Gender bias and sensationalism in the media is something political figures like Hillary Clinton simply need to "deal with," according to Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz.
In a May 28 column, Kurtz highlighted a newly released excerpt from Hillary Clinton's upcoming book, Hard Choices, in an attempt to analyze Clinton's purported wariness of the press. He gave particular attention to a New Yorker article, published the same day as the book excerpt, which detailed the media's obsessive focus on Clinton. While the New Yorker noted that Clinton supporters attribute "some of the negative" coverage she has faced to sexism, Kurtz offered an alternate take:
My take is this: Let's say Hillary's people are right and that the press is petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean to women? Deal with it. It's like complaining about bad weather. Every candidate has to cope with an adversarial media, and Democrats usually get a break at least on social issues.
Media coverage of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign was a gender debacle. Press featured "news" segments on Hillary's hair style, examinations of the Clinton "cackle," and even a 750-word rumination on the "startling" amount of cleavage then-Sen. Clinton "displayed" on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Fox News exploited the Obama administration's accidental exposure of a CIA operative's identity, using it as an opportunity to minimize the Bush administration's culpability in deliberately exposing former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as political retribution in 2003.
On May 26, the Washington Post reported that the White House press office had mistakenly revealed the name of the CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan when it distributed a list of officials scheduled to participate in a military briefing with Obama at the Bagram Air Base during the president's surprise Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan. The list had been provided to the administration communications staff by military officials.
Fox News used the oversight as an opportunity to absolve the Bush administration and former Bush advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby for deliberately exposing the identity of then-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. On May 27, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade referenced Libby, noting that this time, "Scooter Libby cannot be blamed or imprisoned" for the oversight. Co-host Steve Doocy seized on the comment as an opportunity to draw a false equivalence between the two cases and downplay the severity of the Plame leak:
DOOCY: Okay, so you mentioned Scooter Libby, he was all part of that Valerie Plame thing. Valerie Plame has tweeted out. She writes simply: "Astonishing, White House mistakenly identifies CIA Chief in Afghanistan." Keep in mind, you know, people are talking about, well remember when it happened during the Bush years with Valerie Plame. Valerie -- President Barack Obama at the time wanted to know, called an investigation were any laws broken and stuff like that. Keep in mind that, big difference. Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C., at the CIA. This guy is actually over there. So for them to put out a list -- and I've got the memo on my iPhone right now. There's his name plain as day with Chief of Staff right after it. Doesn't anybody at the White House know what they're doing right now? It looks like a -- either they're not paying attention to details or they simply don't care.
Later on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton made the specious claim that Plame's identity was "made public by Rich Armitage, Secretary Colin Powell's deputy," and argued that the disclosure "resulted in some very unfair treatment of a lot of other people in the Bush administration like Scooter Libby." Bolton argued that the Plame disclosure was "just a malicious piece of gossip," while the Obama administration's disclosure was "utter incompetence."
These cases are not comparable. While the Obama administration's release of the CIA Chief of Station's name is a serious oversight, reports of the incident are clear that the disclosure was accidental. As the Washington Post noted, the mistake was immediately recognized and the list was withdrawn.
In contrast, the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity was a calculated move that that demolished her career after her husband wrote a New York Times op-ed critical of the Bush administration's justifications for taking the nation to war in Iraq. During the leak investigation, former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper identified former White House senior adviser -- current Fox contributor -- Karl Rove as the original source revealing Plame's identity and pointed to Scooter Libby as the corroborating source. Libby, who then served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty of perjury in the leak investigation, but his sentence was later commuted by Bush.
Fox News is using a flawed Benghazi report from ABC to spin an outlandish new conspiracy theory, insinuating that the Obama administration let Americans die while it was preoccupied with emailing YouTube about an anti-Muslim video.
On May 22, ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that new information showed that the White House had contacted YouTube the night of the attacks and later concealed the correspondence. The reality is that Karl's so-called new information, based on a selective leak from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), was reported by ABC way back in September 2012. Although Karl based his report on warmed-over information already in the public record, Fox jumped at the opportunity to revive the lie that the Obama administration abandoned Americans under fire.
Watch Fox & Friends use Karl's report to revive the zombie lie that the White House "certainly hesitated to send in help for the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi" and instead spent time contacting YouTube:
Having successfully goaded House Republicans into forming a select committee on Benghazi with smears and phony outrage, Fox News is now attempting to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the new investigatory body.
On May 2, House Republicans finally caved to the Fox News pressure campaign encouraging them to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox personalities have also pressured Democrats to get on board despite objections that the makeup of the committee is slanted to favor Republicans and is already ignoring evidence in pursuit of a forgone conclusion.
Fox host Andrea Tantaros warned that Democrats could face electoral repercussions if they "risk looking left out of it," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade urged, "Democrats, put the five people up there. Stop with the rhetoric. Let's get started," and after listening to select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) description of the committee, Fox host Chris Wallace decided: "Alright, I'm going to declare victory here and say that the Democrats are going to participate."
On May 16, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) volunteered to serve, and Fox was quick to reject the possibility of Grayson's involvement.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the committee needed someone more on board with the committee's goals and described him as a "spoke in the wheel" to the select committee:
HASSELBECK: Now, if he's gonna prosecute and try to get in there and probe into someone, it should be why we haven't had any answers and why no one knew about this and why these Americans were left to die. But if his focus, then, if the center of the target happens to be Republicans, is that a good idea to have this guy in there?
DOOCY: Here's the thing. This all started out as a joke on Twitter and the blogs, and now essentially what they're saying is: 'let's go ahead and gum up the works, let's turn it into a kangaroo court, and have this particular guy.' MoveOn.org says, "Our interest is to have someone with great credibility and stature among Democrats and Republicans. Well you know what? With all due respect to the congressman, he's not the one. Republicans do not think he is a great statesman.
In an interview with Media Matters, Grayson criticized Fox for "calling the shots" on the Benghazi witch hunt.
A look at how right-wing media ran with Fox contributor Karl Rove's speculation that Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage from a fall in 2012, laying the groundwork to establish the baseless smear as an issue for the 2016 presidential race.
Fox News isn't happy that former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner disagrees with their misinterpretation of excerpts from his new memoir.
On May 12, right-wing media's attempted to use Geithner's new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, to bolster its claims that the White House has a pattern of "playing politics with the American people" when it comes to issues like Benghazi. The narrative was rapidly debunked by a source close to Geithner and even one of Fox's own hosts.
Yet rather than correct their narrative the following day, Fox pivoted to attacking Geithner directly, calling it "outrageous" that "Geithner doesn't even believe his own book." The network later argued that there was no way Geithner could have misremembered the incident because, in Fox & Friends' Elisabeth Hasselbeck's words:
HASSELBECK: Anyone who knows, who has written a book, understands that there are many rounds of edits that go into providing text of your book. You look at that a few times before it hits the press, literally.
Hasselbeck's attack stretches credulity in order to obscure the most obvious explanation: that Fox was wrong.
When Geithner's memoir debuted, right-wing media were quick to latch on to his description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011. Then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer had asked Geithner to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote that he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute." According to the right-wing noise machine, the anecdote revealed that the White House directed Geithner to lie to the public. Fox quickly tied the narrative to its favorite Benghazi myth -- that the White House had worked to deliberately mislead the American people.
This framing of Geithner's anecdote was almost immediately debunked when The Five's Dana Perino, a former White House Press Secretary and Fox host, explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint."
Geithner himself reportedly later clarified this point, noting that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":
After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."
The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.
From Geithner's book:
The Speaker and his staff kept insisting they needed a scalp for the right; at one point, he proposed we scrap Obamacare's individual mandate for health insurance, an obvious nonstarter.
We were getting a bit nervous about our side, too. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi had told the President they could support a grand bargain, but the outlines of the deal made the Democratic leaders uncomfortable. It would raise substantially less revenue than Simpson-Bowles or a draft proposal by a bipartisan Senate group known as the Gang of Six. And the entitlement reforms were going to be a tough vote for Democrats, especially with Republicans still insisting on some kind of Obamacare scalp.
I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer wanted me to say Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. It wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a "dog whistle" to the left, a phrase I had never heard before. He had to explain that the phrase was code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.
On July 21, Boehner, remarkably, stopped returning the President's calls. He soon announced he was abandoning the grand bargain. This time, his rationale was that the President had moved the goalposts by asking for an extra $ 400 billion in revenues. But that was just a pretext; the negotiations were fluid. We had raised the revenue target, and their drafts still were calling for unacceptable political scalps, but the President hadn't drawn a line in the sand. The problem was that most of Boehner's caucus was unwilling to accept any new revenues, and many had pledged never to vote to raise the debt ceiling; he once told us that he was more interested in doing big things than being Speaker, but ultimately he was unwilling to split his caucus and risk his job.
Fox News is worried about an NFL player who was disciplined for posting anti-gay tweets about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted.
On May 10, Sam made history by becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted to the National Football League, when he was selected as the 249th draft pick by the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who had previously weathered a storm of right-wing criticism when he spoke out about his sexual orientation in February, was shown on television kissing his boyfriend after receiving news that he had been drafted.
The kiss sparked homophobic attacks online -- Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was disciplined for tweeting "omg" and "horrible" in response to Sam's celebration. Jones later apologized for his tweets after the team announced that he would be fined and temporarily excused from team activities.
Fox News appeared to side with Jones. The May 12 edition of Fox & Friends discussed Jones' tweet and compared the story to former NFL player Tim Tebow, suggesting Tebow was "mocked" for being a Christian while Michael Sam is "praised." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck worried that the NFL's attempts to curb anti-gay attacks on Sam could "offend" players like Jones and stoked fears that such efforts could lead to a slippery slope toward civility:
HASSELBECK: When you look at what the NFL is saying though, now, this is a strong message. They are going on the offense against any sort of offensive comments out there. But does it offend those with their free speech and their opinions to voice them? Certainly when it comes on the field. Will they then go after what is said in the huddle, in a tackle, on the bottom of a pile? Because if you have those times mic'd, you're going to be hearing a lot of comments which would be deemed offensive. Where does this go from here?
Later in the show, Fox regular Donald Trump said the footage of Sam celebrating with his boyfriend "looked pretty out there to me." Of Jones' punishment for mocking Sam, Trump claimed, "We've become so politically correct in this country that the country is going to hell."
Fox host Geraldo Rivera demolished his network's latest Benghazi hoax, even as his colleagues worked to prop up their distortions of Ret. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell's testimony on the administration's response to the attack.
On May 1, Lovell, who served as deputy intelligence director at the U.S. Africa Command in Germany (AFRICOM) during the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, testified that "we should have tried" to rescue the victims of the attack, yet later clarified that he did not mean to suggest that the government had the capability to send additional help that it failed to utilize. Fox News was quick to highlight the first portion of Lovell's testimony as "incredibly damning" evidence of the administration's negligence, yet failed to cover the full context of Lovell's remarks. Mainstream media similarly misrepresented the testimony.
Fox continued to push the myth that the administration had refused to send military assistance to Benghazi on the March 2 edition of Fox & Friends, claiming that Lovell "made it very clear we didn't even try to rescue those guys" and arguing: "Logic tells you that you would think that there would be some type of mission to get people out" -- arguments that were dismantled later in the show when Rivera described the realities of military coordination. Rivera called his Fox News colleagues' claims a "myth," pointing out that "we have never, as far as I know, never mounted a rescue operation in the time parameters we had here, at all" and "it would never have been mounted, that mission was a suicide mission, it could not have happened" (emphasis added):
RIVERA: Admiral Mike Mullen, appointed by President Bush, says there was no military asset available. I have investigated this from the Air Force assets in Aviano to the special forces in Tripoli and in Italy and in other places. Whatever was available in our fleet resources, AFRICOM, there was no forces that could have intervened. There was no gunship available as the myth suggested. There was no 'stand down order' given by concentrating on the -- and the military is not the SWAT team. They're not the fire department.
CO-HOST STEVE DOOCY: Geraldo, they could have buzzed them with a drone.
HASSELBECK: Doesn't it go back to the first paints that they should have paid attention --
RIVERA: I don't know. All I know is that when you, for instance, look at how we rescue the guy from the Mirsk, Alabama or how we go into the camps in Somalia, these are precisely planned, daylight operations largely. They involve three days of intense comprehensive plans -- we have never, as far as I know, never mounted a rescue operation in the time parameters we had here, at all.
RIVERA: Listen, I have been with so many fallen and wounded GIs from Afghanistan 12 times, Iraq 12 times, Somalia, I have a lot of African experience. If the jets Aviano had scrambled, they would have had to jettison their tanks at night, going over to a situation that they could have easily been taken down by a handheld RPG. To what end? We didn't have a target. It could would have been mounted, that mission was a suicide mission, it could not have happened.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already debunked claims that further assistance could have been sent from U.S. military bases and even criticized this "cartoonish impression of the military," which has ignored the need for "planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way."
Lovell, too, was very clear about the limits of military's capability to respond. From his May 1 remarks:
REP. JERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I want to read to you the conclusion of the chairman of the [Armed Services] Committee, the Republican chairman Buck McKeon, who conducted formal briefings and oversaw that report. He said, quote, "I'm pretty well satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened, and how quickly it dissipated we probably couldn't have done much more than we did." Do you take issue with the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee? In that conclusion?
LOVELL: His conclusion that he couldn't have done much more than they did with the capability and the way they executed it?
CONNOLLY: Given the timeframe.
LOVELL: That's a fact.
LOVELL: The way it is right now. The way he stated it.
CONNOLLY: All right, because I'm sure you can appreciate, general, there might be some who, for various and sundry reasons would like to distort your testimony and suggest that you're testifying that we could have, should have done a lot more than we did because we had capabilities we simply didn't utilize. That is not your testimony?
LOVELL: That is not my testimony.
CONNOLLY: I thank you very much
Ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson's latest round of Benghazi misinformation rapidly became the basis of a misleading Fox News report.
In an April 29 blog, Attkisson claimed that a newly released September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to other key national security aides had finally revealed "direct White House involvement in steering the public narrative about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, toward that of a spontaneous protest that never happened." She highlighted the right's "persistent allegations that the Obama administration developed a false political narrative to downplay or hide the fact that terrorists had struck," and argued that:
[T]aken as a whole, the documents and testimony revealed since the attacks support the idea that the administration's avoidance of the word "terrorism" was a strategy rather than an accident or mistake.
The following morning, Fox & Friends parroted her attack, hyping the emails as proof the White House covered up the truth about Benghazi. Co-host Steve Doocy pushed several claims from Attkisson's blog, including that the email had been retroactively "classified" in order to keep their information away from Congress. He later reminded viewers of Fox's previous efforts to hype mainstream media stonewalling on the story: "remember, [Attkisson] resigned because, among other things, she couldn't do what she wanted to do, like Benghazi":
These allegations have been debunked again and again. The Rhodes email reveals nothing new, but was consistent with other intelligence briefings circulating at the time. A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report has already found that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes." Instead, it showed that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice's statements after the attacks reflected the best intelligence available at the time and revealed that it took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments -- information that was not reviewed or disseminated until after Rice's statements.
In the email preparing Rice for her September 15 appearances, Rhodes only briefly referenced Benghazi. He stated that "the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex" -- language that is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day. The email's topline talking points, which both Fox and Attkisson highlighted for their failure to mention terrorism in connection to Benghazi, did not actually refer to Benghazi attack, but offered an accurate description of the anti-American protests occurring in the region at the time.
Despite Attkisson's efforts to portray herself as a victim of media censorship, this is only the latest example of how her Benghazi reporting ignores journalistic standards and denies facts. According to Politico, CBS News executives saw Attkisson as "wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue," but her arguments are clearly at home on Fox. As fringe media increasingly embrace Attkisson's shoddy reporting, it's possible that Attkisson may find her place pushing right-wing misinformation at Fox -- as Fox personalities have previously hinted she should.
The right-wing media has shifted its focus from Cliven Bundy to hyping false reports of a government "land grab" in Texas -- again finding itself denying court-established property rights.
On April 21, Breitbart Texas claimed that Bureau of Land management (BLM) is "reviewing the possible federal takeover and ownership of privately-held lands which have been deeded property for generations of Texas landowners." Breitbart argued that the BLM had attempted to "seize" property from Texan Tom Henderson in 1986, and baselessly speculated that because the BLM is "in the process of developing a Resource Management Plan," the office may be planning on "simply confiscating the land." Breitbart described the old case by claiming "Henderson sued the BLM and lost 140 acres that had been in his family for generations. Now the BLM is looking at using the prior case as a precedent to claim an additional 90,000 acres."
Other right-wing outlets picked up Breitbart's frame. The Daily Caller trumpeted the BLM's "intent to claim 90,000 acres along the Red River" in Texas, The Blaze hyped "new concerns that [the BLM] may be looking to claim thousands of acres of land in the northern part of the state," and Fox News host Steve Doocy claimed that the government "is reportedly trying to claim 90,000 acres along the Red River, the line that separates the states of Texas and Oklahoma," from local ranchers. Doocy highlighted the 1986 case and noted that "many fear the Bureau of Land Management may use that case as a precedent to do it again." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic stoked fears of a "government land grab":
These claims are entirely baseless. The 1986 case that the right-wing media's narrative relies on -- Currington v. Henderson -- did not pit a local Texas landowner against the federal government. Currington was a land dispute between two local property owners over a portion of land on the Texas-Oklahoma border. A federal district court ultimately found that, in fact, neither claimant had rights to the land, which was already owned by the United States government. From the court findings:
The lands north of the medial line adjacent to Sections 3 and 4, Township 5 South, Range 9 West of the Indian Meridian are part of those lands and are owned by the respective plaintiffs. The lands lying in the bed of the Red River south of the medial like adjacent thereto are owned by the United States.