Conservative media figures are lashing out at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for not attacking President Obama aggressively enough during tonight's presidential debate over his handling of Libya. Many of these same media figures have spent much of the past month lobbing frequent, inaccurate attacks at the administration over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Fox News host Greg Gutfeld:
Fox News political analyst Dick Morris:
Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes:
Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin:
Fox News host Eric Bolling:
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham:
Romney has regularly echoed false talking points from conservative media figures during debates.
After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she's responsible for State Department personnel, right-wing media quickly claimed that President Obama was dodging responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But Clinton was actually pointing out that the State Department, not the White House, is responsible for diplomatic security while Obama has said that he is ultimately responsible for national security.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham distorted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments in a Fox News interview about the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, falsely portraying her as trying to deflect blame.
According to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren's blog, Fox News reporter Wendell Goler spoke with Secretary Clinton in Peru today. Ingraham tweeted a link to notes on the interview and misrepresented them.
Ingraham conflated two responses that Secretary Clinton gave during the interview to imply that Clinton couldn't "speak to who knew what" regarding the September 11 Benghazi attack. In fact, Clinton's comments were about a separate IED attack in Benghazi in June.
Ingraham tweeted, "Hillary tries to defuse the Benghazi issue bef the debate--says she's responsible but 'can't speak to who knew what.' "
Goler's notes from the interview include Clinton saying she is "responsible for the State Dept, for the more than 60K people around the world," and that "decisions about security are made by security professionals." Goler's notes then say that Clinton responded to a question regarding a separate June IED attack:
Re June IED attack: "I can't speak to who knew what. We knew there were security breaches and problems throughout Libya. That's something that came about as the aftermath of the revolution to topple Ghadaffy with so many militias formed. So many weapons loose...it was taken into account by security professionals as they made their assessments."
From the October 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Right-wing media are attacking ABC reporter Martha Raddatz, the moderator of the vice-presidential debate, complaining that she interrupted GOP candidate Paul Ryan significantly more than Vice President Joe Biden. In fact, Raddatz interrupted Biden and Ryan roughly the same number of times.
Following the October 11 debate, right-wing media figures complained that Raddatz cut Ryan off significantly more often than she did Biden. Washington Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein tweeted, "Every time Biden starts interrupting Ryan, Martha Raddatz cuts Ryan off." Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham complained that Raddatz interrupted Ryan when he rebutted "Biden's illogical position on abortion and Catholic Church." Town Hall news editor Katie Pavlich wrote, "This debate should be renamed: Joe Biden and the Moderator Interrupt Paul Ryan!"
But Raddatz interrupted Biden and Ryan approximately an equal number of times. According to a Media Matters review of the debate, Raddatz interrupted Biden 15 times and Ryan 18 times:
Fox News commentators have reimagined U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's statements about the consulate attack in Benghazi, saying Rice was "so definitive" in Sunday show interviews about what had happened there. In fact, Rice repeatedly made clear during her interviews that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
Last week it was reported that the television networks and the Associated press this year will skip exit polling in 19 states. Picking states whose outcome are already considered predetermined, and therefore where polling isn't as important, the media consortium cited cost cutting as one of the key reasons behind the move. With more and more people voting early by mail (and from home), the exit pollsters have to shift their focus and spend more time and money contacting voters by phone, which is more expensive
Pretty straightforward, right?
Not this election season. Not when nearly every news cycle brings with it a new sinister conspiracy launched by the far right press, which remains desperate to explain why Obama's campaign hasn't yet completely collapsed under the weight of what they claim to be his historic domestic and international failures.
So on the same day the exit polling story was reported in the Washington Post, Breitbart.com's Big Journalism posted an item announcing that the elimination of the 19 exit polling states represented an obvious media-driven conspiracy (an "insidious plan") concocted by the "goose-stepping" networks and AP to help re-elect President Obama.
What was so evil about the cost-cutting move? Of the 19 states, 15 are red ones where Romney will win easily.
The real reason the consortium has cut these states is that they know that if they report fifteen states coming in for Romney early, independent voters in other states will take notice and be swayed his way.
The networks and the AP just knew that for independent voters who still hadn't voted at night on November 6, if early returns showed Romney had won Louisiana, Kentucky and Georgia, for example, that would prompt undecided voters all over the country to flock to the polls to vote for the Republican, because he'd won states he was supposed to win. (Just like they did with McCain in 2008?) Therefore, the networks and AP had to step in and cut off exit polling in key Romney states.
That's the basis for the Breitbart.com fantasy (announced as fact, of course) about how the media were conspiring yet again to aide Obama's reelection.
What's so remarkable is that that wasn't even the most delusional theory that was launched last week by the far-right press, which has transformed itself during the closing weeks of the campaign into a full-time, partisan fun house.
As imaginative as Breitbart's exit poll scheme was, there's no way it could compete with last Friday's epic job truthers push by Fox News and the rest of the off-kilter far-right media. Without the slightest bit of evidence, Obama's media detractors suggested a truly vast conspiracy had taken hold inside the federal government in an effort to doctor the unemployment numbers and boost Obama's re-election run.
Media figures cheered Republican Mitt Romney's performance in the first presidential debate, claiming he offered specifics and an economic plan to contrast with that of President Obama. In fact, independent analysis shows Romney provided vague details at best.
From the October 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Two Fox News Sunday panelists suggested that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not properly emphasize the fact that there is an ongoing investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, in the interview that they were referring to, and throughout her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Rice repeatedly noted that the investigation was ongoing and that its results would ultimately reveal what happened.
This suggestion feeds into the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been purposefully deceptive in its public statements about the investigation.
Today on Fox News Sunday, Christian Science Monitor reporter Liz Marlantes questioned why Rice, during a September 16 appearance on Fox News Sunday, didn't simply say, "We're investigating, we don't really know very much yet." Later, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham similarly asked why Rice didn't say, "We have an ongoing investigation, and I'm really not going to say anything more. We're going to learn more."
But in her September 16 appearance, Rice stressed the fact that it was important not to jump to conclusions before the investigation was completed, but shared the administration's "best current assessment" (emphasis added):
RICE: Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment.
In her appearances throughout September 16, Rice repeatedly emphasized that the investigation was ongoing and would provide the definitive answer to what happened. Her statements mirrored those of other administration officials.
From the September 30 edition of Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday:
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In the past month, Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly misrepresented and smeared women's health activist Sandra Fluke and falsely claimed that she has advocated for universal taxpayer-funded contraception. In fact, as she made clear in her testimony in front of a congressional panel in February, Fluke was voicing support for the health care mandate that requires private health insurance plans -- which women already pay for -- to cover women's preventive health services without a co-pay.
The mandate is intended only for private health insurance companies where premiums are paid by individuals, often through their employer -- not the taxpayer. Religious organizations are exempt from complying with this requirement.
O'Reilly has criticized and misrepresented Fluke's testimony five times in the last four weeks, most recently on September 18 during his interview with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart:
After Stewart described Fluke as speaking "about an issue close to her heart," O'Reilly interjected, "and her hand in my wallet at the same time." He then asked, "Do you want to pay for this woman's birth control?" adding, "She wants everybody['s contraception] to get paid for."
A Nexis search reveals that in addition to Tuesday night, O'Reilly has said:
In addition, O'Reilly has repeatedly attacked or facilitated attacks on Fluke on his show:
Note to Mitt Romney: This is what happens when you run for president on the back of Fox News and embrace the dark anti-Obama conspiracies that fuel the right-wing media.
On Monday, the Republican nominee was forced to hold a rare, late-night press availibility to respond to Mother Jones' report on a video of Romney taken surreptitiously at a closed-door Florida campaign fundraiser in May where the candidate tells donors that "there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
The notion that Obama voters are lazy victims who rely on the government for sustenance from birth to death represents Romney's open embrace of Fox News and the same insulting allegation that it, along with other right-wing talkers, has been making for the last four years. Here, the Republican's long-standing caricature of the lazy welfare recipient gets dramatically expanded to include tens of millions of Americans who vote Democratic and who apparently worship big government and disdain hard work.
The sweeping generalization Romney uses to denigrate so many voters, and the fact he did it behind closed doors while speaking to wealthy donors, is what turned the comments into a significant campaign news event. Writing off nearly half the electorate as selfish dependents who refuse to take responsibilities for their own lives isn't usually how White House candidates frame their campaigns.
What's telling though is how, once again, the fingerprints of Fox News and the right-wing media are all over the Romney campaign and its latest misstep.
Fact: Fox and friends have been railing for years about how Obama is purposefully making more people dependent on the government (an "entitlement state") so he can turn that dependency into votes. Obama, according to the fevered rhetoric from the far-right swamp, wants to radically extend the reach of the government in an effort to extract voter loyalty. "He'd rather you be a slave and be economically dependent upon him," is how Fox favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL) put it.
Remember Glenn Beck's unhinged comparison to Obama as drug-dealer-in-chief?
If he's not a socialist, if he's not a Marxist, then he must be a heroin dealer. I believe our new president is pushing a much more powerful version of heroin, and he is getting people strung out.
Meanwhile, discussing welfare work requirement reform this summer (and while completely misrepresenting the changes the Obama administration implemented at the behest of Republican governors), Fox contributor Laura Ingraham claimed the changes were designed to be a "push for election turnout." Explained Ingraham: "Give more free stuff to people and hope that they come to the polls."
And of course Rush Limbaugh has been relentlessly promoting the unsavory talking point, claiming the Democratic president doesn't "want people leaving the welfare rolls" because "those are voters that are getting away."
All of this strange right-wing media rhetoric has apparently soaked in and has been embraced by the Romney campaign. In fact, just last week, an unnamed Romney adviser complained to National Review that the reason the media are allegedly rooting for Obama is because "the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make."
Again, with this twisted notion that the (socialist!) Obama administration is trying to control people's lives by expanding the size of government, and that Americans who receive government services automatically support Democrats. (No unemployment recipient has ever voted Republican?) Indeed, the Atlantic mapped out where Romney's 47 percent of no-income-tax-paying voters live, and it turns out "those people are disproportionately in red states -- that is, states that tend to vote Republican."
This is the kind of fringe, conspiratorial rhetoric that campaigns usually leave to the periphery. And for good reason. But Mitt Romney is the Fox News candidate and apparently that means echoing every dark, incoherent attack that the talk channel can conjure up.
Fox used a dishonest comparison of two different measures of unemployment to suggest the unemployment rate has nearly doubled since President Obama took office.
During a segment criticizing the Obama administration for its messaging on the economy, a Fox & Friends graphic claimed that the "real unemployment rate" had increased from 7.8% in 2009 to 14.7% now:
But in order to make the claim that unemployment had increased from 7.8% to 14.7% during Obama's time in office, Fox had to conflate two different statistics and completely distort Obama's jobs record.
The 7.8 percent figure is the official unemployment rate from January 2009. This statistic reports on people who are unemployed and actively looking for a job. But as of the latest report, the official unemployment rate is 8.1 percent (0.3 percent higher than it was in January 2009), not 14.7 percent.
The 14.7 percent figure is a completely different measurement of the unemployed, which in addition to those who are actively looking for work, also counts people who are unemployed and discouraged from looking for a new job, part-time workers who prefer full-time employment, and more. This alternative measure of unemployment, which conservatives often call the "real" unemployment rate, was 14.2 percent in January 2009 -- 0.5 percentage points lower than it is today.
Indeed an accurate chart of this statistic would show that the rate has declined in recent years:
Fox has repeatedly attacked Democrats for a party platform that does not specifically use the word "God." By contrast, Fox figures downplayed the importance of the GOP platform last week, saying that Romney "doesn't write the platforms" and "doesn't have to abide" by them.