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.
From the January 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
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Fox News Sunday allowed Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt, who has a history of making extremist and conspiratorial claims, to push lies about the gun debate the day after the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
During his appearance on December 15, Pratt pushed the myth that "gun-free zones" are invitations for mass shootings, lied about the popularity and effectiveness of background checks on gun sales, and suggested gun violence could be prevented by putting people with mental health conditions in jail.
Fox hosted Pratt despite his past ties to white supremacists and history of making conspiratorial claims. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after, as The New York Times reported, it was disclosed that he "had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements." More recently, Pratt has flirted with the claim that Sandy Hook was a government "programmed event" designed to build support for stronger gun laws. Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria Soto was one of the teachers killed at Sandy Hook, and Mark Kelly, who is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, also appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss gun policy.
Here are four false claims about gun violence made by Pratt on Fox News:
Larry Pratt, the leader of a gun rights group considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association, will appear on Fox News Sunday to discuss the debate over gun laws in the year following the deaths of 20 children and six educators during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
According to FoxNews.com, Pratt will debate Gulf War veteran and former astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was wounded during a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Kelly and Giffords head up gun violence prevention group Americans for Responsible Solutions while Pratt is the executive director of Gun Owners of America, which despite its extremist record was reportedly influential with Republican opponents of the Senate's failed background check legislative proposal.
Despite his prior links to white supremacist groups and history of trafficking in absurd conspiracy theories, Pratt is nonetheless regularly hosted on cable news to discuss gun policy. During a representative appearance on CNN on September 11, Pratt suggested that opponents of guns in schools "like bodies piling up." Days later on CNN's Crossfire, Pratt said he "would strongly encourage" putting firearms in kindergartens. Fox News Sunday previously turned to Pratt on January 13 to discuss Newtown.
Pratt, who has said he will talk to "anyone that will let us have their microphone," is a fixture on the conspiracy theory radio circuit. He has flirted with theories that the Newtown mass shooting was a "programmed event" put on by the government. Right Wing Watch has also documented numerous conspiracy theories and outlandish charges against the Obama administration promoted by Pratt. During a January appearance on a far-right radio show, Pratt endorsed as plausible the host's claim that a race war could occur between "Christian, heterosexual white haves" against "black, Muslim and/or atheist -- not that there's much difference -- black have-nots."
Here are four reasons why mainstream outlets should stop hosting Pratt to discuss gun violence:
From the December 1 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy's stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.
Fox host Chris Wallace tossed softball questions to health insurance industry lobbyists about people losing their coverage and ending up with more expensive plans, failing to mention that many insurance companies were recently exposed for only informing customers about pricier plans they offered, rather than more affordable options available on healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On the November 17 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace interviewed Karen Ignagni, the president and chief executive officer of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which represents the health insurance industry nationwide. During the segment, Wallace highlighted a statement from AHIP that suggested that President Obama's recently proposed fix could "destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers." Wallace later asked Ignagni if most canceled policies will be reinstated and if, when Obama told people that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan," she knew "that was not possible under the terms of Obamacare":
Wallace's interview neglected to highlight that a number of health insurance companies were not forthcoming with consumers about less costly plans made available to them as a result of ACA implementation. An investigation by Talking Points Memo reported that "these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces":
Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people [...] spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked.
The extreme lengths to which some insurance companies are going to hold on to existing customers at higher price, as the Affordable Care Act fundamentally re-orders the individual insurance market, has caught the attention of state insurance regulators.
The insurance companies argue that it's simply capitalism at work. But regulators don't see it that way. By warning customers that their health insurance plans are being canceled as a result of Obamacare and urging them to secure new insurance plans before the Obamacare launched on Oct. 1, these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces.
But Fox News Sunday's softball interview was par for the course on the network, which has consistently churned out misleading information about ACA "horror stories" that don't stand up against scrutiny.
On Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity invited a panel of people who claimed to have fallen victim to ACA implementation during the October 11 edition of his show. Business owners Paul and Michelle Cox insisted that ACA regulations forced them to "cut back on hiring full-time employees" and "keep [employees] below 30 hours":
MICHELLE COX: We received a letter from our insurance company stating that we would no longer be able to have our existing health plan, despite the president's promise that we would be able to keep that existing plan.
As a business, we are jumping through more hoops, more regulation, more paperwork. And we've also cut back on hiring full-time employees because of the health care costs involved, even though we'd love to do that.
HANNITY: You'd like to hire full-time employees --
MICHELLE COX: We would love to.
HANNITY: -- but you -- so you're going to keep them below 30 hours.
MICHELLE COX: Exactly.
PAUL COX: We've had to keep them below 30 hours or we wouldn't be able to -- you know, not that we wouldn't want to pay it, we just wouldn't be able to --
MICHELLE COX: Yes.
PAUL COX: -- stay in business and pay it. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/11/13]
It was later revealed that the Coxes overhyped their claims and would have saved money through the health exchanges. In fact, their business only employed four people, and is therefore unaffected by the law's 49-employee threshold, according to an October 18 post at Salon from Eric Stern, senior counsel to former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer:
First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C. He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can't grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.
Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? "Well," he said, "I haven't been forced to do so, it's just that I've chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs." What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he'd call me back. He never did.
There is only one Obamacare requirement that applies to a company of this size: workers must be notified of the existence of the "healthcare.gov" website, the insurance exchange. That's all.
Fox News attempted to paint Gov. Chris Christie as a moderate on social issues, falsely claiming that he had refused to veto legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
On the November 10 edition of Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Fox News reporter Carl Cameron discussed Gov. Christie's political reputation among conservatives, citing his decision not to veto marriage equality legislation in 2013 as evidence that Christie might not appeal to social conservatives:
The reason Christie didn't veto a marriage equality bill in 2013 is because he had already vetoed it in 2012 despite widespread public support for the measure. Christie cited his personal opposition to marriage equality and was widely criticized for the suggestion that the issue should be put up for a public vote.
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.
Fox News host Chris Wallace misleadingly suggested that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "demands" that insurance companies change all coverage options, ignoring that the healthcare reform law grandfathered in plans in place before the law was enacted in 2010 and that insurers are only required to update plans if the company made a substantial change to the coverage since the ACA's enactment.
On the November 3 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace stated "the Obamacare law demands that the insurance companies change their plans."
One of the primary goals of healthcare reform, also known as Obamacare, was to raise the quality of health care Americans receive. To this end, the Affordable Care Act requires plans which post-date the law's enactment on March 23, 2010, to contain a set of 10 "essential health benefits" including outpatient treatment, preventative care, and ambulatory services. Furthermore, the ACA significantly mandates that insurance companies cannot decline coverage for a preexisting condition.
However, the ACA also grandfathers most plans in existence prior to March 23, 2010, even if the plan does not comply with all of these requirements of the law. Only if an insurance company elected to make a "significant" change to a plan after the ACA's enactment does the plan have to be updated to comply with the law.
As Kaiser Health News explained, "Most health insurance plans that existed on March 23, 2010 are eligible for grandfathered status and therefore do not have to meet all the requirements of the health care law. But if an insurer or employer makes significant changes to a plan's benefits or how much members pay through premiums, copays or deductibles, then the plan loses that status."
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace hyped reports that insurers are cancelling health plans without noting that new policies will offer better coverage at comparable cost.
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A since-clarified NBC News report on repairs to the website for the new federal health insurance exchange is providing fodder for Fox News to continue its denigration of health care reform.
Observers on all sides of the debate have acknowledged that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) insurance exchanges site has been bumpy. That website, Healthcare.gov, up and running since October 1, has dealt with many glitches due to the large number of visitors to the site and other technical problems.
But this fact does not permit news outlets to fabricate problems.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace kicked off a discussion of the exchanges with Republican Senator Marco Rubio (FL) by telling him, "The federal website for Obamacare is once again down for repairs this weekend."
But Healthcare.gov was not down for the entire weekend, as Wallace suggested. The Fox anchor's comment mirrors a misleading report from NBC that the network subsequently clarified.
On Friday evening, NBC Nightly News misleadingly tweeted that the White House would be taking down Healthcare.gov for repairs:
From the October 13 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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