In the wake of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner crash, Fox News has rushed to conveniently rewrite history to disparage President Obama by drawing false comparisons to former President Ronald Reagan's response to a 1983 attack on a Korean airliner. The reactions of many Fox figures praising Reagan stood in stark contrast with that of Fox's Chris Wallace, who accurately noted Reagan's apparent reluctance to cut short his vacation in order to address the issue.
A Malaysia Airlines jetliner exploded and crashed on July 17, carrying 298 people. The New York Times reported the plane was allegedly shot down by what "American officials described as a Russian-made antiaircraft missile," adding that the crash elevated tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the insurgency in eastern Ukraine "into a new international crisis." Obama addressed the event on July 18, calling the deaths of innocent people an "outrage of unspeakable proportions."
On the heels of the plane explosion, Fox News has rushed to disparage Obama for continuing his planned fundraising trip in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, drawing comparisons to Reagan's initial response to a Korean Air passenger jet downed by the Soviet Union in 1983.
In fact, Reagan initially sent aides to respond to the attack on the airliner, waiting four days before delivering the speech condemning the Soviet Union that is now being lauded by many pundits at Fox News.
Fox's Wallace pushed back against his network peers, noting that "sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on." He continued, noting that Reagan had to be persuaded to leave his ranch and return to Washington for a speech that came four days after the attack (emphasis added):
WALLACE: I know there's like an immediate reaction, that you want to say he should have run back to Washington and gone back to the Situation Room. I know that a lot of folks at Fox here are saying that. As somebody who covered the White House and saw for six years Ronald Reagan in various situations, sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on. If he had gone back to Washington and gone to the situation room -- first of all, there's not much he can do, we're not in control of the situation. And it would have dialed it up.
WALLACE: I was covering Ronald Reagan at that time. He was in Santa Barbara at his ranch when that happened, and quite frankly he didn't want to leave. And his advisers realized how terrible this looked, and eventually persuaded him he had to fly back to Washington and had to give this speech to the nation, but it did take him four days.
Nevertheless, his colleagues praised Reagan's response as an example of ideal leadership in contrast with Obama's. On the July 17 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly connected the July 17 tragedy to the 1983 Korean airliner crash, highlighting Reagan's speech in response and noting in comparison that Obama has "been accused of 'leading from behind.' " Fox contributor Chris Stirewalt compared Reagan's response to Obama's, saying Reagan's response made Americans feel "reassured and resolute," and Kelly echoed that Obama's response "makes him look unconnected and makes a lot of Americans feel unrepresented."
The Washington Post debunked a right-wing conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News tying the crash of former IRS official Lois Lerner's computer to a letter the IRS received from the House Ways and Means committee 10 days earlier. The Post pointed out that the letter addressed a different subject than the controversy linked to Lerner.
We may have finally uncovered the answer to the lingering question of what it would take for Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace to not host a discussion about Benghazi. The solution: Have U.S. Special Operations forces capture the lead suspect in the 2012 terror attack.
The news of Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture broke on June 17, and was immediately tagged by the Washington Post as "a significant breakthrough" for the Obama administration, which has been subjected to constant carping and endless harangues from Fox News talkers demanding that Benghazi terrorists be brought to justice. But when the administration made advances in doing just that, Fox attacked them over the timing of the capture for much of the week, and then Wallace turned away on Sunday.
Ordinarily, you'd think any key development in the on-going investigation would be of interest to Fox News Sunday, which, according to an archives search at Nexis, has hosted nearly 100 discussions over the last 20 months where "Benghazi" was mentioned at least three times, and more than two dozen segments just this year. But news of a suspect's apprehension and the possibility he'll soon be facing justice in a U.S. courtroom and held accountable for the deaths of four Americans? That apparently wasn't worth covering on Sunday.
Because, as is so often the case for President Obama, good news is no news.
And it wasn't just Fox News this time. Across the dial on Sunday, every broadcast network political show -- which are credited with setting the public agenda debate inside the Beltway -- failed to address the news about the Benghazi suspect. It was news that reflected positively on the Obama administration. It was news that the Republican Party did not seem happy about. And it was news that the Sunday shows deemed to be un-newsworthy.
Media responded to the news that the Obama administration secured the release of prisoner of war (POW) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban by parsing whether or not the administration violated longstanding policy by negotiating Bergdahl's release. In reality, experts say the U.S. has a long history of such negotiations, and Bergdahl's release was conducted using an intermediary nation.
Having successfully goaded House Republicans into forming a select committee on Benghazi with smears and phony outrage, Fox News is now attempting to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the new investigatory body.
On May 2, House Republicans finally caved to the Fox News pressure campaign encouraging them to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox personalities have also pressured Democrats to get on board despite objections that the makeup of the committee is slanted to favor Republicans and is already ignoring evidence in pursuit of a forgone conclusion.
Fox host Andrea Tantaros warned that Democrats could face electoral repercussions if they "risk looking left out of it," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade urged, "Democrats, put the five people up there. Stop with the rhetoric. Let's get started," and after listening to select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) description of the committee, Fox host Chris Wallace decided: "Alright, I'm going to declare victory here and say that the Democrats are going to participate."
On May 16, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) volunteered to serve, and Fox was quick to reject the possibility of Grayson's involvement.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the committee needed someone more on board with the committee's goals and described him as a "spoke in the wheel" to the select committee:
HASSELBECK: Now, if he's gonna prosecute and try to get in there and probe into someone, it should be why we haven't had any answers and why no one knew about this and why these Americans were left to die. But if his focus, then, if the center of the target happens to be Republicans, is that a good idea to have this guy in there?
DOOCY: Here's the thing. This all started out as a joke on Twitter and the blogs, and now essentially what they're saying is: 'let's go ahead and gum up the works, let's turn it into a kangaroo court, and have this particular guy.' MoveOn.org says, "Our interest is to have someone with great credibility and stature among Democrats and Republicans. Well you know what? With all due respect to the congressman, he's not the one. Republicans do not think he is a great statesman.
In an interview with Media Matters, Grayson criticized Fox for "calling the shots" on the Benghazi witch hunt.
From the May 15 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News' attempt to connect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the brutality of extremist group Boko Haram was demolished by former United States Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
On the May 11 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace highlighted Fox's latest anti-Clinton smear, attacking the former Secretary of State for not officially designating the Nigerian group Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
This claim has already been thoroughly debunked. As Media Matters has explained, the State Department's initial decision not to issue an official FTO designation stemmed from a reluctance to elevate Boko Haram's profile among militant organizations, which experts say can embolden such groups. Under Clinton, State instead chose to put Boko Haram's top leaders on the terrorist list, offering a $7 million bounty for the organization's leader.
Responding to Wallace, Campbell further demolished the claim:
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton has come under fire this week, because of the fact that back in 2011 she rejected calls by the FBI and the intelligence community to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. As a Bush-appointee to be ambassador, do you think that's fair, the criticism of Secretary Clinton?
CAMPBELL: No I don't think that's fair, and along with a good many other Nigerian experts, at the time, we all opposed designation.
Fox News has pushed reset on many of its favorite Benghazi myths that have already been put to rest in the wake of the recently released Rhodes email and the House GOP's announcement of the formation of a Select Committee to investigate the attacks.
From the May 4 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace criticized conservatives for lionizing Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose outlaw campaign against the federal government further collapsed when he was caught in a racist tirade against blacks.
Wallace told radio host and Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher, "some of your colleagues on the conservative side jumped on this bandwagon way too quickly, way too -- and, you know, I've never quite understood why this guy was a hero."
Wallace added that he agreed with Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, who similarly criticized conservatives for championing Bundy. Krauthammer remarked yesterday on Fox News: "Do I have the right to go in to graze sheep in Central Park? I think not. You have to have some respect for the federal government, some respect for our system. And to say you don't and you don't recognize it and that makes you a conservative hero, to me, is completely contradictory, and rather appalling."
While Wallace did not single out specific conservatives, many of Bundy's biggest champions work for Fox News. Fox News' senior judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano, called Bundy a "patriotic, heroic American." Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes defended Bundy by claiming "they used to string folks up" for what the government did to Bundy.
And Fox News host Sean Hannity spent weeks pushing Bundy's cause and hosted him multiple times. His fervent support for Bundy drew criticism and mockery, causing Hannity to respond that "we're not ashamed of our coverage. We're actually proud of our coverage." When the racist tirade surfaced, however, Hannity was forced to renounce Bundy's comments, while claiming government overreach is still the real issue.
From the April 13 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
Loading the player reg...
Fox host Chris Wallace reacted to a U.S. Senate investigation into the Bush administration's torture policies by claiming he "would have waterboarded" Al Qaeda terrorist "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." Wallace's remark came after it was reported that the investigation concluded waterboarding Mohammed didn't provide critical information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, as defenders of the technique had claimed.
Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary and conclusions of a lengthy report about the Bush-era CIA's detention and interrogation program. The White House will now have to approve the release. The Associated Press reported that aides and people briefed on the report said the investigation found waterboarding was ineffective.
With regard to Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, the AP reported the "Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical" and "confirmed only what investigators already knew":
The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused 9/11 mastermind who was waterboarded 183 times. Mohammed, intelligence officials have noted, confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al-Qaida courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
The Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical, according to the aides. Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, they said. And Mohammed neither acknowledged al-Kuwaiti's significance nor provided interrogators with the courier's real name.
The debate over how investigators put the pieces together is significant because years later, the courier led U.S. intelligence to the sleepy Pakistani military town of Abbottabad. There, in May 2011, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.
Essentially, they argue, Mohammed, [senior al-Qaida operative Abu Faraj] al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier. And when they denied the courier's significance or provided misleading information, investigators would only have considered that significant if they already presumed the courier's importance.
The classified Senate report adds more support to other national security experts who have concluded that waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not provide effective information leading to bin Laden's capture.
During an April 4 appearance on The Mike Gallagher Show, Wallace previewed Fox News Sunday by saying he'd talk about "enhanced interrogation and whether or not the CIA covered up what was actually going on. I personally, I would have waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." On Fox News Sunday, Wallace noted the investigation's reported conclusion "that the enhanced interrogation produced little intelligence of significance." In 2009, Wallace similarly remarked that when it comes to waterboarding, "I'm with" fictional 24 character "Jack Bauer on this."
Listen to Wallace's remark below:
Fox News Sunday and Fox's Sunday Morning Futures misleadingly suggested there weren't enough young and healthy Americans enrolled in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But experts have explained that there were already enough young enrollees to help keep health care costs down in the days before the final deadline for enrollment, and that young adults were more likely to sign up for insurance at the last minute.
Fox News invited Paul Wolfowitz, a former Bush administration official and current development scholar for conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, to push the repeatedly debunked claim that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may actually increase the number of uninsured.
On March 23, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Wolfowitz, an Iraq War architect who noted his past employment with the World Bank had little to do with health care, to weigh in on the ACA enrollment numbers.
Wolfowitz baselessly claimed that the health reform law may increase the number of uninsured Americans:
WALLACE: We haven't heard from you on Obamacare as former head of the World Bank. What do you think of how it has gone so far?
WOLFOWITZ: I wouldn't say the World Bank has much to do with it. But you know, it seems to me, I hear numbers, I think it's correct, that five million people had their plans canceled, the ones they were promised they could keep. Presumably, some of that five million of new enrollees are just people who got kicked out and are back in. This was supposed to reduce the number of uninsured. It may actually have increased the number. I think Nancy Pelosi famously said we have to pass the bill so you'll know what is in it. Well, they've passed the bill, there's are so many changes by administrative fiat, I don't think the authors any longer know what's is in it. It's -- you cannot reform 17 percent of the economy with 900 pages of legislation that nobody's bothered to read.
But the suggestion that the ACA may have increased the number of uninsured Americans has been debunked by multiple fact checks. On March 17, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler weighed in on a similar claim from Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) that there has been "a net loss of people with health insurance," writing that Boehner's claim "flies in the face of the facts" and issuing it "four pinocchios" -- the rating it issues for "whoppers." Kessler also cited two data points that demonstrate how the ACA has increased the number of people with insurance:
So what does this add up to? Taking the lowest-range estimates, we still end up with nearly 9 million people added to the insurance rolls, more than enough to swamp Boehner's 6 million figure, which as we noted is a pretty useless number to begin with.
- 3.4 million -- HealthCare.gov sign-ups, assuming 80 percent paid, though February
- 2.4 million -- lowest estimate for new Medicaid enrollment through January
- 2.2 million -- young adults added to parents' plans (2010 average to first two quarters of 2013)
- 500,000 -- off-exchange enrollments
Charles Gaba, a blogger who has tracked the state-by-state numbers at ACAsignups.net, including known off-exchange enrollments, meanwhile calculates the actual current figure though mid-March at nearly 14 million. Even if you take a conservative estimate for paid plans and reduce the number of young Americans added to plans, you end up with about 13 million. That makes Boehner's "net loss" claim seem especially absurd.
Politifact similarly rated the "net loss" claim "false." As its March 18 article noted, Boehner's suggestion omitted several "important factors," including Medicaid enrollments, young adults who have been able to remain on their parents' plans, and notably, what happened to people who received cancellation notices because their insurance plans were not ACA compliant:
Some of those policies, about half, were restored when Obama administratively allowed canceled plans to continue for another year and later through 2016.
Many others were moved to new plans, either through their insurance company or by purchasing a new policy on the marketplaces set up for Obamacare. The administration estimated that of the people with canceled plans, just 500,000 were left without coverage, and catastrophic coverage was extended to those individuals.
That's not to say this wasn't a difficult ordeal for people who lost their plans, especially if they thought the law would allow them to keep their coverage. But most of them were able to find new plans, meaning Boehner's 6 million uninsured people basically vanishes.
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace praised Donald Graham as the show's "power player of the week" for his efforts to give financial aid to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children -- known as DREAMers. But Wallace's positive coverage of Graham's TheDream.US program stands in stark contrast to how Fox News has covered access to an affordable college education for undocumented students in the past several years.
Fox has exhaustively attacked laws that allow undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. In November 2010, the network attacked a court ruling upholding a California law permitting this, asking whether "illegal immigrants" should get what it called an "[i]llegal discount." In June 2011, Fox further attacked the law as "flawed" and complained that the Supreme Court declined to hear a case about the law. An O'Reilly Factor segment that same month falsely claimed that these students were getting "free tuition" and stated that 35 percent of students paying in-state tuition in California were undocumented, when in fact undocumented students made up only 0.34 percent of the population. In March 2011, Fox's Steve Doocy made up a story to argue against a New Jersey college allowing undocumented immigrants to attend classes and pay in-county tuition rates. And in October 2011, Fox & Friends promoted the efforts of two conservative Texas A&M students who wanted to repeal a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
In early December 2012, Fox News attacked a similar Massachusetts policy that would allow DREAMers to attend state colleges with the in-state tuition rate. Fox & Friends baselessly portrayed the policy as a burden on native and other immigrant students, and America's Newsroom hosted a member of a nativist extremist group to express opposition to similar policies in Oregon and Colorado.
More recently, Fox News used the falsehood that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes to claim it isn't fair for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. When O'Reilly interviewed Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in October 2011, the Fox News host suggested that it's "heartless" to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. On O'Reilly's show in June 2012, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham said that undocumented students in Colorado "should be paying an out-of-country tuition."
Watch Fox News Sunday's profile of Donald Graham and his efforts to provide college scholarships to DREAMers, which The Wall Street Journal called "a private sector analogue to states that have moved to offer in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants," below: