From the March 6 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the March 5 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) publicly admitted that his dogged investigation into the IRS may be at a "dead end" given a former IRS official's refusal to testify, but you won't hear that on Fox News.
The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee called on former IRS official Lois Lerner to testify on March 5 in yet another hearing on the IRS' inappropriate targeting of organizations seeking tax exempt status. For the second time, Lerner testified that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights and not answer the committee's questions.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Issa articulated that his investigation into the IRS could "dead end" given Lerner's refusal to testify. As Talking Points Memo reported:
Issa was asked how bad of a setback Wednesday's hearing was for the investigation.
"As you can see from our questioning today, we have continued to gather facts around Ms. Lerner's absence of testimony," Issa replied. "It would have allowed us to bring this investigation to a -- probably pretty quick close if she had been willing to answers those questions. Without it we will undoubtably [sic] have a few more questions to try to find out things that she could have answered quickly today."
A reporter than asked Issa if he was still "confident" the investigation would "get to the bottom of this."
"It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes -- she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."
Fox News was quick to hype Issa's hearing, but not nearly so quick to acknowledge the congressman's admission that his IRS investigation might be over.
Summarizing the House hearing that evening on Special Report, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel concluded, "At this point, Issa seems prepared to move forward with the IRS investigation without hearing from Lerner":
The right-wing's Benghazi scandal-mongering entered the realm of self-parody after Fox News let Sen. Lindsey Graham blame the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the Obama administration's handling of the 2012 attacks in Libya -- the latest attempt in a series of conservative alchemy experiments trying to turn tragedy into political gold.
On March 4, Sen. Graham (R-SC) tweeted that the crisis in Ukraine "started with Benghazi," blaming the Obama administration's response to the attacks for 'inviting' aggression from Russia.
Graham made the same accusation on March 3 during Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren. At Van Susteren's prompting, Graham claimed that the Russian aggression in Ukraine "in many ways started with Benghazi, when our consulate was overrun and our first ambassador was killed in thirty-something years in the line of duty ... You're sending absolutely the wrong signal to our foes."
VAN SUSTEREN: I can't tell whether you ripped the president more on foreign policy or the Washington Post Editorial Board when they described it fantasy. But you said that the president has a weak and indecisive policy that invites aggression.
GRAHAM: Right. This is a symptom of greater problem. It really, in many ways, started with Benghazi, when our consulate was overrun and our first ambassador was killed in thirty-something years in the line of duty. Three other brave Americans died and not one person has been held accountable. You're sending absolutely the wrong signal to our foes around the country.
The bizarre claim was swiftly ridiculed, but it didn't even seem to register with the Fox host. That's hardly surprising -- right-wing attempts to smear political opponents with Benghazi attacks have been disconnected from reality for some time.
Fox distorted a call from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) to limit the amount of secret money in campaigns to claim he was pushing for the IRS to target conservative organizations.
On the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts suggested that Democrats supported using the IRS to "shut your enemies down in the middle of a presidential campaign. During the segment, co-host Clayton Morris quoted Pryor, adding that the senator had said to "go after conservative groups":
MORRIS: Senator Mark Pryor, who has a tough battle ahead of reelection campaign in arkansas, wants more targeting of conservative groups, he told the hill newspaper, there are two things you don't want in political money in fundraising world and expenditure. No secret money and unlimited money and that's what we have now. So go after conservative groups. The IRS should be more belligerent in targeting them
Morris' characterization of Pryor's statement is misleading and dishonest. The quotation that Morris is distorting appeared in a February 13 article in The Hill, and mentions the role of money in politics but does not promote the targeting of any groups in any way whatsoever:
Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, said the IRS has jurisdiction over 501(c)(4) groups, as well as charities, which fall under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and sometimes engage in quasi-political activity.
"That whole 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) [issue], those are IRS numbers. It is inherently an internal revenue matter," he said. "There are two things you don't want in political money, in the fundraising world and expenditure world. You don't want secret money, and you don't want unlimited money, and that's what we have now."
In fact, the article goes on point out that, while some Democrats are pushing for regulations on money from outside groups influencing campaigns, they "are careful to say that the IRS should treat conservative and liberal groups equally."
Fox News continued to push the false narrative that the Obama administration politicized early intelligence assessments about the Benghazi attack by purporting to provide "new data points" which are contradicted by the findings of a bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January.
On February 13, Shannon Bream introduced a report from Fox national security correspondent Catherine Herridge by saying, "Tonight, two new data points in the Benghazi timeline [are] raising new questions about whether early intelligence was indeed politicized." Herridge began her report by claiming CIA leadership had been informed twice that the anti-Islam video "played no role" in the Benghazi attack, before former UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday news shows and provided information about the attack based on talking points that represented the best assessment of the intelligence community at the time.
But nowhere in the segment is there evidence that anyone was told that the anti-Islam video had no role in inspiring the Benghazi attack. Instead, Herridge presents evidence and quotes from Republican lawmakers that there was no demonstration that took place before the attack -- which is not the same thing.
The very Benghazi report Herridge cites in her appearance contradicts her claim that the video "played no role." The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's findings and recommendations in the report included the following:
Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video, suggesting that these and other terrorist groups could conduct similar terrorist attacks with little advance warning.
That finding from the Senate committee report lines up with the talking points drafted in the aftermath of the attack, which said that the attack was "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" -- protests that were a response to the anti-Islam video.
Considering that Fox's "new data points" do not actually provide any new information, the charges of intelligence politicization fall flat. The New York Times had a journalist who arrived at the Benghazi diplomatic facility as it was being attacked, and learned about the anger at the video from some of the attacks there.
The Benghazi report cited by Herridge also found that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to "cover-up" facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- a fact that she chose to left out.
Each year, Republican Senator Tom Coburn releases a "Wastebook" reviewing government projects that he views as wasteful, and each year, the media eagerly promote his report. Yet television news ignored a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that U.S. taxpayers are being stiffed by coal companies buying federal land for less than its worth, which a previous report estimated has cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion over the last 30 years.
On Tuesday, the GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management was not adequately documenting reasons for accepting bids below the determined market value. Furthermore, as many states are not considering exports in their market value analyses, they may be underestimating the value in the first place. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who requested the study, stated that "Given the lack of market competition in coal leases" -- the GAO found the vast majority did not have a single competitor, as seen in the chart below -- "if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people."
Based on the report, Sen. Markey's office estimated that recent leases could have yielded an additional $200 million in revenue and "possibly hundreds of millions more." A previous report from the Institute for Energy Economics estimated that selling federally-owned coal for less than fair market value has cost taxpayers $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. That finding adds to the economic damages that coal pollution and disasters exact on the economy. A 2011 study, for instance, found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants imposes more costs on society than the value added to the economy by the industry -- and that study did not include climate change damages. Recently, the spill of a chemical used to clean coal in West Virginia cost the local economy $61 million, according to a preliminary study that did not include the cost of clean-up or emergency expenditures.
Yet none of the major television networks covered the GAO report confirming that coal companies are underpaying the federal government*.
The "Wastebook" received considerably more attention when it was released in December 2013, drawing uncritical coverage from all the major television networks except MSNBC (ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News uncritically touted the report at least once, and NBC hosted Sen. Coburn where he raised the report without pushback). LiveScience reported that nearly a quarter of the projects Sen. Coburn's office listed in 2013 were science-related and that the "Wastebook" often distorts the studies. Last year, for instance, Fox News promoted the Wastebook's attack on a "government study" on Tea Party intelligence that was actually a non-government funded blog post. CNN's S.E. Cupp and others also attacked a study of duck penises included in the "Wastebook," contributing to the pattern of basic research being cut in the face of what MSNBC's Chris Hayes called "ignorant mockery."
From the February 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the January 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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This past weekend on Meet the Press, David Gregory offered up a tough question for Rudy Giuliani after the former New York City mayor tried to deflect attention from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's bridge scandal by pointing to the now-deflated allegations that the IRS had mishandled the non-profit applications of conservative groups. "I think it's fair to point out that for those who have raised that issue, what they said is the culture was created by President Obama for this kind of abuse to have occurred," said Gregory of the IRS story. "That link has never been proven or established. But if that's your standard, then isn't Governor Christie accountable for creating a culture where this kind of abuse could've occurred and been ordered by top lieutenants?"
As Gregory noted, conservatives spent months claiming that while no evidence links President Obama or the White House to improper IRS actions, the president was nonetheless culpable because the agency's bureaucrats agents were subconsciously responding to Obama's anti-Tea Party rhetoric by going after his political enemies. This "Bureaucrat Whispering" theory never made much sense, and was largely rendered moot after the IRS "scandal" largely fell apart.
As Gregory points out, intellectual honesty should lead the proponents of the IRS Bureaucrat Whispering theory to grapple with the possibility that Christie, whose pattern of bullying and abuse of power is well-known, created a culture in which his top aides and appointees felt comfortable creating a four-day traffic jam as a means of political retribution. But that hasn't happened.
In reality, responses to the Christie scandal from the advocates of the Bureaucrat Whispering theory include Fox News contributor Erick Erickson minimizing the bridge story as "routine hardball politics" and claiming that the "only difference is that Christie's staff put it in emails, which was not smart." Meanwhile, Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin has pretended Christie's bullying reputation is an invention of the media.
And then there's Kimberley Strassel.
The Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member wrote at least three separate columns last year explaining how the White House was "involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives" because President Obama's Tea Party criticisms created an "environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable." According to Strassel:
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he 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; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
After spending thousands of words discussing how President Obama's speeches trickled-down to IRS bureaucrats and impelled their actions, here's Strassel's sole mention at the Journal of Christie's aides ordering political retribution, from her January 16 column: "And now back to our previously scheduled outrage over the Chris Christie administration's abuse of traffic cones on the George Washington Bridge."
The comment came, of course, in the middle of a piece otherwise dedicated to trumping up a new IRS scandal.
Strassel addressed the Christie story in greater detail on the Journal's weekly Fox News program. But when Journal editorial editor Paul Gigot asked her on January 12 whether the story demonstrates "a culture of payback," in Christie's administration, she blamed the inherent corrupt political environment of the state, not the state's governor.
GIGOT: But, Kim, are there any lessons here we can take away about Gov. Christie's management style? Is there really possibly a culture of payback, a thin-skinned attitude on his staff? "You cross us, we're going to go after you"? And is that a message you want to take to a campaign in 2016?
STRASSEL: Look, New Jersey is a rough place to play politics. One of the things we haven't mentioned here is: Does it really surprise anybody that this happened in New Jersey? And, yes, there probably are members of his staff that come out of that New Jersey political environment and do have that approach. I think what voters, however, are going to look at is his argument that he is a straight shooter and he handles problems when they come up. And that's what he tried to do this week. And that's the message he'll take when he goes out.
Strassel isn't the only conservative running from the Bureaucrat Whispering charge now that it risks damaging one of their own. "That's a very, very ambiguous and amorphous charge that the culture created it. My goodness, you know, things go wrong in every administration," Giuliani explained on Meet The Press. "People would do things. They thought I wanted it. I didn't. I had to straighten it out. I'd have to say, 'I don't want it.'"
Right-wing media have hyped demands from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to illegally remove the Department of Justice attorney tapped to investigate the IRS targeting scandal because of her political contributions, despite the fact that the DOJ is prohibited by law from considering political affiliations or contributions in personnel decisions.
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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In its latest piece of shoddy journalism, CBS News' 60 Minutes is labeling cleantech a "dirty word" by ignoring the overall success rate of clean energy investments.
In October, 60 Minutes aired a report criticizing the response to the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which eventually had to be pulled as it relied on an untrustworthy "witness" who apparently fabricated his story. Two months later, the news program was widely criticized for a one-sided report on the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
In another one-sided report on Sunday, 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl concluded that "instead of breakthroughs, the [cleantech] sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops" after stimulus investments, including the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. However, 60 Minutes simply ignored the cleantech breakthroughs that did occur in order to advance this misleading narrative. Here are four facts CBS left out of the story:
1. The DOE Loan Program Has A 97% Success Rate. In July 2012, the former head of the loan guarantee program testified to Congress that funds that went to bankrupt companies represented less than 3 percent of the total Department of Energy portfolio. In other words, the program so far has a 97-percent success rate, far better than that of venture capitalists.
2. Solar And Wind Have Had Big Wins In Recent Years. 60 Minutes made passing mention of Tesla Motors' success after receiving a federal loan guarantee. However, it left out many other successes -- such as SolarCity -- in its myopic focus on Solyndra and other bankrupt companies. Robert Rapier, an energy expert who contributes to the Wall Street Journal and was interviewed for the special, stated on Twitter that he "gave successes they didn't air" and told 60 Minutes "the future is solar power." In 2012, renewable energy was the largest source of new electric capacity, led by wind power. These charts from the Department of Energy highlighted by Think Progress show that as the costs of solar and wind power have decreased, installations have jumped:
3. In Addition To These Strides, Cleantech Jobs Were Created. Stahl claimed that "Everything I've read there were not that many jobs created." However, she never mentioned any actual figures for viewers to assess. The loan program office estimates that its investments have created or saved approximately 55,000 direct jobs.
4. Climate Change Necessitates Cleantech Investments. As energy reporter Dana Hull pointed out, 60 Minutes did not even make a passing mention of climate change. Instead, the program touted the rise of natural gas saying that it was "relatively clean." However, experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Council on Foreign Relations have noted that without significant investment to scale up renewables, climate change will continue apace.
UPDATE (1/6/14): Energy expert Robert Rapier told Think Progress that the 60 Minutes report selectively aired his comments, leaving out his response to Stahl's first question that highlighted the successes of solar and wind power and emphasized that Stahl's question, "Clean tech is dead. What killed it?" was based on a false premise. From Rapier's interview with Think Progress:
The first question Lesley Stahl asked me - "Clean Tech is dead. What killed it?"
I immediately said, "Clean tech is not dead." There are many parts of clean tech that are doing very well - solar power is growing by leaps and bounds, prices are plummeting, wind power is growing exponentially.
On September 11, 2012, terrorists killed four Americans during attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Conservatives immediately sought to use those tragic killings for political benefit.
By January 1, with conservatives having failed to prevent President Obama's re-election, but succeeding in using the issue to torpedo Susan Rice's bid for Secretary of State, Media Matters had some reason to hope that this effort would subside.
We were wrong.
Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media doubled down, spending much of the year trying to turn Benghazi into Obama's Watergate (or Iran-Contra, or both) and try to end any potential presidential run by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before it can begin. And some mainstream outlets, more eager to win over a conservative audience than to check their facts, ran their own misleading, sketchily-sourced Benghazi exposés.
Much of the discussion has centered around two "unanswered questions" that in reality were answered long ago.
Right-wing media outlets (and mainstream outlets seeking to attract their audience) have been obsessed with asking why the Obama administration initially linked the attacks with an anti-Islam YouTube video that spurred violent protests across the Middle East in mid-September, even after it became clear that the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis had believed there was a connection between the two.
They've also taken every opportunity to question why help wasn't sent to aid U.S. diplomats in Benghazi. Reporters have continued asking this "lingering question" even as a long line of national security experts, from both inside and outside of the administration, have explained that while the Defense Department quickly deployed Special Forces teams to the region, due to logistical issues they were unable to reach the scene until long after the attacks had concluded.
To comprehensively debunk these claims and many more about the attacks, in October 2013 Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt released the ebook The Benghazi Hoax.
Here are seven of the worst media reports and conspiracies from the last year on the Benghazi hoax:
Fox News contributor Doug Schoen is the latest media figure to push the false allegation that Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State lacked accomplishments, ignoring her record of achievement.
Hoping to derail a potential Clinton presidential campaign, the GOP and its media allies have begun to attack her record. Some mainstream journalists have followed their example, producing the emerging narrative that Clinton lacked significant achievements at State. This new conventional wisdom is attractive to reporters because the old and accurate conventional wisdom that Clinton was an accomplished Secretary of State "makes for dull copy," as Slate's David Weigel explained.
Earlier this month, Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus detailed the research effort underway to aggressively define what Clinton's "done or hasn't done" in an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt. For his part, Hewitt has spent weeks quizzing political reporters on what Clinton did at State, trying to promote the canard that she was ineffective. Meanwhile, right-wing pundits have been depicting her record at State as an unalloyed detriment, citing a purported lack of successes on the one hand at the pseudoscandal of Benghazi on the other.
This conservative effort is shaping the reporting of more mainstream outlets. An agenda-setting December 8 piece in Politico Magazine drew heavily from dubious conservative sources to promote the storyline that Clinton had been an ineffective Secretary of State, while depicting sources who contradicted the storyline with facts about Clinton's record as engaged in a campaign of spin.
Schoen -- who was a strategist for Bill Clinton in the 1990s but in recent years has largely been known for attacking progressives and promoting corporate interests -- is the latest to push this false narrative. In a December 13 Wall Street Journal column he writes:
Another major obstacle is Mrs. Clinton's foreign-policy record: She can point to no significant accomplishments as secretary of state. Now that her successor, John Kerry, has forged an interim agreement with Iran, good or bad, to limit its nuclear program, questions will inevitably be asked about why Mrs. Clinton failed to achieve anything on that front--or to strike a similar bargain with North Korea or make any progress with the Palestinians and Israelis.
Mrs. Clinton also still faces serious questions about the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. During the 2008 primary campaign, Mrs. Clinton said she was the candidate best equipped to answer the 3 a.m. emergency phone call. Americans will want to know how she answered that call in Libya.
Schoen's reference to Benghazi points to the dishonesty of his argument. While conservatives have spent the last year exploiting the terrorist attacks to smear Clinton, no evidence has emerged to suggest that the Secretary of State was at fault. Contrary to Schoen's suggestion, Clinton has extensively detailed her activities on the night of the attack, including communications with the White House, Pentagon, CIA, Foreign Service officials in Libya, and the president of Libya's National Congress.
With Secretary John Kerry winning plaudits for his diplomacy with regard to Iran, his recent success has had the unfortunate side effect of making journalists and pundits like Schoen bury Clinton's own successes.