In a disingenuous effort to deflect the firestorm that has engulfed him for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," Ted Nugent is dishonestly claiming that President Obama previously said the same thing.
Nugent's comments were criticized from politicians of both parties and the media after he appeared at two campaign rallies for Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott last week. The National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesman offered an insincere apology on February 21 for the racist remark, but two days later began demanding apologies of his own on Twitter after discovering that "Obama called blacks mongrels on the View." He will likely offer a similar argument when he appears on tonight's edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront.
But words in different contexts can have different connotations. Nugent's comments are in no way comparable to Obama's.
During a July 2010 discussion of race relations on The View, Obama was asked why he identifies as African-American rather than biracial given that his mother was white. Obama replied that because "the world saw me as African-American," he embraced that. He added that because many who identify as African-American have some white ancestry, "we are sort of a mongrel people." He concluded that he is "less interested in how we label ourselves, and more interested in how we treat each other."
BARBARA WALTERS: You do not describe yourself as a black president, but that's the way you are described. Your mother was white. Would it be helpful, or why don't you say "I'm not a black president, I'm biracial."
OBAMA: Well you know, when I was young, and going through the identity crises that any teenager goes through -- I wrote a whole book about this -- part of what I realized was that if the world saw me as African-American, then that wasn't something I needed to run away from, that's something that I could go ahead and embrace. And the interesting thing about the African-American experience in this country is that we are sort of a mongrel people. I mean, we're all kind of mixed up. That's actually true for white America as well, but we just know more about it. And so, I'm less interested in how we label ourselves, and more interested in how we treat each other. And if we're treating each other right, then I can be African-American, I can be multi-racial, I can be, you name it, what matters is, am I showing people respect, am I caring for other people, that's I think the message we want to send.
By contrast, during his January 2014 interview, Nugent attacked Obama as a "Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel" and an "ACORN community organizer gangster" who should be imprisoned for treason.
NUGENT: I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America. I am heartbroken but I am not giving up. I think America will be America again when Barack Obama, [Attorney General] Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, [Sen.] Dick Durbin, [former New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg and all of the liberal Democrats are in jail facing the just due punishment that their treasonous acts are clearly apparent.
So a lot of people would call that inflammatory speech. Well I would call it inflammatory speech when it's your job to protect Americans and you look into the television camera and say what difference does it make that I failed in my job to provide security and we have four dead Americans. What difference does that make? Not to a chimpanzee or Hillary Clinton, I guess it doesn't matter.
Anyone who claims that these comments are comparable only exposes themselves as either a liar or a fool.
In his first appearance after signing a new contract with Fox News, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown again suggested that he may run for Senate later this year, raising more questions about the journalistic ethics of Fox keeping him on the payroll.
In a February 20 appearance on Fox & Friends, Brown discussed several Senate races currently underway. Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck then asked him, "When are we going to see your name on one of these races in the future? Coming up? For Senate?" Brown replied, "I'm obviously taking things into consideration, I'm going to make some decisions and we'll see what happens."
For the past year, Brown has used his role at Fox News to keep himself in the spotlight in this fashion while he ponders a run for the Senate in New Hampshire. Brown has repeatedly stoked such speculation, relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan. Brown also made two appearances in Iowa last year and has a third planned for April, driving speculation that he may run for president in 2016.
Fox News has reportedly said Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." According to Politico media reporter Dylan Byers, until that step is taken, Brown will continue to "use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters." On February 19, Fox announced that they had signed Brown to a new contract, allowing him to retain that platform.
Fox has been a big booster for Brown, both during his successful 2010 Senate run and as he considers a 2016 race. During his February 20 appearance, Fox aired video of Brown singing with the band Cheap Trick at a recent concert and asked the former senator to comment.
Fox News will host discredited smear merchant Kathleen Willey tonight to attack Hillary Clinton. Willey is not credible -- she has repeatedly been caught contradicting her own sworn testimony and has pushed absurd conspiracies that the Clintons killed her husband and former White House aide Vince Foster.
The website for Fox's The Kelly File currently features the following tease for tonight's episode: "She claimed Bill Clinton sexually harassed her, but former aide Kathleen Willey now says Hillary is the bigger danger to women! Don't miss this explosive interview." Megyn Kelly's interview will likely cover the same ground as an appearance Willey made on WND reporter Aaron Klein's radio program, during which she claimed that "Hillary Clinton is the war on women."
Willey's claims about Bill Clinton's supposed harassment have been thoroughly discredited. In 1998, Willey alleged on CBS' 60 Minutes that President Clinton fondled her against her will in 1993 during a private White House meeting in which she asked for a paid position in the administration (she was working as a volunteer at the time). Clinton denied making any sexual advance toward Willey, both at the time and in his memoir. The allegations were explored during discovery of Jones v. Clinton, the lawsuit in which Paula Jones claimed that Clinton sexually harassed her, and reviewed by Independent Counsel Robert Ray.
Ray's report found that "Willey's Jones deposition testimony differed from her grand jury testimony on material aspects of the alleged incident," noting that Willey "said at her deposition ... that [Clinton] did not fondle her." Ray also pointed out that -- despite Willey's subsequent claims that she had been intimidated near her home shortly before giving her Jones deposition in 1998 -- in her Jones deposition, she "testified no one had tried to discourage her from testifying."
Ray also found that Willey contradicted herself on whether she had told others about the alleged incident; that Willey had sent repeated letters to Clinton after she claims he harassed her in which she "sought help or expressed gratitude"; that a Willey friend said Willey had instructed her to falsely support her story; and that Willey gave false information to the FBI. The Independent Counsel declined to prosecute Clinton due to "insufficient evidence."
Since her initial 60 Minutes interview, Willey has offered a series of implausible and conspiratorial claims about the Clintons' alleged efforts to silence her.
According to Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, the Democrats are doomed.
That's the takeaway from the 650-word piece Rubin published yesterday under the headline, "The Democrats' demise." According to Rubin, the "far right has fallen on hard times" while the Democratic Party "as a political force" is "spent" and "surviving precariously on the potential for wacky opponents and fading star power." By her telling, the time is ripe for "the mainstream Republican Party" -- ie, people Rubin supports -- to "reestablish itself as the responsible party of reform."
This is Jennifer Rubin's shtick -- her political allies are always on the rise, and her political enemies are always on the run (a week before the 2012 election Rubin wrote that it was "possible" that Obama could lose Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota). The fundamental flaw in her latest rosy assessment of the GOP's prospects - which she of course does not address -- is the overwhelming, near-historic unpopularity of the Republican Party.
CNN falsely reported that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of Michael Dunn for the killing of Jordan Davis, a black teenager.
While visiting a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012, Dunn fired ten shots into an SUV full of black teenagers after they refused to turn down the volume of their music. The shots killed Davis, who was unarmed. Dunn subsequently claimed that Davis threatened him, drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and reviving media attention on the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association and allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat in some circumstances.
On February 15, Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three for attempted second-degree murder on the other teens in the car, but the jury could not come to a decision on the first-degree murder charge tied to Davis' death. In their article on the verdict, CNN inaccurately reported that "stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn":
The incomplete finale to this emotional, hot-button trial -- partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black -- echoed George Zimmerman's trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.
In fact, "Stand Your Ground" is embedded in the Florida statute dealing with the "use of deadly force" in self-defense, and was specifically cited by Dunn's lawyer and noted in the judge's instructions to the jury. During closing arguments, Dunn's lawyer Cory Strolla explained, "His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in a public place where he had a legal right to be, a public parking lot asking for a common courtesy, saying thank you, trying to tell the guy I said thank you. He had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." Strolla later added of the law, "It's not because I wrote it. It's not cause I like it. We're not here to change it and we're not here to fight it. We're here to apply it."
CNN previously reported that "Stand Your Ground" played no role in the Zimmerman trial, even though the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force. A Zimmerman juror subsequently told CNN that they had found Zimmerman not guilty because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under "Stand Your Ground."
A right-wing website apparently cribbing from a conservative research group falsely claimed that a Democratic senator flip-flopped on President Obama's State of the Union in two interviews on the same night. In fact, the interviews in question took place a year apart.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) had told one local affiliate that he was "disappointed" in Obama's speech because it supposedly lacked specifics, then praised the speech for providing specifics in an interview with a different affiliate later that night. From their January 29 article:
Pryor told Arkansas' KFTA that he was "disappointed" at the lack of specifics in Obama's speech.
"Overall, I'm disappointed with the president's State of the Union address because he was heavy on rhetoric, but light on specifics about how we can move our country forward," said Pryor.
"I've always said that I'll work with the president when I think he's right, but oppose him when I think he's wrong," added Pryor.
Pryor later told THV11 that he was happy with the speech, pointing out that Obama tried to give specifics and to be bipartisan.
The Free Beacon has since appended their post with the following update apologizing for their error:
The original version of this post mistakenly said that both of the clips in the video above came from this year. They did not: Sen. Pryor was generally supportive of the president's 2013 State of the Union, but was critical of this year's address. What changed his tune? Rep. Tom Cotton's strong challenge to Pryor's incumbency may have played a role. Whatever the case, our original item was incorrect. We regret the error.
A video attached to the piece appears to have been updated to note that the interviews occurred during different years.
How did the Free Beacon make such a mistake? Weigel suggests they may have gotten the story from America Rising, a research group that supports conservatives, which had posted the same 2013 video clip that appeared in the Free Beacon video, similarly misidentified as occurring last night.
For their part, America Rising has issued no update or apology; they've simply pulled the clip.
This past weekend on Meet the Press, David Gregory offered up a tough question for Rudy Giuliani after the former New York City mayor tried to deflect attention from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's bridge scandal by pointing to the now-deflated allegations that the IRS had mishandled the non-profit applications of conservative groups. "I think it's fair to point out that for those who have raised that issue, what they said is the culture was created by President Obama for this kind of abuse to have occurred," said Gregory of the IRS story. "That link has never been proven or established. But if that's your standard, then isn't Governor Christie accountable for creating a culture where this kind of abuse could've occurred and been ordered by top lieutenants?"
As Gregory noted, conservatives spent months claiming that while no evidence links President Obama or the White House to improper IRS actions, the president was nonetheless culpable because the agency's bureaucrats agents were subconsciously responding to Obama's anti-Tea Party rhetoric by going after his political enemies. This "Bureaucrat Whispering" theory never made much sense, and was largely rendered moot after the IRS "scandal" largely fell apart.
As Gregory points out, intellectual honesty should lead the proponents of the IRS Bureaucrat Whispering theory to grapple with the possibility that Christie, whose pattern of bullying and abuse of power is well-known, created a culture in which his top aides and appointees felt comfortable creating a four-day traffic jam as a means of political retribution. But that hasn't happened.
In reality, responses to the Christie scandal from the advocates of the Bureaucrat Whispering theory include Fox News contributor Erick Erickson minimizing the bridge story as "routine hardball politics" and claiming that the "only difference is that Christie's staff put it in emails, which was not smart." Meanwhile, Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin has pretended Christie's bullying reputation is an invention of the media.
And then there's Kimberley Strassel.
The Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member wrote at least three separate columns last year explaining how the White House was "involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives" because President Obama's Tea Party criticisms created an "environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable." According to Strassel:
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
After spending thousands of words discussing how President Obama's speeches trickled-down to IRS bureaucrats and impelled their actions, here's Strassel's sole mention at the Journal of Christie's aides ordering political retribution, from her January 16 column: "And now back to our previously scheduled outrage over the Chris Christie administration's abuse of traffic cones on the George Washington Bridge."
The comment came, of course, in the middle of a piece otherwise dedicated to trumping up a new IRS scandal.
Strassel addressed the Christie story in greater detail on the Journal's weekly Fox News program. But when Journal editorial editor Paul Gigot asked her on January 12 whether the story demonstrates "a culture of payback," in Christie's administration, she blamed the inherent corrupt political environment of the state, not the state's governor.
GIGOT: But, Kim, are there any lessons here we can take away about Gov. Christie's management style? Is there really possibly a culture of payback, a thin-skinned attitude on his staff? "You cross us, we're going to go after you"? And is that a message you want to take to a campaign in 2016?
STRASSEL: Look, New Jersey is a rough place to play politics. One of the things we haven't mentioned here is: Does it really surprise anybody that this happened in New Jersey? And, yes, there probably are members of his staff that come out of that New Jersey political environment and do have that approach. I think what voters, however, are going to look at is his argument that he is a straight shooter and he handles problems when they come up. And that's what he tried to do this week. And that's the message he'll take when he goes out.
Strassel isn't the only conservative running from the Bureaucrat Whispering charge now that it risks damaging one of their own. "That's a very, very ambiguous and amorphous charge that the culture created it. My goodness, you know, things go wrong in every administration," Giuliani explained on Meet The Press. "People would do things. They thought I wanted it. I didn't. I had to straighten it out. I'd have to say, 'I don't want it.'"
Fox's Sunday morning political talk show cherry-picked information from recently-released House hearing transcripts and a Senate report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to falsely suggest that the Obama administration's explanation of events was deliberately intended to mislead the American people.
A bipartisan Senate report released this week concludes that the intelligence community was behind the Obama administration's suggestion that the 2012 Benghazi attacks grew out of a protest against an anti-Islam video. The revelation is yet another devastating blow to Fox News' efforts to scandalize the administration's focus on the video. But instead of reporting on that conclusion, Fox News instead spent last night reporting that they "were told" that President Obama and his closest advisers held a meeting the night of the attack and issued "marching orders" for the "video explanation."
For more than a year, Fox News has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that linked the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to the video. Those talking points were used by then-U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in a series of highly-criticized September 15, 2012, interviews on the broadcast Sunday shows. Fox has suggested that the talking points were part of an elaborate plot to conceal the reality of the attacks as part of a scheme to protect President Obama's re-election effort. The network has continued to push this conspiracy long after the revelation that the initial draft of the talking points -- which was generated by the CIA -- promoted the video connection, and emails indicated that then-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus was disappointed that the final draft didn't do enough to link the two.
On January 15, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the results of its investigation into the attacks. Notably, the committee's report indicated that the intelligence community (IC) received and disseminated an account in the immediate aftermath of the assault that there had been protests against the anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility prior to the attack, based largely on press accounts that made that claim.
According to the report, it took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments. Closed circuit television feed from the facility showing that there had been no protest was not reviewed until September 18, 2012 -- three days after Rice's interviews -- and the FBI did not disseminate its interviews with eyewitnesses until two days later (recent reporting has indicated that while there was no protest, the attackers were fueled by anger at the video). According to the report:
As a result of evidence from closed circuit videos and other reports, the IC changed its assessment about a protest in classified intelligence reports on September 24, 2012, to state there were no demonstrations or protests at the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks. This slow change in the official assessment affected the public statements of government officials, who continued to state in press interviews that there were protests outside the Mission compound.
While Fox News heavily covered the Senate report -- which the network claimed was a "bombshell" damaging to the Obama administration -- it did not mention the CIA revelations during its January 15 programs, according to a review of the Nexis database.
Instead, during On the Record with Greta van Susteren, chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that the network has "had information" and "were told" that during a meeting at the White House between President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the "marching orders were laid out for the video explanation."
It's unclear who "told" Fox News of the contents of the meeting. In nearly-identical reports on Fox's Special Report and The Kelly File, Herridge claimed only that that the administration is "block[ing] access to witnesses and documents that should explain whether" the meeting "on the day of the assault" was about those purported "marching orders," and quoted Sen. Saxby Chambliss' (R-GA) assertion that he had sought information about that meeting but was rebuffed.
At no point in the three segments did Fox point to any actual evidence from Chambliss or elsewhere that this meeting dealt with the so-called "marching orders." Instead of discussing the Senate report revelations that demolish their conspiracy, they are running with baseless speculation to keep the "scandal" going.
In 2008, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman -- channeling progressive bloggers including Media Matters fellow Duncan Black -- described the "Clinton rules," in which "pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent." Pointing to press coverage of Whitewater and a distorted comment from then-presidential contender Hillary Clinton as examples, he warned that this pattern threatens to "distract voters from the issues."
To some extent, the Clinton Rules waned as Hillary Clinton entered the Obama administration and rose to new heights of popularity. But as a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign looms, a revival of those rules can be seen in the uproar over "Hillary's Hit List," an excerpt from a forthcoming book on Hillary Clinton by Politico's Jonathan Allen and The Hill's Amie Parnes that both publications published January 12.
The excerpt reveals that shortly after Clinton dropped out of the 2008 presidential race, two longtime campaign aides assembled a detailed, ranked list of "who had endorsed Hillary, who backed Barack Obama, and who stayed on the sidelines."
Allen and Parnes seem torn between trying to grab attention and acknowledging that this behavior is absolutely commonplace in politics. The story's lede describes a "political hit list" -- language that suggests the Excel spreadsheet was somehow unusual -- and uses highly-charged words like "treacherous," "betrayal," and "traitor" to describe listees who had opposed Clinton.
But the reporters also note that the list's creation was "standard operating procedure for any high-end political organization" and "a necessity of modern political warfare." In the penultimate paragraph, they write:
It would be political malpractice for the Clintons not to keep track of their friends and enemies. Politicians do that everywhere. The difference is the Clintons, because of their popularity and the positions they've held, retain more power to reward and punish than anyone else in modern politics. And while their aides have long and detailed memories, the sheer volume of the political figures they interact with makes a cheat sheet indispensable.
In other words, every politician has such a list, but the Clintons' list is longer and more detailed because they've dealt with more people over lengthy careers in politics at its highest level.
Notably, as even Fox News' Howard Kurtz has noted, in 2,600 words on this alleged "hit list," there is no mention of even a single instance of retribution from the Clintons against anyone on the list. Indeed, according to a Kurtz source, the document was created to ensure the Clintons could reward those who had helped them, not punish those who hadn't.
These facts haven't prevented a media firestorm over the article. While some reporters have pointed out that Allen and Parnes have uncovered an unsurprising political exercise, others were quick to portray it as a significant development that gets to the supposedly vengeful character of Hillary Clinton.