Fox News provided a platform for Iowa Senate Candidate Joni Ernst (R) to recite talking points during an interview on the network, but neglected to ask Ernst about any of her controversial policy positions that are garnering widespread criticism across other media outlets.
During the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum interviewed Ernst about her campaign for the U.S. Senate opposite Democrat Bruce Braley. After highlighting a clip of Ernst's infamous campaign ad featuring the castration of pigs, MacCallum asked Ernst a series of softball questions including:
1. Were you nervous that that ad might backfire on you, Joni?
2. There's a huge ground game, Democratic ground game, very strong in Iowa left over even from President Obama's runs there. How are you going to compete with that?
3. How many undecided voters do you believe are out there right now, and what do you think is the major issue that's on their minds? What are they torn between and how are you going to reach them?
4. So I'm hearing in the local reporting that there's an increase in requests for absentee ballots from Independents and also from Democrats, so there's definitely an effort by your opponent to get out some of these voters who maybe don't usually vote in midterm elections. How does your ground game match up to what they're doing?
Fox's mild string of questions failed to get to the heart of Ernst's controversial platform. While MacCallum's inquiries into Ernst's "ground game" strategies provided the candidate a platform to discuss her own talking points, the interview failed to include the full scope of Ernst's controversial policy positions which have come under fire from other media outlets.
The Washington Post recently criticized the candidate for attempting to "cover her tracks" by backtracking on her previous support for a 'Personhood' amendment -- which would amend the state Constitution, preventing access to preventative health services for women including abortion and various forms of contraception.
ThinkProgress pointed out that Ernst is one of many Republican politicians that admit to "not knowing the science of climate change, but remain happy declaring we need do nothing about it," and noted that Ernst's climate denial was an issue so important it could cost her the election.
In a piece asking "How Does This GOP Senate Candidate Keep Getting Away With Such Terrible Gaffes," Mother Jones noted that Ernst has alleged that Obama has "become a dictator" and may deserve impeachment.
But any discussion of these extreme viewpoints were noticeably missing from today's interview.
Fox News is calling recent court decisions blocking voter ID laws a "setback," despite the fact that these decisions will allow more people to engage in the political process.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law -- a law that The New York Times called "one of the strictest in the nation." Even though these kinds of voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color and in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent, right-wing media outlets has repeatedly celebrated them. National Review Online was highly supportive of Wisconsin's law in particular, and it called fears that the new ID requirements would cause "chaos at the polls" overblown because "there has been no such 'chaos' in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years."
Elsewhere, in Texas, a federal court struck down that state's voter ID law -- another stringent law that right-wing media have described as "a good thing." However, in its ruling, the court called Texas' law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."
Yet Fox News was apparently unmoved by the Texas court's proclamation that the right to vote "defines our nation as a democracy." On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said the "timing" of the orders was "very interesting." Her co-host, Bill Hemmer, said the decisions were "the latest setbacks" to laws "meant to crack down on voter fraud":
The timing is interesting, but probably not in the way MacCallum thinks. Although the court's order doesn't say why it stopped Wisconsin's law from being implemented, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston suggested that "the fact that this year's election is less than a month away may have been the key factor." In its brief in the Wisconsin case, the ACLU also argued that "[n]o court has permitted a voter ID law to go into effect this close to an election based on last-minute changes to the law." Had the law been implemented before the 2014 election, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters could have been affected. According to the ACLU and the Advancement Project, state officials would have had "to issue some 6,000 IDs per day between now and the election" to ensure that every eligible voter had the required form of identification.
Fox News attempted to spin reports that some health insurance plans that do not meet minimum standards under the Affordable Care Act will be discontinued as a "new Obamacare bombshell" and death blow to the health care law.
The October 9 edition of America's Newsroom raised concerns over recent news that some health insurance plans not in compliance with the Affordable Care Act would be cancelled at the end of the year. Fox Business host Stuart Varney declared the cancellations to be a "political bombshell." The previous day, network host Shannon Bream called news of the cancelled plans a "new Obamacare controversy."
A headline on FoxNews.com declared that the canceled plans were evidence of an "Obamacare Death Knell":
Of course, the cancellation of plans that do not meet minimum coverage requirements was always a "part of the design of the health care law," as the New York Times explained, and meant to allow new insurance plans to be "more comprehensive and fair, with prices less variable by customers' ages and health status."
Last year, the Obama administration delayed the requirement that all plans cover a minimum standard of health benefits and medical bills, giving states the ability to allow insurers to extend existing plans that were not up to par -- something many states and insurance providers opted against. As the Washington Post reported, federal policy allows these non-compliant plans to continue through 2017 in some states, but some insurers are cancelling them now in favor of ACA-compliant plans.
Non-compliant plans which fall short of now-basic standards can be dangerous to the policy holder -- as studies show being underinsured carries many of the same risks as lacking insurance all together. As a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told the Post, those who may lose their non-compliant plans will "have access to better options through the health-insurance marketplace . . . [including] the opportunity to qualify for financial assistance to help them afford premiums and improved consumer protections."
Fox also ignored the realities of the insurance market -- these insurance plans may have been discontinued anyway. According to Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR), most consumers have year-long policies with health insurance companies that often changed at the end of the policy year, and "in most states insurers are allowed to increase premiums, increase cost-sharing, and/or reduce the scope of benefits covered."
Such phony outrage over discontinued plans is just the latest in Fox News' sustained campaign to undermine the ACA with misinformation, spin, and zombie lies -- despite news that the health care law has greatly reduced the nation's uninsured rate.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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On September 30, California became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags in stores, leading to a barrage of misinformation from various media outlets claiming the ban would actually hurt the environment. However, these contrarian claims are undermined by research showing that previous bans and taxes have reduced energy use and litter, while doing no harm to the economy.
Conservative media are attacking actor Ben Affleck for comments he made objecting to disparaging generalizations about Islam during a heated exchange with HBO host Bill Maher, using their dialogue as ammunition to continue claiming that the religion has a unique connection to extremism and that Muslims have not done enough to root out religious zealotry.
From the October 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News personalities claimed that President Obama's efforts to roll back the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was prompted by the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley. In fact, President Obama authorized limited airstrikes several days before Foley's killing, and worked to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces months before the strikes.
Fox News' Martha MacCallum falsely suggested the White House has failed to acknowledge the connection between the Khorasan group, the terrorist organization recently targeted along with the Islamic State (ISIS) by U.S. airstrikes, and Al Qaeda -- ignoring a statement from President Obama doing just that.
During the September 30 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and contributor Stephen Hayes discussed whether the White House had "misunderstood the evolution of Al Qaeda" with respect to ISIS and the Khorasan group. Speculating as to why many people had not previously heard of the Khorasan group, MacCallum asked why "the White House doesn't want to call" the Khorasan group Al Qaeda:
But in a September 23 statement on the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Obama specifically referenced the Khorasan group's affiliation with the terrorist organization, noting that it consisted of "seasoned al Qaeda operatives" (emphasis added):
OBAMA: Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.
After President Obama repeated the assessment of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, of the intelligence community's initial view on the threat posed by the Islamic State, media are accusing Obama of "throwing the intelligence community under the bus."
From the September 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News ran a misleading segment highlighting Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into fraud allegations against a nonpartisan voter education and registration group, failing to note key facts about the accusations.
The segment, on the September 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, highlighted "allegations of voter registration fraud by Georgia Democrats linked to Senate candidate Michelle Nunn." Reporter John Roberts went on to discuss the ongoing "scandal," which he said involves "complaints about potential voter registration fraud." Roberts highlighted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into allegations that 25 voter registration applications and three canvassing sheets turned in by the nonpartisan New Georgia Project contained some type of inaccurate information, while another 26 were flagged as "suspicious":
What Fox News failed to note is that Georgia law requires all applications -- even those the New Georgia Project thought were incomplete or inaccurate -- to be turned in by the organization. As Stacey Abrams, head of the New Georgia Project, told The Washington Post, her organization flagged the forms before submitting them to the secretary of state:
Of the more than 85,000 registration forms the group has turned in so far, about 11 percent were incomplete, Abrams said, but state law requires they turn in all forms they receive, regardless of whether or not they are complete. "We don't get to decide if something is good or bad," she said. Those incomplete forms were flagged, however, by the group before being turned in.
From the September 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News' coverage of an evidence-free "bombshell" from Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson took just hours to morph from a reiteration of her claim that a disgruntled former State Department employee "couldn't help but wonder" if Hillary Clinton's staff had turned over "scrubbed" Benghazi documents to investigators into full-blown allegations that documents had been "destroyed" -- allegations that remain baseless.
Fox News' live coverage of the Senate Armed Services hearing on U.S. strategy against the Islamic State repeatedly cut away when Senate Democrats held the floor.
On September 16, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the U.S. campaign to counter the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Fox News' America's Newsroom aired live coverage of the hearing for nearly 40 minutes without interruption. After opening remarks from Dempsey and Hagel, Fox aired questions from Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking majority and minority members, respectively. Yet when Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) was given the floor, Fox cut away, only rejoining footage once Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ) began questioning.
After airing more than six minutes of McCain's questions, Fox once again cut away during Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson (FL)'s time so that America's Newsroom co-host Martha McCallum could praise McCain for "obviously a very strong line of questioning."
An hour later, the network resumed coverage of the hearing only to highlight "heated" questions from another Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC).
In all, the network aired more than 16 minutes of GOP questions, while showing just over 8 minutes of Democratic questioning, according to a Media Matters count.