Fox News hyped a lawsuit by Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) against the federal government to revive the long-debunked myth that Congress got exemptions from the Affordable Care Act by receiving the same employer contribution for its insurance that it traditionally received.
As the current Supreme Court term winds down, a number of highly anticipated cases will be released in the coming week. Here are five of the decisions right-wing media have repeatedly misinformed about, as well as the top myths and facts.
Media are attacking Hillary Clinton as "out of touch" after she noted that she worked to pay off millions in legal debt by accepting speaking engagements. But Clinton's speaking income is consistent with other high-profile politicians, and she has long supported efforts to reduce poverty and income inequality.
The Daily Beast is dubbing the Environmental Protection Agency's new clean power plan "Obamacare for the Air" in part because it is "intensely polarizing." But the reason that the standards are "polarizing" is that, just like with Obamacare's individual mandate, Republicans have abandoned their previous support for addressing this pressing issue with market-based policies as they move further to the extreme right.
On June 2, the EPA proposed the first standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, which would allow states flexibility on how to achieve the pollution cuts. States could, for instance, mandate installations of new clean power technology or join regional cap-and-trade programs that take a market-based approach to promoting clean power. The Daily Beast's Jason Mark labeled the standards "Obamacare for the Air" because both plans are "numbingly complex," "based on a market system," "likely to transform a key sector of the economy," and "guaranteed to be intensely polarizing." The Christian Science Monitor's David Unger similarly compared the standards to Obamacare in part because they are "controversial." The editor in chief of the Daily Beast, John Avalon adopted the analogy on CNN's New Day, calling it a "long-time liberal priority."
Both articles left out why the EPA standards are contentious among the political class: it's not because the proposals are "liberal," but rather because the Republican party has shifted so far to the right that it now attacks proposals that it once advocated for. Many prominent Republicans supported a cap-and-trade program before Barack Obama was elected president, just as they once supported the individual mandate in Obamacare. In fact, the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that Sen. John McCain proposed during the 2008 election were far more extensive than the EPA's current proposal. The video below by Media Matters Action Network shows how Republicans used to talk about climate change in ways that they never would today:
As the Republican Party shifted to the right, so too did the conservative media. The Wall Street Journal editorial board previously stated that "the Bush Administration should propose a domestic cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide that could, of course, be easily expanded to Canada and Mexico. And then to Latin America. And then the world." Now the paper's editorials deride this conservative idea as "cap-and-tax." Yet mainstream reporters are often loathe to point out this profound shift, sticking instead to "both-sides-to-blame reporting."
Right-wing media falsely claimed that newly released documents from Judicial Watch showed that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) pressured the IRS to target conservative groups for additional scrutiny. Levin's letters simply show that he asked the IRS to hold both Democratic and Republican groups accountable to valid tax-exempt regulations, and he made his correspondence public record more than a year ago.
From the May 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the May 2 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly discounted well-established facts when pushing the myth that President Obama did not order the military to help during the Benghazi attack.
On May 1, O'Reilly hosted Fox military analysts Ralph Peters and David Hunt to discuss new testimony about Benghazi that has been distorted by the network. After O'Reilly noted that military forces couldn't mobilize without an order from the president, Hunt said that "the president never gave the order" to deploy. Hunt later said "we had forces close enough to affect the battle, where they were ordered not to." Peters said that "the White House would have said stand down, that will still come out," to which O'Reilly responded, "that will be huge." O'Reilly echoed the Fox analysts, saying: "There wasn't anybody who said do something. That had to come from President Obama, through Leon Panetta ... it didn't happen."
But testimony from military leadership said otherwise. In his congressional testimony on February 7, 2013, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that after he informed the president about the attack in Benghazi, Obama "at that point directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." The Associated Press reported that Panetta ordered Marine anti-terrorism teams in Europe to prepare to deploy to Libya, and ordered other special forces teams to prepare to deploy to a European staging base.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey similarly testified that the military "reacted quickly once notified of the attacks" and "deployed a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team to Tripoli while a second team prepared to deploy."
But the units were unable to reach Libya until well after the attack ended due to time and distance constraints.
Peters' claim that there was a "stand down" order sent to American forces stationed in Tripoli during the attack has been debunked repeatedly, even by Fox News itself.
The Pentagon explained in May 2013 that there "was never any kind of stand down order to anybody." That June, Dempsey testified before Congress that the team wasn't "told to stand down. A stand down means don't do anything." He continued to explain that the team was ordered to assist in Tripoli. Fox finally admitted that the "stand down" order didn't happen on June 26, 2013, after the leader of that special forces team told Congress that he was never ordered to "stand down."
O'Reilly closed the segment by using the aforementioned myths as justification to call for a new congressional hearing:
O'REILLY: So now, so everybody is clear, I want everybody to be clear about this -- you have to pull in Dempsey and Panetta and say to them, "Did someone tell you not to get a rescue mission up and running?" That is a simple question these two men have to answer. Is that correct, is that where we are? ... That's where we are. I want everybody to be clear we take it step by step.
As the United States Senate voted on a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage, Fox News dedicated 15 times more coverage to the latest "developments" in its on-going campaign to create a political scandal from the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
From the April 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News touted conservative Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse by promoting his website and urging viewers to vote on the "Constitutional Madness" bracket that Sasse created in an attempt to smear President Obama.
The March 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends featured Sasse's "Constitutional Madness" bracket, which purports to determine Obama's worst violation of constitutional rights by allowing participants to vote online. Fox followed in the footsteps of their contributor Sarah Palin, who has endorsed Sasse, by hosting and promoting the Nebraska Senate candidate during a discussion of his bracket. Sasse urged viewers to visit his campaign websites as co-host Steve Doocy celebrated the press the bracket has received:
From the March 7 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News continued to push the false narrative that the Obama administration politicized early intelligence assessments about the Benghazi attack by purporting to provide "new data points" which are contradicted by the findings of a bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January.
On February 13, Shannon Bream introduced a report from Fox national security correspondent Catherine Herridge by saying, "Tonight, two new data points in the Benghazi timeline [are] raising new questions about whether early intelligence was indeed politicized." Herridge began her report by claiming CIA leadership had been informed twice that the anti-Islam video "played no role" in the Benghazi attack, before former UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday news shows and provided information about the attack based on talking points that represented the best assessment of the intelligence community at the time.
But nowhere in the segment is there evidence that anyone was told that the anti-Islam video had no role in inspiring the Benghazi attack. Instead, Herridge presents evidence and quotes from Republican lawmakers that there was no demonstration that took place before the attack -- which is not the same thing.
The very Benghazi report Herridge cites in her appearance contradicts her claim that the video "played no role." The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's findings and recommendations in the report included the following:
Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video, suggesting that these and other terrorist groups could conduct similar terrorist attacks with little advance warning.
That finding from the Senate committee report lines up with the talking points drafted in the aftermath of the attack, which said that the attack was "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" -- protests that were a response to the anti-Islam video.
Considering that Fox's "new data points" do not actually provide any new information, the charges of intelligence politicization fall flat. The New York Times had a journalist who arrived at the Benghazi diplomatic facility as it was being attacked, and learned about the anger at the video from some of the attacks there.
The Benghazi report cited by Herridge also found that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to "cover-up" facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- a fact that she chose to left out.
After Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave congressional testimony that echoed President Obama's recent statements about the threat that al Qaeda poses, Fox News host Bret Baier claimed that the testimony was a "direct contradiction" to the president's description of the threat posed by the terrorist organization.
On the February 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Baier reported on Clapper's testimony earlier in the day before the Senate Armed Service Committee, in which Clapper testified that al Qaeda is "morphing and franchising itself" throughout the world. Baier categorized Clapper's testimony as a "direct contradiction" to what President Obama has said about the terrorist group in the past:
BAIER: A direct contradiction today from the nation's top intelligence chief, to what president Obama has said about al Qaeda. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee today previous assessments from the president are not accurate.
Baier appeared to suggest that Obama's past claims that al Qaeda was "on the run," made several times during the 2012 campaign, are in contradiction to Clapper's testimony. But Baier failed to note Obama's most recent statements on the terrorist organization. In fact, Clapper's testimony before the Senate that al Qaeda is a "morphing" threat that is "franchising itself" in several countries is similar to recent statements from President Obama. In his State of the Union address last month, Obama acknowledged that al Qaeda still posed a threat to the United States, a threat that he said has "evolved": (emphasis added)
While we've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.
Fox News continued its habit of inventing Benghazi news hooks by selectively quoting from a Senate report on Benghazi that came out more than two weeks ago to bolster its false claims that the Obama administration changed talking points after the attack for political reasons.
On the February 3 edition of Special Report, Fox's chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge aired an investigation that revolved around a single sentence in the January 15 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review on the Benghazi attack. Introducing the segment by saying the report "sheds new light on the role of Michael Morell, the CIA's former deputy director, in the Benghazi talking points controversy." She continued:
HERRIDGE: The Senate report states that on September 15, one day before Susan Rice's controversial Sunday show appearances -- where she blamed a demonstration gone awry -- Morell and others at the CIA received a critical email that reported the attacks were, quote, "not/not an escalation of protests." It was from the CIA chief of station, who was on the ground in Libya.
Herridge went on to cite several intelligence experts to question why Morell didn't use that email to delete references to demonstrations from the talking points later used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice, when Morell made edits to the talking points that same day -- though Herridge admits that it's not known when Morell read the email from the Libya station chief. Later in the segment, Herridge used other news reports and interviews to tie Morell's edits to the talking points to a possible Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016, speculating that they were politically motivated.
Morell's changes to the talking points aren't news. The Washington Post reported in May 2013 that Morell edited the talking points as part of a standard process of inter-agency coordination and a determination that certain information needed to be excluded to protect ongoing terror investigations.
And Herridge's insinuation that this email from the CIA station chief in Libya should have kept any mention of demonstrations out of the talking points is undermined by the next sentence from the Senate report, which explained that it's not standard practice to base analysis on "e-mails and other informal communications": (emphasis added)
The IC also had information that there were no protests outside the Temporary Mission Facility prior to the attacks, but did not incorporate that information into its widely circulated assessments in a timely manner. Contrary to many press reports at the time, eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicate that there were no protests at the start of the attacks. For example, on September 15, 2012,. the CIA's Chief of Station in Tripoli sent to the then-Deputy Director of the ClA and others at the CIA an email that reported the attacks were "not/not an escalation of protests." Yet, the CIA's January 4, 2013, Analytic Line Review downplays the importance of this email, noting, "... as a standard practice, we do not base analysis on e-mails and other informal communications from the field because such accounts often change when formalized as disseminated intelligence reports."