"Good news there, I guess." Fox News anchor Jon Scott, June 17.
Word that U.S. Special Operations forces had captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected leader of the terror attack on the United States diplomatic facilities in Benghazi two years ago, provided good news for those seeking justice for the four Americans killed in the 2012 raid. The reports however, provided very bad news for people who have been playing politics with the terror attack for the last 21 months.
Indeed, the Benghazi revelation and the instantly negative and mocking reaction it received on Fox News and across the right-wing media landscape, provided a telling glimpse into the propaganda campaign conducted by professional conservative talkers who long ago stopped pursuing the facts of the investigation. Instead, they've tried to turn "Benghazi" into a brand; a self-sustaining scandal machine reminiscent of the one they built to distract Bill Clinton in the 1990s. The goal of these types of blind pursuits doesn't revolve around the truth or facts, but around the ability to attack, attack, attack, regardless of good-news revelations.
So instead of toasting Khattala's capture in Libya as a key breakthrough, the news quickly became reason to add more layers to the impenetrable Benghazi conspiracy. (Either that or to feign indifference.) The claim this time? The timing of the arrest looked fake and phony. Specifically, the Benghazi capture was timed to help Hillary Clinton's book tour 5,000 miles away in America.
"What a great thing to announce on an interview tonight at Fox News, that the perpetrators have been bought to justice," said Fox contributor Pete Hegseth. "It's all too neat and it's too cute." Added Fox host Kennedy: "You have a former secretary of state, who is in the middle of a really high profile book tour, I think this is convenient for her to shift the talking points from some of the things she has been discussing."
Rush Limbaugh mocked the timing as "a beautiful thing."
This kind of contemptuous, dismissive tone is exactly the opposite of what Obama's fevered critics had been demanding since September, 2012.
"May 2014, and you still haven't brought anyone to justice!" Judge Jeanine Pirro complained on her Fox News program just last month. Fox's Eric Bolling, denouncing the lack of detained Benghazi suspects on The Five, July 31, 2013: "Nice job, President O, no suspects, no interviews, no leads, and no answers." And Fox contributor Allen West signed on to a letter bemoaning the fact that "not a single terrorist in this well-planned and executed military attack by radical Islamists has been apprehended."
So it was Fox News, then: Bring suspects to justice!
And Fox News, today: Why now?
On May 29, Duck Dynasty star turned GOP darling Phil Robertson gave a keynote speech at the Republican Leadership Conference (RLC). His speech, which focused on religion and encouraged Republicans to "get godly," is the latest milestone in the controversial reality TV star's meteoric and unexpected rise in national conservative politics.
Robertson's presence at the RLC perplexed Fox News' Juan Williams, who questioned why the GOP had embraced a figure who gained national notoriety after making a number of homophobic and racist statements in an interview with GQ. During a May 31 appearance on Fox's Cashin' In, Williams asked what Robertson's rise in conservative politics said about the GOP:
BOLLING: I don't know, I don't know Juan, what about it? I think he's big business, and I think it's probably good for the GOP. No?
WILLIAMS: No, are you kidding me? What does it say, Eric, that GOP makes a hero out of a guy that says black were happy with slavery and segregation, and gays are to be damned. Is he the chief of outreach for the GOP, or is he the chief of internal self-satisfaction?
But Williams' own network is at least partly responsible for the GOP's fawning relationship with Robertson, having worked for months to whitewash his offensive comments and prop up the reality star as a beacon of American Christianity.
Fox's fascination with the Duck Dynasty family predates Robertson's GQ interview. But when A&E announced in Decemberthat they had placed Robertson on a hiatus over his comments, the network went into damage control mode; Fox's Sean Hannity described the comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values," while Fox reported Todd Starnes claimed Robertson was just reflecting "the teachings of the Bible." Even Megyn Kelly came to Robertson's defense, calling him a "Christian guy" and criticizing LGBT activists for trying to "shut down the debate."
After A&E reinstated Robertson, Fox News snatched the first 'exclusive' interview with the Robertson family as part of the network's "All American New Year." Since then, Fox has continued to whitewash Robertson's rhetoric by repeatedly depicting him and the Robertson family as besieged Christian heroes.
Fox News personalities attacked the father of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for looking "like a Muslim" and addressing his son in Pashto, going so far as to say his appearance is "insulting" and suggesting he might be an "Islamist sympathizer."
The network has a long and well-documented history of pushing Islamophobic rhetoric and propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion, and its pundits didn't hold back in tapping into anti-Islamic sentiment to identify "something wrong" with Bergdahl's release. Fox host Bill O'Reilly said he was "insulted" by the"conduct" of the soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, during his May 31 Rose Garden appearance with President Obama, because "[h]e has learned to speak the language of the Taliban and looks like a Muslim, actually thanking Allah right in front of the president." Fox contributor Laura Ingraham later hyped and escalated O'Reilly's "revelations," saying on her radio show, "If he wasn't so light-skinned, he actually looks like the terrorists."
Other Fox hosts have suggested that Bergdahl's beard, reportedly grown out of solidarity with his son, is something to be "skeptical" of and something that he grew out of "sympathy with the Taliban." The current suspicion of Bergdahl's facial hair comes in stark contrast to the network's previous support of the famously bearded stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty.
Fox News wasted no time tying the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban, to the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban. Right-wing media responded to the exchange of five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl with attacks and misinformation.
Fox News quickly linked the prisoner exchange to the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. Appearing on Fox host Sean Hannity's radio program, Fox correspondent Catherine Herridge speculated on the timing of Bergdahl's release, suggesting it was "interesting" because the deal was struck just as excerpts from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir appeared in the news.
HERRIDGE: What I do find significant, and I don't know if you would agree with me or not, is how the talking point coming out of the White House is clearly that they are determined not to leave our service men and women behind. I don't know if this is a coincidence, or whether I'm in effect reading too much into it, but I find it interesting or noteworthy that that is the message out of the White House at the same time that the whole Benghazi controversy is going to be resurrected with Hillary Clinton's book and one of the main allegations is that the administration left our people behind to fend for themselves in Benghazi.
The hosts of Fox's The Five made a more explicit connection. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle set up a segment on the purported Bergdahl-Benghazi connection by noting that the Obama administration "says it's committed to leaving no man behind. That's why it's spent so much time trying to rescue former POW Bowe Bergdahl. But what about the four Americans killed in Benghazi?" Co-host Eric Bolling followed up by saying that, in contrast to the Bergdahl release, the Obama administration expressed no "sense of alarm" at the fact that Americans died in Benghazi.
Both hosts repeated the tired smear that the Obama administration didn't do everything it could to rescue the Americans under attack. The absurd and baseless implication that President Obama negotiated the release of an American captive in order to secure some kind of political gain demonstrates the lengths to which Fox News and right-wing media will go to politicize the tragedy. From missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 to the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, and Monday Night Football, right-wing media and Fox News appear to see everything that happens through a Benghazi lens.
For more on the right-wing media's misinformation campaign on Benghazi, click here.
From the May 31 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In:
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Twisting itself in partisan knots, Fox News can't keep track of when denying health benefits to Americans is a good thing and when it's a bad thing. Here's a helpful crib sheet: Denying health care by expanding Medicaid is cheered by Fox News. Denying health care through Veterans Affairs backlogs is not.
The current VA controversy has unleashed waves of right-wing media attacks on the organization, which conservative commentators now depict as a failed government-run health care agency. (It's not.)
Fueling their five-year obsession with trying to undermine and obstruct The Affordable Care Act at every turn, right-wing pundits have denounced the backlog that veterans face, the allegations of secret waiting lists at a Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix, and claims that dozens of vets reportedly died while on a waiting list to see a VA doctor. Looking to score points politically, Fox News talkers have proclaimed the VA mess to be a preview of some sort of Obamacare debacle for the general public.
Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle recently labeled Obamacare "one big fat VA system." (False.) Colleague Ben Carson tactlessly called the veterans health care failure "a God send" because it highlighted how awful Obamacare is going to be. And Fox's Eric Bolling claimed delays that took place at the VA in Phoenix would repeat themselves nationwide under Obamacare, and 500 people "are going to die waiting" every year for treatment because of the president's health care reform law.
The larger Fox message machine has been focused: There's nothing worse, nothing more callous and unimaginable, than vets being denied the government health care they're entitled to, and some dying as a consequence.
Left unmentioned from Fox and friends? In the case of the recent implementation of Obamacare and the federal government's effort to expand Medicaid benefits, Republican governors and lawmakers in 24 states have refused, for partisan reasons, to accept the federal funds to insure more of their citizens. The result? Citizens are being denied government health care they're entitled to, and thousands may die as a consequence.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Cashin In:
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From the May 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
Right-wing media launched a dishonest attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using reports of problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration to revive claims of "death panels."
The allegations facing the VA are serious and troubling and are largely the result of years of systemic issues. The Obama administration has worked to ease those problems, including reducing backlogged claims and beginning to transition claims away from the traditional paper-based systems that have largely been responsible for the backlogs. In 2012, the VA implemented the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), "a web-based, electronic claims processing portal created to give VA the ability to process Veterans' claims paper-free." According to the VA, the VBMS has allowed the agency to reduce the processing time from 272 days to 78 days. The Veterans Benefits Administration is now processing claims at a higher rate than ever before, although "the number of claims continues to exceed the number processed."
The problems facing the VA have existed long before the Obama administration. The Government Accountability Office has been reporting on backlog issues for years, such as this 2005 report that warned of "long waits for decisions, large claims backlogs, and inaccurate decisions." The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that "Since 2001, the number of claims received by the VA outpaced the number of claims completed" and noted that "the VA faced an increased demand because older generations of veterans continued to submit claims for injuries revealed by age, new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan began to pour into the system, and the VA expanded the schedule of conditions covered to include PTSD and illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure."
While concerns over the VA are legitimate, the right-wing media have exploited the situation to launch a dishonest attack on the ACA, using the reported deaths of veterans to revive the long-standing lie that Obamacare creates death panels.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that individuals covered by the ACA are "headed for similar potential as these deaths in the VA." Sean Hannity similarly invoked death panels in a report on the VA on his radio show.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling claimed both health care systems are examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system," concluding, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is":
Fox News' The Five aired a deceptively edited video clip of President Obama calling for comprehensive immigration reform to falsely claim that his speech condoned the release of criminal immigrants.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News has been deriding military investments in alternative fuels as a "wasteful" priority. Yet a new report from the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board cites the need for low carbon fuels and other actions to mitigate manmade climate change as imperative to America's national security.
The network was outraged this week over the Defense Department's investment in biofuels for warships and fighter jets, following a Government Accountability Office report that noted the cost of the alternative jet fuel made from algae.
On the May 10 edition of Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling likened federal investment in low carbon jet fuel to "taxpayer money waste," saying "this is what happens when you force ... government into an industry they have no business being in, i.e. green energy." Bolling cherry-picked the most expensive fuel tested -- made from algae -- as the subject of his ire, as did Fox hosts Bret Baier and Neil Cavuto on May 8, decrying "green" programs like the federal investment as a waste of money.
And on the May 9 broadcast of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy wondered, "Why is the Department of Defense splurging on things like green fuel," featuring Sean Parnell, a retired U.S. Army Captain and Ranger, to claim that military investments in alternative fuels are "overall indicative of a Department of Defense that just does not have its priorities straight at all."
Conservative media can't seem to agree whether or not Hillary Clinton's 2012 concussion was faked or was so serious she now has permanent brain damage, but whichever it is they seem ready to ignore all medical evidence in order to politicize her health.
In late December 2012, shortly before she was scheduled to testify before Congress regarding the attacks in Benghazi, Clinton sustained a concussion after she fainted due to dehydration from the flu, and was subsequently hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot in her head. The State Department postponed her testimony, and she ultimately appeared before Congress in January after her doctors confirmed she would make a full recovery.
Karl Rove reportedly dismissed this medical evidence last week when he claimed Clinton might have brain damage from the episode. Rove doubled down on his remarks today on Fox. Rove insisted that while he did not use the phrase "brain damage," he did believe she had "a serious health episode" and "she's hidden a lot" of information about the extent of her injuries. Wildly speculating about her health was reasonable, according to Rove, because she might someday run for president.
But back in December 2012, conservative media weren't worried that Clinton's health might impede a presidential run; instead, right-wing media immediately accused Clinton of faking her concussion to avoid testifying on Benghazi, taking a potentially life-threatening incident, which the former Secretary of State thankfully recovered from, and making it a political cudgel.
Fox contributor John Bolton accused Clinton of faking a "diplomatic illness." Monica Crowley dismissed the illness, calling it a "virus with apparently impeccable timing." Fox's The Five took the attacks a step further by mocking the Secretary's health, accusing Clinton of running "a duck and cover" and joking, "How can she get a concussion when she has been ducking everything [related to Benghazi]?" On Special Report Charles Krauthammer quipped she was "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy," a joke Sean Hannity liked so much he laughed about it later on his own show. When this mockery came under fire, host Greg Gutfeld attempted to defend Fox's actions by dismissing their remarks as mere "skepticism" and accusing journalists of "ginning up fake hatred, or outrage, towards skeptics." It wasn't just Fox, though; The Los Angeles Times, for instance, posted an online poll giving credence to the concussion conspiracy theories, asking readers "did she fake it?"
As The Wire noted, some of these conspiracy theorists quickly flipped when conservatives realized mocking a serious health condition, including the blood clot, was not a winning strategy. The New York Post, which had initially featured the headline "Hillary Clinton's head fake," followed up with a sober report on her condition noting that "Cynics in the media and in Congress sneered that Clinton was faking the concussion to avoid testimony about the attack" -- without acknowledging their own previous coverage. The Daily Caller similarly reported in February that "whispers" suggested Clinton's health was so bad she "may not even be capable of making it to Iowa and New Hampshire," after having wondered two months before why "we're supposed to just take her word for it" that she collapsed and hit her head. Fox, however, seems to be sticking with concussion trutherism; just this month, host Eric Bolling claimed Clinton purposefully "hit her head" so someone else could "take the bullet" on Benghazi.
So she either lied about a serious injury in order to avoid testimony (which she still gave), or she's now lying about being healthy in order to run for president (which she isn't currently doing). Either way, Rove's comments continue conservative media's stubborn insistence to politicize her health in whichever direction suits them at the moment, regardless of medical evidence.