Conservative media's lengthy campaign to demonize government programs by accusing low-income Americans of using benefits to buy marijuana has culminated in legislation being passed by Republicans in the House of Representatives this week.
Two bills linking government assistance for impoverished families to the legal purchase of marijuana are making their way through the Republican-controlled House. The Preserving Welfare For Needs Not Weed Act, proposed by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and passed by the House yesterday, aims to prohibit the use of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards containing cash benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in stores selling marijuana (At this time, only two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the sale of the drug for recreational use). A second bill, the No Welfare For Weed Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), extends even further -- it aims to ban the purchase of marijuana with SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps.
These bills come on the heels of a concerted effort by Fox News and conservative blogs like National Review Online (NRO) to accuse low-income Americans of using government assistance to purchase recreational marijuana. One month after Colorado legalized the sale of pot, NRO alleged "welfare beneficiaries withdrew thousands of dollars in public-assistance cash from ATMs at weed shops" in the state, a report echoed by Fox & Friends co-host Eric Bolling, who asked, "Are food stamps now going to pot?":
BOLLING: Forty-seven million people are on food stamps nationwide. In Colorado, more than 500,000 are getting food stamps every month. Meanwhile, 348 shops are set up in Colorado to sell pot in the state. And food stamp cards have reportedly been used at pot shops, ATMs, at least 64 times in the short time weed has been legal in Colorado. So are food stamps now going to pot?
In 64 specific times, people used an EBT card to take out cash, presumably to buy pot.
Conservative media's accusation that impoverished families use food stamps and government benefits to buy marijuana, one they've continued to push for months, was echoed by House Republicans justifying their current proposals.
Presenting his bill on September 16, Reichert declared, "We are seeing new abuses of these benefits. In these states, a person can walk into one of the newly opened pot shops and use their welfare benefit card to pay for pot ... This isn't an idle concern. Report examining welfare transactions in Colorado revealed over $5,000 in welfare benefits were accessed in stores selling marijuana in the first month such stores were open."
The link between TANF benefits and pot purchases has yet to be established. In NRO's original report, the blog admitted it could not conclude that any TANF money has been used specifically for the purchase of marijuana, stating, "Some of these establishments sell groceries as well as pot, so there is no way to know exactly how much welfare money was spent on marijuana."
Notably, despite the House bill suggesting otherwise, food stamp recipients are only allowed to use benefits to purchase approved food items and are barred from purchasing alcohol, tobacco, and non-food items. The USDA makes clear that SNAP benefits can't be used to withdraw cash from ATMs (emphasis original):
SNAP benefits can never be withdrawn as cash. Many States allow clients to use a single EBT card to access SNAP as well as cash benefit programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In most States, cash benefits from other programs can be accessed through ATMs.
From the September 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News' embellishments of discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson's latest Benghazi conspiracy theory have become increasingly detached from reality, most recently morphing into absurd allegations that Hillary Clinton supporters "scrubbed" documents to hide evidence of a supposed State Department effort to funnel weapons to the Islamic State militants in a "mini-Iran Contra" scenario, or, as Fox puts it, "the holy grail" of scandals.
After Attkisson highlighted disgruntled former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell's speculating (he "couldn't help but wonder") that State Department staff "scrubbed" damaging Benghazi documents before the initial investigation, it took just hours for Fox's coverage of the claims to morph from reiteration into full-blown allegations that Hillary Clinton's office had facilitated the destruction of key documents in violation of federal law.
Fox's own Bill O'Reilly raised doubts about whether Attkisson's story constituted a scandal, but Fox's morning show kept the conspiracy drumbeat alive on September 17 edition of Fox & Friends, escalating the speculative claims to even greater heights. Co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News contributor Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer speculated that the allegedly removed documents would prove that the State Department enabled an Iran-Contra-like scenario by facilitating the transfer of weapons to Islamic State militants. Insisting that "all roads lead to principal officers," Shaffer imagined that the supposed documents may hide a "direct link" to what he called a "holy grail" of Benghazi allegations, and Kilmeade concluded that "this is almost like a mini Iran-Contra thing":
Fox News' coverage of an evidence-free "bombshell" from Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson took just hours to morph from a reiteration of her claim that a disgruntled former State Department employee "couldn't help but wonder" if Hillary Clinton's staff had turned over "scrubbed" Benghazi documents to investigators into full-blown allegations that documents had been "destroyed" -- allegations that remain baseless.
A Republican activist, attorney, and key player in the Benghazi hoax accused a former congressional staffer of harassing Benghazi eyewitnesses during congressional testimonies before going to work for Hillary Clinton -- but the staffer in question actually left Congress months before the interviews of those eyewitnesses took place. The false claim is just the latest in a long line of fictions from the Benghazi hoaxster, who has been discredited by Republicans members of the House Intelligence Committee and Benghazi CIA contractors alike.
Victoria Toensing appeared on the September 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends to aid the network in reviving the myth of a "stand down" order in Benghazi. Going even further, Toensing claimed that Michael Allen, former chief of staff for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, orchestrated the harassment of three CIA contractors giving their eyewitness testimony on the Benghazi attacks before Congress, even speculating that Allen purposefully prohibited the Committee from getting answers before leaving to join a "Hillary organization":
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When these three operators and the others came back and they testified behind closed doors to the House Intel Committee, I understand they were harassed by the House Intel Committee that we thought were trying to get all the answers. What was up with that?
TOENSING: Republicans. And they were told, they were accused that they were not telling the truth. They were threatened with "the committee is not going to pay your travel expenses," which committees always do for witnesses who come in from out of town, "because you're writing a book and you're going to make money, and by the way, you shouldn't be writing a book."
Now you say why would that happen with the Republican-dominated House Intelligence Committee? Well, that chief of staff, the head of that staff that harassed these three brave men, a few months later went to work for Beacon Global Strategies. That is a Hillary organization.
Please do not listen to Victoria Toensing. She does not represent us in any way shape or form-- Kris Paronto (@KrisParonto) September 9, 2014
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) called out Fox News' favorite Benghazi lawyer, Victoria Toensing, for her "unfortunate" and untrue allegations about the 2012 attacks and subsequent investigations.
Fox & Friends invited Toensing on its September 9 program to weigh in on the network's latest attempt to revive the repeatedly debunked myth of a "stand down" order issued to three CIA security personnel in Benghazi.
Toensing dismissed the fact that both the House Intelligence Committee and various investigations determined that no such stand down order was issued, claiming the State Department had worked to undermine and "vilif[y]" the security personnel and Benghazi witnesses. According to Toensing, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee "harassed" the security contractors when they gave their testimony on Benghazi, pressuring them not to write about their experiences.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, shot down Toensing's accusations in a later segment on Fox & Friends. Rogers debunked the notion of any stand down order, and though he refrained from mentioning Toensing by name, he called out "lawyers who have a financial interest in this, certainly making allegations that are far from true." Rogers went on:
ROGERS: As I said, I hope everybody buys [the security contractors'] book, because these are very brave souls who served their country proudly, who ended up driving into unknown circumstances and saved them. That's all really good. And so, the only way that people buy the book is with some inflammatory comments. These are attorneys who have a financial stake in this. And it's unfortunate. The facts will -- we've asked that these transcripts be released, and I think that'll tell the truth. I think Americans can look at that and find out what was the real truth.
Toensing is well-known to be an unreliable source, previously criticized as lacking "impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism."
CNN's Candy Crowley and John King portrayed President Obama as having failed to generate significant progress on immigration reform because the White House has said that it will delay executive action on the issue until after the midterm elections. But this analysis ignores the reality that House Republicans refused to vote on a bipartisan Senate immigration bill and threatened to impeach Obama over plans to take executive action on immigration.
Fox News' upcoming special report on Benghazi, which examines questions that have already been answered repeatedly by multiple congressional and independent investigations, is being used by Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to justify the establishment of his redundant select committee.
The special, titled "13 Hours at Benghazi" and hosted by Special Report's Bret Baier on September 5, is slated to explore "Whether or not military assistance was requested by the security team and whether orders from above hindered their response to the violence that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans." A Special Report segment teased the special by highlighting the reaction of congressional lawmakers including Benghazi Select Committee Chair Gowdy, who said in a press release:
[I]n response to recent reports from security personnel on the ground in Benghazi:
"The Committee has heard of these concerns and they go to the heart of why Congress established this Committee--to determine all of the facts of what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the terrorist attack that day. We welcome the opportunity, and expect, to talk to personnel who were on the ground in Benghazi, their superiors, and anyone with relevant information related to the Benghazi terrorist attack. There are still facts to learn about Benghazi and information that needs to be explained in greater detail to the American people. And this Committee will do just that."
As the Daily Beast's Eli Lake explained, on the night of the attacks there was a 23-minute delay between the initial distress call from the diplomatic facility in Benghazi and when the CIA contractors from the nearby CIA Annex departed to rescue the Americans there. Despite suggestions from some in the intelligence community that this delay hindered their rescue effort, repeated investigations found no evidence that the CIA operatives were delayed by "orders from above," as Fox's announcement suggests.
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz for failing to disclose during a CBS appearance about a congressional election that Luntz had previously been a paid consultant for the candidate.
"I think you should have," Kurtz said during an August 10 interview with Luntz on his #MediaBuzz media criticism program, "because it just would have been leveling with the audience, hey, this is not some stranger."
Luntz discussed then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) surprise primary defeat on the June 11 edition of CBS This Morning, calling the loss "a blow for conversation" that is "bad for the country" because Cantor was "a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done." But neither he nor CBS acknowledged that Cantor's campaign had paid Luntz's company more than $15,000 in fees, as Media Matters documented.
Asked by Kurtz about the lack of disclosure, Luntz said that while "People raised that as an issue," he did not think it was necessary because he was introduced by CBS "as a Republican."
Luntz's excuse is consistent with that of a CBS spokesperson who told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple in June that the network had provided sufficient disclosure because Luntz's "work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
But as Wemple noted, "When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed." Media ethicists agreed in interviews with Media Matters, ripping CBS News for "outrageous" behavior that could be considered "not only bad, but corrupt."
Fox News has gone silent on Benghazi amid reports that the House Intelligence Committee concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on August 1 that the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee voted to declassify findings from its investigation into the 2012 attacks on U.S diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, and "concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack," according to committee member Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).
The intelligence community "did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened," the process used to create administration talking points was "flawed" but "reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis, and "there was no 'stand-down order' given to American personnel," Ranking Member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-CA) said in a statement laying out the committee's findings.
It's a clinical, point-by-point refutation of the Benghazi hoax Fox has pushed for nearly 2 years.
Yet Fox News made no mention of the report on Monday.* In sharp contrast to its current silence, when House Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi in June, Fox devoted at least 225 segments to the topic over just two weeks, an estimated publicity value of more than $124 million.
As the House Intelligence Committee's Benghazi report further dismantles the right-wing's Benghazi hoax, will media keep legitimizing House Republicans' repetitious select committee on the attacks?
Less than two months before Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) House Select Committee is set to begin its Benghazi hearings, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on July 31 to declassify its report on the deadly 2012 attacks on American facilities. The committee found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Obama administration, confirming "that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given," as committee member Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) explained. Ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) stressed that the "bipartisan, factual," and "definitive" report found no evidence of a scandal involving the intelligence community's talking points on the attacks:
This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans. Our investigation found the Intelligence Community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened, Americans which is consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic. It also found that a mixed group of individuals including those associated with Al-Qaeda, Qadafi loyalists and other Libyan militias participated in the attack. Additionally, the report shows there was no "stand down order" given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, and no American was left behind.
The report also shows that the process used to develop the talking points was flawed, but that the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis. Finally, the report demonstrates that there was no illegal activity or illegal arms sales occurring at U.S. facilities in Benghazi. And there was absolutely no evidence, in documents or testimony, that the Intelligence Community's assessments were politically motivated in any way.
The House Intelligence Committee report joins previous Benghazi investigations by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board (ARB), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Armed Services Committee which have repeatedly debunked right-wing Benghazi myths that have persisted since the attacks, including the falsehood that a "stand down" order was given to troops stationed in Tripoli and the myth that the administration lied about the attacks having been caused by an anti-Islam YouTube video.
The findings present a new challenge for media outlets in the runup to Gowdy's Benghazi select committee, explicitly formed to investigate "unanswered questions" that previous Benghazi investigations have long-since asked and answered. When House Republicans announced plans to form the committee in May, many in the media presented Gowdy's premise of "unanswered questions" as legitimate.
CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger told CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello in a May 9 discussion on Gowdy's select committee that "there are a lot of unanswered questions" on Benghazi, and on the May 21 edition of the program, Wolf Blitzer conceded to Republican myths on the attacks (emphasis added, via Nexis):
BLITZER: I think the major question that the Republicans want answered is, people at the White House, what was their direct involvement from the president, the vice president, the national security adviser and others on down. They've gotten a lot of information from what was going on at the State Department. They've gotten a lot of documents and information, what was going on at the U.S. military, the Pentagon, the Africa command and other U.S. military operations in the intelligence community, they've gotten significant information. But the Republicans believe there's still a lot of information out there that the administration has not made available, specifically information as to what the White House was doing, what the president of the United States specifically was doing. That's what they say they want, and that's presumably what they're hoping to get in the course of the select committee hearings.
Blitzer further legitimized the select committee on May 22, pressing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on why Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi the day of the attack and suggesting the committee could find an answer to this already-answered question.
Now, the House Intelligence Committee's finding that there was no intentional wrongdoing on the part of the administration in the Benghazi attacks adds to a pile of overwhelming evidence against the right-wing's Benghazi hoax. Will it finally be enough to convince the media to stop taking Gowdy and his misguided Benghazi witch-hunt seriously?
From the August 4 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer chastised House Republicans for their "ridiculous" flip-flopping in the span of a day on their outrage over President Obama's executive actions.
On July 31, Republican House Speaker John Boehner tabled a bill promoted by House leadership aimed at addressing the crisis of undocumented youths at the U.S.-Mexico border, after which he and other Republican House leaders issued a statement saying, "There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action." But the day prior, the House approved a Republican plan to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his constitutional authority by going around Congress to implement certain policies.
Krauthammer said on the July 31 edition of Fox News' Special Report that House Republicans' failure to act on the border crisis was "incomprehensible," calling out "so-called conservatives" who successfully advocated against the bill (emphasis added):
KRAUTHAMMER: The disarray among Republicans makes you pine for the days of earmarks and the rack. That would be one or the other way to get these guys lined up. It is, to me, incomprehensible that Republicans aren't getting together on this -- so-called conservatives opposing the bill. It's very simple. There are two things Americans agree on. You want to help the helpless kids, the ones who are already here in some way, and the appropriation of this bill is not at all extravagant. And the other thing is you want to stop the influx. We all know how that's done, even the president agreed to it originally until he caved in to his left wing and came out against it. That is, you change the '08 law in a very simple way -- two lines. You simply say anybody who enters illegally through the Mexican border will be treated under the law the way Canadians and Mexicans are today. End of story. You do that and you've shown good faith. I agree with Ron, there's not a chance in hell that the Senate will come back or the president will sign it, but at least the Republicans will have shown that they can do something.
It is ridiculous to sue the president on a Wednesday because he oversteps the law, as he has done a dozen times illegally and unconstitutionally, and then on a Thursday say that he should overstep the law, contradict the law that passed in 2008 and deal with this himself.
Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge recycled House Republicans' discredited, year-old allegation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on reducing security at the Benghazi compound ahead of the 2012 attack there, scandalizing a State Department cable bearing her signature.
As many in the conservative media grow more insistent that the Republican Party will not and should not impeach President Obama, major right-wing figures have started pushing back to keep the impeachment option on the table.
Over the past few weeks many mainstream conservatives such as the Republican congressional leadership and many Fox News personalities have dismissed the idea of impeaching the president, going so far as to shift the blame for the discussion of impeachment to the White House and other Democrats. This dishonest narrative was taken up by some mainstream reporters, despite the fact that conservatives and Republicans have long called for Obama's impeachment.
While some in the conservative media pretend this is all a cynical ploy by Democrats, not everyone is ready to give up the goal of impeaching the president.
On the July 29 edition of The Mark Levin Show, Mark Levin said during a six minute long rant about impeachment:
LEVIN: Our country is being destroyed. And I am sick and tired of people like Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader McConnell, various radio hosts and TV commentators going on and on about our imperial president, how it's outrageous how what he is doing is destructive to the Constitution and the country, and then when you bring up what the Constitution provides us, it's "oh, what a bunch of kooks."
Here's the dead truth -- Obama should be impeached. But he won't be impeached. Obama should be impeached if the Republicans take the Senate. But he won't be impeached if Republicans take the Senate. Obama has committed high crimes and misdemeanors by violating the Constitution.