Fox News personalities claimed that a new rule change by Democrats in the Senate is hypocritical because both parties have obstructed when in the minority, ignoring the historically high level of GOP obstruction of President Obama's executive and judicial nominees.
On November 21, Democrats changed Senate rules so that "judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote."
During a November 21 broadcast of Fox News' America's News HQ, co-host Alisyn Camerota asked Geraldo Rivera whether GOP gridlock was to blame for Democrats moving to change Senate rules. Rivera responded, "You know, I wish we could pull up some of the newscasts from eight years ago during the Bush Administration and you would hear the same thing. ... This is a game that they have played historically since the third president--since Thomas Jefferson":
During a press conference on the rule change, Fox White House Correspondent Ed Henry questioned Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest about whether Obama was being obstructionist because in 2005 he said he would block Bush nominees because he wanted Bush to fix guidelines on lead paint. Henry asked, "wasn't that obstruction?":
But Fox' false equivalency ignores the fact that recent GOP obstruction is unprecedented. Fox personalities ignored the GOP filibustering of Obama's judicial nominees who have been described as highly-qualified, non-controversial, and diverse.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained that GOP obstruction was "the highest that's ever been recorded" during the last Congressional session. People For The American Way (PFAW) pointed out the "unprecedented" level of obstruction in a chart of cloture votes on executive nominees:
In fact, comparing Bush administration nominees to Obama's shows that the GOP is far more obstructionist today than Democrats were during the Bush presidency, with regard to the percentage of nominees confirmed and the amount of time nominees wait until confirmation vote. Right-Wing Watch, a project of PFAW, published several more charts illustrating these points:
Media figures are comparing the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. This comparison ignores a crucial difference: Nobody has died because of problems with HealthCare.gov, whereas at least 1,833 people died as a result of Katrina.
The media have repeatedly referred to crises during the Obama administration as "Obama's Katrina."
Despite his previous criticism of Fox News for shilling Benghazi myths, Fox host Geraldo Rivera ignored the Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman, an independent review, and testimony by a former defense secretary to push the falsehood that the Obama administration had adequate warning to prevent the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack.
On October 17, Fox reporter James Rosen spent nearly ten minutes asking White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about a press release from the White House on September 10, 2012, that was highlighted at a Republican-led subcommittee hearing. Rivera appeared on Fox & Friends October 18 to comment on Rosen's questioning, suggesting that the press release shows that the Obama administration had notice of a threat to the diplomatic facility in Benghazi but did nothing to stop it:
RIVERA: What does the press release say the day before the attacks on the Cairo embassy and the consulate in Benghazi and other facilities around the country? The press release on September 10, 2012, says there is a heightened terror alert, be on the lookout, all our people have now been informed. So there was clearly notice, there was an appreciation on September 10, 2012, that our facilities overseas were in peril.
The press release Rivera cited doesn't actually say anything about a heightened terror alert or specific warnings to overseas facilities; it simply says that the president met with senior national security advisers to discuss specific measures being taken to prevent another attack like the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as measures being taken to protect Americans and facilities abroad. After all, there have been hundreds of attacks on American diplomatic targets since the 1970s.
Rivera's suggestion that the administration was warned about an attack and failed to stop it echoes a repeated Benghazi myth and contradicts hearings and investigations that have shown no specific warning about the attack in Benghazi. Three days after the attack, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that he had "seen nothing yet that indicates" the administration "had information that could have prevented the event." The State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was convened to investigate the attack "found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks." In testimony to a February Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the attack, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained that "there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack" in Benghazi.
It is surprising that Rivera is pushing this myth given his past criticism of his Fox News colleagues for pushing Benghazi falsehoods. In October 2012, Rivera said that "we have to stop politicizing" the attack with the "preposterous allegations, reckless allegations" -- pushed by Fox's Sean Hannity -- that administration officials watched the attack unfold in real time. In November, Rivera criticized Eric Bolling, saying he was "misleading the American people" for falsely saying no help was sent once the attack in Benghazi began. Less than a month ago, Rivera explained that it "was not true" that the military could have intervened in time to save American lives once the attack began, a myth that has regularly been pushed by Fox News.
From the September 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera cited a U.S. census study which found that many poor Americans own appliances to paint entitlement recipients as lazy or unwilling to work. This analysis ignores the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans receiving entitlements are elderly, disabled, or were members of working households.
On the September 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly and Rivera claimed that government benefits are creating a disincentive for work. Rivera concluded that "it's one thing to be poor in India or even Mexico, it's another thing to be poor, according to these statistics, in the United States":
O'Reilly's attempt to demonize poor Americans as lazy, comfortable, or unwilling to work mischaracterizes the vast majority of Americans who receive benefits. According to a 2012 report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), 9 out of 10 Americans receiving entitlement benefits were either elderly, seriously disabled, or members of a working household in 2010:
91 percent of the benefit dollars from entitlement and other mandatory programs went to the elderly (people 65 and over), the seriously disabled, and members of working households. People who are neither elderly nor disabled -- and do not live in a working household -- received only 9 percent of the benefits.
Moreover, the vast bulk of that 9 percent goes for medical care, unemployment insurance benefits (which individuals must have a significant work history to receive), Social Security survivor benefits for the children and spouses of deceased workers, and Social Security benefits for retirees between ages 62 and 64. Seven out of the 9 percentage points go for one of these four purposes.
O'Reilly's segment on poverty in American also dismissed a September 3 report which found that income inequality is wider than it has been in almost a century. Rivera acknowledged the report but downplayed its findings, reasoning that government entitlements create a disincentive for the poor to work and "bootstrap themselves."
Contrary to O'Reilly and Rivera's claims, the CBPP also notes that the safety net has become more work-based, as the United States has significantly reduced assistance to the jobless poor and increased assistance to low-income working families. Programs like SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and Medicaid have done much more to promote work over the last 30 years. For example, the EITC has boosted employment among single mothers and has produced large declines in the number of single mothers receiving welfare.
Appearing on Fox & Friends in the wake of a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Geraldo Rivera's claim that Martin brought about his own death by dressing in a hooded sweatshirt the night of the killing was shocking, but not surprising. Echoing earlier comments he made on the program, Rivera proclaimed: "You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug."
It was shocking because the idea of a well-paid commentator going on television and blaming an unarmed teen for being shot while walking home inside a gated community because he wore a hoodie -- because he tried to look like "a thug" as Rivera put it -- is repellent.
So yes, Rivera's comments were shockingly awful and irresponsible. As was his claim that the all-female jury "would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did." But his comments weren't surprising, because Fox News and too much of the right-wing media have spent the last 16 months zeroing in on the memory of a dead teenager and doing their best to denigrate it.
Apart from the far right's gleeful and disrespectful response to the not guilty verdict, there remains a separate thread of loud tastelessness that dates back to 2012 and focuses on the victim for all the wrong reasons, suggesting he somehow got what he deserved. (Or what he "sought.")
Remember the fake, menacing photo of Martin that right-wing sites passed around last year? And when The Daily Caller published tweets from the slain boy's closed Twitter account? Tweets that conservatives then used to portray the teen as a thug?
This week, Fox favorite Ten Nugent practically danced on Martin's grave, accusing the dead teenager of being a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" who was "responsible" for being shot by a volunteer neighborhood watchman on the night of February 26, 2012.
Comments by Rivera, Nugent and others were proof that a smear campaign was in full swing this week and a reminder the attacks are a continuation of the foul smears first unleashed in the wake of the killing. At the time, the attacks were an ugly attempt to justify Martin's death, to shift the blame away from the gunman, Zimmerman, and to cloud the debate about Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law. (Rivera in 2012: "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.")
Trayvon Martin deserves better. Indeed, every victim, and particularly every victim of gun violence in America, deserves better than to have a well-funded media machine like the one led by Fox News targeting shooting victims for endless attacks on their character and on the choices, large and small, they made while alive.
There's something spectacularly misguided about wanting to turn an unarmed shooting victim, an unarmed minor, into the bad guy and blame him for walking home with Skittles and an iced tea. But that's what conservatives in the press have been doing, on and off, for nearly a year-and-a-half now.
From the July 14 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday:
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From the July 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Geraldo Rivera announced on Fox News that he's not running for the U.S. Senate. Rivera had previously used his Fox News platform to test the waters for his potential Republican candidacy.
In January, Rivera said on his Cumulus radio program that he was "truly contemplating" running for the U.S. Senate. He then used platforms on Fox News and Fox News Latino to, in his words, "hone a message" for his possible campaign until "it's no longer legal" to do so (a move that drew criticism from media ethicists). Rivera appeared on Fox & Friends and wrote columns for Fox News Latino (see here, and here) to outline his campaign's message and deliver, in the words of Fox host Steve Doocy, his "stump speech."
Speaking on Fox & Friends this morning, Rivera said that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's special election announcement effectively ended the possibility of him running, and said he'll "stay right here" on Fox. Rivera expanded on his decision in a Fox News Latino column, in which he invoked the The Lord of the Rings and Don Quixote.
Had Rivera run for office, he likely would have met the same unsuccessful fate as several other recent Fox News employees-turned-candidates. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich won publicity, but not the Republican presidential nomination, in 2012. Angela McGlowan finished a distant third in a 2010 Republican primary for a congressional seat. And Pete Snyder lost his bid to be the 2013 Republican nominee for Virginia Lt. Governor.
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 has repeatedly invoked the Boston bombings to suggest that immigration reform could exacerbate existing problems within the immigration system. However, their commentary actually highlights shortcomings that the bipartisan Senate bill will address in full.
Fox News pushed Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's theory that the supervised release of some undocumented immigrants is "payback" for her state's immigration enforcement efforts. But the release was nationwide, not just in Arizona, and was in response to impending budget cuts from sequestration.
Geraldo Rivera asked Fox News colleague Karl Rove when he would "start vetting me" as a U.S. Senate candidate through Rove's recently formed political group during an interview on Rivera's radio program. Rove replied that he would when Rivera gets "serious about being a candidate" and that it's "not enough to just talk about it, you've got to file a committee and go raise money."
Both Rivera and Rove have been using their Fox News platforms to further their respective political interests. Rivera has said that he's seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey and will continue to appear on Fox News to "hone a message" until "it's no longer legal" to do so (a move that has drawn criticism from media ethicists).
Rove, meanwhile, has used his Fox News platform to push the interests of his group American Crossroads, which recently launched the Conservative Victory Project. The New York Times reports that the group will work "to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts."
Rove's project has come under heavy fire from conservative pundits, including Fox News contributors, for favoring the Republican establishment over conservative principles. Rivera defended Rove, stating: "I agree with you that the Republican Party has to be a lot more open-minded and not nearly as rigidly ideological and has to stop killing themselves in the primaries." He later added that he hopes "the GOP heeds your advice, which is stellar as usual." Rivera recently wrote in a Fox News Latino column that he's a Republican but "voted for Obama/Biden" because of abortion, immigration reform, and marriage equality.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Journalism veterans and media ethicists are urging Geraldo Rivera to give up his many media perches if he intends to run for U.S. Senate, saying his Cumulus radio program and Fox News platform give him an unfair and unethical advantage.
Since Rivera first revealed his intention to explore a run for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey on his syndicated radio show, he has promoted the idea on Fox News Channel and the Fox News Latino website.
During an appearance Friday on Fox & Friends, Rivera suggested that he will continue to appear on the network while he "hone[s] a message," and do so until "it's no longer legal."
On the January 31 edition of his Cumulus radio show, Rivera told listeners that he is "truly contemplating" running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. Following a discussion this morning of various news events, including the suicide attack in Turkey, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Rivera about the "firestorm" he had created by announcing a possible run. In response, Rivera launched into what co-host Steve Doocy appropriately labeled a "stump speech."
In both his Fox & Friends appearance and his Fox News Latino column, Rivera touted his stance on various political issues. During the Fox & Friends interview, Rivera suggested that he is a "modern Republican" that could appeal to "a point of view that is unrepresented in states like New Jersey."
Asked to comment on the potential conflicts and unfair advantage of his candidacy by email, Rivera responded with this statement:
The campaign is still a year away, so I still have significant exploration ahead before I commit. In the meantime the ideas I published today in my FNL column are the ideas that I've been unabashedly articulating for years on Fox and here on Cumulus radio.
Cumulus Spokesperson Golden Davidson also defended Rivera and hinted that he is unlikely to be asked to give up his radio perch anytime soon, stating in an email:
Talk radio hosts talk about lots of things and if at some point this is more than talk we'll address the issue appropriately then.
But mixing his political aspirations and his media posts did not sit well with several news veterans and journalism observers who told Media Matters that Rivera was engaged in a clear conflict of interest that should be stopped immediately.
"When I first saw this, the thing that really concerns me again is not so much Geraldo doing this, but I am surprised that Fox News is letting itself be used this way," said David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun's media critic. "It is really, honestly one of the most troubling [things], really wrong that Fox allows itself to play this political role the way it did with [Rick] Santorum and with [Newt] Gingrich, to go on as long as they did into those primaries and be on the air. These guys have benefited enormously from being on Fox and having access to that large and active political audience they have.