Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, with the help of guest Dick Cheney, peddled a number of long-debunked myths about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, including the false claims that President Obama and the Pentagon decided to abandon Americans during the attacks, that troops could have reached Libya in time, and that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice purposely deceived the American public about the attack.
During a June 16 Fox News Sunday interview with former Vice President Cheney, Wallace claimed that the president and the Pentagon decided not to send any assistance to the U.S. forces and citizens under attack in Benghazi:
Wallace's suggestion that the president and the Pentagon coordinated such a decision ignores known facts about the circumstances and deployment of forces that night.
During a February 7 Senate hearing, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified that President Obama had "directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." During the same hearing, Panetta later said, "[Obama] basically said, 'do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people" in Benghazi the night of the attacks. Following that conversation with the president, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to Libya and deployed another special operations team to the region. These forces arrived after the attacks were over.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also confirmed that military forces would not have arrived at the attack in time to prevent the casualties. During a May 12 appearance on Face The Nation, Gates said the idea that military forces could have responded in time required a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities."
Later in the segment, when the discussion turned to Susan Rice, President Obama's recently announced pick to become national security adviser, Cheney referenced several debunked claims about Rice's involvement in and the motivation behind the crafting of the Benghazi talking points, suggesting that she "peddled the party line" by knowingly deceiving the American public about the attack in order to help Obama win re-election. Cheney concluded:
I just question whether or not somebody whose judgment was so flawed that they took what was apparently very bad information and peddled it as aggressively as she did.
Cheney's statements ignore the role of the intelligence community in crafting the talking points as well as the hundreds of pages of emails revealing that information was removed from the talking points to protect multiple agencies' investigations, including the FBI and the CIA. Responding to initial emails among CIA officials on September 14, 2012, CIA General Counsel Stephen W. Preston urged caution to ensure that no investigation would be compromised:
Folks, I know there is a hurry to get this out, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing it conflicts with express instructions from NSS/DOJ/FBI that, in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this, etc. -- even internally, not to mention for public release. I am copying [CIA FO] who may be more familiar with those instructibns [sic] and the tasking arising from the HPSCI coffee.
Furthermore, then-Director of the CIA General David Petraeus has also testified before Congress that the talking points in question were changed in order to avoid tipping off those responsible for the attacks.
This past weekend on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace tossed up a softball for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "Senator Graham, you say that President Obama may not have directly ordered the IRS to target conservative groups, but that there was a culture of political manipulation that filtered down from the White House. Explain what you mean." Wallace was describing Bureaucrat Whispering: the increasingly popular conservative theory that President Obama, while not directly involved in the IRS scandal, is still culpable because the tax agency employees subconsciously picked up on his anti-Tea Party vibes.
Wallace then confronted Durbin with a letter the senator wrote in October 2010 that Wallace suggested contributed to "this culture." Durbin defended the letter (a request that the IRS investigate the political activities of non-profit groups like Crossroads GPS) but Wallace was unmoved: "Why not, because we're now in the mess that we are in because of political targeting, why not send a letter that says, go after any group of any political persuasion?" Left unsaid by Wallace was the fact that the IRS began singling out Tea Party groups for scrutiny in March of 2010 -- a full seven months before Durbin sent that letter. That means the cultural ripples caused by Durbin's IRS dispatch would have had to be so potent that they tore the fabric of space-time.
This gets to the core of what Bureaucrat Whispering really is: a catch-all repository for conservatives eager to link the White House to the IRS scandal. It's a theory that can't be proved or disproved; how does one conclusively demonstrate that IRS underlings at a poorly managed office in Cincinnati were swept up in Obama-inspired anti-Tea Party fervor? So conservatives are just throwing whatever bugs them about Obama at the wall and hoping something will stick.
Fox host Chris Wallace criticized President Obama's counter-terrorism speech which redefined how the country fights global terrorism by comparing the 12 year "war on terror" to the 40 year Cold War. However, Wallace ignored Obama's promise to continue targeting terrorist networks and the president's speech has been praised by supporters and critics of the administration.
President Obama promised an end to the perpetual warfare that began following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon during a May 23 speech at the National Defense University. On the May 26 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace used Obama's call to redefine the "boundless war on terror" as a "series of persistent targeted efforts" to suggest that the president is declaring the war over too soon and putting the country in danger, adding that "the Cold War lasted for 40 years":
In fact, rather than declaring the threat of terrorism over as Wallace suggested, Obama made clear that he would continue to target and dismantle terrorist networks, while working to repeal the Authorization to Use Military Force which has kept "America on a perpetual wartime footing." From the speech:
Fox News Sunday selected Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, attorneys who represented witnesses at a Republican-led hearing on the attacks at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, for its "power players of the week," an unfortunate choice given that both individuals misled Fox News and its viewers about allegations of threats and intimidation against their clients and about efforts by the administration to prevent their clients from testifying.
Though Fox News Sunday aired certain aspects of Toensing and diGenova's biographies, the segment neglected to mention that the two have a history of poor professional conduct, including criticism from a Democratic congressman for inappropriate behavior and actions while they worked as congressional investigators due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. They were also accused of having a conflict of interest for representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation while simultaneously serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation. More recently, Toensing pushed the false claim that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame had not been covert, in addition to other falsehoods.
On April 29, Fox's Special Report aired video of Toensing claiming that people who wanted to testify on Benghazi "have been threatened," which Fox & Friends aired the following morning. Toensing was also cited by Special Report on April 29 in reporting the allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence" and that possible witnesses were having their careers threatened. And a May 6 FoxNews.com article by Fox Washington correspondents James Rosen and Chad Pergram sourced a claim that a witness named Mark Thompson "has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress" to diGenova, who was representing Thompson.
But testimony by the witnesses at a GOP-led hearing on May 8 and subsequent interviews of their attorneys on Fox News revealed that Toensing and diGenova misled the network by claiming that their clients had suffered threats, intimidation, and orders to keep quiet. When asked on Fox's Your World on May 9 about claims that Thompson had been threatened, diGenova replied that Thompson "actually hasn't said that," and explained that his client "didn't feel intimidated."
Gregory Hicks, another witness at the hearing -- represented by Toensing -- explained under questioning that he had not been told not to speak to congressional investigators, only that he was required to have a State Department attorney present while doing so. Hicks also explained that, in contrast to claims that the administration tried to silence him, he was interviewed twice by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was created to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Hicks' testimony further contradicted Toensing's April 29 claim to Special Report that careers were being threatened when he explained that "the overriding factor" in his determination to not return to his post in Libya was to remain with his family in the United States.
From the May 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Eugene Robinson's Friday Washington Post column that throws buckets of cold water on the Benghazi "cover-up" is well worth a read, but it touches only briefly on one aspect of the Benghazi story that emerged this week that merits further exploration: the degree to which "whistleblower" Gregory Hicks was "muzzled."
Since testifying at the House Oversight Committee hearing on May 8, a media narrative has emerged that Hicks, after speaking to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in Libya following the attacks, faced intimidation at the hands of the State Department, beginning with a phone call from Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Depending on which conservative media figure is talking, Mills is said to have "excoriated," "reprimanded," "punished," and even "demoted" Hicks right then and there. Going by Hicks' own testimony, none of that is true.
To recap: following the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Rep. Chaffetz traveled to Libya to interview witnesses and survivors. Hicks, who had become chief of mission following the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, was one of the people Chaffetz sought to interview. Right-wingers like Guy Benson, writing at Townhall.com, have alleged "US Ambassador Chris Stevens' second in command, Gregory Hicks, was instructed not to speak with a Congressional investigator by Sec. Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills."
This is not true. Hicks testified that the State Department had instructed him not to speak to Chaffetz without a State attorney present -- a condition Hicks says was unusual, but which the State Department says is standard procedure. In any event, Hicks ended up speaking to Chaffetz without the attorney present because, according to his testimony, the lawyer lacked the proper security clearance. Also, Hicks testified that he spoke with Mills only after speaking with Chaffetz.
From the May 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Fox News is falsely suggesting a new Weekly Standard article proves the CIA didn't link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video. In fact, CIA talking points obtained by the conservative magazine actually demonstrate the intelligence community believed there was a link between the attacks and reactions to the video.
Conservative writer Stephen Hayes' piece for The Weekly Standard reported that an initial September 14 draft of talking points by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that members of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group were involved in the Benghazi attacks, but that point was later removed by administration officials. Hayes provided images of various versions of the CIA's talking points, including a bullet in "Version 1" stating: "We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex."
In the final version of the document, that bullet read:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
In his piece, Hayes still criticized the Obama administration for mentioning the YouTube video since the word "video" did not appear in the talking points:
More troubling was the YouTube video. [Ambassador Susan] Rice would spend much time on the Sunday talk shows pointing to this video as the trigger of the chaos in Benghazi. "What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States." There is no mention of any "video" in any of the many drafts of the talking points.
However, as Media Matters noted, the CIA's reference to the Benghazi attack being "inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" proves that the intelligence community itself believed that a link existed between the attacks and the film. The "protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" were part of a series of global riots and protests in Muslim countries that were partly in response to increased awareness of the anti-Islam video. As prior media reports have noted, Ambassador Rice used the CIA's information during numerous television interviews on September 16.
In recent days, Fox News has used the Standard piece to suggest the intelligence community didn't believe the attacks and the anti-Islam videos were linked.
According to Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, the conservative Heritage Foundation is set to release a report that claims immigration reform will cost taxpayers billions of dollars. But Heritage's analysis is reportedly based on a 2007 study that was widely discredited by experts for its faulty methodology and dubious conclusions.
On KFTK's Allman in the Morning, Wallace stated that he plans to host Heritage Foundation president and former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint to introduce the report this weekend. Wallace said that the report will show that the proposed Senate immigration reform bill will "cost the Treasury billions of dollars" because "people would be eligible for Obamacare and various welfare programs."
In fact, as Wallace himself noted, undocumented immigrants who are granted legal status under the Senate bill will not be eligible for federal public benefits or subsidized health care for at least a decade. Moreover, immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to rely on such programs.
Wallace went on to criticize the conservative myth that immigrants come to the United States to gain access to government benefits.
Here are five facts media should know about the Heritage Foundation's previous problematic immigration report:
From the April 28 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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From the April 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Zeb Colter, an anti-immigrant character from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that has recently drawn the ire of right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck, would be right at home in the conservative media. Many of Colter's bigoted and flawed arguments have been the right's stock-in-trade for years.
Beck targeted the Colter character on his radio show, arguing that Colter is "demonizing the Tea Party." Beck also accused the WWE of "mocking me for standing up for the Constitution." Beck's co-host Stu Burguiere complained: "It seems that the villain, the guy you're supposed to hate, is this stereotype of a conservative that I've never met."
Colter currently appears on WWE programming alongside wrestler Jack Swagger, spouting a lot of heated anti-immigrant rhetoric in the middle of a scripted feud with Mexican-born wrestler Alberto Del Rio. According to WWE, Colter's rhetoric is intended to "to build the Mexican American character Del Rio into a hero given WWE's large Latino base."
WWE explains that in order "to create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines."
Fox News hosts cited a widely criticized Bob Woodward column to falsely claim President Obama's proposal to avert looming government spending cuts -- known as sequestration -- "moved the goalposts" because it offsets some of the cuts with new revenue. In fact, the administration's proposal to avert the sequestration has always included a balanced deficit reduction plan that included additional revenues.
Fox News' Chris Wallace challenged National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's false claims about strengthening gun laws, even going so far as to describe one of his talking points as "ridiculous." Wallace's treatment of LaPierre is a departure from his Fox colleagues who have allowed LaPierre to push his agenda without challenge.
On Fox News Sunday, Wallace challenged LaPierre's attempt to mislead on criminal background checks for gun sales and debunked the NRA claim that the Obama administration wants to create a national registry of gun owners. Wallace also dismissed LaPierre's defense of an NRA advertisement that charged President Obama with hypocrisy for protecting his children with armed guards, responding to the NRA leader's comparison between threats faced by the president's children and school children nationwide by saying "that's ridiculous and you know it, sir."
The refusal of Wallace to acquiesce to all of LaPierre's claims during Fox News Sunday was markedly different from Fox's typical treatment of the gun issue, which has included giving the NRA a platform to spread falsehoods.
During the interview, Wallace dismissed LaPierre's attempt to obfuscate the fact that over a million people have been stopped from obtaining a firearm since 1999 after failing a criminal background check by stating, "It worked enough that 1.7 million people were denied."
LAPIERRE: I don't think you can say that those 1.7 million people have been stopped from getting a gun at all because the government didn't prosecute virtually any of them. They let them walk in, they were denied, they let them walk out. And who really thinks if they really wanted to commit a crime they didn't go on and get a gun.
WALLACE: I don't know. It seems to me if 1.7 million people were denied. I understand the hardened criminal. But the disturbed person. The Adam Lanza in Newtown. The James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado. Those aren't hardened criminals, and if they are stopped from getting a gun by a universal background check won't that make a difference?
LAPIERRE: You know the instant check was actually the NRA's proposal. We offered it as an amendment to the Brady Bill to put it on dealers. And I've been in this fight for 20 years, we supported it, we put it on the books. But I have finally become convinced after fighting to get the mental records computerized for 20 years and watching the mental health lobby, the HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] laws, and the AMA [American Medical Association] oppose it, I don't think it's going to happen. I mean the fact is the check now, these people are not --
WALLACE: It worked enough that 1.7 million people were denied. I mean I completely agree with you, I mean as Captain Kelly pointed out [Tucson shooter] Jared Loughner was able to pass the test. So there are holes in it, but that doesn't mean, you know, because it's not perfect doesn't mean that it doesn't work.
As Wallace pointed out, there is a logical fallacy in LaPierre's argument that because background checks will not stop all criminals there is no value in attempts to improve the background check system.
LaPierre's attack on the effectiveness of the background check system also exposes the hypocrisy of the NRA's opposition to requiring criminal background checks on every gun sale. LaPierre speculated that individuals denied a firearm by a background check were still able to "go on and get a gun." A loophole in federal law allows a significant proportion of firearms to be obtained through private sales where no background check is required, with one 2004 study indicating that criminals are even more likely to use private transactions to obtain firearms.