After dedicating his opening segment to attacking the alleged dependency culture of younger generations, Fox News' Eric Bolling waded into an error-filled tirade against food assistance.
On the August 8 edition of Fox News' Your World, Bolling, who was filling in for host Neil Cavuto, was joined for a panel discussion of “food stamps” (officially known as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). Fox contributors Jedediah Bila and Julie Roginsky debated the merits of the food assistance program, with Bila often making wildly inaccurate claims in her attempt to smear recipients and chastise alleged waste.
Bolling and Bila parroted numerous demonstrably false claims over the course of just a few minutes. First, Bolling falsely claimed that the budget for food assistance is $80-100 billion. In fact, the SNAP budget for fiscal year 2012 was $74.6 billion.
The cost of the program has increased significantly since the onset of a catastrophic recession in December 2007, but official data from the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service reveal that the growth is due to increased participation driven by economic factors. From the Department of Agriculture:
SNAP participants declined steadily through 2000 but began to rise in 2001 and increased each year through 2011, except for a slight dip in 2007. The increase was substantial from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011. Average monthly participation increased from 17.2 million individuals in fiscal year 2000 to 40.3 million in fiscal year 2010, and to 44.7 million in fiscal year 2011. Fluctuations in the number of SNAP participants in the last 16 years have broadly tracked major economic indicators
When challenged to do as others have and take the SNAP Challenge for a week, Bolling deflected the subject. Previously, Fox News' Andrea Tantaros referred to the prospect of living on just over $130 each month as a diet plan.
It is not out of the ordinary for right-wing media figures to bemoan the growth of SNAP registers as some form of vote buying, dependency culture, or expansionist nanny state. Food assistance is a common and easy target for the right-wing media, which need not provide evidence to support baseless claims. Bolling in particular is not shy about attacking those in dire need of adequate nutrition.
However, the Fox host leapt into “trutherism” territory during the following exchange:
BILA: We wasted $2.2 billion just in waste, in fraud
ROGINSKY: According to their auditor, 1 percent fraud.
BOLLING: One percent? Julie, you and I go way back, we're very good friends, right? Where in the world is there 1 percent waste and fraud?
When challenged to provide a statistic to back up his claim that food stamps are wrought with corruption and waste, with recipients using assistance to buy alcohol and drugs, Bolling contended the following:
BOLLING: I'm going to have to push back on your “one percent”.... I'll throw something out there. I'll bet you it's closer to 50 percent than 1 percent.
According to the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, the fraud and waste rate is roughly 1 percent. Bolling's claim is not just wrong, it is wrong by a factor of 50, or nearly 5,000 percent.