Fox News distorted the testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder to claim that he committed perjury before the House Judiciary Committee last week.
It was recently revealed that the Justice Department obtained a search warrant for the communications records of Fox News reporter James Rosen in an effort to track down a leaker who provided him with classified information on North Korea in 2009. On May 15, during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Holder about the warrant and the potential for prosecuting journalists accused of publishing classified information that they obtained from government sources. Holder responded (emphasis added):
With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something that I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.
On May 24, the Justice Department released a statement clarifying Holder's involvement in the approval process for the warrants in question (emphasis added):
"The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General. After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant."
Fox News' Special Report on May 24 argued that these statements were inconsistent and concluded that the Attorney General had previously lied to the Judiciary Committee and thus had committed perjury. Host Shannon Bream began the show stating, "It's his story, but he's not sticking to it," claiming that Holder has "chang[ed] his tune" on his involvement in the scrutiny of journalists. Contributor Steve Hayes claimed that Holder's two statements were "incongruent" and Charles Krauthammer speculated that it may be "a case of perjury."
In fact, the statements are not "incongruent" whatsoever. Holder's comments to the Judiciary referred to the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information, but that is not the crime the Justice Department's warrant accused Rosen of committing. DOJ investigators were concerned with Rosen's solicitation of classified information, not any subsequent publication of it. Wired explained (emphasis added):
According to the affidavit (.pdf), FBI Agent Reginald Reyes told the judge there was probable cause to believe that Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by serving "as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" in the leak. The Espionage Act is the same law that former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused of violating when he leaked information to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.
To support his assertion, Reyes quoted an email exchange between Kim and Rosen, in which Rosen told him that he was interested in "breaking news ahead of my competitors" and had a particular interest in "what intelligence is picking up." He also told Kim, "I'd love to see some internal State Department analyses."
The suggestion was that Rosen broke the law by soliciting information from Kim, something that all journalists do routinely with sources.
Nonetheless, the federal judge found there was probable cause to believe that Rosen was a co-conspirator and approved the warrant.
In other words, Holder's on-the-record denial of involvement in any prosecution of news organizations for publishing classified information in no way conflicts with any knowledge he may have possessed or action the DOJ may have taken against reporters for soliciting said information. Fox's perjury accusations simply don't align with the facts.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Amid reports that former State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was nominated by President Obama to a higher post, Fox News immediately engaged its smear machine to launch a false attack on her, claiming she had misled Congress and the American people about terrorist groups possibly involved in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
Politico reported on May 23 that Nuland, who had been "involved in the editing of the administration's talking points on Benghazi," was nominated by Obama to be the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Politico also reported the nomination "could come under scrutiny from Republicans" for her input on the administration's unclassified talking points on the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Fox News jumped on the news to smear Nuland and continue its long-running attempt to promote Benghazi as a devastating scandal. On May 24, Fox's early morning show Fox & Friends First said that Nuland is "accused" by unnamed people of "misleading Congress and Americans." Co-host Patti Ann Browne continued:
BROWNE: The State Department spokesperson who played a key role in editing the talking points on the Benghazi terror attack is getting a promotion. President Obama has nominated Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. She's accused of misleading Congress and Americans by downplaying the role terrorists played in that attack. This comes as the investigation deepens; several lawmakers are pushing to interview 13 top State Department officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that Nuland was "being promoted for politics," and asked, "where's the accountability?" The following graphic aired during the segment:
But recently released administration emails which document the process of drafting the Benghazi talking points show that it's Fox News that is being misleading.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Bill O'Reilly ignored reality and claimed that "President Obama is not holding anyone accountable" for the actions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after an Inspector General report found the agency gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups' tax status applications. O'Reilly failed to mention the fact that the Obama administration has fired Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS, placed Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the IRS, on administrative leave, and that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a criminal investigation into the case.
On the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told guest Ben Stein, "I think to be fair on this we have to say a few things definitely. That President Obama is not holding anyone accountable. That's absolutely true." O'Reilly then claimed that the president should "be scolded for that," and that Lerner should have been suspended immediately.
But President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew forced Miller out as a "first step," with President Obama promising to "do everything in my power" to stop future targeting. On May 23, the acting IRS commissioner placed Lois Lerner on administrative leave after she refused his request that she resign. And Attorney General Eric Holder announced on May 14 that the Justice Department would work with the FBI to see if any laws were broken in relation to the IRS case.
Fox News' scandal machine, eager for a new target after the collapse of its Benghazi investigations, has been whitewashing Mr. Obama's response from the start. Some in the right wing media are even using the opportunity to call for a special prosecutor.
The news that electric carmaker Tesla Motors has repaid its federal loan early is being ignored by some of the same outlets that tried to make the bankrupt solar company Solyndra the face of the Obama administration's green initiatives -- including ABC, which suggested Tesla wouldn't be able to repay its loan.
On Wednesday, Tesla announced that it was paying back its $465 million Department of Energy loan with interest. The move came about nine years ahead of schedule and is expected to net taxpayers somewhere in the range of $15 to $26 million. Once derided as a "loser" by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a "failure" by Fox News, Tesla is now profitable and critically-acclaimed.
Yet many in the media have ignored Tesla's loan repayment, which flies in the face of the media narrative that Solyndra was representative of the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC and NBC have so far failed to cover Tesla's loan repayment (CBS gave a news brief on its morning news show). An analysis by Media Matters showed that those same outlets (excluding CBS) devoted 188 segments totaling over 10 hours to Solyndra in the month after the company suspended operations, as seen in these charts comparing coverage to that surrounding a government corruption case at the Minerals Management Service and a report on military contracting waste and fraud:
The bout of positive news surrounding Tesla follows several skeptical media reports about its fortunes. In 2011, ABC suggested that "Tesla's business plan doesn't work" and thus it wouldn't repay its loan:
Since that segment, a Nexis search shows that neither Nightline nor any other primetime ABC News show has followed up with a report on the company's fortunes.
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.
From the May 21 edition of Current TV's Viewpoint:
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From the May 20 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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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 distorted remarks from White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer to falsely claim the Obama administration felt recent controversies involving the IRS and the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were "irrelevant." Pfeiffer's full comments made clear, however, that the administration felt the IRS targeting particular groups was "inexcusable" and that the President was fully engaged during the Benghazi attacks.
On May 19, Pfeiffer appeared on five Sunday talk shows to discuss evidence that the IRS unduly scrutinized conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Fox & Friends aired a short portion of Pfeiffer's remarks from his appearance on ABC News' This Week out of context to claim Pfeiffer had dismissed the scandal, with Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. claiming that Pfeiffer said, "[i]t's not relevant that the IRS is looking at people's tea party affiliations and violating their First Amendment rights." On-screen text claimed Pfeiffer defended "scandals as 'irrelevant'":
However, Pfeiffer's full remarks reveal that he said the IRS targeting certain groups was "outrageous and inexcusable" whether it was legal or illegal, and that the administration was committed to ensuring such targeting does not happen again regardless of the Department of Justice's final assessment of legality. From ABC's This Week (portion aired on Fox News highlighted in bold):
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does the president believe? Does the president believe that would be illegal?
PFEIFFER: I can't speak the law -- the law here, but the law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and needs to be -- we need it to be fixed, so we can ensure it never happens again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?
PFEIFFER: What -- what I mean is that whether it's legal, or illegal is -- is not important to the fact that it -- that, the conduct as a matter. The Department of Justice said they're looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again regardless of how that turns out.
Pfeiffer's condemnation of the IRS reflected President Obama's statement released on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable," and Obama's firing of Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions.
Fox News baselessly accused former U.N. Ambassador and potential National Security Adviser Susan Rice of willfully lying about the Benghazi attacks during her September 2012 Sunday news show appearances, despite it being widely reported that Rice used talking points approved by the intelligence community.
In fall 2012, Fox News claimed that Rice lied in her appearances on Sunday news shows because she asserted that the September attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya was related to an anti-Islam video released days before the attacks. Her assertion was based on talking points prepared after the attack by the intelligence community, who at the time believed the Benghazi attacks were inspired by protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo which were linked to the video. Fox News ignored that evidence to smear Rice and claim that her Sunday show appearances disqualified her from being Obama's Secretary of State nominee -- a nomination that Obama had reportedly considered prior to now-Secretary of State John Kerry's nomination and successful confirmation.
Fox News has revived these attacks following a May 15 Foreign Policy The Cable blog post that reported Susan Rice "has become heir apparent to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon":
"It's definitely happening," a source who recently spoke with Rice told The Cable. "She is sure she is coming and so too her husband and closest friends."
"Susan is a very likely candidate to replace him whenever he would choose to leave," agreed Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Obama and counselor at the Washington Institute. "She is close to the president, has the credentials, and has a breadth of experience."
On the May 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade once again attacked Rice over her Sunday show appearances. Kilmeade claimed that none of the recently released emails that document the creation of Rice's Sunday show talking points mentioned that an anti-Islam video may have catalyzed the attack, and that therefore Rice made purposefully misleading claims. He also suggested that then-CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus questioned the veracity of the talking points based on changes made following "the State Department's urgings":
KILMEADE: Yeah the CIA signed off on them, Mike Morell, but you know what? The CIA's director at the time, David Petraeus, essentially said this after he got these back and seen how they changed with the State Department's urgings and possibly the White House's input. He said, why even bother? Should we even bother releasing this? That's how different they were from the facts as they knew them.
An on-screen graphic also claimed that Rice used "false talking points":
In fact, every version of the CIA talking points, including the version ultimately used by Rice, stated that the attacks were "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo," which had been triggered by the video. Indeed, the email that Kilmeade referenced reveals Petraeus had reservations about the talking points because he thought they didn't do enough to connect the Benghazi attacks to the demonstrations in Cairo and the anti-Islam video. Petraeus ultimately testified before Congress in November 2012 that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points.
Sunday talk shows on NBC, CBS, and ABC compared reports that the Internal Review Service (IRS) applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups to President Nixon's Watergate scandal, a comparison which people who worked on both sides of the Watergate scandal agree is baseless.
Fox News Sunday selected Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, attorneys who represented witnesses at a Republican-led hearing on the attacks at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, for its "power players of the week," an unfortunate choice given that both individuals misled Fox News and its viewers about allegations of threats and intimidation against their clients and about efforts by the administration to prevent their clients from testifying.
Though Fox News Sunday aired certain aspects of Toensing and diGenova's biographies, the segment neglected to mention that the two have a history of poor professional conduct, including criticism from a Democratic congressman for inappropriate behavior and actions while they worked as congressional investigators due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. They were also accused of having a conflict of interest for representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation while simultaneously serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation. More recently, Toensing pushed the false claim that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame had not been covert, in addition to other falsehoods.
On April 29, Fox's Special Report aired video of Toensing claiming that people who wanted to testify on Benghazi "have been threatened," which Fox & Friends aired the following morning. Toensing was also cited by Special Report on April 29 in reporting the allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence" and that possible witnesses were having their careers threatened. And a May 6 FoxNews.com article by Fox Washington correspondents James Rosen and Chad Pergram sourced a claim that a witness named Mark Thompson "has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress" to diGenova, who was representing Thompson.
But testimony by the witnesses at a GOP-led hearing on May 8 and subsequent interviews of their attorneys on Fox News revealed that Toensing and diGenova misled the network by claiming that their clients had suffered threats, intimidation, and orders to keep quiet. When asked on Fox's Your World on May 9 about claims that Thompson had been threatened, diGenova replied that Thompson "actually hasn't said that," and explained that his client "didn't feel intimidated."
Gregory Hicks, another witness at the hearing -- represented by Toensing -- explained under questioning that he had not been told not to speak to congressional investigators, only that he was required to have a State Department attorney present while doing so. Hicks also explained that, in contrast to claims that the administration tried to silence him, he was interviewed twice by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was created to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Hicks' testimony further contradicted Toensing's April 29 claim to Special Report that careers were being threatened when he explained that "the overriding factor" in his determination to not return to his post in Libya was to remain with his family in the United States.