Politico Magazine published a piece by Ron Kessler, a discredited conservative journalist with a history of pushing conspiracy theories, which suggested that President Obama would be to blame for his own assassination and that the president's death could be necessary for the reform of the Secret Service.
Agents tell me it's a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. Sadly, given Obama's colossal lack of management judgment, that calamity may be the only catalyst that will reform the Secret Service.
As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted, this implies either that "Obama is at fault for his inevitable assassination, or he's the only thing standing in the way of cleaning up the agency responsible for his inevitable assassination," both "bizarre" and troubling suggestions.
But also bizarre and troubling is why Politico published Kessler in the first place. As Marshall pointed out, while Kessler has written several books on the Secret Service and other national law enforcement agencies, "he's made a hard veer to the right" in recent years and is "a bit of a kook."
Kessler, who left credible newspapers to become the chief Washington correspondent for the right-wing website Newsmax, has been widely been criticized for peddling trashy gossip. He previously accused former first lady Hillary Clinton of "pathological lying" and pushed the conspiracy theory that she drove then-deputy White House counsel Vince Foster to suicide, because Clinton "humiliated him in front of all these White House aides." He also promoted the falsehood that Obama was in attendance at controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright sermons.
As Media Matters has previously noted, numerous book critics have also slammed Kessler for his reliance on "Page Six"-style gossip and innuendo:
National security reporter James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post that for his book In The President's Secret Service, Kessler "milked the agents for the juiciest gossip he could get and mixed it with a rambling list of their complaints," comparing the book's reporting to that of the National Enquirer. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called Kessler's Joseph P. Kennedy book The Sins of the Father a "meanspirited, speculation-filled biography ... which purveyed a determinedly poisonous portrait of the man." That book was also described by Globe and Mail's Andrew Cohen as featuring research that "is sometimes suspect" because Kessler "relies too heavily on speculation, gossip, innuendo and secondary sources." Publicity material for Kessler's The Secrets of the FBI, as Bryan Burrough wrote in the Post, even promised it would be "filled with revelations about the Bureau and Page Six tidbits."
Kessler's work over the last few years has solidified his reputation for pushing gossip and conspiracy -- raising questions over Politico Magazine's decision to give him a platform.
Fox News misled viewers about trends in household income, job creation, and the use of food stamps while claiming that President Obama's policies are to blame for a supposedly stagnant economy.
During an interview that aired on the September 28 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama argued that the United States "is definitely better off" economically than it was when he took office in 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the "terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis" that he inherited to the response by "any leader around the world."
On the September 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney attempted to refute Obama's claim of economic achievement over the past six years, citing three major indicators -- household income, part-time job creation, and food stamp participation -- to make their case.
In each instance, Fox cherry-picked data to obscure positive trends in the overall economy:
Conservative media is dubiously claiming that the rise of the Islamic State is due in part to President Obama skipping scheduled daily intelligence briefings. The basis of this claim is a misleading interpretation of how intelligence briefings are received by the White House that was debunked two years ago.
Fox News is using the horrific murder of an Oklahoma woman to misrepresent President Obama's gun policy and to falsely accuse him of "wag[ing] a war on the Second Amendment" and of wanting to "ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police."
On September 26 a man who had been recently fired from his job at an Oklahoma food processing plant attacked his co-workers, beheading one with a knife and wounding another. The attack was stopped when the suspect was shot and wounded by the business' CEO, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy. Local law enforcement has asked the FBI to investigate the crime to determine if there is any link to terrorism.
A September 30 segment on Fox & Friends used the Oklahoma murder to attack Obama, with co-host Steve Doocy asking, "So with yet another example of how guns save lives, why does President Obama and his administration continue to wage a war on the Second Amendment?"
In the discussion that followed, Doocy and guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, pushed a number of myths about actions the Obama administration has taken to reduce gun violence, including falsely claiming that Obama supports banning civilian gun ownership, that Obama wants to use an international treaty to make it "very, very difficult to carry guns," that Obama has ordered doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, that Obama has forced people to disclose their race when buying guns, and that Obama has used executive actions "to limit the uses of guns."
(The segment also included false claims about gun violence generally, including the "more guns equals less crime" conservative media myth and falsehood that civilians with guns could serve as a panacea for public mass shooting incidents.)
The Washington Post published an opinion piece claiming that "retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect" to take over as head of the embattled Secret Service because of his "managerial and diplomatic skills." West, who was forced out of the military, that same day called President Obama a "charlatan" and urged the military to disobey his orders.
Former Secret Service agent and Marine Corps infantry officer Dan Emmett wrote a September 26 PostEverything piece surveying problems with the Secret Service and recommended that current director Julia Pierson be replaced with someone from the military, specifically "a true leader, not a bureaucrat." He then lobbied for West, writing:
In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.
Emmett does not appear to be very familiar with the former Florida congressman (the Post appended a correction to the piece noting that Emmett originally misspelled West's name). West is a partisan ideologue with a history of toxic rhetoric against President Obama. The same day the PostEverything piece was published, West implored the military to disobey "charlatan" President Obama because he purportedly "took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens ... This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military."
West's previous extremist comments include:
PostEverything is an online Post property that relies on "a large network of outside contributors" and publishes "wide-ranging commentary on the big, in-the-moment debates facing Washington, the country and the world." The section was widely criticized after it posted a piece with the headline (later changed) "One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married."
Fox News' Martha MacCallum falsely suggested the White House has failed to acknowledge the connection between the Khorasan group, the terrorist organization recently targeted along with the Islamic State (ISIS) by U.S. airstrikes, and Al Qaeda -- ignoring a statement from President Obama doing just that.
During the September 30 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and contributor Stephen Hayes discussed whether the White House had "misunderstood the evolution of Al Qaeda" with respect to ISIS and the Khorasan group. Speculating as to why many people had not previously heard of the Khorasan group, MacCallum asked why "the White House doesn't want to call" the Khorasan group Al Qaeda:
But in a September 23 statement on the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Obama specifically referenced the Khorasan group's affiliation with the terrorist organization, noting that it consisted of "seasoned al Qaeda operatives" (emphasis added):
OBAMA: Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham responded to an intruder compromising security at the White House by suggesting "political correctness" played into the Obama administration's decision to hire a female Secret Service agent to guard the entrance, comparing the decision to the nomination of Julia Pierson as the first female director of the agency.
Reports surfaced on September 29 that a man who leapt over the fence of the White House made it all the way into the East Room before being apprehended. Some reports, based on comments from Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), suggested the intruder confronted and overpowered a female Secret Service agent inside the White House entrance.
Ingraham zeroed in on the reported presence of the female Secret Service agent on the September 30 edition of her radio show, comparing the selection of a female agent to that of Julia Pierson, the first female director of the Secret Service, saying, "You get the sense at some point that it's the 'first' that's more important than the common sense."
INGRAHAM: They brought in a woman, first female director -- remember the Obama administration loves firsts. You get the sense at some point that it's the first that's more important than the common sense.
What works -- let's do what works best, ok? Is it to have a woman there or is it just to have a really strong person there? A big, hulking person. Female, male, I don't care. But you get the sense that the first is what really drives their -- floats their boat. They want to be historic. They want it to be an historic appointment, instead of thinking, 'gee, maybe we just need the best people.'
Earlier that morning, on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Ingraham said "political correctness could have been a factor here."
INGRAHAM: The idea that this guy could get in, and then overpower an agent, who I guess was female -- and there are a lot of female agents that are really strong and large. I mean, you do get the sense at some point that political correctness could have been a factor here, right? Because the new female director, who's going to be questioned today, Julia Pierson, came in after that Colombia prostitute scandal with the Secret Service. She's gonna face tough questions. She was a proud career civil servant -- 30 years with the Secret Service. But you do get the sense that with this administration that all these decisions about who gets what position and where they're stationed -- political correctness comes into the decision-making, and this is no place for political correctness. The strongest, biggest, best people have to be at the front of the White House always.
Ingraham's comments about gender come on the heels of her show last week, in which the host suggested that teaching young girls to dress modestly is an important step toward avoiding objectification, misogyny, and date rape.
Fox News is increasingly fixating on the gruesome workplace beheading last week in Moore, Oklahoma by a recent Muslim convert, suspect Alton Nolen. Perhaps sensing a way to once again fan its patented flames of Islamophobia while simultaneously blaming President Obama for being indifferent to the threat of terrorism, Fox is treating the murder as a national story with sweeping political implications.
Sounding the jihadist alarms, Fox News and the right-wing media are eager to label the ghastly crime an act of Islamic terror. Law enforcement officials, however, aren't in the same rush, noting that the attack came immediately after Nolen was fired and stating that they've yet to find a link to terrorism. While that story continues to play out, it's worth noting that an actual act of political terror remains in the news. It's just not a priority for Fox.
On the night of September 16, 31-year-old marksman Eric Frein was allegedly laying in wait outside the Blooming Grove police barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania, preparing to assassinate state troopers. Shortly before 11 p.m., Bryon Dickson was shot and killed as he walked towards his patrol car. Moments later, as he approached the barracks to begin his overnight shift, trooper Alex Douglass was shot and seriously wounded by a bullet fired from a .308-caliber rifle.
Described as a "survivalist," Frein disappeared into the Poconos Mountains woods where he's been hiding ever since, eluding law enforcement and its massive manhunt, which includes hundreds of law enforcement officers with assistance from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Considered "extremely dangerous" and possibly armed with an AK-47, officials were forced to close local schools in fear Frein might attack again. Lots of businesses in the area were ordered to stay dark, and some U.S. mail deliveries were suspended out of fear postmen might be exposed as possible targets for the shooter.
And what was the possible motivation for the killing spree?
"He made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and to commit mass acts of murder," state police commissioner Frank Noonan warned the public at the time. Another official noted the shooter has a "longstanding grudge against law enforcement and government in general" dating back to at least 2006.
A friend was even more explicit. "He was obviously a big critic of the federal government," a friend name Jack told CNN. (The friend did not give his last name.) "No indications of really any malice towards law enforcement in particular. Most of his aggression was (toward) the federal government."
Sounds like homegrown, anti-government terrorism, right?
"We have a well-trained sniper who hates authority, hates society, hates government, and hates cops enough to plug them from ambush. He's so lethal, so locked and loaded, that communities in the Pocono Mountains feel terrorized," wrote Philadelphia columnist Dick Poleman. "He kept camouflage face paint in his bedroom. He toted the AK-47 on social media. He collected, according to the criminal complaint, "various information concerning foreign embassies.""
But turn on Fox News and you don't hear much about Eric Frein from the channel's high-profile hosts. You don't hear much about the anti-government zealot who murdered a cop, while trying to assassinate two. And you don't hear evening hosts diving into Frein's background trying to figure out what sparked his murderous streak.
There's simply no interest.
Fox News' senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano incorrectly called a Seattle ordinance fining residents for throwing away compostable trash "unconstitutional" -- the United States Supreme Court found in 1988 that garbage placed on the curbside was not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
In September, Seattle's City Council passed an ordinance that would fine residents one dollar if trash collectors observe that more than 10 percent of trash is made up of compostable items:
Under the new rules, collectors can take a cursory look each time they dump trash into a garbage truck. If they see compostable items make up 10 percent or more of the trash, they'll enter the violation into a computer system their trucks already carry, and will leave a ticket on the garbage bin that says to expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.
Apartment buildings and businesses will be subject to the same 10 percent threshold but will get two warnings before they are fined. A third violation will result in a $50 fine. Dumpsters there will be checked by inspectors on a random basis.
Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins and Dumpsters with educational tickets starting Jan. 1 when they find violations. But fines won't start until July 1.
On the September 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Andrew Napolitano called Seattle's new ordinance fining residents "unconstitutional," asserting that the searching of garbage is "absolutely prohibited by the Fourth Amendment":
After devoting a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials to highlight the "sexual assault crisis on American campuses," Time helped reframe the debate by questioning statistics that illuminate the prevalence of sexual assault.
In September, Time ran three problematic pieces online questioning the validity of statistics that highlight the prevalence of sexual assault.
In a September 29 "Ideas" piece discussing sex crimes on college campuses, Camille Paglia argued that "claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses" have been "wildly overblown." Asserting that most "campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault" are in fact "oafish hookup melodramas," Paglia went on to blame the victim by noting that the assaults had arisen from "mixed signals and imprudence on both sides."
The rush to condemn the statistics and dispute the gravity of sexual assault previously made its way to Time in a September 17 online piece in which Cathy Young called statistics on sexual and intimate violence in the United States from the CDC "misleading" and "inflated," claiming they were part of a "radical feminist narrative" that was unsupported by the data due to a broad definition of what constituted various acts of sexual violence.
A few weeks earlier, a September 2 online op-ed by the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Summers also asserted that the statistic showing one in five college women will experience sexual assault is a "feminist myth." Hoff Summers called the one-in-five statistic -- reported by the National Institute of Justice's study on campus sexual assault -- a "statistical hijinks," deeming the study flawed by an "overly broad definition of sexual assault."
Time's recent ink questioning the validity is troubling given its earlier reporting. In May, Time Magazine offered a comprehensive look at the "sexual assault crisis on American campuses," with a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials. Recognizing the pervasiveness of these crimes, their cover story explained that high instances of the rape at the University of Montana were no outlier among colleges in the United States:
Calling Missoula the rape capital is as misleading as it is ugly. The University of Montana isn't a bizarre sexual-assault outlier in higher education. Instead, it is fairly average. The truth is, for young women, particularly those who are 18 or 19 years old, just beginning their college experience, America's campuses are hazardous places. Recent research shows that 1 in 5 women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college.
By questioning the validity of sexual assault statistics, Time's most recent opinion pieces further stigmatize a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 60% of the time.