Fox News figures are using newly released internal emails to falsely suggest that the intelligence community never connected the attack in Benghazi, Libya to protests against an anti-Islam video. In fact, every version of the talking points, including the CIA's original draft, linked the attack to protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which were part of a series of global riots and protests that were partly in response to increased awareness of the video.
On May 15, the White House released more than 100 pages of emails about the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The Los Angeles Times noted of the emails: "Even the very first version of the talking points suggests that the attack was inspired by the protests in Cairo over the anti-Muslim video, a perfectly plausible supposition at the time. That undermines the Republican claim that administration officials concocted the notion of a Benghazi protest to protect the president from a perception that Al Qaeda was ascendant again." Indeed, the original version of the talking points produced by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated:
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.
But Fox News figures have ignored this to predictably use the emails to criticize the Obama administration for misleading Americans when officials publicly linked the Benghazi attacks to the anti-Islam video.
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Eugene Robinson's Friday Washington Post column that throws buckets of cold water on the Benghazi "cover-up" is well worth a read, but it touches only briefly on one aspect of the Benghazi story that emerged this week that merits further exploration: the degree to which "whistleblower" Gregory Hicks was "muzzled."
Since testifying at the House Oversight Committee hearing on May 8, a media narrative has emerged that Hicks, after speaking to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in Libya following the attacks, faced intimidation at the hands of the State Department, beginning with a phone call from Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Depending on which conservative media figure is talking, Mills is said to have "excoriated," "reprimanded," "punished," and even "demoted" Hicks right then and there. Going by Hicks' own testimony, none of that is true.
To recap: following the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Rep. Chaffetz traveled to Libya to interview witnesses and survivors. Hicks, who had become chief of mission following the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, was one of the people Chaffetz sought to interview. Right-wingers like Guy Benson, writing at Townhall.com, have alleged "US Ambassador Chris Stevens' second in command, Gregory Hicks, was instructed not to speak with a Congressional investigator by Sec. Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills."
This is not true. Hicks testified that the State Department had instructed him not to speak to Chaffetz without a State attorney present -- a condition Hicks says was unusual, but which the State Department says is standard procedure. In any event, Hicks ended up speaking to Chaffetz without the attorney present because, according to his testimony, the lawyer lacked the proper security clearance. Also, Hicks testified that he spoke with Mills only after speaking with Chaffetz.
President Obama's most fevered critics have been waiting for a national "aha" moment since he was first inaugurated more than 50 months ago. Coming off an electoral landslide, Obama was instantly greeted by a mob-like movement on the far right that denounced him as a socialist and a communist. Excited conservatives quickly reached for Nazi rhetoric and imagery in an effort to convey the dark threat the Democrat posed to the country.
Amplified by Fox News and a well-funded right-wing media industry, the "grassroots" revolt was portrayed as a sweeping rebuke of Obama. But in truth, the raging critics occupied the loud fringes, a fact confirmed by Obama's easy re-election.
Still, professional detractors have held out hope that at some point Americans would come to see Obama as they see Obama; as a monster of historic proportions who's committed to stripping citizens of their liberties and getting them addicted to government dependencies, like a drug dealer.
This week's House Oversight Committee hearing into the Sept. 11 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was supposed to trigger that "aha" event. It was supposed to be The Day Americans Turned On Obama. Indeed, Obama wouldn't be able finish out his second term because the Benghazi revelations were going to be so damaging, Fox New's Mike Huckabee told his radio listeners. And Sean Hannity warned ominously that, "This is going to be a really defining, important week in the Obama presidency, and it's not going to be a good week."
But none of that happened at the hearing. Instead of being the kind of "explosive" Watergate-style hearing that Fox talkers prayed for, Wednesday's hearing sagged under the weight of stubborn facts, and didn't even reach the level of Whitewater hearings, which under Bill Clinton established the modern day mark for pointlessly partisan "scandal" hearings.
Not that it matters to the media players who produced the Benghazi hearings, though. Conservatives continue their Groundhog Day charade, reassuring themselves that the hearing was a hit and that scandal "bombshells" exploded on Capitol Hill. (They did not.)
The larger, common sense question that lingers though is, why? Why keep pounding a story so far into the ground that most news consumers can't even make sense of the convoluted allegations anymore?
I think the explanation for the durability is that Benghazi serves as an all-purpose platform that allows the most hardened critics to project their anti-Obama madness. It allows them to spin their ugliest fantasies about the president and to depict him as a heartless traitor who chose to let Americans die at the hands of Islamic terrorists. It's a way to condemn Obama for having a "reflexive impulse to blame, rather than defend, America."
Fox News ignored congressional testimony that confirmed military leadership ordered a small team of troops to remain in Tripoli in order to protect embassy staff there from possible threats during the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, instead baselessly speculating that the president must have personally told the force to "stand down."
During the May 8 congressional hearings on the Benghazi attacks, witness Gregory Hicks -- who was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks -- explained that his team had proposed that a small group of four special forces troops leave Tripoli to provide aid in Benghazi, but that they were not authorized to do so by Special Operations Command Africa, a division of the U.S. military:
REP. ROBIN KELLY: You said that four military personnel were told not to the board that plane and that this call came from Special Operations Command Africa. Is that right?
HICKS: That's what I understand.
Fox News ignored this portion of Hicks' testimony. On Hannity the night of the hearings, host Sean Hannity disputed Fox News contributor Juan Williams' accurate explanation that "the military made this decision" to baselessly speculate the president, as Commander in Chief, must have been involved in the decision making process to ask the special forces to remain in Tripoli:
HANNITY: Wait a minute, we don't have a Commander in Chief or chain of command,and that somebody along the way, we don't know who eight months later, made a decision and told them to stand down while Americans were under fire and getting killed in Benghazi?
Fox News' Sean Hannity and Todd Starnes portrayed restraints on proselytization as proof of the Obama administration's purported "war on religious liberty in the military," despite the fact that military policy has long prohibited unwanted proselytization.
On the May 2 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity claimed that a Pentagon statement reiterating the military's longtime policy against proselytizing was proof of Obama's "war on religious liberty." Starnes added that Christians were "under significant attack" by the Obama administration, under which "we have seen a Christian cleansing of the United States military."
In fact, the U.S. military's anti-proselytization policy has been consistent among all religions, and it targets only disruptive activities. A statement released May 2 by Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen clarified the military's policy that "members of the military are free to share their faith as long as they don't harass others." Christensen continued:
From the May 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The National Rifle Association's annual meeting on May 3-5 will feature a number of conservative media figures -- including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Ted Nugent -- who often use violent rhetoric and promote gun-related conspiracy theories.
From the April 29 edition of Fox News Channel's Hannity:
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Over the objections of their own legal experts, right-wing media continue to argue the alleged Boston bomber should be denied constitutional rights unlike the hundreds of terrorists before him who have been successfully tried and convicted.
Prominent right-wing media figures have advocated a wide range of unconstitutional treatment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old U.S. citizen accused of complicity in the Boston marathon bombing and subsequent murder of a police officer. Echoing GOP politicians from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), right-wing media have called for Tsarnaev to be denied the constitutional protections regularly given to domestic or foreign terrorists in this country, both before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Fox News hosts have suggested using torture on Tsarnaev because not all American citizens are "worthy of the constitutional rights that we have." The Wall Street Journal joined the dangerous clamor (fueled by Graham and Bachman) to indefinitely detain Tsarnaev in military custody as an "enemy combatant." Conservative pundit Ann Coulter told Fox's Sean Hannity she wanted authorities to "shoot up the boat" when they found Tsarnaev unarmed and "get him an automatic death penalty there."
When the Department of Justice initiated criminal proceedings against Tsarnaev, right-wing media turned their ire upon Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for not preventing the federal judge from following the law. National Review Online's John Yoo accused the president of the "elevation of ideology over national security." Fox host Megyn Kelly continues to pretend "the public safety exception to Miranda lasts only 48 hours." A Washington Times columnist called for President Obama's impeachment because he is "unwilling" to protect America.
On August 5, 2012, just before 10:30 in the morning, Wade Michael Page pulled up outside the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI., took out his semi-automatic handgun and started killing worshipers. An Army veteran and an avid bass player in a neo-Nazi rock band, Page murdered two Sikhs outside the house of worship and then made his way inside. There, he reloaded and killed four more, including the president of the temple who was shot while trying to tackle Page. Three more were critically wounded in the massacre.
When local police descended, Page opened fire and shot one officer nearly ten times. When the authorities returned fire and shot Page in the stomach, he took his 9mm pistol, pointed it at his own head, and pulled the trigger.
According to acquaintances, the 40-year-old killer hated blacks, Indians, Native Americans and Hispanics (he called non-whites "dirt people"), and was interested in joining the Klu Klux Klan. Immersed in the world of white power music, Page's band rehearsed in front of a Nazi flag.
Note that back in August 2012, Fox News didn't care very much about Wade Page and the wild gun shootout he unleashed in an act of domestic terror in the Milwaukee suburb, nor did Fox suggest the event was connected to a larger, more sinister terror trend. In fact, in the days that followed the gun massacre, there were just two passing references to Page during Fox' primetime, one from Bill O'Reilly and one from Greta Sustern. No guests were asked to discuss the temple shooting, and after one day the story was completely forgotten.
In one rare occasion when the conversation did turn to Page's motivations, Fox's opinion hosts were quick to criticize the notion that he was a far-right extremist. (He clearly was.) On The Five, after co-host Bob Beckel referred to Page as "right-wing skinhead," he was quickly shouted down by his colleagues. Co-host Andrea Tantaros stressed that the killing was an isolated event that didn't have any larger implications. "How do you stop a lunatic?" she asked. "This is not a political issue."
Fox's guarded response to an extremist's murder spree was striking, considering that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bomb attack Fox News has gone all in (again) with its war on Islam as the channel fights its latest bigoted chapter in the War on Terror. It's striking as Fox tries to blame a larger community for the act of two madmen because it's the same Fox News that often can't find time to even comment, let alone report, on what's become regular, and often deadly, right-wing extremist attacks in America.
From neo-Nazi killers like Page, to a string of abortion clinic bombings, as well as bloody assaults on law enforcement from anti-government insurrectionists, acts of right-wing extreme violence continue to terrorize victims in the U.S. ("Fifty-six percent of domestic terrorist attacks and plots in the U.S. since 1995 have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists.") But Fox News is not concerned. And Fox News does not try to affix collective blame.
From the April 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the April 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News figures accused the Obama administration of trying to "maximize" sequestration pain on the American people through the Federal Aviation Administration's furloughs of air traffic controllers, despite the fact that federal agencies are required by law to cut their programs evenly.
On April 22, the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration forced the F.A.A. to begin furloughs for air traffic controllers. The unpaid leaves delayed more than 1,200 flights that day, according to the F.A.A.
Although the legislation provides little to no room for agencies to decide how to implement the budget cuts, Fox figures used the furloughs to argue that the administration is trying to inflict maximum pain from sequestration. On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed that administration is furloughing air traffic controllers "because they want to maximize the amount of pain that you the American people are feeling."
In fact, as a New York Times editorial explained, "the sequester law is clear in requiring the F.A.A. and most other agencies to cut their programs by an even amount." This provision prevents agencies from deciding how and where to implement the budget cuts:
As it happens, the sequester law is clear in requiring the F.A.A. and most other agencies to cut their programs by an even amount. That law was foisted on the public after Republicans demanded spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011. Since then, the party has rejected every offer to replace the sequester with a more sensible mix of cuts and revenue increases.
As Forbes explained, the F.A.A. and other federal agencies "have little or no discretion to target spending cuts":
The across-the-board nature of the spending cuts has been well-noted. Federal agencies have little or no discretion to target spending cuts by, say, getting rid of obsolete or poorly-run programs. They have to cut them all, the good ones and the bad ones alike. They can't lay off poorly performing workers, they must furlough everyone.
But the fact that the legislation prevents the Obama administration from targeting the cuts has not prevented Fox figures from parroting Hannity's claim.
In the wake of the Boston bombings, Fox host Sean Hannity revived his false narrative that Obama is soft on terrorism because he failed to characterize "jihad" as inherently violent in a 2010 speech. In fact, Obama's approach has been praised, and former President George W. Bush made similar statements about the nature of "jihad."
On the April 23 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity claimed that after the Boston terror attack, President Obama is still unwilling to "engage in a war on radical Islam." After playing a November 7, 2010, clip of Obama answering a question in Mumbai, India, about jihad, explaining that "the phrase 'jihad' has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations," Hannity responded: "There are not really many interpretations -- that's spin. Jihad equals holy war." From the show:
But Obama's interpretation of jihad is no different from the definition used by the Bush administration that preceded him. The 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, issued by the Bush administration's National Security Council, stated, "Terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers." And in an October 2005 speech, Bush said that "extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against anyone who does not share their radical vision, including Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics." He continued: