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":
Fox News accused MA Gov. Deval Patrick of "playing politics" by refusing to release details of welfare benefits reportedly used by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. But as Patrick has noted, state and federal law prevents the release of this information.
On April 24, an article in the right-leaning Boston Herald reported that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had received some government assistance as children and that deceased suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's family received some welfare benefits until 2012. The paper later reported that Massachusetts state officials had "clamped down the lid" on the Herald's requests for more details on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's government benefits.
Fox hosts seized on this to criticize Gov. Patrick on the April 26 edition of Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy said that "the governor told all the state agencies to clam up" and on-air text asked if Patrick is "playing politics."
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said:
CARLSON: Well, apparently Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts won't exactly explain what taxpayer assistance the bombers actually received because he says it's a matter of protecting their personal privacy. Well, that's interesting because one of those suspects is dead, and so what kind of personal privacy would be at hand to not be able to at least release what should be public knowledge if the taxpayers actually were financing these two people and their families for the last 10 years.
Fox failed to note that state and federal laws prohibit the government officials from releasing such information, a fact that Patrick had pointed out after facing questions about why the government had not released more details. On April 25, the Boston Herald reported:
Gov. Deval Patrick defended his administration's refusal to release financial aid, welfare, unemployment and other information about the suspected Boston Marathon bombers today.
"It's not about a right to privacy, it's about abiding by the law," said Patrick in Jamaica Plain today. "We'll do what we can do within the law. I'm curious, too. I understand people's curiosity."
Patrick added that he would be "happy" to release whatever information the law allows.
The Associated Press reported that the Massachusetts welfare agency later acknowledged that it had been a "mistake" to release the information to the media, saying it "inappropriately confirmed" media inquiries on the issue. The agency further stated: "Disclosing such information is not allowed by law. Regardless of the circumstances, we are obligated to follow state and federal law."
Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog further discredited "absurd" claims by congressional Republicans, pushed by Fox News, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a reduction in security at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that was attacked on September 11, 2012.
Fox News has spent days promoting a GOP attack on Clinton based on a partisan House report released April 23 that claims Secretary Clinton had seen and denied requests for more security at the Benghazi facility. Special Report host Bret Baier hyped it as a "scathing indictment" the night the report was released and national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin quoted the report's attacks on Clinton. On April 24, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed GOP House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa about the report, claiming that it "sharply contradicts [Clinton's] sworn testimony" that she had not seen any cables about security concerns regarding the Benghazi facility. Fox News also conducted a poll that coincided with the release of the GOP report, which asked voters how they felt about Clinton saying she had not seen the Benghazi security cables.
Kessler examined Kilmeade's interview of Issa over the issue, and explained that the State Department's Foreign Affairs Manual stipulates that the department's communications centers add the secretary's names to all messages that go out to overseas posts. Former senior State Department officials who worked under Republican secretaries also confirmed this procedure:
"A very small fraction would be seen by the Secretary of State," said R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who was undersecretary of state for political affairs under Rice.
Burns said he would only show a cable to Rice if it had very sensitive instructions for an ambassador and he wanted to be sure she agreed with his draft language. But generally he said the secretary is much too busy and would never see the cables. He added that sometimes even assistant secretaries would not view cables that are sent out under the secretary's "signature."
Burns noted that the confusion over "signature" is a common misunderstanding about State Department cables. He frequently has to correct historians from overseas who mistakenly believe the secretary's name at the bottom of the cable has much meaning.
"I can say that from being there with one secretary and reviewing the work of many other secretaries in my academic research, there are many, many cables the secretary never sees," said Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin L. Powell. "From time to time, the deputy may 'chop' [approve], the undersecretary may 'chop', or the assistant secretary or office director may 'chop' -- and the cable goes."
Kessler concluded: "At this point, Issa has no basis or evidence to show that Clinton had anything to do with this cable," and awarded the claim Four Pinnochios, the highest rating for a false claim.
Other news reports had already undermined this Fox-based smear against Clinton, with The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and a Foreign Policy national security reporter explaining that official cables are routinely sent out bearing the secretary's name. A member of the independent State Department Accountability Review Board that examined the Benghazi attack said that it's "total bullshit" to claim that Clinton saw or sent a specific cable because it bore her signature, as "[m]illions of cable come into" the State Department every year, all addressed to the secretary, and it's "the normal procedure" that "[e]very single cable going out is signed 'Clinton.' "
Fox News is using the struggles of electric automaker Fisker to smear the stimulus, even though the company received its loan from a completely separate Bush-era program, and both have created jobs.
On Thursday's Fox & Friends, Fox Business correspondent Charles Gasparino incorrectly claimed that Fisker received stimulus money, adding "when you use stimulus money, you're supposed to create jobs":
However, the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program is separate from the 2009 stimulus package signed into law by President Obama. Rather, it was enacted with broad bipartisan support in 2007 to award loans encouraging "meaningful improvements in fuel economy performance." More than half of that money went to improve the technology of conventional gasoline-fueled vehicles, but some went to support pioneering hybrid and electric cars. Since then, some of the latter, like the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, have been successful.
While the primary focus of ATVM was different than that of the stimulus, the program has still supported more than 35,000 jobs.
A Bloomberg article on troubled electric automaker Fisker reports that the company's co-founder was first encouraged by the Department of Energy to pursue its federal loan guarantee, but never clarifies that those overtures, as well as the loan program itself, began during the Bush administration.
However, Bloomberg failed to note Fisker's statement that he was approached about the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program during the Bush administration, even as it quoted a Republican congressman suggesting the Obama administration had chosen the company inexplicably. From Fisker's testimony:
In January 2008, Fisker Automotive showed the concept car for the Kanna at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Soon after, I was approached at a sustainability conference in California by Mr. John Mizroch, the then-Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. We discussed the technology that Fisker Automotive was developing and he encouraged the company to apply for a loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program (ATVM). Fisker continued its conversations with the Department and the company applied for a loan at the end of 2008. At that time, we already had significant financial backing from private investors.
The Associated Press is making an unsupported claim that the Obama administration knew electric automaker Fisker was missing milestones required for its loan guarantee well before it froze the loan in mid-2011 by taking newly obtained documents out of context.
The AP article, published the day of a House hearing on the loan guarantee granted to the troubled company, appears to be based on what a Department of Energy official characterized in an email to Media Matters as "selectively released" documents from Republican politicians leading that hearing.
The article's lede claims that the documents "show that the Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the loan." However, neither of the documents it cites substantiates that claim.
The first document was an internal email speculating that Fisker could miss a milestone that it met five days later, as AP noted six paragraphs in:
Aoife McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said the June 2010 email was taken out of context.
"The document shows that one person at a meeting discussed the possibility that Fisker might not meet a financial commitment" required by the Energy Department, McCarthy said in an email late Tuesday. DOE received the needed certification five days later and subsequently made the loan payment, she said.
The second document is from April 2010 -- before the loan agreement had even been officially closed -- and thus before milestones had kicked in, as a DOE official explained in an email to Media Matters (emphasis added):
Fox News' latest attempt to use the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya to blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of U.S. personnel has been undermined by several news outlets.
Fox has claimed that a new Republican report on the Benghazi attack proves that Clinton falsely claimed she was unaware of requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound because she personally read and signed off on a cable responding to one such missive. Reporting from The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Foreign Policy, however, demonstrates that all such messages from the State Department to diplomatic facilities abroad are sent out over the secretary's signature.
On April 23, Republican congressional committee chairmen released a report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. The report claimed that an "April 2012 cable from Secretary Clinton" was a "critical cable" that responded to the U.S. ambassador's request for additional security resources by calling for reductions in security. The GOP's evidence that this cable came personally from Clinton is that it bore her signature [emphasis in original]:
State Department officials in Washington acknowledged that the Benghazi Mission lacked sufficient resources to protect its personnel in a deteriorating security environment. However, in a cable signed by Secretary Clinton in April 2012, the State Department settled on a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including Benghazi. Specifically, despite acknowledging Ambassador Cretz's March 2012 cable requesting additional security assets, the April plan called for the removal of the two remaining MSD teams, the third initially deployed MSD team having been previously removed.
Fox News, which has spent months pushing falsehoods and conspiracies in an attempt to politically damage the Obama administration, subsequently seized on the report to claim that it undermines then-Secretary Clinton's January 23 testimony that the cables requesting additional security did not reach her desk and were handled by subordinates.
But several news outlets have reported that it is routine for outgoing messages from the State Department to be sent under the secretary's name without the secretary's direct involvement. An Associated Press article on the House Republican report stated that "every cable from Washington to the department's field offices is sent over the secretary of state's name." Foreign Policy concurred, reporting:
It's not clear who in the State Department sent the April 19 response. But as a general rule, "every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," a former State Department official noted, adding, "Though they are trying to make this new, it's not. After 30+ hearings and briefings, thousands of pages, this has all been addressed."
And The Washington Post similarly reported: "Many State Department cables routinely go out with the secretary of state's name, and it was not immediately clear whether this one was personally written by Clinton."
But Fox News has repeatedly treated the House report's claims credulously. In an April 23 segment on Fox News' Special Report, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin quoted the section of the report that claims then-Secretary Clinton personally approved of security reductions, and that the action contradicts her prior testimony. On April 24, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed during an interview of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the GOP report "sharply contradicts [Clinton's] sworn testimony."
All three cable news networks failed to highlight a West, Texas, fertilizer plant's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate -- 1,350 times the amount allowed without disclosure to the federal government -- in reporting on the April 17 explosion at that plant. The networks also virtually ignored the plant's history of violating state and federal regulations.
An April 20 Reuters report noted that fertilizer plants and depots must report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whenever they hold 400 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate, a potentially explosive chemical that can be used in bomb making. Reuters reported, however, that the plant that owned the company, West Fertilizer, "did not tell [DHS] about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principle regulators of ammonium nitrate ... unaware of any danger there."
Reuters quoted Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) as saying, "It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid. ... This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount ... yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."
A Media Matters study found that following the Reuters report, CNN's coverage of the explosion never mentioned that West Fertilizer violated federal regulations by failing to disclose their storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, and MSNBC and Fox News rarely mentioned the violation.
In reporting on the factory explosion in West, Texas, cable news virtually ignored the fertilizer company's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate at the plant, which is 1,350 times the amount that is allowed to be stored without disclosure to the federal government.
Hours after it was debunked, Glenn Beck continued to beat the drum of a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is deporting a Saudi national who was behind the tragic bombings at the Boston marathon.
The conspiracy theory arose when Steve Emerson, a guest on Fox News' Hannity, accused the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of preparing to deport a Saudi national "person of interest" in the bombings at the Boston marathon. Right-wing blogs like Glenn Beck's The Blaze, Breitbart.com, WND, and Infowars quickly latched on to the story, alleging President Obama wishes to cover up Saudi Arabian and Al Qaeda ties to the attack.
The myth pretends that a Saudi national who was hospitalized after sustaining injuries in the bombing -- initially reported to be a "person of interest," though he never was -- is the same man DHS is allegedly in the process of deporting for visa violations.
DHS soundly discredited the conspiracy theory this afternoon, explaining to CNN's Jake Tapper that the rumors are confusing two very different men.
Still, hours later, Beck continued to run with the debunked conspiracy on his television program, claiming his "sources" knew better (emphasis added):
We at the Blaze know that this Saudi national is a bad, bad, bad man ... This administration is playing an extraordinarily dangerous game. They have very little regard for what it takes to be a citizen. Before the sequester cuts happened, they opened the prison and let illegals out. Who does that? Remember also, the Saudi national that was -- is about to get on a plane -- involved in blowing the legs off of American citizens, being held in protective custody or being protected, at least, by our administration. He will be put in protective custody and the plans are to deport him.
Beck's claims, of course, are far from true.
In the immediate wake of deadly explosions at the Boston marathon, Alex Jones and his website InfoWars.com have breathlessly preached conspiracy theories about the as-yet-unknown perpetrators of the attack, claiming the blast was set off or staged by the U.S. government in what Jones called a "false flag operation." The theorizing culminated in an InfoWars correspondent asking a visibly angry Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, "Is this another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote Homeland Security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets?"
Two explosions detonated at the finish line of the Boston marathon on the afternoon of April 15, reportedly killing three people and injuring over a hundred. Law enforcement and the White House are currently investigating who may have been behind the attack, and President Obama promised that though "[w]e still do not know who did this or why ... [M]ake no mistake -- we will get to the bottom of this."
Jones used the tragedy to push his conspiracy theory that recent domestic attacks -- including the mass shootings in Newtown, CT and Aurora, CO -- are "false flag" attacks staged by the federal government. Jones tweeted his theory within minutes of the Boston Marathon explosions.
Jones then followed up on his tweet and expanded on his theories in a special webcast dedicated to the false flag conspiracy, claiming, "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
His theorizing culminated in an InfoWars correspondent, Dan Bidondi, questioning Gov. Patrick about the conspiracy directly.