Fox News is not commenting on reports that Bill O'Reilly lied in his books and on Fox News that he was nearby and "heard" a shotgun blast when a figure linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy committed suicide. The network is instead directing reporters to the host's publisher.
The network's reaction is a dramatic reversal of their aggressive communications strategy following Mother Jones' report that the stories O'Reilly has told about reporting from combat zones "don't withstand scrutiny."
Yesterday, Media Matters reported:
Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally "heard" a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O'Reilly's claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy's death further undermine O'Reilly's story.
According to CNN, "When reached for comment, a Fox News spokesperson referred CNNMoney to Henry Holt and Company, the imprint that published O'Reilly's book on the Kennedy assassination."
In seeking to pass off responsibility for O'Reilly's falsehoods to his publisher, Fox News is trying to hide the fact that he offered the same claim on their airwaves.
Directing reporters to the publisher represents a substantial shift from how Fox News responded to the Mother Jones story, which similarly detailed how O'Reilly had repeatedly made exaggerated claims about his reporting experience in his books and on Fox News. The report showed how O'Reilly had supposedly reported from a "combat zone" in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War, and at times suggested he had reported from the Falkland Islands themselves. Numerous journalists who reported on that war subsequently disputed O'Reilly's claims.
Within hours of the story's publication, Fox News made O'Reilly available for a series of scathing interviews with media reporters in which he denied the allegations and attacked David Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, as a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage."
While several of the claims O'Reilly has offered in his defense have turned out to be false, some commentators have nonetheless said that O'Reilly's public reaction shows that the Mother Jones story has "backfired" because the network is using the criticism from a progressive publication to bolster O'Reilly's standing with his fans.
Fox News has gone to war with Mother Jones after the liberal magazine published a story raising questions about the credibility of host Bill O'Reilly's past statements about his experience as a war correspondent.
Mother Jones' David Corn and Daniel Schulman reported yesterday that "for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny--even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in."
The reporters noted that "Fox News and O'Reilly did not respond to multiple requests for comment." In an interview with Politico, Corn detailed his extensive effort to get the host or network to address the discrepancies in O'Reilly's stories.
Rather than responding to Mother Jones, the network apparently prepared to lash out. Fox "immediately put O'Reilly on the phone with a bunch of reporters to attack this story," CNN's Brian Stelter noted. "So they were on the offensive right away."
And respond he did. In a series of scathing interviews last night, O'Reilly declared that Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, is a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage" who authored "a politically motivated hit piece." He denied the allegations, claiming that "Everything I said about my reportorial career -- EVERYTHING -- is accurate" (this is obviously and demonstrably false).
In one interview with TVNewser, he even appeared to threaten Corn, saying, "When everybody writes the truth, I've talked to about eight or nine reporters, and when they verify what I'm saying, because it's easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone. Where he deserves to be."
"Rather than calling anyone a liar or a guttersnipe, he had ample opportunity to deal with the facts of this case. He elected not to, and instead engaged in name calling," Corn told Politico. "He chose not to address the issue, he chose to throw mud. And I would say that his right to impugn others ought to be diminished until he answers the basic questions about his statements."
"They purposely ignored Mother Jones and then once the story came out, they went ahead and talked to a number of other outlets," Stelter explained."And they made it very personal. I think what's striking about O'Reilly's response is the anti-Brian Williams. Brian Williams apologized and went silent. O'Reilly started calling your colleague, David Corn, a gutter snipe, a piece of garbage, a liar, a left wing assassin."
But it's no surprise Fox chose to respond with O'Reilly's attacks rather than seeking to shed light on the situation. The network's PR department is famously aggressive, frequently using personal attacks and retaliatory tactics to respond to critical reporters.
The American Thinker - "one of my most favorite and thoughtful blogs," according to Rush Limbaugh - reports that President Obama flashed a "Muslim gang sign" at an event last year by pointing his index finger upwards.
F.W. Burleigh, "author of It's All About Muhammad, a Biography of the World's Most Notorious Prophet," wrote for the conservative website that an "astonishing photo" of Obama during a summit with African leaders shows him "flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates." According to Burleigh, "the one-finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign" and "With his forefinger in the air, Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe." He also postulates that Muslim African leaders present at the event were "all smiles" because "They knew what Obama's upright forefinger meant." The post also includes an image in which an "ISIS fighter displays the gang sign."
Conservatives have spent much of Obama's presidency laying out ludicrous theories for how Obama is secretly Muslim.
There are two main flaws with Burleigh's argument. First, video of the event captured from two angles indicates that Obama was actually wagging his finger, not pointing it. (Burleigh criticized the editors of the paper that published the photo for captioning it "finger wagging," claiming that they "did not understand what they were looking at.)
Second -- and it's difficult to believe we need to point this out -- many, many other world leaders have previously been photographed pointing their index fingers upward, suggesting either that Burleigh's argument is nonsense, or that several other recent U.S. and foreign leaders were secret Muslims.
Melissa Harris-Perry's guest pool remained extremely diverse while diversity on Up with Steve Kornacki dropped in 2014, according to a Media Matters review.
Because the MSNBC programs feature significantly different formats than the Sunday morning political talk shows on the four major broadcast networks and CNN (they are two-hour programs that air on both weekend days and are less focused on the news of the week), we did not review the ideology of their guests nor, for the sake of consistency, include them in our initial capsule report. But as the data from their Sunday editions contained in our full report shows, both programs demonstrate that it is possible to produce a show featuring more women and people of color than seen elsewhere.
For the second year in a row, Melissa Harris-Perry was the most diverse program of the seven we reviewed for gender and ethnicity. 55 percent of the program's Sunday guests were people of color and 45 percent were women. Only a quarter of guests were white men. All three measures were virtually unchanged from 2013, showing a clear commitment to a diverse guest pool.
Up's guest pool remained the second most diverse of the seven programs in 2014, but the program slipped from 2013, booking a larger percentage of white men and fewer women and people of color.
Here's the data for gender in 2014 and 2013:
*This chart has been updated for accuracy
And for gender and ethnicity combined:
Right-wing media are using the suspension of NBC's Brian Williams to attack Hillary Clinton, fixating on a story she apologized for telling years ago about landing amid sniper fire in Bosnia when she was first lady.
The media has rightfully focused over the past week on Williams' apparent pattern of falsely claiming that he rode on a military helicopter that was forced to land after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during a reporting trip to Iraq in 2003. Williams apologized during the February 4 broadcast of Nightly News and has since been suspended for six months without pay.
But the right-wing media have sought to use Williams' tall tales for political advantage, pointing to Clinton's Bosnia story to ask, "If Brian Williams can no longer be the face of NBC then can Hillary no longer be the face of the Democratic Party?" In a segment representative of such discussions on Fox News,Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy asked this morning, "Brian Williams has been held to this standard because he told these lies about Iraq. But what about Hillary Clinton?" Invoking Clinton's Bosnia story which "turned out not to be true," the hosts aired a clip of a Fox News contributor declaring Clinton's story to be worse than Williams', while on-screen text asked "Why Isn't Hillary Held Accountable For Lies?" and "Did Mainstream Media Give Clinton A Pass?"
But Clinton acknowledged nearly seven years ago that she had misspoken in describing the events that occurred in Bosnia. And contrary to conservative claims, Clinton was heavily criticized by media outlets at the time, including by NBC News. As Bloomberg News reported in March 2008:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her staff said she misspoke when saying she landed under sniper fire during a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as first lady.
"I did make a mistake in talking about it the last time, and recently," Clinton told reporters in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. "I made a mistake. I have a different memory. That happens. I'm human. For some people that's a revelation."
During a speech last week in Washington, she said, "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."
Moreover, in seeking to use Williams' story for partisan benefit, conservatives are ignoring numerous Republican politicians who have embellished their stories of military service to burnish their political careers, dating back to Sen. Joe McCarthy's self-aggrandized war record. As Joe Conason noted in a 2010 piece on how "mythmaking is indeed characteristic of the politicians most revered by the GOP," both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush greatly exaggerated their service:
Take George W. Bush, whose controversial service as a Texas Air National Guard pilot was shrouded in mystery, evidently because he wanted to conceal the basic facts of his privileged admission to the TANG and his strange departure from its ranks. In his 2000 campaign autobiography, ghosted by Karen Hughes, Bush claimed that after completing his training in the F-102 fighter plane, "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years." That simple sentence was entirely untrue, according to records eventually released by the Bush campaign, which showed that he had never flown in uniform again after his suspension from active duty in August 1972 for failing to show up for a mandatory physical examination.
In the same book Bush also suggests that he tried to volunteer for service in Vietnam "to relieve active duty pilots" fighting the war. But, of course, the entire purpose of his privileged (and questionable) enlistment in the TANG was to avoid the Vietnam draft, as he hinted in a 1998 newspaper interview when he said: "I don't want to play like I was somebody out there marching [to war] when I wasn't. It was either Canada or the service and I was headed into the service." Two years later, under the tutelage of Hughes, that momentary candor evaporated.
Yet Bush's self-serving revisions cannot compare with the fantastic recollections of the late Ronald Reagan, whose veneration by Republicans was never diminished by his bizarre utterances. In November 1983, he told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir during a White House visit that while serving in the U. S. Army film corps, his unit had shot footage of the Nazi concentration camps as they were liberated. He repeated the same tale to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and other witnesses. Reagan had indeed served in the Army and worked on morale-boosting movies for the War Department. But he had done so without ever leaving Hollywood for the entire duration of the war.
The race for Rupert Murdoch's endorsement is on as potential presidential candidates line up to seek political support from the owner of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch has long been a major political player whose media companies play a substantial role shaping the debate. Last year he declared that Fox News had "absolutely saved" the Republican Party by giving "voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN." Prominent politicians on the national and international stage regularly seek out Murdoch's opinion and approval.
The New York Times reported on how potential presidential candidates are engaged in a "delicate and unseen campaign underway for Mr. Murdoch's affections" in a January 27 article. Here are the details about where the would-be presidents stand.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may be the candidate most likely to find support from Murdoch in the 2016 cycle, according to the Times, which provides several anecdotes suggesting that the mogul favors Bush for his position on immigration and that their "ties have deepened over the years."
The paper highlights a Washington, D.C. conference at which Murdoch responded to a boilerplate speech by Jeb Bush on "the economic benefits of overhauling the nation's immigration system" by "swoon[ing] in his seat," "gush[ing] over its content and tone," and declaring that Bush had "said all the right things on the fraught issue." According to the Times, Bush was seated next to Murdoch at the conference at Murdoch's request. The article closes with Murdoch saying of Bush "I like Jeb Bush very much... He's moving very cleverly, very well."
Murdoch reportedly "remains fond" of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but last year "expressed doubts about the New Jersey governor, saying he expected more damaging stories to emerge about Mr. Christie's aides in the aftermath of the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge." They reportedly speak by phone on a near-monthly basis.
Murdoch reportedly "joined a group of wealthy and influential Republican leaders who encouraged Mr. Christie to enter the presidential race" in 2011. He publicly and privately criticized Christie for praising President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy in the waning days of the 2012 race.
Murdoch reportedly "remains intrigued" by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), "extolling his appeal to younger voters and his plans for a flat tax. The two meet often in New York and Washington. But Mr. Murdoch worries that Mr. Paul may face an uphill battle in a general election, said a person who has spoken with Mr. Murdoch."
Murdoch and Fox News chief Roger Ailes reportedly sat down with Paul in November 2013 as part of his effort to "smooth concerns among Republicans and influencers about whether he shares his famous libertarian father's views on issues like national security."
According to the Times, Murdoch has privately described 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney as "vacuous," in large part due to his call during the last election for undocumented immigrants to "self-deport." The Times reports on a private 2012 meeting between the two in which Murdoch demanded Romney recant his "foolhardy" immigration position, with Romney refusing to do so because "he would look like a flip-flopper." "Those close to Mr. Romney said he had all but given up on trying to win over Mr. Murdoch" as he moves toward a third presidential run.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi has been unable to corroborate Sharyl Attkisson's latest "bombshell" Benghazi exclusive, which claimed that "Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to 'separate' damaging documents" about the 2012 attacks before they were turned over to investigators. According to the committee's ranking Democrat, a "second witness" allegedly undermined the report.
In September, Attkisson reported for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal that former State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell alleged he had witnessed an "after hours session" at State Department headquarters at which he was told that employees had been ordered to "pull out anything that might put anybody" in the department's leadership "in a bad light" before documents were handed over to the Accountability Review Board, which was investigating the attacks. Maxwell claimed the actions were "unethical." Fox News quickly trumpeted the story as "a smoking gun of a potential cover-up," claiming that it showed State had been "scrubbing the documents" which were "destroyed" on Clinton's behalf.
The implication that documents were withheld as Maxwell claimed -- which the State Department told Attkisson was "totally without merit" -- never really added up. Maxwell, one of four State employees to be disciplined for their role in the Benghazi attacks, had testified before two House committees and given multiple interviews in the 18 months before the Attkisson piece. But he reportedly never mentioned the alleged "after hours session" in those previous statements, instead focusing on how he was supposedly scapegoated to protect higher-ups at State from accountability. Slate's David Weigel called the discrepancy "baffling," writing of the account, "Holy ... what the ... why not mention that sooner? Previously, this was a story of a guy who was railroaded in order to protect the Clintons. It could have been a story about a guy who witnessed Clinton allies hiding evidence. ... Why hold off on the 'scrubbing' until now?"
Now, new evidence calls the story further into question. In a November 2014 letter just published by Mother Jones on the eve of the Benghazi Select Committee's third hearing, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings writes to committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), stating that Maxwell had identified to the committee's Republican staff a "second witness that he claimed was present during this document review" who could "corroborate his allegations," but that the "second witness" denied Maxwell's claims when interviewed by Republican staff. Cummings further alleges that Republican staff deliberately hid this information from Democratic staff.
In the letter, after highlighting an October 17 Fox News interview in which Gowdy said he planned to investigate Maxwell's claims, Cummings writes:
In fact, several weeks before you made those public statements, your staff had already interviewed Mr. Maxwell, but they did not include, invite, or even notify Democratic Members or staff. Mr. Maxwell apparently identified for your staff a second witness that he claimed was present during this document review at the State Department. Mr. Maxwell identified this person as someone who could corroborate his allegations and someone he believes is credible.
Then, on October 16 -- one day before you appeared on Fox News -- your staff interviewed this second witness, again without including Democrats. However, this second witness did not substantiate Mr. Maxwell's claims. To the contrary, he did not recall having been in the document review session Mr. Maxwell described, and he said he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department. He further reported that he never engaged or was aware of any destruction of documents.
I did not discover any of this information from you or your staff but from the witnesses themselves. When my staff inquired with your staff about what they learned from the witness identified by Mr. Maxwell, your staff stated that he had worked at the State Department during the relevant time period. Beyond that, however, they reported: "we learned nothing else of note in our discussion, so we don't plan to conduct any additional follow-up."
I am sure you understand -- as a former prosecutor -- that evaluating the credibility of witnesses and their allegations depends on whether the information they provide can be corroborated. Although your staff stated that they learned nothing "of note," in fact they learned that this claim was not substantiated by a key witness. If our goal is the truth and not a preconceived political narrative, these interviews should have been conducted jointly, with both Democrats and Republicans present.
Gowdy has not directly addressed Cummings' claims about Maxwell's story, either in a staff statement or in a letter to the committee's Democrats released after Cummings' letter was published by Mother Jones. He instead warned that Cummings' "characterization of witness testimony... not only risks an adverse effect on the investigation but could also negatively impact the witness' careers."
Research provided by Sophia Tesfaye and Cal Colgan.
Michigan State University reportedly paid George Will $47,500 to give the keynote address at the school's commencement. Hundreds protested before, during, and after Will's December address in light of offensive comments the Washington Post syndicated columnist made last year about campus sexual assault.
Will has been under fire since the publication of a June column in which he suggested that efforts to fight sexual assault on college campuses have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." MSU's decision to select Will and award him with an honorary doctorate drew criticism from students and faculty, women's rights groups, and Michigan's Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). On the morning of Will's address, students silently protested the event, some graduating students turned their back on Will during his speech, and a separate ceremony was held after the event in protest of Will.
MLive first reported on Will's fee, based on documents they obtained from the university through a Freedom of Information Act request:
The contract shows Will's fee to speak, set by the Washington Speaker's Bureau, was $47,500 and the university was also responsible for hotel fees, meals and incidentals.
Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody said the fee paid to have Will speak was comparable to the fees paid to bring other nationally-recognized individuals to speak at commencement.
"With George Will, and with other speakers, we're looking to attract national-level talent and having people who make a meaningful impact with their words," Cody said.
According to MLive, filmmaker Michael Moore and University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, who spoke at separate Michigan State commencements in December, agreed to speak without a fee.
MLive also reported the response of Media Matters President Bradley Beychok:
"Given George Will's extensive history of attacks on victims of sexual assault and the massive controversy and harm they caused last year, any monetary amount is too much to pay Will," Beychok said in a statement. "Beyond that, it is especially unseemly for a venerable institution like Michigan State to reward Will's history of zealous climate denial and his recent professional ethical lapses."
Media Matters, which extensively reported on the controversy over Will's speech, noted in December that the university had given itself an extension in responding to our FOIA requests for his contract, delaying its public release until after the ceremony.
The research group whose misleading poll question was heavily touted by the media to suggest "growing public support for gun rights" has acknowledged that the question was flawed.
Last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey that asked respondents whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns." The poll showed increased support for the gun rights answer and a drop in support for regulating guns. The results were reported by numerous media outlets, especially by the conservative press.
But academics from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research criticized the poll question in statements to Media Matters, saying that the query forces respondents to choose between two options that are not mutually exclusive and pointing out that polls consistently show broad public backing for specific gun regulations, such as expanding the background check system to make it more difficult for felons and the mentally ill to obtain weapons.
"Pew's question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership. The question's implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners' rights and control their ability to own guns," the Center's director Daniel Webster explained. "The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support."
Carroll Doherty, Pew's director of political research, has now reportedly "acknowledged the flaw" in the question. Mother Jones reported:
Carroll Doherty, PEW's director of political research, acknowledged the flaw. "Is it a perfect question? Probably not," he told Mother Jones. "This is in no way intended to say there's not support for background checks and some measures aimed at specific policies either [in Congress] or in the states. Mr. Webster is right to put it in context."
Doherty told Mother Jones that Pew "has asked that same question in surveys since 1993, with the aim of tracking general public sentiment on gun policy over time."
Michigan State University's president has published a 900-word defense of the school's decision to host George Will as a commencement speaker this weekend in response to widespread outrage from students who object to his past remarks on campus sexual assault.
President Lou Anna K. Simon stated that the university did not endorse Will's controversial June 6 Washington Post syndicated column suggesting that attempts to curb campus assaults have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." She wrote in part:
I'll leave it to Mr. Will to defend his comments and values, because this isn't about George Will. This is about us. And it is about the role of universities in a democratic society.
Having George Will speak at commencement does not mean I or Michigan State University agree with or endorse the statements he made in his June 6 column or any particular column he has written. It does not mean the university wishes to cause survivors of sexual assault distress. And it does not mean we are backing away from our commitment to continuously improving our response to sexual assault.
What it does mean is this: Great universities are committed to serving the public good by creating space for discourse and exchange of ideas, though that exchange may be uncomfortable and will sometimes challenge values and beliefs. There is no mandate to agree, only to serve society by allowing learning to take place. If universities do not hold onto this, we do not serve the greater good. Because next time it will be a different speaker and a different issue, and the dividing lines will not be the same.
Contrary to Simon's suggestion, Will is not participating in an open "exchange of ideas" in which students can engage with or question his remarks. Instead, his December 13 address will reportedly be a commencement speech to graduates from several MSU programs, who will have the option of either listening to his remarks or skipping their own graduations. Moreover, the "ideas" critics are objecting to are Will's comments about his audience, college students.
Additionally, the Post columnist will not only be addressing students but will be celebrated by the school, receiving an honorary doctorate for what Simon terms his "long and distinguished journalistic career."
Emily Gillingham, an MSU law school student and co-organizer of a protest against Will's involvement, highlighted the destructive nature of Will's participation, telling Media Matters last week,"I feel so bad for the people who are there who have survived sexual assault who George Will thinks are lying or it was some sort of pleasant experience."
Simon's statement comes in response to substantial criticism from the student body. More than 700 have already signed up for a protest the day of the speech, and MSU's Council of Graduate Students has passed a resolution calling on the administration to withdraw their invitation to Will.