Less than 24 hours after Alex Jones theorized that a "weather weapon" could have been used to cause the devastating Oklahoma tornado, conservative gossip Matt Drudge returned to his pattern of promoting the conspiracy theorist.
On May 21, Jones told a caller that the government has the ability to "create and steer groups of tornadoes" and that if people spotted helicopters and small aircraft "in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things" in Oklahoma, it could be evidence that a "weather weapon" was used.
Today Drudge prominently links to a story on Jones' website Infowars in the upper left hand corner of his site. The linked story claims that "armed Homeland Security guards" were "policing free speech" by appearing outside an IRS building in St. Louis during a Tea Party protest.
Drudge later changed the headline, linking to the same story:
Media Matters has previously documented that Drudge has linked to Jones at least 244 times in the last two years, and that Drudge contributor Joseph Curl worked with Jones to "crash" a party being held by former Bush staffers.
Jones hailed Drudge for pushing "into the mainstream media" his conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security was stockpiling ammunition for use against American citizens while Drudge said 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones."
Fox News falsely claimed Ambassador Thomas Pickering was "reluctant to testify" to Congress about his investigation into the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, ignoring Pickering's volunteering to testify in a public hearing.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, has subpoenaed Pickering, the co-chair of the independent Accountability Review Board that investigated the State Department's handling of the Benghazi attacks, to testify before Congress on the investigation's findings.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed Pickering was "reluctant to testify" and had to be "forced" to do so with the subpoena, implying that this undermined Pickering's credibility as an investigator. On-air text also claimed Pickering was "worried" and "reluctant to testify":
In fact, as Politico reported on May 17, the subpoena issued by Issa was in response to "a letter from Pickering volunteering to appear before the committee," and the subpoena was only necessary because Issa demanded a private hearing instead of the public hearing that Pickering requested:
Pickering and and Admiral Michael Mullen have requested the ability to respond publicly to criticism of a review the two retired officials conducted of the Benghazi attacks.
But Issa is insisting that Republicans and Democratic staffers get a pre-testimony crack at the witnesses by interviewing them behind closed doors first, saying staff and members have only had access to an unclassified version of the Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi.
A copy of Pickering and Accountability Review Board co-chair and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen's letter to Issa volunteering to testify explains that Pickering felt a private hearing was inappropriate, because "the public deserves to hear your questions and our answers."
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.
Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones explained to his audience today how the government could have been behind the devastating May 20 tornado in Oklahoma.
On the May 21 edition of The Alex Jones Show, a caller asked Jones whether he was planning to cover how government technology may be behind a recent spate of sinkholes. After laying out how insurance companies use weather modification to avoid having to pay ski resorts for lack of snow, Jones said that "of course there's weather weapon stuff going on -- we had floods in Texas like fifteen years ago, killed thirty-something people in one night. Turned out it was the Air Force."
Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller's subject. While he explained that "natural tornadoes" do exist and that he's not sure if a government "weather weapon" was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government "can create and steer groups of tornadoes."
According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft "in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things." He added, "if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that's the thing, we don't know."
The Wall Street Journal opinion page is turning into the go-to source for documenting President Obama's supernatural influence over the thoughts and actions of IRS employees. Reagan DOJ veterans David Rivkin and Lee Casey wrote a May 21 Journal op-ed arguing that fault for the IRS's inappropriate targeting of conservative non-profit applicants lies with the president. "The Obama administration made clear its deep dislike of Citizens United and of the various new conservative groups spawned by the 'tea party' movement," they wrote, and "the IRS has always been well-attuned to even subtle guidance from the White House." That argument was borrowed from Kimberley Strassel's May 17 Journal column: "All [Obama] needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds."
This notion of bureaucrat whispering is, in isolation, a pretty big stretch. But the tableau created by Rivkin and Casey, in which politically savvy IRS employees scrutinize the president's every syllable and gesture with decoder rings at the ready, is ludicrous given what we now know about the tax agency office in Cincinnati where groups had their non-profit applications scrutinized. According to the New York Times, it was an understaffed, chaotic mess that got into trouble because it lacked guidance:
Overseen by a revolving cast of midlevel managers, stalled by miscommunication with I.R.S. lawyers and executives in Washington and confused about the rules they were enforcing, the Cincinnati specialists flagged virtually every application with Tea Party in its name. But their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical.
Over three years, as the office struggled with a growing caseload of advocacy groups seeking tax exemptions, responsibility for the cases moved from one group of specialists to another, and the Determinations Unit, which handles all nonprofit applications, was reorganized. One batch of cases sat ignored for months. Few if any of the employees were experts on tax law, contributing to waves of questionnaires about groups' political activity and donors that top officials acknowledge were improper.
From the Times report, it seems like there's a lot to be said regarding the IRS's inefficiency and "dysfunction," to borrow from a former IRS employee quoted by the paper. But this notion that low-level bureaucrats are standing ready to receive secret political communiques from the president is an invention of conservative pundits looking to bridge the considerable distance between the fumbling IRS employees in Ohio and the Oval Office.
From the May 20 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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The Wall Street Journal is endorsing Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's absurd claim that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit doesn't need to fill its judicial vacancies, a position the senator didn't take when he was helping confirm former President George W. Bush's right-wing judges.
Despite the newspaper's own reporting on the rampant GOP obstructionism that has prevented President Obama from easing the judicial emergencies caused by vacancies in the federal courts, the editorial page of the WSJ continues to applaud Republican filibusters of the president's nominations.
The most recent example is the WSJ's stamp of approval for Grassley's disingenuous proposal to reduce the number of non-senior seats on the D.C. Circuit from 11 to eight, thereby preventing the current Democratic president from nominating judges to this appellate bench considered second in importance only to the Supreme Court. From the editorial:
It's good to be the king. When the federal courts overturn your Administration's rules or find decisions unconstitutional, you can pack them with judges more likely to rule your way. That seems to be the working theory at the White House, where word is that President Obama is close to nominating several new judges to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court doesn't need the judges. The D.C. Circuit is among the most underworked court in the federal system. Lawyers can under most statutes now bring challenges to federal agencies in either the D.C. or a local circuit. Liberals prefer the Ninth Circuit, while conservatives used to favor the Fourth but might now choose the Fifth. In any case this means fewer cases for D.C.
Last year the D.C. Circuit saw 108 appeals per authorized judge, compared to roughly four times as many on the Second and Eleventh Circuits--the country's busiest. And the court's workload is trending down. Even if the court had only eight authorized judges, its docket would still be among the lightest in the country.
Mr. Obama ought to settle for adding [recent nominee and Principal Deputy Solicitor General Srikanth "Sri" Srinivasan] to the court. If he insists on trying to pack it, Republicans should just say no.
The editorial - like Grassley's plan - is extremely inaccurate, merely another transparent excuse to justify the relentless and unprecedented Republican filibusters of President Obama's judicial nominations.
From the May 20 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox News distorted remarks from White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer to falsely claim the Obama administration felt recent controversies involving the IRS and the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were "irrelevant." Pfeiffer's full comments made clear, however, that the administration felt the IRS targeting particular groups was "inexcusable" and that the President was fully engaged during the Benghazi attacks.
On May 19, Pfeiffer appeared on five Sunday talk shows to discuss evidence that the IRS unduly scrutinized conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Fox & Friends aired a short portion of Pfeiffer's remarks from his appearance on ABC News' This Week out of context to claim Pfeiffer had dismissed the scandal, with Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. claiming that Pfeiffer said, "[i]t's not relevant that the IRS is looking at people's tea party affiliations and violating their First Amendment rights." On-screen text claimed Pfeiffer defended "scandals as 'irrelevant'":
However, Pfeiffer's full remarks reveal that he said the IRS targeting certain groups was "outrageous and inexcusable" whether it was legal or illegal, and that the administration was committed to ensuring such targeting does not happen again regardless of the Department of Justice's final assessment of legality. From ABC's This Week (portion aired on Fox News highlighted in bold):
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does the president believe? Does the president believe that would be illegal?
PFEIFFER: I can't speak the law -- the law here, but the law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and needs to be -- we need it to be fixed, so we can ensure it never happens again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?
PFEIFFER: What -- what I mean is that whether it's legal, or illegal is -- is not important to the fact that it -- that, the conduct as a matter. The Department of Justice said they're looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again regardless of how that turns out.
Pfeiffer's condemnation of the IRS reflected President Obama's statement released on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable," and Obama's firing of Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions.
Sunday talk shows on NBC, CBS, and ABC compared reports that the Internal Review Service (IRS) applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups to President Nixon's Watergate scandal, a comparison which people who worked on both sides of the Watergate scandal agree is baseless.
Fox News Sunday selected Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, attorneys who represented witnesses at a Republican-led hearing on the attacks at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, for its "power players of the week," an unfortunate choice given that both individuals misled Fox News and its viewers about allegations of threats and intimidation against their clients and about efforts by the administration to prevent their clients from testifying.
Though Fox News Sunday aired certain aspects of Toensing and diGenova's biographies, the segment neglected to mention that the two have a history of poor professional conduct, including criticism from a Democratic congressman for inappropriate behavior and actions while they worked as congressional investigators due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. They were also accused of having a conflict of interest for representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation while simultaneously serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation. More recently, Toensing pushed the false claim that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame had not been covert, in addition to other falsehoods.
On April 29, Fox's Special Report aired video of Toensing claiming that people who wanted to testify on Benghazi "have been threatened," which Fox & Friends aired the following morning. Toensing was also cited by Special Report on April 29 in reporting the allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence" and that possible witnesses were having their careers threatened. And a May 6 FoxNews.com article by Fox Washington correspondents James Rosen and Chad Pergram sourced a claim that a witness named Mark Thompson "has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress" to diGenova, who was representing Thompson.
But testimony by the witnesses at a GOP-led hearing on May 8 and subsequent interviews of their attorneys on Fox News revealed that Toensing and diGenova misled the network by claiming that their clients had suffered threats, intimidation, and orders to keep quiet. When asked on Fox's Your World on May 9 about claims that Thompson had been threatened, diGenova replied that Thompson "actually hasn't said that," and explained that his client "didn't feel intimidated."
Gregory Hicks, another witness at the hearing -- represented by Toensing -- explained under questioning that he had not been told not to speak to congressional investigators, only that he was required to have a State Department attorney present while doing so. Hicks also explained that, in contrast to claims that the administration tried to silence him, he was interviewed twice by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was created to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Hicks' testimony further contradicted Toensing's April 29 claim to Special Report that careers were being threatened when he explained that "the overriding factor" in his determination to not return to his post in Libya was to remain with his family in the United States.
From the May 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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From the May 19 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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From the May 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the May 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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