Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol praised Republican efforts to force congressional staffers to foot the entire cost of their health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"), pretending any subsides Congressional staffers receive from their employer would be tantamount to "special treatment."
With the deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown looming, Republican Senator David Vitter (LA) proposed an amendment to the spending bill that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown. His proposal, passed by the House on a 228 - 201 vote, eliminates health care subsidies members of Congress and their staff will receive from their employer, the federal government, to help pay the cost of their coverage under the Obamacare exchanges.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised the plan as an "extremely strong, political, and substantive" provision during an appearance on the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report. Discussing the possibility of a government shutdown, Kristol claimed:
KRISTOL: This is the best political ground for them to fight on ... They are getting rid of the exemption -- the special treatment for congressmen who get special treatment -- better than that of anyone else who's forced into the exchanges.
When host Bret Baier pointed out that even some Republican congressmen disagreed with the measure because they "don't think that their staff should have to feel the pain here," Kristol doubled down:
KRISTOL: I think the House Republicans are intelligent to insist on it, to prevent the Obama administration's change of it and to say, 'I'm sorry, there's no reason Congress or their staffs, nice people though they are, should get a better break than all the other Americans who are being forced into the exchanges under Obamacare.'
The "better break" Kristol cites is actually a special punishment targeted at congressional staff members, a punishment Vitter and House Republicans are fighting to continue.
Fox News political analyst Brit Hume and anchor Bret Baier attempted to shift responsibility for the possible government shutdown from Republicans to Democrats by blaming biased reporting from the "mainstream media" and not the actions of Republicans in Congress for the popular perception that Republicans would be responsible for a government shutdown.
The government may shut down after Republicans attempted to use a looming government shutdown as leverage to defund the Affordable Care Act. According to the Huffington Post, the GOP-led House of Representatives "passed a stopgap funding bill Friday that will shut down the government unless Democrats agree to defund President Barack Obama's marquee health care law." Economists fear that a government shutdown -- especially if it were followed by a potential default on the federal debt -- could hurt financial markets, elevate the unemployment rate, and further slow a sluggish economic recovery. More than 783,000 federal employees could be sent home, according to a CNN analysis.
On the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Baier introduced a commentary from Hume by claiming, "The mainstream media across the board has apparently made its call about who will be to blame if the government shutdown occurs, partial or not." Hume then elaborated, saying, "One reason people think Republicans are to blame for government shutdowns is so much of the media keep telling them that's the case."
A recent CNN poll found that 46% of Americans believe that the GOP would be responsible for a government shutdown, while 69% of Americans believe Republican members of Congress have acted "mostly like spoiled children." Americans may feel that way because, acccording to Mother Jones, "Republicans have been very clear all along that they were deliberately stringing out the budget process so they could use a shutdown as leverage for their demands." Even other Republicans have been critical of the shutdown strategy, with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), famously calling it the "dumbest idea I'd ever heard."
Fox's own pundits have been divided. Sean Hannity said that defunding the ACA via a government shutdown is "the hill to die on," for the GOP. Charles Krauthammer described that same strategy as "really dumb," and "nuts." But those comments both acknowledge the GOP's responsibility for employing a strategy that could shut down the government.
In reality, Democrats have already shown a "willingness to compromise," according to Roll Call, which reported that "House Democratic leaders said on Monday that they are prepared to vote for a rider-free continuing resolution at sequester levels -- a cave from earlier condemnations of the House-passed $986 billion topline." Roll Call's David Hawkings reported that, unless Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner changes his mind, the shutdown is inevitable, but that's not likely because Republican leadership are under too much pressure from within their own party to compromise.
Hume previously acknowledged the right wing media's role in fueling such partisan showdowns in Congress, saying of some Republicans in Congress, "if you're sitting over in the House of Representatives and some measure to defund Obamacare comes along and you think it's a suicide mission because it might involve a government shutdown you're going to be hesitant to oppose it anyway because you don't want the most conservative -- you don't want the tea party and you don't want the conservative radio talk show hosts on your back."
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has condemned Fox News for smearing the American children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In a post on the association's website, NAHJ president Hugo Balta wrote that the segment was not only "disappointing" but that there "were many things wrong" with it.
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed new data from Los Angeles County officials showing that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In his post criticizing the segment, Balta stated:
There were many things wrong with this segment, beginning with the use of the derogatory term "illegal immigrant" and undocumented in the same breath as if these terms are interchangeable -- of course they're not. That inaccuracy was compounded by the use of a graphic that read "Children of the Corn". There have been many speculations as to what this meant -- but one thing is certain it invoked a negative image.
Balta further stated that NAHJ has reached out to Fox "in an effort to get a better understanding of how this segment, riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images made air." He then asked which journalists had allowed such a derogatory segment to appear on air, writing, "Experience has shown that most likely none were representative of the Latino community."
After noting the economic impact of the Latino community, Balta concluded: "Stick to the facts."
As The Huffington Post noted, NAHJ has campaigned against the media's use of the term "illegal immigrant" for years. In an October 2012 op-ed for Fox News Latino arguing that "human beings are not illegal," Balta wrote that the term, along with "illegal aliens" and "illegals," are "demeaning titles" that "are not only inaccurate and disrespectful, but a propaganda tool used to dehumanize a group of people and instill fear in the general population in order to establish policy."
Fox News has a long history of inflammatory attacks on immigrants. In fact, a Media Matters analysis of Fox News prime-time coverage found that, between November 2012 and February 2013, hosts and guests repeatedly used anti-immigrant terms to discuss immigrants.
In May 2012, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera called on media to stop using dehumanizing terms for undocumented immigrants. He told Media Matters at the time that he had made his opposition to such phrases "very, very clear" to Fox employees "from top to bottom," but stopped short of any further direct criticism of the network.
Fox News misrepresented the TRUST Act, a California immigration bill that would limit law enforcement's ability to detain undocumented immigrants for deportation, claiming the legislation will allow criminals to go free. In fact, the bill is aimed at shielding undocumented victims and witnesses to crimes, as well as those who have committed only minor offenses, from deportation. It also seeks to stop criminalizing undocumented immigrants for the sole civil offense of being in the country illegally.
The bill, formally known as Assembly Bill 4, was passed by the California state legislature on September 10. Gov. Jerry Brown has until October 17 to sign it into law. The bill states:
This bill would prohibit a law enforcement official, as defined, from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless, at the time that the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, certain conditions are met, including, among other things, that the individual has been convicted of specified crimes.
The bill lists some of the crimes that would prompt law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants for the 48-hour immigration hold, including violent and serious felonies such as rape, assault, robbery, and selling drugs.
The bill also argues that Secure Communities (S-Comm) -- the controversial and widely criticized program under which law enforcement can detain undocumented immigrants for deportation -- "and immigration detainers harm community policing efforts because immigrant residents who are victims of or witnesses to crime, including domestic violence, are less likely to report crime or cooperate with law enforcement when any contact with law enforcement could result in deportation." The text continues:
The program can result in a person being held and transferred into immigration detention without regard to whether the arrest is the result of a mistake, or merely a routine practice of questioning individuals involved in a dispute without pressing charges. Victims or witnesses to crimes may otherwise have recourse to lawful status (such as U-visas or T-visas) that detention resulting from the Secure Communities program obstructs.
In an article on the S-Comm program, California's KPBS reported that in the city of Escondido, "collaboration between the city's police and federal immigration activists has caused tension in the city's Latino communities for years." The article continued:
Agents have been present at the police department's driver's license and sobriety checkpoints, and in the city's jails.
Activists say this kind collaboration diminishes public safety because immigrants are less likely to trust police or report crime if they fear that interacting with police could get them deported.
But in a segment on the TRUST Act for Fox News' Special Report, correspondent William La Jeunesse suggested the bill would allow violent criminals to go free and avoid deportation if they are in the country illegally. His report included Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle saying, "If you or I were victimized by someone stealing our identity, or selling drugs in our community, or burglarizing our homes or embezzling our money, that that's OK. That's a minor crime."
Fox News is continuing its practice of appealing to conservative viewers while also pandering to the growing Latino influence in the United States.
In a report on American children in Los Angeles County whose parents are undocumented, Fox News used phrases such as "Alien Nation" and "Children of the Corn" to illustrate the story. In another report, the cable channel celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month -- a month-long tribute to Hispanic Americans starting on September 15 -- with a feature on the immigrant roots of Goya Foods.
On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report guest-hosted by Chris Wallace, the program used several inflammatory graphics during a segment called "The Grapevine" to highlight a new analysis by Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." According to the data, the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
On Special Report, Wallace stated that the LA County data is "more proof of the economic impact of the immigration debate." As he cited the numbers, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. One read: "Children of the Corn":
"Children of the Corn" is the name of a 1977 short horror story by Stephen King, which tells of a murderous cult of children in a remote town who kill everyone over the age of 18. The story was adapted for film in 1984; at least eight other movies followed.
Wallace nor Special Report explained or referred to the graphics during the segment, which also featured one reading: "Alien Nation":
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the September 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Right-wing media have rushed to heap praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin for a proposal to allow Syria to avoid U.S. air strikes by surrendering all of its chemical weapons to the international community, despite the fact that Russia was responding to statements by Secretary of State John Kerry and that President Obama supports the solution.
From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture the claim that President Obama is abusing executive power by delaying implementation of the health care law's employer mandate and directing federal prosecutors to avoid maximum drug sentences in some cases, despite the legality of both practices.
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed Attorney General Eric Holder's directive that federal prosecutors omit evidence that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences for some non-violent drug offenders is unlawful and reflects a pattern of "repeated lawlessness" by the Obama administration. But Holder is simply advising prosecutors to use their already-existing power to decide what evidence to include in their cases.
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.
From the August 6 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier:
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While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and "nuts."
Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.
Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will "inflict substantial harm on the economy."
Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a "litmus test" for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.
In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:
Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?
Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.
Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was "common sense."
Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be "ludicrous" and "nuts." On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea "works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president" but is "ludicrous" as a winning legislative strategy.