Fox News has hyped interviews from the investigation into the IRS' improper scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status that have been selectively released by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, while ignoring calls to make the full transcripts public.
Fox has highlighted and mischaracterized Issa's leaked interview with IRS agent Holly Paz even as calls grow from Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat on the Oversight Committee, for Issa to release the full transcripts of all the remaining IRS interviews. The Huffington Post noted that, because the interviews are being leaked slowly, "it's impossible to know if there is countervailing information in either the pages left out of the interviews not released or the interviews not released":
The one item made public by Cummings' office included a statement from a self-described IRS office manager saying that the White House had no involvement in the enhanced scrutiny.
The slow release has also opened Issa up to criticism that he's trying to prolong the political bleeding for the Obama administration rather than pursue a sound and comprehensive investigation.
In a statement to Politico, Cummings noted that Issa was only releasing "cherry-picked excerpts that show no White House involvement whatsoever in the identification and screening of these cases":
Cummings spent the past week battling committee Chairman Darrell Issa, accusing the California Republican of cherry picking bits and pieces of transcripts for release to support his argument.
Cummings is threatening to release the transcripts of other interviews conducted by the committee. He's especially eager to make public an interview with a self-identified conservative IRS manager in Cincinnati who said employees there began scrutinizing tea party tax-exempt applications.
Issa has warned Cummings that a broad release of interview transcripts has the potential to hobble the committee's probe, but Cummings contends that it's "more reckless to leak cherry-picked excerpts that omit key details and hide the full truth."
After Issa released the transcript of an interview with Paz, several Fox News programs seized on the story in order to push the unsubstantiated claim that the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups under direct orders from Washington, D.C. America Live host Megyn Kelly hosted Guy Benson, political editor of the conservative website Townhall.com, to claim that Paz's interview supported claims that the agents were "following directions from Washington, DC." Politico reported that the selectively leaked interview was also being used by Republicans on Issa's Oversight Committee to claim "that Washington orchestrated the conservative group targeting."
Fox has previously ignored Issa's admission that the interview transcripts were "not definitive" in showing that Washington, D.C. was involved in the targeting. Fox has also attempted to suggest that visits by former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman show the White House was involved in the targeting, despite extensive reporting showing that Shulman was largely attending meetings on health care reform implementation.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney baselessly suggested non-citizens will now be compelled to vote as the "end result" of the Supreme Court's decision that Arizona cannot trump federal election law and make it harder for its citizens to register to vote.
In its 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona's argument that its state registration law is immune to the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, an "open and shut" decision authored by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that was handed down only three months after oral arguments.
Varney, however, responded to the breaking news that the Court had struck down yet another unconstitutional Arizona law by claiming the decision would not only allow non-citizens to vote, they will now go forth and do so. His guest, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, while admitting Arizona has a terrible record at enacting constitutional legislation, added to the misinformation by incorrectly asserting "the states decide what the standards are for voting." From the June 17 edition of Varney & Company:
Fox News is dishonestly misinterpreting news reports to erroneously conclude that IRS officials in Washington, D.C., were involved in the improper scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Several Fox anchors have portrayed details of a congressional interview with Holly Paz, formerly a D.C.-based manager in the IRS tax-exempt unit, as contradicting previous claims from the Obama administration that IRS reviews of conservative tax-exempt applications were not initiated by D.C. officials.
For example, on America's Newsroom, Martha MacCallum said Paz "says that she was in on the plan to give extra scrutiny to conservative groups." On the same program, Stuart Varney said Paz's interview proved that the orders to scrutinize conservative groups "did go higher up the food chain."
Later in the show MacCallum said that there were "compelling reasons" to investigate whether the orders to investigate conservative groups came from the top.
Similarly, America Live host Megyn Kelly said Paz's interview "discredits" claims made by the Obama administration that they were not involved in targeting conservatives.
These claims are based on a misinterpretation of what the IRS did that was improper. In an interview with congressional investigators, transcript of which was released to several news outlets, Paz acknowledged having "reviewed 20 to 30 applications" from politically active groups seeking non-profit. But it was not improper for the IRS to review such applications -- the reason the IRS has been criticized is because they used politically slanted criteria to select conservative, but not progressive, groups to receive that scrutiny. Specifically, the IRS gave additional scrutiny to groups with "tea party," "patriot," and "9/12" in their names.
In her interview, Paz reportedly said she reviewed case files submitted by IRS officials in Cincinnati, Ohio, but that it was the local office that was responsible for selecting those cases for scrutiny. From USA Today:
Paz said liberal groups were mentioned by name, alongside the Tea Party, on an IRS BOLO -- or "be on the lookout" -- list. Screeners in Cincinnati, where all applications for tax-exemptions are processed, used the list to identify sensitive or complex cases that should be sent to specialists in Cincinnati and Washington.
Thus, by the time Paz reviewed the cases in D.C., the improper behavior had already occurred, consistent with the Obama administration claims that the improper behavior was the fault of officials in Cincinnati.
At various points throughout Breakthrough, the new memoir/manifesto by conservative "sting" video auteur James O'Keefe, the reader is informed that O'Keefe's mission is to "save democracy," "save the 2012 election," "revive investigative journalism," and, most ambitiously, "change the world." It's an outsized view of what one can accomplish with some silly costumes and cameras concealed in neckties. And by O'Keefe's account, he's been just about flawless in exposing the most sinister and corrupt establishments of the American political system.
Then there's the reality of what O'Keefe has actually accomplished. He has more than a few scalps -- an executive at NPR, the field director of Rep. Jim Moran's (D-VA) 2012 campaign, ACORN. He's been on TV quite a lot, he was honored by the House of Representatives, and New Hampshire passed a restrictive voter ID law as a consequence of his work. His penchant for trimming otherwise damning videos of exculpatory material has brought down scathing condemnations from journalists across the ideological spectrum.
Can any of this really be considered saving democracy? Did he save the 2012 election? Has he changed the world?
Unless, of course, you view the world as James O'Keefe does. In this terrifying alternate reality, ACORN "help[ed] bring the economy to its knees" in 2008 and was the "General Motors" of the "election fraud business." It's a world in which voter fraud is so rampant that Sen. Al Franken stole his 2008 election with the help of "more than a thousand ineligible felons" who "voted illegally." O'Keefe's existence is filled with "totalitarians" and "anti-journalists" who oppose him -- from President Obama to Media Matters to the administrative staff of Rutgers University -- and his only friend is the little voice that says: "All roads lead to truth. All roads lead to Breitbart. Go there."
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, with the help of guest Dick Cheney, peddled a number of long-debunked myths about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, including the false claims that President Obama and the Pentagon decided to abandon Americans during the attacks, that troops could have reached Libya in time, and that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice purposely deceived the American public about the attack.
During a June 16 Fox News Sunday interview with former Vice President Cheney, Wallace claimed that the president and the Pentagon decided not to send any assistance to the U.S. forces and citizens under attack in Benghazi:
Wallace's suggestion that the president and the Pentagon coordinated such a decision ignores known facts about the circumstances and deployment of forces that night.
During a February 7 Senate hearing, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified that President Obama had "directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." During the same hearing, Panetta later said, "[Obama] basically said, 'do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people" in Benghazi the night of the attacks. Following that conversation with the president, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to Libya and deployed another special operations team to the region. These forces arrived after the attacks were over.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also confirmed that military forces would not have arrived at the attack in time to prevent the casualties. During a May 12 appearance on Face The Nation, Gates said the idea that military forces could have responded in time required a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities."
Later in the segment, when the discussion turned to Susan Rice, President Obama's recently announced pick to become national security adviser, Cheney referenced several debunked claims about Rice's involvement in and the motivation behind the crafting of the Benghazi talking points, suggesting that she "peddled the party line" by knowingly deceiving the American public about the attack in order to help Obama win re-election. Cheney concluded:
I just question whether or not somebody whose judgment was so flawed that they took what was apparently very bad information and peddled it as aggressively as she did.
Cheney's statements ignore the role of the intelligence community in crafting the talking points as well as the hundreds of pages of emails revealing that information was removed from the talking points to protect multiple agencies' investigations, including the FBI and the CIA. Responding to initial emails among CIA officials on September 14, 2012, CIA General Counsel Stephen W. Preston urged caution to ensure that no investigation would be compromised:
Folks, I know there is a hurry to get this out, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing it conflicts with express instructions from NSS/DOJ/FBI that, in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this, etc. -- even internally, not to mention for public release. I am copying [CIA FO] who may be more familiar with those instructibns [sic] and the tasking arising from the HPSCI coffee.
Furthermore, then-Director of the CIA General David Petraeus has also testified before Congress that the talking points in question were changed in order to avoid tipping off those responsible for the attacks.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly defended Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) baseless declaration that 12 Communists served on the Harvard Law School faculty when he attended it in the early 1990s.
During a June 14 America Live segment about progressives criticizing Cruz, contributor Alan Colmes pointed out that Cruz had said he was "honored" to have been compared to notorious red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy after "he said that we have a list of Communists at Harvard." Kelly replied that Cruz had said he "believed that there were more Communists at Harvard - because he went to Harvard undergrad and Harvard Law School - thanthere were Republicans." After Colmes interjected that Cruz had said he had "a list of them, just like McCarthy," Kelly replied, "But do you have reason to believe that's not true?"
The red-baiting Kelly defended has been debunked by Charles Fried, who has been teaching at Harvard Law since 1961 and served as solicitor general during the Reagan administration.
In February, the New Yorker reported that during a 2010 speech, Cruz said President Obama "would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School," explaining (emphasis added):
"There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government."
New Yorker reported that Fried criticized Cruz's comments, saying that his "willingness to label the faculty Communist 'lacks nuance.'" Fried said he doubted that any members of the faculty were Communists at the time Cruz attended the school, and that several members were Republicans:
Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who served as Ronald Reagan's Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, and who subsequently taught Cruz at the law school, suggests that his former student has his facts wrong. "I can right offhand count four "out" Republicans (including myself) and I don't know how many closeted Republicans when Ted, who was my student and the editor on the Harvard Law Review who helped me with my Supreme Court foreword, was a student here."
Fried went on to say that unlike Cruz, or McCarthy, who infamously kept tallies of alleged subversives, he had never tried to count Communists. "I have not taken a poll, but I would be surprised if there were any members of the faculty who 'believed in the Communists overthrowing the U.S. government,'" he said. Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government.
Fried acknowledged that "there were a certain number (twelve seems to me too high) who were quite radical, but I doubt if any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called 'the Communists,' who at that time (unlike the thirties and forties) were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals." He pointed out that by the nineteen-nineties, Communist states were widely regarded as tyrannical. From Fried's perspective, the radicals on the faculty were "a pain in the neck." But he says that Cruz's assertion that they were Communists "misunderstands what they were about."
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama over the cost of his upcoming diplomatic trip to Africa, ignoring or dismissing the fact that the security measures that have driven the trip's budget are in line with those used by previous presidents on similar trips.
On June 13, The Washington Post reported on an internal document that detailed some of the security precautions being taken during President Obama's scheduled trip to Africa later this month, which will include the first lady, and will seek to forge stronger economic ties with African nations and address global health problems. According to the document, hundreds of Secret Service agents will be dispatched where the president and his family will be, a naval ship will be standing by for medical emergencies, and fighter aircraft will fly in 24-hours security shifts. The document "does not specify costs" for the trip, but the Post cited speculation from a source familiar with the trip that it "could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years."
The Post also stated that "the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past" and quoted Ben Rhodes, an Obama adviser on national security, who said that the security requirements "are Secret Service-driven." The story also mentioned that a safari was being considered during the trip but was canceled, and that previous presidents had made similar trips, with President Bush bringing his daughters along on one that included a safari:
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush's two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
But in their eagerness to criticize President Obama over the cost of the trip, right-wing media ignored or dismissed these facts. The Drudge Report only highlighted the speculation that the trip could cost $100 million and that the safari was canceled. A blog post from The Weekly Standard drew attention to the canceled safari without mentioning the African safari that Bush and his family went on.
Mark Levin, on the other hand, decided that these precedents were irrelevant when he attacked Obama on his radio show. Levin said that he'd "never seen a presidential family take so many trips" and that Obama "doesn't deny himself or his family a damn thing." Levin stated that Obama is "on welfare, presidential welfare" and that "Obama believes that this is his time to live like a king" and that "his wife is the imperial first lady." He concluded by dismissing the fact that previous presidents have made similar trips by claiming "this president's propaganda is different from other presidents, this president's Marxist class warfare is different than other presidents."
Fox Nation highlighted Levin's attack on Obama with the headline, "Levin slams Obama's $100 million Africa trip: He lives like a billionaire off you and me!"
Six months after the tragic Newtown school shooting, Fox & Friends highlighted a gun manufacturer's high profits but failed to recognize victims of gun violence in Newtown or elsewhere in the country.
On December 14, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, left 26 people dead, including 20 children, and helped to spark a national debate about preventing gun violence and stronger gun laws. Six months later, gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson reported record earnings, which CNN Money attributed to a "spike in demand from consumers fearing that the national debate over gun control would yield new regulations limiting their ability to buy certain firearms."
But Fox & Friends ignored the Newtown victims exactly six months after the school shooting, instead highlighting how gun sales have soared in response to congressional debate over tougher gun laws. In Fox & Friends' "News by the Numbers" feature, co-host Brian Kilmeade said:
KILMEADE: First, 10 percent. That's how much stock for Smith & Wesson is up since the start of the year. The company helped by strong demand and fears of increased gun regulations.
In contrast to how Fox & Friends handled the report, CNN's Starting Point similarly mentioned the gun industry's "record" sales in recent months, but also took time to recognize the victims of the Newtown shooting. CNN host Christine Romans noted that the trend of increasing gun sales "accelerated after the Newtown shootings, which happened six months ago today."
The Fox News show America's Newsroom, which follows Fox & Friends, aired part of a Newtown moment of silence in remembrance of the shooting victims.
Avril Haines' extraordinary professional rise hit a new plateau this week when President Obama appointed the 43-year-old White House national security attorney to become the CIA's deputy director, replacing longtime career officer Michael Morell.
Haines' CIA promotion came just two months after Obama had nominated her to take over as legal counsel for the State Department. Haines will become the highest-ranking woman ever at the CIA, just as she would have become the first female legal counsel a the State Department, if Obama hadn't changed his mind about her promotion. Haines' appointment comes in the wake of last week's news that Susan Rice had been appointed Obama's new national security advisor, and that Samantha Power would replace Rice as the United States' Ambassador to the United Nations.
Yet as women continue to rise in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill, some in the press still apply a shockingly different standard when covering accomplished women in Washington, D.C.
The day after the White House made the Haines appointment, the Daily Beast published a strange article revealing how the CIA's new number two, when she was 25-years-old, used to host erotic readings at the Baltimore book store and restaurant she co-owned. (Salon accused the Daily Beast of "slut-sham[ing]" Haines.)
Thursday marked the first time the site had ever written about the national security star of the Obama administration, according to Daily Beast's archives. And in its first time writing about Haines, the Daily Beast focused on detailing her erotica readings from 20 years ago. And in an effort to juice up the article, the Daily Beast cherry picked explicit passages of erotica and suggested Haines may have read two them decades ago - "aloud" and in public! (i.e. "He mounted her, parting her legs, giving the white inner flesh of her thighs a soft deep pinch.")
Also included in the profile was a mention that Haines' father is very wealthy, and that when she was younger living in Baltimore, and when not reading erotica, Haines often rehabbed her apartment in "jeans or a pair of shorts."
This is all very weird.
I don't even have to point that if a male attorney had quickly ascended to become the CIA's second-in-command at the age of 43, no news outlets would be reporting on the sex-filled books he read during his post-college years (what's wrong, or newsworthy about erotica?), or the type of shorts he wore when he was in his twenties. Or for that mater, would they likely mention his rich daddy.
The Daily Beast misfire came just weeks after The Washington Post published an item detailing the "fabulous shoes" White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler wears to work. (One pair "has a jeweled paisley pattern.")
And earlier this month, the New York Times explored the pressing issues of what kind of handbags are most popular on Capitol Hill:
The Congress of yore might conjure images of spittoons and old male politicians with briefcases, but the 113th has ushered in a historic number of women -- 20 in the Senate, and 81 in the House -- and with them a historic number of handbags.
Handbags? High heels? Erotica? These are the windows through which we should view powerful female players in Washington, D.C.? Shouldn't we be past these shallow forms of gender identification?