Fox News pitched the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as "Benghazi 2.0" after an Obama administration spokesperson declined to take a stand on whether Bergdahl is guilty of desertion before all the facts are in because, "like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty"
Since the White House's May 31 announcement that it had secured the release of Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war left in the Afghan conflict, in a prisoner swap, Republican strategists have led a coordinated campaign to hype claims that Bergdahl was a deserter. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf pointed out that the allegations have not yet been fully investigated and the government is "still establishing a fact pattern," but Fox has already began to aggressively hype the argument and accuse the Obama administration of lying about the facts.
On the June 3 edition of The Kelly File, Fox News' strategic analyst Col. Ralph Peters attacked the "arrogance" of Harf's statement, framing it as an insult to the troops and "Benghazi 2.0":
PETERS: Megyn, what you just saw and heard was Benghazi 2.0. A political flunkie in the State Department insisting that she knows better what happened on the ground than the soldiers on the front line or the people in a firefight. The arrogance is boundless. You know, I wish -- the Obama administration, if it can't have the grace to be decent about anything else, at least stop insulting our troops. She called those soldiers from the front lines liars. And by the way, she's the liar!
Fox & Friends had a similar take. Also responding to Harf's statement, co-host Steve Doocy called State's refusal to issue an immediate verdict on allegations of Bergdahl's desertion "unbelievable," putting the claims in the context of Fox's favorite Benghazi myth:
DOOCY: And how familiar does that sound: 'Don't listen to the guys on the ground.' Wait a minute, that's what we did in Benghazi, remember?
Doocy was attempting to jump off of a portion of the right-wing media's Benghazi mythology that has been so consistently repeated by Fox that, to many conservatives, it has become impervious to facts.
For more than a year, the network has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used on September 16, 2012 and that linked the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Muslim video. Previous investigations have found that the talking points reflected the intelligence community's best assessment at the time and that further information only became available 2 days later, after the FBI disseminated its interviews with eyewitnesses -- which quickly led the administration to update its assessment. Yet Fox has continued to ignore reality and imagine the delay was part of an elaborate plot to conceal the truth about the attacks.
Fox has seen first hand how ignoring reality and doubling down on misinformation can get results. The network's revisionist history of how information about the Benghazi attack was disseminated; it succeeded in convincing House Republicans to establish a select committee on Benghazi based on a false attack.
But like Fox's Benghazi scandal-mongering, this supposed "Benghazi 2.0" falls flat in context.
Far from calling "soldiers on the front lines liars" or suggesting the administration won't "listen to the guys on the ground," Harf was simply echoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to note that Bergdahl remains "innocent until proven guilty" but that the appropriate investigation will take place:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) according to those around him, his platoon mates, his squad mates, company mates, they said he walked off the base.
MS. HARF: Lucas, some of them - other - there are conflicting reports out there about this. Look --
QUESTION: Are there?
MS. HARF: There are. Go Google it on the web and you'll find a ton of conflicting reports. The fact is we're still establishing a fact pattern about what happened, how he ended up in Taliban captivity. So when he is able to share those, as Chairman Dempsey said today, he will. He also said, like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.
So I think people need to be really careful about believing every second or third-hand report out there, and also what the President, what the Secretary, what Chairman Dempsey have said: Regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home, period.
Fox News personalities attacked the father of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for looking "like a Muslim" and addressing his son in Pashto, going so far as to say his appearance is "insulting" and suggesting he might be an "Islamist sympathizer."
The network has a long and well-documented history of pushing Islamophobic rhetoric and propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion, and its pundits didn't hold back in tapping into anti-Islamic sentiment to identify "something wrong" with Bergdahl's release. Fox host Bill O'Reilly said he was "insulted" by the"conduct" of the soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, during his May 31 Rose Garden appearance with President Obama, because "[h]e has learned to speak the language of the Taliban and looks like a Muslim, actually thanking Allah right in front of the president." Fox contributor Laura Ingraham later hyped and escalated O'Reilly's "revelations," saying on her radio show, "If he wasn't so light-skinned, he actually looks like the terrorists."
Other Fox hosts have suggested that Bergdahl's beard, reportedly grown out of solidarity with his son, is something to be "skeptical" of and something that he grew out of "sympathy with the Taliban." The current suspicion of Bergdahl's facial hair comes in stark contrast to the network's previous support of the famously bearded stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty.
Media responded to the news that the Obama administration secured the release of prisoner of war (POW) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban by parsing whether or not the administration violated longstanding policy by negotiating Bergdahl's release. In reality, experts say the U.S. has a long history of such negotiations, and Bergdahl's release was conducted using an intermediary nation.
Gender bias and sensationalism in the media is something political figures like Hillary Clinton simply need to "deal with," according to Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz.
In a May 28 column, Kurtz highlighted a newly released excerpt from Hillary Clinton's upcoming book, Hard Choices, in an attempt to analyze Clinton's purported wariness of the press. He gave particular attention to a New Yorker article, published the same day as the book excerpt, which detailed the media's obsessive focus on Clinton. While the New Yorker noted that Clinton supporters attribute "some of the negative" coverage she has faced to sexism, Kurtz offered an alternate take:
My take is this: Let's say Hillary's people are right and that the press is petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean to women? Deal with it. It's like complaining about bad weather. Every candidate has to cope with an adversarial media, and Democrats usually get a break at least on social issues.
Media coverage of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign was a gender debacle. Press featured "news" segments on Hillary's hair style, examinations of the Clinton "cackle," and even a 750-word rumination on the "startling" amount of cleavage then-Sen. Clinton "displayed" on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Fox News exploited the Obama administration's accidental exposure of a CIA operative's identity, using it as an opportunity to minimize the Bush administration's culpability in deliberately exposing former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as political retribution in 2003.
On May 26, the Washington Post reported that the White House press office had mistakenly revealed the name of the CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan when it distributed a list of officials scheduled to participate in a military briefing with Obama at the Bagram Air Base during the president's surprise Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan. The list had been provided to the administration communications staff by military officials.
Fox News used the oversight as an opportunity to absolve the Bush administration and former Bush advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby for deliberately exposing the identity of then-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. On May 27, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade referenced Libby, noting that this time, "Scooter Libby cannot be blamed or imprisoned" for the oversight. Co-host Steve Doocy seized on the comment as an opportunity to draw a false equivalence between the two cases and downplay the severity of the Plame leak:
DOOCY: Okay, so you mentioned Scooter Libby, he was all part of that Valerie Plame thing. Valerie Plame has tweeted out. She writes simply: "Astonishing, White House mistakenly identifies CIA Chief in Afghanistan." Keep in mind, you know, people are talking about, well remember when it happened during the Bush years with Valerie Plame. Valerie -- President Barack Obama at the time wanted to know, called an investigation were any laws broken and stuff like that. Keep in mind that, big difference. Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C., at the CIA. This guy is actually over there. So for them to put out a list -- and I've got the memo on my iPhone right now. There's his name plain as day with Chief of Staff right after it. Doesn't anybody at the White House know what they're doing right now? It looks like a -- either they're not paying attention to details or they simply don't care.
Later on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton made the specious claim that Plame's identity was "made public by Rich Armitage, Secretary Colin Powell's deputy," and argued that the disclosure "resulted in some very unfair treatment of a lot of other people in the Bush administration like Scooter Libby." Bolton argued that the Plame disclosure was "just a malicious piece of gossip," while the Obama administration's disclosure was "utter incompetence."
These cases are not comparable. While the Obama administration's release of the CIA Chief of Station's name is a serious oversight, reports of the incident are clear that the disclosure was accidental. As the Washington Post noted, the mistake was immediately recognized and the list was withdrawn.
In contrast, the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity was a calculated move that that demolished her career after her husband wrote a New York Times op-ed critical of the Bush administration's justifications for taking the nation to war in Iraq. During the leak investigation, former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper identified former White House senior adviser -- current Fox contributor -- Karl Rove as the original source revealing Plame's identity and pointed to Scooter Libby as the corroborating source. Libby, who then served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty of perjury in the leak investigation, but his sentence was later commuted by Bush.
Fox News is using a flawed Benghazi report from ABC to spin an outlandish new conspiracy theory, insinuating that the Obama administration let Americans die while it was preoccupied with emailing YouTube about an anti-Muslim video.
On May 22, ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that new information showed that the White House had contacted YouTube the night of the attacks and later concealed the correspondence. The reality is that Karl's so-called new information, based on a selective leak from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), was reported by ABC way back in September 2012. Although Karl based his report on warmed-over information already in the public record, Fox jumped at the opportunity to revive the lie that the Obama administration abandoned Americans under fire.
Watch Fox & Friends use Karl's report to revive the zombie lie that the White House "certainly hesitated to send in help for the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi" and instead spent time contacting YouTube:
Having successfully goaded House Republicans into forming a select committee on Benghazi with smears and phony outrage, Fox News is now attempting to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the new investigatory body.
On May 2, House Republicans finally caved to the Fox News pressure campaign encouraging them to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox personalities have also pressured Democrats to get on board despite objections that the makeup of the committee is slanted to favor Republicans and is already ignoring evidence in pursuit of a forgone conclusion.
Fox host Andrea Tantaros warned that Democrats could face electoral repercussions if they "risk looking left out of it," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade urged, "Democrats, put the five people up there. Stop with the rhetoric. Let's get started," and after listening to select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) description of the committee, Fox host Chris Wallace decided: "Alright, I'm going to declare victory here and say that the Democrats are going to participate."
On May 16, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) volunteered to serve, and Fox was quick to reject the possibility of Grayson's involvement.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the committee needed someone more on board with the committee's goals and described him as a "spoke in the wheel" to the select committee:
HASSELBECK: Now, if he's gonna prosecute and try to get in there and probe into someone, it should be why we haven't had any answers and why no one knew about this and why these Americans were left to die. But if his focus, then, if the center of the target happens to be Republicans, is that a good idea to have this guy in there?
DOOCY: Here's the thing. This all started out as a joke on Twitter and the blogs, and now essentially what they're saying is: 'let's go ahead and gum up the works, let's turn it into a kangaroo court, and have this particular guy.' MoveOn.org says, "Our interest is to have someone with great credibility and stature among Democrats and Republicans. Well you know what? With all due respect to the congressman, he's not the one. Republicans do not think he is a great statesman.
In an interview with Media Matters, Grayson criticized Fox for "calling the shots" on the Benghazi witch hunt.
A look at how right-wing media ran with Fox contributor Karl Rove's speculation that Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage from a fall in 2012, laying the groundwork to establish the baseless smear as an issue for the 2016 presidential race.
Fox News isn't happy that former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner disagrees with their misinterpretation of excerpts from his new memoir.
On May 12, right-wing media's attempted to use Geithner's new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, to bolster its claims that the White House has a pattern of "playing politics with the American people" when it comes to issues like Benghazi. The narrative was rapidly debunked by a source close to Geithner and even one of Fox's own hosts.
Yet rather than correct their narrative the following day, Fox pivoted to attacking Geithner directly, calling it "outrageous" that "Geithner doesn't even believe his own book." The network later argued that there was no way Geithner could have misremembered the incident because, in Fox & Friends' Elisabeth Hasselbeck's words:
HASSELBECK: Anyone who knows, who has written a book, understands that there are many rounds of edits that go into providing text of your book. You look at that a few times before it hits the press, literally.
Hasselbeck's attack stretches credulity in order to obscure the most obvious explanation: that Fox was wrong.
When Geithner's memoir debuted, right-wing media were quick to latch on to his description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011. Then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer had asked Geithner to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote that he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute." According to the right-wing noise machine, the anecdote revealed that the White House directed Geithner to lie to the public. Fox quickly tied the narrative to its favorite Benghazi myth -- that the White House had worked to deliberately mislead the American people.
This framing of Geithner's anecdote was almost immediately debunked when The Five's Dana Perino, a former White House Press Secretary and Fox host, explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint."
Geithner himself reportedly later clarified this point, noting that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":
After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."
The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.
From Geithner's book:
The Speaker and his staff kept insisting they needed a scalp for the right; at one point, he proposed we scrap Obamacare's individual mandate for health insurance, an obvious nonstarter.
We were getting a bit nervous about our side, too. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi had told the President they could support a grand bargain, but the outlines of the deal made the Democratic leaders uncomfortable. It would raise substantially less revenue than Simpson-Bowles or a draft proposal by a bipartisan Senate group known as the Gang of Six. And the entitlement reforms were going to be a tough vote for Democrats, especially with Republicans still insisting on some kind of Obamacare scalp.
I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer wanted me to say Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. It wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a "dog whistle" to the left, a phrase I had never heard before. He had to explain that the phrase was code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.
On July 21, Boehner, remarkably, stopped returning the President's calls. He soon announced he was abandoning the grand bargain. This time, his rationale was that the President had moved the goalposts by asking for an extra $ 400 billion in revenues. But that was just a pretext; the negotiations were fluid. We had raised the revenue target, and their drafts still were calling for unacceptable political scalps, but the President hadn't drawn a line in the sand. The problem was that most of Boehner's caucus was unwilling to accept any new revenues, and many had pledged never to vote to raise the debt ceiling; he once told us that he was more interested in doing big things than being Speaker, but ultimately he was unwilling to split his caucus and risk his job.
Fox News is worried about an NFL player who was disciplined for posting anti-gay tweets about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted.
On May 10, Sam made history by becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted to the National Football League, when he was selected as the 249th draft pick by the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who had previously weathered a storm of right-wing criticism when he spoke out about his sexual orientation in February, was shown on television kissing his boyfriend after receiving news that he had been drafted.
The kiss sparked homophobic attacks online -- Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was disciplined for tweeting "omg" and "horrible" in response to Sam's celebration. Jones later apologized for his tweets after the team announced that he would be fined and temporarily excused from team activities.
Fox News appeared to side with Jones. The May 12 edition of Fox & Friends discussed Jones' tweet and compared the story to former NFL player Tim Tebow, suggesting Tebow was "mocked" for being a Christian while Michael Sam is "praised." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck worried that the NFL's attempts to curb anti-gay attacks on Sam could "offend" players like Jones and stoked fears that such efforts could lead to a slippery slope toward civility:
HASSELBECK: When you look at what the NFL is saying though, now, this is a strong message. They are going on the offense against any sort of offensive comments out there. But does it offend those with their free speech and their opinions to voice them? Certainly when it comes on the field. Will they then go after what is said in the huddle, in a tackle, on the bottom of a pile? Because if you have those times mic'd, you're going to be hearing a lot of comments which would be deemed offensive. Where does this go from here?
Later in the show, Fox regular Donald Trump said the footage of Sam celebrating with his boyfriend "looked pretty out there to me." Of Jones' punishment for mocking Sam, Trump claimed, "We've become so politically correct in this country that the country is going to hell."