President Obama's recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase "under God." But ironically, in their hurry to attack the president, they omitted the fact that Obama was reading the first draft of the speech -- a draft that did not include "under God" -- at the request of filmmaker Ken Burns.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns compiled footage of important national figures -- including Obama and all the living former presidents -- reciting portions of the speech.
On November 19, right-wing radio host Chris Plante accused Obama of omitting the phrase "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Other conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, and National Review Online's The Corner promptly ran with the story. WMAL, which hosts The Chris Plante Show, remarked about the news:
One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
As first reported on WMAL's Chris Plante Show Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief joined a cast of 61 other noted lawmakers, politicians, news anchors and celebrities, including every living President, in reciting the Gettysburg Address, which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863.
The dignitaries all delivered the address as Lincoln had written it, including the phrase, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." (Click to listen). Curiously, however, in his version of the address, President Obama omitted the words "under God."
Obama's recitation was not 'curious,' it was accurate -- Burns requested that President Obama read the 'Nicolay Version' of the Address, which was Lincoln's first draft of the Address and does not contain the phrase "under God." The relevant text of the Nicolay version, which Obama recites, reads (emphasis added):
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The right-wing media's rush to hysteria and ignorance of the facts in this case is ironic: Burns' project is called Learn the Address.
UPDATE: After this post's publication, the Daily Caller acknowledged the error in an update to its original post:
The "Learn the Address" website notes that "We asked President Obama to read ... the 'Nicolay Version'" of the Gettsyburg Address, which omits the words "under God." That disclosure does not appear alongside Obama's video on the site.
UPDATE 2: National Review Online's The Corner also published an update to its original post:
During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns' upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the "Nicolay Version." This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase "under God." Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.
Fox News is manufacturing outrage over Obama's decision not to attend the commemoration ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and baselessly speculating that Obama's resentment over the nation's unfinished business "in bringing the country and its races together" may be the cause. In fact, William Howard Taft is the only sitting president to have ever visited Gettysburg on the anniversary of the address.
Fox News's Brian Kilmeade discussed with Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger whether it is "inappropriate for our president to bypass" the commemoration ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address during the November 19 edition of Fox & Friends. At one point Kilmeade asked whether Henninger thought Obama was refusing to attend because "after that address and after the Civil War we still weren't a perfect union? We still had to wait for the Civil Rights Act and so many -- the integration of schools, Brown vs. the Board of Education?" Henninger replied, "I think probably that President Obama does think the unfinished business remains unfinished in bringing the country and its races together."
But Obama's decision not to attend the Gettysburg commemoration ceremony is typical for a sitting president. President Reagan did not attend the 125th commemoration of the Gettysburg Address - in fact, Reagan never visited Gettysburg during his tenure in office. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also never visited the battlefield as president, and President George W. Bush toured the site in 2008, but did not speak or attend a commemoration ceremony. In fact, according to Hanover, Pennsylvania's local paper, The Evening Sun, William Howard Taft was the only sitting president to ever visit the site on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (emphasis added):
According to documents supplied by the Adams County Historical Society, 16 presidents have visited Gettysburg while they were in office -- Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863; Rutherford B. Hayes on May 30, 1878; Grover Cleveland May 4, 1885; Theodore Roosevelt on May 30, 1904; William H. Taft on Nov. 19, 1909; Woodrow Wilson on July 3, 1913; Warren G. Harding on July 1, 1922; Calvin Coolidge on May 30, 1928; Herbert Hoover on May 30, 1930; Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 30, 1934, and July 3, 1938; Harry S. Truman on July 6, 1946; Dwight D. Eisenhower on Nov. 13, 1955; John F. Kennedy on March 31, 1963; Richard M. Nixon on April 3, 1972; Jimmy Carter on July 6 and Sept. 11, 1978, and George W. Bush on Sept. 6, 2008.
The National Journal's George Condon reported of presidential visits to Gettysburg, "not all went willingly, and all tried to avoid speech comparisons with Lincoln."
Attacking Obama for this type of perceived snub is nothing new. In June 2010, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hyped Obama's supposed "perception problem" because he "did not acknowledge the D-Day anniversary as it passed this year," while ignoring the fact that Obama's D-Day commemorations mirror the Bush administration's; both commemorated D-Day on significant anniversaries but not annually.
In fact, Fox has routinely set up a double standard for Obama, attacking his actions even when they mirror those of previous Republican presidents. Fox News has criticized President Obama for shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, but ignored President Bush's handshake with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov; scrutinized Obama's church attendance -- while ignoring Bush's infrequent church attendance; and asked whether Obama was "disrespecting the Oval Office," because of a picture showing him with his feet up on the office's desk, though a nearly identical photo shows Bush doing the same thing.
Media are engaging in revisionist history to absolve Republicans of blame for failing to pass immigration reform this year, repeating the right-wing lie that President Obama and the Democrats had "two years" to pass immigration reform legislation in 2010 when they had control of both chambers. In fact, Republicans -- then and now -- are the reason immigration reform continues to fail.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, editorial writer Sandra Hernandez asserted that "Republicans shouldn't shoulder all the blame for the failure to fix the nation's dysfunctional immigration system." Hernandez continued: "After all, we wouldn't be having this debate if Democrats had passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, when they controlled both the House and the Senate."
Similarly, in a Los Angeles Daily News op-ed titled, "Both parties to blame for failure to reform immigration," San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that "Obama did not deliver on his 2008 promise to push an immigration bill during his first year in office, even though Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House during the first two years of his presidency." She added:
Only after Democrats lost the House in 2010 did that lame-duck body pass the DREAM Act to offer citizenship to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Because supporters couldn't deliver the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- five Democrats voted no -- it tanked.
Unfortunately, history can't be so easily airbrushed. As numerous fact-checks have noted, while the Democrats did control a majority of votes in the House for two years from 2009 to 2011, the same is not true of the Senate.
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained:
Until Al Franken was sworn in on July 7, the Democratic caucus in the Senate stood at 59. After that it was technically up to 60, but Ted Kennedy hadn't cast a vote in months and was housebound due to illness. He died a few weeks later and was replaced by Paul Kirk on September 24, finally bringing the Democratic majority up to 60 in practice as well as theory. After that the Senate was in session for 11 weeks before taking its winter recess, followed by three weeks until Scott Brown won Kennedy's seat in the Massachusetts special election.
So that means Democrats had an effective filibuster-proof majority for about 14 weeks. Did they squander it? I guess you can make that case, but there's a very limited amount you can do in the Senate in 14 weeks. Given the reality of what it takes to move legislation through committee and onto the floor (keeping in mind that the filibuster isn't the minority party's only way to slow things down), I think you might make the case, at most, that a single additional piece of legislation could have been forced through during that period. But probably not much more than that. Democrats basically had a filibuster-proof majority for about three months. That's just not very long.
Fox host Neil Cavuto pretended that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) ban on gender discrimination, which requires all policies to include maternity care coverage, was never "telegraphed" to the American people when the law was first discussed -- Cavuto is right, if you ignore repeated remarks made by President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and multiple media outlets prior to the bill's passage.
Under the ACA, all insurance plans are now required to cover maternity and newborn care, one of the law's 10 categories of 'essential health benefits' that every policy must include. The maternity care requirement puts an end to the systemic discrimination against women that pervaded the insurance industry. Previously, many companies charged women higher rates than men for the same plans and denied coverage or increased premiums for women who become pregnant, actions which the law prohibits.
Fox host Neil Cavuto referenced this requirement on the November 15 edition of Your World while discussing the ACA with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. After Gruber explained the impetus behind the rule, Cavuto claimed that it "was never, ever" explained to the country until now:
GRUBER: The key thing is, if you want to end discrimination, for example by gender, if you want to say that women should not have to pay more than men for health insurance, then that means that everyone has to share the cost of maternity coverage. Now if you don't think that's right, that's a totally legitimate position to take --
CAVUTO: But that was never telegraphed. When all of this started, Jonathan -- that's fine, if you want to say that now though -- none of that was telegraphed, as was the fact that many people would lose their plans and many more would pay a lot more for plans. None of that was this Utopian view that you would do better by doing some good, maybe paying more, but in the net positive the country would benefit. That was never -- that was never ever said.
What Cavuto claims was "never, ever said" was said, repeatedly -- by the media, the president, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) cabinet secretary, all before Congress passed the ACA on March 23, 2010.
From the November 8 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
Loading the player reg...
According to a new report in Politico, Republican Senator Rand Paul recently sat down with Fox News chief Roger Ailes and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Politico explains that Paul, who is often listed as a likely contender in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, met separately with the two men as he "has been working to smooth concerns among Republicans and influencers about whether he shares his famous libertarian father's views on issues like national security."
During the 2012 presidential cycle, Fox News essentially hosted the Republican primary, and Paul's jockeying for the support of Ailes and Murdoch is evidence that Fox's role as the gatekeeper of the Republican party hasn't changed.
The Politico report also points out that both Murdoch and Ailes have "historically had a good relationship with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie," another likely player in the 2016 Republican primary. Indeed, in 2011, New York magazine reported that Ailes "fell hard" for Christie and strongly encouraged him to throw his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination in 2012. Ailes certainly wasn't alone at the network in swooning over Christie -- Fox personalities fawned over the New Jersey governor for much of 2010 and 2011.
But as Politico lays out, Christie's relationship with the network may have soured after he "embraced President Barack Obama immediately after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey," shortly before the 2012 election:
Murdoch tweeted at the time that "while thanking O, must re-declare for Romney or take blame for next four dire years." Christie, according to The New York Times, called Murdoch just before the election and made his case for needing support after the hurricane, but the media titan told the governor that he needed to reiterate his support of Romney. Christie eventually did.
Fox hosts have also been notably less ebullient about Christie following the 2012 election. Sean Hannity announced on his radio show in January that, "to be blunt, yes, I am disappointed in Governor Christie." The Five co-host Eric Bolling lectured Christie on Fox's airwaves, advising him to "act like a Republican" and stop praising Obama over Sandy.
As recently as this morning, Fox Nation was posting commentary from Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes deriding Christie as a "RINO" and mocking his "schoolgirl crush" on Obama.
While people outside the Fox empire are seeking the support of Ailes and Murdoch, several of its employees are already stoking speculation about running in 2016, including Mike Huckabee, John Bolton, Allen West, Scott Brown, and Ben Carson.
Sean Hannity hosted Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Citizens United as they used Fox News as a platform to launch a campaign targeted at ending the so-called congressional exemption to the Affordable Care Act. There's one problem: the congressional exemption does not exist.
On the November 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity, David Bossie, president of the conservative political organization Citizens United, and Vitter joined Hannity to announce a new campaign calling on Congress to "Live By Your Laws." While the segment aired, Citizens United's Twitter account encouraged its followers to "join the movement" with Bossie, Hannity, and Vitter to stop a rule within the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) that allegedly exempts members of Congress and their staffs as well as the White House from having to take part in the ACA's health insurance exchanges. Hannity introduced the segment by playing most of Citizens United's new advertisement.
Contrary to the trio's claims, the reality is that the ACA requires Congress and its staff to obtain health insurance on the exchanges and also prohibits them from receiving subsidies under the ACA. Because of this "special punishment" as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein called it, congressional staffers would be forced to cover the entire cost of their health insurance. To avoid that punishment, the Office of Personnel Management clarified that it would continue to subsidize congressional employees' health insurances costs just like most employers throughout the country do. One Republican lawmaker said of the clarification, "There's no question it was the right thing to do."
From the November 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
From the October 31 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
Loading the player reg...
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the Cabinet official responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act. That she would testify before Congress about the problems with the law's implementation makes all the sense in the world, given that it is her responsibility. In certain corners of the conservative media, however, Sebelius' October 30 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was an act of political cowardice by President Obama, who, by sending Sebelius before Congress, was using her as a "human shield."
Here's the lede to Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger's October 31 column:
A reader remarked last week that Barack Obama is running out of human shields. With the father of ObamaCare unavailable to explain the greatest fiasco of his presidency to Congress, the American people had to settle Wednesday for his surrogate, Kathleen Sebelius.
And here's Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros on the October 30 edition of The Five:
CNN and Fox News repeatedly aired Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)'s threat to hold up presidential nominations unless witnesses to the 2012 Benghazi attacks are made available for questioning. The senator's implication -- that no witnesses have yet been questioned -- went unchallenged until CNN's Wolf Blitzer finally got Graham to admit that survivors of the attacks were in fact questioned by Congress earlier this month.
On October 28, Graham announced that he would block all executive branch nominees until survivors of the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya have been questioned by Congress. Graham appeared on Fox's Fox & Friends Monday morning, claiming:
GRAHAM: Fourteen months later, the people who survived the attack in Benghazi have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes.
Fox News continued to amplify Graham's rhetoric on Greta van Susteren's On The Record. Van Susteren noted on the October 28 edition of her show that Graham is "threatening to hold up all nominations for federal government positions ... until survivors of the Benghazi attack appear before Congress."
CNN briefly followed suit. The October 29 edition of CNN's New Day featured a report on Graham's threats from John King, who said that Graham "is saying, 'fine, you don't want to send them up to testify, I'm going to block almost every nomination if not every nomination going through the Senate."
But when Graham appeared on CNN's The Situation Room later that day, host Wolf Blitzer finally asked Graham if he was aware of any Benghazi witnesses who had been questioned by Congress. Graham responded, "It's my understanding that the survivors, the State Department personnel who survived the consulate attack, one of that group has been interviewed by the House, and the CIA agents at the annex have not been interviewed by the Intelligence Committee of the House and the Senate."
CNN host Newt Gingrich declared that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' congressional testimony was worse than Richard Nixon's alleged crimes during the Watergate scandal, another round in the right-wing media's campaign to find their own Watergate scandal with which to smear the Obama administration.
During Sebelius' ongoing testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee about HHS' role in producing the Healthcare.gov, CNN Crossfire host and former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich commented via Twitter that Sebelius' "dishonesty" in her testimony "exceeds anything president [sic] Nixon was accused of."
Nixon, of course, was nearly impeached for his administration's involvement in and attempted cover-up of the wiretapping of Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The Supreme Court had to order Nixon to hand over tape recordings implicating himself in the cover-up, and he subsequently resigned from the presidency.
Perhaps conservative media should consult this helpful Media Matters flowchart in the future: Is It Watergate?
UPDATE: CNN Newsroom host Wolf Blitzer confronted Gingrich regarding his Nixon comparison, explaining, "I just want to know if you want to revise making a comparison to Nixon." When pressed by Blitzer on whether Gingrich believes Sebelius committed any crimes -- like Nixon allegedly did -- Gingrich said, "We don't know yet." Later, when Blitzer called Gingrich's comparison "overblown," Gingrich jokingly offered to "modify" his tweet, to say that Sebelius's testimony "equals anything" of which Nixon had been accused, admitting that "'exceeds' may have been too strong."
BLITZER: On the point comparing it to Nixon, comparing what she did -- what this secretary did to Nixon, that is, I mean just between you and me, that's a little overblown.
GINGRICH: Well, what do you say about an administration which, you just pointed out, the actual number may be 16 million Americans losing their policies. Now, this affects life and death. It affects --
BLITZER: You're talking about the president. Here, you said -- and I'll read it again just to be precise and then you can tell me if you want to revise it. 'Sebelius dishonesty in testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of.'
GINGRICH: Ok, I will -- I will modify it: 'Equals anything.' How is that. Exceeds may have been too strong. I think to go under oath and say with a straight face there was not an outage in a site you've been covering for a month.
Fox News aired a video compilation critical of President Obama, without mentioning a Republican National Committee research document that reflects Fox's "report."
On October 29, Fox & Friends showed video of Obama and administration officials explaining that the president was not made aware of problems with the HealthCare.gov website, reported NSA surveillance of foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an Inspector General report about the IRS' handling of groups seeking tax-exempt status, and other things that the show labeled "DC scandals."
The Fox & Friends segment bears a striking similarity to a RNC document posted to GOP.com on October 28 titled "The Bystander President." Each "scandal" highlighted by the RNC document appears in the Fox segment, except that Fox left out the RNC mention of bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and added the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious and a reference to the network's manufactured Benghazi "scandal." Nowhere in the segment did the Fox & Friends hosts say that these claims came from a Republican document -- unlike MSNBC's Morning Joe, where co-host Mika Brzezinski said, before playing a similar video, that "Republicans are calling President Obama the quote 'bystander president.' A memo on the RNC's website points out numerous examples of a president who appears to be left in the dark."
Fox News has a history of disguising GOP talking points as its own reporting. In February 2009, Fox host Jon Scott criticized the planned economic recovery package that later passed as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, with a series of news sources that came directly from a press release by Senate Republicans -- including the same typo. In October 2009, Fox & Friends parroted a misleading House Republican press release that was critical of the stimulus. The list of GOP talking points presented as Fox News reporting goes on.
Rush Limbaugh wants to know why George Will can root for Obamacare to fail without consequence while he faced criticism for hoping Obama fails, sentiments that are "the same thing" according to the radio host.
Newly-crowned Fox contributor George Will appeared on Fox News Sunday's online after-show Panel Plus on October 27 to discuss glitches in Healthcare.gov. Will told the panel, "Of course I want Obamacare to fail. Because if it doesn't fail, it will just further entangle American society with a government that is not up to this."
To Rush Limbaugh, Will's remarks reflected the same sentiment Limbaugh himself expressed back in 2009. Because "if you want Obamacare to fail," Limbaugh reasoned, "you want Obama to fail."
Indeed, four days before then-President-elect Barack Obama took office in 2009, Limbaugh infamously declared that he "hope[s] Obama fails," a refrain he repeated that day and throughout Obama's presidency.
Part of the impetus behind this sentiment, Limbaugh explained at the time, is that he did not want the government involved in health care:
LIMBAUGH: Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work.
Now, Limbaugh is attempting to drag George Will under the bus with him. On the October 28 edition of his radio program, Limbaugh aired Will's remarks about his desire for Obamacare to fail, and claimed this was the "same thing" he had said in 2009 for "the exact same reasons":
Fox News immediately pounced on a 60 Minutes Benghazi report to continue a baseless smear campaign against Hillary Clinton in an attempt to make sure the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate will "be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road."
After CBS' 60 Minutes aired a segment of correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan's year-long investigation of the Benghazi attacks regarding a long-answered "lingering question," Fox's America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum hosted Tea Party News Network's Scottie Nell Hughes and contributor Leslie Marshall to discuss the report. These politically-oriented guests were selected in an apparent attempt to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as MacCallum admitted to the pair, "the reason we're talking to you about this is because it is going to be politically relevant and it may be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road." One such attack discussed was the long-debunked myth that the administration told the military to "stand down" rather than proceed with a Benghazi rescue mission.
MACCALLUM: Yeah, they had made repeated cries for help, for increased security. Those were turned down. And the reason we're talking to both of you about this is because it is going to be politically relevant and it may be politically relevant for Hillary Clinton down the road. She, we also remember, shook her hands in the air and said 'what difference does it make whether it was a bunch of crazy individuals or something that was planned and plotted.' I am paraphrasing a bit of what she said, but you all remember it well.
MARSHALL: That is great paraphrasing, taking one sentence a bit out of context.
HUGHES: They asked for help, a month before there was a meeting where they sat there and laid out the entire plan that this embassy was going to be under attack, and that night when the calls for help went out and the soldiers wanted to go in and help, there was a call somewhere from this administration to stand down. We don't know who made that call.
MARSHALL: Really, really?
MACCALLUM: The "Stand Down" order is very controversial, but we know they did not go in and help.
After Marshall called out MacCallum for taking Clinton's Benghazi testimony out of context, Hughes turned the conversation to the myth that the Obama administration told the military to "stand down" and cancel any planned rescue missions -- one of Fox's favorite myths.
In fact, multiple sources, including the commander of the Special Forces team that was allegedly told to stand down and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, have all said that no such order was given. The House Armed Services Committee also released a statement putting the myth to rest, stating that, according to testimony and "contrary to news reports," the commander "was not ordered to 'stand down.' "
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.