On December 4, the Trump administration announced that it had approved plans to remove nearly 700,000 people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides food stamps. Fox News, which has relentlessly attacked food stamp benefits for years, is cheering the move.
The proposed SNAP rule aims to tighten work requirements for able-bodied adults who don’t have children and receive food stamps. Under the current rule, states have the option to waive the three-month limit on food stamps for those not working or participating in work programs in areas with high unemployment rates, particularly during periods of economic downturn. The new rule aims to make it more difficult for states to grant waivers.
During a public feedback period, over 140,000 comments on the proposed rule change were submitted, and the feedback was overwhelmingly negative. The rule change “really weakens SNAP’s ability to assist the unemployed during an economic downturn,” Stacy Dean, vice president of food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Washington Post. Share Our Strength’s Senior Vice President Lisa Davis said, “It is deeply disappointing that despite overwhelming opposition to this proposal, the White House has finalized a rule that stiffens work requirements for millions of SNAP participants, which will likely lead to hundreds of thousands of people losing their benefits.”
The Trump administration has also proposed two additional rule changes: One could strip nearly 3 million people of their benefits, leaving almost 1 million children without free or reduced-price school meals. The second would adjust the SNAP eligibility formulas over five years, potentially affecting one in five families receiving food assistance. These two additional rule changes are likely to be approved before the 2020 presidential election.
For Fox News, the rule changes amount to an early Christmas present. Fox has long led the crusade against SNAP benefits, from lamenting the lack of “stigma” surrounding food stamps to relentlessly pushing the “culture of dependency” myth. Fox personalities have smeared SNAP benefits as a “feel good” program, and the network branded President Barack Obama as the “food stamp president” in 2012. Fox News has a history of deceptively misrepresenting facts to smear food stamp recipients. In 2013, the network had a field day covering the “food stamp surfer,” Jason Greenslate, whom Fox called “a blissfully jobless California surfer,” as he proudly declared that he exploits SNAP to live lavishly. Greenslate obviously does not represent the vast majority of food stamp recipients, but that didn’t stop Fox News from airing an hour-long special titled “The Great Food Stamp Binge” centered on Greenslate, which was predictably filled with inaccuracies and fearmongering. Fox then shamelessly distributed the program footage to members of the House prior to a vote on a bill that would cut food stamp benefits by $40 billion.
Now, Fox News is celebrating the Trump administration’s rule changes and continuing to perpetuate stereotypes that represent food stamp recipients as entitled and lazy.
On Fox & Friends, guest Star Parker said that the move to cut SNAP benefits is “fantastic news” because people who are “comfortable on the couch” now have to “participate.” Parker lauded the government for “encouraging them to say we see the potential in you, so we're going to change a few rules to encourage you, to encourage your own life to get involved in what is happening and making America great again.” Guest co-host Emily Compagno agreed that the cuts are an “investment into the potential” of people who will lose benefits.
Fox News @ Night aired footage from the 2013 “Great Food Stamp Binge” program, with Fox “news”-side anchor Shannon Bream reminding viewers that “under the Obama administration,” Greenslate “used to use his food stamps to eat sushi and lobster.” The Daily Caller’s Stephanie Hamill repeated the talking point that SNAP is “supposed to be a safety net, not a lifestyle,” pointing to Greenslate as an example.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney said, “If there are 7 million jobs going begging and you’ve got able-bodied people who are getting food stamps for heaven's sake, why not push them out into the workforce?” Fox Business’ Ashley Webster repeated the argument that food stamps are “there to help people, not become a way of life,” adding that the “problem” is “when you just sit back and it all comes in.”
On Fox Business, host Charles Payne and White House Budget Office acting Director Russ Vought defended the rule changes. Vought claimed that media headlines describing the rule changes as cruel are “absolutely wrong” and said it will incentivize people to “get out of a cycle of dependency.” Payne described the rule changes as “tough love so that you can get in the game.”