A House committee report released Tuesday refuted claims that any stand-down order was given to prevent military support from reaching Benghazi, dismantling a central story in right-wing media mythology of a Benghazi cover-up.
The House Armed Services Committee report, released February 11, concluded that "There was no 'stand down' order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi." As The Washington Post explained, the report further determined that "no U.S. military assets could have arrived in Benghazi in time to affect the outcome of the attack, according to committee staff members who briefed reporters on the report."
The determination devastates one of right-wing media's favorite Benghazi hoaxes.
Fox News has persistently pushed the myth that the administration withheld military assistance during the Benghazi attack by issuing a "stand down order" to backup forces in Tripoli -- by June 2013, the network had repeated the charge at least 85 times in primetime segments. The accusations were vitriolic: In October 2012, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. asked if there was a "political calculation that was made to sacrifice Americans on the ground so we didn't kill innocents in front of the consulate," while the network's national security analyst, K.T. McFarland, claimed the supposed absence of aid to the consulate was "probably" politically motivated. Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that the administration had decided that Americans targeted in Benghazi "were expendable." And the allegations didn't stop there.
The House report is not the first investigation and testimony to debunk the claim that a "stand down" order was issued. A January 2014 Senate Committee on Intelligence review of the Benghazi attacks determined there was no evidence that any "stand down" order was given to responding units during the attack. Tripoli security team leader LTC. S.E. Gibson soundly debunked the notion that a "stand down" order was given in testimony from a declassified June 26, 2013, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, stating: "Madam Chairman, I was not ordered to stand down." The CIA has repeatedly denied that any "stand down" orders had been given, and noted that reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the CIA facility.
Yet just as the network often ignored previous determinations that debunked the "stand down" order myth, Fox's coverage on the House report thus far has either ignored or dismissed this newest evidence of the collapse of its "stand down" narrative. A Fox & Friends First headline segment that focused on the report ignored the "stand down" finding entirely, instead claiming that "the report also found U.S. military forces were left vulnerable at the time of the attack.
Fox News highlighted a Republican senator's dismissal of a deal with Iran that stalls the country's nuclear enrichment capabilities to frame the agreement as nothing but a distraction from problems with the Affordable Care Act.
As The Washington Post reported, Iran and six major countries reached a "historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions." Conservative media have already compared the negotiations with Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the 1930s. Now, after Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted in reaction to the deal's announcement "[a]mazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care," Fox News is promoting Cornyn's take.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Childers said "the nuke deal has dominated political talk, which means focus has shifted away from Obamacare. This now sparking many to believe that it is yet another attempt to distract from the disastrous rollout and the looming deadline to get the site up and running at full speed." Reporter Peter Doocy highlighted Cornyn's tweet, saying he "looks at the whole announcement very suspiciously."
Later on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy also parroted the argument during an interview with White House deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken, saying that "some" were critical of the proposal and had suggested that the White House was "trying to change the subject," and shift the conversation away from health care. From Fox & Friends (emphasis added):
DOOCY: Right, Tony, some people are skeptical, a little critical. They're going, why now? Oh, maybe because so they're trying to change the subject, Obamacare not working out. President's approval at 38 percent. What do you say?
BLINKEN: Well, I don't do health care, but I think we can probably figure out a way to insure tens of millions of Americans and prevent Iran from getting the bomb at the same time. The fact of the matter is, this was growing urgent. Iran was advancing down all three lines of activity. We wanted to stop that. We wanted to stop the program, and we wanted to see if we could get a comprehensive deal that resolves this once and for all. That's exactly what we now have the opportunity to do.
Such a claim ignores the facts behind the deal. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Obama promised years ago to engage with Iran about its nuclear program, and months of meetings were conducted to pave the way for the deal, beginning in March -- well before HealthCare.gov launched on October 1. And the deal with Iran is not the first action by the administration or Congress that Fox has called a distraction from Obamacare.
Fox News baselessly claimed that newly-released photographs of the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks reveal a "level of devastation" which contradicts the Obama administration's "original story of what happened" -- without explaining how the photos provided new insight or how they contradicted the administration's position on the destruction of the attacks.
On the November 20 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Ainsley Earhardt highlighted photos of the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, following the September 11, 2012 attacks which were recently obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. The photos depict a car on fire, burnt furniture, and graffiti on the walls of the compound, and Earhardt claimed they revealed "a new level of devastation, contradicting the Obama administration's original story of what happened":
EARHARDT: New images of the aftermath of last year's September 11th terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. The new pictures show a new level of devastation, contradicting the Obama administration's original story of what happened. The State Department gave 30 pages of records and 14 pictures to the conservative group Judicial Watch. That group is suing after requesting public materials through the Freedom of Information Act and not receiving them.
Earhardt did not explain how the photos contradicted anything the Obama administration had previously said about the attack, nor did she provide any evidence that administration officials previously downplayed or diminished the damage in Benghazi.
Her attack on the administration did, however, mirror comments made by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who claimed the "photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama's original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video."
But as Media Matters has repeatedly documented, there was no cover story -- Then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made clear during her initial comments on the attack that they were based on the administration's "current best assessment" of the situation, which was that the attacks were not premeditated. She acknowledged that the perpetrators were "extremists" and said that future investigations and analyses by intelligence services "will tell us with certainty what transpired." It would later be revealed that her suggestion that the attack was linked to an anti-Islam video that had embroiled the Middle East came from talking points generated by the CIA.
Furthermore, the photos released by Judicial Watch and billed as groundbreaking are actually similar to pictures which have been available online since the day after the attacks. On September 12, 2012, Buzzfeed posted photos showing the destruction at the compound, including a burnt car, graffiti, and broken windows. The next day, Daily Mail Online posted more photos of the burnt interiors of the compound.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attacks, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News highlighted a new law in Washington, D.C., that will allow the city's undocumented residents to obtain limited driver's licenses, airing segments that were laden with anti-immigrant language but little other information. The context missing from the Fox broadcasts is that nearly half of the country has enacted or is thinking of enacting similar laws, which law enforcement officials argue promote road safety and offer other benefits.
On November 18, Mayor Vincent Gray signed the measure passed by the D.C. Council, which will go into effect in May 2014. As The Washington Post reported, the licenses will be stamped as "not valid for official federal purposes," meaning undocumented immigrants will not be able to use them for federal identification purposes like entering federal buildings or for boarding planes.
In two segments on the law, Fox & Friends First co-host Heather Childers used inflammatory language to refer to undocumented immigrants, saying: "Illegal aliens living in Washington, D.C., will be able to get driver's licenses." She went on to note that the law will go into effect "unless Congress intervenes."
Childers repeated her report later during the show, as a graphic read: "Licenses For Illegals."
What Fox News ignored, however, is that these licenses are hardly uncommon and they provide real benefits to law enforcement.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, 11 states and Puerto Rico have passed measures that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. In Minnesota, a measure has passed one chamber of its legislature, and 10 other states have introduced similar proposals this session.
The right is selectively quoting an Inspector General (IG) report to accuse the State Department of ignoring the recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB). In fact, the IG report noted that the State Department is making progress implementing the ARB recommendations and praised its leadership as a model for future ARB responses.
Fox News and serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey are baselessly stoking fears that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will force doctors to ask "intrusive" sexual history questions that are already standard medical practice.
In a New York Post op-ed, McCaughey claimed that the health care law will "turn doctors into government agents" by requiring them to ask supposedly "intrusive" questions about their patients' sexual history. McCaughey's op-ed, which cited no evidence to support her claims, was parroted by Fox & Friends First co-host Ainsley Earhardt who said, "Thanks to Obamacare, doctors will be forced to ask patients about their sex life, even if it has nothing to do with the medical treatment that they are seeking at the time":
As Wonkette pointed out, McCaughey offered no evidence for her claims that the ACA changes existing practices. In fact, despite her fearmongering, sexual history questions are routine medical practice. The Centers For Disease Control calls such questions "an important part of a regular medical exam or physical history" and recommends that "[a] sexual history needs to be taken during a patient's initial visit, during routine preventive exams, and when you see signs of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)." In fact, the very questions that McCaughey claims doctors will now be pressured to ask are the exact questions the CDC recommends doctors ask their patients.
In a report that attempted to revive controversy over the Obama administration's deferred action program, Fox News repeatedly characterized the initiative as a way for undocumented immigrants to "avoid deportation." But this framing obscures the significant economic and social advantages that have been gained from this program, which has improved the lives of nearly half a million young immigrants.
Discussing a new smartphone app aimed at helping immigrants understand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals' program, or DACA, Fox & Friends First co-host Patti Ann Browne claimed the app would "help illegals avoid deportation" while on-screen text read: "Avoid Deportation App." She added that the app "is designed to help them take advantage of President Obama's non-deportation policy."
Fox News and other conservative media outlets have a long history of attacking the program. In fact, they derided it as "amnesty" when it was first introduced a year ago. Fox News even charged at the time that the program would "mak[e] it easier for acts of terrorism to be committed."
Contrary to Browne's assertions however, the app is simply a self-screening tool that will allow "DACA applicants to understand their eligibility" and offer "a searchable directory of listings for immigration legal services providers, including non-profit groups, in all 50 states."
Fox News hyped a poll showing that a majority of people think the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, would increase the deficit and raise their taxes and insurance premiums, claiming that these polls debunked what President Obama has said about the law. But nonpartisan estimates have consistently shown that the ACA lowers the deficit, IRS rules show that the law's payroll tax increases only affect high-income Americans, and reports show the law is already saving many Americans money.
The release of a month-old video showing three black students beating a white classmate on a bus in Florida has resulted in a mass outbreak of misplaced self-righteousness from the conservative media. This is their "ah-ha moment" - evidence that racism is a two-way street and that black civil rights leaders are the real bigots.
"Where is the civil rights movement?" They ask. "Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?" Contrasting civil rights leaders' actions following the killing of Trayvon Martin, the right argues that their silence in this case proves duplicitousness.
This chorus of ignorance only substantiates the right's inability to confront issues of race in an honest manner, preferring to attack those working for equality with false charges of hypocrisy.
The attack that occurred on the Florida bus was both tragic and horrific, but it is only comparable to Trayvon Martin's killing if you view the world through a one-dimensional racial lens.
The national outcry after the death of Trayvon Martin was not instantaneous. It emerged over the course of the forty-six day period after the killing when George Zimmerman had yet to be charged with a crime. In contrast, the three attackers on the Florida school bus were all arrested and indicted soon after the incident.
In the month since the attack, no one has excused the actions of the attackers, no one has suggested the victim deserved a beating, no one has rooted through social media accounts in an attempt to blame the victim, and no one suggested that he had it coming because of his choice of clothing. Conservatives engaged in all of these actions during the 46 days between the killing of Trayvon Martin and the arrest of George Zimmerman.
Right-wing media are using a new government report showing that there are a million visitors in the United States who have overstayed their visas to argue that the news will negatively impact immigration reform. However, what these media outlets are missing is that passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that recently cleared the Senate, would largely fix the problem of such overstays as the bill mandates the implementation of a biometric entry-exit data system.
On July 30, the Government Accountability Office released a study reporting that as of June 2013, more than one million visitors in the United States have overstayed their visas -- thus the term overstays. GAO defines an overstay as a "nonimmigrant who is legally admitted to the United States for an authorized period but remains in the country illegally after that period expired without obtaining an extension of stay or a change of status or meeting other specific conditions, such as claiming asylum."
In a segment highlighting the report, Fox News host Heather Nauert claimed that the "news could hurt the debate over that sweeping immigration bill that we've heard so much about."
A July 30 Washington Times article similarly asserted that "the report could hurt immigration deal" and falsely claimed that the Senate immigration bill "waters down" requirements for a biometric system. The Times wrote that the bill "say[s] only that there must be a biographic-based system, which means using a photo, and that it be limited to air and sea ports."
While the number of immigrants who overstay their visas has reportedly sharply declined in the last decade, passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill would greatly alleviate the problem. According to a February 2013 study, overstays declined by 73 percent between 2000 and 2009, thanks to enhanced security measures by DHS in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The immigration bill that passed the Senate on June 27 mandates the implementation of an exit system that will monitor when foreigners leave the country. It also mandates establishing a mandatory biometric exit data system that would require that all foreigners be fingerprinted when exiting the country." The system would have to be implemented at the 10 United States airports that support the highest volume of international air travel" within two years of the bill's passage. Such a system would then be expanded to 30 airports and major sea and land entry and exit points within six years.
A fact sheet of the bill by Sen. Bob Corker's (R-TN) office stated that the "underlying bill improves the identification of overstays through a fully implemented entry/exit system," and that Corker's amendment "goes a step further by mandating the initiation of removal proceedings for at least 90% of visa overstays - holding DHS accountable for failing to enforce the law and targeting an issue that is at the core of a policy of de facto amnesty."
According to an analysis of the bill as passed by the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would not only reduce the flow of illegal immigration, it would also greatly impact overstays. CBO concluded that the security measures in the bill would cut illegal immigration and overstays by "between one-third and one-half compared with the projected net inflow under current law."
Fox News falsely claimed California workers would be forced to participate in a proposed retirement savings program, ignoring the fact that workers would be able to opt out of the program at any time and that it is only open to workers who are not offered a retirement plan from their employers.
On the July 26 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne hyped criticisms that California is becoming a "nanny state," because of a proposal that she claimed would "force private sector workers to lose 3 percent from each paycheck," which would be deposited in a state fund and become available to workers at retirement, plus interest earnings.
But in reality no one will be forced to contribute to California's proposed Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan. The program would only be for workers whose employers don't already sponsor a pension plan or a 401(k) for their retirement, allowing them to pay into an account that would pay benefits based on account contributions and investment returns. Any workers who don't want to participate can opt out.
Ben Harris, a former senior economist with the President's Council of Economic Advisers, wrote at the Tax Policy Center's TaxVox blog that the program is "entirely voluntary," and the use of automatic enrollment which workers can opt out of has the potential to "bring more than 6 million workers into the retirement saving universe":
California's plan shows exceptional promise. By utilizing automatic enrollment, which has been proven to bolster enrollment in private 401(k) plans, the plan could bring more than 6 million workers into the retirement saving universe. It takes advantage of a pooled investment strategy to lower administrative costs and ensure a balanced investment portfolio. The benefits would be progressively distributed. Workers take the accounts with them if they switch jobs. The plan is entirely self-funded with no extra cost to taxpayers. And it's entirely voluntary; workers who do not want to contribute may opt out.
Furthermore, the plan is reportedly likely to cost the California state government nothing, as it is designed to be privately run and managed. As the National Journal reported, most workers who will be eligible for the program make less than $46,420 a year, and rely heavily on Social Security in retirement. The program would offer this "underserved population" added security in retirement.
Economists and financial experts have praised the plan, such as Shlomo Benartzi, a behavioral finance expert and professor at UCLA, and Richard Thaler, a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, who told NPR that automatic enrollment in the plan was "key" to its success.
Fox News hyped a new poll commissioned by the network to push the false claim that President Obama failed to order troops to respond to attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in an attempt to bolster its falsehood-laden narrative about the attack.
On July 26, Fox & Friends First aired a graphic showing the results of a Fox News poll, paraphrasing a question which said that Obama "didn't send troops to help Americans in Benghazi " and asked "should he have":
The full question from the Fox News poll read:
On the night of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, President Obama did not order U.S. troops to go in and help Americans at the consulate there. Do you think the president should have sent troops, or not?
Co-host Heather Nauert claimed the poll disproved that the events that occurred in Benghazi and the subsequent Fox-led scandal mongering was nothing more than pushing "phony scandals," as she alleged Obama asserted in a June 25 speech.
However, the poll question itself and its subsequent hyping by Fox News substantiates Obama's claim about "phony scandals" that are distracting Washington. As then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified in a February 7 Senate hearing, Obama ordered him and General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to "[d]o whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there" on the night of the Benghazi attacks. Following that exchange between Panetta and Obama, and before the attacks were over, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. Unfortunately, the forces arrived after the attacks were over.
In June, Fox similarly trumpeted the results of a similarly misleading Fox News poll question that asked respondents why "President Obama did not order US troops to help Americans in Benghazi." According to the graphic aired on Fox & Friends, respondents were asked if Obama did not order the response because he "didn't want to risk [the] election," or if he "believed nothing could be done." Respondents were also given the option of saying they were "unsure." In May, Fox hyped its poll that asked: "Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack."
After hyping the claim that the "totalitarian" Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) displayed bias against conservative groups by not granting fee waivers, Fox News has ignored a report refuting that allegation.
The conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) claimed in May that the EPA waived fees for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for liberal groups "about 90 percent of the time," while denying conservative groups the waivers "about 90 percent of the time." Fox News brought up the scandal on at least 12 occasions (dedicating over 18 minutes of airtime)*, hosting CEI's Chris Horner, Republican congressmen and others who blasted the disparity as representative of the "totalitarian" "life on Obama's animal farm." Fox News host and purported energy expert Eric Bolling even bizarrely claimed that this practice would "hit us at the pump":
However, a Politico analysis found a "much more modest disparity": liberal groups received the waivers 52 percent of the time, while conservative groups received them 39 percent of the time. Politico's analysis differed from CEI's in part because CEI counted a late response to a fee waiver request as a denial even if the EPA eventually granted the waiver, and because Politico included smaller green groups in its analysis. Fox has not covered the analysis as of 11 a.m. ET on July 23.
Politico noted that there are several factors that complicate attributing this small gap to political bias:
Right-wing media misleadingly hyped a congressional hearing to falsely claim that disability fraud is leading to increased claims and depleting the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. However, testimony from a Social Security Administration official at the hearing revealed that fraud is not a major problem in the disability program and demographic changes explain increased disability claims.
With their prior efforts to generate a scandal regarding the Internal Revenue Service collapsing, Fox News spent 17 minutes and 41 seconds on a federal report that found less than $20,000 of improper use of credit cards by agency employees out of more than $100 million in charges.
The report from the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration's office, released on Monday, noted that purchases made with IRS-issued credit card accounts were reviewed over a two year period ending in September of 2011. During that period, IRS had 5,241 purchase card accounts and made approximately 234,000 purchases totaling $103.2 million with the cards. In a press release, Inspector General J. Russell George said "the majority of IRS cardholders appear to use their purchase cards properly" but pointed out that the audit "identified some troubling instances of inappropriate usage."
The IG identified, based on a non-scientific sample of purchase card transactions, $3,939 in card transactions the IG considered "improper decorative and give-away items" (the IRS responded that those purchases were in fact proper under federal laws supporting purchases for training and decorative items). The IG also identified a single cardholder who "made 38 transactions totaling $2,655 for what appeared to be personal purchases."
Finally, the IG criticized $12,474 in credit card expenditures during a five-day conference that cost the government "more than 50,000"; the IRS had been authorized to spend more than double that on the week's meals, receptions, and meetings, but the IG still termed "the cost of the expenses related to this conference to be high."
Even if all of this spending was improper, which the IRS denies, it would still constitute a mere $19,068 in spending over two years.
But on Fox, this spending was treated as a major story.
Between 3:30 pm on Monday and11:30 am Tuesday, the network highlighted the improper purchases in 17 minutes and 41 seconds of coverage over seven segments - on Studio B, Special Report, On The Record, Fox & Friends First, Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, and Happening Now.