An investigative report by The Intercept explained how national and local media outlets uncritically repeated a false right-wing story that claimed a Muslim American veteran was arrested in Turkey for his connection with the terrorist group ISIS. The story originated from a right-wing blog that used anonymous sources with no knowledge of why the veteran was detained. Saadiq Long was not arrested for or accused of having a connection with a terror cell and currently faces no criminal charges.
In November, PJ Media published a story claiming that Long, an American veteran who received media attention after he was secretly placed on no-fly list, was "arrested in Turkey as part of ISIS cell."
Fox News, RedState, and right-wing anti-Muslim figures like Pam Gellar, Robert Spencer, and Ann Coulter also pushed the story. Local media in Oklahoma, where Long's family resides, also joined the conservative media outlets repeating the false story.
The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hassain debunked the PJ media story in a December 10 Intercept post reporting that "the widespread smearing of Long as having joined an ISIS cell, is completely false" (emphasis added):
A RIGHT-WING BLOG called "Pajamas Media" published an article on November 24 claiming that Saadiq Long, a Muslim American veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was arrested in Turkey for being an ISIS operative. Written by Patrick Poole, a professional anti-Muslim activist and close associate of Frank Gaffney, the article asserted that Long "finds himself and several family members sitting in a Turkish prison -- arrested earlier this month near the Turkey-Syria border as members of an ISIS cell." Its only claimed sources were anonymous: "U.S. and Turkish officials confirmed Long's arrest to PJ Media, saying that he was arrested along with eight others operating along the Turkish-Syrian border. So far, no U.S. media outlet has reported on his arrest."
Long's purported arrest as an ISIS operative was then widely cited across the internet by Fox News as well as right-wing and even non-ideological news sites. Predictably, the story was uncritically hailed by the most virulent anti-Muslim polemicists: Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Ann Coulter, and Sam Harris. Worst of all, it was blasted as a major news story by network TV affiliates and other local media outlets in Oklahoma, where Long is from and where his family -- including his sister and ailing mother -- still reside.
But the story is entirely false: a fabrication. Neither Long nor his wife or daughter have been arrested on charges that he joined ISIS. He faces no criminal charges of any kind in Turkey.
To begin with, it's irresponsible in the extreme to spread claims that someone has been arrested for joining ISIS without a very substantial basis for believing that's true. That's a claim that will be permanently attached to the person's name. The people who uncritically spread this "report" had nothing approaching a sufficient basis for doing so, and worse, most of them simply repeated the assertion that he was an ISIS operative as though it were verified fact.
Beyond that, the only outlet to have "reported" this claim about Long and his family is Pajamas Media. Does anyone find that to be a credible news source, let alone one credible enough to permanently vilify someone as an ISIS member? The specific author of the report, Poole, swims exclusively in the most toxic, discredited, anti-Muslim far-right swamps -- he's a favorite of Frank Gaffney, last seen as the prime mover of Donald Trump's "ban Muslims" proposal -- and it is nothing short of shameful that so many people vested this anonymous smear with credibility.
Fox News pundits have spent much of the past year mocking and dismissing comments by President Obama, Democratic presidential candidates and others who have described the connection that climate change has to terrorism and the rise of the jihadist group ISIS. But as world leaders strive for an ambitious agreement at the conclusion of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris -- the site of horrific terrorist attacks by ISIS in November -- it's more important than ever that Americans and people around the world recognize the relationship between global warming and global security.
Voiceover by Eric Wuestewald.
Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is pushing back against false claims that a recently unredacted Defense Department email is a "smoking gun" that supposedly "seems to contradict testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who in 2013 told lawmakers there was no time for an immediate response" to the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News recently seized on the unredacted Department of Defense email, claiming that the "email shows [the] Pentagon was ready to roll as Benghazi attack occurred." Fox News claimed that the email, first obtained by right-wing Judicial Watch, directly contradicts testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013.
But the "smoking gun" email hyped by conservative media outlets doesn't contradict statements made by Panetta. During his 2013 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta explained that military assets were deployed that night.
Rep. Elijah Cummings denounced the allegations in a December 9 press release that criticized right-wing media's attempt to rehash a "conservative conspiracy theory" by using "bits of information out of context to rehash baseless allegations that have been debunked time and again." The press release includes transcript of Secretary Panetta's 2013 testimony and also includes an unredacted version of the email released by Judicial Watch:
Today, the Select Committee on Benghazi Ranking Member released an email in unredacted form that debunks recent rehashed allegations from conservative news outlets about the Department of Defense's response on the night of the Benghazi attacks.
Conservative commentators have called the redacted email a "smoking gun" and claimed that it "seems to contradict testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who in 2013 told lawmakers there was no time for an immediate response," and that "[military assets] were awaiting sign off from the State Department and they never acted."
However, the unredacted email confirms the previous testimony of Defense Department officials to Congress, supports the findings of previous Congressional Committees, and debunks these recent rehashed allegations.
The email in question is released in full here.
A Democratic Spokesman stated:
"This email is yet another example of how conservative conspiracy theorists use bits of information out of context to rehash baseless allegations that have been debunked time and again."
News Corporation and 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch cited "radical Muslim dangers" to endorse a "complete refugee pause" one day after Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for a total ban on Muslims immigrating to or visiting the United States.
On December 7, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United states until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," citing a flawed poll from an Islamophobic organization to claim that Muslims are a danger to America.
Murdoch, a top executive of Fox News' parent company, previously echoed calls by Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz to limit the admission of Syrian refugees to "proven Christians":
Obama facing enormous opposition in accepting refugees. Maybe make special exception for proven Christians.-- Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 16, 2015
On December 8, amid widespread condemnation of Trump's proposal, Murdoch asked whether Trump has "gone too far," but then claimed that the "public is obsessed on radical Muslim dangers," and added that a "complete refugee pause to fix vetting makes sense":
Has Trump gone too far? Regardless, public is obsessed on radical Muslim dangers, Complete refugee pause to fix vetting makes sense.-- Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) December 8, 2015
From the December 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the December 2 edition of Fox Business' Countdown to the Closing Bell With Liz Claman:
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President Obama is in Paris at a United Nations summit, where nations hope to reach an international agreement on climate change. In response, conservative media figures have resorted to denial, dismissal, and mockery, while criticizing Obama as "simply stupid" and NASA scientists as "talentless low-lives."
From the November 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the November 24 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the November 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer swiftly interrupted and dismissed his guest, political consultant Mathew Littman, for stating that in recent years mass shootings and gun violence generally have posed a bigger threat to Americans than terror attacked planned abroad. During a segment critical of the Obama administration's handling of ISIS and plans to accept Syrian refugees, Littman argued that the gun issue in America was a larger area of concern, noting, "You have issues like ... Twenty kids being killed in Newtown and the gun issues in this country," causing Hemmer to question the relevancy of Littman's answer. However, multiple sources -- such as Politifact, Vox, and NBC News -- have demonstrated the number of gun deaths in the U.S. greatly outnumber the casualties from terror attacks, even when including the 9/11 attacks. NBC News reported that an estimated 153,144 Americans were killed in gun murders between 2001 and 2013 compared to 3,046 Americans killed in terrorist attacks during the same time period. From the November 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER: The overall question that [Bill] O'Reilly raises, though, that the American people don't trust the president on security, what do you think of that?
MATHEW LITTMAN: Well, I think that we're doing -- the ISIS situation is obviously amazingly complicated. In terms of the territory ISIS has, we've been doing a pretty good job of rolling back that territory, obviously need to do more. On domestic -- on security here, we have had a bit of a problem with domestic terrorists, not refugees, but domestic terrorists since 2001. That seems to be where the issue lies in this country. And obviously we need to be doing more about that. You have issues like 30 people being shot in Newtown. Twenty kids being killed in Newtown and the gun issues in this country--
HEMMER: What's that got to do with terrorism overseas and refugees at home?
LITTMAN: Well, what it has to do with is we're worried about what's happening here, Bill. That's what we're talking about. And the gun violence in this country is a very important issue.
On November 24, CNN's Chris Cuomo interviewed Trump Organization executive and Trump campaign surrogate Michael Cohen regarding Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump's false claim that "thousands" of Arab-Americans cheered in the streets following the 9/11 attacks and the candidate's seeming endorsement of the alleged assault of a protester who disrupted a recent campaign rally. Trump's claim that "thousands" of people took to the streets in Jersey City, New Jersey to celebrate the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has been debunked and widely criticized. PolitiFact tore apart Trump's statement, saying that it "defies basic logic," and that "[i]f thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence." From the November 24 edition of CNN's New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): Let's take these one by one. 9/11 happens. Horrible by anybody's reckoning. The idea of celebrating that is inhumane. Donald Trump says he saw it. He believed it. Thousands and thousands. People say no, it's not true. He says, yes it is. Why make a point of something like this?
MICHAEL COHEN: Well, I think what he's doing is he's comparing it now to what-- the terrible tragedy that took place in Paris and what's going on all around the world with ISIS. They are really a group of thugs. They are terrorists. And they're changing the way the world sees Islam.
CUOMO: Bad guys. Anybody who would celebrate something like that, no matter what their faith is, bad people. But, why exaggerate it? Why say --
COHEN: Well why would you that say he's exaggerating it?
CUOMO: Because he said "thousands and thousands."
COHEN: You know, whether it's "thousands and thousands" or a thousand people or even just one person, it's irrelevant. To celebrate this tragedy, this killing of innocent people, that went to what? To work, right? Trying to enjoy the American dream to earn a dollar. It's wrong and Mr. Trump is making his point. Now, many people have criticized and said well, it's not true. It didn't happen. Washington Post, on September 18th of 2001, did a pretty in-depth story on this exact position and they acknowledge -- Mr. Trump also has millions and millions of followers, as you know, on social media. I can't tell you the number of people that have responded and said I'm from Jersey and I've seen it.
CUOMO: Yes, here's the thing. I know other people have said it. They say it to me on social media. One, that Washington Post article, that was one paragraph in the whole story, the author walked it back, they said the FBI investigated allegations of it, they never substantiated a claim of thousands. The reason it's relevant is the guy may be president of the United States and what Donald Trump says has to be as accurate as it can be, and thousands and thousands is, at best, a gross exaggeration. And if you're going to be president of the United States, don't you have to say it right?
COHEN: The exact number, I don't think anybody can say. If Mr. Trump said thousands, I have to --
CUOMO: "Thousands and thousands."
COHEN: And I would have to turn around and say that he's probably right.
CUOMO: Probably right?
COHEN: He's probably right.
CUOMO: No, he's probably wrong.
COHEN: No, he's probably right.
CUOMO: There is no way to substantiate "thousands and thousands."
COHEN: And there's no way to say that it wasn't there. The problem that you have --
CUOMO: Sure there is. They don't have the reports. They don't have any video.
Later in the segment, Cuomo asked Cohen about an incident at a Trump campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama where a Black Lives Matter protester was allegedly attacked by Trump supporters. A day after the altercation, Trump was interviewed on Fox News' Fox & Friends and attempted to justify his supporters' reaction to the protester, saying "maybe he should have been roughed up." From the November 24 edition of CNN's New Day:
CUOMO: Another point of this that became a flash point, and it's always great to get your head on it, is this guy comes, he protests at the event. Nobody likes when that happens, but that's part of the process, right? He gets beat down at the event. Donald Trump says well, maybe he deserved it? He was doing something terrible --
COHEN: The guy's a professional agitator. Supposedly -- rumors are out there -- of course the internet and social media, the guy's been tazed, what? 30 times. He goes to these various different rallies and he creates all sorts of problems. You know what? It happened. Obviously, nobody wants to see anybody get injured. Nobody wants to see --
CUOMO: That's not what he said, he said "maybe he deserved it."
COHEN: Well, maybe he did. Maybe he did. He went there to cause a problem. He went there to start a fight. This is nothing to do with Black Lives Matter. This is a guy that's looking for media attention on his own.
CUOMO: I haven't even said the phrase. I'm saying white, black, green, yellow, the guy comes to your event and gets beat up. You should be against the people that beat him up.
COHEN: I agree, nobody wants to see anybody get beaten up. But if the guy goes there for the purpose of creating an issue, he wants to be an agitator at what was a great, you know, great event for Mr. Trump, 14,000 plus people, you know what? That's between the individual who wants to be an agitator and the people that are there to listen to Mr. Trump and to try to see America become great again.
CUOMO: What about their leader? Doesn't he want to inspire people to be their best selves? Or does he want to inspire them to be like whatever the worst agitator that they have come at him?
COHEN: You know what? The guy's an agitator, the guy's looking for a problem. It's like the guy who walks into a bar and he wants to start a fight with somebody and he ends up getting beaten up. You know what --
CUOMO: And as a bartender, you know what I used to do? I used to be like "whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. Take him outside. Keep your hands off him."
COHEN: Beat him up outside?
CUOMO: No, because you want people to be better than what's coming at them.
COHEN: Well, every now and then an agitator deserves it.
Not even Laura Ingraham is willing to support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's claim that American Muslims cheered in Jersey City, New Jersey during the September 11 attacks. The conservative talk radio host, who has praised Trump for his extreme positions and who has herself made Islamophobic comments, shut down a caller who said people in New York City and at Pennsylvania State University were cheering during the attacks. Trump's claim, which he made on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, has been debunked and widely criticized. PolitiFact wrote that Trump's statement "defies basic logic" and that "[i]f thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence." From the November 23 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the November 23 edition of CNN's New Day:
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From the November 20 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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