A New York Times report suggested that the State Department's official reply to a congressional inquiry into personal email use by government employees showed malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and her former department. But according to documents obtained by Media Matters, other federal agencies responded in a similar manner, undermining the Times' report.
This additional context shows that rather than revealing a case of wrongdoing by Clinton, the Times has discovered that Cabinet agencies don't always respond to congressional inquiries quickly and in full.
The Times reported in an April 14 article that Clinton "was directly asked" in a December 13, 2012, letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa "whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state" but that "Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response." According to the Times, State provided only a "description of the department's email policies" rather than a direct response to Issa's question.
Clinton was not the only one to receive such a letter. As the Times article notes, similar letters were sent to "other executive agencies" as part of a broad Oversight inquiry into the use of private email by government employees. The Hill embedded the letter, which includes a note indicating that it was sent out to 18 Cabinet secretaries on the same date.
The letter requested answers to eight specific questions, including "Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal e-mail account to conduct official business?"
But in suggesting that Clinton had failed to respond promptly and with sufficient depth, the Times gave no indication it had attempted to compare State's response to those of the other agencies who also received the letter, to determine if State's response was actually unusual. The Times article, published two days after Clinton announced a presidential run, instead was based solely on a copy of Issa's letter and the State response that were obtained from "a congressional official."
Media Matters has obtained the responses from two other agencies: the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Both letters to Issa provide a description of department policies rather than direct responses to the congressional inquiry, and one was sent a month later than State's.
The Labor Department responded to Issa's letter on April 26, 2013. The congressional inquiry had been sent to then-Secretary Hilda Solis, who stepped down before Labor responded, just as Clinton had stepped down as Secretary of State between State's receipt of and response to Issa's letter.
In his response, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Brian Kennedy did not directly address Issa's inquiry about whether Solis had used personal email, instead stating that the Department "takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that DOL officials and employees are educated on and comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations governing official communications and document management policies" and providing a general overview of Department policies, specifically on social media.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development responded to Issa's inquiry on January 11, 2013. Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations Peter A. Kovar wrote that the "forwarding of HUD email by HUD employees to their personal email account is permitted only in narrow circumstances," but noted that "originators" of emails on any system are "responsible for determining the record value of any transmission." HUD did not directly address Issa's inquiry into whether former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan had ever used a personal email account to conduct government business.
The New York Times was previously forced to walk back their sloppy reporting on Clinton's personal email account and began to quietly reverse course on their stance on the matter after the publication's public editor conceded the original story "was not without fault" and "should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated." Despite the initial report's suggestion that Clinton violated federal record keeping rules, the Times' key source later clarified that Clinton in fact did not "violate" the law. Others in the media have consequently retracted their own baseless claims made in the rush to scandalize Clinton's emails.
For the second time this year, an anti-LGBT hate group is hosting a trip to Israel that will feature prominent figures from the Republican Party. The event will also feature Fox radio host Todd Starnes.
On October 27, the Family Research Council (FRC) will host its first ever eleven-day "Holy Land Tour" -- a "unique, one-of-a kind tour" where guests will "explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith" and meet with "some of Israel's political and religious leaders."
According to the tour's brochure, the $5,000 trip features "insightful Bible teaching" and meetings with Israeli leaders aimed at providing guests with "a better understanding of Israel's important role in current geopolitical affairs and biblical prophecy."
The tour will feature a number of "special guests" including former Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who has a history of acting as FRC's mouthpiece and peddling and-LGBT rhetoric on Fox.
FRC was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2010 due to the group's peddling of false and damaging smears about the LGBT community. The tour will also feature FRC's president Tony Perkins, who has described pedophilia as a "homosexual problem," accused the "It Gets Better" campaign of trying to "recruit" kids into a "lifestyle" of "perversion," and praised Uganda for criminalizing homosexuality.
National Republicans were widely lampooned earlier this year for participating in a similar hate group-led trip to Israel. In February, the Republican National Committee faced criticism for sending national committee members on a 9-day trip to Israel paid for by the American Family Association (AFA), which has also been labeled a hate group by SPLC. Even conservative activists criticized the RNC for aligning with a group like AFA. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus eventually pulled out of the event, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA demoted one of their most inflammatory spokesmen in the midst of the controversy.
Leading Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace and guest, author John Zmirak, claimed President Obama is a Marxist and "not a Christian," and asserted that progressives "disdain Christianity" and are trying to "remake the image of Christianity in Obama's image."
On the April 14 edition of his program, The Steve Deace Show, Deace invited Zmirak, conservative author and editor of faith based news outlet Stream.org, to discuss Zmirak's recent article attacking President Obama over comments referring to marriage equality made during his Easter prayer breakfast. After Deace asked Zmirak to "psychoanalyze the president," Zmirak claimed the president "is not in fact Christian" adding that the president "is a post-colonial, quasi-Marxist." Deace agreed and discussed his Washington Times article in which he asserted that "Jesus says Obama is not a Christian." Deace concluded that progressivism is a cult and the only reason "leftists" want to label Obama a Christian is that "they want to be able to try to remake the image of Christianity in Obama's image":
The questioning of Obama's faith by Deace and Zmirak goes beyond the popular conservative outrage of Obama's Easter prayer breakfast remarks in which conservatives claimed that Obama "smear[ed] Christians."
Deace, who Bloomberg's Dave Weigel called one of the "most powerful Republicans you've never heard of," is a regular contributor to the Washington Times, Townhall.com, MSNBC and the Conservative Review and wields significant influence on Iowa Republican primary voters through his radio show. Deace has used his influence to promote Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) 2016 presidential candidacy on his show, and according to the Des Moines Register, has "served as an informal, unpaid consultant giving Cruz his take on the Iowa landscape and recommending connections with certain Iowans."
Conservative pundits are attacking Hillary Clinton as "anathema to feminists" because she "married up," never achieved anything aside from being "the president's wife," and "has only ever gotten anywhere in politics because of who she's married to."
Erika Falk, an executive director at Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy, wrote in Women for President: Media Bias in Nine Campaigns that during the 2008 campaign, media "conveyed disrespect for Clinton ... by implying that she has no personal accomplishments and all her success was due to her husband." University of Maryland professor Shawn J. Parry-Giles similarly noted in Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics that pundits "complained that Clinton's accomplishments derived from her opportunistic marriage rather than her own credentials, further eroding her feminist commitments and her political authenticity."
The refrain that Clinton "has only ever gotten anywhere in politics because of who she's married to" has resurfaced again regarding her 2016 presidential campaign.
When it comes to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who announced his presidential campaign this week, over and over the press' to-go description is "charismatic." That adjective has been making the rounds in the Financial Times, Vox, NPR, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. There's been heated agreement among reporters and pundits that Rubio is unquestionably magnetic and alluring.
For candidates, of course, "charismatic" represents a coveted label that elevates a politician above the ordinary. It signals that he or she is a bold communicator who can tap into voters' emotions; who can inspire and motivate in a way most mundane practitioners cannot.
There's certainly nothing wrong with dispensing compliments to politicians. But as the campaign season unfolds and media memes are formed around candidates (Al Gore never shook the press' "exaggerator" tag), it seems worth noting, as New York magazine highlighted, how the Beltway press years ago concluded that the much sought-after "charismatic" tag would be applied to Rubio, and it would be applied to him no matter what trajectory his career was on.
The "charismatic" term is clearly subjective and is used by journalists who seem to consider Rubio to be a transcendent speaker and politician. What's curious though, is that journalists often don't point to speeches or events in Rubio's past that confirm his "charismatic" status. Instead, the compliment has been doled out for years matter-of-factly. For instance, from the New York Times and Washington Post:
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic senator-elect from Florida" (Nov. 26, 2010, New York Times]
* "Mr. Rubio, a charismatic Latino senator from a crucial swing state" (March 29, 2012. New York Times)
* "[A] charismatic young Republican senator from Miami, Marco Rubio" (March 22, 2015. New York Times)
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic young Cuban American who has captured the hearts of conservatives around the country" (April 10, 2010. Washington Post)
* "The charismatic Cuban American lawmaker from Florida," (Oct. 26, 2011. Washington Post)
* "The 43-year-old senator from Florida and charismatic son of immigrants" (April 6, 2015. Washington Post)
Note that there are no caveats. The Times and Post usually don't suggest that it's supporters who see Rubio as "charismatic." And they don't use the adjective to describe a Rubio speech. Instead, for the Times and Post (and many, many other news outlets), Rubio's "charismatic" nature is simply presented as fact, like his age or hometown.
Fox News' latent Islamophobia manifested itself during two segments criticizing a Wisconsin high school for asking history students to write about Muslim Americans based on materials covered in class.
On April 2, according to emails initially obtained by right-wing talk radio host Vicki McKenna, world history students at Union Grove High School were asked to write a short essay about daily life for Muslims living in the United States. Students were asked to write five paragraphs in which they "pretend" to be Muslim and briefly outline their daily routine along with any potential "struggles" they might face.
Fox News expressed its concern about the assignment during two segments on the April 15 edition of Fox & Friends, in which co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade wondered if it was appropriate for students to learn about Islam -- the world's second-largest religion -- in a world history class. At first, Doocy wondered if students wrote about "what Sharia law is," and how they were graded if they did, while Hasselbeck worried that students might not being learning enough about Christianity:
Doocy reiterated his alleged concerns about Sharia law during a later segment, in which he hyped common Islamophobic tropes about the religion being violent and intolerant:
DOOCY: I wonder if they actually, if they did study the religion in this world history class, if they wrote down things like, "If I criticize any part of the Quran, they will kill me," or, "If Muslims marry non-Muslims, they will be put to death," or, "If I'm caught stealing, they'll amputate my right hand." I wonder if they put that kind of stuff in, because that's all part of Sharia law.
Right-wing media are trumpeting a spurious Judicial Watch report claiming that an Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist camp has been set up near the Texas border, allowing ISIS terrorists to be smuggled into the United States, despite the fact that U.S. federal law agencies say the claim is unsubstantiated.
An April 14 report from Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group, claimed that the terrorist group "ISIS is operating a camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas," and ISIS terrorists are being smuggled "through the porous border," which is being targeted due to "understaffed municipal and country police forces."
Right-wing media outlets quickly echoed the dubious claim, and Fox News host Sean Hannity highlighted the Judicial Watch report on the April 14 edition of his radio show. Hannity read from the report, calling it "a very dangerous story," and stoked fears that Islamic State terrorists are being smuggled into the U.S., saying "we have said so many times for so many years that we need to secure America's borders." Hannity concluded by asking, "what are you going to do about that President Obama, anything?"
But federal law agencies involved with border security have said the Judicial Watch report of Islamic State terrorists near the U.S.-Mexico border is "unverified."
Right-wing media have a history of echoing dubious Judicial Watch reports to incite fear about terrorists crossing the U.S. border. Fox News parroted the group's September 2014 claim that a terrorist attack from the U.S.-Mexico border was "imminent," although the claim was roundly denounced by terrorism experts and rated "mostly false" by Politifact.
Fox News and NBC ignored Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) record of opposing gender equality legislation during interviews with the Republican presidential candidate's wife, in which Kelley Paul attempted to dismiss accusations that he looks down on women.
Kelley Paul, the wife of 2016 hopeful Rand Paul, appeared on Fox News and NBC's Today for multiple interviews April 14 to discuss her husband's presidential bid and her new book.
The hosts of Fox & Friends turned the discussion to recent accusations that Rand Paul is sexist, after the candidate infamously lectured Today's Savannah Guthrie for asking about his foreign policy positions earlier this month, a testy exchange that came on the heels of Paul shushing CNBC's Kelly Evans during an interview in February.
"You know how it works," co-host Steve Doocy told Kelley Paul. "The mainstream media's just trying to disqualify him. They see that thing, they put it all together, they say, 'oh he's a sexist, he can't be president.'"
Paul defended her husband's treatment of women, saying his "entire professional career is working with female surgeons" and noting a longtime partner in his ophthalmology practice was a woman.
Later on The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson asked Paul,"What do you make of the fact that some people are saying that your husband may not be able to connect as well with women?" Paul again cited her husband's female work partner as evidence that he has no issues with women, describing the accusations of sexism as a "false narrative -- a construct sort-of created on the Democrat side."
Meanwhile, NBC's Hoda Kotb asked Paul on Today to discuss her husband's relationship with women and respond to his previous treatment of Guthrie which sparked widespread backlash. Paul again pointed to her husband's longtime female colleague.
The examination of Paul's professional record as a means of predicting how a Paul presidency would benefit women overlooked his more recent professional activities.His legislative history contains red flags for anyone hoping to characterize him as an advocate for women -- issues that weren't raised by Kotb, Carlson, or the Fox "friends."
Paul is on record opposing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would provide protections and resources to victims of domestic violence. He wrote a letter in 2012 arguing that the issue should be addressed at the state level, not by the federal government.
It's also noteworthy that Fox's defense of Paul came on April 14, Equal Pay Day, because the senator has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act multiple times. As ThinkProgress noted, Paul compared the legislation "to the Soviet Politburo dictating wages and the prices of goods" and added that the wage landscape is better when "the marketplace decides what wages are."
During remarks at the National Rifle Association annual meeting, NRA board member Ted Nugent shared an analogy that involved him shooting Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for Outdoor Channel, referenced shooting Reid during an April 12 talk at the NRA's meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, at an event called, "Freedom is not Free and We the People Must Keep It Alive!"
The NRA's annual meeting also featured speeches by GOP presidential candidates and contenders including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Perry and others.
Nugent's comment came during a question and answer session where an audience member asked, "How and why did the NRA ever endorse Harry Reid to serve as the front man of Osama Obama?"
The NRA never actually endorsed Reid, but in 2010 the gun group did donate $4,000 to his reelection efforts. Any goodwill between Reid and the NRA likely ended in 2013 with Reid's introduction of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales.
In response to the question, Nugent called Reid a "lying prick," but described him as a necessary evil, stating, "If your child is dying and there is only one way to get to the doctor, would you get on Harry Reid's boat to get there? ... I'd get on the boat, get there, and then I'd shoot him."
In audio obtained by Media Matters, Nugent then further described the NRA's strategy as infallible, stating, "if you see them endorse someone like Harry Reid it's because this deceptive bastard actually stood up for our Second Amendment rights contrary to the alternative candidate." He added, "when the NRA makes a move that you're not sure about, please give them the benefit of the doubt."