Clinton Cash author and Republican activist Peter Schweizer acknowledged that, contrary to earlier reporting, there is no similar book in the works on the personal finances and policy decisions of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a claim journalists have previously cited to legitimize Schweizer's forthcoming book on the Clintons.
There are at least 20 documented errors, fabrications, and distortions in Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, where the conservative author speculates about allegedly unethical ties between the Clinton Foundation and actions Hillary Clinton purportedly made as secretary of state. His allegations of impropriety by the Clintons and their family foundation have been picked apart by ABC News, BuzzFeed, MSNBC, NBC News, and ThinkProgress, among several other news agencies, and Schweizer has even been accused by one of his sources of taking comments "badly out of context" in hopes of slighting the Clinton family.
Bloomberg Politics reported on April 23 that in contrast to the "left-wing clamor that Schweizer is simply out to get Hillary Clinton," "Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush's finances that he expects to publish this summer." Politico and CNN subsequently reported this would be a "book" on Bush.
But days later, Schweizer admitted that no similar book on Jeb Bush will be published. On the May 3 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz asked about accusations that the book is "pursuing an agenda" based on his conservative political affiliations and activism. Schweizer acknowledged that while he's been researching Bush's finances, there are no plans to publish a book similar to Clinton Cash:
KURTZ: To be fair, you have been digging into Jeb Bush's finances --
KURTZ: -- So the Clintons aren't the only ones you're going to be looking at. But that's not going to result in a book, as I understand.
A spokesperson for Schweizer's current publisher, HarperCollins, previously told Media Matters that it has no plans to publish a book on Bush's complex finances. Instead, it expects Schweizer to issue a follow-up report at his far-right think tank, the Government Accountability Institute.
See the full segment here:
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and Fox News contributor Keith Ablow blamed President Obama and his administration for violence in the wake of the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, who died a week after suffering an unexplained injury while in the custody of Baltimore police officers.
On April 19, 25-year-old Freddie Gray died of a reported spinal cord injury that he mysteriously suffered after being arrested on April 12 by police officers. After Gray's funeral on April 27, the governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and activated the National Guard to respond to violence and looting in the city that resulted in injury to at least 15 police officers.
On the April 27 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox host Lou Dobbs responded to the events by blaming the violence against the police on Obama, asserting that "there is a war on law enforcement" that is being "corroborated if not condoned by this administration."
Later during the show, Dobbs invited Fox contributor Keith Ablow to comment, and he also blamed Obama for the violence, adding that people who want to tear down the system like the people in Baltimore "might be taking [their] cues from this president" (emphasis added):
DOBBS: I'd like to begin with what drives, in your judgment, a police department and a mayor, who basically have given a free pass to those who are tearing up property, and injuring others, including law enforcement?
ABLOW: What drives them is a lack of respect for the foundation of governing and foundation of law upon which this nation rests. Contempt for such things and a kind of tacit acceptance, that protests can be violent because people are so frustrated. But the bottom line Lou, is that if you want to change things, you work within the system, that is the way it has always been. If you want to tear down the system, you might be taking your cues, by the way, from a president who has given the appearance that there is every justification for any level of anger at our country because we're such despicable people.
While reporting on the protests earlier in the day, Fox News' Shep Smith urged his colleagues to report on the protests objectively by "for now, just covering what happens," instead of indicting the community.
Serial misinformer Peter Schweizer falsely claimed on Fox News Sunday that Hillary Clinton had unilateral power to veto the Uranium One deal as part of the nine-agency review panel that oversees such proposals. But members of the review panel only have power to make recommendations to the president, not unilaterally veto them.
From the April 23 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes
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James Carville is a guest contributor to Media Matters.
On March 12, I posted on Media Matters to discuss what I called the Clinton Rule. The Clinton Rule is as follows: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Well this week we got the ultimate proof of the Clinton Rule when The New York Times got its hands on a copy of Clinton Cash, a forthcoming book which purportedly claims that the State Department received favors from foreign entities that donated to The Clinton Foundation. Now, I wasn't the least bit surprised that the conservative media echo chamber immediately reverberated with cries of the "very damning" "bombshell," of a book that "could threaten [Hillary's] campaign." And I say purportedly because almost no one has read the book yet.
Here's the thing that did surprise me:
Never have we seen a more instant classic for followers of the Clinton Rule than with this latest tome. The book isn't even slated to be released for several weeks and yet The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Fox News are in cahoots with the author -- reporting on what might be inside. I'll run you through the playbook.
Let's start with the facts. The star of this latest instance of the Clinton Rule is the author, Peter Schweizer. He's a discredited fringe conservative activist and former political aide to the likes of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal. That's a trifecta that pays a high dollar for pushing right wing conspiracies. Schweizer has worked for such "reputable" publications as Breitbart.com -- the same Breitbart.com that once called gun safety advocate Gabby Giffords a "human shield" for the gun safety movement. His right wing bona fides don't end there. Schweizer is even listed as a contributor to one of former Fox News host Glenn Beck's books.
Speaking of Schweizer's work -- back in 1998 he took on the "gay subculture" that was "blossoming" at Walt Disney World. In Disney: The Mouse Betrayed -- which is not listed on Schweizer's website with his other works -- he attacked the "gay activism" at the theme park, with special attention for the annual Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. "There is a lot of openly displayed affection during the event -- holding hands, kissing, and the like," Schweizer wrote. God forbid.
Here's the deal, Peter Schweizer's new book out May 5 is likely to have serious problems -- one embarrassing error has reportedly already been found. As Media Matters noted this week, Schweizer has been called out at least ten times by journalists and independent fact checkers for getting his facts wrong in his previous articles and books. His past work has been called "incorrect," "bogus," and "a fatal shortcoming in journalism 101." In short, he's a SERIAL MISINFORMER.
Yet, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Fox News have all made exclusive agreements with Schweizer for early access to pursue "the story lines found in the book." I'm not shocked that Fox News took the shady deal here since Harper Collins, which is publishing Schweizer's book, is also owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and is the sister company of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. But I'm hard pressed to find any reason why The New York Times and The Washington Post would do the same except for the Clinton Rule.
The rule where every piece of nonsense the press can grab onto about the Clintons gets headline after headline.
But here's the thing, friends. The last time I remember a major media outlet hyping a right wing book this much was when CBS' 60 Minutes got duped by a guy whose tall tale included him scaling a 12 foot wall on the side of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi and dispatching a terrorist with his rifle butt. We all know how that ended: a book pulled from publication, a 60 Minutes report retracted, and a "journalistic review" which ended with a CBS reporter and producer taking a leave of absence.
All I'm saying here folks is this: The bottom line is that mainstream media must be up for the challenge. To all the reporters wanting to push the limits and take an advance look into the claims of a guy whose history of reporting is marked by errors and retractions, I say it's time to break the Clinton Rule. But in this case, I'm afraid the smarter bet is that we are going to see the same playbook over and over again.
Again, let me repeat what the Clinton Rule is: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for the Clintons. After the latest antics on the part of The New York Times I am forced to add to the Clinton Rule. At The New York Times when it comes to the Clintons, there are no rules.
ABC News reported that it "uncovered errors" in Peter Schweizer's upcoming anti-Clinton book, Clinton Cash. Schweizer has a long history of sloppy research and reporting -- earlier this week, ThinkProgress revealed that the conservative author cites a hoax press release in the book.
On April 23, ABC News explained that their independent review of the source material used for Clinton Cash "uncovered errors in the book, including an instance where paid and unpaid speaking appearances were conflated." The book purports to reveal connections between Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state, donations to the Clinton Foundation, and paid speeches given by the Clintons, but Schweizer reportedly admits in the book he cannot prove his allegations.
According to ABC, Schweizer "said the errors would be corrected." The book is due for release on May 5; it is unclear whether the errors will be corrected before the first publication.
Media Matters identified ten previous instances in which Schweizer made serious factual errors, issued retractions, or relied on questionable sourcing.
Sean Hannity falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton's campaign admitted to paying female staffers less than male staffers while she was a senator, when in fact the opposite was true. Clinton's campaign reported that she paid men and women equally.
On the April 22 edition of his radio show, Hannity said that the Clinton campaign had "confirmed the accuracy" of a report from the conservative Free Beacon that Clinton had paid female staffers less than male staffers in her senate office:
HANNITY: There is another story I wanted to bring up about Hillary, and her campaign confirmed the accuracy of which to the Washington Free Beacon -- an analysis that showed that women working in Clinton's senate office were paid 72 cents for each dollar paid to men. The campaign told FactCheck.org that it does not dispute the accuracy of the report, which analyzed the office's publicly available disbursement forms from fiscal years 2002 to 2008, and found that men working for Clinton had a median salary of $15,708 higher than women.
In fact, the campaign told FactCheck.org that the Free Beacon analysis had been based on "incomplete" information and provided data showing that Clinton paid women equally. From the FactCheck.org article:
"The Free Beacon based their analysis off an incomplete, and therefore inaccurate set of numbers," said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign. "The fact is, Hillary paid full-time men and women equally."
The FactCheck.org article states that the campaign supplied Clinton's senate staff employment records, which show that female staffers' median salaries were "virtually identical" to the male staffers' salaries. Those records also indicated that Clinton hired twice the number of women as men.
The article explains that the Free Beacon used a different data set to arrive at its conclusion that women were paid less - and quoted American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, who said he "believes the Clinton campaign methodology provides a more accurate measure of her record on pay equity."
From the April 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash reportedly does not prove its speculative attacks on the Clintons and even relies on a hoax press release to support a claim, according to ThinkProgress.
Clinton Cash will be released on May 5, and media reports have already hyped the book's supposed revelations about connections between Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state, donations to the Clinton Foundation, and paid speeches given by the Clintons.
According to ThinkProgress, which obtained an advance copy of the book, "Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun":
Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun, despite the media speculation. The book relies heavily on timing, stitching together the dates of donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton's speaking fees with actions by the State Department.
Schweizer explains he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement. "Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don't know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do," he writes. Later, he concludes, "We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates."
ThinkProgress details several of Schweizer's claims, and highlights one major error already found in the book. According to the site, Schweizer at one point uses a press release to bolster one of his many speculative claims, citing it to suggest there may have been a link between a private company that was paying Bill Clinton for speeches (and which supposedly issued the press release) and a State Department report released when Hillary Clinton was secretary. However, ThinkProgress notes, the press release Schweizer cites was revealed as a hoax back in 2013.
This apparently sloppy sourcing from Schweizer is nothing new. As Media Matters extensively documented, Schweizer's career as a Republican activist and researcher is riddled with errors, retractions, and investigations that find his facts "do not check out" and his sources "do not exist." Our analysis found at least 10 separate incidents in which journalists called out Schweizer for his botched reporting.
From the April 21 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly parroted a previously debunked claim that President Obama raised taxes more than 442 times since taking office -- a claim rated "Mostly False" by PolitiFact in 2014.
During the April 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly pointed to federal tax revenue to dismiss political rhetoric on income inequality, lamenting the tax rates of "Americans earning more than $400,000" and noting that "the U.S. has the highest tax rate on business in the world." O'Reilly complained that President Obama has imposed "punishing taxation," claiming that "since taking office, President Obama has proposed a whopping 442 tax increases" and asking, "how much more can the government take from the affluent without crashing the entire free market economy?":
But O'Reilly's claim that Obama raised taxes comes from Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative anti-tax group headed by Grover Norquist, and was rated as "Mostly False" by PolitiFact in 2014. According to PolitiFact, Americans for Tax Reform "overstate[d] the total number by a significant amount," noting that "removing duplicates eliminates about 159 of the proposals" and "failed to account for other tax cuts that are part of Obama's record, including nearly $220 billion in tax cuts that were part of the federal stimulus."
From the April 19 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Less than one week into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and it's a blurry image from a fast-food restaurant security video that's emerged as the defining media image. After "news" broke that Clinton, en route to Iowa to meet with voters, stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle for lunch and that the order was captured on film, the press corps basically went bonkers, treating it like a Tupac sighting and going all-in with fevered reporting.
The New York Times first got hold of the security cam video and reported that Clinton's order "included a Blackberry Izze drink, a soda and a chicken salad, and was filled just after 1 p.m." (1:20 p.m., to be exact, according to the New York Daily News.) Who carried the tray after payment? Clinton herself, the Times explained to readers.
Stories like the original Times report are not entirely out of the ordinary for campaign coverage. But the way the rest of the press went completely overboard in its wake suggests we could be in for a long and painful 19 months before the 2016 election.
More tick-tock details followed. "The newly-minted presidential candidate ordered a chicken bowl with guacamole, a chicken salad and fruit juice," according to ABC News, which interviewed the restaurant's manager. (The guacamole and fruit juice information was considered a mini-scoop; Business Insider noted guacamole "costs extra.")
For days, Clinton's Chipotle stop served as a treasure trove of information: Who made Clinton's burrito bowl? Politico sent a reporter to Maumee and determined, "The 25-year-old who cooked the chicken that went into the burrito bowl Hillary Clinton ordered at the Chipotle here on Monday makes $8.20 an hour and splits rent with two roommates." And assistant general manager Jef Chiet got Clinton her drink, Politico confirmed, "first a blackberry Izze, which she decided she didn't want after she read the ingredients, so he replaced it with an iced tea."
But campaign sleuths weren't finished. Bloomberg confirmed that, "The change from the meal totaled less than a dollar, but it was pocketed rather than deposited in the tip jar as many customers at the restaurant do."
Could any political analysis be gleaned from the mundane lunchtime stop? Of course:
"Hillary Clinton Goes Unnoticed at Chipotle In Botched Retail Politicking Bid" (Washington Times)
"Clinton Bypassed Centrist Taco Bell for Liberal Favorite Chipotle" (Wall Street Journal)
"What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Stop Says About Her Campaign" (Christian Science Monitor)
Is it possible that maybe she was just hungry?
The Chipotle nonsense reached such heights (or depths), that even starstruck E! called out the political press for its ridiculous overreaction to the story, and the fact that "ChipotleGate 2015" triggered "all sorts of in-depth analysis, from what her choice in burrito bowl means for America, to whether her decision to don sunglasses means she's unfit to be president."
During her first week on the campaign trail, Clinton has avoided any defining, self-inflicted gaffes. The same cannot be said of the press.
News organizations have gone on a "staffing binge" in preparation for the 2016 campaign, according to the Washington Post. That means political units have to produce content, no matter how trivial and innocuous. The machine must be fed (clicks must be harvested). And right now, that machine is spitting out some dreadful, breathless, and gossipy campaign dispatches that are divorced from anything remotely connected to a public discourse.
Just think about the Chipotle story. Was Clinton in hiding at the time? Had she dared the press to find her out? Was there any reason to think her highway pit stop for food was newsworthy? No, no and no. Maybe -maybe -- if it were the final weeks of an historically close White House campaign, that kind of myopic attention paid to a lunch order would be warranted. But 70-plus weeks before voters go to the polls? It's unfathomable.
Chipotle Week was so bad it produced a sense of dismay among some media observers and practitioners, as expressed on Twitter.
Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman:
Hillary's campaign is only three days old and it has already been the subject of some of the worst political "journalism" of all time.-- Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) April 15, 2015
New York Times writer Nate Cohn:
A lot of the analysis of the nascent Clinton campaign is unusually vacuous--and that says something-- Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) April 15, 2015
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
Detecting a sense of dread coming over watchers of campaign coverage after the first few weeks... Plotting how to write criticism into that.-- Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 15, 2015
The irony was that while the campaign press freaked out over the trivia surrounding Clinton's lunch order, some pundits were simultaneously castigating the candidate for not rolling out a sweeping campaign agenda.
Politico assigned no fewer than eight reporters for an article about how, just 72 hours into her likely 18-month campaign, Clinton "has been slow" to articulate detailed positions on issues such as fast-track trade agreements and the need for reform at the National Security Agency.
The team at NBC's First Read agreed: "That lack of a message was on display at her Iowa event yesterday." Well, actually that wasn't true. NBC conceded that Clinton had already detailed four fights she wants to wage: "1) building an economy for tomorrow, 2) strengthening families and communities, 3) fixing America's political system by getting rid of "unaccountable" money, and 4) protecting the country."
Additionally, NBC reported Clinton had struck a "populist tone" and condemned income equality in America. But NBC didn't think any of that counted as much of a "message" from Clinton because she was just saying "what you hear from 90% of Democratic candidates running for downballot office."
Clinton didn't say anything entertaining and newsy! "She didn't say anything unique, which was always going to be the shortcoming of a rollout emphasizing theater over substance/message," according to NBC.
And there's the media's inadvertent punch line: It's Clinton who's guilty of emphasizing "theater over substance."
The staff at the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle might disagree.
From the April 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the April 16 edition of Fox Business Network's Making Money with Charles Payne:
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