On the August 3 edition of CBS This Morning, CBS News allowed contributor and Republican strategist Frank Luntz to defend Republican presidential candidates courting donors at an event hosted by the Koch brothers without disclosing that he has previously advised Koch-affiliated groups. The Koch brothers have used Luntz as a messaging consultant for years, dating back to the 2010 election cycle, and including messaging advice for Americans for Prosperty and Freedom Partners.
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Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.
A coalition of 18 groups that advocate for campaign finance reform are calling on broadcast media outlets to devote more coverage to America's broken campaign finance system and the need for reforms, especially as some estimates suggest that spending for the 2016 presidential election could top $10 billion.
On June 4, the groups sent a letter to the heads of the major news networks, calling on them to "take greater action in the future to ensure that Sunday political talk shows and nightly news devote appropriate attention to campaign finance reform." The letter, which was sent to Fox News, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News, and PBS, comes after a series of Media Matters analyses indicated that the crisis of big money in politics -- an issue that is of deep concern to a bipartisan majority of Americans -- was rarely covered by these networks.
The letter went on to explain that increased coverage of money in politics is crucial in the run-up to the 2016 election because of the influx of "dark money," secretive funds given to political nonprofits and super PACs by undisclosed donors. As the groups explained in their letter, dark money "runs counter to American values of accountability and transparency that give voters the information they need to make informed decisions," and substantive coverage of its outsized influence on the democratic process is more important than ever:
Broadcast evening news programs on ABC, NBC, and CBS completely ignored likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's questionable delay in announcing his campaign while he sidesteps campaign laws and continues coordinating with his super PAC. Despite increasing scrutiny of a strategy that "tests the legal definition of [a] candidate," the nightly news programs have devoted zero coverage to the matter since The Associated Press (AP) first reported on it in April.
"The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over," announced the World Health Organization on May 9, declaring a cautious end to the deadly wave that claimed 4,700 Liberian lives since last summer. That outbreak, of course, eventually sparked panic in the United States last September and October when a handful of Ebola cases were confirmed domestically. Ebola mania raged in the media for weeks and became one of the biggest news stories of 2014.
So how did the American media cover the latest, good-news Ebola story in the days following the WHO announcement? Very, very quietly.
By my count, ABC News devoted just brief mentions of the story on Good Morning America and its Sunday talk show, This Week. On NBC, only the Today show noted the development, while CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News set aside brief mentions. None of the network newscasts have given this Ebola story full segments, according to a transcript search via Nexis.
A scattering of mentions on cable news and a handful of stories including in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among others, rounded out the remaining coverage in the past week.*
Pretty amazing, considering that late last year the U.S. news media were in the grips of self-induced Ebola hysteria. During one peak week, cable news channels mentioned "Ebola" over 4,000 times, while the Washington Post homepage one night featured at least 15 Ebola-related articles and columns, many of which focused on both the international crisis and the political dynamic, and the problems Ebola was supposedly causing President Obama.
That's not to say the tragic outbreak was not a big story worthy of any news coverage. It was, but American media went into overdrive hyping concerns that a deadly domestic outbreak was imminent -- only to rapidly forget.
The recent look-away coverage from Ebola shouldn't come as a surprise. The American media lost complete interest in the story right after Republicans lost interest in the story, which is to say right after last November's midterm elections, when they brandished Ebola as a partisan weapon.
That's no exaggeration. From Media Matters' research:
Bill O'Reilly's false claim that he witnessed the brutal 1980 murders of four American women in El Salvador -- and his excuse, after his lie was exposed, that he meant he saw photos of their bodies -- is drawing harsh criticism from journalists who covered the story and lawyers who worked with the nuns' families to bring justice in the case.
O'Reilly has recently faced scrutiny for a series of fabrications he has told over the years about his reporting career. Last week, Media Matters reported that O'Reilly had repeatedly suggested he saw nuns murdered in El Salvador while reporting for CBS News, despite the fact that the incident in question occurred before he arrived in the country. O'Reilly told his radio audience in 2005 that he'd "seen guys gun down nuns in El Salvador." More recently, he said on his Fox News program, "I was in El Salvador and I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head."
After Media Matters challenged O'Reilly's story, he told Mediaite that he merely meant he'd seen "horrendous images" of the murdered nuns while reporting from El Salvador.
His apparent effort to use the brutal murders to bolster his own history as a journalist is drawing harsh rebukes from those who represented the families of the victims in legal cases related to the murders.
"It's disgusting, it's reprehensible," said Patti Blum, an attorney who worked with the families on a civil case for the Center for Justice and Accountability. "To use the death of four women who were in El Salvador just to do good for your own self-aggrandizement is unsavory."
Scott Greathead, a founder of Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, which is now Human Rights First, spent time in El Salvador representing relatives of the nuns during the prosecution of the killers.
He said of O'Reilly's claims and his weak excuse, "I don't know why he said that and why he came to say it. I know he didn't see it and nobody saw it and anyone who knew about that incident would have known they were killed in secret. Hundreds of thousands of people have seen pictures of it and I don't know anyone else being confused about what they saw."
He later added, "I don't think anyone should be making up stories about this, to invent a story. I know from representing the families from all this time they remain very, very sensitive about what happened to their sisters and daughters. Distorting the truth is appalling."
Journalists who covered the nuns, both at the time of their murders and in the years after, also criticized O'Reilly.
Charles Krause, a former CBS News reporter who said he flew in to El Salvador with the nuns and covered their murders for the network, called out Fox News for defending O'Reilly by claiming he has been the victim of dishonest critics.
"I am outraged by the McCarthy-like smear campaign Fox News is using to try to save its bloviator from oblivion by suggesting that anyone, anyone who corrects the record regarding O'Reilly is part of some leftwing conspiracy that's out to get him," he said via email. "There is no conspiracy, leftwing or otherwise, that I am part of or aware of."
Media outlets are holding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a higher standard by scandalizing her use of personal email while at the State Department, claiming the practice raises questions about her "transparency." In reality, other public officials -- including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R), who is attacking Clinton over the emails, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell -- have exclusively used personal email.
The New York Times accused Hillary Clinton of potentially violating federal law pertaining to the preservation of e-mail records while acting as Secretary of State, but requirements to maintain such records did not exist during her tenure.
Another one of Bill O'Reilly's former colleagues at CBS News is casting doubt on his claims that he reported from a "combat situation" in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War.
Charles Krause, a CBS News correspondent from 1980 to 1983 who reported from Buenos Aires during the same period as O'Reilly, is the latest to contradict the Fox News host. In an interview with Media Matters, Krause called O'Reilly's descriptions of his reporting "absurd."
He also recalls O'Reilly being there for a short period of time and not having "any significant role in our coverage of the war."
"I don't recall him doing any major story that anybody remembers and he was there a very short time, then he was recalled, I don't know why," Krause said. "He wasn't a team player and people thought he was grandstanding, basically."
O'Reilly's past claims about his 1982 reporting from the region have come under scrutiny following a Mother Jones investigation that found while O'Reilly has suggested that he actually reported from the Falklands during the war, no CBS reporter had done so.
O'Reilly responded with claims he had never said he was in the Falklands, but stood by his assertions that he had been in Buenos Aires and covered what he termed a "war zone" and "combat situation."
CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday reported that seven of O'Reilly's former colleagues who reported from Buenos Aires refuted his claims. Media Matters has identified several additional instances in which O'Reilly suggested his reporting had been from a combat zone.
Krause, a former Washington Post reporter who had lived in Buenos Aires for three years prior to the war, said O'Reilly's claims are wrong.
"That's absurd because Buenos Aires was Buenos Aires," Krause said about the war zone claim in an interview Sunday. "It was just like it always was, there was very little evidence of the war in Buenos Aires. The war was being fought thousands of miles away."
Krause joined several of the journalists quoted by Stelter in casting doubt on O'Reilly's claim that he had witnessed a violent protest in which several demonstrators had been killed. "There's a difference between demonstrations and rioting," Krause said. "I don't recall there being rioting, there could have been scuffling."
Krause said he was one of the first reporters there covering the conflict and stayed through the end of hostilities.
CBS News reported that a "coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies have been aggressively lobbying" against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) "amid concerns that it is doing little to address climate change and is having unintended environmental consequences." However, major oil and food companies oppose the RFS out of concern for their own economic well-being, not concern for the environment, and some prominent environmental groups support the standard.
Computer security experts tell Media Matters that the report of a federal investigation into Sharyl Attkisson's claims of computer hacking, which found no evidence of a remote intrusion, suggests that Attkisson's computer may have been contaminated by a private technician who reviewed the computer for her.
Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter who now writes for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, has claimed that her computers were hacked under an alleged federal effort to monitor her following her critical reporting of the Obama administration.
But the investigation from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General, based on an examination of her personal computer, found that the OIG "was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise," according to an abbreviated report of the review that was entered into the congressional record when Attkisson testified before Congress on January 29.
Computer security experts contacted by Media Matters reviewed the OIG report and explained that the findings revealed that at least one of the private technicians used by Attkisson likely contaminated any evidence that may have been on her computer.
In her book Stonewalled, Attkisson describes a private computer forensics analyst hired by CBS News coming to her house in February 2013 to examine her computers for potential intrusions.
The technician initially "opens up the CBS News laptop and begins deconstructing the files," until he finds some suspicious activity having occurred in December 2012. The technician then decides to take "a quick look at [Attkisson's] personal Apple iMac desktop computer" before leaving. He goes "straight to December" on the iMac as well, finds more suspicious activity, and tells Attkisson, "Oh shit!...That's not normal. Someone did that to your computer."
CBS News confirmed in June 2013 that Attkisson's CBS-issued laptop was breached, using what were "sophisticated" methods, but did not comment on her personal computers, nor did they identify the party or parties behind the breach. Attkisson then gave her personal Apple computer to the DOJ's inspector general for review, claiming evidence from the CBS analyst and other private security technicians who examined her computers confirmed for her that she was under surveillance by the federal government.
The OIG report "did not find evidence of remote or unauthorized access." However, they did find evidence of someone with physical access to the computer performing an examination in February 2013 (around the same time Attkisson says a CBS technician visited her home) that "is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." The OIG concluded that this technician's actions "could have obscured potential evidence of unauthorized access."
Computer security experts contacted by Media Matters reviewed the OIG report, and agreed with the government's assessment that the technician's actions ignored the basics of standard forensic examination and contaminated the computer.
"We would never sit down, turn on the computer and start doing our investigation from the computer itself, for a number of reasons," said Peter Theobald, a computer forensics investigator with TC Forensics of Syosset. N.Y. "One is that our own activities would leave traces all over the computer. It would be like going to a crime scene in big muddy boots and walking all over the crime scene. We would copy the hard drive first and all of our work would be done from that copy."
ABC News and CBS News helped potential GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney dredge up discredited attacks on Hillary Clinton in their reports on an upcoming speech by Romney. The attacks smear Clinton's diplomatic work with Russia as secretary of state and scandalize comments she made on trickle-down economics that were taken out of context by the media.
Reports from two news networks hyped excerpts from Romney's planned speech at Mississippi State University on Wednesday night that will be targeted at Clinton. Both ABC and CBS News articles uncritically reported that Romney will be criticizing Clinton's "clueless" efforts to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations during Mr. Obama's first term.
But the "reset" moment that media outlets frequently cite as the primary example of Clinton's dealings with Russia while serving as secretary of state does not accurately portray her tenure. Clinton's successful negotiations with Russia resulted in in an agreement that allows the "U.S. military planes to transport lethal materiel over Russia to Afghanistan," reducing reliance on Pakistan for transporting cargo. Clinton also expressed serious concerns with Russia's 2011 elections, and warned that Russia was trying to "re-Sovietize" Eastern Europe and that Vladimir Putin would attempt to consolidate Russian control over eastern Ukraine if the opportunity presented itself.
Both ABC and CBS also highlighted another misleading attack against Clinton from Romney's upcoming speech, where he will assert that Clinton "doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place," an apparent reference to a scandal invented by the media over Clinton's statement that tax breaks for the rich don't cause companies to create jobs. CBS portrayed Clinton's remarks on tax breaks for the rich as a slip-up:
In his speech text, Romney takes a swipe at Hillary Clinton for telling voters during the 2014 midterm campaign, "Don't let anybody tell you it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."
"How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?" Romney is expected to ask. "We need a president who will do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses."
After her remarks sparked a round of mockery from her opponents on the right, Clinton claimed she misspoke and said she meant to say that the economy grows when companies create good-paying jobs in America, "not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas."
This attack on Clinton's remarks, omits crucial context used by right-wing media outlets to scandalize the comments. The full context shows that Clinton's statement was in reference to tax breaks for the rich, and argued that trickle-down economics is not successful at creating jobs (emphasis added):
CLINTON: Don't let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I've been through this. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what? Millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were more secure. That's what we want to see here, and that's what we want to see across the country.
And don't let anybody tell you, that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.
One of the things my husband says, when people say, what did you bring to Washington? He says, well I brought arithmetic. And part of it was he demonstrated why trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history. More tax cuts for the top and for companies that ship jobs over seas while taxpayers and voters are stuck paying the freight just doesn't add up.
CNN and Fox News repeatedly reported on the Keystone XL pipeline without connecting it to a major oil spill near the pipeline's proposed route. By contrast, MSNBC and others in the media have reported on the spill, which occurred in the Yellowstone River in Montana, in the context of concerns about Keystone XL's environmental risks.
Oil Pipeline Leaked 50,000 Gallons Of Crude Into Yellowstone River. On January 17, an oil pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline Co. spilled 1,200 barrels of crude oil -- or about 50,000 gallons -- into the Yellowstone River, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. Reuters reported:
A small but heavily subscribed pipeline that transports 42,000 barrels a day of crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken region is expected to remain closed on Tuesday after a weekend breach that spilled 1,200 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in the state's eastern Dawson and Richland counties on Monday while towns and cities downstream, including Williston, North Dakota, are monitoring their water systems in case of contamination.
However the water supply of Glendive, the town of 5,000 about 10 miles (16 km) downstream of the spill, has already been tested and found to have elevated levels of hydrocarbons. Water intakes in the river for the city have been closed, according to the EPA. The company, EPA and other agencies are trying to get other drinking water supplies for Glendive, the EPA's Mylott said. [Reuters, 1/20/15]
Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have another ally in the media: CBS News and Fox News analyst Frank Luntz. The Republican strategist and pollster has reportedly provided the Kochs with messaging advice while using his media platform to praise Koch advertising efforts as "powerful," "one of the best," and having "unlocked the key."
The Kochs "helped create a broad network of nonprofit groups that control hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into politics." During the 2012 elections, their network reportedly raised over $400 million for conservative causes. Politico's Ken Vogel reported today that the Koch brothers' network "has in many ways surpassed the reach and resources of the" Republican National Committee. The biggest Koch-affiliated group is Americans for Prosperity (AFP), "which spent $130 million in the midterms, with 550 paid staff" to target Democrats.
Mother Jones' Peter Stone reported that the Koch brothers have been using Luntz as a messaging consultant dating back to the 2010 election cycle. Luntz has "provided message advice for Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the fundraising hub for the Koch network, for critical ad campaigns in Senate battleground states." Earlier this year, Luntz reportedly "popped up in at least two conference calls hosted by top Koch operatives with wealthy donors."
Stone noted Luntz praised an AFP political ad on Fox News after having helped craft their message, prompting a conservative operative to remark: "One hand is in [the Kochs'] pocket, while the other hand pats them on the back."
National Review wrote on March 31 of Luntz's influence on Koch messaging: "Luntz found that emotional appeals were more effective and that women were considered more credible than men on the [health care] issue. 'Women are more focused on quality of life and peace of mind,' Luntz says. This year, all of AFP's testimonial ads feature middle-class women speaking from their homes."
During media appearances, Luntz has attempted to portray himself as above the fray while failing to disclose his connections to the Kochs' political advertising. During an October 14, 2012, appearance on CBS' Face The Nation, Luntz complained about "awful" negative advertising: "It's also ninety-seven to ninety-eight percent of all ads are now negative. And so all you are told is why your opponent is a fool, is incompetent, or worse yet, a liar. And so how are you supposed to then function as a democracy when ninety-seven percent of it-- and it's awful and it works." Luntz did not mention his own history with AFP's negative advertising.
The timing and nature of Luntz's work with AFP is murky. When reached by Mother Jones, Luntz "declined to discuss the details of his Koch work" and AFP similarly declined comment, making a full accounting of Luntz's financial connections with the Koch network difficult (The network largely operates within the shadow of difficult to trace "dark money"). During a December 2013 appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, Luntz claimed he was no longer working for AFP. Host Bill Hemmer said: "By the way, you used to do some work for this group a few years ago, and you're no longer affiliated with them, is that true?" Luntz replied: "That is correct." Luntz then went on to praise the ad's message.
Luntz joins a long roster of media figures who have connections with the Koch empire. At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned for Americans for Prosperity and its sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The Fox figures have in turn defended the Kochs on-air, dismissing criticism of them as "McCarthyistic," and "a form of social control." They've also praised Koch political efforts as "effective" and "devastating" against Democrats.
Luntz has offered effusive praise of AFP's advertising efforts during his TV appearances, repeatedly calling their ads one of "the best." The group, in turn, frequently highlights his appearances on its YouTube page. Below are four times Luntz touted AFP's political ads without disclosing his connections to the group.
The calling cards of anger and denial have been on display since Friday afternoon when the House Intelligence Committee, led by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, released the findings of its two-year investigation into the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi. Becoming the sixth government inquiry to come to a similar conclusion, the report found nothing to support the allegations behind Fox News' ongoing Benghazi witch-hunt. And that's where the anger and denial came in.
Appearing on CNN, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has staked his professional reputation on the endless claim of an elaborate White House cover-up, flashed irritation when he denounced the House report as being "full of crap."
Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes did his best to deflate the supposedly "deeply flawed" Republican report:
I'd caution against reaching firm conclusions based on the #Benghazi report issued by the House Intel cmte. It's deeply flawed.-- Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) November 22, 2014
For Benghazi conspiracy disciples, unanswered questions always remain as long as devotees say so, and as long as the answers provided by government (and Republican-led investigations) don't match up their conspiracy narrative. But apparently if the seventh investigation finds wrongdoing on the part of the administration, that's the one that will really matter?
Sorry Fox News, but six strikes and you're out.
Still, Benghazi Truthers, like Joel Pollak at Breitbart, soldiered on, claiming the exhaustive House report was no big deal [emphasis added]:
The House committee, chaired by Republican Mike Rogers (R-MI), found that there was no intelligence failure leading up to the attack, and that the CIA and military personnel present did the best they could. The crucial new finding is that there was no "stand down" order, as some there have claimed, and that no further military resources were available.
The three points Pollack mentioned that were debunked by the House report represented almost the entire basis of the "scandal" crusade. They were easily the inspiration for hundreds of Fox News programming hours over the last two years, and likely thousands of hours of talk radio attacks on Obama, Hillary Clinton and anyone connected to the administration. (Note that Fox aired 100 segments on the "stand down" allegation alone during its evening programs in the 20 months following the attack.)
While Breitbart and other right-wing media players gallantly tried to play defense (it's just a flesh wound), Fox News simply went into denial as the cable news channel essentially turned a blind eye to the story: Fox News Sunday completely ignored the topic. But it wasn't just Fox News Sunday. CBS' Face The Nation and ABC's This Week also ignored news about the latest Benghazi debunking; a Republican debunking no less.
There was something fitting about those two omissions, considering CBS and ABC likely suffered the two worst Benghazi-related black eyes within the mainstream media when their reporters, Lara Logan and Jonathan Karl respectively, flew too close to the far-right flame and got very badly burned. (Note to reporters: When your sources have to make stuff up about Benghazi, it's a pretty good indication the 'scandal' is lacking.)
And don't forget how Logan played ball with at least one vociferous Benghazi critic behind the scenes while putting her fatally flawed 60 Minutes report together. According to a May report in New York magazine, Logan met with Sen. Graham, who helped shape the Benghazi story. Then when the 60 Minutes segment aired he immediately cheered it on, calling it a "death blow" to the White House and announced he'd block every White House appointee until he got more answers about Benghazi.
In other words, the Benghazi lessons to be learned here aren't only for Fox News. Media Matters has spent the better part of two years detailing how Beltway reporters, producers and pundits who should've known better have played along with the contrived conspiracy talking points about the Democratic president and a far-reaching cover-up. (Is Benghazi to Obama what Whitewater was to Bill Clinton?)