Military Personnel & Veterans

Issues ››› Military Personnel & Veterans
  • Pentagon Criticizes Benghazi Committee For Straining DOD Resources, Partly Over “Speculation”

    Right-Wing Media Has Hyped False Claims And Speculation Into Benghazi That Continue To Fuel The GOP Investigation

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    The Department of Defense criticized the investigation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, saying repeated requests for documents and information have strained DOD resources and that they’re often based on, as Politico put it, “speculative or hypothetical” queries. Right-wing media have created many of the baseless conspiracy theories that helped create and fuel the Benghazi committee.

    In an April 28 letter to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger explained the strain the House investigation has had on the DOD, which has spent “millions of dollars on Benghazi-specific Congressional compliance, including reviews by four other committees.” Hedger specifically took issue with the ever-expanding investigation -- and its speculative nature -- noting that “DoD interviewees have been asked repeatedly to speculate or engage in discussing on the record hypotheticals posed by Committee Members and staff.” Politico reported on the letter:

    The Pentagon is pushing back against the House Benghazi Committee, saying its repeated requests for documents and interviews are straining the department's resources — and, to make matters worse, many of the queries are speculative or hypothetical.

    Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger complained in a letter to the committee on Thursday about its continued demands for information, and implied that the panel is grasping to make assertions based on theory rather than facts.

    “[W]hile I understand your stated intent is to conduct the most comprehensive review of the attack and response, Congress has as much of an obligation as the executive branch to use federal resources and taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently,” the letter reads. “The Department has spent millions of dollars on Benghazi-specific Congressional compliance, including reviews by four other committees, which have diligently reviewed the military’s response in particular.”

    Hedger also complained that Defense Department interviewees “have been asked repeatedly to speculate or engage in discussing on the record hypotheticals.”

    “This type of questioning poses the risk that your final report may be based on speculation rather than a fact-based analysis of what a military officer did do or could have done given his or her knowledge at the time of the attacks,” he wrote.

    Fox News was central to the launch and perpetuation of false information that led to the establishment of the Benghazi Select Committee. By May 2, 2014 -- 20 months after the attack -- Fox had devoted 1,098 segments to Benghazi, with 97 percent of its congressional and administration interviews featuring Republicans. In fact, House Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) repeatedly used Fox News as a platform to push speculation and false claims about Benghazi. And Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge bragged that Fox News helped spur the House investigation.

    Right-wing media have repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories in order to scandalize the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks. Conservative media have claimed to have uncovered multiple “smoking gun[s]” proving that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration committed wrongdoing in responding to the attacks. By May 2, 2014, Fox had compared Benghazi to Iran-Contra, Watergate, and other controversial actions by the Nixon administration 120 times.  And conservatives continue to promote the false claim that the Obama administration issued a “stand down” order to soldiers responding to the Benghazi attacks.

    Right-wing media continue to fuel the Benghazi dumpster fire in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton, and conservative Republicans seem all too happy to use the Benghazi Select Committee to investigate the right-wing media’s theories.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • Conservative Media Claim Withheld Clinton Emails Contain Non-Existent Benghazi "Stand Down Order"

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Right-wing media are seizing on news that the State Department will not release some of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails after the Intelligence Community said they contained Top Secret information to baselessly claim that the emails in question include a non-existent "stand down order" issued by Clinton during the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

  • Wash. Post's Wemple Explains How Fox's "Love Affair" With 13 Hours Is Actually About Attacking Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post's Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News' coverage of Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi "is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton" during her presidential run, and how the network, in doing so, is "acting as an advocacy organization."

    Fox News has hyped 13 Hours repeatedly, claiming that the film would "raise a lot of questions" about the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi. In addition to using the movie to push the debunked "stand down order" myth, Fox has argued that Bay's film could "pose a threat" to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Fox's Andrea Tantaros argued, "if anyone sees this movie ... and then goes on to vote for Hillary Clinton, they're a criminal." Prime-time host Megyn Kelly, during a segment that pushed multiple Benghazi myths, said the movie "reintroduces Benghazi as a potential campaign issue that cannot be helpful to Mrs. Clinton." Kelly also attacked Wemple for a blog post that called out Kelly and her network's "obsession" with the Benghazi attacks and their potential political implications for Clinton. 

    In a January 19 piece for The Washington Post's Erik Wemple blog, Wemple explained again how 13 Hours "is giving the network a do-over opportunity" to "attempt to elevate the flick as a political watershed" and "revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton." Wemple noted that by "rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate," Fox has failed at "acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise." Wemple concluded that any movie that negatively highlighted the Obama administration "could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit":

    On her program, [Megyn] Kelly criticized the Erik Wemple Blog for a Jan. 5 post we'd written about the love affair of Fox News with the new Michael Bay movie "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." That movie is based on a book of similar title written by Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff and a team of security operators who were on the ground on the night of the tragic Benghazi, Libya, attacks of Sept. 11, 2012. The book carried a number of revelations -- including the claim of the security contractors that they were told to "stand down" before rushing to assist personnel at the besieged U.S. diplomatic outpost -- that made news upon its publication in 2014. Fox News was particularly aggressive in promoting the book.

    "13 Hours" the movie is giving the network a do-over opportunity. The network is frequently running clips of the movie, interviewing the security operators -- particularly Mark "Oz" Geist, Kris "Tanto" Paronto and John "Tig" Tiegen -- and otherwise attempting to elevate the flick as a political watershed. On her Jan. 4 program, Kelly herself led into an interview with this trio by saying, "Breaking tonight a 'Kelly File' exclusive on the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." There was really nothing "breaking" that night -- just a rehash of the same news threads that had been aired at the time of the book's release.

    On her program last night, Kelly disagreed with that point of view. "Wemple of the Washington Post seems to have an issue," said the host in a segment with Fox Newsers Chris Stirewalt and Howard Kurtz. "We did that interview with those three heroes and the feedback we received from the viewers was extraordinary. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know how they could help these guys. They couldn't wait to see this movie. Wemple has a different reaction, which was, '[dismissive sound effect] What did we learn that was new?' I've got news for you, Erik Wemple. You go and you sit through '13 Hours.' You sit there, white-knuckled. When you can't move at the end of it, and a tear comes to your eye, unless you're not human. And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign."


    Now to the heart of Kelly's criticism. She demands, "And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign." We have no opinion or projection on whether or not the "13 Hours" movie will have an impact on the ongoing presidential race, nor whether it should have such an impact. Our point is narrower: That Fox News, even after hyping the bona fide revelations in the book version of "13 Hours," is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton. In so doing, Fox News isn't acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise; it's acting as an advocacy organization, verily rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate. If Bay could only produce a Hollywood reenactment of Obamacare's lowest moments or of the failures of the president's Islamic State policy, he could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit. 

  • After Much Hype From Fox, Ted Cruz Closes GOP Debate With Plug For 13 Hours

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) began his closing statement on the Fox Business GOP debate with a plug for Michael Bay's Benghazi movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi. Cruz's movie endorsement parrots Fox News' campaign to use the movie to undermine Hillary Clinton. Recently Fox has co-opted the film as an attack against her presidential run and devoted a substantial number of segments to promoting the film, including an upcoming hour-long special on The Kelly File. A 13 Hours reference by Rick Santorum also made its way into Fox Business' undercard debate earlier in the evening. From the January 14 Fox Business' Republican Candidates Debate:

    TED CRUZ: "13 Hours." Tomorrow morning, a new movie will debut about the incredible bravery of the men fighting for their lives in Benghazi and the politicians that abandoned them.

  • How The Media Fell For A Lie That A Muslim American Veteran Was Arrested For Connection With ISIS

    The Intercept Debunks Right-Wing Media Lie: "The Widespread Smearing Of Saadiq Long As Having Joined An ISIS Cell, Is Completely False"

    Blog ››› ››› KATE SARNA

    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 NewsRedState, and right-wing anti-Muslim figures like Pam GellarRobert 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.