It was just ten days ago that Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard reported "fresh evidence emerged that senior Obama administration officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults" last September on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Hayes' report was based on email exchanges described in a politicized report issued by House Republicans along with a timeline detailing when the emails were sent and the names of two of the participants provided most likely by Republican sources on Capitol Hill. Jonathan Karl of ABC News would later write a similar piece after receiving summaries of those emails, likely from a similar source. Never mind that this conversation is in itself a sideshow from the real question of the actual mistakes that led to the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi as laid out in the Accountability Review Board report. The DC media quickly swarmed into the sort of feeding frenzy phenomenon native to Washington. Finally, after months of fruitless effort to uncover evidence of an attempt by the administration to politicize the Benghazi talking points, the right thought they had proof to justify their conspiracies.
Fast forward a few days and the email conversations between those editing the talking points are available for public view. And as it turns out the perceptions drawn by Hayes and Karl did not match reality.
Yesterday on Fox News, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) offered thanks to Fox News President Roger Ailes and his colleague Lindsay Graham (R-SC), giving them credit if heightened scrutiny of the terrorist attack in Benghazi results in "a full investigation."
Host Neil Cavuto agreed with the praise for his boss' handiwork, offering confirmation for McCain's suggestion by replying "yeah... head of this network for not letting go of this."
Graham -- appearing on Greta Van Susteren's program a few hours later -- agreed with McCain's assessment, telling the On the Record host "thank God for Fox" while also praising CBS -- presumably for the reporting of Sharyl Attkisson.
The examples of McCain and Graham serve as a reminder that the network has been an active player in the politicization of the Benghazi story from the beginning. This is part of a distinctive pattern we've previously reported at Media Matters in past attempts to flame supposed Obama administration scandals, known as the Fox Cycle.
From day one, when the network distorted a timeline of the attack to attempt to justify a press statement by Mitt Romney's campaign that in conservative writer David Frum's words attempted "to score political points on the killing of American diplomats," Fox viewed Benghazi as a way to score political points against the president.
It was Fox's Megyn Kelly who linked an Obama campaign poster to a blood-smeared wall left after the attack on the diplomatic facility.
Only two weeks after the attack, Sean Hannity claimed Obama was "covering up for Al Qaeda," a charge repeated by Eric Bolling who went on to blame the president for the attack because he had "spik[ed] the football on killing Bin Laden."
In October, Fox had already turned its attention to Hillary Clinton when network analyst Ralph Peters told Bill O'Reilly: "The blood of the ambassador and the other three Americans is on Hillary Clinton's hands."
Later in the month, the hosts of The Five criticized the president for preparing a response to the attacks because it "was too little far too late" and demonstrated "an inept foreign policy."
A few days later, the hosts of Fox & Friends opined that the president might order military action against Libya to gain the upper hand in the presidential debates.
As Election Day approached, Roger Ailes' personal lawyer and Fox News contributor Peter Johnson, Jr. told the hosts of Fox & Friends that the administration may have "sacrificed Americans" for political purposes.
Fox did not let up after the election. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy asked if General Petraeus was "being blackmailed by the White House to toe the company line."
McCain and Graham should be thankful that Fox from the start has viewed the tragedy in Benghazi as a political weapon to use against the White House. No claim too paranoid, no attack too unseemly. They are right; without Roger Ailes' ability to generate a scandal, the media might be discussing how to ensure our diplomatic outposts are properly protected so a tragedy like what occurred on September 11, 2012, never happens again. Instead we are now in step four of the Fox Cycle -- mainstream media outlets eventually cover the story, echoing the right-wing distortions.
Step six -- the story is later proven to be false or wildly misleading, long after damage is done -- cannot come soon enough.
Late Friday, after the Heritage Foundation reportedly considered seeking the counsel of an outside PR firm to deal with damage to their brand, researcher Jason Richwine, who coauthored the deeply flawed immigration report pushed by the right-wing think tank, resigned his position.
His error seemingly had nothing to do with the poor quality of that document, exemplified by the bipartisan, panideological critiques of the study, as his coauthor Robert Rector is seemingly still employed at Heritage.
Richwine's offense seems to have taken place in 2009 when he offered up a doctoral dissertation arguing, as The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews wrote, that due to the "deep-set differentials in intelligence between races," Richwine wrote that Hispanic immigrants may never "reach IQ parity with whites." His interest in the linkage between race and IQ was not unknown. Richwine also spoke about that linkage on a 2008 panel at the American Enterprise Institute promoting Mark Krikorian's book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. It was on this panel Richwine proclaimed "Race is different in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ."
The year of his dissertation defense his work was cited in a New York Times "Idea of the Day" column focusing on Robert Putnam's controversial finding that "ethnic diversity isn't an unqualified good."
There is no plausible way Heritage was unaware of Richwine's beliefs when they hired him, as he has made no attempts to obscure them. Heritage distanced itself from the dissertation after it came to public light, but it's completely unimaginable for a recent Ph.D to be hired by a major think tank without inquiry into such a crucial facet of their past research. These views are flawed -- they are misguided -- they are not grounded in research -- but they were not a secret.
And why should they be? The Bell Curve author and AEI scholar Charles Murray has made a successful career at conservative think tanks evangelizing the flawed notion that differences in IQ among racial groups should drive public policy decisions, ignoring the underlying reasons for the disparity and dismissing research demonstrating IQ and outcome are not linked.
Murray stood up for his ideological protégé following the latter's resignation, tweeting "Thank God I was working for Chris DeMuth and AEI, not Jim DeMint and Heritage, when The Bell Curve was published. Integrity. Loyalty. Balls."
The paleoconservative mindset is no longer as central to the conservative movement as it once was. Yet Pat Buchanan's removal from his permanent post on the couch in the MSNBC greenroom has not excised these ideas from the conservative movement.
Richwine's resignation allows him to become a scapegoat for an ideology that is still perfectly acceptable inside the conservative movement and the right-wing media. If Richwine's focus on the IQs of Hispanic populations is unacceptable, then so is Charles Murray's focus on the African American community. So are those of the godfather of the entire anti-immigrant movement John Tanton, who "wrote a paper titled The Case for Passive Eugenics."
Rush Limbaugh defended Richwine's racial tests on his program, proclaiming: "So, now it's trash the messenger time." He went on to say "You're not suppose to bring that kind of stuff up. You're not supposed to talk about it. It's not politically correct, even if it's true. You're not supposed to bring it up."
Michelle Malkin attacked those who dare point to the fundamentally racist nature of Richwine's dissertation. writing at Townhall.com: "The smug dismissal of Richwine's credentials and scholarship is to be expected by liberal hacks and clown operatives."
Richwine resigned after doing the job he was hired to do and for views his employer must have known him to hold. He was the most junior member of the group of conservative researchers who have spent their careers producing questionable studies about race. And because he was the lowest in the hierarchy he was the easiest to cast aside.
Charles Murray is right. This move lacked integrity, for that would require a widespread condemnation of the flawed racial theories peddled in the conservative movement and the "respected" think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute that allow them to flourish. I doubt that is forthcoming, making Heritage's decision to accept Jason Richwine's resignation an act of craven political cowardice.
As numerous members of the conservative movement flee from the Heritage Foundation's flawed immigration study, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh has maintained a stalwart defense of the organization.
Not a surprise considering Rush Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, is the single largest independent contractor to the Heritage Foundation according to their latest 990 filing with the IRS, receiving $2,236,555 from the think tank.
With advertisers fleeing his show, and as a result radio companies suffering major losses, the fiscal sponsorship of the conservative movement is now fiscally critical. A "very high ranking" official at Cumulus, the owner of Rush and Sean Hannity's flagship station WABC, told Radio Ink, "Forty-eight of the top 50 network advertisers have 'excluded Rush and Hannity' orders. Every major national ad agency has the same dictate."
Without wingnut welfare, which has also included sponsorships from FreedomWorks, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity's shows would not be financially viable.
The financial relationship between the conservative movement and its radio hosts has existed for years -- Heritage has been a major sponsor of Premiere Radio talent, specifically Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to a 2011 report by Ken Vogel of Politico -- however with Limbaugh and Hannity's recent well publicized problems attracting sponsorship to their programs the role of the conservative movement is not rightwing radios key sponsor. (Vogel also tweeted about Heritage's 990 disclosure.)
Now with Heritage under attack from many on the right including the libertarian Cato Institute for a widely panned and publicized study of the costs of the Gang of Eight immigration proposal is it any surprise where Limbaugh came down in this conservative kerfuffle?
Limbaugh defended the Heritage study when it first came under attack.
Then later this week, he began a segment by promoting the think tanks website, telling listeners if they "go to the Heritage Foundation website . . . they were giving you the report free" as if this were a benefit and not standard for ideological organizations to want their work shared broadly with the public.
Rush then proceeded to defend an author of the study, who was roundly criticized for a college thesis that suggested immigration policy decisions should be based on racial IQ disparities.
Most notable was a throwaway line in which Limbaugh attacked dynamic scoring, saying it "doesn't quite wash." Kevin Drum points out that the wonky methodology is "critical to the conservative movement because it's the way they can claim that tax cuts produce higher tax revenue."
Limbaugh, in defense of his sponsor, was willing to toss aside the underpinning of thirty years of conservative arguments on the economic benefits of tax cuts.
We won't know, until the organization's 2012 990s are filed later this year, how much the organization spent to bolster right-wing talk radio in the wake of the advertiser boycott, but listening to the frequent on-air promotion of the Heritage Foundation, it is unlikely this significant level of support waned. And why not? They are clearly getting what they paid for.
A gaffe according to the oft-repeated definition is getting caught saying something you actually believe.
Last week Harvard Professor and Daily Beast contributor Niall Ferguson offered an "unqualified apology" after remarking that the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes should be ignored because of his purported sexuality.
In the Harvard Crimson he seems to withdraw at least the "unqualified" nature of his remorse claiming "not for one moment did I mean to suggest that Keynesian economic as a body of thought was simply a function of Keynes' sexuality." According to the economist, "nor can it be true--as some of my critics apparently believe--that his sexuality is totally irrelevant to our historical understanding of the man."
Ferguson goes on to state "Keynes' sexual orientation did have historical significance. The strong attraction he felt for the German banker Carl Melchior undoubtedly played a part in shaping Keynes' view on the Treaty of Versailles and its aftermath."
Pop psychological gay baiting economic analysis is nothing new for Ferguson. UC Berkley economist Brad Delong highlighted the following passage of a 1995 American Spectator article:
"the ideas contained in The Economic Consequences of the Peace" "owed as much to his homosexuality as to his Germanophilia..." for "there is no question that the attraction Keynes felt for [Carl Melchior] strongly influenced his judgment..."
Furthermore University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers located a passage in The Pity of War where Ferguson makes this claim: "Though his work in the Treasury gratified his sense of self-importance, the war itself made Keynes deeply unhappy. Even his sex life went into a decline, perhaps because the boys he liked to pick up in London all joined up."
In fairness to Ferguson, conservative economists have launched attacks on Keynes' sexuality for decades.
It's clear that Niall Ferguson was not apologetic for making the remark, instead he was contrite about being caught making the remark in public -- the economic equivalent of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
Ferguson's attack on Keynes comes at a time when his own economic fundamentals are on the defensive. The academic grounding of the austerity crowd's recent efforts, the Reinhart-Rogoff study, is now the subject of late night mockery. The Keynesian view, now carried forward in public policy debates most strongly by Paul Krugman, is resurging and Ferguson is lashing out.
What Ferguson should really be apologetic for is not his simply economic homophobia -- there is no other appropriate term for claiming the beliefs of one of history's most noted economists should be distrusted because he enjoyed sex with men. J.K. Trotter of The Atlantic cut to the heart of the matter when he summed up Ferguson's argument as "being gay means you don't actually care about the welfare of children or the future of mankind."
Instead, the austerity economics Ferguson has pressed in the media has pushed policies condemning millions to the unemployment line. For this, I doubt any apology -- unqualified or not -- is forthcoming.
John Bolton has long been the id of the conservative foreign policy movement -- saying what all of his right wing brethren would not dare even mumble in polite company. He continued that trend yesterday on Neil Cavuto's Fox News program, telling the host during a discussion of the administration's reaction to the September 11, 2012, attack on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya:
I'd have to say for the good of the country, I hope it is a cover up rather than the alternative, which is the Obama administration was so blind to the reality of the threat of Islamic terrorism, the continued threat from Al Qaeda... If that's the problem there's no cure for it. If it was merely a political cover-up then there can be a political cost to pay.
Bolton is claiming that the administration altered CIA talking points to suggest that the attacks came in response to an anti-Islam video -- an allegation debunked by the original draft of those talking points. But his reference to hoping for a cover-up is striking.
From the moment this attack occurred conservatives, led by the conservative media, have prayed for this to be the tipping point in their efforts to take down the Obama administration.
Conservatives like Bolton have grown frustrated with the remarkable resilience the President has had in the face of their attacks. No scandal they've trumped up has harmed the political standing of his administration.
What they don't realize is that they have created this coat of Teflon. Like the boy who cried wolf, it's impossible to take their cries of Oval Office conspiracies when credible investigations continue to debunk their claims. The results of the Accountability Review Board lead by Ambassador Tom Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, whose reputations in this matter are beyond reproach, were vital, detailing twenty-nine recommendations to avoid tragedies like Benghazi from happening in the future, while handing out blame where it was deserved.
This is unimportant to the right, who would rather pursue scalps than improvements in policy that could potentially save American lives.
Instead those on the right like John Bolton would rather continue to play the role of Ahab, hunting not for answers but to take down the President, a fact that in every instance leads them further from the truth.
Fast and Furious, Solyndra, and numerous other pseudo scandals have shown a conservative media uninterested in actual answers. Instead they simply wish that one day their prayers of a Obama scandal will come true.
This weekend former Senator Evan Bayh echoed the beliefs of many in the media that the National Rifle Association has only recently moved to the fringe, telling Politico "their position is now in the end zone, not at the 40-yard line."
These extremes were on display at the NRA annual meeting this weekend where Glenn Beck, during a keynote address just days after the announcement that New York's Cablevision would soon begin to carry his Blaze network to millions of households, displayed on the screen a poster-like image of Michael Bloomberg giving the Sieg Heil salute. To equate the Jewish mayor of New York City to Nazis used to be beyond the pale in American politics.
One could say this outrageous hate speech was Beck acting like Beck, demonstrating his herculean effort to prove Godwin's Law, but Nazi comparisons have been part and parcel of the NRA's rhetoric for decades.
In 1995, former President George H.W. Bush resigned his lifetime membership in the organization after Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre signed a fundraising letter that claimed the Assault Weapons Ban passed earlier that year "gives jackbooted Government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property and even injure and kill us."
Bush told the organization, "your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country."
The rhetoric might have been new to Bush, but the organization had freely referred to law enforcement officials as "jackbooted thugs" for years. It was only in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing that previously ignored communications, such as direct mail pieces, were scrutinized by the media, outing this disgraceful language.
Kermit Gosnell, currently on trial for murder, appears to be a monster. There are no adjectives strong enough to describe the horrors that a grand jury says took place at the Women's Medical Society.
In recent weeks, anti-choice media figures have been agitating for more coverage of the Gosnell trial in the mainstream press, hoping to inject into public discourse the idea that all clinics performing abortions are the monstrous dens depicted in stark detail in the grand jury report.
I agree - the Gosnell trial does deserve more coverage. Not as a stain on abortion providers but as an indictment of the outcome if the anti-choice movement achieves its goals. Far from the practices of well-established medical facilities, the Women's Medical Society was the modern-day back alley, like those in the pre-Roe era where desperate women were butchered.
The Women's Medical Society's "real business," the grand jury report explicitly states, "was not health; it was profit. There were two primary parts to the operation. By day it was a prescription mill; by night an abortion mill."
To achieve his ends, "Gosnell's approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law. That was his competitive edge."
Conservatives are making the argument that "the reason the media and pro-abortion politicians are ignoring Gosnell's trial is because Gosnell was an abortionist. Seven of his victims were killed after they had been aborted, and one died after she had aborted. Why would people who believe in legalized abortion want to shed negative light on bad things that happen during legalized abortions?"
But these were crimes, not "bad things that happened" within legal structures. What the grand jury established is that Gosnell preyed on poor women, performing illegal abortions in unsanitary conditions. Those on the right have spent ample pixels reciting all the abhorrent practice, but have failed to note the critical component - that the actions they cite are illegal.
Pennsylvania, like other states, permits legal abortion within a regulatory framework. Physicians must, for example, provide counseling about the nature of the procedure. Minors must have parental or judicial consent. All women must wait 24 hours after first visiting the facility, in order to fully consider their decision. But Gosnell's compliance with such requirements was casual at best. At the Women's Medical Society, the only question that really mattered was whether you had the cash. Too young? No problem. Didn't want to wait? Gosnell provided same-day service.
As the anti-choice movement seeks to close the last remaining clinics in North Dakota, Mississippi, Kansas, and Arkansas, the ultimate result of its action will be to drive women into the hands of more Kermit Gosnells.
The fact the right refuses to face is that, as the grand jury explicitly stated, "the real key to the business model, though, was this: Gosnell catered to the women who couldn't get abortions elsewhere."
Those who will be taken advantage of are not the wealthy who can afford to travel to an alternative state where they can receive care, but the low-income who feel trapped by their circumstance. Remove legal and safe options, and women like the victims the right purports to be speaking for will turn to the Kermit Gosnells of the world. And it's the policies of the anti-choice movement that will drive them there.
Zev Chafets wants you to know that some of Roger Ailes's best friends are black.
He makes that point repeatedly throughout his latest tome, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, the product of a year of unprecedented access to Roger Ailes, his employees at Fox News, and his friends and family.
The result is largely an amalgamation of anecdotes that lets its subject off the hook for the most controversial aspects of his 40-year career, either by whitewashing them from the record entirely or by deflecting the reader with misdirection.
Roger Ailes is friends with Jesse Jackson, and he's friends with David Dinkins, Chafets writes, making no mention of the race-baiting ads Ailes ran against the former New York City mayor - designed to exacerbate tensions between the city's black and Jewish populations.
Ailes is a "profane, skydiving, hard-charging producer" is what Chafets gleans from Joe McGinniss's The Selling of the President, describing Ailes' work on the 1968 Presidential campaigns. Missing is the race-baiting quote from the book that has dogged him ever since. While casting one of Nixon's "Man in the Arena" appearances, Ailes strategized with McGiniss about how to utilize racial tensions to his candidate's advantage, telling the reporter: "As long as we've got this extra spot open. A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright mac, what about these niggers?'"
Last week conservative radio host Neal Boortz issued a challenge via Twitter:
Boortz's challenge came after Media Matters shone a spotlight on his claim that President Obama's reelection represented a bigger threat to the United States of America than Al Qaeda and Adolf Hitler.
After Boortz issued his challenge, I replied via Twitter:
Media Matters scheduled an appearance through Neal Boortz's producer and the debate was set up for today from 10:05 to 10:20 AM - or so we thought.