From the July 30 edition of MSNBC's NOW With Alex Wagner:
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From the July 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the July 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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"What the hell is happening at the New York Times?" -- Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald
It's been four days since The New York Times uncorked perhaps the biggest newsroom blunder of the 2016 campaign season, when Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo erroneously reported that two inspectors general were seeking a criminal probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state. The Times' would-be blockbuster landed online on July 23 and on the front page of the print edition July 24.
But even before many readers picked up the paper on Friday morning, the story had begun to unravel. By Friday afternoon, the Times' exclusive had suddenly morphed into a humiliation for the Times itself. The paper was widely ridiculed for getting the referral story wrong, and then for awkwardly trying to limit the damage via stealthy online edits.
Almost four days after its initial publication, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in on the "mess" this morning, suggesting that the paper should have waited to publish until it had developed the story more extensively: "Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome than publishing an unfair story and damaging The Times's reputation for accuracy."
Meanwhile, executive editor Dean Baquet pinned much of the blame for the debacle on the Times' sources -- rather than the reporters and editors involved -- suggesting that this might not be the last mistake of this nature we see from the paper: "You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral ... I'm not sure what they could have done differently on that."
If you were surprised by the Times' face-plant, then you haven't been paying attention. Media Matters has been chronicling the Times' problematic Clinton coverage in recent months. (And for years.) Yet it wasn't until the email fiasco that the paper's ongoing Clinton troubles exploded into full view, prompting condemnations as journalists and commentators not only questioned the Times' competence, but also its fairness.
Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen:
There's also no getting around the fact that the Times coverage of Hillary Clinton is a biased train wreck.
Vanity Fair contributing editor and Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald:
I worked at NYT for 20 yrs. I know what standards are supposed to be. The Hillary/email story violated all of them.
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
I have resisted this conclusion over the years, but after today's events it's fair to say the Times has a problem covering Hillary Clinton.
The unsettling question the Times now faces as it grapples with the fallout from the email debacle is whether or not the newspaper can be trusted to be an honest player when covering Clinton. It's an extraordinary position for the Newspaper of Record to be in. But the Times has been feeding this credibility crisis for a very long time.
The Cliff's Notes to this conflict: With the bogus pursuits of Whitewater, the Loral spy satellites story, would-be spy Wen Ho Lee, and many more, the Times uncorked supposedly blockbuster allegations against Bill Clinton during the 1990s that were based on vague reporting that later turned out to be flimsy. The stories imploded, but not before Republicans grabbed onto the "liberal" New York Times gotchas and launched investigation after investigation. Fast-forward two decades and the same newsroom dysfunction persists.
Let's be clear: The Times is hardly alone in terms of having trouble reporting factually on the Clinton email story. Beltway journalists have strained for months trying to turn what is largely a process story into a simmering scandal. (See here.)
But the Times remains the country's most influential news outlet and the daily has been carrying around an unmistakable Clinton grudge for nearly 20 years. And it's a collective disdain for the Clintons that stretches from the opinion pages to the newsroom that arguably leads to spectacular blunders like the one we saw last week.
There seems to be a world view within the Times that taking cheap shots at the Clintons is not only allowed, it's preferred; it's a way for Times journalists to raise their profiles and generate buzz. But not only is the practice unfair and unethical, it carries with it profound political implications.
Apparently making no effort to check with the lead Democrat on the panel about the anonymous claims of a criminal referral -- Rep. Elijah Cummings would have demolished the entire premise of the gotcha story -- the Times essentially acted as stenographer for sources who either manufactured the claim about a criminal referral or unknowingly botched the facts.
The Times' oddly personal crusade against Hillary Clinton is also a crusade against the Democratic frontrunner for president, so the Republican Party benefits. The stakes really could not be higher, which makes the Times' behavior all the more disturbing.
Back in May, Margaret Sullivan noted her objections to the paper's "oddly barbed tone" in some of its Clinton coverage. (That was putting it mildly.) At the time, readers were upset with a nasty, condescending news article by Jason Horowitz that referred to Clinton as a standoffish "regal" "freak." Additionally, in his tweet promoting the article, the Times reporter mocked the Democrat as "Queen Hillary."
But when Sullivan asked Times political editor Carolyn Ryan about the complaints, Ryan absolved the Times of blame by arguing Times readers had simply "misread" the Horowitz piece. And that has been the Times pattern for years -- impenetrable denial that the paper had jumped the rails while covering Bill and Hillary Clinton. The result of that institutional denial? Last week's fiasco.
More from former Timesman Kurt Eichenwald and his bone-rattling denunciation of the paper's recent blunder:
Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicable Times story was neither.
Election Day is 400-plus days away. Can the New York Times' Clinton coverage be salvaged, or is the paper no longer an honest player?
The New York Times' dramatic changes to their initial, anonymously-sourced claim that federal investigators were seeking a criminal probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of personal email raises significant questions about the paper's reporting of the story.
On July 23, The New York Times published a report headlined "Criminal Inquiry Sought In Clinton's Use Of Email" which claimed that "[t]wo inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state." But soon after, the Times updated their report to remove the implication that Clinton was the target of the supposed investigation.
Since then, a U.S. official has reportedly stated that "the referral didn't necessarily suggest any wrongdoing by Clinton."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic ranking member of the Benghazi Select Committee, has said that both the Intelligence Community Inspector General and the State Department Inspector General "confirmed directly to me that they never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation."
The Times gave no indication that the report had been altered for several hours before eventually issuing a correction explaining the paper was wrong to state that the probe targeted Clinton, but without correcting the apparent falsehood that a "criminal investigation" had been sought at all.
These developments raise substantial questions about the Times' reporting of this story, including:
In its initial article, the Times reported: "Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday."
It is currently unclear who those "senior government officials" are -- whether they were Justice Department sources who may have been mistaken, Republican congressional sources who may have had an interest in deliberately misleading the paper, or a combination of both.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported that his sources told him the error came from the DOJ, but it would be beneficial for the Times to confirm, or clarify, this.
While reporters generally maintain the confidentiality of their anonymous sources as inviolate, they occasionally do reveal them when they discover their sources have deliberately misled them. The journalist Craig Silverman explained the importance of this practice in detailing one such case (emphasis in the original):
A source burned the paper, so the paper decided to burn the source by detailing her lies in a follow up report.
The resulting report may seem like nothing more than payback, but it does two important things. First, it helps readers understand why the paper published a story that led with false information. At the same time, it holds the company accountable. Second, the story functions as something of a warning to other would-be dishonest sources: You can't lie to us and get away with it.
The Times also cited "senior government officials" as its source for the claim that two inspectors general had called for a DOJ criminal probe into Clinton's actions. The article also cites two "memos" from inspectors general on the topic, which were provided to the Times and which were apparently sent before the referral itself. On Twitter, Clinton campaign aide Brian Fallon noted that he was unaware of any reporter "who has actually seen a referral" like the one described by the Times.
Not aware of a single reporter - including NYT - who has actually seen a referral. Reckless to characterize it based on secondhand info-- Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) July 24, 2015
Did the Times reporters try to get their hands on such documentary evidence before running with their sources' claims? If they indeed did not see the document itself, why didn't they wait for such confirmation before publishing their story?
Reporters have frequently published inaccurate material related to Clinton's emails and other aspects of the work of the House Select Committee on Benghazi by trusting what appear to be mendacious leaks from that committee's Republicans. In such cases, the committee's Democrats have been quick to issue materials correcting the record.
The Times article includes quotes from the committee's Republican chairman criticizing the State Department for not providing documents, but includes no quotes from the committee's Democrats. This morning, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's ranking member, issued a statement "in response to inaccurate leaks to the New York Times" effectively debunking a central premise of the article. Did the paper reach out to Cummings or other Democrats on the committee before publication?
The Times article, in citing anonymous "senior government officials" to claim that two inspectors general had sought a criminal investigation of Clinton never indicates whether the paper had sought to contact the offices of those inspectors general prior to publication.
In a July 24 press release, Cummings stated (emphasis added):
Over the past hour, I spoke personally with the State Department Inspector General and the Intelligence Community Inspector General together, and they both confirmed directly to me that they never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton's email usage. Instead, they said this was a 'routine' referral, and they have no idea how the New York Times got this so wrong.
Cummings' release further states that "The Inspectors General explained that under 50 U.S.C. section 3381, the heads of agencies notify the Department of Justice about potential compromises of classified information, but this is a routine notification process--not a request for a criminal investigation of an individual." Moreover, a Democratic spokesperson for the committee reportedly said State's inspector general "did not ask for any kind of investigation, criminal or otherwise."
This description of events differs wildly from how it was originally reported by the Times. Did its reporters reach out to the offices of those inspectors general for clarification before publishing a story that appears to be based solely on anonymous sources?
Right-wing media outlets are pushing Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy's deceptive claim that Hillary Clinton inaccurately told CNN in an interview that she had never been subpoenaed about the private email system she used as secretary of state. In fact, Clinton refuted a suggestion that she deleted personal emails unrelated to her work while she was under subpoena.
From the July 7 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Politico published inaccurate information about emails between Hillary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal provided to the outlet by an anonymous source who distorted the emails' contents with the intention of damaging the former secretary of state, according to Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The Republican-led committee was formed more than a year ago with the mandate to investigate the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya -- attacks which had already been subject to investigations by the State Department and numerous House and Senate committees. Critics have argued that the committee's actions since its formation demonstrate a "singular focus on attacking Hillary Clinton and her bid for president."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the Committee, writes in a July 6 letter that "a Member of the Committee, a staffer on the Committee, or someone who has been given access to the Committee's documents inaccurately described to the press email exchanges obtained by the Committee in a way that appeared to further a political attack against" Clinton. Cummings describes this as "only the latest in a reckless pattern of selective Republican leaks and mischaracterizations of evidence relating to the Benghazi attacks."
Cummings' letter specifically details inaccuracies in a June 18 Politico story that relied on "a source who has reviewed the email exchange" between Clinton and Blumenthal, a Media Matters consultant and former Clinton White House aide. In its original version, the story claimed:
While still secretary of state, Clinton emailed back and forth with Blumenthal about efforts by one of the groups, Media Matters, to neutralize criticism of her handling of the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sources tell POLITICO.
"Got all this done. Complete refutation on Libya smear," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton in an Oct. 10, 2012, email into which he had pasted links to four Media Matters posts criticizing Fox News and Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi attacks and challenging claims of lax security around the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, according to a source who has reviewed the email exchange. Blumenthal signed off the email to Clinton by suggesting that one of her top aides, Philippe Reines, "can circulate these links," according to the source. Clinton responded: "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH," according to the source.
The emails were not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department.
Cummings notes that Clinton's email reading "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH" came not in response to Blumenthal's email with the Media Matters links, as Politico indicated, but rather in response to a "completely different" Blumenthal email from nine days earlier "forwarding an article from Salon.com reporting that Republicans were planning to claim inaccurately during the presidential debates that the White House had advance knowledge about the Benghazi attacks and failed to act on it."
The day after publication, Politico updated its story with a correction noting that "A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a Clinton email as a response to the Blumenthal email." As MSNBC.com's Steve Benen notes, "Politico obviously didn't make this up; it relied on a source that provided misleading information, apparently with a specific partisan agenda in mind."
Politico was also wrong to report that Clinton's email was "not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department," according to Cummings. He explained that "that email was turned over to the Select Committee by the State Department on February 13, 2015, marked with Bates number STATE-SCB0045548-SCB0045550. The Select Committee has had that email for four months."
As both Cummings and Benen point out, this is not the first time reporters have fallen from deceptive Benghazi leaks that appear to come from Republican sources. Reporters who relied on sources' characterizations of Benghazi-related documents rather than reviewing them directly have previously had to issue embarrassing corrections.
During his deposition last week before a congressional panel investigating the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, Sidney Blumenthal -- a former journalist and Clinton White House adviser and my longtime friend -- was asked more than 45 questions by the Republicans about his relationships with me, Media Matters, and a pair of super PACs I founded, American Bridge and Correct The Record.
By comparison, Blumenthal was asked by those same Republicans fewer than 20 questions about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, only four questions about U.S. security there, and zero questions about the U.S. presence in Benghazi, according to a fact sheet circulated by Democratic committee staff.
The chairman of the House Select Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, was especially animated in quizzing Blumenthal, who, as the press reported weeks ago, is a paid consultant to my aforementioned groups. Gowdy asked Blumenthal about his role in the production and promotion of four Media Matters research posts that were sharply critical of various false claims made by conservative media on Benghazi. Another Republican asked if Blumenthal had written or edited a recent statement from Correct the Record pointing out the partisan agenda behind the committee's ongoing investigation. (Blumenthal testified, accurately, that he had no role in any of it, though even if he had, what does that have to do with the avowed purpose of the committee?)
Had the Republicans done some research, they would have discovered that our relationship is no secret. Blumenthal and I both wrote about it in our respective memoirs of the Clinton White House years, The Clinton Wars and Blinded by the Right, both published more than a decade ago.
So how did the House Select Committee on Benghazi suddenly morph into the House Select Committee on Media Matters? Why are the Republicans more interested in The Benghazi Hoax, the title of an e-book published by Media Matters, than in Benghazi itself? Let's count the ways.
The Select Committee on Benghazi is the tenth congressional committee to investigate the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks. None of them -- including the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee -- have found significant wrongdoing by the Obama administration, and many of the investigations have cleared the administration of the false conspiracies conservative media have put forward. Yet Gowdy's committee has been investigating the same issue for 409 days, longer than U.S. inquiries into Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination or Iran-Contra, according to a statement by the Democratic minority. They calculate the cost to U.S. taxpayers at $3.5 million -- and counting.
At this point, it's obvious that the committee's intended target is potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If all the Republicans have left to nail her with is Media Matters and Blumenthal, this is an investigation that may as well shut down. There isn't even a whiff of scandal here. Media Matters sources of all its research to publicly available information and original reporting, and we make our work product public on this website. If the Republicans want to figure out what we're up to, the answer is a click away.
Not only is there nothing amiss here; we're proud of the good work we do.
I wish I could say the same for the Republican-led committee, which at this hour is refusing requests from committee Democrats and from Blumenthal to release the transcript of his deposition. Clearly, Gowdy doesn't want the public to see his handiwork.
On one level, the Republicans are sitting on the deposition -- while apparently leaking select parts to the media -- to save themselves from political embarrassment. Blumenthal was asked hundreds of questions in the course of a nearly nine-hour inquisition -- ostensibly so that the committee could learn more about a notional business deal to provide humanitarian assistance in Libya that ended up never coming to fruition, with no money changing hands and no favors sought from the U.S. government.
In fact, Blumenthal told me that the lead Republican lawyer for the committee told him and his lawyers at the end of a long day of questioning that "maybe we got five minutes worth of something."
Yet while the inquiry was a pointless waste of time and money with respect to the committee's mandate, in fact it was not without a purpose. The questions about Blumenthal's long-standing personal relationship with the Clintons, about his work at the Clinton Foundation, and about his work with us, were wholly illegitimate and out-of-bounds. But they were not without a design, and an insidious one at that.
By refusing to release the transcript, the Republicans want to hide the true nature of the Blumenthal deposition: Their partisan attempt to both chill Blumenthal's right to freely express his own political views and more broadly to intimidate our organizations -- organizations that have led the way in exposing the fraudulence of the Benghazi investigation itself. (Not to mention our role in specifically defending Hillary Clinton from the Republicans' unfair attacks on the subject).
If Democrats had hauled a politically active Republican before a congressional committee and spent hours grilling the witness on his political and professional associations and activities -- "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Democratic Party?"-- I can only imagine the hue and cry about the abuse of Congressional power we'd be hearing from the conservative echo chamber right now. Yet progressives for the most part have stayed silent in the face of this blatant effort to suppress First Amendment rights.
Well, not us. After the deposition concluded, I publicly offered to give Gowdy a tour of our offices at his convenience. There he would find hard-working staffers committed to providing the public with fact-based information upon which to understand and judge the critical issues of the day -- including the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi that have been shamelessly politicized by Republicans.
Gowdy would also meet groups that won't be thrown off-mission or harassed or cowed into standing down by desperate partisans who have nothing to offer voters in the coming election but recycled pseudo-scandals.
From the May 26 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell threw cold water on Fox News' latest faulty Benghazi narrative, characterizing a report that says the Obama administration knew that the attacks were planned in advance as inaccurate. Morell criticized Fox and the media at large for habitually scandalizing the Benghazi attacks based on incomplete or unsupported claims.
Michael Morell criticized Fox News and other media outlets for perpetuating "Benghazi myths" in a May 25 article for Politico, accusing "pundits [who] don't understand intelligence work" of spreading misinformation. Morell lambasted a recent report that claimed that the "Obama administration knew that al Qaeda terrorists had planned" the Benghazi attack "10 days in advance." explaining that the report was based off "raw intelligence" from a single source and did not accurately represent the conclusions of the intelligence community.
"The only thing that newly released document proves," Morell wrote, "is that the people who trot out these reports do not understand the world of intelligence and do not take the time to ask the right people the right questions before publishing the 'news.'" Morell noted that numerous other unclassified documents directly contradict the single Defense Intelligence report scandalized by the media:
The DIA report in question was an "Intelligence Information Report" or IIR. It is what we term "raw intelligence." It was not the considered view of DIA analysts. Often from a single source, these bits of information represent one thread that some intelligence collector has picked up. The all source analysts in the Intelligence Community are charged with looking at that snippet of information and every other bit of available information from communications intercepts, human intelligence, open source material and much more to come up with an overall judgment.
Those all source analysts--without any input or pressure from above--looked at all the available information and determined that there wasnota significant amount of planning prior to the attacks. You don't have to take my word for it. You can look at the briefing slides produced by the National Counterterrorism Center (which is not part of CIA) and coordinated across the Intelligence Community. These slides were declassified over a year ago and were appended to the report on Benghazi produced by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee. In describing the attacks at the State Department facility, the slides say "attackers moving in multiple directions," "attackers do not appear well coordinated" and "no organized effort to breach every building." Not the words one would expect to see associated with an attack planned well in advance.
Morell went on to blast Fox for also cherry-picking from the indictment of Abu Khattala, the only participant in the attacks currently in U.S. custody, to support its Benghazi claims. During the May 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier quoted the indictment in an effort to push the network's faulty assertion that the attack had been pre-planned, claiming that it had noted "premeditation" and demanding Morell answer whether the indictment was wrong. But Morell notes that Baier left out important context from the indictment that indicated "the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack":
What my interviewer failed to share with his viewers were these words from the indictment: "Beginning on a date unknown to the Grand Jury but no later than on or about September 11, 2012...defendant Khatallah did knowingly and intentionally conspire...." (emphasis mine). What does this mean? It means that the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack either. Exactly the point of the intelligence community analysts.
Fox News has similarly continuously seized on every available opportunity to scandalize the attacks on the diplomatic compound at Benghazi. In the 20 months between September 2012 to May 2014, the network aired an astounding 1,098 evening and primetime segments dedicated to Benghazi. Despite numerous reports debunking the network's false narratives surrounding the attack, Fox has relentlessly continued to promote them.
From the April 27 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the April 22 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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Fox News figures are adopting an impossible standard to launch unprovable allegations against Hillary Clinton, arguing that the absence of an email can insinuate that Clinton either withheld or destroyed evidence.
Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claimed on the March 8 edition of CBS' Face The Nation that there are "gaps of months" in Clinton's email documents turned over by the State Department for the committee's investigation. To prove his claim, Gowdy referenced a photo of Clinton on her phone during a trip to Tripoli, Libya, and the absence of any email from that day related to Benghazi. According to Gowdy's logic: "It strains credibility to believe that if you're on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy that there's not a single document that's been turned over to Congress."
Fox News personalities quickly adopted Gowdy's absurd line of attack against Clinton. On his radio show, Sean Hannity asserted that "you can't tell me that it was an accident that 55,000 pages of emails were turned over but not one was about Benghazi." Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano took the attack further alleging that Clinton's control of her documents means Gowdy "does not know if she gave him everything he subpoenaed." Bill O'Reilly echoed Gowdy's allegations on the March 9 edition of his show, saying "there's already a gap brought out by Congressman Gowdy" because "the day that she traveled to Libya, there's no emails that came out on that and it's inconceivable that she wouldn't have any." And during an interview with Gowdy, Megyn Kelly agreed with demands that Clinton turn over her private email server stating that Clinton "chose to create a situation" where questions about her emails would need to be answered.
According to that fallacious reasoning, the absence of evidence proves wrongdoing on Clinton's part.
The reality is, the State Department turned over Clinton emails related to Benghazi to the Select Committee months ago. In a March 6 letter chastising Gowdy for "the very partisan and political turn" to issue a subpoena to Clinton, Democratic members of the House Select Committee noted that the State Department already turned over 300 Clinton emails related to Benghazi, and those emails confirm the findings of the Accountability Review Board:
These documents include no evidence to suggest that Secretary Clinton ordered the Secretary of Defense to "stand down," no evidence to suggest that she was personally involved in denying requests for security for Benghazi, and no evidence to suggest that she ordered the destruction of documents. Nothing in these emails contradicts or calls into question the findings of the independent Accountability Review Board.
From the February 15 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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