Since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, media have scandalized the administration's negotiations with the Taliban, conducted through a third-party, despite the fact that foreign policy experts and military leaders have long acknowledged the necessity of such negotiations.
CNN's Chris Cuomo missed a prime opportunity to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on his inconsistency regarding support for a prisoner swap with the Taliban in exchange for the release of a captive American solider.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban that secured the release of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On the June 3 edition of CNN's New Day, Sen. McCain railed against the exchange as "incomprehensible," arguing that it allows the Taliban "to pick the dream team" who will end up "back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger." Host Chris Cuomo noted that the exchange had "been in the works for years," prompting McCain to double-down on his argument that the exchange was inappropriate:
MCCAIN: The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release, and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers, brutal killers, who are, by the way, are also wanted by the international criminal court for their incredible brutality, and the fact that within a very short time, if the past proves true, they'll be back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future. And that's what most of us find incomprehensible, that the Taliban should be allowed to pick the 'dream team,' as my friend Lindsey Graham called it, and send them to Qatar, and obviously, they will be back in the fight. Thirty percent of those who have already been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight, and this is the top. These are the people that have blood of thousands on their hands, at least in one case. And so you have to understand what was done in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl.
CUOMO: The issue of surprise and shock comes up here, Senator. This deal has been in the works for years. The president says he consulted with Congress about this potential trade. Were you consulted with?
MCCAIN: No, and I've talked to members of the intelligence committee, Congressman Rogers, Senator Chambliss. We were at the meeting where they were talking about releasing some Taliban as confidence measures to move negotiations forward, as long as two years ago. There was never discussion that any of us know about this straight-up and all of the aspects of this trade for Sergeant Bergdahl. And that's just a fact.
CUOMO: On whose side, Senator? Is the president hiding the ball of what types of Taliban guys were involved? Or is your side hiding the ball that you knew but you didn't know everything, so you're going to say that you knew nothing?
MCCAIN: Well, we were never told there would be an exchange here of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, "confidence building measures" so that negotiations could continue. What we were briefed on was an entirely different scenario from the one that took place. Look, I'm not one who believes that Congress should bind the hands of the president particularly as commander-in-chief. That's not my problem. My problem is, what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American servicemen and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine. But they've not, and they're not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says.
National Review Online capitalized on a historic event in the transgender community to attack transgender people as "delusional" with "subjective impressions" about gender identity.
This week actress Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine, which in its June 9 edition offers a profile of Cox as well an inside look at the transgender movement and discrimination faced by transgender people.
To National Review's Kevin Williamson, the cover story was an opportunity to attack Laverne Cox and the transgender community. According to Williamson, she "is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman," because transgender identity is a "delusional tendency":
Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.
The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one's life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.
The mass delusion that we are inculcating on the question of transgendered people is a different sort of matter, to the extent that it would impose on society at large an obligation -- possibly a legal obligation under civil-rights law, one that already is emerging -- to treat delusion as fact, or at the very least to agree to make subjective impressions superordinate to biological fact in matters both public and private.
In light of the Obama administration's mistake in releasing to the press the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, right-wing media have rushed to create a false equivalence to the Bush administration's deliberate exposure of then-covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
A Fox News correspondent maligned Hillary Clinton for the State Department's alleged refusal to identify Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. In reality, during Mrs. Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, the State Department identified three of the group's leaders as foreign terrorists and noted that they were connected to al Qaeda.
On Wednesday, the United States deployed 80 members of its armed forces to Chad to aid in the search for the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin jumped off this new development on the May 22 edition of Special Report, falsely claiming that the State Department "resisted" listing Boko Haram as "an Al Qaeda linked group" until November 2013 and implied that this characterization could have prevented the kidnapping:
A long-time supporter of Dinesh D'Souza, Megyn Kelly hosted the right-wing media darling after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud to resuscitate the myth that his indictment was political payback.
D'Souza, who rose to right-wing media darling status after producing an anti-Barack Obama film rife with lies and outlandish claims, was indicted by federal prosecutors in January, charged with violating campaign finance laws by "arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," and allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate.
After D'Souza's initial indictment, Fox host Megyn Kelly provided D'Souza a platform to push the myth that his indictment was political retribution. Kelly said the charges raised "red flags for some because D'Souza, who has pleaded not guilty, is behind the box office hit 2016: Obama's America, a film that is very critical of the president." D'Souza responded that he couldn't speak about the case specifically, but that he knows "for a fact" that Obama was personally unnerved by his film and said, "I am a public critic of the president, and I do recognize this has made me, to some degree, vulnerable to some forms of counter-attack."
Then, on May 20 D'Souza pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and making false statements, and will be sentenced in September, facing up to two years in prison.
And still, Megyn Kelly continued to champion D'Souza, hosting him that evening to keep alive the myth that D'Souza's indictment was political retribution. Kelly asked D'Souza whether his guilty plea was what the Obama administration "wanted all along," and highlighted people who claimed that the prosecution was political, asking "is this about Dinesh D'Souza or is this about upholding campaign finance laws?" During the interview, Kelly again hid the fact that Fox News had aggressively pushed the myth that D'Souza's indictment was political payback for his criticism of Obama:
The Five exploited Attorney General Eric Holder's recent commencement speech addressing the nation's ongoing problems with racial discrimination in order to question whether such discrimination exists at all.
Eric Holder delivered a commencement address on May 17 at Morgan State University, commemorating in part the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled that state-mandated racial segregation of schools violated the U.S. Constitution. Holder highlighted ongoing problems in racial discrimination, such as the fact that "African-American men have received sentences that are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes," and called on graduates to "take account of racial inequality, especially in its less obvious forms, and actively discuss ways to combat it."
On the May 19 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-hosts jumped off of Attorney General Holder's recent commencement speech to question the existence of racial discrimination in America, even going as far as questioning the validity of studies showing blacks are incarcerated more often and given longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.
Guest host Jesse Watters, a correspondent for The O'Reilly Factor -- a program with infamous coverage of racial issues -- took issue with Holder's discussion of discrimination in school discipline, wondering "is it drugs" at home that cause black students to act out more than white students and face suspension from zero tolerance disciplinary policies in schools:
WATTERS: Two things that you and Eric Holder said. I think he said that zero tolerance disciplinary policies affect black males more in school? Why is that? OK? Do they misbehave more than white students?
WATTERS: OK, then why is that? His solution is to lower the standards to accommodate the misbehaving black male students. What's the other solution? Maybe address the root cause of the misbehavior. Is it something going on at home? Is it drugs? What's the problem? He wants to lower standards. We want to bring other people up.
Watters went on to question whether racial discrimination truly contributes to higher incarceration rates for black Americans, arguing that the number of "prior convictions" is responsible for the more frequent incarceration of black Americans and longer sentences:
WATTERS: The other thing that you said and Eric Holder said is that blacks are incarcerated at 20 times more rate for the same crimes as whites. You know what that study doesn't account for? It doesn't account for priors. So if someone has three prior convictions for slanging crack, and a white guy does it and a black guy does it, the black guy with the three priors is going to go away for a longer time.
BECKEL: You believe that blacks are put into prison at a higher rate than whites because they're -- not because of the color of the skin?
WATTERS: No, I'm taking issue with the study, Bob.
Host Kimberly Guilfoyle agreed, stating that "blanket statements" like the facts on incarceration rates for blacks and whites are "dangerous" and "reckless":
Fox's "Fox Facts" on the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status get the facts exactly wrong.
Judicial Watch released a batch of IRS email correspondence under a Freedom Of Information Act request on May 14. The emails include a chain of correspondence between the Cincinnati IRS office and the Washington, D.C. based office dating back to February 2010, when a Cincinnati IRS employee first flagged a Tea Party group seeking tax-exempt status for further review. The full email chain shows that the Washington, D.C. office's involvement was all in response to the initial inquiry from Cincinnati.
Yet right-wing media latched onto a midsection of the email chain, from July 2010, to push the conspiracy theory that Washington directed inappropriate targeting of conservative groups.
The falsehood made its way onto the May 16 edition of Fox News'America's Newsroom in an on-screen graphic presented as "Fox Facts." The on-screen "Fox Facts" falsely claimed that the emails newly revealed by Judicial Watch prove that the targeting of conservative groups stemmed from Washington, D.C. rather than Cincinnati:
As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank pointed out on May 13, right-wing media have been quick to falsely tie Hillary Clinton to the kidnapping of over 234 young school girls by an extremist group known as Boko Haram, which The New York Times described as a "cultlike Nigerian group" known for "senseless cruelty and capricious violence against civilians."
Milbank noted that the "nascent effort to pin blame for Boko Haram on Clinton ... shows how a scandal is born" -- highlighting the fact that while the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian school girls "has little to do with the United States," right-wing media have seized the opportunity to search "for ways to blame the kidnappings on the favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination." And "inevitably the accusations landed on the House floor," parroted by Republican congressmen.
The smear kicked off with a Daily Beast article that relied on an anonymous official criticizing the former Secretary of State for previously turning down requests to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization, implying that such a designation could have prevented the kidnapping.
Jumping to Fox News, host Steve Doocy argued that if Clinton had designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization, it could have "saved these girls earlier," while anchor Megyn Kelly pushed the notion that Clinton had tried to appease Boko Haram.
Conservative congressmen picked up the baton, reportedly arguing on the House floor that Clinton "protected" Boko Haram.
But as Media Matters has explained, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first to blacklist top Boko Haram leaders, as the State Department identified three Boko Haram leaders as "foreign terrorists" in June 2012.
According to Reuters, the group's leaders were identified as terrorists rather than the group itself so as not to "elevate the group's profile," and academic experts on Africa agreed that such a group designation could embolden the terrorist group.
To use Milbanks' words, it's the "textbook example of the anatomy of a smear."
As the Obama administration prioritizes efforts to curb sexual violence on college campuses, National Review Online responded by spending the week victim-blaming and dismissing the epidemic of sexual assault.