Media ignore facts undermining GOP calls for Napolitano resignation

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

The Politico, Roll Call, and TheHill.com uncritically quoted Republican congressmen suggesting that the DHS report on right-wing extremist groups was "politic[ally]" motivated. None of the articles noted that DHS also issued an assessment of left-wing extremism.

In April 22 reports on House Republicans' calls for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign, the Politico, Roll Call, and TheHill.com uncritically quoted Republican congressmen suggesting that the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on right-wing extremist groups was "politic[ally]" motivated. None of the articles noted that DHS also issued an assessment on January 26 of left-wing extremism, concluding that "a number of emerging trends point to leftwing extremists maturing and expanding their cyber attack capabilities over the next decade with the aim of attacking targets in the United States."

Roll Call also reported that Republicans "expressed outrage at the report for characterizing soldiers returning home as potential threats," without noting that as evidence for its conclusion that "rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat," the DHS cited a 2008 FBI report authored during the Bush administration. The FBI report stated, in the words of the DHS, that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."

Politico similarly reported that "veterans groups also complained that the report singled out 'military veterans' returning from war," without noting the 2008 FBI report, despite the fact that Politico's Jen Dimascio highlighted the FBI report in an April 15 article, writing, "While the American Legion and conservative commentators have pounced on a recent Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism, calling it politically motivated and slanderous toward veterans, a 2008 FBI report with similar findings generated little controversy or coverage."

Moreover, in citing complaints from "veterans groups," the April 22 Politico article ignored an April 15 Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) statement, titled, "DHS Report Was a Threat Assessment, Not Accusation." In the statement, VFW national commander Glen M. Gardner Jr. said that "[t]he report proves that DHS is doing its job, and that's to protect America and Americans."

From the April 22 Roll Call article:

Several conservative Republicans took to the House floor Wednesday night to call for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign in the wake of the department's new report that identifies "right wing extremists" as potential terrorists.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), secretary of the House Republican Conference, compared Napolitano's statements to the actions of dictators in Venezuela and China.

"Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," Carter said in a prepared statement.

The conservatives were responding to a report released by the Department of Homeland Security on April 14 that warned of the dangers of attacks by right-wing extremists who will "attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."

Republicans at first expressed outrage at the report for characterizing soldiers returning home as potential threats.

"The first step in the process is creating unfounded public suspicion of political opponents, followed by arresting and jailing any who continue speaking against the regime," Carter said Wednesday. On the floor, Carter said 81 percent of his district might be considered right-wing extremists by the Obama administration.

From the April 22 Politico article:

House Republicans are calling on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to step down or be fired in the wake of a controversial department memo that has sparked indignant battle cries from conservatives and some veterans.

"Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," said Texas Rep. John Carter, a member of the party's elected leadership who has organized an hour of floor speeches Wednesday night to call for Napolitano's ouster. "The first step in the process is creating unfounded public suspicion of political opponents, followed by arresting and jailing any who continue speaking against the regime."

In particular, conservative members of the Republican Study Committee raised repeated concerns about the report and Napolitano's subsequent defense of its findings on Wednesday, calling on party leaders to raise the issue with President Barack Obama during a White House meeting on Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a report earlier this month warning federal, state and local law enforcement officials that the slumping economy "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."

Conservative bloggers and talk radio hosts immediately seized on the report as evidence that the Obama administration was trying to marginalize its critics on the right.

Veterans groups also complained that the report singled out "military veterans" returning from war who face "significant challenges reintergating into their communities," leading to the "potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."

Napolitano has since apologized to veterans.

From the April 22 article on theHill.com:

Republicans are upset over a Homeland Security report sent to local law enforcement officers earlier this month on how the recession could fuel a resurgence in "radicalization and recruitment" in right-wing terrorism groups.

A footnote in the report defined "hate groups" as including groups and individuals dedicated to a single issue, including opposition to abortion or immigration.

Napolitano subsequently said the footnote should be struck from the report.

That wasn't enough for several Republican lawmakers.

Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) said she could be considered a terrorist under the report's definition.

"I serve my nation, I'm in my third year of Congress, I serve my state, I own shotguns, I believe in the Second Amendment; I don't consider myself to be a threat on the scale of terrorism; I'm just a working mom who believes in the right to bear arms," Fallin said.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said Napolitano should either apologize or resign.

"It almost bespeaks that she is either abysmally ignorant or that she is purposefully politicizing the office to which she has been confirmed," Hensarling said. "She owes an apology to millions of Americans and if she doesn't ... her comments are so over the top, so outrageous, so injurious to our republic that she probably should resign."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
The Hill, Roll Call, The Politico
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