Fox News was quick to celebrate a federal appellate court's split decision striking down a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), even though that ruling was almost immediately rebuked by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, consistent with the decisions of two other federal courts and the widespread opinion of legal experts.
On July 22, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Halbig v. Burwell, with the two Republican appointees on the three-judge panel holding that a provision of the ACA counterintuitively makes health insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans by prohibiting the IRS from providing tax credits to consumers who live in states that refused to set up health insurance exchanges. Those consumers must instead buy insurance from the federal exchange website, and many had relied on the tax credits to reduce the cost of insurance. The legal theory behind this lawsuit -- that the "Affordable Care Act" would somehow decline to provide affordable care to its intended beneficiaries -- has been hyped by right-wing media since the lawsuit was filed. National Review Online called the suit "ingenious," and Washington Post columnist George Will claimed that the IRS's clarification that tax credits are available in both state and federally-run health care exchanges was an example of the agency's "breezy indifference to legality."
Fox News immediately jumped on board with the two Republican judges' validation of this right-wing legal challenge, despite the dissent's warning that "this case is about Appellants' not-so-veiled attempt to gut" the ACA rather than sound statutory interpretation.
On the July 22 edition of Outnumbered, the panel accused the Obama administration of "ignoring the ruling of the D.C. Circuit" by announcing that it would unremarkably continue to provide the subsidies while the case was appealed, but still complained about the cost of premiums that will go up if subsidies are eliminated. Co-host Harris Faulkner complained that the ruling "reminds me of the infamous quote, 'if you like your doctor, you can keep it'" since consumers may not be able to obtain cost-saving tax subsidies in the wake of the Halbig decision. Neither Faulkner, nor any of her co-hosts, mentioned the right-wing origins of this suit -- or the fact that the express purpose of Halbig and other cases like it, was to "stop the Obama health care law" by making it too expensive for consumers to purchase without tax credits.
Fox News turned to Dr. Ben Carson -- a contributor who's compared health reform to slavery -- to give the network's first commentary on a federal court ruling that invalidated a portion of the Affordable Care Act. On July 22, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to strike down federal subsidies for health insurance plans purchased through federal exchanges in the 36 states which did not establish their own marketplaces under the ACA.
Directly after the court's decision, Fox's America's Newsroom reported the breaking news and then trotted out contributor Ben Carson, an anti-ACA activist and retired neurosurgeon, for his thoughts on the ruling. He praised the decision, saying he was "very pleased."
The D.C. Circuit is expected to rule soon in Halbig v. Burwell, a lawsuit based on a fringe legal theory that could gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by eliminating federal exchange tax credits that significantly reduce the cost of private health insurance. Although this lawsuit has already been dismissed by legal experts and judges as meritless, right-wing media continue to misrepresent both the law and consequences surrounding Halbig.
The New Hampshire Union Leader rejected the factually accurate claim that the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision would result in gender discrimination while pushing the myth that the forms of contraception discussed in the case were actually abortion-inducing drugs.
A Fox News correspondent blamed the Obama administration's tweaks to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) announcement that it would no longer estimate the total cost of the law, and suggested that the changes may increase deficits. In fact, the CBO and budget experts explained that the CBO routinely stops providing budgetary estimates once a law is implemented, and that the CBO's estimate that the ACA would reduce the deficit remains correct.
Right-wing media capitalized on the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling with the refrain that the so-called 'war on women' is nonexistent, a bizarre take on a decision that relied on conservative talking points to deal a devastating blow to women's rights and health access.
Last month the Supreme Court ruled that "closely held" for-profit secular corporations like Hobby Lobby are exempt from the so-called contraception mandate, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employer-sponsored health insurance to cover comprehensive preventive health care including birth control. Right-wing media cheered the decision -- made by a conservative all-male majority relying on right-wing media myths in the opinion -- by mocking the notion that it limited women's access to health care or evidenced a larger war on women.
Bill O'Reilly argued that Hobby Lobby exemplifies how the war on women narrative is being falsely sold by liberals by citing the fact that his two female guests, both Fox News figures, disapprove of "paying for other people's birth control" and haven't themselves experienced "gender bigotry."
Similarly, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum predicted Democrats will use the decision to campaign on the "so-called war on women" with the "message that something's been taken away" from women. MacCallum deemed the notion "hard to understand" because, according to her, women still "have the freedom to get whatever kind of birth control they want to get," either from Hobby Lobby's health coverage or "free from Planned Parenthood."
Other Fox figures laughed at the idea of Hobby Lobby's connection to a war on women by comparing the term to the "Rocky Movie Franchise" which "just sort of keeps on going with different evolutions," and by describing it as a fabricated Democratic campaign strategy.
The war on women, a term coined by advocacy groups, describes the barrage of attacks from "far-right national and state lawmakers, in coordination with Religious Right activists" on "not just abortion rights, but also access to birth control and preventative care, as well as contemporary views of women's roles in the workplace, the family and the halls of power," as People for the American Way explained.
Fox News hyped a lawsuit by Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) against the federal government to revive the long-debunked myth that Congress got exemptions from the Affordable Care Act by receiving the same employer contribution for its insurance that it traditionally received.
The Wall Street Journal downplayed a "rare" and "extreme" Supreme Court order that could make it even more difficult for women to obtain contraceptive coverage in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, arguing that Justice Sonia Sotomayor "may come to regret her furious dissent" from the ruling.
On June 30, the conservative justices of the Supreme Court held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the chain craft store was exempt from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employer-provided health insurance plans to cover preventive health care services, including birth control. The majority opinion, helmed by Justice Samuel Alito, suggested that the government offer for-profit, secular corporations like Hobby Lobby the same accommodation that exempts religiously-affiliated non-profits from the birth control requirement. In order for such non-profits to take advantage of this exemption, they must sign a self-certification form that states their moral objection to birth control, which allows their insurance companies to provide the medications to employees at no additional cost.
But the Court, not to mention right-wing media outlets, ignored the flaw in this plan -- that the religious accommodation is also being challenged as an illegal burden on religious freedom. Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois, is one of the challengers arguing that signing the exemption form "makes it complicit in grave moral evil" because the college "sincerely believes" that signing will "enable the flow of abortion-inducing drugs." On July 3, the Supreme Court issued an emergency injunction in Wheaton's favor, excusing the college from signing the exemption form until after its lawsuit is heard by the lower courts. Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, dissented from the order, writing that "those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today. ... [Granting the injunction] evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court's precedents and undermines confidence in this institution."
In a July 6 editorial, the Journal dismissed the significance of the injunction, and called Sotomayor's dissent an "overreaction":
Our guess is that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor may come to regret her furious dissent last week to a simple Court order granting a temporary religious liberty reprieve to Wheaton College from having to obey ObamaCare's contraception mandate. She and the two other female Justices accused the Court's majority of all sorts of legal offenses, not least dishonesty.
Wheaton is challenging that accommodation as too restrictive, but the Court did not rule on the merits last week. All it did was grant a reprieve from having to obey the mandate while the case is being heard. This says little about how the Court might eventually rule, notwithstanding Justice Sotomayor's angry implication. The reprieve will also not deny any reproductive services to anyone.
Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority had harmed the Court's reputation, but it seems to us that her overreaction did far more to make the Justices a political target.
From the July 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the July 6 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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Fox News is minimizing the radical nature of the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby, framing it as narrowly-tailored and claiming that the federal government "will end up paying" for the four contraceptives that the chain store objected to. However, Fox is ignoring the fact that companies are challenging all 20 contraceptives covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and that one way the conservative majority suggested the government could bridge the gap in coverage -- providing the same opt-out accommodation to for-profits that it provides to religiously-affiliated non-profits -- is already being challenged in the lower courts.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, holding that for-profit, secular corporations are exempt from a provision in the ACA that requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover comprehensive preventive health services, including contraception. The religious owners of Hobby Lobby objected to providing coverage for certain forms of birth control, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, because they erroneously believe that these medications cause abortions. For the all-male conservative majority on the Court, it was enough that the owners "sincerely believed" this scientifically inaccurate information.
Right-wing media immediately celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision, which adopted many of their favorite myths about religious freedom and contraception. Fox News in particular was supportive of the Court's supposedly "narrow ruling," with contributor Laura Ingraham claiming that women who worked at companies "like Hobby Lobby" who were upset about the decision were overreacting and "had really bad cases of the vapors over this case." A panel discussion on the June 30 edition of Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren also downplayed the significance of the case, with Weekly Standard senior writer Stephen Hayes stating that he didn't think the case would "have a huge impact" because "the Court very carefully narrowed this case to apply basically to the facts presented." A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, agreed with Hayes and claimed that the case was "narrowly-tailored," arguing that "the government will end up paying for these [forms of contraception] anyway." Fox News host Megyn Kelly went the furthest on The O'Reilly Factor, claiming reproductive rights advocate Sandra Fluke -- who warned the decision could apply to all contraception -- "doesn't know what she is talking about."
From the July 1 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the July 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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A Tampa Tribune editorial celebrating the Supreme Court's decision to allow companies to discriminate against certain types of birth control in their insurance plans furthered the flawed concept that the government was forcing companies to provide "life-ending morning-after pills." In fact, the scientific community has found that the disputed forms of contraception are not abortifacients.
Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer falsely claimed that the Obama administration "arbitrarily" determined that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) preventive services requirement must include contraception. Krauthammer's claim ignores that the ACA includes contraception as a preventive services requirement for women, and dismisses the fact that contraception is an integral form of preventive care for women.
Following the June 30 Supreme Court decision that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide health coverage that includes contraception, Krauthammer asserted that the Obama administration "arbitrarily" decided that the ACA's mandate that employers provide preventative care should include birth control, "as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented":