Right-wing media figures spent the months leading up to Jeb Bush's decision to actively explore running for president criticizing him as the "dumbest Bush," a "base pander," and a candidate who presents problems for the base.
Conservative media had worked to cast Murthy as a radical for his uncontroversial stance that gun violence is a public health issue and criticized his supposed lack of qualifications.
The conservative media attacks against Murthy began in early March. Coverage of his nomination focused on his past acknowledgement that gun violence affects public health, which conservative media spun as evidence Murthy is obsessed with gun regulations. (Murthy has actually said his focus as Surgeon General will not be on gun violence, but rather obesity.)
Fox contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that Murthy is "rabidly anti-gun" and "must be stopped," and Fox & Friends co-host Peter Johnson, Jr. argued that, if confirmed as Surgeon General, Murthy would make the examining room about "about party registration or about gun registration" rather than medicine. Fox hosts also worked to downplay Murthy's considerable accomplishments and suggested that he was unqualified to be "our nation's doctor" because "he hasn't done much in his career yet," all while arguing he would turn the Surgeon General role "into a hyper-partisan position." These arguments became the basis for an extended smear campaign on Fox News and conservative blogs.
In fact, Murthy's stance on firearms is common within the medical community. The American Medical Association (AMA) agrees that gun violence "has reached epidemic proportions" and has argued that the medical profession carries an obligation to combat gun violence. The Institute of Medicine has also advocated for a "public health approach" to fight gun violence. Furthermore, Murthy's credentials were endorsed by a broad array of health care groups including the American Public Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and Trust for America's Health.
National Review personalities exploited questions surrounding Rolling Stone's high-profile account of a rape at the University of Virginia (UVA) in order to deny the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and suggested that women should do more to protect themselves, a response in keeping with the outlet's history of denialist, victim-blaming sexual assault coverage.
Fox News originally ignored a House GOP report debunking many of its Benghazi myths but is now attacking the report's credibility to promote the need for more Benghazi Select Committee hearings.
In November, the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republicans, released the results of a lengthy investigation that "debunk[ed] a series of persistent allegations" perpetuated by conservative media outlets about the events and culpability surrounding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The report reaffirmed the findings of several previous investigations and once again determined that "there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria."
Fox News remained mostly silent in the wake of the report's publication, giving the report only cursory coverage while flagship news program Fox News Sunday ignored it entirely. The network's lack of coverage earned condemnation from CNN media critic Brian Stelter and even Fox's own media analyst, Howard Kurtz. The absence of coverage stood in stark contrast toFox's exhaustive focus on the formation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi in June, when the network devoted at least 225 segments to the select committee over a mere two-week span.
With another Benghazi Select Committee hearing scheduled for December 10, Fox has changed its approach from silence to overt attempts to undermine the GOP report's credibility.
Bret Baier, host of Fox's Special Report, claimed on December 3 that "many" believe the House Intelligence Committee's Benghazi report "went soft on the Obama administration and was filled inaccuracies" and emphasized the further investigation by the Benghazi Select Committee. To bolster this allegation, investigative reporter Catherine Herridge noted the "eyewitness accounts" of Kris Paronto and John Tiegen, who, according to Herridge, "say there was an intelligence failure. They were directly warned in late August a strike was likely, yet no Defense Department assets were available on the September 11th anniversary."
Special Report's December 3 panel went to further lengths to undermine the Intelligence Committee report as Baier, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, and The Hill's A. B. Stoddard suggested that the investigation was insufficient.
But Fox's latest attempts at subverting the committee report amount to nothing more than highlighting a smattering of Republican lawmakers who claim to remember events occurring differently than they were laid out in the final report. In a December 5 article for FoxNews.com, Herridge reported that newly declassified testimony contained the statements of members of Congress recalling that former CIA director David Petraeus connected the Benghazi attack to the protests against an anti-Muslim YouTube video in an off-the-record coffee meeting two days after the attack:
If the lawmakers' recollection is accurate, that means Petraeus' brief on Sept. 14, 2012, was instead in line with the White House, and then-Secretary Hillary Clinton's State Department. It was a State Department press release at 10:07 p.m. ET, before the attack was even over, that first made the link to the obscure anti-Islam video. The newly declassified testimony says $70,000 was spent on advertising in Pakistan, denouncing the anti-Muslim film.
During this testimony, GOP Rep. Jeff Miller questioned Petraeus' original testimony, stating the former CIA director "even went so far as to say that it had been put into Arabic language and then was put on this TV station, this cleric's TV station. I mean, [Petraeus] drove that in pretty hard when he was in here. "
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., added "it was said in here a little bit earlier that the CIA never said Benghazi was part of a Cairo protest and of the video. And we were given just the opposite message by the Director of the CIA on the [September] 14th [2012.]"
Rogers noted there was no transcript for the brief, only staff notes, but after the Petraeus incident in September 2012, the practice was changed to always run a transcript on the briefings. The Sept. 14, 2012, brief was a coffee meeting with members.
USA Today reported that the Fox-promoted Select Committee may cost $1.5 million this year, despite numerous other independent investigations finding no wrongdoing with relation to the events in Benghazi.
The Washington Post is helping a former official from President George H.W. Bush's administration walk back his 1990 congressional testimony that Bush's executive action on immigration could have helped up to 1.5 million people and using that to decry the Obama administration's use of the figure to justify its upcoming immigration action. But the official, then-Federal Immigration Commissioner Gene McNary, was the person who introduced the 1.5 million figure, and an immigration expert's analysis of immigration numbers at the time shows that the figure is plausible.
Right-wing media outlets hyped widely discredited research from the Heritage Foundation to push the myth that President Obama's executive actions on immigration will cost the U.S. economy more than $2 trillion in federal benefits paid to those undocumented immigrants whose deportations are deferred. But Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion on behalf of certain undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents does not confer federal means-tested benefits and economists report that allowing more immigrants to legally work will raise revenues and boost the economy.
Conservative media outlets are attacking President Obama's immigration action with myths that the newly protected workers will hurt the economy and the tax system. In reality, immigration increases wages and doesn't hurt employment, and the executive action is likely to boost tax revenue.
Conservative media long argued that stopping the NYPD's discriminatory stop-and-frisk tactics would result in higher violent crime rates. But even after the dramatic decrease in stop-and-frisk's application in the city, a NYPD report shows that the city's crime rate dropped to a 20 year low.
Fox News warned that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is "unpopular" and "failing the public" the day before health care exchanges opened for the 2015 enrollment period, ignoring new polling data that shows the law is overwhelmingly popular among its enrollees.
Just two days after the midterm elections concluded, CNN is helping to make "Whitewater" lies part of the 2016 election.
Doug Henwood, author of a Harper's magazine article headlined "Stop Hillary!," appeared on CNN along with Elise Viebeck, a reporter for The Hill, to discuss Hillary Clinton (whom Viebeck called "pathologically ambitious" and "extremely opportunistic"). After Viebeck claimed that "the past scandals that the Clintons have been involved with" could be used by Republicans in any future election, Henwood mentioned Whitewater, a real estate venture that failed in the 1970s and 1980s and was exhaustively investigated in the 1990s, as key to any campaign to discredit Clinton.
"Every time you do Whitewater, the media will kind of roll its eyes, like 'We've been there; this is old,'" host Chris Cuomo replied. "Not the media, but the media that wants to defend Hillary Clinton, or her defenders in general. You say, oh no, no, no. The facts there mattered. She kind of got a pass."
One key fact that mattered went unsaid by Cuomo or either of his guests: exhaustive investigations by Republican prosecutors and legislators concluded that there was no evidence that Bill or Hillary Clinton broke the law in connection to the Whitewater land deal.
Henwood's explanation for why Whitewater still mattered centered on his claim that Clinton "lied" about billing records and how much time she spent as a lawyer working for a bank connected to the deal. Again, the public record fully corroborates what Clinton has said about this.
Nevertheless, Cuomo encouraged his viewers to read Henwood's story in Harper's, calling it an interesting take on Clinton.
Veteran reporters from the 90s see it differently.
"The most basic facts elude him," Gene Lyons observed in the Arkansas Times. Lyons, who wrote a book that originated as a Harper's article on the media's Whitewater failures, offers a devastating point-by-point rebuttal to Henwood before concluding, "a journalist who chooses to question a presidential candidate's character by dragging up 20-year-old controversies owes it to readers to know two or three things about them."
And CNN owes it to its viewers to challenge its guests over basic, verifiable facts.
In early October, Yahoo! News columnist Michael Isikoff revisited the Whitewater saga that made him famous, touting a book written by the first special prosecutor to look into the land deal before he was replaced by Ken Starr. Dredging up old news and breaking no new ground, Isikoff warned that Clinton foes would try to use Whitewater against her.
Joe Conason, who co-authored The Hunting of the President with Lyons, took Isikoff to task for ignoring the facts and offered compelling guidance to journalists who insist on discussing Whitewater. "If we must dredge up Whitewater," Conason wrote, "then let's be specific instead of vague." Conason urged journalists to "report all of the evidence."
Watch the CNN segment from the November 6 edition of New Day: