Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone is raising questions about a Washington Post report that named and implicated a White House volunteer in the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal based largely on an unnamed "eyewitness," without substantial corroborating evidence. The White House volunteer had been investigated and cleared of wrongdoing, as other media outlets had noted in 2012 reports that protected his anonymity.
The Washington Post reported on October 8 that in addition to several Secret Service agents and members of the military who were punished for hiring prostitutes during a 2012 presidential visit to Columbia, then-White House volunteer Jonathan Dach may have engaged in similar activity. The Post's evidence was a single anonymous Secret Service agent who "said he saw Dach with a woman he believed was a prostitute," and a hotel record that stated Dach had registered a woman into his room. The White House had investigated in 2012 and cleared him after determining that Dach denied any wrongdoing, that Dach's fellow White House travel aides reported no wrongdoing, and that the hotel records were inaccurate and had previously triggered the erroneous allegation that an innocent Secret Service agent had brought a prostitute to his room.
So why then did the Post decide to name him now, two and a half years after it broke the news of the scandal and 9 months since reporters began communicating with his attorney? Letters obtained by The Huffington Post show the attorney, Richard Sauber, rebutted the claims and offered countervailing evidence in letters sent to top Post editors. The decision to publish Dach's identity regardless raises questions about the threshold news organizations must meet when revealing the name of someone accused of lurid activity without independently confirming the claims.
Though The Post did not conclude that Dach hired a prostitute, it nevertheless crafted its story in a way that could give the impression of guilt or impropriety. ... Sauber denied the allegations and expressed concern that the inclusion of Dach's name in a story on the prostitution scandal could significantly damage his professional future. Sauber wrote on Jan. 16 that the publication of the charge "will be devastating to this young man just as he embarks on his career after law school."
Time misrepresented the findings of an Inspector General report to falsely imply that former State Department aide Cheryl Mills was faulted for "strong-arming" departmental investigations, even though the inspector general cleared Mills of wrongdoing in the only case where her actions were investigated.
In an October 17 piece, Time claimed several aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been faulted for the appearance of "undue influence and favoritism" during three State Department investigations. In what Time called "the highest-level case," a U.S. Ambassador in Belgium was recalled to Washington for an internal review into accusations that he had solicited a prostitute. "The move effectively halted an investigation by the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security," Time reported. It continued:
The ambassador, Howard Gutman, was recalled to Washington from Belgium to meet with Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy and Clinton Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, according to the report.
By focusing on Mills' role in that meeting -- in an article centered around claims that Clinton aides were strong-arming investigators and fostering an atmosphere of favoritism -- Time implied that Mills was found negligent by the Inspector General. But the inspector general report did not criticize Mills for her role in that meeting. The IG report was only critical of the decision to internalize the inquiry, a decision made by the Undersecretary of Management, Patrick Kennedy. From the report:
The Under Secretary of State for Management told OIG that he decided to handle the suspected incident as a "management issue" based on a disciplinary provision in the FAM that he had employed on prior occasions to address allegations of misconduct by Chiefs of Mission.
Despite insinuating that Mills was criticized by the Inspector General, Time made no mention of the fact that Mills was explicitly cleared of wrongdoing in a separate investigation, even though that investigation was a focus of their report. The investigation centered on whether that an assistant secretary of state was found to have improperly delayed an interview with a nominee to be ambassador to Iraq. Mills, who was Chief of Staff at the time, was explicitly cleared of any improper actions:
OIG found no evidence of any undue influence by the Chief of Staff/Counselor.
OIG did not find evidence of perceived or actual undue influence or favoritism in four of the DS internal investigations reviewed.
From the October 17 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media falsely claimed that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion vindicated former President George W. Bush's rationale for the Iraq war - ignoring the fact that the chemical weapons discovered predated 1991 and thus could not vindicate Bush's rationale which relied on an active, on-going chemical weapons program at the time of the invasion.
Conservative media figures lashed out at President Obama's appointment of Ron Klain as the Ebola response coordinator or "czar," criticizing the selection as "insane" and "dumb." Klain has been praised for his work in government and has been called "a great choice" to deal with the Ebola crisis by other media outlets.
From the October 17 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the October 16 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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The hosts of Fox News' The Five distorted the history behind the rationale for the U.S. war in Iraq by reshaping an investigative report by the New York Times.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly dishonestly criticized the Obama administration for allegedly endorsing an anti-terror handbook which advises against referring to terrorists as "jihadis," as it "emboldens them," failing to mention that the Bush administration made a decision to stop using the word "jihadist" to describe terrorists in 2008.
On the October 15 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly hosted National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy to discuss the State Department's Twitter "endorsement" of a handbook that aims to prevent the recruitment of young people by terrorist groups. Kelly quoted the handbook, which was created by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and two Canadian Muslim organizations, as saying jihad is "noble," and said that "our State Department sends this out saying, enjoy." McCarthy stated that this is "the position of the Obama administration. It has been from the beginning of the administration," and criticized CIA chief John Brennan for saying in 2010 that "we can't use the word 'jihad' in connection with terrorism because jihad is a noble concept in Islam."
But this shift in language used to discuss terrorism predates the Obama administration. In May 2008, UPI reported that "U.S. officials are being advised in internal government documents to avoid referring publicly to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups as Islamic or Muslim, and not to use terms like jihad or mujahedin, which "unintentionally legitimize" terrorism." The report continued:
Instead of calling terror groups Muslim or Islamic, the guide suggests using words like totalitarian, terrorist or violent extremist -- "widely understood terms that define our enemies appropriately and simultaneously deny them any level of legitimacy."
By employing the language the extremists use about themselves, the guide warns, officials can inadvertently help legitimize them in the eyes of Muslims.
"Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahedin' ... to describe the terrorists," instructs the guide. "A mujahed, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war. In Arabic, jihad means 'striving in the path of God' and is used in many contexts beyond warfare. Calling our enemies Jihadis and their movement a global Jihad unintentionally legitimizes their actions."
"There are some terms which al-Qaida wants us to use because they are helpful to them," Daniel Sutherland, who runs the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, told United Press International in an interview.
"This is in no way an exercise in political correctness ... we are not watering down what we say."
Fox has attacked the Obama administration for adopting this uncontroversial understanding of jihad in the past. In 2013, Sean Hannity asked if Brennan was "stupid and naïve" for describing jihad as a legitimate tenet of Islam. In 2010, Fox host Brian Kilmeade called a ban on references to jihad "insulting" -- again, without noting the Bush administration's similar policy, which former Bush advisers said laid the groundwork of the Obama administration policy.
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Shepard Smith Reporting:
From the October 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative media are denying recent reports that sliding financial support has stalled research on infectious diseases and vaccine development, ignoring evidence that funding shortfalls have handicapped the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, told The Huffington Post on October 10 that "a decade of stagnant spending has 'slowed down' research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases." Conservative outlets pivoted off of Collins' statement to misleadingly claim that an overall increase in the CDC's budget proves that a lack of funding has not hindered research on and the response to diseases like the Ebola virus.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy said that the "CDC budget wasn't cut at all" and told viewers to "remember that money to [the CDC and the NIH] actually went up rather than got cut." On the October 13 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh similarly argued that "the CDC got plenty of money," including "significant budget increases."
But both the NIH and agencies inside the CDC have experienced funding problems over the past decade. As The Huffington Post pointed out, the NIH's purchasing power has dipped significantly:
NIH's purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency's budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion -- barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee advised Republicans to "grow a spine" and oppose marriage equality, blasting court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans as "the betrayal of our Constitution."
During an October 7 interview with the anti-gay American Family Association's radio program, Huckabee said that he's "utterly exasperation with Republicans ... who have abdicated on this issue," and warned that he might leave the Republican Party and become an independent if the GOP stops fighting marriage equality. The former governor of Arkansas is reportedly considering a run for president in 2016.
Huckabee reiterated his criticism in the opening monologue of his October 11 Fox News show. Huckabee denounced the court decisions that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal in several more states, emphasizing that judges overruled "the collective votes of the people themselves" in a "betrayal of our Constitution." He concluded that he is "utterly disgusted" with Republican governors and other officials that complied with the court orders overturning same-sex marriage bans, arguing that they should "[g]row a spine, show a modicum of knowledge about the way we govern ourselves, and lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way."