Author Page | Page 16 | Media Matters for America

Alexandrea Boguhn

Author ››› Alexandrea Boguhn
  • To Fox News Having Necessities Like Air Conditioning Means You Aren't Really Poor

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Chyron

    On-air graphics displayed during Fox News hyped the number of poor Americans that have access to basic necessities like internet access and air conditioning in order to downplay the seriousness of poverty and attack efforts to address it through government programs.

    A September 16 segment on Fox's The Five criticized the war on poverty claiming that 50 years later, more Americans are in poverty today than when President Lyndon B. Johnson first began implementing social programs to lift Americans out of poverty. During the segment, the show displayed chyrons that said "The Typical Family That The Census Identifies As 'Poor' Has AC, Cable TV, And A Computer," while another reported that "40% Of Poor Have A Wide-Screen HDTV And Internet Access." From the show:

    Fox News' chyrons parrot a report by the Heritage Foundation claiming "that the actual living conditions of the more than 45 million people deemed 'poor' by the Census Bureau differ greatly from popular conceptions of poverty" because many of the poor have "consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago."

    The amenities Fox News bemoans are necessary for survival. In 2011 access to internet was deemed a "human right" by the United Nations. And the Center for American Progress further explained that the services and appliances the Heritage Foundation cites are "everyday necessities" and that using them to measure poverty is "misleading":

    These arguments are mean and misleading on several accounts. First, the electronic devices that Heritage cites are everyday necessities today. Who has iceboxes anymore? Who doesn't need a cell phone to find a job or keep one? Fortunately, these appliances are all significantly cheaper these days, but not so the real everyday basics such as quality child care and out-of-pocket medical costs, both of which have risen much faster than inflation, squeezing the budgets of the poor and middle-class alike. In fact, if anything, those who we consider poor today are far more out of the social mainstream in terms of their basic income than when our poverty measure was first set in the 1960s.

    [...]

    To avoid a real discussion of these issues, the Heritage Foundation craftily creates indexes that rank households on skewed measures of "amenities" that suggest that no further federal action is needed to buoy the standard of living of poor and working-class families. Such indexes are heartless and foolish. Heartless because they ignore the fact that it takes much more than a few appliances to support a family. And foolish because they lend credence to the calls for cutting the supports that research has shown are necessary for every child to become a healthy and productive adult.

    In fact, poverty is a serious problem for those Americans without access to medical care, education, stable housing, access to legal services and healthy food.

    Experts find that government programs actually help to alleviate "vast amounts of poverty" in the US. Forbes found that "When we measure all those goods and things the child poverty rate is 1 or 2%." The Washington Post reported that "when you take government intervention into account, poverty is down considerably from 1967 to 2012, from 26 percent to 16 percent."

  • Megyn Kelly Gets Facts Wrong About Coalition Against Islamic State

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Fox News' Megyn Kelly ignored the pledge of military assistance from allied countries to aid the United States in its fight against the Islamic State (IS) when she claimed that "no one is committing to help us." But just one hour earlier, Kelly's colleague Bill O'Reilly explained the commitments made by several countries to address the threat. 

    On the September 15 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly discussed recent airstrikes on the Islamic State by the United States, noting that Fox White House correspondent Ed Henry questioned whether Secretary of State John Kerry "has failed in building the broad coalition" to combat IS. Kelly asked "who will be with us" during continued military action against IS, before claiming that "no one is committing to help us":

    Kelly's claim ignores that, according to CNN, Australia will deploy "up to eight Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft and a KC-30A multirole tanker and transport aircraft" to the region. France also began reconnaissance flights over Iraq, and told the Iraqi prime minister that it promised that France "will participate in efforts to hit terrorist locations in Iraq."

    Many other nations pledged assistance that doesn't include military strikes against IS targets, a fact that Kelly's Fox colleague, Bill O'Reilly, acknowledged one hour earlier. 

  • NRO Questions Wendy Davis' "Convenient" Account Of Her Abortions

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Wendy Davis

    National Review Online (NRO) attacked State Senator Wendy Davis (D-TX) for speaking out about her own experiences with abortion, calling her description of the abortions -- one of which saved her life -- "convenient," and downplaying the serious health problems that can lead women to choose the procedure.

    In her upcoming memoir Forgetting to Be Afraid, Davis disclosed her personal experiences undergoing abortion procedures. Writing about the circumstances that led to her decisions, Davis described a medical abnormality that doctors said "likely was incompatible with life" that led her to terminate a desired pregnancy, and a second procedure following an ectopic pregnancy that threatened her life if it wasn't ended.

    In a September 9 post, National Review Online responded to Davis' account by questioning the legitimacy of her story. Calling it "convenient," the post went on to "question the accuracy of her claims related to the abortion." The post challenged Davis to provide proof that her abortions were necessitated for medical reasons and went on to dismiss the medical rationale for these types of abortions (emphasis added):

    But not all commentary has been focused on the harm Davis suffered post-abortion. Horne said that "only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions. We simply do not know the circumstances of Wendy Davis's apparent abortions." Horne noted that "it is extremely rare -- if not non-existent -- for a woman to have an abortion because the pregnancy posed a risk to her life. As for fetal anomalies, it simply isn't necessary to abort a child because he or she is sick or has a medical condition."

    "It would be disturbing to think that she may be using her abortions as a way to gain political favor with Democratic voters," Horne added.

    Horne's analysis matches that of a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey of women who had abortions. The survey found that only 4 percent said that "their most important reason" for having an abortion was "physical problems with my health," and 3 percent named "possible problems affecting the health of the [baby]."

    [...]

    Maybe she had the abortion, maybe she didn't. Maybe her reasons were as compelling as she claims. But the reasons Davis gives for having had her abortions are unproven and statistically unlikely.

    Although few women have late-term procedures, NRO dismisses the very real medical necessity for them to be available. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the majority of serious health conditions that impact both mother and fetus are not discovered until the 20th week of pregnancy or later -- an occurrence that explains why a woman would wait until this point in their pregnancy to undergo the procedure.

  • Fox News Provides Rand Paul A Platform To Fabricate Quotes From Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Paul-Hemmer

    Fox News offered Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a platform to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, raising questions about the network's willingness to be manipulated using unverified quotes in order to harm a potential presidential candidate.

    During the September 3 edition of Hannity, Paul joined host Sean Hannity to discuss the threat of the Islamic State to the U.S. After Hannity asked him if IS "has declared war on us," Paul blamed Clinton for the Islamic State's rise, asserting that "in the past, you know, Hillary Clinton has said ISIS is not a threat to the United States."

    Fox's Bill Hemmer later hosted Paul on the September 5 edition of America's Newsroom, where Paul again claimed Clinton has "been out there saying that ISIS is not a threat, and so not a threat to America. Those I think were her exact words." After Hemmer asked Paul whether Clinton actually said the terror group was not a threat, Paul was unable to pin down where the alleged quote was from, but responded that it was his "belief" that "a couple of months ago there was a quote saying ISIS was not a threat to America." Hemmer subsequently failed to follow up on Paul's lack of specifics.

    Hemmer's question was a critical one for any journalist to ask, but his failure to demand the specific quote and Hannity's total acceptance of Paul's claim is troubling. By not pushing for proof of Paul's claim, Fox News is letting itself be used as a conduit for misinformation from one potential presidential candidate to another.

  • Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Distorts Pervasive Impact Of Food Insecurity

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    wsj

    A Wall Street Journal op-ed downplayed the seriousness of food insecurity in the United States, claiming that government research on the topic "isn't about hunger" and dismissing the millions of Americans who faced uncertain access to food last year.

    On September 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report on household food security in the United States, finding that 17.5 million households in the country were food insecure in 2013, meaning that they had "limited or uncertain" access to "nutritionally adequate and safe food."

    In response to the USDA report, The Wall Street Journal published a September 3 opinion piece by James Bovard attacking government focus on food insecurity as a measurement of widespread hunger in the United States. Bovard suggested thatmembers of food-insecure households are not legitimately hungry because "widespread hunger" has been "debunked" by another USDA report that found children in low-income households consume more calories on average than those in higher-income households. Bovard cited the higher consumption of calories by children in low-income households as evidence of a "paradoxical relationship between food stamps and food insecurity" and demanded more transparency on what food stamp benefits are being spent on.

    But by denying the legitimacy of measuring food insecurity, Bovard erased food insecurity's pervasive impact across the United States. Although hunger and food insecurity are in fact separate issues, as Bovard pointed out, the USDA underscores that they are still "related." According to the USDA, "Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited access to food, while hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity." The USDA began to distinguish between food insecurity and hunger in the department's research due to a "lack of consistent meaning of the word" hunger.

    Citing higher calorie consumption among children in low-income households as evidence that debunks child hunger is also misleading. As the Food Research and Action Center points out, food insecure and low-income people are especially vulnerable to obesity, due to "[l]imited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable foods," which are primary factors in those living in poverty consuming higher-calorie foods. The center says that healthy food is often more expensive and less available than energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods.

    Conservative media consistently push the false claims that the food insecure are lazy and that programs addressing their needs are wasteful and frequently misused.

  • Fox Host: "Why Should There Be Anything Controversial" About Telling Women Not To Drink In Order To Avoid Sexual Assault?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    When it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, Fox News host Lou Dobbs doesn't see "anything controversial" about telling women not to drink in order to avoid sexual assault.

    In August, former George Washington University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg came under fire for comments he made on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, where Trachtenberg argued that women should be "trained not to drink in excess" so that they can fend off potential rapists.

    During the September 3 edition of Outnumbered, Dobbs vocalized his support for Trachtenberg's comments, wondering "why there should be anything controversial" about advising college students to avoid alcohol to protect themselves from sexual assault. He went on to explain that the "vulnerability" of drinking is a "disastrous choice" to make, while co-host Harris Faulkner agreed, that "personal responsibility... is very important in all of this":

    But the implication that preventing sexual assault is as simple as telling women not to drink is faulty. Although excessive alcohol consumption may play a role in encouraging damaging behavior, "[t]he fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault," according to a literature review from the National Institutes of Health:

    [M]en are legally and morally responsible for acts of sexual assault they commit, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated or felt that the woman had led them on previously. The fact that a woman's alcohol consumption may increase their likelihood of experiencing sexual assault does not make them responsible for the man's behavior, although such information may empower women when used in prevention programs.

    And as an expert explained to USA Today, "People don't get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there -- someone who wants to take advantage of them."

    Dobb's dismissal of sexual assault as a problem that can be mitigated by educating women not to drink places blame squarely on victims' shoulders instead of pointing the finger at perpetrators of sexual assault. Such willingness to shift responsibility away from perpetrators to the victims contributes to the dangerous culture of stigmatization that keeps many survivors from reporting the crimes in the first place.

  • AAJA And MPAC Demand Action After Fox Host Advocated For Violence Against Muslims

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) are demanding action from Fox News after a host linked all Muslims to terrorists and advocated for violence against practitioners of the faith. 

    In an August 27 statement, the Asian American Journalist Association condemned Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros for making blanket statements conflating all Muslims to the Islamic State and advocating for violence against them. AAJA called on the network to apologize:

    AAJA calls for Tantaros and Fox News to apologize for the irresponsible, inflammatory statements. We also call on Fox News to discourage its journalists from making blanket comments that serve to perpetuate hate and Islamophobia.

    Muslims and Islam are not interchangeable terms with terrorists or ISIS. We in the media know better and must be vigilant in our choice of words.

    The AAJA joined the Muslim Public Affairs Council in their outrage over the offensive Fox segment. MPAC previously called for the network to fire Tantaros following her inflammatory statements.

    The growing call for action from Fox News comes after an August 20 segment of Outnumbered featured co-host Andrea Tantaros discussing the death of journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State. Suggesting that the history of Islam set a precedent for the murder, Tantaros declared that "this isn't a surprise," and that the only way to solve the situation was "with a bullet to the head. It's the only thing these people understand":

  • Wash. Post Helps Perpetuate Myth That False Reports Of Rape Are Widespread

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Campus sexual violence

    A Washington Post article about sexual assault on college campuses failed to provide crucial context about how rare false reports of these incidents actually are.

    After the White House formed a task force in January to address the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, a wave of bipartisan efforts to address the problem have pushed the issue into the national spotlight.

    In the August 20 article, the Post discussed the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses by centering the issue around how those accused of the crime were "fighting back against what they call unfair disciplinary systems and publicity that threatens to shatter their reputations." The Post also aired concerns from "some of the accused" that the nationwide push to curb campus sexual assault "has led to an unfair tipping of the scales" against alleged perpetrators.

    But at no point did the Post report that the rate of false reports of sexual assaults is low. Most rigorous research puts the rate at between 2 percent and 8 percent, according to a recent report published by the National District Attorneys Association's National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women.

    Studies like the recent national survey conducted for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have also found that colleges not only routinely fail to investigate sexual assault allegations, but when they do, some institutions actually "afford certain due process elements more frequently to alleged perpetrators than they do to survivors."

    The perpetuation of the myth of widespread false reports has serious consequences. According to the White House report on sexual assault, this myth in particular "may help account for" low rates of both the reporting of sexual assault and arrests of perpetrators:

    Many factors may contribute to low arrest rates, and these cases can be challenging to investigate. However, research shows that some police officers still believe certain rape myths (e.g., that many women falsely claim rape to get attention), which may help account for the low rates. Similarly, if victims do not behave the way some police officers expect (e.g., crying) an officer may believe she is making a false report -- when, in reality, only 2-10% of reported rapes are false.