Fox continued its effort to target the Obama administration with manufactured scandals, fearmongering that IRS commissioner Sarah Hall Ingram will use the IRS' authority under the Affordable Care Act to discriminate against conservatives by denying or postponing approval for medical procedures.
Mainstream media have dismissed recent scandal mongering by sources like Fox News over the initial de-classified talking points used to describe the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, as baseless and a distraction.
Recently released emails that detailed the creation of the initial talking points used to describe the attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi confirmed past reporting that changes made to the talking points were not political and were approved by intelligence agencies. Indeed, CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett concluded on CBS Evening News that the released emails proved that "[t]here is no evidence... [that] the White House orchestrated these changes."
The Washington Post and The New York Times went further, declaring the continued scandal mongering over the talking points drew continued focus to a "phony issue."
In a May 16 editorial, the Post asserted that conservative media and Republicans "[b]y focusing on the phony issue of talking points... are missing the opportunity to press for needed reforms at State, and a more active U.S. policy in the Middle East."
A May 16 New York Times editorial also noted that there was "never a scandal to begin with" regarding the Benghazi talking points, and that the emails recently released by the White House "made clear that there was no White House cover-up." The Times added that the fixation on the Benghazi talking points non-scandal has distracted from continued Republican obstruction:
While Washington was arguing about e-mail messages about Benghazi, it wasn't paying attention to the hundreds of thousands of defense furloughs announced this week because of the Republican-imposed sequester, which will become a significant drag on economic growth. It wasn't focusing on the huge drop in the deficit, which has yet to silence the party's demands for more austerity. And apparently it's considered old news that Republicans are blocking several of the president's cabinet nominees.
For those who are wondering whether this week's political windstorms will hinder Mr. Obama's second-term agenda, here's a bulletin: That agenda was long ago imperiled by the obstruction of Republicans. (See Guns. Jobs. Education. And, very possibly, Immigration.)
Despite media's dismissal of a Benghazi talking points scandal and subsequent distraction, Fox has continued to draw from that well. During the May 17 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson falsely suggested that the CIA did not approve the finalized talking points. Co-host Steve Doocy baselessly added that the State Department and the White House said "wait a minute, we can't talk about this" in reaction to the first draft, and that they forced the CIA to remove information in the talking points identifying a group responsible for the attack.
Fox News figures are using newly released internal emails to falsely suggest that the intelligence community never connected the attack in Benghazi, Libya to protests against an anti-Islam video. In fact, every version of the talking points, including the CIA's original draft, linked the attack to protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which were part of a series of global riots and protests that were partly in response to increased awareness of the video.
On May 15, the White House released more than 100 pages of emails about the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The Los Angeles Times noted of the emails: "Even the very first version of the talking points suggests that the attack was inspired by the protests in Cairo over the anti-Muslim video, a perfectly plausible supposition at the time. That undermines the Republican claim that administration officials concocted the notion of a Benghazi protest to protect the president from a perception that Al Qaeda was ascendant again." Indeed, the original version of the talking points produced by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated:
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.
But Fox News figures have ignored this to predictably use the emails to criticize the Obama administration for misleading Americans when officials publicly linked the Benghazi attacks to the anti-Islam video.
Fox News and Fox Business previously portrayed electric carmaker Tesla Motors as another "failure" of the Obama administration's green energy investments. But since it is now clear that the company is doing well, both networks have developed amnesia about its federal loan, with Tucker Carlson claiming that "they don't take any government subsidies at all."
Tesla recently reiterated its plans to repay a loan granted through the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program ahead of schedule. This followed a series of positive developments, including the company's first quarterly profits and a shining review of the Model S sedan by Consumer Reports. Financial services firm Morgan Stanley recently told Raw Story that "Many funds approach an investment opportunity by first asking: does the company do something better or cheaper than anybody else? Tesla is beginning to convince the market it may do both."
But no matter how Tesla fares in the coming years, it seems likely that Fox News will change its reporting to follow suit. In 2012, Fox News' claim that Tesla was a "failed" company was eventually adopted by the campaign of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Later, Fox News admitted Tesla was a "success", eventually forgetting its federal loan in the process.
Video created by Max Greenberg and John Kerr.
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade reacted to a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report showing the 2013 deficit dropping by $200 billion by lamenting that the report might discourage further austerity measures.
In a May 14 report, the non-partisan CBO estimated that in 2013, the federal deficit will be $200 billion lower than previously projected, the smallest deficit since 2008. The report also predicted that the deficit over the next 10 years will be $618 billion less than previously thought.
Kilmeade reacted to this news with calls for increased austerity, lamenting that the "positive news" in the CBO report might lead away from a mindset of "fiscal discipline." Kilmeade concluded, "I just hope we still feel the urgency to get our budget in order."
However, Kilmeade's concern may be misplaced. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein noted in a May 14 post, the new CBO estimate makes the deficit look "downright manageable":
[T]he debt disaster that has obsessed the political class for the last three years is pretty much solved, at least for the next 10 years or so.
In fact, that's probably too much deficit reduction, too quickly.
Many economists agree that too much in spending cuts too quickly can hurt economic growth. In an April 27 post on his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called continued efforts at deficit reduction through austerity measures "very bad policy," explaining that recent declines in government spending -- at the federal, state, and municipal levels -- have contributed to slow economic growth. Similarly, in a February 8 Guardian op-ed, the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker asserted that "deficit reduction is throwing people out of work" and concluded that "we need deficits today to fill a huge hole in demand created by the private sector."
Additionally, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that austerity has led to a decline in government spending, which has turned into a drag on economic growth:
Fox News accused President Obama of dismissing as a "sideshow" four Americans killed in attacks in Benghazi, Libya, by distorting remarks he made at a press conference.
During a May 13 press conference, Obama responded to a question regarding the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi and the initial talking points used to describe the attack.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson accused Obama of dismissing the victims of the attack as a "sideshow," using a version of Obama's response cropped by Fox:
CARLSON: Three things jump out at me. There was the question, right off the bat. The mainstream media is finally paying attention to this story. The president probably knew he was going to possibly get the question now after ABC jumped into the game last week. But to say that is a sideshow, is that offensive to the four people who died in Benghazi? If you're one of those family members today, do you think that's offensive to call this a sideshow?
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Well he said that talk--
CARLSON: We still have not apprehended anybody for those murders, number one. If he's talking about the talking points being a sideshow, you now have people saying that they were changed 12 times and what the White House said originally -- they only changed two words -- may not be the truth.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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The crew at Fox & Friends can't handle the fact that government documents are beginning to acknowledge same-sex couples, blaming the "P.C. Police" for new, gay-inclusive language on federal student aid forms.
In April, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would be making minor changes to the language used on its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to recognize families headed by same-sex couples, including replacing the terms "Mother/Stepmother" and "Father/Stepfather" with the terms "Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)" and "Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)."
During the May 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy criticized the change, warning that "the P.C. police are loose in the federal government":
As the Fox & Friends crew struggled to think of reasons to criticize the language change - like co-host Gretchen Carlson's concern that parents will "start fighting over which one is 1 and which one is 2" -- Fox's chyron displayed several headlines suggesting that the new language somehow punished heterosexual parents:
Later in the show, the Fox & Friends crew returned to the subject, again displaying a "P.C. police" graphic and airing viewer complaints about the language change, including one comment that a couple is "now having a domestic dispute" because they can't agree on which parent should be deemed "#1":
In reality, the minor change in FAFSA language is a "fair, effective, and efficient" way to reduce bias that discriminates against students raised in same-sex households who seek financial aid to fund their college education. Fox's outrage over such a common sense change is just the latest example of the network's inability (or unwillingness) to accept and recognize same-sex relationships.
ABC News is buying into right-wing scandal mongering over the tragic September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, with an "exclusive" report that doesn't stand up to minimal scrutiny, with flaws that are being used by the right to call for a major investigation.
The so-called "exclusive" report, posted at ABCNews.com, purports to uncover dramatic new developments in the right wing's Benghazi witch hunt, but in reality it is little more than a rehash of previously covered debates over whose input was given to the early draft of intelligence talking points put together in the early days of the investigation into the attacks. None of this largely rehashed debate disproves what Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified in November: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups.
The May 10 ABC News report focuses on the much discussed CIA talking points that were prepared in the days immediately after the September 11, 2012, attack, and which were used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in her appearance on several news programs to discuss those attacks. Nothing in the ABC News report focuses on the actual events of September 11, 2012, only on the editing process of a talking points memo and what information should be made available for public dissemination during an ongoing investigation into a terrorist attack:
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
Karl goes on to explore whether this disproves comments White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made in late November 2012, more than 2 months after the attack, about the role the White House and the State Department played in editing the final version of those talking points; whether the editing process proves that the White House was engaged in an effort to downplay the role of terrorism in its public statements immediately after the attack; and whether the editing process proves that the talking points were scrubbed of references to terror solely for political reasons.
Karl's report feeds into the right-wing conspiracy mongering over the Benghazi attacks and the desperate campaign to fabricate a cover-up. Friday morning, Fox News hosts cited the report as evidence that a major investigation was needed.
Yet Karl's speculation is easily disproved.
The entirety of the ABC News report focuses on emails that lay out the process of drafting the intelligence community's talking points and the debate over whether to include references to terrorist groups, and whether those references were "scrubbed" to cover up failures at the State Department. What Karl doesn't point out is that the former head of the CIA said that this is not the case. After Petraeus gave closed-door testimony before congressional leaders in November, The New York Times reported:
David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.
Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack -- including Al Qaeda's franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah -- were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
Karl also forwards the notion that the White House was aggressively trying to downplay the role that terrorism played for political reasons while the President was calling the attacks an act of terror at the same time. In his first public comments after the attack, President Obama very clearly referred to the attack as an act of terror. One day later, Obama again referred to the Benghazi attacks as an act of terror. Those comments came September 12 and September 13. Yet Karl implies that edits to a document that were made on September 14, after Obama had already labeled the attack an act of terror, demonstrate that the administration was trying to downplay the role that terror played.
This leaves Karl with the "exclusive" that emails weighing in on early drafts of the talking points amounts to a contradiction with comments Carney made in November:
"Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC's best assessments of what they thought had happened," Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012. "The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word 'consulate' to 'diplomatic facility' because 'consulate' was inaccurate."
But as Carney notes in comments printed at the end of the ABC News report, there has never been a question that multiple agencies had input into the formation of the talking points, which in the end were drafted by the intelligence community:
"The CIA drafted these talking points and redrafted these talking points," Carney said. "The fact that there are inputs is always the case in a process like this, but the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive. They corrected the description of the building or the facility in Benghazi from consulate to diplomatic facility and the like. And ultimately, this all has been discussed and reviewed and provided in enormous levels of detail by the administration to Congressional investigators, and the attempt to politicize the talking points, again, is part of an effort to, you know, chase after what isn't the substance here."
ABC is left with a major exclusive dissecting the distinction between input and editing.
Fox News ignored congressional testimony that confirmed military leadership ordered a small team of troops to remain in Tripoli in order to protect embassy staff there from possible threats during the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, instead baselessly speculating that the president must have personally told the force to "stand down."
During the May 8 congressional hearings on the Benghazi attacks, witness Gregory Hicks -- who was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks -- explained that his team had proposed that a small group of four special forces troops leave Tripoli to provide aid in Benghazi, but that they were not authorized to do so by Special Operations Command Africa, a division of the U.S. military:
REP. ROBIN KELLY: You said that four military personnel were told not to the board that plane and that this call came from Special Operations Command Africa. Is that right?
HICKS: That's what I understand.
Fox News ignored this portion of Hicks' testimony. On Hannity the night of the hearings, host Sean Hannity disputed Fox News contributor Juan Williams' accurate explanation that "the military made this decision" to baselessly speculate the president, as Commander in Chief, must have been involved in the decision making process to ask the special forces to remain in Tripoli:
HANNITY: Wait a minute, we don't have a Commander in Chief or chain of command,and that somebody along the way, we don't know who eight months later, made a decision and told them to stand down while Americans were under fire and getting killed in Benghazi?
Fox News' Stuart Varney portrayed a natural gas automaker as a "green energy failure," even though he pushed the federal government to make transit agencies buy vehicles from the same company only a few months prior.
Vehicle Production Group (VPG), a Michigan-based company that makes wheelchair-accessible vans, recently ceased operations and closed its offices. The company, which had drawn attention for designing the first vehicle specifically for people with disabilities, was awarded a $50 million conditional loan commitment in 2010 to develop vans with natural gas engines as part of the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.
On Wednesday, Varney depicted the company as "the latest embarrassment for the [Obama administration's] green energy policy" on Fox & Friends:
But Varney did not mention that VPG received its loan under a program that President George W. Bush signed into law, or that the natural gas vehicles it was intended to subsidize are a component of T. Boone Pickens' energy plan, which Fox News personalities have previously supported. Pickens funded and advocated for VPG himself.
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.
From the May 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Republican congressmen are giving credibility to Alex Jones and his conservative fringe website Infowars.com, which popularized a conspiracy theory that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for nefarious purposes. The conspiracy theory has now inspired legislation known as the AMMO Act of 2013, which seeks to limit the ammunition purchasing power of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even though the underlying theory was based on flawed math and a mischaracterization of the facts.
Fox News is denying the partisan nature of the Republican campaign to tar Obama administration officials with allegations of misconduct following the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. A Republican-led hearing on the issue follows recent claims of a Republican lawyer -- whose partiality has been questioned -- that she is representing Benghazi "whistleblowers," and comes only weeks after the release of a partisan congressional report on Benghazi authored by five Republican committee chairmen.
On Wednesday, May 8, the GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a new hearing, titled: "Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage." The hearing will include three named witnesses -- the so-called whistleblowers -- one of whom has testified in Congress about the Benghazi incident before.
During a May 6 discussion about the hearing on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade declared that "politics is out, and whistleblowers are in," apparently deciding that because there are self-identified whistleblowers on an issue, it's no longer a politicized topic. Kilmeade subsequently complained that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn't pursue Benghazi as an issue enough during his campaign. He then returned to denying that the GOP's obsession with Benghazi is "politically driven":
KILMEADE: [A]nyone who says this is politically driven, or it's against the president, that's out the window. Because if there's a non-political season in this world in American politics, it's now. The mid-terms aren't close --
STEVE DOOCY [co-host]: Sure.
KILMEADE: And the president is not running.
Beyond the Republican-controlled House continuing to hold hearings on Benghazi, the lawyers claiming to represent some of the witnesses at the hearing, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, are long-time Republicans known for pushing false claims in the media and for having conflicts of interest in their professional work. In November, Toensing pushed a false link between the Benghazi attack and the resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus. Toensing also pushed the false claim that former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame was not, in fact, covert, and that her position was widely known. Additionally, Toensing and diGenova were involved in a 1998 news report about President Clinton that was discredited and later retracted. They have also been criticized for a conflict of interest for serving in a dual role in separate Justice Department investigations and for dropping "the air of impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism required" by their roles as leaders of a congressional investigation.
A congressional report on Benghazi that was hyped by Fox News to smear Hillary Clinton was authored by five Republican committee chairmen. The ranking Democrats on those committees sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner criticizing him for releasing such a partisan report, which they said is "unnecessarily politicizing our national security":
We are writing to strongly object to your decision to issue a partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi and dispense with House procedures for vetting official committee reports to correct inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. By abandoning regular order and excluding Democratic Members entirely from this process, you are unnecessarily politicizing our national security and casting aside the system used by the House for generations to avoid making obvious mistakes, errors, and omissions.
That report, which singled out Clinton for supposedly signing a cable about security concerns in Benghazi in the months before the attack, was undermined by media reports which showed that every cable that leaves the State Department bears the name of the Secretary of State, regardless if the secretary saw or approved it. A member of the independent Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack called these accusations by the GOP against Clinton "total bullshit," and the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler called the claims "absurd." In a Fact Checker blog post he concluded that Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa had "no basis or evidence to show that Clinton had anything to do with this cable."