Fox host Shannon Bream and correspondent Molly Henneberg continued Fox's relentless campaign to demonize Planned Parenthood and stoke fears about their participation in an initiative to expand health insurance. Bream and Henneberg dishonestly linked abortion with federal funds going to Planned Parenthood to cover federal funds helping enroll Americans in health insurance.
On the August 22 edition of America Live, Bream proclaimed there was "outrage over a new plan to give federal money to Planned Parenthood," and concluded that "critics are upset that the government wants to give funds to clinics that also provide abortions." Henneberg brought up the irrelevant red herring that Planned Parenthood is "the largest abortion provider in the country":
Despite Henneberg's dishonest attempt to tie the funding to abortion, the purpose of the navigators is to provide "'fair, impartial and accurate information that assists consumers with submitting the eligibility application, clarifying distinctions among [qualified health plans] and helping qualified individuals make informed decisions during the health plan selection process.'"
Henneberg then attempted to portray the funds as a broken promise by the president by claiming Obama said "no federal dollars that fund Obamacare would go to abortion providers." As The Daily Beast's Amanda Marcotte notes, this is a blatant falsehood:
Well, if you're watching Fox, you'd think it's apocalyptic. Right-wing radio host Mike Gallagher acted like there was nothing more outrageous than a public health clinic getting involved in a program that helps people get better access to health care. "I always try to anticipate what my friends on the left will possibly say to try to defend this egregious about-face," he chuckled on Fox. The "about-face" is a reference to the overt lie underpinning this entire campaign against Planned Parenthood, which is the conservative claim that Obama somehow promised that Planned Parenthood as an entity would not get any federal funding under the Affordable Care Act. Obama made no such promise. He signed an executive order disallowing abortion to be covered in health-care plans sold on the exchange, but signing people up for health care should not be equated with giving them abortions or even giving them plans that cover abortion. That's like saying the Department of Motor Vehicles is casting your ballot for you by giving you the opportunity to register to vote--an outright and inflammatory lie.
Fox even read a statement by Planned Parenthood Vice President Eric Ferrero, who assured that the grants "have nothing to do with abortion and won't be used for abortion services," which would fulfill Obama's promise.
Planned Parenthood is one of 105 groups to receive federal funds under the Affordable Care Act to aid in enrolling Americans in health insurance. According to The Hill, "organizations on the other side of the ideological spectrum also received grants," including Ascension Health, the nation's largest Catholic and non-profit health system, and Catholic Social Services, an arm of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.
Fox News attempted to smear a new Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach campaign by claiming that Deepak Bhargava, the head of an organization affiliated with the effort, was involved in the manufactured ACORN video scandal. Fox's attempt to smear the campaign ignores that Bhargava left ACORN over ten years ago and was in no way affiliated with the video scandal hyped by the network.
In 2009, conservative activist James O'Keefe targeted the community organizing group ACORN with a series of deceptively-edited sting videos that attempted to demonstrate widespread criminality at the organization. The videos were widely promoted by Fox and the conservative media, and the ensuing bad publicity forced the organization to shut down. But subsequent investigations found that the group had broken no laws.
Bhargava, a former government affairs official at ACORN, is now the executive director for the Center for Community Change, a group that funds an organization named the Young Invincibles. On August 19, the Daily Mail Online reported that the Young Invincibles is partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services for a video contest to assist with ACA outreach. The article used the connection between Young Invincibles and the Center for Community Change to invoke the conservative bogeyman of the defunct ACORN:
In its heyday, ACORN's legislative agenda was managed by Deepak Bhargava, an Indian-born community organizer. Bhargava left ACORN in 2002 after holding the top government affairs position there for 10 years. He is now executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Community Change.
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was among the most vocal Republicans during the 2010 battle over ACORN's federal funding, told MailOnline that the White House is risking a public backlash with its choice of partnerships.
'The fact that the Obama administration is putting a senior staffer of the now defunct and notoriously corrupt ACORN in charge of giving away cash to bribe young Americans into accepting Obamacare is cause for grave concern,' Gosar said.
Fox News is using an ad opposing Stand Your Ground self-defense laws that reenacted the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to revive the false claim that Florida's Stand Your Ground statute played no role in the acquittal of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman.
On August 19, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence released an online ad reenacting the night Martin was killed as part of an effort to seek the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws, which are on the books in more than 20 states. Those laws drew controversy after Martin's death, with critics claiming Florida's broad self-defense statute had provided Zimmerman with too much leeway to kill Martin without repercussion. On July 13, a Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder or manslaughter in Martin's killing. Two days later, a juror told CNN that they felt neither crime applied because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under Stand Your Ground, which should have ended all debate over whether the law played a role in the case.
But while discussing the CSGV ad on the August 20 edition of America Live, guest anchor Shannon Bream said, "Let me also start with the fact that the Stand Your Ground law was not used in the Zimmerman case, but that's what this ad is all about. Does it do a disservice to both sides of this debate if we're starting from a place that's not even factually accurate?"
After radio host Richard Fowler attempted to correct Bream by accurately stating that the Stand Your Ground defense was described in instructions to the jury, Larson falsely responded, "No, it wasn't."
From the August 20 edition of America Live:
BREAM: Richard, let me also start with the fact that the Stand Your Ground law was not used in the Zimmerman case, but that's what this ad is all about. Does it do a disservice to both sides of this debate if we're starting from a place that's not even factually accurate?
FOWLER: The facts are that the Stand Your Ground law was in the jury instructions and beyond that --
LARSON: No, it wasn't. No it wasn't.
Larson is wrong. The publicly available Zimmerman trial jury instructions -- which were entirely based on Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law -- stated: "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
The jury instructions are nearly identical in wording to the text of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. According to Dan Gelber, a former Florida state senator and former prosecutor who opposes the law, Stand Your Ground "fundamentally changed the analysis used by juries to assign blame in these cases." The law was also important to the case because it was cited by authorities as a reason for why Zimmerman was not initially arrested after shooting Martin.
Fox News promised to continue highlighting segments from its report, "The Great Food Stamp Binge," an hour-long attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders. One participant in the report, an advocate against hunger, described it a "tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies."
On the August 12 edition of Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream played an excerpt of Bret Baier's report on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (commonly referred to as food stamps) and promised to continue highlighting parts of the report throughout the week:
Later that evening, Fox's Bill O'Reilly also pushed the report, contending that SNAP shows that the Obama administration "encourag[es] parasites to come out and take as much as they can with no remorse."
Media Matters has noted that the report is a wild misrepresentation of SNAP recipients. One advocate featured in the report, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, called it a "tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies" that "could win the Pulitzer Prize ... for fiction." From Berg's statement:
Once again, Fox News is blaming the victim, claiming that low-income families - who are victims of the continued collapse in the U.S economy and the failure of the U.S. political system to fix it - are somehow to blame because they need temporary help from SNAP benefits to feed their families. That's like blaming those who drowned on the Titanic for the ship's faulty design and reckless piloting. Ignoring the fact that most SNAP participants are working, or are senior citizens, children, people with disabilities, and veterans, the show repeatedly gives the false impression that the program encourages laziness instead of work. Even though there are 47 million Americans now receiving SNAP benefits, the show focuses on one individual - yes, one - who abuses the system.
[T]he Fox show is a tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. In fact, were it not for the half-truths, the report would have no truths at all.
This post has been updated.
Fox dumped Glenn Beck after his bizarre conspiracy theories and rhetoric reportedly caused the network's advertisers to balk. Now Fox appears to be clinging to one of his classic distortions, characterizing a government effort utilizing behavioral psychology to reduce fraud, error and debt as "mind control."
FoxNews.com reported that it obtained a document outlining plans for the government to hire a "Behavioral Insights Team" that "will look for ways to subtly influence people's behavior." The United Kingdom has implemented several related initiatives. In one instance the U.K. government sent out reminder letters to late taxpayers, leading to increased tax revenue.
The ideas behind this type of initiative were laid out in Professor Cass Sunstein's book, Nudge. When Sunstein joined the Obama administration as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Beck launched a campaign to demonize him and his ideas.
Right-wing media have baselessly smeared the White House's new Behavioral Insights Team, labeling it "propaganda," "mind control," and "Orwellian." In reality, the Behavioral Insights Team is modeled off a similar unit in Britain that has proven effective in encouraging timely tax payment and reducing energy bills and consumption.
Conservative media seized on White House plans to create a Behavioral Insights Team on July 30, when FoxNews.com obtained a document describing the program and its search for behavioral scientists.
Breitbart.com quickly jumped on the story, suggesting that the Obama administration will use the program to push a social agenda: "The Obama administration has not been shy about attempting to use its influence - or taxpayer money - to push enthusiasm for its agenda, including Obamacare, nutrition, and gay rights."
Fox stoked fears by hyping the program on multiple shows with little mention of its benefits. On the July 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs commented on FoxNews.com's report on the program, saying, "To many, that sounds purely like propaganda and mind control."
Fox News hosted conservative activist and media critic Brent Bozell to defend a widely criticized interview by Fox's Lauren Green and continue the right-wing media's attack on Muslim scholar Reza Aslan.
During an interview with writer and scholar Reza Aslan, Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green ignored the content of his book and his academic credentials, instead repeatedly questioning the motivation and propriety of a Muslim writing a book about Jesus, suggesting a religious bias.
Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, defended Green during the America Live segment, saying: "I'll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked." He went on to criticize Aslan's response to Green's suggestion of religious bias -- that he's a scholar of religions, that it's his job to write about religion -- calling it arrogant and further claiming that if Aslan was indeed writing without bias, then "he's not a very good Muslim."
Green has come under widespread criticism for the interview. As Media Matters pointed out, Green failed to meet her own standards since she, a Christian, has reported on Muslims in the past. Aslan responded to his interview with Green by pointing out Fox's "inherent anti-Muslim bias."
Green's interview has since been described by critics as "atrocious." Abe Levy, a religion writer for the San Antonio Express-News wrote: "anyone can scrutinize a particular faith if they have studied it, you don't have to be of that particular faith. In my line of work, you want to have a deep respect for a particular religion, even if it is not your own, but you don't have to be of a particular faith to cover it." A former writer for Christianity Today magazine said: "when it comes to the author, she could have looked at his credentials, she was trying to get at a controversy and wasn't sure what the controversy was."
The interview first gained attention after Buzzfeed posted it under the headline "Is This The Most Embarrasing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?" The segment was also described by Slate as "the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News."
Fox News declined to air President Obama's economic speech, despite offering a pre-rebuttal of his agenda.
On July 30, President Obama was scheduled to address his agenda for sustainable economic growth and recovery at an Amazon shipping facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On the July 30 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Shannon Bream and guest Dana Perino chastised the president's previous economic proposals as a preview to his upcoming speech. Perino stated that the Obama administration's "speeches end up being like cotton candy, you know what, melts on contact? So I give them a C minus when it comes to the content of their speeches."
Shortly thereafter, Bream informed viewers that those interested in the speech could follow it on Foxnews.com.
As the speech started, rather than airing the president's remarks, Fox brought on guest Chris Stirewalt to continue the network's general attack on his policy proposals without any context from the actual speech. Stirewalt explained that the speech offered little pragmatic solutions, and was solely based around the president's alleged desire to show he is willing to compromise.
Earlier in the day, Bream questioned on Twitter whether anyone was "still listening" to the president on the economy.
Fox News offered Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a platform to promote his petition to defund President Obama's health care law, an effort that has been repeatedly pushed by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
On the July 29 edition of Fox News' America Live, guest host Shannon Bream hosted Cruz to promote his petition to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the interview, Bream praised Cruz's background, saying, "The first time I met you was when you argued a case at the Supreme Court. You seem very familiar with the Constitution." Cruz appealed to Fox viewers, declaring that "the only way" to stop funding of health care reform is if Americans "go to dontfundit.com, we sign a national petition, and every one of us picks up the phone, calls our elected officials and says, 'Talk is cheap. Stand up, use the constitutional power of the purse and defund Obamacare now.' If we stand together, we can win this fight."
Bream is not the first Fox News host to hype the right-wing campaign to defund the ACA. On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity has repeatedly threatened Republicans to support defunding, even to the point of threatening primary challenges to those who don't comply. After Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) threatened to shut down the government if the health care law was not defunded, Hannity hosted Lee on his show, saying:
This is an interesting moment -- I think -- and a test for the Republican Party. Are they going to be the conservative alternative? How many members of the House and Senate ran on repealing Obamacare? Now they can vote symbolically or they can take this stand, is what you're telling them to do. I'm supporting you. I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here. Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down.
After President Obama acknowledged the fact that language in the Vietnamese declaration of independence was inspired by its American counterpart, Fox News attacked Obama's remarks as "stupid" and wondered whether he had offended Vietnam War veterans -- an attempt by Fox to manufacture yet another phony scandal.
On July 25, President Obama met with Vietnam's president, Truong Tan Sang, in hopes of strengthening trade ties and military cooperation. During the press conference that followed, the president acknowledged the fact that the Vietnamese declaration of independence used language inspired by America's declaration in an effort to stress the long, if troubled history between the two nations.
Fox analysts Ralph Peters and Oliver North agreed that Obama's statements were "stupid." Peters accused the president of being uneducated, saying, "This guy doesn't know our past." In a previous segment, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt theorized that the President Obama "may not have studied that or been aware of," our history with Vietnam, or perhaps got "carried away rhetorically in trying to make his guest feel at home."
All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
After initially misreporting and downplaying the damage done to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by a recent Supreme Court decision, Fox News almost completely ignored the law until the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated it will once again be enforced.
As was expected by election law experts, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the DOJ will once again enforce the VRA against Texas' recent changes to its election practices, which federal courts have already blocked as racially discriminatory. Because these previous injunctions were based on the "preclearance" powers of Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA -- now nullified by the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling June 25 in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4 was outdated -- the DOJ is bringing its new lawsuit under a different provision, Section 3.
Despite host Shannon Bream's promise to keep her panel "straight," a segment on the July 25 edition of Fox News' America Live featuring conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen inaccurately explained the new VRA action and repeated long-debunked GOP talking points on voter ID.
Thiessen's claim that voter ID laws "don't disenfranchise anybody" because there are ID requirements for other government services that are not fundamental constitutional rights is not only a silly comparison, it's sloppy.
After calling today's presidential address on the economy "a case of political déjà vu," America Live guest host Shannon Bream claimed that the economy has "mostly struggled" since Obama took office, despite evidence to the contrary.
The July 24 edition of Fox News' America Live opened with a preview of President Obama's economic speech taking place at Knox College in Illinois. Bream immediately framed Obama's economic record negatively, saying, "Critics argue, they think it's just going to be more of the same, returning to themes of higher taxes and higher spending, leaving some thinking he's just out of ideas. President Obama took office, since then the economy has mostly struggled." She then asked, "If the critics are right and there's nothing new here, what is the speech really all about?"
But in fact, housing prices have consistently risen, the Dow Jones Industrial average, also on the rise, has posted record highs, and private sector job growth has steadily increased since February 2010:
Although the economy has improved, Republican obstructionism "has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity," Guardian columnist Michael Cohen argued. Economic experts have argued that lowering public sector spending has held the economy back and government spending cuts have consistently lowered GDP growth in recent years, but Bream made no mention of Republican plans to gut the president's proposals to remedy this.
From the July 24 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News reported on House Republicans' removal of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) from an agriculture bill by parroting Republican falsehoods about the program. The report hyped Republicans' false accusations that SNAP, commonly known as food stamps, is rife with fraud and has no vetting process without challenging the claims. The segment also ignored what others in the media have reported -- that separating SNAP funding from the farm bill could lead to major cuts in the program.
Last week, House Republicans passed an agriculture bill, commonly known as the farm bill, without including funding for the SNAP program. The move stripped SNAP from the farm bill, where it has been since 1973, according to the New York Times.
During the July 15 edition of Fox News' America Live, correspondent Shannon Bream reported on the removal of SNAP, claiming the vote would not end SNAP and that no one would be cut off due to the House-version of the farm bill. Bream highlighted Republicans' purported opinions on the program: "Republicans say the system is filled with fraud and that claims made by applicants aren't vetted or verified in any way."
In fact, SNAP has a very low instance of fraud. The trafficking rate, when a SNAP benefit is exchanged for cash, is only one cent per dollar, and that's down from 1993 when it was four cents. The chief economist of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Chad Stone, wrote:
[SNAP] has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program. SNAP error rates (benefit overpayments and underpayments) are at an all-time low; just 3 percent of benefits went to ineligible households or exceeded the allowable benefit for eligible households. Moreover, honest mistakes by recipients, eligibility workers, data entry clerks or computer programmers - not fraud - account for an overwhelming majority of such overpayments.
Rules for SNAP eligibility vary by state, but applicants must verify household income is below a certain standard and that assets do not exceed a given amount.
Ironically, according to the Times, non-SNAP programs contained the farm bill suffer higher fraud and abuse rates than SNAP.
While Bream's claim that the House-passed farm bill does not cut SNAP is technically correct, she ignored what many others in the media have acknowledged -- that, as the Washington Post wrote, "The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money." Fox's Trace Gallagher even introduced the segment by referring to a "food fight ... where lawmakers are taking aim at the exploding cost of food stamps."
Fox News distorted the testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder to claim that he committed perjury before the House Judiciary Committee last week.
It was recently revealed that the Justice Department obtained a search warrant for the communications records of Fox News reporter James Rosen in an effort to track down a leaker who provided him with classified information on North Korea in 2009. On May 15, during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Holder about the warrant and the potential for prosecuting journalists accused of publishing classified information that they obtained from government sources. Holder responded (emphasis added):
With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something that I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.
On May 24, the Justice Department released a statement clarifying Holder's involvement in the approval process for the warrants in question (emphasis added):
"The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General. After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant."
Fox News' Special Report on May 24 argued that these statements were inconsistent and concluded that the Attorney General had previously lied to the Judiciary Committee and thus had committed perjury. Host Shannon Bream began the show stating, "It's his story, but he's not sticking to it," claiming that Holder has "chang[ed] his tune" on his involvement in the scrutiny of journalists. Contributor Steve Hayes claimed that Holder's two statements were "incongruent" and Charles Krauthammer speculated that it may be "a case of perjury."
In fact, the statements are not "incongruent" whatsoever. Holder's comments to the Judiciary referred to the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information, but that is not the crime the Justice Department's warrant accused Rosen of committing. DOJ investigators were concerned with Rosen's solicitation of classified information, not any subsequent publication of it. Wired explained (emphasis added):
According to the affidavit (.pdf), FBI Agent Reginald Reyes told the judge there was probable cause to believe that Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by serving "as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" in the leak. The Espionage Act is the same law that former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused of violating when he leaked information to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.
To support his assertion, Reyes quoted an email exchange between Kim and Rosen, in which Rosen told him that he was interested in "breaking news ahead of my competitors" and had a particular interest in "what intelligence is picking up." He also told Kim, "I'd love to see some internal State Department analyses."
The suggestion was that Rosen broke the law by soliciting information from Kim, something that all journalists do routinely with sources.
Nonetheless, the federal judge found there was probable cause to believe that Rosen was a co-conspirator and approved the warrant.
In other words, Holder's on-the-record denial of involvement in any prosecution of news organizations for publishing classified information in no way conflicts with any knowledge he may have possessed or action the DOJ may have taken against reporters for soliciting said information. Fox's perjury accusations simply don't align with the facts.