On January 15, 2014, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a bipartisan review of its findings in an investigation of the September 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Much of the report dispels myths perpetuated by Fox News over the last sixteen months.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted comments by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to accuse him of hypocrisy after allowing some of his staff to remain on their current health plans.
After reports that Reid would allow certain staffers to keep their existing coverage, Carlson aired comments Reid made in September 2013 about whether his staff would join the Affordable Care Act's exchanges and claimed he was "changing his tune." Carlson claimed Reid said his entire staff would be on the exchanges and accused him of "total hypocrisy."
However, Reid's statements from September do not contradict his decision to allow select staff members to remain on their existing coverage. Carlson failed to distinguish between Reid's personal legislative staff, who are enrolling through exchanges as mandated by law, and the staff that serves for leadership committees, who the ACA does not require to enroll through exchanges. He and his personal Senate office staff will indeed enroll for new coverage through the exchanges, as mandated by law:
In September, Reid told reporters, "Let's stop these really juvenile political games -- the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of exchanges, that's what the law says and we'll be part of that."
That's true. Reid and his personal staff will buy insurance through the exchange.
But it's also true that the law lets lawmakers decide if their committee and leadership staffers hold on to their federal employee insurance plans, an option Reid has exercised.
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
From the November 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Rush Limbaugh ranted that Senate Democrats took a step towards "total statist authoritarianism" by passing the nuclear option in filibuster reform - an option Limbaugh believed was the "Constitutional Option" in 2004, when Republicans ruled the Senate.
On November 21, after years of unprecedented Republican obstruction, the Senate voted to eliminate the ability of the minority party to filibuster most presidential nominees, a measure often called the "nuclear option." The New York Times explained, "Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes."
Rush Limbaugh raged over the filibuster reform, accusing Democrats of seeking "total statist authoritarianism." He complained that, with this vote, "250 years of rules, Senate rules, out the window, as the Democrats have made it plain they're not interested in democracy. And that really is what this means. Not interested in democracy at all," going on to say that now, President Obama gets to "play dictator with judicial nominees."
The next day, Limbaugh even compared filibuster reform to a vote that would "allow women to be raped."
But Limbaugh's outrage is highly selective -- when Republicans controlled the Senate, he believed that requiring more than a majority vote for presidential appointees was "unconstitutional" and enthusiastically supported similar filibuster reform.
In December of 2004, while discussing the Democratic minority's filibusters of Bush's lower court judicial nominees, Rush Limbaugh even called the nuclear option the "Constitutional option," and encouraged Republicans to take it (emphasis added):
From the November 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board attacked Democrats for passing a filibuster rule change as "radicals" who "view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled," though the Journal supported the same change in 2005, when it pushed Republicans not to "let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote."
On November 22, the Journal editorial board attacked the rule change -- which allows the Senate to confirm judicial nominees with a simple majority vote -- as "Rules For Radicals," and claimed that the Democrats' vote was prodded through by "younger liberals in a hurry" who "view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled." The Journal falsely claimed that the Senate rule change was "bloody-minded" behavior which would allow Democrats "to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," but found a "silver lining" in the prospect of Republicans using the change for their benefit in the future:
The silver lining is that the end of the nominee filibuster will work for conservatives too. The next time they hold the Senate and White House, Republicans should employ the same weapon. Democrats are pretending that they are only breaking the filibuster for lower-court nominees, not for the Supreme Court. They can dream on.
The Journal seems to have forgotten the fact that it supported a similar push for filibuster reform in 2005. A May 2005 editorial urged Republicans not to "let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote on the Senate floor" (emphasis added):
This will not be the world's greatest deliberative body's greatest moment, and the only thing we know for sure about what will happen next is that the reputation of the Senate will suffer. It's a shame it has come to this. But at this point it would be worse if Republicans let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote on the Senate floor.
This is at its core a political fight, and elections ought to mean something. Republicans have gained Senate seats in two consecutive elections in which judicial nominations were among the most important issues, including against the Senate Minority Leader. The one Democrat from a red state who won last year, Ken Salazar of Colorado, did so by promising to oppose judicial filibusters; he now seems to have changed his mind after sipping the Beltway's partisan punch.
Perhaps the coming showdown will lead to more political bitterness, but we doubt Democrats will be able to follow through on their pledge to shut down the Senate; the public wants other things done. And who knows? If Democrats can't succeed any longer in legislating through the courts, maybe they'll even return to trying to win power the old-fashioned way, through elections.
A January 2005 Journal editorial also said that a move to change the Senate rules would "restore the Founders' intent when they gave the Senate the responsibility of confirming or rejecting a President's judicial picks. The Constitution requires a simple majority vote and says nothing about a super-majority of 60 being needed to stop a filibuster." The paper added: "Whether it's nuked or not, the judicial filibuster deserves to be defeated."
The Journal's current opposition to the rule change further hides the fact that President Obama's nominees have faced a significantly more hostile political environment than any previous administration. While Democrats under President Bush blocked a handful of nominees whom they considered ideologically extreme, Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented effort to obstruct the confirmations of virtually all Obama nominees, including some positions for which they say they will accept no nominee at all. In fact, almost half of all filibusters of presidential nominees in the history of the United States have occurred during Obama's presidency:
Source: Senate Democrats
The language in this post has been updated for clarity.
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News personalities claimed that a new rule change by Democrats in the Senate is hypocritical because both parties have obstructed when in the minority, ignoring the historically high level of GOP obstruction of President Obama's executive and judicial nominees.
On November 21, Democrats changed Senate rules so that "judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote."
During a November 21 broadcast of Fox News' America's News HQ, co-host Alisyn Camerota asked Geraldo Rivera whether GOP gridlock was to blame for Democrats moving to change Senate rules. Rivera responded, "You know, I wish we could pull up some of the newscasts from eight years ago during the Bush Administration and you would hear the same thing. ... This is a game that they have played historically since the third president--since Thomas Jefferson":
During a press conference on the rule change, Fox White House Correspondent Ed Henry questioned Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest about whether Obama was being obstructionist because in 2005 he said he would block Bush nominees because he wanted Bush to fix guidelines on lead paint. Henry asked, "wasn't that obstruction?":
But Fox' false equivalency ignores the fact that recent GOP obstruction is unprecedented. Fox personalities ignored the GOP filibustering of Obama's judicial nominees who have been described as highly-qualified, non-controversial, and diverse.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained that GOP obstruction was "the highest that's ever been recorded" during the last Congressional session. People For The American Way (PFAW) pointed out the "unprecedented" level of obstruction in a chart of cloture votes on executive nominees:
In fact, comparing Bush administration nominees to Obama's shows that the GOP is far more obstructionist today than Democrats were during the Bush presidency, with regard to the percentage of nominees confirmed and the amount of time nominees wait until confirmation vote. Right-Wing Watch, a project of PFAW, published several more charts illustrating these points:
Sean Hannity called the Senate's passage of filibuster reform a "lawless maneuver" despite having supported it in 2005 under Republican President George W. Bush.
After the Senate voted to change the rules on judicial nominees to allow confirmation with a simple majority vote, Hannity called the move a "lawless maneuver," saying "Democrats break the rules":
But in 2005, under a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress, Hannity called judicial nominations one of the "specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a supermajority," arguing that it was "unconstitutional to filibuster":
HANNITY: Senator [John McCain], one last question before we let you go here.
There are seven specific instances in the Constitution where they call for a supermajority. I believe it's unconstitutional to filibuster. It is not about advice and consent now to ask for a supermajority on judicial nominations. I believe that is not constitutional.
There's been a lot of talk about what we describe as the "constitutional option," which is that the Republicans would unite and vote, and there would be an up-or-down vote on all of the judicial nominations. Do you think that's the right thing to do? Will you support [then-Senate Majority Leader] Senator [Bill] Frist if he does it?
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out, of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations that have occurred in the history of the U.S. Senate, half have occurred during the Obama administration.
Source: Senate Democrats
National Review editor Rich Lowry, who previously called judicial filibusters a "perversion" of democratic checks and balances and urged the Republican Senate majority leader to end them and then "sleep the sleep of an utterly justified defender of Senate tradition" is lashing out at Senate Democrats for taking his advice.
On November 21, Senate Democrats responded to the Republican minority's unprecedented wave of filibusters of President Obama's executive and judicial nominees by changing the Senate rules to allow their confirmation with the support of a simple majority. In 2005, when Senate Democrats were in the minority and blocked the confirmation of a handful of President Bush's judicial nominees, many in the conservative media urged then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to take that same step. That "nuclear option" was not deployed after several Senate Democrats agreed to allow the confirmation of most of the held-up nominees.
Discussing the issue on Fox's The Real Story, Lowry accused President Obama of trying to "pack" a prominent appeals court and called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "the biggest hypocrite in the country" because he supposedly "made the filibuster for judges sound like the most sacrosanct institution in our Constitutional republic" in 2005 and "now, when it's convenient for him, he's changing it."
While accusing others of hypocrisy, Lowry sweeps under the rug his fulsome support for eliminating the filibuster in 2005 after Democrats filibustered several arch-conservative Bush nominees. At the time, Lowry called judicial filibusters a "perversion" that flew in the face of the Senate tradition of bringing "a president's nominees to the floor for an up-or-down vote without filibusters." He urged Frist to "take away [Democrats'] ability to mount unprecedented judicial filibusters through the so-called nuclear option, then sleep the sleep of an utterly justified defender of Senate tradition."
Reid and the Senate Democrats are responding to the dramatic change in circumstances since 2005. While Democrats blocked a handful of nominees who they considered ideologically extreme, Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented effort to obstruct the confirmations of virtually all Obama nominees, including some positions for which they say they will accept no nominee at all.
As the Office of the Majority Leader explains, according to the Congressional Research Service, "nearly half of all the filibusters waged on nominations in the history of the United States have been waged by Republicans under President Obama. In the history of the U.S., 168 nominees have been filibustered - with 82 occurring during the Obama administration. In the history of the U.S., 23 district court nominees have been filibustered - with 20 being Obama nominees."
This effort has included the blanket filibustering of all nominees for the U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which Republicans now claim does not require a full complement of judges. Republicans have filibustered more than twice as many Obama executive branch nominees as were blocked during the Bush administration.
In response to unprecedented Republican obstructionism, Senate Democrats have voted to change Senate rules regarding the filibustering of most presidential nominees. Media Matters looks back at the numerous conservatives who, during the Bush administration, decried filibustering and supported the tactic Democrats have now enacted.
The office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) revoked access to a Senate meeting room for a right-wing confab planning to discuss how American social conservatives can learn from Russia's draconian crackdown on LGBT people. Among the participants slated to speak at the event was Breitbart.com columnist and notorious homophobe Austin Ruse.
BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder reported on November 14 that Kirk - who supports marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) -- had shut down the planned November 15 "Family Policy Lessons From Other Lands: What Should America Learn?" conference. A Kirk spokesman explained that "Sen. Kirk doesn't affiliate with groups that discriminate."
Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Instiute (C-FAM) and Breitbart.com's go-to anti-gay extremist, lashed out at Kirk, calling him a "coward" and blasting the "shameful" cancellation of the event. But while Ruse and his fellow anti-LGBT activists might be too fringe for the Senate's meeting rooms, he's always welcome to spew his hate at Breitbart.com and conservative websites like The Daily Caller, where he penned a column titled "Putin is not the gay bogeyman." At Breitbart.com, Ruse has been a relentless cheerleader for Matthew Shepard trutherism and supporter of Russia's anti-gay crackdown, which Ruse considers vital to "human rights." In his capacity as C-FAM president, Ruse has worked to block a U.N. treaty on the rights of people with disabilities and supported the former right-wing government of Poland in its effort to fire pro-gay teachers.
Ruse's Breitbart.com column on the "human rights" groups supporting Russia's anti-gay laws touted a joint statement signed by social conservative organizations from around the globe endorsing the Kremlin's crackdown and expressing concern "about the heavy attacks that the Russian Federation is facing" in the wake of the laws' passage. Several of the groups that signed the statement were planning on participating in the now-canceled Senate-sponsored conference. They include the Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), whose spokesman says that the U.S. is "doomed to extinction" thanks to marriage equality. WCF has also worked internationally to defend laws criminalizing homosexuality. The anti-contraception Population Research Institute, another signatory of the pro-Kremlin statement, was also to have been represented at the November 15 event by President Steven Mosher.
The symposium would have been much more than a gathering of figures who wish to "discriminate." Ruse and his anti-LGBT compatriots are enthusiastic backers of vicious laws that have stoked a horrific climate of violence and vigilantism toward gay Russians. If full-throated support for such grievous human rights violations isn't disqualifying at Breitbart.com, what is?
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."
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.