Starting Friday night and continuing over the weekend, Fox News aired what purported to be a documentary about food stamps or SNAP, as the program is now called. In reality, the "investigation" was closer to one of those discredited ACORN videos Fox loved (even after their veracity was destroyed), i.e. a phony-baloney tableau that Fox tried to pass off as representative. Instead of providing any real investigation, “objective” host Bret Baier spent a lot of time hyping the case of one surfer slacker on food stamps, no time investigating how typical that case is (probably because Baier knew it’s not) and suggesting that the anti-food stamp sentiments of a recent Fox News poll represented objective truth about the SNAP program.
You didn’t even need to watch the show to know what the gist would be. The title, “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” was a dead giveaway. The timing of this special was your other clue: Republicans are doing their best to cut $40 billion from food stamps.
The entire show was full of jaw-dropping hostility toward food stamps and just as shockingly thin on hard statistics. But nothing matches the show’s misleadingly inflammatory focus on surfer/slacker Jason Greenslate.
A perfect example of Baier’s disingenuousness is right in the opening of the first video below. Noting the rise in the number of participants, he asked, “How do you account for the record number of people on food stamps?" Instead of answering with any research, objective statistics or studies, Baier suggested THIS was the answer. “A new Fox News poll finds that a substantial number of people think the severity of recession simply means that more qualify for assistance today. However, a larger number believe the government has made it too easy to get assistance and people are taking advantage of that.” That was it for Baier’s “hard” reporting on the matter.
By the way, it’s worth noting that although that poll says it interviewed “a random national sample of 1,007 registered voters,” I found no mention of how many were Republican, how many Democrat and how many independent. But even assuming the poll is representative of American sentiment, opinion is hardly the same as objective truth.
Except on Fox News. After a quick nod toward the “many in the United States” who “worry about feeding themselves and their families,” Baier honed in on suggesting that most food stamp recipients are lazy moochers. “Few would deny government help to those who need it,” Baier laughably said, as he proceeded to make a dishonest case for exactly that.
He soon tossed to reporter John Roberts and a lengthy profile of Greenslate. It’s hard to do justice in writing to the lengths Fox went to in order to make sure the viewers got the message that he’s a white, surfer version of a welfare queen. All that was missing was a passle of out-of-wedlock children. Roberts announced, “The 29 year-old has chosen the life of a beach bum in this seaside paradise …sponging off the rest of us” We even saw him buying lobster with his SNAP card.
In between profiling Greenslate’s freeloading habits, Roberts announced that Obama has loosened restrictions on getting food stamps. It was an obvious suggestion that Obama has directly enabled Greenslate’s profligacy at taxpayer expense – without benefit of any information to the viewers as to how typical Greenslate is.
The fact is that Greenslate is not typical. For one thing, nearly half of all food stamp recipients are children. Households with children receive 71 percent of all SNAP benefits. About 16 percent of all households include an elderly member, and about 20 percent include a disabled member. Most people are off food stamps within two years.
Yet Fox spent not one but two segments highlighting Greenslate. Media Matters caught Fox featuring Greenslate in its promotions for the special on Fox News Insider, Fox Nation and several of its daytime shows. I found the same thing on FoxNews.com’s write up of that poll that Baier relied on so heavily.
So it’s hard to think that Baier and Fox News had any other reason than to pull the wool over its viewers eyes when it falsely made Greenslate the face of Food Stamp recipients and ignored the real picture.