From the June 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
For weeks, Fox News has promoted selective clips of interview transcripts leaked by House Republicans to promote their baseless claim that the White House engineered the Internal Revenue Service's improper screening of conservative groups seeking non-profit status.
Such claims were always speculative. The IRS' inspector general has said that while employees used "improper criteria" to scrutinize conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, that behavior was "not politically biased" and was not driven by the White House. Subsequent testimony leaked by House Republicans has suggested that high-ranking IRS officials in Washington were at first unaware of the improper behavior and stopped it when they learned of it.
The House Oversight Committee's Democrats have now released the full transcript of an interview with another IRS witness which further undermines claims that the White House was at the center of the process. According to the interview subject, a self-described conservative Republican who worked in the IRS' Cincinnati office, an agent he supervised flagged the first Tea Party application that came under scrutiny, asking for guidance on the case.The interview subject denied having had contact with senior IRS officials or the White House about the targeting. According to The Washington Post's Greg Sargent:
In the testimony, the screening manager says that he first became aware of the initial Tea Party application when an "agent who worked for me" asked for "guidance concerning a case for him." The manager testified that in this case he agreed with the agent that "there was not enough information" to figure out whether to grant the group tax exempt status.
"I told him at that point in time I agreed with his thinking," the manager testified, adding that he informed the agent that he would "elevate that issue to my area manager."
"This was the first case that came in that was brought to my attention," the manager continued.
The manager further testified that the Tea Party groups were deliberately grouped together so that they would receive consistent treatment. "There was a lot of concerns about making sure that any cases that had, you know, similar-type activities or items included, that they would be worked by the same agent or same group," the manager testified.
In the testimony, the screening manager also flatly stated he had no reason to believe there was White House involvement.
The screening manager also testifies that he never had any conversation with Lois Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations Division, or former IRS commissioner Douglas Schulmanm about the "screening of Tea Party cases."
It remains to be seen how Fox News will react to statements that so strongly undermine their conclusion. But we have some precedent - on June 9, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released excerpts from this interview, and said that it showed that "the case is solved" and that the White House had not been involved in the improper behavior. Fox responded by airing his conclusion that "the case is solved" and hosting conservatives to criticize that claim, without laying out Cummings' evidence.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum and contributor Byron York suggested that the President Obama may have scheduled his current trips to Europe and Africa to help his poll numbers even though both trips were scheduled as early as November 2012.
Obama is currently in Northern Ireland attending a G8 summit before embarking on a tour of Africa -- an effort to strengthen economic ties to the continent. On the June 18 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum and York were discussing the president's current job approval rating when MacCallum wondered aloud whether Obama was trying to "get overseas and do some traveling and draw the attention somewhere else" in an attempt to "turn the tide." York responded, "Well, he's trying that."
Both the G8 summit and the Africa trip were being planned as early as November 2012, according to the BBC and Politico respectively. At that time, President Obama had just won re-election and had a job approval rating of over fifty percent.
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama over the cost of his upcoming diplomatic trip to Africa, ignoring or dismissing the fact that the security measures that have driven the trip's budget are in line with those used by previous presidents on similar trips.
On June 13, The Washington Post reported on an internal document that detailed some of the security precautions being taken during President Obama's scheduled trip to Africa later this month, which will include the first lady, and will seek to forge stronger economic ties with African nations and address global health problems. According to the document, hundreds of Secret Service agents will be dispatched where the president and his family will be, a naval ship will be standing by for medical emergencies, and fighter aircraft will fly in 24-hours security shifts. The document "does not specify costs" for the trip, but the Post cited speculation from a source familiar with the trip that it "could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years."
The Post also stated that "the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past" and quoted Ben Rhodes, an Obama adviser on national security, who said that the security requirements "are Secret Service-driven." The story also mentioned that a safari was being considered during the trip but was canceled, and that previous presidents had made similar trips, with President Bush bringing his daughters along on one that included a safari:
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush's two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
But in their eagerness to criticize President Obama over the cost of the trip, right-wing media ignored or dismissed these facts. The Drudge Report only highlighted the speculation that the trip could cost $100 million and that the safari was canceled. A blog post from The Weekly Standard drew attention to the canceled safari without mentioning the African safari that Bush and his family went on.
Mark Levin, on the other hand, decided that these precedents were irrelevant when he attacked Obama on his radio show. Levin said that he'd "never seen a presidential family take so many trips" and that Obama "doesn't deny himself or his family a damn thing." Levin stated that Obama is "on welfare, presidential welfare" and that "Obama believes that this is his time to live like a king" and that "his wife is the imperial first lady." He concluded by dismissing the fact that previous presidents have made similar trips by claiming "this president's propaganda is different from other presidents, this president's Marxist class warfare is different than other presidents."
Fox Nation highlighted Levin's attack on Obama with the headline, "Levin slams Obama's $100 million Africa trip: He lives like a billionaire off you and me!"
Fox & Friends aired a flawed poll question which falsely asserted that President Obama abandoned Americans under attack in Benghazi, Libya, in reaction to General Martin Dempsey reaffirming that no "stand down" order was issued to forces during the attacks. The false allegation that troops were told to stand down has been repeatedly pushed by Fox News.
On June 13, Fox & Friends aired a graphic showing results to a Fox News poll question that asked why "President Obama did not order US troops to help Americans in Benghazi." The show aired the results to the poll question after playing part of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Dempsey's congressional testimony in which he said no "stand down" order was given:
Contrary to what Fox polled, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained in a February 7 Senate hearing that President Obama ordered him to "do whatever you need to do in be able to protect our people there" on the night of the Benghazi attacks. Following that conversation, and before the attacks were over, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. Unfortunately, the forces arrived after the attacks were over.
From the June 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the June 7 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the June 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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After President Obama named former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his new national security advisor, right-wing media figures called the appointment a "slap in the face," a "middle finger," and an "eff you" to Americans.
From the June 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News contributor Karl Rove is baselessly claiming the Obama administration's "lie" linking the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya to an anti-Islam video was "cooked up" by White House aides and an aide to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
As part of its effort to turn Benghazi into Obama's Watergate, Fox has regularly perpetuated falsehoods about talking points the administration generated after the attacks that were used by Rice in interviews on the Sunday political talk shows. The network has paid special attention to what emails between administration and intelligence officials concerning the editing of those talking points do and do not say about the anti-Islam video, which Rice linked to the attacks during those interviews. Those false attacks have been revived in light of reports that President Obama plans to appoint Rice as his new National Security Advisor.
Discussing Rice's move to the White House on the July 5 edition of America's Newsroom, Rove claimed that "we do not know the answer of who is the author of the lie that this is all because of an anti-Muslim video," and went on to suggest that the talking points emails suggest that the idea came from discussions between White House aides Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor and an unnamed aide to Rice, who Rove believes was UN mission communications director Erin Pelton:
ROVE: We do not know the answer of who is the author of the lie that this is all because of an anti-Muslim video. Now, we have an idea. There are these emails that were released, they released 100 emails about the Benghazi situation. Remember, on Saturday morning, [September] 15, the CIA talking points are gutted at a White House National Security Council deputies meeting. Sunday morning, Susan Rice is on television saying it was the anti-Muslim video. How did we get there? Late in the afternoon, starting at 5:59 p.m., on Saturday afternoon, we start having an exchange of emails from an unnamed person at the U.S. mission at that United Nations with two low-level White House National Security Council communications guys, Ben Rhodes, who's in charge of communication for the National Security Council and one of his deputies, a guy named Tommy Vietor.
BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): And they go back and forth for a period of six or seven hours.
ROVE: They go back and forth over a number of hours about the talking points. Now this would lead me to believe that this unnamed person, who might be Erin Pelton, the communications director at the U.S. mission at the United Nations, and Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, that that's the transmission line to Susan Rice--
HEMMER: From the White House.
Rove offered similar claims in a May FoxNews.com column, asking whether "the USUN staffer, Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor were responsible for cooking up the absurd and misleading storyline that an anti-Muslim video caused the death of four Americans," suggesting that their "principal concern might have been the election less than two months off."
In fact, the Benghazi emails released by the White House show only that the USUN official sought to confirm with the White House that the final version of the Benghazi talking points were what Rice should use in her interviews. In the sole exchange between the U.S. mission to the UN and the White House included in the emails, a USUN official asks Rhodes and Vietor if a forwarded version of the final talking points represented the "final language" that Rice should use on Benghazi, with Rhodes replying, "Yup."
Fox News regurgitated discredited attacks to smear former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in advance of her appointment as the new national security advisor, falsely claiming Rice was purposely misleading when she spoke about the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Fox also rehashed the false claim that current National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was missing the night of the attacks.
On June 5, Foreign Policy reported that President Obama planned to appoint Rice as his national security advisor. Fox & Friends co-hosts Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy reacted to the news by using long-debunked myths about the attacks in Benghazi. Doocy claimed that Rice was purposely misleading during her appearances on Sunday talk shows after the attacks because of the approaching election, while on-screen text accused her of "floating fiction":
But Rice relied on talking points approved by the intelligence community which affirmed that the attacks in Benghazi were related to an anti-Islam video released days before the attack.
Indeed, every version of the CIA talking points, including the version ultimately used by Rice, stated that the attacks were "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo," which had been triggered by the video. Recently released emails that document the drafting process of the Benghazi talking points confirm what former director of the CIA David Petraeus testified in a November 2012 congressional hearing: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points.
Carlson also suggested that the man Rice will replace, Tom Donilon, was "missing" during the attack in Benghazi, while on-screen text suggested there were still questions about Donilon's "whereabouts":
In fact, Tom Donilon was in the Oval Office during the attack.
From the June 4 edition of Current TV's Talking Liberally:
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Right-wing media have been pushing multiple dubious claims related to the recent revelation that the IRS used inappropriate criteria to scrutinize some conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Media Matters has compiled five of the worst offenders.
From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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