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Claims about 'food-stamp fraud' completely fall apart

An electronic benefit card for Georgia's food stamp program sits on the counter of Shinholster Grocery & Meat in Irwinton, Ga., Nov. 21, 2013.
An electronic benefit card for Georgia's food stamp program sits on the counter of Shinholster Grocery & Meat in Irwinton, Ga., Nov. 21, 2013.

Fox News has retracted a Tuesday story that claimed "an all-time high" for food stamp fraud. "We reported that back in 2016 $70 [billion] were wasted on food stamp fraud," Fox News contributor Abby Huntsman said on Friday's "Fox and Friends.""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."

That's the appropriate resolution, of course. We all make mistakes -- I've had to publish some corrections of my own over the years -- and it's encouraging this was straightened out fairly quickly.I'm still curious, though, about how and why this bogus report aired in the first place."We are not quite sure where this came from," a USDA spokesperson told the Washington Post. "We saw that there was a story on Breitbart. 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."I tracked down that Breitbart News report, assuming it was the source of Fox News' error, but it wasn't. In fact, the Breitbart piece was accurate: it complained about the number of Americans receiving food assistance and the cost of the program -- it's a conservative website -- but it made no reference to fraud or the $70 million figure.It's easier to understand the motivation behind the mistake -- congressional Republicans are poised to go after programs that benefit low-income families -- but I have no idea where Fox came up with that $70 million figure. It appears to have been made up out of whole cloth.