Fox's Attempt To Smear Planned Parenthood With "Taxpayer Calculator" Doesn't Add Up

Fox's Attempt To Smear Planned Parenthood With "Taxpayer Calculator" Doesn't Add Up

Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

Caution: Images On Fox News May Be More Misleading Than They Appear

Fox News' dishonest campaign against Planned Parenthood took a new turn when the network promoted its own deeply misleading "Taxpayer Calculator" purporting to show how much an average American taxpayer has contributed to the health care provider over the past decade.

On the July 27 editions of Fox News' America's Newsroom and Happening Now, correspondent Shannon Bream continued her network's smear campaign against Planned Parenthood Federation of America centered around a deceptively-edited video alleging to show PPFA employees negotiating the sale of "fetal body parts for medical research." Bream promoted the efforts of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) to strip federal funding for the organization before referring viewers to a so-called "Taxpayer Calculator" created by the network to show people how much they have contributed to Planned Parenthood over the past decade. From America's Newsroom:

BREAM: Over the past 10 years, it's estimated Planned Parenthood has received more than $4 million [sic] in federal and state government funding. Here's a look at what you, the taxpayer, have contributed based on your income level. Now, if you want a more specific estimate on just how much you've given to Planned Parenthood, head to FoxNews.com and click on "Taxpayer Calculator." Martha.

MACCALLUM: That's going to get a lot of people's attention.

BREAM: It will.

First, and perhaps most egregiously, the on-screen graphic Fox shows during both segments falsely claims that Planned Parenthood received $4.3 billion-worth of federal funding "over 10 years." According to the "Taxpayer Calculator" Bream referenced during the segment, Fox News does not actually know how much public support comes from either federal or state sources (emphasis added):

Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have received $4.3 billion in government funding over the last ten years, according to the group's annual reports. Their government funding comes from both federal and state governments. We do not know exactly how much of Planned Parenthood's funding comes from the federal government.

According to Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report, the organization received $528.4 million from "Government Health Services Grants & Reimbursements," which amounted to just over 46 percent of its operational revenue as of June 30, 2014. Some of this funding came in the form of federal Medicaid reimbursements for health care services for low-income Americans, while other funds came from various local, state, and federal grants -- the Hyde Amendment "excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid."

After incorrectly assuming that all public money received by Planned Parenthood comes from the federal government, Fox News staff then based their taxpayer contribution calculations on the proportion of federal tax revenue derived from different income tax brackets. Federal income tax rates are higher than state and local income tax rates. In fact, seven states levy no income taxes at all while two others tax only capital gains and dividends, not traditional wages. Fox's sloppily constructed "average taxpayer share" does not reflect reality -- it's simply the highest estimate the network's research team could produce.

Finally, Fox's investigation of Planned Parenthood's revenue and the American taxpayer's contribution to that revenue provides no useful context for the viewer. In 2014, the federal government spent nearly 900 times more than Planned Parenthood collected from all government sources in 10 years; the $4.3 billion price tag Fox highlighted represents a miniscule portion of total government spending over the same period. Likewise, the 10-year burden shouldered by Fox's "average taxpayer" represents a tiny fraction of their total income over that period. According to Fox News, a taxpayer with earnings in excess of $2.5 million over a decade would contribute only about $40 annually. Meanwhile, the average taxpayer, with a median household income of roughly $52,000 per year, would contribute only about $1.50 per year to Planned Parenthood, according to Fox's own calculations.

The deceptive "Taxpayer Calculator" is a continuation of Fox News' long campaign of deceit against Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the work performed by the organization (97 percent) is not related to abortion services. Fox has demonstrated on many occasions that it has no clue what Planned Parenthood does or the vital services it provides for millions of men and women every year; including cancer screening and preventative treatment, contraceptive services, family planning, STI/STD screening, and assorted other women's health services.

For more examples of right-wing media promoting anti-Planned Parenthood smears, see: here, here, here, and here.

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