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  • Univision’s Nightly News Program Ignores Impact On Latinas After Supreme Court Strikes Down Anti-Abortion Law

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In response to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Texas’ HB 2 law, which imposed restrictions causing over half the state's abortion clinics to close, Spanish-language media have widely highlighted the positive impact the decision will have for women, particularly the state’s 2.5 million Latinas of reproductive age. But Univision, the largest Hispanic TV news network, failed to explain how the decision will affect Latinas in its report on the ruling during its most highly viewed news show, Noticiero Univision.

    After the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on HB 2, some Hispanic media outlets explained how the law contributed to the many already existing barriers Hispanic women face in accessing reproductive health care, and specifically noted that the decision will benefit Latinas. The editorial board of La Opinión, for example, said that “in practice, restricting abortion in Texas was a way to punish poorer women,” including many of the 2.5 million Hispanic women of reproductive age living in the state. Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo mentioned in its report that the shuttering of abortion clinics in Texas disproportionately affected “Hispanic women of reproductive age” and explained that many Hispanic women rely on these clinics for all of their reproductive health care needs.

    But Noticiero Univision, Univision’s flagship evening news program, excluded any mention of how the Supreme Court’s decision will benefit women, or Latinas in particular, in its report on the ruling. Univision reporter Juan Carlos Gonzalez interviewed activists and read a statement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, an HB2 proponent, but failed to address the impact of the decision for Latinas.

    According to Pew Research Center, Noticiero Univision had the highest viewership among Spanish-language cable news shows in 2015. Univision and Telemundo both have a history of providing lackluster reporting on the ways Latinas are disproportionately affected by barriers to reproductive health care.

    From the June 27 edition of Univision’s Noticiero Univision (translated from Spanish):

    JORGE RAMOS: The Supreme Court ratified the right to abortion when it threw out the Texas law that complicated access for women to end a pregnancy. The highest court found unconstitutional the restrictions imposed by the Texas law on clinics that practice abortion. Many of these clinics had to close when the controversial law was implemented in 2013. Juan Carlos Gonzalez has reactions and details of the verdict.

    JUAN CARLOS GONZALEZ: The Supreme Court’s decision invalidated the law of the state of Texas that obligated clinics that practice abortion to operate like ambulatory surgical clinics and doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges. The decision, the most important in decades on this controversial issue, made those who favor abortion rights happy.

    JULIO DANIEL DÍAZ: As a man, I don’t have the right to tell women to make a decision about their bodies.

    GONZALEZ: But it was a hard hit for those such as Cecilia Salinas, who has always resided in McAllen, Texas, who are opposed to abortion.

    CECILIA SALINAS: I am 100 percent convinced that only God has the right to decide on the life of any human being.

    GONZALEZ: The measure known as HB 2 was passed by the Texas legislature in 2013, but it was subjected to a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. Texas Governor Greg Abbott reacted with a statement that said, “The decision erodes states’ lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost. Texas' goal is to protect innocent life, while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women."

    For his part, President Barack Obama commented that he feels pleased that the Supreme Court protected the rights and health of women. Before the law went into effect here in Texas, there were approximately 41 clinics like this. After it took effect, the measure closed about half of them. Since 2008, some 70 clinics in the United States have also stopped providing abortions. Nonetheless, many hope that after this decision, many of them return to their operations. [Univision, Noticiero Univision, 6/27/16]

  • Sad! Conservative Media Resort To Unskewing Negative Trump Polls

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    There they go again.

    Conservative media figures, apparently disheartened by recent poll results showing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump heading in the wrong direction, are once again claiming biased or unreliable pollsters are unfairly weighting results against their party. If this sounds familiar, it’s because they did the same thing in 2012, spending months attempting to “unskew” polls showing Mitt Romney losing, only to watch him be soundly defeated on election day.

    In the run-up to the 2012 election, conservatives consistently complained that polls showing President Obama in the lead were inaccurately counting the gap between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. According to this school of thought, the polls were being “skewed” to show Romney losing. One blogger, Dean Chambers, took the data in the polls and reweighted them with a partisan split friendlier to Republicans resulting in “unskewed” polls showing Romney easily winning. Chambers’ work -- which was more akin to wishful thinking than academic analysis -- was nonetheless widely cited by conservative media as evidence of a concerted effort to influence the results of the presidential election in Obama’s favor.

    The polls were not skewed. An average of 2012 election polling predicted that Obama would win by 0.7%. In reality, the victory was by a margin of 3.86%. If anything the polls undercounted Obama’s support.

    Polls can of course go up and down, and the occasional outlier is inevitable. But the argument that the partisan split that pollsters report as they survey voters is somehow skewed to help Democrats is a conspiracy, not actual analysis.

    Despite this, conservative media are once again pushing the “unskewed” theme as recent polls show Clinton leading Trump.

    This time, the charge against the polls is being led in part by the candidate himself. Trump recently responded to a poll showing him losing with tweets that complained “The @ABC poll sample is heavy on Democrats.  Very dishonest - why would they do that?” and “The ‘dirty’ poll done by @ABC @washingtonpost is a disgrace. Even they admit that many more Democrats were polled.”

    The ABC News/Washington Post poll in question shows Clinton ahead of Trump 51%-39%.

    FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noticed the reboot of the “unskewed” theme and asked, “Has anyone seen Donald Trump and Dean Chambers in the same room together?”

    Conservative media figures have also zeroed in on the ABC/Wash. Post poll for criticism. On Fox News’ Fox and Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said that in the methodology for the ABC/Washington Post poll “they actually talked to 12 percent more Democrats than Republicans,” adding, “According to the Gallup poll, there are 3 percent more Democrats in the country than Republicans, so it looks like they've got a favorite in it.” During the same segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade explained to viewers, “So far Donald Trump leads in most independent polls.” This is true, if by “most,” Kilmeade meant none of the last 21 polls included in Real Clear Politics’ general election polling data.  

    The methodology for the poll, conducted by Langer Research for ABC/Washington Post, addresses the partisan breakdown":

    Partisanship can follow political preferences, and in this poll Democrats account for 36 percent of all adults and 37 percent of registered voters – a non-significant (+3) difference from last month. (The former is numerically its highest since 2009, the latter, since 2012.) Republicans account for 24 percent of all adults and 27 percent of registered voters, about their average in recent years, with the rest independents.

    This accounts for little of the shift in voter preferences, however. Even using the same party divisions from last month’s ABC/Post survey, in which Trump was +2, he’d now be -8. The reason, mentioned above, is his comparatively weak performance among Republicans – 77 percent support – compared with Clinton’s support among Democrats, 90 percent. 

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Clinton with a 13% lead over Trump prompted an outburst as well.

    On Fox News host Sean Hannity’s official website, a blog post complained the poll “is heavily skewed.” On his June 27 radio show, Hannity cited the partisan breakdown and described it as a “misleading poll” because the media is “in the tank for Hillary.”

    Hannity apparently didn’t learn his lesson about attempting to unskew polls in 2012, when he was saying things like, “These polls are so skewed, so phony, that we need to start paying attention to what’s going on so that you won’t be deflated.”

    In a post purporting to highlight “More Polling Tricks” from an “EXTREMELY SKEWED” poll, conservative blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit complained this week that “Reuters freighted their poll with 20 percent more Democrats than Republicans” and concluded that “we can safely say that Trump appears to be in much better shape than the poll suggests and could likely be headed to a landslide victory in November.”

    Hoft made a similar argument in September of 2012, complaining that a CNN poll showing Obama leading Romney “drastically oversampled Democrats to get this stunning result.” He then went on to cite Dean Chambers, who said that when “unskewed” the CNN poll showed Romney leading by eight percent.

    Perhaps remembering how much egg the conservative media had on its face after the 2012 debacle, Fox News contributor Brit Hume tried to steer his fellow conservatives away from repeating their mistakes.

    In an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Hume noted that Trump “couldn’t stop talking” about polls showing him in the lead during the primaries, but now “his supporters, the ones I hear from anyway say that the poll is rigged, and all the rest of it.” Then he told host Martha MacCallum, “I don't think your viewers should pay too much attention to that. Look at the polling averages. Look at all the polls put together, to see what you get. And I think the picture's pretty clear. He's trailing, but not insurmountably.”

  • Three Things Right-Wing Media Still Don’t Understand About Affirmative Action In Education
     

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Right-wing media figures are shocked by the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas II, which reaffirmed that the consideration of race as a factor in college admissions is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Conservative media have been questioning the validity of affirmative action policies for years, appearing equally baffled by the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 on the same matter. This time around, the confusion was again amplified as right-wing media attempted to cast race-conscious college admissions as “racist,” misrepresent the strict legal scrutiny already in place for these types of policies, and dismiss the numerous educational and economic benefits of diverse colleges.

    Research On Educational Benefits Of Diversity Is “Overwhelming” And “Compelling”

    On his radio show immediately following the release of the new Fisher decision, host Rush Limbaugh read from the synopsis of the majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, in particular focusing on a line stating that schools have a “compelling interest” to seek the benefits of a diverse student body through means other than impermissible racial quotas. Limbaugh was so baffled by the “stunning,” “unbelievable,” and “absurd” reasoning, he had to read the line several times and was left speechless, before exclaiming, “This is so bad, I don’t know how to describe it.” Limbaugh then labeled the numerous and proven educational benefits of student body diversity a “liberal concept, perverted and corrupt as it is,” and an “absolutely vacuous argument that the left has been advancing for years.”

    Perhaps if Limbaugh had read more of the opinion, he would better understand how the Supreme Court could deem “the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity” a “compelling interest.” In fact, the American Educational Research Association and “nine other scientific societies” filed an amicus brief in the Fisher case, “urging the court to consider an overwhelming body of evidence” showing “that student body diversity promotes cross-racial understanding, educational and classroom benefits, and professional development,” and “prevents the harms of racial isolation.” A wide range of businesses, public institutions, and educational leadership once again filed amicus briefs in the case, arguing for the value of race-conscious admissions policies. Coalitions of Fortune 100 CEOs and other major business leaders, former senior military officials, several top professional associations for college professors and admissions staff, and the federal government all filed briefs in support of policies like the University of Texas’ admissions approach.

    Race-Conscious Admissions Do Not “Mismatch” Black And Hispanic Students With Schools

    During the Fisher oral arguments in December, the late Justice Antonin Scalia made headlines for referencing the discredited “mismatch theory” that affirmative action policies place underprepared students of color in schools that are too challenging for them. The flawed assumptions that underscore this theory have likewise pervaded right-wing media’s reactions to the Supreme Court’s decision.

    Several conservative media figures have expressed their confusion and concern that black and Latino students might somehow be disserved by race-conscious admissions policies in social or emotional ways, in addition to struggling with academic “mismatch.” Commentator Heather Mac Donald, for example, denounced the decision, asserting that “race-based admissions preferences” allow students to “come into environments for which they’re not prepared,” leading to academic failure, “the sort of insanity that this country went through last year with the Black Lives Matter protests on campuses,” and a “growing victimology on campuses.”

    But here are the facts: Numerous studies have shown students of color do better in more selective schools, and experts have discredited what little research backs “mismatch theory.” In fact, a brief filed with the Supreme Court in the Fisher case by experts in methodology and statistics urged the court to disregard the most highly cited study supporting the debunked theory, writing that the study “fails to satisfy the basic standards of good empirical social science research.”

    The Court Has Consistently Applied Strict Legal Scrutiny To Federal Affirmative Action Programs

    The facts haven’t stopped conservative media from once again incorrectly characterizing the ongoing legality of narrowly tailored affirmative action programs as a major shift in legal precedent amounting to reverse racism. This time around, right-wing media figures lamented the Fisher decision as propping up “another kind of discrimination” that might be “equally wrong,” “reverse discrimination” or “racist,” and incorrectly suggested that the decision is related to setting impermissible racial quotas for admissions. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, appeared deeply confused, first insisting that the decision relates to racial quotas specifically. Then, after reading a portion of the majority opinion that highlighted the holistic review process at the University of Texas several times, Limbaugh concluded that affirmative action, which he previously understood as a “glorified quota program,” has shifted to something “even worse.” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro also asserted that Justice Kennedy had “flipped” in his ruling and that “our freedoms are decided” based on whether the Supreme Court justice “had his Metamucil that morning.”

    But the court’s reaffirmation of the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions policy, while a surprising decision for many court experts and affirmative action advocates who feared the court had shifted irrevocably to the right, does not break new legal ground. In fact, Kennedy’s opinion specifically represents a continued belief that properly tailored affirmative action programs remain constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment -- a line of reasoning he has espoused for nearly a decade. The narrow ruling on the Texas holistic admissions approach is the latest Supreme Court opinion to reaffirm what has been a guiding principle since 1978, further detailed in 2003: that the use of race as one factor among many in individualized and holistic considerations of applicants to institutions of higher education remains both necessary and constitutional to ensure the diversity of America's future leaders.

  • Farewell To Fox News’ Benghazi Hoax

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    To the surprise of no one, the Republicans’ four-year partisan inquisition surrounding the terrorist attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, is likely ending with a whimper. With the House Select Committee on Benghazi finally releasing its findings, and the report representing the eighth and (likely) final government investigation into the deadly event, the Benghazi hoax, as sponsored by Fox News for four years, finally comes to an impotent and ignominious end.

    Early indications are that the report, as expected, provides no major revelations. Already undercut by a report from Democratic members of the Benghazi committee that further debunked right-wing myths about the attack, the GOP’s long-awaited Benghazi report is in danger of being met with collective shoulder shrugs.

    Even Donald Trump seems relatively uninterested in kicking the Benghazi can around the campaign trail this year. Yes, he’s made a couple passing references to it and implied grave misdeeds by Hillary Clinton. But there’s been no serious push on his part to highlight the GOP’s endless pursuit. (Last year, Trump actually criticized the Republicans’ investigations as being incompetent.)

    So if Benghazi isn’t being used as an election year battering ram against the Democrats, what has been the point of committee chairman Trey Gowdy’s comically extended inquiry? Anybody with a pulse and a political calendar realized that the final GOP Benghazi report, with its 2016 summertime release, was designed to disrupt Clinton’s White House run. Why else would the committee’s work be extended for two-plus years when it likely could have been completed in six or seven months? (Two years to hold four hearings?)

    Unsure they could defeat Clinton at the ballot box, and lately even more unsure that Trump is competent enough to run a White House campaign, Republicans were hoping and praying for an investigative intervention to stop Clinton.

    It ain’t happening with Benghazi. But anyone who followed the facts, or who reads Media Matters, knew that a very long time ago.

    The whole mindless, partisan endeavor shines a light on what’s gone completely wrong with the Republican Party and the right-wing media. It’s about how shallow, endlessly debunked conspiracies and money-sucking investigations have replaced any attempt to govern and legislate.

    The fact that the GOP’s Benghazi gotcha pursuits have stretched through the entirety of Obama’s second term, and that Obama stands poised to leave office with surging approval ratings, tells you all need to know about the crippling disconnect between the right-wing media and the real world today. (Fox’s Eric Bolling: “I think Benghazi's a much bigger scandal than Watergate.")

    But let’s never forget that the Beltway press claims partial ownership of this slow-motion fiasco, too. The press certainly owns the first three years of the Benghazi charade when journalists breathlessly amplified every slipshod allegation leaked from Republicans on Capitol Hill, or followed Fox News’ lead in hyping an endless series of supposed revelations about the attacks. Sometimes we couldn’t tell who was more anxious to uncover an Obama or Clinton-related “scandal,” the press or partisan conservatives.

    If I had to estimate, I’d say it took until October 2015 -- three entire years of Benghazi news dead ends -- before the D.C. press mostly conceded there’s no there there with regards to this so-called scandal. It took Hillary Clinton testifying for 11 hours on Capitol Hill and Republicans completely unable to advance, let alone confirm, their wild conspiracy theories before the press largely seemed to acknowledge the futility of the whole enterprise. (Accidental truth telling in 2015 by some GOP House members regarding the motivation about the Benghazi committee likely also convinced reporters the endeavor was largely a scam.)

    Unfortunately, this was after several Beltway journalists’ reputations took serious hits when they were caught trusting dubious sources who lied about Benghazi revelations.

    Meanwhile, here’s some distressing context. I wrote this more than 1,300 days ago:

    Benghazi has entered the realm of churning, right-wing myth making. (Think Waco and Vince Foster). The story has become completely detached from reality, and the twisted narrative feeds off itself with constant misinformation that's repeatedly presented as 'fact.' 

    I certainly never thought in the fall of 2012 that four years later I’d still be pointing the Benghazi hoax and highlighting the obvious absurdity of the pursuit. Overall, Media Matters has posed hundreds of fact-checking items on Benghazi and we’ll continue to do so as long as conservatives cling to the fantasy. But that will be much harder to do now without a congressional inquiry to give the wild claims shape.

    The larger point is that Republicans and Fox News have wasted untold time, money and energy pushing a thoroughly discredited pipe dream about how Obama and Clinton are supposedly monstrous people who chose to let four Americans die at the hands of Islamic terrorists and then lied about it. Worse, Obama watched video "in real time" while the terrorists snuffed out American lives. "Support wasn't given," in the words of Karl Rove.

    Vile, vile lies.

    This whole endeavor has been a depressing reflection on how broken the conservative movement has become, and also how the Beltway press simultaneously takes its marching orders from the scandal-obsessed right wing. Like Republicans, journalists seemed to be eagerly holding out hope for an Obama or Clinton scandal to emerge from the Benghazi investigations.

    And of course that faulty blueprint hasn’t just applied to the Benghazi “scandal.” As noted in September last year, ABC World News TonightCBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News together spent just as much time covering Clinton’s email controversy as they spent covering the substance of her entire presidential campaign.

    If we’re truly bidding farewell to Fox News’ Benghazi conspiracy hoax (fingers crossed), there’s another point about context that’s worth stressing one last time. 

    I think one way the GOP and conservative media were able to string the serious press along on Benghazi was that they framed the Benghazi terror attack as an almost-unprecedented event in American history (sadly, it was not) and one that exposed unheard of security failures by Obama’s White House and Clinton’s State Department; it was supposedly an epic fiasco that demanded countless investigations. 

    What the press for most of the last four years refused to do is put the Benghazi terror attack in any kind of historical context.

    Consider these facts under President Ronald Reagan:

    *April 18, 1983: Bombing of U.S. Embassy in Beirut. 63 people were killed, including 17 Americans, including the CIA’s chief analyst in the Middle East, and the Beirut station chief. 

    *September 6, 1983: Two Marines were killed during a lengthy rocket assault on the Marine base at Beirut's airport.

    *Oct. 23, 1983: Bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut. A suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives at a U.S. Marine barracks; 241 U.S. service personnel were killed.

    *Sept. 20, 1984: Bombing of U.S. Embassy annex. A truck bomb exploded in Aukar, northeast of Beirut, outside the annex, killing 24 people, including two U.S. military personnel.

    During an 18-month span, U.S. facilities in and around Beirut were attacked by terrorists four times, killing 330 people, including 262 Americans.

    There was exactly one congressional investigation into the Beirut debacle.

  • Don’t Get Spun By Bogus “New Revelations” In The GOP Benghazi Report

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are taking advantage of the complexity surrounding the 2012 attacks by trying to pass off old details as “new revelations.” Reporters should be careful not to fall for their spin.

    Among the “many new revelations” the Benghazi Select Committee Republicans claim to show in the press release accompanying their final report on the attacks is that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was preparing for a trip to Libya at the time of the attacks, and that as part of that trip Ambassador Chris Stevens wanted the Benghazi diplomatic facility to be made a permanent Consulate:

    Emails indicate senior State Department officials, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Huma Abedin were preparing for a trip by the Secretary of State to Libya in October 2012. According to testimony, Chris Stevens wanted to have a “deliverable” for the Secretary for her trip to Libya, and that “deliverable” would be making the Mission in Benghazi a permanent Consulate.

    This has been cited as a “new detail” in The Washington Post, a “new revelation” in The Hill, and a “previously unreported detail” by NBC News.

    In reality, former Deputy Chief of Mission to Libya Gregory Hicks detailed these facts in public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on May 8, 2013 (via Nexis, emphasis added):

    REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Mr. Hicks, why was ambassador Stevens headed to Benghazi? There were a lot of concerns about him. There were a lot of security issues that Mr. Nordstrom had listed in numerous reports leading up to his trip there.

    Why was the ambassador headed there?

    HICKS: According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post.

    [...]

    REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): OK.

    Did you tell the Accountability Review Board about Secretary Clinton's interest in establishing a permanent presence in Benghazi?

    Because, ostensibly, wasn't that the reason that the ambassador was going to Benghazi?

    HICKS: Yes, I did tell the Accountability Review Board that Secretary Clinton wanted the post made permanent. Ambassador Pickering looked surprised. He looked both ways on the -- to the members of the board, saying, "Does the 7th floor know about this?"

    And another factor was our understanding that Secretary Clinton intended to visit Tripoli in December.

    This isn’t the only case where Republicans are pushing out “new revelations” that have been previously reported, as Roll Call columnist and Hillary Clinton biographer Jonathan Allen noted:

    The Benghazi story is extremely complex, and “bombshells” have often turned out to be reheated old news. Journalists should be careful not to be a conduit for Republicans efforts to turn such details into new scandals.

    For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com

  • Sean Hannity Devotes Full Hour On Fox To Discredited Book Full Of Clinton Smears

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News host and Trump supporter Sean Hannity devoted the full hour of his Fox News show to hyping claims presented in the discredited book Crisis of Character written by former Secret Service agent Gary Byrne.

    Hannity interviewed Byrne on the first half of the June 27 edition of Fox’s Hannity, providing the author with an uncritical platform allowing him to peddle his discredited claims and attacks against Hillary Clinton. During the second half of the show, Hannity devoted a panel discussion to Byrnes' comments and attacks on Clinton. In what Fox News described as an “expose” with the “blacklisted” Byrne, claims such as cocaine use in the White House, fits of rage by former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and the disposal of towels covered in “bodily fluids” were pushed by Hannity and repeated by Byrne.

    At no point did Hannity question Byrnes’ dubious claims or bring up the numerous contradictions that he’s made over the years in regards to these claims, including while under sworn testimony.

    On June 20, Buzzfeed reported that while Byrne claims in his book to have disposed of towels covered in “translucent and white, half gooey” substance that would be easily recognizable to “any boy lucky enough to live past his high school years,” a 1998 deposition given by Byrne directly contradicts those claims:

    Byrne testified that he saw Nelvis cleaning up the Oval Office study, holding towels, when the steward said, “I’m tired of having to clean up this crap, or this something, you know, to that effect.” Byrne went on to say that he drew his “own conclusion that there was…some kind of possible physical contact between them and the president” and got the impression that Nelvis felt it was not right. Nelvis, he further recalled, said “something about lipstick,” and he “assumed that, that it was on these towels,” though the steward didn’t say it. Byrne told the investigators that he did not personally see lipstick or other stains on the towels.

    As for their disposal, Byrne said that he advised Nelvis “to get rid of it; in other words, to throw it out” so that the people who did the laundry wouldn’t see it. After that, he said of Nelvis, “I just remember him kind of walking away, and that was it. I don’t know what he did with them. That was the end of the thing.”

    Furthermore, the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service has denounced Byrne and his assertions as false, and accused him of having a political agenda focused on smearing Clinton. Politico reported:

    People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him.

    […]

    And if Byrne or any uniformed officer had been posted near a room the president entered, he would have been moved at least 15 yards away, to the outer edges of the security bubble — not quite what Byrne describes in his book: “I stood guard, pistol at my hip, outside the Oval Office, the last barrier before anyone saw Bill Clinton,” according to the Post, which has been teasing excerpts of the book.

    “Operationally, one who has the working knowledge of how things are done there would realize that certain of those statements do not coincide with the operational plan,” said Jan Gilhooly, AFAUSSS president and a 29-year Secret Service veteran.

    When contacted by Buzzfeed about the contradictions in his book, Byrnes’ publicist said that he would explain himself on his book tour. Fortunately for Byrne, Sean Hannity did not ask him to explain any of these issues.

  • ABC's World News Tonight Fails To Pushback Against An Anti-Choice Activist's Myth Following SCOTUS HB2 Ruling

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ABC’s Mary Bruce allowed an anti-choice activist to push the false claim that Texas’ abortion restrictions were about protecting women’s health during a segment on the Supreme Court’s ruling that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 was unconstitutional.

    During the segment, anti-choice activist Kristian Hawks falsely claimed the Supreme Court’s ruling jeopardizes women’s health and that women seeking abortion procedures at health clinics will now have to wonder if they’ll “be coming out alive.” ABC’s report failed to report that Hawkin’s allegation were not based in fact, but rather right-wing misinformation frequently pushed to undermind clinics that provide abortions. From the June 27 edition of ABC World News Tonight with David Muir:

     

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We begin tonight with the most sweeping decision on abortion in a generation. Today, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that imposed strict requirements on clinics and doctors, finding those limits placed an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion. And on the steps of the Supreme Court, you see it there, activists squared off. Jubilation from the pro-choice side, but despair from anti-abortion forces, because this ruling could affect so much of the country. At least two dozen states have passed laws similar to those struck down today. ABC's Mary Bruce is in Washington with the dramatic decision and its resounding consequences.

    MARY BRUCE: At the Supreme Court today, chants of victory from abortion rights advocates. The crowd cheering as interns raced out, carrying the most consequential abortion decision in a quarter of a century. Many of these people have been here since before dawn, making sure they were here to witness this historic decision. The court striking down a Texas law that required abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and that clinics meet standards for surgical centers. Requirements that have already forced more than half of Texas abortion clinics to close, and threatened half of those still open. In a 5-3 decision, Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, joined the court's four liberals to rule that the restrictions went too far, and placed "an undue burden" on the constitutional right to an abortion. Disappointed, the law's supporters say women's health will now be at risk.

    KRISTAN HAWKINS: This means every time a woman walks into an abortion facility in our nation, she's going to have to wonder, will I be coming out alive?

    BRUCE: The implications stretch far beyond Texas. About two dozen states have similar laws.​

    KATE SHAW: Many states have restrictions like Texas's, and I think that those are quite likely unconstitutional after today's ruling.

    BRUCE: And the decision could call into question many other restrictions, such as a required waiting period, counseling, and ultrasounds before abortions.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mary joins us from the Supreme Court right now. Mary, you know, the future of the Supreme Court, right at the heart of the presidential campaign. You've got that vacancy left by the death of Justice Scalia, and perhaps more to come.

    BRUCE: Yes, this decision underscores what's at stake in this election. Clinton tweeting today, "This fight isn't over. The next president has to protect women's rights." And Donald Trump has been noticeably absent from commenting on today's ruling. George?

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, uncharacteristic silence. Mary, thanks very much you.

    Laws such as HB 2 are frequently referred to as “TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws,” and seek to restrict access to abortion by requiring clinics to adhere to unnecessary medical standards. TRAP laws are promoted under the guise of public health, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest surgeries performed in the United States and that many abortions are done with medication instead of surgery. 

  • Select Committee Democrats Identify Fox News As Vector For Benghazi Misinformation

    Benghazi Democrats Highlight Seven Instances Of Misinformation On Fox’s Airwaves

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Democratic members of the Benghazi House Select Committee have released a report that implicitly highlights Fox News as a key vector for perpetuating misinformation about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.

    Fox has been obsessed with using the Benghazi attacks as a political weapon to damage first President Obama and then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the network pushed for the creation of the select committee, several of its personalities acknowledged its fundamentally political nature following House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) boast that the committee had achieved its goal of damaging Clinton's poll numbers.

    The network’s evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the attacks and their aftermath during the first 20 months following the attacks, with much of the coverage rife with misinformation about debunked conspiracy theories. Those programs also provided a ready platform for Republican members of Congress to parrot Benghazi misinformation, hosting GOP members 30 times more frequently than they did Democrats.

    Here are seven times the Democratic report highlights false statements pushed in interviews on Fox News’ airwaves:

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Claim That The Military’s Posture On Night Of Attacks Was Unclear

    The report highlights Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) false suggestion during a Fox News interview that the deployment of military forces on the night of the attacks had not previously been examined (italics original, citations removed):

    On May 17, 2016, Chairman Gowdy conceded during an interview on Fox News that the military could not have gotten to Benghazi in time to save the lives of the four Americans killed that night. However, he claimed that he did not know the reasons behind the military’s global positioning decisions prior to the attacks. He stated:

    Whether or not they could have gotten there in time, I don’t think there is any issue with respect to that—they couldn’t. The next question is, why could you not? Why were you not positioned to do it?

    In fact, this specific question was investigated extensively in 2013 and 2014 by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

    For example:  

    • On February 7, 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled: “Attack on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”  

    • On March 15, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled: “The Posture of the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.”  

    • On Sept. 19, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee received a transcribed briefing entitled: “DOD’s Posture for September 11, 2013” (Part IV, Force Posture).  

    • On Oct. 10, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee received a transcribed briefing entitled: “DOD’s Force Posture in Anticipation of September 11, 2012” (Part V, General Dempsey).

    These hearings and briefings highlighted the challenges facing the Department of Defense in responding to crises and operating in Africa given the geography, size, and political environment on the continent. As a result, the report issued by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee concluded:

    The U.S. military’s response to the Benghazi attack was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of the lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding.

    Rep. Louie Gohmert’s False Claim That Help Was Deliberately Withheld

    The report highlights Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) false claim during a Fox News interview that help was deliberately withheld during the attacks (italics original, citations removed):

    Similarly, Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News in September 2014:

    They let those people die at Benghazi, they could have gotten planes there sooner, they could have gotten people there sooner, and anybody that knows anything will disregard what some of these high intelligence people have said and will get straight to the truth.

    In his interview with the Select Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta emphatically rejected these Republican accusations that Secretary Clinton or anyone else ordered him to stand down on the night of the attacks:

    Q: Did the Secretary of State ever tell you to stand down or slow the Department of Defense response?

    A: Not at all. You know, that’s a—that’s a big word, “stand down.” And let me tell you, not only did I never hear that word mentioned, but if somebody had said that, I think, you know, it would not have interfered with my orders to proceed.

    Secretary Panetta explained that no one ever ordered military forces to stand down that night:

    Q: And I just want to be clear. To your knowledge, there was no stand-down—I mean, to your knowledge, any stand-down orders given with regard to this operation on that night?

    A: No. Never, never. It would have been against everything that the military stands for. You know, the military, their whole focus is on being able to protect particularly their own. That’s what they do. To even imply that somehow the military, or someone would have said, maybe we shouldn’t go, it’s too risky, it’s crazy. It’s just not the way our military operates.

    Maj. Eric Stahl’s Claim He Could Have Gotten Plane To Benghazi Faster

    The report quotes a vice admiral rejecting the claim now-retired Air Force Reserve Maj. Eric Stahl made during a Fox News appearance that he could have gotten the military transport plane to Benghazi faster (italics original, citations removed):

    On June 11, 2014, Eric Stahl, a now-retired Air Force Reserve Major, appeared on Fox News and alleged that he could have piloted the C-17 plane from Germany to Benghazi in 4.5 hours. He stated:

    A hurried-up timeline probably would take us [an] hour-and-a-half to get off the ground and three hours and fifteen minutes to get down there. So we could’ve gone down there and gotten them [the survivors] easily.”

    [...]

    Vice Admiral Charles Leidig, the Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations at AFRICOM, rejected the C-17 pilot’s allegation:

    I’m going to try to answer this as clearly as I can. I don’t know where the major was or what he was doing that night, all right? But to get a C-17 ready, with the medical capability and the configuration required to medevac the type of injuries that we had, we had the most senior people in the military around the globe working on it. For the major to suggest that he could somehow do it better than three significant staffs is incredulous to me. You often find that officers operating at the tactical level have little understanding of the larger requirements to deploy an aircraft. So again, I find his claims to be largely without credibility.

    Donald Trump’s False Claim That Clinton Ignored Hundreds Of Personal Requests For Additional Security

    The report details presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim during a Fox News interview that then-Ambassador Christopher Stevens had sought additional security “500 or 600 times” (italics original, citations removed):

    Nevertheless, since the hearing, Republicans have used the talking point of “600 requests” ignored by Secretary Clinton to lodge unsubstantiated political attacks against her, including as part of the presidential campaign. For example, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stated on Fox News: “Look at Benghazi, our ambassador. He wired her 500 or 600 times asking for help.”

    The Washington Post Fact Checker addressed Trump’s claim, calling it “a whopper” because no requests for additional security went to Secretary Clinton.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Promotion Of The Unsubstantiated Document “Separat[ion]” Story

    The report says  Gowdy used a Fox News interview to promote the report that Raymond Maxwell, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Maghreb affairs, had claimed that top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jacob Sullivan had been “part of an operation to ‘separate’ damaging documents” about Benghazi before they were turned over for review (italics original, citations removed):

    On October 17, 2014, Chairman Gowdy was interviewed on Fox News by Greta Van Susteren, who asked if he believed Mr. Maxwell’s allegation that “documents were tossed out.” In response, the Chairman stated:

    What you would do is what I’m going to do Greta, and that is, give Mr. Maxwell an opportunity to say what he perceived to happen and he’s going to have to give us the names of the other people who were involved and then we’re going to give them an opportunity to say whether or not they have a different perspective. It’s going to be an investigation. And if there is a dispute as to what happened then we’ll let your audience decide who has more credibility.

    By the time Chairman Gowdy made this statement, however, his staff had already interviewed Mr. Maxwell without including, inviting, or even notifying Democratic Members or staff. Mr. Maxwell apparently identified for Republican staff a second witness that he claimed was present during this document review at the State Department. Mr. Maxwell identified this person as someone who could corroborate his allegations and someone he believes is credible.

    Then, on October 16—one day before Chairman Gowdy appeared on Fox News—his staff interviewed this second witness, again without including Democrats. However, this second witness did not substantiate Mr. Maxwell’s claims. To the contrary, he did not recall ever having been in the document review session Mr. Maxwell described, he said he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department, and he reported that he never engaged in or was aware of any destruction of documents.

    The report goes on to say that in testimony before the committee Maxwell said he was now unsure of the person who could substantiate his claim, was unable to remember if it was a man or woman, and had no evidence that documents were scrubbed. It also includes denials from the deputy office director in the Office of Maghreb Affairs, Mills, and Sullivan.

    Sen. Rand Paul’s False Claim That Ambassador Susan Rice “Deliberately Misled The Public"

    The report includes testimony from Ambassador Susan Rice regarding whether she had, as Sen. Rand Paul claimed during a Fox News interview, “deliberately misled the public” in an interview shortly after the attacks:

    Q: Similarly, on June 5, Ambassador, June 5, 2013, Senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul appeared on FOX News and stated that you had, I quote, “directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi,” end of quote. Did you directly and deliberately mislead the public over Benghazi?

    A: I did not directly or deliberately mislead the public on Benghazi.

    Q: Were you aware of or involved in perpetuating any kind of an intentionally false or misleading narrative about the Benghazi attacks?

    A: No.

    Q: Some have argued that it was false because you should have known by that time that there had not been a protest. How would you respond to those critics?

    A: First of all, I did not know at the time that there had not been a protest. I was going off the best current assessment of the intelligence community. And the intelligence community subsequently made clear that they changed their assessment to conclude that there was not a protest or a demonstration several days after my appearance on the Sunday shows.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s False Claim That The State Department Hadn’t Provided Any Documents To The Committee

    The report states of Gowdy’s claim on Fox News that the State Department had yet to deliver “a single, solitary scrap of paper” that the committee had requested (italics original, citations removed):

    The following day, on May 15, 2015, Chairman Gowdy appeared on Fox News to argue that the State Department was intentionally obstructing the Select Committee’s investigation:

    It is a conscious decision not to cooperate with a legitimate congressional inquiry… I don’t want the drama. I want the documents. They’ve had half a year and I have not gotten a single, solitary scrap of paper.

    On May 21, 2015, PolitiFact rated Chairman Gowdy’s claim “Mostly False” after noting that the Select Committee’s own interim report in 2015 stated that the State Department provided 850 pages of documents months earlier:

    The House Benghazi Committee’s own report notes that in response to a November 2014 request for emails from Clinton and her top aides, the State Department has produced 850 pages of Clinton’s emails.

    PolitiFact also noted that the State Department “argues that Clinton’s emails were top priority, that many of the staffers’ emails have been provided in previous document requests, and that their response time is limited by department resources.”

    For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com

  • The Dean Of Yale’s Law School Just Schooled The Washington Post On Exxon And The First Amendment

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Yale Law School Dean Robert Post took to The Washington Post to completely dismantle the bogus claim that the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. And in doing so, he pointed to one of several opinion writers who have misinformed the Post’s readers by advancing this “free speech” defense of Exxon's alleged deception on climate change. 

    Writing in The Washington Post on June 24, Robert Post criticized “ExxonMobil and its supporters” in the media for deceptively “[r]aising the revered flag of the First Amendment” to condemn attorneys general who are investigating Exxon. The attorneys general are looking into whether the oil company committed fraud by deliberating withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. As Post explained, Exxon and its allies are “eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.” He added: “Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.”

    One of the conservative media figures that Post called out for distorting the Exxon investigations was The Washington Post’s own George Will, who penned an April 22 column peddling the false claim that the attorneys general pursuing Exxon are seeking to “criminalize skepticism” about climate change. And that wasn’t the only basic fact that Will butchered, as the Climate Denier Roundup explained at the time:

    George Will used his column in the Washington Post to offer a lesson on how this campaign [against Exxon] is part of a larger progressive strategy to shut down debate. But apparently it’s Will that needs a history lesson, as he uses as evidence a story about a 2013 IRS investigation accusing the agency of targeting conservatives. But that investigation “found no evidence” that the IRS actions were politically motivated.

    Unfortunately, Will is not the only voice on the Post’s opinion pages who has misrepresented the facts to defend Exxon.

    As the Climate Denier Roundup noted, the same day that Will’s column ran, the Post also published an op-ed by two officials at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think tank that peddled climate science denial while receiving funding from Exxon. The CEI op-ed repeated the falsehood that the attorneys general are seeking to “run roughshod” over Exxon’s First Amendment protections and prosecute “dissent.” It also engaged in carefully crafted legalese about CEI’s relationship with Exxon, as the Climate Denier Roundup observed:

    Worth noting CEI’s careful phrasing about its relationship with Exxon, which CEI says “publicly ended its support for us after 2005.” With Donors Trust and others making it possible to anonymize giving, the key word is “publicly.”

    Flashback to November 2015, and the story at the Post is much the same. Like Will, the Post’s Robert Samuelson claimed in a November 8 column that investigations of Exxon are an “assault” on free speech, and that the “advocates of a probe into ExxonMobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions.” Samuelson also repeated Exxon’s bogus talking point that a 1989 Exxon document proves that groundbreaking reports about Exxon by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times "'cherry-pick[ed]' their evidence."

    Then there’s the Post editorial board itself, which prematurely concluded in a November 15 editorial that Exxon “didn’t commit a crime.” Perhaps the Post will reconsider after hearing from Robert Post on that matter. 

    From Robert Post’s June 24 op-ed in The Washington Post:

    If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.

    [...]

    ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.

    The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.

    Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.

    The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.

    [...]

    If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.

  • Wash. Post Slams Paul Ryan’s “Flimsy” Health Care Reform Plan

    Editorial Board Concludes Ryan’s “Better Way” Could Lead To “Much Higher Costs” For Many, Allow States “With The Skimpiest Regulations” To “Set The National Standard”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post blasted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) outline for replacing Obamacare, which could cut health care for millions of Americans and might lead to more rapidly rising insurance costs for an inferior product.

    Ryan released a health care reform plan on June 22 under the “Better Way” brand that he hopes will become a fixture for Republican policy making in the next Congress. The plan seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- commonly referred to as Obamacare -- and replace it with a series of tax credits for Americans to purchase private insurance. The Post picked apart Ryan’s health care agenda in a June 26 editorial, saying the plan would be “hard on the poor, old and sick” and adding that “those in late middle age could face much higher costs.” The editorial board also derided the plan, which offers no cost projections or estimates for the number of Americans who could lose their ACA-compliant insurance, for being yet another vague proposal from a Republican Party that “has no excuse for blank spaces” after so many years of fruitless opposition to the health care law.

    The Post noted that “the rate of uninsured Americans has plummeted to a historic low” since Obamacare was enacted, and Ryan’s plan does not appear capable of maintaining the same low rate. Instead, the plan would create tax credits that increase as Americans age, but it would also let insurers “raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows.” Since “the proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up,” it is possible that the tax credits proposed in the Ryan plan could be much smaller than the actual cost of insurance, making the reform agenda costlier for millions of middle-aged Americans currently benefitting from Obamacare. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):

    House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to promise better when he announced that he would roll out an ambitious policy agenda this summer. Instead, last week he released an Obamacare alternative that is less detailed in a variety of crucial ways than previous conservative health reform proposals. The outlines that the speaker did provide suggest that it would be hard on the poor, old and sick.

    Mr. Ryan’s plan would replace Obamacare with a tax credit available to people buying insurance plans in markets regulated by the states, not the federal government.

    [...]

    The proposal hints that the credit would be sufficient to cover the cost of plans that existed before the ACA. This is not reassuring: Pre-ACA, individual-market insurance plans were often thin, with limited benefits, extensive cost-sharing and other elements designed to deter anyone who might actually need care. Without strong coverage requirements, insurers would have limited incentive to offer plans that appealed to people who may be — or may become — sick. States would be hampered in responding to these issues: The proposal would allow insurers to sell plans across state lines, so the state with the skimpiest regulations would likely set the national standard.

    People with money to put into health savings accounts (which the proposal would expand), could cover gaps in thin insurance coverage with tax-advantaged out-of-pocket spending — but this would not be a realistic option for low-income people. As for the old, the plan would scale up the tax credits with age, but it would also permit insurers to raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows. The proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up; as in other conservative plans, those in late middle age could face much higher costs. For the sick, meanwhile, Mr. Ryan’s plan would offer an ultimate backstop by funding high-risk insurance pools. But health-care experts caution that this approach would cost a massive amount of federal money — a fact that has caused Republican lawmakers to balk at policies like it when fleshed out.

    This harsh treatment of Ryan’s health care reform agenda mirrors the tone of criticism he drew from various quarters for each of his recent attempts to rebrand misleading Republican economic talking points as a “Better Way” forward. Ryan’s “Better Way” anti-poverty reform agenda, which was based almost entirely on right-wing media myths rather than professional economic research, was slammed by critics as being “doomed to fail” and “based on faulty assumptions.” His health care reform agenda seems to be drawn from the same right-wing media perspective, which considers the full repeal of the ACA to be of paramount importance despite the law’s continued success and the failure of every right-wing prediction of its demise to come to fruition.