Breitbart.com and National Review Online (NRO) are using today's Equal Pay Day holiday to misinform about gender wage inequality. Right-wing media have routinely downplayed and obscured legitimate concerns about wage inequality.
Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. According to a White House proclamation released on Equal Pay Day in 2012, "National Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day's pay for an equal day's work."
Breitbart.com and NRO both posted a video today that claims the gender wage gap is a myth, positing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video comes from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."
Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that "in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent." According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. The claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has also been debunked, mostly recently in the AAUW's 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report.
Breitbart.com and NRO's misleading claims about gender wage inequality follow a long trend of right-wing media's misinformation on equal pay. Here are just a few examples since 2012:
Fox News used a dishonest graph to distort the Obama administration's record on border enforcement and claim that the border is less secure. Fox's chart painted a misleading picture of Southwest border apprehensions by using an arbitrary time period and an improper scale -- even as illegal border crossings under President Obama are at historic lows.
In several segments on Fox News, correspondent William La Jeunesse highlighted the graph to claim that the Southwest border "is actually less secure," pointing to what he called the "double-digit surge" in border apprehensions from 2011 to 2013 to make his point:
La Jeunesse reported that the numbers for October-April 2013 were released exclusively to Fox News from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a report on Happening Now, La Jeunesse touted the graph and highlighted the fact that apprehensions of Central American nationals have risen 13 percent -- leading him to claim that by this standard more people are getting into the United States illegally.
La Jeunesse gave a similar report on Your World using the same graph.
However, the graph La Jeunesse used suffers from several misleading characteristics. First, it depicts an arbitrary time period: October through April, though we're only a few days into the month, for the years 2011 to 2013 -- which takes into account only half of Obama's first term. Moreover, the graph has a skewed scale -- making the 27,000 jump from 2011 to 2013 seem more dramatic than it actually is.
From the April 5 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox Business host Stuart Varney and guest Marc Morano falsely suggested higher truck sales in March translate into a rejection of more fuel efficient vehicles by American consumers. In fact, the driving force behind higher truck sales is a rebounding construction sector, and sales of more fuel efficient vehicles have also been robust.
Following a pipeline rupture in Arkansas, Exxon Mobil is reportedly cleaning up thousands of barrels of oil in a residential neighborhood. As efforts to contain and clean the spill were ongoing, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley advocated Exxon Mobil becoming a sponsor of Yellowstone National Park, adding: the "free market solves everything."
On the March 1 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Monica Crowley suggested Exxon Mobil, one of the world's largest oil companies, would be an "appropriate" sponsor for one of America's largest national parks. Arguing for smaller government, she went on to compare the proposed partnership to private companies owning sports stadiums and the privatization of the US Postal Service, arguing that "profit motive" would ensure efficiency:
As Crowley made her endorsement, cleanup efforts continue in Mayflower, Arkansas, after an unspecified amount of oil leaked from an Exxon Mobil pipeline. Reuters reports that the Pegasus line "can transport more than 90,000 barrels per day" and that Exxon Mobil "had no information on when the pipeline last underwent maintenance." From the same article:
The Pegasus pipeline, which ruptured in a housing development near the town of Mayflower on Friday, spewing oil across lawns and down residential streets, remained shut and a company spokesman declined to speculate about when it would be fixed and restarted.
Exxon, which was fined in 2010 for not inspecting a portion of the Pegasus line with sufficient frequency, had yet to excavate the area around the Pegasus pipeline breach on Monday, a critical step in assessing damage and determining how and why it leaked.
Conservative media are again using a European financial crisis to stoke fears about the U.S. economy.
According to many right-wing media figures, the Cypriot government's plan to tax private bank accounts to avert a fiscal disaster provides a dire warning for the U.S. Many have speculated or outright claimed that the same could happen here unless the so-called "debt crisis" is averted
Of course, fears of heavy taxation on private bank accounts occurring in the U.S. are largely unfounded, with many experts noting the comparison between the two countries is ill-conceived. But the facts rarely matter for right-wing media when it comes to exploiting a European crisis.
Fox News used the supervised release of immigrants to fearmonger about public safety, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of released immigrants have no criminal conviction or that for those with aggravated felony convictions under immigration law can mean crimes that are neither aggravated nor considered a felony.
A Miami Herald article highlighting the release of immigrant detainees reported that 225 immigrants were released in the Miami deportation unit that includes Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands but remained under supervision.
Discussing the story on Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto argued that the fact that some of the immigrants were considered "aggravated felons" contradicted the government's claim that no one released was dangerous. Conservative pundit Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com stated that the decision "shows a gross disregard for public safety," while falsely claiming that a third of the immigrants released had aggravated felony convictions.
In fact, as the Miami Herald reported, only two immigrants released in the Miami deportation unit had such convictions -- and the nature of their crimes was not divulged. Moreover, immigrants who have been convicted of such crimes are automatically subject to deportation, without a court hearing, and face the harshest penalties under immigration law -- which immigration experts argue are more severe than even criminal convictions.
As immigration expert David Leopold, General Council of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained to Media Matters, an aggravated felony under immigration law can include more than violent offenses like murder and sexual assault:
Determining whether a crime is an aggravated felony under the immigration law requires a confusing analysis of state and federal statutes and precedent court decisions. Some crimes, such as theft or assault, are considered aggravated felonies based of the length of the jail sentence imposed by a federal or state court -- even if the entire sentence is suspended.
Other crimes, such those involving fraud and deceit, are considered aggravated felonies if the amount of loss to the victim exceeds $10,000, whether or not the money has been paid back. A state controlled substance offense is considered an aggravated felony if it would be a felony under the federal law. States are sovereign political entities with their own set of civil and criminal laws.
From the March 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News is suggesting that scientists were "wrong" about global warming by using misleading graphics to obscure the long-term global temperature rise.
On his Fox News show, Neil Cavuto suggested that the recent cold weather invalidates concerns about global warming, asking weather forecaster and climate misinformer Joe Bastardi, "How did we get this so wrong?" Cavuto aired a graphic which at first glance appears to show that temperatures are dramatically cooler now than they were last March. But the graphic compares apples to oranges: the map on the left shows whether temperatures were above or below average for the month of March, while the map on the right shows absolute minimum temperatures for last Wednesday, March 20.
If the temperature scale for the map on the right were applied to the map on the left, it would mean that temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the upper Midwest in March 2012.
A more honest comparison would look at the same day in March 2012, showing a far less stark contrast:
But even this comparison would be flawed, as daily and regional temperature fluctuations are expected, and do not contradict the observed long-term, global temperature trends.
Fox's Neil Cavuto dishonestly spun the release of a voluntary health survey to claim that "death panels are back," echoing a fictional claim spread by Sarah Palin about health care reform. In fact, the survey is simply a tool created by researchers that doctors can choose to use as a guideline when discussing treatment options with patients.
Cavuto declared that Sarah Palin "was right" while discussing the survey with Fox News health editor Dr. Manny Alvarez. On-screen text labeled the surveys "new gov't-funded 'death tests.' " Alvarez claimed the tests would lead to elderly patients being denied care and concluded, "Death panel? You're looking at it. This is what they're making me do in the future."
But the survey, a "mortality index," was developed by San Francisco researchers as a tool doctors can voluntarily use to evaluate "whether costly health screenings or medical procedures are worth the risk" for elderly patients, as CBS News reported. CBS News explained:
[D]octors can use the results to help patients understand the pros and cons of such things as rigorous diabetes treatment, colon cancer screening and tests for cervical cancer. Those may not be safe or appropriate for very sick, old people likely to die before cancer ever develops.
Contrary to Alvarez's claim, the index is not compulsory for any doctor or patient.
Fox News hosts have been dismissing the effects of the across-the-board government spending cuts known as sequestration, claiming that "nothing is happening" following the cuts taking effect. But the cuts are already having negative economic consequences that will continue unless the cuts are replaced.
From the March 1 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Conservative media are in the middle of a concerted push to claim that a government report confirms their longstanding claim that the federal government wastes tax money on employees whose sole duty is "union work," but ignore key content of the report in question that undermines their misleading narrative.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney made that claim on the February 28 edition of Fox & Friends. But Varney's oversimplified version of the conservative case ignores the content of the report in question, and the more sophisticated version of the case made elsewhere falls apart under minimal scrutiny of the evidence these outlets offer.
During a discussion on federal expenditures for union activity, Varney said that the recipients "worked full-time on union business," and "did not work for the taxpayer." When host Steve Doocy noted that's not how private-sector unions tend to work, Varney replied "Well I don't want to be cynical, Steve, but you've never worked for the federal government, now have you?" Watch:
The report Varney cites from the Office of Personnel and Management directly contradicts his blanket assertion that this money goes to full-time union reps in the introduction. OPM explains that "voluntary membership in Federal sector unions results in considerable reliance by unions on the volunteer work of bargaining unit employees, rather than paid union business agents." In the next paragraph, OPM adds that these hours of pay go to "Federal employees performing representational work for a bargaining unit in lieu of their regularly assigned work. It allows unions to satisfy their duty of fair representation to members and non-members alike."
Varney's presentation of this misinformation on a flagship Fox News program may prove an inflection point for a piece of misinformation that's percolated through other, smaller conservative media outlets since the OPM report came out in mid-February. On February 19, Fox Nation hyped a Washington Post story that noted some of the contextual information OPM provided. That same day, a Washington Examiner editorial writer highlighted the report. RedState.com put its own write-up on the front page on February 21, beneath an image of brass knuckles atop a pile of cash. On the February 27 edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox Business' Liz MacDonald made the same set of claims, and numerous other op-eds and blog posts from conservatives have accused the government of this same misspending of taxpayer dollars. Conservative gripes about "official time" expenditures are not new, however, as this 2011 Heritage Foundation testimony on the subject indicates.
Many of these other instances cite Freedom of Information Act requests by the conservative Americans for Limited Government to back their claims. According to ALGFOIAFiles.com, the group requested information from four departments on employees who perform "official time" labor representation work full-time. All four -- the Environmental Protection Agency, National Labor Relations Board, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Transportation -- responded between September and November of 2012. While conservatives like Trey Kovacs, a labor analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, point to the EPA (which found 17 full-time union reps) and DOT (which found 38) responses as proof of a widespread "problem" whereby taxpayers fund work that does not benefit them, the reality of these four FOIA responses is not nearly so convenient for conservatives.
The data expose this claim for what it is: ideology masquerading as empiricism. As the table below shows, according to the most recent data available the four departments ALG successfully FOIA'd have as many as 0.19 percent of their employees doing union representation work full-time. And those employees do not account for all of the billed "official time" hours in any department, confirming that there are indeed many public servants (in the conservative sense of the phrase) who pitch in to bargaining and other representational efforts as needed.
Zeb Colter, an anti-immigrant character from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that has recently drawn the ire of right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck, would be right at home in the conservative media. Many of Colter's bigoted and flawed arguments have been the right's stock-in-trade for years.
Beck targeted the Colter character on his radio show, arguing that Colter is "demonizing the Tea Party." Beck also accused the WWE of "mocking me for standing up for the Constitution." Beck's co-host Stu Burguiere complained: "It seems that the villain, the guy you're supposed to hate, is this stereotype of a conservative that I've never met."
Colter currently appears on WWE programming alongside wrestler Jack Swagger, spouting a lot of heated anti-immigrant rhetoric in the middle of a scripted feud with Mexican-born wrestler Alberto Del Rio. According to WWE, Colter's rhetoric is intended to "to build the Mexican American character Del Rio into a hero given WWE's large Latino base."
WWE explains that in order "to create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines."
From the February 21 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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