In strikingly one-sided reports, Fox News assailed an anticipated regulation protecting streams from mountaintop coal mining waste. Among other misleading claims, Fox accused the Obama administration of punishing a contractor who said the rule would kill jobs, when in fact, extensive evidence indicates the contract was halted simply because the firm did shoddy work.
Following the Obama campaign's ad highlighting Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, right-wing media are hysterically calling the ad an attack on private equity and even "an attack on capitalism" itself. But the ad clearly and specifically targets Romney's own work at Bain Capital -- which Romney and his campaign have repeatedly touted as crucial experience for dealing with the economy -- not private equity or capitalism as a whole.
Right-wing media have attacked a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a public relations firm to raise awareness of health and preventive care opportunities as a "propaganda piece" for the health care law that "violates many of the procurement laws." But PR campaigns like this are nothing new; in fact, the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion dollars over a 30-month span promoting its policies.
In 2010, 48.8 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including 16.2 million children. The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has swelled the numbers of Americans receiving SNAP benefits (commonly referred to as food stamps) to more than 46 million people.
But according to Fox contributor and New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, the problem that struggling Americans receiving SNAP benefits have isn't really hunger or poverty. It's that they're not ashamed enough about taking the help.
Plugging his latest Post column on this morning's Fox & Friends, Goodwin lamented that the "sense of shame is gone" in receiving government assistance.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Are too many Americans avoiding work to collect welfare? Well, check this out. Just last year, 45 million Americans received food stamps. That's a 70 percent increase since President Obama took office. So you have to wonder: Are entitlements the new American dream. Joining me now, Michael Goodwin, Fox News contributor and columnist for the New York Post. You know, I almost get a stomach ache saying that because when you think of the American dream, you certainly don't think about handouts, but is that what we're becoming?
GOODWIN: Well, it's interesting. The thing I write about in here is the idea that shame used to be part of this. In other words, people didn't want to accept a handout because they were ashamed to do it. There was a kind of social contract that said you don't do it. You're independent, you're reliant. That was part of the American founding virtue, as Charles Murray calls them.
And yet now we look at them, we see this explosion of entitlements. The sense of shame is gone. So I focus this week on food stamps, which I think is a real cultural issue, because it's now 47 million people in the country are on food stamps.
Goodwin is upset that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed regulations that would prohibit New York City from fingerprinting food stamp applicants. In his Post column, Goodwin calls this opposition to the city's policy part of the "left's war on shame."
But Cuomo and advocates for the hungry say that the city's policy causes some people who are eligible not to apply for assistance because of the stigma associated with fingerprinting. The New York Times quoted Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard as saying, "Poverty and hunger are not crimes."
According to Jennifer March-Joly Further, executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children, "The finger-imaging requirement has long deterred thousands upon thousands of potentially eligible applicants from applying for food stamps."
Goodwin joins the growing list of Fox News figures who have demonized those who receive food stamps and minimized the struggles of poor Americans. Charles Payne once castigated the poor for not being sufficiently ashamed of their poverty. Stuart Varney dismissed "the image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor," claiming that "many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit." Sean Hannity recently urged people struggling with food insecurity to make pots of beans and rice "for relatively negligible amounts of money," claiming that the "idea Americans are going to bed hungry" isn't true.
Nearly 50 million Americans are struggling with food insecurity. Fox News wants them to pass a shame test before they can get help to buy food.
From the May 17 edition of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell:
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Fox News is decrying the inclusion of needed provisions in the Violence Against Women Act that would protect immigrants, Native Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals from domestic abuse. Critics contend that not extending these protections would render victims more vulnerable to domestic violence.
Fox News and Fox Business star in the coal industry's newest ad attacking the Obama administration. Relying heavily on footage from Fox, the ad promotes the Fox narrative that EPA is waging a "war on coal" and forcing coal plants to close. Like Fox, the ad fails to mention that the EPA is simply following its legal obligations under the Clean Air Act to set limits on pollution and that many of the coal plant closures are actually due to competition with cheap natural gas plants.
The ad also mirrors Fox's recent attempt to blur the lines between potential technology that would capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants (so-called "clean coal") and the same old coal that continues to emit more carbon dioxide than any other fuel, not to mention mercury and other toxic pollutants. The ad purports to show "Candidate Obama vs. President Obama on Clean Coal" but it really shows candidate Obama on "clean coal" vs. President Obama on dirty coal. Fox Business' Lou Dobbs helped fuel the misinformation by obscuring this distinction in a segment on Obama's coal policies.
Fox & Friends later piled on saying that Obama wants you to "buy into the fact that he's buying into clean coal." But the Obama administration has supported "clean coal" technology -- the stimulus bill allocated $3.4 billion for carbon capture and sequestration research and development.
While Dobbs and the ad tout how "affordable" coal is in order to argue against EPA regulations, a study by centrist economists concluded that coal may be "underregulated" since the price we pay for coal-fired power doesn't account for the costs imposed on society by air pollution.
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.