Politico published inaccurate information about emails between Hillary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal provided to the outlet by an anonymous source who distorted the emails' contents with the intention of damaging the former secretary of state, according to Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The Republican-led committee was formed more than a year ago with the mandate to investigate the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya -- attacks which had already been subject to investigations by the State Department and numerous House and Senate committees. Critics have argued that the committee's actions since its formation demonstrate a "singular focus on attacking Hillary Clinton and her bid for president."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the Committee, writes in a July 6 letter that "a Member of the Committee, a staffer on the Committee, or someone who has been given access to the Committee's documents inaccurately described to the press email exchanges obtained by the Committee in a way that appeared to further a political attack against" Clinton. Cummings describes this as "only the latest in a reckless pattern of selective Republican leaks and mischaracterizations of evidence relating to the Benghazi attacks."
Cummings' letter specifically details inaccuracies in a June 18 Politico story that relied on "a source who has reviewed the email exchange" between Clinton and Blumenthal, a Media Matters consultant and former Clinton White House aide. In its original version, the story claimed:
While still secretary of state, Clinton emailed back and forth with Blumenthal about efforts by one of the groups, Media Matters, to neutralize criticism of her handling of the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sources tell POLITICO.
"Got all this done. Complete refutation on Libya smear," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton in an Oct. 10, 2012, email into which he had pasted links to four Media Matters posts criticizing Fox News and Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi attacks and challenging claims of lax security around the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, according to a source who has reviewed the email exchange. Blumenthal signed off the email to Clinton by suggesting that one of her top aides, Philippe Reines, "can circulate these links," according to the source. Clinton responded: "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH," according to the source.
The emails were not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department.
Cummings notes that Clinton's email reading "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH" came not in response to Blumenthal's email with the Media Matters links, as Politico indicated, but rather in response to a "completely different" Blumenthal email from nine days earlier "forwarding an article from Salon.com reporting that Republicans were planning to claim inaccurately during the presidential debates that the White House had advance knowledge about the Benghazi attacks and failed to act on it."
The day after publication, Politico updated its story with a correction noting that "A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a Clinton email as a response to the Blumenthal email." As MSNBC.com's Steve Benen notes, "Politico obviously didn't make this up; it relied on a source that provided misleading information, apparently with a specific partisan agenda in mind."
Politico was also wrong to report that Clinton's email was "not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department," according to Cummings. He explained that "that email was turned over to the Select Committee by the State Department on February 13, 2015, marked with Bates number STATE-SCB0045548-SCB0045550. The Select Committee has had that email for four months."
As both Cummings and Benen point out, this is not the first time reporters have fallen from deceptive Benghazi leaks that appear to come from Republican sources. Reporters who relied on sources' characterizations of Benghazi-related documents rather than reviewing them directly have previously had to issue embarrassing corrections.
Fox News stoked fears that the Obama administration's new policy to allow families of hostages to engage in private ransom negotiations will endanger Americans and encourage kidnappings, despite previously criticizing the White House for its policy preventing families from paying ransoms.
From the June 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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During his deposition last week before a congressional panel investigating the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, Sidney Blumenthal -- a former journalist and Clinton White House adviser and my longtime friend -- was asked more than 45 questions by the Republicans about his relationships with me, Media Matters, and a pair of super PACs I founded, American Bridge and Correct The Record.
By comparison, Blumenthal was asked by those same Republicans fewer than 20 questions about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, only four questions about U.S. security there, and zero questions about the U.S. presence in Benghazi, according to a fact sheet circulated by Democratic committee staff.
The chairman of the House Select Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, was especially animated in quizzing Blumenthal, who, as the press reported weeks ago, is a paid consultant to my aforementioned groups. Gowdy asked Blumenthal about his role in the production and promotion of four Media Matters research posts that were sharply critical of various false claims made by conservative media on Benghazi. Another Republican asked if Blumenthal had written or edited a recent statement from Correct the Record pointing out the partisan agenda behind the committee's ongoing investigation. (Blumenthal testified, accurately, that he had no role in any of it, though even if he had, what does that have to do with the avowed purpose of the committee?)
Had the Republicans done some research, they would have discovered that our relationship is no secret. Blumenthal and I both wrote about it in our respective memoirs of the Clinton White House years, The Clinton Wars and Blinded by the Right, both published more than a decade ago.
So how did the House Select Committee on Benghazi suddenly morph into the House Select Committee on Media Matters? Why are the Republicans more interested in The Benghazi Hoax, the title of an e-book published by Media Matters, than in Benghazi itself? Let's count the ways.
The Select Committee on Benghazi is the tenth congressional committee to investigate the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks. None of them -- including the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee -- have found significant wrongdoing by the Obama administration, and many of the investigations have cleared the administration of the false conspiracies conservative media have put forward. Yet Gowdy's committee has been investigating the same issue for 409 days, longer than U.S. inquiries into Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination or Iran-Contra, according to a statement by the Democratic minority. They calculate the cost to U.S. taxpayers at $3.5 million -- and counting.
At this point, it's obvious that the committee's intended target is potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If all the Republicans have left to nail her with is Media Matters and Blumenthal, this is an investigation that may as well shut down. There isn't even a whiff of scandal here. Media Matters sources of all its research to publicly available information and original reporting, and we make our work product public on this website. If the Republicans want to figure out what we're up to, the answer is a click away.
Not only is there nothing amiss here; we're proud of the good work we do.
I wish I could say the same for the Republican-led committee, which at this hour is refusing requests from committee Democrats and from Blumenthal to release the transcript of his deposition. Clearly, Gowdy doesn't want the public to see his handiwork.
On one level, the Republicans are sitting on the deposition -- while apparently leaking select parts to the media -- to save themselves from political embarrassment. Blumenthal was asked hundreds of questions in the course of a nearly nine-hour inquisition -- ostensibly so that the committee could learn more about a notional business deal to provide humanitarian assistance in Libya that ended up never coming to fruition, with no money changing hands and no favors sought from the U.S. government.
In fact, Blumenthal told me that the lead Republican lawyer for the committee told him and his lawyers at the end of a long day of questioning that "maybe we got five minutes worth of something."
Yet while the inquiry was a pointless waste of time and money with respect to the committee's mandate, in fact it was not without a purpose. The questions about Blumenthal's long-standing personal relationship with the Clintons, about his work at the Clinton Foundation, and about his work with us, were wholly illegitimate and out-of-bounds. But they were not without a design, and an insidious one at that.
By refusing to release the transcript, the Republicans want to hide the true nature of the Blumenthal deposition: Their partisan attempt to both chill Blumenthal's right to freely express his own political views and more broadly to intimidate our organizations -- organizations that have led the way in exposing the fraudulence of the Benghazi investigation itself. (Not to mention our role in specifically defending Hillary Clinton from the Republicans' unfair attacks on the subject).
If Democrats had hauled a politically active Republican before a congressional committee and spent hours grilling the witness on his political and professional associations and activities -- "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Democratic Party?"-- I can only imagine the hue and cry about the abuse of Congressional power we'd be hearing from the conservative echo chamber right now. Yet progressives for the most part have stayed silent in the face of this blatant effort to suppress First Amendment rights.
Well, not us. After the deposition concluded, I publicly offered to give Gowdy a tour of our offices at his convenience. There he would find hard-working staffers committed to providing the public with fact-based information upon which to understand and judge the critical issues of the day -- including the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi that have been shamelessly politicized by Republicans.
Gowdy would also meet groups that won't be thrown off-mission or harassed or cowed into standing down by desperate partisans who have nothing to offer voters in the coming election but recycled pseudo-scandals.
Sean Hannity claimed that he couldn't "find any instance" of Hillary Clinton calling out Middle Eastern countries for discriminating against women, suggesting that the former secretary of state's silence had been "bought" in exchange for donations to her foundation. But Clinton has repeatedly advocated for women in Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region -- regardless of any donations to the Clinton Foundation.
During the June 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) discussed Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state. Drawing from unsubstantiated pay-to-play allegations made by discredited Republican activist Peter Schweizer in his much disputed book Clinton Cash, the two suggested that donations to the Clinton Foundation from countries in the Middle East may have influenced her actions as secretary of state. Hannity claimed that countries like "Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, have atrocious human rights records for women, gays, and lesbians" but that Hillary Clinton has "never uttered a word about how bad these records are." Asking if they had "[bought] her silence," Hannity went on to question if Clinton could really claim to be a champion for these groups, claiming that he couldn't "find any instance" where Clinton had criticized the policies of the countries he had named:
She's specifically addressed women's rights in precisely the countries Hannity named -- During her time as secretary of state, Clinton criticized Saudi Arabia for not allowing women to drive, asserting that women fighting against the country's ban were "brave and what they are seeking is right," despite the country's previous donations to her foundation. Clinton similarly delivered a scathing critique of Arab leaders for oppressing women in a 2011 speech.
Under Hillary Clinton's tenure, the State Department did not shy away from criticizing countries with poor records on women's and LGBT rights. In 2011 reports on human rights, State criticized Saudi Arabia for violating the basic rights of women with "significant human rights problems," writing that the country had issues with "violence against women and a lack of equal rights for women ...and discrimination on the basis of gender." The State Department similarly condemned the United Arab Emirates for "[d]omestic abuse of women .... [and] allegations that police sometimes enabled domestic abuse," writing that "[l]egal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens was pervasive" in the country.
From the June 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the June 11 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the June 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News is outraged that the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia -- where over 87% of residents are Muslim -- moved their annual Fourth of July celebration "out of respect" for those observing Ramadan in the country, claiming that they're just being "overly sensitive" to Islam and using the event to claim the United States is "leading from behind" on foreign policy.
On June 4, the United States Embassy in Indonesia celebrated the Fourth of July after Ambassador Robert Blake moved up the celebration one month "in order to respect the upcoming Ramadan month," according to The Jakarta Post.
During the June 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and guest Jim Hanson criticized the embassy's decision to move up the Independence Day celebration, blasting them for being "overly sensitive to Islamic sensibilities." Citing the decision as evidence that the Obama administration has "lost its way," Hanson asserted that the U.S. is "the exceptional nation" and "should act like it. That's not being rude or insensitive to other people, that's just what you should do." Hasselbeck agreed, suggesting that this is another example of the administration "leading from behind":
Hanson argued that "Indonesians are hardly the most extreme Muslims," but Fox's outrage ignores that Indonesia has the highest population of Muslim residents in the world. According to the Pew Research Center, 87.2% of the population in the country identifies as Muslim -- meaning the large majority of the country would be fasting in observance of Ramadan during the celebration had it not been moved.
From the June 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.
An ABCNews.com article prominently highlighted Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) criticisms of the State Department for providing "heavily redacted" documents related to the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya to the congressional committee investigating the attack. But as the article itself makes clear, congressional investigators were provided an unredacted version of the very document in question.
The article, headlined, "Blanket Redactions to Hillary Clinton's Benghazi Records 'Typical,' Issa Says" begins by highlighting the attack from the former chairman of the House Oversight Committee: "Rep. Darrell Issa ripped the State Department on Twitter today for heavily redacted records related to Hillary Clinton's involvement in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks."
But in the very next paragraph, the article establishes that Issa's attack was completely misleading, reporting:
However, though Issa suggested the redacted document was sent to the Benghazi Select Committee, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding the attack, the committee actually received an unredacted version, according to committee aides. The heavily redacted version Issa tweeted was actually the one publicly posted on the State Department website as part of its release of Clinton's emails as secretary of state last month.
ABC News' article demonstrates a type of misinformation Media Matters has termed "privileging the lie." ABC News is legitimizing Issa's claim by headlining and beginning the article with an allegation its own reporting shows to be false. But rather than make that falsehood the focus of the story, the report is framed around Issa's allegations.
According to The Washington Post, such framing distinctions are crucial because social science research shows that, "once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it."
For this reason, former Media Matters senior fellow Jamison Foser has written, "If Candidate A lies about Candidate B, for example, the fact that Candidate A is lying should be the lede - otherwise the news report just drills the false claim into readers' and viewers' minds, allowing the misinformation to take hold before it is corrected."
In this case, however, ABC News privileged the lie, leaving its readers the worse off.
From the May 31 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell threw cold water on Fox News' latest faulty Benghazi narrative, characterizing a report that says the Obama administration knew that the attacks were planned in advance as inaccurate. Morell criticized Fox and the media at large for habitually scandalizing the Benghazi attacks based on incomplete or unsupported claims.
Michael Morell criticized Fox News and other media outlets for perpetuating "Benghazi myths" in a May 25 article for Politico, accusing "pundits [who] don't understand intelligence work" of spreading misinformation. Morell lambasted a recent report that claimed that the "Obama administration knew that al Qaeda terrorists had planned" the Benghazi attack "10 days in advance." explaining that the report was based off "raw intelligence" from a single source and did not accurately represent the conclusions of the intelligence community.
"The only thing that newly released document proves," Morell wrote, "is that the people who trot out these reports do not understand the world of intelligence and do not take the time to ask the right people the right questions before publishing the 'news.'" Morell noted that numerous other unclassified documents directly contradict the single Defense Intelligence report scandalized by the media:
The DIA report in question was an "Intelligence Information Report" or IIR. It is what we term "raw intelligence." It was not the considered view of DIA analysts. Often from a single source, these bits of information represent one thread that some intelligence collector has picked up. The all source analysts in the Intelligence Community are charged with looking at that snippet of information and every other bit of available information from communications intercepts, human intelligence, open source material and much more to come up with an overall judgment.
Those all source analysts--without any input or pressure from above--looked at all the available information and determined that there wasnota significant amount of planning prior to the attacks. You don't have to take my word for it. You can look at the briefing slides produced by the National Counterterrorism Center (which is not part of CIA) and coordinated across the Intelligence Community. These slides were declassified over a year ago and were appended to the report on Benghazi produced by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee. In describing the attacks at the State Department facility, the slides say "attackers moving in multiple directions," "attackers do not appear well coordinated" and "no organized effort to breach every building." Not the words one would expect to see associated with an attack planned well in advance.
Morell went on to blast Fox for also cherry-picking from the indictment of Abu Khattala, the only participant in the attacks currently in U.S. custody, to support its Benghazi claims. During the May 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier quoted the indictment in an effort to push the network's faulty assertion that the attack had been pre-planned, claiming that it had noted "premeditation" and demanding Morell answer whether the indictment was wrong. But Morell notes that Baier left out important context from the indictment that indicated "the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack":
What my interviewer failed to share with his viewers were these words from the indictment: "Beginning on a date unknown to the Grand Jury but no later than on or about September 11, 2012...defendant Khatallah did knowingly and intentionally conspire...." (emphasis mine). What does this mean? It means that the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack either. Exactly the point of the intelligence community analysts.
Fox News has similarly continuously seized on every available opportunity to scandalize the attacks on the diplomatic compound at Benghazi. In the 20 months between September 2012 to May 2014, the network aired an astounding 1,098 evening and primetime segments dedicated to Benghazi. Despite numerous reports debunking the network's false narratives surrounding the attack, Fox has relentlessly continued to promote them.
From the May 21 edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes:
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