Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
From the May 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News minimized the influence of political spending by the Koch brothers in order to paint Democrats as hypocrites on the issue of campaign finance.
After championing the impact Koch ad money has had on shaping public opinion on Obamacare during the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway hid the influence Koch Industries' funding actually has on elections. McKelway cited an OpenSecrets.org list of the "top all-time donors," emphasizing that despite the $30 million spent on advertisements, the list ranks Koch Industries as only 59th out of 156 donors. In an attempt to attack Democrats as hypocrites for their criticisms of the Koch brothers' political spending, McKelway highlighted the fact that the top donor on Open Secret's list was ActBlue, a Democratic PAC:
In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.
On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":
The NIPCC ["Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change"] report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")
Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers:
The evidence is clear and consistent: secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer in adults who don't smoke. EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk. Even though the lung cancer risk from secondhand smoke is relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk is often involuntary. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke varies tremendously among exposed individuals. For those who must live or work in close proximity to one or more smokers, the risk would certainly be greater than for those less exposed.
EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the U.S.; of these, the estimate is 800 from exposure to secondhand smoke at home and 2,200 from exposure in work or social situations.
From the April 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox attempted to revive the lie that the Affordable Care Act contains health care rationing in the form of "death panels" by pushing misleading claims about the law's prescription drug coverage.
On Fox's Special Report, guest host Doug McKelway asked the show's panel about a provision in the ACA that he claimed "is drastically limiting the availability of some drugs." Fox contributor Stephen Hayes claimed "patients with diseases and conditions that require medication not approved by Washington bureaucrats" may "have to go without it with potentially very serious implications." McKelway asked if the prescription drug provisions were "rationing or, as some people have said, the so-called death panels." Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded: "We're learning how much rationing is the essence of Obamacare -- the rationing of doctors, the rationing of hospitals. Here we begin to understand the rationing of drugs. Next, and in the end, will be rationing of care."
Fox's description of the ACA's prescription drug coverage is misleading, and McKelway's "death panel" reference is outright irresponsible. The reality is that the way the ACA treats prescription drug coverage is in line with how private insurance companies have handled coverage for years.
Although Fox omitted it from its coverage, the ACA actually expands prescription drug coverage, including it as one of the 10 essential health benefits that all plans must provide. But just like the vast majority of currently offered health plans, plans offered under the ACA's health care exchanges will not provide full coverage to every prescription drug. These plans will be offered along with what's known as a drug formulary, a guide to what drugs the plan covers and how they cover it. As Think Progress' Igor Volsky pointed out, the use of a drug formulary is standard practice among health care plans:
Under the law, insurers must offer drug benefits as part of 10 essential health care benefits, meaning that millions of uninsured Americans will now have drug coverage for the very first time. But the coverage won't be limitless. Insurers will continue to rely on drug formularies -- as they currently do in the private market and Medicare Part D -- to decide which prescriptions are covered and which are not.
The ACA requires that issuers provide the greater of one drug from each category or class, or offer as many drugs in each category as are covered by a benchmark plan. The law allows states the choice of four different benchmarks, which Gottlieb helpfully lists in his article: 1) One of the three largest small group plans in the state by enrollment; 2) one of the three largest state employee health plans by enrollment; 3) one of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment; or 4) the largest HMO plan offered in the state's commercial market by enrollment.
States -- not the federal government -- select the benchmark and insurers then offer coverage for the drugs listed in those formularies. "What the vast majority of states have chosen is a common small business plan, so you know it's saying what will be available in the exchanges and in the individual market generally is what's popular among small businesses now and that seems like a reasonable place to start," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt explained.
The law also has provisions for people who rely on a drug that isn't covered by their plan's formulary. Patients can apply for exceptions in the case of medical need:
What if a drug I take is not on the list?
Your doctor can ask for an exception for medical need so that the insurer will cover it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging insurers to respond to such requests within three days. If your request is denied, you can go through your state's appeals process, which usually is handled by insurance regulators. If you still can't get coverage and need to take the drug, you'll have to bear the full cost out of pocket, as it won't count toward your deductible or your co-insurance maximum.
From the February 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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On the February 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace set up a segment on proposed carbon emission regulations by protesting that "President Obama has declared climate change a fact," despite "objections from many dissenters."
Correspondent Doug McKelway followed up with a report that continued to cast doubt on the existence of climate change and featured a professional climate misinformer, Climate Depot's Marc Morano, whose financial ties to the fossil fuel industry went undisclosed.
Of course, it wasn't just Obama who declared "climate change a fact" -- scientists did. In fact, a full 97 percent of climate experts "agree humans are causing global warming."
Scrambling to mitigate news that conservative filmmaker and Fox News darling Dinesh D'Souza was indicted for felony federal campaign finance violations, the network suggested that Democrat Pierce O'Donnell's 2012 misdemeanor convictions for the same crime is evidence that the Obama administration is targeting political enemies -- but O'Donnell was originally charged with even more felony counts than D'Souza.
D'Souza, known for his conspiratorial film 2016: Obama's America, was indicted this week "by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," according to Reuters. D'Souza allegedly repaid people who, at his direction, contributed $20,000 to New York Republican senate candidate Wendy Long, well beyond the legal contribution limit.
His allies in the conservative media handled news of the indictment by accusing the Department of Justice of seeking to silence people on President Obama's "enemies list" in the custom of "Nazi Germany" and "Stalin."
Fox's evening news show Special Report attempted to further this conspiracy theory by pointing to the case of Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney who pled guilty to making approximately $26,000 in illegal campaign contributions to disgraced former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. The program repeatedly suggested political retribution was at play because O'Donnell "faced only a misdemeanor conviction" for a near identical crime to D'Souza's, who is charged with a felony. Correspondent Doug McKelway and contributor Charles Krauthammer raised these claims in different segments during the program.
But there is a fatal flaw in Fox's argument: O'Donnell was actually indicted for three felonies, more serious charges than D'Souza faces.
Conservative media figures have sharply criticized the recent push by Democratic politicians to alleviate poverty and reduce economic inequality. However, most of this criticism is grounded in a number of myths about the causes, effects, and importance of growing economic inequality in the United States.
Fox News downplayed the connection between income inequality and poverty in an attempt to dismiss government efforts to reduce the growing problem.
On the January 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway dismissed concern over the nation's rising income inequality as a simple issue of "class resentment." He attributed the problem of inequality to capitalism's system of rewards and punishments, because "some people are better, smarter, harder-working, or luckier than others," later adding, "numerous studies show the greatest predictor of poverty is not income inequality."
Fox News pushed a number of discredited myths to attack renewed calls for raising the minimum wage, ignoring research and prevailing opinions' of economists.
On November 7, President Obama expressed support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which seeks to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Reacting to the renewed call to raise the minimum wage on the November 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, reporter Doug McKelway dedicated a segment to discussing its potential economic effects. McKelway expressed doubt over the economic merits of raising the minimum wage and claimed that it would force companies to "cut back by getting rid of workers or increasing the price of goods they make or sell."
Instead of informing viewers with research about the effects of raising the minimum wage, McKelway's report largely hinged upon an interview with construction contractor and conservative activist Brett MacMahon and anecdotal evidence. Had McKelway attempted to give a fact-based report on the minimum wage, viewers would know that increasing it has been found to have a positive impact on job creation and economic growth.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which recently examined research on the minimum wage since 2000, "[t]he weight of that evidence points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage." Indeed, CEPR's findings back up previous studies, one of which found that hiring responses to minimum wage hikes are more likely to be positive than negative.
A minimum wage analysis published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) revealed the broader impact of gradually raising the federal minimum wage above $10 per hour by July 1, 2015. According to EPI, increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would result in over $51 billion in additional wages paid to roughly 30 million American workers. The wage increase would stimulate nearly $33 billion of increased GDP growth while creating as many as 140,000 new jobs.
According to EPI tabulations, increasing the minimum wage would have its largest impact on workers at the lower end of the income bracket, but the positive side effects would still be felt by hundreds of thousands of households with income in excess of $150,000 annually.
McKelway continued pushing his inaccurate minimum wage reporting later on Fox News' America's News HQ. The segment focused heavily on the alleged negative impact an increased minimum wage would have on young and teen workers. However, according to the aforementioned EPI study, a gradual wage increase similar to that supported by President Obama would largely affect workers aged 20 years or older, with teenage workers only representing a little more than 11 percent of those receiving increased wages.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour is supported by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which claims such a wage increase would positively impact "nearly one in every five workers in the country." Furthermore, a February 2013 survey of economists conducted by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found wide support for President Obama's previous call for raising the minimum wage to $9.00.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Fox News' Doug McKelway offered a series of misleading facts about the food stamp program in an effort to defend Republicans from criticisms that their attempt to cut funding for the program would take eligibility away from millions of people.
During a September 19 Happening Now segment on the House Republicans' plan to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), McKelway aired Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) criticizing the proposal by saying the cuts would save money "by snatching food out of the hands of millions of neediest children and their families." McKelway asked, "But would it really?" before claiming the program "has expanded exponentially since President Obama took office" and that the "system is easily abused." McKelway also responded to Reid's criticism by highlighting Fox's Great Food Stamp Binge -- an hour-long special Fox is reportedly distributing to members of Congress in advance of votes on SNAP -- that demonized SNAP recipients and attempted to make a California musician who openly takes advantage of the program "the new face of food stamps":
But despite McKelway's deflection, Reid's criticism was accurate. A report by the Health Impact Project found that SNAP "reduces household food insecurity by 18 to 30 percent," and found that the House Republicans' bill could cause "as many as 5.1 million people" to lose eligibility:
Fox News is glossing over the near-unanimous consensus* on climate change by citing a fringe study that claims the phenomenon is minor and "not dangerous." But the network did not mention the latter's industry ties or dubious pedigree -- or that a major report is expected to undercut it later this month.
Happening Now first mentioned the questionable study Wednesday, in a segment on a hearing in the House of Representatives. Host Gregg Jarrett and Fox News reporter Doug McKelway suggested that two new pieces of evidence weaken testimony offered in support of the science behind climate change: a leaked draft of the forthcoming U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report, which McKelway claimed "will acknowledge temperatures have remained stable for the last 15 years or so," and a just-released study from a similarly-named front group, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which concludes that warming will likely be "modest and cause no net harm." Based on these, McKelway concluded, "evidence of global warming is coming under increased scrutiny and increased doubt."
However, Fox News omitted what is expected to be the signature finding of the IPCC, an unpaid group that works to summarize the state of climate science and has been called "inherently conservative" in its approach -- that "the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause" of climate change (short-term trends do not undermine this verdict).