Conservative media baselessly accuse White House of plotting Goldman charges "to bolster support" for financial reform

››› ››› MATT MCLAUGHLIN & TOM ALLISON

Media conservatives have levied the completely baseless allegation that the White House was "colluding" with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in filing a civil lawsuit accusing Goldman Sachs of fraud in order to create a "villain" to "bolster support for the crackdown on the banks from the White House." The media figures have offered no evidence to support the allegation, which the White House has strongly denied.

Fox, Erickson, and Drudge baselessly claim SEC charges against Goldman were "planned" by the White House

Right-wing conspiracy theory: White House "colluding" with SEC against Goldman to create "villain." Discussing the SEC's civil suit against Goldman Sachs, right-wing media figures, offering no evidence, rushed to accuse the Obama administration of -- in the words of CNN political commentator and RedState.com blogger Erick Erickson -- "colluding to destroy Goldman Sachs." Likewise a Big Government blog post called Goldman Sachs "Obama's newest villain." The Drudge Report linked to a New York Post article under the headline "MANIPULATION: Wall Street suspects GOLDMAN SACHS charges 'not coincidental' to financial reform effort ..."

From the Drudge Report, accessed April 19:

Fox News' MacCallum asks if suit was "timed to bolster support" for financial reform. During the April 21 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum stated: "Well, there's some brand new questions today about the timing of the charges that were brought against Goldman Sachs. Was the announcement of the SEC suit -- was it timed to bolster support for the crackdown on the banks from the White House? That is what the leading Republican on the House Oversight Committee wants to know today." MacCallum subsequently played video of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) stating that the SEC was "trying to pick a time to maximize the press rather than to minimize the impact to the market." Fox News contributor Dana Perino said that she found it "a little hard to believe that nobody in the White House knew" and that the accusations were "worth checking out."

Carlson: "[T]he timing's perfect because maybe it was planned." On the April 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson responded to comments made by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that "the timing was perfect" and stated: "Yeah, the timing's perfect because maybe it was planned. I mean, some people are questioning whether or not the timing of this investigation against Goldman Sachs was planned to get the American public even more up in arms about the way in which Wall Street operates. And it would be perfect timing to then say, 'Hey, how about financial reform?' "

White House strongly denies completely baseless claims

Obama: Charges of interference "completely false." A CNBC.com article reported: "The President categorically denied any advance knowledge of the SEC probe, saying 'this notion that somehow there would be any attempt to interfere in an independent agency is completely false.' " [CNBC.com, 4/21/10]

Gibbs: SEC "does not coordinate with the White House" During the April 20 White House press briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs stated: "I want to reiterate just so everyone is clear, the SEC is by law an independent agency. What it does, it does not coordinate with the White House and we receive no advance notice of any enforcement action." Gibbs added: "[B]y law the SEC is an independent agency. This White House did not give and this administration did not give any signal about enforcement mechanisms." [White House press briefing, 4/19/10]

Rahm Emanuel: SEC "operates independently" and White House had "no knowledge of what they had done." Appearing on PBS' The Charlie Rose Show, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel commented that the SEC is "an independent agency acting independently" and that the White House had "no knowledge of what they had done." He went on to say that "everybody at the White House found out like everybody else, when it hit the news," and added: "the SEC is an independent agency, operates independently. Nobody at the White House knew anything ahead of anybody else." [The Charlie Rose Show, 4/19/10]

Right-wing media have a history of making baseless accusations about Obama administration

Media Matters for America has documented numerous instances in which the right-wing media have baselessly accused the Obama administration of criminal or unethical behavior in order to advance the administration's agenda.

Media conservatives accuse Obama of "selling judgeships for health care votes." Media conservatives baselessly claimed that Obama appointed Scott Matheson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in order to influence the vote of Matheson's brother -- Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) -- on health care reform. This allegation has been denied by Republicans in Utah who support Matheson's appointment. A spokesman for Republican Sen. Robert Bennett (UT), and former Judge Michael McConnell -- an appointee of former President Bush -- who last occupied the seat to which Scott Matheson was named, definitively debunked the smear. Subsequently, a Washington Times editorial falsely claimed that Rep. Matheson "endorsed the health care bill" after President Obama nominated his brother to a federal judgeship. In fact, Matheson voted "No" on health care reform.

Right-wing blogs baselessly claim White House bribed Stupak with airport funds. Right-wing media figures -- including serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey and conservative blogs -- baselessly claimed the Obama administration bribed Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) for his vote on health care reform, pointing to Stupak's announcement that three airports in his district received federal grant money. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that the airport funds are related to Stupak's vote, and indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded grants in 47 states -- including one in Minority Leader John Boehner's district -- as part of a decades-old airport improvement program.

Right-wing media baselessly allege that Obama bought health votes with water allocation. Media conservatives baselessly claimed that the Obama administration was "[b]uying votes" for its health care bill, pointing to a Department of the Interior announcement that California's Central Valley will receive greater water allocations as a "bribe" for two congressmen from the region, Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa. In fact, the allocation was reportedly increased because El Nino winter rains have "helped replenish the state's biggest reservoir."

Right-wing media run with dubious rumor that White House threatened Nelson with closure of Air Force base. Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb reported the claims of an unnamed "Senate aide" who allegedly said that the White House was "threatening to close" Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base "to extort" Sen. Ben Nelson's vote on health care reform. The rumor was denied by both Nelson's office and the White House, but Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh nonetheless seized on Goldfarb's blog post and advanced the dubious allegation.

Following Limbaugh, conservative media pushed baseless charge that Obama administration helped kill his Rams bid. Following Rush Limbaugh's failed bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams football team, the right-wing media echoed Limbaugh's baseless claim that the Obama administration was involved in torpedoing his NFL ambitions. Limbaugh claimed that the Obama administration "corrupted" the NFL bidding process because the head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, once served as counsel for Attorney General Eric Holder.

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