On Meet the Press, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that it is "patently false" that she or others in the Obama administration misled the American public about the Benghazi attack, a charge often made by conservative media.
During her appearance after the attack on Meet the Press on September 16, 2012, Rice presented "the best information we have at present," which she acknowledged could change as an FBI investigation gathered more facts. She said:
RICE: First of all, there's an FBI investigation, which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that's-- that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation.
Conservative media, especially Fox News, have smeared Susan Rice and the administration ever since, accusing administration officials of lying and deliberately misleading the American people by citing an anti-Islam video as a motivating factor behind the attack. As Rice said on Sunday, the charge that the Obama administration intentionally misled the public is "patently false" (emphasis added):
RICE: What I said to you that morning and what I did every day since, was to share the best information that we had at the time. The information I provided, which I explained to you was what we had at the moment, it could change, I commented that this was based on what we knew on that morning, was provided to me, and my colleagues, and indeed to Congress by the intelligence community. And that's been well-validated in many different ways since. And that information turned out in some respects not to be 100 percent correct. But the notion that somehow I, or anybody else in the administration, misled the American people is patently false, and I think that that's been amply demonstrated.
Rice is correct -- she has been validated. Soon after Fox and other conservative media began attacking her, Fox contributor Juan Williams criticized his own network and pointed out that Rice was truthfully offering the assessment of the intelligence community at the time. Even Fox News host Megyn Kelly finally acknowledged this fact, long after attacking Rice for what she said. And a bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January 2014 determined, regarding the talking points provided to Rice, that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes."
The Senate report and a long investigation by The New York Times also determined that an anti-Islam video did indeed play a role in the attack, despite Fox's claims to the contrary. A section of the Senate report stated that "[s]ome intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video." The Times had a report out in October 2012, citing some of the attackers themselves, that they were angry over the video. A six-part series by the Times in December 2013 included more detail about the attack, and stated that "it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam," and that there was "no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers."
Will the conservative media finally accept these facts, or will they continue pushing the Benghazi hoax?
Fox News continued to push the false narrative that the Obama administration politicized early intelligence assessments about the Benghazi attack by purporting to provide "new data points" which are contradicted by the findings of a bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January.
On February 13, Shannon Bream introduced a report from Fox national security correspondent Catherine Herridge by saying, "Tonight, two new data points in the Benghazi timeline [are] raising new questions about whether early intelligence was indeed politicized." Herridge began her report by claiming CIA leadership had been informed twice that the anti-Islam video "played no role" in the Benghazi attack, before former UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday news shows and provided information about the attack based on talking points that represented the best assessment of the intelligence community at the time.
But nowhere in the segment is there evidence that anyone was told that the anti-Islam video had no role in inspiring the Benghazi attack. Instead, Herridge presents evidence and quotes from Republican lawmakers that there was no demonstration that took place before the attack -- which is not the same thing.
The very Benghazi report Herridge cites in her appearance contradicts her claim that the video "played no role." The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's findings and recommendations in the report included the following:
Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video, suggesting that these and other terrorist groups could conduct similar terrorist attacks with little advance warning.
That finding from the Senate committee report lines up with the talking points drafted in the aftermath of the attack, which said that the attack was "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" -- protests that were a response to the anti-Islam video.
Considering that Fox's "new data points" do not actually provide any new information, the charges of intelligence politicization fall flat. The New York Times had a journalist who arrived at the Benghazi diplomatic facility as it was being attacked, and learned about the anger at the video from some of the attacks there.
The Benghazi report cited by Herridge also found that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to "cover-up" facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- a fact that she chose to left out.
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer misleadingly claimed that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is projecting that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won't reduce the uninsured population. In fact, the CBO's projections show that the ACA cuts the number of uninsured nearly in half by 2017.
On the February 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Krauthammer claimed that the new CBO projections from the report show that the law won't reduce the number of uninsured people:
KRAUTHAMMER: [Y]ou get this crazy paradox where the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that the number of uninsured Americans in 10 years will be 31 million. When Obama launched Obamacare in 2009, he explained the moral imperative was because there were 30 million uninsured Americans. So here we're going to go through a complete revolution of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the dislocation of doctors, hospitals, patients, and plans everywhere, including insurers, in order to achieve a result in a decade where we have essentially the same number of uninsured. So what was this all about?
But Krauthammer is wrong in claiming that the ACA will not change the number of uninsured Americans. There are different ways of counting the uninsured, and the president in 2009 was using a far more conservative number than the CBO uses in its report. As Jonathan Cohn explained in The New Republic when debunking a similar claim:
[C]onservatives would have you believe CBO thinks the new health law won't put a real dent in the number of uninsured. That's not at all what CBO said.
CBO actually starts with a much higher baseline for the number of uninsured -- 57 million non-elderly Americans -- because of the data it uses. (Estimates of the uninsured vary a lot depending on which survey you choose and how you define the term.) And the Affordable Care Act, according to CBO, will reduce that number significantly. Without the law, CBO says, the number of uninsured Americans would stay at roughly 57 million. But thanks to the various coverage expansions -- not just the creation of new private insurance marketplaces, but also the expansion of Medicaid and ability of young adults to stay on their parents' plans--the number of uninsured will decline markedly. By 2017, according to CBO, Obamacare will have reduced the number of Americans without insurance by nearly half -- or more, if you don't count undocumented workers.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is now demanding a new congressional hearing on the Benghazi attacks held to his personal specifications.
On the February 6 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly demanded that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) subpoena former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to ask him whether he told President Obama that the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack when he first informed him of the attack on September 11, 2012. O'Reilly's insistence that this question "is the crux of the matter" about Benghazi makes no sense, given that the president called Benghazi an "act of terror" several times in the days after the attack -- a fact that Fox News continues to ignore.
Fox News continued its habit of inventing Benghazi news hooks by selectively quoting from a Senate report on Benghazi that came out more than two weeks ago to bolster its false claims that the Obama administration changed talking points after the attack for political reasons.
On the February 3 edition of Special Report, Fox's chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge aired an investigation that revolved around a single sentence in the January 15 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review on the Benghazi attack. Introducing the segment by saying the report "sheds new light on the role of Michael Morell, the CIA's former deputy director, in the Benghazi talking points controversy." She continued:
HERRIDGE: The Senate report states that on September 15, one day before Susan Rice's controversial Sunday show appearances -- where she blamed a demonstration gone awry -- Morell and others at the CIA received a critical email that reported the attacks were, quote, "not/not an escalation of protests." It was from the CIA chief of station, who was on the ground in Libya.
Herridge went on to cite several intelligence experts to question why Morell didn't use that email to delete references to demonstrations from the talking points later used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice, when Morell made edits to the talking points that same day -- though Herridge admits that it's not known when Morell read the email from the Libya station chief. Later in the segment, Herridge used other news reports and interviews to tie Morell's edits to the talking points to a possible Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016, speculating that they were politically motivated.
Morell's changes to the talking points aren't news. The Washington Post reported in May 2013 that Morell edited the talking points as part of a standard process of inter-agency coordination and a determination that certain information needed to be excluded to protect ongoing terror investigations.
And Herridge's insinuation that this email from the CIA station chief in Libya should have kept any mention of demonstrations out of the talking points is undermined by the next sentence from the Senate report, which explained that it's not standard practice to base analysis on "e-mails and other informal communications": (emphasis added)
The IC also had information that there were no protests outside the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks, but did not incorporate that information into its widely circulated assessments in a timely manner. Contrary to many press reports at the time, eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicate that there were no protests at the start of the attacks. For example, on September 15, 2012,. the CIA's Chief of Station in Tripoli sent to the then-Deputy Director of the ClA and others at the CIA an email that reported the attacks were "not/not an escalation of protests." Yet, the CIA's January 4, 2013, Analytic Line Review downplays the importance of this email, noting, "... as a standard practice, we do not base analysis on e-mails and other informal communications from the field because such accounts often change when formalized as disseminated intelligence reports."
Fox News jumped on newly declassified transcripts from secret congressional hearings on the Benghazi attack, but ignored that the transcripts debunk some of the network's own favorite myths about the attack.
On January 13, the House Armed Services Committee released hundreds of pages of formerly classified transcripts of committee hearings on the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya. According to the press release, the hearings were conducted over a period of several months by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), then-chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Fox News' Special Report aired several segments on the declassified transcripts but hid the fact that many of the military officers and defense officials who testified during the hearings debunked myths that Fox itself had previously reported.
During the show, Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin explained that the testimony of General Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM at the time of the Benghazi attack, "debunks widespread speculation he was removed from overseeing the military operation because he wanted to do more militarily that night than he was allowed to by his superiors or the White House."
Griffin did not mention it, but that speculation appeared on Fox News.
Exactly one year after the attack, Sean Hannity hosted Charles Woods, father of one of the Americans killed in Benghazi. Woods explained that he wrote President Obama a letter asking the president to answer several questions, one of which concerned whether Ham was "relieved from duty for refusing to order the order from above not to rescue":
Broadcast evening news programs slanted coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by hyping negative aspects of the law's rollout while underplaying or not exploring positive changes to insurance coverage under the health care law, including the role that subsidies would play in making health care affordable. All three major broadcast networks aired more segments that took on a negative tone than a positive tone in October and November 2013, according to a Media Matters study.
A Fox News segment falsely labeled as a "bailout" a temporary system to pay health insurers money they are owed by the federal government to subsidize insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, even though the segment itself debunked the notion.
Despite the improvements that have been made to fix some of the numerous issues with HealthCare.gov, problems with parts of the website remain. Subsidies that help make the plans offered on the exchanges more affordable are paid directly from the government to insurers, but the online system that handles these payments is not ready. Bloomberg explained that a temporary system to make these payments to insurers has been set up:
The government's original plans called for the federal system to automatically determine consumer subsidies and issue payments to insurers. Instead, the companies will submit estimates that will be "trued up" by the government at a later date, according to a CMS memo provided to Bloomberg News. The work-around for insurers will be in place until the automatic payment system is ready, though CMS has no specific date for the fix, [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesperson Aaron] Albright said.
On December 4, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer said of the temporary payment system: "Some say it already looks like a bailout for the insurance companies. There's that B-word again." As he introduced The Washington Examiner's Byron York, Hemmer said "you could call it a bailout," which York agreed with.
But during the segment, York and co-host Martha MacCallum mentioned details that debunk Hemmer's claim that this is a bailout, noting that this is money the insurers will receive anyway and that the government and the insurers will later make sure the payments are accurate. Watch:
Daniel Durham, an executive at industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, explained to Reuters that "[o]nce the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to 'true up' payments." CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright told Bloomberg that this temporary process "is consistent with how payments have been made to issuers in the Medicare program."
No bailout involved.
Fox News highlighted a Republican senator's dismissal of a deal with Iran that stalls the country's nuclear enrichment capabilities to frame the agreement as nothing but a distraction from problems with the Affordable Care Act.
As The Washington Post reported, Iran and six major countries reached a "historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions." Conservative media have already compared the negotiations with Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the 1930s. Now, after Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted in reaction to the deal's announcement "[a]mazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care," Fox News is promoting Cornyn's take.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Childers said "the nuke deal has dominated political talk, which means focus has shifted away from Obamacare. This now sparking many to believe that it is yet another attempt to distract from the disastrous rollout and the looming deadline to get the site up and running at full speed." Reporter Peter Doocy highlighted Cornyn's tweet, saying he "looks at the whole announcement very suspiciously."
Later on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy also parroted the argument during an interview with White House deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken, saying that "some" were critical of the proposal and had suggested that the White House was "trying to change the subject," and shift the conversation away from health care. From Fox & Friends (emphasis added):
DOOCY: Right, Tony, some people are skeptical, a little critical. They're going, why now? Oh, maybe because so they're trying to change the subject, Obamacare not working out. President's approval at 38 percent. What do you say?
BLINKEN: Well, I don't do health care, but I think we can probably figure out a way to insure tens of millions of Americans and prevent Iran from getting the bomb at the same time. The fact of the matter is, this was growing urgent. Iran was advancing down all three lines of activity. We wanted to stop that. We wanted to stop the program, and we wanted to see if we could get a comprehensive deal that resolves this once and for all. That's exactly what we now have the opportunity to do.
Such a claim ignores the facts behind the deal. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Obama promised years ago to engage with Iran about its nuclear program, and months of meetings were conducted to pave the way for the deal, beginning in March -- well before HealthCare.gov launched on October 1. And the deal with Iran is not the first action by the administration or Congress that Fox has called a distraction from Obamacare.
Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report criticized CBS' 60 Minutes for its apology and correction over its Benghazi report featuring discredited source Dylan Davies that media observers and journalism experts have called "pathetically inadequate," "flimsy," and "way short of what was needed."
On November 8, 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan told viewers "we were wrong" to air the October 27 segment after Davies' credibility was destroyed following reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times that what he told 60 Minutes about his actions during the Benghazi attacks differed substantially from what he told his employer and the FBI. Logan promised that on November 10, 60 Minutes would "correct the record." That apology and correction came at the end of the program, lasted a mere 90 seconds, and contradicted a previous account Logan gave about Davies' story.
Jon Stewart blasted the 60 Minutes apology in a segment he called "meh culpa," saying Davies' account was "total bullsh*t. He made the whole thing up." Stewart then criticized the program for not checking out Davies' story prior to airing the segment:
Stephen Colbert highlighted Fox News' obsession with tying the Benghazi hoax to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and its promotion of the false 60 Minutes story. Colbert also aired his own segment satirizing CBS' production of the Benghazi report.
Media reporters and journalism professors have also criticized 60 Minutes' apology. New York Times reporters Bill Carter and Brian Stelter noted that "the apology was deemed inadequate by a wide range of commentators." Politico media reporter Dylan Byers wrote that the apology "offered little in the way of an explanation for the show's error." Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz tweeted that the apology "[l]eaves many questions unanswered." Michael Getler, former Washington Post and current PBS ombudsman explained in an email to Media Matters that "the apology fell way short of what was needed." He continued:
60 Minutes should have done a segment on what went wrong, not just a brief apology. 60 Minutes is the gold standard for credible investigative reporting on hot-button issues on network television, where precious little of that is done elsewhere. So it is important to journalism and to the public, not just to CBS, that it gets things right.