A member of The New York Times editorial board argued that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is "not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives," but is "a partisanwitch hunt" targeting Hillary Clinton.
On September 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is running to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as the Speaker of the House, told Sean Hannity that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Republican House majority was creating the Benghazi Committee, which he credited with hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Hannity initially praised McCarthy and the committee for its "political" strategy, but has since walked back the complements amid backlash. Fox News had largely ignored McCarthy's damning comments, but Fox's Chris Wallace and Juan Williams acknowledged McCarthy "spoke the truth" and that damaging Clinton was "clearly one of the things that Republicans were hoping" would result from the committee.
On October 2, New York Times editorial board member Carol Giacomo attacked the "duplicity and political chicanery" of the committee, which has "shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack" despite "wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history." Giacomo concluded by calling on the Republican-led House to disband the committee and suggesting that its Democratic members should resign if they refuse to do so:
It has long appeared that the Republican obsession with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya was not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives but a partisan witch hunt targeting Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Now there is proof of the duplicity and political chicanery behind the creation of the Select Committee on Benghazi. It was ham-handedly exposed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, who, in his quest to become the next speaker of the House, couldn't resist boasting about what he considers his party's major political accomplishment.
Now under heavy criticism for telling the truth and with his bid for speaker at risk, Mr. McCarthy is trying to walk back his remarks, but it won't work.
Despite wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history, the committee has shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack. It would be surprising if it did. Several other congressional committees and a panel of outside experts commissioned by the State Department have investigated the attack and the government's response. They concluded that the tragedy was preventable and condemned "systemic failures" at senior levels of the State Department. But none found evidence that Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, was specifically to blame or produced any other bombshell to support some wild Republican conspiracy theories. Those earlier probes didn't keep the Republicans from exploiting the issue for political gain by establishing the special committee, whose focus has segued from Benghazi to the fact that as secretary Mrs. Clinton used a private email account. To hear Democratic lawmakers tell it, the Republicans have thoroughly perverted any semblance of a fair process by calling and interviewing witnesses without bothering to include the committee's minority members.
The committee should be disbanded and if the Republican leadership refuses to do that, then the panel's Democratic members should resign. Manipulating government funds for political purposes in this way may well violate congressional ethics rules, as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested. There is little reason to expect that Republicans, united in defeating Mrs. Clinton at all costs, care enough to do anything about it.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott made numerous false claims about guns -- covering "gun-free zones," gun suicides, and whether loose gun laws deter crime -- during an appearance on CNN focused on the mass shooting at an Oregon community college.
During the October 2 broadcast of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, host Carol Costello said, "I don't really want to have a debate this morning, I actually want to have a conversation, so I've invited John Lott." Lott, whose infamous research linking permissive gun laws to lower crime rates has been thoroughly discredited, then proceeded to use the segment as an opportunity to push numerous falsehoods about the October 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) where a gunman killed nine people and wounded seven others.
Of the Oregon shooting, Lott claimed, "The one thing in common" with this and other recent mass shootings "is to notice that yesterday, just like in all these other cases, they occur where guns are banned, where citizens are aren't able to go and defend themselves."
Lott's claim that guns were "banned" at UCC is not accurate. While the school's policy prohibits guns inside of its buildings, Oregon law allows people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on the grounds of public colleges and universities. In fact, a student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran was carrying a gun on campus at the time of the shooting and described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."
Lott's broader claim that mass shootings typically happen where guns are not allowed is also false. Of 134 mass shootings documented by Everytown for Gun Safety between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent occurred where guns could not be carried:
Claims about "gun-free zones" are predictable talking points for Lott and other gun advocates following mass shootings, but the alleged connection is a red herring because there is no evidence that people with concealed guns stop mass shootings.
At another point in the CNN interview, Lott said, "I don't know how many explicit statements these killers have to make about how they chose targets where they knew people weren't able to go and defending themselves," citing the comments of other mass shooters and the diary of the gunman responsible for the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
The claim that mass shooters pick their targets based on whether guns are allowed is false. Mother Jones' Mark Follman dismantled that theory in an article debunking Lott's claims about the Aurora gunman's diary: "As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter's strategic thinking."
Instead, Follman found "the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivations for striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school."
Lott used his appearance to push several other gun-related falsehoods. On suicides-by-gun, which claim nearly 20,000 American lives per year, Lott said, "To go and think that some type of gun control regulations that are being talked about are going to stop somebody from committing suicide, when there are so many other ways for people to commit suicide."
Again, this is not true. Gun suicides are typically successful, resulting in death 85 percent of the time, while other methods of attempting suicide result in death just 9 percent of the time. According to a review of 90 studies on the long-term outcomes of individuals who survived a suicide attempt, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide.
Another false claim Lott pushed on CNN was about gun bans and murder rates. Lott said, "Here's a simple fact, every place in the world that's banned guns, not just Washington D.C. and Chicago when we had our bans, but every place that has banned guns has seen murder rates go up." Like Lott's claim about mass shootings and so-called "gun-free zones," this claim is a red herring, namely because gun bans like the one that existed in Washington D.C. and Chicago are unconstitutional in the United States and are irrelevant to serious policy discussions on gun laws.
Lott's citation of Washington D.C. is highly misleading, as well. The District of Columbia banned ownership of handguns from 1976 until 2008. While the murder rate in D.C. was slightly lower in 1976 compared to 2008, that doesn't tell the whole story. Significantly, in each of the five years preceding D.C.'s handgun ban, the murder rate was higher compared to where the murder rate stood in 2008 after more than 30 years of banning handgun ownership.
Offering another sweeping falsehood, Lott also claimed, "Most of the academic work out there finds that increases in concealed handgun permits, increases in gun ownership, generally is associated with reduced crime."
Lott's claim that more guns equal less crime is actually the minority view, and his thesis has been debunked time and time again. Reputable research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that looked at numerous studies concluded that where there are more guns, there is a higher risk of homicide.
According to a survey of the authors of "1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology" 62 percent of experts disagreed that permissive concealed carry laws reduce crime, compared to just 9 percent who agreed:
Judicial Watch is a conservative activist group that has been one of the organizations driving the media narrative on Hillary Clinton's emails. They have a history of dishonest activism, promoting conspiracy theories, and pushing false or misleading narratives.
The organization was formed in the 1990s by conspiracy theorist Larry Klayman, who used the technique of filing spurious lawsuits in an attempt to bring down the Clinton administration. It is now headed by Tom Fitton, who has continued Klayman's methods in an ongoing campaign to antagonize the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats.
The organization has played a key role in the ongoing controversy over the email system Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state. Records obtained from the State Department by Judicial Watch have served as fodder in the media and for the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
This week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the frontrunner for the soon-to-be vacant Speaker's office, boasted on Fox, "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen."
Judicial Watch has tried to stake its own claim to denting Clinton, with Fitton claiming in a press release, "Judicial Watch has had more success investigating the IRS, Benghazi, and Clinton email scandals than any House committee under Boehner's direction."
Since it was reported in March that Clinton used a private email server, Judicial Watch has been mentioned dozens of times in reports on the story, including in major outlets like Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today.
But if history is any indication, media outlets risk credibility and accuracy by relying on Judicial Watch.
The media's reliance on Judicial Watch's work comes with a significant risk, as the conservative group often overreaches in its attacks on Democrats and progressives.
For example, on September 24, Judicial Watch released records it had received from the State Department which it claimed "reveal former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally signed the authorization for Huma Abedin, her then-deputy chief of staff, to become a special government employee."
The New York Times reported on Judicial Watch's findings, writing that the documents "show that Mrs. Clinton personally signed forms establishing a new title and position for the aide, Huma Abedin, in March 2012." Politico, Fox News, and other outlets also published stories based on the document.
Those stories were wrong.
As the Times reported a few days later, the document that Judicial Watch had given to the media had the signature redacted "in a box intended for the aide's supervisor," and the assumption was apparently made that Sec. Clinton had signed it. But later a copy of the document was given to the Times and it showed that it was signed by Cheryl Mills, who was then Clinton's chief of staff.
In other words, the entire premise of the Judicial Watch release was false (the uncorrected headline remains on the Times website).
Judicial Watch has often started stories that are simply untrue and collapse almost immediately under scrutiny.
For example, Judicial Watch alleged that the Obama administration had appointed 45 "czars" to serve under him, a claim which then became the basis for a viral email attacking the president. As explained by PolitiFact in 2014, Judicial Watch stretched the truth by listing senior advisor Valerie Jarrett as a czar, crediting the Obama administration for czars created under the Bush administration, and describing Ray Mabus as the "Oil Czar" when in reality he was Secretary of the Navy, a Senate-confirmed position.
Judicial Watch accused then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of engaging in "boorish demands for military travel" that are "more about partying than anything else" and highlighted expenditures of "$101,429.14 ... for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol." After conservative outlets regurgitated the claims, FactCheck.org investigated and found that "costs are not as high as critics claim, and they're comparable to those of her Republican predecessor."
Last year, Judicial Watch alleged that a company had been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "for requiring workers to speak English." But in reality, the EEOC said it sued the company for violating its employees' rights by subjecting them to a "sham performance improvement plan" that focused on their English language skills.
Judicial Watch has concocted conspiracy theories that end up being amplified by conservative and mainstream media, as well as elected officials.
Judicial Watch claimed that the Justice Department was helping to "organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman," the Florida man who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin. In reality, the unit of the DOJ was sent to Florida in order to defuse tensions in the community, and as the Orlando Sentinel reported, they "reached out to the city's spiritual and civic leaders to help cool heated emotions."
Judicial Watch claimed that the Islamic State (ISIS) had set up a terrorist camp in Mexico "just a few miles from El Paso, Texas," facilitating the smuggling of terrorists into the United States. Conservative media outlets picked up Judicial Watch's claim.
Authorities in the United States and Mexico rejected the group's fearmongering.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said there was "no indication that this claim has any validity to it," while an FBI spokesperson told PolitiFact, "there is no credible information to support" the allegation. The government of Mexico stated: "The government of Mexico dismisses and categorically denies each of the statements made today by the organization Judicial Watch on the alleged presence of ISIS's operating cells throughout the border region." Similarly, the Texas Department of Public Safety said they had "no credible information to corroborate or validate this story."
PolitiFact rated the claim as "false." A similar claim by Judicial Watch in September of 2014 became the basis of a statement by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that ISIS is "present in Ciudad Juarez" in Mexico. Government agencies denied that allegation as well, and PolitiFact rated it "mostly false."
Throughout the Obama administration, there have been repeated news stories discussing the cost of travel arrangements for the Obama administration, particularly for first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters.
These stories have often been based on reports generated by Judicial Watch, and their website boasts an archive of releases on the topic (despite the organization's existence during the Bush administration, the "First Family" Vacations archive is limited to travel from 2010-present).
Many of these releases also exaggerate the truth. In 2010, Judicial Watch alleged that the Obamas went on a "private family safari" at taxpayer expense, but the safari was paid for with the Obama's own funds. They also claimed the trip "was as much an opportunity for the Obama family and friends to go on a safari as it was a trip intended to advance the administration's agenda in Africa" but the schedule was filled with official events:
The six-day trip was dominated by official events and meetings with world leaders. Mrs. Obama met with the South African president's wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma; spoke to the Young African Women Leaders Forum; participated in community service events in Johannesburg; visited U.S. embassies and consulates; spoke at the University of Cape Town and met with students from poor communities; held a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu; met with Botswanan president Ian Khama; and gave interviews to several news outlets, including NBC, ABC, BET, and CNN.
Judicial Watch was designed almost two decades ago to use the courts and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to trip up and raise implications about Democrats and other related elected officials. It does so through dishonest claims and inaccurate document releases. Despite their history, the media has continued to rely on them, only to sometimes be caught hyping inaccurate supposed scoops.
The last time Newsweek published an anti-environment op-ed without disclosing the author's oil industry ties, the esteemed news outlet was forced to acknowledge the error and provide proper disclosure to its readers. Now it's happened again.
On October 1, Newsweek published an op-ed by the Cato Institute's Walter Olson that argued against calls for the government to investigate climate science deniers under the federal racketeering law. But Newsweek identified Olson only as "a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies," failing to disclose that Cato has received funding from the oil industry, including ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil is currently under fire after an InsideClimate News investigation revealed that although Exxon's own scientists discovered decades ago that fossil fuel emissions could lead to catastrophic climate change, the company subsequently "spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed." Additionally, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and a group of 20 prominent scientists have called for an investigation of "corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change" under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the same law that tobacco companies violated by deceiving the public about the health risks of smoking.
In his Newsweek op-ed, Olson pushed back against the idea of investigating climate science deniers under the RICO statute, claiming it threatens the right to free speech. Olson asserted that "controversial speech need not be true to be protected" and defended the right to use "half-truths, selectively marshaled data, [and] scientific studies that spring from agendas," arguing that these tactics are merely "common currency of everyday debate in Washington."
Newsweek failed to disclose the Cato Institute's industry funding, which includes at least $125,000 from ExxonMobil. Cato was co-founded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and has received millions of dollars from the Koch family.
The Cato Institute is also home to long-time climate science denier Patrick Michaels, and once published a fake "addendum" to a federal climate report, which Climate Science & Policy Watch characterized as "counterfeit."
In April, Newsweek published a deeply-flawed op-ed attacking wind energy by Utah State University professor Randy T. Simmons without disclosing that Simmons' full title at Utah State was the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy, or that he is a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. After Media Matters and others drew attention to the lack of disclosure and other problems with the op-ed, Newsweek added a correction and an editor's note disclosing Simmons' oil industry ties, and also published an op-ed responding to his misleading claims.
Following the incident, Newsweek Managing Editor Kira Bindrim told Politico: "Admittedly, we did not do an outside vetting of Simmons, and we are not in the habit of fully fact-checking opinion pieces picked up like this from outside sites. These are aspects of our workflow that we're looking at now."
Image at the top from Flickr user Tommaso Galli with a Creative Commons license.
In the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, conservative commentators instantly referred to the school as a "gun-free zone," falling back on conservative media's go-to mass shooting talking point.
At least 10 people were reported killed, and many others injured October 1 during an Oregon community college mass shooting, and as facts concerning the shooting remained scarce, media figures immediately made references to the campus as a "gun-free zone" on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, the Drudge Report, and other conservative websites.
But these references of "gun-free zones" represent a red herring because they rely on the assumption that more people carrying guns would stop mass shootings, when in reality there is no evidence to support such claims.
The overwhelming majority of mass shootings actually occur where guns are allowed to be carried. And according to an analysis of 62 public mass shootings over a 30 year period conducted by Mother Jones, not a single shooting was stopped by a civilian carrying a firearm. Mother Jones also found that gunmen do not choose to target locations because guns are not allowed, but rather other motives typically exist for choice of location, such as a workplace grievance.
As Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes explained in a commentary for The Trace, the idea that "gun-free zones" attract mass shooters is based on the faulty assumption that the shooters are "rational actors":
Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the argument against gun-free zones, in the context of mass shootings, is its underlying assumption that shooters are rational actors. Lott himself admits that about half of criminals who commit mass shootings have received a "formal diagnosis of mental illness," yet his model requires them to act precisely as we know they don't: as hyperrational, calculating machines, intentionally seeking out gun-free environments for the sole purpose of maximizing causalities.
In reality, many shooters target a location based on an emotional grievance or an attachment to a particular person or place. An FBI study of 160 active shootings (defined as a shooter actively attempting to kill people in a populated area, regardless of the amount of fatalities) between 2000 and 2013 -- including the high-profile mass shootings in Tucson and Aurora -- shows that of the shootings that occurred in commercial or educational areas, the shooter had some relationship with the area in 63 percent of the cases.
Radio host Michael Berry said "black people don't know how to exist without white people to blame their problems on" and "most white people would like to get as far from black people as they possibly could and never have to see another black person" during a call-in segment on his radio show, which he also used to promote October as "White History Month."
During the October 1 broadcast of his show, Berry asked listeners to call in and list stereotypical things white people like. When one caller said white people "like to talk about black people," Berry responded by describing how blacks and whites talk about one another. "Most white people would like to get as far from black people as they possibly could," said Berry, continuing, "Black people are obsessed with white people... black people don't know how to exist without white people around to blame their problems on."
(CALLER) FELTON: Michael Berry.
BERRY: Go ahead sir.
FELTON: White people like to talk about black people.
BERRY: [laughs] You know I'm going to tell you something, Felton. I don't say this to hurt your feelings, I really don't. But this is the God's honest truth and nobody's ever going to admit this to you. The fact is, most white people -- not all white people - most white people would like to get as far from black people as they possibly could and never have to see another black person, and never have to deal with black-people issues, never need to talk about black people. I'm telling you, Felton - and you don't have to believe this - I'm telling you that if white people are not around black people, they literally never talk about them. I've spent time with both groups and I'll tell you that black people are obsessed with white people and white people simply want to get away. White people go on snow skiing trips to Utah and Colorado and they never see a black person and they don't stand around going, "Boy, I tell you what! Them black people lazy! They lazy and they violent and they try'n a get our womens!" They don't do it. The only time white people talk about black people is because black people cannot let them go. They can't. Black people don't know how to exist without white people around to blame their problems on.
FELTON: That's not true, Michael Berry.
BERRY: Felton, you can't just say, "Nah uh."
FELTON: I don't blame white people for my problems.
BERRY: Well you -- Felton, please don't personalize it. I'm speaking generally in a sagacious way about social tendencies.
BERRY: So don't take it the wrong way. It isn't that white people don't like you or other black people. It's just, white people have other things they're worried about. You know, how to get their, you know, next latte or smoothie or, you know, stuff like that. You know that's really what white people are -- that's what they really, really care about.
FELTON: Hey, I like lattes and smoothies.
Berry kicked off the show by talking about "White History Month," which he said non-white people should celebrate by wishing white people "Happy White History Month." He then extolled all the things white people have done for society and compared the month to a "Jewish holiday":
BERRY: Every year at this time, I will be approached in person, on email, by folks who are not white. And they will say, 'What do I say to you people? Should I, you know, should I recognize it or is this just something ya'll do internally? I want to participate, I want ya'll to know that I, you know, I'm proud for ya'll, that ya'll too have a history that you can be proud of and that ya'll have done some things too.'
And I always say, do what comes naturally. White people are naturally excited about "White History Month," but they're probably not going to mention it publicly, unfortunately, because they don't know who all knows and they don't want to seem self-centered or too absorbed, narcissistic. So the proper thing to do is, for those of you who are not white but you say, you know what I want -- you want to encourage multiculturalism and include the white people in what you're doing, and let them celebrate, you know, their unique special identity and some of the contributions their people, the white people, have made to society. The right thing to do is simply to approach them and say, 'Happy White History Month.'
People often ask, 'What is the proper greeting for White History Month?' And it's simple, it's just -- it's like Easter. Just, 'Happy White History Month.' You can add anything you'd like to that. A nice line for a lot of white people, if you're not white, is to say, 'Happy White History Month. You know I was doing some reading on the Michael Berry Show website and I didn't realize white people had done so much. I was, I was really impressed, I mean, you should be proud.'
And you will notice their countenance will change and they will smile and it's like, you know, it's like it used to be for somebody who came to this country from Vietnam. You know, they didn't, you didn't know much about it and then everybody started saying 'pho' and so they could feel proud of what they grew up eating, and were ashamed of it, and now they realized they could be proud of that.
So, over the course of the coming month, we will assist those of you who are not white in how best to celebrate. It's like a Jewish holiday. It's happening all around you but you're really not sure why, you don't quite know the history and 'what is this Seder stuff and Passover and what does all this mean?' We're here to help you and to celebrate. And to all of -- some of you out there are white, to all of you we offer you our heartfelt greetings, "Happy White History Month." And we will have various forms of celebration over the coming month. But of course we know you'll be having your own private celebrations and this is a time of mirth and merriment amongst the white people in this country and their community. An opportunity to really celebrate and educate young white people that their people have also made contributions to world society and entrepreneurism and sport and culture and language and science and mathematics and engineering and technology. White people have actually been involved in some of these things, too. And so it's a great opportunity for us every year to learn a little bit about white people and to kind of take a moment from the greater whole and just set aside a moment to celebrate our history as white people.
Berry has a long history of making racially-charged comments and currently has a recurring segment on his show devoted to mocking minority victims of gun violence. Berry has said he is "proud" of the segment in comments on social media, praising its "awesomess" (sic).
In addition to mocking black victims of violence and making inflammatory race-based statements, Berry also likes to talk politics on his show. He recently hosted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a friend "for over 10 years," according to Berry, who introduced Cruz to the crowd at his 2012 Senate primary campaign victory party.
The president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) lashed out at The Washington Post for exposing his organization's oil industry funding, baselessly describing a Post article about the group's anti-environmental agenda as "[l]ies, innuendos and false claims."
The Post recently helped pull back the curtain on the NBCC's fossil fuel-friendly agenda. In a September 28 article, The Post reported that the NBCC has been fighting an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to reduce ground-level ozone pollution, the primary component of smog, and also noted that the NBCC is heavily funded by ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel interests. The NBCC has been fighting air pollution standards and climate change action for decades.
NBCC president Harry Alford decried the Washington Post article in a column on his organization's website, titled "Environmental Extremists seem to be going cuckoo." Without identifying any specific errors in the Post article, Alford wrote that that it contained "[l]ies, innuendos and false claims" and "misinformation about the National Black Chamber of Commerce." He also described the Post article as "incomplete reporting, replete with racial innuendos," but failed to elaborate.
From Alford's post on the NBCC website:
Just this week, the super liberals put out misinformation about the National Black Chamber of Commerce via the Washington Post newspaper. Lies, innuendos and false claims. The reporting was less than professional and we attempted to explain the misrepresentations to their Ombudsman. To our surprise, the Post doesn't have an Ombudsman to whom readers can go to correct inaccuracies. They even claim one of the "gotcha" men stalking me with a camera is a "writer". Just a few years ago he was in security at the Detroit Westin Hotel. Give me a break! The others they quoted also have hidden agendas.
The misinformation articles, the lies and stalking us around the country are flattering. But we didn't become the number one Black business association in the world by being timid. There are a lot of "broke face" governors, senators, congresspersons and corporate CEO's who have learned this the hard way. We got a big laugh from the incomplete reporting, replete with racial innuendos. As my late mentor, Arthur A. Fletcher, once told me, "When you get on the front page of the Post you are in Tall Cotton and that ain't bad. The fact is they are fearing your movement and your side is apparently winning."
The truth always wins eventually.
Within the span of just twelve hours this week, multiple Republican-sponsored political pursuits partially unraveled in plain sight.
The long-running investigations were the Benghazi select committee and the related probe into Hillary Clinton's private emails, and Republicans' crusade targeting Planned Parenthood. Journalists would be wise to take note of the pattern of plain deception and ask themselves if they want to keep sponsoring these planned distractions.
The first to crumble was the right-wing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, which was launched this summer and sponsored by Fox News and the Republican Party. Creating a whirlwind of controversy and endless media attention, the undercover sting operation by anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress was even elevated by some to be pressing enough to shut down the federal government.
Tuesday's Congressional hearing about defunding Planned Parenthood was to be the centerpiece of the right wing's orchestrated attack campaign. The problem was that in recent weeks we've learned the gotcha videos at the center of the campaign were deceptively edited. And so far six statewide investigations have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. That meant the Congressional production was likely destined for failure.
"The entire hearing was premised on a series of mischaracterizations," reported The New Yorker. Republicans were left with little but bouts of bullying in an effort to intimidate Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards as she testified.
It didn't work. So after ten weeks, the sustained attack against Planned Parenthood produced no tangible evidence of wrongdoing and no serious damage to the organization. (Of course, despite their failures so far, Republicans are now reportedly considering creating "a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood.")
Then just hours after the hearing completed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who's now in line to become the next Republican Speaker of the House, brazenly bragged on Sean Hannity's Fox program about how the Benghazi select committee was responsible for damaging Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. To which Hannity responded, "That's something good, I give you credit for that."
With one brief Fox appearance, McCarthy laid bare the facts about both the never-ending Benghazi investigation and the related, still-churning email witch hunt: They're both built on politics, plain and simple. The Republicans created a Benghazi select committee in order to try to take out the Democratic frontrunner for president. Period. That's the story.
Sadly, the busted Planned Parenthood, Benghazi and email diversions simply represent the latest creations from the GOP distraction model. Conservatives have been using it, on and off, for two decades -- and the model works best when the Beltway press plays along. It works best if the Beltway press pretends virtually every other Republican-produced scandal pursuit hasn't been a bust.
Many of the same Republicans who have spearheaded the dishonest Planned Parenthood probe are the same ones leading the charge on Benghazi and the email story. And the press continues to breathlessly quote them as they try to hype these supposed scandals.
So yes, much of the press has been culpable in the latest Republican distractions since day one. In fact, the press has been playing the same lapdog role for well over twenty years when it comes to endlessly hyping and even marketing orchestrated Republican distractions. These self-contained circus productions that suggest all kinds of Democratic wrongdoing are long on conspiracy theories but short on facts, and leave pundits and reporters breathlessly chronicling the possible downside for Democrats.
One reason these Groundhog Day scenes keeping play out, again and again and again, is due to the fact too many journalists are absolutely wed to the very simple definition of what constitutes news: What are conservatives angry about?
Given that kind of carte blanche to create news cycles, Republicans and conservatives in the media have taken full advantage and have settled into a predictable pattern: Manufacture distractions designed to make life miserable for Democratic leaders; force Democrats to use up energy and resources to swat down endless unproven allegations, and spawn waves of media "gotcha" hysteria fueled by disingenuous leaks.
But here's the thing: it's exhausting. It's disheartening. And it's a colossal waste of time and energy. But this is how the right wing plays politics in America and the D.C. press has shown an unbridled enthusiasm to want to play along; to want to abandon common sense in order to chase GOP-designated shiny objects for weeks, months or sometimes years on end. And then do it all over again when the current distraction disintegrates.
The pattern began in earnest during the 1990s when Republicans became obsessed with personally pursuing the Clintons. Remember the dubious Clinton pardon distraction, the parting gifts distraction, and of course Ken Starr's $80 million Inspector Javert routine.
Charles Pierce at Esquire recently detailed that decade's signature string of orchestrated GOP obfuscations:
To use a more relevant, example, TravelGate was a distraction. FileGate was a distraction. The disgusting use of Vince Foster's suicide was a distraction. Castle Grande was a distraction. The cattle futures were a distraction. The billing records were a distraction. Webster Hubbell's billing practices were a distraction. Hell, the entire Whitewater part of the Whitewater affair was basically a distraction, as was the pursuit of Bill Clinton's extracurricular love life. Kathleen Willey was a distraction. The monkeywrenching of a settlement in the Paula Jones case was to make sure that the distraction that was that case survived. All of these were distractions created to make it difficult for a Democratic president to govern, and the reason I know that is because the people creating distractions were not shy about admitting what they were all about to each other.
Over time, the vast majority of those endless Clinton allegations were proven to be hollow. Yet aided by some regrettable journalism, the relentless scandal culture took hold and managed to damage to the Clinton administration. Indeed, the whole point of the GOP's Clinton distraction model was to create the infrastructure to hound the Democrats.
With President Obama's inauguration, the old model was unpacked, but this time with Fox News playing a much more aggressive role. The results have been an endless parade of diversions and hoaxes designed, in various shapes and sizes, to hamstring a Democratic administration and, more recently, to damage the leading Democratic candidate for 2016.
Here's just a handful of manufactured distractions:
As Media Matters can attest, virtually none of the often-hysterical allegations attached to those distractions were ever proven to be true. Instead, the pursuits imploded under their own weight. Yet too often, these supposed scandals broke out of the Fox News bubble and became mainstream "news."
So when's the press going to get the message and stop enabling these charades?
Discredited reporter Ed Klein is back with another book, Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. Like his previous output, Unlikeable features supposedly insider accounts of conversations and behind-the-scenes dealings of the most powerful politicians in the country. And, like his previous work, the book reads like a conservative fever dream translated into a screenplay.
Klein's previous books -- which have forwarded outlandish smears like the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary -- have been roundly criticized by a wide range of reporters, including many conservatives. His supposed reporting has been labeled "bullshit," "smut," "junk journalism," and "fan fiction." Unlikeable finds Klein living up to his reputation.
Blood Feud, Klein's 2014 book about the supposed war between the Obamas and the Clintons, was reportedly dropped by a HarperCollins imprint because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." BuzzFeed additionally reported that HarperCollins had "concerns about the reporting quality." (The book was eventually released by conservative publisher Regnery, which also published Unlikeable.)
Despite his complete lack of credibility, Klein can still rely on certain sections of the conservative media to celebrate his supposed scoops every time he puts out a new book, and Unlikeable has been no different. Klein's new "reporting" has garnered a series of headlines in recent weeks in the New York Post, and Klein himself has been given a platform to promote the book this week on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Fox Business.
But no matter how badly conservative media might want Klein's latest to ring true, Unlikeable is undermined by dubious sourcing and sloppy research.
For instance, one chapter opens with a quotation supposedly from Obama Senior Adviser (and frequent Klein villain) Valerie Jarrett ominously declaring, "After we win this election, it's our turn. Payback time."
This supposed quote has been bouncing around conservative websites and message boards for years. In 2012, Right Wing Watch tracked down the quotation's questionable origins, and discovered a convoluted series of anonymous sources overhearing other anonymous sources:
[A]n anonymous source supposedly within the Obama campaign supposedly overheard a representative from Jarrett's office make this statement and attributed it to Jarrett herself; it was then passed along to some pseudonymous source named "Wall Street Insider" who then forwarded it to [conservative blog] The Ulsterman Report ... and it eventually ended up on Glenn Beck's radio program where the quote was treated as entirely legitimate.
Fittingly enough, the Ulsterman Report routinely published interviews with anonymous highly-placed sources in the government that didn't pass the smell test.
Even WND, a birth certificate-obsessed conspiracy website not exactly known for high editorial standards, reported of the supposed Jarrett quotation in 2012, "The quote, however, is suspect and is at best four steps removed from Jarrett herself." Meanwhile, Klein, who regularly touts himself as serious reporter, found it compelling enough to use as a chapter header.
In another chapter, Klein's source is allegedly a "well-known cardiologist," who claims to have been asked by Bill Clinton "to review Hillary's medical records." The cardiologist explains in an interview with Klein that politicians often fear doctors will leak their medical information "to the press ... But doctors are discreet." The doctor ("who requested anonymity") then proceeds to talk about Hillary Clinton's supposed ongoing medical problems:
Bill was so concerned that he asked a well-known cardiologist to review Hillary's medical records. After looking over her cardiograms and X-rays and other records, the cardiologist recommended that Hillary travel with a full-time physician who would keep her under constant observation.
"Most politicians are reluctant to be monitored by a doctor because they fear that if the results are leaked to the press, the information might harm their chances of election," the cardiologist said in an interview for this book. "But doctors are discreet. And in Hillary's case, it is very important that she be monitored on a daily basis. Her symptoms-- the fainting-- are very worrisome, especially for someone of her age. I have a lot of experience with political candidates and have seen the toll that the stress of a campaign can take. It's stressful for young candidates, and for older ones like Hillary, it's beyond belief."
As Salon's Simon Maloy (formerly of Media Matters) explained, Klein's "hot scoops" are usually "based on anonymous 'sources' who always happen to be present when the most powerful people in the country cook up their various schemes and conspiracies, and who then provide verbatim details of those highly scandalous conversations exclusively to Ed Klein."
Apparently, the Clintons keep repeatedly inviting these anonymous sources back to intimate dinner parties and important meetings and divulging their deepest secrets to them, thereby allowing Ed Klein to continue publishing books.
Another of Klein's favorite tactics, regularly on display in Unlikeable, is using sources that have simply heard, after the fact, about private conversations they were not present for -- but which they can nonetheless recreate in impressive detail.
In one instance, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Jarrett have a private conversation in the White House about their supposed hatred of Clinton, which Klein somehow reproduces word-for-word based only on "sources who spoke to Jarrett":
While Jarrett gave her briefing, the president paced, his head bowed, deep in thought. Jarrett was happy to see Hillary in trouble. Obama wasn't so sure. He felt a great deal of animosity toward both Clintons, and he smiled when Jarrett told him of Hillary's latest travails, but he didn't want to see the Democratic Party lose the White House.
"It's all her own fault," he repeated over and over, according to sources who spoke to Jarrett. "Bill should have advised her better. He should have made her goddamn behave, follow the rules."
Barack plopped down in a chair and let out a sigh.
"Dumb, dumb, dumb," he said. "Just goddamn dumb." (emphasis added)
BuzzFeed's Katherine Miller mocked the many absurd passages in Klein's last book Blood Feud -- highlights include Hillary Clinton swirling a glass of wine and saying of Obama to her old college friends, "You can't trust the motherfucker." Miller described Klein's book as reading "like stilted fan fiction, featuring dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."
Unlikeable continues the trend. In the below scene, President Obama and Hillary Clinton argue in the Oval Office about Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state:
But before Jarrett could intercede, Obama spun around and looked directly at Hillary.
"There is nothing I can do one way or the other," he said. "Things have been set in motion, and I can't and won't interfere. Your problems are, frankly, of your own making. If you had been honest. . . ."
Hillary interrupted him.
"There are always haters out to get the Clintons," she said. (emphasis added)
While Obama gets to sound like a Bond villain, Clinton has a habit of violently clearing off desks in fits of rage. An unnamed "Foreign Service Officer" tells Klein that "after a telephone argument with President Obama, she took her right arm and cleared off her small working desk, sending pictures, glasses, everything crashing to the floor."
A few chapters later, Clinton does the same thing to her husband's desk:
"You've thrown us in the crap again!" she screamed. "I've never been this pissed off at you! I don't think you really want me to be president."
Bill looked up over the rim of his eyeglasses, which were perched on the tip of his nose.
"Calm down," he said.
His air of nonchalance only made Hillary angrier, and with a sweeping motion of her arm, she shoved everything off the top of his desk, sending papers and an expensive piece of Chihuly blown glass flying onto the floor.
"Jesus!" Bill said.
He got up to retrieve the Chihuly sculpture, which fortunately wasn't damaged. He put it carefully back on his desk. He had one of the largest private collections of Chihuly glass in the country.
"You don't care about anything but that fucking piece of glass," Hillary said. (emphasis added)
Clinton also sends a water glass flying across her office in a fit of rage (according to the unnamed "Foreign Service officer," who saw it "with my own eyes").
Unlikeable finishes with a strange and out-of-nowhere epilogue that issues dire warnings about the "new normal" in America. According to him, "long-accepted standards and codes of behavior" have been turned "upside down." Features that are "unacceptable," "abnormal," and make America "coarser" apparently include:
Support for same-sex marriage has doubled over the past decade to 60 percent.
In less than thirty years non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up a majority of Americans.
Bruce Jenner, once the picture of masculinity, is canonized for being castrated.
The average American woman now weighs the same as the average American man did in the 1960s.
He concludes: "Conservatives rightly fear that decadence will lead to the fall of the United States just as surely as it led to the fall of Rome."
Klein's "fan fiction" perfectly follows conservative mythology -- down to the very last page.
Rush Limbaugh criticized Politico and other media outlets for reporting on his remarks that NASA's discovery of water of Mars was part of a "left-wing agenda," claiming the remarks were taken out of context. However, when asked by Politico to explain how, a Limbaugh spokesman refused to explain.
On the September 28 edition of his show, Limbaugh, talking about NASA's announcement that day it had discovered liquid water on Mars, claimed NASA had been "corrupted by the current regime" and, referencing global warming, asked, "what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?" Limbaugh doubled down on his remarks the next day, claiming Media Matters took his remarks "out of context" and that "Obama has turned NASA over to Muslim outreach."
Politico's Eliza Collins, writing about Limbaugh's criticism of the media reports on his remarks, noted "It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted." Collins added a Limbaugh spokesman "declined to elaborate." She also noted "[a] transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word":
Rush Limbaugh took a swipe Tuesday at POLITICO and others who had reported on his recent comments about the discovery of water on Mars -- saying that his remarks about how NASA's findings would be used to "advance a leftist agenda" were being misinterpreted.
"POLITICO has a story: 'Rush Limbaugh Pans Evidence of Water on Mars as Part of Leftist Agenda,' and they take it out of context, too, which is typical," he said on his show Tuesday. "I don't think this guy, Eliza Collins... I doubt that he went to my website to find out what I really said. Just looked at these 'watchdog' websites and took it from there."
On Monday, POLITICO wrote about a lengthy segment of the conservative radio host's show in which he predicted that the Mars discovery would be used to promote liberal views about climate change.
The original story on POLITICO cited a transcript and video of Limbaugh from the left-leaning website Media Matters, a long-time critic of the radio host that has called on advertisers to boycott his program. A transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word.
"This Mars thing is just totally all over the place out there, and every one of these people talking about it, from local TV news, say, in Dallas, or The Politico, are getting it totally out of context from our old buddies at Media Matters for America, which wouldn't know the truth if it knocked them unconscious," Limbaugh said Wednesday.
It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted. A spokesman for the radio host declined to elaborate.
Listen to Limbaugh's original remarks here: