Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
A month after claiming that President Obama's focus on immigration reform was intended to distract the American public from problems with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rollout, Fox News is at it again.
Previewing Obama's immigration reform speech in San Francisco in which Obama will reportedly urge the House to pass a reform bill before year's end, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked: "Forget Iran, forget Obamacare, President Obama wants to talk about immigration? Will changing the subject actually work, I say, with italicized work?" He added: "We report, you decide."
Later on in the broadcast, Kilmeade again asserted that Obama is "going to have a hard time changing the subject to immigration" in light of ACA problems. Anchor Bret Baier agreed, replying:
BAIER: He is, because -- listen. Every day, there is some story about Obamacare, and it's not just the website anymore, and we've gone over that. But the more and more people see the premiums, that's really the sticker shock. And I think you've got -- when you've got a White House trying to turn the page a number of different times, a number of different ways, he might have a challenge.
America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum struck a similar note, suggesting that Obama is "trying to move to these other topics in an attempt to change the subject a bit and perhaps salvage his second term."
In fact, as senior political analyst Brit Hume pointed out on America's Newsroom, "it's not surprising" that Obama is focusing on immigration reform:
HUME: These are issues -- Iran, immigration -- that the president was gonna have to address anyway, whatever his standing, whatever the condition of his health insurance reform plan. So it's not surprising that he would try to do that, particularly on immigration, which it wasn't so very long ago you recall Martha, had a real head of steam behind it.
And it looked as if after the results of the 2012 election, Republicans were eager to pass something to try to get themselves in the better graces of the Hispanic community. Some of the air is out of that tire; it's understandable that the president would try to re-inflate it and get it rolling again.
Indeed, Obama has repeatedly urged Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill by year's end and his speech today is intended, as Hume noted, to inject renewed urgency into the debate. Obama has maintained since his election in 2009 that immigration reform is a priority for his administration.
Fox News lent credence to True the Vote's fearmongering over Obamacare and voter registration during the network's 2013 election night coverage, never acknowledging the extremist nature of the tea party group.
When signing up for health insurance on the HealthCare.gov exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), customers are prompted with the option to register to vote. This is due to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires state agencies engaged in public assistance to offer voter registration services, including the state and federally-run exchanges.
According to True the Vote (TTV), an activist tea party group which describes itself as an election watchdog organization, the registration option will "corrupt" voter rolls and lead to "bogus voter registrations." As evidence, the group links to a report from Demos, a liberal think tank, detailing how many Americans could potentially register to vote because of the ACA. True the Vote's theory is that health care navigators like Planned Parenthood -- organizations that assist people in exploring their insurance options in the exchanges -- will use the registration information "in political activities."
A November 5 Special Report package treated True the Vote's conspiracy theory as a damning revelation. Host Bret Baier introduced the segment by saying, "The president's plan is not just about making sure everyone has insurance. There is also a not-so-subtle political objective."
Fox correspondent Shannon Bream then profiled True the Vote's concerns, featuring TTV president Catherine Engelbrecht's claims that "the implications of this are mind-blowing."
BREAM: Pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, state agencies that provide public assistance are also required to give applicants the opportunity to register to vote. A number of states believe that includes the health care exchanges. ... The Demos document also stresses that navigators be trained to walk applicants through the voter registration process, but it's the navigators critics are worried about, saying groups with partisan agendas like Planned Parenthood shouldn't be handling voter information. True the Vote, which calls itself a citizen-led organization aimed at restoring integrity to the U.S. election system, says it's been unable to get any answers about how the voter registrations are being transmitted or verified. And worries about the potential for confusion.
What Fox never admits is that True the Vote is a discredited organization with a partisan agenda.
Fox News continues to push myths about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), baselessly claiming it will undermine religious freedom. In fact, ENDA contains explicit language providing for an exemption for religious organizations from the law.
ENDA, introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group of senators and scheduled for a Senate vote as early as next week, would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. An overwhelming majority of Americans support the law, including a majority of Republicans, Catholics, and senior citizens. Small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike support policies protecting LGBT employees.
On the October 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier introduced a segment on ENDA and stoked fears that it could endanger religious freedom, saying, "some people want religious freedom to take a backseat to another kind of freedom":
In a report on the renewed judicial nominations struggle over three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Fox News' Shannon Bream incorrectly reported that the court was balanced evenly and that past Democratic opposition to highly controversial Republican judicial nominees is equivalent to the blanket obstructionism President Obama's nominees are currently facing.
Appearing on Special Report with Bret Baier, Bream advanced the right-wing myth that filling the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit would "tip the balance" ideologically and is unnecessary, given its "lighter" caseload. From the October 29 edition of Special Report:
BREAM: The problem is this is the D.C. Circuit Court. And what's important about it is it is the key appeals court for looking at federal regulations and federal agencies, things like the EPA, the IRS. So it's something that looks at administrative action that goes around Congress. So it is a real check on administrative power. Now, this is the court that looked at the NLRB recess appointments, those appointments that the president made to the National Labor Relations Board, and found them unconstitutional. So it's very important. It's balanced right now evenly between judges who were appointed by Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, so adding even one new nominee of the president to this court is going to tip the balance. By the way, four of the current Supreme Court justices served on this court. It's very important.
BRET BAIER: But Democrats rightly point out there are a lot of empty seats so why shouldn't they be filled?
BREAM: Yeah, there are three vacancies. The President has tapped three different lawyers to fill those seats, including one who is currently a judge in a lower court. And basically, there were vacancies back when President George W. Bush was fighting to fill these seats as well. Back then Democrats said the court doesn't have enough of a workload to justify filling all of these seats. It's what Republicans are saying now and they add the workload has gotten even lighter in the last eight years. One of the judges currently sitting on the bench said this, quote, "if any more judges are added now, there won't be enough work to go around." That's from one of the current folks who's on this court.
Bream's report on Republican obstruction of Obama's judicial nominees parrots repeatedly debunked right-wing talking points. Bream is correct that the D.C. Circuit Court is a significant part of the federal court system -- it is considered second only to the Supreme Court in terms of its impact on federal law. It is strange, then, that she would uncritically report on Republican efforts to prevent the court from operating at full capacity. Moreover, her characterization of Democratic opposition to George W. Bush's D.C. Circuit nominees is demonstrably false -- that opposition did not result in the elimination of any seats, and ultimately four of Bush's nominees were confirmed. And unlike Bush's judicial picks, President Obama's nominees have faced unprecedented obstruction from Senate Republicans.
Fox News political analyst Brit Hume and anchor Bret Baier attempted to shift responsibility for the possible government shutdown from Republicans to Democrats by blaming biased reporting from the "mainstream media" and not the actions of Republicans in Congress for the popular perception that Republicans would be responsible for a government shutdown.
The government may shut down after Republicans attempted to use a looming government shutdown as leverage to defund the Affordable Care Act. According to the Huffington Post, the GOP-led House of Representatives "passed a stopgap funding bill Friday that will shut down the government unless Democrats agree to defund President Barack Obama's marquee health care law." Economists fear that a government shutdown -- especially if it were followed by a potential default on the federal debt -- could hurt financial markets, elevate the unemployment rate, and further slow a sluggish economic recovery. More than 783,000 federal employees could be sent home, according to a CNN analysis.
On the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Baier introduced a commentary from Hume by claiming, "The mainstream media across the board has apparently made its call about who will be to blame if the government shutdown occurs, partial or not." Hume then elaborated, saying, "One reason people think Republicans are to blame for government shutdowns is so much of the media keep telling them that's the case."
A recent CNN poll found that 46% of Americans believe that the GOP would be responsible for a government shutdown, while 69% of Americans believe Republican members of Congress have acted "mostly like spoiled children." Americans may feel that way because, acccording to Mother Jones, "Republicans have been very clear all along that they were deliberately stringing out the budget process so they could use a shutdown as leverage for their demands." Even other Republicans have been critical of the shutdown strategy, with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), famously calling it the "dumbest idea I'd ever heard."
Fox's own pundits have been divided. Sean Hannity said that defunding the ACA via a government shutdown is "the hill to die on," for the GOP. Charles Krauthammer described that same strategy as "really dumb," and "nuts." But those comments both acknowledge the GOP's responsibility for employing a strategy that could shut down the government.
In reality, Democrats have already shown a "willingness to compromise," according to Roll Call, which reported that "House Democratic leaders said on Monday that they are prepared to vote for a rider-free continuing resolution at sequester levels -- a cave from earlier condemnations of the House-passed $986 billion topline." Roll Call's David Hawkings reported that, unless Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner changes his mind, the shutdown is inevitable, but that's not likely because Republican leadership are under too much pressure from within their own party to compromise.
Hume previously acknowledged the right wing media's role in fueling such partisan showdowns in Congress, saying of some Republicans in Congress, "if you're sitting over in the House of Representatives and some measure to defund Obamacare comes along and you think it's a suicide mission because it might involve a government shutdown you're going to be hesitant to oppose it anyway because you don't want the most conservative -- you don't want the tea party and you don't want the conservative radio talk show hosts on your back."
The House Republicans are gearing up to slash nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), knocking up to 3.8 million people off the food stamp rolls over the next two years. As far as benefit programs go, SNAP is pretty effective, and can be indispensable in hard economic times. The Republicans, however, are raising the specter of rampant waste and fraud within the program, and the centerpiece of their PR campaign to cut the program's funding is a terrifically misleading Fox News special from August hosted by Special Report anchor and "straight journalist" Bret Baier.
That special, called "The Great Food Stamp Binge," made a right-wing celebrity out of Jason Greenslate, an unlikeable surfer from San Diego who refuses to work and proudly abuses his SNAP benefits. Greenslate is a rarity. The vast majority of SNAP households (75 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office) have a child, a person over the age of 60, or a disabled person. Greenslate's yearly benefit represents 0.000003 percent of the annual SNAP budget. He is in no way representative of SNAP recipients, and his behavior is atypical -- waste and fraud within the SNAP program is actually pretty rare.
In spite of all this, Greenslate ate up nine minutes of the hour-long special, divided between two segments. Offering no data or fact-based justification of any kind, Baier proclaimed Greenslate "the new face of food stamps." Baier's intention was clear: to create the (false) impression that SNAP is rife with abuse, and to transform Greenslate into a punching bag for conservative politicians and pundits who want to slash the social safety net.
Roughly 45 minutes into Fox News' "special" investigation into the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or "food stamps," per the outdated parlance), host Bret Baier posed a question that gets right to the heart of what Fox News specifically, and conservatives generally, are trying to accomplish with regard to public attitudes toward social welfare programs. "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" Baier asked, referring to people who accept SNAP benefits. Baier's just-asking-questions lament about the lack of stigmatization was all part of Fox News' slipshod and flagrant piece of agitprop intended to shame the needy and promote public resentment of the government safety net.
Everything about Baier's special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" -- from the title to its absurd focus on a thoroughly unlikable miscreant named Jason Greenslate who proudly abuses SNAP benefits -- was designed to provoke hostility to the idea of nutritional assistance programs. Greenslate, a California musician who refuses to work and spends his monthly SNAP benefits on sushi and lobsters, is an anomaly in a program that has proven to be both efficient and effective. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "fewer than 2 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to households that do not meet all of the program's eligibility requirements." The USDA estimates that just one cent of every dollar of SNAP benefits is lost to "trafficking," a type of fraud. "About three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person," per the Congressional Budget Office.
Greenslate, who is in no way representative of the typical SNAP recipient, was the subject of two separate segments, totaling nearly nine minutes, of Fox News' hour-long special. Baier proclaimed him "the new face of food stamps."
Greenslate is "the new face of food stamps" for no other reason than Fox News wants him to be. Baier offered no data to back up this assertion, and no fact-driven justification for even including Greenslate in the report. But this freeloading oaf is an easy-to-hate villain, someone the viewer can immediately dislike and a convenient punching bag for small-government agitators. Near the program's close, Fox News reporter John Roberts, interviewing Greenslate, attempted to shame him -- and every other recipient of SNAP benefits. "It used to be that, you know, that if somebody was on food stamps it's like 'hey, they're on food stamps, you know... loser,'" said Roberts.
In an attempt to make a surfing freeloader the face of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, a Fox News special profiled Jason Greenslate, "a blissfully jobless California surfer" who has taken advantage of SNAP benefits. In reality, Greenslate bears no resemblance to the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients, many of whom are elderly, children, or rely on the program for a short time while looking for work.
Prior to its August 9 airing, Fox News hyped the special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge," on Fox News Insider, FoxNews.com, and several of its daytime shows. Each preview focused on Jason Greenslate, a freeloading surfer who Fox correspondent John Roberts interviewed in Southern California. FoxNews.com described Greenslate at length in an article that teased the "new documentary":
The Fox News Reporting documentary profiles, among others, a California surfer and aspiring musician named Jason Greenslate. Greenslate shows how he supports his beach-bum lifestyle with food stamps, while dismissing the idea of holding down a regular, steady job.
"It's not that I don't want a job, I don't want a boss. I don't want someone telling me what to do. I'm gonna live my own life," Greenslate tells Fox News' John Roberts. "This is the way I want to live. And I don't really see anything changing. I got the card. It's $200. That's it."
As promised, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" labeled Greenslate "the new face of food stamps," devoting two full segments to his lifestyle in a shameless attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders.
Fox News will air an hour-long special on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, on August 9 and 11. If history is any indication, Fox's special will be rife with factual inaccuracies and baseless smears intended to demonize a program that provides necessary food assistance to millions of Americans.
From the August 6 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News' Bret Baier downplayed the consequences of the across-the-board automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, ignoring that the cuts could cost up to 1.6 million new jobs.
On the July 30 edition of Special Report, Baier reported that unpaid furlough days for civilian workers at the Defense department may be cut to as few as 6 days. The Fox host also noted that "last week the IRS canceled one of its five furlough days" and that "a little budget shifting allowed the FAA to avoid furloughing its air traffic controllers."
Unmentioned, however, was that sequestration could cost the economy as many as 1.6 million new jobs, according to a recent report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Additionally, the CBO report showed that real gross domestic product could be as much as 1.2 percent higher without the sequestration cuts. In a letter to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the CBO explained:
[T]he Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed a proposal under which the automatic spending reductions in effect for 2013 would be canceled at the beginning of August and none of the reductions scheduled for 2014 would be implemented; for 2013, mandatory payments made after early August would be at the rates in effect prior to sequestration, and agencies would have an additional year to obligate the restored discretionary funding.
The full ranges CBO uses for those parameters suggest that, in the third quarter of calendar year 2014, real GDP could be between 0.2 percent and 1.2 percent higher, and employment 0.3 million to 1.6 million higher, under the proposal than under current law. Because those estimates indicate the effects of a prospective change in law, they do not encompass the full impact of the sequestration that has already occurred.
Even after a juror in George Zimmerman's trial for killing Trayvon Martin said that Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law influenced the outcome of the case, Fox News hosts and contributors continue to claim otherwise as a means to attack Attorney General Eric Holder for opposing such laws.
Fox News and The Wall Street Journal stoked fears that a delay in the verification systems of health care reform would lead to fraud, while ignoring the fact that the government will conduct audits before implementing a stronger verification system and will heavily fine individuals who misrepresent their eligibility.
The Washington Post reported on July 5 that until 2015, the federal government will not require 16 states and the District of Columbia -- which are running their own health insurance marketplaces -- to verify whether an individual accurately reported that they currently do not receive affordable health insurance from their employer and are eligible for health care benefits under the new law. These benefits include tax subsidies for Americans who earn less than 400 percent of the poverty line and some additional Medicaid coverage.
On the July 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed the government "is not going to be able to verify whether or not you have the right income standards so they're going to trust people. What could possibly go wrong?" Fox News host Bret Baier, who was a guest on the program, further claimed the government was "not going to check to see if anybody qualifies to receive benefits" and suggested the move would lead to misspent funds, saying "you could see taxpayer dollars going out the window." Co-host Gretchen Carlson agreed the program would be "rife with fraud," while Doocy suggested this system would result in "a quarter of a trillion dollars" of fraud:
DOOCY: If you're just going to trust people to tell the truth, how is that going to work out when it comes to fraudsters if you look at the Earned Income Tax Credits. Right now, they say that about 25 percent of the people who get them don't deserve them. They should not be applying for them. But they get them. So if you use that same metric, you could probably lose, over 10 years, a quarter of a trillion dollars to fraud on this program.
The claim that this delay could result in fraudulent spending echoed a July 7 Wall Street Journal editorial, which claimed that "millions of individuals [could] decide they're eligible for the subsidies," resulting in "as much as $250 billion in improper payments in its first decade."
Fox News continues to push Benghazi falsehoods in its quest to tarnish President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On June 28, Bret Baier hosted Fox's "Benghazi: The Truth Behind The Smokescreen" in the network's latest attempt to keep the Benghazi myth at the forefront. The one-hour special included repeatedly debunked falsehoods along with misinformation new to Fox's growing Benghazi mythology.