The National Review editorial board used the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell to push for an abortion ban it acknowledges to be unconstitutional that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases when the health of the mother is at risk.
Gosnell was convicted on May 13 for murdering three infants while breaking Pennsylvania abortion laws and preforming procedures that bore no resemblance to legal women's health services. Despite these facts, right-wing media have repeatedly sought to use Gosnell's violent acts to attack legal and safe abortion procedures in the United States.
A June 11 National Review editorial took these efforts further by using the Gosnell conviction to promote legislation that would severely limit access to safe, life-saving procedures. The editorial board hyped a bill introduced to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that seeks to ban abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions to the ban in cases when the health of the mother is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest, and only permits abortions in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. The National Review acknowledged that "the bill is at odds with current Supreme Court jurisprudence," but urged Congress to "fight" for it anyway, claiming the Gosnell conviction revealed current abortion laws are immoral.
The National Review's endorsement of Franks' bill by linking it to the Gosnell murders ignores the realities of legal abortion in the United States. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Supreme Court has become increasingly anti-choice, repeatedly limiting the rights of women to terminate pregnancies. Currently, the Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are "legal so long as the fetus isn't 'viable,' which is usually around 24 weeks," and abortions performed after that point are already severely restricted by law. The vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetal viability or 24 weeks, and just a few provide an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Abortions after week 21 are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions, and are very safe. A medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
As Salon's Irin Carmon noted, many women went to Gosnell's clinic "because they felt they had no alternative." The Gosnell case revealed the need for women to have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion services -- the same services that Franks' bill seeks to unconstitutionally limit and outlaw. Right-wing media's support for this legislation and continued demonization of abortion puts women's legal right to protect their health under threat.
Fox News dishonestly dismissed a Democratic congressman's statement that the mystery of who began the IRS' inappropriate targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status has been solved.
Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, appeared on CNN's State of the Union on June 9 where he explained that a Cincinnati-based IRS manager told congressional interviewers that a screener under his supervision brought a tea party group's application for tax-exempt status to his attention, and that he then sent the case to a Washington office for assistance. In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the committee, Cummings further explained that the IRS manager "said he then instructed his team of screeners to identify similar cases" and that the manager told interviewers that "he took this action on his own." The screener under this manager's supervision was also interviewed, and he "acknowledged developing search terms" that that Inspector General's office called "inappropriate" in its report. This is consistent with the Inspector General's finding that the IRS Determinations United in Cincinnati "developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names."
But Fox's coverage of Cummings' statement withheld all of this information from the network's viewers. Fox & Friends merely aired Cummings' conclusion on CNN that "the case is solved" before giving Virginia Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor Ken Cuccinelli a platform to air his grievances against the IRS. America's Newsroom similarly aired only Cummings' conclusion and brought on Fox contributor Stephen Hayes to comment, with Hayes also refraining from detailing what the IRS manager told interviewers while questioning why Cummings is putting so much emphasis on the manager's answers.
Fox has been pushing the discredited assertion that the White House or IRS officials in Washington drove the IRS' actions, claiming that partial transcripts of interviews with IRS employees prove that Washington was behind the inappropriate targeting, even though Republicans have admitted they lacked evidence for that. Fox also said that a former IRS commissioner's visits to the White House show that the agency was coordinating with the White House to target conservative groups, when in fact he mostly met with staffers charged with implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Fox News promised that it would "not leave" live coverage of the House hearings on the IRS controversy while paying only lip service to the simultaneous Senate hearings on the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
On June 4, the House Ways and Means Committee held another round of hearings on the IRS' inappropriate criteria for scrutinizing conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. The same day, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings on the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military, featuring testimony from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top officers from each military branch.
Fox's America's Newsroom aired live footage of the House's IRS hearing before it began, then stayed live for witness testimony and congressional questioning. When cutting live coverage for commercial breaks, co-host Bill Hemmer assured viewers, "We have to take a commercial, we got to pay some bills here, but we will not leave this hearing."
By contrast, Fox only went live to the sexual assault hearing before it started, airing footage of representatives, staffers, and media figures waiting for the hearing to begin. Next to a splitscreen of the committee room, co-host Martha MacCallum and correspondent Jennifer Griffin discussed the military's growing problem for approximately three minutes before MacCallum cut away, explaining, "You can watch that hearing on our website at FoxNews.com. Click on the link on the homepage. We've got dueling hearings going on this morning."
The epidemic of sexual assaults in the military is a growing problem. A Department of Defense report estimated that 26,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in 2012 and that 62 percent of victims who reported the assault faced retaliation. During Tuesday's hearing, in testimony Fox did not air, Army Gen. Ray Odierno described the problem: "Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force -- a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force."
America's Newsroom continued with live coverage of the House IRS hearings for the bulk of the two-hour program, never again mentioning the Senate hearings on military sexual assaults.
From the June 4 edition of Current TV's Talking Liberally:
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From the May 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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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."
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 CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Leading up to yesterday's House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi, the conservative media worked diligently to drive home the idea that the "whistleblowers" who testified had been silenced and were unable to make their voices heard to Congress or other investigative authorities. Much of that narrative was driven by Republican attorney Victoria Toensing, who portrayed her own struggles with bureaucratic red tape as evidence of an administration cover-up. Fox News' Special Report cited Toensing on April 29 in reporting on allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence."
But the testimony of Gregory Hicks, one of the three witnesses at yesterday's hearing, put lie to the notion that the administration was suppressing his voice and opinion. Hicks, we learned, had already spoken with Congressional investigators in Libya. And he had been interviewed -- twice -- as part of the State Department's independent internal investigation. That, combined with the fact that other Benghazi survivors and witnesses have spoken to the FBI, the State Department, and Congress, dismantles the idea that the administration worked to keep Hicks or his cohorts from being heard.
Hicks caused a brief stir yesterday when he testified to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that he had been told by the State Department "not to allow the [regional security officer], the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed" by Rep. Jason Chaffetz when the Utah Republican led a Congressional delegation to Libya to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Some conservatives misinterpreted Hicks' testimony to mean that Hicks had been ordered not to speak to Chaffetz, period. Hicks, however, later clarified his remarks when questioned by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-NY), explaining that he had been told not to speak to Chaffetz without a State Department attorney present.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly worried that the network's extensive live coverage of the House Oversight Committee hearings on Benghazi was providing "lopsided" airtime to questions from Democrats -- though Fox had actually devoted over twice as much airtime to Republican questions.
Three State Department officials testified today before the House Oversight Committee about the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Fox afforded live coverage to the hearing, beginning when the three witnesses testifying, Gregory Hicks, Mark Thompson, and Eric Nordstrom, were sworn in.
For over an hour, Fox stayed live on the hearings without a single interruption. During this time, the network showed 32 minutes of Republican committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa's (CA) questions and witness responses. But when Issa yielded the floor to the ranking Democratic committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), for his turn to question witnesses, Fox cut to commercial, breaking live footage for the first time.
Rather than immediately returning live to Cummings' questions after the commercial break, Happening Now host Jon Scott instead spoke to Fox contributor John Bolton about the hearing, while a split-screen showed the hearing and Cummings' questioning continue. In total, Fox aired only two minutes of Cummings' questions and witness responses before returning to commercial break.
Fox favored Republican questioning right from the start of the hearing, yet Kelly implied that the network's coverage had been lopsided in favor of Democrats.
Approximately two hours into Fox's hearing coverage, during questioning from Republican Rep. John Mica (FL), America Live host Megyn Kelly broke in and expressed concern that, "We're getting a little lopsided in terms of the Democrats versus the Republicans, so we're going to try to rectify that for you after the break, and play more of Mr. Mica right after this quick commercial break." Fox continued airing what was left of Mica's questions upon returning from break. But then as Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) took the floor, Fox halted live coverage so that Kelly could speak to another Fox correspondent. As she skipped the Democrat's question period, Kelly stated, "And so we're going to try to even it out. We're going to try to get on the same number of Democrats and Republicans as we watch this coverage."
At the time of Kelly's remark, eleven politicians -- six Republicans and five Democrats -- had asked questions of the Benghazi witnesses. And despite Kelly's suggestion, during this time Fox devoted 46 minutes of live coverage to Republicans' questions and answers, airing only 19 minutes of Democrats' questions and answers.
This post has been updated to correct the number of congressmen who posed questions prior to Kelly's remarks.
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.
Republican congressmen are giving credibility to Alex Jones and his conservative fringe website Infowars.com, which popularized a conspiracy theory that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for nefarious purposes. The conspiracy theory has now inspired legislation known as the AMMO Act of 2013, which seeks to limit the ammunition purchasing power of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even though the underlying theory was based on flawed math and a mischaracterization of the facts.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier misrepresented the testimony of a witness for the Republican-led hearing investigating the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. While the witness reportedly told congressional investigators that a small group of special forces were told not to board an aircraft heading to Benghazi to help with the attacks -- an aircraft that departed after an attack that killed two more Americans occurred -- Baier claimed the witness said the special forces team would have arrived in time for that attack.
The GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi on May 8. The committee had released a list of several witnesses that will be called on to testify, among them Gregory Hicks, who was the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya.
During the May 6 edition of Special Report, anchor Bret Baier claimed that Hicks said in his testimony that a team of special forces troops would have arrived in time for an attack on the CIA annex had they not been told not to go [emphasis added]:
BAIER: Charles, in this testimony that -- we have already seen some of this interview with Greg Hicks, the number two guy, again, on the ground, he specifically says that special forces in Tripoli were told to stand down and not get on a C-130 that was going to go from Tripoli to Benghazi that would have been there in time for the second attack, the second wave. They were told to not get on that plane.
Baier's claim is contradicted by Hicks' testimony, a statement from one of the lead Republican congressmen investigating the attacks, and of the timeline of events from the attacks.
Transcripts of an interview Greg Hicks gave to congressional investigators show that he said that the flight these special forces were scheduled to take, but did not, was scheduled to take off after 6:00 a.m., local time -- approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people [emphasis added]:
Q: And was there a second team that was organized? Could you tell us about the second team?
A: Right. The second team -- the Defense Attache worked assiduously all night long to try to get the Libyan military to respond in some way. Early in the morning -- sorry, after we were formally notified by the Prime Minister, who called me, that Chris had passed, the Libyan military agreed to fly their C-130 to Benghazi and carry additional personnel to Benghazi as reinforcements. Because we at that time -- at that time, the third attack, the mortar attack at 5:15, had not yet occurred, if I remember correctly.
Q: So what time did the second rescue team ??
A: Well, again, they flew -- I think that flight took off sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, told The Washington Post that the special forces team that Hicks and Baier are referring to "would have arrived after the attack":
Chaffetz said the troops who were not allowed to travel to Benghazi would have arrived after the attack on the CIA base but may have provided first aid to wounded personnel. He noted that the order to keep them from traveling was given before the second attack.
Fox News is launching a new round of smears against the Obama administration over the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, using old, long-debunked falsehoods as ammunition.
The day after the Benghazi attack, on September 12, President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden about Benghazi, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America." Obama referred to Benghazi twice more as an "act of terror" on September 13, two days after the attack.
But Fox spent months pretending Obama never labeled Benghazi as an act of terror, omitting his statements in video montages, and claiming that Obama was referencing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks instead. Fox so successfully omitted Obama's words that even presidential candidate Mitt Romney believed Obama delayed calling Benghazi an "act of terror."
Fox also conducted a witch-hunt against United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who appeared on five Sunday news shows on September 16 and reported that the intelligence community's best current assessment of the attack was that a small number of extremists appeared to have taken advantage of a larger protest at the compound over an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. Fox twisted Rice's remarks and accused her of altering the intelligence community's original talking points in order to cover up its belief that Al Qaeda played a role in the attack. In reality, as The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes inadvertently pointed out, the CIA's original talking points draft read that a spontaneous protest in Benghazi evolved into the consulate attack, just as Rice reported.
Eight months later, Fox is back to parroting these same untruths to reprise their Benghazi smear campaign.
On May 6's Happening Now, host Jon Scott spoke with anchor Bret Baier about upcoming congressional hearings on Benghazi. Fox again ignored Obama's declaration that Benghazi was an "act of terror," airing this graphic during Baier's interview:
Fox News is denying the partisan nature of the Republican campaign to tar Obama administration officials with allegations of misconduct following the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. A Republican-led hearing on the issue follows recent claims of a Republican lawyer -- whose partiality has been questioned -- that she is representing Benghazi "whistleblowers," and comes only weeks after the release of a partisan congressional report on Benghazi authored by five Republican committee chairmen.
On Wednesday, May 8, the GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a new hearing, titled: "Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage." The hearing will include three named witnesses -- the so-called whistleblowers -- one of whom has testified in Congress about the Benghazi incident before.
During a May 6 discussion about the hearing on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade declared that "politics is out, and whistleblowers are in," apparently deciding that because there are self-identified whistleblowers on an issue, it's no longer a politicized topic. Kilmeade subsequently complained that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn't pursue Benghazi as an issue enough during his campaign. He then returned to denying that the GOP's obsession with Benghazi is "politically driven":
KILMEADE: [A]nyone who says this is politically driven, or it's against the president, that's out the window. Because if there's a non-political season in this world in American politics, it's now. The mid-terms aren't close --
STEVE DOOCY [co-host]: Sure.
KILMEADE: And the president is not running.
Beyond the Republican-controlled House continuing to hold hearings on Benghazi, the lawyers claiming to represent some of the witnesses at the hearing, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, are long-time Republicans known for pushing false claims in the media and for having conflicts of interest in their professional work. In November, Toensing pushed a false link between the Benghazi attack and the resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus. Toensing also pushed the false claim that former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame was not, in fact, covert, and that her position was widely known. Additionally, Toensing and diGenova were involved in a 1998 news report about President Clinton that was discredited and later retracted. They have also been criticized for a conflict of interest for serving in a dual role in separate Justice Department investigations and for dropping "the air of impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism required" by their roles as leaders of a congressional investigation.
A congressional report on Benghazi that was hyped by Fox News to smear Hillary Clinton was authored by five Republican committee chairmen. The ranking Democrats on those committees sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner criticizing him for releasing such a partisan report, which they said is "unnecessarily politicizing our national security":
We are writing to strongly object to your decision to issue a partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi and dispense with House procedures for vetting official committee reports to correct inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. By abandoning regular order and excluding Democratic Members entirely from this process, you are unnecessarily politicizing our national security and casting aside the system used by the House for generations to avoid making obvious mistakes, errors, and omissions.
That report, which singled out Clinton for supposedly signing a cable about security concerns in Benghazi in the months before the attack, was undermined by media reports which showed that every cable that leaves the State Department bears the name of the Secretary of State, regardless if the secretary saw or approved it. A member of the independent Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack called these accusations by the GOP against Clinton "total bullshit," and the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler called the claims "absurd." In a Fact Checker blog post he concluded that Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa had "no basis or evidence to show that Clinton had anything to do with this cable."