Right-wing media denied the effectiveness of anti-poverty policies in response to President Obama's recent push to reduce income inequality, instead hyping marriage as a preferable economic solution. But experts have rejected that notion, citing a systemic lack of economic opportunity as a more critical issue.
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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Right-wing media have hyped demands from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to illegally remove the Department of Justice attorney tapped to investigate the IRS targeting scandal because of her political contributions, despite the fact that the DOJ is prohibited by law from considering political affiliations or contributions in personnel decisions.
Fox News allowed the president of Koch brothers-funded Generation Opportunity, which has created a series of anti-Obamacare ads, to characterize the organization as "independent" and funded by "a variety of donors."
On the December 9 edition of Fox News' On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren played a new attack ad from Generation Opportunity, which encouraged young Americans to "opt out" of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After providing Generation Opportunity President Evan Feinberg a platform to promote his organization and attack the ACA, Van Susteren asked, "Where do you get the money," specifically inquiring whether Generation Opportunity is funded by any "influential group." Feinberg maintained that Generation Opportunity is "an independent organization":
VAN SUSTEREN: Where do you get the money, because that looked like a pretty expensive ad. Where do you get the money?
FEINBERG: Oh, we've got a variety of donors, and we're just focused on working with people across the country who care deeply about helping our generation to fight for our own freedom.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I ask why, you know, I'm wondering if there is some very influential group that funds you and sort of, that, as a consequence you've got to take some marching orders from some other group, or how independent are you?
FEINBERG: Oh no, we're an independent organization that's able to fight for our peers and you see these ads are really creative opportunities to very inexpensively reach millions of young people.
Over a period of several days, Fox News hosts and contributors demanded that Rev. Al Sharpton condemn a series of "knockout" attacks that have occurred in several cities. Sharpton condemned the attacks in a speech on Saturday, but Fox has so far failed to report on the condemnation.
The so-called "knockout game" involves young men attacking random people on the street. The violent, unprovoked attacks have sometimes resulted in death. Fox News has intensely covered these attacks, reporting on them largely as racially motivated crime committed by black youths against white victims.
Hill reporter Elise Viebeck shot down Fox News' continued attempt to scapegoat undocumented immigrants for improper Medicare payments, disputing the claim that undocumented immigrants were willingly involved in defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars.
On October 30, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services released a report finding that from 2009 through 2011, Medicare inappropriately paid out $29 million in drug benefits for undocumented immigrants.
The report explained that the payments were made erroneously because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services does not have a policy in place to screen undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits under its drug prescription plan, Medicare Part D.
But Fox News seized on the report to pile false attacks on undocumented immigrants and smear them, using dehumanizing terms like "illegal aliens."
Discussing the OIG report on Fox News' On The Record, Viebeck refuted host Greta Van Susteren's suggestion that CMS was "knowingly" paying insurance companies for Medicare drug benefits to undocumented immigrants. Viebeck noted that CMS "didn't have policies in place that would have caught" undocumented immigrants and "vetted them one by one in terms of their immigration status."
VIEBECK: The way Medicare Part D works is, people have their plans offered through a private insurance company, and then those insurance companies bill the federal government. And so, the federal government was effectively paying insurance companies on behalf of patients that apparently the insurance companies hadn't vetted extensively enough. They thought they might have been eligible for Medicare, but they weren't because they're illegal immigrants.
Viebeck went on to say that "these are not individual immigrants who are trying to defraud the federal government. This all happens through insurance companies. It's basically one gigantic error."
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
From the October 23 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox News is using falsehoods to discredit an immigration reform rally that took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., claiming that activists were given preferential treatment by the Obama administration to stage their protest while parks remain closed. In fact, the National Park Service made it clear a week before the protest that First Amendment activities on the Mall and at Memorial Parks would be exempt from closures.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren admitted that the network may have taken the Cleveland Clinic medical center's decision to cut jobs out of context after Fox repeatedly hyped the story to demonize the Affordable Care Act.
Reuters reported on September 18 that the Cleveland Clinic medical center announced plans to reduce its staff and budget in order to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Fox News repeatedly hyped the news as evidence that the ACA destroys jobs.
However, even the Cleveland Clinic itself didn't buy into Fox's narrative. The Atlantic reached out to the Cleveland Clinic and found that Eileen Sheil, the clinic's Executive Director of Corporate Communications, "seemed a bit confused by the emphasis on Obamacare" in the media coverage of the center's actions. Sheil told the publication, "We've been working on reducing costs for years ... We felt health-care reform was absolutely necessary." The Atlantic explained (emphasis added):
Actually, much of what the Cleveland Clinic system is doing follows the recommendations of health-care analysts closely. For example, it has consolidated closely located neonatal intensive care units, because high volumes tend to lead to better results. It's working to reduce the number of procedures its staff performs, since in the current system "physicians are rewarded to do more, not to do the right thing for the patient," as Sheil put it. And there's a new focus on chronic diseases, which are an increasingly important and costly area for treatment.
Think of it this way: These are all steps that the Cleveland Clinic was likely to take, but Obamacare implementation is acting as a catalyst, spurring the clinic to adopt them now rather than on a slower timeline.
Yet Fox's flawed reporting made its way to at least one member of Congress. On the September 24 edition of Fox News' On The Record, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told Van Susteren of the ACA, "The Cleveland Clinic announced this week they are laying off many employees. They're cutting $300 million of expenses because of the implementation -- because of the health care law."
Van Susteren then admitted to the network's misleading reporting on the clinic, telling the senator, "I don't know if Toby Cosgrove, who's the CEO, whether he's backpedaling or not, but I talked to him a couple hours later and he sort of thought that we were taking a little bit out of context what he meant."
Much of Fox's coverage of the implementation of the ACA has been rife with misinformation. As Sen. Barrasso illustrated, Fox's misleading reporting can often influence members of Congress. Fox recently managed to help the House of Representatives push through massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) and once aided an Alex Jones conspiracy theory in getting a hearing in Congress.
From the September 24 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon who criticized President Obama over health care policy at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, was heavily promoted by Fox News for his conservative views before flaming out following controversial statements regarding gay marriage. But after news broke that a political action committee (PAC) had been formed to draft him to run for president, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren invited Carson on and asked him the "best reason" he should be president. Carson responded with what sounded suspiciously like a stump speech.
On August 22, Politico reported that a PAC had been registered as the "National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee." According to Politico, the group was formed to urge "the neurosurgeon and Obamacare critic to throw his hat into the ring for 2016." That night, Fox's Greta Van Susteren hosted Carson to get his reaction. But first, Van Susteren asked Carson to "tell us, what would be the best reason for Dr. Ben Carson to be president and what would be the not-so best idea." Carson responded by mentioning several times how he has traveled the country and spoken to "enormous" crowds about how America needs "common sense" and "somebody who can create a vision."
Carson insisted that he was reluctant to run for president, an act which itself has become a signal of presidential ambitions. Speculation about Carson's plans are even stronger when placed in context of his 2012 book, recent speaking engagements, and television appearances.
Carson was widely promoted by Fox News as a new conservative leader and possible 2016 contender after he criticized President Obama during his keynote address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where Carson made conservative arguments about health care, tax policy, and the national debt. The hosts of Fox & Friends attempted to recruit him to run for president. Sean Hannity asked Carson directly if he would run for president, before declaring, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." Hannity even devoted an hour-long show to promoting Ben Carson as the man who is "saving America." This campaign for Carson eventually prompted Fox's Eric Bolling to criticize conservatives for "desperately" pushing him to run.
While Fox has often attempted to rehabilitate conservative candidates and media figures -- most recently former Fox employee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Carson may be unique in that the comments that got him in trouble came out of his frequent Fox appearances. While making the rounds on the network, Carson stumbled into controversy when he compared marriage equality advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, later both apologizing and attacking his critics. Carson's own colleagues at Johns Hopkins University called his remarks "nasty, petty, and ill-informed," and he was ultimately forced to step down as a 2013 commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins.
Fox has a history of heavily promoting its own hand-picked candidates. The network has advocated at various points for the election of Sarah Palin, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Scott Brown, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Wednesday morning, Benghazi whistleblower attorney Victoria Toensing appeared on Fox News' Fox & Friends as part of a long standing campaign among conservatives to discredit the findings of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on the Benghazi attacks, authored by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
Toensing delivered what has become the standard conservative myth -- the claim that the ARB report was a "corrupt cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton." She asserted:
Because they were not thorough. There are all kinds of people they didn't interview. They made false statements and they framed four State Department employees to take the blame away from the higher-ups. They did not interview Hillary. They did not interview her top deputy for security, Pat Kennedy.
That is a lie. Pat Kennedy was interviewed by the ARB, a fact Pickering, one of the authors, has made clear. On May 12, Pickering explicitly told CNN's Candy Crowley, "We interviewed Pat Kennedy." This was also pointed out during the May 8, 2013 House Oversight hearing on Benghazi. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) addressed the room, stating:
By the way, defend in statements that Undersecretary Kennedy was not interviewed by the ARB by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen. That is a misstatement of fact. He most certainly was. You can look it up. It is documented. He was interviewed, and he provided evidence. And that evidence was evaluated.
So it is not true that Undersecretary Kennedy was not part of that process. He most certainly was, and I would ask Mr. Chairman that the record so reflect.
In fact, Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren tweeted out this exchange:
So why tell such a blatant lie?
Because Toensing thinks she can get away with it and the right needs to discredit the ARB. Prepared in the aftermath of the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the report detailed more than two-dozen recommendations on improving security for our State Department personnel overseas. It did not cast blame on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama nor did it conform to the narrative conservatives and their allies on Capitol Hill -- namely Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) -- have been selling to the media about Benghazi.
Because both Pickering and Mullen are public servants with reputations beyond reproach, the right has had to work overtime trying to discredit their report.
The simplest way to attack the ARB is to claim their work was incomplete because they failed to interview specific witnesses.
And because the complete list of witnesses who spoke with the ARB remains classified, most often there is no way to respond to these accusations, unless a name was at sometime placed in the public record. Conservatives will continue to make claims about the ARB process, but without citations, the media should keep a watchful eye on which sources they trust.
From the August 20 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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For the second time in a week, Fox host Greta Van Susteren dedicated the full hour of her show, On The Record, to an interview with controversial radio host Rush Limbaugh. The hour long interview was little more than a platform for Limbaugh to ingratiate himself with the Fox audience while completely ignoring his recent controversies and the revelations of his current contractual problems with Cumulus radio.
On July 28, Politico reported that Cumulus Media, "the second-biggest broadcaster in the country," is on the verge of dropping Limbaugh from its 40 stations by the end of the year. The move comes after a year of advertisers fleeing his show following a multi-day attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke.
More recently Limbaugh was widely criticized for his remarks on race in the wake of the "not guilty" verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman.
On the July 16 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh claimed that he could say "Nigga' with an a" because "it's not racist." A week later Limbaugh declared "If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians." "It's time for all this white guilt to end," Limbaugh said.
Although Van Susteren asked Limbaugh for his thoughts on the trial, she failed to mention his recent inflammatory comments.
On the August 2 edition of her show, Van Susteren once again asked softball questions and offered Limbaugh a platform to attack President Obama, leftists, feminists, and the welfare state. The interview consisted of questions such as: "Why is there no enthusiasm to go after waste and fraud?", "Why do you do your job?", and "Twitter - what do you think of it?"
This was the fourth time a Limbaugh interview has aired on Fox News in the past month after only three interviews the previous three years.