A six-part series by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick destroyed several myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, myths often propagated by conservative media and their allies in Congress to politicize the attack against the Obama administration.
Since the September 2012 attacks, right-wing media have seized upon various inaccurate, misleading, or just plain wrong talking points about Benghazi. Some of those talking points made their way into the mainstream, most notably onto CBS' 60 Minutes, earning the network the Media Matters' 2013 "Misinformer of the Year" title for its botched report.
Kirkpatrick's series, titled "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," debunks a number of these right-wing talking points based on "months of investigation" and "extensive interviews" with those who had "direct knowledge of the attack." Among other points, Kirkpatrick deflates the claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the attacks and that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
Fox News, scores of Republican pundits, and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), among others, dragged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice through the mud for citing talking points that mentioned an anti-Islamic YouTube video on Sunday morning news programs following the attacks. Despite right-wing media claims to the contrary, however, Kirkpatrick stated that the attack on the Benghazi compound was in "large part" "fueled" by the anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube. He wrote (emphasis added):
The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.
Another talking point that right-wing media used to accuse the Obama administration of a political cover-up was the removal of Al Qaeda from Rice's morning show talking points. Kirkpatrick, however, affirmed in his NYTimes report that Al Qaeda was not involved in the attack in Benghazi (emphasis added):
But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda's international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker's boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.
Kirkpatrick also dispelled the notion that the attack on the compound was carefully planned, writing that "the attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs."
This NYTimes report should lay to rest these long-debunked yet oft-repeated talking points on the part of both right-wing media and their conservative allies.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Right-wing media figures capitalized on provocative advertisements for Obamacare from non-profit groups in Colorado to attack a woman who uses free birth control as a "slut," "whore," and "prostitute."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson used the "female reproductive system" as a metaphor to chide Washington, D.C. Republicans over defunding Obamacare.
In a September 17 post at his RedState blog, Erickson wrote that he "cannot use the word" he wanted to use to describe Washington Republicans who are supposedly "surrender[ing]" on the issue of defunding Obamacare. Accompanied by a photo of Code Pink protesters dressed as female reproductive parts, Erickson likened the GOP to the word he apparently couldn't use:
More Americans oppose Obamacare now than at any time. As rhetoric on defunding Obamacare has gone up, so has Republican popularity and opposition to Obamacare. A full quarter of the American public wants Congress to actually blow up Obamacare. When is the last time a full quarter of the whole population wanted Congress to do any one thing?
More than half want Obamacare either destroyed or substantially changed.
But the GOP, its allies in the press and pundit core, and its very leadership are such [insert euphemism of choice related to the female reproductive system] that they'd rather plan their surrender before making their retreat. [emphasis added]
Erickson has a history of sexist comparisons, including referring to the first night of the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 as the "Vagina Monologues." Recently, he claimed that people who defend female breadwinners are "anti-science" because males are "typically...the dominant role," and referred to Texas State Senator Wendy Davis as "Abortion Barbie."
The Daily Caller launched numerous sexist attacks against Crossfire co-host Stephanie Cutter in its "first, and hopefully last," review of CNN's newly resurrected debate show.
After Crossfire's premiere on September 9, Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley wrote a review of the show that focused largely on denigrating the "catty air-kissing backstabbing" Cutter while mostly ignoring co-host Newt Gingrich and guests Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). In roughly 600 words, Howley made the following five observations about Cutter:
The Daily Caller was founded by Tucker Carlson, who co-hosted Crossfire's original incarnation from 2001 to 2004. The show was canceled shortly after a guest appearance by The Daily Show host Jon Stewart.
The Associated Press reported that Clear Channel has lifted the ban they previously imposed on ads for a women's health clinic for its stations in Wichita, Kansas.
Media Matters reported on July 26 that the Trust Women Foundation (TWF), which runs the South Wind Women's Center in Wichita, confirmed that two radio ads for the clinic were pulled from local Clear Channel FM stations one day after their initial broadcast. TWF was reportedly told that the ads had been pulled due to complaints to the station, but at least four other radio and print outlets in Wichita ran similar ads for the Center with no report of complaints.
The Center operates in the same location where Dr. George Tiller had operated his own clinic. Tiller, who was the target of both an intense campaign of demagoguery by conservative media and a campaign of terrorist violence by anti-abortion extremists for his willingness to perform abortions in a state where such services are scarce, was shot to death in a Wichita church in May 2009.
In response to the ban, non-profit group Women, Action and The Media posted a statement reportedly issued by Wichita Clear Channel's General Manager Rob Burton which said, "KZSN has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience." Burton's statement was surprising given that Clear Channel's affiliate syndicates Rush Limbaugh, who has a long history of divisive and hateful rhetoric on women's health.
The AP's August 27 report noted that Clear Channel "reversed course as supporters of the South Wind Women's Center prepared to deliver a petition Wednesday with 68,000 signatures," and that "based on a 'thoughtful discussion' with the clinic, Clear Channel said it made sense to take a closer look at the criteria it uses to determine whether an advertisement should air."
Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, the media conglomerate whose affiliate syndicates Rush Limbaugh's radio show, pulled two supposedly "divisive" radio ads for a Kansas women's health clinic because of complaints, a hypocritical move given Limbaugh's history of vicious and divisive attacks, including on women's health.
The Trust Women Foundation (TWF), which runs a women's health clinic in Wichita, Kansas, has confirmed that two radio ads for its clinic were removed from local stations owned by Clear Channel earlier this month. According to TWF's communications director, the ads were pulled due to complaints, and the nonprofit group Women, Action and The Media posted a statement from Witchita's Clear Channel General Manager Rob Burton saying that Clear Channel-owned station KZSN "has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience."
Clear Channel's move to pull the ads is unusual given that two other radio stations and two print publications in Wichita have run the ads without complaint. It is especially ironic in light of Rush Limbaugh's vehemently divisive attacks, including on women's health, run regularly on Clear Channel-owned stations.
The most notorious target of Limbaugh's derision is Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress as a Georgetown Law student in February 2012 about women's health care and the benefits of insurance coverage for contraceptives. Limbaugh launched at least 46 attacks on Fluke over two days, including calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute," claiming "she must be paid to have sex." He also accused Fluke of "having so much sex she can't afford her own birth control pills," and claimed that women with contraceptive coverage should be required to post sex videos online "so we can all watch." He also called her a "babe" who "goes before Congress and wants thousands of dollars to pay for her sex," and said that "this is more than just one woman wanting us to pay for her to have sex all the time."
Limbaugh's attacks against Fluke triggered a nationwide call for advertisers to pull their ads from the show, a campaign that was so effective that Lew Dickey, CEO of Cumulus Media, which owns many radio stations that air Limbaugh's show, said in March that Limbaugh's actions were still negatively affecting his radio business more than one year later. Dickey's statements came amid the cold reality that Limbaugh's tirade against Fluke not only caused a mass exodus of advertisers, but a multi-million dollar loss in revenue for Cumulus as well.
Sandra Fluke and women's health, however, have not been the only targets of Limbaugh's divisive comments; he regularly engages in offensive racial commentary as well. In 2004, Limbaugh used gang-centric language to describe the NBA, calling it the "Thug Basketball Association," telling listeners to "call 'em gangs" instead of teams. He criticized the Obama administration's efforts to rescue GM and Chrysler in 2009 by saying that "[P]eople in the private sector are getting raped by this administration," and in 2011, he asked if the CDC had ever "published a story about the dangers of catching diseases when you sleep with illegal aliens." Most recently, Limbaugh claimed that he could now say the word "Nigga' with an a" because "it's not racist."
Amid the space it provides for Limbaugh's irrefutably divisive comments, Clear Channel's move to pull two 30-second radio ads promoting women's health resources seems unfounded.
Sunday talk shows on NBC, CBS, and ABC compared reports that the Internal Review Service (IRS) applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups to President Nixon's Watergate scandal, a comparison which people who worked on both sides of the Watergate scandal agree is baseless.
A co-author of the Heritage Foundation's new immigration report, which right-wing media have hyped despite even conservative criticism about its methodology, has long promoted inflammatory theories about the relationship between race and IQ in Hispanic immigrants, an unsurprising fact given his ties to extremist anti-immigrant organizations.
Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported that Jason Richwine, a co-author of the Heritage report, asserts in his 2009 doctoral dissertation titled "IQ and Immigration Policy" that "there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races." Matthews wrote [emphasis added]:
While it's clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics -- "the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ" -- he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
Matthews also included Richwine's dissertation abstract, which forwards the idea that the U.S. should not only select its immigrant pool based on IQ, but that immigrants and their future generations are not apt to obtain his desired level of intelligence [emphasis added]:
The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.
His dissertation, however, was not the first time Richwine promoted these offensive claims. In July 2008, while Richwine was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he said in a panel discussion of the book The New Case Against Immigration, broadcast on C-SPAN, that "races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ":
The argument that immigrants themselves are no different from the ones that came 100 years ago I think is, is quite wrong, and I think that the major difference here is ethnicity -- or race, if you will. I think that race is important for two main reasons. One is that human beings as a species are a naturally tribal group of people. We have inside, outside, groups. We have families, for one example, where, you know, family comes first in virtually every society. And we tend to be very attuned to even small, trivial differences between groups. I don't mean to suggest I think this is a good thing, I wish we could be more universalist, but the reality is that we're not going to be that way, and we shouldn't be basing policy on that either.
The second reason I think race is important is that there are real differences between groups, not just trivial ones that we happen to notice more than we should. Races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ. Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, and then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences. They're not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason, we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.
Richwine's anti-immigrant language is reminiscent of that used by the Pioneer Fund, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group that "funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the 'science' of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities." The Pioneer Fund supports the notoriously anti-immigrant and fellow SPLC hate-group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded by nativist John Tanton who publishes The Social Contract Press. Richwine spoke at a 2010 event for The Social Contract Press on the "myth of immigrant crime," and, according to the group, argued that "immigrant and illegal alien crime is higher than crime committed by other demographic groups." After joining the Heritage Foundation's Domestic Policy Studies Department in January 2012, Richwine spoke at a Social Contract writing workshop last September about the "connection between culture and immigration" as part of a weekend event hosted by anti-immigrant and white nationalist organizations.
UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation issued a statement to BuzzFeed about Richwine's 2009 dissertation:
"This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation," Heritage VP of Communications Mike Gonzalez told BuzzFeed in a statement. "Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer."
This post has been updated for clarity.
Breitbart.com and National Review Online (NRO) are using today's Equal Pay Day holiday to misinform about gender wage inequality. Right-wing media have routinely downplayed and obscured legitimate concerns about wage inequality.
Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. According to a White House proclamation released on Equal Pay Day in 2012, "National Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day's pay for an equal day's work."
Breitbart.com and NRO both posted a video today that claims the gender wage gap is a myth, positing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video comes from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."
Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that "in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent." According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. The claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has also been debunked, mostly recently in the AAUW's 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report.
Breitbart.com and NRO's misleading claims about gender wage inequality follow a long trend of right-wing media's misinformation on equal pay. Here are just a few examples since 2012:
As Fox News continues to ponder its stance on immigration and other issues relevant to the Latino community, Fox News chief Roger Ailes suggested to The New Republic that the recently-launched Fox News Latino is designed in part to turn Latino audiences into political conservatives.
Ailes told The New Republic on Monday that he "sees the Latino audience as a 'tremendous business opportunity,'" which helps explain the 2010 launch of Fox News Latino, a mostly English-language website aimed at younger Hispanic generations. From The New Republic (emphasis added):
"The contributions being made by Latinos are extraordinary, and we need to talk about them," Ailes says. The Fox News Latino stylebook uses "undocumented immigrant," and the site downplays immigration stories compared with some of its rivals. "Fox News Latino has a mission to point out the positives of the Latino population, operating within the framework of making America great," Ailes says.
That's not as blandly neutral as it sounds. "Hispanics who get on government programs are doing only a little better than they were in the old country," Ailes elaborates. "Fox News Latino will show people how opportunities exist, that whenever we are overregulated, or there is too much government, we lose freedom. We lose power. That is, historically, one hundred percent true."
Fox News Latino often reports the same stories as other Fox outlets, but with a far more pro-immigrant tone. Its coverage is frequently at odds with other Fox entities, specifically the notoriously anti-immigrant Fox Nation.
Ailes denied allegations of Fox's pandering coverage in his interview with The New Republic, stating,"'There's an assumption that Fox News Latino is softer on Latinos than Fox News in general ...That's ridiculous.'"
Ailes' admission of political motive comes as no surprise following Fox's recent change of tune on immigration after the GOP's poor showing among Latinos in November's election. Though News Corp head Rupert Murdoch has long advocated for immigration reform, Fox News hosts only arrived at the same conclusion after Latinos came out in record numbers to vote for President Obama.