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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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In the first nine months of 2013, white men dominated the guest lists on the broadcast network Sunday shows and CNN's State of the Union. MSNBC was the only network achieving notable diversity in its guests, particularly on Melissa Harris-Perry's show. Republicans and conservatives are hosted significantly more on the broadcast Sunday shows than Democrats and progressives.
Major media outlets are pushing the narrative that the United States Department of the Treasury could prioritize payments to bond holders and select groups of recipients in lieu of an increase of the federal borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling, beyond October 17. This ignores Treasury Department officials and other experts who explain such prioritization is unworkable and legally dubious, and that default would still happen.
From the October 6 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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The same week a major report found that global warming is both unequivocal and "extremely likely" to be manmade, Fox News announced that it has hired longtime Washington Post columnist George Will, who has helped cultivate a "climate of doubt" about the issue, as a commentator and analyst.
Will is expected to be a featured analyst on programs including Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday after more than 30 years as a regular panelist on ABC's This Week. This provides another prominent platform for a man whose opinions already appear in The Washington Post and hundreds of other newspapers.
Will has often used these platforms to regurgitate common misleading claims from those who deny climate change and grossly distort climate data. In a 2009 column, Will claimed that global sea ice levels were unchanged from 1979, citing the Arctic Climate Research Center. That center responded that this was a "disturbing" misstatement, as its data showed a decline in sea ice "roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined." The Post's ombudsman eventually criticized the fact-checking process that had led to the error.
Recently, Will cherry-picked a year with record wildfires in an attempt to deny the trend toward larger and longer-duration U.S. wildfires. That claim found its way to Fox News within days despite the extensive research showing that, as the U.S. Global Change Research Program has explained, "Wildfires in the United States are already increasing due to warming."
Will's repeated promotion of climate misinformation has led the late Los Angeles Times editorial writer Dan Turner to pronounce the columnist's misunderstanding of some elements of climate change "mystifying," and a Discover Magazine columnist to write that Will is "helping to muddle our collective scientific literacy."
This climate misinformation will likely find a welcome home at Fox News, which has frequently come under fire for sowing doubt about the veracity of climate change and focusing on purported "scandals" rather than the scientific consensus. One study found that Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely" to be misinformed about the scientific consensus on climate change due to such coverage, which often creates confusion under the guise of "balance." Similarly, a 2012 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that coverage of climate science by Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, has been "overwhelmingly misleading," despite Murdoch's 2007 pledge that his media outlets would treat manmade climate change as "a fact."
Fox News Sunday perpetuated the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was causing a rise in part-time jobs at the expense of full-time jobs, despite evidence that shows that 90% of all jobs created since the passage of the ACA have been full-time.
On the September 29 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace used anecdotal evidence to make the case that the ACA was hurting employment and jobs. Wallace pointed to an Investor's Business Daily study claiming that 313 companies are cutting work hours due to the ACA employer mandate:
But the accusation that the ACA has hurt job full-time job growth has been debunked by economists as well as actual employment data.
In September, Moody Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi disagreed that the ACA had hurt full-time employment on a CNBC panel, saying, "I don't see it in the data." Previously, Zandi had debunked this claim in comments to USA Today:
As more data come in, the law's impact can't be seen in hiring statistics, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.
"I was expecting to see it. I was looking for it, and it's not there,'' says Zandi, whose firm manages ADP's surveys of overall private-sector job creation. If the Affordable Care Act "were causing a drop, you would see meaningful slowing."
Additionally, Fox News Sunday hosted House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to discuss the Republican plan to shut down the government unless the demand to delay or defund the ACA was met by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama. During the discussion, McCarthy claimed that "when you look at what has transpired since Obamacare has moved forward, we have created more than 840,000 jobs in this country. More than 90% of them have been part-time because of Obamacare." McCarthy did not offer any citations for his claim, but the reality is different.
In August, the non-partisan fact-checking website Politifact analyzed a claim by Alan Krueger, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger had asserted that "Since the Affordable Care Act passed, 90 percent of job growth has been in full-time positions." Politifact agreed, concluding:
Krueger said that "since the Affordable Care Act passed, 90 percent of job growth has been in full-time positions." The statistics show that 87 percent of the increase in jobs between March 2010 and July 2013 consisted of full-time jobs. A shorter time frame would show the opposite pattern, but on the numbers, Krueger is right. We rate the claim True.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin attacked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace,demanding he release the names of Republicans who attempted to "trash" Senator Ted Cruz.
On Fox News Sunday, Wallace revealed that "I got unsolicited research, and questions" from "top Republicans" in order to "hammer" Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who appeared on the program to promote his effort to defund Obamacare.
After Wallace's comments aired, Fox contributor Sarah Palin sent out a tweet calling on Fox News Sunday to "Keep it TRULY fair & balanced" and "Release the GOP names encouraging you to trash @SenTedCruz. No more anonymous sources."
Fox News hosts and contributors have repeatedly clashed over strategy surrounding the ongoing effort to defund Obamacare, with some describing it as "the right thing to do" while others have labeled advocates a "suicide caucus."
Fox contributor Karl Rove lobbed a line of attack at President Obama during a Fox News Sunday appearance that quickly found its way into a Monday morning Republican press release. While the release was being distributed, Rove returned to Fox to repeat the talking points -- the latest example of Fox News' role as the communication arm of the Republican Party.
Rove, a Fox political analyst, appeared on Fox News Sunday on September 8, where he slammed the president's response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, telling host Chris Wallace, "It's a [sic] amateur hour at the White House."
The next morning, Rove's line popped up as the lead talking point for the National Republican Senatorial Committee's (NRSC) daily email "Daybreak," reportedly blasted to its listserv with the subject line "Amateur Hour" (albeit with "Amateur" misspelled). In the email, the NRSC charged: (emphasis added)
[O]nce again the country finds itself watching the President fail to rally lawmakers and citizens to his cause. To put it more bluntly, has any other two term President been as ineffective in lobbying Congress and motivating the public to support the initiatives that he wants to see passed? It's amateur hour at the White House.
The same morning, Fox News promoted Rove's "amateur hour" line -- now a Republican talking point -- and invited him on the network to talk about it.
On America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum introduced Rove by saying, "Karl Rove over the weekend slamming President Obama for failing to get a decision on a Syria attack before leaving for the G-20 summit last week," followed by the clip of Rove saying "It's a [sic] amateur hour at the White House" on Fox News Sunday.
During the segment, while Rove lobbed more criticisms at the president over his handling of Syria, Fox repeated Rove's "amateur hour" statement in on-screen text:
Fox News contributor Karl Rove repeated long-debunked falsehoods about the military response to the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
During Fox News Sunday on September 8, a panel discussion turned to the upcoming anniversary of the attacks in Benghazi. During the segment, Rove falsely asserted that no military assets were ordered to assist the Americans under attack in Benghazi. Rove soon raised his voice and, over and over again, repeated his false claim that no help was sent to Benghazi.
From the September 8 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Fox host Chris Wallace used a discussion on the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington to ask whether the time has come for the government to stop "putting a thumb on the scale" for African Americans with affirmative action policies. Wallace's question ignores the continuing problem of economic inequality between whites and African Americans.
The August 25 edition of Fox News Sunday discussed racial progress since the 1963 March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom. During the segment, Wallace raised the issue of affirmative action and asked Fox contributor Kirsten Powers, "50 years after the March on Washington, one of the questions is how long - well, how much longer the government should give special treatment to minorities." After Powers noted that historically unemployment among African Americans has been higher than among white Americans, Wallace asked contributor Scott Brown, "At what point have we gone as far as the country, as the government, needs to go in putting a thumb on the scale, if you will? You know, it is 50 years after Martin Luther King's speech. Obviously there were hundreds of years of discrimination. But at what point do we, in effect, say, 'you're on your own?'"
As Powers noted, the March on Washington was about civil rights, but it was also about economic inequality. Today, white families tend to earn twice as much income as do African-American families, while African Americans experience double the unemployment rate. There's also a racial gap when it comes to wealth. According to the New York Times, "Many experts consider the wealth gap to be more pernicious than the income gap, as it perpetuates from generation to generation and has a powerful effect on economic security and mobility." CNN reported that as of 2010, white Americans were worth as much as 22 times more than African-Americans:
One of the greatest drivers of the wealth and income gaps is the lack of higher education, according to a report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. The study found that "obtaining a college degree is vital to economic success and translates into substantially greater lifetime income and wealth." And in general, those with higher educational attainment are less likely to be unemployed.
Multiple studies have shown that banning affirmative action would result in lower enrollment rates among African Americans. One Princeton study declared, "Ending affirmative action would devastate most minority college enrollment."
Wallace mischaracterized affirmative action as "putting a thumb on the scale" in favor African Americans. In reality, it's about removing the thumb that was already there.
Media personalities on broadcast network Sunday shows advanced the right-wing myth that the Obama administration has given Congress a special exemption from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ignoring that the decision fixed a problem that would have treated congressional employees differently from all other Americans.
Following right-wing media's efforts to portray an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) rule clarification as an "exemption" or "dispensation" to congressional staffers, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol appeared on the August 11 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday and suggested that Congress was not "covered by the same rules as the rest of the country" with respect to the health care law:
On Meet the Press, CNN contributor Ana Navarro similarly focused on the decision, complaining of "strategic cut-outs" and claiming that the administration has "been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare":
NAVARRO: But I also think, you know, it's rather rich for the president to be throwing stones that way when what we've seen is an administration that has been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare whether it's for corporations or for congressional staff. So maybe he should talk about implementing the whole thing he passed and not doing these exceptions that I'm very disappointed Republicans and Democrats stayed quiet on the exceptions for the congressional staff that were made this last week. There should be more focus on well, if you passed it, live with it, instead of rather than making these very strategic cut-outs.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees the health benefits of federal government employees, responded to the ACA's Grassley amendment with a rule clarification. The amendment requires members of Congress and their staffs to enter the exchanges that were otherwise intended for people without access to employer-based coverage. OPM's decision allows the government to contribute to insurance premiums for members of Congress and staffers moved to the ACA exchanges.
In the Health Affairs blog, health care expert Timothy Jost noted that "[f]ar from exempting Congress from ACA requirements, as some have reported, the amendment subjects members to a legal requirement that will apply to no other Americans."
Jost further explained that Congress would have no way to pay for their employees' coverage through the law because the exchanges were meant to provide access to health care for individuals and small businesses, and that staffers would not receive a tax credit to help pay for coverage because their salaries are generally above the limit for premium subsidies. This would, in effect, force them to pay the full price of their insurance for no reason.
The Obama administration's compromise is to permit the federal government to contribute toward employee insurance on the exchanges, but to render those employees ineligible for any tax credits or subsidies.
"Members of Congress and their staff must go into the exchange," said an administration official. "No ands, ifs, or buts. They will not be eligible in any way for subsidies or tax credits. But they don't lose their current employer contribution."
Fox host Chris Wallace continued Fox's misguided focus on black crime rates following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, leaving out critical historical context to black crime and the perception of black violence.
On the July 21 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked whether comments by President Obama and civil rights leaders following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin had deflected attention from other issues. Wallace aired a graphic of black homicide statistics:
Then added, "But when you look at the crime numbers. ... Should civil rights leaders be focusing on that and not what one neighborhood watchman did in Sanford, Florida 17 months ago?":
But, like his Fox News colleagues, Wallace failed to present black crime rates in the context of proximity and perception. In a July 19 press conference, President Obama explained that the perception of black crime rates are a reflection of "poverty and dysfunction," but black men are often "painted with a broad brush" as criminals. The Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice also found that "public estimates of Black criminality surpasses the reality" due to their unfair portrayal in the media and racial profiling.