Fox News accused President Obama of dismissing as a "sideshow" four Americans killed in attacks in Benghazi, Libya, by distorting remarks he made at a press conference.
During a May 13 press conference, Obama responded to a question regarding the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi and the initial talking points used to describe the attack.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson accused Obama of dismissing the victims of the attack as a "sideshow," using a version of Obama's response cropped by Fox:
CARLSON: Three things jump out at me. There was the question, right off the bat. The mainstream media is finally paying attention to this story. The president probably knew he was going to possibly get the question now after ABC jumped into the game last week. But to say that is a sideshow, is that offensive to the four people who died in Benghazi? If you're one of those family members today, do you think that's offensive to call this a sideshow?
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Well he said that talk--
CARLSON: We still have not apprehended anybody for those murders, number one. If he's talking about the talking points being a sideshow, you now have people saying that they were changed 12 times and what the White House said originally -- they only changed two words -- may not be the truth.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox's Lou Dobbs and Megyn Kelly attacked President Obama as "Nixonian" and claimed that he revealed his "inner Nixon" over scrutiny that the IRS applied to tea party groups, despite the fact that the president labeled the IRS's actions "outrageous."
Obama addressed concerns at a press conference Monday over reports that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to tea party groups. He vowed to hold the agency "fully accountable" and called the alleged misdeeds "outrageous." Pointing to those comments, Kelly asked if Obama's condemnation was forceful enough, while Dobbs compared Obama with President Nixon, stating, "This is an agency with an enemies list. This is Nixonian. This is a president whose inner Nixon is being revealed."
But Carl Bernstein, one of The Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, deflated the idea that the IRS targeting was comparable to Watergate in an interview with Politico:
'In the Nixon White House, we heard the president of the United States on tape saying 'Use the IRS to get back on our enemies,' said Bernstein, whose reporting helped lead to Nixon's eventual resignation. 'We know a lot about President Obama, and I think the idea that he would want the IRS used for retribution -- we have no evidence of any such thing.'
The right-wing's Benghazi witch hunt is turning its attention to Thomas Pickering, a career diplomat, and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, in a campaign to discredit their non-partisan report on the Benghazi attacks and push for a permanent, partisan investigation -- an investigation Republicans are actively using to raise money and campaign against Democrats.
Pickering and Mullen led the State Department Accountability Review Board, which in December issued its findings as to what went wrong in Benghazi, Libya, surrounding the September 11, 2012, attacks on a diplomatic facility that led to the deaths of four Americans. The Wall Street Journal reported in a May 12 article that Pickering and Mullen would be the next targets of the right-wing campaign to politicize those attacks:
House Republicans on Monday plan to take another step in a widening Benghazi investigation, by asking leaders of an independent review board to agree to be questioned about their investigation of last year's attacks in Libya.
The formal request, to be submitted in letters on Monday, comes as GOP lawmakers move to discredit the investigation by the Accountability Review Board, a panel appointed under federal law last year by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to size up the adequacy of U.S. security measures and preparations at the diplomatic mission that was overrun in the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist assault.
This move to discredit the Accountability Review Board and push for a permanent investigation comes after Victoria Toensing, a Republican lawyer who represented a "whistleblower" who on May 8 testified for the third time about the attacks, penned a Weekly Standard blog post challenging Pickering and Mullen's report:
The White House has touted the Accountability Review Board (ARB) investigation of the Benghazi massacre as a review "led by two men of unimpeachable expertise and credibility that oversaw a process that was rigorous and unsparing." In fact, the report was purposefully incomplete and willfully misleading.
The two men in charge of the ARB, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, a diplomat and military man respectively, have no meaningful investigative experience. Instead of letting the facts lead the direction of the investigation, the report appears designed to protect the interests of Hillary Clinton, the State Department higher ups, and the president.
But Toensing's criticism, the foundation of the attacks on the ARB, itself is incomplete and misleading.
According to Toensing, a fatal flaw in Pickering and Mullen's investigation was their failure to interview then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Pickering addressed that decision during a May 12 appearance on Meet the Press, saying that he did speak with Clinton and that the conversation was "more than sufficient for the preponderance of evidence that we had collected to make our decisions."
Toensing also built her call for further investigation on the discredited claim that the State Department's counterterrorism bureau was cut out of the decision-making process while the attacks were underway:
Mark Thompson, my husband's client, testified that he asked twice to be interviewed by the ARB and was not. Mr. Thompson was the deputy assistant secretary in charge of coordinating the deployment of a multi-agency team for hostage taking and terrorism attacks. Yet, he was excluded from all decisions, communications, and meetings on September 11 and 12, 2012. Why?
But during his May 8 Congressional testimony, Thompson, an assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, acknowledged that the counterterrorism bureau was involved. That acknowledgement supports an earlier statement from the head of the State Department's Counterterrorism Bureau, who said: "at no time was the Bureau sidelined or otherwise kept from carrying out its tasks."
At this point, the indictment of Pickering and Mullen amounts to little more than criticizing the length of their conversations with Clinton and manufactured outrage over how far down the chain-of-command a meeting invite went.
These and other already answered questions are the basis of the right's continued push for yet another hearing. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
Interest in the Benghazi attacks was rekindled by a hearing last week in which the former No. 2 U.S. diplomat in Tripoli, Libya, testified about his experiences the night of the attacks. The diplomat, Gregory Hicks, testified as a whistleblower, criticizing administration statements in the first days after the attack that it had grown out of a demonstration.
As a result of Mr. Hicks's testimony, Republican lawmakers said Sunday that additional whistleblowers are likely to emerge. They also are pushing for the appointment of a special select committee to probe the attacks, bringing together investigations now under way at five different GOP-controlled panels.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) has called the administration's response to Benghazi--including inaccurate "talking points" used as the basis for early public statements--a "coverup" and endorsed the idea of a select committee, as did Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.). Mr. Inhofe predicted last week that the Benghazi investigation would lead to an impeachment debate.
A hint as to why the right continues to ask questions that have already been answered came May 10 with the revelation that Republicans were using the endless Benghazi investigations to raise money. Benghazi is more than just a fundraising opportunity for the right. It's also, and perhaps more importantly, an early attack on Hillary Clinton in advance of the 2016 election cycle, a fact driven home by conservative ads pivoting off Benghazi and by Fox News' graphics team:
A Wall Street Journal editorial asked questions that have already been answered regarding military deployments in response to the Benghazi attack when it rehashed false claims that U.S. military forces were not deployed to the region around Benghazi, Libya, and suggested that political considerations hampered a quicker response.
In a May 12 editorial, the Journal suggested that military forces were not sent to respond to the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi and dismissed explanations offered by the military and the Obama administration about why a quicker response was not possible:
One issue worth more examination is which U.S. and NATO military assets were available in the region to respond to the attack, and why they didn't. The White House and Pentagon insist there was nothing within range that would have made a difference, but we also know that military officers respond to the political tone that civilian officials set at the top.
Did the well-known White House desire to retreat from Libya influence the ability and willingness of military officials to respond in real time? The lives of Americans around the world could hang on the answer.
In fact, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served under both Obama and George W. Bush, confirmed the Pentagon and administration assertions that military forces could not have responded to the attack in enough time to prevent any casualties. In a May 12 Face the Nation appearance, Gates argued that the notion that any military forces could have responded in time to possibly avert further attacks without being in harm's way was a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities."
Furthermore, it is known that "there was nothing within range that would've made a difference" because those assets were deployed. During a February 7 Senate hearing about the Benghazi attack Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained that President Obama ordered him to "do whatever you need to do in be able to protect our people there." In that vein, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. The anti-terrorism team headed to Libya arrived after the attack. From the November 2, 2012 CBS News timeline of the Benghazi attack:
Midnight (6 p.m. ET) Agents arrive at the annex, which receives sporadic small-arms fire and RPG rounds over a roughly 90-minute period. The security team returns fire and the attackers disperse.
Over the next two hours, Sec. Panetta holds a series of meetings and issues several orders: Two Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) platoons stationed in Rota, Spain prepare to deploy - one to Benghazi and the other to the Embassy in Tripoli; A special operations team in Europe is ordered to move to Sigonella, Sicily - less than one hour's flight away from Benghazi; An additional special operations team based in the U.S. is ordered to deploy to Sigonella.
Around 7 p.m. (1 p.m. ET): Americans are transported out of Tripoli on a C-17 military aircraft, heading for Ramstein, Germany.
Around 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET): U.S. special forces team arrives in Sigonella, Sicily, becoming the first military unit in the region.
Around 9 p.m. (3 p.m. ET): A FAST platoon arrives in Tripoli.
In coverage of a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, conservatives are pushing new myths about the Obama administration's response to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Here is the truth about what really happened.
ABC News is buying into right-wing scandal mongering over the tragic September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, with an "exclusive" report that doesn't stand up to minimal scrutiny, with flaws that are being used by the right to call for a major investigation.
The so-called "exclusive" report, posted at ABCNews.com, purports to uncover dramatic new developments in the right wing's Benghazi witch hunt, but in reality it is little more than a rehash of previously covered debates over whose input was given to the early draft of intelligence talking points put together in the early days of the investigation into the attacks. None of this largely rehashed debate disproves what Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified in November: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups.
The May 10 ABC News report focuses on the much discussed CIA talking points that were prepared in the days immediately after the September 11, 2012, attack, and which were used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in her appearance on several news programs to discuss those attacks. Nothing in the ABC News report focuses on the actual events of September 11, 2012, only on the editing process of a talking points memo and what information should be made available for public dissemination during an ongoing investigation into a terrorist attack:
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
Karl goes on to explore whether this disproves comments White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made in late November 2012, more than 2 months after the attack, about the role the White House and the State Department played in editing the final version of those talking points; whether the editing process proves that the White House was engaged in an effort to downplay the role of terrorism in its public statements immediately after the attack; and whether the editing process proves that the talking points were scrubbed of references to terror solely for political reasons.
Karl's report feeds into the right-wing conspiracy mongering over the Benghazi attacks and the desperate campaign to fabricate a cover-up. Friday morning, Fox News hosts cited the report as evidence that a major investigation was needed.
Yet Karl's speculation is easily disproved.
The entirety of the ABC News report focuses on emails that lay out the process of drafting the intelligence community's talking points and the debate over whether to include references to terrorist groups, and whether those references were "scrubbed" to cover up failures at the State Department. What Karl doesn't point out is that the former head of the CIA said that this is not the case. After Petraeus gave closed-door testimony before congressional leaders in November, The New York Times reported:
David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.
Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack -- including Al Qaeda's franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah -- were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
Karl also forwards the notion that the White House was aggressively trying to downplay the role that terrorism played for political reasons while the President was calling the attacks an act of terror at the same time. In his first public comments after the attack, President Obama very clearly referred to the attack as an act of terror. One day later, Obama again referred to the Benghazi attacks as an act of terror. Those comments came September 12 and September 13. Yet Karl implies that edits to a document that were made on September 14, after Obama had already labeled the attack an act of terror, demonstrate that the administration was trying to downplay the role that terror played.
This leaves Karl with the "exclusive" that emails weighing in on early drafts of the talking points amounts to a contradiction with comments Carney made in November:
"Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC's best assessments of what they thought had happened," Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012. "The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word 'consulate' to 'diplomatic facility' because 'consulate' was inaccurate."
But as Carney notes in comments printed at the end of the ABC News report, there has never been a question that multiple agencies had input into the formation of the talking points, which in the end were drafted by the intelligence community:
"The CIA drafted these talking points and redrafted these talking points," Carney said. "The fact that there are inputs is always the case in a process like this, but the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive. They corrected the description of the building or the facility in Benghazi from consulate to diplomatic facility and the like. And ultimately, this all has been discussed and reviewed and provided in enormous levels of detail by the administration to Congressional investigators, and the attempt to politicize the talking points, again, is part of an effort to, you know, chase after what isn't the substance here."
ABC is left with a major exclusive dissecting the distinction between input and editing.
The success of Tesla Motors complicates Fox News' narrative about green energy investments, but the network has a strategy: simply ignore the fact that the company received a federal loan.
Tesla, a leading electric automaker, received a $465 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program in 2010. The company has since become a fixture in car magazines and one of the most conspicuous successes of the Obama administration's green energy policies, recently announcing that it intends to pay back the loan five years ahead of schedule and reporting its first quarterly profits. On the heels of the latter news came word that the notably tough reviewers at Consumer Reports had given the Tesla Model S sedan a 99 out of 100 rating, proclaiming "we've never seen anything quite like the Model S. This car performs better than anything we've ever tested before."
On Friday, Fox News reported the quarter one profits -- "encouraging" -- and the positive review, pronouncing the automaker a "huge success."
One major problem: somehow, Fox News neglected to mention the federal loan guarantee program that helped Tesla obtain vital capital to develop the Model S. By contrast, Fox News has repeatedly used a negative Consumer Reports review of Fisker's hybrid electric Karma sedan as a hook to attack the Obama administration's green loans, without mentioning successes like Tesla or the money that Congress set aside to cover losses, knowing that not every company would succeed.
Fox News' Stuart Varney portrayed a natural gas automaker as a "green energy failure," even though he pushed the federal government to make transit agencies buy vehicles from the same company only a few months prior.
Vehicle Production Group (VPG), a Michigan-based company that makes wheelchair-accessible vans, recently ceased operations and closed its offices. The company, which had drawn attention for designing the first vehicle specifically for people with disabilities, was awarded a $50 million conditional loan commitment in 2010 to develop vans with natural gas engines as part of the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.
On Wednesday, Varney depicted the company as "the latest embarrassment for the [Obama administration's] green energy policy" on Fox & Friends:
But Varney did not mention that VPG received its loan under a program that President George W. Bush signed into law, or that the natural gas vehicles it was intended to subsidize are a component of T. Boone Pickens' energy plan, which Fox News personalities have previously supported. Pickens funded and advocated for VPG himself.
Fox News contributor John Bolton delivered a devastating blow to the right-wing scandal mongering over Benghazi when he acknowledged that it was impossible to know at the exact moment of the September 2012 terrorist attack whether it was appropriate to shift security resources away from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
A key aspect of the right's conspiracy theory posits that an Obama administration official refused to send reinforcements to the Benghazi diplomatic outpost to defend Americans under sustained attack by terrorists. It's been amply established at this point that a team of reinforcements was dispatched from Tripoli, where the main embassy is located, to Benghazi, some 400 miles away, after the attacks began. That security team arrived after a first attack ended, the attack that ended in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, but before a second attack began.
Bolton, appearing on the May 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, took issue with the decision not to send a second reinforcement team to Benghazi - a central component of hyper-partisan congressional hearings underway this week. Critics of the administration have pointed to that decision as evidence that it abandoned Americans who were under attack. But the additional reinforcements would not have been able to get to the Benghazi compound before the second attack was concluded. Here's Bolton's response:
When the attack began, no one could know when it would end. No one could know what the geographical limitation was. Was it simply an attack in Benghazi? Could terrorists be poised to attack the embassy in Tripoli? Were other posts around the Middle East in jeopardy? So the notion that you're just going to sit and wait for this to work itself out left a lot of other people at risk.
But it's precisely the fact that it was unclear that the embassy in Tripoli was safe that informed the decision over whether to send a second reinforcement team away from the embassy. NBC News reported that Department of Defense officials confirmed that a second unit was denied authorization to leave Tripoli for Benghazi during the night of the attack, in part because the security situation in Libya remained unclear:
U.S. military officials confirmed late Monday that a four-man Special Operations Forces team was denied permission to leave the US Embassy in Tripoli following reports that the consulate in Benghazi had been attacked.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the team was reviewing security at U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East and was not prepared for a combat assault mission, being armed with only 9mm sidearms.
They also noted that the situation at Benghazi remained unclear and there were concerns the Embassy in Tripoli also could become a target.
Bolton's seemingly accidental acknowledgement should put an end to the campaign - enabled and encouraged at every step by Fox News - to drum up a scandal of Watergate-sized proportions.
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
From the May 2 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox News is using the claims of discredited Republican lawyers famous for their attacks on Democrats to accuse unnamed Obama administration officials of issuing threats to witnesses to prevent their testimony on the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Former Reagan administration official Victoria Toensing and her husband and legal partner Joseph diGenova have claimed that they represent one of four "whistleblowers" to the Benghazi attack, and that those witnesses have been threatened by administration officials to prevent their testimony. Fox is portraying these allegations as part of a federal "cover-up," a claim that belies the fact that witnesses to the Benghazi attack have spoken to the FBI and an independent State Department investigation, and that some senators received their testimony. The State Department has said it is not aware of any employees claiming to be whistleblowers or attorneys attempting to gain security clearance to represent them.
On the April 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy cited allegations from the Republican lawyers to claim that unnamed Benghazi witnesses have been "threatened" by the Obama administration and are scared of speaking out. An on-screen graphic from Fox implied the State Department is preventing witnesses from giving testimony about the attacks:
But Toensing and diGenova are not merely unbiased advocates for whistleblowers, but rather GOP partisans who have been discredited from their unprofessional conduct and lies in earlier investigations.
A 1998 Washington Post profile of the couple reported, "Name a high-profile investigation in this city and chances are the prosecutorial pair is involved," pointing out their roles defending Republicans and investigating Democrats. Their actions came under fire with Democratic Congressman Bill Clay criticizing Toensing and diGenova for "relinquish[ing] the air of impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism" required when they were working as congressional investigators for a House Education and Workforce subcommittee, due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. The pair were also accused of having a conflict of interest for serving representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation at the same time they were serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation.
More recently, Toensing pushed the falsehood that covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was outed to the media in 2003, did not have covert status. She has continued to make media appearances pushing false attacks on the Obama administration and has written columns for FoxNews.com attacking their response to Benghazi and calling for a special counsel to investigate other matters.
The claims by Fox and others that these witnesses are being prevented from testifying about the attacks as part of a government "cover-up" is undermined by the fact that witnesses have been interviewed by the FBI for its on-going criminal investigation into the attack and spoken to investigators from the State Department's independent review of the event. The Senate Intelligence committee reportedly received redacted transcripts from the FBI interviews of the survivors and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said he's spoken with some of the survivors.
Furthermore, Fox's own guests have explained that government employees engaged in intelligence and other clandestine work, or witnesses in an on-going criminal investigation, simply wouldn't be able to talk about their experiences in public.
From the April 27 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live:
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In recent weeks, Fox News has admitted that electric carmaker Tesla Motors is a "success story" -- but now the network suddenly has amnesia about the federal assistance that helped it succeed.
On Friday, Fox News anchor Jon Scott hosted Wall Street Journal automotive industry reporter Joseph White to discuss Fisker, an electric carmaker beset by financial troubles after receiving support from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Scott suggested Fisker is representative of the DOE's loan guarantee program, adding: "Meantime, there's another company, Tesla, smaller company, did not get a government loan as far as I'm aware ... Tesla seems to be making a go of it so far."
White quickly corrected Scott, pointing out that Tesla actually received the same type of government loan guarantee that Fisker did. Indeed, Fox News previously used government assistance for Tesla as an example of supposedly "Failed Green Energy Policies," a characterization then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney later echoed.
However, recent events have forced even Fox News to admit that Tesla is a "success story." Tesla's Model S electric sedan was named car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend and is en route to exceeding corporate sales goals. The company has also announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early.
UPDATE (4/26/13): When covering a negative review of Tesla's car, however, Jon Scott did remember that Tesla was government-funded, stating in February 2013, "we are all sort of co-owners of Tesla -- that company got hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as part of the president's, you know, green energy thing":