After 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Iranian leaders attempting to undercut President Obama's negotiations with that country, conservative media figures have defended the widely criticized move by pointing to a 2007 Syrian meeting then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had with President Bashar al-Assad. But as MSNBC.com's Steve Benen noted, "the parallels to this new scandal are tenuous, at best."
While the Bush White House strongly opposed the trip, Pelosi was accompanied at the meeting by a Republican congressman and Bush State Department officials. She informed the White House and State Department of her trip, and foreign policy experts said that her visit didn't stray from a "typical" congressional visit. Three Republican congressmen also met with Assad prior to her visit.
47 Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), signed a March 9 letter telling Iranian officials that any nuclear agreement would face scrutiny from the Republican-led Senate and could be undone by a future president. The letter drew criticism from the White House, diplomacy experts, and even some Republicans.
Conservatives have attempted to rebut criticism by drawing a direct parallel to an April 4, 2007, meeting Pelosi had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For example:
Bill O'Reilly has said there's "nothing I can do about" the "far-left attacks" over his claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure linked to President Kennedy's assassination. But as CNN host Brian Stelter pointed out, O'Reilly could do something very simple that he hasn't done: answer basic questions about major discrepancies undermining his tall tale.
The O'Reilly Factor host claimed on Fox News and in his Kennedy books that he was outside the Florida house where Lee Harvey Oswald friend George de Mohrenschildt was staying when he killed himself in 1977.
His claim hasn't stood up to scrutiny. Under heavy criticism, O'Reilly's only response so far has been to highlight the statement of a former colleague who says O'Reilly was in Florida at the time but is unable to corroborate his gunshot tale.
Here are six lingering questions that O'Reilly won't -- or can't -- answer about his claim that he "heard" de Mohrenschildt's self-inflicted gunshot.
Another person has joined the long list of journalists calling bunk on Bill O'Reilly's claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The O'Reilly Factor host claimed on Fox News and in his books that he was outside the residence of Lee Harvey Oswald friend George de Mohrenschildt when he killed himself in Florida in 1977. The claim is one of several recently exposed tall tales the top-rated Fox News host has told about his reporting career.
Edward Jay Epstein, an investigative reporter and author who taught at MIT and UCLA, wrote a March 9 Newsweek piece calling O'Reilly's JFK claim "impossible," adding: "How do I know? I was the actual -- and only -- reporter interviewing de Mohrenschildt on the last day of his life in 1977." He added that he spoke with investigators and de Mohrenschildt's family members, and "From what I learned about the case, O'Reilly's story does not fit the facts."
Hugh Aynesworth, a former bureau chief for Newsweek and the Washington Times who covered the de Mohrenschildt story, previously said "I didn't see him [O'Reilly] there. I was at the police department or that house for hours, and he just was not there." Media Matters has documented that O'Reilly's television colleagues at the time have also cast doubt that he heard the gunshot. And audio obtained by CNN and former Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley indicates O'Reilly wasn't there, as he told a congressional investigator he's "coming to Florida" in the wake of de Mohrenschildt's suicide.
Fox News is passing off the Koch-funded Libre Initiative as a grassroots organization founded "to empower Hispanics" and advance "liberty, freedom and prosperity." In reality, the group urges Hispanics to support policies that experts say go "against their own interests" and "disenfranchise Hispanic voters."
The Libre Initiative was founded in 2011 and claims to be a "non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community." The group "has a presence in eight states" and "plans to expand to Wisconsin and North Carolina this year and increase its staff by about 30 percent ahead of 2016."
Fox has portrayed the group as the product of "a coalition of Hispanic leadership organizations." But Libre is staffed by veteran Republican operatives, and the group has received over $10 million in funding from oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. Libre has admitted its message "aligns more with Republicans" and "with the principles and ideas of Charles and David Koch."
The group promotes the agenda of people like the Kochs at the expense of Hispanics. Libre opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which helps Hispanics get health insurance. They oppose a federal minimum wage increase, which would help more than 6.7 million Hispanics. They support voter ID laws that serve "to disenfranchise Hispanic voters." They've joined Fox News in pushing misinformation about "illegals" and immigration. Libre has also campaigned against politicians that support immigration reform due to those politicians' support of the Affordable Care Act.
In this report about the Libre Initiative and the media:
Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally "heard" a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O'Reilly's claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy's death further undermine O'Reilly's story.
George de Mohrenschildt was a Russian emigre who befriended Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and testified before the Warren Commission investigating the Kennedy assassination. On March 29, 1977, the same day he was contacted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he committed suicide at his daughter's home in Florida. At the time, O'Reilly was a reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV who regularly reported on stories related to the Kennedy assassination.
O'Reilly has bizarrely inserted himself into de Mohrenschildt's story, claiming in books and on Fox News that he was outside the house seeking to interview de Mohrenschiltd at the time of his death. O'Reilly is under heavy criticism and scrutiny for his false claims about his 1982 Falklands War reporting.
O'Reilly's implausible tale was first flagged by Jefferson Morley in a 2013 post for his website JFKFacts.org. Morley has worked as an editor for The Washington Post, Salon.com, and Arms Control Today, and is a visiting professor at the University of California, Washington Center.
New interviews with former O'Reilly colleagues who say he wasn't in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's suicide and documents obtained by Media Matters bolster Morley's reporting.
In his 2012 best-selling non-fiction book Killing Kennedy, O'Reilly writes on page 300 that as a "reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt's daughter's home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian ... that reporter's name is Bill O'Reilly."
O'Reilly repeated the tale for the Killing Kennedy audiobook.
The Fox News host repeated the tale while promoting his book and movie special on Fox News. During an October 2, 2012, appearance on Fox & Friends, O'Reilly claimed he "was about to knock on the door where [de Mohrenschildt] was, his daughter's house, and he blew his brains out with a shotgun." O'Reilly replayed the clip of his 2012 appearance during a November 30, 2014, O'Reilly Factor special before Fox News' airing of the Killing Kennedy film.
Numerous pieces of evidence contradict O'Reilly's claim that he "heard the shotgun blast" that killed de Mohrenschildt.
In comments to Media Matters, two of O'Reilly's former colleagues at WFAA say that his version of events is a lie.
"Bill O'Reilly's a phony, there's no other way to put it," said Tracy Rowlett, a former WFAA reporter and anchor who worked at the station with O'Reilly. "He was not up on the porch when he heard the gunshots, he was in Dallas. He wasn't traveling at that time."
Byron Harris, a reporter at WFAA for the past 40 years, agreed that O'Reilly had not traveled to Florida for the story and accused him of stealing his reporting on de Mohrenschildt's suicide from a newspaper.
According to Harris, O'Reilly "was in Dallas. He stole that article out of the newspaper. I guarantee Channel 8 didn't send him to Florida to do that story because it was a newspaper story, it was broken by the Dallas Morning News."
Both Harris and Rowlett said O'Reilly never mentioned having been present for the gunshot during his time at WFAA.
"I don't remember O'Reilly claiming that he was there. That came later, that must have been a brain surge when he was writing the book," Rowlett said.
Harris further pointed out that WFAA "would have reported it as some kind of exclusive -- and there was no exclusive -- if O'Reilly had been standing outside the door."
O'Reilly's claim of having been present when de Mohrenschildt shot himself was also missing from his 1992 Inside Edition report on documents relating to the Kennedy assassination. During that report, O'Reilly told viewers, "moments before he was to be interviewed by House investigators, de Mohrenschildt blew his brains out with a 20-gauge shotgun."
In comments to Media Matters, Jefferson Morley said O'Reilly's claim of being present for the gunshot is "just not true" and speculated that it was "just part of the pattern, to embellish the story and make it a sexier story."
He added, "It is what these guys all do, they inject themselves into a dramatic situation. O'Reilly was chasing this story, but he wasn't there, he made it sound like he was more on the scene than he was, it was show business."
O'Reilly has written about his time at WFAA as being extremely contentious. In his book The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life, he writes that he was "twenty-six going on ten in the worldliness department" when he joined WFAA and describes his colleagues as "ambitious, aggressive journalists battling each other under the strong thumb of an unsympathetic management." O'Reilly concedes that he made "every possible political mistake" when he got to the station, including "mouth[ing] off to the producers" and making "stupid comments in the newsroom."
His admitted abrasiveness clearly made an impression on his former colleagues.
According to Rowlett, "It was my experience with O'Reilly that he was less than an honest reporter, generally. He was the most disliked person in our newsroom. He wasn't to be trusted, he was all about Bill O'Reilly, he wasn't about the news."
Harris painted a similar picture of O'Reilly, saying he was "often not a truthful person" and claiming the Fox News host "was just a jerk, nobody liked him. He was always tooting his own horn."
A Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office death investigation report about de Mohrenschildt's suicide, a 19-page document that extensively details interviews with numerous relevant parties, makes no mention of O'Reilly. The March 1977 report was posted online by Marquette University Professor John McAdams, who confirmed the document's authenticity to Media Matters and said that a student obtained the original report from the office as part of a class project and gave it to him.
Gaeton Fonzi, as the New York Times wrote in a 2012 obituary, was "one of the most relentless investigators on the House Select Committee on Assassinations" regarding Kennedy's death. Fonzi's memoir and personal recordings show that O'Reilly could not have been in Florida at the time of de Mohrenschildt's death.
Morley also obtained phone conversations between Fonzi and O'Reilly on March 29, 1977, from Fonzi's widow which the former Post editor says show that O'Reilly "certainly did not hear de Mohrenschildt's demise with his own ears. When the fatal shot rang out, O'Reilly was in his office at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas, more than 1,200 miles away. The confirmation comes from O'Reilly himself."
Morley wrote that in the tapes O'Reilly says "he has been trying to run down the story by telephone from Texas" and O'Reilly later states he's coming down to Florida to investigate the suicide further. He concludes: "O'Reilly's utterances prove that he was not knocking on George Mohrenschildt's doorstep as he now melodramatically claims. The truth is more prosaic. O'Reilly got a tip on a hot story, worked his sources to confirm it, and rushed to the scene."
The Associated Press' March 30, 1977, report about de Mohrenschildt's suicide quoted Palm Beach County Sheriff's Lt. Richard Sheets stating of the death: "At the time of the shooting, he was alone in the house except for two maids who said they did not hear the shot." The AP report, obtained via the Nexis database, makes no mention of O'Reilly's alleged presence outside the home.
CNBC anchor Joe Kernen praised Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) efforts "to get your state's finances in order" and suggested "reasonable people" would agree with his economic record. In reality, job and wage growth under Walker have trailed behind the national average, and he "will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts."
Kernen began his February 19 Squawk Box interview by telling the potential 2016 presidential candidate that "we've been together every step of the way on this show since your first election." He added, "I'm not going to recuse myself. But, you know, maybe [co-anchor] Andrew [Ross Sorkin] is here to grill you."
Kernen cheered Walker's economic and fiscal leadership. After Walker said he won his election because "in times of crisis, economic and fiscal in particular, they want leadership," Kernen said: "If there was an objective person watching the way the governor of Illinois approached that state's problems, and the way you approached it, I would think most reasonable people would say it looks like the way to do this maybe isn't just raising taxes to cover an ever increasing state budget."
Walker said, unchallenged, that Wisconsin's "tax burden is down, the economy is moving up, we've got a stable workforce, we've got all the sorts of advantages you want. And we're still -- plenty more work to be done, like it needs to be done across America, but there is a sharp contrast, no doubt about it."
The Daily Caller sent a "special message" to its email list from sponsor Stansberry Research, a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." The Caller's paid promotion comes three years after the conservative website reported that Stansberry is led by a "fraudster" and engages in "questionable marketing tactics."
The Daily Caller, which is led by editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson, sent a February 12 email featuring Stansberry Research with the headline, "DIY: Shield yourself from Market Crash." The email warns that people must take "precautions against a serious market crash and financial crisis" and can do so by purchasing founder Porter Stansberry's "Personal Blueprint For Surviving the Coming Currency Collapse." The email marketing is a way to get people to sign up for a "full 1-year Stansberry's Investment Advisory subscription. We'll bill your same credit card just $99."
The email contained the note: "Please read this special message from our sponsor, Stansberry Research. Note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the editorial positions of The Daily Caller."
The Daily Caller published a November 8, 2011, piece headlined, "Meet Porter Stansberry, the fraudster behind ominous 'NewAmerica3′ ads." The Caller reported that television viewers are seeing "strange, disjointed ads promoting" Stansberry's website and what "most viewers don't know is that the man behind the ad has been found liable in the past for defrauding investors." The Caller added that the firm engages in "questionable marketing tactics" and produces videos "ominously warning of an apocalyptic future."
Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress believes that gay marriage and the film release of Fifty Shades of Grey are signs that the apocalypse is nearing. Jeffress said "the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
Jeffress is an evangelical pastor with a long history of incendiary remarks. He is an anti-gay bigot who believes gays lead a "miserable lifestyle," homosexuality is linked to pedophilia, and gay people are promiscuous and engaged in "filthy behavior," and "brainwashing activit[ies]." He's compared Mormonism to a cult, called Islam an "evil, evil, religion," referred to Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as "false religions," and said Catholicism is a "counterfeit religion" that rose from a "cult-like, pagan religion."
During a February 10 appearance on Fox News Radio's The Alan Colmes Show, Jeffress said he saw "radical Islam," gay marriage, and Fifty Shades of Grey as signs of the coming apocalypse.
Jeffress claimed: "The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1 that in the last days it will be terrible times. And that word terrible means lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that everywhere, whether it is the attempt to change the most basic unit of society, the family and marriage by redefinition of marriage. Or the acceptance of perversion. You know, this Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades of Perversion. I think that's symptomatic of what is happening."
On gay marriage, Jeffress added, "I believe that gays have the same constitutional rights as heterosexuals. No doubt about it. But I agree with our last guest that marriage is not a constitutional right. If it were, Alan, 15-year-olds could marry. Siblings could marry." He then asked if a father and daughter should also have the right to marry if same-sex couples could.
Jeffress said he hadn't seen or read Fifty Shades of Grey, but from what he read it "tends to objectify women -- put them in a bondage situation." When asked about if he approves of that in a voluntary situation, he replied, "that's her business." He added that "this movie may represent a new low in popular entertainment. That's all I'm saying. And I'm just saying the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan is backtracking and brazenly lying about his controversial remarks calling bipolar disorder "made up" and "the latest fad." While Sullivan now claims his remarks were taken "out of context," this defense is preposterous. He repeatedly dismissed the validity of bipolar disorder and the clip used by Media Matters was the same one posted by his employer with the headline "(AUDIO) Bipolar Woman Says She DESERVES Disability Benefits. Tom Tells Her She's WRONG!"
During his January 28 program, Sullivan told a caller who said she suffered from bipolar disorder that "bipolar is like the latest fad." He also claimed, "I just think it's something made up by the mental health business," and "I don't know why we have to create these new illnesses" for something that "wasn't a problem in the first place."
Sullivan's remarks generated condemnation from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), members of the media, mental health advocates, people on social media, and online petitioners. Many have pointed out that comments like Sullivan's only further stigmatize those suffering from mental illness.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) criticized Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan for his "unfounded" and "senseless" remarks last week calling bipolar disorder "made up" and "the latest fad."
In a statement provided to Media Matters, Napolitano said that Sullivan's "senseless speech discourages listeners and viewers from seeking treatment they need, halting the progress we have made toward the goal of eliminating stigma." She added: "Rather than minimizing people who have the courage to talk about their illness we should be lifting them up, so others know it is always okay to ask for help."
The California congresswoman is a longtime mental health advocate and was the co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus in the 108th through 112th (2003-2013) Congresses.
Sullivan, who is also a Fox Business contributor and regular guest anchor, said on his January 28 Fox News Radio program that people with mental illness have figured how to "game the system" by receiving disability benefits. He added, "they're mostly government employees and they know how to do it."