The New York Times was forced to issue two corrections after relying on Capitol Hill anonymous sourcing for its flawed report on emails from former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Clinton debacle is the latest example of why the media should be careful when relying on leaks from partisan congressional sources -- this is far from the first time journalists who did have been burned.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet "refused to publish" a letter from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which expressed "grave concern" with a recent flawed Times report on Clinton's email use.
The July 23 Times story, which has now been corrected twice and which came under heavy criticism from the Times' public editor and veteran journalists, originally falsely claimed that two inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton's email use. In reality, the probe was not criminal and was not focused on Clinton personally. "Despite the overwhelming evidence," Byers noted, "the Times did not remove the word [criminal] from its headline and its story, nor did it issue a correction, until the following day."
Byers explained that in response, the Clinton campaign "sent a nearly 2,000-word letter to the executive editor of The New York Times this week." The campaign then forwarded the letter to reporters after "Baquet refused to publish it in the Times":
"We remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made," Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri wrote in the letter to Dean Baquet, which the campaign forwarded to the On Media blog late Thursday night.
"I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was," Palmieri continued. "The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing 'criminal' from the headline and text of the story."
"In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton," Palmieri wrote. "Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many 'degrees of separation' for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times."
Palmieri's letter, which runs 1,915 words long, includes three other complaints: 1. That the "seriousness of the allegations... demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication. 2. That the Times "incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction." And 3. That the Times' "official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling."
"I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times," Palmieri writes in closing. "But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future."
A third video deceptively attacking Planned Parenthood has been released, and, like the previous two, the highly-edited video shows no evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics have broken any laws by allowing women to voluntarily and safely donate fetal tissue from abortions. Media should know seven key facts about the video, including that the group behind it may have obtained the footage illegally; that the video features a lab technician who admits PPFA only receives legal reimbursement for actual costs; and that the video is largely about a separate for-profit research tissue supply company.
A Department of Justice official reportedly contradicted a New York Times article on Hillary Clinton's email use, clarifying that the DOJ investigation into State Department email practices is not criminal, as was initially reported.
On July 23, the New York Times initially cited anonymous "senior government officials" to claim former Secretary of State Clinton was the target of a DOJ "criminal investigation" for her use of a private email account while at State.
The Times then made a major change to that report, walking it back to instead claim there was merely a referral from two inspector generals for a potential "criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account." At the time, the paper said they would not issue a correction, claiming there had been no "factual error."
Now, however, Times' John Harwood reports a second major problem: the investigation is not actually "criminal." Harwood tweeted that a "Justice Dept official" was "contradicting earlier reports" to confirm that the "'referral' related to Hillary Clinton's email is NOT for a criminal investigation":
Justice Dept official says "referral" related to Hillary Clinton's email is NOT for a criminal investigation - contradicting earlier reports-- John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 24, 2015
Washington Post reporter Sari Horwitz similarly tweeted that the DOJ is "now correcting their earlier statement & saying the referral regarding Clinton emails was not a criminal inquiry."
It is currently unclear whether the multiple "senior government officials" the Times initially cited in their report are the same sources now reversing their statements, or if there are several officials leaking differing information.
Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Andrea Tantaros advocated for entirely eliminating Planned Parenthood's federal funding, which helps provide critical women's health services across the U.S., by wildly misrepresenting what the organization spends on abortion and the services they provide.
Congress long ago barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion, but the release of two deceptively edited videos -- which attempt to smear the organization's legal practice of allowing women to choose to donate fetal tissues from their abortions to biomedical research -- has nevertheless reanimated anti-choice activists' campaign to defund the nonprofit.
Jumping off of the controversy, O'Reilly stated unequivocally on his July 22 show that "Planned Parenthood should be defunded, period. I don't want my tax dollars going to them."
Fox contributor Juan Williams attempted to push back, explaining that by defunding all of Planned Parenthood, "you're talking about taking away medical access to millions of women." But O'Reilly insisted "It wouldn't take away anything," and Fox host Tantaros agreed:
TANTAROS: I want to jump in on the women's health point because that's actually a crock. Look, you don't have to be pro-life to be horrified by these videos. A number of my pro-choice friends are horrified by these videos, the same way they were horrified by Kermit Gosnell. And look, here's my view on Planned Parenthood. It provides services now, those services are provided under Obamacare. So, we don't really need Planned Parenthood.
O'REILLY: 90 percent of their services are abortion-related.
TANTAROS: But here's my deal, I don't want to pay for it. It's a business, let private funding go to Planned Parenthood, taxpayer dollars should not have to go to crazy towns like San Francisco and to places like Planned Parenthood.
In fact, Obamacare does not guarantee women access to the critical health services Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics across the country provide, nor are "90 percent of their services" abortion related.
The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cover preventative women's health care services and prenatal care, and has already saved women over $1 billion dollars on birth control by reducing co-pays and deductibles. The law also established funding to construct health centers to increase access to health care.
But the law does not guarantee that there are clinics accessible to provide women these health services. Some local pharmacies may stock prescription birth control, for example, but they aren't equipped to perform pap smears, conduct exams for breast cancer, or provide treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
That kind of critical women's health care is provided at the hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics. According to their most recent annual report, from October 2012 to September 2013 their clinics performed almost 900,000 pap tests and breast exams, over 3.5 million birth control information and service requests, and nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for STIs.
The same report (once again) confirmed that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services were abortion-related.
As Vox's Sarah Kliff recently explained, Planned Parenthood receives "more than $500 million annually in government funding, mostly through Medicaid and grants," and that money is crucial to helping them provide this health care to millions of American women. "Because Planned Parenthood is such a large provider in this space," Kliff writes, "it's hard to see other clinics stepping in to fill the gap that [defunding] would leave."
Anti-choice attempts to shutter women's health clinics -- including Planned Parenthood centers -- around the country have already created a massive health crisis in states like Texas, where 13 million women live but currently only have access to a handful of clinics.
Fox has repeatedly hyped this most recent deceptive campaign against Planned Parenthood, with the network devoting 10 full segments in just one day to hyping the video's false claims.
Super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Marco Rubio have purchased millions of dollars of ad time on Fox News, according to data obtained by Media Matters from a media buying source. An adviser to super PACs backing Perry reportedly admitted the spending is intended to raise his profile to help him qualify for the upcoming Fox News primary debate.
Ever since Fox declared that its August 6 debate would only include candidates "in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls," the 15 Republicans currently running (with more potentially entering the race soon) have scrambled to gain the exposure necessary to make the cut, with some super PACs reportedly changing their entire campaign strategies.
In response to the debate rules announcement, Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus argued that Roger Ailes "will decide which candidates can compete in Republican presidential primaries next year." The debate rules are already having a tangible impact on the campaign.
New York Times' Nick Confessore reported July 15 that a group of super PACs supporting Rick Perry "are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising on the Fox News Channel and other cable channels to raise Mr. Perry's profile," in order to "see him on that debate stage," according to an adviser to the groups.
Data obtained by Media Matters from a media buying source shows that a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio has also been investing in Fox News airtime.
For ads running over the next 12 days, Opportunity and Freedom, a super PAC supporting Perry, is spending $450,000 on Fox News Channel, and an additional $50,000 on sister channel Fox Business.
While Conservative Solutions, a group backing Rubio, will spend more than $3 million on Fox News, and $28,000 on Fox Business, for ads running between June 23 and July 27.
"Because of the way the Fox News Channel has taken over the Republican presidential process this year," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported last night, the groups backing Perry "are completely changing the way they are trying to campaign."
Maddow explained that Fox News now gets to "cash in" on its own rule, adding, "It's a nice racket":
MADDOW: If Rick Perry is excluded from the Republican presidential debates, effectively he's not even running for president any more, right? If he's not in the debates, nobody is considering his nomination ... So, the Rick Perry super PAC today decided first things first -- instead of focusing on the early states, like Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina like candidates always have in the past, today, they announced that they would stop those efforts. They would start ignoring the early states and instead they're going to put all of their resources, all their money, ahundred of thousands of dollars, as fast as they can into ads for Rick Perry to run on the FOX News channel, and on other national cable networks. ... the Rick Perry super PACs are being rational. They're putting all of their eggs into that basket.
So, FOX News set that rule for the Republican Party, and now, FOX News gets to cash in on that role, by getting all of the Rick Perry super PAC money in the form of his national ads. It's a nice racket, right? [transcript via Nexis]
Media Matters has previously reported on Fox News' unprecedented involvement with the Republican primary. Candidates flock to the network to boost their profiles among the network's audience while also trying to win favor from its influential hosts.
Fox host Sean Hannity has sought to become a "conservative kingmaker," with his show devoting significantly more air-time to lengthy interviews with candidates than any other program on the network.
Our most recent data showed former reality TV host Donald Trump taking the lead in the "Fox Primary" with more on-air appearances in June than any other GOP contender. Rick Perry came in second with seven appearances; Marco Rubio only made one appearance that month.
Several of the GOP candidates whose current polling numbers appear to leave them below Fox's threshold for participation have criticized the debate rules and the power it gives Fox, though others are using it to fundraise. Carly Fiorina wrote to supporters in May: "I need your help to get on that debate stage ... Will you donate $13 today?" In June, Lindsey Graham also asked Fox News Radio listeners to "help me" get into the debate.
A deceptive video from a conservative group purports to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. But the full, unedited footage and transcript released by the group undermines their sensationalist claims, showing at least three crucial edits that reveal the Planned Parenthood official was instead discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.
Right-wing media darling Scott Walker has announced he is running for president. Conservative pundits have lionized Walker as a "charismatic," "sexy," "genuine hero."
FactCheck.org called a common conservative myth -- that the Clinton Foundation spends only a small fraction of its money on charitable works -- "simply wrong." The flimsy statistic has made the rounds on conservative media, and was most recently repeated by Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
The fact-checking organization noted on June 19 that Fiorina had claimed that "'so little' of the charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation 'actually go to charitable works.'" When pressed for more details, a super PAC supporting her campaign* claimed that only 6 percent of the foundation's revenue goes to charitable grants, and for the rest, "there really isn't anything that can be categorized as charitable."
But as FactCheck.org explained, "That just isn't so. The Clinton Foundation does most of its charitable work itself." In fact, an independent philanthropy watchdog found that about 89 percent of Clinton Foundation funding goes to charity, through their in-house work. FactCheck.org concluded the false claim "amounts to a misunderstanding of how public charities work."
This myth surfaced earlier this year thanks to the error-filled anti-Clinton book Clinton Cash, written by discredited Republican activist Peter Schweizer. While promoting his book in May, Schweizer repeatedly claimed the Clinton Foundation gives just "10 percent" of its budget "to other charitable organizations, the rest they keep for themselves."
As Media Matters noted at the time, several other media figures picked up Schweizer's cherry-picked statistic. Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed "85 percent of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation ended up either with the Clintons or with their staff." As FactCheck.org noted, Fox Business host Gerri Willis said only 6 percent of the foundation's revenue "went to help people." And on Fox News, The Five co-host Eric Bolling said that "only 10 cents on the dollar went to charitable uses."
But even one of Bolling's Fox News colleagues called this statistic "incredibly misleading." When Fox correspondent Eric Shawn was asked by host Bill O'Reilly about the "accusation ... that there only 10 percent of the money raised -- and it's $2 billion -- goes to grants out to poor people or institutions," Shawn responded:
That sounds really bad but it's actually incredibly misleading, because, the way the charity works, they don't give grants to other charities -- they do most of it themselves. So that, they actually have a rate of spending of about 80 percent, according to the IRS figures, they say 88 percent, you know Bill -- the experts for charity say that's very good.
PolitiFact's PunditFact has also evaluated these claims, and found them to be "mostly false."
*FactCheck.org originally reported that this information came from the Fiorina campaign, but has since corrected its post to note it came from the CARLY for America super PAC. Our language has been updated accordingly.
Former congressman Ron Paul criticized Republicans who "roll over" for Fox News. His son, presidential contender Rand Paul, has been a near-constant fixture on the network this cycle.
Ron Paul said he disagreed with Fox's control over the GOP debate process, Raw Story reported, and in particular the announcement that Fox will only invite ten Republican candidates to the debate based on who has the highest average polling numbers.
"I think there has to be a better way of choosing," Paul reportedly told Larry King. "I mean it's sort of like, why do the candidates roll over and abide by the rules of some commercial organization that has an agenda? And Fox certainly has a very powerful agenda." Paul also discussed his frustrations with the network during his own 2007 run for president, adding:
I know that even on their polling after the debates, I usually won all the polling, but they would say, well there's a mistake and they would ignore it, so I don't like the idea that somebody like Fox has sort of monopoly control of how a debate will be run.
According to a Media Matters study, from President Obama's second inauguration to April of this year, Sen. Rand Paul appeared on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday significantly more times than any other declared and likely Republican presidential candidate. In the month of May, Rand Paul made the most appearances across all programs on Fox News of the 16 declared and likely Republican presidential candidates. He was second in total airtime.
Rand Paul's current standing in polls suggests he may make the cut to participate in the Republican debate on Fox in August.