Has Fox News hired the man responsible for one of the nastiest attacks on Hillary Clinton ahead of her book release and potential 2016 presidential campaign?
Fox News states twice on its website that Republican political strategist Roger Stone is now a "Fox News contributor," a title given to those with network contracts. Stone is a "professional dirty trickster" who once formed an anti-Hillary Clinton group with the acronym "C.U.N.T." after he tried "to come up with words for B.I.T.C.H. and just couldn't do it."
Fox News and Stone did not respond to Media Matters' requests for comment.
Stone is a veteran Republican operative who worked on campaigns for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, among others. Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has a long history working with Stone going back to the Nixon campaign. Stone's apparent contributor status was first noted by the blog News Corpse.
Despite his controversial history, Stone has found regular airtime on Fox News over the years. He most recently appeared on Fox & Friends and The Kelly Files in March to promote his book The Benghazi Report. Host Megyn Kelly said during her segment with Stone that she couldn't tell viewers what Stone called his anti-Clinton group:
KELLY: Our viewers should know that you formed an organization, the acronym of which I cannot repeat on the air. But it begins with a C and ends with a T, and it was all about Hillary. And that would lead many to say you know that this is not a fair presentation. [Fox News, The Kelly Files, 3/12/14]
The conservative Weekly Standard has described Stone as a "professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks." In a 2012 profile, New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman wrote that "Stone thinks politics has gotten a lot less interesting since those Nixon days. For one, there are 'fewer and fewer' dirty tricks."
Shameless smears are the currency of Stone's career:
Allen West has a suggestion for how to respond to the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: give Allen West's political action committee money.
West, a Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman, sent an email today to his mailing list criticizing the Obama administration for securing the release of Bergdahl from the Taliban in Afghanistan in a prisoner swap.
He wrote that in getting Bergdahl released, "America now negotiates with terrorists" -- a statement that ignores the country's long and bipartisan history of such negotiations -- and added: "Today is just another sad day where our own Commander-in-chief is more dangerous than the enemies we're fighting."
West segued from calling Obama worse than terrorists because he negotiated the release of a captured soldier to soliciting money for his political action committee, The Allen West Guardian Fund. West wrote: "I have just the solution ... Will you make an immediate contribution of $25, $50, $100 or more right away to Allen West Guardian Fund?"
West, who served in the Army but left under a cloud of controversy, has advocated that "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama" in response to the Bergdahl negotiations. He also suggested that Bowe Bergdahl's father may have claimed the White House for Islam by saying a common Arabic phrase during his Rose Garden appearance with the president to announce his son's release from captivity.
In December 2013, as Paul Waldman noted, West criticized President Obama for purportedly having "abandoned" Bergdahl. West wrote: "This past POW/MIA national day of recognition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated a pledge to secure the young Army NCO being held captive, but have there been any actions? Any time, attention, or even mention from the Commander-in-Chief? Nah, no camera highlights in it for him." He later admonished readers to "not forget" Bergdahl because he deserves "our time and attention."
Media Matters previously documented how conservatives pundits have raised funds for their organizations by invoking the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove exploited the Obama administration's accidental exposure of a CIA operative's identity to absolve his own culpability in deliberately leaking former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity during the Bush administration.
Over the weekend, the name of the CIA's top officer in Kabul, Afghanistan, was "inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama's surprise visit with U.S. troops. The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list."
During the May 27 broadcast of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade discussed the story and remarked: "You think Valerie Plame's a big deal, fine. She's at the -- she's at a desk job in the CIA. What about a guy in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world?"
Plame is a former CIA operative whose identify was leaked by Karl Rove and others in the Bush administration as payback for an opinion piece that her husband, Joe Wilson, wrote rebutting Bush's case for invading Iraq.
Rove -- who was a senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President Bush -- responded on Kilmeade's show by claiming Plame "was not an active agent" and that he "didn't know her name. All I'd heard was the rumor that Wilson's wife had, at the CIA, had helped send him to Niger":
Fox News contributor Allen West questioned the "loyalties" of decorated veteran and Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth for serving with her fellow Democrats on the Benghazi select committee.
West attacked the recently announced Democratic members of the newly formed committee for dismissing the importance of Benghazi during an appearance on the May 21 broadcast of The Janet Mefferd Show.
West remarked of Duckworth: "I just don't know where her loyalties lie. You know, for her to have been a veteran, a wounded warrior for the United States Army, she should know that this is not the right thing. And hopefully, you know, she will remember the oath of office that she took as an Army officer and not the allegiance I guess she believes she has to the liberal progressives of the Democrat Party."
As her congressional biography notes, Duckworth "was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by an RPG on November 12, 2004. Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries." She became a well-known advocate for veterans, and served as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and then Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the federal level. She is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.
West is also a decorated veteran of the war in Iraq, albeit one whose service ended in controversy. He subsequently served one term in Congress, becoming a Fox News contributor after Florida voters declined to reelect him. During the interview, he also attacked Reps. Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff, Adam Smith, and Linda Sanchez, the other Democratic appointees to the Benghazi select committee. West claimed that Smith is "one of those geeky little debaters that is going to try to micromanage every single detail," while Sanchez has a "very whiny way."
West has said Congress should consider impeaching President Obama over Benghazi. In a fundraising email for his political action committee, he accused the Obama administration of lying to the public and participating in "an ongoing cover-up to hide the truth." He's also claimed the administration has been disingenuously caring about the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls to distract the public from Benghazi.
Financial analyst and Fox Business contributor Charles Payne, who has been fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), been paid to promote now virtually worthless penny stocks, and smeared the poor as "indebted servants" to the government who are too "comfortable" living in poverty, is being rewarded with his own show, the network announced today.
Fox Business said the show, Making Money with Charles Payne, will debut on June 2 in the evening. FBN executive vice president Kevin Magee praised Payne as having "an incredible talent for identifying growth sectors in the markets and we're excited to launch a new show dedicated to helping viewers spot these emerging investment prospects."
That Payne has a talent for identifying growth may be a surprise to someone who followed some of Payne's previous stock advice. After joining Fox in 2007, Payne was compensated to push the prospects of three stocks, as Media Matters documented in July 2013. Payne used his Fox credentials in promotional materials to assure skeptical investors that his advice was trustworthy. The stock of those companies are now virtually worthless:
The practice of compensated stock endorsements is currently prohibited by Fox rules, and resulted in the contract termination of contributor Tobin Smith. Payne responded to inquiries from Media Matters by ducking questions and scrubbing his corporate website of information.
Payne and his company, Wall Street Strategies, have a problematic history related to the proper disclosure of stock recommendations. In 1999, the SEC announced that while not "admitting or denying" wrongdoings, Payne "agreed to pay a civil penalty of $25,000." The SEC alleged of Payne:
Thomas Pickering, co-chairman of the State Department's Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the Benghazi attacks, said there's no need for a House select committee to reexamine the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. House Republicans recently convened the committee to investigate the already thoroughly investigated attacks, a move the right-wing media has championed for months.
When asked on Bloomberg's Political Capital if there's a case for reinvestigating the 2012 attacks, Pickering replied: "If there is, Al, I haven't seen it yet. And I've been very alert to this." He added: "I'm in a search for is there 'there,' there, Al, and I haven't seen any 'there,' there."
Pickering also dismissed the importance of the recently released 2012 memo authored by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, which the media and Republicans have seized on as purportedly containing new Benghazi revelations. Asked if the memo would have affected the ARB's report, Pickering replied, "probably not ... our report speaks very well for itself and it runs to all of those domains that connect with security and terrorism."
Pickering is a career ambassador who served under Republican and Democratic presidents and as co-chair of the State Department's Accountability Review Board with retired Admiral Mike Mullen. The ARB issued an independent report about the attacks in December of 2012. While right-wing media have questioned the report's independence, a State Department Inspector General review concluded that the "Accountability Review Board process operates as intended -- independently and without bias."
Watch video of Pickering's remarks below:
AL HUNT (HOST): Is there a case for reopening that investigation as the House special panel plans to do?
PICKERING: If there is, Al, I haven't seen it yet. And I've been very alert to this. Obviously when I took the job I knew that this was going to be an issue that had great political overtones, and we can phrase it that way. And I tried to watch it very carefully. I think, one of the things I did when I took the job was that I tried to read every press report I could find to make sure that we did our job as well as we could. I think we did our job as well as we could. But I'd be the last person in the world to tell you we did everything perfectly.
HUNT: You haven't seen any reason to reopen it?
PICKERING: So I'm in a search for is there "there," there, Al, and I haven't seen any "there," there.
The conservative media got their candidate with the election of former Bush administration official Ben Sasse in Nebraska's Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Sasse was endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, and Erick Erickson, and has been prominently featured on Fox News and in National Review.
Sasse's win capped a bruising primary between him and fellow Republicans Shane Osborn and Sid Dinsdale. Politico noted there was "back-and-forth mudslinging" over conservative credentials even though there "are no clear ideological differences between the candidates, and the 'establishment' and 'tea party' labels associated with the candidates are fuzzy."
Allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a coalition of Nebraska activists supported Osburn, while outside national groups such as FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Family Research Council, and Senate Conservatives Fund backed Sasse.
Some of Sasse's biggest boosters were in the conservative media. National Review featured the Nebraskan on the cover of its January 27 issue, calling him a "health-care expert" and "rising conservative star." The Sasse campaign frequently touted the cover on the campaign, and promoted it in a campaign ad:
Fox News contributor Allen West accused the Obama administration of disingenuously caring about the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls so they could distract the public from "all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee."
In a post on his website headlined, "Focus on Boko Haram right now seems fishy to me," West wrote: "Are we witnessing an Obama 'Wag the Dog' moment with Boko Haram in Nigeria? I say yes. Consider all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee." (To "wag the dog" means to "purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance.")
West, who also noted controversy over the handling of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Ukraine, concluded: "So what better time than right now, to create the straw man of Boko Haram, another distraction for which no real action will take place. Anyone remember Joseph Kony? ... Gotta give it to the Democrats, they know how to make life imitate art. Sadly, as a nation we're falling for another episode of liberal progressive 'Wag the Dog.'"
West recently linked racist remarks from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to Benghazi. West strongly criticized Sterling, but lamented that "the outrage of the public seems to be totally focused on Mr. Sterling" when "you've got this thing with Benghazi and we have an even bigger lie, an even bigger deceit, which is even more impactful on the country that no one is really caring about."
Two groups opposing the potential 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton are fundraising off of Benghazi. The groups aim to use the money to keep Benghazi in the news through earned media coverage and advertising smearing Clinton as "responsible for 4 dead American patriots in Benghazi."
The groups join conservative pundits such as John Bolton, Mike Huckabee, and Allen West, who have all been fundraising off of the 2012 attacks. The Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee are also soliciting funds while invoking Benghazi.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who is leading a recently formed House select committee to investigate the thoroughly investigated attacks, has asked Republicans not to fundraise off of Benghazi (Gowdy himself has "discussed the supposed Benghazi scandal at fundraisers and campaign events").
Anti-Clinton groups Stop Hillary PAC and America Rising PAC are cashing in on Benghazi. Solicitations claim Clinton lied about the attacks and is "complicit in the deaths of four Americans when she left them to burn in Benghazi."
Stop Hillary PAC states it was "created for one reason only - to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States." The group is headed by Republican Colorado State Sen. Ted Harvey, and backed by political professionals who previously worked for Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Tom Price.
America Rising was formed by Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager and Republican National Committee staffers. The super PAC aims to "ensure we never see another Clinton administration." It reportedly also sells its research to Republican groups such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads.
The groups make clear their fundraising is part of a strategy to keep Benghazi in the news. Stop Hillary PAC has stated they need money to speak "on FoxNews and mainstream media outlets," and air "hard hitting radio ads reminding Americans that Hillary is responsible for 4 dead American patriots in Benghazi." America Rising has said their research is aimed at "earned media coverage" and "reporters and bloggers looking for information."
The push to fundraise off of Benghazi is part of Republican efforts to capitalize on tragedies by using them to try to hamstring a potential Clinton run. RNC chair Reince Priebus took to Twitter last night to attack Clinton for a "leadership failure" over the recent kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by the extremist group Boko Haram.
The right-wing media's smear campaign against the Obama administration over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, appears to be paying dividends in the form of donations.
A Media Matters review of fundraising emails and websites found that conservatives have routinely invoked Benghazi to ask followers for money. The fundraising solicitations accuse the Obama administration of "lies," "cover-ups," a "dereliction of duty," and crimes worse than Watergate.
The fundraising is only likely to intensify with the recent creation of a House select committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the attacks. The Republican leadership convened the committee despite numerous previous inquiries into Benghazi. The Department of Defense wrote in March that it had already participated in "approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews" about the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said on MSNBC today that fellow Republicans should not fundraise off of the Benghazi attacks, stating: "Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans."
Like their counterparts in the media, the main Republican Party campaign apparatuses are actively fundraising off of Benghazi. The Republican National Committee has a donation page asking Republicans to demand "the truth about Benghazi" by contributing money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee asks Republicans to "donate today" because of Benghazi. And the National Republican Congressional Committee has a fundraising page stating: "You're now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let's go after Obama & Hillary Clinton. Help us fight them now." The page features an image of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the text, "Benghazi Was A Coverup. Demand Answers."
Here are five recent examples of conservative pundits raising money off their Benghazi witch hunt.