Time misrepresented the findings of an Inspector General report to falsely imply that former State Department aide Cheryl Mills was faulted for "strong-arming" departmental investigations, even though the inspector general cleared Mills of wrongdoing in the only case where her actions were investigated.
In an October 17 piece, Time claimed several aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been faulted for the appearance of "undue influence and favoritism" during three State Department investigations. In what Time called "the highest-level case," a U.S. Ambassador in Belgium was recalled to Washington for an internal review into accusations that he had solicited a prostitute. "The move effectively halted an investigation by the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security," Time reported. It continued:
The ambassador, Howard Gutman, was recalled to Washington from Belgium to meet with Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy and Clinton Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, according to the report.
By focusing on Mills' role in that meeting -- in an article centered around claims that Clinton aides were strong-arming investigators and fostering an atmosphere of favoritism -- Time implied that Mills was found negligent by the Inspector General. But the inspector general report did not criticize Mills for her role in that meeting. The IG report was only critical of the decision to internalize the inquiry, a decision made by the Undersecretary of Management, Patrick Kennedy. From the report:
The Under Secretary of State for Management told OIG that he decided to handle the suspected incident as a "management issue" based on a disciplinary provision in the FAM that he had employed on prior occasions to address allegations of misconduct by Chiefs of Mission.
Despite insinuating that Mills was criticized by the Inspector General, Time made no mention of the fact that Mills was explicitly cleared of wrongdoing in a separate investigation, even though that investigation was a focus of their report. The investigation centered on whether that an assistant secretary of state was found to have improperly delayed an interview with a nominee to be ambassador to Iraq. Mills, who was Chief of Staff at the time, was explicitly cleared of any improper actions:
OIG found no evidence of any undue influence by the Chief of Staff/Counselor.
OIG did not find evidence of perceived or actual undue influence or favoritism in four of the DS internal investigations reviewed.
Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff is retreading old news to once again try to thrust Whitewater into the national political debate, continuing an obsession of his that dates back more than 20 years.
Isikoff dramatically touted the "first extensive public comments" made by Robert Fiske, the federal prosecutor initially appointed to investigate the failed Whitewater land deal, in which the Clintons lost money but were at first falsely accused of criminal conduct. Fiske spoke to Isikoff during a recent interview about his soon-to-be-released memoir and Whitewater, which Isikoff warned "seems likely to be revived by political foes if, as is widely expected, Hillary Clinton runs for president."
This is a convenient dodge for Isikoff, who has spent two decades helping political foes use Whitewater to try to bring down the Clintons.
But nothing in Isikoff's latest entry in his Whitewater saga about the Clintons is new.
"For years, the Clintons have sought to portray the entire investigation as a politically inspired witch hunt, pushed by partisans hunting for any ammunition they could find to damage the president and first lady," Isikoff wrote. "But the new account of Fiske, a pillar of the New York legal community, offers a more complicated picture."
Isikoff doesn't back that up.
In fact, Fiske himself undermined the claim that Whitewater could be used against Clinton, noting that he never uncovered any evidence that Bill or Hillary Clinton were connected to any crimes:
He describes how he had quickly uncovered "serious crimes" in the Whitewater investigation but that his probe was cut short after conservatives falsely accused him of a "cover up."
"There were indictments, there were convictions," said Fiske when asked about claims that there was "nothing" to the investigation. "People went to jail. There was never any evidence that was sufficient to link the Clintons to any of it, but there were certainly serious crimes."
Isikoff suggests that one new detail is Fiske's claim that he was prepared to bring indictments against individuals connected to the land deal. But this hardly noteworthy, given that it has been publicly known that indictments were brought against individuals connected to the land deal.
Isikoff even tries to revive the ancient news that billing records connected to the investigation were at one point found in the White House residence, an aspect of the story the right has long attempted to twist into a scandal.
"One of [Fiske's] first moves was to subpoena Hillary Clinton's law firm billing records," Isikoff writes, "documents that were later found under mysterious circumstances in the White House living quarters." What Isikoff never mentioned is that those billing documents actually backed up what Hillary Clinton had long maintained, that she did very little work for her law firm on behalf of the land deal -- nor does he note that Kenneth Starr, the investigator who ultimately replaced Fiske, found no evidence that the billing records were ever mishandled.
Isikoff's Yahoo News piece, devoid of relevant new facts, lacking in critical details, and filled with insinuations of wrongdoing that he actively undermines, is troubling given the praise conservatives media figures have showered him with for his inadequate Clinton reporting in the past. At one point in 1998, Sean Hannity spent four consecutive days lauding Isikoff for his reporting.
In contrast, Jeffrey Toobin, currently a legal analyst at CNN, told Salon in 2000 that Isikoff acted as "an uncritical water-carrier for the anti-Clinton forces."
It's a history worth remembering as Isikoff warns how Clinton's political foes might attack her.
National Journal columnist Ron Fournier distorted President Obama's comments on his strategy toward the Islamic State in order to accuse the president of failed leadership.
During a joint press conference Wednesday with the president of Estonia, Obama defined his objective regarding the Islamic State: "to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States."
Responding to a follow up question, Obama reiterated that goal: "Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region." Asked a third time to lay out his strategy, Obama stressed the need to degrade the terrorist group to what he called "a manageable problem." This was based on the observation that even after the core of a terrorist organization has been decimated, "a few individuals" might still be able to commit acts of terror.
Calling the president "maddeningly indecisive, unclear, and defensive," Fournier said he found himself "puzzled" after Obama's comments.
The observation at the center of Obama's much parsed statement is so noncontroversial, even Ron Fournier thinks it probably represents the best possible outcome in the actual world: "While containing ISIS may be the best realistic outcome, 'Let's Manage the Situation!' is hardly a national rallying cry."
Who needs realistic outcomes guiding strategy when we haven't even come up with a good slogan yet!
But note the subtle way in which Fournier distorted what Obama actually said:
Fox News has gone silent on Benghazi amid reports that the House Intelligence Committee concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on August 1 that the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee voted to declassify findings from its investigation into the 2012 attacks on U.S diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, and "concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack," according to committee member Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).
The intelligence community "did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened," the process used to create administration talking points was "flawed" but "reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis, and "there was no 'stand-down order' given to American personnel," Ranking Member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-CA) said in a statement laying out the committee's findings.
It's a clinical, point-by-point refutation of the Benghazi hoax Fox has pushed for nearly 2 years.
Yet Fox News made no mention of the report on Monday.* In sharp contrast to its current silence, when House Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi in June, Fox devoted at least 225 segments to the topic over just two weeks, an estimated publicity value of more than $124 million.
CNN panelists adopted a framework identical to a Republican attack on Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, going so far as to argue that Grimes' recent comments could play into the hands of her Republican critics without once mentioning the actual Republican attacks on Grimes that were already underway.
Huffington Post associate editor Igor Bobic reported on July 30 that Grimes "drew attention" earlier this week when the Kentucky Democrat suggested that Israel's Iron Dome defense system helped Israel resist Hamas forces trying to tunnel into Israel. CNN host John King introduced a discussion on the topic by claiming that first-time national candidates like Grimes have to "head the test on foreign policy." During the discussion, Associated Press political reporter Julie Pace cautioned that the comments could help Grimes' opponent, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
PACE: [E]xperience has been one of the things that McConnell's campaign has been going after with her, and this might play into that.
What the CNN panelists never mentioned is that Republican campaign operatives were already attacking Grimes with the exact same framework that formed the basis of the CNN discussion.
In the past two months, Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza has used his platform at The Fix to obsess over the question of whether Hillary Clinton has sufficiently explained her family's wealth, dismissing Clinton's comments on income inequality while offering conflicting advice on how she should answer the question in a way that satisfies Chris Cillizza and The Washington Post.
Cillizza's latest post came in response to an interview Hillary Clinton gave to Fusion TV host Jorge Ramos that aired July 29. "Hillary Clinton still hasn't found a good answer to questions about her wealth," according to the July 29 headline over at The Fix. After crediting GOP opposition research firm American Rising with focusing his attention on Clinton's wealth, Cillizza concluded: "Until she finds three sentences (or so) to button up any/all questions about her wealth, those questions will keep coming. And that's not the way Clinton wants to run-up to her now all-but-certain presidential bid."
This is the third time in two months that Cillizza has posted a column fixated on Clinton's wealth and his belief that she is struggling to explain it -- and the third time since June 22 that The Fix has turned to America Rising to help define Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a June NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll found that 55 percent of Americans say that Clinton relates to and understands average Americans.
"The Clintons are not 'average' people," Cillizza warned just a week before that poll came out. He concluded by advising Clinton to stop talking about her wealth and move on: "Instead of spending her time litigating just how wealthy she is, Clinton should acknowledge her wealth and then spend the vast majority of her rhetorical time making the case that through the policies she has advocated and pursued, she has never lost sight of the middle class."
The reality is that Clinton has already done exactly what Cillizza advises; he just largely chooses to dismiss it. When Clinton has been asked about her wealth, she has consistently paired her personal finances with discussing her lifelong advocacy and work on behalf of the poor and middle class.
Here we go again.
Within hours of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) selectively leaking emails from one of his investigations, the right-wing media is dutifully claiming that he had offered evidence of a cover-up in the controversy over IRS scrutiny of nonprofit groups.
The question now is whether legitimate media outlets will again let Issa and Fox manipulate them with selective leaks.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed on July 9 that the emails that Issa released were "hard evidence" that embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner was engaged in a cover up.
In reality, the email shows nothing more than a manager issuing guidance that email communication could be subpoenaed by Congress, underscoring the "need to be cautious about what we say in emails," and confirming that instant messages were not archived but should be treated with the same caution as email.
Absent any additional information about the context of Lerner's initial guidance, it's impossible to draw any conclusions whatsoever, let alone O'Reilly's sweeping claim of a cover-up.
O'Reilly's interpretation of Lerner's email is perfectly in line with Darrell Issa's spin, which he floated in a July 9 Twitter post arguing that Lerner was engaged in a conspiracy to hide information from Congress.
And the media is already adopting Issa's spin, a troubling development given the media's lengthy history of being manipulated by Issa's deceptive leaks.
Joe Scarborough and Ezra Klein are helping to normalize guilt-by-association smears targeting defense attorneys based on their clients, arguing that Hillary Clinton's work defending an alleged child rapist in 1975 is becoming a political liability.
The American Bar Association has condemned this type of attack as "disturbing."
Clinton's work on the case, known publicly and reported on for years, re-emerged after the Washington Free Beacon violated library policy and published an interview Clinton gave in the mid-1980s discussing her legal representation of the alleged rapist.
Clinton defended her work on the case in an interview with Mumsnet that was published July 4, explaining once again that she was assigned to the case, that she asked to be relieved from the assignment, and that she "had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability."
Reporting on the warmed-over scrutiny of the case on Tuesday, Vox claimed that "a criminal defense case from Hillary Clinton's past as a lawyer is becoming a political liability." The headline ominously stated: "Hillary Clinton's legal career is coming back to haunt her."
Klein, the co-founder of Vox, appeared on Morning Joe to expand on the idea that Clinton's legal work was a political liability. "I think it's hard for folks to understand why you would go to the mat for a client who had done something terrible who you knew is guilty," Klein said. "And what she's saying there is that that was her obligation as a lawyer and that the prosecution had done a horrible job."
While Scarborough at one point agreed that attorneys "usually take that court appointment and do their best to defend their client," he subsequently tried to parse the distinction between a public defender and Clinton's role as a court-appointed attorney from a legal aid clinic:
SCARBOROUGH: [I]sn't there a distinction, though, between when you are hired by a public defender's office, and the purpose of the public defender's office is actually to give people the representation that they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America? And then you have Hillary Clinton's case, where she was running a legal clinic. She may have been court-appointed, but obviously she had a lot more discretion on whether she was going to take a child rapist or not on as a client than if you are a public defender, where you are working as a public defender, you have no choice.
Legal and child welfare experts told Newsday that Clinton's work in the case was appropriate in 2008, the last time her work in the case came under media scrutiny. Clinton wrote about the case in her 2003 autobiography, Living History. Jonathan Adler, a libertarian law professor, has urged Clinton's critics not to attack her representation in this case, specifically warning that it could be chilling to send a message to young attorneys that representing unpopular clients could become a "political liability."
Adler is not alone. Republicans Ken Starr, Lindsey Graham, and Michael Mukasey have all cautioned against using an attorney's clients as a cudgel.
The media's fixation on comments Hillary Clinton made during recent interviews responding to questions about her family's wealth has obscured the substantive issues Clinton talked about during nearly four hours of interviews.
Clinton's interviews on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS, and NPR lasted for more than three hours and 45 minutes, not including commercials, according to a Media Matters analysis.
In the weeks since Clinton began promoting her book, the media has endlessly fixated on whether Clinton committed a "gaffe" when responding to questions about wealth.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler misquoted Hillary Clinton while criticizing her recent and accurate comments about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.
Kessler specifically took Clinton to task over a comment she made during the Aspen Ideas Festival:
CLINTON: It's very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer's health-care plan because her employer doesn't think she should be using contraception.
But in taking issue with the portion of Clinton's remarks about the affordability of contraception, Kessler actually misquoted what she said:
As for "very expensive," this is in the eye of the beholder. Studies have indicated that when times are tough, women have tried to save money by skimping on birth control, such as skipping pills and delaying prescription refills.
Clinton never said that contraception is "very expensive." She said it was "pretty expensive." The distinction is meaningful in light of the fact that Kessler specifically went on to criticize Clinton for not being careful while making extemporaneous remarks.
Kessler also criticized Clinton for observing that a Hobby Lobby sales clerk would not be able to access contraception because her employer doesn't think she should be using it. Here's Kessler's rationale:
In the specific case, the company on religious grounds objected to four of 20 possible options, leaving other possible types of contraceptives available to female employees -- though not necessarily the most effective or necessary at the moment.
Contrary to Kessler's reasoning, it's entirely accurate to say that a sales clerk could decide in consultation with her doctor that a valid form of contraception is the best option for her health needs and yet be denied access because her boss doesn't think she should be using it.
Kessler addressed similar criticism from readers in an update, calling it an "interesting parsing" but standing by his original analysis.