In an attempt to make a surfing freeloader the face of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, a Fox News special profiled Jason Greenslate, “a blissfully jobless California surfer” who has taken advantage of SNAP benefits. In reality, Greenslate bears no resemblance to the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients, many of whom are elderly, children, or rely on the program for a short time while looking for work.
Prior to its August 9 airing, Fox News hyped the special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge," on Fox News Insider, FoxNews.com, and several of its daytime shows. Each preview focused on Jason Greenslate, a freeloading surfer who Fox correspondent John Roberts interviewed in Southern California. FoxNews.com described Greenslate at length in an article that teased the “new documentary”:
The Fox News Reporting documentary profiles, among others, a California surfer and aspiring musician named Jason Greenslate. Greenslate shows how he supports his beach-bum lifestyle with food stamps, while dismissing the idea of holding down a regular, steady job.
“It's not that I don't want a job, I don't want a boss. I don't want someone telling me what to do. I'm gonna live my own life,” Greenslate tells Fox News' John Roberts. “This is the way I want to live. And I don't really see anything changing. I got the card. It's $200. That's it.”
As promised, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" labeled Greenslate “the new face of food stamps,” devoting two full segments to his lifestyle in a shameless attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, the fraud and waste rate in SNAP is roughly 1 percent, contrary to recent Fox claims that the program is rife with fraud.
Unlike Greenslate, 41 percent of food stamp recipients live “in a household with earnings,” and use SNAP benefits to supplement their primary source of income. Furthermore, the USDA reports that most food stamp recipients stay in the program for only a short period of time:
Half of all new SNAP participants received benefits for 10 months or less in the mid 2000s, up from 8 months in the early 2000s. Single parent families and elderly individuals tended to stay in the program longer than did working poor individuals, childless adults without disabilities, and noncitizens. Seventy-four percent of new participants left the program within two years. This is an increase from 71 percent in the early 1990s.
Fox's attempt to demonize food stamp recipients as a caricature of willful dependency ignores the fact that SNAP kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, many of whom are children or the elderly. Unlike Greenslate, the majority of these individuals relied on the program not because of laziness, but necessity.
Surely it would not have been difficult for Fox to find a realistic face of food stamp recipients, as 76% of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled American. This dishonest depiction of SNAP is the latest example of Fox's longstanding tradition of maligning the poor.