Fox News senselessly accused the Baltimore Ravens of caving to political pressure by agreeing to promote Maryland's health insurance exchange -- an accusation that falls apart given the team's past work to increase access to health care in Maryland.
In early September, Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced that the state's health insurance exchange would partner with the Ravens "to connect with Maryland residents about the importance of developing a health coverage game plan." On October 23, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade framed the Ravens' partnership with Maryland's health insurance marketplace as unusual, claiming that the team had "gone outside the NFL" because of political pressure from Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley, who wants to run for president. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said that the Ravens were "the first to cave" to Democratic pressure to help enroll uninsured Americans in the ACA exchanges:
HASSELBECK: So right now he's gone to the Baltimore Ravens. As you said, the NFL said no, we don't want to be involved. But I think what's happening is they know the millions of people that watch the NFL. They know the marketing machine that is the National Football League. And they understand how even breast cancer was brought to the front lines of what we're talking about in donations and money through the NFL. And so they figure, OK, instead of doing a national sweep, which they're doing with health care, we're going to go team to team and see how many we can break. And the Baltimore Ravens were the first to cave. I thought they had a good defense.
The Ravens' decision to help enroll fans in health insurance in Maryland was reported early in September, but it wasn't the first time that the team had promoted government health insurance initiatives in the state. Fox News failed to mention the team's involvement in Maryland's 2008 Medicaid expansion. From The Wall Street Journal:
The partnership with the two-time Super Bowl champions is part of a broader campaign unveiled on Tuesday to market Maryland Health Connection that will allow consumers to shop for health insurance or sign up for Medicaid if they qualify. The Obama administration had been hoping to partner with the National Football League to promote its signature health law, also known as Obamacare, but the league balked after some Republican lawmakers issued a warning to sports organizations to avoid the issue.
However, the Baltimore Ravens have previously been involved in promoting Maryland health efforts including a 2008 expansion of Medicaid. Research conducted for the state suggests 71% of uninsured people watched, attended or listened to a Baltimore Ravens game in the past 12 months. About 800,000,or 14% of the state's population of 5.8 million, is uninsured. The state is also partnering with the drug-store chain CVS Inc. and regional grocery store Giant Food, a unit of Ahold NV.
It's not only Democratic-led states that do this. The Hill reported that under Romney's leadership, "Massachusetts famously partnered with the Boston Red Sox in 2006 to promote its healthcare reform law, which was the model for the Affordable Care Act." According to the Boston Globe, the team "was instrumental in getting young uninsured fans to sign up for coverage under the 2006 law."
Though Kilmeade suggested that the NFL disapproves of teams' involvement the ACA rollout, CNN reported in September that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said "that while the league as a whole decided not to participate, they're not discouraging individual franchises from taking part." He was quoted on CBS' This Morning saying that the Ravens "have made that decision and we support them."
Fox News is preemptively deflecting blame from Republicans for their refusal to set up state-based health insurance exchanges, which media reports say contributed to problems with the federal health insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov.
Media have examined the design problems plaguing HealthCare.gov since its launch on October 1 that are causing delays for millions of Americans who have tried accessing the website, problems that the Obama administration has acknowledged and is working to fix. Reports show that the problems started years ago.
States had to notify the federal government by mid-February if they intended to create their own exchanges. A February 18 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog explained that nearly all of the states that failed to set up their own exchanges were Republican-led, as demonstrated by the following graph:
Media reports show that this partisan decision by Republican governors has contributed to the federal government's problems launching HealthCare.gov, but Fox has already worked to prevent Republicans from shouldering any of the blame for those issues. Discussing a speech that President Obama was scheduled to give later that day, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on October 21:
KILMEADE: I just have a hunch that there will be some element of this whether he'll say, "If it wasn't for Republicans fighting it the whole time, if it wasn't for people pushing back on it, it would have been a lot easier." I think somehow that's going to be twisted in there.
Fox News cherry-picked early Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment numbers to claim that the new health system rollout was underperforming by enrolling just 51,000, ignoring state figures that more than double that number.
On the October 11 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy cited claims from two Department of Health and Human Services employees that 51,000 people had signed up for new health coverage under the ACA in the first week of open enrollment, noting, "Remember, we thought it would be in the millions" and claiming that "at this rate, they extrapolate, by the end of this year, just 2 million people will have been signed up. Remember, they need to have at least 7 million people sign up." Co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that these numbers showed that the federal exchange had "failed miserably," and Doocy pointed out that the exchange in Obama's home state of Hawaii had registered "zero" people.
Fox failed to note that the "7 million" figure was a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the overall enrollment expected by January as a result of the full healthcare overhaul, not just enrollment expected on the federally-run exchange. Fox ignored the tens of thousands of additional enrollees from the states that are operating independent exchanges. A Washington Post graphic mapped the states that are running their own health insurance marketplaces:
According to Bloomberg, 28,699 additional people signed up for California's health exchange and New York enrolled a further 40,000 -- together more than doubling Fox's figure. The New York Times reported that another 30,706 applications were submitted in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Washington, and Rhode Island by October 8.
Fox's single example of the progress state-based exchanges are making was Hawaii, which did not open for enrollment on schedule and " hasn't been able to sell any insurance in Hawaii because of problems with the software at the heart of the marketplace." The state is aiming for an October 15 relaunch.
Despite admitting that Republicans played a major role in forcing the government shutdown, the right-wing media have adopted GOP messaging portraying President Obama and Democrats as unwilling to resolve the crisis.
From the October 4 edition of Fox and Friends:
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Right-wing media are accusing President Obama of using "scare tactics" to score political points with the upcoming debt limit deadline, but professional economists agree that debt limit brinkmanship could end in disaster.
On October 2, President Obama sat down for an interview with CNBC correspondent John Harwood in which he said that Washington's political posturing was "different" this time, and that major financial institutions "should be concerned" by Republican threats to not raise the debt ceiling before October 17. But the right-wing media response to President Obama's caution has been to downplay the looming deadline while accusing the president of engaging in "scare tactics."
On the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade questioned if the president was hoping to "trigger a stock market sell-off":
In a later segment, the Fox & Friends crew was joined by Fox Business host Stuart Varney to discuss the effect the president's statements might have on financial markets. Varney and the hosts agreed that the president's rhetoric was designed to drive markets down and thus provide him with "extra leverage" in the debt ceiling fight:
Fox News cherry-picked enrollment data in the new health care exchanges to suggest the Affordable Care Act was a failure, ignoring the fact that thousands of people successfully enrolled in health insurance plans the first day.
On October 3, the hosts of Fox & Friends criticized media for accurately reporting thousands of people attempted to access the online health care exchanges on October 1, suggesting that because Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana got "zero enrollees" the first day the exchanges were open, the law was a failure. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that due to technical glitches on the enrollment sites caused by the heavy traffic, "no one can get in and they're frustrated and not getting involved and worried about their personal information leaking."
But thousands of people in other parts of the country have successfully signed up for health coverage through the online marketplaces, and many more have successfully created accounts with which they can enroll at later dates. The Huffington Post reported:
Kentucky's health insurance exchange, Kynect, enrolled almost 3,000 households into health coverage by 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, and nearly 110,000 people viewed more than 1.6 million pages on the website, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) announced in a press release. Kynect had started almost 10,800 applications and completed more than 6,900 of them, according to the press release.
Rhode Island's Health Source RI already has signed up some consumers, Kaiser Health News reported Wednesday, and Connecticut's Access Health CT reported enrollments Tuesday.
Colorado postponed online sign-up for the first weeks of enrollment, but about 6,900 people created accounts on Connect for Health Colorado and the website saw 104,000 unique visitors as of 3:15 p.m. Mountain Time on Wednesday, the exchange announced on Twitter.
More than 18,000 people created accounts on Nevada Health Link and more than 63,000 people visited the site by 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time, according to a statement on Twitter. More than 120,000 people went to Covered Oregon, which is not yet accepting online enrollment, by 8:00 a.m. PDT Tuesday, according to a statement on its website, as officials asked consumers for patience, the Oregonian reported.
Louisiana's The Times-Picayune reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield had no enrollees the first day, but that other companies offering insurance in Louisiana through the online marketplace had not yet received the data to determine their level of enrollment.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the main website for the exchanges, HealthCare.gov, had successfully enrolled customers into health insurance on October 1, but according to a spokeswoman the department is unlikely to be able to exactly determine how many have enrolled until November.
Right-wing media have frantically attempted to spin the success of the health care exchanges into failure since day one of open enrollment.
Fox News used a proposal to convene a Senate conference on budget issues to attack Senate Democrats, ignoring the fact that Republicans blocked the formation of such a conference earlier in the year.
Fox News is aiding the Republican agenda to govern by crisis by attempting to shift blame to Democrats for the government shutdown.
As House Republicans threatened a government shutdown by proposing a series of budgets that defunded or delayed portions of the Affordable Care Act, Jonathan Chait reported in New York magazine that their actions were the result of the "Williamsburg Accord," a legislative strategy formulated by the GOP in January 2013 that "took the form of trying to wrest concessions from Obama by provoking a series of crises." Chait noted that the accord explained "why Republicans are careening toward a potential government shutdown."
After the House failed to produce a budget compromise that was not tied to defunding or delaying the ACA, Fox News responded by shifting blame to Democrats and portraying the GOP as willing to compromise. On the October 1 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade described the budget negotiation by claiming that "one thing is clear: Democrats didn't budge and the Republicans did." Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck added that "the American people did not want Obamacare, did not want a shutdown, and Republicans were compromising to bring the American people what they wanted. Not well received, clearly."
But as Chait explained, the shutdown is the result of the GOP's agreement not to compromise on Obama's legislative agenda and to use crises such as funding the government and raising the debt ceiling in order to force concessions:
But the decision House Republicans made in January has set the party on the course it has followed since. If you want to grasp why Republicans are careening toward a potential federal government shutdown, and possibly toward provoking a sovereign debt crisis after that, you need to understand that this is the inevitable product of a conscious party strategy. Just as Republicans responded to their 2008 defeat by moving farther right, they responded to the 2012 defeat by moving right yet again. Since they had begun from a position of total opposition to the entire Obama agenda, the newer rightward lurch took the form of trying to wrest concessions from Obama by provoking a series of crises.
The history is important because much of the news coverage and centrist commentary has leaned heavily on the idea that the crises in Washington have come about because of some nebulous failure of bipartisanship. The Washington Post editorial page implores both sides to compromise, without explaining why only one party should have to offer policy concessions to keep the government running. Mark Halperin neatly implies that the two sides share the blame in equal measure.
The analytic error here is the assumption by professional pox-on-both-housers that they can take an advocacy position on the government shutdown without siding with one of the parties. If you want to land on the conclusion that both sides are to blame, you need to equivocate on the underlying moral question of whether a shutdown is really a bad thing. If, on the other hand, you want to take a stance against crisis governance, you need to be honest about the fact that one party is pursuing this as a conscious strategy.
Dan Froomkin wrote in the Huffington Post that attempts to blame both sides for the shutdown or shift blame away from the GOP ignores the fact that threatening to shut down the government in order to repeal duly-passed legislation is a "dramatic break from the past." Froomkin quoted several congressional experts and historians and summarized their conclusions by saying "Even compared to the famous government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the current GOP bargaining position is unprecedented in its political extremism":
"It's unheard of to shut the government down because you want to repeal a law," said Tiefer.
"That seems quite beyond the pale," said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder.
Former Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress official Louis Fisher said he was shocked when he saw what he now recognizes as a foreshadowing of today's crisis, when Republican senators refused for two years to confirm Richard Cordray -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless President Obama agreed to change the bureau's structure.
"That is really amazing, to say you're not going to confirm unless the underlying statute is rewritten," Fisher said. "That was breathtaking to me."
"The Republican Party is caught between politics and its responsibility, as a majority party of the House of Representatives, for governance," said [University of Maryland professor of government and politics the Frances] Lee. "Governance always requires disappointing your base."
It's easier when you're in the minority, she said. "The party out of power can take advantage of its lack of responsibility for governing."
Today's GOP "wants to behave like a party that has no power at all, but unfortunately for it, it does," she said. "The politics of defunding Obamacare are great with its base, but it has an institutional role which it cannot evade."
Fox News dishonestly claimed that consumers in the health care law's exchanges would have limited options, ignoring reports that the exchanges will offer significantly more choice than is currently available in the individual market.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "You cannot force a private company to get into these exchanges. And if they all bail out like Aetna's done in a lot of states, like United's done in a lot of states, next thing you know, they're only going to have one option and it's going to be a federal option, a nationalized health care system because none of the private sector wants to get involved." Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, claiming "That's kind of subterfuge is - a lot of people are saying that's the ultimate end game for President Obama and the Democrats, is the single-payer where the government pays for everything":
But Fox's characterization of choices in the health care exchanges is misleading. Despite some insurers not initially providing plans in the exchanges, consumers in the majority of markets will have several health care options to choose from. The New York Times reported that, as of May, 2013, "More than 120 insurance companies have filed applications with the federal government":
From the September 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News is resorting to dishonest misrepresentations of President Obama's record of deficit reduction by cherry picking data and completely disregarding Bush-era deficit levels.
On the September 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade were joined by Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney for a falsehood-laden discussion of the federal budget and budget deficit. Varney argued that President Obama first ran up the deficit before hemming it down, claiming that in the president's "first full year in office" the federal budget deficit was approximately $1.4 trillion.
Fox provided a graphic of deficit spending from 2008 to projected 2013 levels, claiming that the deficit is up 137.7 percent since 2008.
The 137.7 percent deficit increase cited by Fox is ostensibly calculated by comparing the 2012 deficit to that of 2008. This figure, however, completely misrepresents deficits under the Obama administration, by picking erroneous start and end dates.
The federal budget deficit in fiscal year 2009 was $1.4 trillion. However, fiscal year 2009 began on October 1, 2008, months before President Obama was sworn into office. Attributing the 2009 budget deficit to President Obama is simply incorrect.
According to the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) budget and economic outlook report for 2009 -- released prior to President Obama's first inauguration -- the federal budget deficit was projected to be $1.2 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year. Citing turmoil in the housing and financial markets, the CBO projected deficits to rise to their largest percentage of GDP since the Reagan administration. From the report:
A drop in tax revenues and increased federal spending (much of it related to the government's actions to address the crisis in the housing and financial markets) both contribute to the robust growth in this year's deficit.
The report noted that the projected deficit also included the initial $180 billion cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the estimated $200 billion takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Choosing 2012 deficits as the end point for analysis of deficit growth is also erroneous. Why Fox didn't choose the most recent data -- projected levels for fiscal year 2013, which ends on September 30 - as the end point remains a mystery.
If Fox had chosen the correct starting and end points for its analysis of deficits under President Obama, a completely different picture of deficit reduction would emerge. Indeed, according to the latest CBO budget and economic outlook released in May, deficits are projected to fall to less than 3.4 percent of GDP in 2014, the lowest level in years. Current deficit projections for 2017, President Obama's final fiscal year, are estimated to fall to just 2.4 percent of GDP. None of these facts were featured in Fox's reporting.
Fox & Friends has dedicated three segments in one week to a discussion of the debt, debt ceiling, and deficit. Each time their reports have been plagued by misunderstanding or mischaracterizing the facts.
Fox News and other conservative media outlets have amplified Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) misleading claim that Democrats "excuse[d] themselves" from testimony given by the families of the victims of the Benghazi attack. In fact, over the course of the hearing, members of both parties were in and out of the proceedings.
Rep. Issa posted a tweet claiming that Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee left the hearing room as Patricia Smith and Charles Woods testified about their sons, Sean Smith and Charles Woods, who were killed in Benghazi.
From the September 19 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox News falsely claimed the Obama administration had done little to address issues of mental health following recent mass shootings, hiding the fact that gun violence prevention legislation backed by President Obama included mental health provisions and that the president has signed multiple measures aimed at increasing Americans' access to mental health services.
On September 17, President Obama called on Congress to strengthen background checks for gun purchases following the mass shooting at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard by a former Navy reservist who had clearance to access the base as a civilian contractor and who had passed a background check to purchase the gun he brought with him.
On September 18, Fox & Friends criticized the call for stronger gun laws following the tragedy, with co-host Brian Kilmeade saying "the focus really should be on mental illness" and accusing doctors of letting dangerous individuals out "wild in society." Co-host Steve Doocy then criticized President Obama over the tragedy, saying that "[a]fter the Newtown massacre, what did the President of the United States say? He said his administration, quote, 'would bring mental illness out of the shadows.' What have they done so far? They've had a conference in June. Nothing has happened."
Doocy and Kilmeade's fixation on mental health as the solution to gun violence is misplaced, as studies have shown that people with mental health conditions are more often the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. In fact, 96 percent of violent crimes "are committed by people without any mental-health problems at all."
But Doocy was also wrong: Obama and Senate Democrats have supported gun violence prevention legislation which addressed mental health issues, and Obama has signed multiple measures to increase access to mental health services for those who need them.