A recent Fox News poll of registered voters, which purports to illustrate that a majority of voters agree with the network's dark narrative on the Obama administration's response to the 2012 Benghazi attacks, relies on questions from a foundation of tired distortions and lies.
Fox News conducted a poll of 1,013 registered voters between May 18-20, attempting to discern respondents' opinions on a variety of questions related to the government's handling of the Benghazi attacks. FoxNews.com published the poll on May 21 with the title, "Fox News Poll: Obama could have done more to help those in Benghazi."
Fox's poll questions, however, are predicated on the same distortions and outright lies Fox has pushed for the last nine months, which casts a pall of doubt on the veracity of its results.
For example, see Question 14, to which 62 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative:
Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack?
The very premise of this question is bogus. Fox implies that perhaps Obama didn't do enough to help the Americans at the consulate, which flies in the face of explicit testimony from military and defense leaders regarding the White House's response. Testifying before Congress in February, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both testified that President Obama was fully engaged "pretty constantly" as the crisis unfolded, and that the response was appropriate and normal. What's more, as CNN reported on February 7:
Dempsey said he stood by the conclusion of an independent review board, which concluded the "interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference."
New York Times columnist Bill Keller joined Fox News' scandal machine in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the Obama administration's role surrounding the Internal Revenue Services' (IRS) improper scrutiny of conservative groups. In an opinion piece titled, "Bring Back Ken Starr," Keller ignored the independent investigations already underway as well as the fact that Starr's last round of investigations as special counsel set records for the cost to the American taxpayer and encouraged a hyper-partisan environment that can still be felt today.
After the Fox-led GOP investigation into the attacks in Benghazi collapsed, Fox News geared up its scandal machine to focus on President Obama and the IRS and promptly called for a special prosecutor. In a May 21 op-ed, New York Times columnist Bill Keller followed their lead. Keller even suggested former Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr, who used a real estate deal that emerged during President Clinton's first term as a platform to conduct ever-expanding investigations into the administration over the course of several years, for the role. In fact, Starr topped Keller's list of candidates:
Republicans are howling for President Obama to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups. The president should call their bluff.
The president should announce that he has told the Justice Department to appoint an independent investigator with bulldog instincts and bipartisan credibility. The list of candidates could start with Kenneth Starr, who chased down the scandals, real and imagined, of the Clinton presidency. It might include Patrick Fitzgerald, who was special counsel in the Valerie Plame affair, winning the conviction of Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and who has successfully prosecuted two corrupt governors of Illinois, one from each party.
Keller emphasized what he sees as the need for an independent special prosecutor to discover what laws may have been broken, stating, "Just to be clear, in case the Republicans have forgotten, that is the high bar a special prosecutor would be expected to get over." But he ignored the fact that the Treasury Department Inspector General, who reported on the scandal originally, is itself independent of the administration and that a criminal investigation has already begun in the wake of the IG's report.
His call for the appointment of Starr is especially concerning. According to Duquesne law professor Ken Gormley, who wrote the book on Whitewater, Starr led a team that "came together to produce a witch hunt." Gormley goes on to blame Starr's investigations for encouraging the country's current polarization. "This is the beginning of the sharp division of red and blue," he says. "It's a tragic story ... and it's essential that we do not let something like this happen again."
Keller also failed to mention that Starr managed to rack up a record bill for his efforts -- a cost of over $30 million.
Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones explained to his audience today how the government could have been behind the devastating May 20 tornado in Oklahoma.
On the May 21 edition of The Alex Jones Show, a caller asked Jones whether he was planning to cover how government technology may be behind a recent spate of sinkholes. After laying out how insurance companies use weather modification to avoid having to pay ski resorts for lack of snow, Jones said that "of course there's weather weapon stuff going on -- we had floods in Texas like fifteen years ago, killed thirty-something people in one night. Turned out it was the Air Force."
Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller's subject. While he explained that "natural tornadoes" do exist and that he's not sure if a government "weather weapon" was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government "can create and steer groups of tornadoes."
According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft "in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things." He added, "if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that's the thing, we don't know."
At least six Fox News contributors have reportedly signed on to an open letter opposing the comprehensive immigration reform legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Fox News, which has admitted it is the "voice of opposition" on certain issues, has long ignored and even fostered such unethical behavior from its personalities.
According to Yahoo! News, conservative radio hosts, along with tea party and other conservative groups, have signed a letter opposing the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, a proposal from a bipartisan group of senators to reform immigration law. Among the "National Conservative Leaders" who have reportedly signed the letter are six current Fox News contributors:
However, their affiliation with Fox News was not mentioned in the letter.
Radio hosts Mark Levin and Lars Larson, who also signed the letter, are regular Fox News guests as well. Daily Beast editor and CNN contributor David Frum also signed the letter.
The letter expresses "serious concerns" with the bill and urges Senators to vote against it:
We oppose this bill and urge you to vote against it when it comes to the Senate floor. No matter how well intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable. Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch.
Reforming our immigration system is an important priority. But S.744 is such a defective measure that it would do more harm than good. We urge you to vote against it and against any cloture vote to bring up the bill. Only then can a constructive, measured debate take place on how to improve America's immigration policy.
The letter also repeats some common myths about immigration, including the debunked notion that granting undocumented immigrants legal status "[h]urts American job-seekers, especially those with less education." The letter also compares the Senate immigration bill to the health care law, calling it "bloated and unwieldy."
Fox News has been criticized for unethical behavior in the past and for operating like a political organization. In fact, Crowley crossed the ethical line during the 2012 presidential election when she spoke at an anti-Obama rally sponsored by the Koch-funded conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity.
Fox News has long styled itself as an anti-immigrant network even as it purports to reach out to Latino viewers. Rush Limbaugh, for example, stated in January that it's "up to me and Fox News" to defeat immigration reform. As Yahoo! News noted however, Limbaugh was "notably absent" from the list of signatories.
The Wall Street Journal opinion page is turning into the go-to source for documenting President Obama's supernatural influence over the thoughts and actions of IRS employees. Reagan DOJ veterans David Rivkin and Lee Casey wrote a May 21 Journal op-ed arguing that fault for the IRS's inappropriate targeting of conservative non-profit applicants lies with the president. "The Obama administration made clear its deep dislike of Citizens United and of the various new conservative groups spawned by the 'tea party' movement," they wrote, and "the IRS has always been well-attuned to even subtle guidance from the White House." That argument was borrowed from Kimberley Strassel's May 17 Journal column: "All [Obama] needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds."
This notion of bureaucrat whispering is, in isolation, a pretty big stretch. But the tableau created by Rivkin and Casey, in which politically savvy IRS employees scrutinize the president's every syllable and gesture with decoder rings at the ready, is ludicrous given what we now know about the tax agency office in Cincinnati where groups had their non-profit applications scrutinized. According to the New York Times, it was an understaffed, chaotic mess that got into trouble because it lacked guidance:
Overseen by a revolving cast of midlevel managers, stalled by miscommunication with I.R.S. lawyers and executives in Washington and confused about the rules they were enforcing, the Cincinnati specialists flagged virtually every application with Tea Party in its name. But their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical.
Over three years, as the office struggled with a growing caseload of advocacy groups seeking tax exemptions, responsibility for the cases moved from one group of specialists to another, and the Determinations Unit, which handles all nonprofit applications, was reorganized. One batch of cases sat ignored for months. Few if any of the employees were experts on tax law, contributing to waves of questionnaires about groups' political activity and donors that top officials acknowledge were improper.
From the Times report, it seems like there's a lot to be said regarding the IRS's inefficiency and "dysfunction," to borrow from a former IRS employee quoted by the paper. But this notion that low-level bureaucrats are standing ready to receive secret political communiques from the president is an invention of conservative pundits looking to bridge the considerable distance between the fumbling IRS employees in Ohio and the Oval Office.
WND columnist Les Kinsolving equated homosexuality to bestiality, suggesting that people who engage in bestiality should receive the same legal protections afforded to gay people in same-sex relationships.
In a May 20 column titled "Why Not An Additional 'B' To LGBT?," Kinsolving suggested that people engaged in bestiality should be allowed to legally marry animals, equating homosexuality with bestiality and suggesting that animals are capable of consenting to sex with humans:
If lesbians, male homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals should have the right to marriage licenses - as a few states, including Maryland, now provide - why should the real animal lovers (whose orientation is bestiality) not be allowed to marry?
The argument that animals are incapable of making a choice is surely invalid in that some animals choose to run away when fondled by humans, while others do not - which certainly indicates their ability to choose.
Have there ever been any reports that apprehended practitioners of bestiality have as high a rate of AIDS and syphilis as do homosexuals?
WND's Kinsolving is a notorious homophobe. During the debate over Maryland's marriage equality law in 2012, he claimed that voters would repeal the measure because gay people are more likely to have syphilis.
As the Boy Scouts prepare to vote on whether to change the organization's ban on openly gay members, news outlets should resist the urge to let anti-gay activists frame the debate around concerns about pedophilia and sexual abuse.
On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will vote on a proposal that would rescind the organization's ban on openly gay scouts but maintain a ban on gay adults serving in leadership positions.
The "compromise" proposal is clearly meant to assuage right-wing fears that openly gay scout leaders might engage in pedophilia - a fear that was given plenty of airtime in February when the BSA first considered changing its policy:
But the compromise proposal hasn't silenced anti-gay groups like the American Family Association (AFA) and Family Research Council (FRC), which continue to warn that allowing gay people into the BSA would increase the risk of inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual abuse. OnMyHonor.net, one of the groups leading the effort against the compromise proposal, lists sexual abuse as one of its primary concerns about accepting gay scouts (emphasis in original):
Based upon personal and candid conversations with BSA officials at the highest levels, the BSA is fully aware that this proposed resolution will absolutely increase the risk of boy-on-boy sexual contact in Scouting... Enacting this resolution will result in more ugly litigation and will further the public scandal to the BSA, not to mention the tragedy of countless boys who will experience sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
The "gays are pedophiles" talking point, of course, has been widely debunked by child welfare experts and has no basis in reality. Even the BSA acknowledges that the threat of sexual abuse by gay members is a myth, stating:
[T]he BSA makes no connection between the sexual abuse or victimization of a child and homosexuality. The BSA takes strong exception to this assertion. Some of the nation's leading experts reinforce this position.
The BSA has stringent polices that protect the safety and privacy of youth and adult members and has always worked to ensure that it is a supportive and safe environment for young people.
But this consensus from child welfare experts apparently wasn't enough to stop mainstream media outlets from obsessively debating the homosexuality-pedophilia connection in February. On Fox News, for example, discussions of pedophilia tainted more than two-thirds of the network's coverage of the Boy Scouts' ban:
When the BSA votes on its compromise proposal, media outlets should refuse to allow anti-gay activists - many of whom have histories of extreme anti-gay commentary - to hijack their coverage in order to peddle damaging and discredited smears about gay people.
Extremist radio host Pete Santilli is defending and reiterating his inflammatory attacks on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stating on his program that he wants "to shoot her in the vagina and let her suffer right before my eyes."
In a May 17 rant captured by Right Wing Watch, Santilli called for the Bush family and President Obama to be shot and for Clinton to be "shot in the vagina." The Secret Service told TPM Media that they would investigate Santilli's comments in order to "determine what a person's intent is when making comments like this."
SANTILLI: You need to understand that what I said was very clear. I didn't want Hillary Clinton to die. I want her to suffer painfully, right in front of me, after she's convicted for committing crimes against humanity. Tried for crimes against humanity. For drug trafficking, for killing human beings, anybody that opposes that is an idiot.
Now, the penalty for which I would volunteer to shoot her right in the vajayjay. I want her to remain alive, I don't even want the death penalty for that. I think my penalty is more lenient than the penalty for treason.
Fox News continued to push for a special prosecutor following reports that the White House chief counsel knew of an IRS investigation but did not inform the president, a claim that ignores the legal and political problems raised by involving a president in an ongoing investigation.
On Fox News' Happening Now, contributor Nina Easton reported that White House chief counsel Kathryn Ruemmler knew about the investigation into claims that the IRS delayed approval of nonprofit status to conservative groups. After host Jon Scott asked why Ruemmler would know about the investigation and not inform Obama, Easton claimed a special prosecutor should be assigned to find out if the White House was being dishonest about when the president had been informed.
EASTON: I think this all feeds Senator Rob Portman's call this weekend for the need for a special counsel.
A special counsel could be bad news for the administration because whenever a special counsel gets into a situation, it becomes not only "who knew what when," but "are you providing a truthful rendering of events that have occurred?"
But Easton's call for a special prosecutor ignores the actual reason the president was not informed- to avoid the appearance of influencing an independent investigation. The Wall Street Journal quoted two former White House officials who pointed out that the White House counsel made the right decision to allow the investigation to conclude before informing the president:
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was notified in a March 2013 meeting with the Treasury inspector general for the IRS that an audit was "forthcoming," according to the Treasury Department. But at that meeting, the inspector general didn't provide details of his findings, the Treasury said.
Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel under former President Bill Clinton, said Ms. Ruemmler's office acted correctly in not sharing the information directly with the president.
If she had instead gotten "involved and called people over to the White House for a full briefing to know all the details, you know what we'd be talking about now? We'd be talking about whether she had tried to interfere with the IG's investigation," Mr. Quinn said.
John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under Mr. Clinton, said: "The worst thing is if you do anything that is perceived to be interfering with an independent investigation" especially if it isn't fully complete. "That gets you in such trouble your head spins."
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) prepares to release its annual report on the cost of regulations, the media should be aware of the organization's documented and vested interest in attacking government regulations, as well as the report's flawed methodology and biased analysis.
According to a May 20 Wall Street Journal editorial, CEI plans to release its report on federal regulations for 2012, the cost of which CEI Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews estimates exceeded $1.8 trillion.
Conservative media will undoubtedly use the CEI's most recent report to criticize government regulation at large, and particularly the regulations enacted by President Obama.
Here are a few reasons why media should be wary of touting the CEI report.