Justin Berrier

Author ››› Justin Berrier
  • Right-Wing Media Exploit VA Problems To Raise Specter Of ACA Death Panels

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Fox & FriendsRight-wing media launched a dishonest attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using reports of problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration to revive claims of "death panels."

    The allegations facing the VA are serious and troubling and are largely the result of years of systemic issues. The Obama administration has worked to ease those problems, including reducing backlogged claims and beginning to transition claims away from the traditional paper-based systems that have largely been responsible for the backlogs. In 2012, the VA implemented the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), "a web-based, electronic claims processing portal created to give VA the ability to process Veterans' claims paper-free." According to the VA, the VBMS has allowed the agency to reduce the processing time from 272 days to 78 days. The Veterans Benefits Administration is now processing claims at a higher rate than ever before, although "the number of claims continues to exceed the number processed."

    The problems facing the VA have existed long before the Obama administration. The Government Accountability Office has been reporting on backlog issues for years, such as this 2005 report that warned of "long waits for decisions, large claims backlogs, and inaccurate decisions." The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that "Since 2001, the number of claims received by the VA outpaced the number of claims completed" and noted that "the VA faced an increased demand because older generations of veterans continued to submit claims for injuries revealed by age, new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan began to pour into the system, and the VA expanded the schedule of conditions covered to include PTSD and illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure."

    While concerns over the VA are legitimate, the right-wing media have exploited the situation to launch a dishonest attack on the ACA, using the reported deaths of veterans to revive the long-standing lie that Obamacare creates death panels.

    On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that individuals covered by the ACA are "headed for similar potential as these deaths in the VA." Sean Hannity similarly invoked death panels in a report on the VA on his radio show.

    On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling claimed both health care systems are examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system," concluding, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is":

  • Daily Beast Distorts Clinton's Iran Comments To Accuse Her Of Hypocrisy

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Clinton AJC

    The Daily Beast misleadingly accused Hillary Clinton of claiming credit for sanctions that the State Department opposed by selectively highlighting a portion of a speech she gave. In reality, Clinton was referring to her successful efforts to help pass a 2010 Iran sanction bill and convince major firms to divest from Iranian oil.

    In a May 16 post, The Daily Beast's senior national security and politics correspondent Josh Rogin highlighted a recent speech by Clinton at the American Jewish Committee. During the appearance, Clinton said "With the help of Congress, the Obama administration imposed some of the most stringent crippling sanctions on top of the international ones." Rogin claimed Clinton was "referr[ing] indirectly to a series of bills passed from 2009 through 2012 that attacked Iran's ability to export goods, participate in international financial markets, and continue with its illicit activities and money laundering" and suggested that Clinton was being deceitful by pointing out that high-ranking officials in the White House and the State Department, under Clinton's leadership, opposed some of the sanctions.

    But Rogin's charge ignores the rest of Clinton's speech. In the portion of the speech that Rogin did not include in his post, Clinton said that the U.S. legislation she referenced was "building on the framework established by" sanctions passed by the UN's Security Council in June 2010, making it clear that she was referring not to every sanction proposal, but specifically to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. Clinton played a critical role in brokering a deal to guarantee passage of those sanctions, which passed weeks after the UN sanctions:

    CLINTON: So we went to the UN Security Council and proposed some of the toughest multilateral sanctions ever on record. I worked for months to round up the votes. It reminded me of the back-room negotiations in the Senate with all the horse-trading, arm-twisting, vote counting that go into passing any major legislation. In the end we were successful. After years of division, the international community came together and sent a very strong, unified message to Iran. 

    And then building on the framework established by the United Nations Security Council, with the help of Congress the Obama administration imposed some of the most stringent crippling sanctions on top of the international ones, and so did our European partners. Our goal was to put so much financial pressure on Iran's leaders that they would have no choice but to come back to the negotiating table with a serious offer. We went after Iran's oil industry, banks, and weapons programs, enlisted insurance firms, shipping lines, energy companies, financial institutions and others to cut Iran off from global commerce. Most of all, I made it my personal mission to convince the top consumers of Iran's oil to diversify their supplies and buy less from Tehran. That was no easy sell. Remember, this was taking place in the midst of the global economic slowdown.

    Clinton's efforts to make sure CISADA passed have been documented and back up her statement that she and the Obama administration were successful. As The New York Times reported in 2010, Clinton "brokered a last-minute compromise with House leaders on the Iran sanctions bill."

    Clinton also pointed to her record of influencing "top consumers of Iran's oil to diversify their supplies and buy less from Tehran." Her record here is also well-established. State Department fact sheets show that, as a result of CISADA's passage and the State Department's diplomacy under Clinton, the department sanctioned companies for "doing business with Iran's energy sector," and persuaded "five major multinational oil firms to withdraw all significant activity in Iran, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars." 

  • The Benghazi Select Committee That Fox Built

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER, SAMANTHA WYATT & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    Fox News has finally succeeded in convincing House Republicans to establish a select committee on Benghazi, a move it has hyped for more than eighteen months. The network has celebrated in classic Fox style: by reviving a host of debunked Benghazi myths and patting itself on the back for its political influence.

    On May 2, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he would call for a vote in the House "to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served." Fox figures were quick to brag about their role in the creation of the select committee and their unrelenting coverage of the 2012 attacks, which most recently included a misguided attempt to turn an innocuous email by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes into the new "smoking gun" that proved the Obama administration covered up the truth about the attacks in Benghazi.

    Boehner announced on May 9 the six GOP lawmakers who will join Republican Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina on the select committee: Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Martha Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia. The Speaker even commemorated the announcement with this tweet:

    Boehner tweet

    Fox's calls for a select committee long precede the latest manufactured scandal du jour. The network's promotion of a select committee dates to as early as November 2012 and has continued ever since, unabated by the numerous investigations and hearings on Benghazi already completed. Take a look:

  • Fox Favorite Rep. Gowdy To Appear Once Again In Fox News Sunday Exclusive

    Gowdy Has Appeared On Fox At Least 65 Times In The Last Two Years

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Trey GowdyFox News has hosted Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, at least 65 times in the past two years and will reportedly provide him a platform again as one of the featured guests on Fox News Sunday.

    In the wake of the manufactured scandal over a newly-released email sent by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the Sunday news shows, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would "create a new select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans." On May 5th, the House GOP selected Gowdy, an established Benghazi hoaxer, to lead the committee.

    Fox Broadcasting announced that Gowdy would exclusively appear on the May 11 broadcast of Fox News Sunday to "discuss what the committee hopes to accomplish and who they plan to call to testify." Gowdy will reportedly appear along with the head of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA).

    Gowdy is one of Fox's favorite guests. A search of Nexis reveals that Gowdy has appeared on Fox's evening and primetime shows and Fox News Sunday 65 times in the past two years. That streak is likely to continue as the network has been one of the most vocal proponents of forming a select committee to investigate Benghazi, especially following the release of the Rhodes email.

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of Fox's evening and primetime news coverage and Fox News Sunday between May 8, 2012, and May 8, 2014, using the search term guest:(Gowdy).

  • Benghazi Testimony Derails Fox's "Incredibly Damning" Attack On Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Fox News seized on testimony from Ret. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell to push the false narrative that President Obama did not do enough to rescue the victims of the Benghazi attack, a claim that collapsed after Lovell clarified that he was not making that point.

    During the May 1 Congressional hearing on Benghazi, Lovell, who was stationed in Germany at the time of the attack, testified that "we should have tried" to rescue the victims of the attack. Fox News immediately hyped Lovell's testimony as evidence the Obama administration did not engage in a rescue attempt. On America's Newsroom, Fox's digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt called Lovell's testimony "incredibly damning," saying: "if there is a true national shame in this incident was that we did not try. We had been told repeatedly by the Obama administration that we could not try and that it was known that it would have been impossible to have helped those who were eventually killed":

    Fox's attack collapsed later in the day, however. During the question and answer portion of the testimony, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) asked Lovell specifically about claims that the military had resources that they did not utilize. Lovell explained that when he said "we should have tried," he did not mean that the response was insufficient and that it is a "fact" that there was nothing more the military could have done:

    CONNELLY: I want to read to you the conclusion of the chairman of the [Armed Services] Committee, the Republican chairman Buck McKeon, who conducted formal briefings and oversaw that report he said quote "I'm pretty well satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened, and how quickly it dissipated we probably couldn't have done much more than we did." Do you take issue with the chairman of the Armed Services Committee? In that conclusion?

    LOVELL: His conclusion that he couldn't have done much more than they did with the capability and the way they executed it?

    CONNELLY: Given the timeframe.

    LOVELL: That's a fact. 

    CONNELLY: Okay.

    LOVELL: The way it is right now. The way he stated it.

    CONNELLY: Alright, because I'm sure you can appreciate, general, there might be some who, for various and sundry reasons would like to distort your testimony and suggest that you're testifying that we could have, should have done a lot more than we did because we had capabilities we simply didn't utilize. That is not your testimony?

    LOVELL: That is not my testimony.

    CONNELLY: I thank you very much, general. 

  • Fox Goes Silent On Bundy After Racist Tirade

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Hannity BundyFox News' incessant promotion of Cliven Bundy abruptly ended after the Nevada rancher's racist rant was published in The New York Times.

    Bundy's public feud with the Bureau of Land Management over his refusal to pay grazing fees received extensive support from Fox News, which devoted nearly five hours of primetime coverage to the story, including numerous interviews with Bundy and his family. Sean Hannity provided him so much positive coverage, Bundy praised the Fox News host as a "hero." 

    That praise fell silent after Bundy used one of his daily press conferences to engage in an overtly racist tirade, claiming black people "abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton" and suggesting that they were better off under slavery. The day after Bundy's rant was published in The New York Times, Fox News' coverage of Bundy ended rapidly.

    By noon on April 24, Fox had mentioned the rancher only twice, and never covered his racist comments. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy drew a parallel between Bundy's standoff and the situation of two Texas landowners, and Fox's Andrew Napolitano told viewers to "forget the battle in Nevada" to focus on events in Texas instead.

    While Fox News did not cover Bundy's comments, Fox host Greta van Susteren spoke out on her blog, highlighting the Times' article and noting "Let me make this plain: I condemn what Cliven Bundy said about African Americans."

    UPDATED: Here's the video of Bundy's racist rant:

  • CNN's Keilar Cedes To Right-Wing Talking Points On Clinton Record

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    ClintonCNN's senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar tipped the scales in favor of the conservative meme that Hillary Clinton has "no major achievements to point to" as Secretary of State.

    In an April 22 post on CNN's Political Ticker blog, Keilar highlighted conservatives who are attempting to "fill the political vacuum with repeated criticism of her diplomatic record, which polls show is a positive with voters ahead of a potential 2016 White House run." Keilar noted that the effort to diminish Clinton's accomplishments was politically important to conservatives, and she's right. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, RNC chairman Reince Priebus strongly suggested that the GOP would focus on defining what Clinton has "done or hasn't done."

    Although she noted that Clinton allies had documented her accomplishments as secretary, Keilar concluded the post by largely rehashing the conservative spin, claiming Clinton is "without major achievements to point to":

    The group points to a list of 11 achievements on its website. It credits her with restoring America's leadership and standing in the world, building and maintaining a coalition to enact unprecedented sanctions against Iran, her role in a nuclear missile reduction treaty with Russia and her support for the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

    "And, yes, you can also find information on her implementation of (audit)-inspired reforms, including the integration of women into the secretary of state policy framework and ensuring our economic, energy, and environmental goals serve U.S. national security interests," senior adviser Burns Strider told CNN.

    But without major achievements to point to, like progress on Mideast peace, and U.S.-Russian relations at a post-Cold War low despite her attempt to reset them, arguments for her accomplishments are modest.

    Even Clinton herself has struggled to clearly articulate concrete examples of her success.

    "I really see my role as secretary, and, in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race," Clinton told an audience at a recent event in New York when she was asked about her triumphs in that job. "You run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton."

    By using her own voice to characterize Clinton's record as lacking in major achievements, Keilar is ceding the high ground to right-wing talking points at the expense of the assessment of foreign policy experts, who have praised Clinton for repairing the badly damaged relationship between the United States and the rest of the world that resulted from the presidency of George W. Bush. As foreign policy journalist Michael Hirsch noted in the National Journal:

    It is not that Clinton can't point to some notable and enduring achievements. Because of her worldwide popularity and tireless travel -- she set a new record for a secretary of state by visiting 112 countries -- Clinton helped undo the damage that the habitual unilateralism of the George W. Bush administration had done to the global image of the United States. As Clinton put it to me in a 2010 interview, "My big-picture commitment is to restore American leadership, and I think that's about as big a job as you can get. And everything I've done is in furtherance of that."

    Clinton's individual accomplishments have been recorded in various outlets despite their exclusion in Keilar's post. These include avoiding war in Gaza by negotiating a cease-fire, extensive diplomacy in Russia, imposing the toughest sanctions in Iran's history, restarting diplomatic relations with Myanmar, and advocacy for women's rights worldwide.

  • Attkisson Plows Forward With Evidence-Free "Media Bias" Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and continued to lob accusations of bias at her former employer while offering no evidence to substantiate her charges.

    Since leaving her former job as an investigative correspondent for CBS' Evening News, Attkisson has engaged in a media blitz notable for two goals: promoting her upcoming book and leveling substance-free accusations. In her appearance on Morning Joe on April 22, Attkisson continued this trend, suggesting that the lack of interest on the part of CBS News in pursuing some of her stories was due to political bias.

    When offered an opportunity by co-host Mika Brzezinski to substantiate her claims, however, Attkisson refused, saying: 

    ATTKISSON: I decided for many reasons not go into a lot of detail. I'll probably write about some of this in the book when I can think it out and word it carefully. But it was just, to me, a huge variety of stories, and I'm certainly not the only one complaining about that, and it's not the only network where correspondents think this sort of thing is going on.

    Attkisson's campaign of evidence-free accusations has been praised by the right, but has come under fire from media critics. Washington Post's Erik Wemple pointed out that both Attkisson's accusations of bias and her attacks on outlets such as Media Matters "rest on uncorroborated stuff":

    In any case, Attkisson's claims against CBS News rest on uncorroborated stuff, as do her claims against Media Matters, as do certain of her suggestions about intrusions into her computers (though she promises news on that front). The more media interviews she does, the more she thrusts this un-journalistic tendency into the public sphere for the inspection of prospective employers. And the more she all but compels CBS News to strike back at her ramblings.

    Invited to do just that today, CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair told the Erik Wemple Blog: "CBS News maintains the highest journalistic standards in what it chooses to put on the air. Those standards are applied without fear or favor."