Since the April release of a House Republican report on Benghazi, Tom Pickering -- co-chairman of the State Department's Accountability Review Board on the Benghazi attacks last year -- has been interviewed only twice on major news programs.
CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger used right-wing scandal mongering to push the discredited allegation that talking points about the attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were edited for political purposes. Borger's analysis ignored that the intelligence community signed off on these talking points and that General David Petreaus testified in November that references to Al Qaeda were removed to protect the integrity of the investigation and to avoid tipping off terrorists.
Borger claimed on the May 10 edition of CNN Newsroom that the Benghazi talking points "were edited to the point of inaccuracy" and went on to ask, "is that a cover-up? Is it a whitewash? We don't know the answer to that."
The answer to Borger's question, however, has already been answered in testimony by former Director of the CIA General David Petraeus. In November 2012, Petraeus told lawmakers that the decision not to publicize the suspected involvement of Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers in the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was made so as not to tip off the terrorist groups. As The New York Times reported:
Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack -- including Al Qaeda's franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah -- were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
The controversy over these talking points has been revived ever since ABC News released what it called an "exclusive" report on May 10. In fact, the report revealed nothing new and is just a revival of previously hashed-out myths and misinformation.
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Fox Business' Lou Dobbs hosted Cody Wilson -- a self-described anarchist who was named one of Wired's top 15 Most Dangerous People In The World -- to promote his 3D-printed gun, which has come under intense scrutiny.
On March 5, Forbes reported that Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, became the first person to fire a real bullet from a plastic gun made with a 3D-printer. The gun, named the "Liberator," is made almost entirely of plastic, with the exception of a single nail used as the firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act, which makes it illegal to manufacture or possess any firearm that is not detectable by a walk-through metal detector. However, this six-ounce piece of steel is non-essential to the functionality of the plastic firearm; the gun would be just as effective without it.
During a May 7 interview with Wilson, Dobbs gushed over the prospect of more of these guns, saying that they could potentially allow "every human being on the planet to go to a printer and come back and be an armed citizen or revolutionary, depending on your perspective."
Later in the segment, Wilson said he is "sympathetic with the traditional school of anarchist thought," to which Dobbs replied: "In that view, which is to assert really individual freedom ... it's not entirely, well, dissident with American exaltation of self-reliance and independence."
The weapon, which Wilson calls the "Liberator," is being both hailed and denounced as a major blow to gun control. Wilson's nonprofit, Defense Distributed, has already put the design plans for the gun online for anyone to download. That means people could start printing out working firearms in their living rooms today. Of even greater concern to lawmakers, criminals could theoretically thwart security measures by carrying the all-plastic guns into secure buildings without setting off metal detectors.
In reality, though, we aren't quite there yet. For one thing, this fully 3-D printed gun isn't fully fully 3-D printed, Wilson explained to me in a phone interview. Because federal law bans firearms that aren't detectable by metal detectors, Wilson added a six-ounce, non-functional metal component to his version. Of course, anyone 3-D printing the gun at home could skip that step. But again, that would be against the law. And there's one other part that actually can't yet be 3-D printed: the firing pin. "We tried a lot of plastic pins," Wilson said. "They were a little too soft," so they deformed when they hit the primer.
New York Congressman Steve Israel has announced legislation to renew a ban on plastic guns. New York Senator Charles Schumer has called for legislation that would ban 3D-printed guns that fire real bullets, noting that this technology makes it possible for anyone to "essentially open a gun factory in their garage."
Even Wilson has acknowledged the dangers of his project. In an interview with Forbes, Wilson said, "You can print a lethal device ... It's kind of scary, but that's what we're aiming to show."
These potential consequences seemed lost on Dobbs, who praised the invention as "amazing" and asked Wilson to direct viewers on where they could go to download the design plans for the gun. Dobbs also said that he would post a link to the plans on his own website.
It should be noted that Wilson's manufacturing of the firearm was done legally. According to The New Yorker, he has received a federal firearms license, and has been in contact with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to ensure compliance.
Rich Lowry and Jennifer Rubin complained that President Obama used the term "women's health" and did not mention the word "abortion" while speaking in front of Planned Parenthood on April 26, despite the fact that abortions only make up a small portion of the women's health services that Planned Parenthood provides.
On the May 5 edition of Meet the Press, host David Gregory quoted a May 2 blog post by National Review editor Rich Lowry that appeared in Politico in which he wrote:
President Barack Obama was proud to become the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood last Friday. But not proud enough to utter the word "abortion."
The unwritten rule is that when the left discusses abortion it is never called "abortion," but always referred to as "health" or, more specifically "reproductive health" - although abortion is the opposite of reproduction and for one party involved, the opposite of health.
Gregory read text from the blog in which Lowry stated unequivocally that "the left" is substituting the term "women's health" for "abortion." Gregory then provided MSNBC contributor and The Grio managing editor Joy-Ann Reid an opportunity to briefly respond to Lowry's question about why the president didn't mention abortion if it's "such a wonderful thing."
Host Chris Wallace brought up Obama's speech to Planned Parenthood as well during the May 5 edition of Fox News Sunday. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, responded by saying:
RUBIN: I find his language so telling. He won't even use the word "abortion," he says "women's health." Can he not bring himself to say that we are talking about terminating pregnancies?
Despite the widely held, and repeatedly debunked, right-wing myth that the overwhelming majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortion services, they make up a very small part of the services Planned Parenthood provides. One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life and according to Planned Parenthood's latest annual report, abortion services made up a mere three percent of the services performed in 2011, while 95% of the services provided included STD testing and treatment, cancer screening and prevention, and contraception:
During the segment, Wallace himself provided statistics showing some of the other women's health services provided by Planned Parenthood:
Matt Drudge, owner and operator of right-wing content aggregator The Drudge Report, tweeted on April 23 that he "privately told friends" that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." This comes as Drudge linked to Jones' Infowars website at least 50 times so far in 2013 and 244 times in the past two years.
But as we've noted, Drudge is not the only right-wing figure to bolster Jones' fringe reporting. In fact, two of his biggest advocates recently teamed up when frequent Jones guest and Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is also a 9/11 truther, was named a board member of frequent Jones guest and former Texas congressman Ron Paul's think tank, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Here's a sampling of Napolitano's contribution to the national conversation:
Fox News ignored economic history to forward the absurd claim that former President George W. Bush exercised "fiscal discipline."
On the April 25 edition of Fox & Friends, former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andy Card claimed that President Bush "probably has the best track record of any modern president in terms of fiscal discipline," a statement that went unchallenged by the Fox & Friends co-hosts:
But facts undermine Card's claim. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the drivers of current and future public debt are policies from the Bush presidency:
A recent study from Harvard researcher Linda J. Bilmes found that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will ultimately cost taxpayers between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, that the Bush-era tax cuts added $2.6 trillion to public debt from 2001-2010, and as Foxnews.com noted in September 2011, the Bush-era Medicare drug benefit came with unfunded costs of $7 trillion.
Furthermore, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Office of Management and Budget data, the Bush era saw the second largest annualized growth in federal spending since the Eisenhower presidency:
According to former President Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett, when Bush took office, the CBO projected a $3.5 trillion surplus through 2008. Instead, Bush delivered a $5.5 trillion deficit over his two terms.
Megyn Kelly hosted Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's supposed lack of concern over the security issues at American facilities in Libya. During the interview there was no mention of Rep. Chaffetz's own vote to cut funding to embassy security or reports that have undermined right-wing attacks on Clinton.
On Fox News' America Live, Kelly provided Chaffetz with numerous opportunities to bash Clinton - asking if Clinton "blatantly lied" over requests being made for more security at the embassy, allowing Chaffetz to make claims that Clinton personally denied more security for the embassy, and speculating that there are documents being hidden from lawmakers that prove Clinton had direct knowledge regarding the lack of security at the embassy.
While providing Chaffetz opportunities to attack Clinton, Kelly failed to note that several outlets have pointed out significant flaws in the GOP's report. Chaffetz' claims are largely based on an April 2012 cable that responded to requests for additional security resources. While the cable was sent under Clinton's name, this does not necessarily indicate her direct involvement. As Foreign Policy magazine pointed out:
It's not clear who in the State Department sent the April 19 response. But as a general rule, "every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," a former State Department official noted, adding, "Though they are trying to make this new, it's not. After 30+ hearings and briefings, thousands of pages, this has all been addressed."
Kelly also did not challenge Chaffetz on his vote to cut funding for embassy security, nor did she point out that Chaffetz justified his vote as an attempt to "make priorities and choices" in an interview on CNN with Soledad O'Brien:
O'BRIEN: Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?
CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have -- think about this -- 15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, private army there for President Obama in Baghdad.
And we're talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you're in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.
O'BRIEN: OK, so you're prioritizing. So when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you've just said absolutely, that you cut.
You are the one to vote against, you know, to increase security for the State Department, which would lead directly to Benghazi. That seems like you're saying you have a hand in the responsibility to this.
According to The New York Times, House Republicans cut "nearly a half-billion dollars from the State Department's two main security accounts." The cuts included local guards, armored vehicles, and security technology.
Rush Limbaugh smeared President Obama by linking him with Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor on trial for murder, by reviving the false claim that Obama voted for infanticide while serving in the Illinois State Senate.
Gosnell has been charged with eight counts of murder for procedures done under the guise of women's health services. An expert on reproductive health has explained that the acts alleged to have been committed by Gosnell do not conform with legal abortion procedures.
On the April 17 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh launched into a smear of Obama, connecting him to Gosnell through a distortion of Obama's record, saying Gosnell was just "doing what State Senator Obama voted for":
LIMBAUGH: He was doing what State Senator Obama voted for way back in Illinois ... it's unspeakable what this guy was doing.
The claim that Obama supported infanticide has been long debunked. The Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact reported that Obama "said that abortion should be legal, but that children that are born should receive medical care." As the National Journal explained:
According to Politifact, an independent fact-checking organization that looked into similar claims made by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, Obama voiced his opposition to the new legislation as a state senator because it would have given legal status to fetuses and would thus have been struck down by the courts, and because Illinois already had laws to ensure infants who survived abortions would be given medical attention.
Other right-wing media have also advanced the bogus narrative that Obama supported infanticide, including Breitbart.com and Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg, who said, "The official position of the president of the United States when he was a state senator in Illinois was that what they were doing in Gosnell's place, maybe it was poorly regulated, but otherwise it was OK. He voted against, and fought against, the Born Alive Infant Act in Illinois."
Fox News continued right-wing media attempts to dismiss the voices of the families of the Newtown, CT shooting victims, discounting their efforts to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws by suggesting that President Obama is "engineering them for political purposes" and "outright manipulating them."
Since the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which left 26 people dead, family members of the victims have taken an outspoken role in pushing for tougher gun laws.
Following the tragedy, many of the families traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to help push for a tougher new state-level gun law that Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) recently signed into law. After Republican senators threatened to filibuster gun reform legislation, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing the lawmakers. The families have also been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for new gun measures. The lobbying efforts of these families for stronger gun laws have been ongoing and effective.
This has led to an attempt by right-wing media figures to marginalize the Newtown families as little more than "props" being used by Obama and Democrats to strengthen gun laws. On April 9, Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry said the president "used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." That same day, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that Obama bringing the families to Washington, DC on Air Force One to allow them to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
On April 10, Fox News host Sean Hannity accused Obama of "once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." On his April 11 radio program, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Obama was "using the Newtown families." On April 12, Rush Limbaugh accused Democrats of using the Newtown parents as "human shields."
Then, during the April 15 edition of America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett continued the effort to marginalize the Newtown families, saying they are "still very, very emotionally vulnerable" and suggesting the president is "engineering them for political purposes" and is "outright manipulating them into taking a stand on a vital constitutional right." Jarrett also asked if the president is "exploiting this tragedy and the grieving families for political purposes."
Despite these efforts to paint the Newtown families as merely political props being exploited by Democrats and the president, the families have continued to push for stronger gun laws. On April 14, Francine Wheeler, the mother of a 6-year-old killed in the shooting, gave Obama's weekly address, in which she urged the Senate to pass gun reform legislation.