Fox News misleadingly attacked the federal food stamp program for being wasteful and unaccountable despite reports that the program achieved the lowest payment error rate in its history in the most recently available data.
Fox New complained about the findings of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on quality control in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. The USDA report clearly states that the 2012 fiscal year was "another year of excellent performance in payment accuracy" before noting that the most recent payment error rate of 3.42 percent was once again "the lowest National payment error rate in the history of SNAP."
On the July 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cast the findings in a negative light, stressing that "the government is overpaying on food stamps by about $2 billion." Co-host Steve Doocy then questioned whether the Obama administration could "be trusted with more money," given the overpayments. Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney went on to chastise the Department of Agriculture for labeling the food-stamp payment error rate of 3.42 percent "excellent," wondering aloud "since when has that been good?"
Fox News' mischaracterization of the SNAP report continued throughout the day. On Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee called the USDA report "startling" and said that "the administration is having a tough time managing its funds." On The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson claimed that federal spending on nutrition assistance was "reaching a breaking point" before highlighting the growth of participation in the food stamp program since 2007.
Far from indicating a managerial flaw in the Obama administration, the 2012 payment error rate in SNAP is evidence of success in rooting out improper payments. According to the report being derided on Fox News, the national payment error rate in SNAP during President Obama's first year in office was 4.36 percent. That error rate then fell to 3.81, 3.80, and 3.42 percent in fiscal years 2010-2012, respectively.
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News suggested HGTV ran afoul of the First Amendment when it canceled an upcoming reality show following reports of the hosts' extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism.
HGTV cancelled its forthcoming reality show Flip It Forward following revelations that the hosts, Jason and David Benham, had an extensive history of anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim activism. Examples of the brothers' reported hate speech include David Benham likening the fight against gay marriage to that against Nazi Germany, and participation in protests against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation." Benham has publicly highlighted Leviticus' punishment of death for gay sex and protested in front of mosques shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."
After rushing to defend the brothers by claiming they were being punished for their Christian views, Fox News is now suggesting HGTV's decision to cancel the show violated the Benhams' First Amendment right to free speech.
On July 10, Fox News host Steve Doocy interviewed Jason and David Benham while an on-screen graphic declared they had been "fired for faith." Doocy argued, "You were fired for having an opinion. I mean, there's this thing called the First Amendment where people are entitled to their opinion and their Christian beliefs as well."
But the First Amendment does not protect individuals from being fired by private employers, as it does not limit the actions that private employers may take based on employees' speech. The First Amendment Center explained:
The First Amendment does not limit private employers. The Bill of Rights -- and the First Amendment -- limit only government actors, not private actors. This means that private employers can restrict employee speech in the workplace without running afoul of the First Amendment.
HGTV did not violate the First Amendment rights of the Benhams by dropping their show. As Columbia Law's Suzanne Goldberg pointed out in an interview with CNN, it was most likely a decision to protect the business' brand following widespread outcry against the Benhams' comments. Even David Benham told CNN that he does not hold a grudge against the network, telling Erin Burnett, "It was too much for them to bear and they had to make a business decision."
Fox & Friends continued its bizarre attack on Illinois State University for designating gender-neutral restrooms, but even a group of "Fox fans" didn't seem fazed by the school's attempt to accommodate LGBT students.
Illinois State University recently announced that it would be relabeling several of its single-stall "family" restrooms on campus as "all-gender" restrooms. Though the decision won't alter the functionality of any of the restrooms, the move is meant to accommodate transgender and gender-variant students, who often face harassment and even violence in public restrooms. All-gender restrooms will be identified by a new sign that "will include a symbol of a half of a man and half of a woman."
On July 9, the cast of Fox & Friends mocked the decision, calling the new sign confusing and blaming the change on the "P.C. police."
On July 10, Fox & Friends continued its criticism of the university's decision. Co-host Steve Doocy produced a massive mock-up of an "all-gender" sign and asked a group of "Fox fans" outside the studio what they thought the sign meant.
But none of the fans, including a young boy, seemed to share Doocy's confusion or outrage over the sign:
Less than a minute after noting that the Obama administration requested increased funding for border security, Fox & Friends attacked the Obama administration for failing to request funding for border security.
In a July 9 report, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy described President Obama's request to Congress for $3.7 billion in supplemental funding to deal with the recent increase in border crossings by unaccompanied minors from Central America. As Doocy noted, the request explicitly included $433 million for border protection and "$1.1 billion for homeland security to step up enforcement and to deter border crossings." An on-air graphic underlined the point.
These facts disappeared from Fox's coverage less than a minute later. Co-host Steve Doocy responded to the report by criticizing the White House for allegedly failing to request funds to boost border protection:
DOOCY: Where's the money to stop people from coming in? That's the problem. We need a secure border. You know -- one side says we need it. The other side said 'oh, we have it.' But you've got eight-year-olds just walking across. We need a secure border.
A White House fact sheet outlined how Obama's funding request would be allocated to boost security at the border:
The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - $1.1 billion
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Of this total:
$116 million would pay for transportation costs associated with the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children;
$109 million would provide for immigration and customs enforcement efforts, including expanding the Border Enforcement Security Task Force program, doubling the size of vetted units in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and expanding investigatory activities by ICE Homeland Security Investigations; and
$879 million would pay for detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults traveling with children, expansion of alternatives to detention programs for these individuals, and additional prosecution capacity for adults with children who cross the border unlawfully.
The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection - $433 million
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $433 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Of this total:
$364 million would pay for operational costs of responding to the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families, including overtime and temporary duty costs for Border Patrol agents, contract services and facility costs to care for children while in CBP custody, and medical and transportation service arrangements;
$29 million for CBP to expand its role in Border Enforcement Security Task Force programs, increasing information-sharing and collaboration among the participating law enforcement agencies combatting transnational crime; and
$39.4 million to increase air surveillance capabilities that would support 16,526 additional flight hours for border surveillance and 16 additional crews for unmanned aerial systems to improve detection and interdiction of illegal activity.
Right-wing and even mainstream media have eagerly pushed the suggestion that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is "Obama's Katrina" -- an inane comparison that repeatedly surfaces inside the conservative media echo chamber.
The racially charged and conspiratorial rhetoric protesters spewed at child migrants on their way to temporary housing in Murrieta, California, closely mirrored some of conservative media's favorite xenophobic talking points.
In the first week of July, hundreds of protesters gathered in Murrieta to voice opposition to the planned housing of migrant detainees at the federal Border Patrol station in the city, blocking buses and forcing them to return to the Border Patrol station in San Diego. The buses contained unaccompanied minors and women with children, awaiting deportation proceedings after crossing the U.S. border in Texas to flee violence in Central America.
These protests, along with a preceding Murrieta town hall on July 3, were full of invective -- protesters charged that the "illegal aliens" carried dangerous diseases and were possibly members of gangs and drug cartels. The crowds demanded that the government simply send the children back, screaming chants of "go home" and "U.S.A."
The protestors were so full of vitriol that immigration officials rerouted the migrants' buses to San Diego, citing safety concerns for the women and children aboard.
Media Matters for America researcher Lis Power contributed to this post.
From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News claimed that a move to protect an endangered jumping mouse from ranchers who graze cattle on public lands is "going to run [them] out of business" for a mouse they "can't even find," but the mouse is a critical part of the food chain that can be protected if ranchers simply don't let their cattle trample on its habitat.
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized protection for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which is at risk of extinction chiefly due to excessive cattle grazing. On July 7, Fox News' Fox and Friends hosted rancher Mike Lucero to lash out against the potential that fences will be erected to further protect the local streams that form the mouse's habitat from his cattle. Co-host Steve Doocy suggested that because Lucero has not seen the jumping mouse, it may not even exist anymore, calling it "crazy" that "they're doing all this to protect a mouse that might not even be there":
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is generally nocturnal and hibernates for about nine months a year. It's also "precariously" endangered with only 29 "small" surviving populations, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. So it's not that surprising that Lucero has not seen one of these mice, which are critical because their extinction could disrupt the entire food chain. Jay Lininger of the Center for Biological Diversity explained in a Tech Times article: "They're a highly sought-after food source for a variety of snakes, foxes, and birds like redtail hawks. The entire food chain suffers if the jumping mouse blinks out." The jumping mouse is a "bellwether species" for the Southwestern stream habitats critical to their survival, according to Brian Byrd of WildEarth Guardians. The mouse's stream habitat, critical to preserve clean water in the region, has been degraded primarily due to damaging livestock practices.
While Lucero claimed that protection of the mice's stream habitats will force him "out of business," ranchers can simply pipe water from the river to their cattle rather than letting them go to the river in order to more responsibly graze, according to Lininger. Details such as this have been left out of local media coverage, including an article by New Mexico's largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, titled "Endangered mouse may cost NM ranchers their livelihood" and from the right-wing Franklin Center's New Mexico Watchdog.org.
Fox News host Steve Doocy argued that the decision to try accused Benghazi terrorist Ahmed Abu Khatalla in a civilian court will allow terror networks access to U.S. intelligence, but the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) gives the government and courts broad authority to prevent such disclosures.
A misleading Associated Press (AP) headline sparked a storm of right-wing media accusations that former IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for audit, though records only show that Lerner asked an expert a legal question about an event invitation sent to Grassley and the subject of her inquiry was unclear.
Right-wing media jumped to parrot a June 25 AP headline that claimed newly released emails show "IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator." The Drudge Report linked to the AP story with the claim "IRS Lerner Targeted GOP Senator," the Daily Caller argued that newly discovered emails from Lerner show "the former IRS Exempt Organizations director's attempt to audit GOP Sen. Chuck," and The Washington Times claimed that Lerner "tried to get her agency to conduct an audit" of Grassley. On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said Lerner decided "I've got to target that guy, even though she didn't have any of the facts."
But as the actual AP article pointed out, the email exchange between Lerner and Giuliano does not support the claims forwarded in its own headline and by right-wing media. Lerner initially asked if an event organizer's offer to pay for Grassley's wife to attend an event warranted examination. Lerner mentioned the possibility that the offer was inappropriate but did not specify whether she was suggesting that Grassley should be examined:
Is this the one where we got the copy to Grassley? Did he get one to me? Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?
Giuliano was similarly focused on the event host. He noted that that the invitation from the group was not enough to warrant sending the issue to the IRS Exam Department, because Grassley had not yet accepted the invitation, and said the issue would only warrant further investigation if Grassley later failed to report the offer as income. In her response, Lerner didn't indicate interest in pursuing the issue further.
MSNBC's Steve Benen summarized the exchange:
Behold, yesterday's blockbuster that set the right's hair on fire. Lerner questioned whether a group had done something wrong, talked to a colleague, and then dropped the whole thing.
Right-wing media have dishonestly portrayed recent reports of children fleeing across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence in Central America, even portraying the immigrants as dangerous disease-carriers, terrorists, and cartel members.
Fox News is reviving accusations that NASA's peer-reviewed adjustments to temperature data are an attempt to "fak[e]" global warming, a claim that even a climate "skeptic" threw cold water on.
Tony Heller, a birther who criticizes climate science under the pseudonym "Steven Goddard," wrote a blog post that claimed "NASA cooled 1934 and warmed 1998, to make 1998 the hottest year in US history instead of 1934." After the Drudge Report promoted a report of this allegation by the conservative British newspaper The Telegraph, conservative media from Breitbart to The Washington Times claimed the data was "fabricated" or "faked." On June 24, Fox & Friends picked it up, claiming that "the U.S. has actually been cooling since the 1930s" but scientists had "faked the numbers":
However, the libertarian magazine Reason noted that even climate "skeptic" blogger Anthony Watts said that Goddard made "major errors in his analysis" and criticized the implication that "numbers are being plucked out of thin air in a nefarious way."
In fact, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA, which both maintain temperature records that use slightly different methods but show close agreement, have publicly documented the peer-reviewed adjustments they make to raw data. NCDC states that the "most important bias in the U.S. temperature record occurred with the systematic change in observing times from the afternoon, when it is warm, to morning, when it is cooler," and so it must correct this cool bias as well as other biases that, for example, result from moving temperature stations.
NASA's data shows that the nation has not been "cooling" since the 1930s, with several years, including 2012, ranking hotter than 1934 in the continental United States, along with a long-term warming trend. And while The Sean Hannity Show claimed that this shows the "Earth has been cooling," the continental United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface -- global surface temperatures have increased significantly.
Fox News hosts read directly from Walmart's official corporate script to defend the company against a critical New York Times op-ed that indicated the retailer's role in perpetuating the need for government assistance programs.
On June 19, The New York Times published an op-ed calling Walmart "a big part of the problem" of rising economic inequality in the United States. Citing data from multiple sources, opinion columnist Timothy Egan noted that the average "associate" at Walmart makes between $8.81 and $11 per hour, frequently relying on government anti-poverty relief to fill income gaps. Egan noted that Walmart claims its average employee makes "at least $12 per hour," but that "these numbers are skewed by higher pay for management." Egan cited a recent exposé by Fortune senior editor Stephen Gandel detailing how the company could easily give a 50 percent raise to more than one million employees without hurting its stock value or profitability:
No matter the exact figure, there's no dispute that Walmart's business model forces thousands of hard-working people to look for outside help just to get by.
And under that model, Walmart has made a fortune -- $17 billion in profits last year, executive compensation for one man at the top in excess of $20 million a year, and a windfall making the six heirs of the founding Walton family worth at least $150 billion.
Walmart could make life easier for its 1.4 million workers, without diminishing its stock value. Writing in Fortune.com, Stephen Gandel concluded that Walmart could give workers a 50 percent raise without hurting shareholder value.
On the June 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney dedicated a segment to supposedly fact-checking the Times, pulling pushback directly from Walmart's officially sanctioned corporate response.
Varney called the Times op-ed "utter nonsense," and an attempt to "demonize Walmart." Ignoring that Egan acknowledged the dispute over Walmart's average hourly wage in the op-ed, Varney stated that the author "got it wrong" as he recited Walmart's more palatable average wage claim. Doocy and Varney uncritically agreed that the data supplied by Walmart was "all true" before pivoting to place blame for economic inequality at the feet of the Obama administration:
Despite Fox's unabashed foray into corporate public relations, Timothy Egan's statement holds true: "No matter the exact figure, there's no dispute that Walmart's business model forces thousands of hard-working people to look for outside help just to get by."
Fox News helped Republican Gov. Scott Walker (WI) rehabilitate his image following newly released details on a criminal investigation into potential coordination between Walker's recall campaign and outside spending groups, dismissing allegations of wrongdoing as merely attempts "to trash him."
Documents unsealed on June 19 offered details on an extensive investigation into whether the Walker campaign was involved in a "criminal scheme" to illegally coordinate campaign activities with outside spending groups during his 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
Walker took to Fox & Friends the following day for a softball interview to respond to the allegations.
Walker repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, emphasizing that the investigation was halted by a federal judge. Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, speculating "These are documents that, for a case that does not exist anymore, it's not going anywhere, and they're just opening it up -- it looks like they're just trying to trash you." When Walker responded that the allegations detailed in the documents are nothing more than attacks by political opponents and the media, Doocy went on:
DOOCY: So the show's over, but they're trying to trash you. Are they trying to do to you what they did to Chris Christie in New Jersey?
Scott Walker, answering the charges. Not that there are any charges, just people trying to trash him.
It is true that the nearly two-year-old investigation is currently halted, and that no charges have yet been filed. But what Fox and Walker fail to admit is that the issue appears far from over. As Vox explained:
State law requires that any such nonprofits spending on election ads do so independently, without any coordination with Walker or his aides. Prosecutors are arguing that they didn't do so -- that, instead, Walker and two of his campaign consultants participated in a "criminal scheme" to "utilize and direct" the nonprofits' behavior. The investigation is being conducted under Wisconsin's unique John Doe law, which allows for many of the proceedings to be kept secret. The district attorney of Milwaukee, a Democrat, initiated the probe, but several other county prosecutors joined in, and a special prosecutor has since been appointed.
Importantly, no charges have been filed against anyone, and none appear imminent. Most of the legal wrangling so far has focused instead on whether prosecutors had probable cause to raid and subpoena documents from the consultants and nonprofit groups they believe to be involved.
It's an investigation being led by both Democrats and Republicans across five counties. In January and May 2014, a state judge and federal district court judge, respectively, ruled that prosecutors issued subpoenas without probable case during the investigation, but the state judge later stayed his own order, and the matter is currently pending before a federal appellate panel, which released the new documents at the prosecutors' request.