Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings starting October 4 on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, which include ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates. Attkisson has a lengthy record of shoddy, inaccurate reporting, and she has pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that the government hacked her home electronics.
Conservative media figures are echoing discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson's defense of Donald Trump to claim the media distorted his remark that Sen. John McCain is not a war hero.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings for Sinclair Broadcast Group across its 62 stations, the group announced April 22.
TV Technology reported that the show will be able to reach 37.5 percent of U.S. TV households and will air "on Sinclair's Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates nationwide." The magazine added, "the 30-minute program, which will be based in Washington, D.C., will be a blend of investigative and political journalism, with a focus on accountability, according to Sinclair. Attkisson will join Sinclair in June, and the show is expected to launch in the fall of 2015."
Media Matters has documented Attkisson's long history of sloppy and inaccurate reporting, including her confused allegation that someone in the government broke into her computers. After leaving CBS, Attkisson has been producing reports for the conservative Daily Signal, which continue to be plagued by her inaccurate reporting.
Sinclair Broadcasting has often injected conservative messages into their news broadcasts. A few days before the 2004 election, Sinclair reportedly ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming in order to air a film leveling several false allegations against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
Loretta Lynch, President Obama's pick to replace Eric Holder as the U.S. attorney general, is a highly regarded and well-qualified federal prosecutor who has support from law-enforcement authorities and politicians on both sides of the aisle. But that hasn't stopped right-wing media from mounting a smear campaign to thwart Lynch's nomination. With reports indicating that GOP leadership may yet again block an up-or-down vote on Lynch's nomination, here are some of the most nonsensical arguments against her confirmation and facts that media outlets have missed -- or misrepresented -- about Lynch.
In a rush to find fault in Obama's well-qualified nominee, the right-wing website Breitbart.com managed to attack the wrong Loretta Lynch, not once, but twice. In a November 8 post, Breitbart.com writer Warner Todd Huston claimed that "few are talking about" the fact that Lynch defended the Clintons during the Whitewater probe in 1992 -- probably because it wasn't the same Loretta Lynch who was nominated. After learning of the mistake, Breitbart.com noted at the bottom of the one article that was not taken down, "The Loretta Lynch identified earlier as the Whitewater attorney was, in fact, a different attorney."
Right-wing media have also tried to paint Lynch as a dangerous partisan. National Review's Hans von Spakovsky characterized Lynch as "on the side of radical" because she supported the Department of Justice's legal challenges against strict voter ID laws, which are based on half a century of modern civil rights precedent. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs complained that Lynch's membership in the historically black sorority Delta Sigma Theta was "controversial" because Holder's wife pledged at the same time. It is true: At times, she has defended civil rights, and she once belonged to a well-known sorority.
Senate Republicans turned to some of right-wing media's go-to contributors to turn Lynch's confirmation hearing into what Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called a "sound bite factory for Fox News." The Republicans' witness list included:
When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked if any of them had a problem with Lynch's nomination for attorney general, none of them raised their hands -- they were there to complain about their favored right-wing media topics, and they did.
Sharyl Attkisson's lawyer told the Daily Beast that an investigation that found no evidence her personal computer was hacked is "irrelevant" because it reviewed the wrong computer, despite her own repeated claims that the desktop in question had been compromised. He also falsely claimed her lawsuit against the federal government for alleged hacking was focused solely on a separate work computer.
Attkisson, a former CBS reporter who now freelances for conservative outlets, previously claimed that her personal Apple laptop, personal Apple desktop, and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop had been breached as part of a federal effort to monitor her because she did reporting critical of the Obama administration.
In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were "sophisticated" methods. They did not identify the party or parties behind the breach.
Attkisson writes in her book Stonewalled that she subsequently gave her "personal Apple desktop iMac computer" to the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General for review, claiming that she believed a government agency was monitoring it. A report of that review, entered into public record on January 29, found no "evidence of remote or unauthorized access" on the "personal iMac computer" OIG examined. (The report also raised serious questions about the techniques used by CBS' private technician, who examined the CBS laptop and her personal computers.)
Now, when asked to explain why the OIG was unable to find evidence of hacking on the personal Apple computer, Attkisson's lawyer Tab Turner is claiming that the findings are "irrelevant," because the OIG looked at the wrong computer. The Daily Beast reported:
Concerning the Inspector General's report, Turner characterized it as "irrelevant," claiming that Attkisson's "work computer" is "the sole focus" of her legal complaints.
As for why the Feds reached their decidedly unhelpful conclusions, Turner said: "It's pretty simple. They didn't look at the computer."
It is entirely unclear why Attkisson would have turned her personal computer over to the OIG for review if, as her lawyer's statement suggests, she did not believe that machine had been compromised. Indeed, Turner's claims contradict Attkisson's own statements about the computer.
Moreover, the work computer is not "'the sole focus' of her legal complaints." In fact, the lawsuit filed in the D.C. Superior Court claims that all three of Attkisson's computers were compromised.
The lawsuit claims that the CBS News technician found "evidence on both Ms. Attkisson's Toshiba laptop and Apple desktop computers of a coordinated, highly-skilled series of actions and attacks at the operation of the computers and the storage and access of data thereon." It claims Attkisson personally "observed for the first time that a third computer, her personal MacBookAir, was access remotely, controlled, and that data was deleted." Finally, the lawsuit claims that "The surveillance of Ms. Attkisson's computers" -- plural -- "violated the Fourth Amendment."
Attkisson has changed her hacking story multiple times, and the twists in the tale lead to certain confusions. For example, the Daily Beast piece, which questioned Attkisson's lawyer, claims Attkisson gave the OIG "her MacBook Air." Attkisson's 2014 book Stonewalled and the OIG report itself, on the other hand, say the investigation was of her Apple iMac desktop. Regardless, it appears that her lawyer believes the only computer with any evidence on it is the CBS Toshiba work laptop -- contradicting Attkisson's own previous statements on the matter.
In fact, Stonewalled begins on the very first page, under the subtitle "My Computer's Intruders," with a description of suspicious activity -- on Attkisson's Apple desktop computer.
Computer security experts tell Media Matters that the report of a federal investigation into Sharyl Attkisson's claims of computer hacking, which found no evidence of a remote intrusion, suggests that Attkisson's computer may have been contaminated by a private technician who reviewed the computer for her.
Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter who now writes for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, has claimed that her computers were hacked under an alleged federal effort to monitor her following her critical reporting of the Obama administration.
But the investigation from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General, based on an examination of her personal computer, found that the OIG "was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise," according to an abbreviated report of the review that was entered into the congressional record when Attkisson testified before Congress on January 29.
Computer security experts contacted by Media Matters reviewed the OIG report and explained that the findings revealed that at least one of the private technicians used by Attkisson likely contaminated any evidence that may have been on her computer.
In her book Stonewalled, Attkisson describes a private computer forensics analyst hired by CBS News coming to her house in February 2013 to examine her computers for potential intrusions.
The technician initially "opens up the CBS News laptop and begins deconstructing the files," until he finds some suspicious activity having occurred in December 2012. The technician then decides to take "a quick look at [Attkisson's] personal Apple iMac desktop computer" before leaving. He goes "straight to December" on the iMac as well, finds more suspicious activity, and tells Attkisson, "Oh shit!...That's not normal. Someone did that to your computer."
CBS News confirmed in June 2013 that Attkisson's CBS-issued laptop was breached, using what were "sophisticated" methods, but did not comment on her personal computers, nor did they identify the party or parties behind the breach. Attkisson then gave her personal Apple computer to the DOJ's inspector general for review, claiming evidence from the CBS analyst and other private security technicians who examined her computers confirmed for her that she was under surveillance by the federal government.
The OIG report "did not find evidence of remote or unauthorized access." However, they did find evidence of someone with physical access to the computer performing an examination in February 2013 (around the same time Attkisson says a CBS technician visited her home) that "is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." The OIG concluded that this technician's actions "could have obscured potential evidence of unauthorized access."
Computer security experts contacted by Media Matters reviewed the OIG report, and agreed with the government's assessment that the technician's actions ignored the basics of standard forensic examination and contaminated the computer.
"We would never sit down, turn on the computer and start doing our investigation from the computer itself, for a number of reasons," said Peter Theobald, a computer forensics investigator with TC Forensics of Syosset. N.Y. "One is that our own activities would leave traces all over the computer. It would be like going to a crime scene in big muddy boots and walking all over the crime scene. We would copy the hard drive first and all of our work would be done from that copy."
From the January 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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An investigation by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found no evidence that Sharyl Attkisson's personal computer was hacked. The former CBS reporter has claimed that her computers had been breached as part of a federal effort to monitor her because she did reporting critical of the Obama administration.
Attkisson, who left CBS News last year and now writes for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, previously claimed that her personal Apple laptop, personal Apple desktop, and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop were hacked while she was reporting on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were "sophisticated" methods. They did not identify the party or parties behind the breach.
But according to her 2014 book Stonewalled, unnamed sources confirmed for Attkisson that an unnamed government agency was behind the attack. Attkisson reiterated her claims in January 29 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As part of that hearing, an abbreviated report of the Office of the Inspector General's review of her allegations was entered into public record and obtained by Media Matters. The investigation, based in part on the OIG's examination of her personal Apple computer, found that the OIG "was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise." As Post opinion writer Erik Wemple first reported, the review found that "Attkisson is not and has not been under investigation by the FBI."
Attkisson had provided to the investigators a cellphone video she took of one apparent hack, which showed words typed into a Microsoft Word document on her personal laptop rapidly disappearing. Computer security experts told Media Matters when the video was first made public that it more likely showed her computer malfunctioning due to a stuck backspace key.
The OIG report seems to confirm that suspicion. "The video of text being deleted from a document appeared to be caused by the backspace key being stuck, rather than remote intrusion," the report states. The OIG found that a second video Attkisson provided of her CBS laptop showed "a standard error prompt."
Furthermore, the OIG report found that a "suspicious" cable Attkisson had described in the book and to the OIG as potential evidence of a "tap" was "a common cable" used by her internet provider that "could not be used to monitor or otherwise affect the phone or internet service at her residence."
An individual who examined Attkisson's computer prior to the OIG investigation, according to the report, used a "method of forensic examination" which "is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." This individual's actions "could have obscured potential evidence of unauthorized access."
Attkisson claims that this individual was hired by CBS News and sent to her house to examine her personal computer, but CBS News told the OIG that they did not conduct any analysis on her personal computer.
Media Matters has previously noted that Attkisson reversed herself on whether various technological problems she experienced were tied to the intrusion on her system. In the book, she suggested her phone, television, personal laptop, and cable systems had all malfunctioned due to the hacking. But during a radio interview she said the "disruptions happening in my electrical systems at home may in the end have nothing to do with the intrusion."
Attkisson is currently suing the government for alleged "unauthorized and illegal surveillance of the Plaintiff's laptop computers and telephones from 2011-2013."
From the January 28 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Fox host Martha MacCallum rehashed Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson's repeatedly debunked allegation that Hillary Clinton's State Department staff had "sifted through" and removed damaging Benghazi documents before turning them over to investigators, just days after a second witness has allegedly undermined Attkisson's report according to a letter from the ranking Democrat on The House Select Committee on Benghazi.
In a September 2014 report for The Daily Signal, Sharyl Attkisson baselessly claimed that Hillary Clinton's State Department staff scrubbed "damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya." Although Attkisson's report was denied by the State Department and relied solely on speculations from disgruntled former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell, Fox News quickly heralded it as a "bombshell" and "smoking gun."
A recently published November 2014 letter penned by the ranking Democrat on the House Benghazi Select Committee, Elijah Cummings, further undermined Attkisson's allegations, explaining that a second witness who Raymond Maxwell said could "corroborate his allegations" actually denied them, saying "he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department."
Despite the new developments, Fox News revived the discredited claim on the January 28 edition of America's Newsroom. Discussing the Benghazi Select Committee's third hearing, co-host Martha MacCallum attempted to assuage committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)'s claim that the Obama administration is withholding Benghazi documents, pointing to "the story a while back about documents being sifted through at the State Department over a weekend." MacCallum also went on to suggest "it could be that some of what you're looking for simply isn't around anymore."
The witness list for the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on Loretta Lynch, the highly regarded nominee for attorney general, indicates the process will be a forum for right-wing media favorites and myths but will have little to do with her qualifications.
Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, has long been praised across the political spectrum as a model federal prosecutor. Lynch has been confirmed twice as a U.S. attorney -- including by some of the same Republican senators now in control of the Judiciary Committee -- and news of her nomination in November brought a new round of support, including from conservative law enforcement sources.
Current New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton called Lynch "a remarkable prosecutor with a clear sense of justice without fear or favor." Former FBI director Louis Freeh wrote in a letter to Judiciary Committee leadership that he couldn't think of "a more qualified nominee" and was "happy to give Ms. Lynch my highest personal and professional recommendation." Freeh also wrote that he had spoken with "several of my former judicial colleagues who echo this support, and note that Ms. Lynch has gained a terrific reputation for effectively, fairly and independently enforcing the law." Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who worked with Lynch on an infamous police brutality case, has said "if I were in the Senate, I would confirm her."
Fringe right-wing media outlets and figures initially ignored this broad support and attacked Lynch anyway. The effort was spectacularly unsuccessful, as they mixed up the nominee with an entirely different Loretta Lynch and then claimed that her membership in Delta Sigma Theta, one of the country's leading African-American sororities, was "controversial."
Leading Fox News figures were better informed about the New York nominee, most notably News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who immediately noted Lynch had a "reputation for fairness and strict legality." In an O'Reilly Factor segment with Megyn Kelly on November 10, Bill O'Reilly said he was "heartened" she would be the new attorney general. In response, Kelly praised Lynch:
KELLY: I have to say that I think this is the person who should be the most acceptable to the right wing or the Republicans in this country of anybody who President Obama was considering. She is a straight shooter. First of all, she would be the first black female attorney general, right? I mean, that in and of itself is a pretty amazing accomplishment. Went to Harvard undergrad, went to Harvard Law School. She has no close ties to the White House. She is not some firm ideologue or partisan. She has prosecuted Democrats and Republicans. She's been a hero on gang crime, on terrorism.
Republican senators have been similarly honest about Lynch's record, admitting that she "seems to be a solid choice" and will instead use her hearing as a forum for grievances they have with the administration and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. The new chairman of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), told Politico: "All I can tell you is that immigration is going to be a big part of it. ... Not because of her views on immigration, but of the president's action on immigration and the extent of what she feels he's acted in a legal way."
Unfortunately, a review of the newly released witness list reveals that the Republican choices for this "proxy war of sorts" rely heavily on right-wing media favorites who frequently spread debunked smears and myths:
The House Select Committee on Benghazi has been unable to corroborate Sharyl Attkisson's latest "bombshell" Benghazi exclusive, which claimed that "Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to 'separate' damaging documents" about the 2012 attacks before they were turned over to investigators. According to the committee's ranking Democrat, a "second witness" allegedly undermined the report.
In September, Attkisson reported for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal that former State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell alleged he had witnessed an "after hours session" at State Department headquarters at which he was told that employees had been ordered to "pull out anything that might put anybody" in the department's leadership "in a bad light" before documents were handed over to the Accountability Review Board, which was investigating the attacks. Maxwell claimed the actions were "unethical." Fox News quickly trumpeted the story as "a smoking gun of a potential cover-up," claiming that it showed State had been "scrubbing the documents" which were "destroyed" on Clinton's behalf.
The implication that documents were withheld as Maxwell claimed -- which the State Department told Attkisson was "totally without merit" -- never really added up. Maxwell, one of four State employees to be disciplined for their role in the Benghazi attacks, had testified before two House committees and given multiple interviews in the 18 months before the Attkisson piece. But he reportedly never mentioned the alleged "after hours session" in those previous statements, instead focusing on how he was supposedly scapegoated to protect higher-ups at State from accountability. Slate's David Weigel called the discrepancy "baffling," writing of the account, "Holy ... what the ... why not mention that sooner? Previously, this was a story of a guy who was railroaded in order to protect the Clintons. It could have been a story about a guy who witnessed Clinton allies hiding evidence. ... Why hold off on the 'scrubbing' until now?"
Now, new evidence calls the story further into question. In a November 2014 letter just published by Mother Jones on the eve of the Benghazi Select Committee's third hearing, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings writes to committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), stating that Maxwell had identified to the committee's Republican staff a "second witness that he claimed was present during this document review" who could "corroborate his allegations," but that the "second witness" denied Maxwell's claims when interviewed by Republican staff. Cummings further alleges that Republican staff deliberately hid this information from Democratic staff.
In the letter, after highlighting an October 17 Fox News interview in which Gowdy said he planned to investigate Maxwell's claims, Cummings writes:
In fact, several weeks before you made those public statements, your staff had already interviewed Mr. Maxwell, but they did not include, invite, or even notify Democratic Members or staff. Mr. Maxwell apparently identified for your staff a second witness that he claimed was present during this document review at the State Department. Mr. Maxwell identified this person as someone who could corroborate his allegations and someone he believes is credible.
Then, on October 16 -- one day before you appeared on Fox News -- your staff interviewed this second witness, again without including Democrats. However, this second witness did not substantiate Mr. Maxwell's claims. To the contrary, he did not recall having been in the document review session Mr. Maxwell described, and he said he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department. He further reported that he never engaged or was aware of any destruction of documents.
I did not discover any of this information from you or your staff but from the witnesses themselves. When my staff inquired with your staff about what they learned from the witness identified by Mr. Maxwell, your staff stated that he had worked at the State Department during the relevant time period. Beyond that, however, they reported: "we learned nothing else of note in our discussion, so we don't plan to conduct any additional follow-up."
I am sure you understand -- as a former prosecutor -- that evaluating the credibility of witnesses and their allegations depends on whether the information they provide can be corroborated. Although your staff stated that they learned nothing "of note," in fact they learned that this claim was not substantiated by a key witness. If our goal is the truth and not a preconceived political narrative, these interviews should have been conducted jointly, with both Democrats and Republicans present.
Gowdy has not directly addressed Cummings' claims about Maxwell's story, either in a staff statement or in a letter to the committee's Democrats released after Cummings' letter was published by Mother Jones. He instead warned that Cummings' "characterization of witness testimony... not only risks an adverse effect on the investigation but could also negatively impact the witness' careers."
Research provided by Sophia Tesfaye and Cal Colgan.
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has been invited by Republicans to testify at a hearing on President Obama's attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch. Attkisson, who writes for the conservative Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal and has been praised by Fox News and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) for her shoddy reporting, is currently involved in a lawsuit targeting the Department of Justice.
According to a report on Monday by The Hill, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced that Attkisson "will testify during this week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Loretta Lynch, Obama's nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney general."
Attkisson recently named outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ in a $35 million lawsuit alleging that federal officials hacked into her computers and phones from 2011 to 2013. Although CBS News confirmed that Attkisson's then work-issued laptop had been compromised by an unknown source, Attkisson's claim of "some government tie," suggesting the hack was conducted by government officials, has been called out for egregious inconsistencies. Nevertheless, Attkisson went on to claim that the alleged government hack had caused ongoing electronic malfunctions with the phone, television and cable systems in her home.
But in fact, computer security experts said video released by Attkisson as evidence of a hack on her personal computer actually appeared to show her computer "malfunction[ing]," likely due to a stuck backspace key. Attkisson subsequently went on to walk back claims that the alleged hack affected her other home technology. Attkisson admitted that the issues "may in the end have nothing to do with the intrusion" into her work computer.
The Justice Department has denied Attkisson's allegations and a DOJ spokesperson told Business Insider in May 2013 that "to our knowledge, the Justice Department has never 'compromised' Ms. At[t]kisson's computers, or otherwise sought any information from or concerning any telephone, computer, or other media device she may own or use."
But despite her legal fight with the DOJ, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, called Attkisson to speak on a panel of witnesses that include Catherine Engelbrecht, the president of the voter ID group True the Vote, a conservative media favorite that actively hypes virtually non-existent voter fraud. Attkisson was praised by Issa for her shoddy reporting, which has in the past been based off misleading leaks from Issa's committee. She has also been hailed as a great reporter by many of Fox News' on-air personalities, some of whom have based their Benghazi coverage on her misinformation.
From the December 21 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
Right-wing media are claiming that former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attikisson was "targeted" by the Obama administration because a Department of Justice press aide complained to CBS about an article Attkisson wrote about Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, the story DOJ was criticizing inaccurately accused Attorney General Eric Holder of lying to Congress.
On November 20, conservative website PJ Media first reported on October 2011 emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Judicial Watch. The emails contain a conversation between then-DOJ office of public affairs director Tracy Schmaler and White House communications aide Eric Schultz criticizing a CBSNews.com piece written by Attkisson.
Schmaler wrote that she was going to contact Attkisson's editor and CBS's Bob Schieffer and called Attkisson "out of control." In a later email, Schmaler wrote that the contention of Attkisson's article was "bullshit."
PJ Media characterized the exchange as a "bombshell" that "provides smoking gun proof that the Obama White House and the Eric Holder Justice Department colluded to get CBS News to block reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
Conservative blogs ran with PJ Media's article, which was eventually picked up by the Drudge Report. Attkisson reacted to PJ Media's article on Glenn Beck's radio show, saying, "If you dare to go after them, they will target you, try to assassinate your character, they'll call your bosses, they'll email. We know all of this is going on, but we now have emails that they've been withholding under executive privilege that refer to this."
The story also quickly made its way to Fox News, where America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer reported the development as "more bombshell emails revealing how the White House targeted former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
That the Obama administration would complain about Attkisson's reporting is unremarkable -- the central contention of the article they were complaining about was in fact inaccurate, as later confirmed by a 2012 independent investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.