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Fox News and numerous other conservative media outlets uncritically presented the misleading conclusions of a May 2016 report by the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claimed that immigrant-headed households consume more welfare than households headed by native-born people. Right-wing media have ignored criticism from experts pointing out the report’s methodological flaws and exaggerations in order to present immigrants as a fiscal burden.
Right-wing outlets including Breitbart, Newsmax, and The Daily Caller hyped the May 9 CIS report claiming that immigrant-headed households receive more welfare than households headed by native-borns. On May 12, Fox correspondent Eric Shawn presented the study’s claims uncritically during the “Truth Serum” segment of Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor. Host Bill O’Reilly introduced the segment by announcing the story was about “tax money going to support illegal aliens”:
Experts have already leveled criticism at the report. Immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh wrote that “The CIS headline result … lacks any kind of reasonable statistical controls” and that “CIS’ buried results undermine their own headline findings.” The American Immigration Council called the report “fundamentally flawed” and criticized its methodology as “creative accounting”:
The biggest shortcoming of both reports is that they count the public benefits utilized by U.S.-born children as costs incurred by the “immigrant-headed households” of which they are a part—at least until those children turn 18, that is, at which point they are counted as “natives.”
The problem with this kind of creative accounting is that all children are “costly” when they are young because they consume educational and health services without contributing any tax revenue. However, that situation reverses when they are working-age adults who, in a sense, “pay back” in taxes what they consumed as children. So it is disingenuous to count them as a “cost of immigration” one minute, and then as native-born taxpayers the next minute.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), CIS has ties to hate groups in the nativist lobby and “has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks.” CIS has repeatedly been criticized for publishing shoddy research work that includes the “misinterpretation and manipulation of data” and methodologies that are “deeply flawed.”
These criticisms of the new report received no mention on right-wing media reports on the study. Previous equally flawed CIS studies have been similarly promoted by conservative media, indicating a pattern: CIS publishes a study with anti-immigrant conclusions, and right-wing media ignore facts to report it uncritically, despite expert criticisms pointing to methodological flaws, nuances, or controls that undermine the study’s conclusion. This cycle joins other dishonest strategies from the immigrant smearing playbook that have been repeatedly employed by right-wing media.
Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar explained in a Latina opinion piece how legislation restricting reproductive rights – like Texas’ HB 2 law that has already shuttered half the state’s abortion clinics -- disproportionately affects Latinas, limiting their access to both health care and economic security.
Conservative media regularly push misinformation about anti-choice legislation, like Texas' HB 2, and women’s health clinics, ignoring the fact that unnecessary obstacles to reproductive health care have a negative impact on economic security and mobility with effects that are heightened for women of color.
In the May 6 article, Kumar explained that “abortion is stigmatized, unaffordable or put out of reach by politicians” causing some women to “resort to methods that are dangerous, ineffective or life-threatening.” She noted that Texas’ HB 2 -- which is currently being contested at the Supreme Court -- is “putting the health of 2.5 million Latina residents at risk,” and urged women to continue the “march toward equity” in the face of an environment where women of color “are still underrepresented across all fields and are paid a mere 55 cents to the dollar when compared to white, non-Hispanic males”:
“Since 2010, state politicians have quietly passed 288 new laws restricting abortion, with no sign of slowing down. For more than 9 million Latinas of reproductive age, the stakes are incredibly high.
Some of these restrictions have made their way to the Supreme Court, which any day could weigh in with a decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a Texas case that will determine the future of abortion access. The law in question in the case, HB 2, has already forced more than half of the abortion clinics in the state to shut down. This law is poised to leave Texas with 10, or fewer, clinics, putting the health of 2.5 million Latina residents at risk.
While unintended pregnancy is at a 30-year low, impoverished Latinas still experience significant disparities, which underscores the need to keep abortion safe, legal and affordable. Unfortunately, when abortion is stigmatized, unaffordable or put out of reach by politicians, some women will resort to methods that are dangerous, ineffective or life-threatening.
Politicians should not stand in the way of women having a range of safe, effective and affordable methods of abortion care, and we should do everything we can to ensure that every woman has access to safe and effective abortion services when she needs it – no matter where she lives or how much money she makes. No woman should be jailed for ending a pregnancy on her own.
Latinas have fought hard for social, political and economic progress. We have made great strides in the workforce. We are more educated than ever, and we continue to be a growing influential constituency in the United States. Latinas are entrepreneurs, scientists, teachers, moms and pillars of our communities. We cannot let our march toward equity be set back by politicians who deny us health care and interfere in our personal decisions. We are still underrepresented across all fields and are paid a mere 55 cents to the dollar when compared to white, non-Hispanic males. Our health cannot be separated from our economic well-being, and Latinas must have both to achieve our dreams.”
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Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality
Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.
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Fox’s Stuart Varney Continues Promoting Minimum Wage Myths
Fox Business dedicated multiple segments this morning to criticizing low-wage workers taking part in living wage demonstrations around the country. The segments almost exclusively featured minimum wage opponents, and continued Fox’s heavy reliance on restaurant executives who peddle misinformation about the supposed negative consequences of paying employees minimum wages of $15 per hour.
On the April 14th edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney repeatedly assailed low-wage restaurant, homecare, and university workers who are taking part in nationwide demonstrations organized by the Fight for $15. Over the course of six segments, Varney was joined by numerous guests who attacked the protesters for demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and pushed frequently debunked myths that increased wages would destroy jobs and hurt business. On two occasions, Varney allowed restaurant executives -- White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson and Bennigan’s CEO Paul Mangiamele -- to claim that increased wages would actually hurt workers:
Fox has repeatedly pushed myths that businesses are opposed to raising the minimum wage while spreading debunked claims that raising the minimum wage leads to job losses. Varney is a serial misinformer on the minimum wage, and his decision to elevate anti-living wage talking points from industry executives fits a long-standing trend at his sister network.
Contrary to Fox Business' claims that minimum wage workers will move up to better jobs quickly, a July 2013 study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found entry-level workers are “going nowhere fast” because low-wage restaurants offered little room for promotion -- and an April 2016 report from NELP happens to credit the Fight for $15 with successfully raising wages for 17 million American workers since 2012. Contrary to claims that business owners oppose raising the minimum wage, The Washington Post reported on April 4 that a leaked poll from Republican pollster Frank Luntz found "80 percent of respondents [business executives] said they supported raising their state's minimum wage." Economists have repeatedly debunked the claim that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs, and researchers at Cornell University argued that since minimum wage increase have "not had large or reliable effects" on restaurant and hospitality industry employment, minimum wage opponents would be better off embracing “reasonable” increases.
In their coverage of the gender pay gap during the week leading up to Equal Pay Day, print versions of three major newspapers largely failed to note that wage disparities are particularly acute for women of color and transgender women. Only one-third of the coverage pointed out that the pay gap is larger for women of color, and the coverage omitted any discussion of the pay gap faced by LGBT women.
Equal Pay Day, which fell this year on April 12, marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned the previous year. Studies show that women make significantly less money than men over their lifetimes -- on average, a woman in the United States in 2014 made 79 cents for every dollar a man made -- but the gap can increase when other variables are factored in. Research from the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress demonstrates that disparities are larger for women of color. On average, African-American women earn 60 percent as much as their white male counterparts, and Latinas earn just 55 percent of what white men earn. A recent report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that location, age, and education level all factor into pay disparity, and that at every level of academic achievement, women earn less than men.
Media Matters analyzed pay gap coverage during the week prior to Equal Pay Day in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and found that the Post and the Journal each published two articles in print about the gender pay gap, and in each paper only once mentioned race and ethnicity as a factor in pay disparities. The Times, which also printed two articles about the pay gap, failed to mention race at all. The impact of the wage gap on LGBT women was not addressed at all in the analyzed coverage.
LGBT women are invisible in coverage of the wage gap, despite the specific impact pay disparity has on them. Experts say that LGBT people -- specifically transgender women -- are more likely to be discriminated against in the workforce and, according to Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, policy advisor for the National Center for Transgender Equality, the issues surrounding wage disparity "are heightened for transgender people."
Media Matters analyzed pay disparity-related coverage from April 5 to April 12 -- the week leading up to and including Equal Pay Day -- on the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post using the following search terms on Nexis and Factiva: "equal pay," "wage gap," "gender pay gap," "pay discrimination," "Latinas," "Hispanic," "Black," "women of color," "LGBT," "GLBT," "LGBTQ," "trans," "transgender," "gay," "lesbian," and "queer." Articles with incidental mentions of the wage gap or of pay discrimination outside of the United States were excluded.
On Equal Pay Day, Fox News devoted less than one minute of airtime to cover President Obama’s speech at the newly-designated Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington D.C., while MSNBC and CNN aired the speech nearly in its entirety.
Obama spoke at the designation of the monument seeking to “honor the movement for women’s equality,” which coincided with the 20th anniversary of Equal Pay Day -- the day when the average woman's pay catches up with the average man's from the previous year. According to an April 2016 report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), working women in the United States earned “just 79 percent of what men were paid” in 2014, with disparities far worse for women of color. President Obama’s speech was covered for over 10 minutes on MSNBC and CNN, nearly the entire duration of the speech. In contrast, Fox briefly noted that the speech was occurring, but never cut away to hear Obama’s remarks, which lasted almost 12 minutes. The guest host of Fox News’ Happening Now, Heather Childers, described the monument and Equal Pay Day but instead of cutting to the speech, simply noted, “We wanted to let you know it was going on”:
HEATHER CHILDERS: We do have a Fox News alert for you, we are going to take you live to Washington D.C., that’s where President Obama is delivering remarks at the newly designated Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument there in D.C. Of course, it is dedicated to women's equality. It's a house and a museum. It includes a collection of different artifacts, suffrage banners, archives, all related to voting rights for women and equality for women. And this is coming as a matter of fact on Equal Pay Day, a day meant to symbolize how much more a woman has to work on average to earn what a man earned in the previous year, so that's going on in Washington, D.C. for you, right now. We wanted to let you know it was going on.
This poor coverage of the gender pay gap is not new to the network that has continually dismissed the issue as “an absolute myth,” blamed womens' choices for their lack of pay equity, and targeted celebrities and athletes who spoke out about wage disparities in their industries.
Right-Wing Media Still Refuse To Acknowledge The Gender Pay Gap
Equal Pay Day “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Despite efforts toward equitable pay in the United States over the past several decades, American women still face a considerable gap in pay when compared to their male counterparts. Rather than acknowledging the overwhelming evidence that American women are still paid less than men for the same work, conservative media have promoted myths and misinformation that obscure the truth about pay disparities.
Guest host Charles Payne joined other panelists on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. in criticizing comments by billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn that no one likes coming into contact with low-income Americans -- especially other low-income Americans. Payne, who nevertheless called Wynn one of his “heroes,” has a history of poor-shaming on Fox that fits right in with Wynn’s remark.
Fox News’ misinformation campaign against the minimum wage has shifted into high gear following the passage of statewide increases in California and New York. The network is now hyping worries from senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano that a $15 minimum wage is a subversive attempt to “bribe the poor for votes,” which will result in dramatic price increases and job losses while driving more low-wage workers onto public assistance programs.
In an April 6 op-ed published by the right-wing Washington Times, Napolitano suggested that politicians are raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour “to win the votes of those they promised to help” while claiming that increased wages would have drastic negative economic consequences. On the April 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Napolitano claimed that raising the minimum wage would result in price increases that put necessities beyond the reach of low-wage workers, destroy jobs, and expand reliance on public assistance. Later that morning, Napolitano appeared on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. and claimed that “poor people will lose their jobs because they simply are not worth” a $15 wage. From Fox & Friends:
Counter to Napolitano’s claim that raising the minimum wage would lead to dramatic price increases, researchers at Purdue University concluded in a July 2015 report that increasing the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $15 per hour would result in only a 4.3 percent increase in restaurant prices. According to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, a 4.3 percent increase in the cost of a Big Mac in the United States would be roughly 22 cents. Researchers at Cornell University found that raising the regular and tipped minimum wages for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in the industry and price increases have not been large enough to “dramatically affect overall demand." Right-wing media have a long history of claiming that minimum wages destroy jobs and inflate prices, but the overwhelming majority of economic research shows no such relationship.
Napolitano’s poor-shaming stance on the supposedly lesser value of low-skilled and low-income workers mirrors similar comments from Fox Business host Charles Payne, who on multiple occasions has slammed minimum wage increases as rewarding and encouraging "mediocrity." In fact, according to ThinkProgress, a $15-per-hour minimum wage would not even be a living wage in many states, including California or New York -- workers today already need to make closer to $22 per hour. Furthermore, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), minimum wage workers have been undervalued for decades; if the federal minimum wage had kept up with increasing worker productivity since the 1970s, it would have reached $21.72 per hour by 2012.
Napolitano falsely claimed that increasing the minimum wage would drive more low-income Americans into poverty by destroying opportunities for employment, and that it would result in an increased reliance on public assistance programs. On the contrary, according to research by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on an abandoned 2014 proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by July 2016, the wage increase could have decreased reliance on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as “food stamps,” by $4.6 billion annually. In February 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that a $10.10 federal minimum wage would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty while injecting billions of dollars into the consumer economy. A December 2013 study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) similarly found that the modest wage increase would have directly or indirectly lifted wages for nearly 30 million American workers. Conservative media personalities like Napolitano frequently bemoan the supposed ill effects of raising the minimum wage, completely ignoring the heavy public cost that historically low minimum wages across the country already carry. An October 2013 report by the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center found that low wages in the fast-food industry alone cost taxpayers $7 billion annually by increasing the strain on public assistance.
Napolitano’s claim that minimum wage increases are a political tool meant to curry favor and “bribe the poor for votes” is a common right-wing media theme. Fox News personalities, often led by Fox Business host Stuart Varney, frequently claim that Democrats support policies aimed at alleviating poverty only as a means of “buying votes.” For years, Fox has claimed that the Lifeline program -- a Reagan-era telecommunications subsidy for low-income families -- was a Democratic plot to “bribe” and “enslave” American voters. In fact, tens of millions of Americans across the political spectrum rely on these vital programs, and Republican politicians are actually more likely than their Democratic counterparts to represent constituents who use food stamps -- a program that low-income families would be less reliant on if minimum wages were increased.