Fox News host Sean Hannity smeared the Obama administration when he claimed that it wouldn't take immediate steps to provide medical care for veterans that were reportedly kept off an official waiting list in the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. In reality, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki ordered the 1,700 veterans to be immediately triaged for care after an Inspector General (IG) report found that they were not on an official waiting list for medical care, a fact that even FoxNews.com reported.
On May 28, the VA Office of Inspector General released a preliminary report on its investigation into allegations that veterans died due to the manipulation of appointments and wait lists. The report found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waitlist at the Phoenix, Arizona VA medical center. It included the following recommendation:
We recommend the VA Secretary take immediate action to review and provide appropriate health care to the 1,700 veterans we identified as not being on any existing wait list.
When Sean Hannity mentioned this report on his Fox News show Wednesday night, he was quick to suggest that the administration would not take action to get these veterans needed medical care:
HANNITY: Why isn't there more urgency if these guys need health care that we promised them after serving the country, where is the 1-800 number that they can call and get immediate assistance so that more people don't die? Where is the group of doctors that would assess the -- on a need basis, who prioritize, who gets taken care of first? That's what I think I would do if I were president, which would never happen. But that seems to be the common sense answer. The president said he's going to investigate.
From the May 28 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News host Sean Hannity's attempt to blame oil spills from deepwater drilling on environmentalists rather than under-regulated oil companies was debunked by a news service that largely serves energy industry clients.
On May 22, Hannity spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, a state that has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas production. Platts, an industry journal that specializes in covering the oil industry for those employed in relevant industries, reported in coverage of the conference that "Hannity did not know some important details about the drilling industry" including falsely claiming that oil companies were drilling in deepwater because environmentalists forced them out of shallower waters.
In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010, Sean Hannity and other Fox News figures repeatedly claimed that BP was only drilling in dangerous deepwater because environmentalists had "pushed us out there." However, as Media Matters pointed out at the time and Platts is now reporting, companies were actually drilling in deepwater due to discoveries of large, potentially lucrative reserves there.
Platts also pointed out that a reporter challenged Hannity on his portrayal of the fossil fuel industry as a panacea for unemployment, noting that some states "such as Vermont, Georgia or Idaho, which have no oil production" while North Dakota has "naturally abundant resources" (North Dakota also has a very small population, making the impact of the boom on the unemployment rate unusual compared to the rest of the country). Hannity, who has been hosting fossil fuel companies on his radio show as part of a "Get America Back to Work campaign," reportedly replied that increasing oil production in some states would trickle down to other areas.
The Associated Press summarized Hannity's speech as arguing that "government needs to get out of the way" of the oil industry. However, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston argued instead that the government needs to get involved in North Dakota, where worker fatalities have soared because "preventing accidents costs much more than paying off the families of dead workers." An AFL-CIO study found that North Dakota has more workers dying on the job than any other state -- with a worker fatality rate "more than five times the national average" and "one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state." The study noted that "the oil and gas industry in North Dakota has been a major source of these fatalities" and that North Dakota's fatality rate has "more than doubled" since 2007, around the time that North Dakota's oil boom took off.
From the May 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The Obama outrage engines are revving up at Fox News and across the conservative media landscape as conservatives shift, temporarily at least, from Obamacare and Benghazi and set their sights on the unfolding scandal involving backlog waiting lists at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. The serious allegations that dozens of veterans died while awaiting treatment from Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, and that VA managers there created a secret waiting list to hide how long men and women had to wait to see a doctor, sparked a resignation and Congressional hearings.
The Fox condemnations have been especially loud, and sweeping. And yes, they've been mostly directed at the president.
"If only Barack Obama's team treated our veterans as well as they treat the mega-donors to the Democrat [sic] party," lamented Laura Ingraham on Fox & Friends. For days, a parade of Fox talkers have condemned Obama for the story. One even accused the administration of "criminally negligent homicide."
The heated right-wing response stands in stark contrast to the muted coverage Fox News provided for the last major controversy involving failed medical care for returning soldiers. In February 2007, the Washington Post, following up on original reporting done by Salon, exposed shockingly poor conditions inside the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Those revelations also sparked resignations and Congressional hearings.
But back then, of course, George W. Bush was president and back then Fox News wasn't as interested in the story. (It took Bill O'Reilly six weeks following the publication of the first Post expose to conclude that the Bush administration had badly bungled care at Walter Reed.) And Fox worried journalists were paying too much attention to the scandal.
Numbers highlight the striking disparity in coverage.
Saturday, May 17, marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, holding that state-mandated racially-segregated schools violated the U.S. Constitution. Fox News celebrated this historic event by slamming Attorney General Eric Holder and First Lady Michelle Obama for discussing the role of systemic racial discrimination in modern American society in commencement addresses over the weekend.
On the May 19 episode of Hannity, host Sean Hannity was joined by Town Hall reporter Katie Pavlich to discuss the speeches, saying that he found it "suspicious" that Holder's commencement address at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, and Michelle Obama's to graduating seniors in Topeka, KS, discussed race at all, even though Brown is known as ushering in modern civil rights law by condemning the racial caste system of white supremacy. In his remarks, Holder pointed out that despite the holding in Brown, "in too many of our school districts, significant divisions persist and segregation has reoccurred -- including zero-tolerance school discipline practices that, while well-intentioned and aimed at promoting school safety, affect black males at a rate three times higher than their white peers." The first lady warned that "today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech," and that "many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools, and many communities have become less diverse as folks have moved from cities to suburbs."
But Hannity was unmoved, criticizing these speeches that discussed the "subtle" institutional discrimination that leads to severe inequalities of opportunity for persons of color. Pavlich, meanwhile, blamed Holder and President Obama for the spike in resegregation, because they have fought "school choice" and voucher programs.
This is not the first time that Fox News bizarrely complained about these commencement addresses because they discussed race on the anniversary of Brown. On the May 18 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Anna Kooiman complained about Holder's accurate description of the discrimination currently facing minority students, and claimed that his speech was not sufficiently "uplifting." Kooiman went on to argue that Holder should have included a "call of action for African-American fathers to actually be fathers and not be baby daddys" instead of calling zero-tolerance policies that unfairly funnel students of color into prison "racist." Carlson agreed with Kooiman's assessment and argued that Holder's speech didn't "acknowledge reality."
What Fox ignores is that not only is the 60th anniversary of one of the most significant civil rights victories in history a perfectly appropriate time to discuss race, but that Michelle Obama and Holder were correct to point out that there is still work to be done to fulfill the promise of Brown. According to a recently released study by UCLA's Civil Rights Project, "segregation increased substantially" after federal court desegregation orders were terminated and ignored under Republican administrations and conservative Supreme Court rulings, leaving devastating and lasting effects on America's students and future leaders.
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.
Fox News is witnessing the nasty byproducts of its endless campaign to depict extreme, virulent homophobia as a normal part of mainstream Christianity.
It's long been standard practice at Fox News to conflate anti-gay bigotry with Christianity. Last December, for instance, the network rushed to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality with bestiality and equated gay people with "drunks" and "terrorists," with Megyn Kelly referring to Robertson as "[t]his Christian guy," Sean Hannity describing his comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values," and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes defending Robertson as upholding "the teachings of the Bible."
Meanwhile, Fox has repeatedly touted business owners who refuse service to gay couples, taking up their mantle in regular "Fight for Faith" segments. The network has championed some of the country's most extreme anti-gay hate groups as mainstream Christian organizations. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to attend he city's St. Patrick's Day Parade over its ban on LGBT groups, Fox News attacked him as a "religious bigot." And the network regularly describes even basic legal protections for LGBT people as anti-Christian.
Now, a new anti-gay controversy has once again provided fodder for Fox to depict extreme anti-gay bigotry as grounded in mainstream Christianity. Earlier this month, HGTV cancelled a forthcoming reality show slated to be hosted by brothers Jason and David Benham. The cancellation came after Right Wing Watch unearthed the brothers' history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as "demonic" and "destructive."
Anchor Megyn Kelly responded to HGTV's move by asserting on the May 8 edition of The Kelly File that while "gay rights are more and more protected in this country," the same didn't hold for "Christian beliefs and Christian rights."
During the May 16 edition of Kelly's show, guest host Martha MacCallum invited right-wing radio commentator Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist Jessica Ehrlich to discuss the controversy engulfing the Benham brothers. Perfectly encapsulating the right's bogus homophobia-as-Christianity narrative, Loesch dubbed Ehrlich an "anti-Christian bigot" for deigning to criticize the brothers' extreme anti-gay views:
From the May 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the May 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Right-wing media launched a dishonest attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using reports of problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration to revive claims of "death panels."
The allegations facing the VA are serious and troubling and are largely the result of years of systemic issues. The Obama administration has worked to ease those problems, including reducing backlogged claims and beginning to transition claims away from the traditional paper-based systems that have largely been responsible for the backlogs. In 2012, the VA implemented the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), "a web-based, electronic claims processing portal created to give VA the ability to process Veterans' claims paper-free." According to the VA, the VBMS has allowed the agency to reduce the processing time from 272 days to 78 days. The Veterans Benefits Administration is now processing claims at a higher rate than ever before, although "the number of claims continues to exceed the number processed."
The problems facing the VA have existed long before the Obama administration. The Government Accountability Office has been reporting on backlog issues for years, such as this 2005 report that warned of "long waits for decisions, large claims backlogs, and inaccurate decisions." The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that "Since 2001, the number of claims received by the VA outpaced the number of claims completed" and noted that "the VA faced an increased demand because older generations of veterans continued to submit claims for injuries revealed by age, new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan began to pour into the system, and the VA expanded the schedule of conditions covered to include PTSD and illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure."
While concerns over the VA are legitimate, the right-wing media have exploited the situation to launch a dishonest attack on the ACA, using the reported deaths of veterans to revive the long-standing lie that Obamacare creates death panels.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that individuals covered by the ACA are "headed for similar potential as these deaths in the VA." Sean Hannity similarly invoked death panels in a report on the VA on his radio show.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling claimed both health care systems are examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system," concluding, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is":
Right-wing media equated sensitivity training to "re-education camp" after an NFL player was disciplined for homophobic tweets.
On May 10, University of Missouri football player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. ESPN aired footage of Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his boyfriend. Following the kiss, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones reacted by tweeting "omg" and "horrible." The Dolphins fined Jones and barred him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.
The conservative media took the opportunity to liken the sensitivity training requirement to being forced into a re-education camp. Fox personalities and guests alike proclaimed that Jones was being sent to a re-education camp, a claim The Washington Times echoed, calling the sensitivity training "modern-day equivalent of a re-education camp." Predictably, Rush Limbaugh joined conservatives decrying Jones "going to re-education camp" as "just creepy."
Real re-education camps are known for their vast human rights violations and still exist in countries like North Korea and China. A report on North Korea's camps in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the inhumane conditions at the camps:
North Koreans can end up in re-education camps for such crimes as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, secretly practicing a religion, or crossing the border to China in search of food. Inmates are subjected to forced labor and are required to memorize political tracts. They receive little food, no medical care and sometimes serve multiyear terms wearing the clothes in which they arrived at camp. I interviewed a woman who had been wearing high heels when she was arrested and had to bind her feet in rags when those wore out. Many prisoners die of abuse or malnutrition.
The New York Times described the conditions in China's "Re-education Through Labor" camps:
Conditions in re-education camps are dire: Physical abuse by guards and the criminal elements they entrust to enforce "order" is common, as are long hours of arduous work with no rest day; institutionalized corruption; deficient health care; and what the Justice Ministry refers to as "abnormal deaths."
Sensitivity training is nothing new in the NFL. In August 2013, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper attended sensitivity training after he used a racial slur. A typical training session lasts between two and four hours.
It should be obvious that comparing sensitivity training for a player's bigoted, anti-gay comments to brutal re-education camps in oppressive regimes are ridiculous, but right-wing media continue to embrace hyperbole in their opposition to gay rights.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News' Sean Hannity repeated a false claim by Fox commentator Karl Rove, who in baselessly implying that Hillary Clinton has brain damage incorrectly asserted that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital following a fall in 2012.
Following reports that Rove questioned the recovery and health of the former secretary of state following a 2012 fall, Hannity parroted many of Rove's false assertions. Rove suggested that Clinton suffered from long-term damage after her fall and attacked the amount of time she spent in the hospital. During his May 13 Fox show, Hannity repeated Rove's false claim that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital, asking, "whoever spends 30 days in the hospital these days?" Fox commentator Dr. Marc Siegel added that Rove is "on to something here":
Hannity repeated the factually incorrect attack earlier in the day on his May 13 radio show:
Both Hannity and Rove are incorrect about the duration of Clinton's hospital stay.Clinton spent four days, not 30 days, in the hospital after a blood clot was discovered in her brain several days after her fall.
UPDATE: During the May 14 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Karl Rove to "set the record straight" about Rove's smears against Clinton. Hannity acknowledged during the interview that Clinton spent four days, not 30 days in the hospital, as both he and Rove falsely claimed. But Hannity failed to acknowledge that he had pushed the false claim that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital:
From the May 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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