Fox News attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theory that the timing of Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture was "curious" by pretending the speculation originated outside the network.
Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Immediately, Fox anchors questioned the "curious timing" of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help President Obama in the polls or to give Hillary Clinton a good headline for an upcoming Fox News interview. After the breaking report on Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott pointed out that Khattala had given media interviews before his capture, and said the "obvious question" is "why now?" Minutes later on Outnumbered, the hosts called the arrest "too neat" and "too cute," speculating that it was timed to be "a great thing to announce" during Clinton's Fox interview.
On June 18, Fox hosts concealed that the speculation of "curious timing" began on their own network, noting that "some" people had made serious claims that the timing looked suspicious without identifying the origin. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy spouted:
It was yesterday that it was announced that we finally went in and got him. And to some, they said, 'Now isn't that curious timing? The same day that Hillary Clinton is showing up on Fox News, they are able to announce we got the bad guy.'
Fox News personalities baselessly accused the Obama administration of engaging in a cover-up following reports that the IRS lost emails connected to the alleged targeting of organizations seeking tax-exempt status, ignoring the fact that government agencies regularly lose emails due to antiquated computer systems and policies.
Fox News incorrectly claimed that children crossing the U.S. border to flee violence in Central America are getting a "free ride" into the United States and are being allowed to stay despite evidence showing that these children are immediately put into deportation proceedings and are not eligible for any of the Obama administration's deportation relief programs.
This year, precipitated by growing violence in Central America, thousands of migrant children have entered the U.S. and have been held in various locations in border states, including temporary housing in Arizona. Estimates have varied on the number that is expected to cross this year, with The New York Times reporting that some federal officials predict at least 60,000 unaccompanied minors will attempt to cross into the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year.
Fox News has capitalized on the situation to attack the Obama administration and incorrectly claim his administration's immigration policies are to blame for the rise, while falsely claiming these children would receive a free pass into the U.S.
On the June 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer used the border crossings by unaccompanied migrant children to claim that the president was doing nothing about the situation. Fox contributor David Webb agreed, blaming the Obama administration for exacerbating "a human crisis" by "actively promoting" their "open borders approach":
From the June 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media are using House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) loss to tea party challenger and anti-immigration advocate Dave Brat in a Republican primary to argue that the outcome was a referendum on immigration reform. In fact, a majority of American voters -- including Republicans in Cantor and Brat's Virginia district -- support immigration reform.
Fox News host Steve Doocy attacked Hillary Clinton's statement that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi in September 2012 of his own volition -- a fact supported by independent investigations and Congressional testimony -- as a "flat-out ... lie."
Fox News pitched the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as "Benghazi 2.0" after an Obama administration spokesperson declined to take a stand on whether Bergdahl is guilty of desertion before all the facts are in because, "like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty"
Since the White House's May 31 announcement that it had secured the release of Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war left in the Afghan conflict, in a prisoner swap, Republican strategists have led a coordinated campaign to hype claims that Bergdahl was a deserter. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf pointed out that the allegations have not yet been fully investigated and the government is "still establishing a fact pattern," but Fox has already began to aggressively hype the argument and accuse the Obama administration of lying about the facts.
On the June 3 edition of The Kelly File, Fox News' strategic analyst Col. Ralph Peters attacked the "arrogance" of Harf's statement, framing it as an insult to the troops and "Benghazi 2.0":
PETERS: Megyn, what you just saw and heard was Benghazi 2.0. A political flunkie in the State Department insisting that she knows better what happened on the ground than the soldiers on the front line or the people in a firefight. The arrogance is boundless. You know, I wish -- the Obama administration, if it can't have the grace to be decent about anything else, at least stop insulting our troops. She called those soldiers from the front lines liars. And by the way, she's the liar!
Fox & Friends had a similar take. Also responding to Harf's statement, co-host Steve Doocy called State's refusal to issue an immediate verdict on allegations of Bergdahl's desertion "unbelievable," putting the claims in the context of Fox's favorite Benghazi myth:
DOOCY: And how familiar does that sound: 'Don't listen to the guys on the ground.' Wait a minute, that's what we did in Benghazi, remember?
Doocy was attempting to jump off of a portion of the right-wing media's Benghazi mythology that has been so consistently repeated by Fox that, to many conservatives, it has become impervious to facts.
For more than a year, the network has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used on September 16, 2012 and that linked the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Muslim video. Previous investigations have found that the talking points reflected the intelligence community's best assessment at the time and that further information only became available 2 days later, after the FBI disseminated its interviews with eyewitnesses -- which quickly led the administration to update its assessment. Yet Fox has continued to ignore reality and imagine the delay was part of an elaborate plot to conceal the truth about the attacks.
Fox has seen first hand how ignoring reality and doubling down on misinformation can get results. The network's revisionist history of how information about the Benghazi attack was disseminated; it succeeded in convincing House Republicans to establish a select committee on Benghazi based on a false attack.
But like Fox's Benghazi scandal-mongering, this supposed "Benghazi 2.0" falls flat in context.
Far from calling "soldiers on the front lines liars" or suggesting the administration won't "listen to the guys on the ground," Harf was simply echoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to note that Bergdahl remains "innocent until proven guilty" but that the appropriate investigation will take place:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) according to those around him, his platoon mates, his squad mates, company mates, they said he walked off the base.
MS. HARF: Lucas, some of them - other - there are conflicting reports out there about this. Look --
QUESTION: Are there?
MS. HARF: There are. Go Google it on the web and you'll find a ton of conflicting reports. The fact is we're still establishing a fact pattern about what happened, how he ended up in Taliban captivity. So when he is able to share those, as Chairman Dempsey said today, he will. He also said, like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.
So I think people need to be really careful about believing every second or third-hand report out there, and also what the President, what the Secretary, what Chairman Dempsey have said: Regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home, period.
Media responded to the news that the Obama administration secured the release of prisoner of war (POW) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban by parsing whether or not the administration violated longstanding policy by negotiating Bergdahl's release. In reality, experts say the U.S. has a long history of such negotiations, and Bergdahl's release was conducted using an intermediary nation.
Fox News hosts falsely suggested former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied in her upcoming book about the CIA's involvement in the development of talking points used by the Obama administration to discuss the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
In the days immediately following the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other members of the administration described the assault as developing from spontaneous protests against an anti-Islam video that had been posted on YouTube, which had inspired riots across the Muslim world. That conclusion was largely consistent with the analysis of the intelligence community at the time. But because it was later revealed that there was no protest in Benghazi, conservatives led by Fox News have since claimed the Obama administration engaged in a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
Politico reported on a chapter of Clinton's memoir, Hard Choices, in which she criticized Republican efforts to politically exploit the Benghazi attacks. Clinton also defended Rice's description of the attacks, noting that she had been using talking points derived by the intelligence community. From the May 30 Politico article:
She defends then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for describing the Benghazi attack as a "copycat' of the video-spurred Cairo protests when she appeared on Sunday TV shows days later. Rice, Clinton writes, was relying on existing intelligence. The talking points she used were written to help members of Congress address the attacks, and the information began with and was signed off on by CIA officials. Intelligence officials didn't know Rice would use them, Clinton writes.
The talking points have been a focus of Republican critics, who insist they stemmed from the White House as an effort to control a politically sensitive issue -- a terrorist attack on the eve of Obama's reelection.
On the May 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy responded to the article by criticizing Clinton for "doubl[ing] down on saying it was a video" that motivated the attack. During a discussion with Fox's Geraldo Rivera, co-host Brian Kilmeade disputed Clinton's explanation that the CIA played a role in developing the talking point narrative stating, "specifically she says the CIA signed off on Susan Rice's talking points, when we have the deputy director [...] on the record saying I knew nothing about a video."
But initial intelligence did, in fact, suggest that the inflammatory anti-Muslim YouTube video may have been linked to the attacks.
In light of the Obama administration's mistake in releasing to the press the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, right-wing media have rushed to create a false equivalence to the Bush administration's deliberate exposure of then-covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Fox News exploited the Obama administration's accidental exposure of a CIA operative's identity, using it as an opportunity to minimize the Bush administration's culpability in deliberately exposing former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as political retribution in 2003.
On May 26, the Washington Post reported that the White House press office had mistakenly revealed the name of the CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan when it distributed a list of officials scheduled to participate in a military briefing with Obama at the Bagram Air Base during the president's surprise Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan. The list had been provided to the administration communications staff by military officials.
Fox News used the oversight as an opportunity to absolve the Bush administration and former Bush advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby for deliberately exposing the identity of then-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. On May 27, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade referenced Libby, noting that this time, "Scooter Libby cannot be blamed or imprisoned" for the oversight. Co-host Steve Doocy seized on the comment as an opportunity to draw a false equivalence between the two cases and downplay the severity of the Plame leak:
DOOCY: Okay, so you mentioned Scooter Libby, he was all part of that Valerie Plame thing. Valerie Plame has tweeted out. She writes simply: "Astonishing, White House mistakenly identifies CIA Chief in Afghanistan." Keep in mind, you know, people are talking about, well remember when it happened during the Bush years with Valerie Plame. Valerie -- President Barack Obama at the time wanted to know, called an investigation were any laws broken and stuff like that. Keep in mind that, big difference. Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C., at the CIA. This guy is actually over there. So for them to put out a list -- and I've got the memo on my iPhone right now. There's his name plain as day with Chief of Staff right after it. Doesn't anybody at the White House know what they're doing right now? It looks like a -- either they're not paying attention to details or they simply don't care.
Later on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton made the specious claim that Plame's identity was "made public by Rich Armitage, Secretary Colin Powell's deputy," and argued that the disclosure "resulted in some very unfair treatment of a lot of other people in the Bush administration like Scooter Libby." Bolton argued that the Plame disclosure was "just a malicious piece of gossip," while the Obama administration's disclosure was "utter incompetence."
These cases are not comparable. While the Obama administration's release of the CIA Chief of Station's name is a serious oversight, reports of the incident are clear that the disclosure was accidental. As the Washington Post noted, the mistake was immediately recognized and the list was withdrawn.
In contrast, the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity was a calculated move that that demolished her career after her husband wrote a New York Times op-ed critical of the Bush administration's justifications for taking the nation to war in Iraq. During the leak investigation, former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper identified former White House senior adviser -- current Fox contributor -- Karl Rove as the original source revealing Plame's identity and pointed to Scooter Libby as the corroborating source. Libby, who then served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty of perjury in the leak investigation, but his sentence was later commuted by Bush.
Fox News is using a flawed Benghazi report from ABC to spin an outlandish new conspiracy theory, insinuating that the Obama administration let Americans die while it was preoccupied with emailing YouTube about an anti-Muslim video.
On May 22, ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that new information showed that the White House had contacted YouTube the night of the attacks and later concealed the correspondence. The reality is that Karl's so-called new information, based on a selective leak from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), was reported by ABC way back in September 2012. Although Karl based his report on warmed-over information already in the public record, Fox jumped at the opportunity to revive the lie that the Obama administration abandoned Americans under fire.
Watch Fox & Friends use Karl's report to revive the zombie lie that the White House "certainly hesitated to send in help for the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi" and instead spent time contacting YouTube:
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox host Steve Doocy couldn't think of one Republican "who wants to take away the right to vote," despite the frenzy of GOP-led states passing voting restriction laws and the acknowledgement of a Republican politician that the efforts are aimed to win elections.
On May 21, Fox & Friends jumped on former DNC chairman Howard Dean for reportedly stating at a campaign event in Colorado that Republicans are "not American" because they "think it's OK to win by taking away the right to vote." To co-host Steve Doocy, Dean's remarks amounted to a "new low," because no Republican "wants to take away the right to vote":
DOOCY: Excuse me, Dr. Howard Dean. Name one Republican who wants to take away the right to vote. There are Republicans who view that, you know, you should be qualified to have the vote. Only those who are registered and legitimately can vote, those are the ones who should vote. But take away the right to vote? I don't know anybody who's up to that standard.
Having successfully goaded House Republicans into forming a select committee on Benghazi with smears and phony outrage, Fox News is now attempting to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the new investigatory body.
On May 2, House Republicans finally caved to the Fox News pressure campaign encouraging them to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox personalities have also pressured Democrats to get on board despite objections that the makeup of the committee is slanted to favor Republicans and is already ignoring evidence in pursuit of a forgone conclusion.
Fox host Andrea Tantaros warned that Democrats could face electoral repercussions if they "risk looking left out of it," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade urged, "Democrats, put the five people up there. Stop with the rhetoric. Let's get started," and after listening to select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) description of the committee, Fox host Chris Wallace decided: "Alright, I'm going to declare victory here and say that the Democrats are going to participate."
On May 16, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) volunteered to serve, and Fox was quick to reject the possibility of Grayson's involvement.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the committee needed someone more on board with the committee's goals and described him as a "spoke in the wheel" to the select committee:
HASSELBECK: Now, if he's gonna prosecute and try to get in there and probe into someone, it should be why we haven't had any answers and why no one knew about this and why these Americans were left to die. But if his focus, then, if the center of the target happens to be Republicans, is that a good idea to have this guy in there?
DOOCY: Here's the thing. This all started out as a joke on Twitter and the blogs, and now essentially what they're saying is: 'let's go ahead and gum up the works, let's turn it into a kangaroo court, and have this particular guy.' MoveOn.org says, "Our interest is to have someone with great credibility and stature among Democrats and Republicans. Well you know what? With all due respect to the congressman, he's not the one. Republicans do not think he is a great statesman.
In an interview with Media Matters, Grayson criticized Fox for "calling the shots" on the Benghazi witch hunt.