The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens falsely claimed the embassy closures in the Middle East and Africa proved that President Obama had wrongly characterized the current threat of terror in his May speech on national security, when in fact the president specifically referred to threats from al Qaeda affiliates in Africa and the Middle East against diplomatic facilities.
Following the announcement that 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa would remain closed throughout the week with hundreds of additional security forces deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen due to suspected terror threats, conservative media rushed to politicize the effort to protect American lives, dismissing security experts who praised the decision and falsely accusing President Obama of failing to recognize the realities of the war on terror.
Stephens furthered these attacks in his August 5 Journal column, claiming that the embassy closures revealed "a threat that makes a comprehensive and vivid mockery of everything the president said" in Obama's speech at the National Defense University on May 23. According to Stephens, the purpose of the president's national security speech was "to declare the war on terror won--or won well-enough--and go home," and the "facts and analysis" Obama used to discuss the nature of al Qaeda were proven "wrong" by the current situation in Yemen and the Middle East.
But Stephens ignored whole portions of Obama's speech in which he identified the very types of threats the intelligence community is working to avert. Obama's speech specifically referred to al Qaeda affiliates in the Middle East and Africa -- including Yemen, Libya, and Syria -- as "the most active in plotting against our homeland" and acknowledged they posed "threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad" (emphasis added):
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They've not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.
Instead, what we've seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda's affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula -- AQAP -- the most active in plotting against our homeland. And while none of AQAP's efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Unrest in the Arab world has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. But here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we continue to confront state-sponsored networks like Hezbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Other of these groups are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. And that means we'll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives -- perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks -- launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.
So that's the current threat -- lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.
Stephens concluded by attacking the media's "memory" of the speech, claiming the press had forgotten the realities of Obama's rhetoric in favor of praising the administration. But it's Stephens himself who seems to have forgotten whole sections of the speech that undermine his attack on the administration, which has worked to protect American lives by effectively responding to a type of terror it identified as many as four months ago.
Ben Shapiro, Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large, pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos revealed "crony capitalist" collusion with the Obama administration, because President Obama visited an Amazon facility in Tennessee a week before the sale was announced.
On August 5, The Washington Post announced Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, was purchasing the paper and affiliated publications for $250 million in cash. In response, Shapiro baselessly speculated that Obama's July 30 visit to an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- where he gave a speech focused on the need to raise the minimum wage and support middle-class Americans -- was evidence that "the Post is now Bezos' latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration":
While conservatives and liberals consider the political leanings of Washington Post buyer and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in an attempt to divine how his politics will affect those of the historic institution, the truth appears to be far simpler: the Post is now Bezos' latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration. How else to explain President Obama puzzling decision last week to roll out his corporate tax plan at an Amazon.com fulfillment center?
Bezos spent $250 million of his own money to purchase the Post, which is bleeding money at an incredible rate. He didn't spend Amazon's cash to do so. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of events is striking. Last Tuesday, Obama visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he toured the facility before touting the company and stumping for Keynesian stimulus measures.
The sale of the Post was supposed to be top-secret, with staffers asked not to tweet about it for ten minutes. But it's more than possible that the Obama administration had some advance notice about the sale, and that Obama appeared at the Amazon warehouse as a sign of good faith to Bezos prior to the move.
Fox News hosts dismissed security experts and Congressional Republicans who praised the Obama administration's decision to temporarily close embassies to protect Americans from terror threats, suggesting the move was a "gross overreaction" and falsely attacking the administration for a "cover-up" of the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi.
The State Department and the administration announced August 2 that 22 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa would be temporarily closed over the weekend to protect the Americans working there from suspected terror threats identified by the intelligence community. Nineteen embassies were to remain closed through the week. CNN reported that hundreds of additional security forces have been deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, where officials say the threat is greatest, and U.S. military forces in the region have been put on a higher state of alert.
Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Tucker Carlson attacked the administration for closing the embassies, suggesting that the move was a "gross overreaction to some intel" and the Benghazi attacks, falsely accusing the administration of engaging in a political "cover-up" while not addressing terror threats around the world:
CARLSON: You wonder if they're drawing the right lesson from Benghazi. It seems to me the real lesson from Benghazi is don't lie, and don't stage a cover-up. But don't formulate your policy based on the last war. Right? I mean, just because Benghazi happened doesn't mean we need to close 28 embassies and consulates.
But security experts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the administration's decision to close the embassies, particularly in light of the Benghazi attacks and the desire to protect Americans overseas. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey explained that the intelligence community had uncovered "a significant threat stream" that justified the closures, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said, "The administration's call to close these embassies . . . was actually a very smart call." USA Today also cited Seth Jones, the associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp., who said the closures are a result of "a high threat level based on credible intelligence."
Even Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who leads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and who has previously been critical of the Obama administration's response to the Benghazi attacks, noted, "what they are doing now is what has to be done. They'd be derelict if they were not. And you know we can't criticize them for doing too little with Benghazi and now criticize them for doing too much."
Fox News has repeatedly pushed falsehoods and lies about the Benghazi attacks, with contributors praying for evidence of a "cover-up" and calling for further probes into the attacks despite the fact that there have already been at least six different investigations, none of which have found any evidence that the response to Benghazi was politically motivated or hid the realities of the attacks.
Fox's attack echoes numerous other conservative media outlets turning the embassy closures into political criticism of the Obama administration.
Fox News is using a planned Hillary Clinton miniseries and documentary to revive decades-old lies about the former Senator and secretary of state, reanimating phony 1990s "scandals" including Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate. Every so-called scandal Fox is pushing has been thoroughly discredited by numerous independent investigations.
Fox News falsely claimed California workers would be forced to participate in a proposed retirement savings program, ignoring the fact that workers would be able to opt out of the program at any time and that it is only open to workers who are not offered a retirement plan from their employers.
On the July 26 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne hyped criticisms that California is becoming a "nanny state," because of a proposal that she claimed would "force private sector workers to lose 3 percent from each paycheck," which would be deposited in a state fund and become available to workers at retirement, plus interest earnings.
But in reality no one will be forced to contribute to California's proposed Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan. The program would only be for workers whose employers don't already sponsor a pension plan or a 401(k) for their retirement, allowing them to pay into an account that would pay benefits based on account contributions and investment returns. Any workers who don't want to participate can opt out.
Ben Harris, a former senior economist with the President's Council of Economic Advisers, wrote at the Tax Policy Center's TaxVox blog that the program is "entirely voluntary," and the use of automatic enrollment which workers can opt out of has the potential to "bring more than 6 million workers into the retirement saving universe":
California's plan shows exceptional promise. By utilizing automatic enrollment, which has been proven to bolster enrollment in private 401(k) plans, the plan could bring more than 6 million workers into the retirement saving universe. It takes advantage of a pooled investment strategy to lower administrative costs and ensure a balanced investment portfolio. The benefits would be progressively distributed. Workers take the accounts with them if they switch jobs. The plan is entirely self-funded with no extra cost to taxpayers. And it's entirely voluntary; workers who do not want to contribute may opt out.
Furthermore, the plan is reportedly likely to cost the California state government nothing, as it is designed to be privately run and managed. As the National Journal reported, most workers who will be eligible for the program make less than $46,420 a year, and rely heavily on Social Security in retirement. The program would offer this "underserved population" added security in retirement.
Economists and financial experts have praised the plan, such as Shlomo Benartzi, a behavioral finance expert and professor at UCLA, and Richard Thaler, a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, who told NPR that automatic enrollment in the plan was "key" to its success.
Fox News and the Daily Caller claimed that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida "benefit" black Americans, ignoring the fact that fatal shootings with black victims were more likely to be found "justified" than those with white victims, and that black shooters who killed whites were the most likely to be found guilty.
Stand Your Ground laws (Also termed "Shoot First" or Kill At Will) allow individuals who believe their life or safety is in danger to use lethal force in self-defense without being required to retreat in certain situations. Such laws have been passed in more than 20 states, and attained notoriety due to their role in the Florida trial over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims that has triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the laws while speaking at the NAACP national convention on July 16, suggesting that they encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" and have "victimized too many who are innocent."
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Holder for his comments on July 17, calling the remarks "divisive" and citing the Daily Caller to claim "when it comes to the Stand Your Ground rule ... the law has helped African Americans" in Florida. According to the Daily Caller, black individuals "benefit" from Florida's Stand Your Ground law at a "disproportionate rate" because those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases).
But the data the Daily Caller cited, from The Tampa Bay Times, reveals that contrary to the claim that blacks largely "benefit" or have been "helped" by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a higher rate than those who killed white people. Additionally, a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground states found that black individuals citing the statute whose victims were white were less likely to go free than any other perpetrators.
For fatal cases that have reached a verdict in Florida, the attack was more likely to be considered justified if the victims were black (78 percent) than if the victims were white (56 percent), according to the Times database.
Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, has also suggested that blacks do not necessarily "benefit" from such laws. Roman found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, "the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks." Roman found that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. He found that white shooters with black victims were disproportionately more likely to be found justified in non-stand your ground states as well, but to a lesser extent.
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly showed that nationwide, 34 percent of cases involving a white shooter and a black victim were deemed justifiable, while "in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."
Media are misleadingly hyping Republican anti-choice rhetoric to promote the idea that legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is "reasonable." In fact, many severe health complications for the mother and fetus are only discovered during or after the 20th week of pregnancy, and research has found that financial hardship forces many women to delay the procedure.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is doubling down on his attacks on Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, calling Martin an "enraged black man-child" and a "Skittles hoodie boy."
On July 13 a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Martin. Zimmerman had said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin, who was carrying a bag of Skittles and wearing a hoodie, during an altercation in Zimmerman's gated community on February 26, 2012.
In a July 14 column for conservative news website Rare, Nugent called Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" who was "responsible for his bad decisions," claiming that the "only racism on that night was perpetrated by Trayvon Martin, and everybody knows it."
Nugent doubled down in a July 15 World Net Daily column titled "What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Do?" describing Martin as "an enraged black man-child" and a "dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy:
[A]ll thinking people are very relieved that George Zimmerman was found not guilty by the intelligent, justice-driven women of the jury, in spite of the façade presented by the prosecution and forced by the threat of racism by everyone from President Obama, to Eric Holder, the New Black Panther gangstas, NAACP, excuse makers of every stripe and even the governor of Florida, but still this innocent man who simply defended his life from a violent, life-threatening, bloodying, head-and-face slamming attack by an enraged black man-child has so wrongly paid an inexplicable price financially and emotionally.
The parents of Trayvon Martin get a huge million-dollar-plus payoff from the gated community just to shut them up, and so obviously to fend off the ambulance chaser racist lawyers for the simple fact that their son was guilty of a vicious, violent attack on a man for no good reason whatsoever.
What did the gated community have to do with any of it? Where is a judge capable of making a justice call in this travesty? Does anyone care at all anymore?
The entire system is screwed up.
But George Zimmerman and his entire family, innocent of any wrongdoing, have lost everything and will be in debt for a long, long time for having to fight the trumped-up charges that he "profiled" and/or set out to murder the poor, helpless, dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy.
Fox News' Stuart Varney ignored the recent economic crisis to attack the Obama administration for increased enrollment in food security programs that help feed children and keep many Americans out of poverty.
On the July 9 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney accused the Obama administration of transforming "America from a dynamic prosperous growth economy into a bureaucracy that redistributes wealth." Varney claimed that increased enrollment in a variety of food security programs -- including those that are intended to help low-income women and children who were found to be at nutritional risk -- was a sign of economic failure, claiming that "101 million Americans currently receive some kind of food aid from the federal government":
VARNEY: That's an extraordinary situation. You've got nearly 47 million on food stamps. That's one in six of the population. You've got 32 million getting school lunches, free or at virtually no cost. 10 Million get school breakfast free or at virtually no cost. Women, infants, and children, the WIC program, 8 million there. The milk and summer food program goes to 2 million people. Farmers' market coupons are given away to nearly 2 million women and children.
Varney's focus on the number of people receiving food assistance misses the point: these programs succeed in helping to alleviate hunger and poverty for millions of Americans, including children.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, kept millions of people "out of poverty in 2011, including 2.1 million children," while lifting more children above 50 percent of the poverty line than any other benefit program. The school lunch, breakfast, and summer food programs provide free or reduced price meals to children who live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level, and are critical for reducing child hunger. According to research highlighted by Michigan State University, child food insecurity is "associated with significantly poorer cognitive functioning, decreased school attendance, or diminished academic achievement." Finally, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program and the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program protect low-income mothers and children under the age of five who are assessed to be at nutritional risk by providing them with access to affordable, healthy food.
In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 16.7 million children. According to Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity, "households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children," and 36.8 percent of households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average were headed by single mothers.
Research has shown that children born to low-income women who had access to food stamps grew up with better health outcomes than those who did not have access to the program, and a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that SNAP benefits reduced the "prevalence, depth, and severity" of poverty between 2000 and 2009. The USDA also found that the positive effects of SNAP were especially strong during the recession, which Varney ignored. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over 65 percent of the growth in SNAP benefits from 2007 to 2011 could be attributed to the weak economy.
As the economy improves, SNAP spending as a share of GDP is projected to shrink to 1995 levels by 2019. But Varney hid that positive indicator in favor of continuing Fox's campaign to demonize these programs that reduce child hunger and keep children out of poverty. Fox News has previously asked if children should have to work for their school meals, and Fox News host Andrea Tantaros celebrated Thanksgiving by mocking food security programs as a diet plan.
Fox News and The Wall Street Journal stoked fears that a delay in the verification systems of health care reform would lead to fraud, while ignoring the fact that the government will conduct audits before implementing a stronger verification system and will heavily fine individuals who misrepresent their eligibility.
The Washington Post reported on July 5 that until 2015, the federal government will not require 16 states and the District of Columbia -- which are running their own health insurance marketplaces -- to verify whether an individual accurately reported that they currently do not receive affordable health insurance from their employer and are eligible for health care benefits under the new law. These benefits include tax subsidies for Americans who earn less than 400 percent of the poverty line and some additional Medicaid coverage.
On the July 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed the government "is not going to be able to verify whether or not you have the right income standards so they're going to trust people. What could possibly go wrong?" Fox News host Bret Baier, who was a guest on the program, further claimed the government was "not going to check to see if anybody qualifies to receive benefits" and suggested the move would lead to misspent funds, saying "you could see taxpayer dollars going out the window." Co-host Gretchen Carlson agreed the program would be "rife with fraud," while Doocy suggested this system would result in "a quarter of a trillion dollars" of fraud:
DOOCY: If you're just going to trust people to tell the truth, how is that going to work out when it comes to fraudsters if you look at the Earned Income Tax Credits. Right now, they say that about 25 percent of the people who get them don't deserve them. They should not be applying for them. But they get them. So if you use that same metric, you could probably lose, over 10 years, a quarter of a trillion dollars to fraud on this program.
The claim that this delay could result in fraudulent spending echoed a July 7 Wall Street Journal editorial, which claimed that "millions of individuals [could] decide they're eligible for the subsidies," resulting in "as much as $250 billion in improper payments in its first decade."