An October 8 Associated Press report, titled "Clinton Server Hack Attempts Came From China, Korea, Germany" outlined how "at least five cyberattack tries were apparently blocked by a 'threat monitoring' product that was connected to her network in October 2013." Fox News immediately began using the AP report to support spurious claims regarding Hillary Clinton's email server, but a Washington Post reporter recently explained that failed hacking attempts such as these are a routine occurrence online.
From the October 8 edition of SiriusXM Progress' Make It Plain with Mark Thompson:
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From the October 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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This morning I nearly choked on my coffee when I saw that The New York Times' editorial board published an opinion piece with the headline, "Shut Down the Benghazi Committee." For once, I couldn't agree more with the Times.
Two years ago, I wrote an e-book with my colleague, Ari Rabin-Havt, titled, The Benghazi Hoax. In it, we detailed the 15 most common falsehoods the Fox Noise Machine and conservative blowhards pumped out on a daily basis as they tried to politicize the tragedy in Benghazi.
Mitt Romney had failed to do so effectively in the 2012 election, so the right-wing turned its sights on the woman they thought most likely to be the next Democratic nominee for president.
Fox News was a driving force behind House Republicans' formation of the sham Benghazi Committee. In fact, the network ran nearly 1,100 prime-time segments pushing the propped-up storyline in the first 20 months after the national tragedy alone.
On May 2, 2014, House Speaker John Boehner announced the Benghazi Select Committee. In the ensuing two weeks, as Media Matters reported, Fox News provided over $124 million dollars' worth of promotion on their airwaves. Mainstream media followed suit, awaiting each and every utterance of Rep. Trey Gowdy and his committee cronies.
Two years later, the results speak for themselves.
The committee has spent $4.6 million taxpayer dollars and uncovered no new information or wrongdoing by any individual. Despite major leaks to reporters, the Select Committee on Benghazi has offered no recommendations for how to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
Now, The New York Times is reaffirming what I have been saying for the past two years, after they followed committee Republicans down the rabbit hole of Hillary's emails -- another glaring red herring in this tragedy-turned-partisan-ploy.
This may be one of the ugliest abuses of taxpayer funds and exploitations of a national tragedy in modern American history.
Politicians in both parties can expect to be dragged through the mud, but conservatives should be ashamed of dishonoring men and women who try to keep us safe, solely for partisan political gain. There should be general agreement -- if nothing else, common decency should tell you -- that politicizing a tragedy such as this crosses a line.
This was a political hit-job of the highest order. Hopefully, it is the last we'll see of any kind of political attack like it.
As Republicans and their media allies scramble to contain the damage from Rep. Kevin McCarthy's (R-CA) comments on Fox News, where he admitted the allegedly non-partisan Benghazi select committee was created to sabotage Hillary Clinton's political career, note that the other key player in this story is the Beltway press. And like Republicans, reporters and pundits who have feasted off Benghazi -- and the supposedly-related Clinton email story -- now have a chance to come to terms with a new political reality.
And that reality is that the cover of legitimacy has been blown away. McCarthy's comments revealed a poorly-kept secret and now everyone has to acknowledge their unobstructed view of the crass partisanship in play.
Having handed Democrats such a blunt instrument to attack the GOP's permanent-scandal infrastructure, McCarthy's comments could represent a turning point of sort. My hunch is that many D.C. journalists liked it better when they could pretend the Benghazi and email pursuits were strictly fact-finding missions, but it is now much harder to cling to that farce.
The fact is that for years the Beltway press has had the chance to cast a critical eye on the GOP's Benghazi obsession, to ask pointed questions about the clear abuse of power and the use of taxpayer dollars to advance a political agenda, through a committee virtually subsidizing Republican opposition research for a presidential campaign.
Instead, the press mostly checked any skepticism and was happily recruited to be part of the Republican "scandal" production. The press liked the story the Benghazi committee was trying to tell. (A swirling scandal in the Obama White House. Will Clinton's campaign be doomed?) Much of the press liked being fed morsels of information, which were then nearly always related to news consumers with strong GOP flavoring.
Recall that when Republicans rolled out the select committee last year, much of the Beltway press seemed almost giddy with anticipation, busy suggesting that big troubles lay ahead for Democrats because of looming questions about the Libya terror attack. (Remember when the Benghazi select committee claimed it would actually investigate the Libya terror attack?) Of less interest to much of the political press was the fact that there had already been seven government inquiries into Benghazi and that none had uncovered any administration wrongdoing. In fact, several had completely debunked favorite Republican conspiracy theories. ("Stand down" orders were definitely not given.)
So in a way, McCarthy's comments didn't simply reveal the truth about Republican objectives, they also highlighted the press' pliant role. Going forward, journalists have a clear choice: they can finally decouple themselves from the increasingly farcical, and sprawling, Benghazi production, or become more deeply mired in the folly. (It's probably too late, though, for people like National Journal's Ron Fournier, who repeatedly backed all kind of bogus Republican claims about the White House and Benghazi.)
In the wake of McCarthy's accidental accuracy, a handful of prominent media voices have unequivocally stated the truth. At the New York Times, those voices included editorial board member Carol Giacomo: The Benghazi committee is "a partisan witch hunt targeting Hillary Rodham Clinton" and has "shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack." And today, the New York Times' entire editorial board joined in, calling the Benghazi committee "an insult to the memory of four slain Americans," and urging Republicans to disband the partisan inquisition.
But the Times editorial board has been honest about the committee's true, absurd nature since day one. Whether other media outlets will finally follow their lead remains to be seen.
There's no question that McCarthy's blunder of accidentally telling the truth on national television has changed the political calculus in recent days. McCarthy's campaign to be next Speaker of the House is suddenly in danger of being derailed. Republican allies fear the investigation apparatus is permanently stained. And Democrats on the Benghazi committee, who have complained bitterly about Republican behavior for months, have essentially declared war on chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and are now potentially moving to disband the committee all together. (They likely don't have the votes to do so, but the Benghazi storyline has clearly changed.)
And with Democrats fighting back, that means the media narrative should, and can, change in important ways. Just look at the nuggets about committee malfeasance that we're now learning: "Gowdy Cancelled All Planned Hearings Other Than Hillary Clinton's After NYT Email Story."
Meanwhile, Clinton released her first national ad of the campaign cycle featuring Benghazi: "The Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she's fighting for everything they oppose." (Vox called the 30-second spot "devastating.") And while it remained unstated, the ad worked as a critique of the press and its Benghazi malpractice as well.
It's true that Democrats on the committee and on Capitol Hill have for years been complaining about the Republicans' institutionalized scandal pursuits, and the way the GOP set up a Congressional infrastructure to feed the press wild allegations and create costly distractions, just like they did during the 1990s under President Bill Clinton.
I suspect much of the press knew the Democratic claims about the Benghazi committee were accurate, but they wanted to carry on with the charade. The press was invested and wanted to maintain the deniability that Republicans provided. (i.e. These are serious endeavors!) They wanted to pretend this circular, dog-chasing-tail Benghazi/email pursuit was presidentially important and required limitless resources.
So a game-changing revelation about the Benghazi committee had to come from a prominent Republican in order to alter the conversation.
And now it has.
A member of The New York Times editorial board argued that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is "not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives," but is "a partisanwitch hunt" targeting Hillary Clinton.
On September 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is running to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as the Speaker of the House, told Sean Hannity that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Republican House majority was creating the Benghazi Committee, which he credited with hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Hannity initially praised McCarthy and the committee for its "political" strategy, but has since walked back the complements amid backlash. Fox News had largely ignored McCarthy's damning comments, but Fox's Chris Wallace and Juan Williams acknowledged McCarthy "spoke the truth" and that damaging Clinton was "clearly one of the things that Republicans were hoping" would result from the committee.
On October 2, New York Times editorial board member Carol Giacomo attacked the "duplicity and political chicanery" of the committee, which has "shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack" despite "wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history." Giacomo concluded by calling on the Republican-led House to disband the committee and suggesting that its Democratic members should resign if they refuse to do so:
It has long appeared that the Republican obsession with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya was not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives but a partisan witch hunt targeting Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Now there is proof of the duplicity and political chicanery behind the creation of the Select Committee on Benghazi. It was ham-handedly exposed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, who, in his quest to become the next speaker of the House, couldn't resist boasting about what he considers his party's major political accomplishment.
Now under heavy criticism for telling the truth and with his bid for speaker at risk, Mr. McCarthy is trying to walk back his remarks, but it won't work.
Despite wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history, the committee has shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack. It would be surprising if it did. Several other congressional committees and a panel of outside experts commissioned by the State Department have investigated the attack and the government's response. They concluded that the tragedy was preventable and condemned "systemic failures" at senior levels of the State Department. But none found evidence that Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, was specifically to blame or produced any other bombshell to support some wild Republican conspiracy theories. Those earlier probes didn't keep the Republicans from exploiting the issue for political gain by establishing the special committee, whose focus has segued from Benghazi to the fact that as secretary Mrs. Clinton used a private email account. To hear Democratic lawmakers tell it, the Republicans have thoroughly perverted any semblance of a fair process by calling and interviewing witnesses without bothering to include the committee's minority members.
The committee should be disbanded and if the Republican leadership refuses to do that, then the panel's Democratic members should resign. Manipulating government funds for political purposes in this way may well violate congressional ethics rules, as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested. There is little reason to expect that Republicans, united in defeating Mrs. Clinton at all costs, care enough to do anything about it.
From the October 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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A Media Matters analysis of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal found that The Post dedicated extensive coverage to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was part of a partisan strategy that damaged Hillary Clinton's presidential chances. The Post featured 17 online or print articles or blog posts that mentioned or covered McCarthy's comments. The Times mentioned or covered the comments in five online or print articles or blog posts, and The Journal neglected to offer any print coverage, but had five online articles and blog posts that mentioned or offered coverage.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings starting October 4 on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, which include ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates. Attkisson has a lengthy record of shoddy, inaccurate reporting, and she has pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that the government hacked her home electronics.
Within the span of just twelve hours this week, multiple Republican-sponsored political pursuits partially unraveled in plain sight.
The long-running investigations were the Benghazi select committee and the related probe into Hillary Clinton's private emails, and Republicans' crusade targeting Planned Parenthood. Journalists would be wise to take note of the pattern of plain deception and ask themselves if they want to keep sponsoring these planned distractions.
The first to crumble was the right-wing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, which was launched this summer and sponsored by Fox News and the Republican Party. Creating a whirlwind of controversy and endless media attention, the undercover sting operation by anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress was even elevated by some to be pressing enough to shut down the federal government.
Tuesday's Congressional hearing about defunding Planned Parenthood was to be the centerpiece of the right wing's orchestrated attack campaign. The problem was that in recent weeks we've learned the gotcha videos at the center of the campaign were deceptively edited. And so far six statewide investigations have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. That meant the Congressional production was likely destined for failure.
"The entire hearing was premised on a series of mischaracterizations," reported The New Yorker. Republicans were left with little but bouts of bullying in an effort to intimidate Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards as she testified.
It didn't work. So after ten weeks, the sustained attack against Planned Parenthood produced no tangible evidence of wrongdoing and no serious damage to the organization. (Of course, despite their failures so far, Republicans are now reportedly considering creating "a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood.")
Then just hours after the hearing completed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who's now in line to become the next Republican Speaker of the House, brazenly bragged on Sean Hannity's Fox program about how the Benghazi select committee was responsible for damaging Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. To which Hannity responded, "That's something good, I give you credit for that."
With one brief Fox appearance, McCarthy laid bare the facts about both the never-ending Benghazi investigation and the related, still-churning email witch hunt: They're both built on politics, plain and simple. The Republicans created a Benghazi select committee in order to try to take out the Democratic frontrunner for president. Period. That's the story.
Sadly, the busted Planned Parenthood, Benghazi and email diversions simply represent the latest creations from the GOP distraction model. Conservatives have been using it, on and off, for two decades -- and the model works best when the Beltway press plays along. It works best if the Beltway press pretends virtually every other Republican-produced scandal pursuit hasn't been a bust.
Many of the same Republicans who have spearheaded the dishonest Planned Parenthood probe are the same ones leading the charge on Benghazi and the email story. And the press continues to breathlessly quote them as they try to hype these supposed scandals.
So yes, much of the press has been culpable in the latest Republican distractions since day one. In fact, the press has been playing the same lapdog role for well over twenty years when it comes to endlessly hyping and even marketing orchestrated Republican distractions. These self-contained circus productions that suggest all kinds of Democratic wrongdoing are long on conspiracy theories but short on facts, and leave pundits and reporters breathlessly chronicling the possible downside for Democrats.
One reason these Groundhog Day scenes keeping play out, again and again and again, is due to the fact too many journalists are absolutely wed to the very simple definition of what constitutes news: What are conservatives angry about?
Given that kind of carte blanche to create news cycles, Republicans and conservatives in the media have taken full advantage and have settled into a predictable pattern: Manufacture distractions designed to make life miserable for Democratic leaders; force Democrats to use up energy and resources to swat down endless unproven allegations, and spawn waves of media "gotcha" hysteria fueled by disingenuous leaks.
But here's the thing: it's exhausting. It's disheartening. And it's a colossal waste of time and energy. But this is how the right wing plays politics in America and the D.C. press has shown an unbridled enthusiasm to want to play along; to want to abandon common sense in order to chase GOP-designated shiny objects for weeks, months or sometimes years on end. And then do it all over again when the current distraction disintegrates.
The pattern began in earnest during the 1990s when Republicans became obsessed with personally pursuing the Clintons. Remember the dubious Clinton pardon distraction, the parting gifts distraction, and of course Ken Starr's $80 million Inspector Javert routine.
Charles Pierce at Esquire recently detailed that decade's signature string of orchestrated GOP obfuscations:
To use a more relevant, example, TravelGate was a distraction. FileGate was a distraction. The disgusting use of Vince Foster's suicide was a distraction. Castle Grande was a distraction. The cattle futures were a distraction. The billing records were a distraction. Webster Hubbell's billing practices were a distraction. Hell, the entire Whitewater part of the Whitewater affair was basically a distraction, as was the pursuit of Bill Clinton's extracurricular love life. Kathleen Willey was a distraction. The monkeywrenching of a settlement in the Paula Jones case was to make sure that the distraction that was that case survived. All of these were distractions created to make it difficult for a Democratic president to govern, and the reason I know that is because the people creating distractions were not shy about admitting what they were all about to each other.
Over time, the vast majority of those endless Clinton allegations were proven to be hollow. Yet aided by some regrettable journalism, the relentless scandal culture took hold and managed to damage to the Clinton administration. Indeed, the whole point of the GOP's Clinton distraction model was to create the infrastructure to hound the Democrats.
With President Obama's inauguration, the old model was unpacked, but this time with Fox News playing a much more aggressive role. The results have been an endless parade of diversions and hoaxes designed, in various shapes and sizes, to hamstring a Democratic administration and, more recently, to damage the leading Democratic candidate for 2016.
Here's just a handful of manufactured distractions:
As Media Matters can attest, virtually none of the often-hysterical allegations attached to those distractions were ever proven to be true. Instead, the pursuits imploded under their own weight. Yet too often, these supposed scandals broke out of the Fox News bubble and became mainstream "news."
So when's the press going to get the message and stop enabling these charades?
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox's Sean Hannity has doubled down on his admission that the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi was part of a partisan strategy to diminish Hillary Clinton's chances in the 2016 presidential election. On September 29, Hannity gave Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy "credit where credit is due" for hurting Clinton's poll numbers with the committee's investigation, which was launched after months of Fox peddling sensationalized Benghazi myths and repeatedly calling for an investigation into the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.
From the September 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the September 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the September 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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