Conservative media are dismissing the Republican-led government shutdown as a "slimdown" and a "non-event" despite the severe consequences that have already occurred, and the devastating effects a protracted shutdown would have, including slower economic growth and eliminated funding for mothers and infants.
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Gregg Jarrett used the new round of Congressional hearings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi to push some of the network's favorite Benghazi lies.
This week, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led a new round of hearings into the Benghazi attacks. The committee heard testimony from Retired Admiral Mike Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) which issued an independent report in December about the attacks.
On the September 19 edition of Happening Now, host Gregg Jarrett and contributor Jonah Goldberg used the hearings to push some of Fox's favorite, long-debunked falsehoods about the attacks and the Obama administration's response.
Jarrett posited that US military forces could have arrived in time to rescue those under attack in Benghazi but had decided not to do so. Both he and Goldberg wondered why Mullen and Pickering had "dismissed" this idea, with Goldberg adding, "That's outrageous that no one was ready to have anybody come rescue any American on 9/11, which is sort of a famous terrorist holiday. And secondly, they didn't know how long this fight was going to take."
But the theory that U.S. forces could have made it in time for a rescue or intervention has been repeatedly debunked. The ARB determined that all "interagency response was timely and appropriate" but there was not sufficient time for "armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference," and the Pentagon has said that fighters could not have been sent to Benghazi because they lacked the refueling tankers that would have been needed to get them there. Additionally, the Pentagon said Special Operations Command Africa instructed a team of Special Forces not to leave for Benghazi because they would be needed to provide security in Tripoli. That second team would not have reached Benghazi before the attacks were concluded. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called out those who claimed more could have been done to rescue those in Benghazi for having a "cartoonish impression of the military."
Jarrett also pushed the myth that a stand down order was issued that night, saying, "The infamous stand down order, we still haven't gotten to the bottom of that, assuming that it even happened."
Yet the head of Special Forces in Tripoli has testified that no such stand down order was ever given, no evidence has ever emerged suggesting such orders were given, and reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the facility. Even the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has acknowledged no such order was given.
Jarrett concluded by claiming that "we still don't really know" where President Obama was during the attacks, adding, "presumably he went to bed while Americans were being slaughtered."
This smear flies in the face of testimony from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has stated that Obama was "well-informed" during the attack and that Obama ordered military leaders to do "whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there."
Jarrett's lies are only a drop in the ocean of the Benghazi falsehoods Fox has pushed for the last year.
National Review editor Rich Lowry criticized Senator Ted Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare as "a grass roots-pleasing slogan," adding to the conservative media divide over Republican plans to defund the health care law by threatening a government shutdown.
Republican politicians, including Cruz (TX) and Senator Mike Lee (UT), have threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform. That approach has earned criticism from other Republicans, such as Senator Richard Burr (NC), who called it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of."
Writing in Politico, Lowry argued against Cruz's strategy, dismissing it as "a grass roots-pleasing slogan" and unrealistic:
His push to defund Obamacare this fall is a grass roots-pleasing slogan in search of a realistic path to legislative fruition. Cruz never explains how a government shutdown fight would bring about the desired end. The strategy seems tantamount to believing that if Republican politicians clicked their wing tips together and wished it so, President Barack Obama would collapse in a heap and surrender on his party's most cherished accomplishment.
Lowry's criticism adds to an already wide split among right-wing media on GOP threats to shut down the government.
While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and "nuts."
Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.
Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will "inflict substantial harm on the economy."
Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a "litmus test" for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.
In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:
Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?
Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.
Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was "common sense."
Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be "ludicrous" and "nuts." On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea "works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president" but is "ludicrous" as a winning legislative strategy.
Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg perpetuated the right-wing smear that the White House "didn't respond" to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, an accusation that ignores multiple military leaders and congressional testimony.
On the July 23 edition of Fox's Happening Now, National Review Online editor and Fox contributor Jonah Goldberg discussed remarks that General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command during the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, had made days earlier at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum. When Ham was asked whether he initially believed terrorists were behind the Benghazi attacks, he had replied that he "started to gain [that] understanding within the hours after the initiation of the attack."
Co-host Patti Ann Browne asked Goldberg about Ham's statement, wondering "Why is it that this is being considered political when people try to complain about the spin being put out by the White House that it had to do with this video?" Goldberg replied, in part, by denying that the administration even responded to the attacks:
GOLDBERG: We basically know what the truth is. Is that the White House, or the administration, was ill prepared for an attack. We were attacked. It was a terrorist attack because spontaneous protesters don't bring RPGs and coordinate fire. And so it was a terrorist attack. The White House didn't respond to it. American -- brave Americans died and afterwards, the White House in the midst of a presidential campaign, particularly because Hillary Clinton wants to run in 2016, concocted essentially what they thought was a face-saving cover story about what happened -- partly out of politics, partly out of error. And the problem is most people now know this and what Carter Ham has just said basically confirms this. The problem is that you're never going to get the White House to admit it at this point.
Goldberg's accusation blatantly ignores military leaders' congressional testimony, which detailed the White House's response to the attacks. On February 7, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that upon learning of the unfolding attack in Benghazi, President Obama "at that point directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." Following Obama's directive, Panetta ordered nearby anti-terrorism teams in Spain to deploy to Libya. A six-man security team from Tripoli also deployed to Benghazi. Unfortunately, the units from Spain arrived after attacks on the consulate had ceased.
Other forces present in Tripoli during the Benghazi attack were ordered by General Ham to stay in Tripoli to protect the U.S. embassy and care for Benghazi survivors at the airport. Additionally, as Ham made clear in the very remarks Goldberg referenced, he rerouted a drone from eastern Libya to Benghazi once commanders learned of the fighting.
What's more, despite Goldberg's insinuation otherwise, the day after the Benghazi attacks President Obama addressed the nation from the Rose Garden about the "acts of terror" that had taken place in Libya. He remarked, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is down for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."
Fox News is falsely suggesting a new Weekly Standard article proves the CIA didn't link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video. In fact, CIA talking points obtained by the conservative magazine actually demonstrate the intelligence community believed there was a link between the attacks and reactions to the video.
Conservative writer Stephen Hayes' piece for The Weekly Standard reported that an initial September 14 draft of talking points by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that members of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group were involved in the Benghazi attacks, but that point was later removed by administration officials. Hayes provided images of various versions of the CIA's talking points, including a bullet in "Version 1" stating: "We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex."
In the final version of the document, that bullet read:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
In his piece, Hayes still criticized the Obama administration for mentioning the YouTube video since the word "video" did not appear in the talking points:
More troubling was the YouTube video. [Ambassador Susan] Rice would spend much time on the Sunday talk shows pointing to this video as the trigger of the chaos in Benghazi. "What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States." There is no mention of any "video" in any of the many drafts of the talking points.
However, as Media Matters noted, the CIA's reference to the Benghazi attack being "inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" proves that the intelligence community itself believed that a link existed between the attacks and the film. The "protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" were part of a series of global riots and protests in Muslim countries that were partly in response to increased awareness of the anti-Islam video. As prior media reports have noted, Ambassador Rice used the CIA's information during numerous television interviews on September 16.
In recent days, Fox News has used the Standard piece to suggest the intelligence community didn't believe the attacks and the anti-Islam videos were linked.
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.
From the April 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News figures claimed the U.S. should emulate the United Kingdom by slashing funding to federal disability programs and changing eligibility requirements, despite the fact that U.S. eligibility requirements are already stringent, that the new U.K. benefits tests were largely overturned on appeal, and that research shows changes to disability programs in the U.K. will force thousands of individuals with disabilities into poverty.
Despite widespread recent criticism of the role conservative media outlets played in the 2012 election and its aftermath, most attendees at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference had a positive view of the current state of right-wing journalism.
The calls for reform of conservative media are unconvincing to journalists who have found that the current model has given them a large audience.
Mike Opelka, editor-at-large for Glenn Beck's The Blaze, said the popularity of conservative media proves that they are doing good work.
"Fox dominates the conservative cable media," he said. "We [The Blaze] are averaging 10 million uniques a month. I think it is on target for what we like. We are a center-right source and we think they like what we give them."
Dana Loesch, the conservative radio talk show host whose past work for the Breitbart family of conservative news websites helped generate appearances on CNN, Fox News and ABC News, also gave high marks to conservative outlets.
"I think they are doing a really good job," she said of her fellow right-wing media outlets. "It's a good market, I always think there is an appetite for conservative media because there are a lot of people, myself included, who think you don't get that perspective when you turn it on, CBS, NBC, the channels like that."
Their optimism comes at a time when numerous media voices, including several prominent conservatives, have raised questions about the state of conservative media following a 2012 election in which right-wing media outlets convinced their readers, viewers, and listeners that Mitt Romney was cruising towards a comfortable win over a villainous President Obama. Last week, American Conservative published an extensive piece critical of "groupthink" among "several conservative publications."
Similarly, in a February post at his influential Red State website, new Fox News contributor Erick Erickson criticized the conservative "echo chamber" for "trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial" at the expense of basic reporting.
But these concerns, alongside a recent flurry of embarrassments (like the Breitbart.com "Friends of Hamas" debacle), were not shared by most at CPAC, who were quick to paint a rosy picture of their work in interviews with Media Matters.
Several Fox News personalities smeared President Obama as an appeaser for using the phrase "peace in our time" during his second inaugural address. But President Reagan used the same words in a speech.
During his second inaugural address, Obama committed to "defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law." He added that the United States will support democracy across the globe and be "a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice." Obama explained that we must do this "not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice."
Fox contributors Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, and John Bolton seized on Obama's use of the words "peace in our time," claiming that Obama's use of the term recalled former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who used a similar phrase in 1938 when he announced that he had made a deal with Adolf Hitler to allow Nazi Germany to take over part of Czechoslovakia without firing a shot.
But Obama is not the only president to use the words "peace in our time." In a 1983 speech at a presentation ceremony for the Peace Corps Awards, Reagan said:
I am very pleased to honor these six fine Americans who have volunteered their time, skills, and experience to the cause of peace.
Seldom are we able to point to one person's work and pronounce it not only good and worthwhile but also a step toward building peace in our time. And today, we enjoy that good fortune and we can measure it sixfold. We're honoring six Americans who have dedicated themselves to the cause of peace -- Americans who have traveled voluntarily to unfamiliar lands to help citizens of developing nations. [emphasis added]
In 1985, the leading rabbi of the American conservative Jewish movement also used the phrase "peace in our time" while discussing potential arms talks between Reagan and Soviet premiere Mikhail Gorbachev.
This history leaves us with the question: Do Goldberg, Krauthammer, and Bolton think Reagan was an appeaser?
Conservative media figures are taking a partial quote from President Obama out of context in order to attack him as reacting callously to the deaths of U.S. diplomatic personnel.
In an appearance taped today for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, President Obama was asked if communication between government personnel had failed to provide "the optimal response" to the Benghazi attacks. Obama replied in part: "If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it. And what happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."
Conservative media figures like Matt Drudge, Monica Crowley, Hugh Hewitt, Mary Katherine Ham,John Podhoretz, Jonah Goldberg, Erick Erickson and outlets like Fox Nation all used early reports of Obama's comments to attack him, with several falsely suggesting that Obama had said the deaths of American personnel in Benghazi, and not the communications effort, was "not optimal."
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Conservative media figures who have been longtime supporters of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are accusing the Obama administration of pursuing a policy of disengagement in the Middle East, pointing to the end of the war in Iraq and the troop drawdown in Afghanistan. But unmentioned in their criticism is when they think it would have been an appropriate time to withdraw from both countries, if at all.
On Friday September 14, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer appeared on Hannity to discuss the violent anti-American protests that have erupted in recent days in the Middle East. Krauthammer blamed the violence on America's foreign policy under Obama, accusing the president of disengaging in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. He claimed that Obama has "changed American policy on the theory that the reason that people hated us was because we were tough," adding:
KRAUTHAMMER: And he was now apologizing and promising to change course. We would no longer be tough. We would be loved. We would show compassion. And we would get out of Iraq. He sets a deadline for Afghanistan. He doesn't support the Green Revolution in Iran. He shows the Ayatollahs tremendous respect. He essentially protects them when they are under attack. He gets nowhere on the Iran nuclear issue. He is equivocal uncertain during the Arab Spring. He leads from behind in Libya. The theory was if we go soft, if we are very nice, if we say 'Assalamu alaikum,' enough times, everything will be all right. And what he decided is, the way to do that, the theory and therefore the practice is going to be, retreat and withdraw. Remember the line he uses? The tide of war is receding. That means the tide of American power is receding.
He added that Obama's policies have created a "vacuum" in the Middle East that radical Muslims "are now going to fill."
Krauthammer's misguided sentiments echoed in the Fox chamber today when Fox News contributor and National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, on America's Newsroom, said, "I agree with [Krauthammer] entirely about the vacuum that we're creating in the Middle East, about withdrawal, about the sense that Obama has created that we're not going to meddle in Middle Eastern affairs when there's freedom on the march, and that kind of thing."