CBS' 60 Minutes is trying to revive the long-answered "lingering question" about why no U.S. military forces from outside Libya came to the aid of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi during the September 11, 2012 attacks.
Last night the program ran a segment reporting out the results of correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan's year-long investigation of the Benghazi attacks. The segment has caused a feeding frenzy on the right, with hosts and contributors at Fox News claiming that the reporting justifies their 13-month effort to turn the tragic attacks into a phony political scandal for the Obama administration.
During an interview with former deputy chief of mission Greg Hicks, Logan echoed long-running conservative claims that more military aid should have been sent to help the Americans under attack in Benghazi.
LOGAN (VOICEOVER): [T]he lingering question is why no larger military response ever crossed the border into Libya -- something Greg Hicks realized wasn't going to happen just an hour into the attack.
LOGAN: You have this conversation with the defense attaché. You ask him what military assets are on their way. And he says--
HICKS: Effectively, they're not. And I -- for a moment, I just felt lost. I just couldn't believe the answer. And then I made the call to the annex chief, and I told him, "Listen, you've got to tell those guys there may not be any help coming."
LOGAN: That's a tough thing to understand. Why?
HICKS: It just is. We--for us, for the people that go out-- onto the edge, to represent our country, we believe that if we get in trouble, they're coming to get us. That our back is covered. To hear that it's not, it's a terrible, terrible experience.
Contrary to Hicks' claims, military assets were on their way. Shortly after the attack began, a Marine anti-terrorist team in Spain and special operations teams in Croatia and the United States were ordered to deploy. But the Marines arrived in Tripoli, Libya, roughly 11 hours after the last Americans had been successfully evacuated from Benghazi, while the special operations teams reached a staging base in Italy at around that same time.
Here are four senior military experts who have answered Logan's "lingering question" by pointing out that help was sent, but due to logistical issues, none arrived until hours after the attack concluded:
Admiral (ret.) Mike Mullen, Former Joint Chiefs Chairman. During a September congressional hearing, Mullen, who co-chaired the State Department's independent investigation of Benghazi, said that he had repeatedly reviewed the military's response that night and determined that in spite of the "questions being raised about it,""The military did everything they possibly could that night. They just couldn't get there in time." He explained:
MULLEN: It goes to our core, when people are in trouble, to do everything we possibly can to help them out. And there were many forces that moved that night, including a special operation force in Europe that ended up in a base in southern Europe, a large special operations force from the United States which moved under direction as soon as -- as soon as they were given orders. A group of Marines that essentially were sent in from Spain into Tripoli the next day. It literally became -- this is not something you can just wish to happen instantly. There's a lot of planning, preparation, as rapidly -- to do it as rapidly as one can do it.
In an attempted rebuttal of Media Matters' e-book The Benghazi Hoax, the Republican research group America Rising points to no falsehoods and attempts to deceptively spin the facts to criticize Hillary Clinton's handling of the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Last month, Newt Gingrich's media production company was paid $9,500 by the Republican National Committee, a fact he has not divulged on Crossfire, the CNN program he co-hosts. It's the latest ethics headache brought to the network by their new host.
The RNC made the payment to Gingrich Productions on September 25 for "media services," as National Review's Jonathan Strong first reported. Gingrich Productions is a multimedia production company founded by the former Speaker of the House that features his work and that of his wife Callista, who has served as the company's president since Newt transferred control of the company to her in 2011 in preparation for his presidential run.
According to financial disclosure forms that Gingrich filed during that campaign, Gingrich Productions paid him $2.4 million in 2010. It's unclear whether such payments have restarted following the conclusion of his run, but an April 2013 Time.com article reported that Gingrich's future plans were "centered around" the company.
Gingrich Productions' website highlights Gingrich's role as host of CNN's Crossfire, "where he continues to advocate bold policy ideas." As a Fox News contributor, Gingrich regularly appeared on air to promote the work of the for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations he headed, including Gingrich Productions.
A Media Matters review of CNN transcripts found no indication that Gingrich had disclosed the RNC payment on-air. A CNN spokesman declined to comment.
In his forthcoming book on News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, veteran NPR media reporter David Folkenflik reports several fascinating stories about the mogul's expansive media empire.
Among the stories highlighted in Murdoch's World: that Fox News' public relations shop used an elaborate series of fake accounts to post pro-Fox comments on websites critical of the network; that the same PR department has resorted to ruthless tactics to take revenge on critical reporters; that News Corp's CEO tried to suppress damaging reporting about the phone hacking scandal from running in the Wall Street Journal; and that a New York Post columnist was merely "chastised" for directing a racial slur at a colleague.
Fox's ruthless PR department: Taking revenge on reporters and using sock puppet accounts on critical websites
Folkenflik highlights numerous anecdotes about the aggressive tactics of Fox News' PR department, which punished reporters that upset the network.
For example, when New York Times media reporter Timothy Arango was working on a story about CNN's solid ratings in 2008, he was reportedly first asked by Fox to run in full a "vitriolic" statement about CNN that the conservative network had provided him. After he bristled at the suggestion, Arango -- a former News Corp employee that had worked for the New York Post from 2002 to 2006 -- claims he received an ominous threat from Fox suggesting he would be attacked personally for his story.
The morning Arango's story ran on the front page of the Times' business section, he was contacted by a writer for the now-defunct gossip website Jossip. That site later anonymously published a hit piece on him, including revealing that a recent medical leave he had taken "may have been a stint in rehab":
This time, he said, [Fox News' Irena] Briganti warned him: They're going to go after you personally. On March 5, 2008, Arango's story, headlined "Back in the Game," ran on the front page of the Times business section, and it was featured prominently on the paper's website. That morning, he received a call from a blogger with Jossip, a now-defunct gossip site. Arango knew what lay in store but did not return the call.
The unbylined story on Jossip said Arango had just returned from a two-month medical leave that "many allege may have been a stint in rehab." The Jossip posting utilized every element of Arango's past coverage at the Post and Fortune magazine to draw a portrait of a craven reporter in unsuccessful pursuit of on-air reporting jobs at cable channels. It referred to "blowjob pieces about CNBC execs" written, the blog claimed, when Arango was hustling for a job at the network.
Arango braced for the slam about rehab because he had indeed returned a few days earlier from an extended medical leave to address his substance abuse. Arango kept silent, expecting a wave of disgust from his own newsroom. It never materialized. Bill Keller, then the executive editor at the Times, emailed Arango a note of encouragement: We don't take that kind of bullshit seriously. Keep your head up. [Murdoch's World, pp 72-73]
Folkenflik also writes about an incident involving fellow Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff. Wolff reportedly told Folkenflik that he was approached by Murdoch's staff with a request to "change the date when Murdoch met his third wife, Wendi Deng," whom Murdoch married "just weeks" after he finalized his divorce from his previous wife. After Wolff refused, his book received "scant coverage in any News Corp properties," though the New York Post eventually published seven pieces in the span of a month invoking an affair Wolff had been having with a colleague:
As Wolff tells the story, Murdoch wanted the timing of his involvement with Deng out of the book, but it stayed in. The Man Who Owns the News, received scant coverage in any News Corp properties. And Wolff also criticized [New York Post editor Col] Allan by name on cable television for the racially charged cartoon. Soon an article appeared on the gossip website City-File, and then another surfaced on the better-known Gawker, alleging that Wolff was having an affair with a younger colleague - a woman just a year older than his daughter. The Post pounced, citing, of course, the reporting of others. Over the course of the month, the Post published seven pieces invoking the affair and publishing another cartoon by Delonas, unfairly depicting the couple, in the words of Wolff's girlfriend Victoria Floethe, as "a thirteen-year-old girl in bed with an eighty-year-old." By the end of the coverage, Wolff had moved out of the apartment he shared with his wife and the tabloid was running pieces about a legal fight the soon-to-be divorced couple were having with Wolff's mother-in-law. [Murdoch's World, pp 49-50]
Folkenflik explains that after some negative attention in 2008, "Fox pulled back on some of its most aggressive tactics."
As Media Matters has previously highlighted, lashing out at critical reporters isn't the only way Fox's PR shop seeks to shape public opinion. Folkenflik reports in the book that the network's staffers set up a series of fake accounts to post comments to articles that were critical of Fox:
On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked. [Murdoch's World, pg. 67]
In an interview with Politico previewing Media Matters' new e-book The Benghazi Hoax, Media Matters founder David Brock tells Maggie Haberman that "politicizing a tragedy that results in American deaths crosses a line."
You can read the full article here.
Washington Post blogger and George Washington University political science professor John Sides observes today that most Americans do not consume a skewed partisan news diet, but rather are "omnivores," who largely "get news from non-partisan sources or a variety of sources." How then to explain the conservative media bubble in which the Republican Party often finds itself?
Sides cites the work of UCLA's Michael LaCour and his graph indicating whether news consumption had a partisan skew. Take a look at the bottom right corner (emphasis added).
While most members of both parties are clustered about the axis, indicating that they have a fairly balanced news diet, there's also a sizable bulge of Republicans who consume significantly more conservative media than they do liberal media (LaCour's study codes Fox News as conservative and both MSNBC and CNN as liberal). According to LaCour's study, nine percent of Republicans consume predominantly conservative news.
That small minority appears to constitute the Fox News regulars, the ones who have built the network into a ratings juggernaut. To sustain and grow that audience, the network feeds it a regular diet of Obama administration smears, right-wing conspiracies, and culture war grievances.
Republican leaders become trapped in the conservative media bubble when they come to believe that the stories highlighted by those partisan outlets - geared to appeal to that nine percent of Republicans - actually constitutes the agenda that most Americans care about. This was a frequent problem for the Mitt Romney campaign and the GOP in general during the 2012 election, to the point that the Republican National Committee's election post-mortem warned that the party needed to stop "talking to itself." The party got itself into trouble again in recent weeks after following the right-wing media into a disastrous shutdown strategy.
Meanwhile, plans to stop climate change, reduce deficits, and reform immigration are stymied by the same phenomenon as Republican leaders warn of Fox News and the conservative media's ability to drive controversy among their audiences and kill legislation.
All for nine percent of Republicans.
The day after Congress finally signed off on legislation that would end a weeks-long government shutdown and prevent a debt ceiling crisis, Fox News sent a correspondent to the White House to shift the conversation to the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen devoted nearly ten minutes of the October 17 White House press briefing to questioning Press Secretary Jay Carney about the federal government's response to the Benghazi attacks.
As Mediaite's Tommy Christopher noted, at one point during the exchange Carney accused Rosen of "creating an exchange here for Fox." The network has been a central force in the right-wing media's effort to use phony conspiracy theories and blatant falsehoods about Benghazi to smear President Obama and members of his administration.
Rosen's line of questioning concerned questions raised by House Republicans at a week-old House Armed Services subcommittee hearing about a September 10, 2012, White House press office release detailing a meeting Obama had with key national security officials to ensure that steps were being taken to ensure the protection of U.S. personnel and assets on the September 11 anniversary. Rosen asked Carney "how closely vetted" the 13-month-old press release was and for more information about the meeting.
Later in the exchange, Rosen said that "the posturing of the military in a volatile time around the world" at the time of the Benghazi attacks "was so poor as to make rescue or remedy impossible." After Carney suggested that "the 'poor' statement is a reflection of an assessment made by Republicans who have, as you know, attempted, unfortunately, to make this a partisan issue," Rosen replied that "the fact that the posturing was such that it made remedy or rescue in that situation impossible is not a conclusion solely of the House Armed Services Committee or of Republicans, it is a self-evident fact."
Rosen's comments is consistent with the "cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces" that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ascribed to conservatives who claim that the Obama administration should have been able to send additional support to the aid of Americans in Benghazi. "The one thing our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way," Gates said in May, "and there just wasn't time."
Similarly, during a September hearing, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, a co-chairman of the State Department Accountability Review Board that examined the attack, explained that he had reviewed the force posture of the U.S. military and the "military did everything they possibly could that night. They just couldn't get there in time." Mullen's co-chair Ambassador Thomas Pickering added that America has "over 270 consulates and embassies around the world in some very isolated and strange places" and "we are not able to count on the U.S. military, as Admiral Mullen said, always being positioned to come in short notice to deal with those issues."
Rosen ended the exchange by asking whether the administration would "be willing to make any of those documents associated with that press release available, as you did with the Susan Rice talking points?" Carney replied "James, I think we're done here," and exited the briefing room.
Right-wing media that demanded the Republican Party shut down the government and put the debt ceiling at risk as a strategy to damage ObamaCare are already signaling that they blame members of Congress who were insufficiently supportive for the plan's failure.
That's consistent with the theory Media Matters laid out yesterday that the right-wing media has become convinced that conservatism cannot lose, and thus any evidence suggesting that a conservative strategy failed will be rejected on the grounds that either the strategy didn't really lose, or the real fault lies with its implementers who somehow betrayed the plan.
Last night, the House GOP failed to coalesce around a bill that would have funded the government, raised the debt ceiling, and implemented various conservative policies. Current reporting indicates that both Houses of Congress will now pass the Senate's bill, which will fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, but without the sort of Republican demands that have stalled those objectives for weeks.
Observers across the spectrum are calling this a crushing defeat for the Tea Party strategy that linked must-pass legislation to defunding or delaying ObamaCare, and it's easy to see why. For weeks it's been clear that because Republicans control only the House of Representatives, the only deal that could pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law by President Obama would be one that relied largely on Democratic votes in the House. House Speaker Boehner's attempt to pass a bill with only Republican support never had a chance, led to devastating poll numbers for his party, and in the end the GOP couldn't even find a set of demands that they all agreed with.
But among the members of the right-wing media who promoted this strategy, it's not the plan that was at fault, it's the failure of Republican leaders to stick it out. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson responded to the latest developments by blaming the House Republicans who "have signaled they are giving up" and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was "outsmarted" by Majority Leader Harry Reid (who also happens to control the majority of the Senate). His next step?
We only need a few good small businessmen and women to stand up and challenge these Republicans who are caving. If they refuse to fight for us, we must fight them. It is the only way we will finally be able to fight against Obamacare.
I am tired of funding Republicans who campaign against Obamacare then refuse to fight. It's time to find a new batch of Republicans to actually practice what the current crop preaches.
On the morning of October 14, after two weeks of the GOP's government shutdown had cratered the party's standing in the polls and with the debt ceiling looming, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson sent his daily email to subscribers. "Keep Fighting" was the message from the conservative media mogul, whose strategies are frequently adopted by his party's right wing.
Erickson's daily briefing urged readers to press Senate leaders not to accept a deal that didn't defund or delay Obamacare. He also demanded House leaders pass a debt limit increase while holding firm on refusing to pass a bill to fund the government unless it is tied to defunding health care reform. And crucially, he wrote that he had just donated to two conservative PACs "at the forefront of the fight" and to primary opponents of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and urged his readers to do the same.
The conservative wing of the party has been dictating its strategy since at least mid-August, when vocal minorities in both houses implored congressional leadership not to defund the health care law as the price for passing short-term government funding legislation. To outside observers, it seems clear that the strategy has been an abysmal failure. And yet, prominent right-wing media figures not only want to double down on that strategy, but punish members of the party who seem the least bit hesitant to pursue it.
How to explain these wildly disparate assessments? A large faction of the right-wing media -- Erickson, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Breitbart News, and a host of others -- has become trapped in the political embodiment of a variant of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.
Under that logical fallacy, adherents shift definitions and appeal to purity when confronted with evidence that disproves their beliefs rather than accepting reality. In this case, the right-wing media has become convinced that a central pillar of modern conservatism is that it cannot lose. Any evidence suggesting that a conservative strategy has failed is thus rejected on the grounds that either the strategy didn't really lose, or its implementers weren't true conservatives and thus betrayed the plan by failing to promote it with quite enough fervor. That mindset has locked the right-wing media and through it many activists and lawmakers into a seemingly endless pattern of crisis politics with potentially devastating consequences for the country.
NBC Sports will not be a sponsor of the nation's largest gun trade show next year, a spokesperson confirmed to Media Matters. The network had served for several years as a top sponsor of the event, which has billed itself as a show of industry strength against stronger gun laws.
"Our level of sponsorship has varied each year, and this January we will not be sponsoring the show because it does not make business sense for us at this time," said the NBC Sports spokesperson.
The Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show calls itself the "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and "the world's premier exposition of combined firearms." Manufacturers use the event to show off their latest products, typically including an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines.
According to its organizer, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the trade association for firearms manufacturers and dealers), the trade show is also "a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms."
In January, NBC Sports returned as the sponsor of the show's New Product Center, "the showcase for innovative, new equipment being introduced to the hunting, shooting, outdoors and law enforcement markets," using the event to promote their hunting programming. That sponsorship drew criticism since it came in the wake of NBC Sports host Bob Costas' on-air censure of the nation's "gun culture" and the December 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, CT.
While NBC Sports will not sponsor the event, their executives will be at the show conducting meetings and entertaining clients, according to the network's spokesperson, who stressed that the network is participating for the show's focus on hunting and outdoor sports, not firearms.
The statement comes just days after a controversy involving the network's firearms programming.