Right-wing media and Republicans are blaming Democrats and President Obama for allegedly "ginning up" the issue of impeachment for political benefit, but that Pandora's Box was opened by conservatives themselves, who have been demanding impeachment since Obama first took office.
In an interview with conspiracy website WND (which has its own "Impeachment Store"), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) told conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi that President Obama "wants us to impeach him now" because "his senior advisors believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote."
Stockman's proclamation that the president is "begging to be impeached" was quickly trumpeted as the top story on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, and Stockman isn't the only one trying to pin the increase in impeachment discussion on Democrats. While refusing to answer whether impeachment is off the table for House Republicans, incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed "this might be the first White House in History that's trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president."
Fox News America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum also attempted to distance impeachment rhetoric from the right and pin it on Democrats, claiming that while "some" Republicans have called for impeachment, "The White House itself has been talking a lot about this potential impeachment, even though a lot of members of the GOP want nothing to do with it."
She continued, saying impeachment was "kind of crazy when you think about it," and dismissed Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's impeachment call, saying "it really gained no traction among Republicans. A couple talk show hosts also liked the idea, apparently, but that seemed to be pretty much as far as it went. And now, there seems to be a move to convince Americans that all Republicans are interested in that option." Her guest, Republican New Hampshire Senate candidate and former Fox News contributor Scott Brown, responded by saying that there is "no appetite" for impeachment among Americans.
While MacCallum claimed Palin's call for impeachment "gained no traction among Republicans," in Fox News' own poll released last week, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) endorsed the idea of impeaching Obama.
Furthermore, these attempts to pivot and shift blame towards Democrats for invoking impeachment severely downplay conservatives' responsibility for the narrative.
There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
Fox News contributor Allen West is claiming that President Obama is "purposefully creating drama globally" like the recent Malaysia Airlines M17 crash.
In a post on his website headlined, "298 souls on MH17 have paid the price for Obama's 'flexibility,'" West referenced a 2012 video of Obama telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he would have "flexibility" after his re-election, writing:
Sadly, hundreds of Ukrainians and 298 souls on MH17 have paid the price for the weakness and abject cowardice of Obama's "flexibility."
And here in America we quibble over a lawsuit against this charlatan.
The blood on Vladimir Putin's hands was poured by Barack Obama who is indirectly responsible, accountable accountable [sic] and no different than Neville Chamberlain's weakness in the face of the 20th Century maniacal dictator Adolf Hitler.
He concluded: "So much for no drama Obama. He is purposefully creating drama globally." West did not expand on why he thinks Obama is "purposely creating" "drama" like the Malaysia crash.
Fox News contributor Allen West didn't dispute an audience member who falsely claimed that "Obama is a Muslim," responding that he's "not going to get into that" but the president "has an Eastern orientation, I'll put it that way."
During the event's question and answer segment, an attendee told West: "I personally believe that Obama is a Muslim. I believe he has a corrupt administration. And I believe that he is doing everything in his power to bring this country down."
West agreed that Obama is bringing down the country, and then moved on to the Muslim claim by stating: "Now the point about him being a Muslim or not, you know, I'm not going to get into that. But this is what I will tell you. The formative years of your life have an incredible impact upon your worldview and your perspective. Okay? My years from zero to ten, I was learning all the SEC football fight songs. I was going to Atlanta Braves, you know, baseball games."
By contrast, West said, "The president has an Eastern orientation, I'll put it that way. You go back and you look at the speech he gave at the Turkish general assembly and also the speech he gave in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009. That defines his perspective. Anybody that allows Muslim Brotherhood affiliated individuals to be advisers in your, in his administration -- I got a problem with that. Okay? And I will tell you, that's an impeachable offense, folks."
He concluded: "Don't care whether or not he's a Muslim. I care about his orientation. And his association. But you're absolutely right. One thing I'll tell you -- he has told us exactly what he wants to do."
If you're a conservative who wants to impeach President Obama, time is running out. You need to give Allen West money, and quickly. It's an "emergency."
In a series of emails sent to subscribers in recent weeks, Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman Allen West has implored people to donate to his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, in order to hasten Obama's impeachment. And West isn't alone -- numerous conservative media figures and political groups are looking to cash in on Obama's supposedly impending impeachment through donations, books, and various impeachment merchandise.
Right-wing media have been pushing for Obama's impeachment for more than five years over a wide range of issues, but impeachment chatter got a boost earlier this July when Sarah Palin penned an opinion piece for Breitbart.com. She called for Obama's removal from office, arguing that the president's "unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'no mas.'" She reiterated her call on Fox's Hannity, telling viewers it was time to "get going" on impeachment.
While numerous members of the conservative noise machine are agitating for impeachment, not everyone is on board. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, for one, thinks "impeachment would be crazy" at the moment.
But regardless of whether impeachment is good politics for conservatives, it's starting to look like good business.
Fox News' Special Report highlighted conservative calls for President Obama's impeachment, but hid that the calls they cite as coming from "some prominent outside conservative voices" actually originated with Fox's own contributors.
On the July 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel reported that "some prominent outside conservative voices have called for President Obama to be impeached":
After years of conservative media figures agitating for congressional Republicans to impeach President Obama, today House Speaker John Boehner announced plans to sue the president for not "faithfully executing the laws of this country."
Discussing the suit -- which would be filed on behalf of the House of Representatives -- Boehner claimed that it was "not about impeachment." But in a piece for The New Republic, Brian Beutler argues that conservatives' push to stir up outrage over Obama has led Republicans to seek a "relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment":
Having created a clamor within the GOP conference, and the conservative base, over Obama's use of executive power, Republicans now must satisfy the consequent appetite to do something about it. Suing Obama is meant to do that. The goal is to be head-turning enough to simultaneously address coalition management obligations--calm restive conservatives, keep the base energized--and serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment.
The risk is that it'll whet rather than diminish the right's appetite for impeachment. But Boehner doesn't have much choice. You can't gin up this much outrage over Obama's actions, and then do nothing to stop him, when the Constitution provides you so many tools to do just that.
Much of the building pressure for impeachment has come not only from congressional Republicans, but from conservative media figures, whose calls for impeachment have been a steady drumbeat since Obama took office.
Fox News contributor Allen West dismissed the recent capture of Benghazi terrorist suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala as a "smoke and mirrors" ploy and questioned whether Abu Khattala was really the "mastermind" behind the attacks or "the Obama administration's fall guy." Yet West just months ago co-signed a letter calling for Khattala's capture because he was the "ringleader of the attack."
During an appearance today on Fox News Radio, West said that Abu Khattala has been "seen out in public and everything, and now all of a sudden the American people are supposed to believe that he is the mastermind?" He added: "He ends up being the Obama administration's fall guy. Just the same as the poor guy who produced the quote, unquote, anti-Islamic video," a reference to Innocence of Muslims filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
On January 6, West co-signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner demanding a Benghazi select committee and calling for the capture of Abu Khattala. The letter, which is posted on West's website, states:
Not a single terrorist in this well-planned and executed military attack by radical Islamists has been apprehended. Ahmed Abu Khattala, a ringleader of the attack, granted long interviews to reporters in Benghazi cafes, while the Obama administration -- and you -- have done nothing. Nearly 16 months after the terrorist attack, American public has no accountability and no plan of action from House leadership.
On the radio, West also bizarrely claimed that the attention on Benghazi was distraction from matters such as Iraq and immigration, stating: "This is all smoke and mirrors. This all distraction. This all wag the dog stuff coming out of the Obama administration while we have a serious situation going on in Baghdad, while we have a serious situation going in on our southern border." (To "wag the dog" means to "purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance.") West similarly wrote on his website yesterday that Abu Khattala was "conveniently captured to deflect attention from all the other nightmares."
Listen to West's comments from the June 18 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
Since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, media have scandalized the administration's negotiations with the Taliban, conducted through a third-party, despite the fact that foreign policy experts and military leaders have long acknowledged the necessity of such negotiations.
Conservatives have responded to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by attacking his father, questioning President Obama's sanity and patriotism, and calling for impeachment.
Allen West has a suggestion for how to respond to the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: give Allen West's political action committee money.
West, a Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman, sent an email today to his mailing list criticizing the Obama administration for securing the release of Bergdahl from the Taliban in Afghanistan in a prisoner swap.
He wrote that in getting Bergdahl released, "America now negotiates with terrorists" -- a statement that ignores the country's long and bipartisan history of such negotiations -- and added: "Today is just another sad day where our own Commander-in-chief is more dangerous than the enemies we're fighting."
West segued from calling Obama worse than terrorists because he negotiated the release of a captured soldier to soliciting money for his political action committee, The Allen West Guardian Fund. West wrote: "I have just the solution ... Will you make an immediate contribution of $25, $50, $100 or more right away to Allen West Guardian Fund?"
West, who served in the Army but left under a cloud of controversy, has advocated that "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama" in response to the Bergdahl negotiations. He also suggested that Bowe Bergdahl's father may have claimed the White House for Islam by saying a common Arabic phrase during his Rose Garden appearance with the president to announce his son's release from captivity.
In December 2013, as Paul Waldman noted, West criticized President Obama for purportedly having "abandoned" Bergdahl. West wrote: "This past POW/MIA national day of recognition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated a pledge to secure the young Army NCO being held captive, but have there been any actions? Any time, attention, or even mention from the Commander-in-Chief? Nah, no camera highlights in it for him." He later admonished readers to "not forget" Bergdahl because he deserves "our time and attention."
Media Matters previously documented how conservatives pundits have raised funds for their organizations by invoking the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
Several conservative media figures are floating the idea of impeaching President Obama over the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Numerous right-wing activists, media figures, and politicians have been trying to drum up a reason to impeach Obama ever since he took office more than five years ago. National Review writer and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy released a new book today on subject, endeavoring to explain the "political case" for impeaching the president. In making his case, McCarthy rehashes a wide number of well-worn supposed scandals from the Obama administration. Fittingly, McCarthy has also been at the forefront of the latest calls for impeachment, arriving right as his book hits the shelves.
In comments on June 2 to the Daily Mail's website, the Mail Online, McCarthy reportedly called the exchange of Taliban figures for Bergdahl a "high crime and misdemeanor," because, he claimed, the administration did not sufficiently notify Congress of the planned transfer. The Mail article was quickly highlighted on the Drudge Report.
Appearing on Fox & Friends the next morning, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Obama "may very well have committed a federal crime by giving material assistance to a terrorist organization." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy responded by plugging McCarthy's book and pointing to his comments to the Mail Online about impeachment. Napolitano added that it was a "very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about."
Later in the day, Fox News' Outnumbered host Sandra Smith asked "does this become an impeachable offense" and highlighted Napolitano's claim that "this breaks federal law."
Fox News contributor Allen West posted on his website, "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama." He continued, "I submit that Barack Hussein Obama's unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult -- mandated by law -- with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense."
Allen West did not immediately take the stage following his introduction at last weekend's Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. In his place, a horse-mounted Mel Gibson flashed onto two jumbo screens, rallying Scottish national forces against the approaching armies of Edward I. Only after Gibson's Braveheart monologue concluded did West emerge to a standing ovation. For anyone who had missed the point, the Fox News commentator unpacked the clip's lesson: It's 1297 all over again, a Braveheart is needed to lead conservatives over the forces of tyranny, and that man is a one-term rep from Broward County named Colonel Allen West.
"This is a good depiction of where we are on the ideological battlefield," said West. "We look across and think, 'They are too many.' We see the secular humanists, the progressive socialists, the radical Islamists. But we can win back our freedom. I've been on battlefields, and there is no difference between ideological battlefields and battlefields where bullets are flying, because you can lose your life physically, or you can lose your life metaphysically. We face the challenge of raising up a new Braveheart. The American people are looking for someone to come on the battlefield and say, 'Rally around me.'"
West's Braveheart bit was the boldest Hollywood-inspired open at the semiannual Leadership Conference since 2010, when Newt Gingrich strutted out from behind the curtains like a prizefighter and soaked up applause against speakers blasting "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky. Gingrich's position back then resembled West's today. He was a controversial out-of-office firebrand trying to generate buzz for a long shot presidential bid. Gingrich's most important national platform at the time, now possessed by West, was a contributor gig at Fox News.
Since refashioning himself as a conservative media figure, West has equaled his reputation for inflammatory and divisive red-meat rhetoric. In recent media appearances and posts on his website, he's hinted that war hero and Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth may be harboring treasonous thoughts and performed acrobatic feats of logic to fuel his conservatives' 24-hour a day Benghazi hype-furnace. At every turn, he's told conservative audiences that he's pondering a run for the presidency.
But in New Orleans last weekend, there was no apparent momentum for an Allen West presidential candidacy. The black conservative that most excited the crowd was the one who did not attend. A large and dedicated contingent of "Draft Ben Carson" activists worked the floor collecting emails and handing out buttons and pamphlets. Like West, Carson is a contributor to Fox News. Unlike West, Carson has apparently used the airtime to develop traction among the conservative rank and file. Where the retired brain surgeon finished a close second behind Ted Cruz in the event's straw poll, the Army veteran failed to register. Carson's edge over West also likely extends beyond the GOP base. While the former can sit down with NBC's David Gregory to talk about his New York Times best-selling book, West has never been seen trying to appeal to a broader constituency.
But if his perch at Fox means West still has access to a national conservative audience, it's an open question whether he can win another Congressional race in Florida, never mind a Republican primary.
It wasn't long ago Allen West seemed a somewhat plausible bet for the first African-American on a Republican presidential ticket. Among the Tea Party freshman of 2010, he stood out for his fastball stump speech, delivered with the commanding cast and bearing of retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel. During his two-year term, he grew a national conservative following as the quintessential tea party congressman. As his reelection campaign approached, he was no longer just the first black Republican Congressman to win in Florida since Reconstruction, he seemed the black conservative best positioned to advance to the national stage ahead of party turning sharply to the right.
Then he got redistricted.
In addition to hyping calls for Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation, Fox News hosts have advocated for two of their own contributors to fill the position.
A preliminary report released by the VA Inspector General on May 28 substantiated allegations of VA officials falsifying records at the Phoenix, Arizona VA medical center, and found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor there were never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waitlist. This review has prompted calls for Shinseki to step down, which right-wing media figures have enthusiastically promoted despite Speaker of the House John Boehner's refusal to demand the secretary's resignation.
But Fox was not content to simply call for Shinseki's resignation -- two prominent Fox hosts have replacements in mind for Shinseki, both of whom are the network's very own contributors.
During a May 28 interview on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly advocated for Fox contributor Colonel Ralph Peters to replace Shinseki. When Peters -- who has repeatedly defended Shinseki -- skeptically asked O'Reilly who would replace Shinseki in the event of his resignation, O'Reilly was quick to respond, "You!" to Peters' chagrin:
From the May 22 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
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