Fox News Sunday invited American Crossroads founder Karl Rove to discuss key 2014 midterm Senate races without disclosing Rove's relationship with the super PAC that has poured millions into influencing the outcomes of the Senate races being discussed.
Rove appeared on the September 21 edition of Fox News Sunday to discuss whether Republicans will take the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections. Rove lauded individual Republicans and trumpeted their chances of winning a Senate majority, but complained that "One advantage the Democrats have had is a big cash advantage" -- an argument he has previously used to fundraise for his political groups.
While host Chris Wallace identified Rove as a "former Bush White House advisor" and a Fox News contributor, he failed to disclose Rove's relationship to political groups fundraising to attack Democrats in the Senate.
American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, political groups that Rove co-founded and continues to advise, have spent millions dollars attacking Democrats in the Senate races discussed on Fox News Sunday. Here's a breakdown of the groups' spending during the 2013-2014 election cycle from Open Secrets:
Here's a breakdown of the groups' spending on individual congressional campaigns from Open Secrets:
Fox News celebrated the Senate primary win of former Fox News contributor Scott Brown by offering him over four minutes of free air time to attack his Democratic opponent and promote his campaign without disclosing his previous affiliation with the network.
Brown clinched the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's Senate seat on September 9 and will now face Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen in the general election. He previously served as a senator for Massachusetts before losing to Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012, and he was hired by Fox News in 2013.
On the September 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade told Brown "I wasn't surprised that you won" and lobbed a series of softball questions at him that underlined how Brown had beaten expectations and pushed a message that "resonated" with voters. Kilmeade also vouched for Brown's work ethic, saying "I know when it comes to the endurance, no one is going to outwork you." At the end of the segment, Fox gave Brown a platform to plug his campaign website:
BROWN: People can go to ScottBrown.com. Let's go make Harry Reid the minority leader. Need your help. Thank you.
During Brown's last run for the Senate, the network gave his campaign fawning coverage and repeatedly offered him a platform to promote his views and directed viewers to his website for information on "how to help with donating and volunteering." Fox News contributors pleaded with viewers go online to "help elect" him and pushed arguments like "your 401(k) could do well" if Brown won. Fox hosts even played with a Scott Brown action figure during one segment.
Brown then spent over a year building his profile as a paid Fox contributor, during which time he attacked Shaheen and Senate Democrats over health care and burnished his New Hampshire bona fides after moving there. While Brown was employed at the network, Fox hosts repeatedly asked Brown if he planned to run again and even called it a "terrific" idea. Brown has said that working at Fox "really charged me up to" run for office again.
The network continued to help Brown during his New Hampshire primary. In August, the network aired an anti-Obamacare documentary tailor-made to boost Brown's campaign. Former Sen. Bob Smith, one of Brown's Republican primary opponents, criticized Fox's pro-Brown coverage as "shoddy" and "not fair and balanced."
Other former Fox News employees have benefited from favorable treatment during their runs for office. For instance, Rick Santorum said during his presidential campaign that his former job with Fox had "been big" and "helped folks remember who I am. ... It's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."
Please do not listen to Victoria Toensing. She does not represent us in any way shape or form-- Kris Paronto (@KrisParonto) September 9, 2014
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) called out Fox News' favorite Benghazi lawyer, Victoria Toensing, for her "unfortunate" and untrue allegations about the 2012 attacks and subsequent investigations.
Fox & Friends invited Toensing on its September 9 program to weigh in on the network's latest attempt to revive the repeatedly debunked myth of a "stand down" order issued to three CIA security personnel in Benghazi.
Toensing dismissed the fact that both the House Intelligence Committee and various investigations determined that no such stand down order was issued, claiming the State Department had worked to undermine and "vilif[y]" the security personnel and Benghazi witnesses. According to Toensing, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee "harassed" the security contractors when they gave their testimony on Benghazi, pressuring them not to write about their experiences.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, shot down Toensing's accusations in a later segment on Fox & Friends. Rogers debunked the notion of any stand down order, and though he refrained from mentioning Toensing by name, he called out "lawyers who have a financial interest in this, certainly making allegations that are far from true." Rogers went on:
ROGERS: As I said, I hope everybody buys [the security contractors'] book, because these are very brave souls who served their country proudly, who ended up driving into unknown circumstances and saved them. That's all really good. And so, the only way that people buy the book is with some inflammatory comments. These are attorneys who have a financial stake in this. And it's unfortunate. The facts will -- we've asked that these transcripts be released, and I think that'll tell the truth. I think Americans can look at that and find out what was the real truth.
Toensing is well-known to be an unreliable source, previously criticized as lacking "impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism."
Fox News accused President Obama of ignoring warnings from President Bush about the ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, claiming that Bush's warnings in 2007 predicted the rise of the Islamic State extremist group. In reality, Obama followed the extended withdrawal timeline that Bush set in 2008 with the approval of military leaders.
Media outlets are overlooking President Obama's consistent emphasis on eliminating the threat posed by the extremist group the Islamic State -- and the U.S. airstrikes against it -- to fixate on Obama's recent reference to shrinking the group's influence to a "manageable problem."
Washington Post columnist George Will deepened his ethically challenged connections to big-money conservative groups by participating in an Americans for Prosperity summit where prominent Republican presidential hopefuls made their pitch to major donors.
Will's attendance at the Koch-backed group's annual convention comes after he spent months promoting Koch-backed candidates for public offices and advancing Koch-backed policy issues in his syndicated column.
On August 31, Politico reported that Will was part of an "exclusive group of major donors and VIPs" who "dined privately" at AFP's eighth annual Defending the American Dream summit. According to Politico, the summit "has become an increasingly important stop for aspiring GOP presidential candidates." In previous years, Will has also spoken at the summit and been given AFP's highest honor, the George Washington Award.
Will's cozy relationship with AFP has not been disclosed in any of his recent columns promoting key Republican candidates for Congress or governorships, who have benefited from AFP's ad spending. Using his platform at The Washington Post, Will has promoted Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, suggesting that she is "the GOP's best answer to the so-called war on women" and contrasting her with Sandra Fluke, whom he smeared as "a professional victim and virtuoso whiner." Will argued that by electing Land, Michigan voters would be able "to show what they think of 'war on women' hysterics as a substitute for thought." Like Will, AFP supports Land and, as Will noted, has already spent $5 million on her behalf. Will did not note his connections to the group.
Will has similarly promoted North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis' candidacy for the Senate, parroting his anti-Obamacare campaign advertisements in a May 30 column. Will defended Tillis against charges that he is an "establishment" moderate by praising his conservative credentials: "Tillis has been an enthusiastic enactor and implementer of the conservatism that North Carolinians voted for." Will noted that AFP has spent $8 million on advertising attacking Tillis' opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. Charles Koch and his family have also maxed out their contributions to Tillis, and he received a $5,000 donation from the Koch Industries PAC.
Will has profiled Republican Bruce Rauner, who is running to be governor of Illinois, framing the election as a choice between Rauner's push for term limits and his "vows to change the state's fundamental affliction --its political culture" and "the acceleration of stagnation" under the Democratic incumbent, Pat Quinn. AFP has spent at least $120,000 attacking Quinn.
Will also supported the candidacy of Monica Wehby in Oregon. In a July 25 column, he argued that since she has spent 17 years as a pediatric neurosurgeon, "She probably can cope with the strains of legislative life." He cited her "two X chromosomes," opposition to abortion rights, and support of marriage equality to claim she "complicates the Democratic Party's continuing accusation that Republicans wage 'war on women.' " Will also suggested that Wehby isn't too extreme for Oregon because she "won 50 percent of the vote in a five-candidate primary in which her rivals accused her of moderation." The Koch-affiliated group Freedom Partners, which Politico called the "Koch brothers' secret bank," plans to spend $3.6 million on Wehby's race.
Organizations that receive large amounts of Koch funding have also been prominently mentioned in Will's recent columns. Will twice hyped the work of the Institute for Justice, which relied on Charles Koch for seed money, and has since received more than $1 million in money from Koch-backed groups. Will dedicated another column to pushing the Goldwater Institute's effort to create a balanced budget amendment. The group has received more than $1.6 million in donations from Koch-affiliated groups.
Will also offered praise for U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa, who halted a criminal investigation into possible illegal coordination between the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and outside groups during a recall election. Walker has benefited from more than $10 million in spending by AFP.
Will has previously had problems with nondisclosure. Will has been criticized by media ethicists and veteran journalists for citing groups that are funded by the Bradley Foundation without disclosing that he is a paid board member of that organization. Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communications and former Miami Herald editor, stated that Will's acceptance of an award from the Bradley Foundation "signaled his alignment with its philosophy." Washington and Lee University journalism professor Ed Wasserman said that Will's failure to disclose the relationship was "[o]f course" a problem, explaining that even though Will is known to be a conservative, readers should know if Will's commentary is "independently arrived at rather than a reflection of a nexus of relationships and entanglements that he is embedded in."
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that an immigration ruling allowing a victim of domestic violence in Guatemala to pursue an asylum claim in the U.S. would allow Guatemalans "to get instant U.S. citizenship as well as our benefits" while an on-screen graphic read "Opening the Border." In fact, an immigration judge must still review the request for asylum in this specific case, and even if immigrants are granted asylum, they face a years-long path to gaining citizenship.
Right-wing media outlets criticized the Obama administration over news that three administration officials planned to attend shooting victim Michael Brown's funeral, citing the myth that the White House failed to send representation to the funeral of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was killed in Afghanistan -- In reality, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attended the two star general's service.
Fox News selectively clipped Attorney General Eric Holder's Ferguson, Missouri, statement on the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown to accuse him of taking sides against the police in the coming Justice Department investigation -- though Holder explicitly noted that, "as a father of a teenage son" and "as the brother of a retired law enforcement officer," he understands both sides.
Days after selectively editing a statement from President Obama to claim the administration is "choosing sides" in Ferguson, Fox tried the same tactic with Holder. The network aired a deceptively clipped portion of Holder's July 21 statement about his visit to the town, which has been the center of national attention since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by an officer of the St. Louis County Police Department.
On Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said the clip showed Holder "personally claiming that he understood the public's mistrust toward the police" in a way that may "inflame racial tension." Doocy suggested that "there's been a rush to judgment" by Holder and the administration. Fox News contributor Linda Chavez agreed that Holder was "basically picking a side." She went on to argue that the administration has been "playing the race card" and exploiting the black community for political gain:
CHAVEZ: I do think there's something going on. I think it's politics, it's all about domestic politics. I think it's an exploitation of the black community. I think it is playing the race card and I think it's disgraceful.
The full context of Holder's statement contradicts Fox's narrative that Holder has already sided with critics of the Ferguson police. The portion of the statement that Fox aired came immediately after Holder noted that felt personally affected by the tensions in Ferguson because he understood both sides on a personal level.
Holder said that, "[a]s the brother of a retired law enforcement officer," he understood the " tremendous threats and significant personal risk" that police who "lives on the line every day" have to factor into rapid decision-making, but also noted that "as a father of a teenage son myself" he understands the community's need for answers.
What's more, Holder's comments following the portion Fox aired go on to condemn the violence in Ferguson, with Holder stating, "I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring. To a person yesterday, the people I met with, take great pride in their town and despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we have seen over the past couple of weeks."
Here's a longer version of Holder's statement, from CNN (the portion Fox aired is in bold):
Now although our investigation will take time, and although I cannot discuss the specifics of this case in greater detail since it remains open and very active, the people of Ferguson can have confidence in the federal agents, investigators and prosecutors who are leading this process. Our investigation will be fair, it will be thorough, and it will be independent.
On a personal note, I've seen a lot in my time as attorney general but few things have affected me as greatly as my visit to Ferguson. I had the chance to meet with the family of Michael Brown. I spoke to them not just as attorney general, but as a father of a teenage son myself. They, like so many in Ferguson, want answers. In my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson yesterday, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for many years. There is a history to these tensions and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson.
Law enforcement has a role to play in reducing tensions as well. As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer, I know firsthand that our men and women in uniform perform their duties in the face of tremendous threats and significant personal risk. They put their lives on the line every day and they often have to make split-second decisions.The national outcry we have seen speaks to a sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion that can take hold in the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities.
I wanted the people of Ferguson to know that I personally understood that mistrust. I wanted them to know that while so much else may be uncertain, this attorney general and this Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring. To a person yesterday, the people I met with, take great pride in their town and despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we have seen over the past couple of weeks.
In that sense, while I went to Ferguson to provide' assurance, in fact, they gave me hope. My commitment to them is that long after this tragic story no longer receives this level of attention, the Justice Department will continue to stand with Ferguson. We will continue the conversation this incident has sparked about the need for trust building between law enforcement officers and the communities that they serve, about the appropriate use of force, and the need to ensure fair and equal treatment for everyone who comes into contact with the police.
Conservative media figures have wrongly accused Muslim groups and leaders of failing to denounce the violent acts of the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), despite the fact that numerous Muslim religious authorities, advocacy groups, and Imams have come together to denounce the Islamic State's un-Islamic crimes against humanity.