Right-wing media outlets -- led by Fox's Megyn Kelly -- helped the GOP execute a whisper campaign falsely accusing Hillary Clinton of committing perjury when she left the State Department and demanding to see a separation document to prove their charge. After the Associated Press accepted the premise that a separation document should be produced, the State Department made clear that neither Clinton nor her predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, were required to sign that document.
Megyn Kelly is using her platform and branding as an independent voice and legal expert on Fox News to make up laws and fabricate felony charges over Hillary Clinton's email use, accusing the former secretary of state of destroying evidence.
The State Department on Tuesday confirmed that it had no record of Clinton or her immediate predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, having signed a separation form (OF-109) upon leaving office, and that they were not required to sign that form.
Citing absolutely no independent legal authority, Kelly argued that "protocols" required Clinton to sign the document, only to quickly dismiss the fact that there is no evidence that Powell or Rice signed the form. She baselessly insinuated that Clinton destroyed documents to conceal perjury, claiming that the separation form "suddenly disappeared," and argued that Clinton was "committing a felony" by keeping email on a private server, which Kelly claimed amounted to concealing federal records.
Clinton has turned over 55,000 pages of emails as part of a State Department initiative to update its recordkeeping. State Department officials have made clear that Clinton's use of a non-government email account during her tenure was well known throughout the department, undercutting Kelly's argument that Clinton was concealing anything, and the overwhelming majority of her work-related email was captured in real time.
Kelly's fallacious legal opinion has been flatly rejected by actual legal experts who have said that Clinton's use of a private email while serving as secretary of state was perfectly legal, and by the undisputed fact that Clinton was under no deadline to turn over her private emails to the State Department.
Neil Koslowe, an expert on the Federal Records Act, told The National Law Journal, "There's not any blanket prohibition on any federal employee from using a personal email account to conduct government business." Fox News legal analysts Jonna Spilbor and Arthur Aidala agreed that Clinton did not violate any laws. Jason Baron, the former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration and a critic of Clinton's use of private email, acknowledged that Clinton did not violate any laws.
Even conservative columnist and Fox News regular Byron York acknowledged that the absence of separation forms from Powell and Rice "is exculpatory for Clinton."
Kelly has been obsessed with the question of whether Clinton signed a separation form, discussing it every night on her show since March 11. Her specious accusations and wild conspiracy theories, delivered with the veneer of legal authority, underscore her unique positioning at Fox News.
Since moving into the Fox news primetime lineup, she has been treated to a steady stream of glowing profiles that help Fox market Kelly as "break in the clouds, an interlude of lucidity," between hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, obvious purveyors of misinformation.
But for every one of the "Megyn moments" that show Kelly breaking from the perceived Fox orthodoxy to speak truth to power, there are even more, often subtle examples of her using her platform to advance the core Fox mission.
Conservative media fabricated perjury charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, demanding to see a copy of a separation form they argued she violated through her use of her personal email. Those same media figures did not demand to see the same form from Colin Powell -- whom State Department officials say did not sign the same form.
In the March 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the March 10 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Fox News figures are adopting an impossible standard to launch unprovable allegations against Hillary Clinton, arguing that the absence of an email can insinuate that Clinton either withheld or destroyed evidence.
Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claimed on the March 8 edition of CBS' Face The Nation that there are "gaps of months" in Clinton's email documents turned over by the State Department for the committee's investigation. To prove his claim, Gowdy referenced a photo of Clinton on her phone during a trip to Tripoli, Libya, and the absence of any email from that day related to Benghazi. According to Gowdy's logic: "It strains credibility to believe that if you're on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy that there's not a single document that's been turned over to Congress."
Fox News personalities quickly adopted Gowdy's absurd line of attack against Clinton. On his radio show, Sean Hannity asserted that "you can't tell me that it was an accident that 55,000 pages of emails were turned over but not one was about Benghazi." Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano took the attack further alleging that Clinton's control of her documents means Gowdy "does not know if she gave him everything he subpoenaed." Bill O'Reilly echoed Gowdy's allegations on the March 9 edition of his show, saying "there's already a gap brought out by Congressman Gowdy" because "the day that she traveled to Libya, there's no emails that came out on that and it's inconceivable that she wouldn't have any." And during an interview with Gowdy, Megyn Kelly agreed with demands that Clinton turn over her private email server stating that Clinton "chose to create a situation" where questions about her emails would need to be answered.
According to that fallacious reasoning, the absence of evidence proves wrongdoing on Clinton's part.
The reality is, the State Department turned over Clinton emails related to Benghazi to the Select Committee months ago. In a March 6 letter chastising Gowdy for "the very partisan and political turn" to issue a subpoena to Clinton, Democratic members of the House Select Committee noted that the State Department already turned over 300 Clinton emails related to Benghazi, and those emails confirm the findings of the Accountability Review Board:
These documents include no evidence to suggest that Secretary Clinton ordered the Secretary of Defense to "stand down," no evidence to suggest that she was personally involved in denying requests for security for Benghazi, and no evidence to suggest that she ordered the destruction of documents. Nothing in these emails contradicts or calls into question the findings of the independent Accountability Review Board.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens dismissed the Department of Justice (DOJ) report on Ferguson Police Department's disproportionate targeting of blacks as a "case of bad apples." Despite serious findings of racial bias and stereotyping in the department, Kelly called the report "problematic," arguing that "there are very few companies in America...[where]...you won't find racist emails."
A Department of Justice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department found that the city's "approach to law enforcement both reflects and reinforces racial bias, including stereotyping." The report also found that the disproportionate arrests and citations of African Americans could not be explained by differences in the rate of crime committed by blacks and whites.
According to NBC News, the investigation also "highlighted seven racist emails sent by police and court employees." CNN reported that the emails "resulted in three Ferguson, Missouri, city employees resigning or being fired," noting:
[T]he racist emails include one sent in October 2011 that showed a photo of bare-chested dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption "Michelle Obama's High School Reunion." A June 2011 email described a man trying to put his dogs on welfare because the canines were "mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no ... clue who their Daddies are."
During the March 9 edition of her Fox News show, Kelly hosted Stephens who downplayed the DOJ's report as merely a report about traffic citations, "not a story of institutional racism." Kelly agreed, saying it is unfair to "tar the entire organization" as racist because "there are very few companies in America, whether they are public or private" where "you won't find any racist e-mails, [or] any inappropriate comments."
Media figures are exploiting the feeding frenzy over Hillary Clinton's email to engage in wild speculation, including wondering if she committed a felony. Numerous independent legal analysts have said that Clinton did not violate the law through her use of a non-government email account.
From the February 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Right-wing media are baselessly connecting the Obama administration and the State Department to a local Israeli campaign against current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, American political consultants from both parties have been independently working in Israeli campaigns for decades -- including former Obama aides who have worked for Netanyahu.
Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote on February 2 that a former Obama campaign staffer went to Israel "to oust Netanyahu," suggesting the former staffer would not do this work "if he thought Obama opposed it" and implying the administration was "actively working to defeat Netanyahu":
Obama's 2012 national field director, Jeremy Bird, was headed to Tel Aviv to manage a grass-roots campaign to oust Netanyahu. Bird would not be working to defeat Netanyahu if he thought Obama opposed it. Can you imagine Karl Rove going to London while George W. Bush was in office to help conservatives oust Prime Minister Tony Blair? It further emerged that the group behind Bird's anti-Netanyahu effort has received State Department funding and lists the State Department as a "partner" on its Web site.
But before this false idea hit the Post, it bubbled up from the right-wing media echo chamber.
Two policy groups in Israel, OneVoice and Victory 15, are currently working together to promote platforms that reportedly "are not friendly" to Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming election.
The groups have also partnered with American consulting group 270 Strategies, which is headed by Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign staffer. OneVoice began working with 270 Strategies in 2013, long before the Israeli elections were announced.
There is a long history of U.S. political consultants from both parties working for Israeli political campaigns. As the New York Times reported, former Obama campaign strategist Bill Knapp worked as an adviser to Netanyahu in 2009. Josh Isay, whose firm worked on the Obama campaign, has also worked for Netanyahu. Bill Clinton campaign strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg worked for an Israeli Labor Party candidate in 1999; up until recently Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein worked for Netanyahu.
Nevertheless, conservatives have jumped on 270 Strategies' current work to falsely accuse the Obama administration -- and President Obama personally -- of attempting to influence Israeli politics.
In particular, the right-wing criticism revolves around the administration's response to Rep. John Boehner's (R-OH) recent announcement that Netanyahu was invited to speak before the U.S. Congress without President Obama's knowledge shortly before Israel's election, an unusual intervention in foreign policy and almost-unheard of action between heads of state. Conservatives claim that 270 Strategies' work with OneVoice proves Obama is either retaliating against Netanyahu or engaging in a similar effort to meddle in foreign politics; but again, 270's work on the ground in Israel began long before this most recent disagreement, and it is typical for American political consultants to engage in Israeli politics.
Fringe blogs Gateway Pundit and PJ Media led the charge, publishing the "report" on January 26 claiming "The Obama administration is backing the campaign to defeat Netanyahu." The Drudge Report hyped an inside look at the "HQ of ex-Obama staffers' anti-Bibi campaign," right below a story labeled "White House ratchets up criticism of Netanyahu." Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) even followed up with a blog on Breitbart.com to ask, "Has President Obama launched a political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu?"
Fox News also picked up the claim, with host Megyn Kelly suggesting that the administration sent an Obama "field general" to help Israel "elect Netanyahu's opponent":
[The Obama administration says] that they're fine, they are not going to interfere with the Israeli election, they don't want anything to do with that and yet, we have reports yesterday that this guy Jeremy Bird, who was the field general for Obama's re-election campaign is helping in Israel elect Netanyahu's opponent and to replace the current government there. Pure coincidence?
When Kelly's guest Joe Trippi then explained that former campaign staffers frequently work on international campaigns -- on either side of various issues -- National Review's Rich Lowry attempted to argue that "you cannot find anyone significant around President Obama who would ever go to work for Bibi Netanyahu, which, again, goes to the animosity they have to this man personally and for the point of view he represents."
Many of the media outlets took the smear further, by also claiming that tax-payer dollars were funding the campaign. OneVoice briefly received a one-time grant for about $200,000 from the State Department, which ended in November 2014. As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki noted in a briefing, the grant "ended before there was a declaration of an Israeli election."
Nevertheless, media outlets such as the Daily Caller insisted that OneVoice was currently "backed by the Department of State" and labeled it "Kerry's Diplomatic Protection Racket." Kelly even suggested that OneVoice "should be forced to return the $200,000 to the taxpayers."
Now, this right-wing distortion of the facts has made it all the way to the Post.
Fox News is burying Republican policy positions that exacerbate income inequality in order to help the GOP rebrand itself as a party for the middle class. This effort follows years of Fox figures blasting Democratic policies designed to alleviate income inequality as "class warfare."
From the January 22 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Right-wing media maligned Obama's economic policy initiatives announced during his State Of The Union address as both divisive class warfare and Santa Claus-style giveaways.
In an extraordinary and at-times comical about-face, Fox News has ushered in the New Year by joining forces with Republicans to denounce President Obama for obstructing Congress and standing in the way of legislative accomplishments.
The beauty of the Fox performance is that hardly anybody breaks character by dipping into reality and acknowledging, 'Oh by the way, Republicans did just spend the last six years blocking every conceivable Obama initiative.' Instead, the script is adhered to with stoic loyalty and the meme marches on: The Republican Congress is eager and willing to get the job done if only Obama would act! It's an amazingly disciplined, although thoroughly oddball, propaganda performance.
"There's new energy and renewed vigor on the Hill to get something done," Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle announced on The Five. "But what's really going to poison the well is Obama with the pen. If he's going to sit there and be an obstructionist, and uses pen to be -- so it's really going to put -- you know, a drain on kind of any energy working on bipartisan things together."
Host Megyn Kelly was concerned last week that Obama's stated opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline might represent a "thumb in the eye" to the new Republican-controlled Senate. And Fox contributor Karl Rove advised Obama that if he vetoes Republican bills, "it's going to simply build the image of him as being obstructionist. That's not going to be healthy for his last two years in office."
The beauty of the Rove comment was that it was immediately followed by this observation from host Greta Van Susteren about Obama: "Many Republicans are right in his face saying they want to repeal Obamacare."
And she's right. Republicans have exerted unprecedented time and energy to try to undo Obama's landmark legislation from his first term. Republicans, cheered on by Fox News and the right-wing media, have waged an unrelenting political and legal war to dismantle Obamacare. And last week Van Susteren marveled that Republicans were once again right in Obama's face trying to repeal--to obstruct--Obamacare. Yet moments earlier Rove lamented Obama's supposed obstructionist streak? Both talkers pretended to be clueless about the glaring contradiction.
Meanwhile, Fox has welcomed a parade of Republicans who suddenly can't wait to legislate and who condemn the Democrats' obstructionist streak. "The American people are tired of the gridlock and the hyper-partisan environment here in Washington," Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) told Fox News on January 7. "The election sent a very clear message, the people want to see the congress working together again."
This is almost two funny for words. Not the part about Americans wanting politicians to work together to get things done. (They definitely do.) But the idea that the midterm elections sent Congress and the White House a prescient and unprecedented memo: Work together. Because I'm pretty sure that by rewarding Obama with electoral landslide victories in 2008 and 2012, voters also "sent a very clear message."