Fox News may have found a new poster child for its campaign to smear recipients of government assistance like food stamps.
For more than a year, Fox has promoted “blissfully jobless California surfer” Jason Greenslate as representative of recipients of government assistance. Fox first featured Greenslate in August 2013 during a special titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge," and has returned to him repeatedly as “the new face of food stamps” in “Obama's America,” “representative of literally millions of Americans” who defraud the food stamp program (officially called SNAP).
Predictably, the network jumped at the opportunity to concoct a new poster child to food stamps when news broke that an affluent Minnesota couple were wanted for defrauding public assistance benefits in Minnesota. The couple -- since arrested in Florida -- allegedly received over $160,000 in state benefits like food stamps while living on a $1.2 million yacht with millions in assets.
Fox host Neil Cavuto and network legal analyst Andrew Napolitano hyped the story on March 31 and blamed the fraud on the size of government assistance programs, saying “we shouldn't be surprised when the numbers get this big that fraud pops up.” According to Napolitano, the government “willy nilly gives this money away without verifying who's receiving it,” while Cavuto agreed that the government is not “following whose getting this money and whether they're all genuinely deserving of it”:
Fox should be promoting the story as a success -- the state of Minnesota effectively rooted out fraud in its programs and is seeking criminal action in response. Indeed, the rate of fraud and waste in SNAP is only roughly 1 percent, and the program has been fundamental in keeping millions of Americans out of poverty. The food stamp program kept 4.7 million people -- many of whom are children and the elderly -- out of poverty in 2011.
Notably, this selection of a new food stamp poster child coincides with the release of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) devastating budget plan -- highly praised by Fox -- that would slash SNAP benefits by at least $135 billion according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ending benefits for 3.8 million low-income Americans in 2014 alone.