Minutes after sowing seeds of doubt as to whether U.S. embassies abroad are truly facing a possible terrorist attack, Rush Limbaugh warned that this line of cynical thinking is "really dangerous" and "unhealthy" while ignoring his own role in spreading misinformation.
After the State Department announced the extended closure of twenty-two U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa over the weekend, due to intelligence suggesting the possibility of a planned terrorist attack, Limbaugh pondered the theory that this new threat could be an attempt by the administration to distract from other stories. Limbaugh listed incidents in which he believed the White House has not been truthful before declaring, "[A]ll of a sudden here comes this monstrous terror threat ... It's just easy to not believe it anymore. It's just too easy to be cynical."
Approximately ten minutes later, Limbaugh returned to the topic of the embassy closures. But, ironically, this time he complained that the strain of cynicism which doubts the veracity of the embassy terrorist threat -- the same doubt Limbaugh himself had expressed minutes before -- is "a really dangerous thing":
RUSH: The very fact that there are so many people who are cynical about this. The very fact that there are so many Americans who think they're being lied to about a terror threat is a really dangerous thing. It is an unhealthy thing for the country. It is the surest sign of the wanton lack of respect for this country that has swept all across this country. This threat may be real. Everything we're being told could be real. We could be facing something as bad or worse than 9/11. And I bet the majority of Americans think it is a lie. What does that tell you? That what most Americans think of the people who are telling them about this threat -- they're liars too.
Limbaugh continued during a conversation with a caller, at once explaining why listeners should not trust the Obama administration all while asserting that this distrust of government is "not good." Limbaugh stated, "This administration has shown a desire and a knack for distracting people away from things that might be harmful for them politically." He explained that he doubts the threat because "it comes at a time when this administration is trying to cover up what happened in Benghazi. So it's not happening in a vacuum. And the people telling us this, Thomas, are not clean and pure as the wind-driven snow."
Then he again pivoted, saying "I'm simply putting all this in a flow in a contextual flow to explain why there is a lot of cynicism." He continued, "This threat could be exactly as it's being told. It could be dire. And we've got people out there thinking the administration is lying to them."
Limbaugh's cognitive dissonance conveniently ignored the role he plays in encouraging his listeners to mistrust the Obama administration using false information and his influence on the conservative movement at large. Whether it's his claim that President Obama is "at war with the America that was founded," his exploitation of a 10-year-old girl to lie about death panels in Obamacare, his lies about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, or his repeated dismissal of climate change, Rush Limbaugh has consistently proven to be a habitually dishonest low-information radio host.
Beyond Limbaugh's two-faced approach to the embassy closures, the reaction in the conservative media has ranged from deeming the closure a "gross overreaction" to accusing the Obama administration of running from the terrorist threat.
Fox News assisted Rush Limbaugh in promoting the radio host's 'Limbaugh Theorem,' his attempt to explain why Americans have not been influenced by right-wing smears or Fox's phony scandals -- while hosting Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) to discuss its validity.
Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren dedicated its entire July 30 program to an interview with Limbaugh where he detailed his "Limbaugh Theorem," a hypothesis he frequently discusses on his radio program. According to Limbaugh, President Obama's policies are unpopular, yet Barack Obama himself remains popular, and Limbaugh believes his Theorem explains that apparent conflict: "The way he does this," Limbaugh explained to Van Susteren, "he never appears to be governing. That's why he's constantly campaigning." He continued:
LIMBAUGH: My theory is that Obama has positioned himself as an outsider, not attached to anything that's happening. What he has made happen, he positions himself as opposed to it and against it, and fighting for everybody else to overcome what he has done. And that's one of the reasons why the constant campaign. So he doesn't appear to be governing. So he doesn't appear to be part of Washington. He appears to have this mysterious, powerful bunch of forces that are opposing him, and stopping him from creating jobs. And stopping him from giving people proper healthcare. And stopping him from making their home values go up. And he's constantly out there fighting it. And he does that by constantly campaigning and never seen to be governing.
The Limbaugh Theorem again enjoyed the limelight on Fox the next day when America's Newsroom hosted Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and asked for her thoughts on Rush's hypothesis. After host Bill Hemmer replayed portions of Van Susteren's interview, he summarized the Limbaugh Theorem, saying, "The other aspect of that interview that Rush had with Greta Van Susteren last night is that he believes the Obama strategy is to disassociate himself with anything that's connected with Washington and play the role of the outsider." Hemmer then asked, "Is that what's going on and does that work?"
Apparently undermining the Limbaugh Theorem, Bachmann claimed that Obama was a "consummate insider" who is "all about DC." Hemmer attempted to steer the conversation back to the Limbaugh Theorem, reframing the question, "Do you think this is a president who runs away from governing or does not attach his name or association in any way to the -- what the Democrats consider, phony scandals in Washington? And that way he doesn't have to hang his name on it."
It is not surprising that Fox is hyping the Limbaugh Theorem -- the phony scandals from which the network and Limbaugh accuse Obama of disassociating himself were manufactured by Fox itself. The two conservative media giants seemed to be at odds after Obama's reelection in 2012, but in recent months Fox has frequently hosted Limbaugh in an apparent attempt to rehabilitate his damaged career.
After President Obama acknowledged the fact that language in the Vietnamese declaration of independence was inspired by its American counterpart, Fox News attacked Obama's remarks as "stupid" and wondered whether he had offended Vietnam War veterans -- an attempt by Fox to manufacture yet another phony scandal.
On July 25, President Obama met with Vietnam's president, Truong Tan Sang, in hopes of strengthening trade ties and military cooperation. During the press conference that followed, the president acknowledged the fact that the Vietnamese declaration of independence used language inspired by America's declaration in an effort to stress the long, if troubled history between the two nations.
Fox analysts Ralph Peters and Oliver North agreed that Obama's statements were "stupid." Peters accused the president of being uneducated, saying, "This guy doesn't know our past." In a previous segment, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt theorized that the President Obama "may not have studied that or been aware of," our history with Vietnam, or perhaps got "carried away rhetorically in trying to make his guest feel at home."
All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
After airing President Obama's economic speech live for approximately eight minutes, Fox News cut away to commercial break, promising that interested parties could watch the remainder of his remarks on Fox Business Network.
When America Live returned from commercial, guest host Shannon Bream announced the newly given name of the royal baby and then launched into a segment attacking Obama's newest judicial nominee, Cornelia Pillard.
During this same time, CNN and MSNBC aired continual live footage of Obama's speech.
Fox has a habit of cutting away early from the president's speeches -- the network left Obama's live remarks in Berlin to cover tea party protests, cut away from Obama's recent climate change speech in order to host a climate change denier, and cut short live coverage of Obama's reaction to the Senate's vote on gun control legislation.
Fox News publicized a Benghazi rally sponsored by a conspiracy theorist group with birther ties without noting Fox contributor Allen West's involvement in the rally. The omission came despite the network airing background footage of West standing behind a podium at the event.
Special Operations Speaks (SOS), an anti-Obama group of Special Operations veterans, was founded by former Navy SEAL and admitted birther Larry Bailey. Among other conspiracy theories, Bailey has touted the notion that President Obama's real father was actually the late communist writer Frank Marshall Davis.
SOS is holding a July 23 rally on Capitol Hill to call on the House of Representatives to convene a select committee investigation into the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Fox provided live coverage of the event, which promises to parrot the same Benghazi lies Fox has championed for the last 10 months.
During Happening Now's live feed of the rally, Fox contributor Allen West was seen standing behind a podium. West, who joined the network as a paid contributor in May, is apparently a featured speaker for the SOS rally.
Fox News has devoted significant air time to SOS's request for another Benghazi investigation -- in April, at least four network programs devoted entire segments to hyping SOS's demand. Yet a Fox contributor speaking at the SOS rally takes the network's implicit endorsement of the anti-Obama group's cause to new heights.
In a press briefing July 19, President Obama responded to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago...the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that - that doesn't go away." Right-wing media figures responded to the president's remarks with attacks.
After criticizing the Senate's bipartisan effort to address rising incidents of sexual assault in the military, The Weekly Standard's editor Bill Kristol doubled-down on his denial of the growing problem as a "pseudo-crisis," adding that conservative legislators' effort to erase the wide-spread retaliation faced by victims of sexual assault who report the crime is "an effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness."
On July 18, Kristol attacked Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) for supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)'s proposal to change the military's chain of command structure for reporting sexual assaults, which attempts to curb retaliation faced by those who report such an assault. Kristol accused the senators of "doing damage to conservatism" and again called the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military a "pseudo-crisis":
It was two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who, in response to a pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault, popped up to support Democratic legislation that would upend the military judicial system and strip commanders of authority. In their effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness, these Republican senators buy into the calumny that the military officer corps is full of individuals who couldn't care less about the men and women under their command.
What Kristol calls a "pseudo-crisis" is, in reality, nearly 3,400 reported incidents of sexual assault within the ranks in 2012, according to the Department of Defense's (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. That represents a six percent increase from 2011's total reported sexual assaults, a growth DOD called "significant." According to a survey cited in the report, that number would skyrocket to approximately 26,000 sexual assaults if unreported incidents are included, up 35 percent from the previous year's estimate. Even more disturbing, the report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result.
Military leaders such as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have decried this epidemic as a "crisis," and "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution."
Kristol's statement follows a week of sexual assault denial from his conservative magazine and website, The Weekly Standard.
On July 8, The Weekly Standard published an article titled "Harassing the Military" that declared, "there is no sexual assault crisis," citing the possibility that there may be a greater prevalence of sexual assaults within other communities. Later, a July 16 blog post promoted a U.S. Marine Corps officer's suggestion that the scope of the military's sexual assault problem is exaggerated. That same day, Kristol referred to the bipartisan Senate effort as a "proposal to undermine the military's chain of command on behalf of the pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault."
UPDATE: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a former prosecutor of sex crimes and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to Kristol's depiction of sexual assault in the military as a "pseudo-crisis," saying:
Thousands of reported sexual assaults, and many thousands more sex-related crimes that go unreported-combined with a decades-long inability to seriously address the epidemic-constitutes a crisis. It's a crisis for our military, their morale, and ultimately our national security. For someone who's constantly pushing for additional U.S. involvement in conflicts around the world, you'd think Mr. Kristol would share our goal of ensuring justice for those who are doing the fighting. Instead, his comments illustrate that while there's growing support for our historic reforms, all of us fighting for significant change must continue our effort.
After the Department of Defense reported a significant increase in sexual assault in the military, estimated at nearly 26,000 incidents in 2012, and after military leaders decried the epidemic as a "crisis," The Weekly Standard responded to Congress' preventative actions with sexual assault trutherism, denying the fact that a sexual assault crisis exists within the military.
After declaring that no more mosques should be built in the United States until it works out "who is not a terrorist," Fox News host Bob Beckel walked back his comments the following day. Yet he has failed to apologize for Islamophobic statements he has made in the past.
Beckel, a co-host on Fox's The Five, used reports of a tragic school massacre in Nigeria to criticize all Muslims on the July 9 edition of the program, ranting: "If it were up to me, I would not have another mosque built in this country until we got it worked out who is not a terrorist." The next day, Beckel attempted to walk back his remarks, explaining, "I think I overstated my case."
But Beckel has increasingly held all Muslims accountable for the brutality of a few without expressing regret.
In May, after a horrific beheading by a Muslim immigrant in London, the Fox host claimed the attack was a direct result of Britain's immigration policies with Islamic countries, saying it "is a product of the British allowing Muslims to come into their country." He added: "We better take a hard look at our immigration policy and the people we are allowing in here if they're going to come in here and preach hatred to us."
Beckel later wondered if the London attack and riots in a Muslim immigrant community in Sweden raised questions about the entire Muslim religion. He told his co-hosts on May 24, after Kimberly Guilfoyle criticized liberal immigration policies:
BECKEL: It's not about liberal policies it's about Muslims ... I mean that's what we're really talking about here. Who were the rioters in the last four nights? It was mostly young Muslim immigrants, right? Or people who were born -- in London the same thing. This is a part and parcel of a bigger picture having to do with the question of the Muslim religion versus --.
Beckel left the sentence hanging in the air.
Following the deadly bombing of the Boston marathon in April, Beckel called on the U.S. to suspend all student visas to Muslim countries because "we know" that "in the Muslim communities around the world, they do not like us. They recruit people from poor areas and they turn them into terrorists." He went on:
BECKEL: I think we really have to consider, given the fact so many people hate us, that we're going to have to cut off Muslim students from coming to this country for some period of time, so that we can at least absorb what we've got, look at what we've got and decide whether some of the people here should be sent back home or sent to prison.
BECKEL: I've said this before, I'll say it again. If you want us to be nice to Muslims in this country, if you want us to treat them with decency, then stop killing our people. Or you're going to pay a price for it. A big price.
So while it's laudable that Beckel chose to clarify his most recent Islamophobic remark, he still has many more explanations to make.
Media Matters intern Charlie Rafkin contributed to this report.
Fox News interviewed Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin this week -- two of the most vocal conservative figures speaking out in opposition to immigration reform -- yet asked neither guest about immigration.
Conservative radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have been leading the charge against the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate and currently pending in the House of Representatives. Levin has named the potential legislation a "disgusting disgrace" and "a crap sandwich." Limbaugh has habitually misrepresented the content of the bill, which he calls "amnesty," and claimed that because some Republicans support it, "the establishment of this party is authoring its demise." Both men have attacked Republican officials who support the bill and urged them to oppose it.
According to Limbaugh, he requested to talk about immigration and the Republican party when he phoned in to Fox & Friends on July 2, but the network rebuffed his request. Limbaugh later told his radio audience, "They asked me, 'what do you want to talk about?' ... First thing out of my mouth, 'I want to talk about immigration and the state of the Republican party,' [but Fox] wouldn't go there. I had to bring it up myself to whatever extent that I did." Limbaugh concluded, "And that, by the way, is quite telling to me."
Interestingly, the next day Levin called in to Your World with Neil Cavuto and also avoided the topic of immigration. Levin and host Cavuto spoke for nearly nine minutes, but discussed only the Affordable Care Act.
While it is unclear whether Levin, like Limbaugh, desired to talk about immigration reform during his interview, it is notable that both anti-immigration reform voices were silent while on Fox News.