Not content to shame food stamps recipients and bully them into silence, Fox News is now targeting efforts to raise awareness of poverty and food insecurity.
The latest front in the Fox News war on anti-poverty measures takes aim at chef Mario Batali as he highlights the difficulties of living on food stamps -- problems that are routinely dismissed on Fox while the network pushes for drastic cuts to nutritional aid and other anti-poverty measures. Batali, who sits on the board at the New York City food pantry, is trying to live on a $31 food budget for a week in order to illustrate the struggles families face trying to survive on a food stamp budget, even as the right looks to cut funding for the program:
For one week, the acclaimed chef Mario Batali is challenging Americans to "walk in someone else's shoes" by eating only what they would be able to buy with food stamps.
Batali, the star of ABC's "The Chew," partnered with the New York City Food Bank to raise awareness about potential cuts to the food stamp program, which helps feed 46 million Americans.
Discussing Batali's role in the food stamp challenge, Red Eye host Greg Gutfeld asked, "Does this make you want to slap him around?"
Gutfeld's dismissive mocking of Batali's efforts comes amid an exhaustive campaign by Fox to demonize those who receive food stamps while simultaneously minimizing their struggles. Fox's Charles Payne once castigated the poor for not being sufficiently ashamed of their poverty. Fox host Stuart Varney dismissed "the image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor," opining, "many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit."
The campaign of dismissive scorn reached its Marie Antoinette moment when Fox's Sean Hannity urged folks struggling with food insecurity to make large pots of beans and rice "for relatively negligible amounts of money."
Which raises a question: When will Hannity, Varney, and Gutfeld take the food stamp challenge and show how much food they can buy with the richness of spirit and the appropriate helping of shame?
From the May 11 edition of MSNBC's News Nation with Tamron Hall:
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Right-wing media are attacking Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and senior policy adviser on healthy food initiatives, for calling rising obesity rates a national security threat. But military experts have noted that high obesity rates threaten military enrollment and readiness.
Fox News contributor Dick Morris told Sean Hannity that "one world government" is "happening." His evidence consists of false statements about a series of treaties, some of which enjoy bipartisan support, are important for U.S. national security, and protect children from exploitation.
Sean Hannity continued his attempts to downplay the GOP's record of promoting legislation that hurts women by accusing Democrats of "playing word games" when bringing up an abandoned Republican effort to blur the definition of rape in federal anti-abortion legislation.
In January 2011, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced a bill to permanently ban federal funding of abortion, designated H.R. 3. Under the Hyde Amendment, which has been renewed periodically since 1976, federal funding for abortions is prohibited with exceptions for rape, incest, and saving the life of a pregnant woman. But in the original language of H.R. 3, the exception for rape was changed to "forcible" rape. Mother Jones reported that the change "would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible."
The "forcible rape" language in the bill drew condemnation from women's rights groups. Steph Sterling of the National Women's Law Center said that the bill "takes us back to a time when just saying 'no' wasn't enough to qualify for rape." NARAL Pro-Choice America policy director Donna Crane said that the change is "unbelievably cruel and heartless," and National Organization for Women president Terry O'Neill said that the bill "takes us right back to the 1950s, when women had to prove they were physically assaulted." EMILY's List stated:
"The GOP is pushing their anti-woman agenda yet again, and this time they've sunk to new lows: they actually want to redefine rape, incest, and the health of a mother. In an outrageous and dangerous new bill supported by John Boehner, the GOP is going after some of the most vulnerable women at the worst time of their lives -- after they've been raped.
"Can you imagine telling a victim of date rape -- or another form of sexual assault -- that they don't just count as rape survivors because it wasn't so-called "forcible rape"? Well, with this HR3 bill, that's exactly what John Boehner and the GOP wants to do: tell these women that they're not victims of a crime or deserve the resources they need to deal with their trauma.
But according to Hannity, highlighting this is somehow another distortion of the Republican record. After Fox News contributor Christopher Hahn brought up the original language of H.R. 3, Hannity defended the language, first demanding that Hahn "explain what non-forcible rape is," and repeatedly questioning whether statutory rape is "forced." Watch:
As Democrats push for the Paycheck Fairness Act to address wage inequality between men and women, conservative media figures have claimed that there is no real wage inequality because men work more hours than women and thus earn more. But studies have shown that an earnings discrepancy between men and women persists, even when accounting for a variety of factors, including hours worked.
From the April 27 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media have seized on comments made this week by Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, suggesting that Fattah "admit[ted]" that Democrats are expecting voters to back them in the fall in exchange for "handouts" and "protect[ing] their government-aid gravy train." These attacks are yet another example of conservative media attempting to gin up outrage over programs designed to help struggling Americans.
During a discussion on the April 24 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation about House Majority Leader John Boehner's recent comment that Democrats have a one-in-three chance of reclaiming the majority, Fattah said in part that "people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training." From PoliticsNation:
FATTAH: President Obama is right, we need to continue to invest. That's why our GDP is up, and that's why we've got 35 months of private sector job growth. We are headed in the right direction. Unemployment continues to drop, and those people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training. The idea that Republicans are trying to help those who are unemployed is nonsense. And I think on this Election Day, those who have a job can credit the administration for stabilizing our economy, and those who don't know that this administration is trying to put them to work.
The Washington Examiner picked up Fattah's comments in an April 25 blog post, claiming that Fattah said that "unemployment could actually encourage people to vote for President Obama in order to secure welfare benefits such as food stamps." The Fox Nation later republished the Examiner post under the headline, "Democrat: Unemployed Will Vote for Obama to Keep Their Welfare":
The conservative blog Gateway Pundit highlighted Fattah's comments and claimed that it's "all about the handouts," while The Blaze claimed that Fattah "openly admit[ted] that some voters are supporting President Obama because he's the most likely to protect their government-aid gravy train." And an April 26 Big Government post added:
In other words, Fattah believes Americans who've been conditioned to live on Democrat handouts will certainly continue to vote for the Democrats. The last thing they'd do is vote for those rascally Republicans who want to rein in spending and encourage people to strive, once more, for some semblance of personal responsibility.
Conservative media have repeatedly accused the Obama administration of "bribing" voters, and this latest round of echoes that theme. But the programs mentioned by Fattah -- the food stamp program, known as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and jobs training programs -- are hardly a "gravy train" that discourages unemployed Americans from "striving" for "some semblance of personal responsibility.
Sean Hannity spent an hour on the radio today continuing to deny the many hardships faced by poor Americans -- including hunger -- by pointing in part to the prevalence of modern appliances and the abundance of cheap foods found on a health website to support his point. At one point he gave this advice to poor households, "Quit drinking soda and drink water."
This was after spending the majority of his time attacking Media Matters and MSNBC for publicizing his original comments on the issue, when he insisted that "this idea that Americans are going to bed hungry" is not true because "you can survive" off such cheap food staples as rice and beans.
Hannity stated that MSNBC and host Ed Schultz were "lazy" for relying on a Media Matters item that highlighted Hannity's comments to debunk his claim that millions of Americans aren't going to bed hungry.
Fellow conservative talk radio host Mark Levin also called in to defend Hannity from criticism by similarly attacking Schultz. Levin stated: "First of all, Mr. Ed, that you call Ed Schultz, that guy looks like he eats for about three and a half people, doesn't he?" Hannity replied: "Now, be nice. It doesn't look like he missed a meal, I'll say that."
On his MSNBC show, Schultz criticized Hannity for his comments, calling him "the most out of touch man in America." Indeed, as Schultz noted in his segment, millions of families and children in the United States suffer from food insecurity. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on food insecurity in America released in September 2011 found that "in 2010, 17.2 million households in America had difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of resources." The report also stated:
Food insecurity rates were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the current federal poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four), households with children headed by single women or single men, and black and Hispanic households.
But Hannity ignored the facts by claiming that cheap food is readily available. He then illustrated his point by reading a list of cheap foods and their cost per serving from WebMD, a website that provides health information:
From the April 25 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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From the April 24 edition of CNN's Early Start
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From the April 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."
New evidence that food stamps help to drastically reduce poverty has been largely ignored by the media, even as the right pursues a campaign to bully those who face food insecurity into silence and help conservatives slash funding for successful antipoverty measures.
In a report released April 9, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that food stamps "reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009." That year, USDA researchers concluded, food stamps reduced the depth of child poverty by 20.9 percent.
As MSNBC's Al Sharpton explained, "facts matter" in the debate over anti-poverty programs. But a Media Matters analysis shows that major broadcast news outlets completely ignored the study, even as Republicans demonize food stamps and push to slash funding for the program.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that the Republican budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney would cut funding for food stamps by $134 billion over 10 years. As the USDA estimates show, those cuts could have a significant impact on poverty rates.
On April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study finding that food stamps reduced the "prevalence, depth, and severity" of poverty between 2000 and 2009 and that their effects were especially strong during the recession, thanks to the stimulus. Television news outlets have all but ignored this story-- it has been mentioned only once on broadcast and cable news programming since April 9.