In the past few weeks Americans For Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers financed Tea Party propaganda outfit, has produced a couple of anti-ObamaCare ads that featured alleged “victims” of the health insurance reform. The campaign ended in embarrassment for AFP when the phony “horror stories” were revealed to be utterly false. Independent analysis of the insurance coverage available to the subjects of the ads proved that they were better off under ObamaCare than they were without it.
So AFP abandoned that strategy and released an ad that consisted of a lone spokeswoman making vague criticisms of ObamaCare in a tone of voice dripping with despondency and a tag line bemoaning that “It just doesn’t work.” However, even with this tactic of avoiding any verifiable content that might get them tied up in another counterfactual morass, they still managed to produce a thoroughly dishonest commercial that received a “False” rating from PolitiFact.
The principle claim in the new ad was that “millions are paying more and getting less.” However, as PolitiFact’s research shows, there is no truth to the claim:
PolitiFact: Americans are getting more benefits under the law in a number of ways — including, in some cases, being able to buy affordable insurance for the first time.
In addition, insurance purchased in the individual and small group marketplace must meet 10 essential health benefits. This includes coverage for emergency services and hospitalization, prescription drugs, free preventative coverage for things ranging from basic immunizations to HIV screening, and maternity care.
The law also caps out-of-pocket costs, providing greater protection from exorbitant hospital bills. The most a person could pay for health care in a year is $6,300; the most a family can pay is $12,600.
Before the law passed, some insurers capped annual or lifetime benefits, forcing people who thought they were covered to pay large hospital bills once they passed the threshold.
People with pre-existing conditions are also seeing a lot more benefits, since they previously couldn’t buy a policy at all.
PolitiFact concludes by saying that “At worst, they’re paying more to get more, though in many cases they’re actually paying less.” They also include a chart that shows that, while insurance premiums have risen since ObamaCare became law, the rise is slower than in any of the previous fourteen years. What critics of ObamaCare always seem to forget is that before it came along insurance companies routinely raised premiums, canceled plans, narrowed doctor networks, and declined coverage. They also refused patients with preexisting conditions, terminated patients when they filed claims, and capped benefits at amounts far below realistic costs for care.
Prior to ObamaCare it was always the insurance company that came between the patient and the doctor. And their motivation was strictly related to increasing profits. ObamaCare’s mandates are aimed at improving health care and medical outcomes, not enriching corporations and their executives.
As for Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brothers, and their PR division, Fox News, you have to wonder, if ObamaCare is so terrible, then why do they have to repeatedly lie about it to make it look bad? Why can’t they find any real horror stories? Why can’t they tell the truth about the economics of the program? Why do they so feverishly try to frighten people away?
It’s time once again for the unveiling of the “Lie of the Year” by the fact-checkers at PolitiFact. This year the dis-honoree is President Barack Obama for his promotional assurance that under the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
Pretty much everybody, including Obama, now concedes that making such a blanket statement was unwise and unsustainable. There were signs early on that some plans would be terminated because they fell so far below the standards for acceptable coverage that they were effectively useless. Obama could have made small modifications to the statement that would have been easier to defend, such as: “if you like your health care plan, what the fuck are you thinking?” However, I’m pretty sure that comment wouldn’t have made it past the first draft.
The whole concept of liking one’s health care plan is rather comical to begin with. How often have you ever heard someone bring up in casual conversation how much they liked their health insurance provider? Insurance companies are rarely the object of much affection. Especially for those who get their coverage from the private market rather than from an employer. And that small subset of the population (about 5%) is all that is affected by this.
Whether or not the President’s statement deserved to be the “Lie of the Year” is subject to debate, just as every year’s selection is. But it is notable that PolitiFact’s explanation for their choice began by saying that…
“It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America’s health insurance system.
‘If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,’ President Barack Obama said — many times — of his landmark new law.
“But the promise was impossible to keep.”
A promise, of course, is completely different than a lie. If it was the President’s intention to deliver on the promise, but in the course of legislative compromises and flawed implementation it failed to materialize as expected, than it was not actually a lie at all. But it is obvious that PolitiFact’s analysis is aimed at the distance of the intention from the outcome, not the veracity of the statement itself. And that’s fine since most people apply the same reasoning with regard to the truthiness of a public figure. Also, Obama didn’t help himself by initially trying to defend or rewrite his original comment. Although he does get credit for eventually owning up, apologizing, and taking steps to correct the matter.
The selection of this statement by the President is certain get a lot of attention from the press, particularly the conservative media that eats it up whenever they can shine a spotlight on presidential missteps. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Fox News has leaped to the front of the line to hype PolitiFact’s findings. Ironically, it was Fox Nation that was first out of the gate with a simple headline at the top of their page saying “Politifact: Lie of the Year!”
Coming from a website that has been documented to be riddled with lies (see Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth) obliterates any moral authority they have to disparage the honesty of others. What’s more, the impact of their reporting might have been greater had they not posted this headline just last week: “Never Trust Politifact Again.”
To recap: On November 5, Fox admonishes its audience to never trust PolitiFact, and on November 13, one week later, they feature a PolitiFact ruling at the top of their website. This really says more about Fox than it does about PolitiFact, or even Obama.
For the record, while PolitiFact selected Obama’s comment as their “Lie of the Year,” they also posted the runners-up. It is not unreasonable to expect the winner to get the majority of the attention from the media, however, there is a notable trend amongst the year’s other lies that ought not to be dismissed. Most conspicuously that out of the remaining nine lies in the top ten, eight of them are from republicans or conservatives.
Ann Coulter: No doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare.
Betsy McCaughey: Obamacare will question your sex life.
Bloggers: Obamacare provision will allow “forced home inspections” by government agents.
Ted Cruz: Says “President Obama just granted all of Congress an exception” to Obamacare.
Chain email: A United Nations working group has “adopted a proposed agenda” to enable member nations to “disarm civilians within their borders.”
Barack Obama: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “is transparent.”
Saxby Chambliss: The United States has never stood by and seen innocent people slaughtered to the extent that’s happening in Syria.
Chain email: Says the word “Dhimmitude” is on page 107 of the health care law and means “Muslims are specifically exempted from the government mandate to purchase insurance.”
Michele Bachmann: The IRS is going to be “in charge” of “a huge national database” on health care that will include Americans’ “personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest-secrets.”
So while Obama may have captured the big trophy for the year, conservative liars were far more prolific in fabricating and disseminating disinformation in pursuit of an agenda that they obviously don’t believe merits honest discourse. It illustrates a pattern of behavior that marks the right-wing as incorrigibly deceitful and wholly untrustworthy. At least President Obama apologized, a gesture that is foreign to the unprincipled cretins on the right.
Yesterday the Tea Party Texan, Ted Cruz, wrapped up a 21 hour talk-athon during which he couldn’t articulate a single fact that might convince an open-minded person that ObamaCare is the nightmare that he alleges. Rather, he rambled aimlessly through Dr. Seuss recitations, White Castle burger recollections, and Nazi references.
The truth about the Affordable Care Act is something that Republicans are deathly afraid of – that it will be effective and popular – which is why they lie about it so often and so flagrantly.
What Cruz could not do in 21 hours, PolitiFact has summed up nicely in a few paragraphs. They posted an article that contains sixteen “myths” that have been promulgated by right-wing disinformers, complete with links to detailed explanations that expose the brazen dishonesty of the health care law’s opponents. Included are familiar lies like “the health care law rations care, like systems in Canada and Great Britain,” and that “Congress is exempt from Obamacare.” But it is notable that of the sixteen lies listed, twelve of them earned the worst award that PolitiFact gives, the “Pants On Fire” designation.
As a public service, I have created a handy infographic with the 12 worst lies about ObamaCare as documented by PolitiFact. Please share this with your Tea Party infected friends and family.
The professional prevaricators at Fox News really had to extend themselves to achieve their latest pinnacle of dishonesty. The lead story on their community web site, and Home of Flagrant Fallacies, Fox Nation, was another in their series of attacks on the Affordable Health Care Act (aka ObamaCare). The blazing headline read “Even Obama Buddy Warren Buffett Has Soured on ObamaCare: Scrap It and Start Over!”
That would be a disconcerting development if it were true. But like so many things on Fox, it is not only untrue, it is an embarrassing fictionalization that reputable news enterprises avoid at all costs. Fox, it seems, seeks out this sort of malarkey.
Here’s the story. An obscure web site (Money Morning) that appears to thrive by hooking readers into dubious investment schemes, published an article that purported to be a recent interview with the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. The article, titled “Buffett: Scrap Obamacare and Start All Over,” presented quotes that were portrayed as his current, and negative, opinions about ObamaCare. For instance…
“We have a health system that, in terms of costs, is really out of control,” he added. “And if you take this line and you project what has been happening into the future, we will get less and less competitive. So we need something else.”
There are just two little problems: 1) The comments were actually made three years ago and 2) They were so far removed from context that Buffett’s spokesman disavowed them. The truth is that Buffett was commenting on a draft version of health care reform that was being debated in the senate in 2010. Contrary to the impression left by Money Morning that Buffett was criticizing ObamaCare in its current state as the law of the land, Buffet was merely offering his opinion of what he would prefer while the bill was still being crafted.
It is fair to say that Buffett had some constructive criticism at that stage of the bill’s development. However, when asked directly whether he would support the bill, he said that he would favor it over the other option of no bill at all. So Money Morning misrepresented the timing of the quotes, as well as the substance of their meaning. And to make matters worse, their blunder was picked up by numerous right-wing news outlets who were more than happy to hype what they thought was a falling out between Obama and Buffett.
Along with Fox Nation, the false story was published by the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, and the highly choleric NewsBusters. Since the publication, Money Morning edited their article to reflect that the content was three years old, but they did not acknowledge that their previous version was wrong (here is a link to the cached original text). Both the Weekly Standard and NewsBusters posted corrections. But neither of Rupert Murdoch’s properties, the Wall Street Journal and Fox Nation, have bothered to set the record straight.
The degree of dishonesty exhibited here was documented by PolitiFact, who did a thorough analysis. Their conclusion was that the misrepresentation of Buffett’s comments was a “Pants On Fire” lie. It is well worth reading their entire article. Included in their findings is the fact that Buffet expressed his support for ObamaCare just last year, and he praised the Supreme Court’s decision upholding it.
It’s noteworthy that the Fox Nationalists posted their phoney story well after it was already known that it was wrong. And they have had plenty of time to discover the error and correct it, but have not done so. That’s because they don’t care whether their reporting is true or not. They only care if they can influence their gullible audience, even if that means misinforming them. And that is something that they do better than just about anybody else.
According to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Republicans were found to be significantly more dishonest in their public statements than Democrats. The CMPA examined 100 statements by members of both parties that were fact-checked by PolitiFact.com between January 20, to May 22, of 2013. Here is a summary of their findings:
PolitiFact rated 32% of Republican claims as “false” or “pants on fire,” compared to 11% of Democratic claims – a 3 to 1 margin.
Conversely, Politifact rated 22% of Democratic claims as “entirely true” compared to 11% of Republican claims – a 2 to 1 margin.
A majority of Democratic statements (54%) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18% of Republican statements.
Conversely, a majority of Republican statements (52%) were rated as mostly or entirely false, compared to only 24% of Democratic statements.
Despite controversies over Obama administration statements regarding Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press, Republicans have continued to fare worse than Democrats, with 60% of their claims rated as false so far this month (May 1 – May 22), compared to 29% of Democratic statements – a 2 to 1 margin.
The results of this research may appear to be common sense that any informed person would have known prior to the study, but having a bona fide analysis conducted by a neutral, academic source affirm what is observably true is useful in the ongoing debate over the veracity of our leaders.
This study corroborates my own reporting during the presidential election last year that showed Mitt Romney spewing falsehoods at a far greater rate than the Obama campaign. He won PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” award and set a record for assaults on the truth by earning 84 citations of falsehoods (41% in all), 19 of which were “Pants-on-Fire.” But then what should we expect from a party that proudly proclaimed that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
Once again, the proclivity for deception and dishonesty as practiced by Republicans and right-wing media has earned them the honor being awarded “Lie Of The Year” by the fact-checkers at Politifact.
There were so many deserving lies told by Mitt Romney and his campaign that it must have been a difficult choice for the folks at PolitiFact. The particular lie that captured the prize this year was Romney’s claim that Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs. As noted by PolitiFact:
“It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.
“And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.”
Indeed, the Romney camp dug in their heels when criticized about the brazen dishonesty of their claim. But then this is the candidate who proudly declared that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers [who have] jumped the shark.” It is the campaign whose strategist admitted that they could simply “Etch-a-Sketch” away the extremist conservative positions they touted in the GOP primary. And Romney set a record for assaults on the truth by earning 84 citations of falsehoods (41% in all) by PolitiFact, 19 of which were “Pants-on-Fire.”
It would, however, be unjust to let Romney walk away with all the glory. He had plenty of help from right-wing media, most notably Fox News. Most of the Fox menagerie joined in to defend Romney’s fibbing, including Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and the incorrigible kiddies at Fox & Friends. And, of course, Fox was backed up by notorious prevaricators across the web like the Drudge Report and the anti-fact-checkers at NewsBusters.
Lest anyone come away with the impression that the reality-based community as represented by PolitiFact is secretly in league with the Obama cabal, none other than Fox Nation has endorsed them on numerous occasions, eagerly citing their analyses when it served their purpose. Of course, they also conveniently lost their link to PolitiFact when the results didn’t go their way. That’s the modus operandi of the fair and balanced network.
This addendum to the campaign of 2012 puts a lovely bow around what was the most consistent theme of the GOP throughout the year: Lies, lies, lies. And in the days following the election, Republican operatives have declined to acknowledge that this strategy hurt them in the minds of voters. Consequently, we can expect this sort of duplicity to be a part of future Republican campaigns. The GOP may not be doing all that well getting their candidates elected, but they might very well have a lock on PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year award for many years to come.
Conservatives and professional Obama haters have been nurturing an animosity for Obama that far exceeds anything directed at previous presidents. The lengths that they will go to bury Obama in mud often resemble D-Movie spy plots that set new standards for implausibility. The all too familiar birther conspiracies that allege that President Obama is a Manchurian socialist bent on transforming America into an Islamic Caliphate are mere fairy tales when compared to some of the horror stories that shiver the spines of the delusional right.
The frequency and outlandishness of their conspiratorial imaginations grows in sync with their desperation. With Obama leading in most polls and the election season drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to recap some of the more ludicrous conspiracies hatched by our conservative fear mongers. So with our tin-foil hats securely strapped on, let’s venture down the primrose path of hair-raising hypothesis.
Cooking the Unemployment Rate
The most recent crackpottery of the right was revealed last week as new unemployment numbers were released. The new data put the unemployment rate at 7.8%, the lowest it has been since the Bush administration cratered the economy on their way out of town. Almost immediately, right-wingers declared that the numbers were manufactured by Obama’s henchmen in the Labor Department. Never mind the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is an independent body that currently has no Obama appointees serving. That didn’t stop conspiracists like Jack Welch from alleging that they are “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” That unsubstantiated charge was adopted by Rep. Allen West, Fox News’ Stuart Varney, and much of the rest of the right-wing media circus.
The Media is Skewing the Polls
For several weeks now, Obama has maintained a steady lead in election polling. That fact has been difficult for conservatives to square with their conviction that Obama is the most hated man in America. Consequently, they must conclude that all of the polls have been tampered with by scheming liberals. However, for their conspiracy to be credible, they would have to include Fox News and Rasmussen amongst the conniving lefties because their polling also puts Obama in the lead. One way they have found to workaround that inconvenient fact is to ignore the polls that challenge their thesis. Therefore, Fox News simply neglects to report on polls that show the President leading – even their own Fox News polls.
Politicizing the Stock Market
In a year when the economy is such an integral part of the news cycle, conservatives have found it necessary to glom onto any factoid that they can use to bash the President. That manifests into a frenzy of spin that casts any decline in the stock market as the fault of Obama, and any increase as investor speculation that Obama is on the way out. Last week, many of the right-dominated business networks feebly described a positive day for the Dow as a Romney rally, simply because it occurred on the day after the presidential debate. There is a long history of the right making idiotic assessments of the stock market. In May of 2009, Fox News anchor Brenda Buttner gushed, “Call it a tea party rally. Wall Street’s sure partying, up six weeks in a row.” In September of 2011, Fox Nation reported “Stocks Tumble Worldwide After Obama Speech.” Then in June of 2012, they fantasized that “Stock Market Drops After Obamacare Upheld.” Fox’s Neil Cavuto hosted a discussion of what he called the “Bush recovery” nine months into Obama’s term. What they commonly miss is that markets traditionally perform better under Democratic administrations than Republicans.
Obama is Coming for Your Guns
This conspiracy theory takes a considerable measure of willful suspension of disbelief. The National Rifle Association has alerted its members that a second Obama term will result in the repeal of the second amendment and a wholesale confiscation of guns. Their evidence of this is that Obama has done nothing at all to roll back gun rights during his first term. That, they surmise, is a devious trick to lull gun rights advocates into a false sense of security. Then, when Obama is no longer facing a reelection campaign, he will be free to curtail all of our precious liberties.
The Social Security Administration’s Arms Cache
When it was discovered that the Social Security Administration had purchased 174,000 bullets, the right-wing sirens went off and presumed that they were preparing for massive civil unrest and intended to use the ammo on Americans. “‘Why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest?’ Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry wrote on the conservative website The Daily Caller.” That would be a good question if it weren’t rooted in utter dementia. In fact, the actual reason for the purchase was a routine acquisition to arm conventional security personnel at the agency’s offices across the country.
The Muslim Mole in the Secretary of State’s Office
A longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton was accused by conservatives of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Huma Abedin has worked with Clinton for many years as a trusted and effective public servant. No evidence was given for the repugnant allegations that cast her as a traitorous double agent. She is also married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is Jewish and unlikely to be affiliated with Muslim extremists. But that didn’t stop Rep. Michele Bachmann who said, “it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions” in our government. She was joined by other prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Frank Gaffney. This conspiracy dove-tails nicely with those alleging that Obama is a Muslim plant as well.
Fact-Checkers Are A Liberal Plot
Creative and shameless conservatives are establishing a new and unique front in the political war zone. Not satisfied with bashing everything about the media (despite the fact that talk radio and their own Fox News are a huge part of it), the wackoids on the right have declared war against – get this – Fact-checkers! This may seem wildly deranged, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. If your entire movement is built on a foundation of lies, then fact-checkers are your mortal enemy. This became clear a few weeks ago when Neil Newhouse, a Mitt Romney adviser, publicly declared that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Since then they have disputed or ignored every challenge of their truthfulness. The result is a record setting collection of dishonorable mentions from PolitiFact and other media lie detectors.
The Secret Behind The Gulf Oil Spill
When millions of barrels of oil were pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, most Americans were disturbed by the devastating environmental damage and the negligence of the company operating the drilling platform. But conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh saw through the scheme and revealed that the massive malfunction was actually a deliberate act of sabotage devised to create a justification for eliminating all off-shore drilling. Limbaugh told his audience that “I want to get back to the timing of the blowing up, the explosion out there in the Gulf of Mexico of this oil rig … What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?” You can’t argue with logic like that, because it’s the logic of a mad man who thinks the President would murder twelve workers and foul an environmentally sensitive region in order to achieve a political goal.
Obamacare’s Death Panels
No list of conspiracy theories would be complete without a mention of Sarah Palin’s “death panels.” These nefarious groups were said to have the power to decide whether your grandmother would live or die based on her level of productivity to society as determined by a team of government bureaucrats. In reality the section of the Affordable Care Act to which Palin referred actually provided for coverage to pay for end-of-life counseling. These were voluntary sessions to help patients determine and document what sort of life-saving measures they preferred in the event that they were incapacitated and unable to communicate their wishes to their doctors. When that proved to be an embarrassing misinterpretation of the law, conservatives switched to another section of the bill, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and called that the death panel. However, the IPAB was simply a board that assessed the best practices in medicine and made non-binding recommendations in order to prevent excessive billing and unnecessary procedures. Palin was awarded the “Lie of the Year” award from PolitiFact for her imaginary panel.
The Green Plot to Enslave the World
Conservatives have never taken to science. So it should come as no surprise that many of them regard global warming as a hoax whose purpose is to enrich Al Gore and a few socialist wind farmers. But there is another faction of the anti-environment movement that has uncovered something even more dastardly lurking behind the effort to maintain a clean, sustainable planet. Agenda 21, a little known and non-binding resolution adopted by the United Nations is viewed by some on the right as an attempt to control the lives of people throughout the world by regulating everything they do. Amongst their paranoid fears is that Agenda 21 will cede U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. and a one-world government. The truth is that Agenda 21 is a set of principles to guide the development of practices to preserve a sustainable environment for future generations. It is entirely voluntary and was agreed to by the U.N. in 1992 and signed by President George H.W. Bush. But to hear doomsayers like Glenn Beck put it, it will “suck all the blood out of [our communities], and we will not be able to survive.”
These are but a few of the tales woven by angst-ridden right-wingers in the dark moments when their thoughts wander from rational reality. However, the science that they scorn may have an explanation for their fantastical imaginings. Ryota Kanai, at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, examined how liberals and conservatives brains differ. Among the findings were that the brains of liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which has been shown to produce thought proceses that are more flexible and reliant on data, proof, and analytic reasoning. Conservatives are more likely to have an enlarged amygdala which is associated with greater inflexibility, emotion, and fear response.
This could account for conservatives having a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that their senses are working overtime and the results produce some pretty wild visions of nightmarish liberals threatening America’s very existence. They seem to have taken very seriously the warning from the Reagan-era horror film, The Fly: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The widely respected and Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact has announced their annual selection for “Lie of the Year.” Unfortunately, they have selected something that is demonstrably true: “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
There has already been a tidal wave of criticism for this selection, which I will not regurgitate. If you’re interested in reading some of the takedowns, Media Matters has complied a few and posted their own cogent remarks.
My contribution to this discussion will be to point out that Fox News reported on Politifact’s finding that the claim that Republicans voted to end Medicare was a lie, and at the same time published an article wherein Republicans advocated an end to Medicare:
That’s right. The Fox Nationalists, who ordinarily revile Politifact as just another liberal mainstream media outlet, now regale in this award. But they also publish an editorial wherein the resident Fox News MD, Marc Siegel says this:
“Not all practicing doctors will readily admit this, but we all look at Medicare (and all health insurance for that matter, public or private), the same way. Medicare is cumbersome, an unnecessary interface between us and our patients…”
The fact that Republicans have been trying to kill Medicare is irrefutable. And now the evidence is right on the web site of the GOP PR machine, Fox News. It takes some massive cajones to place these conflicting stories in such close proximity, but that’s what Fox was created for.
Last week The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. The interview included a discussion of Fox’s well known conservative bias and disinformation. While noting that Fox’s Washington chief, Bill Sammon, dictated “marching orders” to the network’s anchors and reporters (a segment that Fox edited out of the television broadcast), Stewart remarked that “the most consistently misinformed? Fox. Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
Subsequently, the non-partisan fact-checkers at PolitiFact analyzed Stewart’s comment and concluded that it was false. This set off a flurry of activity in the blogosphere with lefties defending Stewart and righties hailing PolitiFact.
To be sure, there is room for debate on the matter of Stewart’s accuracy. Stewart himself accepted PolitiFact’s findings and apologized. But Media Matters made an excellent case refuting PolitiFact’s analysis and charging that they were making dissimilar comparisons. For instance, PolitiFact cited surveys that measured the civic knowledge of viewers. However, asking whether a viewer knows how many amendments there are to the Constitution is not the same asking whether the viewer believes that the health care bill contains “death panels.” The former is a civics lesson, the latter is misinformation.
One fact that is inarguable is that Fox is responsible for a great deal of misinformation. Politfact’s conclusion was strictly literal, holding Stewart accountable for saying specifically that “every poll” found Fox viewers the most misinformed. That may have been an exaggeration and, had Stewart said simply that many polls placed Fox viewers at or near the bottom of the pack, he would have been correct and PolitiFact would have agreed. On several points PolitiFact noted that…
Fox isn’t last on the list, although it’s close.
Once again, Fox News as a whole ranked fairly low among regularly used media outlets.
Fox clearly did the worst among the major news outlets.
After reporting PolitiFact’s findings, and apologizing, Stewart made a another attempt to illustrate the point he was originally making with Chris Wallace: that Fox misinforms their viewers, and they do so frequently. He used PolitiFact’s own research to make this point by enumerating some of the incidences where PolitiFact ruled against Fox News. It was a hilarious bit that itemized them in a rapid-fire fashion. As a public service I am reprinting them here, following the video, for those who wish to take their time to savor the irony:
Glenn Beck: “Less than 10 percent of Obama’s Cabinet appointees have worked in the private sector.” — False (December 2, 2009)
Steve Doocy: “White House Political Director once served as right-hand to ACORN chief.” — False (September 30, 2009)
Gretchen Carlson: “The Texas State Board of Education may eliminate references to Christmas and the Constitution in textbooks.” — A Pants on Fire! liar award (March 12, 2010)
PolitiFact’s 2010 Lie of the Year: “Health care reform is a government take-over of health care.” (December 16, 2010)
Glenn Beck: “The Muslim Brotherhood has openly stated they want to declare war on Israel.” — False (February 15, 2011)
Karl Rove: “American troops have never been under the formal control of another nation.” — False (March 29, 2011)
Brian Kilmeade: “Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s approval ratings are up.” — False (April 15, 2011)
Laura Ingraham: “The Massachusetts health care plan is wildly unpopular among state residents.” — False (May 16, 2011)
Sarah Palin: “There’s been more debt under Obama than all other presidents combined.” — False (June 1, 2011)
PolitiFact’s 2009 Lie of the Year: “Health care bill includes Death Panels” (December 18, 2009)
Kimberly Guilfoyle: “Cash for Clunkers will give government complete access to your home computer.” — False (August 3, 2009)
Sarah Palin: “Halting Gulf drilling costs $8 billion a day in imports.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (June 3, 2011)
Sarah Palin: “Democrats plan largest tax increase in history.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (August 4, 2010)
Bill O’Reilly: “Attorney General Eric Holder was involved in the dismissal of criminal charges against the New Black Panthers.” — False (July 23, 2010)
Sarah Palin: “Obama voted ‘present’ in the U.S. Senate quite often. ” — False (February 8, 2010)
Glenn Beck: “John Holdren proposed forced abortions and putting sterilants in drinking water.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (July 29, 2009)
Glenn Beck: “Labor union president Andy Stern is the most frequent visitor at the White House.” — False (December 7, 2009)
Glenn Beck: “America is the only country without automatic citizenship upon birth.” — False (June 19, 2009)
Bill O’Reilly: “O’Reilly never called Dr. George Tiller a baby killer, only reporting what others called him.” — False (June 5, 2009)
Bill O’Reilly: “Only Fox News picked up that Anita Dunn said Mao was one of her favorite philosophers.” — False (October 27, 2009)
Bill O’Reilly: “Nobody at Fox News ever said you’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (April 27, 2010)