On November 21, the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the findings of its investigation into the September 2012 attacks on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, debunking many right-wing media myths about the attacks. Despite the fact that this is just the latest of several reports that clear Obama administration officials of any wrongdoing, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reappointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to lead a special committee in furtherance of the right-wing Benghazi hoax.
From the November 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News Sunday ignored a new report from the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee that debunked many of the myths that Fox News has spent the last two years promoting.
On November 21, the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on the September 2012 attacks on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Similar to the many preceding investigations into the attacks -- including the Accountability Review Board and the bipartisan U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- the report found that no stand down order was issued during the attacks, there was no intelligence failure leading up to the attack, and that the talking points the administration used in the days following the attacks were based on the CIA's best assessment at the time.
The November 23 edition of Fox News Sunday did not inform viewers of the report's findings. This stands in stark contrast to Fox's longstanding campaign to promote myths about the attacks.
Fox has been a tireless promoter of nearly every facet of the Benghazi hoax. In the 20 months following the attacks, Fox ran over 1,100 segments on Benghazi and hosted Republicans at a rate of 30:1 over Democrats to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, the network has routinely ignored and downplayed evidence refuting its conspiracy theories.
CNN media critic Brian Stelter noted that other Fox programs only provided cursory coverage of the report on the night of its release and that Fox never mentioned it the following day. According to Stelter (emphasis added):
STELTER: Boy, has Fox News spent a lot of time over the past two years focused on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and I mean a lot of time. [...] But when a new Benghazi report came out on Friday, there was hardly a peep, and maybe that's because the report, which was Republican led, it was by the House Intelligence committee, debunks many of the myths that have run rampant on Fox News and in conservative media circles. [...] So I have to wonder: will Fox will stop aggressively pushing its theories about Benghazi? Probably not. With its audience largely in the dark about the latest findings, the myths may, and perhaps will, live on.
On the November 23 edition of Fox News' own MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz noted that it only received "brief" coverage on Fox and that the results of the two-year long investigation "deserved more coverage from all news outlets."
A two-year investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee that debunked several prominent right-wing myths about the Benghazi attacks was largely ignored by the four major broadcast networks' Sunday shows.
From the November 23 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Sharyl Attkisson's new book attempts to cast the former CBS News reporter as an intrepid reporter fighting against intractable barriers. But the book's sloppy inaccuracies and absent context reinforce her image as a journalist more interested in a biased narrative than uncovering the facts.
Attkisson resigned this year after two decades at CBS and promptly launched a media tour attacking her former employer for supposedly protecting the Obama administration from her reporting. Her new book has been published and promoted by conservative interests, who clearly see this narrative as a confirmation of their worldview that the "liberal" media is biased against them.
But Attkisson doesn't portray herself as a conservative folk hero pitted against "liberal bias." In fact, she sees that kind of rhetoric as distracting "from the real issues," and the real reasons she left CBS. Instead, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington is meant to confirm her place in the pantheon of nonpartisan journalists, who will "follow a story wherever it leads, no matter how unpleasant, no matter whom it touches or implicates." In her account, Attkisson is one of the few reporters who have been trying to hold the Obama administration accountable by investigating its supposedly scandalous behavior in the face of "forces" who seek to protect the White House.
Attkisson organizes the book around her coverage of four major news stories -- the botched law enforcement Operation Fast and Furious, the bankruptcy of a few green energy companies that had received federal funding, the Benghazi attacks, and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's website, Healthcare.gov -- which she casts as symbolic of her desire to investigate administration failures. But Attkisson claims her efforts were repeatedly stymied by CBS.
Attkisson's claims of the opposition she faced at CBS News are difficult to confirm, as they rely on private conversations and anonymous sources. (The Washington Post's Erik Wemple has been attempting to identify and reach out to some of them, but has received few confirmations.) But her account inflates those supposed scandals by hiding key facts in favor of pushing conservative talking points -- the sort of behavior that led CBS officials to fear that she was "wading dangerously close to advocacy" in her reporting.
Attkisson was one of the first reporters to cover Operation Fast and Furious, under which Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents allowed firearms to be trafficked across the U.S. - Mexico border, hoping to follow the guns to high-level Mexican drug cartel targets. ATF lost track of the guns, some of which ended up at crime scenes in Mexico, while others were found at the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
Stonewalled details Attkisson's role in reporting the story, for which she won an Emmy. However, her book also floats a number of debunked conservative conspiracy theories about the botched operation, while promoting the 2012 Department of Justice Inspector General report that undermines those same theories.
For instance, Attkisson falsely suggests that her reporting proved Attorney General Eric Holder was lying about his knowledge of Fast and Furious. Holder testified under oath that he was unaware of the operation until it became public knowledge in early 2011, but Attkisson claims Holder was aware several months earlier:
Unfortunately for Holder, it wasn't long after his testimony that we obtained internal documents showing he was actually sent weekly briefings on Fast and Furious as early as July 2010, ten months before. The briefings came from the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center and from Holder's own Assistant Attorney General Breuer.
However, the Inspector General report found that Holder did not personally review those reports, and that those reports did not refer to the agent's major failure to stop the firearms from crossing the border. The report went on to completely exonerate Holder, placing the "primary responsibility" for Fast and Furious on the ATF's Phoenix field office and the Phoenix U.S. Attorney's Office. Even House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) has acknowledged that he has "no evidence" or even a "strong suspicion" that Holder was aware of the gunwalking tactics.
Attkisson calls the Inspector General report "scathing" while acknowledging that its findings contradicted some of her reporting. Nevertheless, she misleadingly concludes by blasting the press for accurately exonerating Holder, accusing them of a "generous interpretation of the facts."
Attkisson goes on to attack the Obama administration's electric vehicle initiative, a part of the Department of Energy's clean energy loan program. She focuses on several failed companies that received federal funds, including Fisker Automotive and A123, and falsely claims their eventual bankruptcies were representative of the entire program:
Were these failed enterprises alone among an overwhelming body of successful green energy initiatives funded by tax dollars? No.
This is false. Despite conservative media's fixation on the few beneficiaries of clean energy loan programs that failed, such as Fisker and Solyndra -- and despite Attkisson's previous error-ridden report on what CBS called "new Solyndras" -- 98 percent of clean energy funds went to successful ventures:
Attkisson criticizes the media for a double standard when covering the bankruptcies, insisting that journalists gave President Obama a pass that they wouldn't have afforded President Bush -- all while insisting that she would have covered each president fairly (emphasis added):
Imagine a parallel scenario in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney personally appeared at groundbreakings for, and used billions of tax dollars to support, multiple giant corporate ventures whose investors were sometimes major political campaign bundlers, only to have one (or two, or three) go bankrupt. At a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars. During a presidential election. When they knew in advance the companies' credit ratings were junk. News headlines would have been relentless with images of Bush and Cheney smiling and waing at one contrsuction-start ceremony after another, making their invalidated claims about jobs and untold millions...contrasted with images of empty plants and boarded-up warehouses. And I would have been proposing those stories.
But the program that started the Fisker loans -- called the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program -- did begin under Bush.
In fact, Fisker itself was approached by the Bush administration and encouraged to apply for the loan, and they were in charge when the application was filed. Attkisson does not mention this context in her description of Fisker; instead, all she offers is a brief note that she had broadly investigated "the backgrounds of some troubled green ventures that benefited from federal tax dollars, whether under Bush or Obama."
Attkisson hides basic facts to suggest the Obama administration is trying to cover up the truth about September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
She narrates a moment in November 2012 when she attempted to find a photograph of President Obama on the night of the Benghazi attacks as a way to account for his "actions that night." Conservative media, and Fox News in particular, have repeatedly questioned the whereabouts of various administration officials the night of the attacks.
Attkisson claims the White House isn't being forthright about the President's whereabouts, which she characterizes as suspicious and politically motivated, given that "tax dollars pay to have a professional photographer cover most every aspect of the president's work life."
A photo of the president in the Oval Office taken the night of the attacks has been available on the public White House Flickr account since October 11, 2012, three weeks before Attkisson claims she started looking for a photo.
The photo depicts Obama meeting with Denis McDonough, then-Deputy National Security Advisor, Vice President Joe Biden, then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew. The existence of the photo has been repeatedly documented. Attkisson apparently did not know about the photo at the time, but she does not attempt to reconcile the facts now.
Attkisson criticizes her CBS bosses for not letting her repeatedly report on theoretical security problems the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchange website faced -- while hiding key testimony that confirmed there had been no security breaches.
Attkisson highlights the closed-door House Oversight Committee testimony of Teresa Fryer, a lead cybersecurity official on the project, who Attkisson holds up as "a knowledgeable insider" whose testimony is worth trusting as a "current, sitting, senior manager." Fryer testified that there had been two high-risk security findings on Healthcare.gov "after it went live October 1" (emphasis original), which Attkisson claims is a "bombshell" and reveals that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has misled journalists when they confirmed that "all fears about security risks in the past never came to pass."
What Attkisson fails to note is that during her testimony Fryer also explained there had been "no successful breaches" of the website; the "several layers of security" in place had performed as expected. The two findings Fryer mentioned were simply red flags -- they did not result in any real security failures, according to Fryer herself.
Attkisson notes that according to HHS one of the findings was a "false alarm" and the second was fixed, but insists "that may or may not be true. No proof is offered." She insists until evidence is produced it's simply the government's "side of the story," and derides media figures who accept the HHS "claims." She does not mention that Fryer made the exact same claims.
Like most journalists, Chuck Todd hates becoming part of the story. So when his recent criticism of Kentucky Democratic senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was used as the basis of a Mitch McConnell campaign ad, the new Meet the Press host felt "physically ill."
Todd spoke at length with Media Matters last week about life in the hot seat of NBC's top Sunday morning news program to which he ascended after two decades of political reporting at the network, MSNBC, and National Journal. Since he was handed the Meet the Press reins last month, Todd has to his credit granted extensive interviews to several longtime critics of the program, of which Media Matters is one.
In the first part of a three-part series, Todd shares his thoughts on how the media covers political crises, scandals, and gaffes in the modern era, including how the press has handled Ebola, the 2012 Benghazi attacks, and the alleged IRS political targeting.
Earlier this month, Todd argued that Grimes had "disqualified herself" as a candidate when she refused to answer whether she had voted for President Obama. His comments were quickly turned into a statewide television ad by Senator McConnell's reelection team.
Asked about having his comments turned into a political ad, Todd stood by his critique of Grimes and her alleged obfuscation, though admitted his wording was "sloppy" because he had been trying to suggest that it was Kentucky voters who would decide that Grimes had disqualified herself.
Pressed on what types of things should disqualify a political candidate - like, for example, McConnell's dismissal of climate science - Todd was elusive, saying that candidates being "caught lying" is a red flag, but that it should be up to voters to make those calculations, not reporters.
Todd also discussed the tradeoffs that are necessary when covering Ebola, which has dominated the news in recent weeks.
According to Todd, outlets need to make "smart decisions" and balance the need to provide the public with information about the disease and the government's handling of it without simply stoking hysteria about a domestic outbreak. Todd noted that the nonstop collective coverage from the media has led to a situation where it feels like "one case is going to turn into a hundred," which makes it important for outlets to "explain how hard that is."
Then there are two so-called "scandals" that Republicans have endlessly tried to hammer away at and use to criticize both the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton: Benghazi and the IRS.
Discussing Benghazi, Todd said there is a "constant campaign" from both the left and the right to "work the refs" on the story, with conservatives engaged in a "search for conspiracies" and the promotion of supposedly scandalous stories that are "not news."
As for the IRS story, in which the agency has repeatedly been accused of targeting conservative political groups, Todd suggested it is symptomatic of how, with the proliferation of opposition research, news outlets need to be active debunkers instead of just reporters, something they cannot always do.
From the October 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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It's become commonplace for the right-wing fringe to respond to breaking news by invoking Benghazi. The Ebola outbreak, the NFL's domestic violence problems, and the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 are just three recent examples in the panoply of events that remind conservatives of the terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound, which they've spent the last two years trying to turn into a political scandal.
It's more unusual for a journalist from a mainstream outlet to engage in this sort of behavior. But here's how Josh Kraushaar, the political editor for National Journal, responded to the October 8 Washington Post report that suggested senior White House aides had hidden their knowledge of the fact that "a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room" of one of the volunteers on the advance team for President Obama's 2012 trip to Colombia:
In isolation, the WH cover-up of staff misconduct is a blip. But it fits pattern of the WH hiding damaging info from the public b4 election.-- Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 9, 2014
... makes you wonder if the partisan criticisms have more merit than many first thought. http://t.co/5i7VKu1bXH-- Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 9, 2014
First instinct is to trust what the WH is saying, but they've squandered a lot of that trust lately.-- Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 9, 2014
Kraushaar's National Journal colleague Ron Fournier also recently invoked the administration's response to Benghazi as a reason for the public to doubt the federal government's response to Ebola.
Others referencing Benghazi in their discussions of the prostitution story include Ronald Kessler, the investigative journalist described as "a bit of a kook" who recently drew fire for suggesting that President Obama would be to blame if he were assassinated, and Steve Doocy, the Fox News host who previously complained that the deadly Hurricane Sandy "knocked [Benghazi] off the front page."
From the September 18 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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The Washington Post reported this week that WJLA, ABC's Washington, D.C., affiliate, has taken a "subtle but noticeable turn to the right" since being taken over by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. This conservative tilt was on full display this week when the channel ran a news package promoting a baseless conspiracy theory about Benghazi from reporter Sharyl Attkisson.
The Washington Post piece highlighted the concerns of some staff members of local ABC affiliate WJLA, that following the finalization of the sale to Sinclair in August 2014, "some of the stories ordered by Sinclair on a 'must-run' basis don't meet the station's long tradition of non-partisan reporting." One factor in this shift to conservative partisan reporting was announced in July prior to the sale, when Sinclair hired discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson as an "independent freelance reporter" to "focus on stories that follow the money and waste watch type of investigations."
However, prior to the September 17 opening hearing of the House Benghazi Special Committee, Attkisson ran a dubious report for Sinclair that appeared on WJLA highlighting the unverifiable claims of former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell alleging that some documents were intentionally withheld from the Accountability Review Board investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi:
The same day Attkisson's report ran on WJLA, Attkisson appeared on Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends where she reiterated the report's unsubstantiated accusations. Host Steve Doocy lamented that only a handful of outlets such as Fox and the Daily Signal -- the Heritage Foundation website to which Attkisson occasionally contributes -- were covering this latest so-called "Benghazi bombshell." Attkisson concluded the segment by mentioning that her report was also broadcast to "maybe 30 million local news viewers" through Sinclair's affiliate stations.
Although Sinclair's support of right-wing misinformation has been widely documented and criticized for many years, its increasing influence in local media bodes ill for objective journalism at stations like WJLA.
From the September 17 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the September 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News' Bill O'Reilly questioned whether the latest report from discredited investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, which baselessly suggested a Benghazi cover-up by State Department officials, actually constituted a "scandal."
On the September 16 edition of his Fox News show, host Bill O'Reilly invited Attkisson to discuss her "troubling accusations against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton" from "a disgruntled former State Department official." After Attkisson confirmed that her source had not witnessed such actions himself, O'Reilly dismissed the conspiracy explaining that "If no documents were removed, scrubbed, if they weren't taken out or destroyed, then I don't know if there is any scandal":
Later during the segment, Fox correspondent James Rosen reported that Attkisson's source had previously failed to disclose this accusation of a cover-up and that his account "bears a lot of further investigation before it can be deemed credible":
ROSEN: One point about this matter, Democrats on the House Oversight committee, which has previously investigated Benghazi, have noted that Mr. Maxwell was formally interviewed by that panel last year with a transcript prepared and despite many opportunities to do so, Mr. Maxwell never disclosed this shocking scene of obstruction of justice by high level state department officials that he now claims to have witnessed. That omission on his part at that time, along with other issues, will ensure that if and when Mr. Maxwell testifies before the House Benghazi committee, he will face some rough sledding in cross examination.
O'REILLY: Yeah. Why didn't you say it when you had the first opportunity? Yeah, I got it.
ROSEN: Yes now, all of this is not to say that what Mr. Maxwell claims to have witnessed never happen, just that it bears a lot of further investigation before it can be deemed credible.