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.
After CBS retracted its flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi featuring discredited "eyewitness" Dylan Davies, Media Matters founder and chairman David Brock wrote to CBS and its affiliated publisher which published Davies' book, calling on them to investigate the vetting of Davies' story, halt production of his book, and reprint it as a work of fiction. Davies' book The Embassy House featured the same discredited story that caused CBS to retract its report.
CBS retracted its story Friday morning after The New York Times reported that the story Davies told 60 Minutes in its October 27 broadcast conflicted with the account he gave the FBI -- namely, his claim that he went to the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi while it was under attack, scaled a wall, and dispatched a terrorist with his rifle butt.
According to the Times, Davies told the FBI he didn't go to the diplomatic facility until the day after the attack. On November 8, 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager told The Daily Beast that "CBS news confirmed with our own sources at the FBI that the story he told the FBI was not in agreement with what we were told."
TPM published the letter from Brock, which is posted below:
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck misleadingly hyped a specific security concern with the HealthCare.gov website without mentioning that the problem has been fixed.
On November 7, Hasselbeck interviewed South Carolina resident Tom Dougall, who explained that he had entered personal information into HealthCare.gov only for it to erroneously be sent to someone else who logged into the website. Hasselbeck used this incident to scare people into thinking it could happen to them, asking Dougall if anyone should "be logging onto a site that puts them at risk for security fraud, identity fraud."
But the Fox News segment never brought up the fact that the particular software issue that lead to the leak of Dougall's information has been fixed. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Senate on November 5 that "she became aware of the mistake on Monday and told the committee a 'software fix' had remedied the problem." McClatchy DC further reported:
A top Obama administration official on Tuesday tried to assure anxious senators that Americans' personal information was secure on the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which erroneously provided a South Carolina man's personal information to a man in North Carolina last week.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the problem was caused by a piece of software code that needed to be fixed. She said the fix was made, tested and the system is working properly.
Bataille said it was the only such incident reported to HHS, but she would not speculate about whether other, similar incidents have occurred.
Many problems have been made apparent since HealthCare.gov launched. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on November 6, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the government is working on fixes for a "couple of hundred" problems with the website. The problem highlighted by Hasselbeck was a serious issue, and she should have mentioned that this particular software problem has been resolved.
Fox News has repeatedly defended the claims of an alleged Benghazi "witness" who appeared in a discredited CBS report about the 2012 attack -- even after he accused the network of lying about his request for money.
An October 27 60 Minutes report featured an interview with "Morgan Jones," a pseudonym for private security contractor Dylan Davies, who claimed to have scaled a wall of the Benghazi diplomatic compound while it was under attack and struck a terrorist with his rifle. This claim differed from the account Davies gave to his employer for an incident report, obtained by The Washington Post, which stated that he "could not get anywhere near" the compound that night. Davies later claimed in a November 2 interview with The Daily Beast that he had lied in the incident report.
Fox dismissed these inconsistencies in order to defend Davies as a "credible" source. On November 4, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that the incident report was leaked to "discredit a seemingly very credible witness about those attacks," and on November 5, Kilmeade asked Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to explain why it's significant that Davies was "outed in The Washington Post as he comes forward with a different version of the reality on the ground that night."
Not only did Fox continue promoting Davies' claims by glossing over the fact that he had lied, but the network has also ignored Davies' accusation that Fox News smeared him after reporter Adam Housley said on October 28 that Davies asked the network for money (emphasis added):
HOUSLEY: He reaffirms, really, what we've been reporting. In fact, Jenna, some of our reports for FoxNews.com last fall included this 60 Minutes' witness' account. He spoke to me on the phone a number of times and then we stopped speaking to him when he asked for money. But what he does do in his 60 Minutes appearance last night is once again kind of reaffirm the fact that this attack was vicious. That is was pre-planned. That they knew from the very beginnings of this attack this was not some random situation, this was a pre-planned attack.
In his Daily Beast interview, Davies denied the accusation that he asked Fox News for money:
Davies said he believed there was a coordinated campaign to smear him. This week, Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, sent a public letter to CBS News asking it to retract the 60 Minutes Benghazi piece on the basis of the Washington Post article. On the Fox News Channel, reporter Adam Housley claimed on air this week that Davies asked for money in exchange for an interview. Davies denied this charge. 60 Minutes has stood by its reporting.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Right-wing media are ignoring the dangers of underinsurance in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that new insurance plans offer at least a minimum level of coverage, including ten "essential health benefits."
Research has shown that medical costs contribute to a high percentage of bankruptcies filed in the U.S, and a 2007 study from Harvard University found that more than three-quarters of people with medical debt had health insurance. Beginning January 1, 2014, the ACA will begin to tamp down on the type of "swiss cheese" coverage that can leave consumers facing catastrophic health costs by requiring that all health plans on the new health care exchanges cover ten "essential health benefits" that will provide consumers with a basic level of coverage for things like hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, and preventative care.
Right-wing media are attacking this shift toward providing an improved health insurance product and insisting that insufficient insurance is not a problem. An October 30 Wall Street Journal editorial blasted the change as "command-and-control regulation" and said "Democrats are openly instructing adults that they don't know what's best for their own good." In his own October 30 column, the Journal's deputy editorial page editor, Daniel Henninger, wrote called the push for increased consumer protection "progressive coercion," emblematic of "politics by cramdown."
During the October 31 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business host Stuart Varney obscured the dangers of "cut-rate" insurance plans to characterize the administration's claim that the insufficient levels of coverage in some existing plans led insurers to tell policyholders that they had to change their coverage as "flat-out outrageous" -- even though a study published in Health Affairs found that, in 2010, more than half of Americans who purchased their own insurance had plans that fell short of ACA standards. Later in the show, Doocy and Fox Business host John Stossel bashed the health care law's requirements for new insurance policies:
DOOCY: Now we're going to have to buy insurance that is up to the government's standard even though maybe we would rather just save money.
STOSSEL: We chose those policies and yet the president says you didn't choose well, I need to choose for you.
These attacks all ignore the consequences of being underinsured, which carry many of the same risks as having no insurance at all. According to Kaiser Health News, some uninsured people "avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it," and noted that others "end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems." The April Commonwealth Fund study found that half of the underinsured "said they had not received needed care because of cost" and explained that 55 percent of underinsured Americans "reported medical bill problems are accrued medical debt" -- more than twice the rate of those with adequate insurance coverage.
Huffington Post health care reporter Jeffrey Young defined the underinsured as those with health insurance plans that "offered too little coverage and exposed them to high out-of-pocket costs." He highlighted an April study by the Commonwealth Fund that found 30 million people, or 16 percent of the U.S. population were underinsured in 2012. The study also found that lower-income Americans were underinsured at higher rates. The Commonwealth Fund study also stated that 85 percent of those who were underinsured could be eligible for coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion or qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance plans on the exchanges, which have a certain standard of coverage, and so "[m]ore people insured and better-quality coverage will likely lead to less medical cost-fueled debt and fewer cost-related access problems."
According to a September 2011 study by the Commonwealth Fund, once fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act could reduce the number of underinsured adults by 70 percent.