Fox News is apparently desperate for a scandal over President Obama's handling of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups, especially now that the network's campaign to embroil the president in scandal over his response to the Benghazi attacks is falling apart. Fox has gone from ignoring Obama's swift responses to the IRS's actions to downplaying the significance of his firing the IRS's acting commissioner, each time distorting reality in order to call for a special prosecutor.
The release of over 100 pages of inter-agency emails obtained by CNN have threatened to derail months of right-wing scandal-mongering over the administration's response to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The emails appear to counter the conservative narrative that the State Department altered Benghazi-related talking points for political reasons. As Fox News' desperate attempts to resurrect the waning scandal fall flat, Fox pundits have resorted to criticizing the president's handling of the IRS controversy instead.
Fox kicked off its criticism by deciding Obama's initial condemnation of the IRS's actions as "outrageous" was too weak. When the president first addressed concerns over this story at a press conference on Monday, May 13, he asserted, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable." America Live host Megyn Kelly covered his remarks by wondering, "Does the president understate it when he calls this, 'outrageous'?"
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama released a statement on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable. This time, Fox simply pretended Obama made no such statement and continued to attack his remarks from two days prior, all while arguing that a special prosecutor was needed given Obama's supposed inaction.
By Thursday, Fox was fumbling over how to handle the fact that Obama had fired Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions. In the morning, America's Newsroom chose the route of merely ignoring that anyone had been fired so that host Martha MacCallum could declare, "[Obama] could be the big person. He could say, 'This stinks. You're all fired. This doesn't happen in America.' He has every ability in his position right now to take the high road. Why not? Why not do it?"
When the network finally acknowledged that Miller had been forced to resign, it did so by attempting to downplay the decision. Anchor Bret Baier questioned the action on Happening Now, claiming, "He was ready to leave, despite the fact -- I mean, before any of this already happened. He was acting commissioner and was set to leave the IRS. So that's a question for the White House; that's a question for the president. You know, was this guy fired when he was going to leave anyway?"
Fox News ignored President Obama's explicit demand for accountability in the wake of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups. The network's omission gave it cover to accuse Obama of not taking the IRS's actions seriously and to call for a special prosecutor.
Obama first addressed the IRS controversy during a May 13 joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, where he condemned the IRS's behavior with the caveat, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable."
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama granted the IRS no such caveat. He released a statement definitively naming the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable:
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog's report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I've directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General's recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again.
Yet the next day, America Live host Megyn Kelly and Fox's digital political editor Chris Stirewalt pretended Obama issued no such condemnation.
Instead, Kelly claimed that even after the IG's report was released, "we still have the president saying, 'Well, if they did it, if they did it, if they did it." She ranted, "I don't understand, more so today than the other day, why the president used that word 'if.' 'If these people did this, if these people did that.' Now that I've seen the Inspector General report -- and you're telling me -- now Fox News just got it last night. But other news organizations had it leaked to them early. You're telling me President Obama couldn't have got it when it was complete on Monday?"
Kelly and Stirewalt used their mischaracterization of Obama's response to call for a special prosecutor into the IRS's actions. Stirewalt told Kelly that if he were the president, he would "find a Republican of good standing" to appoint as an independent investigator. Kelly responded with the charge, "Where is the harm to this administration, if as these IRS employees state, no one outside of the IRS had anything to do with this, this was just IRS employees deciding to target conservatives. So if the White House and no one else had anything to do with it, where is the harm? Why doesn't the president just say 'absolutely'?"
Fox News anchor Bret Baier complained that President Obama's description of his administration's response to attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya attempted to rewrite history. On May 13, Obama recalled how he had previously described the attacks in the context of terrorism. Baier argued that if Obama's comments were laid out in a video timeline, "it doesn't match up to what he said today" -- but a video timeline produced by Media Matters illustrates the opposite.
Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint press conference on May 13, where Obama was asked about his administration's response to the attacks on our U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama pointed out that he had explicitly deemed it an "act of terror" while speaking in the Rose Garden the day after the attack. He noted how, "What we have been very clear about throughout that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were."
Baier appeared on Happening Now after Obama's press conference, where he stated, "Let me say one thing about [Obama's] timeline on talking about terror." Baier suggested that if you "set that aside" Obama's remarks in the Rose Garden - where he called Benghazi an "act of terror" - then Obama has avoided referring to Benghazi as such. Baier went on, "If you just lay it out in a timeline, what the president said and what he was asked about it, it doesn't match up to what he said today."
Media Matters indulged Baier's request for a video timeline, which reveals that Obama both called the Benghazi attacks an act of terror while emphasizing that an investigation was ongoing, just as the president said today:
Fox has misrepresented Obama's statements on whether the Benghazi attacks constitute an act of terror for the last eight months, often ignoring his remarks entirely or bizarrely claiming Obama was referring the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, not the Benghazi attacks, when he spoke from the Rose Garden.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly worried that the network's extensive live coverage of the House Oversight Committee hearings on Benghazi was providing "lopsided" airtime to questions from Democrats -- though Fox had actually devoted over twice as much airtime to Republican questions.
Three State Department officials testified today before the House Oversight Committee about the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Fox afforded live coverage to the hearing, beginning when the three witnesses testifying, Gregory Hicks, Mark Thompson, and Eric Nordstrom, were sworn in.
For over an hour, Fox stayed live on the hearings without a single interruption. During this time, the network showed 32 minutes of Republican committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa's (CA) questions and witness responses. But when Issa yielded the floor to the ranking Democratic committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), for his turn to question witnesses, Fox cut to commercial, breaking live footage for the first time.
Rather than immediately returning live to Cummings' questions after the commercial break, Happening Now host Jon Scott instead spoke to Fox contributor John Bolton about the hearing, while a split-screen showed the hearing and Cummings' questioning continue. In total, Fox aired only two minutes of Cummings' questions and witness responses before returning to commercial break.
Fox favored Republican questioning right from the start of the hearing, yet Kelly implied that the network's coverage had been lopsided in favor of Democrats.
Approximately two hours into Fox's hearing coverage, during questioning from Republican Rep. John Mica (FL), America Live host Megyn Kelly broke in and expressed concern that, "We're getting a little lopsided in terms of the Democrats versus the Republicans, so we're going to try to rectify that for you after the break, and play more of Mr. Mica right after this quick commercial break." Fox continued airing what was left of Mica's questions upon returning from break. But then as Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) took the floor, Fox halted live coverage so that Kelly could speak to another Fox correspondent. As she skipped the Democrat's question period, Kelly stated, "And so we're going to try to even it out. We're going to try to get on the same number of Democrats and Republicans as we watch this coverage."
At the time of Kelly's remark, eleven politicians -- six Republicans and five Democrats -- had asked questions of the Benghazi witnesses. And despite Kelly's suggestion, during this time Fox devoted 46 minutes of live coverage to Republicans' questions and answers, airing only 19 minutes of Democrats' questions and answers.
This post has been updated to correct the number of congressmen who posed questions prior to Kelly's remarks.
Fox News is launching a new round of smears against the Obama administration over the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, using old, long-debunked falsehoods as ammunition.
The day after the Benghazi attack, on September 12, President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden about Benghazi, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America." Obama referred to Benghazi twice more as an "act of terror" on September 13, two days after the attack.
But Fox spent months pretending Obama never labeled Benghazi as an act of terror, omitting his statements in video montages, and claiming that Obama was referencing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks instead. Fox so successfully omitted Obama's words that even presidential candidate Mitt Romney believed Obama delayed calling Benghazi an "act of terror."
Fox also conducted a witch-hunt against United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who appeared on five Sunday news shows on September 16 and reported that the intelligence community's best current assessment of the attack was that a small number of extremists appeared to have taken advantage of a larger protest at the compound over an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. Fox twisted Rice's remarks and accused her of altering the intelligence community's original talking points in order to cover up its belief that Al Qaeda played a role in the attack. In reality, as The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes inadvertently pointed out, the CIA's original talking points draft read that a spontaneous protest in Benghazi evolved into the consulate attack, just as Rice reported.
Eight months later, Fox is back to parroting these same untruths to reprise their Benghazi smear campaign.
On May 6's Happening Now, host Jon Scott spoke with anchor Bret Baier about upcoming congressional hearings on Benghazi. Fox again ignored Obama's declaration that Benghazi was an "act of terror," airing this graphic during Baier's interview:
Fox News host Jon Scott identified all retirees as those "who could be working" in order to disparage the labor force participation rate from April's positive jobs report.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) May 3 jobs report determined that the economy added 165,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate fell from 7.6 to 7.5 percent. BLS also reported that the labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 63.3 percent.
On Happening Now, Scott wondered of the labor force participation: "So, if this participation rate is at 63 percent, that leaves, what? Thirty-seven percent of the country who could be working, not working?" Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office under President George W. Bush, responded, "Yeah. If you look at the ratio of the number of people in the United States who are working, to the number in the United States, that's a low number. We're not taking advantage of the skills of our population."
BLS determines the unemployment rate after conducting the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample of approximately 60,000 households where people are asked about the labor force status of household members.
The labor force participation rate that Scott referenced is the percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population who identified as either employed or actively looking for work. But here's where he dropped the ball -- the civilian noninstitutional population, as BLS defines it, includes all people 16 years of age and older, who are neither institutionalized (in a penal or mental institution) nor active duty military. So the 37 percent of people who self-identified as "not in the labor force" includes retirees and stay-at-home spouses, not generally groups "who could be working" or want to work.
Holtz-Eakin's claim was even more extreme, comparing the civilian labor force to the total population of the nation, which of course includes children.
Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are teaming up to demonize the Food and Drug Administration's decision to lower the age requirement for access to over-the-counter emergency contraception, ignoring both the science behind the drug and the FDA's assessment that younger women can handle the responsibility of taking the medication.
On America's Newsroom, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, attacked the FDA's decision to allow 15-year-olds to purchase the medication. He claimed emergency contraception decisions should be left up to the parents because, "Since when is a 15-year-old child a woman? Now give me a break."
Alvarez went on to claim that a 15-year-old is unable to understand the possible side effects of Plan B. Host Martha MacCallum stated, "Look at the list of warnings on this thing," prompting Alvarez to argue:
It reads like the Constitution. There's so many, you know, possibilities, probabilities, percentages. You're going to tell me a 15-year-old girl -- and who could even buy it and give it to a 14-year-old or 13-year-old -- is going to understand all the potential side effects? And what they should do after if they have any of the symptoms?
Later, MacCallum fearmongered over whether Plan B could result in long-term fertility problems, wondering, "Who knows what the long-lasting implications of using it in that way are? When this girl decides she wants to have a baby a few years down the road?" Alvarez did not take the bait, telling MacCallum: "I'm not arguing that this has some mild to moderate side effects -- not terrible side effects."
Aside from the fact that the "children" seeking emergency contraception are of reproductive age, Alvarez's allegations have been explicitly discredited by FDA research. The agency conclusively determined that a 15-year-old is able to understand the side effects and consequences of Plan B after conducting research on this question when determining whether to make the drug available to this age group without a prescription. FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD explained (emphasis added):
The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) completed its review of the Plan B One-Step application and laid out its scientific determination. CDER carefully considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B One-Step. Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.
Rush Limbaugh expressed disgust that his homophobic views aren't treated with tolerance during a rant over a male professional athlete coming out as gay.
This week NBA center Jason Collins became the first male openly gay player in a major American sport, revealing in an April 29 Sports Illustrated story:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
On his radio program April 30, Limbaugh bemoaned the fact that Collins' sexual preference was even a topic of conversation, as people have "gay-news fatigue." He asked repeatedly, "Why does [being gay] have to be rammed down our throats?":
LIMBAUGH: Folks, I grew up in a family where people's sexual orientation preferences, whatever, weren't even discussed. Why - why can't - why can't everybody just put your sexual preferences on Facebook and call it a day? What do we need to stop everything and have a national day of celebration - or mourning, depending on your view - recognition, or whatever, about this.
If you're like everybody else, they're sick of hearing this. They've got gay-news fatigue. Alright, we got it. Just put it up on Facebook and forget it. Why does it have to be rammed down our throats, figuratively speaking? Why does this have to be thrust at us?
Limbaugh then launched into a heated tirade about society's intolerance of his homophobic views. He complained that just because he's "not big on that" -- people identifying as gay -- he's labeled a bigot, racist, extremist, and a homophobe:
LIMBAUGH: And this tolerance, you know, it only goes one way. So, Person X of some national stature announces his sexual orientation is gay. And, applause. 'Great day for America. We're really taking giant leaps ahead.' If anybody says, 'You know, I'm not big on that.' 'You bigot! You - You - You racist! You - you extremist! You - you - you homophobe!' There is no tolerance at all here. Not only do these people have to publicly announce, everybody else has to applaud and accept it. My point the other day about how it's only us conservatives who are divisive. You know, I'm one of the most loving, unifying, want everybody to do well, like everybody, hope everybody has a great life-kind of guy you'll ever run into. But because I'm not a liberal, I'm called divisive. Liberals are never divisive. You know why that is? 'Cause to them, liberalism is just status quo. Anything that's not liberal is divisive. So, liberals believe this country has been racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, and now we're making great strides.
At the close of his program, Limbaugh expressed his respect for ESPN's Chris Broussard, a reporter who called homosexuality an "open rebellion" against God when he was asked during an appearance on ESPN about his views on Collins. Limbaugh told a caller, "I really respect him for saying it."
Listen to more of Limbaugh's rant on Collins' announcement:
Fox News' Brit Hume is continuing the network's effort to rehabilitate the Bush family name by lavishing praise on Jeb Bush, a potential 2016 presidential nominee.
Fox spent the week of the George W. Bush Presidential Library dedication lionizing Bush's tenure and whitewashing the effects of his policies; several hosts even bragged that Bush "kept the country safe" from terrorists after the September 11 attacks. From Fox & Friends to America's Newsroom, Fox uncritically allowed former Bush officials to spin Bush's record on fiscal discipline as probably "the best track record of any modern president," and to falsely claim that he helped grow the economy despite "inheriting a recession." According to a Media Matters review, 71 percent of Fox's guest appearances about President Bush's library and legacy were by former Bush White House personnel.
Now Fox's senior political analyst Hume is turning the Bush rehabilitation effort toward President Bush's younger brother and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday on April 28, Hume discussed whether Jeb Bush should run for president in 2016, remarking, "The country may indeed be ready for another Bush." The next day on America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum asked Hume about his comment. Hume responded by lavishing praise on the younger Bush, saying, "a great many political observers had identified Jeb as ... the most gifted natural politician among the lot of them." He continued:
HUME: I think it is the fact that Jeb Bush is an especially gifted political figure. He's a disarming personality. He's highly articulate. He's deeply versed in policy, especially domestic policy. He has a connection to the Hispanic community. His wife is Hispanic. He speaks the language. He showed that when he was governor of Florida. He was a successful and generally popular governor of Florida. So he's got a lot going for him.
Rush Limbaugh is criticizing Vice President Joe Biden for praising Americans for their resilience in the face of terrorism after the tragic Boston marathon bombings.
Speaking at Time magazine's 100 gala, Biden stated:
If the purpose of terror is to instill fear, you saw none of that in Boston ... [T]he only way terrorism wins is if we change our way of life, if we yield ... Our message to terrorists is you cannot break us, you can't change us. We will never yield. We will not be intimidated.
During his April 24 radio broadcast, Limbaugh attacked Biden for these comments, calling them "typical Biden" and wondering if the vice president was drunk. Limbaugh suggested that Biden's praise was misplaced because police put Boston and surrounding communities on lockdown during the manhunt for suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:
LIMBAUGH: Was the vice president a little overindulgent in adult beverages or was he joking? ... We watched a major American metropolitan area of more than one million people on lockdown. A million people were told to stay home from work, stay home from school. To shelter in place. Do not go outside. Boston's subways, buses, cabs, even Amtrak service was halted. They cancelled a Bruins game. They cancelled a Red Sox game. I saw a lot of lives change. What was Biden watching? They shut down an entire city! They had the - these two terrorists had the city fathers telling everybody, 'Don't go outside. Stay in there - Don't you dare go outside. Don't answer the door. Stay right -' They had people cowering in fear in the corners of their own homes. And the vice president says, 'The only way terrorism wins is if we change our way of life, if we yield. And we didn't yield. And we didn't change our way of life. And they didn't break us. And they didn't change us. And they can't, and we will never yield.' What was he watching? I saw a lot of lives being changed.