After getting thoroughly debunked, Fox News has finally taken back a fake news report claiming widespread fraud among food stamp users.
Abby Huntsman — daughter of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman — issued the on-air retraction on behalf of her network on Friday, acknowledging that her previous claims that $70 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars were being lost through food stamp fraud was “incorrect.”
“We reported that back in 2016 $70 million were wasted on food stamp fraud,” Huntsman said on”Fox and Friends,” the morning Fox News show to which she was recently named a co-host.
“That was actually incorrect. The latest information from 2009 to 2011 shows the fraud at 1.3 percent, which is approximately $853 million for each of those three years. Nationally food stamp trafficking is on the decline.”
“So sorry about that mistake,” Huntsman added.
On the Tuesday segment in which she made the baseless claims, Huntsman rhetorically asked “Is it time to end the [food stamp] program altogether?” However, her claims were quickly torn apart by the media, which found that food stamp fraud had actually been on a steady decline since the 1990s, rather than at an “all-time high,” as Fox News and Breitbart both implied. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited the reports debunking Huntsman’s claims and demanded a retraction.
The USDA actually cited that between 2009 and 2011, food stamp “trafficking,” in which SNAP benefits are sold for cash, was just 1.3 percent for the entire nation. This is a steep decline from the 4 percent level recorded in the 1990s.
“We have not issued a report on this recently. There is no new rate that we’ve published. So we’re not quite sure why they’re so interested in stirring this up,” an unnamed USDA spokesperson told the Washington Post.
Ironically, where Fox & Friends missed the mark was in underestimating the amount of food stamp fraud. As the SNAP program’s budget is approximately $70 billion, 1.3 percent of that would amount to roughly $853 million per year, rather than the remarkably low $70 million annual figure Huntsman cited earlier this week — which would be just 0.1 percent of dollars allocated for the program. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum blasted not only Fox News for the error, but also the Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who recklessly posted a graphic of the false numbers on his blog:
“[T]his story demonstrates the value of being numerate. The reason I first noticed it was because the $70 million figure was so obviously absurd. SNAP is a $70 billion program, and it’s nuts to think that it could have a fraud rate that low. Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta probably had a higher fraud rate than that. Anybody with even the smallest working knowledge of SNAP, normal fraud rates, and basic arithmetic should have heard alarm bells going off immediately.”
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or friend him on Facebook.