Fox News belittled the plight of North Koreans in its attack of the New York Times for not publishing a front-page story on the conspiracy theories about the Obama administration's response to the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy criticized the Times for not publishing a story about the bogus hearing regarding the right-wing consulate security myth on today's front-page. According to Doocy, the Times decided an article about "women in North Korea getting shorter skirts" was more important than an article about a right-wing conspiracy theory. Doocy's criticism comes several days after the public editor of the Times called out the paper for not publishing a front-page story about the hearing the day after it happened.
But The Wall Street Journal -- owned by Fox News' parent company, News Corp. -- and the Washington Post did not place stories about the week-old, GOP-led hearing on page one either. In fact, today's page one of the Journal included a story about the connection between hospital payments and patient happiness.
Today's Times front-page article discussed the plight of the average North Korean under the country's new leader Kim Jong Un, a story that contrary to Doocy's claim, is about more than just mini-skirts. North Koreans interviewed for the story said "their lives have gotten harder, despite Mr. Kim's tantalizing pronouncements about boosting people's livelihoods that have fueled outside hopes that the nuclear-armed nation might ease its economically ruinous obsession with military hardware and dabble in Chinese-style market reforms."
As noted by the Times, these individuals took a risk by talking to the media because "the gulag awaits those who speak to journalists or Christian missionaries." Apparently, their courage means little to Fox's definition of "newsworthy."
Fox is falsely claiming that the day after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the president "didn't receive a briefing" on the attack in an attempt to resurrect the falsehood that President Obama isn't receiving intelligence briefings.
Nevertheless, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Washington Free Beacon senior editor Bill Gertz: Obama "didn't get a briefing on September 12, did he?" Kilmeade also repeated the assertion that Obama has been skipping more than half of his intelligence briefings. Gertz suggested that Obama was letting the campaign get in the way of national security.
But the entire assertion that Obama is not receiving daily intelligence briefings is based on quicksand.
In September, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen suggested that Obama was not committed to national security because he did not always attend in-person daily intelligence briefings. But Thiessen himself noted in his column that Obama "reads his briefing" on national security every day. And the Post's own fact-checker Glenn Kessler pointed out in response to Thiessen that presidents have often preferred written daily intelligence briefings over oral ones.
Moreover, as Kessler reported, there may be advantages to receiving a written briefing rather than an oral briefing. For instance, if President George W. Bush had read his intelligence briefings, he might have noticed the dissents to the intelligence community's assessment that Iraq had an ongoing weapons of mass destruction program. From Kessler's piece:
Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, says that there have been "lots of variation in the briefing patterns" among presidents, with different consequences.
George W. Bush "wanted personal and oral, and that matched CIA's institutional interest in face to face with the president, much better for their bureaucratic politics, but unclear how good it was for presidential decision making," he said. "On Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction], the direct brief was clearly pernicious; reading might have pointed to the dissents, but the briefers did not."
While on a Fox News Sunday panel, New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny received feedback from right-wing radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham on how the Times should cover the controversy over the terrorist attack in Benghazi during which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed. This seems to be in conflict with Times guidance against its staff members making appearances that could undermine the impartiality of the paper's journalism.
Discussing the Benghazi attack, Ingraham lectured Zeleny on how the Times should be covering the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks, asking if the paper was "camped outside" of U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's home to question her on whether she was a "sacrificial lamb" for the Obama administration.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace repeatedly pressed senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod to explain why requests for additional security for Libyan diplomats were not heeded. But Wallace failed to clarify that the requests for additional security were focused on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, not the consulate in Benghazi that was the target of a terrorist attack.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace started his interview with Axelrod by discussing the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and airing a statement made by Vice President Joe Biden in the October 11 vice-presidential debate that "we did not know they wanted more security there." Wallace then said to Axelrod: "Just the day before, several State Department officials testified under oath that there were repeated requests for more security that were rejected. What is the vice president talking about?" Wallace later asked Axelrod, "Let me ask you directly: Does the president take personal responsibility for the fact that repeated requests for more security were made and were rejected, and that that may have contributed to the death of those four Americans? Does he take personal responsibility for that?"
But Wallace failed to explain that the requests for extra security were focused on the embassy in Tripoli, not the consulate in Benghazi, and that State Department officials believe that even if the requests had been granted, they would likely not have changed what happened in Benghazi, because they would have been ill-equipped to respond to the large scale of the assault. As The New York Times reported:
In the weeks leading up to the attack last month on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, diplomats on the ground sounded increasingly urgent alarms. In a stream of diplomatic cables, embassy security officers warned their superiors at the State Department of a worsening threat from Islamic extremists, and requested that the teams of military personnel and State Department security guards who were already on duty be kept in service.
The requests were denied, but they were largely focused on extending the tours of security guards at the American Embassy in Tripoli -- not at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, 400 miles away. And State Department officials testified this week during a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that extending the tour of additional guards -- a 16-member military security team -- through mid-September would not have changed the bloody outcome because they were based in Tripoli, not Benghazi.
While it is unclear what impact a handful of highly trained additional guards might have had in Benghazi were they able to deploy there, some State Department officials said it would probably not have made any difference in blunting the Sept. 11 assault from several dozen heavily armed militants.
"An attack of that kind of lethality, we're never going to have enough guns," Patrick F. Kennedy, under secretary of state for management, said at Wednesday's hearing. "We are not an armed camp ready to fight it out."
Wallace is muddling facts and geography by overlooking that the security was targeted for the Tripoli embassy, not a consulate hundreds of miles away.
From the October 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox's Kirsten Powers dreamed up an alternate meaning for Vice President Joe Biden's statement that the White House didn't know about requests for additional security for the diplomatic compound in Benghazi. But a security adviser has confirmed that Biden's comments were accurate.
During the October 11 vice presidential debate, ABC's Martha Raddatz questioned Biden about requests for additional security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi prior to the September 11 attack. Biden told Raddatz, "We weren't told [the Benghazi consulate] wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again."
On today's edition of Fox's Happening Now, Powers said, purporting to know Biden's intended use of the word "we," "I guess the defense now is that the White House didn't know. But when Joe Biden says 'we' didn't know, he's saying the administration didn't know. And we know that that's false." Referring to an October 10 congressional hearing on the attack, Powers added, "We know that from the hearing."
But a deputy national security adviser had already confirmed Biden was correct. Foreign Policy's blog The Cable reached out to Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for communications, and reported that "Rhodes said that Biden speaks only for himself and the president" -- not for every administration official -- "and neither of them knew about the requests at the time."
Indeed, officials never testified that they made security requests directly to the White House, but said they contacted the State Department. Rhodes pointed out that this was "natural because the State Department is responsible for diplomatic security, not the White House."
Trying to ignite a controversy by fabricating a quote from an Obama campaign deputy, members of the conservative press on Thursday lashed out at Stephanie Cutter for something she didn't say about the terrorist attacks on the United States embassy in Benghazi.
The gotcha attack received a crucial early boost from a BuzzFeed reporter who mischaracterized what Cutter said while appearing on CNN yesterday.
Pressed about key questions that remain about the embassy attack last month and what the security status was on the ground in Benghazi when four American were killed, Cutter noted on CNN that the topic had become politicized [emphasis added]:
In terms of the politicization of this -- you know, we are here at a debate, and I hope we get to talk about the debate -- but the entire reason this has become the political topic it is, it's because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big part of their stump speech. And it's reckless and irresponsible what they're doing.
Cutter clearly stated that she believed the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate had become a partisan political issue in the U.S. because Republicans were making it one during the campaign season.
That's not exactly a novel observation. As Republicans prepared to hold a recess hearing this week into the attack, a New York Times published an article headlined, "Before Hearings on Libya Attack, Charges of Playing Politics." And the paper's editors explained that they kept coverage of the hearing off the front-page, in part, because the issue had become so "politicized." (Fox News has led that "scandal" charge for weeks).
Romney himself shocked many observers when, as the Libya crisis was still unfolding, the candidate accused the Obama of sympathizing with "those who waged the attacks.'
"The conventional wisdom emerged in Washington almost immediately on Wednesday: Mitt Romney's handling of the violence in Egypt and Libya was a disaster," CBS News soon reported. The article quoted a prominent Republican strategist saying that Romney's reaction had suggested his "first instinct is to try to score political points."
Cutter pointing out the issue had evolved into a "political topic" isn't controversial or remotely outrageous. So the conservative media embellished the meaning of Cutter's remarks. They invented a controversy and ginned up the faux outrage by insisting Obama's deputy campaign manager said the Libya attack is only of importance, is only an issue at all, because of Republicans.
Cutter: Benghazi Is Only An Issue 'Because of Romney and Ryan'
Stephanie Cutter: Mitt Romney is "Entire Reason" Benghazi Attacks are a National Issue
Obama Spokesman Stephanie Cutter: Benghazi Is Only an Issue Because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
Obama Campaign Official Stephanie Cutter: Benghazi Terrorist Attack 'Only an Issue because of Romney and Ryan'
Michelle Malkin's Twitchy:
Appalling disgrace: Stephanie Cutter says 'Benghazi Only An Issue Because of Romney and Ryan'
Note that several of the headlines included the phrase 'only an issue' in quotation marks, indicating it's a direct quote from Cutter. (Twitchy headline: "Cutter Says"). But it's not a direct quote because Cutter didn't say that. Instead, conservatives seemed be quoting a tweet from a reporter and then pretending it was a Cutter quote.
The tweet came from BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski who tweeted an inaccurate description of Cutter's CNN appearance:
That wasn't accurate. And "is only an issue" represented Kacynski's interpretation of what Cutter said, not what she actually said. In subsequent tweets, Kaczynski inserted more accurate language, but conservatives preferred his original, off-the-mark "only an issue" telling of the tale and used to attack Cutter.
If Obama's deputy campaign manager thought the attack on the U.S. embassy were only an issue today because of the Romney and Ryan, she likely would have said so. Instead, she superficially said it became a political issue (a partisan issue) because Romney and Ryan were campaigning on it, which is true.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove claimed that President Obama skipped intelligence briefings following the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, Obama received multiple intelligence briefings after the attack, including on September 12, and the right-wing media claim that Obama regularly skips presidential daily briefings has been refuted.
Less than two days after Mitt Romney was pressured to stop using the death of a Navy SEAL killed in Libya as political fodder in campaign rallies, the media are whipping themselves into a frenzy over comments an Obama campaign official made criticizing Romney for politicizing the deadly September attack on a U.S. consulate.
Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for President Obama's reelection effort, appeared on CNN Thursday to preview that night's vice presidential debate. During her appearance, Cutter criticized the Romney campaign for politicizing the attack in Benghazi, Libya, saying that "the entire reason that this has become the, you know, political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big part of their stump speech and it's reckless and irresponsible."
When she was later challenged on those comments, Cutter said in an email to Buzzfeed:
From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events.
On Friday, Fox's Megyn Kelly turned to Cutter's comments and asked whether it was fair to blame Romney for politicizing the attack.
One name missing from Kelly's discussion was Glen Doherty.
Media outlets largely focused on criticizing Vice President Joe Biden's demeanor during the October 11 vice presidential debate, ignoring the substantive arguments being addressed in the discussion. Meanwhile, fact-checkers were busy pointing out the inaccuracies in Congressman Paul Ryan's claims.
For weeks now, Fox News has been pushing the narrative that the Obama administration, and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in particular, lied to the public or is engaged in a cover-up regarding the attack in Benghazi where a U.S. consulate was breached. In fact, as Fox's own Chris Wallace pointed out, the administration's response to the attack was informed by the intelligence community's best estimate.
During Fox's coverage of the vice presidential debate, Wallace stated that Vice President Biden had "back up" for his claim that the administration communicated the most accurate information it had about the attack. Wallace noted that the intelligence community's best assessment following the attack was that it "began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy" and that this initial assessment was provided to executive branch officials.
However, Rice and other administration officials have repeatedly been attacked by Fox News figures claiming they misled the public on what really happened in Benghazi, even though the administration's comments about Libya were in line with the intelligence community's best assessment at the time.
As Rice made clear in several interviews on September 16, an ongoing investigation would determine the true cause of the attack, but that the administration's "current best assessment" based on information available at the time was that the attack began as "a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo." She continued: "In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated."
Fox News commentators have reimagined U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's statements about the consulate attack in Benghazi, saying Rice was "so definitive" in Sunday show interviews about what had happened there. In fact, Rice repeatedly made clear during her interviews that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
From the October 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox's K.T. McFarland claimed that no additional forces were sent to help Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, while it was attacked and claimed that this was "probably a political decision." But before McFarland made her claims on Fox, State Department officials had already said that when agents in the compound requested aid during the attack, additional forces from both Benghazi and Tripoli responded.
Frequent Fox News guest Rep. Jason Chaffetz is pursuing investigations into the September attacks on a U.S. consulate in Libya, capping a month-long campaign in the right-wing media. This is just the latest example of the right-wing media working with Chaffetz to pursue fringe theories and far-right campaigns.