Fox News distorted remarks from White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer to falsely claim the Obama administration felt recent controversies involving the IRS and the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were "irrelevant." Pfeiffer's full comments made clear, however, that the administration felt the IRS targeting particular groups was "inexcusable" and that the President was fully engaged during the Benghazi attacks.
On May 19, Pfeiffer appeared on five Sunday talk shows to discuss evidence that the IRS unduly scrutinized conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Fox & Friends aired a short portion of Pfeiffer's remarks from his appearance on ABC News' This Week out of context to claim Pfeiffer had dismissed the scandal, with Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. claiming that Pfeiffer said, "[i]t's not relevant that the IRS is looking at people's tea party affiliations and violating their First Amendment rights." On-screen text claimed Pfeiffer defended "scandals as 'irrelevant'":
However, Pfeiffer's full remarks reveal that he said the IRS targeting certain groups was "outrageous and inexcusable" whether it was legal or illegal, and that the administration was committed to ensuring such targeting does not happen again regardless of the Department of Justice's final assessment of legality. From ABC's This Week (portion aired on Fox News highlighted in bold):
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does the president believe? Does the president believe that would be illegal?
PFEIFFER: I can't speak the law -- the law here, but the law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and needs to be -- we need it to be fixed, so we can ensure it never happens again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?
PFEIFFER: What -- what I mean is that whether it's legal, or illegal is -- is not important to the fact that it -- that, the conduct as a matter. The Department of Justice said they're looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again regardless of how that turns out.
Pfeiffer's condemnation of the IRS reflected President Obama's statement released on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable," and Obama's firing of Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions.
Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer pushed new and old falsehoods about the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, by misrepresenting recently-released emails that prove that government agencies drafted talking points without references to terrorism in order to protect the ongoing investigation into the attacks.
In his May 16 Washington Post column, Krauthammer misrepresented emails recently released by the Obama administration -- that document the process of drafting the talking points used by officials to discuss the September 2012 attacks -- to claim the emails revealed that the CIA was forced to change the talking points for political reasons. According to Krauthammer, references to Al Qaeda were removed from the talking points after the State Department raised concerns that the talking points needed to reflect "the political interests, the required political cover, of all involved," including "the need to protect the president's campaign." He also dismissed an email from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, which explained that the talking points in fact needed to protect the investigation into the attacks, claiming this "excuse was simply bogus" because the FBI, "which was conducting the investigation, had no significant objections."
But the 100 pages of emails reveal that removing information from the talking points that could compromise the investigation was the primary priority of multiple agencies, including the FBI and the CIA. Following the initial emails among CIA officials on September 14, 2012, about whether or not references to al Qaeda should be included in the talking points, CIA General Counsel Stephen W. Preston stressed the need to ensure their work did not conflict with the National Security Section (NSS) of the Department of Justice and the FBI's criminal investigation into the attacks:
Folks, I know there is a hurry to get this out, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing it conflicts with express instructions from NSS/DOJ/FBI that, in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this, etc. -- even internally, not to mention for public release. I am copying [CIA FO] who may be more familiar with those instructibns [sic] and the tasking arising from the HPSCI coffee.
Subsequent emails from the FBI reveal that contrary to Krauthammer's claims, the Bureau did have concerns with the initial CIA draft. A 7:51pm email from the FBI Press Office on September 14 requested a review of two of the talking points with recommended edits:
[CIA OPA] in coordination with CWD, we have some concerns:
1. The accuracy of the sentence of the first bullet point which states "On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy and that jihadists were threatening tob break into the Embassy." And-- who is the "we" that is referenced?
2. We recommend editing the last sentence in the second bullet point to "That being said, there are indications that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."
A later email sent at 9:19pm on September 14 by the FBI Press Office revealed their concern that the Department of Justice be brought in to approve all further changes, because they would also be conducting key aspects of the investigation:
Just a question- but separate from the FBI concerns, has DOJ provided input? They will have to deal with the the prosecution and related legal matters surrounding the federal investigation.
Furthermore, The Washington Post, Krauthammer's own paper, reported more detail from senior administration officials about the email exchange, explaining that both CIA and FBI officials believed references to Ansar al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda affiliate, should be removed from the talking points to protect the investigation:
CIA deputy director Michael Morell later removed the reference to Ansar al-Sharia because the assessment was still classified and because FBI officials believed that making the information public could compromise their investigation, said senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal debate.
A senior administration official said Wednesday that the only indication the CIA had at that point that Ansar al-Sharia was involved was a single piece of intelligence, whose existence it did not want to reveal lest its sources and methods be compromised.
The emails confirm what General David Petraeus, then-director of the CIA, reportedly testified to Congress in November: that references to terrorist groups were removed from the talking points in order to avoid tipping off those groups that intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, and thus preserve the ongoing investigation.
Krauthammer also pushed the debunked claim that Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of staff to the embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks, was "ordered not to meet with an investigative congressional delegation" and subsequently got "a furious call from Clinton's top aide for not having a State Department lawyer (and informant) present." In fact, Hicks' official congressional testimony reveals that the State Department merely instructed him to follow standard procedure and not speak to the congressional investigators without a State attorney present. Furthermore, Hicks made clear that he had received no direct criticism from Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and simply said the "tone of the conversation" led him to believe Mills was unhappy with him.
Krauthammer's false accusations are part of the attempt by conservative media and the GOP to save Republican scandal-mongering on the Benghazi attacks, even as the charges of "scandal" collapse around them.
Following months of media calls for deficit reduction, cable news channels spent just over 7 minutes reporting on a revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projection that the 2013 deficit will decline by more than previous estimates. Broadcast network news evening shows did not cover the new report.
Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News ignored congressional testimony that confirmed military leadership ordered a small team of troops to remain in Tripoli in order to protect embassy staff there from possible threats during the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, instead baselessly speculating that the president must have personally told the force to "stand down."
During the May 8 congressional hearings on the Benghazi attacks, witness Gregory Hicks -- who was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks -- explained that his team had proposed that a small group of four special forces troops leave Tripoli to provide aid in Benghazi, but that they were not authorized to do so by Special Operations Command Africa, a division of the U.S. military:
REP. ROBIN KELLY: You said that four military personnel were told not to the board that plane and that this call came from Special Operations Command Africa. Is that right?
HICKS: That's what I understand.
Fox News ignored this portion of Hicks' testimony. On Hannity the night of the hearings, host Sean Hannity disputed Fox News contributor Juan Williams' accurate explanation that "the military made this decision" to baselessly speculate the president, as Commander in Chief, must have been involved in the decision making process to ask the special forces to remain in Tripoli:
HANNITY: Wait a minute, we don't have a Commander in Chief or chain of command,and that somebody along the way, we don't know who eight months later, made a decision and told them to stand down while Americans were under fire and getting killed in Benghazi?
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Fox News pushed the myth that increased access to emergency contraceptives encourages sex among teenagers. In fact, research shows access to these drugs does not increase teens' sexual activity.
Wall Street Journal online editorial page editor James Taranto ignored the thousands of hate crimes committed against minorities each year, misleadingly fixating on four allegedly falsified incidents to claim minority oppression "scarcely exists."
In a May 2 Journal post, Taranto focused on four incidents in which individuals allegedly falsely claimed they were the victims of hate crimes, and claimed that these "phony" accusations were "common, especially on college campuses." He concluded:
Oppression of minorities, and certainly of women, scarcely exists in America in the 21st century. Genuine hate crimes happen, but they are very rare. Few societies in history have offered more security to the previously downtrodden. But the presence of security only makes the need for identity and stimulation more pressing. Hate-crime hoaxes are an extreme way of meeting those needs.
Taranto's fixation on a small number of discredited cases hides the reality that hate crime in the United States is not as rare as he claims. According to the FBI's most recent data, law enforcement agencies reported thousands of hate crimes in 2011 alone:
- In 2011, 1,944 law enforcement agencies reported 6,222 hate crime incidents involving 7,254 offenses.
- There were 6,216 single-bias incidents that involved 7,240 offenses, 7,697 victims, and 5,724 offenders.
- The 6 multiple-bias incidents reported in 2011 involved 14 offenses, 16 victims, and 7 offenders.
These crimes included murder, rape, assault, intimidation, and destruction or theft of property. According to the data, most of the crimes were motivated by racial bias, followed by bias against sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and national origin, and disability.
However, these numbers likely underestimate the true amount of hate crime in the United States. Business Insider explained that hate crimes are vastly under-reported to the FBI, as the data "is highly dependent on reports from local police, some of whom are better at reporting hate crimes than others."
Indeed, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Justice, only 35 percent of hate crimes from 2007 to 2011 were reported to the police. Accounting for hate crimes not reported to authorities, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that there were 181,190 violent hate crimes in 2011. An additional 13,200 violent hate crimes were motivated by gender bias, which the FBI does not track. The percentage of violent hate crimes that resulted in an arrest declined from 10 percent in 2003 - 2006 to 4 percent in 2007 - 2011.
Taranto's baseless dismissal of oppression is unsurprising given his history, including claiming that the "legal regime ... is highly indulgent of sexual-harassment allegations" and attacking the Voting Rights Act.
Fox & Friends spent more than 13 minutes of airtime to questioning whether women can drive or park well, including a "park-off" pitting male and female hosts against each other in a "battle of the sexes."
On May 1, the hosts hyped a home video of a female driver parallel parking in Belfast, Ireland, and co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade challenged Gretchen Carlson and meteorologist Maria Molina to a "park-off," in which the men competed against the women to see which team could park better. Carlson hyped the event as "stereotypes played out to perfection," while Doocy referred to it as "the battle of the sexes park-off."
The show devoted several segments to the topic, including mentions while reading other news headlines, for a total of 13 minutes and 39 seconds of airtime.
Sexism has long had a home at Fox & Friends. In June 2010, Kilmeade referred to women as "babes, chicks," and "skirts" during a segment on which cars appeal to women. In September 2010, Kilmeade advised a sports reporter who allegedly suffered sexual harassment from football players to "[g]et a Whoopi Goldberg outfit, like a big tent." Kilmeade, Doocy, and Fox News host Geraldo Rivera repeatedly used sexual innuendo when discussing Victoria's Secret models in January 2013. Fox & Friends guests have also made sexist comments on the show.
A Wall Street Journal article debunked the myth that federal disability benefits are to blame for the shrinking labor force, "exaggerated" claims that have previously been pushed by the paper itself.
An April 29 Journal article headlined "Real Culprit Behind Smaller Workforce: Age" explained that the recent decrease in the labor force -- the number of employed and unemployed Americans who are currently seeking work -- "has more to do with retiring baby boomers than frustrated job seekers abandoning their searches." The article noted that claims that Americans are voluntarily leaving the workforce to receive Disability Insurance instead of working, for example, "may be exaggerated," and explained that retirees and students made up a far more significant portion of those leaving the labor force. The article included the following graph, showing disability was the least common reason for individuals leaving the workforce in March 2013:
However, the Journal has previously pushed the myth that Disability Insurance accounted for much of the dropping labor force participation rate. An April 10 article headlined "Workers Stuck in Disability Stunt Economic Recovery" claimed that workers receiving disability benefits were costing the economy billions by not instead participating in the labor force, and quoted economist Michael Feroli's claim that "worker flight to the Social Security Disability Insurance program accounts for as much as a quarter of the puzzling drop in participation rates, a labor exodus with far-reaching economic consequences." These claims are in direct contradiction to the Journal's most recent reporting.
According to Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker, research shows if more individuals who receive disability benefits worked, it would have a relatively minor effect on employment figures. Harold Pollack, an expert on disability policy at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, dismissed the idea that disability benefits might be "luring away people who could work." Despite these facts, media continue to attack federal disability benefits by pushing the false claim that disability programs harm the economy.