Fox News host Martha MacCallum falsely claimed that President Obama failed to reassure Americans to continue movie-going after Sony's film The Interview prompted terror threats. However, Obama had encouraged Americans to "go to the movies" hours earlier.
The Interview, a comedy that revolves around a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has been pulled from movie theaters and will not be released by Sony after terror threats were made against the theaters it was scheduled to be played in on Christmas Day. The threat referenced the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
On the December 17 edition of The Kelly File, MacCallum complained that the White House has been dead silent on the threats. MacCallum recalled that after 9/11, "the message was always 'Go on, live your life, do what you're going to do, go to the movies, go shopping'":
But hours before The Kelly File aired, Obama said these very words in an ABC News interview: "My recommendation would be that people go to the movies."
MUIR: Do you consider this a legitimate threat, and how concerned are you?
OBAMA: Well, the cyber attack is very serious. We're investigating it. We're taking it seriously. You know, we'll be vigilant. If we see something that we think is serious and credible, then we'll alert the public. But for now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.
Before The Kelly Show aired, CNN also reported on President Obama's advice:
The New York Times omitted key facts it had previously reported to dishonestly accuse Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration of selling political favors to an Ecuadorean family in exchange for campaign donations. Excised from the Times reporting is the fact that prominent Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, have the exact same relationship with the donors that the Times is now portraying as a problem for Democrats.
"Ecuador family wins favors after donations to Democrats," the Times headline claimed. The article detailed the decision to grant a travel visa to a "politically connected Ecuadorean woman," and argued that the decision to do so was connected to "tens of thousands of dollars" the family of the woman, Estefania Isaias, has given to Democratic campaigns.
According to the Times, "the case involving Estefania could prove awkward for Mrs. Clinton," based on the fact that she was Secretary of State when members of Congress were advocating for travel visa for the relative of two Florida residents seen as fugitives by the Ecuadorean government.
The Times fixated on political donations given by the Isaias family to Democrats as if it were news, but the Times already reported on the money the Isaias family has given to elected officials in a March 11, 2014, article. Moreover, that prior article noted that potential Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had also aided the Isaias' at the same time their political campaigns received donations linked to that family -- facts absent from the more recent piece.
In March, the Times made clear that the family gave significant campaign contributions to Florida Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who "acknowledged trying to help the family with immigration troubles." The Republicans sent letters -- in one case directly to Clinton herself -- inquiring into the immigration issues surrounding members of the family or advocating on their behalf.
"The family gave about $40,000 to Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, whose district members live in," the Times reported then. "Last month, she acknowledged to The Daily Beast that while she was chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee she sent four letters to top American officials, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, then secretary of state, advocating on behalf of three members of the Isaias family who had problems with their residencies. She called it 'standard practice' for constituents."
That detail has is absent from this week's Times article.
Here's the Times in March: "Mr. Rubio, whose political action committee received $2,000 from Luis Isaias, also made 'routine constituent inquiries' into immigration matters for two family members, his office said." In December, Rubio's advocacy vanished from the Times.
Additionally, while the article suggests in its opening paragraph that Estefania Isaias was given permission to enter the country in 2012 in direct response to the donations from her family, she reportedly received the same access on six prior occasions dating back to the first restrictions on her movement in 2007 under the Bush Administration. Indeed, the Times reported in the 23rd paragraph of its article that a spokesperson for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said the senator's office had gotten involved with the Isaias case because "because Ms. Isaías had previously been allowed to travel to the United States six times despite the ban, and the decision to suddenly enforce it seemed arbitrary and wrong."
Conservative media are exploiting the Times' shoddy reporting -- reporting that doesn't stand up to basic scrutiny in light of what the Times itself has previously reported.
"Clinton State Dept Pulled Strings for Menendez in Pay-to-Play Deal with Dem Donor," the Washington Free Beacon headline claimed. "Controversial Ecuadorian Family Donated About $100,000 to Obama ... and the State Department Returned the Favor," is the take over at The Blaze. The Daily Caller: "Sen Menendez Pushed Hillary Clinton To Grant Visa For Daughter Of Ecuadoran Bank Fugitive."
Taking The New York Times' lead, Rubio's and Ros-Lehtinen's advocacy on behalf of their donors is nowhere to be seen.
Fox News host Heather Nauert is calling a bizarre federal court opinion that found President Obama's executive action on immigration unconstitutional a "pretty simple" decision, despite the fact that even conservative legal experts have called it a stretch.
On the December 17 edition of Happening Now, Nauert turned to legal experts Robert Bianchi and Brian Claypool to discuss Judge Arthur Schwab's lower court ruling that, surprisingly, evaluated the constitutionality of the president's recent decision to exercise prosecutorial discretion and defer deportation for certain undocumented immigrants. Both Bianchi and Claypool explained that the judge's ruling had "no legal significance" and "doesn't make sense," but Nauert disagreed. Other conservative legal experts are also questioning how the judge came to this conclusion on an unrelated matter of civil immigration law, given the fact that neither party in this criminal case contested the constitutionality of Obama's executive order.
Although Nauert admitted that she is "not a lawyer," she nevertheless argued that the judge's decision "seems pretty simple":
But the ruling from Judge Schwab, who has seen his fair share of controversy with respect to his legal judgment since being appointed to the bench, wasn't quite as "simple" as Nauert insisted.
Legal experts across the political spectrum agree that the president has broad authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion when it comes to deportation proceedings, which the Supreme Court affirmed as recently as 2012. Despite right-wing media's unwillingness to accept the idea that Obama's order is lawful, immigration experts have noted that the president is not only acting "within the legal authority of the executive branch of the government of the United States" but is also authorized by federal statute to provide temporary administrative relief of this type, as presidents of both parties have done for decades.
Moreover, according to Jonathan Adler, a law professor and contributor for The Washington Post's libertarian Volokh Conspiracy blog, Judge Schwab overstepped his own authority in ruling on the constitutionality of Obama's executive order. As Adler explained, "it is quite unusual for a district court to reach this sort of constitutional issue in this sort of case":
Indeed, Judge Schwab appears to have reached out quite aggressively to engage the lawfulness of the President's actions. Based upon the procedural history recounted in the opinion, it appears the court requested briefing on the applicability of the new immigration policies on its own order. That is, the issue was not initially raised by the defendant in his own defense. As a result of the court's decision, however, the defendant now has the option of withdrawing his guilty plea and potentially seeking deferral of his deportation under the new policy.
On the merits, I understand the concerns that motivate Judge Schwab's reasoning, but I am not persuaded. First, it is important to note that the executive branch has exercised a substantial degree of discretion in implementing and enforcing immigration law for decades. Work permits have been issued in conjunction with deferred action for at least forty years. President Obama's actions are broader in scope, but not clearly different in kind from what his predecessors have done and to which Congress has acquiesced.
Adler's conservative colleagues at the Volokh Conspiracy agreed with this assessment, with law professors Ilya Somin and Orin Kerr calling it "poorly reasoned" with "serious flaws," and "exceedingly strange," respectively. Somin elaborated on how radical the opinion is, noting that "[i]f the Supreme Court were to adopt Judge Schwab's reasoning, federal law enforcement agencies would be barred from issuing general systematic guidelines about how their officials should exercise prosecutorial discretion. The exercise of discretion would then become arbitrary and capricious. Alternatively, perhaps they could still follow systematic policies, so long as those policies were not formally declared and announced to the public, as the president's order was. Neither possibility is particularly attractive, and neither is required by the Constitution."
On the other hand, Judge Schwab does have the support of Fox News host Sean Hannity, who crowed that the opinion "could've been written by me."
After relentlessly promoting several right-wing legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for over a year, The Wall Street Journal seems to have just now realized that the cases' potential to deny affordable health care coverage to millions of Americans is a catastrophe for the GOP -- even as it continues to downplay the human costs.
On November 7, the Supreme Court announced it would hear King v. Burwell, a lawsuit challenging the legality of the tax subsidies that the IRS provides to consumers who purchase health insurance over the federal exchange. The plaintiffs in King argue that, because one section of the ACA states that subsidies are available to consumers who enrolled "through an Exchange established by the State," the federal government isn't allowed to offer credits to people who live in states that refused to set up their own insurance exchanges.
This extremely literal reading of the ACA ignores other parts of the law that indicate the exact opposite and the overall context of the bill as well as the legislative history of its passage, but conservative media have nevertheless been boosters for the challenge. The Journal has been particularly supportive of King and related cases, suggesting that it "ought to be a straightforward matter of statutory construction" to rule in favor of the challengers. The Journal has rarely, if ever, acknowledged the human cost that would come with a Supreme Court decision striking down the availability of tax subsidies -- but in a recent editorial, the Journal seems to have discovered the devastating cost of its anti-ACA advocacy, at least for Republicans:
The time to define a strategy is soon, as King v. Burwell will be heard in March with a ruling likely in June. As a matter of ordinary statutory construction, the Court should find that when the law limited subsidies to insurance exchanges established by states, that does not include the 36 states where the feds run exchanges.
But in that event one result would be an immediate refugee crisis. Of the 5.4 million consumers on federal exchanges, some 87% drew subsidies in 2014, according to a Rand Corporation analysis.
In the GOP debate about how to respond, one side would prefer to wait for the judicial rapture to arrive. ObamaCare has never been popular, they argue, and if the subsidy foundation of the law is undermined, the rest will collapse of its own weight. And because ObamaCare's mandates and taxes are conditioned on the subsidies, more people will be helped than harmed if they are withdrawn.
This group is right about ObamaCare in the abstract, but the Treasury must comply with court orders 25 days after they're issued and such an abrupt policy shift will be a mess. The 17% of U.S. GDP that is health care has spent five years reorganizing to accommodate ObamaCare's dictates, and the watch-it-burn caucus is underestimating the economic, political and media blowback.
The White House could have avoided the problem by obeying its own law and not passing out illegal subsidies, but the public may not notice the difference once the press corps discovers a cancer patient or two who can't afford her ObamaCare plan without taxpayer support. This threatens to replay the "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" controversy in reverse, with Republicans accused of denying care to the sick.
The National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company hosted an attorney to attack as "frivolous" and "irresponsible" a lawsuit filed against NRA corporate donor Bushmaster for making the gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
On December 13, several Newtown families sued Bushmaster under a "negligent entrustment" theory for the gun manufacturer's role in putting an assault weapon into the hands of a gunman who killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. The lawsuit also named Bushmaster's parent company, Remington Arms Company, as well as the seller and the distributor of the gun.
Steve Halbrook, an attorney who writes about the Second Amendment and other gun issues, joined Cam & Company on December 16 to repeatedly suggest that the lawsuit was "frivolous," call for the complaint to be dismissed, and argue that Bushmaster may be entitled to compensation for attorney's fees. Halbrook is also the author of a book that advances the ahistorical claim that gun restrictions were responsible for Hitler's rise to power and served as counsel for the NRA in the landmark Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago.)
During his appearance, Halbrook said that the plaintiffs -- who are family members of teachers and children who were killed at Newtown, as well as one survivor of the attack -- and their lawyers were "extremely irresponsible" to file the lawsuit.
Fox News is moving the goalposts on how President Obama should respond to terrorist attacks, complaining that the White House's statement on a deadly attack on a Pakistani school did not mention "the Taliban." The network had previously attacked Obama for not using the words "terrorist" and "terrorism," two words that appear in the president's statement.
On the December 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, correspondent Ainsley Earhardt reported on the global reaction to a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan carried out by members of the terrorist group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Earhardt highlighted that the president's statement did not mention the Taliban:
EARHARDT: Brand new information about one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history: Pakistani Taliban insurgents storming an army school in Peshawar, killing more than 140 people, most of those young school children. Leaders across the globe condemning those brutal attacks, but the White House not mentioning the Taliban, at all. President Obama's statement reads this, quote "by targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once against shown their depravity."
Similarly, on-screen text during the December 17 edition of Fox & Friends First declared Obama's response was "Not A Full Statement" because the president did not mention the Taliban:
Just over .0001 percent.
In terms of annual spending by the federal government, which totaled $3.5 trillion in fiscal year 2014, the cost for implementing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act each year would have accounted for around .0001 of the U.S. budget. Over five years, the recently proposed veterans mental health bill would have cost $22 million, or $4.4 million each year.
Yet after passing the House on a simple voice vote, a truly remarkable accomplishment in today's historically gridlocked environment, the bill was blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). Claiming it duplicates already existing services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, that the bill "throws money and it doesn't solve the real problem," and its costs aren't offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, Coburn, a medical doctor himself, on Monday refused to allow the health care bill to be voted on.
And because the Senate session was quickly coming to a close, the bill's backers didn't have time to make a procedural end-run around Coburn. The senator retires this year and veterans' supporters say they'll start the process all over in the next Congress, and spend months trying to pass the bill that would increase the number of psychiatrists at VA hospitals, speed up access to mental health care to veterans, and expands peer support networks. (The Clay Hunt bill is named after a Marine veteran who committed suicide in 2011 after being diagnosed with PTSD.)
Veterans' advocates were stunned by the Republican's stalling maneuver. "It's a shame that after two decades of service in Washington, Sen. Coburn will always be remembered for this final, misguided attack on veterans nationwide," said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Even for a Congress defined by its dysfunction and the hardened, radical obstructionism that has permeated the session, Coburn's decision, at the eleventh hour, to single-handedly block the Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, represented a disturbing, and newsworthy low.
Keep in mind, in Coburn's home state of Oklahoma, "veterans and active-duty military personnel are killing themselves at twice the rate of civilians, despite increased efforts to address the problem," according to a 2013 report in Oklahoma Watch.
Obviously, the blocked bill wasn't a major one in terms of size and scope. (As Wonkette noted, $22 million would have covered the cost of the Iraq War at its height for just three-and-half hours.) Still, here was an effort to address dire mental health concerns for American veterans and to deal specifically with the growing concern of veteran suicide, yet the bill wasn't even allowed to come up for a final vote?
Also note that Coburn, so concerned about budget restraints, supported the Iraq War ("Going to Iraq was exactly the right thing"), despite the fact the languishing effort drained more than $2 trillion from U.S. Treasury coffers. But today, Coburn's drawing the budgetary line in the sand over suicide prevention for veterans and $4.4 million-per year costs associated with the new program?
That, by any definition, represents news. Except many journalists didn't see it that way. Instead, they have averted their gaze from the obstructionist train wreck. And yes, we've seen this act before where the Beltway press produced a collective shrug of the shoulders when members of the Republican Party engaged in extraordinary bouts of interference.
Radio host and Fox News personality Sean Hannity applauded and seemingly claimed credit for a federal judge's district court ruling in Pennsylvania that found President Obama's executive action deferring deportation for millions of undocumented family members of U.S. citizens or lawfully permanent residents to be unconstitutional.
The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog reported that Judge Arthur Schwab, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, "declared aspects of President Obama's executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional," in a first of its kind opinion that is already being criticized for reaching beyond its scope to decide a constitutional question not before it.
Upon hearing Schwab's opinion, Sean Hannity wasted no time claiming partial credit for the decision. On the December 16 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, he said of the ruling, "I gotta tell you something, it almost could've been written by me, because he makes the very arguments that I had been making the entire time."
Hannity's guest, Jamie Dupree, agreed that the ruling "echoes a lot of the arguments that Republicans have been making about these actions over the last few weeks."
In fact, the Republican arguments, promoted incessantly by figures like Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, have been rejected as baseless by most legal experts across the political spectrum and President Obama's recent actions have ample precedent in the past executive actions of former presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Two years after the fact, right-wing media are trying to flip the narrative that sunk their presidential aspirations in 2012 by charging that current personal wealth and the fees for paid speeches since leaving the State Department make former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "out of touch." Often aided by Beltway reporters who are fixated on Clinton's so-called "money problem," conservative pundits are trying to dispel any narrative that supports the majority of Americans's belief that the potential Democratic nominee for president can relate to and understands average citizens.
The facts show that Clinton's earnings on the speaking circuit are consistent with a number of men of similar prominence. According to one estimate, over 15 months from the end of her term as Secretary through May 2014, Clinton made $5 million dollars. In the 13 months before former Mayor Rudy Giuliani ran for president in 2007, he earned more than $11 million dollars, charging anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. According to a number of reports former Secretary of State Colin Powell has received between $100,000 and $200,000 per speech, earning an estimated $6.7 million in speaking fees in 2000 alone.
As the charges against Clinton illustrate, the GOP still doesn't understand why the "out of touch" label resonated with voters in 2012. It wasn't former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's wealth, or that he did well financially during his time at Bain Capital. Rather it was the GOP presidential nominee's comments writing off 47 percent of the American electorate, claiming they just wanted "free stuff," as well as his support for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as a job creation strategy while imposing steep spending cuts impacting everyone else.
In short, Romney really WAS out of touch. While the Clintons have done well financially since President Bill Clinton left office, Secretary Clinton has been consistent in her support for issues like increasing the minimum wage, paid family medical leave, and support for equal pay. She also has a long record advocating and supporting policies around the economic empowerment of women, the role they play in a nation's economy, and micro-lending, from her time as first lady of Arkansas to the White House to the State Department to the Clinton Foundation.
Enter former Florida governor Jeb Bush to the 2016 equation. Based on the conservative line of argument against Clinton, will the millions he's made on paid speeches since leaving office in 2007, or the $3.2 million in board fees and stock grants he's received from publicly traded companies, also label him "out of touch" in the eyes of conservative media? What about his million-dollar salary from Barclays or what the New York Times termed his "unapologetic determination to expand his wealth," including "telling friends that his finances had suffered during his time in government"?
Or, will conservative media hold Bush to the same standard they did for Romney in 2012, when they declared that neither his wealth, his offshore accounts, nor his record at Bain Capital were relevant issues in the election in evaluating Romney's candidacy? Back then such concerns were "an effort to distract" from real issues like jobs and the economy, as one Fox News anchor put it. Never mind that it was Romney himself who held out his Bain experience as evidence that he understood the economy and how things worked, yet didn't seem to have much regard for the impact of jobs lost when Bain shut down a company had on the personal economy of middle and low income people.
Even Romney now admits that his work at Bain Capital was a liability to his presidential aspirations, recently suggesting that because of his work in private equity Bush may also have a "Mitt Romney problem." Or as described by a recent Bloomberg Politics report, "As a budding private equity mogul, he's begun to resemble a Mini-Mitt."
The report examined a number of Bush's private sector enterprises, but it's the detail about the three funds he's launched through Britton Hill Holdings, which he co-founded in 2013, that could require some explaining. They include a $40 million fund focused on shale oil exploration and a $26 million fund called BH Logistics, which is backed in part by investors from China, where the Bush name carries significant clout. Bush was also recently named chairman and manager of an offshore private equity fund called BH Global Aviation. Incorporated in the United Kingdom, the firm is not subject to U.S. taxes or regulations and raised $61 million in September through unknown foreign investors.
Over the weekend Bush said that in an effort to promote transparency, he'd be releasing 250,000 emails from his time as governor of Florida and an e-book outlining his approach to governing. Those efforts will help frame his position on issues like education reform and immigration reform, which put him at odds with the Republican primary electorate and parts of the conservative press.
But given that its unlikely right-wing media will hold Governor Bush to the same standard as Secretary Clinton, will Bush also be transparent about the details of his time in the private sector? More broadly, will the media fully examine the "potential political problems" of Jeb Bush's "unapologetic" expansion of wealth?
Fox News used the Sydney, Australia hostage situation to question whether Australia's strict gun laws should be loosened, but offered no commentary on Pennsylvania's relatively looser gun laws in their reports the same day when a man went on a shooting rampage, killing six. Americans are murdered with guns at a rate more than ten times greater than Australians.
On December 15, Fox News heavily reported on a hostage situation in a Sydney, Australia chocolate shop. A man, who according to authorities had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," used a shotgun to hold café patrons hostage for 16 hours. After gunfire was heard police stormed the shop. The hostage-taker and two hostages were killed. One hostage was reportedly killed while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, while it is unclear if the other one was shot by the hostage taker or caught in the crossfire.
As Fox reported on developments out of Sydney, the conservative network also provided updates from Pennsylvania where Bradley William Stone allegedly went on a shooting rampage, killing his ex-wife and five of his former in-laws. One former in-law was wounded. Police are currently searching for Stone. (UPDATE: Stone has been found dead, reportedly of self-inflicted wounds.)
Tellingly, Fox News used the Sydney incident to raise questions about Australia's gun law system, while raising no such questions about looser gun laws in the United States during December 15 and December 16 mentions of the Pennsylvania spree killing on Fox programs Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, The Five, On the Record, America's News Headquarters, Special Report with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith Reporting, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, or America's Newsroom.