Conservative media are attempting to discredit the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA's use of torture on terrorism suspects by comparing it to a controversial Rolling Stone article detailing an alleged rape at the University of Virginia that was criticized for not interviewing students implicated in the assault.
Fox News hosts criticized a distorted version of Hillary Clinton's congressional testimony on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, falsely suggesting that the former secretary of state had been indifferent to the cause of the attack.
On December 10, the hosts of Outnumbered recalled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's January 2013 congressional testimony in a discussion on the day's hearing of the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi. Co-host Andrea Tantaros alleged Clinton said, "It doesn't really make a difference what happened on that night" of the attack, and continued, "whether it was men out for a walk." Co-host Kennedy agreed, suggesting Clinton's "strange and insulting line of reflection" evidenced indifference to the lives lost in the attacks. Kennedy went on, "[I]t actually makes a very big difference. If you've got a systemic problem with Al Qaeda who's ready to attack a vulnerable U.S. embassy, then yeah, that's vastly different than a couple people that just get together with some incendiary devices."
That's an egregious stretch of Clinton's remarks.
During her congressional testimony, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked Clinton about the State Department's role in editing Obama administration talking points to remove a reference to the Benghazi attackers' motive. In response, she dismissed the relevance of debating who edited a government memo, saying, "[T]he fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" She emphasized, "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
Fox figures have tirelessly attempted to scandalize Clinton's innocuous response, even jumping off the remarks to imagine her hypothetical assassination. The distortion has proved too egregious even for other members of the right-wing media -- Weekly Standard writer (and Fox contributor) Stephen Hayes called out his fellow conservatives for misrepresenting her remarks, saying Clinton's critics have "badly mischaracterized the now infamous question." According to Hayes, Clinton's "question, which came in the middle of a heated back-and-forth with U.S. senator Ron Johnson, was not so much a declaration of indifference as it was an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future."
Right-wing media are relying on a litany of myths to defend the use of torture on terrorism suspects, responding to the findings of a Senate investigation on the practice by pretending "torture isn't torture" and improperly crediting brutal interrogation for information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden.
From the December 9 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture reveals that conservative author Ronald Kessler was "blessed" by the CIA, receiving background information from the agency which he used to push false claims about the effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and publishing classified information without triggering a leak investigation.
Earlier today the committee released the executive summary of its report, the result of a five-year investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. According to The Washington Post, the document "renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish."
Kessler was once a reporter for mainstream publications but over the past few decades became a right-wing journalist known for his gossipy style. This past year, he authored The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents, one of a number of right-wing books that sought to smear Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The newly released torture report cites Kessler's willingness to promote false claims about the effectiveness of torture as an example of how the CIA's Office of Public Affairs (OPA) "provided unattributed background information on the program to journalists for books, articles, and broadcasts, including when the existence of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program was still classified."
Kessler included such classified information in his book The CIA at War, but internal CIA emails cited by the report reveal that an investigation was never made into these leaks of classified information because OPA "provided assistance with the book" and it "contained no first time disclosure." The agency made the decision to pass on an investigation because CIA cooperation with Kessler had been "blessed" by then-Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet.
The report states that Kessler's book "included inaccurate claims about the effectiveness of CIA interrogations, much of it consistent with the inaccurate information being provided by the CIA to policymakers at that time." According to the report, claims in the book about the effectiveness of CIA interrogations that used torture techniques were false.
For example, the report describes as "incongruent with CIA records" Kessler's claim that the capture of detainee Khallad bin Attash was the "result" of CIA interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks. In The CIA at War, Kessler claimed as a result of his interrogation, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "told the CIA about a range of planned attacks - on U.S. convoys in Afghanistan, nightclubs in Dubai, targets in Turkey, and an Israeli embassy in the Middle East." But the torture report says these claims were also "incongruent with CIA records."
Kessler also was used by the CIA to push back on what a CIA officer called "undue credit" given to the FBI for "CIA accomplishments," in a draft of his 2007 book, The Terrorist Watch. Kessler provided the agency with a draft of his book, and met with the CIA Director of Public Affairs Mark Mansfield who said that after the meeting he believed the agency had "made some headway" in making Kessler's book "more balanced than it would have been." After the meeting, the text more closely reflected the CIA's inaccurate claims that several successes in fighting against terrorism could be attributed to "coercive interrogation techniques."
After his meeting with the CIA, Kessler added the statement that members of Congress and the media "have made careers for themselves by belittling and undercutting the efforts of the heroic men and women who are trying to protect us" and "too many Americans are intent on demonizing those who are trying to protect us."
From the December 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the December 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Conservative media celebrated the effectiveness of torture in response to news that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee would release its report on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) detention and interrogation program, attacking the Senate for releasing the report and disputing the report's findings. Military and interrogation experts have emphasized that torture is an ineffective interrogation technique, and human rights groups support the release of the report.
Fox News originally ignored a House GOP report debunking many of its Benghazi myths but is now attacking the report's credibility to promote the need for more Benghazi Select Committee hearings.
In November, the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republicans, released the results of a lengthy investigation that "debunk[ed] a series of persistent allegations" perpetuated by conservative media outlets about the events and culpability surrounding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The report reaffirmed the findings of several previous investigations and once again determined that "there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria."
Fox News remained mostly silent in the wake of the report's publication, giving the report only cursory coverage while flagship news program Fox News Sunday ignored it entirely. The network's lack of coverage earned condemnation from CNN media critic Brian Stelter and even Fox's own media analyst, Howard Kurtz. The absence of coverage stood in stark contrast toFox's exhaustive focus on the formation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi in June, when the network devoted at least 225 segments to the select committee over a mere two-week span.
With another Benghazi Select Committee hearing scheduled for December 10, Fox has changed its approach from silence to overt attempts to undermine the GOP report's credibility.
Bret Baier, host of Fox's Special Report, claimed on December 3 that "many" believe the House Intelligence Committee's Benghazi report "went soft on the Obama administration and was filled inaccuracies" and emphasized the further investigation by the Benghazi Select Committee. To bolster this allegation, investigative reporter Catherine Herridge noted the "eyewitness accounts" of Kris Paronto and John Tiegen, who, according to Herridge, "say there was an intelligence failure. They were directly warned in late August a strike was likely, yet no Defense Department assets were available on the September 11th anniversary."
Special Report's December 3 panel went to further lengths to undermine the Intelligence Committee report as Baier, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, and The Hill's A. B. Stoddard suggested that the investigation was insufficient.
But Fox's latest attempts at subverting the committee report amount to nothing more than highlighting a smattering of Republican lawmakers who claim to remember events occurring differently than they were laid out in the final report. In a December 5 article for FoxNews.com, Herridge reported that newly declassified testimony contained the statements of members of Congress recalling that former CIA director David Petraeus connected the Benghazi attack to the protests against an anti-Muslim YouTube video in an off-the-record coffee meeting two days after the attack:
If the lawmakers' recollection is accurate, that means Petraeus' brief on Sept. 14, 2012, was instead in line with the White House, and then-Secretary Hillary Clinton's State Department. It was a State Department press release at 10:07 p.m. ET, before the attack was even over, that first made the link to the obscure anti-Islam video. The newly declassified testimony says $70,000 was spent on advertising in Pakistan, denouncing the anti-Muslim film.
During this testimony, GOP Rep. Jeff Miller questioned Petraeus' original testimony, stating the former CIA director "even went so far as to say that it had been put into Arabic language and then was put on this TV station, this cleric's TV station. I mean, [Petraeus] drove that in pretty hard when he was in here. "
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., added "it was said in here a little bit earlier that the CIA never said Benghazi was part of a Cairo protest and of the video. And we were given just the opposite message by the Director of the CIA on the [September] 14th [2012.]"
Rogers noted there was no transcript for the brief, only staff notes, but after the Petraeus incident in September 2012, the practice was changed to always run a transcript on the briefings. The Sept. 14, 2012, brief was a coffee meeting with members.
USA Today reported that the Fox-promoted Select Committee may cost $1.5 million this year, despite numerous other independent investigations finding no wrongdoing with relation to the events in Benghazi.
From the December 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the November 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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On November 21, the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the findings of its investigation into the September 2012 attacks on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, debunking many right-wing media myths about the attacks. Despite the fact that this is just the latest of several reports that clear Obama administration officials of any wrongdoing, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reappointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to lead a special committee in furtherance of the right-wing Benghazi hoax.
From the November 24 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the November 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News Sunday ignored a new report from the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee that debunked many of the myths that Fox News has spent the last two years promoting.
On November 21, the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on the September 2012 attacks on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Similar to the many preceding investigations into the attacks -- including the Accountability Review Board and the bipartisan U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- the report found that no stand down order was issued during the attacks, there was no intelligence failure leading up to the attack, and that the talking points the administration used in the days following the attacks were based on the CIA's best assessment at the time.
The November 23 edition of Fox News Sunday did not inform viewers of the report's findings. This stands in stark contrast to Fox's longstanding campaign to promote myths about the attacks.
Fox has been a tireless promoter of nearly every facet of the Benghazi hoax. In the 20 months following the attacks, Fox ran over 1,100 segments on Benghazi and hosted Republicans at a rate of 30:1 over Democrats to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, the network has routinely ignored and downplayed evidence refuting its conspiracy theories.
CNN media critic Brian Stelter noted that other Fox programs only provided cursory coverage of the report on the night of its release and that Fox never mentioned it the following day. According to Stelter (emphasis added):
STELTER: Boy, has Fox News spent a lot of time over the past two years focused on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and I mean a lot of time. [...] But when a new Benghazi report came out on Friday, there was hardly a peep, and maybe that's because the report, which was Republican led, it was by the House Intelligence committee, debunks many of the myths that have run rampant on Fox News and in conservative media circles. [...] So I have to wonder: will Fox will stop aggressively pushing its theories about Benghazi? Probably not. With its audience largely in the dark about the latest findings, the myths may, and perhaps will, live on.
On the November 23 edition of Fox News' own MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz noted that it only received "brief" coverage on Fox and that the results of the two-year long investigation "deserved more coverage from all news outlets."