Fox News personalities and guests are minimizing concerns about Republican plans to cut entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, and instead claiming Democrats are engaging in “scare tactics” ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. But the GOP has proposed multiple plans that would threaten these programs if they take control of the House.
According to Bloomberg Government, House Republicans plan to weaponize the debt ceiling in future budget negotiations to accomplish the GOP’s “top priorities” if they win control in the upcoming midterm elections. All four Republicans vying for the next potential House Budget Committee chairmanship support this plan and are focused on slashing entitlement program funding. But mainstream media largely ignored Bloomberg's bombshell reporting until House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) endorsed this strategy. (Even after McCarthy’s announcement, Media Matters found that CNN devoted roughly 14 minutes to a new paint job on former President Donald Trump’s plane compared to 11 minutes on the GOP’s debt ceiling plot.)
Mainstream media are failing to inform the American public of what is at stake in the midterms: Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, right-wing media led by Fox News are downplaying and concealing the GOP’s threat to entitlements as part of their larger effort to boost Republicans in the upcoming elections.
GOP leaders have been working to cut Social Security and Medicare for decades, and their current efforts go beyond the reported debt ceiling plot. The Republican Study Committee, a group which includes 75% of House Republicans as members, released a proposed budget that would cut both programs by introducing stricter requirements, raising the age for retirement and Medicare eligibility, and turning the latter into a system of means-tested vouchers. Senate Budget Committee member Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has also suggested that Social Security should be reauthorized annually as discretionary spending, which would necessarily put the program at risk, and according to Richard Johnson, director of the Program on Retirement Policy at the Urban Institute, “would create a lot of uncertainty for retirees and for people with disabilities.”
Senate Budget Committee member Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has proposed a plan more extreme than even some of its critics have let on, potentially putting “all federal legislation,” which includes Social Security and Medicare, on a 5-year chopping block.
Fox hosts and guests have largely neglected to share these proposals with their viewers. Instead, they have presented a dishonest narrative that the GOP is not actually working to undermine entitlement programs, claiming Democrats are using the story as a “desperate” attack ahead of the midterm elections.
- Leaving out the GOP’s explicit plans to target entitlement programs in future budget negotiations, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer instead falsely claimed that Republicans are not interested in changing Medicare and Social Security: “They can’t. President Biden is still in the White House.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/25/22]
- Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner interrupted Democratic campaign strategist Dan Kanninen as he explained the GOP’s plan is to “sunset Social Security and Medicare” to allow Marc Lotter, the communications director of the Trump-allied America First Policy Institute, to claim that “these aren’t our plans” and to blame Democrats for “going back to their old scare tactics, trying to scare people about Medicare and Social Security.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 10/26/22]
- Faulkner did not push back on McCarthy after he claimed that the Democrats are lying about the GOP’s efforts to cut funding for entitlement programs because “they can’t run on their agenda.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 10/27/22]
- In a pre-recorded segment, Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich failed to mention any of the GOP proposals that threaten Social Security and instead highlighted that McCarthy “says that it is not true” that the GOP is threatening funding for entitlement programs. [Fox News, Special Report, 10/27/22]
- On America’s Newsroom, GOP strategist and former National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Matt Gorman said, “No, it’s clearly not true” that Republicans will try to cut Social Security and Medicare. Anchor Dana Perino failed to provide any context or additional information about the GOP’s current proposals that would result in cuts to both programs. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/27/22]
- Fox host Steve Hilton said it is “desperate stuff” and “last-minute panic” for Democrats to highlight the GOP’s efforts to put Social Security on the chopping block. [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 10/28/22]
- Fox News Sunday anchor Shannon Bream did not provide details about the GOP’s plans to target entitlement programs and allowed Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel to claim without any pushback that Democrats are engaging in “scare tactics” to shift focus from “Bidenflation.” [Fox News, Fox News Sunday, 10/30/22]
- Fox News host Brian Kilmeade said that Democrats are “grabbing at things that don’t even exist” when they claim that “people like Ron Johnson want to cut Social Security and your Medicare.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/31/22]
- Fox News anchor Dana Perino said Democrats’ claim that Republicans plan “to cut Social Security and Medicare … doesn’t have a lot of teeth because you don't have Republicans campaigning on that,” completely ignoring McCarthy’s support of the debt ceiling plot. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/31/22]
- Fox Business host Stuart Varney questioned concerns about “gutting Social Security and Medicare. Where does that come from?” Fox News contributor Charles Hurt claimed, “It’s a desperate ploy by Democrats,” and an example of “class warfare,” saying, “There is no basis in fact … to make these claims.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 10/31/22]