Fox News hosts accused President Obama and his administration of perpetuating a "cover-up" of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But the Obama administration is conducting an investigation into the attack, the State Department is setting up an independent panel to investigate it, and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center has testified about the attacks to a congressional committee.
When video of Mitt Romney dismissing 47 percent of American voters surfaced this afternoon, many media outlets found the surprising video newsworthy. Fox News, however, buried the remarks until forced to cover Romney's follow-up press conference late in the evening.
Today at 4 pm EDT, Mother Jones released secretly-taped footage of the Republican presidential candidate speaking at a private fundraiser, where Romney declared to donors that his job is "not to worry about" the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes, since they will "vote for the president no matter what." He described these voters as people who "believe they are victims" and believe they are entitled to "housing" and "food," among other things.
ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.
And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 -- he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years.
And so, my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Even then, in a segment during On the Record, Fox declined to show the actual footage of Romney at the fundraiser, or even quote from his statements. Instead, only Romney's press conference defending his remarks was aired.
Tonight Fox allowed a guest to perpetuate a debunked myth, born on right-wing blogs, that U.S. Marines at the U.S. embassy in Cairo had been banned from carrying live ammunition, even though hours earlier the Marine Corps had dispelled that rumor.
This morning, conservative national security blog Night Watch began hyping a rumor that U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson had banned Marines protecting the embassy in Cairo from carrying live ammunition. The unconfirmed report was quickly picked up by right-wing blogs, including Breitbart.com, The Washington Free Beacon, and Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. (As of this writing, only The Washington Free Beacon had corrected its story.)
In response, the U.S Marine Corps discredited the rumor, calling it "not accurate." From the Corps congressional liaison's memo:
The Ambassador did not impose restrictions on weapons or weapons status on the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) detachment. The MCESG Marines in Cairo were allowed to have live ammunition in their weapons. The Ambassador and Regional Security Officer have been completely and appropriately engaged with the security situation. Reports of Marines not being able to have their weapons loaded per direction from the Ambassador are not accurate.
Additionally, as Mother Jones points out, a glance at the State Department's guidelines reveals that an ambassador could not give such an order. Accordingly to State Department regulations, Marines may be assigned "duties other than those previously described in this section to the Marines as may be required by urgent or security-related circumstances requiring immediate action," but "[s]uch duties shall not contravene established Department or Marine Corps policy and shall not unduly jeopardize the safety or well-being of any Marine."
And yet, retired Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis repeated the discredited rumor as fact while appearing on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight. While discussing security at U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East, Maginnis declared that in Cairo, "supposedly ... the ambassador told the Marines not to take live ammunition out into the yard" while protestors scaled the embassy walls. Maginnis even implied that Patterson's supposed ban on live ammunition contributed to the violence, saying: "That type of thinking is dumb in that part of the world. It's asking for it." Host Lou Dobbs failed to challenge any of Maginnis' claims.
Allowing uncritical repetition of a debunked rumor is in keeping with Fox's effort -- and that of other right-wing media figures -- to cast blame on the Obama administration for the attacks on the Cairo embassy and Libyan consulate.
Right-wing pundits jumped to blame "the media" after Mitt Romney was criticized for his statement and remarks following the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Yet foreign policy experts and even conservative officials and media figures have been critical of Romney's statement and subsequent remarks.
While decrying federal funding of Planned Parenthood, Fox's Bill O'Reilly wished that the women's health organization were privately financed "like Catholic charities" are -- yet federal funding is also a primary revenue source for Catholic charities.
During Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he believed the government should defund Planned Parenthood. Rather than receiving taxpayer funds, O'Reilly declared, Planned Parenthood should "be funded like Catholic charities, by individuals who believe in Planned Parenthood's mission." O'Reilly explained that he didn't want his tax money given to organizations with which he has differing views.
O'Reilly didn't pick the best example to back up his claims. Like Planned Parenthood, Catholic charities also receive millions of dollars from the federal government. Under the Obama administration, Catholic religious charities have received more than $650 million in federal funds. And Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), a nationwide association of Catholic charities, receives over half its revenue from taxpayer money. As The New York Times detailed in December 2011:
Catholic Charities is one of the nation's most extensive social service networks, serving more than 10 million poor adults and children of many faiths across the country. It is made up of local affiliates that answer to local bishops and dioceses, but much of its revenue comes from the government. Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion.
Two recent falsehoods from the Mitt Romney campaign have received media attention: the false claim that President Obama removed the work requirement from welfare, and the false claim that the health care reform bill "cuts" $716 billion from Medicare. While many mainstream media outlets debunked the false claims in much of their coverage, several -- particularly Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- repeatedly failed to debunk the falsehoods.
As the presidential election grows nearer, Rush Limbaugh is reasserting himself as the power center of the Republican Party. The talk-show host implied that his wishes carry greater authority than those of the Republican establishment and casually mentioned that he has been in contact with the Romney campaign.
On his August 21 show, Limbaugh urged Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) to "put the nation" first and come to the "right conclusion" about whether to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race because of his "legitimate rape" remarks. Akin is holding out against a chorus of pleas from top Republicans, including Mitt Romney, to drop out.
Despite Akin's resistance to pressure from Republican officials, Limbaugh guaranteed on his August 22 show that if he had explicitly asked Akin to leave, his voice would have swayed the congressman: "Folks, if I had demanded Akin drop out, he'd be gone."
Limbaugh also hinted that he had been in communication with the Republican presidential candidate, stating that he hasn't spoken to Romney "in weeks."
CNN and NBC Sunday shows allowed Mitt Romney campaign surrogates to claim that the American people aren't interested in seeing more of Romney's tax returns, even as polling shows most Americans think Romney should release more of his returns.
Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum suggested that requests for Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns are somehow an invasion of his privacy, even as polling shows most Americans think Romney should do so.
Romney continues to deny requests from both sides of the aisle to release more tax returns, asserting that the 2010 return and 2011 estimate he released are sufficient. Today, the Obama campaign offered to stop criticizing Romney for a lack of transparency if he releases five years of tax returns. The Romney camp declined, alleging that the Obama team was trying to distract from "issues that matter to voters."
MacCallum's declaration that Romney's tax returns aren't "anybody's business" echoes a comment Romney made earlier this week on the campaign trail. Romney said, "Given the challenges that America faces -- 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty -- the fascination with taxes I've paid I find to be very small-minded."
The majority of the country disagrees with MacCallum. Sixty-three percent of Americans believe Romney should release more of his tax returns, according to an August 9 CNN poll. Among independents, that number is even higher, at 67 percent. Similarly, a Gallup poll in July found that 54 percent of adults thought that Romney should release additional returns.
As part of its campaign to stoke fears of widespread voter fraud, Fox is ginning up outrage that voter registration forms have been sent to dead people, dogs, and cats, with the apparent implication that those dogs and cats might vote and alter the outcome of the 2012 election.
The target of Fox's latest attack is the Voter Participation Center (VPC), a nonprofit group that uses mass mailings of voter registration applications in an effort to reach the 24 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote, but not registered. Recently, the center acknowledged that some mailings were addressed to ineligible voters, including deceased citizens and even pets, because of faulty commercial mailing lists.
While this is several steps away from actual voter fraud -- a virtually nonexistent problem in U.S. elections -- Fox News worried that these applications were raising "growing fears on election fraud." On today's broadcast of America Live, host Megyn Kelly claimed:
KELLY: Growing fears on election fraud today, as folks across the country get pre-filled-out voter registration forms. You know where they say, like, here, this is you, Megyn Kelly, this is where you show up to vote. But they don't have your name on it. They have the name of your dead pet. Or dead relative. Or your live pet. Either way, it's problematic. Because your pet -- your pet shouldn't be on there. The documents look official, but it turns out they are not coming from election administrators, but from a nonprofit group, and that's causing some controversy.
Fox's America's Newsroom teased a story about the VPC registration forms by saying that there are "new concerns about voter fraud ahead of the November elections." The subsequent segment was identified as part of Fox News' "Voter Fraud Watch:"
But sending out inaccurately addressed voter registration forms is not voter fraud.