A recent Fox News poll of registered voters, which purports to illustrate that a majority of voters agree with the network's dark narrative on the Obama administration's response to the 2012& Benghazi attacks, relies on questions from a foundation of tired distortions and lies.
Fox News conducted a poll of 1,013 registered voters between May 18-20, attempting to discern respondents' opinions on a variety of questions related to the government's handling of the Benghazi attacks. FoxNews.com published the poll on May 21 with the title, "Fox News Poll: Obama could have done more to help those in Benghazi."
Fox's poll questions, however, are predicated on the same distortions and outright lies Fox has pushed for the last nine months, which casts a pall of doubt on the veracity of its results.
For example, see Question 14, to which 62 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative:
Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack?
The very premise of this question is bogus. Fox implies that perhaps Obama didn't do enough to help the Americans at the consulate, which flies in the face of explicit testimony from military and defense leaders regarding the White House's response. Testifying before Congress in February, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both testified that President Obama was fully engaged "pretty constantly" as the crisis unfolded, and that the response was appropriate and normal. What's more, as CNN reported on February 7:
Dempsey said he stood by the conclusion of an independent review board, which concluded the "interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference."
A New York Times article directly refutes the claims of House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, that State Department officials knew immediately that the attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 were connected to "Islamic terrorists." Fox News willingly repeated the attack on its evening programming May 9 -- but now that the Republican distortion has been exposed, will the network clarify its reports for viewers?
Boehner called for the release of a State Department e-mail sent in the wake of the Benghazi attacks that he claimed suggested the assault was perpetrated by "Islamic terrorists." At the House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), purporting to be reading from the email in question, quoted a State Department official as saying, "the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists." The phrase "Islamic terrorists" holds significance for Republicans who have suggested the administration knew from the outset that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons.
The May 9 editions of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox Business Channel's Lou Dobbs TONIGHT hyped the Republican line. According to a Nexis transcript search, Baier played clips of Boehner calling for the release of the e-mail, to which Fox guest and Fortune columnist Nina Easton responded, "I was happy to see Speaker Boehner call for the release of those internal e-mails. Anybody who thought that this was just a Republican hazing as the opposition party in power, I think those concerns were put to rest yesterday. I mean, there's so many unanswered questions."
Lou Dobbs also played Boehner's call for release of the e-mail, noting afterward that "somewhat predictably, no response from the Obama administration at this hour." Dobbs continued, claiming that Boehner's comments and the May 8 congressional hearings into the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks "open up new questions about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
The New York Times, however, obtained a copy of the e-mail in question and reported that the phrase conservatives are putting in the mouth of the State Department official -- "Islamic terrorists" - is in fact not used to describe the perpetrators of the attack. Rather, the official describes the perpetrators as having ties to "Islamic extremists" -- a distinction with a difference, according to the Times report:
[A] copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to "Islamic extremists," not terrorists.
The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.
Fox News is no stranger to carrying water for the Republican Party, and the network has led the charge to push Benghazi cover-up conspiracies. But now that the latest GOP line on Benghazi has been exposed, will Fox inform its viewers?
In the run-up to the May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing on the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News personalities repeatedly attempted to smear President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by equating their response to the crisis with the infamous Watergate scandal of the 1970s that resulted in the impeachment -- and ultimately resignation -- of President Richard Nixon.
Right-wing media figures have desperately tried to illustrate the existence of an Obama administration "cover-up" since news of the Benghazi attacks, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, first reached U.S. airwaves. The right-wing outcry culminated in a House Oversight Committee hearing showcasing the testimony of self-described "whistleblowers," which Fox News promised would help make the case that the White House had lied to the American people about the timeline of events in Benghazi.
This wasn't the first time Fox pundits have made the Benghazi-Watergate claim. In September 2012, The Five co-host Eric Bolling described the "cover-up" as "the biggest news story since Watergate." In fact, right-wing media have a long history of trying to tie Obama to the Nixon scandal.
Conservative media focused their Earth Day coverage on the crime and trial of environmental activist Ira Einhorn -- convicted of murdering his girlfriend -- while pushing the unsubstantiated smear that he founded the holiday. Sensationalizing Einhorn's murder conviction distracted from the holiday's purpose and the true founder of Earth Day -- former Wisconsin governor and United States senator Gaylord Nelson (D), a passionate environmental advocate who was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award for his work.
Celebrated on April 22, 1970, the original Earth Day marked the beginning of the environmental movement and, as CBS noted, came "at a time when pollution was rampant and regulation was not commonplace." The popular support Earth Day helped engender led to the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
The conservative smear machine used Earth Day 2013 to push articles claiming the holiday was established by Einhorn, an environmental activist who later became known as the "Unicorn Killer," after being found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Holly Maddux.
The Daily Caller headlined its Earth Day recognition piece, "Earth Day co-founder killed, 'composted' his ex-girlfriend." Buried in the Caller's last paragraph of the article was Earth Day's purpose and that "most activists credit Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson" as the holiday's progenitor. Michelle Malkin referred to Einhorn as an "Earth Day co-founder" in a column she re-published from 2001, labeling him "[a] grisly Earth Day reminder." And Limbaugh weighed in as well, acknowledging Earth Day by saying, "Ira Einhorn, co-founder, Earth Day, convicted murderer" was being "celebrated today by environmental wackos because this is Earth Day."
In the immediate wake of deadly explosions at the Boston marathon, Alex Jones and his website InfoWars.com have breathlessly preached conspiracy theories about the as-yet-unknown perpetrators of the attack, claiming the blast was set off or staged by the U.S. government in what Jones called a "false flag operation." The theorizing culminated in an InfoWars correspondent asking a visibly angry Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, "Is this another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote Homeland Security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets?"
Two explosions detonated at the finish line of the Boston marathon on the afternoon of April 15, reportedly killing three people and injuring over a hundred. Law enforcement and the White House are currently investigating who may have been behind the attack, and President Obama promised that though "[w]e still do not know who did this or why ... [M]ake no mistake -- we will get to the bottom of this."
Jones used the tragedy to push his conspiracy theory that recent domestic attacks -- including the mass shootings in Newtown, CT and Aurora, CO -- are "false flag" attacks staged by the federal government. Jones tweeted his theory within minutes of the Boston Marathon explosions.
Jones then followed up on his tweet and expanded on his theories in a special webcast dedicated to the false flag conspiracy, claiming, "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."
His theorizing culminated in an InfoWars correspondent, Dan Bidondi, questioning Gov. Patrick about the conspiracy directly.
In an effort to oppose federal drug sentencing reform, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly attacked a group of Hollywood celebrities by taking them out of context and ignoring the racial realities behind federal incarceration rates.
On the April 10 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly belittled musicians and movie actors Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and others for penning a letter to the White House suggesting President Obama take further steps to alleviate inefficiencies and inequalities in the federal criminal justice system. O'Reilly cherry picked quotes from the letter to misrepresent their message and ignored any discussion of their actual recommendations. Instead, the Fox News host transitioned into a tirade of insults and out-of-context statistics in an attempt to distort the true picture of America's prison structure.
O'Reilly devoted much of the segment to disparaging guest Bob Beckel and to the semantic task of crafting his own definition of "violent crime" - a definition federal criminal law does not recognize. He completely ignored the celebrities' substantive recommendations for prison and sentencing reform and avoided a balanced discussion of federal penal policy.
Wahlberg and company pointed to racial inequalities in drug sentencing that persist despite the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed in November 2012 that more had to be done, writing that despite the passage of the FSA, "selling a small quantity of crack cocaine (28 grams) carries the same mandatory minimum sentence - five years - as selling 500 grams of powder cocaine." From a racial justice standpoint, this matters because crack cocaine is disproportionately found in African-American communities, while powder cocaine turns up more frequently in white communities. O'Reilly ignored the problem altogether.
Fox News used a dishonest graph to distort the Obama administration's record on border enforcement and claim that the border is less secure. Fox's chart painted a misleading picture of Southwest border apprehensions by using an arbitrary time period and an improper scale -- even as illegal border crossings under President Obama are at historic lows.
In several segments on Fox News, correspondent William La Jeunesse highlighted the graph to claim that the Southwest border "is actually less secure," pointing to what he called the "double-digit surge" in border apprehensions from 2011 to 2013 to make his point:
La Jeunesse reported that the numbers for October-April 2013 were released exclusively to Fox News from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a report on Happening Now, La Jeunesse touted the graph and highlighted the fact that apprehensions of Central American nationals have risen 13 percent -- leading him to claim that by this standard more people are getting into the United States illegally.
La Jeunesse gave a similar report on Your World using the same graph.
However, the graph La Jeunesse used suffers from several misleading characteristics. First, it depicts an arbitrary time period: October through April, though we're only a few days into the month, for the years 2011 to 2013 -- which takes into account only half of Obama's first term. Moreover, the graph has a skewed scale -- making the 27,000 jump from 2011 to 2013 seem more dramatic than it actually is.
Fox News' Eric Bolling doubled down on his praise of former Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired for physically and verbally abusing players, saying, "The best coaches are coaches like that."
Appearing on the April 4 edition of Fox News' America Live, Bolling claimed that Rice's dismissal is symptomatic of the "wussification" of American men, echoing a similar statement he made while co-hosting The Five the previous day.
Rice was fired after ESPN's Outside The Lines broadcast a video of a Rutgers basketball practice in which Rice is seen throwing basketballs at his players' heads, kicking players, and shouting homophobic slurs, among other abuses. Rice's behavior was sharply criticized by everyone from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to NBA stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Rice was critical of his own behavior, saying, "There's no explanation for what's on those films. Because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong."
Some of Fox News' most prominent personalities have taken a different approach to evaluating Rice's coaching tactics. Sean Hannity joined Bolling's defense of Rice, claiming the coach was just "trying to bring the best out of" his team.
Fox News fearmongered about the costs of proposed federal food safety regulations without informing viewers that foodborne illnesses sicken millions of Americans annually and lead to the deaths of 3,000 people per year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed two food safety regulations -- not yet finalized and still subject to public input -- which, among other safeguards, would require "science- and risk-based standards at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities."
On the April 2 edition of Happening Now, Fox News host Jon Scott and correspondent Shannon Bream reported in detail what one conservative policy group estimated the rules, if adopted, would cost the agriculture industry. While the Fox figures paid brief lip service to the issue of public health -- Bream said that "it's a worthy goal, of course, keeping the food supply safe" -- they omitted any other discussion of consumer safety and the problem of foodborne illness outbreaks.
Specifically, Scott and Bream failed to inform viewers that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year, and contaminated food is responsible for 3,000 deaths annually.
While Bream cited "critics" who claim the new regulations "may be completely unnecessary," a rash of E. coli, salmonella and listeria outbreaks made national headlines in 2012 as the proposed rules were being crafted. Here are a few food safety stories Fox News ignored while questioning the need for stronger food safety rules:
The Daily Caller published a sexist cartoon attacking Meghan McCain in response to reports that McCain will soon be hosting her own television show. Jim Treacher, the nom de plume of Daily Caller contributor Sean Medlock, used the cartoon as a vehicle to claim that Meghan McCain's physical appearance is "the only reason anybody ever pays attention to her."
The March 28 column, titled, "Meghan McCain to host TV show that will require her to talk," featured a cartoon using a photograph of McCain with speech bubbles emerging from McCain's breasts. The cartoon, which was published at Treacher/Medlock's personal website in 2009, appears to be his creation.
Due to the offensive nature of the cartoon, Media Matters has not republished it. The sexist content of the image, originally described by Treacher/Medlock as "a few words from Meghan McCain's funbags," speaks for itself.