The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens used the possibility of military intervention in Syria to rewrite the history of the Iraq war, falsely claiming the Bush administration's case against Iraq was supported by solid evidence.
Stephens, the Journal's foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor for international opinion pages, criticized the Obama administration's case for intervention in Syria by comparing it to Bush's decision to invade Iraq, which he claimed was made based on "highly detailed" intelligence revealing weapons of mass destruction. Stephens claimed the "testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix" supported the Bush administration's case for war, and accusations that the Bush administration lied were "libel" and "cheap slander":
Then there's the intel. In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration's evidence of Assad's use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The "dossier" consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as "we assess with high confidence" and "we have a body of information," and "we have identified one hundred videos."
By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council. It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that "there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared," that his inspectors had found "indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized," and that Iraq had "circumvented the restrictions" on the import of missile parts.
The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn't shock Democrats that the White House's "trust us" approach isn't winning converts. When you've spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don't be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.
So what should President Obama say when he addresses the country Tuesday night? He could start by apologizing to President Bush for years of cheap slander. He won't.
But Hans Blix told CNN in 2004 that the Bush administration "chose to ignore" his team's concerns about the lack of solid evidence in favor of war, and that prior to the invasion the evidence of WMDs in Iraq was revealed to be "shaky":
"I think it's clear that in March, when the invasion took place, the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart," Hans Blix, who oversaw the agency's investigation into whether Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
Blix described the evidence Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 as "shaky," and said he related his opinion to U.S. officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"I think they chose to ignore us," Blix said.
Furthermore, an investigation into the lead up to the Iraq war found that statements President Bush made about Iraq misled the American people and Congress by inaccurately depicting the available intelligence. The 2008 Senate Intelligence Committee's report found that "policymakers' statements" in particular misrepresented the nature of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that Bush's allegations "that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership" were "not substantiated by the intelligence." The report also found that statements by Bush and Vice President Cheney indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give WMDs to terrorists for use against the U.S. "were contradicted by available intelligence information."
While there are serious questions about the wisdom of using military force in Syria, any debate must include the facts -- not the Journal's fanciful rewriting of history.
In a desperate attempt to revive the manufactured Benghazi "scandal" in advance of its one-year anniversary on Wednesday, Fox News hyped a misleading ABC interview with Benghazi witness Gregory Hicks that was discredited by the State Department.
Fox & Friends hyped former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Hicks' claim that he had been "punished" for speaking out about Benghazi, furthering Fox's campaign of scandal-mongering about the Benghazi attacks in advance of Wednesday's anniversary. On September 9, the show aired a small portion of Hicks' ABC interview, in which he claimed that he had been "punished" and his career had been stalled following his congressional testimony on the attacks, while on-screen text claimed that "nearly one year later, still no answers" on Benghazi:
But Fox left out the portion of the interview where George Stephanopoulos read part of the State Department response to Hicks' claim, which discredited Hicks' remarks. State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach responded to Hicks' interview by telling ABC News that "The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way," and explained that Hicks' departure from his position in Libya was voluntary and that the State Department is currently "working with him through the normal personnel process and assignment timetable to identify his next permanent assignment." Gerlach concluded that "the State Department does not tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on ANY ISSUE, including Benghazi."
Fox's campaign went so far as to equate the Benghazi attacks, in which four Americans were killed, with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, in which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed. Co-host Gretchen Carlson conflated the two anniversaries, saying "this week, coming up on Wednesday, it's the one-year anniversary of not only 9-11, but Benghazi and what happened there," and later in the show Fox & Friends aired an image of events that are distracting Americans from the conflict in Syria, including the "9/11 & Benghazi Anniversaries" this Wednesday.
Fox News hosted discredited right-wing activist Hans von Spakovsky to misleadingly claim that a voter ID law in Texas would make voting easier, despite a federal court's findings that the law was racially discriminatory and placed a high burden on low-income Americans.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced August 22 that it will sue to block Texas' attempt to reinstate a voter ID law that was previously voided on the grounds that it was racially discriminatory, explaining that it violates the Constitution and "was adopted with the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group."
Fox & Friends guest co-host Anna Kooiman interviewed von Spakovsky on August 30 to attack the DOJ's decision, during which von Spakovsky claimed that high minority voter turnout in the 2012 election proved that voter ID laws did not suppress the vote and that the DOJ "lost" when it attempted to fight a voter ID law in South Carolina. Kooiman pointed to von Spakovksy's assertion that voter ID cards actually "speeds up" the voting process, which he claimed is "exactly right."
Kooiman then implied that voter ID laws are not racially discriminatory in Texas because more white individuals in total are in poverty than Hispanics and blacks -- ignoring that fact that whites make up 80 percent of Texas' population, and so of course have more total individuals in poverty.
Von Spakovsky is a right-wing voter ID activist who has been exposed as resorting to shady tactics in his quest to limit voter participation, and his research on this topic has been thoroughly discredited. As Justin Levitt, previously of the Brennan Center, explained, von Spakovsky's misleading claim that high voter turnout means voter ID laws don't suppress voters is a "correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it." And von Spakovsky's claim that South Carolina offered a good model for Texas to fight the DOJ's challenge hid the fact that the court explicitly agreed with the DOJ's concerns that the South Carolina law could be racially discriminatory as enacted, and warned it would be blocked in the future if that occurred.
Furthermore, his claim that the use of state-issued identification cards to vote "speeds up" the process ignores the fact that this law disenfranchises American citizens. As MSNBC.com reporter Zachary Roth noted, according to Texas's data, "anywhere from 605,000 to 795,000 registered voters--between 4% and 6% of all registered voters in the state--lack the required form of ID."
And acquiring the qualifying identification in order to cast a regular ballot comes with a high cost, placing a burden on low-income voters -- a burden which falls "disproportionately" on African Americans and Hispanics living in Texas. The federal court that struck down Texas' law in 2012 found the "evidence conclusively shows that the implicit costs of obtaining [a] qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."
As The Nation's Ari Berman noted, according to the DOJ's 2012 objection to the Texas law, "Hispanic voters [were] between 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely than whites to not have the new voter ID" in Texas.
Laura Ingraham defended her use of a "blow up" sound effect on her radio show to cut off audio clips, claiming it was "fun" and "teasing," after receiving heavy criticism for using the sound effect to silence a recording of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis' speech at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham used an effect that sounded like gunshot to cut off a recording of the speech given by civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. Lewis' skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965, and many civil rights activists -- including Martin Luther King, Jr. -- were literally silenced by assassins' bullets during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and '70s.
Ingraham came under heavy criticism for using this sound effect to cut off Lewis, with Salon's Joan Walsh describing the move as "unusually vicious" and MSNBC's Steve Benen writing that it "was one of the more offensive things I've heard in a while."
In response, Ingraham claimed the sound was not of a gunshot but instead a "blow up effect," and claimed criticism of her using the sound effect on Lewis was an attempt "to crush free speech":
My producers and I have used this blow up effect to interrupt windbags for 10 years of political and cultural persuasions. The cannon or "blow up" sound is meant to convey the gaseous thoughts of a speaker combusting, but of course the bilious Joan Walsh of Salon.com knows that. (My producers have even blown me up when we play long clips from TV appearances!)
This is absurd and venomous and the predictably pathetic work of people who mean to crush free speech as they advance a failing, progressive agenda. If Joan Walsh or other left-wing loons give voice to their moronic, dishonest analysis, they might self-combust on my show, too. Boom.
On her August 29 radio show, Ingraham appeared to double-down on these remarks, claiming that the "modern-day left" was shutting down debate by accusing conservatives of racism and fixating on "being politically correct." She went on to argue that Americans should have a respectful debate but still be able to "tease each other" and "have some fun."
As an example, she claimed that she occasionally gets "blown up on the show because I go on too long" and asked her producers to "please blow me up" when they played long clips of her:
See, I have this crazy idea that we should actually continue conversations. That the people should be able to debate, have a vigorous discourse, respectful, doesn't mean you can't tease each other. We've got to have some fun. Right? We can't be so politically correct that we can't tease one another. My staff teases me! Mike, you can't blow me up though, right? Well, sometimes I get blown up on the show because I go on too long. Especially if we play long clips from me on O'Reilly, please blow me up. But you have to be able to have a conversation without living in fear that the other side is going to call you a racist. But this is what the modern-day left does. They don't want a conversation. They want to dominate.
Ingraham concluded by accusing Democrats of "conflating the issues of race and the issues of civil rights." At the time Ingraham employed the sound effect against Rep. Lewis on August 26, his speech had been playing for less than fourteen seconds.
Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News' rebranded media show MediaBuzz, devoted an entire column under the Media Buzz header to describing in detail the Facebook photos of Ben Bradlee's daughter-in-law and her "candid approach to sexual matters."
Ostensibly because August 26 was Washington Post Vice President and former Editor Ben Bradlee's birthday, Kurtz deemed it appropriate to publish an extensive description of photos Bradlee's daughter-in-law Pari Bradlee had posted on her personal Facebook account, asking if one revealing picture went "too far" and claiming the photos revealed her "candid approach to sexual matters":
Her new profile picture, in a Swiss-cheese bra that leaves little to the imagination and long black leather sleeves and briefs, is so revealing that it drew a torrent of breathless comments. In another just-posted photo she is nude, shot from the back, twisting one arm behind her.
Pari Bradlee is a personal trainer and yoga instructor who gives private lessons and whose clients include many Washington A-listers. And she is marketing herself with a combination of Facebook's share-everything ethos and her famous last name.
From one perspective, Pari Bradlee's provocative poses might be viewed as a quick way to grab attention, especially in contrast to Washington's buttoned-down culture.
But she is part of a Facebook generation that lives online (with 1,957 photos in her case) and embraces a more candid approach to sexual matters.
Kurtz also quoted the comments Bradlee's friends had posted on the photos, including that her husband "obviously approve[d]" of the photos since he "liked" one of them, and ended his description of Bradlee's "provocative poses" by noting, "It's a safe bet that she is about to attract a lot more friends."
According to Fox News, Kurtz's new show MediaBuzz will primarily "examine media bias while dissecting news events of the current and previous weeks," and will also "analyze how social media has evolved and the effect it has had throughout the industry, including the stories that are most popular over the various social networks and how pundits use those mediums to deliver their specific narrative."
Kurtz did not address in this column how discussing the sexuality and personal photos of a yoga instructor -- connected to the media "industry" only via her father-in-law -- fell within those parameters.
Donald Trump baselessly speculated that he was being personally targeted by President Obama through a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general over allegations that Trump University has engaged in illegal business practices.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a civil lawsuit August 24 "accusing Trump University, Donald J. Trump's for-profit investment school, of engaging in illegal business practices," according to The New York Times. The lawsuit accuses Trump of running the school as an "unlicensed education institution" and making false claims about the classes offered.
Fox & Friends hosted Trump to discuss the suit on August 26 where he baselessly speculated that President Obama was using the lawsuit to politically target him, noting that Schneiderman and Obama met two days before the suit was filed and saying, "Maybe this is a mini IRS." Co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy agreed with Trump that the president may have been involved, noting, "The president hasn't liked you for a while."
In fact, Schneiderman has been investigating Trump's for-profit university for years. In May 2011, the Times reported that the attorney general had launched an investigation "prompted by about a dozen complaints concerning the Trump school" that he had found to be "credible" and "serious." The inquiry was part of a broader investigation into at least five for-profit educational companies.
The Times also noted that Trump University had faced "a string of consumer complaints, reprimands from state regulators and a lawsuit from dissatisfied former students." The school received a D-minus rating from the Better Business Bureau, and changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative in 2010 following complaints from New York and Maryland that using "university" in its title violated state education laws.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade whitewashed the history of the Iraq war, misleadingly implying the diplomatic community supported military intervention, to claim that the Obama administration should respond to the conflict in Syria with similar military force.
Amid reports that the Syrian government launched a possible attack with chemical weapons against civilians, the Obama administration announced it is gathering more information and waiting for the findings of a United Nations investigation into the attack before taking action. But before the facts have become clear, media figures have rushed to push for U.S. military intervention against the Bashar Assad regime. The New York Times reported that while some senior officials "from the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence agencies" think intervention is necessary, others "argue that military action now would be reckless and ill timed."
Fox News hosts dismissed these experts' concerns to beat the drums of war, with Fox & Friends guest co-host Tucker Carlson falsely claiming "there's no doubt now [chemical weapons] have been used," and co-host Brian Kilmeade criticizing the Obama administration's response to the Syrian conflict for not resembling the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. Kilmeade went on to misleadingly suggest the United Nations supported Bush's actions in Iraq, claiming the 2003 invasion gave "the U.N. teeth for the first time in their history":
KILMEADE: It's just unbelievable that they get on President Bush for saying to Saddam Hussein, you have violated 13 separate U.N. Resolutions. We are willing to back that up and give the U.N. teeth for the first time in their history. And he goes and does that. And the message was sent throughout the Middle East, if you cross a line, there will be action. Even Bill Clinton and Bush 41 enforced a no-fly zone for almost a decade because we backed up what we said we would. And now, our words mean absolutely nothing. You can cross us, you can cross that line and we give you a stern tweet as a retort.
In fact, the United Nations Security Council refused to endorse the invasion of Iraq, and then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan "warned the US and its allies a week before the invasion in March 2003 that military action would violate the UN charter." The Security Council had previously told the Iraqi government that there would be "consequences" if they did not meet with certain demands, but as The Guardian reported, Annan said "it should have been up to the council to determine what those consequences were."
Annan also made clear in the year following the invasion that according to the U.N., U.S. military intervention in Iraq was "illegal":
Mr. Annan was repeatedly asked whether the war was "illegal." "Yes," he finally said, "I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal."
The Secretary-General said the war in Iraq and its aftermath had brought home painful lessons about the importance of resolving use-of-force issues jointly through the UN. "I think that in the end everybody is concluding that it is best to work together with allies and through the UN to deal with some of those issues.
"And I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time," the Secretary-General told the interviewer, noting that such action needed UN approval and a much broader support of the international community.
The Bush administration's rush to invade Iraq was based on the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was still pursuing a nuclear weapons program, a claim that has been thoroughly discredited. U.N. weapons experts told CNN in 2004 that they had cautioned the Bush administration prior to the invasion that any evidence of WMDs in Iraq was "shaky," but that the administration "chose to ignore" the lack of solid evidence in favor of war -- a war that lasted nearly a decade and resulted in thousands of American deaths and the deaths of many more Iraqis.
But rather than wait for United Nations inspectors and the U.S. intelligence community to determine whether or not chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and then to assess the best course of action in response, Fox News hosts would rather rush into the conflict and forget the past.
A review of letters to Congress from dozens of state health departments and attorneys general around the country revealed that abortion in the United States is safe and well-regulated, despite recent media reports to the contrary.
Following the conviction of Kermit Gosnell for the murder of three infants during unsafe medical practices that bore no resemblance to legal abortion procedures, congressional Republicans launched an inquiry into how states monitor and regulate abortion, writing letters to the departments of health and attorneys general in all 50 states asking for details regarding criminal laws, prosecutions, inspections of abortion clinics, and regulations relating to abortion at the state level.
The pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed the responses from 38 of the state attorneys general and 31 of the health departments and found that they provide the "most comprehensive picture to date of the reality of abortion services," confirming that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe":
The responses received to date include thousands of pages of legislation and regulations on a wide range of topics that could relate to abortion. They contain definitions of "ambulatory surgical clinics," criminal statutes addressing feticide and the failure to provide medical care to newborns, and the minutiae of how state health officials must conduct inspections of clinics where abortions are performed. Some states also provided samples of the forms, such as the surveys that clinic inspectors have to fill in as they conduct their visits of abortion facilities, as well as samples of the application forms for facilities wishing to provide abortions. As an indication of how voluminous some of these responses are, Pennsylvania's response ran to 1,250 pages.
An analysis of these documents shows that congressional Republicans will find no support for their arguments in favor of new restrictions on abortion care in the evidence presented by the states. In particular, to the extent that anti-choice advocates claim that women are being put at risk by abortion services, these documents--from the very state entities charged with overseeing and regulating abortion--show the contrary. They show that abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe.
In particular, the responses revealed that abortion facilities nationwide are routinely inspected and subject to onerous regulation.
The findings of this congressional survey undermine the media's recent narrative that abortion requires even greater regulation and restriction. NBC, CNN, and Fox News hosts have all hyped the claim that an unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be "reasonable." Writers for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have falsely claimed individual bans on 20-week abortions are popularly supported, and have glossed over the realities of these bills, which could place women and their fetus' health in severe danger. With the exception of a unique segment on MSNBC, media reports on abortion restrictions have largely ignored women's health experts who confirm these unnecessary restrictions will put women's health at risk.
Furthermore, media figures at The National Review, Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, and elsewhere have insisted that the case of Kermit Gosnell is representative of later-term abortions in the U.S., when in fact according to these documents, the Gosnell case was the only reported instance of an illegal "born alive" procedure.
Media Matters has previously noted that despite the fact that abortion is regulated at unprecented levels, with the vast majority of U.S. counties already lacking access to abortion providers, state lawmakers have proposed hundreds of new bills to further limit women's access to safe and legal abortion services. Some of these restrictions have already been struck down, with Bloomberg reporting that state legislatures suffered "a 0-for-8 losing streak after court challenges" reaffirmed that bans on abortion after six, 12, and 20 weeks of pregnancy are unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's rulings that a woman has a right to an abortion up until fetal viability.
The evidence from the congressional inquiry confirms all of these findings: abortion is already safe and well-regulated, despite what lawmakers and the media might say.
Fox News falsely claimed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would force families to receive home visits from government officials to assess at-risk children, when in reality an initiative authorized by the law simply expands existing programs in states that are entirely voluntary and which research shows have improved maternal health and child development.
On the August 21 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed "a brand new federal program" would spend $224 million to send "government home inspectors to your house" to help at-risk children, and asked if this was "Obamacare trumping your right to privacy and snooping on you and your family." Fox Business' Stuart Varney agreed that it was "an intrusion directly into your home and the way you raise your children," and the two proceeded to claim that "the Obama snooper" would visit families randomly and unannounced. On-screen text described the program as "Nanny state solutions: Forced home visits for 'at-risk' kids."
But the program is voluntary. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $224 million in grants from the ACA's Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) to support states' existing home visit programs that bring "nurses, social workers, or other health care professionals to meet with at-risk families that agree to meet with them in their homes" [emphasis added]. And in a 2010 grant announcement, the federal government defined the covered home visits "as an evidence-based program, implemented in response to findings from a needs assessment, that includes home visiting as a primary service strategy ... and is offered on a voluntary basis."
In Rhode Island, for example, families can request a home visit through community health services, or health care providers can refer families that are interested in the program. The service will then work with families to "provide them the available programs and resources they want."
The programs offer a variety of services, including educating parents about child development and supporting school readiness, linking low-income mothers to prenatal health care, ensuring children have access to health care and immunizations, helping families access supplemental food programs and financial aid, and encouraging healthy parent-child relationships to reduce incidents of child abuse. The Department of Health and Human Services conducted an extensive review of the research on several different home visit models, and found evidence that many of the programs improved maternal health, child development, reductions in child maltreatment, and family economic self-sufficiency.
Similarly, The New York Times reported that a 2007 study of high-risk families -- including parents who were under 18, unmarried, low-income, or had inadequate prenatal care -- found that infants were more than twice as likely to survive if their family had received home visits with health workers before and after birth.
Fox News used a selectively edited video to falsely claim an Obama administration education initiative, Common Core, would reward students for getting math problems wrong.
Co-host Steve Doocy falsely claimed that the video revealed students could answer math questions incorrectly and still "get it right" under Common Core, simply if they "explained" their wrong answer to their teacher. Guest co-host Anna Kooiman furthered the attack by suggesting a student who learned math under Common Core might become "a doctor and operat[e] on the wrong knee."
But the unedited video of August's comments reveals that she very specifically stated that wrong answers would be corrected, and that the school simply wants to ensure that students understood the process behind coming to the correct answer:
AUGUST: Even if they said, '3 x 4 was 11,' if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer really in words and in oral explanations, and they showed it in the picture but they just got the final number wrong, we're really more focusing on the how.
OFF-SCREEN: You're going to be correcting them, right?
AUGUST: Absolutely, absolutely. We want our students to compute correctly. But the emphasis is really moving more towards the explanation, and the how, and the why, and 'can I really talk through the procedures that I went through to get this answer, and not just knowing that it's 12, but why is it 12? How do I know that?
While Doocy described the program as "a new national curriculum the Obama administration is imposing on schools," Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of standards that delineates what skills students should acquire at each grade level. States have the option to decide whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards, and school districts determine their own curricula to comply. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the program. Many private and religious schools have opted-out.
Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Thomas B. Fordham institute and Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute explained in the National Review that according to Fordham Institute research, compared "with existing state standards ... for most states, Common Core is a great improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness."