When the Obama administration announced in February that it would require most employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, right-wing media reacted with an uproar. Many conservative pundits distorted the ruling to claim that "American taxpayers" would be responsible for paying for all women's birth control. For instance, on his March 2 show, Bill O'Reilly said that "we know that we can get the birth control pills for free, because the government is going to send it to us, and that's just the way it is." Watch:
On the April 5 edition of Fox's flagship news show Special Report, correspondent Ed Henry used the same false talking point while reporting on an upcoming women's conference at the White House:
HENRY: [A]ides say Friday's conference will help showcase the president also has a strong wife and two daughters -- and a real record that includes signing pay equity legislation, a health care bill that will give over 20 million women preventive care like mammograms, plus a fight with the Catholic Church that highlighted his support for free contraception.
Of course, Obama's ruling wasn't a show of "support for free contraception." The regulation would ensure that health insurance policies that women are already paying for would cover birth control, just as those policies already cover other necessary medical expenses. No one tells patients who use their insurance to get a doctor's checkup that they're demanding "free prostate exams" or "free mammograms." Those exams are included in virtually all health care plans, for which the patient and (most often) his or her employer already pay quite a bit of money.
Fox News executives have often insisted that there's a strict separation between its news and opinion programming. The claim is laughable -- "straight news" anchors regularly advocate GOP positions, Fox regularly treats straight news and opinion staff as interchangeable, and a series of emails obtained by Media Matters in 2010 and 2011 show that top Fox News executives instructed news staff to slant coverage to the right. The April 5 Special Report offered a textbook study in how right-wing talking points jump from Fox's opinion programming to its "news" shows.