From the October 20 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney:
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Ask Fox News' Megyn Kelly if she has an opinion and she'll tell you no, she plays it straight. "If you watch O'Reilly, you hear a lot about what Bill O'Reilly thinks," Kelly told the Associated Press regarding her new primetime Fox program, debuting tonight. "Sean Hannity, same thing. But you're not going to hear what I think." This is true to the extent that Megyn Kelly, the longtime star of Fox News' daytime block of "straight news" programming, is not a fulminating champion of "traditional" values like O'Reilly. Nor is she a myna bird for the Republican National Committee like Hannity. In that way she represents a significant departure from the network's last decade of primetime programming -- but toward a direction that actually makes Fox even more dangerous.
Kelly does not breathe fire like her primetime cohorts, but she can be every bit as partisan and misleading. The recent comments from Kelly and from the network are part of a deliberate effort to set her apart from the partisanship and moralism of Hannity and O'Reilly and cast her as a voice of factual authority. Anyone who's watched enough of Kelly's news programming knows how insidious a message that is. And, unfortunately, it appears to be working.
People who think this is unfair to Kelly will likely bring up her election night dismantling of Karl Rove as he sputtered objections to the network calling Ohio for President Obama. Or her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their antiquated views of women in the workplace. And Kelly was absolutely right to take on her colleagues in those instances. It should be noted, though, that these moments are made possible by the fact that the network won't actually punish her colleagues for unguarded crassness or factually dubious partisanship. Fox News will keep paying Rove for being embarrassingly wrong and Erickson for being a sexist oaf, which means Kelly won't lack for opportunities to make headlines by imposing some basic decency on her coworkers.
But for each of those moments, there is an example of Megyn Kelly wielding her journalistic authority to prop up transparent nonsense as "news." Remember the ridiculous New Black Panther story? One of the big reasons you know about it is because Kelly made the story her own, elevating the profile of the extremist fringe group and devoting hours of airtime to the absurd allegation that it was under the protection of Obama Justice Department because that conspiracy theory comported with conservative resentment of the administration (and because it made for entertaining television). Her facts were often wrong, and the story ended up going nowhere because there was nothing to it.
From the September 25 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the September 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News host Gregg Jarrett used the new round of Congressional hearings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi to push some of the network's favorite Benghazi lies.
This week, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led a new round of hearings into the Benghazi attacks. The committee heard testimony from Retired Admiral Mike Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) which issued an independent report in December about the attacks.
On the September 19 edition of Happening Now, host Gregg Jarrett and contributor Jonah Goldberg used the hearings to push some of Fox's favorite, long-debunked falsehoods about the attacks and the Obama administration's response.
Jarrett posited that US military forces could have arrived in time to rescue those under attack in Benghazi but had decided not to do so. Both he and Goldberg wondered why Mullen and Pickering had "dismissed" this idea, with Goldberg adding, "That's outrageous that no one was ready to have anybody come rescue any American on 9/11, which is sort of a famous terrorist holiday. And secondly, they didn't know how long this fight was going to take."
But the theory that U.S. forces could have made it in time for a rescue or intervention has been repeatedly debunked. The ARB determined that all "interagency response was timely and appropriate" but there was not sufficient time for "armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference," and the Pentagon has said that fighters could not have been sent to Benghazi because they lacked the refueling tankers that would have been needed to get them there. Additionally, the Pentagon said Special Operations Command Africa instructed a team of Special Forces not to leave for Benghazi because they would be needed to provide security in Tripoli. That second team would not have reached Benghazi before the attacks were concluded. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called out those who claimed more could have been done to rescue those in Benghazi for having a "cartoonish impression of the military."
Jarrett also pushed the myth that a stand down order was issued that night, saying, "The infamous stand down order, we still haven't gotten to the bottom of that, assuming that it even happened."
Yet the head of Special Forces in Tripoli has testified that no such stand down order was ever given, no evidence has ever emerged suggesting such orders were given, and reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the facility. Even the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has acknowledged no such order was given.
Jarrett concluded by claiming that "we still don't really know" where President Obama was during the attacks, adding, "presumably he went to bed while Americans were being slaughtered."
This smear flies in the face of testimony from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has stated that Obama was "well-informed" during the attack and that Obama ordered military leaders to do "whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there."
Jarrett's lies are only a drop in the ocean of the Benghazi falsehoods Fox has pushed for the last year.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speculated that the attack on the Washington Navy Yard may have been a false flag operation committed by disguised government agents in pursuit of some obscure goal to restrict liberty. Despite Jones' far-fetched and often offensive statements, conservative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report have continued to promote his theories -- coverage that has even inspired legislative action in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
After a gunman attacked the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, Alex Jones immediately wondered if the attack was part of some conspiracy, tweeting, "Who will the Navy yard shooting be blamed on? Terrorist? Tea Partier? Leftist? Lone nut?" Later, on his radio show, Jones said, "when you have multiple shooters like this, it has patsy written all over it," and compared it to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, which Jones described as "undoubtedly a false flag." At the time of publication, Reuters reported, "Up to three gunmen, at least two dressed in military-style clothing, killed several people and wounded at least four others in a shooting spree at the U.S. Navy Yard on Monday."
Jones has long promoted false flag conspiracy theories. He once accused the government of using a weather control machine to devastate Moore, OK, with tornadoes. Jones also claimed that the United States government was behind everything from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting. Most recently, he questioned whether the New World Order may be using the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to replace the world's population with human-machine hybrids.
While Jones' theories may seem outlandish, they often receive promotion among the right wing media including Fox News. Earlier this year, Matt Drudge declared 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Jones' widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in order to either commit a coup against the United States or to drive up ammunition prices and keep it out of the hands of American citizens recently spurred the Republican-led House of Representatives to investigate and introduce legislation in order to prevent DHS from stockpiling ammunition.
Jones wasn't the only right-wing media figure to rush to politicize the tragedy. Others included Fox's Katie Pavlich and Martha MacCallum and CNN's S.E. Cupp.
As the anniversary of the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya approaches, the conservative media seems to be salivating over the release of Under Fire, the new book by former diplomatic security agent Fred Burton and journalist Samuel M. Katz that details the assault, minute-by-minute. It's the latest salvo in conservatives' year-long campaign to politicize and demagogue the tragedy. But conservatives may want to read the book first. The authors discredit the narratives conservative media figures have perpetuated about the attack in order to criticize the Obama administration, most notably the claims that there could have been a larger and faster military response or that resources were intentionally withheld from those under fire in Libya.
The lack of a timely military response was never an issue of lack of resolve or determination to help Americans in danger, Burton and Katz write. It all came down to logistics:
There was never a question concerning U.S. resolve or the overall capabilities of the U.S. military to respond to Benghazi. There was, however, nothing immediate about an immediate response. There were logistics and host-nation approvals to consider. An immediate response was hampered by the equation of geography and logistics.
The authors go into great detail describing the various factors that prevented additional military response teams from arriving in Benghazi in time, and in the process completely dismantle the notion that available military assets could have made a difference but were held back for political reasons.
On page 138, Burton and Katz discuss the availability and response time of the Marine Corps' Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), which was ordered by the Pentagon to get to Libya "as fast as you can":
"The FAST unit closer to Benghazi was FAST Company Europe, which reported to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, II Marine Expeditionary Force. Based at the Naval Station Rota, Spain, FAST Company Europe was no stranger to crisis and response work in the Mediterranean. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered that appropriate forces respond. A task order flowed from the Pentagon to NAVSTA Rota, Spain: "Lean forward and get there as fast as you can." The marines mustered into their transport aircraft on the tarmac in their combat fatigues and full battle kit. However, logistical challenges such as airspace and overflight clearances are not easily sorted out, especially involving a nation like Libya. Sending armed U.S. Marines into a sovereign nation became a complex foreign policy decision with multiple moving pieces between Libyan Foreign Ministry, the Pentagon, and the State Department. The marines waited on the tarmac for their orders. The FAST platoon wouldn't make it to Libya, to augment security at the embassy in Tripoli, until the next evening.
From the August 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News suggested that Hillary Clinton was lying during congressional testimony about the Benghazi attack by cropping her comments and hyping baseless claims made by a discredited GOP activist. Fox News hosts also dredged up the misleading claim that Clinton dismissed the importance of Benghazi in her testimony.
On America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer hosted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to attack Clinton over Benghazi. During the segment, Hemmer reported on a baseless claim by lawyer and GOP activist Joseph diGenova that the administration is trying to cover up the theft of 400 surface-to-air missiles that were somehow linked to the Benghazi compound. DiGenova, who made these claims during an interview with the Washington, DC-area show Mornings on the Mall, could not name his sources, acknowledged that some of his information is not "verifiable," and provided no evidence to back up the allegation. More generally, diGenova is just not a credible source. Along with his wife, Victoria Toensing, he has donated extensively to Republican candidates and causes, and has a long history of investigating Democrats and defending Republicans, having been accused of lacking "impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism."
Hemmer contrasted diGenova's dubious allegation with a cropped clip of Clinton's January 23 congressional testimony in which she denied knowledge of weapons transfers from Libya to Turkey. Hemmer asked Paul whether Clinton was "not telling the truth":
Fox's attack is based on selectively cropping Clinton's comments. During her congressional testimony, Clinton was asked by Paul, "Is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?" Fox played a portion of her response, in which Clinton denied having any knowledge of a weapons transfer.
Below is the full transcript of her response to Paul's question in the January 23 hearings, with the portion that Fox omitted highlighted:
Fox News reacted to reports that a suspect in the September 2012 Benghazi attack has been indicted by attacking the Obama administration. This included pushing the narrative that terror suspects should be tried in military courts, ignoring the far more successful record of civilian courts in such trials.
CNN's special The Truth About Benghazi pushed long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with host Erin Burnett and CNN correspondent John King asking questions that were answered months ago -- often by CNN itself -- and leaving important context out of many claims.
From the August 6 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Rush Limbaugh took his attacks on the Obama administration to an absurd new level by mining information from an obscure right-wing blog whose allegations surrounding the manufactured Benghazi scandal offer only the pretense of credibility. The story from Conservative Report Online relied on anonymous sources who claim that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was the decision-maker during the Benghazi attacks -- a claim Limbaugh exploited to argue that Jarrett issued a stand down order to American armed forces that night.
On his August 6 radio program, Rush Limbaugh used a posting by Chip Jones on the Conservative Report to claim that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett ordered U.S. security forces to "stand down" during the September 11, 2012 attacks on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi -- something that never happened. Limbaugh says the "shocking report" claims, "Valerie Jarrett gave the orders to stand down in Benghazi to all the -- Valerie Jarrett who constitutionally is not in the chain of command and cannot do that!" Rush continues, "And that's why this, if true, is a bombshell!"
According to Jones, "confidential sources close to Conservative Report have confirmed that Valerie Jarrett was the key decision-maker for the administration, the night of the Benghazi terrorist attack on 9/11/2012." Jones offered no evidence to support his claim other than the word of anonymous sources, but Limbaugh still ran with it, concluding that Valerie Jarrett gave a "stand down" order that was never actually given.
Jones has a history of making absurd, hyperbolic claims about the Obama administration, and about President Obama himself, whom he calls "the Redd Foxx President." For example, Jones once pointed to the security details that protect Obama administration officials such as Ambassador Susan Rice and Attorney General Eric Holder to ask, "Is President Obama choosing to value people of color over Caucasians?"
Right wing media have demonstrated an uncanny willingness to run with conspiracy theories that fit their anti-Obama narratives, regardless of the lack of evidence that supports their claims and even if those claims defy reality. Limbaugh's dalliance with Chip Jones and the Conservative Report is no exception.
Fox News figures are using a possible al Qaeda plot to falsely claim that President Obama declared the war on terror over.
The State Department has closed embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa in response to an intercepted communication between al Qaeda leaders about a potential terror attack.
During a segment on The Five about the threat, Fox producer Jesse Watters stated that in "the big speech he gave three months ago," Obama "said, technically the war on terror is over."
Minutes after sowing seeds of doubt as to whether U.S. embassies abroad are truly facing a possible terrorist attack, Rush Limbaugh warned that this line of cynical thinking is "really dangerous" and "unhealthy" while ignoring his own role in spreading misinformation.
After the State Department announced the extended closure of twenty-two U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa over the weekend, due to intelligence suggesting the possibility of a planned terrorist attack, Limbaugh pondered the theory that this new threat could be an attempt by the administration to distract from other stories. Limbaugh listed incidents in which he believed the White House has not been truthful before declaring, "[A]ll of a sudden here comes this monstrous terror threat ... It's just easy to not believe it anymore. It's just too easy to be cynical."
Approximately ten minutes later, Limbaugh returned to the topic of the embassy closures. But, ironically, this time he complained that the strain of cynicism which doubts the veracity of the embassy terrorist threat -- the same doubt Limbaugh himself had expressed minutes before -- is "a really dangerous thing":
RUSH: The very fact that there are so many people who are cynical about this. The very fact that there are so many Americans who think they're being lied to about a terror threat is a really dangerous thing. It is an unhealthy thing for the country. It is the surest sign of the wanton lack of respect for this country that has swept all across this country. This threat may be real. Everything we're being told could be real. We could be facing something as bad or worse than 9/11. And I bet the majority of Americans think it is a lie. What does that tell you? That what most Americans think of the people who are telling them about this threat -- they're liars too.
Limbaugh continued during a conversation with a caller, at once explaining why listeners should not trust the Obama administration all while asserting that this distrust of government is "not good." Limbaugh stated, "This administration has shown a desire and a knack for distracting people away from things that might be harmful for them politically." He explained that he doubts the threat because "it comes at a time when this administration is trying to cover up what happened in Benghazi. So it's not happening in a vacuum. And the people telling us this, Thomas, are not clean and pure as the wind-driven snow."
Then he again pivoted, saying "I'm simply putting all this in a flow in a contextual flow to explain why there is a lot of cynicism." He continued, "This threat could be exactly as it's being told. It could be dire. And we've got people out there thinking the administration is lying to them."
Limbaugh's cognitive dissonance conveniently ignored the role he plays in encouraging his listeners to mistrust the Obama administration using false information and his influence on the conservative movement at large. Whether it's his claim that President Obama is "at war with the America that was founded," his exploitation of a 10-year-old girl to lie about death panels in Obamacare, his lies about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, or his repeated dismissal of climate change, Rush Limbaugh has consistently proven to be a habitually dishonest low-information radio host.
Beyond Limbaugh's two-faced approach to the embassy closures, the reaction in the conservative media has ranged from deeming the closure a "gross overreaction" to accusing the Obama administration of running from the terrorist threat.