As part of the latest hoax about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News is distorting a document recently unearthed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Fox and Judicial Watch are trying to keep alive the phony right-wing narrative that the Obama administration somehow covered up the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, in which four Americans were killed.
A December 12 FoxNews.com article about the Judicial Watch documents says, "Newly released documents show an official at the State Department urged a contractor providing security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi not to respond to media inquiries, in the wake of the September 2012 terrorist attack."
Thus far, the only portion of the "documents" that Judicial Watch has released is an out-of-context, three-sentence quote from an email sent by State Department contracting officer Jan Visintainer to Blue Mountain Group, a firm that helped provide security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi. The email is dated September 26, 2012 -- about two weeks after the attacks.
In reality, the quote from the email shows that Blue Mountain Group first suggested declining to speak with the media, and Visintainer agreed that this was the correct course. Visintainer also said he spoke about the matter with public affairs personnel at the State Department.
Here is the entirety of the quote cited by Judicial Watch and Fox News:
"Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments."
Yet, in a blog post misleadingly titled "State Dept. Ordered Benghazi Security Co. to Dodge Media," Judicial Watch called this email "scandalous."
No matter. Fox News and others in the conservative media are more than happy to forward this latest exaggeration to continue to push their Benghazi hoax.
Image via Steve Rhodes
Fox News host Megyn Kelly hosted J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department attorney who she identified as a "well-known Washington whistleblower." Adams is best known as the fabulist behind the New Black Panthers Party pseudoscandal, which Kelly extensively promoted.
Kelly presents herself in interviews as politically unbiased. Some media observers also push that claim, often pointing to her Election Night rebuttal to Karl Rove's objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama or her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their comments on women in the workplace. But Kelly is also a champion of anti-Obama scandalmongering, notably her effort to turn the New Black Panthers Party story into a damaging attack on President Obama.
In 2010, Adams accused the Obama administration of racially-charged "corruption" for allegedly refusing to protect white voters from intimidation at the hands of minorities in the New Black Panthers Party voter intimidation case. Adams was a long-time Republican political operative who was reportedly hired as part of the Bush administration's illegally politicized hiring of conservative Justice Department lawyers. An investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility ultimately cleared DOJ officials in 2011 of any wrongdoing or misconduct in the case.
Kelly was responsible for launching Adams' claims into the national debate, giving him his first cable news interview in July 2010 and providing dozens of segments and hours of coverage to the story in the subsequent weeks.
Because Adams' story did not stand up to the facts, it was quickly rejected by the Republican vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Fox contributors, and other media figures. Kelly in particular was criticized as being "obsessed" and conducting a "minstrel show"; her own colleague Kirsten Powers accused Kelly of "doing the scary black man thing" and promoting the claims of "a conservative activist posing as a whistleblower."
But three years later, Kelly welcomed Adams to her December 7 program, introducing him as a "well-known Washington whistleblower."
Network nightly news broadcasts have served as a conduit for House Republicans to attack Obama administration initiatives through committee hearings -- all part of the GOP's "aggressive campaign," according to a recent New York Times report, to hold committee hearings and rely on media to cover the hearings' chosen narrative.
Fox News dismissed the devastating effect that delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have on the millions of Americans who would be left without adequate insurance and be forced to delay treatment for serious health conditions.
During her November 6 testimony to Congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed back on congressional demands to delay implementation of parts of the new health care law, noting that a delay of the law could mean delaying access to necessary and life-saving medical treatment for Americans who currently lack insurance or are underinsured (via Nexis):
SEBELIUS: Now, some have asked, why not just delay implementation of the new law until all of the problems are fixed? And there's a pretty straightforward answer: Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn't delay people's cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's. Didn't delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn't delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills. It doesn't delay the higher costs all of us pay when uninsured Americans are left with no choice but to rely on emergency rooms for care.
So for millions of Americans, delay is not an option. People's lives depend on this. Too many hard-working people have been waiting for too long for the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.
We want to save families from going bankrupt. We want to save the lives of more of our friends and neighbors by allowing them to detect medical issues early. We want to keep prices down. Delay is not an option.
The next morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed Sebelius' warning as "disingenuous," and implied that only people in third-world nations lacked access to adequate health care:
KILMEADE: She also said something I thought was totally disingenuous. When asked over and over again by Max Baucus and other Democrats, why don't you delay, she says, well, doing so wouldn't delay people's cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. What are we, Cambodia? Are we some third-world nation? Are we all in the waiting room until this passes and this website gets up? That's, these are the types of statements where people feel as though this is one big game.
In fact, more than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2012, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a one-year delay to the individual mandate -- the portion of the health care law that penalizes individuals for not signing up for insurance by March 2014 -- would cause at least 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014. The majority of the uninsured are low-income working families.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck misleadingly hyped a specific security concern with the HealthCare.gov website without mentioning that the problem has been fixed.
On November 7, Hasselbeck interviewed South Carolina resident Tom Dougall, who explained that he had entered personal information into HealthCare.gov only for it to erroneously be sent to someone else who logged into the website. Hasselbeck used this incident to scare people into thinking it could happen to them, asking Dougall if anyone should "be logging onto a site that puts them at risk for security fraud, identity fraud."
But the Fox News segment never brought up the fact that the particular software issue that lead to the leak of Dougall's information has been fixed. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Senate on November 5 that "she became aware of the mistake on Monday and told the committee a 'software fix' had remedied the problem." McClatchy DC further reported:
A top Obama administration official on Tuesday tried to assure anxious senators that Americans' personal information was secure on the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which erroneously provided a South Carolina man's personal information to a man in North Carolina last week.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the problem was caused by a piece of software code that needed to be fixed. She said the fix was made, tested and the system is working properly.
Bataille said it was the only such incident reported to HHS, but she would not speculate about whether other, similar incidents have occurred.
Many problems have been made apparent since HealthCare.gov launched. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on November 6, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the government is working on fixes for a "couple of hundred" problems with the website. The problem highlighted by Hasselbeck was a serious issue, and she should have mentioned that this particular software problem has been resolved.
CNN and Fox News repeatedly aired Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)'s threat to hold up presidential nominations unless witnesses to the 2012 Benghazi attacks are made available for questioning. The senator's implication -- that no witnesses have yet been questioned -- went unchallenged until CNN's Wolf Blitzer finally got Graham to admit that survivors of the attacks were in fact questioned by Congress earlier this month.
On October 28, Graham announced that he would block all executive branch nominees until survivors of the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya have been questioned by Congress. Graham appeared on Fox's Fox & Friends Monday morning, claiming:
GRAHAM: Fourteen months later, the people who survived the attack in Benghazi have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes.
Fox News continued to amplify Graham's rhetoric on Greta van Susteren's On The Record. Van Susteren noted on the October 28 edition of her show that Graham is "threatening to hold up all nominations for federal government positions ... until survivors of the Benghazi attack appear before Congress."
CNN briefly followed suit. The October 29 edition of CNN's New Day featured a report on Graham's threats from John King, who said that Graham "is saying, 'fine, you don't want to send them up to testify, I'm going to block almost every nomination if not every nomination going through the Senate."
But when Graham appeared on CNN's The Situation Room later that day, host Wolf Blitzer finally asked Graham if he was aware of any Benghazi witnesses who had been questioned by Congress. Graham responded, "It's my understanding that the survivors, the State Department personnel who survived the consulate attack, one of that group has been interviewed by the House, and the CIA agents at the annex have not been interviewed by the Intelligence Committee of the House and the Senate."
In an attempted rebuttal of Media Matters' e-book The Benghazi Hoax, the Republican research group America Rising points to no falsehoods and attempts to deceptively spin the facts to criticize Hillary Clinton's handling of the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox is accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of a "power grab" for proposing a rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. In fact, the new classification is based on sound science and intended to address years' worth of confusion surrounding the proper protection of the nation's waterways.
Newly-proposed guidelines would allow "greater consistency, certainty, and predictability nationwide by providing clarity in determining where the Clean Water Act (CWA) applies," per the EPA, specifically by incorporating recent research on the extent to which small streams and wetlands connect to larger bodies of water downstream. That research, which is under review by the EPA's Science Advisory Board, found that small streams, even those that only flow at certain times, "are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters," and that wetlands are similarly integrated, making them subject to CWA protection.
That is, unless you ask Fox News and Fox Business. This week, the networks have adopted the complaints of GOP lawmakers to claim that the EPA is only using the study to justify a "power grab." Lou Dobbs claimed on his show that the clarified jurisdiction represented "unprecedented control over private property" -- "maybe" extending to "mud puddles." And Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly asserted on Fox & Friends that the study is "bogus" -- merely a rationalization to "regulate all bodies of water" and "control more behavior."
Despite these claims, the new EPA study did not provide the basis for regulating "all bodies of water" (or "mud puddles"). It found that the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could evaluate small streams on a case-by-case basis to determine their impact downstream. The rule is necessary because the parameters of the CWA are currently quite muddled, as even conservative critics and industry lawyers have noted in the past. This process is in keeping with the March 2013 decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, which re-affirmed nearly unanimously that federal agencies are granted a wide berth in interpretations of their own rules.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that Congress' decision to raise the debt limit means that President Obama can now "spend as he wishes," even though the debt limit only affects the government's ability to meet past financial obligations, and government spending has always been checked by congressional allocations.
A day after Congress agreed to a deal that would end 16 days of government shutdown and avert the financial crisis that would have resulted from a failure to raise the debt limit, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Napolitano to comment on whether the decision to raise the debt ceiling was "a deal or raw deal." In response, Napolitano summarized: "because the Democrats bullied the Republicans last night, they have the ability to borrow more money and the president can spend as he wishes for another 90 days." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic framed the congressional deal as a "borrowing binge."
But Napolitano misrepresented the way that government spending functions. As the Government Accountability Office has previously noted, the debt ceiling places a "limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred." Raising the debt ceiling would only allow the government to meet "existing legal obligations," which, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has pointed out, does not authorize new spending.
Furthermore, Napolitano's claim that reopening the government would allow Obama to "spend as he wishes" is a common right-wing myth that has been repeatedly debunked. As PolitiFact noted, "[o]nly Congress can appropriate money. Obama can only spend what he's given." The "Power of the Purse" is a congressional responsibility that places restrictions on the executive branch's ability to spend.
The idea that a debt ceiling deal amounts to a "blank check" is a right-wing talking point frequently parroted by the media. Indeed, Fox has previously suggested that a debt ceiling increase would allow the president to take over Congress' power to dictate spending.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
Major media outlets are pushing the narrative that the United States Department of the Treasury could prioritize payments to bond holders and select groups of recipients in lieu of an increase of the federal borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling, beyond October 17. This ignores Treasury Department officials and other experts who explain such prioritization is unworkable and legally dubious, and that default would still happen.
An independent report has all but destroyed one of the right's most cherished Obama administration "scandals," a fever dream that featured former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson intentionally shirking transparency laws with the help of a secret email account under the name "Richard Windsor." Fox News mentioned the saga in at least 40 different segments in the last year -- yet despite the network's fascination with the story, it has not covered the recent development, which undermines most of its previous coverage.
The EPA's Inspector General (IG) recently found "no evidence" that the department has "used, promoted, or encouraged the use of private email accounts to circumvent records management responsibilities." The IG was similarly unable to turn up proof of any senior agency officials trying to dodge federal recordkeeping, and the report noted that the EPA has taken various actions to improve its electronic content management in the last four years.
That inquiry came in response to claims that Jackson and others were using such accounts to elude Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Congressional Republicans who pushed for the review had cited a Daily Caller article that reported Jackson used the name "Richard Windsor" for her "secret" secondary account. The Daily Caller got its information from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a partly industry-funded free-market think tank obsessed with the idea that some elusive, unguarded conversation would expose the Obama administration's (effectively imaginary) "War on Coal." (Later, when CEI actually got to read some FOIAed emails, it declared the lack of suspicious content somewhat suspicious).
But Jackson has explained that she regularly told people to "make sure" they searched for the Richard Windsor account when they made FOIA requests. Furthermore, EPA officials (and the IG) have noted that the use of a primary, staff-managed public account as well as a secondary account is common in both the public and private sectors in order to stem the flow of emails and get work done. Two former EPA administrators under George W. Bush reportedly used secondary (sub. required) email addresses as well.
However, the ordinariness of the practice didn't stop conservatives from feeding the "scandal" oxygen. Right-wing media couldn't get enough of Richard Windsor. They speculated that unseen emails contained information on an "expected" carbon tax (even though the administration has repeatedly stated that it is not pursuing a carbon tax). They bizarrely insinuated that the digital nom de plume was related to a "fetishistic" website (it was actually in honor of Jackson's family dog and hometown). They claimed the administrator was fleeing from the issue when she stepped down after a little over four years at the helm (neglecting to mention that she'd held the post longer than all but one past EPA chief). And in order to keep the "scandal" relevant once she resigned, they connected the allegations to Jackson's nominated replacement, Gina McCarthy (even though McCarthy told a Senate committee that she did not conduct business with a secondary account).
Fox News played a leading role in making Richard Windsor a story. A search of Nexis and internal video archives indicates that the network has mentioned the ordeal in more than 40 different segments in the last year, hosting the putative architect of the "scandal," CEI's Christopher Horner, ten times to promote it. In all, about 86 percent of guests discussing the issue voiced anti-EPA sentiment (7 percent defended the EPA and 7 percent were neutral). Over 90 percent of segments did not mention the mitigating factor that previous administrations had also used secondary email accounts:
Fox & Friends smeared President Obama with the false claim that he sent more security guards to keep veterans away from Washington, D.C.'s World War II memorial than were sent to the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya when it was attacked in September 2012.
When the federal government began a shutdown on October 1 after Republicans repeatedly demanded concessions to weaken or stop the Affordable Care Act in exchange for keeping the government open, national parks and monuments were closed as there were no longer funds to keep them staffed. Veterans participating in the Honor Flight program were eventually allowed to visit the World War II memorial.
On October 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy used the confusion over the status of the memorial to continue the network's inexhaustible obsession with Benghazi, saying, "as it turns out, it looks as if more personnel were sent in to the World War II memorial to keep people out than the State Department actually sent to Benghazi by two. They sent five people to Benghazi, the White House sent seven people to make sure that nobody got in to the war memorial."
An ABC News reporter was present at the memorial for several hours and didn't spot seven security guards keeping veterans away, but did observe the barricade being pushed aside without incident allowing the veterans to see the monument. One security guard was even spotted helping an elderly vet walk up a steep decline.
The National Park Service has also stated that it will not keep the veterans from visiting the memorial, calling their visits a First Amendment issue that supersedes the shutdown.
"The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks," the NPS said in a statement.
Politico reported on October 1, after a different group of veterans visited the memorial, that a National Park Service spokeswoman said "there [was] no risk of anyone getting arrested" at the time.
Fox News is accusing President Obama of intentionally inflicting pain upon World War II veterans who were initially unable to visit the memorial to their legacy after it was closed in the wake of a government shutdown. Fox figures, many of whom have been advocating for this very shutdown, compared the memorial's closing to the cancellation of White House tours during sequester -- a move conservatives originally claimed was made for no reason other than to inflict pain upon the American people for political purposes.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when Congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). As a result of this shutdown, national parks and museums -- including the nation's monuments -- were forced to close.
One of the shuttered monuments was the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The closing initially prevented busloads of veterans from accessing the site. As media attention focused on their plight, members of Congress -- many of whom are vocal advocates of the shutdown in the first place -- aided the visiting vets in removing barriers in order to "storm" the monument. National Park officials eventually opened the site to veterans, who are now considered as participating in a First Amendment protest.
Right-wing media, particularly the pundits at Fox News, rushed to accuse President Obama of unnecessarily closing the monument in order to cause "some sort of pain" against the American people. On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino said the administration "wanted to insert some sort of pain, so that as they screw down the nut, and then you'll start to feel like 'oh, my gosh, we have to compromise.'"
Perino went on to characterize the closing as "the Washington Monument strategy" -- a political strategy that, according to The Washington Post, "involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing...cuts to the most popular and visible services an agency provides." Co-host Eric Bolling concurred, likening the closing of the World War II memorial to the cancellation of White House tours in the aftermath of sequestration.
On Fox Business Network, host Lou Dobbs said that in March, the president was "trying to make the sequester as painful as possible ... and that's what they're doing now." He followed up, saying, "There's just one conclusion as to why they did block the wide open space in the first place -- the administration wanted to."
The war memorial, as well as the other parks and museums under the purview of the National Park Service (NPS), are deemed non-essential services under a shutdown of the federal government, and NPS employees, including park personnel, face a requisite furlough. The NPS shutdown contingency plan requires the suspension of "all activities except those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."