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.
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Fox News fearmongered about the costs of proposed federal food safety regulations without informing viewers that foodborne illnesses sicken millions of Americans annually and lead to the deaths of 3,000 people per year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed two food safety regulations -- not yet finalized and still subject to public input -- which, among other safeguards, would require "science- and risk-based standards at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities."
On the April 2 edition of Happening Now, Fox News host Jon Scott and correspondent Shannon Bream reported in detail what one conservative policy group estimated the rules, if adopted, would cost the agriculture industry. While the Fox figures paid brief lip service to the issue of public health -- Bream said that "it's a worthy goal, of course, keeping the food supply safe" -- they omitted any other discussion of consumer safety and the problem of foodborne illness outbreaks.
Specifically, Scott and Bream failed to inform viewers that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year, and contaminated food is responsible for 3,000 deaths annually.
While Bream cited "critics" who claim the new regulations "may be completely unnecessary," a rash of E. coli, salmonella and listeria outbreaks made national headlines in 2012 as the proposed rules were being crafted. Here are a few food safety stories Fox News ignored while questioning the need for stronger food safety rules:
Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.
Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.
While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."
Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.
The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.
Video by Alan Pyke.
Fox News guest host Shannon Bream pushed the absurd notion that the fraud rate in federal disability benefits is 100 percent, claiming that 8.8 million people in the United States are collecting disability benefits "under false pretenses." In fact, 8.8 million is the total number of workers who received Social Security Disability Benefits in 2012.
Previewing an America Live segment on disability benefits fraud, Bream claimed, "There are reportedly 8.8 million people in the U.S. collecting disability benefits under false pretenses."
In fact, the total number of workers who received disability benefits in 2012 was 8.8 million. Claiming that 8.8 million people fraudulently received disability benefits is tantamount to claiming that every disability payment to a worker in 2012 was fraudulent.
In a report published in March 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that improper payments of disability benefits are not a widespread problem. GAO noted that "[f]ederal agencies reported improper payment estimates totaling $115.3 billion in fiscal year 2011, a decrease of $5.3 billion from the revised prior year reported estimate of $120.6 billion. Based on the agencies' estimates, OMB estimated that improper payments comprised about 4.7 percent of the $2.5 trillion in fiscal year 2011 total spending for the agencies' related programs." Of that $115.3 billion, Medicaid payments accounted for $21.9 billion, Supplemental Security Income payments accounted for $4.6 billion, and Disability Insurance payments accounted for $4.5 billion.
Moreover, eligibility criteria for disability benefits are stringent, and more than half of all disability claims are denied. According to data from the Social Security Administration, only 34.8 percent of applicants were successfully awarded disability benefits in 2010, down from 56.1 percent a decade earlier.
Fox News relied on dubious arguments from a conservative group with a history of ethical problems to cast doubt on how the Obama administration is implementing government regulations related to the health care reform law.
In a segment titled "Regulation Nation," anchor Jenna Lee claimed that the health care law's new regulations are on the "fast track" because the public hasn't been afforded enough time to offer input on them before their passage. Correspondent Shannon Bream added that this was in contrast to a 1993 executive order from former President Clinton, which required a minimum of 60 days for comment.
Bream based her reporting on the work of right-wing group Americans for Limited Government, which has a history of ethical problems that include fraud and financial disclosure issues. The group has also been accused of engaging in character attacks.
In fact, the Obama administration has complied with regulatory rules. Moreover, despite Bream's assertion that comment periods should last at least 60 days, there is no required minimum period.
Federal Register guidelines state that "in general, agencies will specify a comment period ranging from 30 to 60 days," but they may also use shorter periods "when that can be justified." Clinton's 1993 executive order recommended that a comment period last at least 60 days "in most cases."
An executive order President Obama signed in January 2011 improving regulation and regulatory review reaffirmed Clinton's order, reading:
To the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days.
Bream ended the segment by claiming that "there have been nearly 6,000 federal regulations proposed just in the last 90 days."
According to the government's regulation website, regulations.gov, there have been 5,803 new postings in the last 90 days. However, more than 4,000 of those are "notices," which include updates to previous regulations, scheduled hearings, grant applications, and meeting announcements. Less than 1,500 are listed as new regulations and rules.
Fox previously used the term "Regulation Nation" to launch a weeklong attack on federal regulations just as the Republican Party announced its push for repealing regulations. Fox also has a history of attacking health care reform.