In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
Right-wing media outlets pounced on unsubstantiated claims that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pre-screens the press' questions before his daily press briefings.
Right-wing media personalities continued their tradition of attacking President Obama for filling out NCAA college basketball brackets, this time attacking Obama for filling it out while Russia annexed Crimea.
Following an announcement that House Republican leaders will unveil a set of "principles" for guiding debate on immigration reform, conservative media urged Republicans to reject these and any attempts to pass immigration reform legislation this year. This is the latest in a series of conservative media attacks against the immigration reform effort that began in 2013.
If you are a woman, you no longer have the same rights you had 41 years ago.
January 22 is the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, in which the court ruled that women have a constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.
But in the intervening decades, that right has largely disappeared, a process helped by media outlets that have misinformed on these safe and legal health procedures.
Thanks to Supreme Court rulings that came after Roe, states are now free to regulate and restrict abortion so long as new laws do not impose an "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose. But state legislatures are currently testing what qualifies as an undue burden, and in 2013 alone 70 different anti-choice restrictions were adopted in 22 states across the U.S. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, more abortion restrictions have been enacted in the past three years than in the entire previous decade.
In December, Ian Millhiser and Tara Culp-Ressler published a thoughtful piece about this process at ThinkProgress headlined, "The Greatest Trick The Supreme Court Ever Pulled Was Convincing The World Roe v. Wade Still Exists." They argued that while a woman's right to choose an abortion is still ostensibly covered by the constitution, the reality is that right is increasingly restricted to just wealthy women who happen to live in (or are able to travel to) one of the few states that will still permit them the opportunity to exercise that right.
This sustained attack on women's rights is fast becoming a key issue for politicians in the 2014 midterms. But the media have also played a sizeable role in this process, contributing to the vanishing power of Roe by allowing anti-choicers to control the conversation.
Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture outrage against the Affordable Care Act by promoting the misleading claim that the health care law includes a taxpayer-funded bailout for health insurance companies. In fact, the provision, known as reinsurance, is funded by the insurance companies themselves, not taxpayer money.
Media Matters looks back at the best of the worst of right-wing media's treatment of women in 2013.
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
The Weekly Standard touted Stephen Jimenez's book arguing that Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder wasn't an anti-gay hate crime but the result of a meth deal gone awry -- ignoring overwhelming evidence of his killer's homophobic motives and denunciations of the book from investigators and lawyers involved in the case.
In the November 18 edition of The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson lauded Jimenez's The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard. Playing into Jimenez's inflated self-image as a fearless reporter whose commitment to revealing the truth proved consistently "dangerous," Ferguson began the review by marveling that it's a wonder Jimenez "hasn't been burned in effigy, yet, or heckled mercilessly, yet, or denounced, at least by anybody that really matters, as a traitor to the cause. Yet." This sets the stage for a review devoted more to singing Jimenez's praises than to critically evaluating the arguments put forth in The Book of Matt.
Take Ferguson's handling of the book's most shocking claim (emphasis added):
More surprisingly, Jimenez concludes that Shepard's death had nothing to do with homophobia. It was instead the horrific result of a drug deal gone wrong. Indeed, in The Book of Matt, Jimenez offers lots of circumstantial evidence that Shepard and one of his murderers, a violent and drug-addled bit of tumbleweed called Aaron McKinney, were rival dealers in crystal meth. Several named witnesses told Jimenez that the two even had a sexual relationship.
For the most part the conservative press was undeterred by the fact that The Book of Matt, as impressive as it is for the author's tirelessness and courage, is something of a mess. When it comes to gay true-crime investigator-writers, Jimenez is no Truman Capote. He has chosen to tell the story of Shepard's life and death through a first-person account of his own investigations. It is thus not so much a book that tells a story as a book that tells a story about telling a story, a bit like the famous totalitarian mural titled "The Struggle of the Little People to Finish the Mural." This technique plays hell with the chronology, and it's often difficult for the reader to tell which character said what when. The reader's unease is compounded knowing that many of Jimenez's sources are the kind of witnesses usually considered unreliable: meth heads, hustlers, hookers, drunks, various species of trailer trash.
In his defense Jimenez says that if his witnesses seem unreliable, it is only because this is the sort of people Shepard and his murderers associated with. They knew the participants firsthand -- and these are the same witnesses that authorities relied on to get a conviction. For each of his more striking claims Jimenez has been careful to gather multiple sources, usually named. No alert reader can come away from the book still believing the approved story of a shy young man robbed of his life because of his assailants' "fear of the other." The myth that thrilled the progressive heart for 15 years cannot survive Jimenez's accumulation of evidence.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham continues to make outlandish allegations about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to immigrants, including falsely claiming that the law allows undocumented immigrants to purchase subsidized health insurance and that their enrollment in the individual Marketplace will be used to inflate the overall numbers of those who sign up.
Contrary to what Ingraham has been saying on her radio show, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to apply for subsidized health insurance under the ACA. On the October 3 broadcast of her show, Ingraham advanced that falsehood, asking, "First of all, how many of you think that illegal immigrants aren't signing up on these Obamacare exchanges?" She added: "I mean, they're probably the only ones getting through to sign up on the exchanges."
Ingraham was referring to the difficulty those seeking insurance have had in accessing the federal health care website.
In reality, as the National Immigration Law Center has noted, undocumented immigrants cannot get subsidized health care coverage under the ACA and are not even allowed to purchase private insurance through the individual health insurance Marketplace at full cost. They are also not eligible for subsidized health care or Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
As the federal health care website explains:
Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for federal public benefits through the Affordable Care Act. For example, undocumented immigrants can't buy coverage through the Marketplace. Premium tax credits aren't available for undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants may continue to buy coverage on their own outside the Marketplace and can get limited services for an emergency medical condition through Medicaid, if they are otherwise eligible for Medicaid in the state. Undocumented immigrants aren't subject to the individual shared responsibility requirement.
Immigrants who have been granted deferred action through the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are also ineligible for Medicaid, CHIP or ACA benefits.
While undocumented immigrants are barred from applying for subsidized health care, their American children do qualify.
Naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and legal immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years and don't have health care coverage through their jobs are also able to apply for subsidized health care and other benefit programs under the ACA.
Legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years whose incomes fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four -- will be eligible for subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchange. Those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $15,800 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four -- will not be eligible for Medicaid coverage (except for pregnant women depending on the state) but can qualify for exchange subsidies if they pay 2 percent of income.
Right-wing media outlets pushed the false claim that the Healthcare.gov website includes a language stating that consumers they have "no reasonable expectation of privacy," ignoring the fact that the phrase is part of standard website language and does not change current legal protections for health care information.
A Weekly Standard post by Jeryl Bier attacked the health care law's exchange website, claiming a statement in the "terms and conditions" page is "another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters." Bier's evidenced his claim by explaining, "Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov" is the phrase "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." The misleading claim was repeated by several right-wing media outlets including Fox Nation who posted the story under the headline "Hidden in ObamaCare Site: Applicants Surrender Right to Privacy" and NewsMax who claimed "Obamacare May Endanger Personal Data Security."
But the right-wing media's fearmongering about privacy concerns is unfounded. The Atlantic Wire pointed out that the phrase is part of standard legal language for similar "Terms and Conditions" pages and is only "hidden" because it was removed by developers, making the phrase not legally enforceable. The article adds that "[t]here are several ways in which" the analysis "is incorrect" (emphasis added):
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol dismissed the devastating effects of the government shutdown claiming, "no one no one is going to starve in Arkansas," ignoring that thousands of people across the country already face the loss of vital food nutrition programs.
On the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Kristol claimed that the shutdown wasn't a "disaster," and dismissed The Huffington Post's Sam Stein's argument that the shutdown was forcing 85,000 people to lose nutritional assistance in Arkansas alone. Kristol responded that Congress should move to fund anything that was a genuine emergency, but that "a one or two week shutdown is not going to be the end of the world":
[I]t's not going to be the end of the world honestly even if you're on nutritional assistance from the federal government. The state of Arkansas can help out, localities can help out, churches can help out, I believe that no one is going to starve in Arkansas because of the shutdown.
Starvation is an extreme measure by which to judge the damage of the shutdown. Though no one may have died yet, people around the country are facing the loss of essential food services, including in Arkansas.
The Associated Press reported on September 30 that Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe felt the state was "not in a position to" fund services typically from the federal government, and that "that more than 85,000 meals for Arkansas children would not be provided and 2,000 newborn babies would not receive infant formula through the Department of Health's WIC program."
There's a growing movement of journalists and pundits who are rooting for the Republican-led impasse over government funding to result in a shutdown of government services. "I'm rooting for a shutdown and you should be too," writes Joshua Green in the Boston Globe. "Shut down the government!" cheers Todd Purdum in Politico. It's not that these writers are actually keen on causing economic disruption: they see it as the only recourse available to correcting the Republican political nihilism that keeps bringing us to the brink of crisis.
It's hard to begrudge them for what seems so cavalier a position -- we may have reached the point of political toxicity that drastic measures of this sort are the only remaining curatives. What is bothersome is the habit of conservative pundits who enable this political dynamic by recognizing the role people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are playing in it, but brushing that aside and praising Cruz for exploiting it to achieve mundane, short-term political goals.
After Cruz's 21-hour non-filibuster in support of defunding Obamacare, there was widespread agreement on the left and (much of) the right that Cruz had done little beyond raising his own profile and raising the likelihood that the government would have to shut down.
Writing in Politico, National Review's Rich Lowry marveled at Cruz's speech: "After talking the talk, Ted Cruz wins." Lowry knows that Cruz's policy goals are unattainable ("farfetched to the point of absurdity") and that his politics are causing chaos in Congress at a time when it really needs to get work done, but he views that as secondary to Cruz's accomplishment of riling up conservative base voters:
The Cruz eye-rollers had plenty of occasions to roll their eyes -- perhaps no senator has caused so many colleagues to mutter under their breaths in his first eight months in the world's greatest deliberative body -- but the conservative grass roots stood up and cheered. They are desperate for gumption and imagination and, above all, fight, and Cruz delivered all three during his long, bleary-eyed hours holding forth on C-SPAN2.
We're on the precipice of shutdown because the Republicans can't get their act together, and Cruz's tactics are causing further disarray, and Cruz gets a cookie for making a small slice of the American electorate feel good about themselves?
This Week allowed a false Republican talking point created by right-wing media -- that Warren Buffett criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- to go unchallenged after it was repeated by Rep Tom Graves (R-GA). ABC did not inform its audience that the out of context comment was from 2010 and was not made in reference to the health care law. Buffet publicly re-stated his support of the law as a result of the controversy.
Guest host Jonathan Karl asked Graves to react to a Wall Street Journal editorial that criticized the House Republican plan to defund the ACA. Graves responded by quoting sources critical of the law, including the claim that "Warren Buffett says stop it now, start over":
But Buffett's comments were made in 2010 and were not directed at the ACA.
Graves' mistake comes directly from the right-wing media's dishonest reporting. Despite the fact that Buffett made those comments in 2010, right-wing outlets, such as The Weekly Standard reported on them as though they had been made recently, claiming "You know things are bad for President Obama when even Warren Buffett has soured on Obamacare."
After discovering that the quote was made in 2010, the Standard updated their post but still claimed the comments showed that Buffett "has opposed Obamacare since even before it was passed." But Buffett was never criticizing the law, he was expressing concern about growing health care costs and urging reform. As New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait pointed out:
After falsely claiming that comments made by investor Warren Buffett in 2010 were made recently as an attack on the Affordable Care Act, The Weekly Standard doubled down, correcting the date but still wrongly insisting that Buffett's comments were "anti-Obamacare" even as Buffett was reinforcing his support for the law.
On September 17, the right-wing website Money Morning published a quote from Buffett saying "What we have now is untenable over time," claiming he was criticizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The quote was picked up by The Weekly Standard's Jeffrey H. Anderson, who wrote: "You know things are bad for President Obama when even Warren Buffett has soured on Obamacare and says that 'we need something else.'" After several media outlets pointed out that Buffetts comments were made in 2010, the Standard updated their post:
It appears that Buffett made his anti-Obamacare comments in 2010, thereby showing that he, like most of the American people, has opposed Obamacare since even before it was passed--a point that Mark Hemingway addressed yesterday in response to USA Today's implication that Americans' widespread dislike of Obamacare is mostly attributable to Republicans' efforts to fight it.
But the Weekly Standard's correction still misinterpreted Buffett's comments. In a post criticizing the Weekly Standard's original story, New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait pointed out that Buffett's 2010 remarks had nothing to do with the ACA, but were referring to the health care system without any kind of reform, a fact that the Weekly Standard's post continued to ignore as the correction maintained that Buffett's comments were critical of the law: