Here we go again.
Within hours of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) selectively leaking emails from one of his investigations, the right-wing media is dutifully claiming that he had offered evidence of a cover-up in the controversy over IRS scrutiny of nonprofit groups.
The question now is whether legitimate media outlets will again let Issa and Fox manipulate them with selective leaks.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed on July 9 that the emails that Issa released were "hard evidence" that embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner was engaged in a cover up.
In reality, the email shows nothing more than a manager issuing guidance that email communication could be subpoenaed by Congress, underscoring the "need to be cautious about what we say in emails," and confirming that instant messages were not archived but should be treated with the same caution as email.
Absent any additional information about the context of Lerner's initial guidance, it's impossible to draw any conclusions whatsoever, let alone O'Reilly's sweeping claim of a cover-up.
O'Reilly's interpretation of Lerner's email is perfectly in line with Darrell Issa's spin, which he floated in a July 9 Twitter post arguing that Lerner was engaged in a conspiracy to hide information from Congress.
And the media is already adopting Issa's spin, a troubling development given the media's lengthy history of being manipulated by Issa's deceptive leaks.
From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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A new report from the Associated Press finds that the Benghazi select committee that Fox News tirelessly cheered is set to cost taxpayers a further $3.3 million beyond what the Pentagon has already sunk into repetitious congressional hearings.
House Republicans have called for spending up to $3.3 million this year on the special select committee tasked with investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The seven-member GOP majority would receive some $2.2 million for staff and other operations while the five-member Democratic minority would get about $1 million, according to a document provided by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday.
Earlier this year, the AP also reported that the Pentagon has already spent millions to fund previous investigations into the attacks, and described "repetitive requests for information from about 50 congressional hearings, briefings and interviews."
Fox News relentlessly campaigned for GOP lawmakers to re-litigate the Benghazi hoax, and has played a central role in spurring the formation of Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-TX) special select committee on the attacks.
Fox News hyped a lawsuit by Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) against the federal government to revive the long-debunked myth that Congress got exemptions from the Affordable Care Act by receiving the same employer contribution for its insurance that it traditionally received.
NBC's David Gregory pointed a series of questions about Hillary Clinton's role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), allowing Paul to attack Clinton with the long-debunked smear that she was aware of the need for additional security forces at the Benghazi compound yet denied the requests.
On the June 22 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, host David Gregory posed a series of questions on Hillary Clinton's role in the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, but failed to correct Sen. Paul's false smears that Clinton refused requested security. While discussing the possibility of Clinton running for president in 2016, Gregory asked Sen. Paul about whether "the prosecution of foreign policy," is "the main argument" against Clinton's candidacy. In his response, Paul invoked the debunked myth that Hillary Clinton refused "multiple requests for more security" in the months leading up the attacks.
Later in the interview, Gregory asked whether Benghazi is "disqualifying" for Clinton's potential 2016 candidacy, again allowing Sen. Paul to claim that Clinton "was not responsive to multiple requests for more security." Paul concluded that the American people "want a commander in chief that will send reinforcements, that will defend the country, and that will provide the adequate security," implying for a third time that Clinton refused security she knew was necessary to the Benghazi compound:
Just days after Rep. Eric Cantor was ousted in a Republican primary, right-wing media are outraged at the ideological credentials of his likely replacement as House majority leader. Conservatives are calling Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) "dimwitted," "pro-amnesty," and "just another in a long line of big spenders who thinks the Democrats in charge of government are the problem, not government itself."
The Washington Post reported that McCarthy is the "overwhelming front-runner" to be the majority leader after he "appeared to have consolidated ranks in almost every corner of the House GOP caucus and seemed well positioned to win next week's snap election to succeed Rep. Eric Cantor." The Los Angeles Times similarly reported McCarthy "is all but assured of becoming the next House majority leader."
Cantor has endorsed his "dear friend" McCarthy, stating: "He'd make an outstanding majority leader, and I will be backing him with my full support."
But the prospect of McCarthy replacing Cantor has drawn strong condemnation from conservative pundits, including radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, who campaigned against Cantor.
From the June 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the June 10 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Just two weeks of Fox News' Benghazi coverage is worth over $124 million, according to a Media Matters study.
Fox's coverage of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya went into overdrive in the wake of House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) announcement on May 2 that Republicans would form a select committee to further investigate the tragedy. The decision marked a victory for the network, which has dedicated months -- and years -- to pushing misinformation and demanding answers to questions already addressed in the public record.
According to a Media Matters study of publicity values for Fox programming, the network's never-ending effort to hawk the GOP's Benghazi theories amounts to a public relations windfall for Republicans valued at over $124 million.
For the two weeks following the select committee announcement, Media Matters reviewed TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite, a subscription-only database of television broadcasts, for Fox's weekday coverage of Benghazi. Data revealed that the network devoted over 16 hours and 27 minutes -- at least 225 segments -- to Benghazi in that time period. According to TVEyes' "national publicity value," which estimates the value of 30-second slots on any given program, this coverage carries a value of approximately $124,234,562.74.
And yet, given the fervor with which Fox has politicized the tragedy since September 2012, this amount almost certainly represents but a fraction of the publicity value Benghazi scandal mongers have enjoyed from the network's devotion to their phony attacks.
The Daily Beast is dubbing the Environmental Protection Agency's new clean power plan "Obamacare for the Air" in part because it is "intensely polarizing." But the reason that the standards are "polarizing" is that, just like with Obamacare's individual mandate, Republicans have abandoned their previous support for addressing this pressing issue with market-based policies as they move further to the extreme right.
On June 2, the EPA proposed the first standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, which would allow states flexibility on how to achieve the pollution cuts. States could, for instance, mandate installations of new clean power technology or join regional cap-and-trade programs that take a market-based approach to promoting clean power. The Daily Beast's Jason Mark labeled the standards "Obamacare for the Air" because both plans are "numbingly complex," "based on a market system," "likely to transform a key sector of the economy," and "guaranteed to be intensely polarizing." The Christian Science Monitor's David Unger similarly compared the standards to Obamacare in part because they are "controversial." The editor in chief of the Daily Beast, John Avalon adopted the analogy on CNN's New Day, calling it a "long-time liberal priority."
Both articles left out why the EPA standards are contentious among the political class: it's not because the proposals are "liberal," but rather because the Republican party has shifted so far to the right that it now attacks proposals that it once advocated for. Many prominent Republicans supported a cap-and-trade program before Barack Obama was elected president, just as they once supported the individual mandate in Obamacare. In fact, the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that Sen. John McCain proposed during the 2008 election were far more extensive than the EPA's current proposal. The video below by Media Matters Action Network shows how Republicans used to talk about climate change in ways that they never would today:
As the Republican Party shifted to the right, so too did the conservative media. The Wall Street Journal editorial board previously stated that "the Bush Administration should propose a domestic cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide that could, of course, be easily expanded to Canada and Mexico. And then to Latin America. And then the world." Now the paper's editorials deride this conservative idea as "cap-and-tax." Yet mainstream reporters are often loathe to point out this profound shift, sticking instead to "both-sides-to-blame reporting."
Conservative media have sought to legitimize the House's new select committee on Benghazi by claiming only it could answer questions about Benghazi that have already been answered, a tactic that appeared to spill over to CNN on May 22.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer hosted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a newly announced member of the House committee, and pressed him on why Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on the day of the attack. Even though this matter has been repeatedly investigated in the public record, Blitzer asserted, "Maybe you'll get the answer" as to why during the House's latest investigation:
From the May 22 edition of MSNBC's The Reid Report:
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After airing House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's remarks about appointing Democrats to the Republican-led House select committee on Benghazi, Fox News immediately misled viewers about what she said, claiming that Pelosi conceded the committee is a "serious effort" when she did not.
On May 21, Fox News' The Real Story aired live Pelosi's statement on the selection of Democratic members to the Benghazi select committee. Pelosi prefaced the announcement by making clear her objection to the formation of the committee, outlining the numerous prior investigations and blasting the Republican mismanagement of the investigations. Pelosi labeled this latest select committee "an unnecessary partisan exercise." She went on to explain Democratic participation in the committee as a way to "fight for a fair hearing and process" (emphasis added):
PELOSI: Unfortunately, the Republican obsession with Benghazi has not been about the victims or their families or our country. We had hoped the house Republican leaders would not go down the path forming a select committee. We've already been there. Eight reviews have been conducted in the House and Senate, 25,000 documents released, millions of taxpayer dollars spent. It was not necessary to put the families or our country through this partisan exercise once again. Over the past two weeks, we have engaged in good-faith discussions with Speaker Boehner on the shape and standards of the select committee. We had hoped for a level of fairness and transparency and balance, especially considering the subject matter. We were not able to reach any agreement.
Regrettably, the Republican approach does not prevent the unacceptable and the repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way. That is all the more reason for Democrats to participate in the committee, to be there to fight for a fair hearing and process, to try to bring some openness and transparency to what's going on. What is the purpose of this investigation? What is the timetable? What are the milestones? What are they hoping to achieve? I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort? But I do think it is important for the American people to have the pursuit of these questions done in a fair and open and balanced way as possible. That simply would not be possible leaving it to theRepublicans. That's why I'm appointing my distinguished colleagues here today to serve on the select committee.
Shortly after Pelosi made her statement, host Gretchen Carlson cut away from the press conference to discuss the issue with Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. Despite Pelosi's clear dismissal of Republicans' handling of the investigation, Herridge baselessly characterized Pelosi's announcement as "a real recognition that this is going to be a serious-minded investigation" while ignoring Pelosi's criticism of the committee as "an unnecessary partisan exercise":
HERRIDGE: I think what we heard is a recognition by the Democrats that they must now engage in a very serious way with the Republican-led select committee. This is a reflection of the fact that the members of this Republican select committee are very serious in nature and are communicating that this will be a broad and vast investigation where they already believe that there are gaps that need to be filled in between the various committees that have already looked at it. So this is a recognition by the Democrats that they must seriously engage and that it would be a political mistake not to be engaged and to leave some of these issues unanswered, especially leading up to the midterm elections.
Looking at the composition of this committee, what strikes me is almost everyone has relevant experience on the requisite oversight committees that looked into Benghazi. What is also striking to me is -- I think you can make the argument that several of the committee members are true partisans and have been on the attack on Benghazi from the get-go. So they seem to have been picked by the speaker as a way to answer these Republican allegations that the administration in effect dropped the ball on Benghazi, they misled the American people and, even more specifically, that there was real negligence at the state department that was led by Mrs. Clinton.
The bottom line for the folks at home is that the Democrats recognize it's going to be a serious effort and it would be a political mistake not to engage in the fullest possible way.
While Herridge portrayed the Democratic members of the committee as "true partisans," she did not attribute partisan motive to the Republican members, asserting that have "the requisite oversight background, also a legal background" and will "move through this in a very methodical way."
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly said his network would not "to be shamed into" covering the new special House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi by "others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums."
Zucker discussed his plans for the network at the Deadline Club's May 19 annual awards dinner during an interview with New York Times television reporter Bill Carter, Capital New York reported. When asked about the new select committee formed by House Republicans this month to yet again investigate the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities, Zucker criticized "other news organizations" who attempt to "shame" journalists, adding, "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it":
And will it cover the special committee hearings by House Republicans to probe the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack? Zucker told Carter he didn't know yet.
"We're not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something," he said. "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it."
Fox News has been the primary media force behind the Benghazi hoax since September 2012. In addition to consistently pushing phony outrage and misinformation about Benghazi, Fox has frequently issued attacks on "mainstream media" for supposedly failing to adequately cover the story. The network began pushing for the establishment of a select committee in July 2013; after one was announced in early May, the network bragged that their coverage was in part responsible. Fox has since attempted to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the investigation.
Despite their excitement, the questions Fox insists the new committee will "answer" have already been well-documented and explained, and given that the attacks have already been examined by an independent State Department panel as well as at least five House and three Senate committees, whether the new committee finds anything Zucker would deem "of real news value" remains to be seen.