How The GOP Uses Network News To Discredit Obama

››› ››› TYLER HANSEN, SAMANTHA WYATT & OLIVIA MARSHALL

Network nightly news broadcasts have served as a conduit for House Republicans to attack Obama administration initiatives through committee hearings -- all part of the GOP's "aggressive campaign," according to a recent New York Times report, to hold committee hearings and rely on media to cover the hearings' chosen narrative.

New Revelations Of GOP Reliance On Media To Attack White House Under Guise Of Oversight

New York Times: GOP Launching "Aggressive Campaign" Of Committee Hearings To Attack Obama Administration Initiatives. On November 20, The New York Times documented "an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act," which is attempting to push a narrative of Obamacare horror stories until "it enters the public discourse and forces a response." This effort relies heavily on media complicity, and grew out of a strategy developed last spring that "refocused the House's committees on oversight rather than on the development of new policies" (emphasis added):

The idea is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law -- through social media, letters from constituents, or meetings during visits back home -- and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic.

For a House more used to disarray than methodical game plans, the success so far has been something of a surprise, even to the campaign's organizers.

[...]

The effort has its roots in a strategy developed last spring, when House Republican leaders -- plagued by party divisions that were thwarting legislative accomplishments --refocused the House's committees on oversight rather than on the development of new policies.

Rob Borden, a general counsel to Representative Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, moved to a newly created position that reported jointly to Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader. Mr. Borden's task was to coordinate and monitor oversight activities across separate committees to make sure they are not overlapping or undercutting one another.

That aggressive campaign, which produced numerous hearings on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, as well as on I.R.S. scrutiny of conservative groups, is now increasingly consumed by the health care fight. House Republican leaders empowered four committees -- oversight, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and the Workforce -- to take the lead, with support from other panels, such as the Science and Homeland Security Committees, which have examined computer security. [New York Times, 11/20/13]

Evening Network Shows Quick To Report On House Committee Hearings

House Oversight Committee On HealthCare.Gov Rollout

Nov. 13: House Oversight Committee Held Hearing On HealthCare.Gov Rollout. On November 13, the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), summoned top Obama administration officials to testify before his committee about the issues surrounding the rollout of HealthCare.gov. CNN explained:

A cadre of top Obama administration information technology officials told Congress on Wednesday that improvements have been made to the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov portal and more are on the way in coming weeks as enrollment in Obamacare was far below what was first anticipated.

[...]

At times, the question-and-answer session before the Republican-led panel became contentious, not only between witnesses and members of Congress but also between lawmakers. Democrats have accused Issa of over-politicizing the issue.

One testy exchange involved Issa and Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper, who likened the hearing to a kangaroo court. Issa shot back.

"This is not a partisan hearing. I will not have it accused of a partisan hearing," Issa said.

Cooper then said, "This is a hearing on a broken website by a broken committee."

During his opening statement, Issa said HealthCare.gov "wasn't a small mistake." He said it went "live and effectively exploded on the launch pad." [CNN, 11/13/13]

Evening Network News Shows Discussed And Played Footage From Hearing

Nov. 13: ABC World News Covers Hearing And Healthcare.gov Issues. On November 13 edition of ABC World News, correspondent Jonathan Karl reported on the day's House Oversight Committee hearing on the health care website's rollout, airing footage of the hearing and detailing the "eye-popping revelation" of "how much the website has cost so far":

KARL: [White House statement on Healthcare.gov rollout] is not quieting anger in Congress, where today the most eye-popping revelation came from one of the government's top accountants: the first official estimate of how much the website has cost so far. [ABC World News, ABC, 11/13/13]

Nov. 13: NBC Nightly News: "In a Contentious Congressional Hearing Today, Republicans Doubted The New [Healthcare.gov] Deadline Would Be Met." On the November 13 edition of NBC Nightly News, correspondent Chuck Todd reported on the House's "contentious Congressional hearing" that day about the health care website's roll out:

TODD: In a contentious Congressional hearing today, Republicans doubted the new deadline would be met.

CLIP OF REP. DARRELL ISSA: Will it work on November 30th, properly, fully?

HENRY CHAO: The team set a goal of having healthcare.gov function smoothly for the vast majority of Americans. The team has worked incredibly hard to meet that goal.  [NBC Nightly News, NBC, 11/13/13]

Nov. 13: CBS Evening News: "Top Computer Experts Appeared Today Before House Committee Demanding To Know What Went Wrong."  Host Scott Pelley and correspondent Nancy Cordes highlighted the House Oversight Committee's hearing on the ACA website on the November 13 edition of CBS Evening News:

PELLEY: Now back to the technical problems with Healthcare.gov. Some of the administration's top computer experts appeared today before a House committee that was demanding to know what went wrong.  Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill for us tonight. Nancy?

CORDES: Scott, these are the managers who have really been on the front lines of creating and now fixing Healthcare.gov. In fact, one even testified that he slept on his office floor the week that the site launched. But none of them were really able to explain why this product they worked on for years was so flawed.

Under oath, some of the administration's top technology officers testified they were caught off-guard by the website's poor performance, even though they knew well in advance that some key components weren't working. Like a feature that allowed users to comparison shop for insurance plans without creating an account. [CBS Evening News, CBS, 11/13/13]

House Ways And Means Committee Interviews Conservatives Claiming They Were "Victims" Of IRS Scrutiny

June 4: House Ways And Means Committee Interviews Alleged Victims Of IRS Scrutiny. On June 4, leaders of conservative groups allegedly targeted by the IRS testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. From Politico:

Conservative groups who say they were wrongly targeted by the IRS got an opportunity to share their stories on Capitol Hill.

Speaking for the first time before a congressional committee on Tuesday, representatives of six conservative organizations described a delayed process for winning IRS approval for a tax exemption and spoke of "intrusive" questions from the agency focused on political beliefs. [Politico6/4/13, via Media Matters]

That Evening, Network News Shows Highlight Hearing And Air Footage Of Conservatives' Testimony

June 4: NBC Nightly News: At Hearing, "Republicans Say" IRS Targeting "Was Intimidation -- But Congress Needs More Answers." The June 4 edition of NBC Nightly News described the hearing in detail, focusing on the "fear and mistrust" of tea party members who testified:

KELLY O'DONNELL: This [hearing] is the first time those conservative groups were able to tell their stories directly, and they come from local grassroots organizations that have small budgets, but they described oversized paperwork and hoop jumping they were required to complete. Many spoke of fear and mistrust taking on the IRS. On Capitol Hill, voices of the targeted.

[...]

Republicans say it was intimidation -- but Congress needs more answers.

REP DAVE CAMP (R-MI): We still don't know who initiated this. WE still don't know how far it goes up the chain. [NBC Nightly News, NBC, 6/4/13]

June 4: CBS Evening News: "We Heard Nightmare Stories Today" From Tea Party Witnesses At IRS Hearing. On the June 4 edition of CBS Evening News, host Scott Pelley described the testimony from the IRS hearing as "nightmare stories," and the program then went on to roll footage from the hearing:

PELLEY: We heard nightmare stories today from some of those conservative groups that were targeted by the IRS. They had applied for tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations, but the IRS wanted to know whether they were really political groups, which are not eligible for tax exemption. IRS employees targeted every group that had "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in its name. [CBS Evening News, CBS, 6/4/13]

House Oversight Committee On US Response To Benghazi Attacks

May 8: House Oversight Committee Hearing On US Response To Benghazi Attacks. On May 8, the House Oversight Committee heard testimony from three witnesses to the Benghazi attacks, a hearing "fraught with emotion and political theater," according to PBS: 

Last year's attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, have been the subject of presidential debates, a report from an independent review board and on Wednesday, compelling testimony at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The hearing was fraught with emotion and political theater as Republicans leading the investigation sought to pin blame on President Barack Obama's administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

[...]

House Republicans who have had five different committees examining the attacks charged in their own report that the Obama's administration "willfully perpetrated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative." [PBS, 5/9/13]

Evening Network News Shows Air Benghazi Hearings, Republican Response

May 8: NBC Nightly News Rolls Footage Of Hearing On Benghazi Aftermath "That Has Been Consumed" By Controversy. The May 8 edition of NBC Nightly News reported on the House Oversight Committee's hearing on the attack in Benghazi, detailing the "emotional testimony" of a top diplomat who witnessed the Benghazi attack:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now to another big story getting a lot of attention today: the emotional testimony by a top diplomat about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the aftermath of that evening, which has been consumed ever since by controversy. Today we heard a chilling account of what really happened in Libya.  

[...]

ANDREA MITCHELL: After hearings last fall and winter, a damning report by an independent review board, Hillary Clinton took responsibility in January.

CLIP OF CLINTON: I take responsibly.

MITCHELL: But today, House Republicans said Clinton and the review board didn't go far enough with that admission. [NBC Nightly News, NBC, 5/8/13]

May 8: CBS Evening News: At Hearing, One Witness "Accused The Obama Administration Of Holding Back Resources." CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson covered that day's House Oversight Committee's Benghazi Hearing on the May 8 edition of CBS Evening News, airing footage from the hearing:

ATTKISSON: A top State Department counterterrorism official in Washington, Mark Thompson, also accused the Obama administration of holding back resources. He leads the U.S. based Foreign Emergency Support Team, or FAST, and assumed they'd immediately deploy.  [CBS Evening News, CBS, 5/8/13]

May 8: ABC World News: "Republicans Say" The Hearing "Shows That Politics Played A Role" In Administration's Response. ABC reported on the House Oversight Committee hearings on Benghazi on the May 8 edition of ABC World News:

JONATHAN KARL: While today's hearing provided a dramatic personal account of what happened in Libya during the attack, Republicans say it also shows that politics played a role in how the administration responded. [ABC World News, ABC, 5/8/13]

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