A Media Matters review found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country remained largely silent on arson attacks that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of a series of deceptively-edited, anti-choice videos smearing the health care provider. Prime-time cable news shows and the nation's three highest-circulation newspapers dedicated minimal coverage to the arson attacks. The LA Times and Spokane's Spokesman Review provided the most coverage of the attacks.
The New York Times' Paul Krugman called out the media's fraudulent coverage of the Benghazi committee and Hillary Clinton's email use, for treating the non-scandals as "real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place."
In an October 9 column, Krugman observed that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy "inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty" when he bragged about the Benghazi committee's success in "inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton," exposing how the Fox News manufactured Benghazi hearings "had nothing to do with national security."
Krugman called out media figures who cover topics such as the Benghazi hearings and Clinton's use of email for pretending "that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place," calling it a "kind of fraudulence":
So Representative Kevin McCarthy, who was supposed to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House, won't be pursuing the job after all. He would have faced a rough ride both winning the post and handling it under the best of circumstances, thanks to the doomsday caucus -- the fairly large bloc of Republicans demanding that the party cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, or kill Obamacare, or anyway damage something liberals like, by shutting down the government and forcing it into default.
Still, he finished off his chances by admitting -- boasting, actually -- that the endless House hearings on Benghazi had nothing to do with national security, that they were all about inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton.
But we all knew that, didn't we?
I often wonder about commentators who write about things like those hearings as if there were some real issue involved, who keep going on about the Clinton email controversy as if all these months of scrutiny had produced any evidence of wrongdoing, as opposed to sloppiness.
Surely they have to know better, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And surely the long history of Clinton nonscandals and retracted allegations -- remember, there never was anything to the Whitewater accusations -- should serve as a cautionary tale.
Somehow, though, politicians who pretend to be concerned about issues, but are obviously just milking those issues for political gain, keep getting a free pass. And it's not just a Clinton story.
Again, none of this should come as news to anyone who follows politics and policy even moderately closely. But I'm not sure that normal people, who have jobs to do and families to raise, are getting the message. After all, who will tell them?
Sometimes I have the impression that many people in the media consider it uncouth to acknowledge, even to themselves, the fraudulence of much political posturing. The done thing, it seems, is to pretend that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place.
But turning our eyes away from political fakery, pretending that we're having a serious discussion when we aren't, is itself a kind of fraudulence. Mr. McCarthy inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty, but telling the public what's really going on shouldn't depend on politicians with loose lips.
New York Times contributor Bryce Covert highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's claim that Democrats promise "free stuff" to court black voters - a narrative widely used by conservative media - "takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits," and is at odds with his own tax plan.
In a September speech during a campaign stop in South Carolina, Jeb Bush claimed that Democrats use "free stuff" in order to sway black voters. As The Washington Post's Phillip Bump subsequently explained, Bush's assertion had a "lack of evidence" and was based on popular conservative myths. Conservative media have spent years propping up similar unsubstantiated claims that Democrats use "free stuff" to entice minority voters and jumped to defend Bush when he parroted their talking point.
ThinkProgress' Bryce Covert explained in an October 8 op-ed for the New York Times that the "free stuff" talking point ignores how "we all get 'free stuff' from the government" such as tax credits, deductions, and exclusions. Writing that Bush "is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes" as his own tax plan would give out more of them, Covert pointed out the disconnect between Bush's comments and his economic proposals:
The Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush got caught sounding like a Mitt Romney rerun recently: He told a mostly white audience that he could attract black voters because his campaign "isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff." The remark comes just three years after Mr. Romney was lampooned for later describing his own message in a speech to the N.A.A.C.P. as one where the listeners shouldn't expect "free stuff."
In each context, it was clear what kind of government stuff they meant, given the voters they were talking about. They meant welfare programs -- cash benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, housing subsidies and other direct spending programs that help the poor -- that are, often unfairly, associated with black Americans.
But the shorthand of "free stuff" also takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits. There's a whole treasure trove of government handouts that aren't dispensed through spending, but rather through the tax code. That doesn't make them any less "free" than a rent voucher or an Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
The government loses about $900 billion in revenue every year on just the 10 largest tax expenditures -- called expenditures because while they aren't direct outlays, they come at a cost just like direct spending. It's a pot that includes credits like the earned-income tax credit and Child Tax Credit as well as deductions and exclusions that help mainly middle-class people reduce how much they owe each April. It also includes special tax rates such as the lower burden on money made through investments instead of a salary. Tax credits mainly help the poor, but the rest help the well off: According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half of the benefits of these expenditures go to the richest 20 percent of American households.
These facts are obscured for most people. While those who get government benefits through spending programs are often aware -- and too frequently ashamed -- of that fact, those who get them through the tax system usually don't realize they've received a handout. In a 2008 poll, 57 percent of people said they had never availed themselves of a government program, yet 94 percent of those same people had in fact benefited from at least one -- mostly through what the Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler has called the "submerged state," or the huge but often invisible network of money spent through the tax code.
Jeb Bush, however, is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes. (According to one analysis of his federal income tax returns, he himself has saved at least $241,000 since 1981 through the mortgage interest deduction.) Just days before he vowed not to promise voters more free stuff, he put out a tax plan that would give out a whole lot more of it.
There are a couple of things in his plan that would benefit low-income Americans, like a boost to the earned-income tax credit. But thanks to proposed changes such as lowering the top income tax rate, ending the estate tax paid by the wealthiest 0.2 percent and even further reducing the rate for investment income, the biggest benefit would be handed to those who are already counted in the richest 1 percent slice of America. And it would come at a cost of at least $1.6 trillion over a decade, according to analysis by the Tax Foundation.
Every four years, politicians stigmatize "free stuff" like food stamps and welfare while courting votes -- and gloss over tax breaks. But the problem goes beyond disingenuous politicians. Statements like these erode support for government. The more "visible" benefits someone has used -- in other words, direct spending programs -- the more likely he is to feel the government has helped him personally. If most Americans falsely think they don't get free government stuff, though, they won't want to offer it to the people they think get it instead.
Several media outlets have refuted Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that his tax reform plan sets him apart from GOP rivals because it would balance the federal budget in 10 years.
Cable morning news shows mostly ignored The New York Times' editorial board's call for House Republicans to "shut down the Benghazi committee" now that it has lost "any semblance of credibility." The editorial was mentioned in only one segment on CNN's New Day, and ignored by Fox News' Fox & Friends, as well as by MSNBC's Morning Joe hosts -- who stayed silent about the editorial during an interview with committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) as he vigorously defended what is now one of the longest congressional investigations in history.
The New York Times editorial board argued that it's time for House Republicans to shut down the Benghazi committee, noting that the crusade to paint Hillary Clinton as "personally responsible for the deaths" of four Americans in Benghazi "has lost any semblance of credibility."
On September 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is running to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as the Speaker of the House, told Sean Hannity that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Republican House majority was creating the Benghazi Committee, which he credited with hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Hannity initially praised McCarthy and the committee for its "political" strategy, but has since walked back the complements amid backlash. Fox News largely ignored McCarthy's damning comments, falling in line with the network's years-long campaign to create and promote now-pervasive lies, smears, and conspiracy theories about Benghazi.
On October 7, in the aftermath of McCarthy's acknowledgement, The New York Times editorial board called for an end to the Benghazi committee. Deeming it a "charade" that "has accomplished nothing," the board wrote that the "laughable crusade" should be shut down or at the very least renamed "the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton." The board went on to claim that the committee and its efforts have lost "any semblance of credibility" and has "become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans":
House Republicans may be disinclined to disband the Select Committee on Benghazi with the presidential race heating up. But at the very least they should rename their laughable crusade, which has cost taxpayers $4.6 million, "the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, a leading candidate to become the next speaker of the House, acknowledged last week that was the point of burrowing into the details of the 2012 attacks on government facilities in eastern Libya that killed the American ambassador and three colleagues.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?"Mr. McCarthy said in an astonishing moment of candor that was clearly a gaffe, rather than a principled admission. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?"
Lawmakers have long abused their investigative authority for political purposes. But the effort to find Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the Libya attacks, was personally responsible for the deaths has lost any semblance of credibility. It's become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans.
"There's nothing to justify the committee's long duration or expense," said Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who sits on the committee and has called for it to be disbanded. "We have nothing to tell the families and nothing to tell the American people."
Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee on Oct. 22. The hearing will give Republicans another chance to attack the credibility and trustworthiness of the leading Democratic presidential candidate. It will do nothing to make American embassies abroad safer or help the relatives of the four killed in Libya.
The hearing should be the last salvo for a committee that has accomplished nothing. If the Republicans insist on keeping the process alive, the Democrats should stop participating in this charade.
From the October 5 edition of Cumulus Media Network's Geraldo Rivera Show:
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The New York Times published in print a story about the International Association of Firefighters backing away from an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, but only published in a blog online that the National Education Association (NEA), the biggest union in the country, announced its support for Clinton on Saturday.
On October 2, The New York Times published in print a 971-word report in print about the firefighters' union deciding not to endorse Hillary Clinton for president. The next day, the Times' First Draft blog posted a 519-word report about Clinton winning the support of the NEA, which appeared only online, and not in print. The NEA is the biggest labor union in the country, the second major group of teachers to endorse Clinton, and Clinton's eighth labor endorsement overall.
A member of The New York Times editorial board argued that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is "not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives," but is "a partisanwitch hunt" targeting Hillary Clinton.
On September 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is running to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as the Speaker of the House, told Sean Hannity that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Republican House majority was creating the Benghazi Committee, which he credited with hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Hannity initially praised McCarthy and the committee for its "political" strategy, but has since walked back the complements amid backlash. Fox News had largely ignored McCarthy's damning comments, but Fox's Chris Wallace and Juan Williams acknowledged McCarthy "spoke the truth" and that damaging Clinton was "clearly one of the things that Republicans were hoping" would result from the committee.
On October 2, New York Times editorial board member Carol Giacomo attacked the "duplicity and political chicanery" of the committee, which has "shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack" despite "wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history." Giacomo concluded by calling on the Republican-led House to disband the committee and suggesting that its Democratic members should resign if they refuse to do so:
It has long appeared that the Republican obsession with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya was not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives but a partisan witch hunt targeting Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Now there is proof of the duplicity and political chicanery behind the creation of the Select Committee on Benghazi. It was ham-handedly exposed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, who, in his quest to become the next speaker of the House, couldn't resist boasting about what he considers his party's major political accomplishment.
Now under heavy criticism for telling the truth and with his bid for speaker at risk, Mr. McCarthy is trying to walk back his remarks, but it won't work.
Despite wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history, the committee has shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack. It would be surprising if it did. Several other congressional committees and a panel of outside experts commissioned by the State Department have investigated the attack and the government's response. They concluded that the tragedy was preventable and condemned "systemic failures" at senior levels of the State Department. But none found evidence that Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, was specifically to blame or produced any other bombshell to support some wild Republican conspiracy theories. Those earlier probes didn't keep the Republicans from exploiting the issue for political gain by establishing the special committee, whose focus has segued from Benghazi to the fact that as secretary Mrs. Clinton used a private email account. To hear Democratic lawmakers tell it, the Republicans have thoroughly perverted any semblance of a fair process by calling and interviewing witnesses without bothering to include the committee's minority members.
The committee should be disbanded and if the Republican leadership refuses to do that, then the panel's Democratic members should resign. Manipulating government funds for political purposes in this way may well violate congressional ethics rules, as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested. There is little reason to expect that Republicans, united in defeating Mrs. Clinton at all costs, care enough to do anything about it.
A Media Matters analysis of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal found that The Post dedicated extensive coverage to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was part of a partisan strategy that damaged Hillary Clinton's presidential chances. The Post featured 17 online or print articles or blog posts that mentioned or covered McCarthy's comments. The Times mentioned or covered the comments in five online or print articles or blog posts, and The Journal neglected to offer any print coverage, but had five online articles and blog posts that mentioned or offered coverage.
From the September 30 edition of WCPT's The Wayne Besen Show:
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The New York Times' Ross Douthat defended GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's widely-discredited statements regarding footage she claims was in the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited videos, citing a Florida Planned Parenthood lobbyist's halting testimony about the unlikely event of a live birth during a failed abortion. Douthat did not mention that Planned Parenthood of Florida issued a statement after the hearing that clarified the fact that illegal "born alive" cases are "extremely unlikely and highly unusual" and eliminated any doubt as to whether its clinics would provide life-saving care in that hypothetical scenario.
Numerous media outlets have covered GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush's new fossil fuel-friendly energy plan without mentioning his extensive ties to the industry. Both Bush's campaign and his super PAC have received significant donations from oil and gas interests, Bush met secretly with coal industry executives in June, and he recently appointed fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to oversee his campaign policy agenda.
After Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his plan for encouraging companies to provide paid family leave, several media outlets promptly pointed out that the proposal "wouldn't do much" to increase access to paid family leave and "may only help the well-off," not "low-wage workers who need it most to survive financially."
Scott Walker's early exit from the presidential primary has led some media outlets to conclude that super PACs may not be having as big an effect on the 2016 campaign as it was once thought they would. However, it's far too early to judge super PACs' influence because many of these outside groups have not yet begun to spend the tens of millions of dollars they've already raised in preparation for the fight ahead.
In the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the media has largely focused on how his Unintimidated PAC appears to have failed, pointing out that while deep-pocketed outside groups can provide a boost in advertising, they cannot legally help with some of the most basic functions needed to keep a campaign functioning. As the New York Times reported, "Super PACs, Mr. Walker learned, cannot pay rent, phone bills, salaries, airfares or ballot access fees." Political reporters pointed out that even the Walker PAC's success in raising over $20 million couldn't prevent its candidate's eventual withdrawal from the race.
While super PACs certainly have their limitations, it would be naive to take Scott Walker's or Rick Perry's withdrawal from the presidential race as a sign that PACs won't have a significant impact on the 2016 election.
Last spring, the billionaire Koch brothers named Scott Walker to their short list of candidates in line for their support -- an expected endorsement of sorts that confirmed the financial force analysts expected Walker to marshal in the primaries. The Kochs spent roughly $400 million on the 2012 election and plan to spend hundreds of millions more in support of their handpicked candidate in 2016.
Walker's Unitimidated PAC already had several major donors.* But it had yet to begin to flex its financial muscles when apparent campaign mismanagement brought down the governor's bid. A comparison of how much both Walker and Jeb Bush's PACs have raised versus how much they have spent so far, as illustrated by OpenSecrets.org below, indicates the tsunami of spending yet to come:
Predictably, and necessarily, super PAC spending spikes as Election Day approaches. For those candidates who can competently manage their campaigns through the heavy advertising season, their PAC's ability to raise and spend millions on air time will prove invaluable. While super PACs may not seem relevant this fall, if the past spending patterns by outside groups documented by The Washington Post below is any indication, next fall's super PAC spending will be obvious when political campaign advertising goes into overdrive.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly claimed that the Koch brothers had donated to Scott Walker's Unitimidated PAC. Media Matters regrets the error.