Conservative media figures are touting a far-right coalition's sensationalist claim that the U.S. military is rife with anti-Christian hostility, ignoring the lack of evidence to substantiate the charge and allowing anti-LGBT hate groups to drive coverage of the issue.
Restore Military Religious Freedom (RMRF) - a coalition of right-wing organizations including Liberty Counsel, the Heritage Foundation, and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - is leading the charge with this bogus claim. In early November, RMRF released a video featuring interviews with current service members making sweeping statements about the alleged anti-Christian bias permeating the armed forces. The video listed a few examples of apparent attacks on religious liberty in the military, but those examples don't withstand scrutiny.
Hinting at the real motives behind the RMRF's effort, the video includes a soldier complaining about the new wave of "tolerance" sweeping the military - a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy. For years, the organizations behind RMRF have crusaded against open service by gay and lesbian soldiers, often using vitriolic language. Depicting the armed forces as anti-Christian has been central to the right's attack on the post-DADT military.
Anti-LGBT hate groups decided long ago that their ultimate solution must be the end of open service, but it was a solution in search of a problem. In its Christian persecution narrative, social conservatives have managed to manufacture that problem, despite that it consists of made-up anti-LGBT horror stories. Right-wing media are happy to take the hate groups' bait.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, FRC President Tony Perkins sat down with co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Brian Kilmeade to promote RMRF's campaign. While he didn't cite a single example of anti-Christian retaliation by the military, Perkins asserted that "all evidence would suggest" that the Obama administration is "on a search-and-destroy mission as it pertains to religious liberty." Hasselbeck didn't ask Perkins to back up his claim, but she did make sure viewers knew about RMRF's website:
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck misleadingly hyped a specific security concern with the HealthCare.gov website without mentioning that the problem has been fixed.
On November 7, Hasselbeck interviewed South Carolina resident Tom Dougall, who explained that he had entered personal information into HealthCare.gov only for it to erroneously be sent to someone else who logged into the website. Hasselbeck used this incident to scare people into thinking it could happen to them, asking Dougall if anyone should "be logging onto a site that puts them at risk for security fraud, identity fraud."
But the Fox News segment never brought up the fact that the particular software issue that lead to the leak of Dougall's information has been fixed. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Senate on November 5 that "she became aware of the mistake on Monday and told the committee a 'software fix' had remedied the problem." McClatchy DC further reported:
A top Obama administration official on Tuesday tried to assure anxious senators that Americans' personal information was secure on the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which erroneously provided a South Carolina man's personal information to a man in North Carolina last week.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the problem was caused by a piece of software code that needed to be fixed. She said the fix was made, tested and the system is working properly.
Bataille said it was the only such incident reported to HHS, but she would not speculate about whether other, similar incidents have occurred.
Many problems have been made apparent since HealthCare.gov launched. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on November 6, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the government is working on fixes for a "couple of hundred" problems with the website. The problem highlighted by Hasselbeck was a serious issue, and she should have mentioned that this particular software problem has been resolved.
Fox News obscured Republicans' role in creating a Medicaid coverage gap in the administration's health care expansion to hype one woman's coverage loss as an example of Obama's broken promises.
Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck welcomed guest Tammy Fiechtner onto the November 1 Fox & Friends to discuss a letter she received from her insurer explaining that she's being automatically moved to a new insurance plan. Hasselbeck hyped "what's being called the Obamacare coverage gap," saying, despite the letter, that she "hasn't gotten a new plan. In fact, she doesn't have coverage at all." Fiechtner's comments shed more light on her predicament; the new plan she was being moved to had a similar premium, but a higher deductible. Fiechtner then explained that after exploring her options, she found that she would have qualified for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s expansion of the program, but her Republican-led home state of Nebraska chose not to accept the Medicaid expansion (emphasis added):
FIECHTNER: When we went on the website, we found out that we didn't qualify for Obamacare because of how our business structure works. So, we were told that we had to go on Medicaid, which I don't understand why I have to be on Medicaid, but that's where they directed us to. Nebraska did not expand Medicaid, so there will be no help for people like ourselves. So we now are forced to buy a new plan all on own and face these expenses by ourselves.
As The New York Times reported, the ACA was "written to require all Americans to have health coverage" and "about 30 million uninsured Americans were to have become eligible for financial help" through subsidies for lower-income earners and the Medicaid expansion. According to the Times, the Supreme Court's 2012 decision to allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion left millions of low-income consumers without financial help in acquiring insurance:
But the Supreme Court's ruling on the health care law last year, while upholding it, allowed states to choose whether to expand Medicaid. Those that opted not to leave about eight million uninsured people who live in poverty ($19,530 for a family of three) without any assistance at all.
Hasselbeck's attempt to lay the blame for Fiechtner's situation on President Obama papers over Republicans' role in sabotaging access to affordable health insurance. As Politico reported in a November 1 story headlined "The Obamacare sabotage campaign," there is "a strong factual basis" for the charge that "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step" has undermined key points of the law -- including the Medicaid expansion -- and has seriously damaged the overall rollout (emphasis added):
Fox News falsely claimed the Obama administration hid the fact that some individuals would experience changes to their insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), when in fact Fox itself reported on the administration's announcement of the underlying "grandfathering" policy in 2010.
On October 28, NBC News reported that some Americans would change insurance policies over the next year as a result of the new health care law, and noted that this was unsurprising to the Obama administration. The law required that policies that were already in effect prior to March 23, 2010 to be "grandfathered" in, but not if those policies were significantly changed by the insurance company in a way that increases costs for consumers or reduces benefits between 2010 and 2014. Furthermore, language in the 2010 regulations acknowledged that "40 to 67 percent" of customers would likely not keep their policies during this period, based on normal turnover in the individual insurance market.
Fox & Friends latched on to this report on October 29 to claim the administration misled Americans, with co-host Steve Doocy falsely claiming that "back in 2010, they knew millions would lose it and they didn't say a word":
DOOCY: How many times did we hear the president promise ... that if you liked your health insurance, you would be able to keep it? Well now it has been revealed, in fact Jay Carney pretty much revealed yesterday, that there would be millions of Americans whose current policies do not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act ... You know when the administration knew that millions would lose it? July of 2010. So you've seen the president and a number of Democrats, high ranking officials say, if you like your insurance, you can keep it -- back in 2010, they knew millions would lose it, and they didn't say a word.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck further claimed this information was "buried in Obamacare," asking earlier in the show "Where was that information up at the top? Where was that in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012? Where was that information?"
The information was on Fox News and in press announcements issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Back in June 2010, Fox News' Molly Henneberg reported on Special Report that "the Obama administration's own estimates say that up to 80 percent of small businesses and 64 percent of large businesses may have to give up the plans they had today within three years," as some plans would not be grandfathered in. The report included video of Sebelius making the announcement about the administration's grandfathering regulations on June 14, 2010.
It was known before the ACA's enactment that policyholders in the individual health insurance market that many of these policies would be changed, despite the grandfathering. A letter from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to former Senator Evan Bayh, dated November 30, 2009, explained that "because of relatively high turnover in that market (as well as the incentives for many enrollees to purchase a new policy in order to obtain subsidies), CBO and [the Joint Committee On Taxation] estimate that relatively few nongroup policies would remain grandfathered by 2016."
Fox & Friends pushed the false claim that the government is attempting to create a unisex look that will "feminize" male Marines, ignoring a Marine Corps spokesperson who said that the planned uniform change will affect only female Marines and comes because a previous uniform manufacturer went out of business.
On October 23, the New York Post claimed that the Marine Corps is planning to change the covers for both male and female Marines to conform to a unisex look:
Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a "unisex" look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines' iconic caps - known as "covers" -- with a new version that some have derided as so "girly" that they would make the French blush.
The thin new covers have a feminine line that some officials think would make them look just as good on female marines as on males -- in keeping with the Obama directive.
By October 24, a spokesperson for the Marines had debunked several claims hyped by the New York Post. Marine Captain Maureen Krebs told Business Insider that "The President in no way, shape, or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover." Captain Krebs explained that the Marines were searching for a new female cover because the company that manufactured the current covers no longer existed:
We're looking for a new cover for our female Marines for the primary reason that the former manufacturer went out of business. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover.
A nearly identical statement appeared on the homepage of the Marine Corps website on October 25:
Despite this debunking of the New York Post story, on October 25 Fox & Friends pushed the Post's claim that the new covers are designed to replace the covers for both male and female Marines. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said that the new cover "is supposed to be more gender-neutral, but some say it would make the Marines look too, quote, 'girly.' " Hasselbeck asked retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, currently with Concerned Veterans for America, to comment. Duff also pushed the false claim that this is an attempt to make uniforms gender-neutral and is affecting male Marines, saying that "to demasculinize our Marines just seems to me a ludicrous requirement."
Fox News promoted a false attack on a federal program that expands access to free school meals by dismissing child hunger and claiming that the program will harm low-income families. But studies have shown the school meals program helps alleviate the high levels of hunger that exist among low-income children, improves their access to key nutrients, and increases academic performance.
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."
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
From the October 10 edition of Fox's Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News misleadingly suggested that Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared bankrupt solar company Solyndra a "success" in recent remarks. In fact, he was praising the broader clean energy loan program that supported it, noting that its loan recipients, such as Tesla Motors, are mostly still in business.
The new attack came after Moniz defended the Department of Energy's (DOE) green loan initiative in an interview with C-SPAN. He explained that despite the hype surrounding Solyndra, the portfolio has been a "terrific success," as evidenced by the fact that losses represent only a little over 2 percent of the $34.4 billion in loan guarantees, and under 10 percent of the reserve fund that Congress set aside to cover any defaults, knowing that not every company would succeed. Indeed, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis, the amount set aside by Congress for defaults will be more than enough even if every high-risk project fails. This is indicative of the caution that undergirded the program, which mostly apportioned funds to inherently low-risk power generation projects.
But Wednesday's edition of Fox & Friends suggested that Moniz was championing one of the program's rare failures, running a clip from Moniz's interview with a chyron reading "CELEBRATING SOLYNDRA. Energy Official: Failed Solar Co. A 'Success.'"
Watch what Moniz said and how Fox News reported it:
Fox has repeatedly seized on individual companies' troubles to declare the entire solar industry either on the "brink of collapse" or "tanking our economy." Media at-large have not been much better, relentlessly promoting Solyndra as the face of the green loan program and, at times, of clean energy itself, even as they ignored other, more promising developments. However, contrary to this narrative, clean energy sources including solar, are on the rise:
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 criticized an upcoming NBC special intended to educate viewers about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as "propaganda," despite hyping Fox Business' week-long ACA special as a way to educate viewers about the "hideously complicated law."
On September 30, NBC News will begin airing a week-long series titled "Ready or Not, the New Healthcare Law," which NBC described in a press release as a way to "help Americans get the most out of the Affordable Care Act." The announcement comes as the ACA's health insurance exchanges are set to begin operations on October 1, and as significant confusion over the law remains.
On the September 30 edition of Happening Now, host Jon Scott opened a segment on the NBC special by stating: "A major news network accused of crossing the line from objective reporting to cheerleading when it comes to Obamacare." Scott concluded: "If Obamacare does not prove to be very workable, are you going to see that story covered on NBC?":
But while Scott ridiculed NBC's effort to educate their viewers on the Affordable Care Act as "cheerleading," and Fox News' website Fox Nation described the NBC special as "propaganda," hours earlier Fox & Friends praised a week-long special scheduled to air on Fox Business' The Willis Report. Host Elisabeth Hasselbeck opened the segment by praising the special, titled "A User's Guide To Obamacare," saying, "According to the most recent surveys, as many as 51 percent of Americans don't have enough information about the Affordable Care, so each day of this week we're going to help." Hasselbeck added, "Next week it's your week-long series, 'A User's Guide To Obamacare' -- thankfully, because we need it." At the conclusion of the segment, Gerri Willis, the host of the special, described the Affordable Care Act as a "hideously complicated law."
While Fox is accusing NBC of airing "propaganda" even before the special has appeared, Fox News and others in the right-wing media have spent the last three years spreading misinformation and propaganda about the health care law. Fox figures have ramped up the misleading attacks in the weeks leading up to the opening of insurance exchanges, and have also pressured Republican politicians to defund or repeal the law, even at the expense of shutting down the federal government.
Fox News' misleading attacks on President Obama's health care law reached new heights in the week preceding the opening of insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act Fox figures also pressured Republican politicians to defund or repeal the law, even at the expense of shutting down the federal government.
Fox & Friends hosted Amy Frederick of the anti-Obamacare group 60+ Association to push a series of debunked falsehoods about how health care reform will affect seniors' insurance coverage. Contrary to Fox's claims, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides more health benefits to seniors, will strengthen Medicare, does not tax medical devices such as hearing aids and wheelchairs, and does not interfere with medical decisions seniors make with their doctors.
Fox & Friends guest and conservative activist Dr. Kristen Held repeated discredited claims that a task force's recommendation on mammograms mean that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will result in rationed care for breast cancer patients. In fact, the ACA specifically rejected the task force's non-binding recommendation.