Before the midterm elections, Republicans indicated that if they gained control of the House, they would launch investigations into numerous "scandals" that have been pushed by Fox News over the past two years. Since the elections, Fox News figures have also called for these investigations. But the purported "controversies" have long been debunked.
GOP plans spate of congressional "investigations"
Politico: GOP is "gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s." In an August 27 article, Politico reported that "Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority. Everything from the microscopic -- the New Black Panther party -- to the massive -- think bailouts -- is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides." Politico continued:
Republican staffers say there won't be any self-destructive witch hunts, but they clearly are relishing the prospect of extracting information from an administration that touts transparency. And a handful of aggressive would-be committee chairmen -- led by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) -- are quietly gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s.
New Black Panther Party
Politico: "The New Black Panther party" is "on the GOP to-do list." Politico reported on August 27, "Everything from the microscopic -- the New Black Panther party -- to the massive -- think bailouts -- is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO." The article also noted that "[Lamar] Smith, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has already pressed Holder to look into charges that members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008" and quoted Smith's statement that "we would definitely want answers about the Black Panther case."
New Black Panther Party case allegations were brought by long-time GOP activist. J. Christian Adams is the originator of the claim that the Obama Justice Department was motivated by race to narrow its case against members of the New Black Panther Party, who were accused of intimidating voters in 2008. Adams is a long-time Republican and conservative activist. He has likened Obama to the appeasers who caused the "carnage" of World War II. He has reportedly volunteered with the National Republican Lawyers Association, which "trains lawyers to fight on the front lines of often racially tinged battles over voting rights," according to a December 2009 Main Justice article. He also reportedly served as a Bush campaign poll watcher in Florida and once filed an ethics complaint against Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, that was subsequently dismissed.
Chris Coates, the other DOJ employee who has pushed these allegations, was described by Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman, who politicized the Justice Department, as a "true member of the team," and, according to reports, became very conservative during his time working for the Voting Rights Section.
Adams hired by DOJ official found to have illegally used political reasons in hiring decisions. Adams was hired as a Justice Department lawyer by Schlozman. A July 2008 report from the Department of Justice Inspector General's Office and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Schlozman "considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys in violation of Department policy and federal law." Former Voting Section chief Joseph Rich reportedly called Adams "exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman." Coates has identified Adams as the kind of lawyer he wanted to hire at the Justice Department.
The claim that the Obama DOJ is deciding what cases to pursue on the basis of race doesn't stand up to facts. Adams' underlying claim that the handling of the New Black Panther Party case was "corrupt" because it demonstrated "a hostility in the voting section and in the civil rights division to bringing cases on behalf of white victims for the benefit of national racial minorities" does not stand up to the facts:
- The Bush administration's Justice Department -- not the Obama administration -- made the decision not to pursue criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for alleged voter intimidation at a polling center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2008
- The Justice Department under Obama pursued the case against one of the African American defendants in the New Black Panther Party case itself. The Obama Justice Department obtained an injunction against Samir Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center on Election Day 2008.
- The Obama Justice Department has asked a federal court to extend an injunction against black Democratic Party officials in Noxubee County, Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters.
- The Bush administration DOJ chose not to pursue similar charges against members of the Minutemen, one of whom allegedly carried a weapon while harassing Hispanic voters in Arizona in 2006;
- Citing a letter by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez noting the DOJ's actions in the Noxubee case, Democratic commissioner Michael Yaki argued that the case is "perfectly consistent with what the Justice Department has been doing" and "perfectly consistent with a policy that is race-neutral."
No voters have come forward claiming that they were intimidated in the New Black Panther Party case. In an April 23 hearing on the DOJ's decision in the case, Civil Rights Commissioner Arlan Melendez stated that "no citizen has even alleged that he or she was intimidated from voting," adding, "This absence of voter intimidation was clear to the Justice Department last spring, which is why they took the course of action that they did." A July 2 Main Justice article similarly reported that "no voters at all in the Philadelphia precinct have come forward to allege intimidation." The article continued: "The complaints have come from white Republican poll watchers, who have given no evidence they were registered to vote in the majority black precinct."
GOP commissioner said investigation into NBPP case is an effort to "topple" administration. Politico reported that Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican vice chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, said that the commission's investigation into the New Black Panther Party case "doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration." Politico also reported that Thernstrom said: "My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president."
Fox pushes for investigation of phony New Black Panther Party scandal after hyping the story more than 100 times. Fox News has incessantly pushed Adams' and other conservatives' claims about the New Black Panther Party case, and on November 2, Fox News' Laura Ingraham pushed for an investigation of the case by the Republican-controlled Congress.
- By July 16, Fox News had already devoted 95 segments to the phony scandal, totaling more than eight hours of airtime across six different Fox News shows. Fox has continued to regularly run segments on the story since.
- On September 30, Fox News host Megyn Kelly pushed claims that the New Black Panther Party case and others show the Obama Justice Department is "flat-out racist and unwilling to protect white voters."
- On the September 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Steve Centanni falsely reported that the Justice Department "determined that the Voting Rights Act ... had not been violated" in the case.
- On September 24, Fox Business' Tobin Smith asked whether the New Black Panthers case constitutes an "impeachable" offense for Obama.
- On September 7, Fox News senior judicial correspondent Andrew Napolitano used falsehoods about the case to claim that the Obama administration is "in tight" with the New Black Panther Party -- which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group.
- Glenn Beck, who has repeatedly used racially charged rhetoric while talking about the New Black Panther Party, claimed on July 16 that there is "injustice" in "what's happening with the DOJ and the Black Panthers." He also claimed on that show that progressives like the NAACP, the "Black Panthers," and the Department of Justice are "poking, poking, poking, poking, poking. They need people to react. They need anger in the streets." He added: "They need a race war or any kind of war pulling each other apart. 'Divided, we will fall' -- they know it."
- On July 15, Bill O'Reilly covered the New Black Panthers case and claimed that Attorney General Eric Holder "apparently doesn't know the law and doesn't care."
- On the November 2 edition of Fox News' America Live, Kelly cited the phony New Black Panther Party scandal and "other problems with the DOJ" as issues that Issa might investigate. Ingraham also mentioned the New Black Panther case, among others, and said that "this isn't retribution, or payback, or pettiness on his part. These are actually substantive issues that have mostly been swept under the rug."
Sestak, Romanoff conversations
Human Events: Issa to "investigate the policy of offering federal positions as political rewards." In an October 19 article, Human Events reported: "Predicting that Republicans will win control of the House next month and that he will then be chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) vowed that the Obama Administration will be held accountable 'like they've never been held accountable.' " The article further reported that Issa said "he planned to investigate the policy of offering federal positions as political rewards. The issue was magnified this year following claims by Colorado's Andrew Romanoff and Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak that the Obama White House had offered them federal positions in return for not running against Democratic incumbents for the Senate."
White House reportedly talked to Sestak, Romanoff in effort to avoid primary challenges. In late May, news outlets reported that the White House sent Bill Clinton to determine whether Sestak would decline to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary "if Obama offered him an unpaid spot on a prestigious presidential advisory board," according to The Washington Post. Around the same time, reports emerged that an Obama adviser suggested that Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff "forgo a primary challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet and instead apply for one of three international development jobs," as the Associated Press reported.
- Legal experts denied that a crime was committed in Romanoff case. Richard Painter, former White House ethics adviser to President Bush, has said that it is a "real stretch" to say the White House's conversations with Romanoff violated the law. Discussing 18 U.S.C. § 600, Loyola law professor Richard Hasen stated: "I can't find a case" where the statute "has ever been applied in this way And The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder said that the "law has never been used to criminalize" what he called "low-level political horsetrading."
- Legal experts: Sestak offer did not violate federal law. Numerous legal experts have assessed the Sestak case and concluded that no law was broken, including former Justice Department senior attorney James Cooper, who reportedly said that the allegations don't "sound to me as the sort of thing that any reasonable prosecutor would view as criminal." Former public corruption prosecutor Steve Bunnell reportedly stated: "I don't see anything criminal about what happened." Additionally, UCLA law professor Daniel Lowenstein said that "this kind of situation is viewed as politics as usual" and "not the kind of thing that is usually dealt with in a criminal prosecution." Former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg remarked: "It would be horrible precedent if what really truly is political horsetrading were viewed in the criminal context of: is this a corrupt bribe?" And CREW executive director Melanie Sloan also asserted that criminal allegations in the Sestak case are "ludicrous."
- Legal experts debunked idea that the Sestak offer violated the federal bribery statute. In a May 24 blog post, Painter wrote that the "allegation that the job offer was somehow a 'bribe' in return for Sestak not running in the primary is difficult to support." CREW's Sloan echoed Painter, saying, "There is no bribery case here. ... No statute has ever been used to prosecute anybody for bribery in circumstances like this."
- Legal experts rebutted the claim that the Sestak offer violated statute 18 U.S.C. § 600. During an interview with Greg Sargent, Painter stated: "I cannot see how this statute can be reasonably applied" to Sestak case. He added: "Based on the information disclosed from the White House, it's even more apparent that this is a non issue," and that there is "no scandal." Painter concluded: "Time to move on." Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey similarly said that it is "highly questionable there was a crime," adding that positions covered under 18 U.S.C. § 600 have to be "made possible, in whole or in part, by an act of Congress. In other words, it has to be a position that was created by an act of Congress or somehow partially created by an act of Congress. If it's not, then it doesn't violate the statute."
- Legal experts denied contention that Sestak offer was a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 210 and 211. Discussing allegations that the Sestak offer had violated statutes 18 U.S.C. §§ 210 and 211, ethics attorney Stan Brand said the claim was "far-fetched" and that "it has no legal substance." He also reportedly stated that those laws were "designed to deal with coercion, fraud, and vote-buying, not 'the rough and tumble of political horse-trading.' Promising someone a job ... is not the same as exchanging 'money or something of value.' " Sloan argued that those laws wouldn't apply because a "quid pro quo has to offer something of value in exchange for something. ... If you agree not to run for the Senate and we'll make you secretary of the Navy -- that offers no monetary value. It's just the unseemly side of politics."
- Mukasey debunked claim that Sestak offer violated law governing political "interference" by federal employees. On the May 28 edition of America Live, Mukasey asserted that the offer could not have violated 18 U.S.C. § 595, because, he said, "I think that it would have to be something much more direct than what we have here. ... I mean, understand that politics is practiced in a variety of ways, including by suggesting to people that there are things that they might better do with their careers than what they intend to do."
- Hasen denied Hatch Act applies to case. Asked whether the Hatch Act is relevant to this instance, Hasen stated:
HASEN: If you look at [the] letter the Republican senators from the Judiciary Committee sent to Attorney General Holder asking for an investigation, they didn't cite the Hatch Act generally, it cited the Section 600, and I think there's a good reason for that. When you have the president of a particular party, the president is really the head of that party, and the president and the administration, they really wear two hats. This is true whether you're talking about Republican or Democratic administrations. That is, they have the political side, and they have their job as executive. And so long as they take steps to make sure that the two are not mixed -- for example, using government offices or using government resources to further political goals -- that's really been an accepted part of politics for a long time.
Both Romanoff and White House deny a job was offered. Both Romanoff and the White House have said that at no point was a job offered to Romanoff. They have said that a White House aide listed positions that Romanoff could seek were he not running for office -- one of which Romanoff had previously applied for -- but said that he could not guarantee that Romanoff would receive the position.
Political and legal experts, historians, have noted that the Sestak offer was not unusual. Numerous legal experts have noted that such offers are common, including University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, who called the allegations "garden-variety politics" and "absolutely trivial." He also said: "Let's stop criminalizing garden-variety politics, which is what this is."
Political expert Ornstein: "If what the Obama administration did was impeachable," then so was action by Reagan. In a May 28 blog post, American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein commented that he was "struck -- and bemused -- by the kerfluffle over the job offer by the Obama administration to Joe Sestak." He stated:
Why am I struck and bemused? Because to any veteran of the political process, such offers are nearly routine across every administration. If what the Obama administration did was impeachable, then Rep. [Darrell] Issa [R-CA] might want to consider retroactive impeachment action against Ronald Reagan, whose White House directly suggested to S.I. Hayakawa that he would get an administration position if he would stay out of the Republican primary for Senate in California; or call for an investigation and special prosecutor of the Bush White House for discussing a Cabinet post with Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska to clear the field for their preferred Republican candidate Mike Johanns in 2006. At the same time, Issa might want to call for expulsion of his Senate colleague Judd Gregg, who insisted before he accepted the post of Commerce Secretary in the Obama administration that there be a guarantee that his successor, appointed by a Democratic governor, be a Republican.
Fox News claims White House discussions with Sestak, Romanoff were "illegal," a "felony," and a "basis to investigate."
- On the May 24 edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor Dick Morris stated of the Sestak issue: "This scandal could be enormous. It's Valerie Plame only 10 times bigger because it's illegal and Joe Sestak is either lying or the White House committed a crime." Host Sean Hannity and Morris went on to discuss whether the allegations about Sestak represented "an impeachable offense." Morris later claimed that the offer would be "grounds for impeachment if Obama knew about it" and predicted that if Republicans win majorities in November, they will "convene an impeachment panel."
- On the May 24 edition of On the Record, Fox News contributor Karl Rove stated of the Sestak allegations: "Look, that's a violation of the federal code -- 18 U.S.C. § 600 says that you -- a federal official cannot promise an employment, a job in the federal government, in return for a political act. Somebody violated the law."
- On the May 24 edition of Fox Business Network's Happy Hour, Napolitano said of the Sestak allegations: "Well, the ramifications are potentially enormous. I mean, to offer someone something of value in order to affect their official behavior as a member of Congress is a felony. We call it a bribe. ... The government has an affirmative obligation to investigate this."
- On the May 28 edition of his Fox News program, after reciting from 18 U.S.C. § 600, Hannity said of the job discussion, "It was almost written for this law." He later added that "any way you cut this, this would still by my interpretation of the law, still be a thing of value for a political act, which is against the law."
- On the May 28 edition of Hannity, referring to the Sestak offer, the Romanoff discussion, and "the case, remember, with [Rod] Blagojevich, who asserts that people approached him about a Senate seat," Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich said: "You could all of a sudden have a pattern of three different places where people were engaged in conversations that range from seriously wrong to felonies."
- Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. asserted on the May 28 edition of Hannity: "There needs to be, in my view, based upon the evidence that the White House has itself produced, there is a basis to investigate at least three different federal crimes ... and maybe others because we don't know what the facts are."
- On the May 31 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum repeatedly asserted of the comments from Sestak and the administration, "It just doesn't add up," and went on to ask: "Why not have a special prosecutor look into it or have the FBI look into it?" She added: "No one's gonna know if stories were changed or ... exactly what transpired in all of this," concluding: "We're never gonna know if anything along those lines happened and people won't put this to rest unless they hire an outside person to say just that."
- During the June 3 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly said: "Apparently another Democratic Senate candidate -- Andrew Romanoff in Colorado -- was approached about a job by the White House to get out of a race, on the heels of Congressman Sestak. That makes two apparent violations of U.S. Code 600, which says it is illegal to entice any office seeker out of a race with the prospect of a government job."
- On the June 6 edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox News analyst Dana Perino stated of the allegations: "I know that everybody is saying this happens all the time, but the quid pro quo in offering a job is very explicitly against the law." She also said that the "best thing" the White House could do was "have an independent review."
- On November 4, as part of a list of "many congressional investigations that [Republicans] have been unable to pursue over the past four years," Hannity referred to "the Sestak scandal and whether the administration used Bill Clinton to try and convince Sestak to drop his primary bid against turncoat Arlen Specter."
Issa to "lead 'Climategate' probe." A September 23 report from ClimateWire stated: "The House's top Republican watchdog is planning to launch an investigation into international climate data if he takes the helm of the chamber's oversight panel next year. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said a probe of the 'Climategate' scandal will top his environmental agenda if the Republicans take over the House next year and he gets the chairmanship."
Media distorted the stolen emails in attack on global warming consensus. Following the reported theft of emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, conservative media figures aggressively claimed that those emails undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activities are causing climate change, dubbing the supposed scandal "Climategate." But these critics largely rested their claims on outlandish distortions and misrepresentations of the contents of the stolen emails. For instance, the claim that a scientist used a "trick" to distort data and hide a decline in temperatures was widely debunked by scientists.
Multiple inquiries have cleared the climate scientists of data manipulation. Investigations by Penn State, the U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and an independent panel in the United Kingdom led by former industrial scientist Lord Oxburgh have all cleared the climate scientists in question of the charge that they manipulated data.
Former GOP official: Penn State "exoneration should close the book on the absurd episode in which climate scientists were unjustly attacked." On July 1, The Washington Post reported this statement from former Republican House Science Committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert:
"This exoneration should close the book on the absurd episode in which climate scientists were unjustly attacked when in fact they have been providing a great public service. ... The attacks on scientists were a manufactured distraction, and today's report is a welcome return to common sense. While scientists can now focus on their work, policy makers need to address the very real problem of climate change."
Climate experts, fact-checkers reject notion that emails undermine climate change consensus. Numerous scientific groups and independent fact-checkers analyzed the emails and concluded that "many of the e-mails that are being held up as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy. And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth is getting warmer," in the words of FactCheck.org.
Fox smears climate scientists and calls for an investigation into "Climategate." Fox News repeatedly advanced the smear that the stolen emails showed climate change scientists engaged in wrongdoing, such as, they alleged, "fudging data." On November 4, Hannity urged the Republican House to investigate the matter.
- On April 22, after wishing viewers a "Happy Earth Day," Fox & Friends devoted a segment to pushing falsehoods about "Climategate," falsely claiming the emails showed that climate scientists "manipulated data."
- On the November 24, 2009, edition of Fox News' Your World, Stuart Varney stated, " 'Climategate' set to break wide open today. New developments today involving those hacked emails from Britain suggesting scientists are fudging data to make their case for global warming."
- On the December 10, 2009, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer said that the stolen emails "suggest researchers manipulated some of that data to support the theory of manmade warming." Later during the segment, Fox News' Amy Kellogg stated that "the story is also widely being called 'Climategate' " and that the stolen emails suggested scientists "were trying to manipulate the data."
- On the December 6, 2009, edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace claimed that the stolen emails showed that "some of the climate scientists were apparently fudgers and tried to suppress opposition comments."
- On the December 4, 2009, edition of his Fox News show, Hannity falsely claimed that the emails show that the scientists "were certainly fudging" climate data."
- On the December 3, 2009, edition of America's Newsroom, Hemmer falsely claimed that "recently leaked emails reveal that scientists use, quote, 'tricks' to hide evidence of a decline in global temperatures over the past, say, few decades."
- On November 4, as part of a list of "many congressional investigations that [Republicans] have been unable to pursue over the past four years," Hannity claimed that "thousands of emails revealed that the world's leading climate scientists were plotting to suppress data and push global warming propaganda."
Politico: Republicans have "demanded an investigation" into ACORN's "ties to the Obama campaign." Politico reported: "A whole host of Republicans -- led by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) on the party's right wing -- have demanded an investigation into the defunct community organizing group's ties to the Obama campaign."
Fox pushed false claims that Obama had close ties to ACORN. Fox News relentlessly pushed the claims that Obama was ACORN's "lawyer" and a "top trainer" for ACORN or an ACORN employee. In fact, Obama represented ACORN in one lawsuit, a case against the state of Illinois in which the Justice Department and several other organizations were also suing the state. Furthermore, Obama reportedly said he participated in two one-hour trainings with ACORN as a volunteer. Fox News has also relied on falsehoods and baseless allegations to claim that the White House is closely tied to ACORN.
Fox promoted O'Keefe's ACORN child prostitution story, which then fell apart. James O'Keefe appeared at least seven times on Fox News and other Fox networks to promote his undercover ACORN videos. And Fox News repeatedly attacked ACORN over the videos. However, O'Keefe's story later completely fell apart:
- O'Keefe falsely claimed tapes showed a "nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation" implicating ACORN employees. Discussing the ACORN videos created by O'Keefe and fellow conservative activist Hannah Giles, O'Keefe falsely claimed that the video campaign was a "nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation" implicating many ACORN employees. But in at least six of the eight heavily edited videos produced by O'Keefe and Giles and distributed by right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart, either the activists did not clearly tell the ACORN employees that they were planning to engage in child prostitution; the ACORN employees refused to help them; apparently deliberately misled them; or ACORN employees contacted the police following their visit.
- Multiple investigations cleared ACORN of wrongdoing. Three separate investigations cleared ACORN workers of any criminal wrongdoing, and a December 22, 2009, report by the Congressional Research Service stated that California and Maryland criminal laws may have been violated by O'Keefe's undisclosed taping.
- Breitbart and O'Keefe withheld exculpatory Los Angeles ACORN video for two months. For more than two months after Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website began posting the videos, O'Keefe and his cohorts withheld video that directly contradicted what they said the videos showed. In September 2009, Giles and Big Government editor-in-chief Mike Flynn had both falsely claimed that every ACORN office O'Keefe and Giles visited offered to help them. Also in September 2009, both Breitbart and O'Keefe were asked directly by reporters whether any ACORN offices had refused to help; Breitbart and O'Keefe chose not to disclose the existence of a tape showing at least one ACORN worker refusing to help. In a video released November 16, 2009, O'Keefe finally acknowledged that a Los Angeles ACORN worker they filmed in August 2009 "would not assist us obtain a house for our illegal activities."
- O'Keefe became radioactive after he committed a federal crime and reportedly planned bizarre seduction of CNN worker. O'Keefe pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses. Furthermore, in an article posted at CNN.com, investigative correspondent Abbie Boudreau reported that when she arrived for an interview with O'Keefe, she was informed by O'Keefe's colleague Izzy Santa that O'Keefe planned to lure her aboard a boat where he would secretly record his attempts to "hit on her" using "strawberries and champagne." Boudreau reported that a document she obtained suggested O'Keefe would have also used props that included a "condom jar," Viagra, pornography, a ceiling mirror, and "fuzzy handcuffs." O'Keefe later claimed that he had been "repulsed" by the scenario laid out in the document when it was presented to him, and that it did not represent his actual plan for the interview.
Fox also falsely claimed Democrats wrote legislation to give ACORN billions of dollars. On February 19, Hannity falsely claimed that the Obama FY2011 budge allocates $3 billion to ACORN. Additionally, on May 6, 2009, Beck similarly claimed that "[b]y including ACORN, or groups like them, in the stimulus package, we have guaranteed them billions of dollars to buy more votes for the party that helps them the most." Other Fox personalities also parroted the claim. In fact, the Conference version of the bill includes a provision that would appropriate $2 billion "for neighborhood stabilization activities related to emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes as authorized under division B, title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008." The bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding.
Fox reported false story about ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis' supposed visits to the White House. On the January 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that "ACORN's chief Bertha Lewis got an inside look at the White House just days before those explosive undercover tapes about ACORN were released. Could her relationship with the First Family affect the way the administration ended up viewing those tapes?" Carlson was presumably referring to right-wing claims that White House visitor logs included Lewis' name. In fact, Politico's Ben Smith reported in a blog post that, according to an "administration official," the "Bertha E. Lewis" who visited the White House was not the Bertha Lewis who was the CEO of ACORN. Moreover, Smith noted that the ACORN CEO's middle initial is "M," not "E."
Termination of Inspectors General
Issa: "Protecting the Independence of Inspectors General" is an "issue in need of Congressional oversight." On September 22, Issa released a report titled, "A Constitutional Obligation: Congressional Oversight of the Executive Branch." The report claims that the "unparalleled encroachment of the federal government in the private sector and the lives of individual Americans that began during the Bush Administration and continues in the Obama Administration (see, for example, the Troubled Assets Protection Program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the rapid growth of the federal workforce, and the health care and financial overhauls) has led to concerns of an oncoming tsunami of opacity, waste, fraud, and abuse." On Issa's list of "issues in need of Congressional oversight" is:
Protecting the Independence of Inspectors General -- Oversight Republicans investigated and produced reports on the removal of two Inspector General: the IG for the Corporation for National and Community Service and the IG for Amtrak. In both cases there was strong evidence that the IGs were removed for highly improper reasons. Inspector Generals must have independence and must know that investigating waste and mismanagement isn't going to cost them their jobs. There are supposed to be 74 IGs, but right now there are 11 vacant positions including the Departments of State and Interior where there hasn't even been nominations. IGs are critical allies for oversight in Congress and the Oversight Committee needs to examine what can be done to better protect their independence, their ability to look for waste and abuse in federal agencies, and to make sure vacancies are filled in a timely manner.
Fox ran with baseless stories that Obama administration tried to silence inspectors general. Fox News repeatedly forwarded allegations that the Obama administration improperly dismissed Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service and Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold.
- On July 1, 2009, Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy, Carlson, and Kilmeade baselessly linked purported "whistleblowers" Walpin and Weiderhold, whose retirement had been announced by Amtrak two weeks earlier. While talking about Weiderhold's resignation, Fox & Friends also aired on-screen text reading: "America's Endangered Species. Watchdogs Silenced by Administration."
- On June 19, 2009, Beck described Walpin as someone who has "been destroyed by our government."
- On June 17, 2009, on-screen text during Fox & Friends asserted that Walpin was "fired for protecting taxpayers"
Walpin was accused of acting improperly and not fulfilling job requirements. In an April 29, 2009, letter Lawrence Brown, who was then the acting US. attorney for the Eastern District of California detailed an investigation into Walpin's handling of allegations that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the organization he formerly headed, St. HOPE Academy, allegedly misused AmeriCorps grants. The letter alleged that Walpin and his staff failed to include or disclose relevant information regarding the case to Brown's office; that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after having been advised that "under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation"; and that Walpin's "actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter."
The letter indicates that the U.S. attorney's office began looking into Walpin's actions in the St. HOPE Academy case during the tenure of U.S. attorney McGregor Scott, a Bush appointee.
The U.S. attorney's office subsequently cleared Walpin of criminal wrongdoing. Walpin's lawsuit for wrongful termination was also dismissed.
In letter explaining Walpin's removal, White House cited U.S. attorney investigation and other concerns. In a letter dated June 16, 2009, the White House explained Walpin's termination to members of Congress, writing:
Mr. Walpin was removed after a review was unanimously requested by the bi-partisan Board of the Corporation. The Board's action was precipitated by a May 20, 2009 Board meeting at which Mr. Walpin was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve. Upon our review, we also determined that the Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California, a career prosecutor who was appointed to his post during the Bush Administration, had filed a complaint about Mr. Walpin's conduct with the oversight body for the Inspectors General, including for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence.
We further learned that Mr. Walpin had been absent from the Corporation's headquarters, insisting upon working from his home in New York over the objections of the Corporation's Board; that he had exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers; and he had engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct. Mr. Walpin had become unduly disruptive to agency operations, impairing his effectiveness and, for the reasons stated above, losing the confidence of the Board and the agency. It was for these reasons that Mr. Walpin was removed.
Weiderhold resigned after dispute with Amtrak. Weiderhold retired on June 18, 2009, after a report he commissioned yielded conclusions critical of Amtrak management. On February 11, Weiderhold had retained an independent law firm to "review and analyze several Amtrak policies and practices relating to oversight of OIG [Office of Inspector General] audits, investigations, and operations." The firm's report concluded that the OIG's work was "being substantially impaired" by Amtrak officials
Politico reported in August 2009:
In a confidential letter drafted in June titled "Removal of Fred E. Weiderhold Jr. as Inspector General of Amtrak," the company laid out the reasons for his dismissal, including failure to keep the board of directors informed, not providing timely reports and becoming "excessively involved in the daily management of the company."
Amtrak IG is hired and fired by Amtrak, not by the White House. According to the Government Accountability Office, the "Amtrak IG is appointed, and may be removed, by the head of Amtrak." Thomas Carper currently serves as Amtrak's chairman of the board. Bush appointed Carper, a Democrat from Illinois, to Amtrak's Board of Directors in November 2007, and the Senate approved Carper's nomination in March 2008. The Amtrak board of directors, comprised of Bush administration appointees, "unanimously agreed to name" Carper as chairman of the board on January 30, 2009.
2009 letter signed by Issa did not implicate White House in Weiderhold matter. On June 29, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee "launched an investigation" into Weiderhold's resignation. But in their letter to Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper, House Oversight Committee chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and ranking member Issa did not in any way suggest that the White House had played a role in Weiderhold's resignation. Moreover, Amtrak reportedly denied that the resignation had anything to do with the report criticizing Amtrak management.
Report by EPA employee Alan Carlin
Issa and other Republicans call for investigation of EPA over their handling of report by EPA employee Alan Carlin. In June 2009, Issa and Rep. James Sensenbrenner wrote a letter to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson responding to the EPA's handling of an internal report questioning climate science by EPA researcher Alan Carlin. The letter asked Jackson to provide information on what Issa and Sensenbrenner called "serious and credible allegations of retaliation against Drs. Carlin and [John] Davidson." From the letter:
Perhaps more troubling than the suppression of the report, we have uncovered serious and credible allegations of retaliation against Drs. Carlin and Davidson. It is our understanding that Dr. Carlin is now prohibited from working on climate change issues and has been reassigned to tasks previously performed by junior staff members and contractors. Specifically, Dr. Carlin has been removed from the climate change workgroup at NCEE, has been deleted from the group's email distribution list, is no longer invited to the group's periodic meetings, and has been forbidden from doing any work on the climate issues he had previously handled. According to sources, EPA took these actions in direct response to Dr. Carlin's submission of his report.
Sen. James Inhofe has also called for an investigation of the EPA over its handling of Carlin.
EPA: Carlin "is not a scientist and was not part of the working group dealing with" climate change." Fox accused the EPA of attempting to "hush up" an internal EPA report Carlin authored about climate change, which falsely claimed that "global temperatures have declined for 11 years." However, an EPA official reportedly stated that Carlin "is not a scientist and was not part of the working group dealing with" climate change and he "included 'no original research' in his report." Indeed, according to his employee profile, Carlin was a senior operations research analyst at EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics. He has a Ph.D. in economics from MIT and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology.
NASA scientist saw "a number of basic flaws" in Carlin's report. Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in a June 26 RealClimate.org post that in reading the internal EPA document that Carlin co-authored, "[o]ne can see a number of basic flaws [in its main points]; the complete lack of appreciation of the importance of natural variability on short time scales, the common but erroneous belief that any attribution of past climate change to solar or other forcing means that CO2 has no radiative effect, and a hopeless lack of familiarity of the basic science of detection and attribution."
Carlin: "I didn't have time to fix all the problems -- and they still aren't fixed." In an interview with TPMMuckraker published July 1, Carlin acknowledged of his report, "I didn't have time to fix all the problems -- and they still aren't fixed." Carlin reportedly claimed that he produced his report over the span of "a few days," whereas he "normally write[s] research papers and reports, which take six months to a year." Carlin also stated that he similarly provided global warming reports to the EPA when President Bush was in office but that "[t]o the best of my knowledge, the Bush administration never followed up on my ideas."
Fox accused EPA of wrongdoing in its handling of Carlin.
- On June 30, 2009, Fox & Friends hosted Carlin to forward falsehoods about his reports. During the interview, co-host Steve Doocy claimed the EPA "hushed up" Carlin's report and advanced the report's false claim that, as he put it, "for the last 11 years, temperatures had been dropping."
- On the June 29, 2009, edition of The Live Desk, Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon claimed that "There was an important report issued by an EPA scientist, about 100 pages long -- almost 100 pages long -- that said that maybe we really shouldn't be regulating carbon dioxide. After all, global temperatures have fallen for the last 11 years."
- On the June 29, 2009, edition Hannity, former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore said that Carlin "is with the EPA, and he put a report -- 98-page report out," at which point host Sean Hannity interjected, "That they hid." Moore continued, "[T]hat said there was no increase in temperature; in fact, it's been going down for the past 11 years. And the Obama administration stopped the report." Hannity later stated that "[Sen.] James Inhofe [R-OK] is saying ... that they purposefully hid this information. They buried it."
- On June 1, 2009, Monica Crowley declared Carlin "a legendary guy at the EPA" and claimed that the "EPA suppressed [Carlin's] report."
- In a story about Carlin, Fox Nation falsely claimed of Carlin: "EPA scientist silenced in coverup."
Issa included stimulus "failure" in executive oversight blueprint. In his blueprint for executive branch oversight, Issa stated: "Since the stimulus was designed to spend taxpayer dollars quickly, there are also significant concerns that waste, fraud, and abuse is going undetected. The failure of the stimulus to reduce unemployment is perhaps the most significant concern of many Americans who have been hit hardest by the recession."
CBO: Stimulus saved or created up to 3 million jobs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in August that, as of the second quarter of 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million." The Council of Economic Advisers similarly stated that according to estimates by private analysts IHS/Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers, and Moody's Economy.com, the Recovery Act raised employment by 1.8 to 2.2 million jobs.
Economists agree that stimulus created jobs and helped avert a financial meltdown. Economists such as former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder and Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue, and American Enterprise Institute John H. Malkin all agree that the stimulus and other government spending like TARP helped avert a far deeper economic collapse.
Fox repeatedly pushed the claim that the stimulus failed to create jobs. Numerous Fox News figures have repeatedly asserted that the stimulus failed.
- On September 26, senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed that the stimulus "manifestly failed" to "get the unemployment rate down."
- On June 7, Fox business analyst Stuart Varney claimed that the Recovery Act was "wasted money" and that it "did not produce jobs."
- On April 4, Hume said: "They talk about the effect of the stimulus. I think the stimulus has been remarkably ineffective."
- On February 17, Beck advanced the myth that no jobs have been created under the stimulus and baselessly claimed that its "intent to restore the economy ... [is] not working either."
National Endowment for the Arts
Issa: White House "unlawful[ly]" used NEA as "de facto strategic communications firm." In August, Issa put out a report attacking aides for the White House and the National Endowment for the Arts for participating in a conference call about artist involvement in the White House's United We Serve program. Issa alleged:
The use of taxpayer dollars and federal employees to create an alliance whereby the NEA becomes the de facto strategic communications firm of the White House is unlawful. Using a government email account and government personnel and resources to host a call urging artists and arts groups to support the President's agenda is a clear violation of federal law and the Hatch Act. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for representatives of the White House, NEA and CNCS to formally ask artists and entertainers to use their talents to support the President's agenda because many of these people rely on NEA grants to subsidize their livelihoods.
NEA official did not encourage participants to contact members of Congress. During a secretly taped conference call between the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve, then-NEA communications director Yosi Sergant allegedly called on artists to create art and art initiatives to raise awareness about several issues, including health care, energy, and the environment. As the full conference call transcript and audio show, neither Sergant, nor any other government official, encouraged participants to contact members of Congress. Moreover, a report of the meeting released by the artists who organized it made clear that "there was absolutely no pressure on any of the artists to follow a political line" and that the artists' potential roles in pushing several high-profile "public initiatives" were not part of the White House briefing. Sergant would later resign.
There is no evidence activities broke Anti-Lobbying Act. The Justice Department -- whose opinions about the Anti-Lobbying Act carry special force, according to the legislation itself -- has stated that the Anti-Lobbying Act is violated with lobbying campaigns "designed to encourage members of the public to pressure members of Congress to support Administration or Department legislative or appropriations proposals." The Justice Department has also stated that Anti-Lobbying Act violations are limited to campaigns of more than $50,000.
CREW: No evidence of Hatch Act violations. According to a blog post by ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper, Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) stated that, while the call "looks terrible" and was "inappropriate," there was no illegality. She said: "Government agencies are not supposed to be engaged in political activities. ... Here, because they didn't veer off into 'This is about the election,' where you'd get into violations of the Hatch Act, it's not illegal. But it doesn't look good -- it looks terrible. It's inappropriate."
Fox repeatedly pushed NEA storyline.
- In a September 24, 2009, article, FoxNews.com distorted a report about a meeting Obama administration officials had with artists, falsely claiming that the report indicated that the White House "convened" the meeting in order to "push the president's domestic agenda."
- On the September 23, 2009, Fox & Friends, Carlson alleged that the NEA broke laws against lobbying and electioneering during the secretly taped call, saying, "You cannot tell federally funded organizations how they should be doing their work. In other words, you can't give them a mandate and say, 'Hey, push President Obama's health care reform plan with federal tax dollars.' That's against the law."
- On September 22, 2009, Beck also pushed allegations about White House employee Buffy Wicks "leading" an NEA conference call to tie ACORN to the Obama administration.
- On September 11, 2009, Beck stated that only he and Andrew Breitbart have "been calling for" an investigation into the NEA conference call -- during which, Beck claimed, "they," presumably the Obama administration, used the NEA "to buy propaganda for the president."
- Beck promoted the allegations on September 1, 2009, saying that the "people involved in a conference call, including the White House, knew that this was on the fence, if not outright illegal. They knew for sure that this would outrage you if it would ever get out."
- Beck again promoted the allegations on September 2, 2009, saying that Sergant "is creating a propaganda machine for the president of the United States and that is wrong."
- On the November 16, 2009, edition of his Fox News show, Beck took credit for Sergant's resignation, stating: "We played tapes of the call with Yosi Sergant and Yosi Sergant had to step down."
- In December 2009, FoxNews.com posted "Nine Big Stories the Mainstream Media Missed in 2009," listing "Politicizing the NEA" as its fifth such story. On December 31, 2009, Big Hollywood trumpeted the FoxNews.com article with the headline "Fox News: Politicizing NEA Among Top Stories MSM Missed in '09."
Dodd's "sweetheart" mortgage deal
Politico: "If he becomes chairman, Issa will use the committee's power to obtain more information on sweetheart deals." Politico reported on August 27 that "Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority." The article also stated:
Sen. Chris Dodd's embarrassing placement on the company's VIP mortgage list played a major role in the Connecticut Democrat's involuntary retirement earlier this year.
Issa -- using only the bully pulpit -- has already forced Countrywide's parent, Bank of America, to turn over reams of documents. If he becomes chairman, Issa will use the committee's power to obtain more information on sweetheart deals, even if it involves GOP politicians, according to a person close to him.
Senate Ethics Committee investigated Dodd's mortgage and unanimously dismissed ethics complaint. The Senate Ethics Committee investigated whether Dodd obtained mortgages from Countrywide Financial that "violated the Senate Gifts Rule" or violated the rule prohibiting "Senators from using their official position for personal gain." On August 7, 2009, the committee wrote to Dodd, stating that it "found no credible evidence that you knowingly accepted a gift, including a loan not available to the public."
Fox called for investigation over Dodd mortgage "scandal." Fox News figures repeatedly claimed Dodd received a "sweetheart" mortgage deal from Countrywide, without noting that the Senate Ethics Committee "found no credible evidence" that Dodd's mortgage violated Senate ethics rules:
- On July 22, Beck criticized the financial reform legislation and blamed the subprime crisis on Countrywide, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. He said, "If there were no Fannie, Freddie, or 'Ginnie' ... there'd be no Countrywide and likely no housing crisis or economic collapse or weird, shady loans going to people like Chris Dodd." He went on to liken Dodd writing financial reform to actor Mel Gibson "writ[ing] your company's rules on anger management."
- On the January 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Varney claimed that as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd "allowed AIG executives to walk away with millions of dollars in bonuses after a huge taxpayer bailout. He got a sweetheart deal from Countrywide Financial right at the center of the subprime mess."
- On January 6, Doocy also brought up Dodd's mortgage, saying that Dodd, "friend of Angelo ... got that below-public, subprime mortgage for one of -- actually, one or two of his properties -- he will announce later today at his home in Connecticut that he is saying goodbye."
- During an October 13, 2009, interview on Hannity, frequent guest Jerome Corsi pushed the false claim that Dodd had not been investigated for his mortgage. When Hannity said to Corsi: "You know what -- but there's also corruption," Corsi pointed to Dodd, "who utilized friendships with very extreme subprime lenders to get" a Countrywide mortgage. Hannity later asked, "[I]f this was a private corporation, would they be in jail?" Corsi responded: "They should be right now investigated. ... Senator Dodd and the other Democrats should be held accountable for this."
- On November 4, Hannity discussed possible Republican investigations and cited "the Countrywide Mortgage scandal in which Democratic Senators received sweetheart loans under the quote, 'Friends of Angelo program,' run by former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo."