Happening Now

Tags ››› Happening Now
  • Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia probably would have been illegal, contrary to conservative claims

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    PolitiFact rated Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett’s claim that collusion with a foreign government in an election isn’t a crime “false,” citing three election law experts who named four statutes that could have been violated. Amid an FBI probe into whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, various conservative media figures have piled on to make similar claims that such actions -- if they occurred -- are not illegal.

    On May 10, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera was among the first to say that collusion with the Russian government in an election wouldn’t be a crime. Fox host Sean Hannity said on his radio show on May 22, “Let’s say they did [collude], they said to Vladimir Putin, ‘Hey Vladimir, release everything you got.’ And Vladimir released it to Julian Assange. You know, is that a crime?” On May 30, Fox’s Jarrett asserted on air that “collusion is not a crime. … You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election. There is no such statute.” Jarrett made a similar argument in a FoxNews.com op-ed. And on May 31, conservative author Michael Reagan claimed on CNN, “Collusion is not breaking the law,” and repeatedly asked “what law” collusion breaks.

    In a June 1 fact check, PolitiFact, responding to Jarrett, wrote, “We ran Jarrett’s argument by three election law professors, and they all said that while the word ‘collusion’ might not appear in key statutes (they couldn’t say for sure that it was totally absent), working with the Russians could violate criminal laws”:

    Nathaniel Persily at Stanford University Law School said one relevant statute is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

    "A foreign national spending money to influence a federal election can be a crime," Persily said. "And if a U.S. citizen coordinates, conspires or assists in that spending, then it could be a crime."

    Persily pointed to a 2011 U.S. District Court ruling based on the 2002 law. The judges said that the law bans foreign nationals "from making expenditures to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a political candidate."

    Another election law specialist, John Coates at Harvard University Law School, said if Russians aimed to shape the outcome of the presidential election, that would meet the definition of an expenditure.

    "The related funds could also be viewed as an illegal contribution to any candidate who coordinates (colludes) with the foreign speaker," Coates said.

    To be sure, no one is saying that coordination took place. What’s in doubt is whether the word "collusion" is as pivotal as Jarrett makes it out to be.

    Coates said discussions between a campaign and a foreigner could violate the law against fraud.

    "Under that statute, it is a federal crime to conspire with anyone, including a foreign government, to ‘deprive another of the intangible right of honest services,’ " Coates said. "That would include fixing a fraudulent election, in my view, within the plain meaning of the statute."

    Josh Douglas at the University of Kentucky Law School offered two other possible relevant statutes.

    "Collusion in a federal election with a foreign entity could potentially fall under other crimes, such as against public corruption," Douglas said. "There's also a general anti-coercion federal election law."

  • The Emergency Room Is No Place For Routine Care

    Right-Wing Media Push Absurd Idea That The Uninsured Can Just Go To The E.R.

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing media attempted to pacify the millions of Americans who would lose their health insurance coverage if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) becomes law with the absurd notion that people do not need insurance to receive access to health care via the emergency room. In reality, laws requiring hospitals to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay apply only to emergency care to stabilize a patient; they do not constitute a mandate to provide all of a patient’s routine health care needs.

    Right-wing media have attempted to defend Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted for the AHCA -- a previous version of which was expected to strip health insurance coverage from up to 24 million Americans -- by pushing the misleading idea that those without medical coverage can just go to the emergency room. On the May 7 edition of Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dismissed late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s heartfelt plea that no child should go without health care on account of their family’s finances, denouncing what he called the “mythology of the left” and claiming hospitals will treat a sick person regardless of their ability to pay. On the May 8 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, The Blaze’s Lawrence Jones pushed the same narrative that those without health insurance can access care at emergency rooms when he attempted to defend Rep. Raul Labrador’s (R-ID) comments at a town hall that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” This narrative even made it’s way onto the May 9 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where host Joe Scarborough claimed that “we already have universal health care coverage; the problem is that so much of it is driven by emergency room visits.”

    Hospital emergency rooms have been required to provide care for the uninsured since the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) was enacted in 1986, but the provider is required only to “stabilize a patient within its capacity.” EMTALA does not mandate that a hospital provide full medical treatments to an uninsured patient, only that “patients receive appropriate emergency care.” Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, explained in a blog post that EMTALA requires only treatment of an emergency situation, not provision of the regular life-saving treatment necessary for many illnesses, such as diabetes:

    Over 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, requiring regular access to medication to stay alive. They can’t get insulin in an emergency room. They can’t get needed eye exams or kidney function tests in the emergency room. They can’t get a checkup in the emergency room. But once they go into hypoglycemic shock or once their feet become gangrenous, then they can get examined and treated. Does that sound like access to health care?

    Emergency rooms are designed to treat emergencies, not provide care for all health conditions, and they are a costly alternative to seeking treatment at a doctor’s office for a minor illness or injury. Since the passage of Affordable Care Act (ACA), more low-income Americans have had access to health insurance and, with it, regular preventative services. In fact, states that accepted the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid found new enrollees took advantage of this new access and were 62.9 percent more likely to visit a general care physician. Low-income Americans are now less likely to face crushing medical debt thanks in part to not having to bear the uninsured cost of emergency room visits and catastrophic care, which was the case for millions of Americans before the ACA became law. Dismantling the ACA, as columnist Michael Hiltzik explained in the Los Angeles Times, would put millions at risk of losing access to care and possibly facing medical bankruptcy once again.

    During the May 8 edition of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel responded directly to Gingrich’s absurd emergency room claims by explaining that emergency care is often just one part of a patient’s treatment. Kimmel noted that his son has had “a dozen doctors appointments” since his initial emergency, along with numerous ancillary costs associated with his treatments, which “Newt forgot to mention.” The back-and-forth between Gingrich and Kimmel became a story unto itself, and it was the subject of a panel segment on the May 9 edition of CNN’s New Day, in which co-host Chris Cuomo reiterated that an emergency room is not the appropriate place to treat all of a person’s health care needs:

  • After Enabling Trump, Right-Wing Media Campaign For Marine Le Pen

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    United States right-wing media figures have rallied behind “far-right populist” Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election by endorsing her, positively comparing her to President Donald Trump, and attacking her opponent Emmanuel Macron with anti-Semitic smears and comparisons to former President Barack Obama.

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Want Trump To Shut Down The Government So They Can Blame Democrats

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media figures are displeased after the likelihood of a government shutdown seemed to fade following a breakthrough after days of failed negotiations and speculation. Specifically, right-wing media figures cheered the idea of a shutdown because they wanted to make sure that “Democrats get blamed” and to exact revenge after, as they claimed, Democrats made previous shutdowns “as painful as possible.”

  • Fox News Omits Key Facts Regarding Unprecedented Arkansas Death Penalty Cases

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    During its reporting on the state of Arkansas’ unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days, Fox News repeatedly omitted important details about the legal challenges to the plan, downplayed the extent of criticism to the plan, and misled its viewers on the reasons the executions have not yet been carried out.

    On the April 18 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, host Jon Scott opened a panel discussion by asking, “The reasoning for this holdup has nothing to do with the lethal injection drugs that are currently in question, right?” In fact, one of the orders blocking the executions was issued for that exact reason. The Arkansas circuit judge temporarily blocked the state from using one of its drugs, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic used in prisons for lethal injections (and for other purposes elsewhere).This ruling came after McKesson, a distributor of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, filed a complaint alleging that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) “intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson’s policies by claiming that the drug would only be used for medical reasons in a health facility.” The ADC has to date declined to answer questions about how it obtained the restricted drugs or whether it planned to return them.

    An hour before Scott’s show aired, correspondent Casey Stegall noted on Fox’s America’s Newsroom that “states have had a difficult time getting new supplies of this drug [midazolam] because many critics say it should not be used to kill people.” He was referring to another drug that Arkansas has in its possession but which will expire on April 30. Stegall, however, failed to mention that these “critics” include the drug makers themselves. West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes midazolam, and Fresenius Kabi USA, manufacturer of potassium chloride, another drug used in executions, have also expressed opposition to the use of their drugs for lethal injection. In an amicus brief they filed with the district court, the companies wrote that using their medicines in executions “runs counter to the manufacturers’ mission to save and enhance patients’ lives.” Spokespersons for Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward told The Washington Post that they had “recently learned” that their medicines “might be used in Arkansas lethal injections.” The reporting on these drugs shows that all three drugs used in Arkansas’ lethal injection cocktail are implicated in legal battles. Thus for Fox to imply that the planned executions are opposed merely by “critics” is a gross understatement of the legal challenges ADC is facing.

    During his reporting, Stegall also failed to provide context for the shortage of the drugs in the first place. Since 2011, many European drug companies, in an alignment with the European Union’s objection to death penalty, have decided to cease shipment of their drugs to U.S. prisons that carry out executions via lethal injections. This has created a shortage that has led U.S. prisons to turn to dangerous experimentation, as was in the case in 2014, when Dennis McGuire, an Ohio inmate on death row, was injected with a never-before-used drug cocktail. McGuire’s execution lasted 25 minutes, the longest in Ohio’s history, and witnesses said he “gasped several times throughout” before dying.

    After criminal defense attorney Yodit Tewolde explained that “for Arkansas to try to rush executions for the sake of a drug expiring at the end of the month is disrespectful to the intent of justice in this case,” Scott ignored her point and flippantly remarked that it “seems odd” to characterize the response to a crime that happened in 1992 as a “rush to judgment.” His comment and Casey Stegall’s claim that the “expedited timeline” was initiated because “the state is up against this deadline” of expiring drugs ignores the legal implications of their expiration. Arkansas’ “rush” to use drugs before their expiration for purposes which are opposed by the companies that sell them is a potentially illegal contract violation, and given the state’s reported admission that it violated contracts with drug makers in an earlier case, this context is especially important.

    Arkansas hasn’t carried out any executions since 2005. The state’s aggressive and potentially unconstitutional plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days is unprecedented, hugely consequential, and has drawn national scrutiny at a time when Americans’ support for the death penalty is on the decline. Leaving out important details when reporting on such a high profile case is an inexcusable journalistic failure, especially given the American public’s lack of knowledge about capital punishment in the nation’s prisons.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.