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The GOP Health Care Bill Actually Does What Conservatives Said Obamacare Would Do — And Worse

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) scheduled the vote on the Republican health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), on the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Despite seven years of Republicans pledging to repeal and replace the ACA, all they’ve managed to come up with is a bill that is the manifestation of some of the worst myths and baseless critiques that right-wing media leveled against the ACA.

The Republican Party introduced their health care bill earlier this month. The proposed legislation severely cuts Medicaid, reduces tax credits while giving a massive tax cut to the wealthy, and dramatically increases the number of uninsured Americans, effectively erasing the gains made by the ACA. While right-wing media has spent the better part of a decade demonizing the ACA, three of their biggest myths — allegations that the ACA hurts seniors, that Democrats rammed the law through Congress, and the never-ending predictions of a “death spiral” — are actually valid criticisms of the GOP health care law.

The most famous right-wing media myth surrounding the ACA is the death panel — the false allegation that the ACA created a panel of government bureaucrats that would ration health care for the elderly. PolitiFact dubbed the falsehood the “Lie of the Year” in 2009. However, right-wing media figures continued to push the myth for years. The specter of a death panel that might euthanize a grandmother fit into right-wing media’s narrative that the ACA would hurt seniors. Conservative media figures forwarded a variety of lies about how Obamacare was “sticking it to the seniors,” ranging from assertions that the ACA’s medical tax would apply to wheelchairs (it doesn’t) to false allegations that the law eviscerated Medicare by raiding its funding.

In reality, the ACA improved senior care by reducing prescription drug costs for the elderly and extending coverage to key services. The ACA improved access to care by increasing Medicare payments for primary services and instituted crucial protections to improve the “quality and coordination of care.” The health care law also extended the solvency of Medicare by over 10 years, after which “payroll taxes and other revenue will still cover 87 percent of Medicare hospital insurance costs.”

The AHCA, on the other hand, worsens the health care outlook for seniors. The bill loosens the age-rating protections that limit how much insurers can charge seniors, allowing them to discriminate against the elderly by charging them five times more than younger individuals. While allowing insurers to jack up premiums for the elderly, the AHCA also provides substantially less generous tax credits for purchasing health care, likely far below what would be needed to purchase comprehensive coverage. This disproportionately hurts working-class seniors. According to Vox, a 64-year-old who makes $26,500 a year will see “more than a 750 percent increase in premiums from Obamacare to the Republican bill.” As The Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk explained, “proportionally, the group of people that would see the most coverage losses under the AHCA is the population of people aged 50 and older.” And while the ACA increased Medicare’s solvency, the AHCA repeals the Medicare payroll surtax on the wealthy, which will “weaken Medicare’s financial status” by depleting its funding “three years sooner than under current law,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Essentially, despite right-wing media having pushed the image of seniors as one of Obamacare’s main victims, it is actually the Republican health law that actively worsens access to health care while increasing costs for the elderly (just ask the AARP).

Another anti-Obamacare talking point featured conservative media figures decrying the allegedly undemocratic process by which Congress passed the ACA, claiming that Democrats were trying to “ram it down America’s throat.” Right-wing media took then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) comment “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” at the National Association of Counties out of context, to scandalize the health law as a secretive, closed door deal.

Despite the rampant right-wing smears, the debate over the ACA was “one of the most transparent” in recent history, as Congress debated the legislation for over a year before it was signed into law. The full context of Pelosi’s now notorious speech reveals that her comment was about the need to have conversations about the substance of the ACA outside of the “fog of the controversy,” because negative talking points dominated the discussions of the law.

The clear differences between the legislative processes for the ACA and the GOP health care bill lays bare right-wing media’s hypocrisy. As Politico’s Dan Diamond noted, “in 2009, Dems took 119 days between introducing [the] bill [and] taking a floor vote,” while “in 2017, [the] GOP will do it in 17 days.” The GOP has pledged to hold a vote on the bill in the House on March 23, despite the fact that the CBO has not finished scoring the substantial amendments released this week. Topher Spiro, the Center for American Progress’ Vice President for Health Policy, highlighted the hypocrisy, pointing out “Republicans *literally* have to pass the bill to find out what it does,” since it is highly likely there would be “no CBO score before the vote.” Instead of defending the democratic process they found so dear in 2009, conservative media figures portrayed the AHCA’s passage as inevitable and allowed guests to insist that the Republicans are using “regular order” to normalize the rush to pass the disastrous bill. The hypocritical treatment of these starkly contrasting legislative processes illustrates how right-wing media fealty to democratic norms only exists when it furthers their own narratives.

The third manifestation of conservative hypocrisy on health care stems from right-wing media’s continued predictions over the last seven years about the possible collapse of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets into a death spiral. Conservative outlets claimed the law was in a death spiral each time premiums increased, when Aetna withdrew from the exchanges, when they alleged there weren’t enough healthy enrollees, and when some of the co-ops failed. None of these alleged death spirals were real — in fact, the newest CBO report confirms the ACA is not collapsing and will continue to stabilize, despite claims to the contrary.

By eliminating the individual mandate and replacing it with a much weaker “continuous coverage” requirement, the AHCA seriously risks a death spiral because it “could have the unintended consequence of discouraging healthy people from buying coverage.” Whereas the ACA’s individual mandate incentivizes purchasing insurance to avoid a penalty, under the continuous coverage requirement a healthy uninsured individual is likely to wait until they are sick to join the market, massively increasing costs. The Century Foundation outlined how the AHCA could result in a death spiral because coverage losses and cuts in financial assistance will result in few healthy enrollees. Families USA noted that the only way the AHCA creates stable markets is “by making it nearly impossible for older adults and the sick to find affordable coverage, leaving only the healthy or wealthy in the market.” While the predictions of the ACA’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, the Republican health law might actually lead to the death spiral right-wing media have long been hyping.

The false claims right-wing media have made over time about the ACA highlight only a few of the ways in which the AHCA would devastate the American health care system. The AHCA pays for a $600 billion tax cut for the wealthy by cutting Medicaid — the program that provides essential health care for the disabled, the elderly, and low-income communities — by 25 percent. The newest reported proposal to eliminate the ACA’s essential health benefits package will gut access to substance abuse treatment for victims of the opioid epidemic and likely increase costs for women as insurers can drop maternity coverage. By defunding Planned Parenthood, the AHCA will deprive many low-income communities of their only safety-net health center and result in thousands of additional births per year. If the law passes — despite the apparent cancellation of the first scheduled attempt — the AHCA could create the apocalyptic fantasy right-wing media desperately sought to find in the ACA.

Don’t Fall For The GOP’s Sham Plan To ‘Repair’ The Affordable Care Act

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

The GOP has shifted from its message of “repealing and replacing” Obamacare to “repairing” the law. Media must press conservatives on what their so-called “repairs” to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might look like, especially in the likely event that “repairing” the ACA is really just repealing it with no replacement.

Republicans reportedly started transitioning away from their pledge to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, focusing on a more appealing call to “repair” the health care law. Frank Luntz, a GOP consultant known for repackaging conservative misinformation to advance a Republican agenda, encouraged conservatives to pledge to “repair” the ACA because that word “captures exactly what the large majority of the American people want.” As lawmakers like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have adopted the “repair” buzzword, others, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), continue to obfuscate, claiming, “if we’re going to repair the U.S. health care system, … you must repeal and replace Obamacare,” indicating that GOP disarray over the ACA extends to its messaging strategies.

The GOP’s pledge to “repeal and replace” the law has largely backfired. After seven years, Republicans still have no replacement for the law. The GOP still can’t agree on the timing or the substance of any replacement plan. Most of its “replacement” plans are fact sheets rather than legislative language, and all of them would reduce coverage for millions of Americans.

The continued fight over the potential replacement has also inadvertently highlighted the tangible gains achieved by the ACA and made the public acutely aware of the negative impacts of repeal. New polling finds the ACA is increasingly popular, especially as news outlets highlight stories of individuals who would be impacted by repeal.

As Slate’s Jim Newell explained, the semantic change alone “does not signal a new course in the repeal-and-replace progress.” But, even if the GOP does decide to abandon its promise to repeal the ACA and instead focus on “repairing” the law, it remains vitally important for news outlets to force conservative politicians to clarify which portions of the ACA they intend to repair and how. Media have largely failed at questioning potential replacement plans for the law. And as top GOP lawmakers continue to falsely repeat right-wing media myths about the alleged “collapse” of the ACA, media must fact-check the GOP’s messaging strategies and interrogate its plans for repealing or repairing the law. If the GOP actually intends to make “repairs” to the ACA, those repairs may just be another messaging strategy for its plans to scale back services, gut Medicaid, and give a tax-break to the wealthy.

With millions of lives at stake, news outlets must aggressively question GOP lawmakers about what portions of the ACA they intend to repair and force lawmakers to clarify that repairing the ACA is not simply a buzzword phrase for repealing the law with no replacement.

IMAGE: U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) hands the pen to Representative Tom Price (R-GA) (L) after signing a bill repealing Obamacare at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

10 Important Ways Obamacare Has Helped The Average American

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

The press failed to accurately convey the implications of a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the lead-up to the election. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, media must improve their health care coverage by contextualizing their stories about a potential ACA repeal and explaining the impact it would have on millions of Americans and the health care system as a whole.

A recent Media Matters study found that in the weeks leading up to the election, television journalists overwhelmingly failed to ask any substantive questions about Trump’s health care policies or the consequences of repealing the ACA. In the two weeks before Election Day, there were only four instances of broadcast or cable news hosts or reporters bringing up a substantive question about Trump’s supposed Obamacare replacement amid 77 segments ostensibly focused on health care. This was not the first time media failed to inform the public about the Republican Party’s extremist health care policy agenda. Another Media Matters study found that evening news shows virtually ignored Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s resurrection of his Medicare privatization scheme, a proposal that could have dangerous consequences for a program relied on by more than 55 million Americans.

During the campaign, media outlets also lauded Trump for giving a so-called “policy” speech on health care, ignoring that the actual speech contained little to no policy specifics. This lack of attention to detail reflects a broader theme in election coverage, as studies found media overwhelmingly avoided substantive discussion of policy, focusing instead on “scandals” plaguing the Republican and Democratic nominees.

While cable and broadcast news tended to avoid robust discussions of the impact of health care policy, right-wing media filled the void with rampant misinformation. Since the ACA passed in 2010, conservative news outlets have consistently attacked the health law with complete fictions, claiming it will explode the budget, create death panels, bankrupt Medicare, end in adeath spiral,” and facilitate a government takeover of the health care system.

Today, media outlets regularly provide Trump surrogates with free airtime to push misinformation and avoid substantive discussion. In a series of January 3 interviews, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was given a free pass on health care policy by ABC’s Good Morning America, which neglected to even bring up the looming repeal of Obamacare. NBC’s Today and CNBC’s Squawk Box failed to push Conway with follow-up questions about how exactly the incoming administration plans to maintain popular health care reforms while repealing the law that created them. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Conway was allowed to push vague proposals for creating health savings accounts and allowing insurers to sell across state lines (both proposals have been highly criticized). When asked if the replacement plan is “ready to go,” Conway deflected by suggesting that planning could not start until Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, is confirmed. The Morning Joe hosts failed to raise questions about the potential impact of the policies she promoted and allowed her to deflect from questions about the replacement plan to the irrelevant question of cabinet nominations.

Trump and congressional Republicans pledged to make repeal of the ACA one of their top priorities, which means the press must immediately rethink its strategy when covering health care policy and focus on specifics. Media outlets must contextualize the impact of repealing Obamacare in terms of the gains that have already been achieved and how those improvements will be affected or reversed by Republican policies. Health care policy is inherently complex and confusing — it’s the media’s job to break down the complexity and explain how repealing Obamacare will impact the lives of every American.

1. Passage Of The ACA Has Resulted In The Lowest Uninsured Rate In Recent History

The implementation of the ACA resulted in a record low number of uninsured Americans — 8.6 percent in September 2016, down from 16 percent in 2010. According to estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 20 million Americans have gained health care coverage as a result of the law.

These gains would be reversed and the uninsured rate would surpass 2010 levels if the ACA is repealed.

2. The ACA Medicaid Expansion Provided Health Care Access For Millions Of The Most Vulnerable Americans

The ACA’s expansion of Medicaid extended health care coverage to more than 14 million low-income Americans. Studies of the expansion showed that it helped to combat income– and race-based coverage disparities in the insurance market, improved access to coverage for people with disabilities, and significantly improved state budgets in states that accepted federal funds for the expansion.

Conversely, proposals to repeal the expansion or reform Medicaid into block grants would gut coverage for at-risk populations and strip insurance coverage from millions of Americans.

3. The ACA Tangibly Improved Women’s Health Care Coverage

The implementation of the ACA significantly improved the condition of women’s health care coverage in the U.S. The ACA’s preventive services provision greatly improved access to birth control by eliminating copays — expanding coverage to millions of women and dramatically reducing out-of-pocket costs. The ACA banned sex discrimination in health care, and put a stop to the widespread practice of “gender rating” in which health insurance companies charged women higher rates for comparable plans made available to men. The law also improved access to maternity care by classifying it as an essential service.

Repeal of the ACA would permit the return of discriminatory practices like gender rating, reducing overall access to health care and significantly increasing out-of-pocket health care costs for women.

4. The ACA Helped America Take Huge Steps Toward LGBTQ Equality

The ACA helped the fight in achieving LGBTQ equality by dramatically improving access to health care for LGBTQ patients often targeted by discriminatory practices (like dropping individuals with pre-existing conditions), prohibiting sex discrimination, and guaranteeing protections to married same-sex couples regardless of the state in which they reside. Studies have shown that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured LGBTQ people and decreased health disparities in the LGBTQ community. The law provided marketplace insurance subsidies to nearly 732,000 individuals, and its expansion of Medicaid was particularly beneficial to LGBTQ youth, who are disproportionately likely to experience poverty and homelessness.

Repeal of the ACA would allow insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of gender, strip coverage for transgender people and transition-related care, and increase the number of uninsured people by repealing the marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

5. Contrary To Popular Belief, The ACA Extended The Solvency Of Medicare By Over 10 Years

The ACA has extended the solvency of Medicare by over 10 years, despite false claims to the contrary from right-wing opponents of the program. Discussions of Medicare’s budget outlook typically refer to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance program — which covers hospital visits, nursing care, and other medical costs. Studies have shown that the ACA has extended the full budgetary solvency of the Hospital Insurance program through 2028, after which “payroll taxes and other revenue will still cover 87 percent of Medicare hospital insurance costs.” In addition to enhancing Medicare’s budget outlook, the ACA improved senior care by reducing prescription costs and extending coverage to key services.

Medicare spending will increase by $350 billion over the next decade if Congress repeals the ACA, accelerating the program’s insolvency. Potential plans to privatize Medicare will gut access to care and cause skyrocketing health care costs for the elderly.

6. The ACA Reduced The Budget Deficit, Reined In Medical Costs, And Reduced Economic Inequality

Implementation of the ACA has reduced the budget deficit even more than was originally predicted by the Congressional Budget Office. Studies have shown that since the implementation of the ACA, while premiums have increased steadily, the number of individuals struggling to pay medical bills has steadily declined. While costs overall increase, they have increased by a much smaller margin than they would have if the ACA had not been enacted. Additionally, the ACA helps to combat economic inequality in the U.S., as it increases incomes in low-income households by reducing health care costs through mechanisms like the Medicaid expansion.

Repeal of the ACA will remove vital checks on health care costs and explode the budget, adding billions of dollars to the national debt over the next 10 years.

7. The ACA Improved Health Care Access For Minority Communities.

The ACA helps to fight the significant health disparities among Americans, expanding minority access to free preventive care, improving the overall quality of care in minority communities, and reducing the number of uninsured persons of color. The ACA invested in community health centers, whose patients are primarily minorities. The ACA provided the foundation for other efforts to combat inequities in the health care system for communities of color, including the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

Repeal of the ACA would significantly increase the number of uninsured people in minority communities and undo the gains made in reducing health disparities thus far.

8. The ACA Banned Discrimination Against Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

The ACA banned health insurance companies from engaging in medical underwriting, most commonly known as discriminating against individuals for pre-existing conditions. If the ACA were repealed, an estimated 50 to 129 million individuals — or between 19 and 50 percent of non-elderly Americans — could be denied access to affordable health care coverage for a pre-existing condition. This fundamental reform protects millions of Americans from being needlessly priced out of the insurance market or denied coverage for common conditions like acne or cataracts.

Despite some claims that a Republican-sponsored replacement package could maintain the pre-existing conditions ban, existing potential plans significantly weaken consumer protections and fail to maintain the same level of coverage provided by the ACA.

9. The ACA Provided Crucial Insurance To Young Adults

The ACA substantially increased the number of insured young adults — by 5.5 million individuals — by allowing them to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan until the age of 26. Given the high unemployment rate for people ages 18-29, this provision provides a crucial lifeline to that demographic.

While this rule is one of the most popular parts of the ACA, proponents of repeal have yet to explain how they could keep this provision while getting rid of the other parts (like the insurance mandate) that help pay for it.

10. The ACA Resulted In The Biggest Expansion Of Mental Health Care Services In Decades

The ACA greatly expanded coverage of mental health care services by requiring that most plans — including all plans sold in the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplaces — cover mental health services, classifying them as essential services. By eliminating medical underwriting and requiring parity between mental and physical health services, the ACA extended coverage to those who were previously refused on the basis of their mental health issues.

While the mental health coverage in the ACA is far from perfect, repeal will undercut the law’s achievements, gut coverage for tens of millions of people with mental illnesses, and roll back other positive gains in related mental health legislation.

What Exactly Is Trump’s Replacement For Obamacare?

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

In the lead-up to the election, prime-time news shows functionally abdicated any role in questioning what President-elect Donald Trump will offer in place of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it might affect the millions of Americans who gained insurance coverage as a result of the landmark law. Instead of asking pointed questions about Trump’s piecemeal policy proposals, TV personalities focused on negative stories like the 2017 premium hikes and conservative fearmongering about the potential of a so-called “death spiral.” Going forward, media figures must make “What is Trump’s replacement plan?” their first question in any discussion of health care policy and ask necessary follow-ups to pin guests to substantive proposals.

According to a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable evening news coverage from October 24 to November 7, TV personalities asked questions about Trump’s potential ACA replacement plans only four times amid 77 total discussions of health care. In total, TV personalities, panelists, and reporters mentioned Trump’s health care plans 13 times, and these mentions occurred exclusively on cable shows, revealing a serious deficit in broadcast coverage of health care in the last weeks of the election. Compounding the problem, nine of the 13 mentions came from either Fox News or a Trump surrogate (like Corey Lewandowski or Kellyanne Conway) on CNN, meaning right-wing media spin dominated the limited substantive discussions of Trump’s plans.

Media figures’ failure to probe politicians and surrogates on Trump’s plans kept important context out of the health care discussion. For example, during a panel segment on CNN Tonight, correspondent Corey Lewandowski insisted that “Trump has laid out a plan” to let individuals “buy health insurance across state lines,” calling it a “simple solution.” CNN host Don Lemon asked no follow-up questions — problematic given the numerous critiques of the “state lines” proposal — and instead changed the subject. Hosts must be prepared with the facts on proposed policies and hold guests accountable for explaining the impact of those policies. Permitting conservative talking points to stand unchallenged allows conservative misinformation to fill the void in a confusing policy arena that is poorly understood by the American public.

Coverage of health care in the last two weeks of the election largely focused on the news of double-digit premium increases next year on average for insurance plans sold on Obamacare’s online marketplace at Healthcare.gov. As Trump used this news to make his pledge to “repeal and replace” a focus of his closing campaign, news coverage failed to ask important questions about his idea to keep the popular parts of the ACA — like prohibiting insurers from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions — while getting rid of other provisions. Instead, TV personalities focused on the premium hikes and fearmongering about the potential for a “death spiral.” The focus on negative news like premium hikes makes sense — it was an important story that deserved coverage. But that coverage completely eclipsed almost any substantial discussion of what Trump’s replacement plan might include — a trend reflected in the broader failure to engage in much of any policy discussion throughout the election.

The overall lack of coverage about the specifics of Trump’s replacement plan represents a fundamental problem in media’s treatment of health care policy and must quickly change now that Trump is the president-elect. A recent study from the Urban Institute showed that 24 million people will lose health care coverage by 2021 if Congress repeals the ACA. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, is a known foe of the law’s birth control mandate, a regulation that has dramatically reduced out-of-pocket health care costs for women and massively expanded contraceptive coverage. Repeal could also roll back the gains made in reducing the budget deficit, extending the life of Medicare, and lowering health care costs that resulted from the implementation of the ACA.

While no concrete plan for a replacement currently exists — due to Republican infighting — repealing Obamacare remains a top priority for the incoming Trump administration. Journalists must start asking questions about what a replacement plan will look like, how it will affect millions of Americans who gained coverage under the ACA, and what its true goals are. Every interview or panel segment about health care must begin with the question, “What is Trump’s replacement plan?” and include aggressive follow-ups about how it would function in order to hold the Trump administration accountable and educate the American public on the future of health care in the United States.

Methodology

Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of weekday network broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS and weekday prime-time news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from October 24, 2016 (the day the Obama administration announced the premium hikes), through November 7, 2016. We identified and reviewed three types of segments — news reports, panel segments, and interviews. We searched for “Obamacare” or “Affordable Care Act” or “health care” and identified and reviewed all segments in which health care/ACA/Obamacare was the stated topic of discussion, or health care/ACA/Obamacare was discussed by at least two speakers in the segment (e.g., a host asking a single question about the ACA to a guest and the guest responding during a multitopic interview would count).

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks with the media at Mar-a-Lago estate where Trump attends meetings, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Sunday Show Hosts Fail To Hold Trump Surrogates Accountable

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

Sunday show hosts failed to sufficiently press Donald Trump’s surrogates on the president-elect’s blatant lies about voter fraud in the 2016 election. Journalists must raise the bar even higher when interviewing Trump and his surrogates, from merely calling out falsehoods to actively putting statements into context and offering facts and data. Failure to aggressively push back on lies and contextualize misleading statements in the “post-truth” era of Trump risks leaving viewers unclear about which party is ultimately correct and tells them only what they don’t know, rather than ensuring they are informed.

On November 27, Trump tweeted, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” In fact, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is expected to win the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes. Additionally, the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump found just three documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, Trump’s surrogates later defended his lie in a conference call with reporters.

On December 4, CBS host John Dickerson interviewed Reince Priebus, who Trump has tapped for White House chief of staff, on Face the Nation and addressed Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for mass voter fraud.

While Dickerson did tell Priebus that “there is no evidence” that millions voted illegally, he made a series of missteps. First, he allowed Priebus to cite a Wall Street Journal op-ed that recycled discredited evidence, failing to note that the evidence was flawed and misleading. Second, while Dickerson asked if Trump needs to “tighten up his standards of proof,” he allowed Priebus to redirect the conversation away from Trump’s lies to a discussion of Trump’s penchant for tweeting in general. Finally, Dickerson never mentioned any of the numerous studies that show that claims of widespread voter fraud are false.

CBS compounded the problem by issuing a tweet that merely read “Reince Priebus: ‘It’s possible’ millions voted illegally.” Several media outlets have recently botched their headlines and tweets when reporting on false statements made by Trump, omitting context that would illustrate the inaccuracies.

CBS later deleted the tweet, replacing it with this one:

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed Vice President-elect Mike Pence on This Week and also raised the question of Trump’s voter fraud tweets. Stephanopoulos did repeatedly press Pence to offer evidence for Trump’s claim and consistently pointed out that these claims of voter fraud are false, but he failed to provide counter-evidence to effectively establish that Trump was wrong. Stephanopoulos pushed back on Pence when he cited a Pew Research Center study as evidence that Trump’s voter fraud claims could be true, noting that the authors of the study said “it is not any evidence about what happened in this election.” This pushback, however, was insufficient to properly contextualize for the audience why this evidence is flawed, leaving it up to them to figure out which Pew study is being cited and why it doesn’t apply. Stephanopoulos also neglected to cite studies that provide persuasive proof that claims of voter fraud are grossly exaggerated and largely inaccurate.

Given the total lack of proof for the right-wing’s voter fraud claims, journalists must be prepared to more thoroughly press Trump surrogates if he continues to lie. And more generally, journalists must be armed with the facts and data they need to hold surrogates accountable on the variety of issues about which President-elect Trump lies. In what has been dubbed a “post-truth” presidency, it will no longer be sufficient to merely say “that’s false.” Journalists must call out instances of cherry-picked data or flawed sources and counteract the misuse of data. Journalists can and must harness the power of fact-checking by using studies and data to relentlessly press Trump and his surrogates in order to convey the truth to the American public.

Right-Wing Media Use Old Lies To Trash A Public Option For Obamacare

Right-wing media are pre-emptively attacking a “public option” health care proposal supported by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama by linking it to supposedly “socialist” single-payer systems that have been routinely demonized through the history of health care reform. Conservative media used this tactic to disparage the public option in 2009 during the legislative debates that created the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to tap into powerful historical tropes that promote misinformation and misperceptions of the American health care system, stymieing much-needed reform and perverting the public opinion.

The Affordable Care Act has become a major topic of conversation leading up to the election. Right-wing media have manufactured scandals by taking former President Bill Clinton’s comments at an October rally out of context and falsely claiming the newly announced health care marketplace premium increases are evidence of the so-called “death spiral” conservative media have been predicting for years — despite no evidence the law is in danger of collapsing in on itself. The newest target of right-wing media ire is the public option, a proposal supported by Hillary Clinton and President Obama, which would introduce a low-cost, government-administered health insurance option into the federally run health insurance marketplaces.

The strategy right-wing media are using to scandalize the public option revolves around linking it to the single-payer systems used in countries with socialized medical options, either implicitly or explicitly invoking the specter of “Big Government.” Some media argue that the public option is a “Trojan Horse” to destroy the current private insurer-based market or claim that the public option is just “single-payer on the installment plan.” Others argue that Clinton “ultimately wanted a single-payer ultimate government control system for health care” and thus will eventually “go towards the single payer option” when she “replace[s] Obamacare with Hillarycare.”

If these attacks sound familiar, it’s because they are. The original draft versions of the ACA included a robust public option that Democrats ultimately dropped, partially because it became politically toxic as a result of concerted right-wing media assaults. Prominent right-wing media figures called the proposed public option a “stalking horse” or a “buy in,” arguing that “such a plan will lead to a single-payer system.” Others argued that the key to defeating the public option is “expos[ing] the positive-sounding ‘public option’ for what it truly is: a government grab.” They used the same fearmongering “Trojan Horse” rhetoric that right-wing media use now to play upon distrust of the government. They also actively demonized the public option as a socialist takeover of the health care system — framing that has significantly impacted public opinion on the ACA and health care policy generally.

But none of this is true. Numerous fact-checkers have debunked the claim that the public option is just single-payer in sheep’s clothing or that Clinton secretly wants a single-payer system. The public option is a government-administered health insurance plan that would compete in the insurance markets against private insurance plans, while in a single-payer system, “everyone in the country would have health coverage provided by the government,” according to FactCheck.org. Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of social medicine and health policy at UNC Chapel Hill, noted that “‘single payer’ is often used loosely to refer to everything” and argued that “depicting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a ‘slippery slope’ to single payer is bizarre.” Thus, efforts to conflate the two actively spread misinformation and make health care policy even more confusing than it already is for the American public.

This practice of scandalizing the public option in an effort to torpedo reform efforts is particularly problematic since the ACA does need reforms. Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the necessity of reforming the ACA to address fundamental issues about affordability and competition in the marketplaces. Recognizing that there are issues with the ACA does not mean the law is failing. However, purposefully stigmatizing a substantive proposal for reforming the current health care system is particularly troubling since Republicans have yet to produce a viable alternative to replace Obamacare. Americans remain seriously uninformed about health care policy, and the media shouldn’t allow conservative media myths to demonize a potentially productive reform before the public even has the chance to properly learn about it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Photo: Protesters in Minnesota call for smaller government and the repeal of the health care law enacted in March, 2010. (Fibonacci Blue via Flickr)

How Breitbart News Became The Official Propaganda Arm Of The Trump Campaign

Published with permission from Media Matters.

Breitbart News has relentlessly defended Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and problematic statements, ranging from commending Trump for “changing the debate on illegal immigration” with his statement that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” to defending Corey Lewandowski over Breitbart News’ own reporter, Michelle Fields. With their enthusiastic defenses of Trump, Breitbart News has repeatedly shown there’s very little the candidate could do or say that Breitbart News wouldn’t defend.

Trump Campaign Hires Breitbart News Executive Stephen Bannon As Its Campaign Chief Executive

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Campaign Hires Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon To Manage Campaign. The Wall Street Journal reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hired Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon to lead his campaign. The Journal reported that Bannon’s hire is “likely to stir its own controversy” because Bannon leads a “freewheeling populist news site” that caters to Trump supporters. According to the August 17 article, Bannon will take a leave of absence from his Breitbart News position:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is bringing two new managers to the top of his campaign in a bid to recover ground he has lost in recent weeks.

Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, an outspoken Trump supporter and a former Goldman Sachs banker, will assume the new position of campaign chief executive. At the same time, Mr. Trump also is promoting Kellyanne Conway, a veteran GOP pollster and strategist, to become campaign manager. Ms. Conway has been a campaign adviser for several weeks.

[…]

The appointment of Mr. Bannon is likely to stir its own controversy. Breitbart News, which he runs, is a freewheeling populist news site that has served as a kind of platform for Trump supporters. He has, among other things, helped produce a movie about the personal wealth of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump has known Mr. Bannon, a former Naval officer, for years. Mr. Bannon will take a leave of absence from Breitbart. [The Wall Street Journal, 8/17/16]

Breitbart News Has Relentlessly Defended Trump From Criticism

When Trump Said Mexicans Are “Rapists”: Breitbart News Declared “Trump Is Right On The Facts.”Breitbart News published numerous articles defending Trump’s comments that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” The site commended Trump for forcing the media to stop “ignoring the problem of illegal immigrant criminality” and doing a “spectacular job of changing the debate on illegal immigration to exactly where it should be.” Breitbart News compared the backlash Trump was facing to the backlash Todd Akin saw during the “legitimate rape” controversy, declaring the “big difference between Akin and Trump” is that “Trump is right on the facts.” [Breitbart News, 7/1/15, 7/7/15, 7/10/15]

When Trump’s Campaign Manager Allegedly Assaulted A Breitbart News Reporter, The Outlet Sided With Trump. In March, Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields alleged that Trump’s then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, forcibly grabbed her and pulled her towards the ground. Fields subsequently filed charges against Lewandowski, but despite Fields sharing pictures of her bruises as evidence, Trump and Lewandowski denied the incident occurred and claimed it was “made up.” Rather than defend its reporter, Breitbart News and its leadership immediately moved to downplay the assault and discredit Fields, publishing articles that contested her account of the incident and repeatedly attempting to minimize the event as a “misunderstanding”. Fields resigned from Breitbart News, saying, “I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways.” [Media Matters,8/17/16, 3/11/1, 3/11/16, 3/14/16]

When Trump Launched Racist Attacks Against Judge Gonzalo Curiel: Breitbart News Declared “Trump Is Correct To Hit ‘La Raza’ Judge For Latino Identity Politics.” Breitbart News defended Trump’s attacks on Judge Curiel, the judge overseeing the Trump University case, criticizing Curiel’s affiliation with the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association and attempting to smear the group as a radical organization. The article concluded by claiming that Republican leaders who condemned Trump over his comments about the judge “have exhibited one of the worst examples of Stockholm syndrome” and would eventually realize they “are the ones who made the ‘inexcusable mistake.’” From a June 6 Breitbart News article:

Translated, “la raza” means “the race.” Imagine the outcry if white attorneys from Mississippi, such as this author, started a legal association called “The Race” with the stated mission to promote the interest of white, Southern communities. Hollywood stars and entertainers, such as Bryan Adams, would boycott the state in perpetuity.

Trump’s suggestion that a Hispanic judge may treat him unfairly because of Trump’s border security proposals, such as the wall, challenges the claim that liberal judges engaged in identity politics are never biased against non-liberals. And while Democrats were enraged by Trump’s challenge, Trump struck fear into the hearts of establishment Republicans not accustomed to challenging the politically correct code to which they have previously surrendered.

[…]

But this debate is not just about Trump or Trump University; it is about a politically correct double standard that permits liberals to use the faith of pro-life judges to boot them from a case, but calls questioning the ethnicity based activism of a liberal judge racism. And this is a concept the voters understand.

Liberals made Trump’s comments about race because they know a reasonable person might conclude Curiel’s activism creates the appearance of impropriety. The sad thing is Republicans, much like a battered spouse, are so accustomed to the politically correct abuse they accept it as the new normal.

By validating Hillary’s race card, Republican leaders have exhibited one of the worst examples of Stockholm syndrome. And when the dust settles, Newt will see that he and his fellow Republicans are the ones who made the “inexcusable” mistake. [Breitbart News, 6/6/16]

When Trump Tweeted Out The Star Of David: Breitbart News Said Coverage Of This “Fake Controversy” Shows “Media Contempt.” After Trump tweeted an image that contained a Star of David next to Hillary Clinton with the words “most corrupt candidate ever,” Breitbart News defended the action, calling it “a fake controversy” and claiming that the image was “much like a sale advert.” The article went on to claim that the media’s coverage of the tweet showed “media contempt for Donald Trump’s supporters.” From the July 3 article:

The tweet posted by the presumptive Republican nominee contained a poster in which Hillary took center place with the words “history made”. Then in a six-point star – much like a sale advert – the words “most corrupt candidate ever” were written. Simple enough.

[…]

The six-point star is commonly associated with Judaism. It is also used by Christians, Muslims, the Freemasons, and even the occult. But this is irrelevant to Trump’s critics, as is the fact that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is of the Jewish faith and his daughter Ivanka is now an observant Jew.

So the criticism of Trump was not directed at him personally, nor was it really suggesting that the top Republican was anti-Semitic. The criticism was directed at the boorish, angry white Americans who, according to the media narrative, have flocked to Trump because of his “veiled” messages of bigotry.

The real target of the media and GOP establishment is the Trump supporter. Why? Because this is the free-thinking person who had the gall to rebuke the RNC elite and ignore the media narrative. The fact that Trump obtained the most Republican votes in primary history despite the constant charges he peddles racism and bigotry must mean, in the eyes of Trump’s foes, his supporters are racists and bigots. [Breitbart News, 7/3/16]

When Trump Attacked A Gold Star Family, Breitbart News Piled On And Smeared Khizr Khan. Breitbart News joined Trump in criticizing Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of a U.S. Army captain who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, alleging that “the Muslim Gold Star father that the mainstream media and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been using to criticize Donald J. Trump” has “deep ties to the government of Saudi Arabia” and “international Islamist investors.” The Breitbart News article alleged that the Khans were “financially and legally tied deeply to the industry of Muslim migration–and to the government of Saudi Arabia and to the Clintons themselves. After Breitbart News and other right-wing media sources engaged in a smear campaign against the Gold Star family, the Khans reported that they received “hateful messages” particularly about allegations of “shady immigration cases.”[Breitbart News, 8/1/16; Media Matters8/7/16]

Photo: Steve Bannon, head of the news website Breitbart News, was named to the new position of campaign chief executive officer. Bannon, a conservative flamethrower was referred to by ousted Corey Lewandowski as “a street fighter” like himself. The campaign statement announcing the changes touted a Bloomberg Politics article that branded Bannon “the most dangerous political operative in America.”  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri