Leading up to yesterday's House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi, the conservative media worked diligently to drive home the idea that the "whistleblowers" who testified had been silenced and were unable to make their voices heard to Congress or other investigative authorities. Much of that narrative was driven by Republican attorney Victoria Toensing, who portrayed her own struggles with bureaucratic red tape as evidence of an administration cover-up. Fox News' Special Report cited Toensing on April 29 in reporting on allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence."
But the testimony of Gregory Hicks, one of the three witnesses at yesterday's hearing, put lie to the notion that the administration was suppressing his voice and opinion. Hicks, we learned, had already spoken with Congressional investigators in Libya. And he had been interviewed -- twice -- as part of the State Department's independent internal investigation. That, combined with the fact that other Benghazi survivors and witnesses have spoken to the FBI, the State Department, and Congress, dismantles the idea that the administration worked to keep Hicks or his cohorts from being heard.
Hicks caused a brief stir yesterday when he testified to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that he had been told by the State Department "not to allow the [regional security officer], the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed" by Rep. Jason Chaffetz when the Utah Republican led a Congressional delegation to Libya to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Some conservatives misinterpreted Hicks' testimony to mean that Hicks had been ordered not to speak to Chaffetz, period. Hicks, however, later clarified his remarks when questioned by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-NY), explaining that he had been told not to speak to Chaffetz without a State Department attorney present.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly worried that the network's extensive live coverage of the House Oversight Committee hearings on Benghazi was providing "lopsided" airtime to questions from Democrats -- though Fox had actually devoted over twice as much airtime to Republican questions.
Three State Department officials testified today before the House Oversight Committee about the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Fox afforded live coverage to the hearing, beginning when the three witnesses testifying, Gregory Hicks, Mark Thompson, and Eric Nordstrom, were sworn in.
For over an hour, Fox stayed live on the hearings without a single interruption. During this time, the network showed 32 minutes of Republican committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa's (CA) questions and witness responses. But when Issa yielded the floor to the ranking Democratic committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), for his turn to question witnesses, Fox cut to commercial, breaking live footage for the first time.
Rather than immediately returning live to Cummings' questions after the commercial break, Happening Now host Jon Scott instead spoke to Fox contributor John Bolton about the hearing, while a split-screen showed the hearing and Cummings' questioning continue. In total, Fox aired only two minutes of Cummings' questions and witness responses before returning to commercial break.
Fox favored Republican questioning right from the start of the hearing, yet Kelly implied that the network's coverage had been lopsided in favor of Democrats.
Approximately two hours into Fox's hearing coverage, during questioning from Republican Rep. John Mica (FL), America Live host Megyn Kelly broke in and expressed concern that, "We're getting a little lopsided in terms of the Democrats versus the Republicans, so we're going to try to rectify that for you after the break, and play more of Mr. Mica right after this quick commercial break." Fox continued airing what was left of Mica's questions upon returning from break. But then as Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) took the floor, Fox halted live coverage so that Kelly could speak to another Fox correspondent. As she skipped the Democrat's question period, Kelly stated, "And so we're going to try to even it out. We're going to try to get on the same number of Democrats and Republicans as we watch this coverage."
At the time of Kelly's remark, eleven politicians -- six Republicans and five Democrats -- had asked questions of the Benghazi witnesses. And despite Kelly's suggestion, during this time Fox devoted 46 minutes of live coverage to Republicans' questions and answers, airing only 19 minutes of Democrats' questions and answers.
This post has been updated to correct the number of congressmen who posed questions prior to Kelly's remarks.
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Republican congressmen are giving credibility to Alex Jones and his conservative fringe website Infowars.com, which popularized a conspiracy theory that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for nefarious purposes. The conspiracy theory has now inspired legislation known as the AMMO Act of 2013, which seeks to limit the ammunition purchasing power of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even though the underlying theory was based on flawed math and a mischaracterization of the facts.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier misrepresented the testimony of a witness for the Republican-led hearing investigating the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. While the witness reportedly told congressional investigators that a small group of special forces were told not to board an aircraft heading to Benghazi to help with the attacks -- an aircraft that departed after an attack that killed two more Americans occurred -- Baier claimed the witness said the special forces team would have arrived in time for that attack.
The GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi on May 8. The committee had released a list of several witnesses that will be called on to testify, among them Gregory Hicks, who was the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya.
During the May 6 edition of Special Report, anchor Bret Baier claimed that Hicks said in his testimony that a team of special forces troops would have arrived in time for an attack on the CIA annex had they not been told not to go [emphasis added]:
BAIER: Charles, in this testimony that -- we have already seen some of this interview with Greg Hicks, the number two guy, again, on the ground, he specifically says that special forces in Tripoli were told to stand down and not get on a C-130 that was going to go from Tripoli to Benghazi that would have been there in time for the second attack, the second wave. They were told to not get on that plane.
Baier's claim is contradicted by Hicks' testimony, a statement from one of the lead Republican congressmen investigating the attacks, and of the timeline of events from the attacks.
Transcripts of an interview Greg Hicks gave to congressional investigators show that he said that the flight these special forces were scheduled to take, but did not, was scheduled to take off after 6:00 a.m., local time -- approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people [emphasis added]:
Q: And was there a second team that was organized? Could you tell us about the second team?
A: Right. The second team -- the Defense Attache worked assiduously all night long to try to get the Libyan military to respond in some way. Early in the morning -- sorry, after we were formally notified by the Prime Minister, who called me, that Chris had passed, the Libyan military agreed to fly their C-130 to Benghazi and carry additional personnel to Benghazi as reinforcements. Because we at that time -- at that time, the third attack, the mortar attack at 5:15, had not yet occurred, if I remember correctly.
Q: So what time did the second rescue team ??
A: Well, again, they flew -- I think that flight took off sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, told The Washington Post that the special forces team that Hicks and Baier are referring to "would have arrived after the attack":
Chaffetz said the troops who were not allowed to travel to Benghazi would have arrived after the attack on the CIA base but may have provided first aid to wounded personnel. He noted that the order to keep them from traveling was given before the second attack.
Fox News is launching a new round of smears against the Obama administration over the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, using old, long-debunked falsehoods as ammunition.
The day after the Benghazi attack, on September 12, President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden about Benghazi, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America." Obama referred to Benghazi twice more as an "act of terror" on September 13, two days after the attack.
But Fox spent months pretending Obama never labeled Benghazi as an act of terror, omitting his statements in video montages, and claiming that Obama was referencing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks instead. Fox so successfully omitted Obama's words that even presidential candidate Mitt Romney believed Obama delayed calling Benghazi an "act of terror."
Fox also conducted a witch-hunt against United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who appeared on five Sunday news shows on September 16 and reported that the intelligence community's best current assessment of the attack was that a small number of extremists appeared to have taken advantage of a larger protest at the compound over an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. Fox twisted Rice's remarks and accused her of altering the intelligence community's original talking points in order to cover up its belief that Al Qaeda played a role in the attack. In reality, as The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes inadvertently pointed out, the CIA's original talking points draft read that a spontaneous protest in Benghazi evolved into the consulate attack, just as Rice reported.
Eight months later, Fox is back to parroting these same untruths to reprise their Benghazi smear campaign.
On May 6's Happening Now, host Jon Scott spoke with anchor Bret Baier about upcoming congressional hearings on Benghazi. Fox again ignored Obama's declaration that Benghazi was an "act of terror," airing this graphic during Baier's interview:
Fox News is denying the partisan nature of the Republican campaign to tar Obama administration officials with allegations of misconduct following the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. A Republican-led hearing on the issue follows recent claims of a Republican lawyer -- whose partiality has been questioned -- that she is representing Benghazi "whistleblowers," and comes only weeks after the release of a partisan congressional report on Benghazi authored by five Republican committee chairmen.
On Wednesday, May 8, the GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a new hearing, titled: "Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage." The hearing will include three named witnesses -- the so-called whistleblowers -- one of whom has testified in Congress about the Benghazi incident before.
During a May 6 discussion about the hearing on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade declared that "politics is out, and whistleblowers are in," apparently deciding that because there are self-identified whistleblowers on an issue, it's no longer a politicized topic. Kilmeade subsequently complained that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn't pursue Benghazi as an issue enough during his campaign. He then returned to denying that the GOP's obsession with Benghazi is "politically driven":
KILMEADE: [A]nyone who says this is politically driven, or it's against the president, that's out the window. Because if there's a non-political season in this world in American politics, it's now. The mid-terms aren't close --
STEVE DOOCY [co-host]: Sure.
KILMEADE: And the president is not running.
Beyond the Republican-controlled House continuing to hold hearings on Benghazi, the lawyers claiming to represent some of the witnesses at the hearing, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, are long-time Republicans known for pushing false claims in the media and for having conflicts of interest in their professional work. In November, Toensing pushed a false link between the Benghazi attack and the resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus. Toensing also pushed the false claim that former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame was not, in fact, covert, and that her position was widely known. Additionally, Toensing and diGenova were involved in a 1998 news report about President Clinton that was discredited and later retracted. They have also been criticized for a conflict of interest for serving in a dual role in separate Justice Department investigations and for dropping "the air of impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism required" by their roles as leaders of a congressional investigation.
A congressional report on Benghazi that was hyped by Fox News to smear Hillary Clinton was authored by five Republican committee chairmen. The ranking Democrats on those committees sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner criticizing him for releasing such a partisan report, which they said is "unnecessarily politicizing our national security":
We are writing to strongly object to your decision to issue a partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi and dispense with House procedures for vetting official committee reports to correct inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. By abandoning regular order and excluding Democratic Members entirely from this process, you are unnecessarily politicizing our national security and casting aside the system used by the House for generations to avoid making obvious mistakes, errors, and omissions.
That report, which singled out Clinton for supposedly signing a cable about security concerns in Benghazi in the months before the attack, was undermined by media reports which showed that every cable that leaves the State Department bears the name of the Secretary of State, regardless if the secretary saw or approved it. A member of the independent Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack called these accusations by the GOP against Clinton "total bullshit," and the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler called the claims "absurd." In a Fact Checker blog post he concluded that Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa had "no basis or evidence to show that Clinton had anything to do with this cable."
While calling for profiling of American Muslims, Fox News host Eric Bolling attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), calling him the "Muslim apologist in Congress" and describing him as "very dangerous."
On Fox News' The Five, Bolling called for profiling of Muslims following the attacks of the Boston Marathon. During the segment, Bolling criticized Ellison, asserting that he's "very dangerous" and has been "the Muslim apologist in Congress for a long time." After calling him dangerous, Bolling noted that Ellison "raised his right hand and took the oath of office on the Quran":
Bolling's attack is part of a long line of smears directed at Ellison. Fox host Sean Hannity attempted to link Ellison to Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam. Hannity also compared Ellison's use of the Quran for his swearing-in ceremony to using "Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible."
During Rep. Peter King's anti-Muslim hearings in 2011, Ellison delivered testimony which included attacking false rumors that had been spread about Mohammed Salman Hamadi, a first responder who died during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Fox attacked his testimony, suggesting his story was not accurate and accusing him of stretching the truth.
Republican Representative Joe Barton denied manmade climate change by citing the biblical story of Noah's flood, yet no major news outlet except for the online publication Buzzfeed has noted his comments.
Rep. Barton stated in a hearing on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that climate change could be natural because the biblical story of the Great Flood, wherein God told Noah to build an ark to prepare for the flood, occurred prior to the Industrial Revolution:
I would point out, though, that people like me that support hydrocarbon development don't deny that the climate is changing. I think you can have an honest difference of opinion on what's causing that change without automatically being either all in, it's all because of mankind, or it's all just natural. I think there's a divergence of evidence. I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. And that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy. So, in any event -- I would ask the gentleman from the Canadian government if you agree with the professor at the other end of the table that if we don't do Keystone, that these projects won't be developed to get the oil to the West Coast of Canada and on to Japan and China?
Bloomberg published a 650-word plus article about the hearing, but ignored Barton's comments. Buzzfeed noted his comments but did not note that they run counter to 97 percent of actively-publishing climate scientists, who agree that recent climate change is mostly manmade.
The press' failure to call out distortions of science does a disservice to the public, many of whom are under the mistaken impression that global warming either isn't happening or is mostly natural:
Rep. Barton has repeatedly suggested that climate change is entirely natural and misled on climate science, including commissioning a reportedly plagiarized report casting doubt on climate change. He has also received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.
UPDATE (4/11/13): The Huffington Post, MSNBC's First Look, and ABCNews.com have covered Barton's remarks. ABCNews.com stated that a "group of extreme athletes, however, disagree" with Barton, but did not note that the vast majority of scientists also disagree with him.
Fox News cribbed research and graphics directly from a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) press release without disclosing their origin in order to attack President Obama's purported "sequester priorities."
In a Fox & Friends Saturday interview with NRCC chairman Greg Walden, co-host Tucker Carlson claimed that he was "going through a list here" of supposedly wasteful federal spending projects and crucial programs that are impacted by the mandatory spending cuts required by sequestration, but did not explain where that list originated. Every case of both worthwhile and allegedly worthless spending they discussed had previously been highlighted in a February 28 NRCC press release.
Later in the segment, Carlson asked Walden, "wouldn't it make sense for Republicans to come up with a list, push that list over to the White House, and publicize that list of pointless programs like this that ought to be cut?" Walden replied, "Absolutely."
Throughout this segment and a second segment Fox aired on-screen graphics that mimicked images included in the NRCC release in order to criticized what they termed Obama's "sequestration priorities." Here are those images, with the Fox versions on the left and NRCC versions on the right:
Fox News political analyst Karl Rove and Erick Erickson, the network's newest contributor, are at war over the political direction of the Republican Party.
On Saturday The New York Times reported that Rove was backing the Conservative Victory Project, a new group supported by "the biggest donors in the Republican Party" and Rove's colleagues from his American Crossroads super PAC. According to the Times, the group was created with the explicit purpose of pushing back against efforts by Tea Party conservatives to force the party to the right through the support of far-right candidates:
The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party's efforts to win control of the Senate.
The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.
The Times went on to report that the creation of the group demonstrates "the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election."
But Tea Party-affiliated conservative media figures aren't going quietly, and some of the fire at Rove is coming from inside the Fox News tent. Erickson, who has regularly supported right-wing primary candidates over less ideologically rigid Republican ones, writes today on his RedState blog that GOP candidates supported by Conservative Victory Project should be targeted for defeat. He also mocks the effectiveness of American Crossroads, writing, "Thank God they are behind this. In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it."
Fox News is continuing its hunt for "pork" in a Hurricane Sandy relief bill blocked by House Speaker John Boehner, claiming that the bill included $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate change. But the funds in question actually focused on ensuring affected states' access to clean water, a crucial issue in the wake of the storm - and emblematic of future consequences of climate change.
Rep. Boehner recently canceled a vote on a Sandy relief bill, prompting heavy criticism from some members of his own party. He later reversed course and called for a vote on $9 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program, with another $51 billion in relief spending to be voted on later.
Continuing Fox News' attempts to find "pork" in the bill, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer proclaimed lawmakers "were just chucking everything" including "$600 million for climate change for the EPA" into the bill, and "that's where the resistance" from Rep. Boehner came:
But the previous day, Rep. Carolyn Maloney had explained to Fox Business that the "money is for wastewater treatment," which she pointed out is "very much needed" in many areas hit by Sandy. Indeed, The New York Times reported that sewage from storm-battered treatment plants had flowed into New York and New Jersey waterways after the storm, "a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy."
Fox News figures suggested that President Obama is to blame for the delay of emergency relief for victims of superstorm Sandy, but it was House Speaker John Boehner who delayed a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill in the House. Even congressional Republicans have blamed Boehner for the lack of action.
After the Senate passed a disaster aid bill for states affected by Sandy, the House was expected to vote Tuesday night on a similar, $60.4 billion aid package. But Boehner adjourned the House before scheduling a vote on the bill; Republican complaints that the bill was "loaded with spending on projects unrelated to storm damage" appeared to play a role in Boehner's decision.
On Fox & Friends on Thursday, co-host Steve Doocy led a segment about Sandy relief by noting that Obama is on vacation in Hawaii and added, "Meanwhile ... there are tens of thousands of people whose houses were destroyed by Sandy." Doocy continued, "And it's interesting -- you go back 60 days, the president of the United States was out at a big photo op with Chris Christie, saying, 'I'm going to eliminate the red tape. I'm going to make sure that FEMA follows through.' And now 60 days later, nothing."
After a montage of Obama speaking about cutting through red tape for Sandy aid was aired, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin said, "Well, golf clap for that Oscar-winning performance reel from Obama, paying lip service to the exigency and emergency and urgency of helping out Sandy victims. Aloha and mahalo, right?" Malkin later added, "I think it's ridiculous to fully blame Boehner for the gridlock that's happening over this bill."
But Obama has urged Congress to pass a relief bill, and he responded to Boehner's delay of the vote by calling on Boehner to "bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans."
And Republicans have blamed Boehner, not Obama, for the delay of the House vote on Sandy relief. As CBS News reported, New York Republican Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm "fiercely decried the decision" to delay the vote, and King "suggested he might vote against Boehner in his bid to hold on to his speakership."
From the December 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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From the November 8 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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