After Fox News pushed a claim that a Benghazi witness had been "subjected to threats and intimidation" by State Department employees, the witness' lawyer admitted on the network that his client never said he had been threatened by anyone.
In a May 6 article for FoxNews.com previewing the then-upcoming House hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News reporters James Rosen and Chad Pergram wrote that Mark Thompson, one of the scheduled witnesses, "has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress." The claim was sourced to Joseph diGenova, the Republican attorney representing Thompson.
But in a May 9 appearance on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, when diGenova was asked by guest host Stuart Varney about Thompson's claims that "he was the target of threats and intimidation," diGenova responded that Thompson "actually hasn't said that."
Asked later in the interview to clarify whether Thompson was threatened, diGenova said that his client is an "ex-Marine" and "even though they made his life miserable after that night, he didn't feel intimidated, because as a Marine he never does."
Conservative columnist Erik Rush thinks President Obama or his administration "orchestrated" the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
In a column for conspiracy website WND, Rush writes that he has "always leaned in the direction of the administration having orchestrated the attack for reasons of its own" because of the president's supposed connections "to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic."
As Right Wing Watch points out, Rush cites the "unresolved Trinity United murders" as evidence that Obama could be capable of planning such an attack. This is the outlandish conservative conspiracy that President Obama or his associates murdered members of Obama's old Chicago church in order to conceal his supposed hidden homosexuality.
From Rush's May 8 column:
I suppose that depends on two things: One, what is revealed in the hearings, and two, whom one asks. I have always leaned in the direction of the administration having orchestrated the attack for reasons of its own - given his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic, it is possible that President Obama could even have arranged for the assault on the compound without the foreknowledge of his Cabinet.
A bold charge, to be sure, but I am operating with such questions as the unresolved Trinity United murders before me. Then there are the possibilities that the tragedy came about as the result of less grave criminal action or a series of irresponsible and craven decisions.
The burning question at present (and which may remain so for some time) is why efforts were not made to rescue the beleaguered staff at the facility and whether or not a stand-down order was given to military personnel in the area. If the latter becomes the case, then obviously we want to know who issued the order. Depending on the outcome, measures might be as severe as charges filed against Cabinet officials or the impeachment of Obama himself. While this president reasonably deserves to be occupying a cell in some federal penitentiary anyway, impeachment presents many troublesome aspects.
Matt Drudge has long been conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' biggest ally. According to a Media Matters review, the heavily-trafficked Drudge Report has promoted at least 50 separate articles at Jones' Infowars website in 2013, and has linked to at least 244 different articles on the site in the past two years.
Drudge announced this week that he had privately told friends that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Considering Drudge's penchant for promoting Jones and his Infowars website, those comments are more of a promise than a prediction.
Alex Jones is a radio host famous for pushing absurd conspiracy theories about a host of issues, including that the U.S. government perpetrated or was otherwise involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster, and the Aurora movie theater shooting.
Jones has lately made headlines for his most recent conspiracy that the Boston Marathon bombings were a "false flag" attack staged by the government. Drudge has provided several links to Jones' site in the days since Jones started floating Boston conspiracies, including an article highlighting the father of the bombing suspects claiming his sons had been set up.
The links to Jones' site in the wake of the Boston bombings are not surprising; he has sent a steady stream of traffic there in 2013.
Among the fifty Infowars pieces promoted by Drudge so far in 2013: a story mulling over claims that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have been "surreptitiously" given cancer, possibly by the U.S. government; numerous articles promoting conspiracies about supposedly ominous ammunition purchases made by the Department of Homeland Security; and a story comparing Obama to "other tyrants" -- including Stalin, Hitler, and Mao -- that have "used kids as props."
Drudge has been consistently linking to Jones' site for years (Drudge Report also features two permanent links to the Infowars mainpage). Among the 244 Infowars articles Drudge has promoted since April 2011:
In advance of the opening of George W. Bush's presidential library, Fox News is gearing up to rehabilitate the former president's image with the help of former Bush administration officials turned Fox employees.
On the April 23 edition of America's Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum hosted former Bush senior advisor and current Fox News political analyst Karl Rove to discuss Bush's legacy. During the interview, MacCallum gave Rove a platform to praise his former boss on a wide range of issues.
Both MacCallum and Rove highlighted how history will be the true judge of Bush's performance as president:
According to TV Newser, Bush will be interviewed later in the week by his former press secretary and current Fox News host Dana Perino, whose questioning is expected to be "more personal given her prior relationship" with the former president. Special Report anchor Bret Baier will also reportedly interview Bush, with the show broadcasting from the library on both April 24 and 25.
In a piece for The Atlantic on how conservative media "failed the rank and file" with their coverage in the run-up to Mitt Romney's resounding loss last November, Conor Friedersdorf observed that "a lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption."
To wit, this week Cox Media Group has launched Rare, a new website which endorser Ted Nugent promises "will guarantee the red meat is delivered how real conservatives like it -- rare." Cox owns several daily newspapers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, almost twenty TV stations, 87 radio stations, and boasted a 2012 revenue of nearly $2 billion. Rare will represent Cox's "first national news product."
Based on the recent history of Rare's Editor-in-Chief Brett Decker -- who served as editor for the toxic Washington Times editorial page during much of President Obama's first term -- and the largely aggregated content posted by the site so far, it's hard to escape the feeling that Rare will be just another megaphone in the conservative echo chamber, albeit one with slicker packaging.
Rare is the latest in an increasingly long line of conservatives sites promising to revolutionize online news, and it's already setting high expectations for itself. According to the lofty promises in promotional materials, Rare will be a "social content hub for modern conservatives" that represents a "real reinvention of the conservative news space" and one of the "few opportunities to actually redefine what news is today."
The results so far are not promising. In the few days since it has launched, Rare has been light on original content, largely aggregating a mix of straight news articles about the big events of the week; articles from established conservative sites like Weekly Standard and CNS News; snide dismissals of climate science; and celebrity gossip (sample headlines include "Amanda Bynes minute-long selfie"). Original content from Rare staff is largely limited to brief, sentence-long "Rare Take" comments on the stories they repost from other outlets.
Outside of those "Rare Takes," Rare is also publishing "Rare original content" op-eds from standard right-wing comentators and politicians. As of this writing, the top story on the site is a column from Ted Nugent, illustrated with a picture of the camo-clad NRA board member standing in front of an American flag with a rifle over his shoulder.
Aside from praise for Rare, the column is boilerplate Nugent, basically indistinguishable from any number of similar columns he has written for Washington Times and WND in recent years (liberals want to "erase the 2nd amendment," etc.).
This sort of reheated right-wing fare is a far cry from what Rare has promised. In a press release, Editor-in-Chief Decker positioned the outlet as a platform for the debate on how conservatism can "rebuild itself into a majority coalition."
In the months following the drubbing the GOP suffered in the 2012 presidential election, several conservatives have pondered the role messaging -- and in the words of David Frum, the "conservative entertainment complex" -- has played in the party's recent electoral woes.
Many of these complaints about the GOP's messaging problem apply directly to the editorial page of the Times during Decker's time as editor. (He resigned from the position in November.)
Following the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, radio host Alex Jones was quick to suggest the attacks may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the U.S. government. Jones' reaction is far from surprising; he has made a career out of pushing outlandish conspiracy theories.
Among other conspiracies, Jones has blamed the U.S. government for perpetrating, coordinating, or otherwise being involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. But despite Jones' well-known history, he is regularly validated by conservative media figures, politicians, and prominent activists that frequent his program, as well as by right-wing websites that promote his work and mainstream outlets that host him on their networks.
In recent years, former Rep. Ron Paul and current Sen. Rand Paul; Fox News figures Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano; gun activists Ted Nugent and Larry Pratt; and climate misinformer Marc Morano have all repeatedly appeared on Jones' show. His immensely popular website Infowars is also frequently promoted by conservative websites like The Drudge Report.
Shortly following the April 15 Boston attacks, Jones tweeted that "our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed," but added that "this thing stinks to high heaven" and suggested it was a "false flag" operation.
On a special webcast of his show that aired the night of April 15, Jones elaborated on his suggestion, saying, "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
As Jones uses yet another national tragedy to push baseless, absurd conspiracy theories, it's worth asking whether there's anything he can say or do to lead media figures, politicians and activists to stop validating him.
In this report:
Organizers protesting Dr. Ben Carson as an "inappropriate choice" of commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine say their petition has been signed by more than half of the graduating class.
Carson has been at the center of a firestorm in recent weeks following comments he made on Fox News comparing advocates of marriage equality to people advocating for bestiality and pedophilia.
In an April 1 appearance on Mark Levin's radio show, Carson sought to downplay the outcry among Hopkins students. Carson said that it is "still up in the air" whether he'll speak at the medical school's commencement and dismissed the concerns from students as merely "eight students who signed a petition."
LEVIN: Are you going to be giving that commencement speech or not at Johns Hopkins?
CARSON: To be determined. It's still up in the air. You know, there were eight students who signed a petition. And that was not from the graduating class, that was from all the classes. That was what they could come up with. There are others who feel very strongly in the other direction. But, you know, I'm going to wait and see. I think it's a wonderful opportunity, quite frankly, for a university to use a thermometer and to gauge its own feelings toward some of the liberties that are so much expressed in higher education.
In a release sent to Media Matters, the original petitioners dispute Carson's suggestion that it was only "eight students" who signed the petition. Rather, they state that a "majority of the graduating class" has signed on, as well as "close to 700 signatures" from across Johns Hopkins University.
Further, though Carson told Levin that the students behind the petition were "from all the classes" and "not from the graduating class," the original petitioners clarify in their release that "seven of the eight original drafters are graduating from the School of Medicine this year." Among the original petitioners are Carl Streed, a leader of a prominent LGBT group on campus, Jonathan Dudley, and several students who wish to keep their names private.
In a March 29 interview with MSNBC, Carson attempted to explain away his controversial comments and apologized if "anybody was offended." During that interview, he indicated that he might be open to withdrawing as commencement speaker.
The same day, the school issued a statement standing by the selection of Carson as commencement speaker.
Dr. Benjamin Carson, who has come under heavy criticism in recent days for comparing marriage equality supporters to advocates of bestiality and pedophilia, wrote in his 2012 book that marriage equality "is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire."
In a March 26 appearance on Fox News (where he has recently become a regular fixture), Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition." He added that his argument is "not something against gays," but "against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
Carson also pushed anti-marriage equality views in his most recent book. Carson warned in America the Beautiful that attempts to "redefine marriage" could lead to a "disastrous ending" for America on par with the fall of the Roman Empire. He explained that his opposition is "a logical and reasoned view" because marriage between a man and a woman benefits the "family structure and the propagation of humankind. ... God obviously knew what he was doing when he ordained the traditional family, and we should not denigrate it in order to uplift some alternative."
Carson added that he has "no problem whatsoever with allowing gay people to live as they please, as long as they don't try to impose their lifestyle on everyone else" and would support "gays or non-gays" having a legally binding relationship "that helps with the adjudication of property rights and other legal matters." Carson then compared this legal relationship to allowing Muslims to privately practice religion: "Likewise, I have no problem with Muslims or other religious groups who want to practice their religion in their homes, which may be vastly different from traditional Judeo-Christian religion, as long as they don't try to impose that on others or violate our laws."
As the Supreme Court hears arguments this week on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), conservative media figures have responded with their usual vitriol.
Rush Limbaugh led the way by telling his listeners that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was never intended to have anything to do with "gay marriage or animal marriage." Limbaugh later expanded on a caller's argument against marriage equality by pondering, "at some point who's to say that you cannot have sex with a child."
Limbaugh's commentary about the Prop 8 case is nothing new for conservative media figures, who have spent years demonizing marriage equality with offensive, outlandish, and downright bizarre arguments. Media Matters reviews some of the lowlights over the past decade.
Fox News covered this week's tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq the least of the three major cable networks. MSNBC provided more coverage than Fox and CNN combined.
From March 18 through March 20, MSNBC devoted more than four and a half hours of coverage to the Iraq anniversary. CNN spent 2 hours and five minutes on the story, while Fox News covered it for only an hour and twenty one minutes.
This study is a tally of the raw volume of Iraq anniversary coverage and did not take into account the quality of the content.
For example, Fox News segments included in the study include one in which an anchor questioned criticism of the media's coverage of the Bush administration's case for war, and another in which a Fox host declared the invasion "the smartest thing George Bush did."
While much of MSNBC's coverage was focused on the heavy toll of the war, segments like Morning Joe's report falsely claiming Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) originally supported the invasion (and co-host Joe Scarborough's subsequent apology for doing so) were also counted.
After being sold on faulty pretenses, according to a recent Brown University study, the war in Iraq cost the lives of 4,488 U.S. service members, at least 3,400 U.S. contractors, and an estimated 134,000 Iraqi civilians. (The study clarifies that the estimate for civilian deaths "does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.")
The Brown University study estimates the war "will cost the U.S. $2.2 trillion, including substantial costs for veterans care through 2053, far exceeding the initial government estimate of $50 to $60 billion."
Media Matters searched raw video for any variation of "Iraq" on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC's all-day news programming (from 6 a.m. through 11 p.m.) for the day before, of, and after the Iraq War's 10th anniversary, March 18 through 20, 2013. We did not include repeats of programs; for instance, even through MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews airs at both 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., we only included the 5 p.m. broadcast. We included and timed any teasers, promos, news briefs, news packages, and full segments on the Iraq war anniversary as well as any relevant parts of interviews and panels discussing the Iraq war. We did not including any passing mentions of the Iraq war made in segments on other topics, such as the frequent invoking of the Iraq war during segments about the recent allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria.
Oliver Willis contributed research to this report.