Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) sparked backlash when he sent an absurd tweet blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But Graham's tweet followed in the footsteps of conservative media, who have repeatedly attempted to link Benghazi to a variety of unrelated events, or invoke the tragedy to deflect conservatives from scrutiny.
Here are just a few examples of things conservative media have linked to Benghazi:
1. Openly Gay NFL Prospect Michael Sam. Washington Times columnist Steve Deace accused President Obama and the media of using openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam as an excuse to divert attention from Benghazi and other alleged "failures" of the Obama administration. According to Deace, liberals pounced on Sam's coming out in February in order to advance "LGBTQ propaganda" -- and to shift focus away from the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission.
2. Ted Nugent. CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson invoked Benghazi in order to inexplicably shield NRA board member Ted Nugent from further scrutiny for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." On CNN's New Day, Ferguson argued that Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's loyalty to Nugent was no different than Obama's loyalty to former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, whom Ferguson falsely labeled a liar for her comments about Benghazi.
3. Chris Christie's Bridgegate. Fox & Friends devoted five segments during its January 10 broadcast to the scandal surrounding Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his administration's involvement in deliberate traffic gridlock across the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local mayor. But in every segment purporting to discuss Christie, the hosts and guests brought up Benghazi to attack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
4. The Boston Bombing. In April 2013, Rush Limbaugh invoked the New Black Panthers, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi to pre-emptively attack Obama's handling of the Boston bombing suspect, who had been apprehended by police and charged that day with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
5. Monday Night Football, The New iPhone, And Yom Kippur. The week of the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, Fox & Friends aired an image of events that were supposedly distracting Americans from the anniversary and the ongoing conflict in Syria, including Monday Night Football, the NYC primary elections, the launch of the latest iPhone, and the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
Ben Shapiro's new ebook How To Debate Leftists And Destroy Them: 10 Rules For Winning The Argument comes complete with eleven rules about how (and three more about when) conservatives should act like mean, nasty bullies, in order to help them defeat liberals, who have a tendency to make conservatives look like mean, nasty bullies.
Shapiro, the founder of TruthRevolt.com and editor-at-large for Breitbart.com, would rather be known as a debating champ than as the guy who fabricated a terror group to smear Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He begins the book by claiming the real reason conservatives lost the 2012 election was that President Obama was "considered the more empathetic of the two candidates. Why? Because Romney was perceived as so darn mean." His solution is not for conservatives to follow Obama's lead and appear more empathetic in the future; his solution is to double down on looking mean. But how?
First, Shapiro offers a list of three rules for when to debate a leftist, including 1) you have to ("your grade depends on it, or your waiter threatens to spit in your food"); 2) you found the only leftist in the world ready to have a reasoned debate ("Then you ride off on your separate unicorns"), or 3) You have an audience, allowing you to publicly humiliate your opponent:
Third, you should debate a leftist if there is an audience. The goal of the debate will not be to win over the leftist, or to convince him or her, or to be friends with him or her. That person already disagrees with you, and they're not going to be convinced by your words of wisdom and your sparkling rhetorical flourishes. The goal will be to destroy the leftist in as public a way as is humanly possible. [emphasis added]
To be clear, one of Shapiro's primary rules for debating people with liberal values is to shame them in front of others, because President Obama won 2012 by looking too darn nice.
Next, Shapiro offers his list of "ten rules" for how to debate your leftist opponent, which includes eleven rules, because copy-editing your book before publication is not a rule.
Rule #1: "Walk Toward the Fire." According to Shapiro, conservatives must learn to "embrace the fight" and know that they will be attacked, because this is war. His advice is simple: "You have to take the punch, you have to brush it off. You have to be willing to take the punch."
Rule #2: "Hit First. Don't take the punch first." Rule number two is: ignore rule number one, if their punch is coming first. Hit first, then brush it off. Just like Gandhi always said.
Rule #3: "Frame Your Opponent." Your leftist opponent will, according to Shapiro, call you a racist and a sexist, so in response call them a "liar and a hater." This third rule is described as "the vital first step. It is the only first step." That's why it comes third.
Rule #3: "Frame the debate." This is the second Rule #3, but who's counting?
Rule #4: "Spot Inconsistencies in the Left's Arguments." See: Both Rule #3s.
Rule #5: "Force Leftists to Answer Questions. This is really just a corollary of Rule #4." According to Shapiro, forcing the left to answer questions is like "trying to pin pudding to the wall - messy and near-impossible." If Ben Shapiro can teach us how to pin pudding to a wall even some of the time, liberals have no hope.
Rule #6: "Do Not Get Distracted." Just one page after the pudding analogy, Shapiro tells us that "Arguing with the left is like attempting to nail jello to the wall. It's slippery and messy and a waste of resources." If only he hadn't gotten distracted.
Rule #7: "You Don't Have To Defend People on Your Side." Here, Shapiro comes out in defense of not always defending your allies when you don't agree with them on everything, or when they get something wrong. Shapiro's friends were no doubt grateful for this rule back when he reported on the imaginary group "Friends of Hamas" in order to smear Chuck Hagel.
Rule #8: "If You Don't Know Something, Admit It." Unfortunately, Shapiro doesn't seem to have taken his own advice here: he still refuses to admit he has zero evidence "Friends of Hamas" ever existed.
Rule #9: "Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories." This "parlor trick" involves making it look like you're giving the other side space, while forcing them to define their terms. Terms like 'bullying' (the premise of Shapiro's book) and 'the number ten' are not listed as examples.
Rule #10: "Body Language Matters." According to Shapiro, McCain lost one of his 2008 debates because he was "angry-looking," and "Whomever looks angriest in debate loses. Immediately."
So to recap, the only way conservatives can win debates is to not look angry, while publicly shaming their opponent, punching first, and calling their opponents liars and haters. And remember: all of this is equivalent to futilely pinning some kind of gelatinous dessert to a wall.
Conservatives should be soaring to victory any day now.
UPDATE: Sometime after the publication of this post, Shapiro's ebook title was changed to "11 Rules For Winning The Argument."
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin falsely claimed an Obama administration push to expand opportunities for young men of color was unconstitutional and discriminatory, comparing it to the failed Arizona "Jim Crow" bill which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay couples.
President Obama announced on February 27 a $200 million, five-year initiative called "My Brother's Keeper," which intends to expand opportunities for young, at-risk men of color, ensuring they have access to health, nutrition, high-quality early education, and job opportunities, while partnering with police and local communities to reduce violence. The president will sign an order establishing an interagency task force to assess existing federal programs and recommend areas which can be expanded and improved upon, but as The New York Times reported, the initiative will rely "little on the government," and instead will largely come from the business community and nonprofits.
In her Post blog the following day, Rubin falsely characterized this push as a "federal program" which would discriminate against white men, claiming it was potentially unconstitutional and attacking the administration for using "victimhood as a political weapon" to divide the country:
The problem with hyping gender and racial differences is not simply the increased resentment and divisiveness it creates but also that it uses victimhood as a political weapon. Pretty soon words like "discrimination" lose meaning. It seems you are either for an inclusive society -- devoted to diminishing racial, ethnic, religious and other distinctions -- or you're not.
Like the Arizona anti-gay law, no good can come from a program that divides up the population by these categories.
The proposed Arizona legislation, which failed this week after Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the measure because it could result in "negative consequences," would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay people on religious grounds. The bill was so extreme that even multiple Fox News personalities compared it to Jim Crow laws in the racist South, noting it was "profoundly unconstitutional" and "potentially dangerous."
My Brother's Keeper, on the other hand, is not a law which could codify segregation and endorse impermissibly discriminatory practices. In fact, Rubin's criticism of the program as "flat-out unconstitutional" manages to mangle both her source and constitutional law. Rubin exaggerated a National Review Online blog, which was far more careful than her description conveyed -- likely in recognition of the fact that race-conscious law is not and has never been automatically illegal. If state action uses race as a criteria and someone sues, a court must first carefully scrutinize the government's reasons and only then decide whether the program is constitutional. It's not even clear that the government "task force" for this partnership controls the funding and administration of these private programs, making the reference to its constitutionality and the Fourteenth Amendment likely irrelevant.
Despite Rubin's fear mongering about a discriminatory society, My Brother's Keeper merely seeks to improve opportunities for young Americans -- Americans who have historically been the victims of discrimination. As the Times reported, the president's inspiration for the initiative came from the national conversation about race, and the statistical reality that young black men are still disadvantaged in this country:
Mr. Obama said the idea for My Brother's Keeper occurred to him in the aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager whose death two years ago sparked a roiling national debate about race and class. He called the challenge of ensuring success for young men of color a "moral issue for our country" as he ticked off the statistics: black boys who are more likely to be suspended from school, less likely to be able to read, and almost certain to encounter the criminal justice system as either a perpetrator or a victim.
"We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is," Mr. Obama told an audience of business leaders, politicians, philanthropists, young black men from a Chicago support program, and Mr. Martin's parents. "It's like a cultural backdrop for us in movies, in television. We just assume, of course it's going to be like that."
"These statistics should break our hearts," he added. "And they should compel us to act."
The Washington Free Beacon hid crucial details about a conservative group bent on smearing Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
In a February 13 report, the Free Beacon highlighted a Reuters article about OPSEC to promote the group's latest smear campaign. OPSEC, described by the Free Beacon only as "military slang for 'operational security,'" is releasing a report attacking the former secretary of state for her actions before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 attacks. The Free Beacon used the report to imply Secretary Clinton was personally responsible for the terrorist attacks, claiming "the attack was not caused by inadequate information but by inadequate leadership" and that her personal choices "enabled the attack."
But as the original Reuters report explained, OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and special forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group "first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign," when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of "seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden." (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as "false" and "mostly false.") Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC's 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.
OPSEC's president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of "shady campaign tactics" in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group's maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on "electioneering communications" alone.
Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department's role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.
As Reuters noted:
Thomas Pickering, who chaired the State Department's official inquiry, said his panel concluded Clinton's performance was appropriate: "We did look at her role. We thought that she conducted her meetings and activities responsibly and well."
Republican censure of Mrs. Clinton is expected to intensify, even though it is unusual to see such fierce, coordinated opposition to a would-be presidential candidate surface 2-1/2 years before nominating conventions.
Pickering condemned the way the Benghazi incident was being politicized: "Our investigation was certainly independent, thoroughly researched, carefully presented." He said the new round of accusations appears to be "clearly an effort to introduce once again partisan politics into an issue which should be furthest from partisan politics."
Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto claimed that cases of "'sexual assault' on campus" that involve alcohol are really victimless crimes in which both parties are equally guilty.
In his February 10 WSJ column, Taranto baselessly argued that men are often unfairly accused in sexual assault cases on college campuses, particularly when both men and women involved in the case were drinking (emphasis added):
What is called the problem of "sexual assault" on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike.
If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students "collide," the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.
As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, at some campuses the accuser's having had one drink is sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt ... In theory that means, as FIRE notes, that "if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other." In practice it means that women, but not men, are absolved of responsibility by virtue of having consumed alcohol.
While it is true that reckless alcohol consumption can play a role in encouraging damaging behavior, and that male and female college students (particularly underage students) could probably benefit from learning to moderate their drinking for a variety of reasons, Taranto's accusation that women who drink -- and then are forced to have sex against their will -- are not only equally at fault for their assault but are guilty of an equivalent crime takes victim blaming to a new and dangerous low.
Taranto's victim-blaming approach furthers his attempts to disingenuously redefine the problem of sexual assault as a problem of alcohol. The problem of sexual assault on college campuses, as elsewhere, is entirely a problem of sexual assault, in which a victim does not consent to sexual relations with the aggressor. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption doesn't cause sexual assault, nor does it serve as a defense. According to a literature review from the National Institutes of Health:
The fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault.
[M]en are legally and morally responsible for acts of sexual assault they commit, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated or felt that the woman had led them on previously. The fact that a woman's alcohol consumption may increase their likelihood of experiencing sexual assault does not make them responsible for the man's behavior, although such information may empower women when used in prevention programs.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is now a contributor at ABC News, after a decade spent offering inaccurate predictions and baseless smears against Democrats on Fox News.
On the February 2 edition of ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos noted that Kristol was one of the network's newest contributors. Kristol announced back in August 2013 that he no longer had an exclusive contract with his previous employer, Fox News, and was now "free to inflict my insights on viewers of the other networks as well."
Kristol's decade of "insights" at Fox included inaccurate predictions about the Iraq War, saber-rattling for war with Iran, dismissing legitimate military scandals, and smearing Democrats. He was one of the worst of the media's Iraq War boosters, insisting that there was "almost no evidence" that "the Shia can't get along with the Sunni," and that "American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators."
He also claimed that military sexual assaults were a "pseudo-crisis," helped lead a smear campaign against then-nominee for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, dismissed the devastating effects of the recent government shutdown by claiming "no one no one is going to starve in Arkansas," and claimed that Hillary Clinton only won the 2008 New Hampshire primary because "she pretended to cry; the women liked it."
In a statement to Politico, executive producer of This Week Jonathan Greenberger said Kristol is "'an original thinker' that will make their team stronger."
Two dozen women leaders and organizations have signed a letter to the six network and cable news heads expressing their concern for the lack of gender diversity on Sunday morning political talk shows.
A Media Matters report found that in 2013, men made up more than 70 percent of the guests on ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, NBC's Meet the Press, and CNN's State of the Union. Only MSNBC's Up and Melissa Harris-Perry reached near parity, with women making up 44 percent of total guests. Women also represented an even smaller percentage of solo interview guests, being featured less than 15 percent of the time. The top ten recipients of Sunday show solo interviews were all men. Media Matters also found that gender diversity has not improved on the broadcast political talk shows in the past five years.
The heads of 24 organizations which advocate for women and women's representation in media wrote to the Presidents and Chairs of the broadcast and cable networks, expressing "deep concern" for the lack of diversity and urging them to take action to ensure the morning political talk shows "more accurately reflect the demographics of our diverse nation":
With male guests vastly outnumbering female guests on Sunday morning broadcasts, women lose out in shaping the national discourse, and your viewers miss important points of view.
There are qualified women to speak on issues affecting all Americans, including national security, economic growth, climate change, education and many others. But when it comes to reproductive health, equal pay, and other subjects disproportionately affecting women, it becomes increasingly imperative that Sunday political talk shows reflect our democracy. This is particularly important since these shows frequently set the tone for how these topics are covered later in the week.
The full letter can be read below.
Want to know if women's representation in media is improving? Here's one indication it's not: the percentage of female guests on the Sunday morning broadcast political talk shows is the same as it was five years ago.
According to a Media Matters analysis, male guests vastly outnumbered female ones on the Sunday broadcast political talk shows in 2013, with women making up only 25 percent of all guests on ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and NBC's Meet the Press. Women also represented an even smaller percentage of solo interview guests, being featured less than 15 percent of the time on the same programs. In fact, the top ten recipients of Sunday show solo interviews in 2013 were all men.
This vast underrepresentation of women on political talk shows that often set the agenda is disheartening -- but the number appears even worse when looked at over time.
Female guests made up only 24 percent of guests on the Sunday morning broadcast shows back in 2008 according to Media Matters' data, an insignificant change over the past five years.
One reason for this may be that the pool of potential guests for these shows has also not gotten significantly more diverse over the past five years. The most common guests were in 2013 were journalists and pundits, a profession which is overwhelmingly male. Newsroom diversity has been stagnant for over a decade, with the percentage of women in newsrooms never exceeding 38 percent.
The second most common profession among guests in 2013 on those programs were politicians. According to the Nation Women's Political Caucus, in 2013 women made up only 18.3 percent of Congress, a (shockingly low) number which was not much of an improvement from 2008, when women were 17 percent of Congress.
The lack of diversity in newsrooms and Congress, however, does not entirely excuse the broadcast shows from consistently failing to invite women to the table. In 2013, MSNBC managed to have women make up 44 percent of guests on their Sunday morning political talk shows, with Melissa Harris-Perry (which debuted in 2012) leading in gender diversity by hosting women 47 percent of the time. Broadcast political talk shows have a lot of catching up to do to ensure women have equal participation in our national media.
Let's hope it doesn't take another five years.
Charts by Oliver Willis.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' daughters have responded to right-wing smears against their mother, defending her as a loving, hardworking parent who took care of them while advancing her career.
Right-wing media, and in particular Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, have repeatedly attempted to smear Davis and suggest she is unfit for public office, in part by portraying her as an unstable and unreliable mother who abandoned her children and left her "sugar daddy" husband when she no longer needed his money.
Davis's daughters responded to these baseless, sexist attacks in open letters, published in full by Gawker. The daughters noted that their mother shared their care equally with their father, and took care of them even while she was attending Harvard Law as a full-time student (emphasis added):
My name is Dru Davis and I am Wendy Davis's daughter. I hate that I feel the need to write this, but I have been reading and hearing so many untrue things about my mom and I want to set the record straight. And sadly I feel the need to be crystal clear on the malicious and false charge of abandonment as nothing could be further from the truth. My mom has always shared equally in the care and custody of my sister and me.
Yes, she went to law school after my sister and I were born. We lived with her the first semester, but I had severe asthma and the weather there wasn't good for me. My parents made a decision for my sister and me to stay in Texas while my mom kept going to school. But that doesn't mean she wasn't there for us. She traveled back and forth all the time, missing so many classes so that she could be with us. Her friends were such a big help. Especially her third year, when she would only go to school two weeks out of the month and her friends would share class notes so she could try to keep up while she was home with us in Fort Worth.
My name is Amber Davis and I am Wendy Davis' oldest daughter. I have spent the past few days reading the ludicrous comments that people have shared on social media about my mother and our family. It is a shame that those who don't know us feel the need to comment on the details of our lives as if they've lived them. I have a hard time understanding how such hate and negativity can result from one person's false accusations.
I have recently heard the phrase "abandoned" quite often in the past week. That our mother "left us to be raised by our father" while she went on to pursue her education. Not only is this ridiculously unfair; it's completely untrue. Dru and I have always been her number one priority. Always. And every decision our parents made was with our best interests at heart. We had an amazing support system while she was at Harvard and she was constantly traveling back and forth from school to bewith us. I'm proud that my parents were able to make this arrangement work. People should be less concerned about who paid for what and pay more attention to the fact that she was accepted to Harvard law school, a dream she believed was unachievable.
Before releasing the letters, the daughters had appeared in one of their mother's campaign videos, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren criticized her Fox colleague Erick Erickson for what she termed his "boorish" and "disrespectful" comments about Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.
Erickson, who is a Fox contributor, has repeatedly attempted to smear Davis, demeaningly referring to her as "Abortion Barbie" and suggesting she is unfit for public office. He has gone so far as to question her "mental health," and recently attempted to portray her as an unstable and unreliable mother who left her "sugar daddy" husband when she no longer needed his money.
In a post on her blog, On The Record host Van Susteren condemned Erickson's Davis commentary, calling him a "jerk" and a "creep" who "has [a] pattern of being disrespectful to women":
This posting is not about Wendy Davis. It is not about her views. This is about a man who has pattern of being disrespectful to women:
We are a big nation with different viewpoints. We won't always agree...but a strong debate is helpful when we disagree. Sometimes if you are smart in your debate, you persuade someone who otherwise had disagreed with you.
And then there are the creeps who take cheap shots because they are too ignorant and small to engage in an important discussion. The best they can do is make themselves look really bad. No one should pay any attention to them - they are not persuasive, they are noise, and in some instances boorish and obnoxious. I suspect this guy feels that he makes himself relevant or even important if he says or tweets like this. I just roll my eyes and wonder what is going on in his head!
When I read the above tweet I thought, I wonder how proud his daughter would be of him if she knew that he tweeted insults about women.
Greta concluded by noting that while she "read someplace" that Erickson is her colleague at Fox, "He has never been on TV with [her]," and noted that she previously criticized Erickson for a sexist tirade in which he claimed on-air that men should be dominant over women and lamented an increase in the number of female breadwinners in the U.S.
Erickson has a long history of sexist remarks. He previously directed liberals to a website selling coat hangers after Texas passed restrictions on abortions, stated that "the crux of the problem" was that "some women believe they can have it all," and was widely criticized after he tweeted of the first night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, "First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected." Before working at Fox, Erickson also referred to the National Organization for Women as the "NAG Gang" who were "angry in their unibrows," described feminists as humorless women "too ugly to get a date," and called Michelle Obama "a Marxist harpy."
UPDATE: Erickson responded to Van Susteren in a post on RedState, thanking her for the "diatribe" against him and claiming that if "someone is offended by me, thinks me creepy, or thinks me a jerk is fine with me as it continues to force them to talk about Wendy Davis, defender of the right to tear children apart":
I appreciate Greta focusing on my tweets and find it instructive she chose specifically to not make it about Wendy Davis. Wendy Davis is a one issue wonder heralded by the press because she is a high priestess of the secular religion's sacred sacrament -- slaughtering children on the altar of Moloch. That Greta Van Susteren is offended by me, thinks me creepy and a jerk, and thinks I should not be listened to is of no harm or consequence to me.
I have helped define Wendy Davis by a moniker that sticks, describes, and makes her the butt of jokes, while drawing out the shrill hysterics of her supporters. And there'd be more supporters of hers except for her and her supporters declaring open season on people under 40 weeks of age.
Thank you Greta very much for writing this post and shedding more light on Wendy Davis by making her campaign about me. I do sincerely appreciate the exposure that it might, even indirectly, expose the Cult of Death's latest champion.