A new book that seeks to damage Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi reportedly relies on long-debunked conservative myths.
On September 9, WND Books will publish Aaron Klein's The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don't Want You to Know. The book's release is the latest salvo from a conservative cottage industry that aims to make money and political hay out of both Benghazi and Clinton smears.
Klein, a senior reporter for the birther site WND, is not a credible author -- one of his recent books portrayed President Obama as a "Manchurian Candidate" whose autobiography was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard, who reviewed an advance copy of Klein's Benghazi book, reported that Klein argues "Clinton was unwilling to provide additional security to the diplomatic outpost and even played a role in sending Stevens to his 'doomed mission.'"
Klein's contention that Clinton "was unwilling to provide additional security to the diplomatic outpost" seems to reference the long-debunked conservative claim that the then-Secretary of State personally signed off on cables rejecting requests for additional security. When congressional Republicans first made that claim in April 2013, diplomatic reporters noted that every cable sent to the State Department from overseas facilities is addressed to the secretary, and every cable sent from the State Department is signed by the secretary, even though the secretary rarely reviews them.
In her 2014 memoir, Clinton wrote that she had never seen the cables in question, stating, "That's not how it works. It shouldn't. And it didn't."
Klein's claim that Clinton "played a role in sending Stevens" to his death in Benghazi has also been debunked. The State Department's Accountability Review Board reported that Stevens "made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice," with the trip's timing "driven in part by commitments in Tripoli." Gregory Hicks, who was Stevens' deputy, also testified before Congress that the ambassador "chose to go" to Benghazi.
The hosts of Fox & Friends roundly endorsed a Texas school district that allows teachers to carry guns, even though security experts reject the idea of armed teachers and civilians with concealed guns have not stopped past mass shooting incidents.
During segments on August 27 and September 2, Fox & Friends hyped plans by the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) to arm teachers this school year. Media reporting on the school district's plans have focused on a sign outside of an Argyle school that reads, "ATTENTION: Please Be Aware That The Staff At Argyle ISD Are Armed And May Use Whatever Force Is Necessary To Protect Our Students."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers, "Don't mess with this school in Texas, they're armed, they're ready, and letting everyone know about it," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck described the sign as a "great warning there that is meant to protect the kids." While advancing the common but false right-wing media claim that mass shooters target places where guns are not allowed, Kilmeade later added, "If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected."
Fox & Friends proceeded to host Greg Coker, who provides weapons training for schools, to tout armed teachers. What Fox neglected to include in the segment, however, is that Coker actually has a business relationship with Argyle ISD and was responsible for arming their teachers through his "Not On My Watch" program.
According to a document posted on the Argyle ISD website, Coker charges $1,500 per teacher for a 30-hour training course that involves firing 900 rounds of ammunition. (The National Rifle Association, which endorsed armed teachers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, recommends that teachers receive between 60 and 80 hours of training before carrying a gun in school.)
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who has a financial relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, is using his Washington Post column to lavish praise on the Wisconsin Republican and help position him for a 2016 presidential run.
In 2013, Thiessen co-authored Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge with Walker. According to the book's publisher, Unintimidated "tells the dramatic story of how one brave leader drove real change in his state, and what the rest of the country can learn from him. ... It's not just a memoir -- it's a call to action."
A few months ago, Post reporters Philip Rucker and Robert Costa documented the trend of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates attempting to "study up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous administrations." Among those listed was Walker, whom they reported has "developed a bond with Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen." According to the Post, "when Thiessen helped Walker write the governor's memoir, they talked via Skype about many issues."
The Post reported after the book's announcement that considering Walker's looming re-election campaign and possible 2016 presidential run, "writing a book with a high-profile GOP strategist is a notable step onto the national stage." Thiessen's help in getting Walker on the national stage isn't limited to the book -- he has also devoted significant column space to praising him, often at the expense of potential 2016 rivals.
Given his career of service to Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill, Thiessen's support for Walker at the Post may preface a future role with a Walker campaign or administration.
A group of right-wing news sites coordinated across the U.S. are baselessly pushing a conspiracy theory that the Environmental Protection Agency has been hiding new maps that reveal an "alarming" power grab. But the maps of U.S. waterways were simply updated from versions created during the Bush administration, and are helping the agency keep drinking water safe more efficiently.
Earlier this year, the EPA proposed clarifying which waterways are under the protection of the Clean Water Act, as companies have been able to pollute "beyond the law" due to legal confusion. Conservative media have been accusing the EPA of attempting "the biggest land grab ever" with this revision, even though the clarification will not add any new waterways compared to the EPA's historical authority -- in fact, it will cover fewer bodies of water than it did under President Ronald Reagan.
In line with this conservative media narrative, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) accused the EPA on August 26 of hiding maps that would allow them to advance the planned revision in order "to control a huge amount of private property across the country." Rep. Smith's claims are being uncritically touted by Watchdog.org, a conservative news website with state bureaus across the nation. Watchdog.org's Colorado bureau stated that the maps "graphically show the increase reach [sic] of the EPA's regulatory authority," including a map for Colorado they called "particularly alarming." Their North Dakota bureau published an article claiming that a landowner is already experiencing "the federal government attempting to regulate wetlands that aren't always wet." And an article from their Maryland bureau was boldly headlined: "Maps reveal EPA water grab in Maryland," going on to state that "the Maryland map plainly shows how much more authority the rule would give over bodies of water in the state of Maryland."
However, the maps, which were created during the Bush administration and recently revised to reflect new data, are not intended to show the scope of the EPA's jurisdiction, but will provide a scientific tool for the EPA to better understand which water bodies need protection. An EPA spokesperson explained to the Washington Examiner:
Let us be very clear -- these maps have nothing to do with EPA's proposed rule or any other regulatory purpose. They were first created during the Bush administration to identify waters that would be vulnerable as a result of a 2001 Supreme Court case and pending litigation. The maps were subsequently updated to reflect new data and a 2006 Supreme Court decision.
The agency added in a response on their website that the maps "do not show the scope of waters" to be regulated but "show generally the location" of water bodies and "serve as a tool for visualizing how water flows across our nation and in regions of this country," and will ultimately help to "reduce leg work, saving time and money." Furthermore, the width of the waterways was distorted on the maps for ease of use by water resource managers "mak[ing] it seem like water is more prevalent than it really is."
Jon Devine, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), stated on the NRDC's blog that "Only in the House of Representatives and the any-government-is-bad-government press could an expert agency having a map prepared from another expert agency's public data be a reason for hysteria."
Devine's statement was prescient. The Watchdog.org bureaus are a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which advocates "free markets" and "limited government," according to its president. The Franklin Center, which claims to provide 10 percent of daily reporting from state capitals and owns at least 55 news sites around the country, aims to "expose corruption and incompetence in government." Their funding comes almost completely from Donors Trust -- of which the Koch brothers are top contributors -- also known as the "Dark-Money ATM" of the right wing.
Devine stated in an email to Media Matters that the media's concern over the EPA's maps characterize the "bogus" rhetoric of calling the rule unprecedented:
People are using distorted maps to distort what the administration's Clean Water Protection Rule would do, but they can't escape one fact that shows how bogus all of the rhetoric is - if this proposal were finalized, fewer water bodies would be protected by the Clean Water Act than was the case during the Reagan administration. Because this proposal focuses on waters that science shows are important to people's health and well-being, it is critical that a strong rule be finalized as soon as possible.
Washington Post columnist George Will deepened his ethically challenged connections to big-money conservative groups by participating in an Americans for Prosperity summit where prominent Republican presidential hopefuls made their pitch to major donors.
Will's attendance at the Koch-backed group's annual convention comes after he spent months promoting Koch-backed candidates for public offices and advancing Koch-backed policy issues in his syndicated column.
On August 31, Politico reported that Will was part of an "exclusive group of major donors and VIPs" who "dined privately" at AFP's eighth annual Defending the American Dream summit. According to Politico, the summit "has become an increasingly important stop for aspiring GOP presidential candidates." In previous years, Will has also spoken at the summit and been given AFP's highest honor, the George Washington Award.
Will's cozy relationship with AFP has not been disclosed in any of his recent columns promoting key Republican candidates for Congress or governorships, who have benefited from AFP's ad spending. Using his platform at The Washington Post, Will has promoted Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, suggesting that she is "the GOP's best answer to the so-called war on women" and contrasting her with Sandra Fluke, whom he smeared as "a professional victim and virtuoso whiner." Will argued that by electing Land, Michigan voters would be able "to show what they think of 'war on women' hysterics as a substitute for thought." Like Will, AFP supports Land and, as Will noted, has already spent $5 million on her behalf. Will did not note his connections to the group.
Will has similarly promoted North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis' candidacy for the Senate, parroting his anti-Obamacare campaign advertisements in a May 30 column. Will defended Tillis against charges that he is an "establishment" moderate by praising his conservative credentials: "Tillis has been an enthusiastic enactor and implementer of the conservatism that North Carolinians voted for." Will noted that AFP has spent $8 million on advertising attacking Tillis' opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. Charles Koch and his family have also maxed out their contributions to Tillis, and he received a $5,000 donation from the Koch Industries PAC.
Will has profiled Republican Bruce Rauner, who is running to be governor of Illinois, framing the election as a choice between Rauner's push for term limits and his "vows to change the state's fundamental affliction --its political culture" and "the acceleration of stagnation" under the Democratic incumbent, Pat Quinn. AFP has spent at least $120,000 attacking Quinn.
Will also supported the candidacy of Monica Wehby in Oregon. In a July 25 column, he argued that since she has spent 17 years as a pediatric neurosurgeon, "She probably can cope with the strains of legislative life." He cited her "two X chromosomes," opposition to abortion rights, and support of marriage equality to claim she "complicates the Democratic Party's continuing accusation that Republicans wage 'war on women.' " Will also suggested that Wehby isn't too extreme for Oregon because she "won 50 percent of the vote in a five-candidate primary in which her rivals accused her of moderation." The Koch-affiliated group Freedom Partners, which Politico called the "Koch brothers' secret bank," plans to spend $3.6 million on Wehby's race.
Organizations that receive large amounts of Koch funding have also been prominently mentioned in Will's recent columns. Will twice hyped the work of the Institute for Justice, which relied on Charles Koch for seed money, and has since received more than $1 million in money from Koch-backed groups. Will dedicated another column to pushing the Goldwater Institute's effort to create a balanced budget amendment. The group has received more than $1.6 million in donations from Koch-affiliated groups.
Will also offered praise for U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa, who halted a criminal investigation into possible illegal coordination between the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and outside groups during a recall election. Walker has benefited from more than $10 million in spending by AFP.
Will has previously had problems with nondisclosure. Will has been criticized by media ethicists and veteran journalists for citing groups that are funded by the Bradley Foundation without disclosing that he is a paid board member of that organization. Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communications and former Miami Herald editor, stated that Will's acceptance of an award from the Bradley Foundation "signaled his alignment with its philosophy." Washington and Lee University journalism professor Ed Wasserman said that Will's failure to disclose the relationship was "[o]f course" a problem, explaining that even though Will is known to be a conservative, readers should know if Will's commentary is "independently arrived at rather than a reflection of a nexus of relationships and entanglements that he is embedded in."
International incidents are a prime opportunity to daydream about foreign leaders who'd make better presidents than Barack Obama, at least inside the conservative media bubble. David Cameron has now joined Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu on the right's list of foreigners they'd rather have in the Oval Office than the man the nation elected.
On August 28, President Obama delivered remarks on the U.S. military's approach to the rising terror threat from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and recent developments in Ukraine. Right-wing media figures responded with disdain, accusing the president of failing to view the Islamic State as a threat and even suggesting it's understandable to think Obama sympathizes with terrorists. Yet when Cameron delivered similar remarks on the Islamic State's threat to the United Kingdom the next day, the right's response was much different -- Fox News contributor Erick Erickson tweeted:
Can we borrow David Cameron? He fights.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 29, 2014
Cameron joins a select group of foreign leaders whom the right-wing media have determined to be better suited for the U.S. presidency than the man chosen by American voters.
The Colorado Independent criticized Fox News contributor Karl Rove and his political group for twisting its reporting into a misleading attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
Rove is the co-founder of Crossroads GPS, an IRS 501(c)(4) group that funds attacks against Democratic candidates across the country. The Associated Press reported on August 19 that GPS plans to spend more than $6 million on television ads in Colorado.
The group's latest Colorado ad attacks incumbent Sen. Udall for supporting health care reform, with a narrator claiming that "on the Eastern Plains, patients now outnumber doctors 5,000 to one." The group cites the Independent for the statistic.
But the news outlet responded that GPS is misrepresenting its work. Reporter Tessa Cheek, whose reporting was quoted by GPS, wrote that the commercial added the word "now" to deceptively suggest the patient-to-doctor ratio is a result of the ACA when in fact it "has nothing to do with the new law":
Fox News host Bret Baier raised the notion that a possible forthcoming executive order on immigration from President Obama may be government "shutdown bait."
In June, President Obama announced he was considering issuing an executive order that could allow millions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants to stay temporarily in the United States. While the specifics of the possible order are still unknown, the Washington Post reported this "could include temporary relief for law-abiding undocumented immigrants who are closely related to U.S. citizens or those who have lived in the country a certain number of years."
On the August 28 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier speculated on whether President Obama's forthcoming order was "shutdown bait," designed to encourage the Republicans into shutting down the government in retaliation:
In fact, GOP lawmakers have been floating the idea of using a budget showdown in response to an executive order on immigration. In recent days, Republican lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) and Rep. Steve King (IA) have talked to reporters about using the budget and government funding mechanisms to address any action Obama takes on immigration. In a statement released by The Des Moines Register, King said that an executive order on immigration "changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution":
"If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear ...," King said. "I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that."King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, "becomes a requirement" for a continuing resolution.
Baier's question also came a day after The Week's Marc Ambinder noted that Rubio had "hinted that this might happen," and advised Democrats to "[g]o big on immigration. Wait for the GOP counter-reaction. Quietly pray for the government to get shut down. Use it like a cattle prod to wake voters up just before the midterms."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson responded to President Obama's press conference addressing the Islamic State by asserting that he understands why "so many" believe Obama "is a closet Muslim jihadist sympathizer."
On August 28, Obama held a press conference to deliver remarks on the Islamic State and recent developments in Ukraine. During his statement, Obama explained that U.S. airstrikes have allowed Kurdish forces to push back the extremists, but added that more needed to be done with allies to root out the "cancer" that is the Islamic State:
As I've said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I'm confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I've directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I'll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I've been consulting with members of Congress, and I'll continue to do so in the days ahead.
Despite Obama's strong condemnation of the Islamic State, Erickson said on his radio show that "I don't believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim jihadi sympathizer. But I now - today, after this press conference -- totally understand why so many of you think he is." Erickson repeated the incendiary comment on Twitter:
Erickson's inflammatory remark is the latest in a long line of extreme rhetoric from the Fox contributor. In 2012, Erickson called Obama a "composite Kenyan" on his blog RedState. He also has a history of sexist and homophobic comments: Erickson labeled Texas state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis "Abortion Barbie" and claimed that gay people need to "overcome" the "struggle" of homosexuality.
Fox News hosts defended the practice of catcalling, insisting women should "let men be men" and downplaying the harmful impact widespread street harassment has on women.
On the August 28 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, hosts highlighted a New York Post opinion article that suggested women "deal with" "flattering" catcalls. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle defended street harassment saying, "let men be men," and, "look, men are going to be that way. What can you do?" Guest host and Fox contributor Arthur Aidala reenacted his personal signature "move" -- aiming a slow round of applause at women on the street, which one host said she'd find flattering: