Fox News cited dubious evidence in an attempt to tie the Obama administration to the IRS' targeting of conservative groups, claiming that inaccurate White House visitor logs revealed collusion between the White House and former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Following reports that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, Fox has attempted to link the Obama administration to the scandal, baselessly accusing the administration of continuing to use improper screening to scrutinize nonprofit groups and ignoring Obama's condemnation of the IRS' actions to justify calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the case.
Fox & Friends furthered these efforts by airing a graphic based on data from the Daily Caller that purported to compare the number of times Shulman visited the White House as IRS commissioner to other top administration officials. Co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned why Shulman had visited the White House more than others, implying Shulman was hiding the purpose of his visits, while co-host Steve Doocy cited "critics" who claim the data showed Shulman must have been coordinating with administration officials on the IRS' targeting of conservative groups:
However, the Daily Caller article Fox cited for the graphic debunked its own data, noting that White House visitor logs "do not give a complete picture of White House access." High-level officials with clearance often do not have to sign in during visits, and scheduled meetings are often not included. The Daily Caller concluded, "it is probable that the vast majority of visits by major cabinet members do not end up in the public record." For example, one of the officials compared to Shulman was Jack Lew, who worked as White House chief of staff from January 2012 to Januay 2013, and thus would have been present at the White House on many more occasions than the data revealed.
Fox News continued its campaign to demonize welfare benefits, this time hyping improper payments made by a Massachusetts program even though those payments made up only a minimal amount of all benefits paid by the state.
On Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne hyped a report that Massachusetts welfare agencies had improperly continued to provide a total of $2.39 million in assistance to 1,164 deceased recipients, calling the figures "ugly." On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade mocked the report, claiming, "More than 2 million dollars. That's the amount of welfare benefits paid out recently to nearly 1200 dead people in Massachusetts. They could not be reached for comment." A FoxNews.com article called the audit of the agencies "damning."
But according to the audit, improper payments to deceased individuals made up only a tiny amount of total assistance payments made by the state. Massachusetts' Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) spent more than $1.7 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2012 alone for a variety of financial assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP, or food stamps) and emergency aid to people with disabilities and children. The audit found only $2.39 million dollars improperly paid to deceased recipients for the entire time period from July 2010 to December 2012.
Furthermore, the audit found that Massachusetts has already taken steps to reduce the small number of improper payments in these programs, and according to the official press release, the auditor was "encouraged" by DTA's actions.
Fox News has a history of attacking programs for Americans in need. Fox News hosts have tied government assistance programs to the terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon, mocked food stamps as a diet plan, claimed all individuals who receive government disability benefits are faking their disabilities, and even asked whether children should have to work in exchange for free school meals.
Fox News figures scapegoated Islam and promoted Islamophobia following an attack in London reportedly perpetrated by radical extremists which has been denounced by Muslim organizations in Britain.
Fox News falsely claimed Ambassador Thomas Pickering was "reluctant to testify" to Congress about his investigation into the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, ignoring Pickering's volunteering to testify in a public hearing.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, has subpoenaed Pickering, the co-chair of the independent Accountability Review Board that investigated the State Department's handling of the Benghazi attacks, to testify before Congress on the investigation's findings.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed Pickering was "reluctant to testify" and had to be "forced" to do so with the subpoena, implying that this undermined Pickering's credibility as an investigator. On-air text also claimed Pickering was "worried" and "reluctant to testify":
In fact, as Politico reported on May 17, the subpoena issued by Issa was in response to "a letter from Pickering volunteering to appear before the committee," and the subpoena was only necessary because Issa demanded a private hearing instead of the public hearing that Pickering requested:
Pickering and and Admiral Michael Mullen have requested the ability to respond publicly to criticism of a review the two retired officials conducted of the Benghazi attacks.
But Issa is insisting that Republicans and Democratic staffers get a pre-testimony crack at the witnesses by interviewing them behind closed doors first, saying staff and members have only had access to an unclassified version of the Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi.
A copy of Pickering and Accountability Review Board co-chair and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen's letter to Issa volunteering to testify explains that Pickering felt a private hearing was inappropriate, because "the public deserves to hear your questions and our answers."
Fox News distorted remarks from White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer to falsely claim the Obama administration felt recent controversies involving the IRS and the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were "irrelevant." Pfeiffer's full comments made clear, however, that the administration felt the IRS targeting particular groups was "inexcusable" and that the President was fully engaged during the Benghazi attacks.
On May 19, Pfeiffer appeared on five Sunday talk shows to discuss evidence that the IRS unduly scrutinized conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Fox & Friends aired a short portion of Pfeiffer's remarks from his appearance on ABC News' This Week out of context to claim Pfeiffer had dismissed the scandal, with Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. claiming that Pfeiffer said, "[i]t's not relevant that the IRS is looking at people's tea party affiliations and violating their First Amendment rights." On-screen text claimed Pfeiffer defended "scandals as 'irrelevant'":
However, Pfeiffer's full remarks reveal that he said the IRS targeting certain groups was "outrageous and inexcusable" whether it was legal or illegal, and that the administration was committed to ensuring such targeting does not happen again regardless of the Department of Justice's final assessment of legality. From ABC's This Week (portion aired on Fox News highlighted in bold):
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does the president believe? Does the president believe that would be illegal?
PFEIFFER: I can't speak the law -- the law here, but the law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and needs to be -- we need it to be fixed, so we can ensure it never happens again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?
PFEIFFER: What -- what I mean is that whether it's legal, or illegal is -- is not important to the fact that it -- that, the conduct as a matter. The Department of Justice said they're looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again regardless of how that turns out.
Pfeiffer's condemnation of the IRS reflected President Obama's statement released on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable," and Obama's firing of Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions.
Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer pushed new and old falsehoods about the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, by misrepresenting recently-released emails that prove that government agencies drafted talking points without references to terrorism in order to protect the ongoing investigation into the attacks.
In his May 16 Washington Post column, Krauthammer misrepresented emails recently released by the Obama administration -- that document the process of drafting the talking points used by officials to discuss the September 2012 attacks -- to claim the emails revealed that the CIA was forced to change the talking points for political reasons. According to Krauthammer, references to Al Qaeda were removed from the talking points after the State Department raised concerns that the talking points needed to reflect "the political interests, the required political cover, of all involved," including "the need to protect the president's campaign." He also dismissed an email from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, which explained that the talking points in fact needed to protect the investigation into the attacks, claiming this "excuse was simply bogus" because the FBI, "which was conducting the investigation, had no significant objections."
But the 100 pages of emails reveal that removing information from the talking points that could compromise the investigation was the primary priority of multiple agencies, including the FBI and the CIA. Following the initial emails among CIA officials on September 14, 2012, about whether or not references to al Qaeda should be included in the talking points, CIA General Counsel Stephen W. Preston stressed the need to ensure their work did not conflict with the National Security Section (NSS) of the Department of Justice and the FBI's criminal investigation into the attacks:
Folks, I know there is a hurry to get this out, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing it conflicts with express instructions from NSS/DOJ/FBI that, in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this, etc. -- even internally, not to mention for public release. I am copying [CIA FO] who may be more familiar with those instructibns [sic] and the tasking arising from the HPSCI coffee.
Subsequent emails from the FBI reveal that contrary to Krauthammer's claims, the Bureau did have concerns with the initial CIA draft. A 7:51pm email from the FBI Press Office on September 14 requested a review of two of the talking points with recommended edits:
[CIA OPA] in coordination with CWD, we have some concerns:
1. The accuracy of the sentence of the first bullet point which states "On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy and that jihadists were threatening tob break into the Embassy." And-- who is the "we" that is referenced?
2. We recommend editing the last sentence in the second bullet point to "That being said, there are indications that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."
A later email sent at 9:19pm on September 14 by the FBI Press Office revealed their concern that the Department of Justice be brought in to approve all further changes, because they would also be conducting key aspects of the investigation:
Just a question- but separate from the FBI concerns, has DOJ provided input? They will have to deal with the the prosecution and related legal matters surrounding the federal investigation.
Furthermore, The Washington Post, Krauthammer's own paper, reported more detail from senior administration officials about the email exchange, explaining that both CIA and FBI officials believed references to Ansar al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda affiliate, should be removed from the talking points to protect the investigation:
CIA deputy director Michael Morell later removed the reference to Ansar al-Sharia because the assessment was still classified and because FBI officials believed that making the information public could compromise their investigation, said senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal debate.
A senior administration official said Wednesday that the only indication the CIA had at that point that Ansar al-Sharia was involved was a single piece of intelligence, whose existence it did not want to reveal lest its sources and methods be compromised.
The emails confirm what General David Petraeus, then-director of the CIA, reportedly testified to Congress in November: that references to terrorist groups were removed from the talking points in order to avoid tipping off those groups that intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, and thus preserve the ongoing investigation.
Krauthammer also pushed the debunked claim that Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of staff to the embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks, was "ordered not to meet with an investigative congressional delegation" and subsequently got "a furious call from Clinton's top aide for not having a State Department lawyer (and informant) present." In fact, Hicks' official congressional testimony reveals that the State Department merely instructed him to follow standard procedure and not speak to the congressional investigators without a State attorney present. Furthermore, Hicks made clear that he had received no direct criticism from Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and simply said the "tone of the conversation" led him to believe Mills was unhappy with him.
Krauthammer's false accusations are part of the attempt by conservative media and the GOP to save Republican scandal-mongering on the Benghazi attacks, even as the charges of "scandal" collapse around them.
Following months of media calls for deficit reduction, cable news channels spent just over 7 minutes reporting on a revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projection that the 2013 deficit will decline by more than previous estimates. Broadcast network news evening shows did not cover the new report.
Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News ignored congressional testimony that confirmed military leadership ordered a small team of troops to remain in Tripoli in order to protect embassy staff there from possible threats during the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, instead baselessly speculating that the president must have personally told the force to "stand down."
During the May 8 congressional hearings on the Benghazi attacks, witness Gregory Hicks -- who was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks -- explained that his team had proposed that a small group of four special forces troops leave Tripoli to provide aid in Benghazi, but that they were not authorized to do so by Special Operations Command Africa, a division of the U.S. military:
REP. ROBIN KELLY: You said that four military personnel were told not to the board that plane and that this call came from Special Operations Command Africa. Is that right?
HICKS: That's what I understand.
Fox News ignored this portion of Hicks' testimony. On Hannity the night of the hearings, host Sean Hannity disputed Fox News contributor Juan Williams' accurate explanation that "the military made this decision" to baselessly speculate the president, as Commander in Chief, must have been involved in the decision making process to ask the special forces to remain in Tripoli:
HANNITY: Wait a minute, we don't have a Commander in Chief or chain of command,and that somebody along the way, we don't know who eight months later, made a decision and told them to stand down while Americans were under fire and getting killed in Benghazi?
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.