Politico published inaccurate information about emails between Hillary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal provided to the outlet by an anonymous source who distorted the emails' contents with the intention of damaging the former secretary of state, according to Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The Republican-led committee was formed more than a year ago with the mandate to investigate the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya -- attacks which had already been subject to investigations by the State Department and numerous House and Senate committees. Critics have argued that the committee's actions since its formation demonstrate a "singular focus on attacking Hillary Clinton and her bid for president."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the Committee, writes in a July 6 letter that "a Member of the Committee, a staffer on the Committee, or someone who has been given access to the Committee's documents inaccurately described to the press email exchanges obtained by the Committee in a way that appeared to further a political attack against" Clinton. Cummings describes this as "only the latest in a reckless pattern of selective Republican leaks and mischaracterizations of evidence relating to the Benghazi attacks."
Cummings' letter specifically details inaccuracies in a June 18 Politico story that relied on "a source who has reviewed the email exchange" between Clinton and Blumenthal, a Media Matters consultant and former Clinton White House aide. In its original version, the story claimed:
While still secretary of state, Clinton emailed back and forth with Blumenthal about efforts by one of the groups, Media Matters, to neutralize criticism of her handling of the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sources tell POLITICO.
"Got all this done. Complete refutation on Libya smear," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton in an Oct. 10, 2012, email into which he had pasted links to four Media Matters posts criticizing Fox News and Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi attacks and challenging claims of lax security around the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, according to a source who has reviewed the email exchange. Blumenthal signed off the email to Clinton by suggesting that one of her top aides, Philippe Reines, "can circulate these links," according to the source. Clinton responded: "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH," according to the source.
The emails were not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department.
Cummings notes that Clinton's email reading "Thanks, I'm pushing to WH" came not in response to Blumenthal's email with the Media Matters links, as Politico indicated, but rather in response to a "completely different" Blumenthal email from nine days earlier "forwarding an article from Salon.com reporting that Republicans were planning to claim inaccurately during the presidential debates that the White House had advance knowledge about the Benghazi attacks and failed to act on it."
The day after publication, Politico updated its story with a correction noting that "A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a Clinton email as a response to the Blumenthal email." As MSNBC.com's Steve Benen notes, "Politico obviously didn't make this up; it relied on a source that provided misleading information, apparently with a specific partisan agenda in mind."
Politico was also wrong to report that Clinton's email was "not included in documents originally turned over by the State Department," according to Cummings. He explained that "that email was turned over to the Select Committee by the State Department on February 13, 2015, marked with Bates number STATE-SCB0045548-SCB0045550. The Select Committee has had that email for four months."
As both Cummings and Benen point out, this is not the first time reporters have fallen from deceptive Benghazi leaks that appear to come from Republican sources. Reporters who relied on sources' characterizations of Benghazi-related documents rather than reviewing them directly have previously had to issue embarrassing corrections.
Right-wing media are seizing on a New York Times report that misleadingly stated that Paul Begala sought "talking points" from the State Department before a CNN appearance to discuss Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state to attack the CNN contributor as biased. But in the email in question, Begala actually requested a "briefing," not talking points.
Fox News has reduced President Obama's recent comments about the complex role of race in America to the question of whether or not it was appropriate for him to use the word "nigger" during that discussion, with one network contributor claiming this indicated Obama is the "rapper in chief."
Obama discussed the history of racism in America during an interview with the comedian Marc Maron for his WTF podcast, saying:
OBAMA: The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives -- that casts a long shadow, and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on. We're not cured of it.
OBAMA: Racism. We are not cured of --
OBAMA: And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't overnight completely erase everything that happened two to 300 years prior.
Much of the media have highlighted Obama's use of "the n-word" in their reports on his comments. But Fox in particular has focused its discussion of the interview almost solely on the propriety of his use of the word.
During a segment on America's Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer asked if Obama's use of the word was "too blunt" and asked if it was "necessary." Contributor Deneen Borelli said Obama had "lowered the stature" of his office with his "insane, crazy comment" and termed him the "rapper in chief."
HEMMER: Touchy, touchy, touchy deal here. Was it necessary?
BORELLI: We're talking about the president of the United States using the "n-word," Bill. He has really dragged in the gutter speak of rap music. So now he is the first president of rap, of street? Come on, he has lowered the stature of the high office of the president of the United States and the question is why did he do this? ...
You see all of the people coming together in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, black, white and otherwise, coming together, praying, supporting each other. And here you have the president make this insane, crazy comment of using the "n-word" to really distract. This is all a distraction, grand distraction to take away from the people uniting and then the president in chief, the rapper in chief, now further dividing our country. I find it outrageous.
Hemmer later declared, "As a white American, my entire life I know that that is an electric word and you stay away from it," adding, "this is something that we thought was entirely off limits and now you have the president using it."
Fox & Friends also fixated on Obama's language, with co-host Steve Doocy saying that "today people are going to be talking, Bret, about whether or not it is appropriate for the president to use the 'n-word' and whether or not it is beneath the dignity of his office."
Rupert Murdoch described as "almost fascist" Hillary Clinton's remarks in support of anti-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans during her campaign launch speech.
Murdoch falsely claimed during a stream of tweets referencing her June 13 speech that Clinton had "promise[d to] outlaw free speech about LGBT," adding, "Sounds almost fascist."
HillaryNo Promises outlaw free speech about LGBT. What next? Sounds almost fascist.-- Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) June 14, 2015
It's unclear to what Murdoch was referring. During her speech, Clinton stated that "we should ban discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families so they can live, learn, marry, and work just like everybody else." Earlier, she recognized "[b]usiness leaders who want higher pay for employees, equal pay for women and no discrimination against the LGBT community either."
In recent months, Clinton has urged the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality and condemned proposed so-called "religious freedom" legislation in Arkansas and Indiana on the grounds that they provide a legal defense "beyond protecting religion" for business owners who discriminate against LGBT people.
In a 2011 speech as Secretary of State, she stated that "gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights."
Murdoch recently announced that he would step down as CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox, ceding the title to his son, James. He will remain executive chairman of the company, as well as chairman of News Corp., parent company of The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, among other media properties.
An ABCNews.com article prominently highlighted Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) criticisms of the State Department for providing "heavily redacted" documents related to the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya to the congressional committee investigating the attack. But as the article itself makes clear, congressional investigators were provided an unredacted version of the very document in question.
The article, headlined, "Blanket Redactions to Hillary Clinton's Benghazi Records 'Typical,' Issa Says" begins by highlighting the attack from the former chairman of the House Oversight Committee: "Rep. Darrell Issa ripped the State Department on Twitter today for heavily redacted records related to Hillary Clinton's involvement in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks."
But in the very next paragraph, the article establishes that Issa's attack was completely misleading, reporting:
However, though Issa suggested the redacted document was sent to the Benghazi Select Committee, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding the attack, the committee actually received an unredacted version, according to committee aides. The heavily redacted version Issa tweeted was actually the one publicly posted on the State Department website as part of its release of Clinton's emails as secretary of state last month.
ABC News' article demonstrates a type of misinformation Media Matters has termed "privileging the lie." ABC News is legitimizing Issa's claim by headlining and beginning the article with an allegation its own reporting shows to be false. But rather than make that falsehood the focus of the story, the report is framed around Issa's allegations.
According to The Washington Post, such framing distinctions are crucial because social science research shows that, "once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it."
For this reason, former Media Matters senior fellow Jamison Foser has written, "If Candidate A lies about Candidate B, for example, the fact that Candidate A is lying should be the lede - otherwise the news report just drills the false claim into readers' and viewers' minds, allowing the misinformation to take hold before it is corrected."
In this case, however, ABC News privileged the lie, leaving its readers the worse off.
A front-page Wall Street Journal report suggested that a top political appointee in Hillary Clinton's State Department improperly "blocked" documents sought under public records law. But even the article's anonymous sources don't support that allegation.
While career officials are supposed to make the final decisions on the release of documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it is normal for political appointees to play a role in the process. As explained in a 2011 Inspector General report issued as part of an investigation into the role political appointees played in the FOIA processes of the Department of Homeland Security, both political and career officials "should undoubtedly ask questions and offer suggestions while a course of action is under consideration. This is the 'deliberative process' in which government employees must engage in order to make reasoned decisions. "The report noted that it is "appropriate that there be internal debate among DHS employees about DHS programs, and FOIA processing is no exception."
Echoing this understanding of how the FOIA process works, the Journal includes a State Department spokesman's comment that it is "entirely appropriate for certain Department personnel" to be consulted regarding FOIA requests, and a Clinton spokesman's statement that the focus of the article, former State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills, "did not inappropriately interfere with the FOIA process."
Fox News' special based on discredited conservative journalist Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash dishonestly promoted several of the author's speculative attacks on Hillary Clinton.
In the April 24 special, The Tangled Clinton Web, host Bret Baier gave Schweizer a platform to discuss a series of stories that fail to connect the dots between donations to the Clinton Foundation, speaking fees earned by former President Bill Clinton, and policies supported by the State Department during Secretary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration.
Schweizer is a Republican activist whose previous reporting has been marked by false claims and retractions.
Journalists who have reviewed Schweizer's Clinton book have noted that his reporting lacks a "smoking gun" to back up his suggestions of impropriety. Reporters have also pointed to several errors in his book. But host Bret Baier warned at the conclusion of the program that the claims could lead "people" to "worry that another Clinton administration could mean influence peddling on a scale never before imagined."
Schweizer and Baier tried to connect the decision by Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson to pay Bill Clinton for a speech in November 2011 with the exclusion of the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran, which does business with Ericsson.
From the special:
SCHWEIZER: Beginning in 2009, the Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is coming under pressure in the United States, because it's selling telecom equipment to oppressive governments around the world. In the midst of all of this, they decide to pay Bill Clinton to give a speech for the first time ever. They pay him a whopping $750,000.
BAIER: Soon after, Hillary Clinton's State Department urged new, broader sanctions against Iran, but the guidelines did not include telecom, which is Ericsson's business.
In fact, the Iran sanctions in question actually took the form of executive actions from President Obama, and not State Department initiatives.
Baier and Schweizer provided no evidence that telecommunications were excluded from the sanctions as a result of the speech. In fact, the sanctions in question specifically targeted Iran's energy sector. As CNN reported at the time, "The U.S. government tightened restrictions on companies that provide Iran with equipment and expertise necessary to run its vast oil and chemical industry."
When Yahoo News reviewed the chapter of Clinton Cash featuring this allegation, they noted that there was "no smoking gun" connecting the speech and the sanctions. Yahoo News further noted that a Clinton aide pointed out that telecommunications manufacturers like Ericsson have not been added to the sanctions since Clinton left the State Department, casting doubt on the suggestion of a connection between the 2011 Bill Clinton speech and U.S. sanctions policy.
Schweizer and Baier baselessly suggest that a donation to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi caused the State Department to certify Ethiopia's human rights record, allowing them to receive U.S. aid.
Schweizer reports that Al-Amoudi's 2009 donation was highlighted at the time by "Ethiopian groups in the west, because they are very concerned about the repressive government in Ethiopia and the fact that Sheikh Al-Amoudi has a large business empire in Ethiopia." He goes on to connect these concerns to the fact that "when Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, one of the things that she needs to do is certify Ethiopia on human rights, but Hillary Clinton granted them a waiver which allowed them to continue U.S. assistance even though that they weren't complying with U.S. law."
But contrary to the special's suggestion that Ethiopia was allowed access to U.S. assistance directly because of this Clinton Foundation donation, that access predated and continued after Clinton left the State Department. In fact, the document Fox showed on-screen in support of their claim actually postdates her tenure.
As evidence of their theory, Fox aired an image of a Department of State Public Notice 8553, titled "Waiver of Restriction on Assistance to the Central Government of Ethiopia":
That waiver, signed by then-Deputy Secretary William J. Burns, is actually dated July 10, 2013 -- months after Clinton left office. It appears in the December 18, 2013, edition of the Federal Register, which also reports that identical waivers were granted to the governments of 11 other African nations.
Such aid is not a new phenomenon. The State Department's Agency for International Development has provided economic assistance to Ethiopia for decades, including throughout the Bush administration.
Baier and Schweizer baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor.
During the segment, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One, chaired by a Clinton Foundation donor, to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
NBC News has noted in discussing a similar story by The New York Times that this implication "doesn't hold up that well." Indeed, as Media Matters has noted:
Journalists have suggested that conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book attacking Hillary Clinton is more credible because he will follow it up with a similar book examining Jeb Bush. But according to his publisher, no such book is in the works: Schweizer's reporting on Bush will be published on the website of his non-profit organization.
Over the past few days numerous media outlets have begun reporting on allegations Schweizer makes in his forthcoming book Clinton Cash about allegedly unethical ties between the Clinton Foundation and actions Hillary Clinton purportedly made as secretary of state. Critics -- including Media Matters -- have noted that Schweizer is a Republican activist and strategist with a history of reporting errors.
Pushing back against this narrative, Bloomberg Politics reported on April 23 that in contrast to the "left-wing clamor that Schweizer is simply out to get Hillary Clinton," "Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush's finances that he expects to publish this summer."
Picking up the story, Politico reported that Schweizer "is reportedly working on another book that he expects to release in the summer. Only this time, he'll be writing about Jeb Bush." CNN likewise reported that the "book on Bush... would be published this summer."
But HarperCollins, the publisher of Clinton Cash, denies that any such book is in the works.
A spokesperson for the publisher told Media Matters that the forthcoming work is "not a book" but rather a "report of the Government Accountability Institute," where Schweizer is president.
"We have nothing to do with it," she added.
Schweizer and GAI did not respond to requests for comment.
The New York Times is urging the Clinton Foundation to reinstitute a ban that never existed on accepting donations from foreign governments.
The Times editorial board wrote on April 23 that now that Hillary Clinton is running for president, the international nonprofit "needs to reinstate the ban on donations from foreign governments for the rest of her campaign -- the same prohibition that was in place when she was in the Obama administration." Likewise, an April 23 Times news article stated that the Foundation recently "limited donations from foreign governments," but that the new policy "stops short of Mrs. Clinton's agreement with the Obama administration, which prohibited all foreign government donations while she served as the nation's top diplomat."
In fact, the 2008 memorandum of understanding entered into by the Clinton Foundation and then-President-Elect Barack Obama did not ban foreign government donations. Instead, it stated that if Hillary Clinton were confirmed as secretary of state, the Foundation would "continue to perform" its activities "on behalf of existing foreign country contributors and in fulfillment of existing and on-going commitments."
The Clinton Foundation's board agreed earlier this month to return to a similar policy given Clinton's run for president. They will "permit donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K. -- countries that support or have supported Clinton Foundation programs on health, poverty and climate change," according to the Wall Street Journal.
A New York Times report suggested that the State Department's official reply to a congressional inquiry into personal email use by government employees showed malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and her former department. But according to documents obtained by Media Matters, other federal agencies responded in a similar manner, undermining the Times' report.
This additional context shows that rather than revealing a case of wrongdoing by Clinton, the Times has discovered that Cabinet agencies don't always respond to congressional inquiries quickly and in full.
The Times reported in an April 14 article that Clinton "was directly asked" in a December 13, 2012, letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa "whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state" but that "Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response." According to the Times, State provided only a "description of the department's email policies" rather than a direct response to Issa's question.
Clinton was not the only one to receive such a letter. As the Times article notes, similar letters were sent to "other executive agencies" as part of a broad Oversight inquiry into the use of private email by government employees. The Hill embedded the letter, which includes a note indicating that it was sent out to 18 Cabinet secretaries on the same date.
The letter requested answers to eight specific questions, including "Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal e-mail account to conduct official business?"
But in suggesting that Clinton had failed to respond promptly and with sufficient depth, the Times gave no indication it had attempted to compare State's response to those of the other agencies who also received the letter, to determine if State's response was actually unusual. The Times article, published two days after Clinton announced a presidential run, instead was based solely on a copy of Issa's letter and the State response that were obtained from "a congressional official."
Media Matters has obtained the responses from two other agencies: the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Both letters to Issa provide a description of department policies rather than direct responses to the congressional inquiry, and one was sent a month later than State's.
The Labor Department responded to Issa's letter on April 26, 2013. The congressional inquiry had been sent to then-Secretary Hilda Solis, who stepped down before Labor responded, just as Clinton had stepped down as Secretary of State between State's receipt of and response to Issa's letter.
In his response, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Brian Kennedy did not directly address Issa's inquiry about whether Solis had used personal email, instead stating that the Department "takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that DOL officials and employees are educated on and comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations governing official communications and document management policies" and providing a general overview of Department policies, specifically on social media.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development responded to Issa's inquiry on January 11, 2013. Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations Peter A. Kovar wrote that the "forwarding of HUD email by HUD employees to their personal email account is permitted only in narrow circumstances," but noted that "originators" of emails on any system are "responsible for determining the record value of any transmission." HUD did not directly address Issa's inquiry into whether former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan had ever used a personal email account to conduct government business.
The New York Times was previously forced to walk back their sloppy reporting on Clinton's personal email account and began to quietly reverse course on their stance on the matter after the publication's public editor conceded the original story "was not without fault" and "should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated." Despite the initial report's suggestion that Clinton violated federal record keeping rules, the Times' key source later clarified that Clinton in fact did not "violate" the law. Others in the media have consequently retracted their own baseless claims made in the rush to scandalize Clinton's emails.