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 misleadingly implied the Obama administration was at fault for not allowing people to keep their health insurance policies indefinitely, while hiding the fact that health insurance companies routinely alter consumer's plans every year.
Fox host Brian Kilmeade insisted that college admissions offices employ a "quota" system based on race, despite the fact that racial quotas in education have been illegal since 1978.
On the November 20 edition of "Fox & Friends," Kilmeade interviewed former college counselor Lacy Crawford about her book Early Decision. In response to a story about a parent who lied about her son's race on a college application to improve his chances for admission, Kilmeade proclaimed it was "because schools have quotas!" This has not been true since 1978, when the Supreme Court ruled in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that it was unconstitutional for institutions of higher education to reserve a certain number of seats for students of color. Appearing uncomfortable, Crawford didn't bother to correct Kilmeade, saying only, "Well, 'quota' is a complicated word."
Fox News is manufacturing outrage over Obama's decision not to attend the commemoration ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and baselessly speculating that Obama's resentment over the nation's unfinished business "in bringing the country and its races together" may be the cause. In fact, William Howard Taft is the only sitting president to have ever visited Gettysburg on the anniversary of the address.
Fox News's Brian Kilmeade discussed with Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger whether it is "inappropriate for our president to bypass" the commemoration ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address during the November 19 edition of Fox & Friends. At one point Kilmeade asked whether Henninger thought Obama was refusing to attend because "after that address and after the Civil War we still weren't a perfect union? We still had to wait for the Civil Rights Act and so many -- the integration of schools, Brown vs. the Board of Education?" Henninger replied, "I think probably that President Obama does think the unfinished business remains unfinished in bringing the country and its races together."
But Obama's decision not to attend the Gettysburg commemoration ceremony is typical for a sitting president. President Reagan did not attend the 125th commemoration of the Gettysburg Address - in fact, Reagan never visited Gettysburg during his tenure in office. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also never visited the battlefield as president, and President George W. Bush toured the site in 2008, but did not speak or attend a commemoration ceremony. In fact, according to Hanover, Pennsylvania's local paper, The Evening Sun, William Howard Taft was the only sitting president to ever visit the site on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (emphasis added):
According to documents supplied by the Adams County Historical Society, 16 presidents have visited Gettysburg while they were in office -- Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863; Rutherford B. Hayes on May 30, 1878; Grover Cleveland May 4, 1885; Theodore Roosevelt on May 30, 1904; William H. Taft on Nov. 19, 1909; Woodrow Wilson on July 3, 1913; Warren G. Harding on July 1, 1922; Calvin Coolidge on May 30, 1928; Herbert Hoover on May 30, 1930; Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 30, 1934, and July 3, 1938; Harry S. Truman on July 6, 1946; Dwight D. Eisenhower on Nov. 13, 1955; John F. Kennedy on March 31, 1963; Richard M. Nixon on April 3, 1972; Jimmy Carter on July 6 and Sept. 11, 1978, and George W. Bush on Sept. 6, 2008.
The National Journal's George Condon reported of presidential visits to Gettysburg, "not all went willingly, and all tried to avoid speech comparisons with Lincoln."
Attacking Obama for this type of perceived snub is nothing new. In June 2010, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hyped Obama's supposed "perception problem" because he "did not acknowledge the D-Day anniversary as it passed this year," while ignoring the fact that Obama's D-Day commemorations mirror the Bush administration's; both commemorated D-Day on significant anniversaries but not annually.
In fact, Fox has routinely set up a double standard for Obama, attacking his actions even when they mirror those of previous Republican presidents. Fox News has criticized President Obama for shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, but ignored President Bush's handshake with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov; scrutinized Obama's church attendance -- while ignoring Bush's infrequent church attendance; and asked whether Obama was "disrespecting the Oval Office," because of a picture showing him with his feet up on the office's desk, though a nearly identical photo shows Bush doing the same thing.
Fox News is helping promote a baseless conspiracy accusing the Obama administration of manipulating employment data for political gain. The accusation, fed by a thinly sourced New York Post column, is now being used to push for congressional investigations.
On November 18, The New York Post blasted the headline: "Census 'faked' 2012 election jobs report." The basis of that claim is a single source, a Census worker who allegedly was caught fabricating data while measuring unemployment in 2010. Beyond that uncorroborated evidence, the Post offers a single anonymous source who claims that Census employees manipulated unemployment data throughout 2012. The Post concluded by calling for a congressional investigation into the supposed "manipulation of data."
Fox cited that report and extended the conspiracy theory beyond low-level Census employees to accuse the White House of knowingly manipulating jobs numbers. The hosts of Fox & Friends argued that the Post reporting corroborated the 2012 conspiracy theory pushed by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch that "these Chicago guys" in the Obama administration and campaign were skewing the jobs data:
KILMEADE: How the number is calculated is one issue. But the issue that we're talking about is how the number was skewed and was fudged, because we're talking about, out of nowhere the unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent at the crucial time between August and September.
So -- the conventions are over. You wonder if the economy is on track, you've got Mr. Economic Business Wiz Mitt Romney coming up the rear. And all of a sudden the unemployment rate is dropping. And you're thinking maybe we are on the right track.
Jack Welch comes out and says, it's amazing - and I'll just paraphrase -- it's amazing what these Chicago guys will do to win an election.
Later in the show, on-air graphics insinuated that the White House was "cooking the books."
This unsourced rumor, however, provides no evidence that the jobs numbers were manipulated to improve the unemployment rate, nor does it reveal that anything "unusual happened with the September  report," as Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal explained (emphasis added):
The allegation is interesting. It claims that surveyers conducting the Household Survey -- which is what establishes the unemployment rate -- were pressured to fake surveys in order to fill in data gaps, when it was difficult to get adequate response rates on its surveys.
It also claims that instances of bad data being filled in is something that was going back to 2010 -- in other words, this is not a story about the infamous September 2012 jobs report. There's also no allegation here that there was pressure to manipulate the number up. The only claim is that there was pressure to fill in gaps where there was a shortfall in the number of survey respondents.
There may be more information to come to light on this, but at least this particular report doesn't jibe with Welch's claim that something unusual happened with the September report to artificially push the number down.
In a later post, Weisenthal expanded on his criticism of the New York Post piece, noting that "While it's true that at the time the September Jobs Report looked very weird, in retrospect that drop-off in the unemployment rate looks totally on-trend," and explaining that the supposedly-suspicious regional data didn't seem to match a noticeable dip in unemployment in the same regions.
Right-wing media have a long history of attempting to discredit employment data. As early as February 2012, Fox's Steve Doocy claimed the unemployment data was "fishy," while Fox's Eric Bolling asked if the Labor Department was "playing around with the numbers."
UPDATE: In a November 19 Twitter post, CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman reported that the worker named in the New York Post article has not worked for the Census Bureau since August 2011:
Right-wing media claimed opposition to the Affordable Care Act influenced the Virginia governor election despite polls that show the health reform law was an insignificant factor in the race.
Fox News dismissed the devastating effect that delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have on the millions of Americans who would be left without adequate insurance and be forced to delay treatment for serious health conditions.
During her November 6 testimony to Congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed back on congressional demands to delay implementation of parts of the new health care law, noting that a delay of the law could mean delaying access to necessary and life-saving medical treatment for Americans who currently lack insurance or are underinsured (via Nexis):
SEBELIUS: Now, some have asked, why not just delay implementation of the new law until all of the problems are fixed? And there's a pretty straightforward answer: Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn't delay people's cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's. Didn't delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn't delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills. It doesn't delay the higher costs all of us pay when uninsured Americans are left with no choice but to rely on emergency rooms for care.
So for millions of Americans, delay is not an option. People's lives depend on this. Too many hard-working people have been waiting for too long for the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.
We want to save families from going bankrupt. We want to save the lives of more of our friends and neighbors by allowing them to detect medical issues early. We want to keep prices down. Delay is not an option.
The next morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed Sebelius' warning as "disingenuous," and implied that only people in third-world nations lacked access to adequate health care:
KILMEADE: She also said something I thought was totally disingenuous. When asked over and over again by Max Baucus and other Democrats, why don't you delay, she says, well, doing so wouldn't delay people's cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. What are we, Cambodia? Are we some third-world nation? Are we all in the waiting room until this passes and this website gets up? That's, these are the types of statements where people feel as though this is one big game.
In fact, more than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2012, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a one-year delay to the individual mandate -- the portion of the health care law that penalizes individuals for not signing up for insurance by March 2014 -- would cause at least 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014. The majority of the uninsured are low-income working families.
Fox News cherry-picked from reports by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to single out undocumented immigrants for improperly benefitting from Medicare drug benefits, taking the opportunity to smear them as "illegal aliens." However, undocumented immigrants are partially responsible for keeping Medicare solvent.
On October 30, the OIG released reports showing that Medicare inappropriately paid out millions in benefits for dead patients and drug benefits for undocumented immigrants. But in highlighting the reports, Fox News reported only on the Medicare drug benefits data in an apparent attempt to demonize undocumented immigrants.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased the segment by saying, "Many Americans can't even get prescriptions they need but illegal immigrants are getting them for free. Who's paying for that?" Co-host Steve Doocy followed with a short report noting that $29 million is "how much the federal government spent on prescription drugs for illegal aliens as part of the federal Medicare Part D program." He added: "Great."
But Fox News' reporting on the OIG reports ignored important facts -- the first being that undocumented immigrants are indeed paying some of the payroll taxes that sustain Medicare.
In fact, a Harvard study released in May found that undocumented immigrants are keeping the federal health care program partially solvent to the tune of $14 billion a year -- even as native-born Americans accounted for a $31 billion deficit to the program. As Bloomberg News reported:
Immigrants to the U.S. contributed $115.2 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund during the past decade than they withdrew, casting doubt on criticism they overburden the health plan, Harvard University researchers said.
The data, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggest immigrants, mainly those without U.S. citizenship, help subsidize the nation's health program for the elderly and disabled. While American-born citizens took $30.9 billion out of Medicare in 2009 alone, immigrants provided a surplus of $13.8 billion that year. The study looked at data from 2002 to 2009.
The findings undermine the belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health-care system, a key issue in the debate about immigration reform, the researchers said. In 2009, payments from immigrants and their employers accounted for 14.7 percent of payments to Medicare, while their expenses represented 7.9 percent of its costs, the study found.
Fox News has repeatedly defended the claims of an alleged Benghazi "witness" who appeared in a discredited CBS report about the 2012 attack -- even after he accused the network of lying about his request for money.
An October 27 60 Minutes report featured an interview with "Morgan Jones," a pseudonym for private security contractor Dylan Davies, who claimed to have scaled a wall of the Benghazi diplomatic compound while it was under attack and struck a terrorist with his rifle. This claim differed from the account Davies gave to his employer for an incident report, obtained by The Washington Post, which stated that he "could not get anywhere near" the compound that night. Davies later claimed in a November 2 interview with The Daily Beast that he had lied in the incident report.
Fox dismissed these inconsistencies in order to defend Davies as a "credible" source. On November 4, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that the incident report was leaked to "discredit a seemingly very credible witness about those attacks," and on November 5, Kilmeade asked Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to explain why it's significant that Davies was "outed in The Washington Post as he comes forward with a different version of the reality on the ground that night."
Not only did Fox continue promoting Davies' claims by glossing over the fact that he had lied, but the network has also ignored Davies' accusation that Fox News smeared him after reporter Adam Housley said on October 28 that Davies asked the network for money (emphasis added):
HOUSLEY: He reaffirms, really, what we've been reporting. In fact, Jenna, some of our reports for FoxNews.com last fall included this 60 Minutes' witness' account. He spoke to me on the phone a number of times and then we stopped speaking to him when he asked for money. But what he does do in his 60 Minutes appearance last night is once again kind of reaffirm the fact that this attack was vicious. That is was pre-planned. That they knew from the very beginnings of this attack this was not some random situation, this was a pre-planned attack.
In his Daily Beast interview, Davies denied the accusation that he asked Fox News for money:
Davies said he believed there was a coordinated campaign to smear him. This week, Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, sent a public letter to CBS News asking it to retract the 60 Minutes Benghazi piece on the basis of the Washington Post article. On the Fox News Channel, reporter Adam Housley claimed on air this week that Davies asked for money in exchange for an interview. Davies denied this charge. 60 Minutes has stood by its reporting.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News cherry-picked numbers to suggest that the cost of extreme weather events has decreased in past decades in order to attack President Obama's executive order to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. However, the damages from extreme weather events have been on the rise since 1980 and are projected to increase in part due to climate change.
On Fox and Friends' November 4 show, contributor Stuart Varney denied the link between climate change and certain extreme weather events in the United States, denouncing Obama's executive order on climate preparedness. To assist his claim, Varney cherry-picked statistics to falsely suggest that disaster costs have decreased since the 1980s -- including an incorrect statistic on Hurricane Sandy.
Though damages from Sandy totaled approximately $65 billion, according to the National Climatic Data Center, Varney incorrectly asserted that Sandy cost $19 billion in damages (this outdated number represented predicted damages to New York City only). He contrasted his $19 billion statistic to the $160 billion in losses from extreme weather events in 2005 -- the most costly year on record in terms of extreme weather events -- and the fact that weather disasters have cost the United States over $1 trillion since 1980. After prattling off these numbers, Fox and Friends co-anchor Brian Kilmeade exclaimed, "look how they've gone down, the number of disasters and the price!"
In reality, spending on weather disasters has increased since 1980, alongside the rise of extreme weather events costing at least one billion dollars in damages:
Despite Varney's claims, five top insurance companies have recognized that disaster losses are increasing, which may be related in part to climate change:
Fox News attempted to rehabilitate the reputation of an alleged Benghazi "witness" who appeared in a discredited CBS report about the 2012 attack, after the same "witness" admitted he falsified statements about where he was that night.
On October 27, CBS' 60 Minutes featured testimony from "Morgan Jones," a supposed "witness" of the September 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities who claimed that during the attack he scaled a wall of the compound and personally struck a terrorist in the face with his rifle. This story wildly diverged from the account he gave his superiors in an incident report that was obtained by The Washington Post, which stated he "could not get anywhere near" the compound the night of the attack. The Post also identified Jones' real name as Dylan Davies.
On the November 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed the inconsistencies in Davies' accounts, instead suggesting that the State Department or the White House had leaked the report to the Post to "discredit a seemingly very credible witness about those attacks, who witnessed those attacks." During the segment, guest Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) baselessly called Davies a "covert agent" -- though he worked for private security contractor Blue Mountain, not the CIA -- and Chaffetz and Kilmeade both attacked the Post for publishing Davies' name, suggesting the article had endangered his life by revealing his identity.
But Davies' account is not just inconsistent - he also admitted to The Daily Beast on November 2 that he had lied about his actions during the night of the Benghazi attack to his supervisors. He explained his differing accounts of the night of the attack by claiming that he did not personally write the Blue Mountain incident report and admitting he had lied in his account to the company because "he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders":
Davies said the version of the events contained in the incident report matched what he told his supervisor, called "Robert" in his book, who is a top Blue Mountain Group executive. Davies said he lied to Robert about his actions that night because he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders to stay at his villa.
The Daily Beast has redacted the true name of Robert out of his concern for his privacy.
"He told me under no circumstances was I to go up there. I respected him so much I did not want him to know that I had not listened to him," said Davies, referring to Robert. "I have not seen him since."
Davies also wrote in his book that Robert had instructed him not to go to the compound under any circumstances. Davies called Robert after going to the hospital, he said, but before his first visit to the compound on the night of Sept. 11. Davies says he told Robert the ambassador was dead but did not tell him what he was up to.
Executives at Blue Mountain Group, including Robert, did not respond to emails requesting comment.
Kilmeade also used the segment to rehash a number of debunked Benghazi myths, such as the false claims that the administration delayed labeling the Benghazi attack an act of terror and that a "stand down" order was given the night of the attack, continuing the network's desperate attempt to find a Benghazi "scandal" more than a year after the attack.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News used a 60 Minutes report to revive the Benghazi hoax with allegations that have been refuted by congressional testimony and an independent investigation.
On October 27, CBS News' 60 Minutes aired a report about the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. During the report, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, who commanded a security team in Libya until August 2012, said that he warned Ambassador Christopher Stevens three months prior to the attack that the Benghazi facility was a target and that this was mentioned in his reports to both the State Department and the Department of Defense.
Running with the 60 Minutes report, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that it revealed "the U.S. government knew an attack was imminent and didn't do a thing about it."
But Kilmeade's suggestion that the government ignored actionable intelligence that could have prevented the Benghazi attacks has been refuted by congressional testimony.
In February, Leon Panetta, then Secretary of Defense, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee and addressed the lack of specific intelligence that could have prevented the attack:
"Unfortunately, there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on that -- U.S. facilities in Benghazi," Panetta said. "And frankly without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond."
The Accountability Review Board, convened by the State Department to investigate the attack, also found no evidence to suggest that the administration could have prevented the attack from happening:
The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community's understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.
Fox News is rewriting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to warn young people they could face prison time if they fail to pay the fine for not having health insurance -- a penalty the law expressly prohibits.
Commonly called the individual mandate, a provision of the ACA requires uninsured Americans to obtain health coverage by the end of March. Those who do not will owe the government a fine -- this year, $90 or 1 percent of income -- in part to help mitigate the cost to taxpayers of medical care for the willfully uninsured.
Fox & Friends took the repercussions of not paying this fine to the extreme. On the October 28 edition of the program, co-host Brian Kilmeade asserted that young people's motivation in paying the penalty will be "in order to avoid prison time or whatever ramifications."
PolitiFact rated statements like Kilmeade's a "pants on fire" lie. The Affordable Care Act specifically precludes jail time or any criminal prosecution as a penalty for those who do not gain insurance and refuse to pay the fine. The law clearly states, under the section "WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES":
In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
From the October 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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