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  • Sean Hannity Devotes Full Hour On Fox To Discredited Book Full Of Clinton Smears

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News host and Trump supporter Sean Hannity devoted the full hour of his Fox News show to hyping claims presented in the discredited book Crisis In Character written by former Secret Service agent Gary Byrne.

    Hannity interviewed Byrne on the first half of the June 27 edition of Fox’s Hannity, allowing the author an uncritical platform allowing him to peddle his discredited claims and attacks against Hillary Clinton. During the second half of the show, Hannity devoted to a panel discuss Byrne’s comments and continue to attack Clinton. In what Fox News described as an “expose” with the “blacklisted” Byrne, claims such as cocaine use in the White House, fits of rage by former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and the disposal of towels covered in “bodily fluids” were pushed by Hannity and repeated by Burns.

    At no point did Hannity question Byrnes’ dubious claims or bring up the numerous contradictions that he’s made over the years in regards to these claims, including while under sworn testimony.

    On June 20, Buzzfeed reported that while Byrne claims in his book to have disposed of towels covered in “translucent and white, half gooey” substance that would be easily recognizable to “any boy lucky enough to live past his high school years,” a 1998 deposition given by Byrne directly contradicts those claims:

    Byrne testified that he saw Nelvis cleaning up the Oval Office study, holding towels, when the steward said, “I’m tired of having to clean up this crap, or this something, you know, to that effect.” Byrne went on to say that he drew his “own conclusion that there was…some kind of possible physical contact between them and the president” and got the impression that Nelvis felt it was not right. Nelvis, he further recalled, said “something about lipstick,” and he “assumed that, that it was on these towels,” though the steward didn’t say it. Byrne told the investigators that he did not personally see lipstick or other stains on the towels.

    As for their disposal, Byrne said that he advised Nelvis “to get rid of it; in other words, to throw it out” so that the people who did the laundry wouldn’t see it. After that, he said of Nelvis, “I just remember him kind of walking away, and that was it. I don’t know what he did with them. That was the end of the thing.”

    Furthermore, the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service have denounced Byrnes and his assertions as false, and accused him of having a political agenda focused on smearing Clinton. Politico reported:

    People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him.

    […]

    And if Byrne or any uniformed officer had been posted near a room the president entered, he would have been moved at least 15 yards away, to the outer edges of the security bubble — not quite what Byrne describes in his book: “I stood guard, pistol at my hip, outside the Oval Office, the last barrier before anyone saw Bill Clinton,” according to the Post, which has been teasing excerpts of the book.

    “Operationally, one who has the working knowledge of how things are done there would realize that certain of those statements do not coincide with the operational plan,” said Jan Gilhooly, AFAUSSS president and a 29-year Secret Service veteran.

    When contacted by Buzzfeed about the contradictions in his book, Byrnes’ publicist said that he would explain himself on his book tour. Fortunately for Byrne, Sean Hannity did not ask him to explain any of these issues.

  • The Supreme Court Just Exposed Right-Wing Lies In A Landmark Abortion Access Case

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 placed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Supporters of the unconstitutional law argued that HB 2’s restrictions were necessary to protect women’s health and prevent another “Kermit Gosnell scandal” -- talking points pushed by right-wing media. Writing the majority opinion of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer rebuked these anti-choice myths, saying there was unequivocal  evidence that HB 2 lacked medical benefits and posed extreme harm to Texas women.

  • Select Committee Democrats Identify Fox News As Vector For Benghazi Misinformation

    Benghazi Democrats Highlight Seven Instances Of Misinformation On Fox’s Airwaves

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Democratic members of the Benghazi House Select Committee have released a report that implicitly highlights Fox News as a key vector for perpetuating misinformation about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.

    Fox has been obsessed with using the Benghazi attacks as a political weapon to damage first President Obama and then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the network pushed for the creation of the select committee, several of its personalities acknowledged its fundamentally political nature following House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) boast that the committee had achieved its goal of damaging Clinton's poll numbers.

    The network’s evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the attacks and their aftermath during the first 20 months following the attacks, with much of the coverage rife with misinformation about debunked conspiracy theories. Those programs also provided a ready platform for Republican members of Congress to parrot Benghazi misinformation, hosting GOP members 30 times more frequently than they did Democrats.

    Here are seven times the Democratic report highlights false statements pushed in interviews on Fox News’ airwaves:

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Claim That The Military’s Posture On Night Of Attacks Was Unclear

    The report highlights Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) false suggestion during a Fox News interview that the deployment of military forces on the night of the attacks had not previously been examined (italics original, citations removed):

    On May 17, 2016, Chairman Gowdy conceded during an interview on Fox News that the military could not have gotten to Benghazi in time to save the lives of the four Americans killed that night. However, he claimed that he did not know the reasons behind the military’s global positioning decisions prior to the attacks. He stated:

    Whether or not they could have gotten there in time, I don’t think there is any issue with respect to that—they couldn’t. The next question is, why could you not? Why were you not positioned to do it?

    In fact, this specific question was investigated extensively in 2013 and 2014 by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

    For example:  

    • On February 7, 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled: “Attack on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”  

    • On March 15, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled: “The Posture of the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.”  

    • On Sept. 19, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee received a transcribed briefing entitled: “DOD’s Posture for September 11, 2013” (Part IV, Force Posture).  

    • On Oct. 10, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee received a transcribed briefing entitled: “DOD’s Force Posture in Anticipation of September 11, 2012” (Part V, General Dempsey).

    These hearings and briefings highlighted the challenges facing the Department of Defense in responding to crises and operating in Africa given the geography, size, and political environment on the continent. As a result, the report issued by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee concluded:

    The U.S. military’s response to the Benghazi attack was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of the lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding.

    Rep. Louie Gohmert’s False Claim That Help Was Deliberately Withheld

    The report highlights Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) false claim during a Fox News interview that help was deliberately withheld during the attacks (italics original, citations removed):

    Similarly, Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News in September 2014:

    They let those people die at Benghazi, they could have gotten planes there sooner, they could have gotten people there sooner, and anybody that knows anything will disregard what some of these high intelligence people have said and will get straight to the truth.

    In his interview with the Select Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta emphatically rejected these Republican accusations that Secretary Clinton or anyone else ordered him to stand down on the night of the attacks:

    Q: Did the Secretary of State ever tell you to stand down or slow the Department of Defense response?

    A: Not at all. You know, that’s a—that’s a big word, “stand down.” And let me tell you, not only did I never hear that word mentioned, but if somebody had said that, I think, you know, it would not have interfered with my orders to proceed.

    Secretary Panetta explained that no one ever ordered military forces to stand down that night:

    Q: And I just want to be clear. To your knowledge, there was no stand-down—I mean, to your knowledge, any stand-down orders given with regard to this operation on that night?

    A: No. Never, never. It would have been against everything that the military stands for. You know, the military, their whole focus is on being able to protect particularly their own. That’s what they do. To even imply that somehow the military, or someone would have said, maybe we shouldn’t go, it’s too risky, it’s crazy. It’s just not the way our military operates.

    Maj. Eric Stahl’s Claim He Could Have Gotten Plane To Benghazi Faster

    The report quotes a vice admiral rejecting the claim now-retired Air Force Reserve Maj. Eric Stahl made during a Fox News appearance that he could have gotten the military transport plane to Benghazi faster (italics original, citations removed):

    On June 11, 2014, Eric Stahl, a now-retired Air Force Reserve Major, appeared on Fox News and alleged that he could have piloted the C-17 plane from Germany to Benghazi in 4.5 hours. He stated:

    A hurried-up timeline probably would take us [an] hour-and-a-half to get off the ground and three hours and fifteen minutes to get down there. So we could’ve gone down there and gotten them [the survivors] easily.”

    [...]

    Vice Admiral Charles Leidig, the Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations at AFRICOM, rejected the C-17 pilot’s allegation:

    I’m going to try to answer this as clearly as I can. I don’t know where the major was or what he was doing that night, all right? But to get a C-17 ready, with the medical capability and the configuration required to medevac the type of injuries that we had, we had the most senior people in the military around the globe working on it. For the major to suggest that he could somehow do it better than three significant staffs is incredulous to me. You often find that officers operating at the tactical level have little understanding of the larger requirements to deploy an aircraft. So again, I find his claims to be largely without credibility.

    Donald Trump’s False Claim That Clinton Ignored Hundreds Of Personal Requests For Additional Security

    The report details presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim during a Fox News interview that then-Ambassador Christopher Stevens had sought additional security “500 or 600 times” (italics original, citations removed):

    Nevertheless, since the hearing, Republicans have used the talking point of “600 requests” ignored by Secretary Clinton to lodge unsubstantiated political attacks against her, including as part of the presidential campaign. For example, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stated on Fox News: “Look at Benghazi, our ambassador. He wired her 500 or 600 times asking for help.”

    The Washington Post Fact Checker addressed Trump’s claim, calling it “a whopper” because no requests for additional security went to Secretary Clinton.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Promotion Of The Unsubstantiated Document “Separat[ion]” Story

    The report says  Gowdy used a Fox News interview to promote the report that Raymond Maxwell, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Maghreb affairs, had claimed that top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jacob Sullivan had been “part of an operation to ‘separate’ damaging documents” about Benghazi before they were turned over for review (italics original, citations removed):

    On October 17, 2014, Chairman Gowdy was interviewed on Fox News by Greta Van Susteren, who asked if he believed Mr. Maxwell’s allegation that “documents were tossed out.” In response, the Chairman stated:

    What you would do is what I’m going to do Greta, and that is, give Mr. Maxwell an opportunity to say what he perceived to happen and he’s going to have to give us the names of the other people who were involved and then we’re going to give them an opportunity to say whether or not they have a different perspective. It’s going to be an investigation. And if there is a dispute as to what happened then we’ll let your audience decide who has more credibility.

    By the time Chairman Gowdy made this statement, however, his staff had already interviewed Mr. Maxwell without including, inviting, or even notifying Democratic Members or staff. Mr. Maxwell apparently identified for Republican staff a second witness that he claimed was present during this document review at the State Department. Mr. Maxwell identified this person as someone who could corroborate his allegations and someone he believes is credible.

    Then, on October 16—one day before Chairman Gowdy appeared on Fox News—his staff interviewed this second witness, again without including Democrats. However, this second witness did not substantiate Mr. Maxwell’s claims. To the contrary, he did not recall ever having been in the document review session Mr. Maxwell described, he said he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department, and he reported that he never engaged in or was aware of any destruction of documents.

    The report goes on to say that in testimony before the committee Maxwell said he was now unsure of the person who could substantiate his claim, was unable to remember if it was a man or woman, and had no evidence that documents were scrubbed. It also includes denials from the deputy office director in the Office of Maghreb Affairs, Mills, and Sullivan.

    Sen. Rand Paul’s False Claim That Ambassador Susan Rice “Deliberately Misled The Public"

    The report includes testimony from Ambassador Susan Rice regarding whether she had, as Sen. Rand Paul claimed during a Fox News interview, “deliberately misled the public” in an interview shortly after the attacks:

    Q: Similarly, on June 5, Ambassador, June 5, 2013, Senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul appeared on FOX News and stated that you had, I quote, “directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi,” end of quote. Did you directly and deliberately mislead the public over Benghazi?

    A: I did not directly or deliberately mislead the public on Benghazi.

    Q: Were you aware of or involved in perpetuating any kind of an intentionally false or misleading narrative about the Benghazi attacks?

    A: No.

    Q: Some have argued that it was false because you should have known by that time that there had not been a protest. How would you respond to those critics?

    A: First of all, I did not know at the time that there had not been a protest. I was going off the best current assessment of the intelligence community. And the intelligence community subsequently made clear that they changed their assessment to conclude that there was not a protest or a demonstration several days after my appearance on the Sunday shows.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s False Claim That The State Department Hadn’t Provided Any Documents To The Committee

    The report states of Gowdy’s claim on Fox News that the State Department had yet to deliver “a single, solitary scrap of paper” that the committee had requested (italics original, citations removed):

    The following day, on May 15, 2015, Chairman Gowdy appeared on Fox News to argue that the State Department was intentionally obstructing the Select Committee’s investigation:

    It is a conscious decision not to cooperate with a legitimate congressional inquiry… I don’t want the drama. I want the documents. They’ve had half a year and I have not gotten a single, solitary scrap of paper.

    On May 21, 2015, PolitiFact rated Chairman Gowdy’s claim “Mostly False” after noting that the Select Committee’s own interim report in 2015 stated that the State Department provided 850 pages of documents months earlier:

    The House Benghazi Committee’s own report notes that in response to a November 2014 request for emails from Clinton and her top aides, the State Department has produced 850 pages of Clinton’s emails.

    PolitiFact also noted that the State Department “argues that Clinton’s emails were top priority, that many of the staffers’ emails have been provided in previous document requests, and that their response time is limited by department resources.”

    For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com

  • CNN And Fox News’ Sunday Media Criticism Shows Note Ethical Issues With CNN’s Lewandowski Hire

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures on CNN’s Reliable Sources and Fox News’ MediaBuzz criticized CNN’s decision to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hosts and guests on the two media criticism programs highlighted the various “ethical” and “controversial” issues surrounding Lewandowski’s hiring, including Lewandowski’s history of aggressively handling the press and the ambiguity surrounding his possible non-disparagement agreements with Trump.

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a salaried political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns over the various potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring.

    There are still several unknowns about Lewandowski's new position: whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump, which would preclude Lewandowski from criticizing his former boss; whether Lewandowski’s history of aggressive behavior toward journalists was taken into account during the hiring process; and whether an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski is a conflict of interest for CNN.

    CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media criticism program Reliable Sources, said on June 26 that Lewandowski is “the most controversial addition to CNN in several years,” noting that his “hostile” behavior toward reporters and the uncertainty regarding any non-disparagement agreements raise “ethical questions.”

    Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik shamed CNN on Reliable Sources for hiring a “weasel to tell you about” “what’s going on inside the Trump campaign,” and told CNN to “give your money back.”

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz also slammed CNN on his program MediaBuzz, calling the decision a “sad move” that doesn’t help “CNN’s credibility in covering Donald Trump.” Kurtz specifically noted Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement and “rough relations with some reporters.”

    CNN’s own staff have heavily criticized Lewandowski for his “inexcusable” and “unprofessional” behavior. Media Matters has noted, though, that Lewandowski’s hire is at odds with how the network has responded to previous attacks on employees: in February, Trump ally Roger Stone was banned from the network after he wrote a series of offensive, incendiary tweets attacking CNN media figures.