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 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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Fox & Friends spent more than 13 minutes of airtime to questioning whether women can drive or park well, including a "park-off" pitting male and female hosts against each other in a "battle of the sexes."
On May 1, the hosts hyped a home video of a female driver parallel parking in Belfast, Ireland, and co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade challenged Gretchen Carlson and meteorologist Maria Molina to a "park-off," in which the men competed against the women to see which team could park better. Carlson hyped the event as "stereotypes played out to perfection," while Doocy referred to it as "the battle of the sexes park-off."
The show devoted several segments to the topic, including mentions while reading other news headlines, for a total of 13 minutes and 39 seconds of airtime.
Sexism has long had a home at Fox & Friends. In June 2010, Kilmeade referred to women as "babes, chicks," and "skirts" during a segment on which cars appeal to women. In September 2010, Kilmeade advised a sports reporter who allegedly suffered sexual harassment from football players to "[g]et a Whoopi Goldberg outfit, like a big tent." Kilmeade, Doocy, and Fox News host Geraldo Rivera repeatedly used sexual innuendo when discussing Victoria's Secret models in January 2013. Fox & Friends guests have also made sexist comments on the show.
Fox News accused MA Gov. Deval Patrick of "playing politics" by refusing to release details of welfare benefits reportedly used by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. But as Patrick has noted, state and federal law prevents the release of this information.
On April 24, an article in the right-leaning Boston Herald reported that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had received some government assistance as children and that deceased suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's family received some welfare benefits until 2012. The paper later reported that Massachusetts state officials had "clamped down the lid" on the Herald's requests for more details on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's government benefits.
Fox hosts seized on this to criticize Gov. Patrick on the April 26 edition of Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy said that "the governor told all the state agencies to clam up" and on-air text asked if Patrick is "playing politics."
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said:
CARLSON: Well, apparently Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts won't exactly explain what taxpayer assistance the bombers actually received because he says it's a matter of protecting their personal privacy. Well, that's interesting because one of those suspects is dead, and so what kind of personal privacy would be at hand to not be able to at least release what should be public knowledge if the taxpayers actually were financing these two people and their families for the last 10 years.
Fox failed to note that state and federal laws prohibit the government officials from releasing such information, a fact that Patrick had pointed out after facing questions about why the government had not released more details. On April 25, the Boston Herald reported:
Gov. Deval Patrick defended his administration's refusal to release financial aid, welfare, unemployment and other information about the suspected Boston Marathon bombers today.
"It's not about a right to privacy, it's about abiding by the law," said Patrick in Jamaica Plain today. "We'll do what we can do within the law. I'm curious, too. I understand people's curiosity."
Patrick added that he would be "happy" to release whatever information the law allows.
The Associated Press reported that the Massachusetts welfare agency later acknowledged that it had been a "mistake" to release the information to the media, saying it "inappropriately confirmed" media inquiries on the issue. The agency further stated: "Disclosing such information is not allowed by law. Regardless of the circumstances, we are obligated to follow state and federal law."
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Fox News inflated the threat of fraud in the Utah disability benefits program, stoking fears that fraud is rampant even though it amounts to less than 1 percent of the entire benefits program in the state.
On April 10, the Social Security Administration announced that Utah's attorney general and the Social Security inspector general's office identified 368 cases of alleged fraud in the state, and 157 of the people accused of fraud were denied their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit claims as a result.
Fox & Friends trumpeted this finding on April 11, with co-host Gretchen Carlson saying that "you've got to wonder if every state did this and had somebody look into the alleged fraud that's going on in our social security disability system, that there would be a lot of money to come up that might be helpful when we're discussing the budget." Fox displayed the following graphic during the segment:
On April 11, Fox Nation similarly stoked the fear of SSDI fraud based on the findings of the Utah attorney general and the Social Security inspector general's office:
In fact the Utah attorney general's finding proved that fraud is not a major problem with SSDI in Utah. According to the latest available data, there are 48,777 SSDI recipients in Utah. 157 cases of fraud only amounts to only .3 percent of all recipients.
Indeed the Utah attorney general's finding that there are only a few cases of SSDI fraud in Utah confirmed that fraud in SSDI is a very small problem. A March 2012 Government Accountability Office report found that the improper payments from the Social Security Administration program that includes disability insurance totaled 0.6 percent in fiscal year 2011.
Fox News spent an entire week hyping a supposed "War on Easter," pointing to the decision made by a few school boards to hold "Spring egg hunt[s]" instead of Easter egg hunts. In seven days, Fox devoted 10 segments to what host Bill O'Reilly called the continued "war on Judeo-Christian tradition."
On March 21, O'Reilly lambasted President Obama and the White House for empowering "secular progressives" to pressure school districts around the country to eliminate terms like "Easter bunny" and "Easter egg." O'Reilly complained that "the war on Judeo-Christian tradition continues in some public school districts," citing districts in five states that he said "are having Spring egg events. Moderated by a Spring bunny":
O'REILLY: I know it's stupid. You know it's stupid. But it's happening, and there is a reason why it's happening. Secular progressives are running wild with President Obama in the White House. They feel unchained, liberated and they are trying to diminish any form of religion. The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs.
In the past week, several Fox shows followed O'Reilly's lead, airing segments that criticized the "P.C. police" and focused on "assaults" that have put Christianity "on the run in this country":
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson pushed the right-wing media's false claim that an increase in government employment made up the bulk of job growth during the economic recovery. The private sector, however, has added millions of jobs since 2009 while the public sector has shed hundreds of thousands of them.
Right-wing media fabricated a conspiracy that "pro-Obama groups" will be able to steer health care reform insurance applicants to register to vote as Democrats, ignoring a 1993 law that requires programs offering public assistance to include questions about voter registration.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and The Washington Times reported that a draft application for health insurance through the health care reform law twice asked if an applicant wished to register to vote. They claimed that organizations who may register Americans for health insurance through health care reform may steer applicants "to register with the Democratic Party."
On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson similarly fearmongered over "the bigger concern" for health care reform insurance applicants that "pro-Obama groups...would steer them to register as Democrats":
In fact, such voter registration questions on the draft application are required under law. A portion of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, otherwise known as the "Motor Voter Act," requires that programs that offer public assistance benefits, like the Medicaid benefits and tax credits contained in the draft health care reform insurance application, must offer voter registration:
Section 7 of the Act requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities. Each applicant for any of these services, renewal of services, or address changes must be provided with a voter registration form of a declination form as well as assistance in completing the form and forwarding the completed application to the appropriate state or local election official.
Fox News fearmongered over reports that suspected terrorist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be tried in a Manhattan civilian court by downplaying the court's ability to convict terrorist suspects and baselessly advocated for a Guantanamo military trial.
On March 7, the Justice Department released an indictment charging Abu Ghaith with conspiring to kill Americans. Abu Ghaith, who previously served as a spokesman for Al Qaeda and is a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, will face trial at a U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested that a civilian court trial could more likely result in Abu Ghaith's acquittal and possible release "back into our society" than if he were tried "at Gitmo." Co-host Steve Doocy echoed these concerns and cited a 2010 case in which a terrorist suspect faced 282 charges, but was acquitted on most of them, to stoke fears:
What happened? He was convicted. On one charge. And he was acquitted on 281 other counts, which boosts the suggestion and the argument that there's a completely different standard when you're talking about terrorists. They should be tried at Gitmo.
In a later segment on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Erick Erickson expanded on Doocy and Carlson's comments. Erickson suggested:
Now, in Gitmo they have been able to do it quite successfully. There are number of military trials down there and convictions. They've sent others home. There's no reason he couldn't go down there other than there is an ideological opposition to keeping Gitmo open rather than come here.
In their advocacy of military tribunals, Carlson, Doocy and Erickson failed to report the New York courts full record of dealing with terrorist suspects.
Doocy based his disregard of the federal court system on a case that resulted in conviction, which was only one of many convictions to come out of the Manhattan civilian court system. In his focus on the dropped charges, Doocy failed to note that the detainee received a life sentence without parole, "the same maximum sentence... that he would have faced had he been convicted on all counts," according to The New York Times. In fact, the New York court that will be handling the Abu Ghaith trial has a 100 percent conviction rate. CNN reported: "Of the 81 jihadist terrorism suspects who have gone to trial since 9/11 in cases involving an undercover agent or informant, every single one has either been convicted or pleaded guilty."
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials have said that federal courts "are often a faster and surer way to try suspected terrorists." The Journal additionally noted:
An Obama administration official said national security officials--including those at the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Department of Justice--unanimously agreed that Mr. Abu Ghaith should be prosecuted in federal court.
In contrast, convictions at Guantanamo Bay are rare and have proven "vulnerable on appeal," the Los Angeles Times has reported. Of the thousands of detainees held since 2001, only seven convictions have come out of Guantanamo military tribunal, while "the vast majority have been sent back overseas, either for rehabilitation or continued detention and prosecution," according to an NPR report. Of the seven convictions, five were essentially nullified. The remaining two cases were both overturned by the court of appeals, one in October 2012 and the other in January 2013.
Fox & Friends misleadingly claimed that federal revenue will be historically high this year to push against calls for additional tax increases. In fact, projected revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) remains below the historical average since World War II.
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.
Fox News deceptively edited a video of remarks recently made by President Obama to falsely accuse him of backtracking from earlier warnings on the harmful effects of upcoming spending cuts.
On February 27, President Obama spoke at a Business Council dinner about the harmful economic effects of across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade introduced a deceptively edited selection from these remarks, saying that the remarks were evidence that Obama "overstated a little bit" the effects of sequestration. After airing the deceptively edited video, co-host Gretchen Carlson said: "Now he has to backtrack on his strategy. Why? Because come Friday or Saturday, if suddenly the world didn't fall apart, his credibility would fall apart."
Fox also aired the following graphic during the edited video of Obama's remarks:
But Fox deceptively removed crucial context from its video of Obama's comments. The full context of Obama's remarks shows that he was saying that the effects of the spending cuts may not hit the wider economy right away [what Fox provided is in bold]:
OBAMA: I should point out, and I am sure you have heard from a number of experts and economists that this is not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward. It's conceivable that the first week, the first two weeks, the first three weeks, the first month, that unless your business is directly related to the defense department, unless you live in a town that is directly impacted by a military installation, unless you are a family that is trying to figure out where to keep your kids during the day because you just lost a Head Start slot, a lot of people may not notice the full impact of the sequester. But this is going to be a big hit on the economy, and both private sector as well as public sector economists are estimating that we could lose as much as six-tenths of a point, maybe a little bit more, of economic growth. And that means inevitably hundreds of thousands of people who are not going to get jobs that otherwise would get them. It means that you have fewer customers with money in their pockets ready to buy your business's -- your goods and services. It means that the global economy will be weaker, because although we obviously still have a long way to go in the recovery, we are doing significantly better than some of the other developed nations. And the worst part of it is, it's entirely unnecessary.
Fox & Friends removed Obama's assertion that it's possible that many Americans may not feel the effects of the cuts for several weeks to manufacture an accusation that Obama has backtracked from previous claims about the harmful effects of the sequestration.
As Obama mentioned in his remarks, economic forecasters agree that the sequestration cuts will harm both economic growth and job creation. The Bipartisan Policy Center's Steve Bell wrote that over one million jobs could be lost due to sequestration and that economic growth would be slower "because of the ripple effect of the sequester cuts on smaller businesses and on government personnel." Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reported that a survey conducted by the National Association of Business Economists of 49 economists "found that 95% say the uncertain U.S. fiscal situation is a drag on the country's growth prospects. Those worries aren't limited to the budget slashing set to take place on Friday alone, but also include a possible late-March government shutdown and a spring debate over the debt ceiling."
Media Matters researcher Ellie Sandmeyer contributed research to this post.
Fox News personalities are hyping fears that a supervised release of undocumented immigrants will lead to more crime. But the immigrants affected by this policy are still subject to deportation and face restrictions such as checking in with authorities and wearing ankle monitoring bracelets.