The Daily Caller currently has a "2016 Bombshell" splashed across its front page -- the conservative website claims that while the "chattering class" is certain that Hillary Clinton is planning to run for president in 2016, "whispers persist" that she will decline a run for office. Caller political reporter Alex Pappas amasses an array of slipshod claims from even less credible sources to string together his case.
The Caller often runs poorly-sourced hit-jobs aimed at damaging progressives and garnering traffic. Here's the evidence on which the Caller is basing its story, which puts a Clinton spokesman's statement that she is "100%" up against four uses of the word "rumors" and three uses of "skeptics" or "skeptical."
In the story's third graph, Pappas unveils what is apparently his most compelling evidence that Clinton's health is in jeopardy -- two supermarket tabloids have reported it:
These ubiquitous rumors of her health have been fueled in part by the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer wrote in 2012 that Clinton had brain cancer, something a spokesman dismissed then as "absolute nonsense." In January of this year, the Globe claimed that Clinton secretly had a brain tumor.
That Globe story cites a "close source" saying that Bill Clinton has been telling Hillary that "they need to think long and hard about" her doctors' supposed warnings that she would not survive a presidential campaign. Which is weird, because back in September The Globe was reporting that Hillary was going to divorce Bill -- who, according to the story, is "dying" -- after he recently tried to "hook up" with Gennifer Flowers. And because in August, The Globe was reporting that Hillary's presidential plans were doomed after video emerged of her "steamy romps -- with another woman!"
In any case, the supermarket tabloids are old news -- they came out one month and fourteen months ago. So why is the Caller running the story now? The closest thing Pappas has to a news hook -- the only data point in the story from within the last month -- is a February 24 tweet from Roger Stone, identified as a "GOP consultant," claiming that Clinton is "not running for health reasons." Stone, who has been called a "professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" by the conservative Weekly Standard, is not someone to be taken seriously where Clinton is concerned -- in 2008 he founded the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid, which emphasized its acronym on its website and on T-shirts.
The balance of the story goes back over Clinton's health scare in December 2012, when she suffered a concussion and doctors subsequently found a blood clot in her head, from which they said she made a "full recovery." At the time, conservatives claimed that she had fabricated her "immaculate concussion" as a means of avoiding scheduled congressional hearings on Benghazi. Since then, Clinton has stepped down as Secretary of State, begun a campaign to accelerate global progress for women and girls at the foundation her husband founded, and embarked on a vigorous series of speeches around the world.
The phony concussion "rumor" has faded away, so the Caller has made up a new one. And Pappas apparently did the job his employer is looking for - his story got a Drudge Report link, and Caller reporters are paid in part based on traffic. This brand of conservative rumormongering is shoddy, but apparently it pays.
This post has been updated for clarity.
Fox News distorted comments by Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink about the need for immigration reform, completely misinterpreting the meaning of her remarks to cast them as outrageous and beyond the pale. In fact, as the Miami Herald noted, Republican lawmakers have made similar comments in the past without the hint of the conservative outrage Sink's comments have received. Moreover, the comments broadcast by Fox were not Sink's full remarks on the topic.
During a candidate forum in Florida hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Sink addressed the need for immigration reform by stressing the fact that coastal communities rely heavily on immigrant labor and that without reform, employers are put "in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers":
SINK: Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beaches' Chamber Of Commerce for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.
Discussing those comments on Fox & Friends, guest host Clayton Morris twisted the meaning of those words, claiming what Sink really said was "we need immigration reform so we can have illegal immigrants doing landscaping and cleaning hotels." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck added: "Because what would we do without that, she's saying." Morris continued: "How would our hotels be cleaned?"
Co-host Brian Kilmeade also stated: "She was winning by 2 points prior to those remarks. I don't know if this is going to send her numbers south."
In fact, Sink was making the opposite point: We need immigration reform so that employers, particularly those in high-growth areas like coastal communities, don't resort to hiring unauthorized labor. For a network that has been stridently opposed to immigration reform because of the impact such labor has on the workforce, Sink's comments should have been greeted favorably.
Comedian Stephen Colbert lambasted right-wing media for asking whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "too old" to run for president in 2016, observing that John McCain and Ronald Reagan were each older when they ran for president than Clinton will be if she decides to enter the 2016 race.
On the February 26 edition of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert highlighted the recent attacks on Hillary Clinton's age by outlets like Fox News. He stated, "That's right. Fox news is ready to project that in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton will be two years older. I mean, come on! ... I mean 69? That is old. Like old old. Way too old to be president. I mean she's gonna be almost as old as Reagan was."
Colbert ended his report suggesting that discussing a woman's age to smear her as a political candidate amounts to questionable journalism, quipping,"I know it's rude to talk about a woman's age, but that's not what I am doing. I am talking about other people talking about people talking about other people talking about a women's age. That's called journalism":
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
From the February 21 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the February 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In his first appearance after signing a new contract with Fox News, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown again suggested that he may run for Senate later this year, raising more questions about the journalistic ethics of Fox keeping him on the payroll.
In a February 20 appearance on Fox & Friends, Brown discussed several Senate races currently underway. Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck then asked him, "When are we going to see your name on one of these races in the future? Coming up? For Senate?" Brown replied, "I'm obviously taking things into consideration, I'm going to make some decisions and we'll see what happens."
For the past year, Brown has used his role at Fox News to keep himself in the spotlight in this fashion while he ponders a run for the Senate in New Hampshire. Brown has repeatedly stoked such speculation, relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan. Brown also made two appearances in Iowa last year and has a third planned for April, driving speculation that he may run for president in 2016.
Fox News has reportedly said Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." According to Politico media reporter Dylan Byers, until that step is taken, Brown will continue to "use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters." On February 19, Fox announced that they had signed Brown to a new contract, allowing him to retain that platform.
Fox has been a big booster for Brown, both during his successful 2010 Senate run and as he considers a 2016 race. During his February 20 appearance, Fox aired video of Brown singing with the band Cheap Trick at a recent concert and asked the former senator to comment.
From the February 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The Associated Press gave Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) space to parrot tired Benghazi myths about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts the night of the attacks in its coverage of the congressman's recent speech in New Hampshire.
On February 18, the Associated Press detailed Issa's criticisms of the Obama administration during a New Hampshire speech, highlighting Issa's accusation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta refused to send military aid to Americans under attack in Benghazi in September 2012 and his suggestion that Obama was absent as the administration planned its response to the attacks:
Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the "top two informed individuals who were awake."
"They didn't react," he said, adding later, "We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn't have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support."
Rather than acknowledge that Issa's claims have been soundly discredited, AP prefaced his remarks with the vague disclaimer, "Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president."
And yet, Issa's claim that Clinton and Panetta "didn't react" that night, which AP takes at face value, has been called "cartoonish" by military leaders, who have repeatedly testified that the response represented the best of our military's capabilities.
Ted Nugent denied his long history of incendiary comments while appearing on the campaign trail with Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Reacting to condemnation of his comments from CNN Wolf Blitzer, Nugent compared the network to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Update: After bizarre series of events, Brown has reportedly renewed his contract with the network. Though a Fox spokeswoman told the Boston Globe Brown was "currently out of contract," Brown responded this morning by telling the Washington Post that report was actually inaccurate. The Post now has a statement from Fox executive Bill Shine saying their previous agreement merely expired last week and the end of Brown's contract was "purely administrative."
Brown is now free to resume using the network to help bolster his political future (Brown has also invited speculation that he'll run for president in 2016). According to the Post, he will appear on Fox & Friends tomorrow.
After using the platform for the past year to help revive his political career, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is "currently out of contract" with Fox News.
A Fox spokesperson told the Boston Globe yesterday that Brown is no longer under contract, but declined to say whether the move was due to Brown exiting in order to run for Senate in New Hampshire or if his contract had merely expired.
The Globe reports that in December, the network said that Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." Fox News has previously been happy to keep employees that were publicly considering political runs under contract indefinitely, like perennial will-they-or-won't-they quasi-candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Though Brown has repeatedly stoked speculation that he might challenge Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for her Senate seat -- including relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan -- he has yet to take any formal steps towards mounting a run, so his exit from Fox comes as something of a surprise.
During his last Fox appearance, Brown joined Lou Dobbs on his Fox Business show on February 10, spending several minutes railing against the current state of Congress and the government. Near the end of the conversation, Dobbs awkwardly transitioned to ask, "what's new in New Hampshire?" Brown responded that he and his family "love it. It's obviously a wonderful state." He added, "We'll see, I have a lot of decisions to make, and you've just nailed it in terms of what the issues are, and it's very frustrating. And I think you need good people down there, we'll just see who it is." Dobbs closed the segment by telling Brown, "the country is watching, and I know New Hampshire is."
Brown's last two columns for FoxNews.com read a lot like stump speeches. In a column published on February 12, he announced, "we get to replace the members of Congress in 2014 that have been enabling the president's unpopular agenda." His February 14 column -- headlined "GOP can once again lead as the part of fiscal responsibility" -- highlighted that "21 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for grabs" in November and touted how "Republicans of all political stripes share a commitment to fiscal responsibility and less government spending."
Regardless of whether he actually runs for Senate in New Hampshire, Brown's relationship with Fox News is symptomatic of the network's central role in Republican politics.
Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is facing criticism over his decision to campaign with National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent because of the rocker's inflammatory attacks on women and racially charged commentary about President Obama.
After reports emerged that Nugent would be making two February 18 campaign appearances with Abbott, the move was condemned by the Texas Democratic Party, women's group Annie's List, and the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis.
Citing Nugent's recent characterization of Obama as a "mongrel" -- a term that describes a dog of indeterminate breed -- the Texas Democratic Party issued a press release calling on Abbott to cancel the planned appearances:
Austin, TX -- This Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott is set to have joint appearances with right-wing radical Ted Nugent. According to the Texas Eagle Forum, the Attorney General will join Nugent for events in Denton and Wichita Falls.
According to the Dallas Morning News, "Just last month, [Nugent] told Guns.com at the Las Vegas hunting and outdoor trade show that, 'I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.'" [Dallas Morning News, 2/13/2014]
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released the following statement:
"Just last month, Ted Nugent called President Barack Obama a 'subhuman mongrel' and 'gangster.' He spews hate against our first African-American President and in return, Attorney General Greg Abbott welcomes him to the campaign trail. Is this how Abbott celebrates Black History Month? Texans deserve better than a statewide office holder and candidate running for governor who welcomes Ted Nugent and his repugnant comments. I can't help but recall the old saying, tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are."
According to Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, the Democrats are doomed.
That's the takeaway from the 650-word piece Rubin published yesterday under the headline, "The Democrats' demise." According to Rubin, the "far right has fallen on hard times" while the Democratic Party "as a political force" is "spent" and "surviving precariously on the potential for wacky opponents and fading star power." By her telling, the time is ripe for "the mainstream Republican Party" -- ie, people Rubin supports -- to "reestablish itself as the responsible party of reform."
This is Jennifer Rubin's shtick -- her political allies are always on the rise, and her political enemies are always on the run (a week before the 2012 election Rubin wrote that it was "possible" that Obama could lose Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota). The fundamental flaw in her latest rosy assessment of the GOP's prospects - which she of course does not address -- is the overwhelming, near-historic unpopularity of the Republican Party.
The Washington Free Beacon hid crucial details about a conservative group bent on smearing Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
In a February 13 report, the Free Beacon highlighted a Reuters article about OPSEC to promote the group's latest smear campaign. OPSEC, described by the Free Beacon only as "military slang for 'operational security,'" is releasing a report attacking the former secretary of state for her actions before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 attacks. The Free Beacon used the report to imply Secretary Clinton was personally responsible for the terrorist attacks, claiming "the attack was not caused by inadequate information but by inadequate leadership" and that her personal choices "enabled the attack."
But as the original Reuters report explained, OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and special forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group "first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign," when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of "seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden." (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as "false" and "mostly false.") Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC's 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.
OPSEC's president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of "shady campaign tactics" in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group's maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on "electioneering communications" alone.
Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department's role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.
As Reuters noted:
Thomas Pickering, who chaired the State Department's official inquiry, said his panel concluded Clinton's performance was appropriate: "We did look at her role. We thought that she conducted her meetings and activities responsibly and well."
Republican censure of Mrs. Clinton is expected to intensify, even though it is unusual to see such fierce, coordinated opposition to a would-be presidential candidate surface 2-1/2 years before nominating conventions.
Pickering condemned the way the Benghazi incident was being politicized: "Our investigation was certainly independent, thoroughly researched, carefully presented." He said the new round of accusations appears to be "clearly an effort to introduce once again partisan politics into an issue which should be furthest from partisan politics."
The New York Times published a guilt-by-association attack on Hillary Clinton, attempting to connect a trade dispute over alleged steel dumping to the former secretary of state through unrelated philanthropic connections.
Citing a Commerce Department investigation into dumping allegations against Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian business leader, reporter Amy Chozick fixated on Pinchuk's relationship to the Clintons as if it were news to Times readers:
Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton have built a sprawling network of powerful friends around the globe, one that could aid Mrs. Clinton's chances were she to seek the presidency. But those relationships often come with intersecting interests and political complications; few people illustrate that more vividly than the Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk.
But in 2008, the Times published a front-page story on Pinchuk which reported his relationship with former President Bill Clinton. The article also detailed that Pinchuk is one of the biggest non-American donors to the Clinton Foundation; that Clinton acknowledged the relationship and praised Pinchuk's philanthropy; that the former president spoke in Yalta advocating strengthening Ukraine's ties to the United States and Europe, a cause close to both men; and that Pinchuk attended a birthday party for Clinton (as well as one for former President George H. W. Bush).
Chozick's story does not acknowledge the prior Times account. Instead, it rehashes old details and attempts to tie them to the pending Commerce Department investigation. Yet Chozick offers no evidence to suggest that the Clintons are connected to that dispute in any way. On the contrary, she acknowledges that there is no evidence that Bill or Hillary Clinton, or anybody in the government, has intervened in the trade dispute. Chozick wrote:
There is no evidence that Mr. Pinchuk or Mr. Schoen discussed anything other than the political crisis in Ukraine with the State Department, or that any United States officials tried to influence the trade case.