Fox News' Benghazi coverage has sunk to relying on Roger Stone, the head of the now-defunct anti-Hillary Clinton group Citizens United Not Timid -- designed by Stone for its acronym -- as a source to continue pushing distortions surrounding the attacks.
The March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends provided Stone with the platform to promote his new book The Benghazi Report. Together with co-host Clayton Morris, Stone recounted some of Fox's favorite Benghazi hoaxes, under the pretense that the myths will harm former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should she run for president in 2016. According to Stone, "There's no question Hillary lied and people died":
Fox selected the right guest to forward its effort to make the Benghazi tragedy into a scandal, as Stone has a long history of directing extreme and sexist attacks at Clinton. In 2008, Stone established an anti-Hillary Clinton political organization named Citizens United Not Timid - The organization frequently went by C.U.N.T., an acronym Stone settled on after reportedly failing to find an appropriate name to match the acronym B.I.T.C.H. In a January 28, 2008 Weekly Standard article, senior writer Matt Labash called Stone "a professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" before quoting him on the goals of Citizens United Not Timid: "[I]t's one-word education. That's our mission. No issues. No policy groups. No position papers. This is a simple committee with an unfortunate acronym."
Stone's group purported to "educate the American public about what Hillary Clinton really is":
Stone has never been known as an honest political actor. The New York Times has reported that, as a teenager, Stone hired a political mole, and the Washington Post documented Stone employing deceptive campaign tactics as far back as the 1970s. According to the Times, Stone was forced to resign from the campaign of New York state Sen. Joseph Bruno in August 2007 after "allegations that he left a threatening telephone message at the office of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's father."
Just days after concluding a smear campaign against highly qualified civil rights attorney Debo Adegbile's nomination to the Department of Justice, the right-wing media began working to tar Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, as a "radical" for suggesting that gun violence is a public health issue.
Fox dishonestly framed the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case examining outside influence in the Chattanooga Volkswagen union vote as an attack on Sen. Bob Corker's free speech, ignoring that the board has no authority to constrain political speech.
On February 14, workers at the Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen plant voted down a proposal to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union by a vote of 712 - 626. The vote came after an extended media campaign which culminated on February 13, the day before the scheduled vote, when Corker falsely alleged that if the workers voted against the union, the plant would be rewarded with a new product to manufacture. His claim was immediately rejected by Volkswagen.
The UAW appealed for a re-vote, contending that the "coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign" by Corker and others infringed on the workers' right to "employee free choice."
But on the March 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck framed the fallout of Corker's threats and the impending investigation as "what happens when one of America's most powerful unions doesn't get its way," and as an effort by the UAW to get "a whole new set of rules" if the votes are recast. Hasselbeck then turned to guest Sen. Bob Corker to explain the pending NLRB decision, asking whether the UAW's objection to his threat was really an attempt to stifle free speech:
HASSELBECK: This is a freedom of speech issue, is it not? I mean, The president was out there speaking on behalf of the unions. You were certainly speaking on behalf of your constituents. You worked long and hard to get Volkswagen there from the beginning. Actually had initial meetings in your home. [...] They're telling you you can't speak, but yet the president can? Is this a double standard when it comes to freedom of speech?
CORKER: Yes. And I think, you know, we'll have to see. The UAW has been given until Friday to add additional arguments to their case. You're right, the president weighed in during the election process also. Again, this has happened time and time in the past and never, never before has the NLRB ever overruled because politicians have been involved in this way. So look, I -- you're right. I built the industrial part that Volkswagen is located on when I was mayor with others, recruited them to our state, had been involved with them for five years. Know the management up and down the line, have been, you know, have relationships there. And for me to express concerns about what it would mean to our community and our state over time is something that I think people elect me to do. So again, this is an interesting case. Hopefully even though this is Obama's NLRB, these are his appointees, hopefully they will do the right thing here and not try to muzzle people that are elected by people in their state.
Fox's attempt to frame the NLRB decision as an issue of free speech is dishonest. Offering workers a second chance to consider unionization isn't the same thing as "muzzling" Corker, and giving workers some distance from his comments isn't, as Hasselbeck claimed, a UAW ploy to implement "a whole new set of rules." As former NLRB general counsel Fred Feinstein explained, "the NLRB has no authority over Sen. Corker and cannot control what he says." At most, he said, the Board could conclude that Corker's comments had unfairly tainted the election and could "conceivably order a new one."
The NLRB is responsible for protecting workers legal right to "engage in protected concerted activities-group action to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions and to engage in union activities and support a union," and works to ensure that workers are free of coercion while maintaining their right to "free choice" during union elections. The NLRB typically focuses on whether unions or companies have been involved in illegal coercion of workers during a union vote, but third-party coercion is still a concern. The Huffington Post explained that the NLRB could make the case "that Corker's highly detailed statement created an atmosphere of coercion."
The UAW is only asking for a re-vote, which, if granted, would only allow the unionization of the plant with a majority vote. That's a far cry from Fox's claim that the UAW is planning to "take over" the Volkswagen plant and block officials' free speech in the process.
Media are distorting Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state by fixating on her attempt to reset the U.S. relationship with Russian in order to make Russia's invasion of Crimea a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. But Clinton has long maintained that Russian President Vladimir Putin is untrustworthy and helped negotiate Russian cooperation on Iran sanctions and use of Russian airspace for the war in Afghanistan.
In recent months, conservative media figures have undermined efforts by labor groups to organize across the United States, demonizing labor unions in the process. These anti-union attacks are largely reliant on myths alleging negative side-effects of union participation.
Fox News promoted an effort to ban Isabel Allende's award-winning novel The House of The Spirits, thanking a North Carolina mother for a "keeping up the good fight" and using her campaign to lob yet another off-base attack at the Common Core educational standards.
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck reported that "parents are outraged over a new book being assigned to their high school students containing references to abortion and prostitution," and was quick to tie the book to the Common Core educational standards -- falsely labeling them the "Common Core classroom curriculum." She welcomed North Carolina mother Chastity Lesesne on to discuss:
The campaign to censor The House of The Spirits in North Carolina's Watauga County school district has sparked national scrutiny in recent weeks. As Michael Keegan, president of the free speech advocacy organization People for The American Way noted, Lesesne's censorship attempt ignores that "The House of Spirits is an internationally renowned work that is taught in high school Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs throughout the country." Chris Brook, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union-NC Legal Foundation, also warned of the "the slippery slope of banning books that promote critical thinking and classroom dialogue" and urged district officials to vote "in favor of the freedom to read."
Promoting censorship is an unusual position for Fox given that the network has previously cited First Amendment concerns as reasons to reject anti-bullying policies, allow anti-gay discrimination, contest a private company's decisions, and even offer a pro-fracking film undeserved awards.
Fox News host Chris Wallace admitted that Fox's "stand down order" narrative about the 2012 Benghazi attacks was false, but still allowed disreputable source Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to desperately try and redefine the debunked claim into a new attack on the Obama administration
Fox News has persistently pushed the myth that the administration had issued a "stand down" order to stop reinforcements from coming to the aid of American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya during the September 11, 2012 attack. Though the claim was rapidly discredited, by June 2013, the network had repeated the charge at least 85 times in prime time segments, and the allegations didn't stop there. In early February, a House Armed Services Committee report and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report put the myth to rest.
On the March 2 edition of Fox Broadcasting Network's Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace admitted that the Senate report had thoroughly debunked claims of a "stand down" order and reported that The Washington Post Fact Checker had given Issa "four pinocchios" -- the rating it issues for "whoppers" -- for his suggestion that "Secretary Clinton told [then-Defense Secretary] Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel. That order is undeniable."
But Fox's focus on the facts was short lived. Though Wallace's acknowledgement of the facts led Issa admit that the term "stand down" was not "used in some sort of an explicit way," Wallace made no move to question Issa's attempt to spin the administration's supposed "failure to react" to the attack as the kind of thing that could "represent a stand down":
WALLACE: But to be honest, you do not have any evidence that Secretary Clinton told Leon Panetta to stand down.
ISSA: Well, the use in answering questions in a political fundraiser -- that was in response to a question -- the term "stand down" is not used in some sort of an explicit way. But rather the failure to react, the fact that only State Department assets and only assets inside the country were ever used, that members arms forces, gun carrying, trained people were not allowed to get on the aircraft to go and attempt to rescue. Those kinds of things through State Department resources represent a stand down. Not maybe on the technical terms of "stand down, soldier," but on the American people believe is a failure to respond what they could have.
WALLACE: All right.
Even Issa's effort to repackage his attack falls flat. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already debunked claims that further assistance could have been sent from U.S. military bases, criticizing the conservative media's "cartoonish impression of the military" which has ignored the need for "planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way." As Gates said:
Given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi's arsenals I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.
Fox News has repeatedly made the false claim that liberal states lose billions of dollars due to tax flight, but tax flight is a well-debunked myth, and the most recent study Fox cited only showed that income tax and state-to-state migration were correlated factors.
Fox contributor Karl Rove deceitfully shuffled the words of former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice in an effort to accuse her of pushing a "contemptible falsehood" about the 2012 Benghazi attacks and claiming that she was part of an "endless Benghazi coverup."
In a February 26 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal "The Endless Benghazi Coverup," Rove took Rice's comments about the violent protests that were then erupting across the Middle East out of context, falsely representing them as a specific reference to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. According to Rove, Rice said the Benghazi attack was "absolutely" the result of the protests against a "'very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world":
The worst part of National Security Adviser Susan Rice's comments on Sunday's "Meet The Press" was that she expressed no regret for saying that the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi were "absolutely" the result of protests against a "very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world."
This is an egregious mischaracterization of the ambassador's words. In context, Rice's comment clearly referred to the protests that had broken out throughout the Middle East and not specifically to Benghazi.
Rove was referencing Rice's September 16 interview on Fox News' Fox News Sunday, which focused at different points on the anti-American protests that had broken out across the Middle East as well as the attack in Benghazi.
Wallace led with a question about the protests that were occurring "in two dozen countries across the Islamic world," and asked whether Rice agreed with White House press secretary Jay Carney's assessment that the protests came in "response to a video that is offensive" and had "nothing to do with the president's policies." The quote Rove cited was pulled from that response, and was not at all focused on the Benghazi attack (emphasis added on the portions quoted by Rove):
WALLACE: This week, there have been anti-American protests in two dozen countries across the Islamic world. The White House says it has nothing to do with the president's policies.
Let's watch. [...] You don't really believe that.
RICE: Chris, absolutely I believe that. In fact, it is the case. We had the evolution of the Arab spring over the last many months. But what sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.
Beyond his misrepresentation of Rice's comments, Rove failed to add any new information to the increasingly stale media conversation about the Benghazi attack. The rest of his piece devolved into a dissection of whether or not "she was merely sharing 'the best information that we had at the time'" - something that Rove called "a contemptible falsehood." But there too, the evidence is on Rice's side.
Rove and other Fox figures have repeatedly pushed the smear that Rice deceptively attributed the Benghazi attack to the anti-Muslim video for political reasons, but even this unusually creative distortion doesn't change the facts.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade invited dubious sources Richard Minter and Scott McEwen on to discuss whether the Obama administration's move toward "weakening the Navy SEALs to be diverse and politically correct" led to three unnecessary deaths and whether the outcome would "have been different if these SEALs were not white?"
Kilmeade introduced guests Richard Miniter and Scott McEwen, authors of Eyes on Target, and bizarrely invoked race to set up a conversation over whether the White House is weakening the Navy SEALs in pursuit of diversity and political correctness:
KILMEADE: It's one of our military's most notorious tragedies. Four Navy SEALs on a top secret Taliban mission and only one survives. But would that be -- would the outcome have been different if these SEALS were not white? An explosive new book claims our politically correct White House is weakening the Navy SEALs to be diverse and politically correct. Scott McEwen and Richard Miniter, authors of Eyes on Target, are here to explain.
McEwen quickly clarified that his book does not suggest the race of the SEALs was a factor in the tragedy in Afghanistan, but he added that he had concerns that the White House is "trying to make them politically correct" by changing the SEAL culture with regard to rules of engagement, codes of conduct, and gender inclusion.
From there, the interview turned to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, devolving into a fact-free recitation of Fox's favorite myths. Miniter claimed that two of the Americans who died in the assault, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, had been denied military aid from U.S. military bases in the Mediterranean and drones in the area and left to die. Miniter went on to attack then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice for her early description of CIA intelligence on the attack, claiming that if she has no regrets about her statements, then "she is on very strong medication."
That Miniter gets the facts wrong on Benghazi is no surprise: he has already been discredited as an author. The pair of authors misrepresented the role of Doherty, who was part of the rescue team the pair said didn't exist.
And their claims that further assistance could have been sent from U.S. military bases have been debunked by Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who criticized the conservative media's "cartoonish impression of the military."
And even Fox has admitted that its long-term effort to smear Susan Rice for her& September 16 descriptions of the attack were dishonest, as Rice's talking points represented the best intelligence available at the time.
Fox News' coverage of the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, has long been marked by gross inaccuracies and outrageous smears. In the face of overwhelming evidence, a source like Miniter is clearly a last resort. His previous books have relied on dubious sources, misreadings of the evidence, and outright lies.