Fox Airs Another Misleading Obamacare “Horror” Story

Kelly FileAfter attacking Obamacare by highlighting easily debunked personal anectodes, Fox hosted another guest who falsely claimed the health care law would harm him personally without checking to make sure his story was accurate.

In a November 14 Salon post, former senior counsel to Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), Eric Stern wrote about a conversation he had with Bill Lawrence, a man featured on Fox's The Kelly File after  writing a letter to Fox News explaining that he and his partners “had to sell our company because we couldn't afford the almost $400,000 in either penalties and fines or insurance premiums that we would have to pay as a result of ObamaCare.” In the uncritical interview, host Megyn Kelly responded to Lawrence by asking his “thoughts on having your livelihood directly affected based on what politicians in Washington felt was best for you.”

Stern contacted Lawrence after the segment aired and Lawrence admitted that he had sold his Texas-area car wash for multiple reasons, many of which had nothing to do with the ACA:

I then pressed Bill on whether there were any other reasons he was selling his business. He admitted to me that there were plenty of others (“myriad reasons,” in his words). What were some of them?  “You ever run a business?” he asked with a chuckle. And then he began ticking off a bunch of problems in his life that he said he'd now be glad to be rid of.  The headache of managing workers. Taxes, fees and permits of every shape and size and color (dumpster permits, gate permits, this permit, that permit). He complained to me that he has to pay $300 for an “auto dealer's” permit just to sell air fresheners at the checkout counter of his car wash centers.

From the sound of it, Gov. Rick Perry is more to blame for Bill's choice to retire than Obama. Perhaps Texas is not the pro-business eden that Perry portrays it to be.

Nonetheless, Bill insisted that the Affordable Care Act was the “primary” reason he chose to sell out and retire after 22 years. He told me he spent a year attending seminars and seeking advice from lawyers and insurance experts on the employer mandate, and it was universally made clear to him that the new federal law would make it too costly to stay in business.

There's no questions that Bubbles Car Wash will have to absorb a new cost under the employer mandate. The question is how great it will be, and whether it will impact the business enough to have required Bill to unload it. Although Bill wouldn't show me any hard financial data, I asked him if he could give me a brief sketch of his company's revenue. He thought for a while, and then said he'd estimate that the company had around $13 million a year in revenues and about $900,000 in earnings -- earnings, meaning post-salary (he wouldn't tell me what his annual salary had been as an owner of the business).

Perhaps more disturbing, Lawrence told Stern that Fox made no effort to verify his claims before putting him on air to attack the ACA:

My first question to him was: Would he show me some of his business's financial records? Maybe an annual report, preferably something audited, so I could analyze his claim about the catastrophic effect Obamacare would have had on his business? He would not.

Did Megyn Kelly request such verification? No, he said, she did not.


And as for Megyn Kelly, she asked very few probative questions before or during the interview, preferring instead to just take Bill's claim about Obamacare at face value. But clearly there was another side of the story. 

This is not new, Stern has exposed Fox's false Obamacare horror stories before. In an earlier Salon post, Stern contacted three couples who were highlighted in a Hannity special on October 11. After discussing their appearances, Stern found that none of the couples' stories were accurate and ACA's exchanges would actually save them money.