that gay people aren't fit to be parents, and families headed by gay couples aren't real families. To Barilla, the mere existence of same-sex parents is so objectionable that it deserves to be censored from his company's advertising. That's not a mere disagreement about adoption policy; it's an example of clear anti-gay animus.
From the September 27 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that the potential nomination of Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke would be based in part on her gender, making no mention of her aptitude or qualifications for the position.
On the September 26 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney was joined by Fox Business host Melissa Francis and Fox News contributor Juan Williams to discuss the current and continuing role of the Federal Reserve. The panel largely focused on the recently politicized nature of the nomination process and who is expected to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman. Varney ended the segment by arguing that the potential nomination of Janet Yellen as the next Fed chair would in part be driven by her gender.
VARNEY: Would you agree with me that the lady in question here, Janet Yellen, is a shoo-in to be the next Fed chair because she's female, she's academic, and it is assumed that she would keep on printing money. That conforms with everything that President Obama wants in a Fed chair. She's a shoo-in, agreed?
Varney's contention that gender would play a role in the nomination process reveals a troubling development in right-wing media. Rather than discussing Yellen's qualifications as an economist, her history of accurate econometric predictions, or her broad base of support among economists, conservative media instead focus their attention on Yellen's gender.
On September 18, the Institute for Women's Policy Research sent a letter to President Obama supporting Janet Yellen, signed by more than 500 economists from across the country. The signatures included several former White House economic policy officials and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman also expressed his support for Yellen's candidacy in The New York Times. From Krugman's article:
Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Fed's Board of Governors, isn't just up to the job; by any objective standard, she's the best-qualified person in America to take over when Ben Bernanke steps down as chairman.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has condemned Fox News for smearing the American children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In a post on the association's website, NAHJ president Hugo Balta wrote that the segment was not only "disappointing" but that there "were many things wrong" with it.
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed new data from Los Angeles County officials showing that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In his post criticizing the segment, Balta stated:
There were many things wrong with this segment, beginning with the use of the derogatory term "illegal immigrant" and undocumented in the same breath as if these terms are interchangeable -- of course they're not. That inaccuracy was compounded by the use of a graphic that read "Children of the Corn". There have been many speculations as to what this meant -- but one thing is certain it invoked a negative image.
Balta further stated that NAHJ has reached out to Fox "in an effort to get a better understanding of how this segment, riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images made air." He then asked which journalists had allowed such a derogatory segment to appear on air, writing, "Experience has shown that most likely none were representative of the Latino community."
After noting the economic impact of the Latino community, Balta concluded: "Stick to the facts."
As The Huffington Post noted, NAHJ has campaigned against the media's use of the term "illegal immigrant" for years. In an October 2012 op-ed for Fox News Latino arguing that "human beings are not illegal," Balta wrote that the term, along with "illegal aliens" and "illegals," are "demeaning titles" that "are not only inaccurate and disrespectful, but a propaganda tool used to dehumanize a group of people and instill fear in the general population in order to establish policy."
Fox News has a long history of inflammatory attacks on immigrants. In fact, a Media Matters analysis of Fox News prime-time coverage found that, between November 2012 and February 2013, hosts and guests repeatedly used anti-immigrant terms to discuss immigrants.
In May 2012, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera called on media to stop using dehumanizing terms for undocumented immigrants. He told Media Matters at the time that he had made his opposition to such phrases "very, very clear" to Fox employees "from top to bottom," but stopped short of any further direct criticism of the network.
Fox News personalities have claimed that Muslims are refusing to speak out against the deadly terror attack on a Kenyan shopping mall, despite the fact that Muslim leaders in the United States and in Kenya have condemned the attack as "heinous" and an "outrageous act of violence" that is against the teachings of Islam.
The Washington Times' Wesley Pruden launched a sexist attack against Hillary Clinton, claiming that while a man her age is "not particularly old," a woman in public life like Clinton "is getting past her sell-by date."
Discussing speculation that Clinton might run for president in 2016, Washington Times' editor emeritus Wesley Pruden, began his September 24 column by noting that Clinton's interview with New York magazine had revived speculation on her political plans, adding, "the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing." Pruden concluded by saying that Clinton's age is "not particularly old for a man" but "a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date":
Will she or won't she? Not even her hairdresser, who is only called in occasionally, knows for sure. But the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing.
But what do they actually know? Hillary would be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017, not particularly old for a man not out of sight of his prime, but a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date at 69. John F. Kennedy, who never had to grow old, got it right when he famously remarked that "life is unfair." A second failed race for president would not be much of a capstone for a distinguished career in politics, and life at the hearth with Bubba and the dogs would be more rewarding than indulging the parasites of another campaign.
Pruden has a lengthy history of sexist attacks on Clinton, including in a column earlier this year in which he compared her to an "emotionally abused wife" and attempted to push discredited rumors about her alleged behavior as first lady in order to depict her as "angry and combative" during her congressional testimony on the Benghazi attacks.
Fox News misleadingly claimed that the government is "sticking it to men" because some men's insurance premiums will rise under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's attack obscures the health insurance market's existing discrimination against women and the fact that the ACA bans the widespread practice of gender rating, which charges women more than men for insurance coverage.
CNBC's Joe Kernen reacted to news from the Indian central bank by forwarding a number of racial stereotypes against Indian-Americans.
On September 20, India's central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to address concerns over inflation.
Reacting to the news and its effect on exchange rates on the September 20 edition of CNBC's Squawk Box, co-hosts Joe Kernen, Becky Quick, and Andrew Ross Sorkin turned the discussion to the rupee. After Quick noted that she still had rupees left from a recent trip to India, Kernen repeatedly stated the name "Gandhi" -- whose likeness appears on the rupee -- in a stereotypical Indian accent and later asked, "Are they good at 7-11?"
After Quick told Kernen his comments were insulting, Kernen apologized, saying, "I'm sorry, I take it back. I apologize, before I have to."
Here's a full transcript of the exchange:
QUICK: I think I have rupees in my wallet right now.
KERNEN: From your trip?
QUICK: No, I think I honestly do from the last time I was in India.
QUICK: Yeah, I think I might. Hold on.
KERNEN: You got a rupee in your wallet?
QUICK: I think I do.
SORKIN: That sounds a little, um.
KERNEN: You've got to be kidding. There is the rupee chart, just in case you were wondering where the rupee is. The dollar had been soaring, look what happened when we said we were going to keep pumping.
QUICK: I do.
KERNEN: Becky's got a rupee.
SORKIN: A rupee!
QUICK: Here's a fifty and a ten.
SORKIN: How much are those worth, do we know?
QUICK: I don't remember.
SORKIN: Look at Gandhi.
KERNEN: Well, ones worth ten and one's worth fifty, what do you mean?
SORKIN: Gandhi's on the rupee. Look at that.
KERNEN: Gandhi. Gandhi. Now. No, I can't make any jokes about that, I mean do they take -
KERNEN: No I can't do it. I was going to say something.
QUICK: Please don't.
KERNEN: I really can't?
QUICK: No, you can't.
KERNEN: Are they good at 7-11?
KERNEN: Alright, alright, I won't. Let's look at the - people say that all the time. Right? Oh, you're nervous.
SORKIN: They do. They do say that all the time.
KERNEN: They do. They say it all the time.
QUICK: It's insulting.
SORKIN: I've heard that.
KERNEN: It is. Alright, I'm sorry, I take it back. I apologize, before I have to.
UPDATE: In a statement to Mail Online shortly after Media Matters reported on his initial comments, Kernen apologized:
In a comment to Mail Online, Kernen said: 'Last Friday, I made an inappropriate and insensitive remark on Squawk Box. I apologize for any offense it caused.'
From the September 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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