Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are teaming up to demonize the Food and Drug Administration's decision to lower the age requirement for access to over-the-counter emergency contraception, ignoring both the science behind the drug and the FDA's assessment that younger women can handle the responsibility of taking the medication.
On America's Newsroom, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, attacked the FDA's decision to allow 15-year-olds to purchase the medication. He claimed emergency contraception decisions should be left up to the parents because, "Since when is a 15-year-old child a woman? Now give me a break."
Alvarez went on to claim that a 15-year-old is unable to understand the possible side effects of Plan B. Host Martha MacCallum stated, "Look at the list of warnings on this thing," prompting Alvarez to argue:
It reads like the Constitution. There's so many, you know, possibilities, probabilities, percentages. You're going to tell me a 15-year-old girl -- and who could even buy it and give it to a 14-year-old or 13-year-old -- is going to understand all the potential side effects? And what they should do after if they have any of the symptoms?
Later, MacCallum fearmongered over whether Plan B could result in long-term fertility problems, wondering, "Who knows what the long-lasting implications of using it in that way are? When this girl decides she wants to have a baby a few years down the road?" Alvarez did not take the bait, telling MacCallum: "I'm not arguing that this has some mild to moderate side effects -- not terrible side effects."
Aside from the fact that the "children" seeking emergency contraception are of reproductive age, Alvarez's allegations have been explicitly discredited by FDA research. The agency conclusively determined that a 15-year-old is able to understand the side effects and consequences of Plan B after conducting research on this question when determining whether to make the drug available to this age group without a prescription. FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD explained (emphasis added):
The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) completed its review of the Plan B One-Step application and laid out its scientific determination. CDER carefully considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B One-Step. Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.
Fox News' Brit Hume is continuing the network's effort to rehabilitate the Bush family name by lavishing praise on Jeb Bush, a potential 2016 presidential nominee.
Fox spent the week of the George W. Bush Presidential Library dedication lionizing Bush's tenure and whitewashing the effects of his policies; several hosts even bragged that Bush "kept the country safe" from terrorists after the September 11 attacks. From Fox & Friends to America's Newsroom, Fox uncritically allowed former Bush officials to spin Bush's record on fiscal discipline as probably "the best track record of any modern president," and to falsely claim that he helped grow the economy despite "inheriting a recession." According to a Media Matters review, 71 percent of Fox's guest appearances about President Bush's library and legacy were by former Bush White House personnel.
Now Fox's senior political analyst Hume is turning the Bush rehabilitation effort toward President Bush's younger brother and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday on April 28, Hume discussed whether Jeb Bush should run for president in 2016, remarking, "The country may indeed be ready for another Bush." The next day on America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum asked Hume about his comment. Hume responded by lavishing praise on the younger Bush, saying, "a great many political observers had identified Jeb as ... the most gifted natural politician among the lot of them." He continued:
HUME: I think it is the fact that Jeb Bush is an especially gifted political figure. He's a disarming personality. He's highly articulate. He's deeply versed in policy, especially domestic policy. He has a connection to the Hispanic community. His wife is Hispanic. He speaks the language. He showed that when he was governor of Florida. He was a successful and generally popular governor of Florida. So he's got a lot going for him.
Over the objections of their own legal experts, right-wing media continue to argue the alleged Boston bomber should be denied constitutional rights unlike the hundreds of terrorists before him who have been successfully tried and convicted.
Prominent right-wing media figures have advocated a wide range of unconstitutional treatment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old U.S. citizen accused of complicity in the Boston marathon bombing and subsequent murder of a police officer. Echoing GOP politicians from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), right-wing media have called for Tsarnaev to be denied the constitutional protections regularly given to domestic or foreign terrorists in this country, both before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Fox News hosts have suggested using torture on Tsarnaev because not all American citizens are "worthy of the constitutional rights that we have." The Wall Street Journal joined the dangerous clamor (fueled by Graham and Bachman) to indefinitely detain Tsarnaev in military custody as an "enemy combatant." Conservative pundit Ann Coulter told Fox's Sean Hannity she wanted authorities to "shoot up the boat" when they found Tsarnaev unarmed and "get him an automatic death penalty there."
When the Department of Justice initiated criminal proceedings against Tsarnaev, right-wing media turned their ire upon Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for not preventing the federal judge from following the law. National Review Online's John Yoo accused the president of the "elevation of ideology over national security." Fox host Megyn Kelly continues to pretend "the public safety exception to Miranda lasts only 48 hours." A Washington Times columnist called for President Obama's impeachment because he is "unwilling" to protect America.
Fox News glossed over an important aspect in its reporting on lower than expected GDP growth -- the government contribution to GDP has been negative in the majority of recent reports.
Following the April 26 release of first quarter GDP growth estimates, Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney dismissed the 2.5 percent increase as "not good numbers," claiming that the increase was not indicative of a robust recovery. From Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Varney provided a laundry list of reasons why GDP growth has failed to live up to expectations, including recent federal and state tax increases and, notably, cuts from sequestration - a reversal from previous right-wing assertions that sequestration was too small to harm the economy. Varney failed to explain, however, that too little government spending has been holding back economic growth, as indicated by many of quarterly reports from the past two years.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis provides data on individual contributions to GDP, including government spending's contribution. When the government's contribution to GDP growth is separated from total growth, it becomes apparent that it has been a drag on the economy for much of the past two years.
In the previous 13 quarters, government spending has only added to GDP growth twice - once in the second quarter of 2010, and again in the third quarter of 2012.
This observation has been recognized by others, causing The Washington Post's Ezra Klein to boldly state that "government is hurting the economy - by spending too little." Of course, any recognition of this fact from Fox News would require the network to abandon its longtime stance that increased government spending can only hurt the economy.
From the April 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fueled by a report from the conservative Boston Herald, right wing media outlets such as Fox News, the New York Post, and the Washington Times, are demonizing government assistance programs by tying them to the heinous terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon. Conservative blogs used sensationalized headlines and rhetoric to make their attacks, like RedState's "Does The US Welfare System Benefit Jihadists?" and Monica Crowley's "Nice Return on Our Investment, Huh?"
On April 24, 2013, the Boston Herald published a report that claimed, "Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism."
On the April 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer hyped the report and complained that "taxpayers were giving money to at least one of the bombing suspects."
In reality, the right-wing smear uses an absurd guilt-by-association non sequitur in an attempt to smear government spending programs. But where does this logic end? The Tsarnaev brothers presumably used taxpayer funded roads to physically reach the Boston Marathon finish line. Will right wing media next attack government spending on highway maintenance for literally paving the way for the Boston terror suspects to commit their crimes?
Conservatives are trying to take advantage of the horrific attacks to taint the public perception of yet another policy they dislike. Since the terrorist attack on April 15, the right wing media has exploited the tragedy in Boston to smear Islam, immigration reform, education, a member of Congress, the Obama administration's foreign policy, and even the constitutional rights of American citizens.
UPDATE: During his radio program, Rush Limbaugh also jumped on this bandwagon. Limbaugh claimed the Herald's report shows "another great example of your tax dollars at work."
LIMBAUGH: Now we hear that the entire Tsarnaev family was on welfare. How could he not be an Obama supporter?
So we have another great example of your tax dollars at work. Your tax money helped to pay for the explosives, as well as Tamerlan's at least two trips back to Dagestan, his late model Mercedes, his $900 shoes. No wonder this guy hated America.
Fox News host Heather Childers failed to disclose her employer's financial ties to NASCAR and controversies over the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of a NASCAR race during an interview with NASCAR chairman Brian France.
On the April 15 edition of America Live, France responded to allegations made by driver Brad Keselowski that he was unfairly targeted by NASCAR officials because of incidents leading up to the April 14 NRA 500 race. After France denied Keselowski's allegations, Childers allowed him to talk about NASCAR's Going Green initiative.
Childers failed to mention, however, that Fox Sports -- like Fox News, a division of News Corp. -- has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASCAR to televise races. Last year, Fox and NASCAR extended their contract to 2022. Fox will pay NASCAR a total of $1.76 billion to NASCAR under the terms of the current contract, which expires in 2014, and will pay an additional $2.4 billion under the eight-year extension. France stated regarding the extension:
NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with Fox and Fox Sports Media Group.
Fox News continued right-wing media attempts to dismiss the voices of the families of the Newtown, CT shooting victims, discounting their efforts to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws by suggesting that President Obama is "engineering them for political purposes" and "outright manipulating them."
Since the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which left 26 people dead, family members of the victims have taken an outspoken role in pushing for tougher gun laws.
Following the tragedy, many of the families traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to help push for a tougher new state-level gun law that Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) recently signed into law. After Republican senators threatened to filibuster gun reform legislation, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing the lawmakers. The families have also been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for new gun measures. The lobbying efforts of these families for stronger gun laws have been ongoing and effective.
This has led to an attempt by right-wing media figures to marginalize the Newtown families as little more than "props" being used by Obama and Democrats to strengthen gun laws. On April 9, Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry said the president "used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." That same day, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that Obama bringing the families to Washington, DC on Air Force One to allow them to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
On April 10, Fox News host Sean Hannity accused Obama of "once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." On his April 11 radio program, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Obama was "using the Newtown families." On April 12, Rush Limbaugh accused Democrats of using the Newtown parents as "human shields."
Then, during the April 15 edition of America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett continued the effort to marginalize the Newtown families, saying they are "still very, very emotionally vulnerable" and suggesting the president is "engineering them for political purposes" and is "outright manipulating them into taking a stand on a vital constitutional right." Jarrett also asked if the president is "exploiting this tragedy and the grieving families for political purposes."
Despite these efforts to paint the Newtown families as merely political props being exploited by Democrats and the president, the families have continued to push for stronger gun laws. On April 14, Francine Wheeler, the mother of a 6-year-old killed in the shooting, gave Obama's weekly address, in which she urged the Senate to pass gun reform legislation.
Fox News is trying to shift the national conversation on public safety laws, pointing to recent mass shootings to question the effectiveness of expanding background checks on gun purchases. But Fox's criticism ignores several other mass shootings committed by people who bought weapons without undergoing background checks, as well as the significant gun violence that experts say background checks will prevent.
On Thursday, the Senate defeated a Republican filibuster threat against tougher gun laws on a vote of 68-31. The vote cleared the way for a full debate on gun safety measures, including expanded background checks, next week.
In response, Fox News ran a segment premised on the idea that background checks are largely unnecessary because they would not have prevented Adam Lanza and other recent mass shooters from acquiring the guns they used.
In fact, the loophole in federal law that allows prohibited persons to buy firearms without undergoing a background check has resulted in mass shootings. In October 2012, a shooting at a Wisconsin spa left three dead and four wounded. The Associated Press reported that the alleged shooter purchased a handgun from a private seller without a background check, and obtained the weapon two days after becoming the subject of a restraining order that required him to turn over all weapons to a county sheriff.
Other mass shootings in which shooters obtained their weapons from private individuals rather than licensed firearm dealers include the September 2011 shooting at a Nevada IHOP, which left 4 dead and 7 wounded, and the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, which left 13 dead and 21 wounded.
Moreover, this criticism misses the point; while background checks will not prevent all gun violence, they will prevent a significant amount.
Fox News brushed aside criticism of Mattel's new Mexico Barbie doll, instead promoting cultural, anti-immigrant stereotypes.
Mattel recently released Mexico Barbie as part of Mattel's new "Dolls of the World" collection. According to its website, the doll is "dressed for a fabulous fiesta in her vibrant pink dress with ruffles, lace, and brightly colored ribbon accent." The doll, which comes with a "precious Chihuahua friend" and "a passport and sticker sheet to help record Barbie doll's travels," has attracted criticism for perpetuating racial sensitivity. ABC News reports:
While all the dolls in the collection come with a passport, some critics say Mexico Barbie is representative of cultural insensitivity, rather than an educational tool that "teaches girls about the culture, traditions and ancestral dress of Mexico," as described by Mattel on its website.
"It sounds to me like Mattel took some shortcuts," Jason Ruiz, a professor of American studies at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., said. "The bright pink ribbons? A Chihuahua? That kind of stuff is so easy to use."
On the April 11 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News co-host Julie Banderas briefly mentioned the controversy surrounding the doll, but dismissed its implications. Banderas used the doll's fake passport to promote an anti-immigrant stereotype, saying, "It's a faux passport so I hope she doesn't cross the borders illegally." Co-host Martha MacCallum added, "Good luck with that."
Fox News buried Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's (R) decision to back down on his plan to eliminate the state's income tax, praising the now-dead proposal just days after Jindal acknowledged Louisianans reject the scheme.
While the network has not covered* Jindal's April 8 speech rescinding the proposal, Fox News' America's Newsroom dedicated a segment on April 10 to the idea of repealing Louisiana's income tax. Before introducing Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, guest host Gregg Jarrett framed the topic, saying: "Creating jobs and helping put more money in your wallet--the state of Louisiana wants to scrap its state income taxes." As Jarrett continued, Fox displayed a graphical summary of the plan Jindal withdrew two days earlier:
In his speech to state lawmakers, Jindal explained his decision to withdraw that plan as a recognition of fierce opposition to it. From The Times-Picayune:
The speech is a major concession that Jindal's proposal, a complicated plan contained in a total of 11 bills, is unpopular both within and outside the Legislature. The proposal has come under increasingly heavy fire in recent weeks as business groups and advocates for the poor have assailed its effects and think tanks have questioned whether the math in the proposal adds up.
Jindal acknowledges the strong opposition to the proposal in his prepared remarks.
"I realize that some of you think I haven't been listening. But you'll be surprised to learn I have been," according to the text of the speech. "And here is what I've heard from you and from the people of Louisiana -- yes, we do want to get rid of the income tax, but governor you're moving too fast and we aren't sure that your plan is the best way to do it.
"So I've thought about that. And it certainly wasn't the reaction I was hoping to hear. And now I'm going to give you my response and it's not the response people are accustomed to hearing from politicians.
"Here is my response: 'Ok, I hear you,' " according to the text of the speech. "So I am going to park my tax plan."
The governor went on to request that lawmakers write an income tax repeal bill of their own, and his administration has reportedly signaled interest in repealing the income tax even without any accompanying plan to make up the lost revenue.
Numerous major news outlets reported on Jindal's speech as both a setback for his political career and a victory for the poor. MaddowBlog's Steve Benen noticed this is the second such rebuke Jindal's suffered so far this year, after his plan to end hospice care for Medicaid beneficiaries went down in the face of stiff criticism. But on Fox, Jarrett and Moore didn't just ignore Jindal's reversal. They praised Jindal's stillborn plan as a near-heroic effort to boost economic growth in his state. "The real story here is that Bobby Jindal is trying to take on the special interests in Louisiana, trying to make the case that Louisiana could be a really high-flying state if they could get rid of their income tax," Moore said.
Beyond their attempt to recast Jindal's efforts in a more positive light, Moore and Jarrett continued Fox's pattern of misrepresenting the relationship between state income taxes and growth. Fox had previously ignored the regressive nature of Jindal's plan, and the April 10 segment featured the false claim that eliminating income taxes boosts state economic growth. Media Matters has previously shown Moore's work on that subject to be dishonest, and as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown, cuts in state income taxes are correlated with weaker economic growth except in oil-rich states. Furthermore, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported in February that the nine states with no income tax have shown substantially weaker economic growth than those with high income taxes.
*A review of transcripts found that no Fox News Channel shows covered the Louisiana governor's speech from April 8. Fox Business's Stuart Varney interviewed Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform about Jindal's reversal on the April 9 edition of Varney & Co.
Fox News deceptively edited a clip of Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make it seem as though she had not anticipated how complex implementation of President Obama's health care law would be when, in fact, Sebelius was pointing to the problems created by relentless political opposition to the bill.
On America's Newsroom, guest host Gregg Jarrett played a portion of Sebelius' appearance at the Harvard School of Public Health. Jarrett introduced the clip by claiming Sebelius "admitted there's been a lot of confusion associated with the rollout." Jarrett then played a portion of the clip in which Sebelius said, "There was some hope that once the Supreme Court ruled in July, and then once an election occurred, there would be a sense of, 'this is the law of the land, let's get on board, let's make this work,' and yet we find ourselves still having sort of state-by-state political battles."
After the clip, Jarrett responded by saying, "She underestimated its complexity. Well, my goodness, the law is 2,700 pages long with more than 15,000 pages of [regulations]. What does she expect?"
But Jarrett's interpretation of Sebelius' appearance is based on deceptive editing. Sebelius wasn't complaining about the bill's length or complexity -- she was explaining that political opposition to the law has made implementation more difficult. Fox began the clip after Sebelius pointed out that "politics has been relentless and continuous." In the portion after Fox's edited verision (comments begin around 13:30), Sebelius went on to explain that states which have expressed consistent opposition to the law make it more difficult to implement the law and explain benefits to health care consumers. In Sebelius' comments below, the portion aired by Fox is in bold:
From the April 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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A Fox News "fact" on the supposed costs of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers was lifted from a study by the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) that has been debunked as flawed.
During a segment on Fox News' America's Newsroom discussing the new immigration reform plan soon to be released by a bi-partisan group in the Senate, Fox displayed a "Fox Facts" graphic as host Martha MacCallum interviewed Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC):
This so-called fact is based on research from the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR. In 2010, FAIR released a study titled, "The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers," which found "the annual costs of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local level to be about $113 billion." At the time the study was released, FoxNews.com defended both FAIR and the study.
Fox News has consistently downplayed positive weekly jobless claims reports, ignoring the standard the network set for signs of labor market improvements.
A Media Matters analysis revealed that despite consistent improvements in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits, Fox's coverage of weekly jobless claims reports was overwhelmingly negative. The network consistently used the reports to bring up unrelated negative economic news, a practice that has become common on Fox when faced with positive economic developments.