While mainstream media coverage of the serious allegations of improper practices at certain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health clinics has been extensive in recent weeks, a bill to expand health care for veterans that was blocked by Senate Republicans in February received little attention.
Over the past year, broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC failed to mention the role of reduced taxes on the wealthy as a cause of inequality, despite the fact that economists view taxes as a primary driver of income gaps.
A massive spill of toxic coal ash in a North Carolina river on February 2 has been entirely ignored by ABC, CBS and NBC. The spill has led to a federal investigation and allegations that the state's Governor -- who worked for the corporation behind the spill and has received substantial campaign donations from it -- has been too lenient on the company, which was discovered to have spilled coal ash into the river again on February 18.
Broadcast evening news programs devoted zero coverage to Senate Republicans' harmful block on extending long-term unemployment benefits. The failed measure received only minimal attention from national media throughout the day.
A Media Matters analysis found that network nightly news coverage of climate change was tepid in 2013, despite growing scientific evidence that global warming is getting worse. By contrast, PBS aired nearly three times as much climate coverage as ABC World News, the worst offender.
PBS NewsHour aired more news coverage about climate change and interviewed more scientists on the issue than any other evening network news program in 2013. The scale and scope of coverage demonstrated the program's commitment to reporting on global warming, a pattern Media Matters first identified in 2012. The program broadcast 35 stories that at least mentioned climate change, far more than what ABC World News, NBC Nightly News or CBS Evening News chose to give its audiences. By comparison, the three other network nightly news programs aired a combined total of 49 stories that at least mentioned global warming.
A Media Matters analysis reveals that news coverage of climate change on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX picked up in 2013 over the previous year, but remained lower than a 2009 high. Furthermore, while one Sunday show interviewed scientists about climate change, distinguishing itself as the first such program to do so in five years, these shows continued to rely largely on media figures and Republicans to dictate the conversation around global warming.
Much of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, also known as Obamacare), went into effect on January 1, 2014. Major evening news broadcasts focused on different aspects of the law's effects and the extent to which the law will benefit consumers.
(Flickr image via southerntabitha)
2013 will be remembered as the year of health care policy. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) dominated media outlets across the spectrum, especially following the implementation of the law's health care exchanges in October. Yet often lost in all the noise was factual reporting on the new law. Much right-wing and even mainstream media coverage pushed misleading, hyperbolic, and outright false attacks about the ACA.
Right-wing media figures greeted the health care law's exchanges with inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric.
In an October 11 appearance at the Values Voters' Summit, recently-hired Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson declared that Obamacare "is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," later deciding, "It is slavery, in a way." Carson's comparison of slavery to a law that grants universal access to health insurance was not remarkable for the right-wing media. In an appearance on NPR's Morning Edition, George Will approved of GOP efforts to repeal the law by likening them to the Fugitive Slave Act, saying "the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them." On Fox News' Hannity, right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt compared defunding the ACA to repealing prohibition and slavery.
Conservative media were not the only ones to make outrageous comparisons. Media figures across the ideological spectrum attempted to link technical problems with Healthcare.gov to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. The comparison, of course, ignores the thousands of lives lost in the hurricane, as Media Matters pointed out:
Broadcast evening news programs slanted coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by hyping negative aspects of the law's rollout while underplaying or not exploring positive changes to insurance coverage under the health care law, including the role that subsidies would play in making health care affordable. All three major broadcast networks aired more segments that took on a negative tone than a positive tone in October and November 2013, according to a Media Matters study.
Network nightly news broadcasts have served as a conduit for House Republicans to attack Obama administration initiatives through committee hearings -- all part of the GOP's "aggressive campaign," according to a recent New York Times report, to hold committee hearings and rely on media to cover the hearings' chosen narrative.
CBS News, already in trouble for not bothering to fact-check sensational claims about the Benghazi attacks, has stepped in it again with an exclusive story on the Affordable Care Act that has quickly fallen apart. On November 11, CBS News reported that the "project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." CBS investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson's report was based on an exclusive "first look at a partial transcript" of closed-door testimony by project manager Henry Chao that was likely leaked to the network by Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. Other media outlets picked up CBS's scoop and ran with it.
According to Attkisson, Chao was presented with "a memo that outlined important security risks discovered in the insurance system," and said he was unaware of that memo. CBS News reported that this indicated that Chao had been "kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security" that "could lead to identity theft among people buying insurance."
But as Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple demonstrated, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) questioned Chao at a November 13 Oversight Committee hearing and revealed how misleading CBS News' report was. The memo shown to Chao dealt with portions of the website that aren't yet in use -- not the website as it currently exists, as the partial transcript and CBS News' report wrongly suggested. And those portions won't include personally identifiable information, making it impossible for the security risks to lead to identity theft.
Here's the video and transcript of Connolly's questioning of Chao:
CBS News, currently under fire for airing a dubious 60 Minutes report that relied on discredited source Dylan Davies, aired a report on the Affordable Care Act based entirely off selectively leaked partial transcripts from ACA opponent, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
On the November 11 edition of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reported on supposed "security risks" surrounding the law's exchange website, HealthCare.gov. Host Scott Pelley alleged that the project manager in charge of building the site "was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." Pelley speculated that this could eventually lead to "identity theft among people buying insurance.":
The basis for this report was a "partial transcript" obtained by CBS correspondent Attkisson and provided to her by House Oversight Chairman Rep. Issa.
As MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out, the CBS report leaves out "pretty much every relevant detail that points in a more accurate direction," most importantly that the supposed security risk relates to a part of the website that won't be active until Spring 2014 and has nothing to do with the parts of the website that are currently in use. The Hill reported:
A Democratic Oversight committee staffer said the security issue relates to a function of the website that isn't currently active and won't be until early next year.
"It's hard to understand why anyone would trust the accuracy of Chairman Issa's press releases when they consistently distort and manipulate the truth," the staffer said. "The chairman's staff basically sandbagged this witness with a document he had never seen before and then failed to inform him that it has nothing to do with parts of the website that launched on Oct. 1."
"Rather than seeking out the truth, this press release tries to scare the public by capitalizing on confusion caused by the chairman's own staff," the staffer added.
Problematic for CBS is that Issa has earned a reputation for leaking misleading and partial transcripts in order to attack the Obama administration. On November 8, ThinkProgress reported Rep. Elijah Cumming's (D-MD) characterization of Issa leaks to the press regarding HealthCare.gov's capacity to handle only 1,100 users as "reckless and highly irresponsible." Cummings concluded that these were "unsubstantiated public allegations" and that Issa was "taking information out of context."
The use of a dubious source with a history of telling partisan falsehoods in order to spread right wing smears is even more troublesome given the context of the terrible week CBS just experienced for using a dishonest source. Following the airing of an October 27 60 Minutes report on Benghazi in which the main source of the report was proven to be unreliable, CBS received widespread criticism , was forced to retract the story, and apologized on air.
From the November 8 edition of CBS' CBS Evening News:
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In the first month following the opening of healthcare exchanges -- a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- broadcast news programs have largely ignored the role of expanded health care in reducing economic insecurity, instead placing overwhelming focus on glitches in the Healthcare.gov website.
CBS News highlighted the complaints of a man upset with Affordable Care Act provisions that require all insurance plans to provide maternity care coverage, a reliance on anecdotal journalism that omitted the important benefits this coverage could provide -- like ending gender discrimination in the insurance marketplace and improving the nation's sub-par infant mortality rate.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all insurance plans, private and employer-based, to cover maternity and newborn care, one of the law's 10 categories of 'essential health benefits' that every policy must include.
CBS Evening News chose to present the impact of this mandatory maternity coverage as a superfluous benefit on its October 28 broadcast. Rather than interviewing a beneficiary of the coverage or a health expert who could discuss the motivation behind the requirement, CBS highlighted a male realtor upset that his plan included such benefits.
Correspondent Dean Reynolds introduced Aaron Galvin as a realtor whose old insurance plan did not provide the minimum level of benefits required by the ACA, and as such, he had to sign up for a new plan that did. Reynolds reported that, "It's a new plan he didn't want, with some basic but required coverage, like maternity care, he doesn't need. Galvin and his wife don't plan on having more babies."
The ACA's maternity care requirement puts an end to insurance companies' systemic discrimination against women -- many companies charge women higher rates than men for the same plans and deny coverage or increase premiums for women who become pregnant, actions which the law now prohibits. Without the ACA's mandate, only 12 percent of individual market plans currently cover maternity care, according to the National Women's Law Center. This is a shockingly expensive loophole, as the cost of maternity care and delivery can reach $25,000.