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  • John McCain Speaks Out Against Torture As Fox News Praises Trump For Waterboarding Comments

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former POW and survivor of torture, denounced the use of torture as ineffective and counterproductive after Donald Trump advocated waterboarding and “much worse” to fight terrorism. Fox News figures praised Trump’s advocacy of illegal interrogation and pushed for President Obama to adopt similar strategies.

    During a June 28 campaign rally at Ohio University Eastern Campus, Trump called for the United States to “fight so viciously and violently” against terrorists and “fight fire with fire.” Trump also advocated for the use of waterboarding and “much worse” against enemy combatants.

    Trump had previously advocated for techniques “tougher than waterboarding” as well as proposing the killing of innocent family members of enemy combatants. In May, Trump attempted to walk back those comments by acknowledging “that the United States is bound by laws and treaties,” but has since returned to proposing policy that he once recognized would force a “military officer to disobey the law.”  

    Fox News hosts largely supported Trump’s plans for the illegal techniques. Fox’s Peter Hegseth argued that the United States “can maintain our values while still ruthlessly going after ISIS,” and Fox host Eric Bolling downplayed torture, saying “God forbid we pour water on terrorists’ faces.”

    But on June 29, Senator McCain joined Fox’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, where host Greta Van Susteren asked McCain about Trump’s advocacy for torture. McCain pointed out that numerous military leaders have said “that it not only doesn’t work, but it is counter-productive because you get bad information.” Furthermore, McCain argued that “it’s about us, not about them,” making the point that torturing enemy combatants is a contradiction of American values:

     

     

    On October 26, 1967, McCain, then a Navy pilot, was shot down over Vietnam, and captured by the North Vietnamese. McCain was subjected to torture by his captors, explaining that, he “was beaten every two or three hours by different guards,” and after four days agreed to write a confession. 

  • Gary Byrne's Anti-Clinton Book Is Contradicted By His Own Testimony, And He Can't Explain It

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne, who served in the West Wing during the Clinton administration, recently released Crisis of Character, an anti-Clinton book purporting to warn the country about how Hillary Clinton does not have the temperament to serve as president. In promoting his book, Byrne has repeatedly stumbled through contradictions in his various accounts of the events he claims to have witnessed, with key details differing between his 1998 sworn testimony in the Kenneth Starr investigation, the book itself, and the various appearances he has made in right-wing media.

  • The Inherent Contradiction Behind The NRA’s Anti-Clinton Benghazi Ad

    Star Of Ad Previously Said He Didn’t Hold Clinton Accountable For Benghazi Attacks

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s political action committee released an ad featuring a former CIA contracter present during the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks urging viewers not to vote for Hillary Clinton because of the attacks. But the contractor previously said that Clinton is not accountable for the attacks.

    USA Today reported on June 29 that the NRA Political Victory Fund was launching a $2 million ad campaign which the paper notes is “one of the larger expenditures by an outside group on behalf of the presumptive Republican nominee.” The NRA-PVF titled the ad “Mark ‘Oz’ Geist: Stop Clinton, Vote Trump.”

    The ad features Mark “Oz” Geist, a former CIA contractor who responded to the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi that claimed four American lives, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Geist is the co-author of 13 Hours, a book chronicling how he and other contractors undertook a rescue mission during the attacks. The book was later turned into a 2016 Michael Bay film with a similar title.

    In the ad, Geist, who has endorsed Trump, is shown walking through a cemetery while saying, “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.”

    But Geist has said in the past he does not blame Clinton for the attacks. During a January 2016 appearance on ABC’s Nightline to promote the film 13 Hours, Geist disagreed with the notion that Clinton was “accountable” for the Benghazi attacks, instead blaming the terror group that carried out the attack. According to an ABC News writeup of the interview:

    But while many of Clinton's enemies use Benghazi to hold her accountable, Geist has his own perspective.

    “Do I hold her accountable? No. You know who I hold accountable is al-Sharia,” he said. “That’s who attacked them. That’s who killed the ambassador.”

    In addition, Geist has pushed back on the conservative media myth (which congressional investigations have also debunked) that Clinton or some other high-level Obama administration official issued a “stand down” order that delayed the attempt by him and other contractors to rescue Americans under fire during the attacks. During a September 9, 2014, appearance on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Geist instead blamed the delay responding on the CIA station chief, while attributing no “malice” to the chief’s decisions. From a CNN transcript of the segment (emphasis added):

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The chief of base wasn't telling the contractors to wait out of malice or unwillingness to help those under attack. There is a huge and fundamental difference between a short delay for security considerations and a stand down order.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    TAPPER: I understand that this might just be semantics. But their argument is that Bob wanted to make sure that they got Intel, wanted to make sure you had enough weapons, wanted to make sure there was enough backup. It wasn't a political decision.

    GEIST: Sure, sure.

    TAPPER: Your take?

    PARONTO: My take on that is the first five minutes -- and I've even said this, and I even said this to the committee when we were interviewed. I said the first five minutes, I'll give you that. It is a combat situation. We do need to adjust fire and get ourselves in order. The next 20 minutes, no. Tactically, that's unsound and minutes cost lives. And they died of smoke inhalation, Sean and the ambassador. So, once that comes about in that 20 minute time frame, the decision needed to be made. And we need to go - we need to stay in. Also, we didn't have a rapport with the 17 February militia.

    TAPPER: Right.

    PARONTO: So we are calling - calling- we are relying on somebody to rescue our friends and our comrades and we didn't trust them. We didn't initially trust them. We still don't trust them.

    TAPPER: Mark.

    GEIST: Well, you know, and we've never indicated that there was any malice from them. And why he made the decision. But you have six operators that have probably together almost 100 years of experience in counterinsurgency operations. The question that we have, is why wouldn't you utilize that asset that you have available to get out there and see and put eyes on to find out real true intelligence instead of depending on a local national to get that intelligence.

  • Wash. Post Media Columnist: CNN’s Hiring Of Lewandowski Plunges The Network “Into A Sea Of Muck”

    Margaret Sullivan: “An Astonishing Reward For Behavior That Should Cause Him To Be Shunned By Respectable Journalistic Organizations”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan slammed CNN’s hiring of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in an article published June 28.

    Sullivan wrote that even in the “highly competitive, ratings-mad” cable news market, networks can cross a “bridge too far” and that CNN “ran blithely across that bridge and plunged into a sea of muck” by hiring Lewandowski to give political commentary on his former boss.

    Sullivan wrote, “Bringing Lewandowski onboard is an astonishing reward for behavior that should cause him to be shunned by respectable journalistic organizations,” and she called into question the value of hiring someone with a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits him from “uttering a negative word about his former boss on air.” These problems became more evident in Lewandowski’s “milquetoast commentary” on Trump’s June 28 speech, in which he spent five minutes campaigning for Trump. From Sullivan’s June 28 column:

    Even in the highly competitive, ratings-mad, hardball-playing world of cable television, there should be a bridge too far.

    In hiring Donald Trump’s fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, CNN ran blithely across that bridge and plunged into a sea of muck.

    Bringing Lewandowski onboard is an astonishing reward for behavior that should cause him to be shunned by respectable journalistic organizations.

    [...]

    In a deeply reported profile in March, Politico depicted Lewandowski as a bully who once called a female colleague a “c---” in front of co-workers at the Washington advocacy group where he once worked. (Lewandowski would not comment to Politico on the altercation with his female colleague.)

    The profile reported that he was “rough with reporters and sexually suggestive with female journalists, while profanely berating conservative officials and co-workers he deemed to be challenging his authority.”

    [...]

    As campaign manager, Lewandowski banned news organizations from rallies and maintained Trump’s media blacklist, which includes The Washington Post, as well as BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Politico, the Des Moines Register and many others. His hostility included CNN at least once. Noah Gray, a CNN producer covering Trump, tweeted last November that as he filmed the crowd’s reaction to a protester at a rally, Lewandowski ordered him “inside the pen or I’ll pull your credentials.”

  • O'Reilly Calls House Benghazi Report "Political" After It Finds No Evidence Of Wrongdoing Against Hillary Clinton

    Despite This, O’Reilly Helps Fox News Politicize Benghazi

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly tweeted that reports from House Select Committees on Benghazi are “political” and called for President Obama to “name a panel to investigate why he was apparently misled.”

    On June 28, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released their report on the September 11, 2012 terror attack which left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Libya. The committee, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), conducted a two-year investigation into the attack only to conclude that they found no evidence of any wrongdoing by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and “failed to unearth anything” damning.

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly criticized the report in a tweet later that day, calling it “political” and claiming that “Obama should have named a panel to investigate why he was misled. He might not want to know.”

    Fox News has been the leading source for Benghazi misinformation following the attacks, pushing myths and blatant speculation in order to politically attack Clinton and the Obama administration.

    Fox has repeatedly attempted to advance unfounded myths about the attacks, from claiming President Obama was watching the attack live in real-time, to Hillary Clinton telling rescuers to “stand down,” despite the total lack of any evidence to support their outlandish claims.

    Bill O’Reilly himself has been a prominent Benghazi misinformer, repeatedly criticizing Clinton and giving advice to Benghazi committee members on how to implicate her.

  • Sad! Conservative Media Resort To Unskewing Negative Trump Polls

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    There they go again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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