Fox News cited dubious evidence in an attempt to tie the Obama administration to the IRS' targeting of conservative groups, claiming that inaccurate White House visitor logs revealed collusion between the White House and former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Following reports that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, Fox has attempted to link the Obama administration to the scandal, baselessly accusing the administration of continuing to use improper screening to scrutinize nonprofit groups and ignoring Obama's condemnation of the IRS' actions to justify calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the case.
Fox & Friends furthered these efforts by airing a graphic based on data from the Daily Caller that purported to compare the number of times Shulman visited the White House as IRS commissioner to other top administration officials. Co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned why Shulman had visited the White House more than others, implying Shulman was hiding the purpose of his visits, while co-host Steve Doocy cited "critics" who claim the data showed Shulman must have been coordinating with administration officials on the IRS' targeting of conservative groups:
However, the Daily Caller article Fox cited for the graphic debunked its own data, noting that White House visitor logs "do not give a complete picture of White House access." High-level officials with clearance often do not have to sign in during visits, and scheduled meetings are often not included. The Daily Caller concluded, "it is probable that the vast majority of visits by major cabinet members do not end up in the public record." For example, one of the officials compared to Shulman was Jack Lew, who worked as White House chief of staff from January 2012 to Januay 2013, and thus would have been present at the White House on many more occasions than the data revealed.
From the May 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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As Fox News continues to push for a special prosecutor to investigate the Obama administration, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board has come out in opposition to that idea in favor of congressional investigations that will extract a "political price."
Characterizing this movement as "dumber follows dumb," the Wall Street Journal -- like Fox News, owned by News Corp. -- has come out in opposition to a special prosecutor for the IRS' politicized handling of nonprofits in a May 29 editorial.
The Journal argues that these investigations are "best handled in Congressional hearings" and that calls for a special prosecutor are "cheap political grace." But the paper doesn't urge this course of action for because it's simply seeking an unbiased finding of what went wrong and how to fix it. The Journal writes that instead of waiting for "potential indictments" -- which the board warns "would extend well past the 2014 election" -- hearings should take place to "educate the public" so that the White House will be forced to assert executive privilege which will carry a "political price."
So while Fox News makes a dishonest case for an open-ended investigation by a special prosecutor in order to paint the Obama administration in the worst possible light, their colleagues at the Journal supportcongressional investigations which they believe would help Republicans at the ballot box.
Fox News contributors pushed flawed claims that Attorney General Eric Holder committed perjury while testifying before Congress because Holder's comments on Justice Department examinations of reporter communications records as part of leak investigations supposedly conflict with Holder signing off on a warrant seeking the communications of a Fox reporter in one such case. House Republicans are now following Fox's lead by reportedly investigating Holder's statements, which has one Fox reporter saying Holder is "gonna have to go."
Fox News continued its scandal-mongering campaign with an attempt to connect a Department of the Interior (DOI) investigation of the Gibson Guitar Corporation to recent reports that the IRS paid undue scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, misrepresenting Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz's political donations to Republicans and Democrats to claim that the Gibson Guitar investigation was politically motivated.
In 2009 and 2011, agents from the DOI's Fish and Wildlife Bureau investigated Gibson Guitar premises on suspicion that the company had violated environmental protections by illegally importing certain types of wood. Gibson Guitar admitted that it "may have violated" Madagascan laws and agreed to pay a $300,000 fine. The 2011 investigation was widely reported on by the media, but at the time, only Fox baselessly speculated that the political leanings of Juszkiewicz were to blame for the investigation into Gibson Guitar.
On May 28, Fox & Friends co-hosts again focused on the Gibson Guitar DOI investigation, reaching to connect it to reports that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative groups, reports which Fox have relentlessly pushed to frame as part of a larger government scandal. Co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that the existence of the IRS investigation report raised the possibility that Gibson Guitar may have been mistaken in thinking that its alleged improper use of "this eccentric, very rare wood was the reason why they were being investigated" by the DOI, and co-host Gretchen Carlson noted:
CARLSON: At the time there were whispers: oh, you know, the guy who runs the company is a conservative, he's given to Republicans in the past. Maybe that could have had something to do with it, because it turns out that they had done absolutely nothing wrong at the company. Well now some people are trying to put together the dots and draw the lines based on this IRS investigation. Could it be that some of these other things that were going on were also concerted targeted things?
But in 2011, Juszkiewicz himself directly pushed back against speculation that Gibson Guitar was targeted for political reasons. As The Wall Street Journal reported (emphasis added):
The fact that Gibson was singled out when other guitar makers use the same woods has fed speculation that the company was targeted--because it is not unionized, perhaps, or didn't donate enough to the Democratic Party.
"I don't think it's a political issue," Mr. Juszkiewicz says, shaking his head. "But I will say this: I wrote a letter to President Obama. I spelled out what happened. I said: You know, we got raided and here are the facts, I think it's unfair. What do you think we should do? No response."
Furthermore, in attempting to frame Juszkiewicz as a victim of political targeting, Carlson highlighted the fact that he had "given to Republicans in the past." However, Juszkiewicz's own campaign donations reveal that he donated to both Republican and Democratic campaigns in the 2012 cycle. An OpenSecrets.org search of political donation listed under the name Henry Juszkiewicz from "Gibson Guitar" from the 2008, 2010, and 2012 cycles yielded this list:
The vast majority Juszkiewicz's contributions went to the Consumer Electronics Association, which donated $163,300 to Republicans and $69,900 to Democrats in the 2012 cycle.
As Media Matters previously reported, there were legal reasons why Gibson Guitar was singled out for investigation. Quinnipiac University School of Law professor John Thomas noted that while other companies also import unfinished wood from India, irregularities on Gibson Guitar's paperwork raised red flags, and court documents have suggested that Gibson Guitar "knew that it was buying illegal woods" from Madagascar:
My take is that the 2009 and 2011 seizures are related in that Gibson's conduct has given USFW [US Fish and Wildlife Service] officials probable cause to be suspicious of Gibson's wood-buying activities. In 2008, Gibson, Martin, and Taylor officials [Guitar companies] toured Madagascar and observed the illegal logging operations. Martin and Taylor promptly stopped using Madagascar woods; Gibson did not. Internal Gibson emails, as quoted by the US Attorney's office appear to indicate that Gibson knew that it was buying illegal woods. Federal officials seized that wood and as per the 2008 Lacey Act amendments, need not charge Gibson with a crime. Gibson must prove the legality of the wood to secure its return. Gibson has been unable to do that. [After the November 2009 raid, Gibson stopped buying wood from Madagascar.]
The 2011 seizure concerned Indian woods that would be legal but for the thickness. I believe that USFW is investigating because of suspicions due to 1) Gibson using the same wood supplier as it did for the Madagascar woods, 2) irregularities in the wood designations on the paperwork that could be due to innocent error or intentional attempt to deceive officials as to the thickness of the wood and 3) though Gibson is the ultimate purchaser, the paperwork lists an intermediary, LMI, which delivers the wood to a warehouse near the Nashville airport. Gibson retrieves a bit of the wood at a time when it needs it.
Fox News distorted the testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder to claim that he committed perjury before the House Judiciary Committee last week.
It was recently revealed that the Justice Department obtained a search warrant for the communications records of Fox News reporter James Rosen in an effort to track down a leaker who provided him with classified information on North Korea in 2009. On May 15, during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Holder about the warrant and the potential for prosecuting journalists accused of publishing classified information that they obtained from government sources. Holder responded (emphasis added):
With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something that I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.
On May 24, the Justice Department released a statement clarifying Holder's involvement in the approval process for the warrants in question (emphasis added):
"The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General. After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant."
Fox News' Special Report on May 24 argued that these statements were inconsistent and concluded that the Attorney General had previously lied to the Judiciary Committee and thus had committed perjury. Host Shannon Bream began the show stating, "It's his story, but he's not sticking to it," claiming that Holder has "chang[ed] his tune" on his involvement in the scrutiny of journalists. Contributor Steve Hayes claimed that Holder's two statements were "incongruent" and Charles Krauthammer speculated that it may be "a case of perjury."
In fact, the statements are not "incongruent" whatsoever. Holder's comments to the Judiciary referred to the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information, but that is not the crime the Justice Department's warrant accused Rosen of committing. DOJ investigators were concerned with Rosen's solicitation of classified information, not any subsequent publication of it. Wired explained (emphasis added):
According to the affidavit (.pdf), FBI Agent Reginald Reyes told the judge there was probable cause to believe that Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by serving "as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" in the leak. The Espionage Act is the same law that former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused of violating when he leaked information to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.
To support his assertion, Reyes quoted an email exchange between Kim and Rosen, in which Rosen told him that he was interested in "breaking news ahead of my competitors" and had a particular interest in "what intelligence is picking up." He also told Kim, "I'd love to see some internal State Department analyses."
The suggestion was that Rosen broke the law by soliciting information from Kim, something that all journalists do routinely with sources.
Nonetheless, the federal judge found there was probable cause to believe that Rosen was a co-conspirator and approved the warrant.
In other words, Holder's on-the-record denial of involvement in any prosecution of news organizations for publishing classified information in no way conflicts with any knowledge he may have possessed or action the DOJ may have taken against reporters for soliciting said information. Fox's perjury accusations simply don't align with the facts.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Amid reports that former State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was nominated by President Obama to a higher post, Fox News immediately engaged its smear machine to launch a false attack on her, claiming she had misled Congress and the American people about terrorist groups possibly involved in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
Politico reported on May 23 that Nuland, who had been "involved in the editing of the administration's talking points on Benghazi," was nominated by Obama to be the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Politico also reported the nomination "could come under scrutiny from Republicans" for her input on the administration's unclassified talking points on the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Fox News jumped on the news to smear Nuland and continue its long-running attempt to promote Benghazi as a devastating scandal. On May 24, Fox's early morning show Fox & Friends First said that Nuland is "accused" by unnamed people of "misleading Congress and Americans." Co-host Patti Ann Browne continued:
BROWNE: The State Department spokesperson who played a key role in editing the talking points on the Benghazi terror attack is getting a promotion. President Obama has nominated Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. She's accused of misleading Congress and Americans by downplaying the role terrorists played in that attack. This comes as the investigation deepens; several lawmakers are pushing to interview 13 top State Department officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that Nuland was "being promoted for politics," and asked, "where's the accountability?" The following graphic aired during the segment:
But recently released administration emails which document the process of drafting the Benghazi talking points show that it's Fox News that is being misleading.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Bill O'Reilly ignored reality and claimed that "President Obama is not holding anyone accountable" for the actions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after an Inspector General report found the agency gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups' tax status applications. O'Reilly failed to mention the fact that the Obama administration has fired Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS, placed Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the IRS, on administrative leave, and that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a criminal investigation into the case.
On the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told guest Ben Stein, "I think to be fair on this we have to say a few things definitely. That President Obama is not holding anyone accountable. That's absolutely true." O'Reilly then claimed that the president should "be scolded for that," and that Lerner should have been suspended immediately.
But President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew forced Miller out as a "first step," with President Obama promising to "do everything in my power" to stop future targeting. On May 23, the acting IRS commissioner placed Lois Lerner on administrative leave after she refused his request that she resign. And Attorney General Eric Holder announced on May 14 that the Justice Department would work with the FBI to see if any laws were broken in relation to the IRS case.
Fox News' scandal machine, eager for a new target after the collapse of its Benghazi investigations, has been whitewashing Mr. Obama's response from the start. Some in the right wing media are even using the opportunity to call for a special prosecutor.
The news that electric carmaker Tesla Motors has repaid its federal loan early is being ignored by some of the same outlets that tried to make the bankrupt solar company Solyndra the face of the Obama administration's green initiatives -- including ABC, which suggested Tesla wouldn't be able to repay its loan.
On Wednesday, Tesla announced that it was paying back its $465 million Department of Energy loan with interest. The move came about nine years ahead of schedule and is expected to net taxpayers somewhere in the range of $15 to $26 million. Once derided as a "loser" by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a "failure" by Fox News, Tesla is now profitable and critically-acclaimed.
Yet many in the media have ignored Tesla's loan repayment, which flies in the face of the media narrative that Solyndra was representative of the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC and NBC have so far failed to cover Tesla's loan repayment (CBS gave a news brief on its morning news show). An analysis by Media Matters showed that those same outlets (excluding CBS) devoted 188 segments totaling over 10 hours to Solyndra in the month after the company suspended operations, as seen in these charts comparing coverage to that surrounding a government corruption case at the Minerals Management Service and a report on military contracting waste and fraud:
The bout of positive news surrounding Tesla follows several skeptical media reports about its fortunes. In 2011, ABC suggested that "Tesla's business plan doesn't work" and thus it wouldn't repay its loan:
Since that segment, a Nexis search shows that neither Nightline nor any other primetime ABC News show has followed up with a report on the company's fortunes.
UPDATE (5/31/13): On the May 30 edition of The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC covered Tesla's loan repayment in a report on the successes of the clean energy loan programs. The only other coverage of the loan repayment from the networks above came on the May 25 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, when Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberly Strassel mentioned it while suggesting Tesla might not be "sustainable" in the long run.
A recent Fox News poll of registered voters, which purports to illustrate that a majority of voters agree with the network's dark narrative on the Obama administration's response to the 2012& Benghazi attacks, relies on questions from a foundation of tired distortions and lies.
Fox News conducted a poll of 1,013 registered voters between May 18-20, attempting to discern respondents' opinions on a variety of questions related to the government's handling of the Benghazi attacks. FoxNews.com published the poll on May 21 with the title, "Fox News Poll: Obama could have done more to help those in Benghazi."
Fox's poll questions, however, are predicated on the same distortions and outright lies Fox has pushed for the last nine months, which casts a pall of doubt on the veracity of its results.
For example, see Question 14, to which 62 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative:
Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack?
The very premise of this question is bogus. Fox implies that perhaps Obama didn't do enough to help the Americans at the consulate, which flies in the face of explicit testimony from military and defense leaders regarding the White House's response. Testifying before Congress in February, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both testified that President Obama was fully engaged "pretty constantly" as the crisis unfolded, and that the response was appropriate and normal. What's more, as CNN reported on February 7:
Dempsey said he stood by the conclusion of an independent review board, which concluded the "interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference."
New York Times columnist Bill Keller joined Fox News' scandal machine in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the Obama administration's role surrounding the Internal Revenue Services' (IRS) improper scrutiny of conservative groups. In an opinion piece titled, "Bring Back Ken Starr," Keller ignored the independent investigations already underway as well as the fact that Starr's last round of investigations as special counsel set records for the cost to the American taxpayer and encouraged a hyper-partisan environment that can still be felt today.
After the Fox-led GOP investigation into the attacks in Benghazi collapsed, Fox News geared up its scandal machine to focus on President Obama and the IRS and promptly called for a special prosecutor. In a May 21 op-ed, New York Times columnist Bill Keller followed their lead. Keller even suggested former Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr, who used a real estate deal that emerged during President Clinton's first term as a platform to conduct ever-expanding investigations into the administration over the course of several years, for the role. In fact, Starr topped Keller's list of candidates:
Republicans are howling for President Obama to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups. The president should call their bluff.
The president should announce that he has told the Justice Department to appoint an independent investigator with bulldog instincts and bipartisan credibility. The list of candidates could start with Kenneth Starr, who chased down the scandals, real and imagined, of the Clinton presidency. It might include Patrick Fitzgerald, who was special counsel in the Valerie Plame affair, winning the conviction of Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and who has successfully prosecuted two corrupt governors of Illinois, one from each party.
Keller emphasized what he sees as the need for an independent special prosecutor to discover what laws may have been broken, stating, "Just to be clear, in case the Republicans have forgotten, that is the high bar a special prosecutor would be expected to get over." But he ignored the fact that the Treasury Department Inspector General, who reported on the scandal originally, is itself independent of the administration and that a criminal investigation has already begun in the wake of the IG's report.
His call for the appointment of Starr is especially concerning. According to Duquesne law professor Ken Gormley, who wrote the book on Whitewater, Starr led a team that "came together to produce a witch hunt." Gormley goes on to blame Starr's investigations for encouraging the country's current polarization. "This is the beginning of the sharp division of red and blue," he says. "It's a tragic story ... and it's essential that we do not let something like this happen again."
Keller also failed to mention that Starr managed to rack up a record bill for his efforts -- a cost of over $30 million.
From the May 21 edition of Current TV's Viewpoint:
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From the May 20 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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