Fox host Geraldo Rivera demolished his network's latest Benghazi hoax, even as his colleagues worked to prop up their distortions of Ret. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell's testimony on the administration's response to the attack.
On May 1, Lovell, who served as deputy intelligence director at the U.S. Africa Command in Germany (AFRICOM) during the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, testified that "we should have tried" to rescue the victims of the attack, yet later clarified that he did not mean to suggest that the government had the capability to send additional help that it failed to utilize. Fox News was quick to highlight the first portion of Lovell's testimony as "incredibly damning" evidence of the administration's negligence, yet failed to cover the full context of Lovell's remarks. Mainstream media similarly misrepresented the testimony.
Fox continued to push the myth that the administration had refused to send military assistance to Benghazi on the March 2 edition of Fox & Friends, claiming that Lovell "made it very clear we didn't even try to rescue those guys" and arguing: "Logic tells you that you would think that there would be some type of mission to get people out" -- arguments that were dismantled later in the show when Rivera described the realities of military coordination. Rivera called his Fox News colleagues' claims a "myth," pointing out that "we have never, as far as I know, never mounted a rescue operation in the time parameters we had here, at all" and "it would never have been mounted, that mission was a suicide mission, it could not have happened" (emphasis added):
RIVERA: Admiral Mike Mullen, appointed by President Bush, says there was no military asset available. I have investigated this from the Air Force assets in Aviano to the special forces in Tripoli and in Italy and in other places. Whatever was available in our fleet resources, AFRICOM, there was no forces that could have intervened. There was no gunship available as the myth suggested. There was no 'stand down order' given by concentrating on the -- and the military is not the SWAT team. They're not the fire department.
CO-HOST STEVE DOOCY: Geraldo, they could have buzzed them with a drone.
HASSELBECK: Doesn't it go back to the first paints that they should have paid attention --
RIVERA: I don't know. All I know is that when you, for instance, look at how we rescue the guy from the Mirsk, Alabama or how we go into the camps in Somalia, these are precisely planned, daylight operations largely. They involve three days of intense comprehensive plans -- we have never, as far as I know, never mounted a rescue operation in the time parameters we had here, at all.
RIVERA: Listen, I have been with so many fallen and wounded GIs from Afghanistan 12 times, Iraq 12 times, Somalia, I have a lot of African experience. If the jets Aviano had scrambled, they would have had to jettison their tanks at night, going over to a situation that they could have easily been taken down by a handheld RPG. To what end? We didn't have a target. It could would have been mounted, that mission was a suicide mission, it could not have happened.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already debunked claims that further assistance could have been sent from U.S. military bases and even criticized this "cartoonish impression of the military," which has ignored the need for "planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way."
Lovell, too, was very clear about the limits of military's capability to respond. From his May 1 remarks:
REP. JERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I want to read to you the conclusion of the chairman of the [Armed Services] Committee, the Republican chairman Buck McKeon, who conducted formal briefings and oversaw that report. He said, quote, "I'm pretty well satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened, and how quickly it dissipated we probably couldn't have done much more than we did." Do you take issue with the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee? In that conclusion?
LOVELL: His conclusion that he couldn't have done much more than they did with the capability and the way they executed it?
CONNOLLY: Given the timeframe.
LOVELL: That's a fact.
LOVELL: The way it is right now. The way he stated it.
CONNOLLY: All right, because I'm sure you can appreciate, general, there might be some who, for various and sundry reasons would like to distort your testimony and suggest that you're testifying that we could have, should have done a lot more than we did because we had capabilities we simply didn't utilize. That is not your testimony?
LOVELL: That is not my testimony.
CONNOLLY: I thank you very much
From the March 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News host Geraldo Rivera apologized for calling Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman a "thug," a concession notable not only for Rivera's acknowledgement that the term had racial connotations but also because of the criticism Rivera faced for applying the term to Trayvon Martin.
Sherman became the target of heavy media criticism following comments he made about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in a January 19 post-game interview. As the sports blog Deadspin reported, the media used the term "thug" 625 times the day after Sherman's interview. Sherman later responded to the criticism by pointing out the racial undertones of the word "thug," arguing that "it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays."
On the January 31 edition of Fox & Friends, Rivera highlighted Sherman's comment and apologized for his role in the attacks:
RIVERA: I called Richard Sherman a thug when he ranted about Michael Crabtree. He said the use of the word thug was the new N-word. I pondered that. I have come to agree with Richard Sherman, the Stanford grad. I will never use the word thug in that context again.
Rivera's reversal is particularly noteworthy considering his past use of the term. In March 2012, Rivera came under fire for using the same term in an attack on Trayvon Martin. Rivera suggested that Martin's clothing choice was responsible for his death, saying that "it is reality" that minorities wearing hoodies "could attract the attention, not only of the cops, but of nutjobs apparently like this George Zimmerman." In July 2013, Rivera doubled down:
RIVERA: You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug. That's true. I stand by that.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration's reluctance to sidestep legal considerations that prevent the government from indiscriminately waging war without congressional approval and suggested that it was possible for the military to "just get the SOBs who killed our people."
On January 13, the House Armed Services Committee released a series of declassified transcripts of briefings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. The review debunked right-wing myths about the attack and further revealed that the administration has been hampered in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice because of the legal limits imposed by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorizes military action against al Qaeda and its "associated forces." According to the Senate report's transcript of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey's October 10, 2013 testimony, the attack's leaders do not fall under AUMF's authority:
DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, the individuals related in the Benghazi attack, those that we believe were either participants or leadership of it are not authorized use of military force. In other words, they don't fall under the AUMF authorized by the Congress of the United States. So we would not have the capability to simply find them and kill them, either with a remotely-piloted aircraft or with an assault on the ground. Therefore, they will have to be captured, and we would, when asked, provide capture options to do that.
Fox News reported on this revelation during the January 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy dismissed the legal constraints by claiming that the administration has "too many lawyers on the staff." Responding to co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's complaints that the rules are "awfully wordy" and "disheartening," guest host Clayton Morris claimed that "it doesn't make any sense" suggesting that it could be "some sort of excuse [...] for not having any assets in the area."
During the January 17 edition of Fox & Friends Hasselbeck and Fox's Geraldo Rivera downplayed the need for the AUF restrictions and claimed that the Obama administration's adherence to them constituted a politicization of the attacks. Rivera suggested Obama put aside "politics" by ignoring AUMF and "go get the SOBs who killed our people." From the show (emphasis added):
HASSELBECK: When things are ever-evolving, in terms of al-Qaeda and the changes that take course, it seems as though it evolved, and therefore this should also evolve, right in terms of who is approved and authorized.
RIVERA: You're being much too logical, Elisabeth, because to say that Ansar al-Sharia is al-Qaeda is to say that the Benghazi tragedy where Ambassador Stevens and the others were killed was an al-Qaeda operation. The politics of this country is such that we are divided now. Was it an al-Qaeda operation, was it a spontaneous militia --activity that grew out of the reaction to this anti-Muslim film --
CO-HOST STEVE DOOCY: The Senate said last week it was al-Qaeda-related.
GERALDO: Well now we have to convey that to our military leaders, and say, listen, as Congressman Peter King is now suggesting, for the purposes of the Authorization of Military Force[s] Act, we believe now that the people that killed our ambassador in Benghazi and our other three heroes was an al-Qaeda operation. Just for that. No more politics. Put it aside. Let's just get the SOBs who killed our people, get them with the best force we have, and that's the SEAL teams and drone strikes.
But Fox's assertion that the administration's concerns are "political" and that AUMF standards could be stretched to apply to any foreign actors perceived as a threat fundamentally misunderstands the legal constraints placed on the president by congress.
As The New York Times explained, the language of the original AUMF is limited, focusing specifically on the actors that "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001":
It gives the president the power to attack "nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
In early 2013, The Washington Post reported that administration officials have become increasingly concerned about the legality of continuing to rely on the 2001 document in responding to an increasingly decentralized threat (emphasis added):
The authorization law has already been expanded by federal courts beyond its original scope to apply to "associated forces" of al-Qaeda. But officials said legal advisers at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are now weighing whether the law can be stretched to cover what one former official called "associates of associates."
The debate has been driven by the emergence of groups in North Africa and the Middle East that may embrace aspects of al-Qaeda's agenda but have no meaningful ties to its crumbling leadership base in Pakistan. Among them are the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Ansar al-Sharia, which was linked to the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. They could be exposed to drone strikes and kill-or-capture missions involving U.S. troops.
Officials said they have not ruled out seeking an updated authorization from Congress or relying on the president's constitutional powers to protect the country. But they said those are unappealing alternatives.
The authorization makes no mention of "associated forces," a term that emerged only in subsequent interpretations of the text. But even that elastic phrase has become increasingly difficult to employ.
In a speech last year at Yale University, Jeh Johnson, who served as general counsel at the Defense Department during Obama's first term, outlined the limits of the AUMF.
"An 'associated force' is not any terrorist group in the world that merely embraces the al-Qaeda ideology," Johnson said. Instead, it has to be both "an organized, armed group that has entered the fight alongside al-Qaeda" and a "co-belligerent with al-Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
Moreover, the Post report highlighted that administration officials and independent experts' shared concerns about the legality using the authorization to target Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. Harvard national security law expert Jack Goldsmith said that tying the AUMF to groups like Ansar al-Sharia would be "a major interpretive leap" and stated that the "[t]he AUMF is becoming increasingly obsolete because the groups that are threatening us are harder and harder to tie to the original A.Q. organization."
The lack of nuance in Fox's attacks are nothing new for the network. Fox consistently prefers overhyped misinformation to evidence-based findings. The network has previously denied the findings of a lengthy investigation by The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick, which definitively debunked the myth that al Qaeda played a central role in planning the attack.
Declassified transcripts from House Armed Services Committee hearings on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks revealed Fox News' highly politicized Benghazi reporting rarely reflected the facts on the ground.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera defended Alec Baldwin's use of an anti-gay epithet against a photographer, claiming that calling somebody a "cocksucking faggot" isn't actually a homophobic slur.
During the December 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity criticized A&E for its decision to place Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks Robertson made during an interview with GQ.
Rivera compared Robertson's critics to the "fundamentalist gay activists" who criticized Alec Baldwin, who lost his show on MSNBC amid controversy after being recorded allegedly calling a photographer a "cocksucking faggot."
When panelist Rachel Sklar pointed out that Baldwin has a "history of making these homophobic slurs," Rivera shot back, stating that Baldwin's comments didn't constitute a "homophobic slur" because such comments were "commonplace" when he was growing up:
SKLAR: When I heard about what Alec Baldwin - Alec Baldwin had a history of making these homophobic slurs.
RIVERA: That wasn't a homophobic slur.
SKLAR: Okay --
RIVERA: I mean if you grew up where we grew up --
SKYLAR: And yet he is no longer on the network, right?
RIVERA: Sean, Baldwin and I all grew up within ten miles of each other and when we were growing up, in my year especially, those comments were commonplace.
SKLAR: Things have changed, Geraldo.
RIVERA: You have to give people some slack.
Earlier in the day, on Fox & Friends, Rivera criticized A&E's decision to suspend Robertson as "political correctness that's gotten malignant."
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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