Right-wing media spread false claims about Social Security checks and the Postal Service

Yes, Social Security still sends some checks in the mail — that’s not just another “talking point”

Right-wing media are pushing back against complaints that the recent slowdown in the United States Postal Service, initiated by the Trump administration, is delaying the delivery of Social Security checks. After all, they say, Social Security has operated on a direct deposit system since 2013.

But not everyone is using this system. CNN reporter Daniel Dale looked at the official government statistics and found that while over 99% of beneficiaries use the direct deposit system, there are still nearly 550,000 checks sent out every month, and the total grows to 850,000 checks when including further programs from the Social Security Administration.

President Donald Trump admitted last week that he opposes more funding for the Postal Service because it would help to advance mail-in voting. But in addition to slowing down the delivery of ballots, the kneecapping of the post office is having far more widespread effects, including damage to small businesses as well as delays in the delivery of prescription medications — especially affecting military families — and yes, the delivery of Social Security checks.

On Monday’s broadcasts on Fox News, the network initially ran a mention of this key fact — before quickly dropping it in the successive programming.

During Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News correspondent David Spunt acknowledged: “According to the Social Security Administration, 71.6 million benefits are paid electronically, while 850,000 paper checks are mailed each month.”

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Citation From the August 17, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier

But in the next hour, Fox “news”-side anchor Martha MacCallum got in an argument with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) about this very topic, ignoring the fact that hundreds of thousands of Social Security checks are sent through the mail each month.

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Citation From the August 17, 2020, edition of Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): You know, Martha, I'm going to tell you, while the election mail matters to me greatly because it is about our democracy, I'm immediately concerned about the veterans that aren't getting their medicine, the seniors that aren't getting their Social Security checks.

And I will tell you for a fact, long before all of this started, I have been working with my post offices, the post — postal workers and people in our communities. I have gone into them. And since they have cut overtime, mail is backlogged, people aren't getting mails for days, they're two weeks behind.

And if you were on the ground really looking at what's happening, that’s just categorically not true. Mail is being backed up, machines are being moved, mailboxes are being eliminated, and there is a problem, and I hear about it every minute that I am out there.

MARTHA MACCALLUM (ANCHOR): The Social Security checks are electronically delivered.

DINGELL: No, they are not.

MACCALLUM: Or if they're not electronically delivered, they go on to a person's credit card.

DINGELL: First of all, that's not true for everybody. That's what you don't understand. Not all seniors are lucky enough to even be able to afford to be able to have money wired, they are still old-fashioned. And the older you are, the more likely that that is still coming in the mail.

And I — so, and I'm talking to a lot of seniors who are scared and experiencing problems with the mail. That's what I'm hearing about. I'm getting it every day, Martha.


DINGELL: I was in the hospital on Saturday, and people were screaming at me.

And this error by one of Fox’s nominal “news” anchors was repeated by the network’s opinion hosts.

Over on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, the host declared that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “today told her radical Dem colleagues that the Postal Service provides critical services like delivering prescriptions and Social Security checks. Well, we've got a bulletin for the speaker: The Postal Services do not mail Social Security checks. The post office hasn't done that since 2013. Are you all right, Madam Speaker?”

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Citation From the August 17, 2020, edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight

Fox News host Tucker Carlson also joined in: “Now, Nancy Pelosi is 80 years old, so you'd think she would know that the government hasn't used the Postal Service to send those checks since 2013. In other words, we can now be pretty sure that Nancy Pelosi doesn't live on her Social Security benefits or even notice them.”

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Citation From the August 17, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight

And on The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) further recited this same falsehood to attack speakers at Monday’s Democratic National Convention — while they accused Democrats of all syncing up and just saying the same things over and over again.

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Citation From the August 17, 2020, edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Democrats, though, also used the night to spread, and I have to get your take on this, Sen. Cruz, this post office conspiracy to rig the election. Watch.

INGRAHAM: I note to Ms. [Eva] Longoria and friends, they stopped sending Social Security checks through the mail in, oh, 2013 under President Obama. Sen. Cruz, first it was Russia, then it was Ukraine, and now it's the post office — a new hoax for every time and every moment.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): And this one is bizarre. It is impressive to see the Democratic talking points that when they decide on a message, every single Democrat across the country repeats it word for word. But, you know, the post office, I'm willing to bet that not a single person there speaking has bought a stamp in the last five years. They have no idea what's going on with the post office.

This right-wing falsehood has been going around for days, however, starting at least from this past Friday with a “fact check” from the far-right outlet Breitbart. The article claimed: “It no doubt will scare some seniors to hear that their Social Security payments could be delayed by a political fight over the post office but it is not true.”

Commentators at Townhall further spread it on Twitter:

The Daily Caller, however, did run a correction Monday night:

As did Siraj Hashmi of the Washington Examiner: