Fox News and The Daily Caller are promoting the baseless charge that the Obama administration illegally ended a pension plan for workers at Delphi, an auto parts maker, because the workers weren't union members.
The Daily Caller alleges that emails it has obtained show that the Obama Treasury Department was the "driving force" behind the decision to end the Delphi pension plan, instead of the independent federal agency that insures pensions, called the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC). And Fox News has made the same charge. But the emails show nothing of the sort.
The email exchanges come from PBGC employees in 2009, when the government-led rescue of the auto industry was being carried out.
In reality, the emails are so far removed from their context that it's impossible to draw definitive conclusions about them, but the Daily Caller does its best to fill in the blanks by doctoring quotes and ignoring inconvenient information.
Only one of the 16 emails comes from a Treasury Department employee, and it doesn't show pressure to terminate the Delphi pension. In fact, unions aren't mentioned at all in the emails.
Fox has devoted several segments to hyping the cooked-up story. For instance, today, Fox's Lauren Simonetti appeared on Fox & Friends First and claimed that "all along, Treasury and White House officials have claimed that the pension decisions were made by the independent Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Key officials even testified to that under oath. The emails recently obtained by The Daily Caller show that's not the case."
Previously, the Daily Caller reporter who wrote the story, Matthew Boyle, appeared on the August 7 edition of America Live to claim the emails "prove beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the "Obama administration political officials were the ones who ultimately made the decision, coercing the PBGC officials into terminating the pensions of these non-union workers."
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is reporting that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum in the possession of congressional investigators "described a specific operation in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border" during Operation Fast and Furious. The memo was drafted and, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), "forwarded to DOJ headquarters" the day before the Justice Department told Congress that no such gunwalking had occurred. Boyle suggests that this indicates that DOJ knew gunwalking had occurred in Fast and Furious when they issued their statement to Congress, and thus that they "may have tried to cover up" the use of such activities. This assertion is false and is directly contradicted by the memo in question, which does not detail a gunwalking operation.
Instead the memo describes a case where ATF agents were forced to "leave the immediate area" of the stakeout of a suspected gun trafficker to avoid detection. While repositioning, the suspect left the area and eluded capture. From the memo:
Special Agent [Gary] Styers was asked to describe the operations and relayed that one of the operations was a suspected transaction that was to occur at a gas station and detailed agents were asked to cover the transaction. While positioning to observe the suspects, Special Agent Styers and other detailed agents were told by Special Agent [Hope] McAllister that the agents were too close and would burn the operation. Special Agent McAllister told all of the agents to leave the immediate area. While the agents were repositioning, the transaction between the suspects took place and the vehicle took possession of the firearms and eventually left the area without the agents following it.
What was described was an unsuccessful law enforcement operation, not ATF acquiescence to the illegal transfer of firearms. Boyle includes much of the text of that passage in his article, but nonetheless concludes that Styers was describing an operation "in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border." Boyle also neglects to mention that Styers, the author of the memo, wrote that during his involvement in Fast and Furious "he did not see any firearms cross the border into Mexico."
This isn't the first time that Boyle has made false claims in his reporting that are easily contradicted by the very documents he cites. In September 2011, Boyle published an article claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was attempting to hire 230,000 new workers at a cost of $21 billion per year. The legal documents cited by Boyle actually indicated that this was a scenario the EPA wanted to -- and eventually did -- avoid.
Yesterday a federal appeals court unanimously upheld the EPA's finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare, deeming the EPA "unambiguously correct" in addressing climate change through the Clean Air Act. One media
outlet that is curiously silent on the ruling is the Daily Caller, whose reporter Matthew Boyle previously claimed the resulting regulations would cause the EPA to hire an "ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS." The claim was completely false, and their refusal to correct the clear error damaged their reputation and embarrassed employees.
Boyle's claim on Twitter echoed his Daily Caller article misreading an EPA court filing. The EPA said that it avoided a scenario that would require 230,000 workers by using a "tailoring rule" to regulate only the largest polluters -- a rule that was upheld in the recent court ruling. After several outlets ridiculed Daily Caller's error, its executive editor defended the article by making a snide comment to Politico and making several bad rationalizations about why they did not correct their false report.
Funny thing about the Daily Caller: they've never been wrong.
That seems to be their official stance, at least. Even when they are spectacularly in error -- something that happens to every news org now and again -- Tucker Carlson and his retinue will get right in your face and tell you nope, you're wrong, we're right.
Consider the flap over Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro's absurd outburst during President Obama's June 15 statement on the new immigration policy. Nearly every observer, regardless of ideology, agrees that Munro acted unprofessionally, and disrespected himself and his organization. But not Tucker Carlson: "A good reporter gets the story. We're proud of Neil Munro."
Standing by your own is one thing, but this goes beyond merely circling the wagons. Carlson is arguing that Munro behaved as a reporter should -- that he "got the story." This praise is belied by the actual story Munro wrote, which contained little substance, barely touched on the policy at issue, and lacked detail (probably because Munro didn't do any actual reporting while he was at the White House).
Acknowledging miscues is part of the professional news business, but this screw-the-world counterfactual stubbornness is the Daily Caller's go-to response for those moments when they cross the line.
Last September, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle wrote a piece claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency is "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new greenhouse gas regulations. Boyle's source, a court brief filed by the EPA, actually said the exact opposite: the EPA had issued a rule in May 2010 that allowed the agency to avoid that scenario. Boyle misread the document and got the story completely wrong.
After various media outlets weighed in and confirmed that the Daily Caller had botched the report, executive editor David Martosko penned an editorial note lashing out at critics and declaring: "Our news story was well reported, carefully sourced, and solidly written. Despite the criticisms that some have offered, we haven't changed a word." Defiance notwithstanding, his rationalization for not correcting the story didn't hold up.
Defending the story to Politico, Martosko argued, essentially, that the story had to be right because the EPA is government and government is bad: "What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer."
Conservative media outlets are credulously reporting House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's claim that wiretap applications signed by senior Justice Department officials "prove" they "approved" of dangerous gunwalking tactics in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, contradicting prior DOJ statements. In doing so, they ignore that the DOJ has repeatedly stated that senior officials do not necessarily review wiretap applications themselves, but rather largely rely on summaries of those applications produced by line attorneys.
"Documents prove senior Justice officials approved Fast and Furious, Issa says," reads the headline of Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's latest foray into reporting on the ATF's fatally flawed gunwalking operation.
Leaning heavily on Issa's just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Boyle reports that Issa has obtained wiretap applications for that operation that were signed by senior DOJ officials. Boyle notes that Issa claims those documents "show that immense details about questionable investigative tactics were available" to those officials via those applications, supposedly disproving numerous DOJ statements that senior officials there were not privy to the details of gunwalking.
But there's one question that this sort of credulous recitation of Issa's claims does not address: Did those officials actually review the wiretap applications that Issa says contained that information? According to prior DOJ statements dating back to at least last year, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Issa has claimed that wiretap applications supposedly proved knowledge of gunwalking techniques on the part of senior DOJ officials. In February, his committee made similar allegations, claiming in a staff report that "Congressional investigators have learned about the information contained in one Wiretap Authorization and Wiretap Affidavit from Fast and Furious that Jason Weinstein signed. The Wiretap Affidavit presented Weinstein with the details of at least two instances in which ATF agents had witnessed illegal straw purchasing and the subsequent transfer of the purchased weapons to other individuals."
But Politico reported at the time that "Weinstein told investigators that it was his 'general practice' not to read the underlying affidavits in such cases but to rely on a so-called cover memo prepared by another Justice Department office." This was consistent with Politico's report last November in response to similar claims that the wiretap applications could have bearing on what senior DOJ officials knew of Fast and Furious:
The Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wiretap applications are reviewed by another DOJ office which writes a detailed cover memo that is usually the focus of review by Breuer's staff.
"What gets pulled out for their review is therough the lens of those two questions: necessity and probably cause," the official said.
In a letter that the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), released in response to Issa's letter today, he reiterated these points in even greater detail.
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is claiming that the Department of Homeland Security has hired "at least four senior staffers and advisers" with "no law enforcement experience into senior law enforcement positions." Boyle went so far as to call them "mini-czars" in a tweet. But the individuals Boyle targeted either do not hold senior positions at DHS or are not involved in law enforcement. By contrast, former President George W. Bush appointed people who lacked relevant experience to head agencies that are currently within DHS.
Boyle attacked the experience of four current or former DHS staffers: Jordan Grossman, Vladimir Skoric, Chris Stelmarski, and Nate Snyder.
Skoric, who began his civil service career in 2008 during the Bush administration, is a special assistant to the deputy under secretary for cybersecurity. In 2011, Skoric was listed as being compensated at a "GS-11" rate, which translates to a mid-level civil service position.
Snyder, who started at DHS in 2009 as a deputy White House liaison, is a special advisor for community partnership and strategic engagement. In 2011, Snyder was compensated at a GS-14 level, higher than Skoric or Stelmaski, but not at the level of the Senior Executive Service, which constitutes the top-level federal civil servants.
And Grossman, who has since left DHS to attend Harvard Law School, was a special advisor and deputy to the deputy chief of staff.
In contrast to the individuals that Boyle identified, Bush really did appoint people without relevant experience to top positions at DHS.
Yesterday's testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder before a House Appropriations subcommittee concluded without the theatrical fireworks that many of his recent appearances before Congress have included. The hearing was so comparably calm that Holder even mentioned that he appreciated the more even-keeled tone of the questions even though some were critical of his tenure at the Department of Justice.
So naturally the right-wing media cherry-picked a brief moment where Holder showed somewhat heightened emotions and made that moment the focus of their hearing coverage, saying Holder was "not able to hold back his emotions," and describing Holder "losing his cool" as he "slammed the table" in response to congressional questioning.
Fox News America Live host Megyn Kelly teased a segment on Holder's testimony by saying "wait until you hear what's ticking off Eric Holder today," later describing an exchange between Holder and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) by saying that Holder was "not able to hold back his emotions."
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle apparently found this angle so compelling that he wrote a highly derivative article adding little more than misleading hyperbole and bit of background information. Boyle has previously pushed a narrative of Holder of being unable to control his temper, claiming that he "lashe[d] out" during an exchange with a Daily Caller employee. In a separate article solely about complaints from conservative critics about this purported "loss of control," Boyle even paraphrased an activist suggesting Holder may be "dangerously unstable."
Boyle continued that depiction today, writing about the exchange with Rep. Yoder in an article headlined "Holder loses cool during House hearing when asked about the ATF's failed operation Fast and Furious." Boyle:
A visibly frustrated Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the table when responding to a question about Operation Fast and Furious during a Tuesday budget hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
This is a highly exaggerated description of Holder's testimony, in which Holder forcefully said that he ordered use of the controversial gun-walking tactics associated with Operation Fast and Furious to be stopped as soon as he became aware of them. Watch the exchange highlighted by Boyle and Kelly:
The Daily Caller's headline: "Holder's No. 2 in 2009: Gunwalking, Fast and Furious a 'terrific idea.'"
The Daily Caller's lede:
The head of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and Attorney General Eric Holder's highest-ranking deputy, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, called Operation Fast and Furious and gun walking a "terrific idea" in emails to now-former Acting Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Ken Melson back in late 2009, according a report released by Republican staff of the House Oversight Committee.
What Melson and Breuer actually said, as reported by the Daily Caller:
On Dec. 3, 2009, Melson wrote to Breuer, "Lanny: We have decided to take a little different approach with regard to seizures of multiple weapons in Mexico. Assuming the guns are traced, instead of working each trace almost independently of the other traces from the seizure, I want to coordinate and monitor the work on all of them collectively as if the seizure was one case. . . We should meet again just to catch up on where we are in our gun-trafficking issues and we could talk about the above idea as well. Let me know what you think."
Breuer responded on Dec. 4, 2009, writing, "We think this is a terrific idea and a great way to approach the investigations of these seizures. Our Gang Unit will be assigning an attorney to help you coordinate this effort."
According to the Republican Oversight Committee staffers' report, Breuer -- Holder's number two -- assigned a prosecutor to help ATF handle Fast and Furious. That attorney, according to the report, was Joe Cooley.
As the Daily Caller's own reporting shows, the emails in question don't mention the idea of allowing guns to be trafficked to Mexico; they deal with how data from seizures of multiple weapons that were recovered in Mexico would be treated by ATF in their investigations.
This isn't the first time the Caller's reporting hasn't matched up with the slant they apply to their stories on Holder and Fast and Furious.
By the way, "Holder's No. 2" isn't Lanny Breuer, it's Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Other than that, the Caller did a bang-up job.
Charlie Savage's New York Times profile of Attorney General Eric Holder and how he has become a "lightning rod" for partisan criticism must have seemed like an early Christmas present to The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle: It lets him accuse The New York Times of bias and attack Holder in one fell swoop.
It was clearly so exciting that he didn't bother to put together even a minimal arrangement of facts before suggesting the Times should issue a retraction.
Boyle suggests that Savage inaccurately reported that neither testimony nor documents have contradicted Holder's statements that he didn't know about the controversial 'gunwalking' tactic used in Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, just as Savage reported, there has not been any documents or testimony that suggest Holder knew about those tactics.
"Mr. Holder has denounced the tactics used in the operation, known as 'gunwalking,' but said he did not know about them or sanction their use," Savage wrote. "No documents or testimony have shown otherwise, but Republicans have pummeled him at oversight hearings and in news media appearances."
Savage made these statements without attribution.
Despite those assertions, Holder's office was provided with multiple briefings and memos about Operation Fast and Furious by top Justice Department officials. The memos contained intimate details of how Holder's DOJ allowed guns to walk.
The claim is specific: neither documents or testimony have shown that Holder himself knew about gunwalking tactics.
Attorney General Eric Holder apparently struck a nerve yesterday when he accurately called out the Daily Caller for effectively creating a movement of congressional Republicans seeking his resignation. Both editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson and reporter Matthew Boyle have since done damage control with extremely friendly media outlets, claiming that they are acting legitimately and attacking Holder for his criticism.
Boyle has led the website's reporters in a month-long effort to find Republicans willing to take a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation, with the stated rationale being the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. The campaign has led to nearly two dozen articles featuring calls for Holder's resignation from 51 low-level members of Congress, Republican presidential candidates, Sarah Palin, and congressional challengers, among others.
Carlson stopped by Fox & Friends' curvy couch this morning, accusing Holder of being "Nixonian" and saying that "we are not in control of the legislative branch." When co-host Gretchen Carlson asked the Daily Caller editor whether he thought Holder "had that reaction to your reporter because it hasn't been covered as much by the mainstream media," he noted that "our reporter Matt Boyle has written a number of stories on this," but never acknowledged the character of that reporting.
Boyle sounded similar notes in an appearance on NRA Radio (the NRA has called for Holder's resignation). He told host Cam Edwards: "To assume that we're 'behind' the calls for his resignation, I don't know how he can think that. All I'm doing is calling up congressmen and senators and asking them, and then whatever their answer is I print it."
He went on to say that "if he thinks that I have the ability to control what they say and what they don't say, that's unbelievable," adding, "I'd love to know what other conspiracy theories the attorney general can come up with about the media."
Boyle, demonstrating his trademark inability to stick to facts, went on to falsely accuse Holder of previously attacking a Daily Caller article:
The Daily Caller's attempt to pass out pitchforks to GOP members of Congress and send them after Attorney General Eric Holder has now been called out by the target himself.
TPM's Ryan J. Reilly reports:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday told a reporter with the conservative news website The Daily Caller that the news organization was ginning up calls for him to resign over ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious.
The reporter approached Holder after an event at the White House on the federal government's efforts to combat counterfeit goods.
"You guys need to... you guys need to stop this," TPM heard Holder tell the reporter. "There's not an organic* thing happening, you guys are behind this."
Holder was referencing Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's month-long quest to find relatively low-ranking Republican members of Congress interested in taking a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation. The putative rationale for these calls is the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious; new evidence has been revealed indicating that Holder know about the controversial tactics used in that operation.
You may remember Boyle from his public humiliation over a ludicrously false September report that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire "230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations." Boyle's colleagues were reportedly embarrassed by the decision by DC executive editor David Martosko -- who has a long record in conservative political advocacy but none in journalism -- to stand behind Boyle's reporting.
At most publications, a misstep of this magnitude would have consequences. But at the Caller, it's more of a feature than a bug. And so Boyle has apparently spent much of the last month calling around to Republican politicians and asking them whether they think Holder should resign. That's creating a story, not reporting one.
Daily Caller hack Matthew Boyle spent yesterday calling around to the spokespeople for Republican members of Congress and asking them if their bosses think Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over Operation Fast and Furious, and wouldn't you know it, he found a few willing to grandstand in the press. According to Boyle, "Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, John Mica of Florida, Quico Canseco of Texas and Gus Bilirakis of Florida each told The Daily Caller on Thursday that they believe Holder should step down now."
If you think that seems like an odd group of members of Congress that have nothing in common, you're right. If you think that almost definitely indicates that he reached out to some Republican congressional offices who either refused comment or wouldn't say Holder should step down, you're probably right. And if you think that it sounds like Boyle created a story rather than reporting one, you're definitely right.
But because Boyle is a hack, this is an indication that Holder's "tenure in the Obama administration may be coming to an end," because the number of members of Congress calling for his resignation "has doubled in one day." How the fact that relatively low-level Republican members of Congress don't support him would lead to him leaving the administration is left unsaid.
Because the Daily Caller is a hack publication, they are currently running this banner headline:
And of course, they have help from their friends at Fox News:
As we previously noted, Fox devoted nearly four times more evening coverage to a Republican congressman's call for a special counsel to investigate Holder than they gave to Senate Democrats who called for one to investigate Bush AG Alberto Gonzales. It will be interesting to see how much time they decide to give to Boyle's non-story.
Last month, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle published a story that was basically catnip for the anti-regulation crowd. Citing a court brief from the Environmental Protection Agency, Boyle wrote that the EPA was "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations. Boyle also took to Twitter to broadcast how EPA administrator "LISA JACKSON wants an ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS."
Predictably, the story got picked up by Fox News, the office of Sen. James Inhofe, and the usual climate-change-denial suspects. Unfortunately for them, Boyle's story was 100% false. Boyle completely misread the court brief, which detailed how the EPA had avoided the scenario he described.
Boyle's misfire was widely ridiculed, but rather than admit fault and correct the error, the Daily Caller stuck to their guns. Executive editor David Martosko compounded the damage to the publication's credibility by issuing a snide comment to Politico and following that with a misleading editor's note on the Caller website.
Apparently outside observers weren't the only ones aghast at Daily Caller's complete lack of standards. According to a report this morning by FishbowlDC's Betsy Rothstein, "newsroom sources" at the Caller were dismayed by Martosko's defense of Boyle's "pointedly bogus" story and "feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention":
Martosko has undoubtedly been a controversial figure from the start. Newsroom sources say his profound defense of reporter Matthew Boyle and his recent EPA piece troubled reporters who believed the story was false and feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention the ordeal received in publications such as Politico and parts of the right-wing media. They couldn't conceive why their editor was defending a story many considered pointedly bogus.
I suppose it's slightly reassuring that at least some people at the Caller are capable of acknowledging facts and reality -- too bad their executive editor doesn't seem to be one of them.
This week we caught Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle completely misreading a court brief to claim that the "EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers" to process greenhouse gas regulations "at an estimated cost of $21 billion." In reality, EPA was describing a scenario that it avoided by issuing a rule in May 2010 significantly reducing the number of facilities required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions.
Boyle's report -- which was circulated by Sen. Inhofe's office and made its way to Fox News -- was just wrong. But rather than issue a correction, Daily Caller doubled down, telling Politico that "anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows" EPA wouldn't try to "limit its own power." As more commentators noticed this brazen disregard for the facts, The Daily Caller came up with a more substantive response, still insisting the story "was spot-on and accurate":
Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It's true that the agency's court filing outlined a "tailoring rule" as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that "the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold" -- meaning it's not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.
Nope. The brief did not present the tailoring rule "as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion." It presented the rule as a way to circumvent a scenario in which state and local agencies would need 230,000 employees to review 6.1 million permit applications. The rule phases in compliance, "thereby relieving the overwhelming regulatory burdens on both permitting authorities and literally millions of stationary sources."
You don't need 230,000 new workers if you don't have a massive flood of permit applications to process all at once. Instead of 6.1 million sources requiring operating permits, EPA expects 15,550 -- 97 percent of which can add greenhouse gases to the permits they already have for other pollutants.
Tucker Carlson's content farm screwed up big time.
Two days ago, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle reported that the Environmental Protection Agency, in phasing in greenhouse gas regulations, was "asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." In fact, the EPA was arguing the exact opposite: that they were avoiding a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. The facts are not in dispute: the Daily Caller got it completely wrong.
Normally, in instances like these, corrections are issued. That's what journalists do.
That's not what the Daily Caller is doing.
Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko is standing by the inarguably false story, and is actually claiming that the facts surrounding the story are subordinate to the narrative they're trying to push. He told Politico:
"The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What's 'comically wrong' is the idea that half of Washington won't admit it. The EPA's own court filing speaks volumes," Martosko said in an email.
"What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer," he added. "The suggestion that the EPA -- this EPA in particular -- is going to court to limit its own growth is the funniest thing I've seen since Nancy Grace's nipple-slip."
This isn't a question of "what's more likely" -- you're wrong. The EPA did not do what you said it did. And the facts of the story actually argue against your hackneyed, preformed notion of the Obama administration's insatiable drive to expand government, which itself is certainly not sufficient basis for a "news" story.
Sweet Nancy Grace joke, though.