A New York Times report suggested that the State Department's official reply to a congressional inquiry into personal email use by government employees showed malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and her former department. But according to documents obtained by Media Matters, other federal agencies responded in a similar manner, undermining the Times' report.
This additional context shows that rather than revealing a case of wrongdoing by Clinton, the Times has discovered that Cabinet agencies don't always respond to congressional inquiries quickly and in full.
The Times reported in an April 14 article that Clinton "was directly asked" in a December 13, 2012, letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa "whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state" but that "Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response." According to the Times, State provided only a "description of the department's email policies" rather than a direct response to Issa's question.
Clinton was not the only one to receive such a letter. As the Times article notes, similar letters were sent to "other executive agencies" as part of a broad Oversight inquiry into the use of private email by government employees. The Hill embedded the letter, which includes a note indicating that it was sent out to 18 Cabinet secretaries on the same date.
The letter requested answers to eight specific questions, including "Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal e-mail account to conduct official business?"
But in suggesting that Clinton had failed to respond promptly and with sufficient depth, the Times gave no indication it had attempted to compare State's response to those of the other agencies who also received the letter, to determine if State's response was actually unusual. The Times article, published two days after Clinton announced a presidential run, instead was based solely on a copy of Issa's letter and the State response that were obtained from "a congressional official."
Media Matters has obtained the responses from two other agencies: the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Both letters to Issa provide a description of department policies rather than direct responses to the congressional inquiry, and one was sent a month later than State's.
The Labor Department responded to Issa's letter on April 26, 2013. The congressional inquiry had been sent to then-Secretary Hilda Solis, who stepped down before Labor responded, just as Clinton had stepped down as Secretary of State between State's receipt of and response to Issa's letter.
In his response, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Brian Kennedy did not directly address Issa's inquiry about whether Solis had used personal email, instead stating that the Department "takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that DOL officials and employees are educated on and comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations governing official communications and document management policies" and providing a general overview of Department policies, specifically on social media.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development responded to Issa's inquiry on January 11, 2013. Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations Peter A. Kovar wrote that the "forwarding of HUD email by HUD employees to their personal email account is permitted only in narrow circumstances," but noted that "originators" of emails on any system are "responsible for determining the record value of any transmission." HUD did not directly address Issa's inquiry into whether former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan had ever used a personal email account to conduct government business.
The New York Times was previously forced to walk back their sloppy reporting on Clinton's personal email account and began to quietly reverse course on their stance on the matter after the publication's public editor conceded the original story "was not without fault" and "should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated." Despite the initial report's suggestion that Clinton violated federal record keeping rules, the Times' key source later clarified that Clinton in fact did not "violate" the law. Others in the media have consequently retracted their own baseless claims made in the rush to scandalize Clinton's emails.
When it comes to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who announced his presidential campaign this week, over and over the press' to-go description is "charismatic." That adjective has been making the rounds in the Financial Times, Vox, NPR, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. There's been heated agreement among reporters and pundits that Rubio is unquestionably magnetic and alluring.
For candidates, of course, "charismatic" represents a coveted label that elevates a politician above the ordinary. It signals that he or she is a bold communicator who can tap into voters' emotions; who can inspire and motivate in a way most mundane practitioners cannot.
There's certainly nothing wrong with dispensing compliments to politicians. But as the campaign season unfolds and media memes are formed around candidates (Al Gore never shook the press' "exaggerator" tag), it seems worth noting, as New York magazine highlighted, how the Beltway press years ago concluded that the much sought-after "charismatic" tag would be applied to Rubio, and it would be applied to him no matter what trajectory his career was on.
The "charismatic" term is clearly subjective and is used by journalists who seem to consider Rubio to be a transcendent speaker and politician. What's curious though, is that journalists often don't point to speeches or events in Rubio's past that confirm his "charismatic" status. Instead, the compliment has been doled out for years matter-of-factly. For instance, from the New York Times and Washington Post:
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic senator-elect from Florida" (Nov. 26, 2010, New York Times]
* "Mr. Rubio, a charismatic Latino senator from a crucial swing state" (March 29, 2012. New York Times)
* "[A] charismatic young Republican senator from Miami, Marco Rubio" (March 22, 2015. New York Times)
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic young Cuban American who has captured the hearts of conservatives around the country" (April 10, 2010. Washington Post)
* "The charismatic Cuban American lawmaker from Florida," (Oct. 26, 2011. Washington Post)
* "The 43-year-old senator from Florida and charismatic son of immigrants" (April 6, 2015. Washington Post)
Note that there are no caveats. The Times and Post usually don't suggest that it's supporters who see Rubio as "charismatic." And they don't use the adjective to describe a Rubio speech. Instead, for the Times and Post (and many, many other news outlets), Rubio's "charismatic" nature is simply presented as fact, like his age or hometown.
On Equal Pay Day, The New York Times and The Washington Post highlighted the importance of addressing gender pay inequality, illustrating how women still earn less than men in almost every occupation and providing a refreshing counterpoint to conservative media's consistent downplaying of the issue.
Marco Rubio's (R-FL) evening accouncement that he will run for president in 2016 follows what GOP strategists call "the Fox News effect, where Republicans are determined to reach the network's most-watched shows in the evening," as The New York Times reported.
On April 13, Rubio announced that he is running for president at the Miami Freedom Tower.
In The New York Times' First Draft blog, Michael Barbaro explained that Rubio's announcement came at the "oddly specific and rather late" hour of 6:03 p.m.. Barbaro cited political strategists who asserted that the late announcement was to get what they described as the "Fox News effect, where Republicans are determined to reach the network's most-watched shows in the evening":
But is there a secret strategy to an evening announcement?
Mr. Rubio's campaign teams says there is: Having the senator take the stage and
speak at 6:03 p.m. has two distinct advantages.
First, it allows Miami residents to attend his rally at the Freedom Tower after work -- no small thing, given the legendary traffic in this car-clogged city.
Second, it means Florida television stations will likely lead their evening newscasts with Mr Rubio's remarks. An added bonus: Cable TV will broadcast the announcement live at a time when most Americans actually watch TV, Rubio aides said.
"People happen to watch TV at 6:30," a top Rubio adviser said. "Only people like us watch cable in the middle of the day."
Political strategists also pointed to what they called the Fox News effect, where
Republicans are determined to reach the network's most-watched shows in theevening.
Kevin Madden, who worked on Mitt Romney's campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said the 6 p.m. event "has the potential to drive live post-speech coverage during some cable news programs' top-rated slots."
Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican campaign strategist, said, however, that the timing of a campaign announcement no longer mattered in the era of 24-hour social media.
"As long as Rubio drives Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly and engages the conservative community on the Internet, he will get the play he wants," Mr. Castellanos said.
Rubio will appear on Fox News' Hannity tonight for a one hour special. Rubio is the third Republican presidential candidate to appear on Hannity after announcing a 2016 candidacy.
This is the latest installment in what's become known as the Fox News Primary. A Media Matters study found that on Fox News evening and Sunday shows since January 21, 2013, GOP presidential contenders have been on Fox more than 800 times. Marco Rubio has appeared on the network 60 times.
Maureen Dowd's latest column attacking Hillary Clinton with comparisons to former President Richard Nixon echoes attacks from the Republican National Committee (RNC).
In a New York Times op-ed on April 11, Dowd predicted that Clinton's presidential campaign will "take the Nixon approach" by "trying to charm people one by one in the early states for 2016, an acknowledgement that she cannot emulate the wholesale allure of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama."
Dowd's Nixon comparison has been made before, repeatedly, as part of the RNC's "Stop Hillary" campaign. As the Washington Post noted on April 11, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus "habitually describes Clinton as a cold, Nixonian liberal millionaire."
Priebus made the comparison in March when discussing Clinton's email use while serving as secretary of state, saying "even Nixon didn't destroy the tapes" (an implication that the deleted personal emails on Clinton's private server were equivalent to Nixon's involvement in the Watergate conspiracy).
Conservative media figures followed his lead, and the Nixon comparison found its way onto a variety of Fox News programming, into the pages of National Review, and even into the mouth of conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on the March 29 edition of NBC's Meet the Press.
Dowd has now followed suit. The columnist has been attacking Clinton on often personal terms repeatedly for more than twenty years. She's accused Clinton of being power-hungry, unlikeable, phony, and an enemy of feminism, among other attacks. Now it appears she's looking to the Republican Party for new inspiration.
Most of the largest newspapers in the Northeast corridor did not publish a single piece covering this winter's major snowstorms in the context of global warming, despite strong scientific evidence that climate change creates the conditions for heavier snowstorms. The major broadcast networks and cable news channels also provided scant mention of climate change in their discussions of the snowstorms, with the notable exception of MSNBC, which provided extensive coverage of the topic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal featured content that used the snowstorms to deny climate science.
Reading the New York Times' front-page dispatches about the emerging Republican field of candidates this year, voters have learned Sen. Marco Rubio is "a charismatic young Republican senator from Miami," Sen. Ted Cruz was viewed by colleagues as "a brilliant and unusually ambitious upstart" who was "driven to advance and savvy in his tactics," and that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is "deeply religious," delivers a "a powerful message," "reads footnotes, emails frenetically and talks in full, wonky paragraphs" and is able to "showcase his social media savvy."
Times readers now also know that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is "is a gifted performer on many stages," and that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is "small-town minister's son who met his wife, a Milwaukee native, at a Wisconsin barbecue joint."
Just this week the Times front-page, still the most influential real estate in the news business, announced Walker really, really admires Ronald Reagan.
Republicans are already bashing the Times and complaining about how it covers candidates via the supposedly biased prism of the "liberal media," a catcall game conservatives have played for decades. But the opposite seems to have taken place this year: Republican White House hopefuls have received better, more sympathetic press coverage than Hillary Clinton, whose page-one coverage to date is been almost devoid of positive Times treatments.
That's not to say the Times hasn't produced a handful of page-one pieces that raised doubts or uncomfortable questions about Republican players and their record, or that many of the pieces cited above don't include negative caveats. The newspaper, for instance, pointed out that a charter school in Miami that Bush championed was forced to close its doors in 2008, that some Republicans critics think Christie and his aides operate in a "bubble," and that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court is currently considering whether to continue an investigation into alleged improper coordination from Walker's old recall campaign.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of the year, Republicans are routinely given positive characterizations and compliments, while presumptive Democratic favorite Clinton is often not -- and more often depicted on the Times' front page as either mired in setbacks, or certain to face daunting political challenges. (See here, here, and here.)
Clearly the controversy surrounding the email account Clinton used as secretary of state helped tilt the Times' coverage towards the negative recently. But that media-fueled firestorm alone doesn't fully explain the difference in tone and content.
The oddity? Recent polling suggests Clinton enjoys a sizable lead over all her possible Republican opponents, yet she's the one saddled with the bad press.
New York Times columnist David Brooks ignored his paper's reporting to defend Indiana's controversial new "religious freedom" law, misleadingly equating it with its federal version and misrepresenting the reason it has sparked such widespread opposition.
Indiana has been embroiled in controversy since it passed its version of a "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), a law that has been used to provide a legal defense for individuals and businesses who cite their religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against gay people, even in lawsuits that don't involve the government.
In his March 31 column, Brooks joined a number of conservative defenders of the law in falsely suggesting that Indiana's measure is no different than the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993. Brooks also erroneously stated that opponents of Indiana's dangerous expansion of the federal RFRA (and previous state versions) are not respecting the "valid tension" between religious belief and permissible discrimination, when in fact the main objection to the law is that Indiana has upset the previous balance to further undercut antidiscrimination protections:
The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was supported by Senator Ted Kennedy and a wide posse of progressives, sidestepped the abstract and polarizing theological argument. It focused on the concrete facts of specific cases. The act basically holds that government sometimes has to infringe on religious freedom in order to pursue equality and other goods, but, when it does, it should have a compelling reason and should infringe in the least intrusive way possible.
This moderate, grounded, incremental strategy has produced amazing results. Fewer people have to face the horror of bigotry, isolation, marginalization and prejudice.
Yet I wonder if this phenomenal achievement is going off the rails. Indiana has passed a state law like the 1993 federal act, and sparked an incredible firestorm.
If the opponents of that law were arguing that the Indiana statute tightens the federal standards a notch too far, that would be compelling. But that's not the argument the opponents are making.
Instead, the argument seems to be that the federal act's concrete case-by-case approach is wrong. The opponents seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry. [emphasis added]
The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the "richest man in Wisconsin" made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.
By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.
Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which "pledged to keep its donors secret." Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.
Since then, Menard's company "has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records." Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "a top Menard priority."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:
Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.
The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.
By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised the specter of "ethical concerns" over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.
Fox News host Howard Kurtz offered an erroneous defense of the flawed 1992 New York Times story that is widely credited for sparking the Whitewater investigations.
During the 1990s, Hillary and Bill Clinton were extensively investigated for their role in Whitewater -- a land deal gone awry in the 1970s and 1980s -- but all of the probes determined that no wrongdoing occurred on the part of the Clintons.
The impetus for national interest in Whitewater was a March 8, 1992, front page story in the Times authored by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth that scrutinized the Clinton's real estate dealings. Political opponents then seized on Whitewater to kick off years of investigations in a fruitless effort to pin wrongdoing on the Clintons.
On the March 15 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz reported that Gerth had contacted him to defend his "100 percent accurate" 1992 article, which had been criticized on the show the previous week by Daily Beast writer Michael Tomasky. According to Kurtz, "Gerth is right" to defend the article, which reported that "the Clintons bought land in Arkansas with the owner of a state-regulated [savings and loans company]":
KURTZ: On last week's program, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticized the New York Times story back in 1992 that broke the Watergate scandal, excuse me, the Whitewater scandal, saying it had been documented to most people's satisfaction that many of the details in the story didn't hold up. Well the author, investigative reporter Jeff Gerth, got in touch to say the article, which said the Clintons bought land in Arkansas with the owner of a state-regulated S&L that failed, and Hillary Clinton and her firm represented the S&L, was 100 percent accurate and the Clintons never asked for a correction. Gerth is right. It's hardly his fault that Whitewater came to stand for so many spin-off allegations.
But Gerth and Kurtz are wrong. Jim McDougal, the Clinton's business partner, did not own a state-regulated savings and loans company when he bought land with the Clintons. (McDougal would later be convicted of fraud relating to business dealings he undertook as the operator of savings and loan association Madison Guaranty.)
Typing up her latest scornful, fill-in-the-blank sermon about Hillary Clinton -- the kind Maureen Dowd has been churning out robotically for two decades (only the "scandal" topic changes) -- the New York Times columnist actually began her latest missive by likening the Clintons to the Iranian regime. A few paragraphs later, Dowd had managed to segue to perhaps her favorite topic: Bill Clinton's distant sex life. In fact, the March 14 column became Dowd's 100th that contained a "Lewinsky" reference, according to a review of Dowd's columns in the Nexis database.
Dowd's fixation may be something of an outlier at the Times. Who else would reference an extramarital affair in one hundred different columns? But Dowd clearly does represent the Times' larger, institutional and never-ending personal antagonism toward Bill and Hillary Clinton. It's been a Times-sponsored grudge match that goes back more than two decades. (Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. once told Clinton the paper had adopted a "tough love" policy towards his presidency. "I've seen the tough," Clinton quipped. "Where's the love?") And now that enmity has been awakened for the recent Hillary Clinton email saga.
Has that contempt fueled the Times' often sloppy coverage lately? "The real controversy isn't about politics or regulations," wrote Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek, offering up a detailed critique of the Times' email reporting. "It's about journalism and the weak standards employed to manufacture the scandal du jour."
For instance, note that in its March 2 report about Clinton's emails, the one that ignited the so-called scandal, The New York Times suggested Clinton "may have violated federal requirements" through her use of a non-government email address while serving as secretary of state." It was that hint of criminality that first gave the story so much pop in the press.
But it turns out that hint of criminality was invented by the Times newsroom, as several news outlets have since confirmed that Clinton did nothing illegal with her email account. (Ten days later, the Times got around to making that point itself.)
And that's the pattern we've seen unfold for twenty-plus years at the Times. With the bogus pursuits of Whitewater, the Loral spy satellites story, would-be spy Wen Ho Lee, and now Hillary Clinton's emails, the Times uncorks supposedly blockbuster allegations against a Clinton that are based on vague reporting that later turns out to be flimsy, but not before the rest of the Beltway media erupts in a guttural roar (led by sanctimonious Times columnists), and not before Republicans launch investigations intended to destroy the Clintons politically.
Last week, the Times' Patrick Healy wrote that the news media is emerging as Hillary Clinton's toughest political opponent. Indeed, the Times, once again, remains at the front of the charge.
The New York Times has begun to quietly reverse course on reports about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email use, after Times public editor Margaret Sullivan admitted that the publication's initial misleading insinuation that Clinton violated the law was "not without fault." The new, more accurate reporting underscores the publication's initial sloppiness and rush to judgment.
The New York Times recently published an op-ed attacking renewable fuels from the Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce without disclosing his ties to the oil industry, despite a directive from its former public editor for the paper to fully disclose its op-ed contributors' financial conflicts of interest.
In a March 10 New York Times op-ed, Robert Bryce falsely characterized the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as an expensive "tax." The standard, which requires oil refiners, blenders, and gasoline and diesel importers to blend a set amount of renewable fuel into their gasoline supply, was dismissed by Bryce as a "boondoggle" and a "rip-off."
But the Times failed to disclose Bryce's financial incentive to attack the RFS, identifying him only as a "senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of a new report from the institute, 'The Hidden Corn-Ethanol Tax.'" The Manhattan Institute has, in fact, received millions from oil interests over the years, including $635,000 from ExxonMobil and $1.9 million from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, where Charles Koch and his wife sit on the board of directors. Koch made his fortune from oil and currently has significant holdings in oil and gas operations.
Bryce is, in essence, acting as a spokesperson for the oil industry, which has much to gain from weakening or repealing the RFS. The renewable fuel requirement is set to increase over the next several years, potentially replacing up to 13.6 billion gallons of the conventional fuel supply by 2022.
Media outlets are demanding that Hillary Clinton be subject to an independent review of her personal email account to disprove their own baseless suggestions that she engaged in illicit activity or failed to properly disclose all work-related correspondence. The demand ignores that every State Department employee, regardless of whether they use government or personal accounts, decides for themselves whether or not to preserve their emails.
Media figures are acknowledging that Hillary Clinton did not violate federal regulations with her use of personal email, a contrast to The New York Times' initial rush to judgment of possible wrongdoing on Clinton's part that kicked off a media feeding frenzy.