Appearing on Fox & Friends, Roger Ailes' biographer Zev Chafets joined host Steve Doocy in toasting Fox News' coverage of the so-called Benghazi scandal. Doocy was positively giddy about how Fox had been out way ahead of the mainstream press on the story of last September's terror attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Lybya. The host credited his boss, Ailes, for leading Fox's obsessive Benghazi charge for the last eight months.
"Now everybody else is catching up," Doocy crowed on May 16.
Chafets agreed ("this is Fox News at its best") and claimed that the White House had tried to stifle the controversy because "it doesn't obviously want the story to be about its incompetence in a situation in which people could have been saved and evidently nobody tried."
Did you note the dark irony there? In raising a glass to Fox's Benghazi coverage, Chafets peddled one of Fox's favorite Benghazi lies: "Nobody" had tried to save the Americans who came under deadly fire that night.
Ever since ABC News' bogus "exclusive" last week regarding administration emails about the editing and writing process of the talking points issued in the wake of the Benghazi terror strike, Fox News had been taking one long extended victory tour, claiming its eight-month campaign to demonize the president and to spread nearly nonstop misinformation about the terror attack had been fully vindicated.
"The mainstream media finally catches up to the Benghazi scandal," jabbed Chris Wallace on May 10. On America Live, host Martha MacCallum bragged, "When you look at Fox's coverage of Benghazi, we've been establishing the facts from the get-go." And right-wing blogger Jim Hoft cheered Fox's ball-spiking in the end zone with the headline, "FOX News Gloats Over Benghazi Coverage... We Told You So!"
The Fox team has also been rallied by their Benghazi enablers in Congress, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) insisting Ailes "deserves credit" if there's a full Benghazi investigation. "Thank God for Fox," cheered Benghazi critic Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
But even the most cursory review of Fox's obsessive Benghazi coverage reveals it to be a train wreck of epic proportions. In fact, it represents a textbook study in why people, and especially journalists, should use extraordinary caution whenever they're tempted to take seriously Fox's editorial content.
Fox News' media criticism program continued the network's promotion of Zev Chafets' biography of Fox News president Roger Ailes, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, with a segment that did not examine or discuss the book's substance. Instead, Fox News Watch re-ran a friendly interview with Chafets and attacked critics of Ailes.
On the March 23 edition of Fox News Watch, anchor Jon Scott remarked that the book was getting "lots of media attention." Scott then defended Ailes' claim that President Obama described himself as "lazy," a misrepresentation of Obama's remarks.
Zev Chafets wants you to know that some of Roger Ailes's best friends are black.
He makes that point repeatedly throughout his latest tome, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, the product of a year of unprecedented access to Roger Ailes, his employees at Fox News, and his friends and family.
The result is largely an amalgamation of anecdotes that lets its subject off the hook for the most controversial aspects of his 40-year career, either by whitewashing them from the record entirely or by deflecting the reader with misdirection.
Roger Ailes is friends with Jesse Jackson, and he's friends with David Dinkins, Chafets writes, making no mention of the race-baiting ads Ailes ran against the former New York City mayor - designed to exacerbate tensions between the city's black and Jewish populations.
Ailes is a "profane, skydiving, hard-charging producer" is what Chafets gleans from Joe McGinniss's The Selling of the President, describing Ailes' work on the 1968 Presidential campaigns. Missing is the race-baiting quote from the book that has dogged him ever since. While casting one of Nixon's "Man in the Arena" appearances, Ailes strategized with McGiniss about how to utilize racial tensions to his candidate's advantage, telling the reporter: "As long as we've got this extra spot open. A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright mac, what about these niggers?'"
From the June 1 edition of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown:
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The most hilarious right-wing claim of liberal media bias to surface this week has to be Rush Limbaugh-biographer Zev Chafets' suggestion that Newsweek was in the tank for Bill Clinton in the 1990s and tried to bury the Lewinsky story:
The mainstream media was with the Clintons; Newsweek had refrained from even publishing the Lewinsky story, which it had before Drudge, evidently out of a misguided belief that it could keep the story from going public.
As Media Matters has explained, that isn't why Newsweek held the story -- it held the story because it hadn't nailed it down yet.
But even absent that explanation, no fair-minded person who was paying attention at the time could possibly believe Newsweek was "with the Clintons" or that it wanted to downplay Clinton controversies.
A quick search of the Nexis database of Newsweek archives finds 304 articles that mentioned Lewinsky in 1998 alone. 304. That's not exactly a sign of a news organization that was trying to suppress the story.
Then there's the fact that when Washington Post reporter Michael Isikoff's overzealous obsession with the Paula Jones "story" led to the Post (which was eagerly pushing more than its share of trumped up non-scandals) tiring of his act, Newsweek snatched him right up. Michael Duffy, who was Time's Washington bureau chief at the time, said in 1998 that "Paula Jones was practically a subsidiary of Newsweek's." Hiring Mike Isikoff is certainly not something a magazine would do if it was in the tank for Bill Clinton.
Nor would a magazine that was in the tank for Bill Clinton do the bidding of Ken Starr's office, as Newsweek acknowledged it did. Newsweek assistant managing editor Ann McDaniel said in 1998 that "The independent counsel's office pleaded with us not to make calls that would interfere with the investigation … In an effort to find out more about the story, we complied." American Journalism Review added some detail:
January 17: Four p.m. came and went, but Starr's people weren't ready. They still wanted more time, Isikoff says, because they hoped to "flip" Lewinsky, to get her to cooperate with the investigation. Starr had tapes of conversations in which Lewinsky intimated that the president and Jordan encouraged her to lie in her sworn affidavit in the Jones case, as well as other evidence. But he wanted more.
"At that point the prosecutors had said to Mike: 'If you call anybody for a comment, it's going to blow our case. We haven't had a chance to interrogate Monica,' " says Mark Whitaker, Newsweek's managing editor.
In other words, Ken Starr's office asked Newsweek not to make phone calls that could tip Clinton off to the investigation -- and Newsweek agreed, in effect becoming an ally of Starr's investigation rather than an observer of it. Had Newsweek been in the tank for Clinton, as Chafets absurdly claims, it would certainly have behaved differently.
And, of course, a magazine eager to cover for the Clintons probably wouldn't have published the (Isikoff-penned) 1997 article detailing allegations against Clinton by the breathtakingly unreliable Kathleen Willey.
You get the point: Newsweek's coverage of Bill Clinton was downright nasty; the magazine hyped Paula Jones' lawsuit though it was obvious she simply didn't have a case; it peddled Kathleen Willey's claims dispute her absolutely astounding lack of credibility; and it ran enough Lewinsky articles to fill a book. And yet Zev Chafets insists Newsweek was in the tank for Clinton. That belongs in the "nutty right-wing media criticism" hall of fame, alongside Brent Bozell's complaint that the media, at 500 news reports a day, wasn't paying enough attention to the Lewinsky story in 1998.
In an interview on WNYC's On the Media regarding his profile of Rush Limbaugh for The New York Times Magazine, Zev Chafets asserted: "I'm not an apologist for Rush Limbaugh, but I'm a little bit defensive because I think that the liberal media takes such an unfair view of him."