Fox News figures have tried to use an investigative panel's recent report on the Benghazi attack to congratulate their network on its coverage of the attack. But the report actually debunks several incorrect and misleading narratives Fox pushed about Benghazi.
On December 18, the independent Accountability Review Board, which was set up by the State Department to investigate the Benghazi attack, released their findings in a report that "sharply criticized the State Department" for oversights that led to insufficient security at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, as The New York Times reported.
During the December 19 broadcast of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Fox News contributor Sarah Palin for her thoughts on the report, and Palin answered, in part, "Kudos to Fox News for being the news outlet that stayed on top of this story. Americans deserve these answers." Van Susteren responded that she felt "some level of pride" for Fox's Benghazi coverage, because of "all the sort of heat we took from people, saying that it wasn't a story." She added, "[T]here's been a lot of resistance to my national security colleagues getting this information. So, I do take some pride with them."
Similarly, Fox contributor Kirsten Powers suggested on Special Report that the Benghazi report wasn't even necessary because of the program's coverage of the attack, saying, "Well, it's interesting that that report -- you could have known all that if you'd just watched this show. So, it's sort of funny that they had to do an investigation to figure all of that out."
In fact, the review board's report actually discredits Fox's coverage of the attack.
Days after 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Rush Limbaugh used the tragedy in invoking a debunked conspiracy theory alleging the Obama administration launched Operation Fast and Furious in order to pass stricter gun-control legislation.
On Tuesday, Limbaugh rehashed the theory that Fast and Furious, a gun-running operation intended to track drug traffickers, was a nefarious plot to get criminals guns in the hope that the resulting violence would lead to public support for stronger gun-control laws. Limbaugh claimed that the "plan" behind Fast and Furious was to "create a bunch of gun violence with American guns, bought legally and therefore easily, and outrage the American people." He then said, "Let me be blunt. The objective of Fast and Furious was to create the very emotional pitch people experienced after what happened in Newtown on Friday. That is exactly what Fast and Furious was intended to do, was to create that kind of reaction all over the country."
Fast and Furious was a botched operation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that "allowed a gun trafficking ring to buy hundreds of weapons and send them to Mexico as part of an investigative tactic," as The New York Times reported. Unfortunately, officials "eventually lost track of hundreds of weapons," including two that were found near the site where a Border Patrol agent was killed.
Although conservative media pushed the conspiracy theory that the operation was part of an Obama administration plot to push gun control, an independent investigation into Fast and Furious soundly debunked such claims. The Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General found "no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization." The OIG report specifically noted there was no link between the operation and plans to regulate firearms, stating they found "no evidence that ATF Phoenix initiated the investigation in order to facilitate efforts to obtain long gun legislation."
Rush Limbaugh charged that White House press secretary Jay Carney used language on "disabled children" during his explanation of President Obama's budget proposal in order to evoke the tragic mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. But Carney has used the example of parents with disabled children for months when explaining how Obama's tax plan would benefit vulnerable groups.
During the December 17 White House press briefing, a reporter asked Carney about the status of budget negotiations between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. On his radio program, Limbaugh accused Carney of referring to the Sandy Hook shooting by listing "parents with disabled children" among the groups who could be harmed by a continued lack of balance in tax rates.
Limbaugh further accused Carney of "politicizing" the shooting by claiming "Parents with disabled children now get thrown into the mix. I wonder why? So now we have to raise taxes on the rich for a new reason. So there is not an undue tax burden on parents with disabled children, which would include mentally disabled, which is meant to mean Adam Lanza-type children."
But Limbaugh ignored the fact that Carney has been explicitly citing the tax burden on families with disabled children for at least two months when explaining President Obama's budget proposals. In his remarks today, Carney stated: "Thus far, the president's proposal is the only proposal that we have seen that achieves the balance that's so necessary. And the balance is so important because a plan that does not have it puts unduly the burden on senior citizens, through - or on middle-class Americans, or on parents with disabled children. And that is not acceptable."
Gun researcher John Lott has made numerous media appearances in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. to argue against the enactment of gun violence prevention measures. While Lott uses his media platform to push a multitude of statistics -- often from his own research -- he has been thoroughly discredited as a serious academic researcher.
Fox News' Special Report falsely suggested that the recent growth of the food stamp program was due to President Obama's 2009 economic stimulus, asserting that the bill "eviscerated" work requirements for food stamps. In fact, most of the growth in the program was due to economic factors, primarily the recession, and 46 states had received work requirement waivers before Obama took office.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs falsely claimed that right-to-work laws eliminate forced union membership. In fact, federal law already prohibits unions from requiring membership, and right-to-work laws actually allow workers to receive union benefits without having to pay fees.
While discussing the recent murder of Kasandra Perkins at the hands of her boyfriend, NFL player Jovan Belcher, Fox News host Dana Perino claimed women who are "victims of violence" need to "make better decisions." Perino's comment is just the latest in a long line of Fox figures placing blame on female victims of crime or alleged crimes.
Bill O'Reilly deleted almost the entire tenure of George W. Bush to falsely allege that President Obama has borrowed more money than all past presidents combined.
During his Fox News program, O'Reilly criticized Obama over the size of the national debt and claimed, "It is hard to believe, but in the last four years, the Obama administration has borrowed more money than every other president combined." Yet O'Reilly then described that time frame as being "from George Washington through the first five months of Bush the younger's administration."
Perhaps O'Reilly chose to exclude the majority of Bush's presidency to avoid acknowledging that the national debt nearly doubled during Bush's two terms. According to the Treasury Department's daily debt calculator, when Bush took office on January 20, 2001, total debt stood at $5.728 trillion. The national debt on January 20, 2009, Bush's last day in office, was $10.627 trillion.
O'Reilly claims Obama "borrowed more money than every other president combined"; if this were true, Obama would have added more than $10.627 trillion to the debt during his tenure. But as of publishing, the Treasury Department calculator states the debt is $16.338 trillion -- which means it increased less than six trillion dollars under Obama.
O'Reilly also aired an exchange with Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer that distorted how federal money is being spent. Krauthammer claimed that the government is spending money, in part, on "giving Sandra Fluke free contraceptives that she can't afford." He added, "The fact that Obama's own HHS is trying to loosen the rules, the work rules for welfare, so we go back to the old system of people living forever on the dole -- that's where they want to spend the money."
Krauthammer's claims are disingenuous. Women's health advocate Sandra Fluke did not ask the government to give women free contraceptives; the Affordable Care Act provision for which she advocated requires private health insurance policies, for which most women already pay a premium, to cover women's preventive health care services. While Krauthammer suggested the administration wants people to "live forever on the dole," most food stamp recipients participate in the SNAP program for less than one year. And Health and Human Services did not loosen welfare work requirements, but instead granted states more flexibility in complying with existing rules.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly repeatedly pushed the false narrative that President Obama's 2013 budget proposal received zero votes in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. In reality, the Senate did not vote on Obama's real budget, but on shell legislation introduced by Republicans in order to "embarrass" Democrats.
Discussing current budget negotiations on America Live, Kelly claimed President Obama's budget proposal received zero votes when the Senate voted on it earlier this year. Kelly said, "The Democrats in the Senate didn't have the courage to pass it. What makes you think the Republicans would?" and concluded, "A proposal's meaningless unless you [have] support for it. He can't even get support from his own party."
Kelly's assertion is a deceptive revision of history. In May, the Senate did vote 99-0 against a nonbinding budget resolution, but this was not Obama's full budget. Instead, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions introduced his own, much shorter version of Obama's plan, which included the same figures as Obama's plan for spending, revenue, and deficits, but none of his specific policy proposals. As ABC's Jake Tapper reported, "The Sessions legislation was 56 pages long; actual budgets are closer to 2,000 pages long."
Republicans then forced the Senate to vote on Sessions' version of Obama's plan to "embarrass Democrats and the White House," as the Associated Press put it. Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post explained:
This vote, on a Potemkin "Obama Budget," is not intended to be taken seriously. It's a stunt designed to get a slag into the newscycle, and they tend to work. What happens is a Republican legislator presents a "budget proposal" that's designed to be a satirical presentation of an "Obama budget." Democrats don't vote for it, because they recognize that it bears no resemblance to their budgetary preferences.
Tapper also quoted a White House official saying that "the Sessions proposal was a 'shell that could be filled with a number of things that could hurt our economy and hurt the middle class. ... For example, rather than ending tax breaks for millionaires his budget could hit the revenue target by raising taxes on the middle class and rather than ending wasteful programs, his budget could hit its spending target with severe cuts to important programs.' "
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey disregarded Ambassador Susan Rice's actual remarks on the attack at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, to suggest she lacks the "moral fitness" to serve as secretary of state.
Mukasey and co-writer Anne Bayefsky said that although former secretaries of state have "said or done foolish things," "moral fitness is also relevant" when selecting a new top diplomat. On this trait, they found Rice lacking, in part because of Rice's description of the attack in Benghazi during appearances on the Sunday news shows on September 16.
Conservative media figures have led a witch hunt against Rice over these appearances, despite the fact that Rice based her statements on talking points provided by the U.S. intelligence community.
Mukasey and Bayefsky claimed that Rice deserves blame in part because she referenced an anti-Islam video that sparked global riots. They suggested Rice was somehow at fault because she "knew that the video story line was questionable, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and administration officials had already suggested publicly that the attack was al Qaeda-related."
But in reality, Rice repeatedly qualified her remarks, saying that an investigation was ongoing and that "we don't want to jump to conclusions" before the investigation was finished. She also said that "we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired." So Rice did, in fact, stress that current intelligence was "questionable," to use Mukasey and Bayefsky's word.
Furthermore, credible reporting says that the video did indeed play a role in the Benghazi attack.
Mukasey and Bayefsky also noted Feinstein and administration officials publicly suggested the attacks may have had Al Qaeda ties, ostensibly in contrast with Rice's statements.
But when CBS' Bob Schieffer asked Rice whether Al Qaeda had played a role, she replied, "I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine."
Also absent from the Journal op-ed? Disclosure of Muskasey's former role as a Romney campaign adviser.