Desperately Seeking Scandals: The Right-Wing Media's Attempt To Take Down Obama

››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

Since President Obama's election, right-wing media have tried to find wrongdoing by top Obama administration officials. The pseudo-scandal they have contrived have resulted in investigations, congressional hearings, and right-wing media bluster, but they have not resulted in any evidence of wrongdoing by top Obama administration officials.

Right-Wing Media Trump Up Scandal Out Of Obama Administration Handling Of New Black Panther Case

THE FACTS OF THE NEW BLACK PANTHER PARTY CASE

Bush Justice Department Brought A Civil Case After A New Black Panther Party Member Carried A Nightstick Near A Philadelphia Polling Place. After two members of the New Black Panther Party showed up at a polling place, including one wielding a nightstick, the Bush Justice Department investigated. It decided not to file criminal charges. The Justice Department brought a civil case under the Voting Rights Act against the two New Black Panther Party members who showed up at the polls, the party's chairman, and the party itself. [Associated Press, 10/25/10]

The Obama Justice Department Obtained An Injunction Against The Nightstick-Carrier. The New York Times reported that the Obama Justice Department won an injunction against the man who carried a nightstick near a Philadelphia [The New York Times, 7/6/10]

Justice Department Dropped The Case Against The Other Defendants. During May 14 testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez explained that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division pursued the case against the man who carried a nightstick. At the same time, however, it decided to drop charges against the New Black Panther Party, its leader and another defendant because there was insufficient evidentiary support that any voters were intimidated and decided to enjoin another defendant. [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 5/14/10]

Conservative Activists On The U.S. Commission On Civil Rights Initiated An Investigation Into The Handling Of The New Black Panther Party Case. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights initiated an investigation into the Justice Department's handling of the New Black Panther Party case. The commission eventually approved a report criticizing the Justice Department by a 5-2 vote. The five votes in favor of the report all came from conservative activists. [Media Matters, 1/28/11]

RIGHT-WING MEDIA ACCUSED OBAMA ADMIN OF DROPPING THE CASE BECAUSE OF THE RACE OF THE DEFENDANTS

Limbaugh: DOJ Did Not Pursue New Black Panther Party Suit Because It "Wasn't Going To Go After Black Defendants." During the July 7, 2010 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh claimed that the DOJ would not continue to pursue its suit against the New Black Panther Party because it had decided it "wasn't going to go after black defendants." [Premiere Radio Network, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/7/10 via Media Matters]

Wash. Times: Obama DOJ's "Top Appointees Have Allowed And Even Encouraged Race-Based Enforcement As Either Tacit Or Open Policy." In a July 6 editorial, The Washington Times accused Obama's DOJ of "race-based enforcement" because of the DOJ's decision to not continue pursuing its suit against the New Black Panther Party. [The Washington Times, 7/6/10]

Fox News Devoted More Than 95 Segments To This Baseless Accusation In Less Than Three Weeks. Media Matters found that between June 30, 2010, the day Megyn Kelly interviewed a former Justice Department official who baselessly accused the Department of racially motivated decision-making and July 16, 2010 Fox News dedicated 95 segments and 8 hours to covering this manufactured scandal. [Media Matters, 7/16/10]

BUT PEOPLE ACROSS THE SPECTRUM AGREE: THE RIGHT-WING MEDIA ALLEGATIONS ARE "IMPOSSIBLE TO BELIEVE"

Bush Civil Rights Commission Appointee: New Black Panther Scandal Is Really About GOP "Fantasies About How They Could Use This Issue To Topple The [Obama] Administration." A July 16, 2010 Politico article quoted President George W. Bush's vice chair of the U.S. Commision of Civil Rights as saying:

This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,

[...]

My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president [Politico, 7/16/10 via Media Matters]

Justice Department Report: "Department Attorneys Did Not Commit Professional Misconduct" In New Black Panther Party Case. A March 29, 2011, Washington Post article reported that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility finding that "politics played no role in the handling of the New Black Panther Party case, which sparked a racially charged political fight." The article explained:

After reviewing thousands of pages of internal e-mails and notes and conducting 44 interviews with department staff members, the OPR reported that "department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment" and that the voter-intimidation case against the Panthers was dismissed on "a good faith assessment of the law" and "not influenced by the race of the defendants." [The Washington Post, 3/29/11]

Civil Rights Commissioners: New Black Panther Party Investigation "Lacked Political And Intellectual Integrity From The Outset." On Jaunary 27, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, released a report of their investigation into the charges of racially-based corruption in the DoJ's handling of the NBPP suit. Three of the commissioners opposed the release of the report. One of the dissenters, Thernstrom wrote:

This investigation lacked political and intellectual integrity from the outset, and has been consistently undermined by the imbalance between the gravity of the allegations and the strength of the evidence available to support such charges. Some commissioners offered serious, principled critiques of the process, and questioned the evidentiary record. Their views were contemptuously ignored by the commission's majority. [U.S. Commision on Civil Rights, 1/27/12]

For more on the trumped up New Black Panther Party scandal, click here and here.

Right-Wing Media Trumped Up Attacks On Obama Administration Over Fast And Furious

THE FACTS OF OPERATION FAST AND FURIOUS

Fast And Furious Was An ATF Operation That Attempted To Deal With The Illegal Straw Purchases Of Firearms In Arizona. CNN reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) conducted the Fast And Furious operation to deal with straw purchases of guns. Whistleblowing ATF agent John Dodson has alleged that, as part of the operation, ATF members allowed the straw purchases to go forward in hopes of capturing higher-level criminals, but the operation was horribly botched. [CNN, 6/21/12]

  • Fortune Magazine Investigation: ATF "Never Intentionally Allowed Guns To Fall Into The Hands Of Mexican Cartels." Contrary to the right-wing media narrative, Fortune magazine published a piece by investigative journalist Katherine Eban finding that ATF never "purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked." Eban found that Fast and Furious guns fell into the hands of criminals because federal prosecutors told ATF agents that they lacked probable cause to make arrests and interdict the weapon. [Fortune, 6/27/12]

House Republicans Investigated Fast And Furious, Which Led To Contempt Vote. Responding to the whistleblower allegations, the House Oversight Committee conducted an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. After the Justice Department refused to turn over certain documents and Obama invoked executive privilege, the House voted to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for Contempt of Congress. [CNN, 6/21/12]

RIGHT-WING MEDIA MAKE OUTLANDISH CHARGE THAT FAST AND FURIOUS WAS AN ATTACK ON GUN RIGHTS

Right-Wing Media Conspiracy Theory: Fast And Furious Was An Obama Administration Plot To Enact Gun Laws. Right-wing media sources, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other Fox News personalities have hyped a theory that the Fast and Furious operation was put in place in order to flood Mexico with illegal U.S. guns and enact stricter gun laws. [Media Matters, 6/21/12, 6/20/12, 6/15/11]

But The Report By The Republicans In Charge Of The Investigation Said Fast And Furious Was Put In Place To Catch Criminals. In 2011, staff members of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) concluded that the purpose of Operation Fast & Furious was to "identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex" case against gun traffickers. It stated that the operation "never achieved the laudable goal of dismantling" the trafficking network. At no point did the report say that operation was put in place in order to lay the groundwork for stricter gun laws. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11]

A Second Report By Republican Investigators Also Found That Purpose Of Fast And Furious Was To Catch Criminals. Issa released a second report in 2012. Again, the report said that the purpose of the Fast and Furious was to catch criminals such as "high-level financiers, suppliers, and possibly even king-pins." The report never said that the operation was put in place to lay the groundwork for stricter gun laws. [Media Matters, 5/17/12]

For more on the conspiracy theory involving Fast and Furious and gun rights, click here and here.

RIGHT-WING MEDIA HID THE FACTS TO ACCUSE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OF NOT COOPERATING IN INVESTIGATION

Right-Wing Media HypeD GOP Allegations That The Obama Administration Stonewalled Their Investigation. After House Republicans moved to cite Holder in Contempt of Congress for failing to turn over certain documents, right-wing media hyped Republicans' arguments that the Justice Department had stonewalled the investigation. [Media Matters, 5/17/12]

Right-Wing Media Claimed That Obama's Invocation Of Executive Privilege Was Either Improper Or Showed Dishonesty. Right-wing media figures claimed that Obama could only invoke executive privilege if he was personally involved in the Fast and Furious operation, which the Obama administration has said he was not. [Media Matters, 6/20/12]

But The Justice Department Said That It Released All The Documents It Could Release. The Justice Department has said that it released documents in response to 16 of the 22 questions contained in the House subpoena. It added that it did not have responsive documents for one of the questions. With regard to the other five questions, the Justice Department stated that it does have responsive documents, but that it cannot release them because they are relevant to ongoing criminal investigations or are protected by executive privilege. [Media Matters, 5/17/12]

The White House's Invocation Of Executive Privilege Was Routine. Contrary to right-wing media claims, presidents do not have to be involved in a matter in order to invoke executive privilege. Indeed, the President George W. Bush invoked executive privilege over internal Justice Department documents. [Media Matters, 6/20/12]

Right-Wing Media Trumped Of "Crony Capitalism" Attack On Obama For Solyndra Loan

THE FACTS OF THE SOLYNDRA LOAN

Energy Company Solyndra Applied For Government Loan Guarantees And Got A Favorable Response From The Bush Administration. The Department of Energy's Loan Guarantee Program was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and expanded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Bush administration's Department of Energy selected Solyndra from 143 submissions to move forward in the process. During the final days of the Bush administration, the DOE's loan guarantee credit committee, consisting of career officials, said that the Solyndra project "appears to have merit." The committee also needed more information in several areas before it could recommend approval of a conditional commitment. The committee "remand[ed]" the loan "without prejudice" for "further development of information." Afterwards, officials at the Department of Energy under the Bush Administration developed a schedule for due diligence on the Solyndra project, envisioning completion in March 2009. [Media Matters, 9/19/11]

Career Civil Servants Completed The Process Of Providing Loan Guarantee During The Obama Administration. In March, the credit committee composed of career civil servants who had been working on Solyndra's application during the Bush administration recommended Solyndra's application for approval. It took several months after the committee's actions for the loans based on the guarantee to be issued. [Media Matters, 9/19/11]  

Solyndra Subsequently Went Bankrupt. In an August 30 article, The Washington Post reported that Solyndra stopped operations that it "planned to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection." [The Washington Post, 8/31/11]

RIGHT-WING MEDIA ACCUSE OBAMA OF GIVING LOANS TO DONOR

Malkin: Solyndra Loan Was An Example Of "Crony Capitalism." Right-wing columnist and frequent Fox guest Michelle Malkin said of the Solyndra loan guarantee: "One of the hugest investors in the massively failed enterprise just happens to be one of Obama's largest funders, a man named George Kaiser ... You got crony capitalism." [Fox News, Hannity, 9/14/11, via Nexis]

Weekly Standard Also Said Solyndra Loan Is Example Of "Crony Capitalism." From a Weekly Standard article criticizing green jobs:

The truth is that "green jobs" is a 21st-century euphemism for a more familiar term--crony capitalism. It's probably not surprising to learn that one of Solyndra's key investors, Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, was an Obama campaign "bundler" raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president's 2008 race; Kaiser himself, along with Solyndra executives and board members, donated another $87,050. 

Not surprisingly, that kind of campaign cash will get you preferential treatment. [The Weekly Standard, 9/12/11]

Fox's The Five: "The Scandal" Of Solyndra Is "Preferential Treatment" Of An Obama Donor. From Fox News' The Five:

DANA PERINO (co-host): [T]he investigation is about special favors.

ANDREA TANTAROS (co-host): Did the Obama donor get preferential treatment in bankruptcy court. That is the biggest issue here because, I've said it before -- where is really the scandal? OK, yes, the president -- incompetent if they warned him about this. That is incompetence, maybe not a crime. But if you go on the White House Web site, they talk about doing this exact thing -- using taxpayer dollars to subsidize and fund industries that they feel are important to their base. This isn't a scandal.

ERIC BOLLING (co-host): And does it not --

TANTAROS: This is Obama, everybody. 

BOLLING: Does it not bother you that the company got $535 million and turns out -- one of Mr. Obama's major bundlers happened to be, through one of his many investment vehicles, happens to be the biggest shareholder of Solyndra? [Fox News, The Five, 9/27/11]

Fox Has Relentlessly Covered Solyndra. In 2012 alone, Fox News discussed Solyndra 84 times in primetime. Media coverage also often repeated Republican charges that Solyndra was an example of "crony capitalism." [Media Matters, 9/7/12]

BUT THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING IN SOLYNDRA LOAN

After Long Investigation, There Is No Evidence Of Wrongdoing. Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green reported:

A White House source passed along some information that gives a sense of just how much time, money, and effort has been spent pursuing this investigation: House Republicans have sent 32 congressional letters, compelled 187,000 pages of administration documents, 72,000 pages of documents from Solyndra investors, 9 committee staff briefings, 5 committee hearings, and a sworn committee interview with the Obama bundler who raised money from people involved in the company. Much (but not all) of the committee's $7 million budget has been devoted to funding this inquisition. And it's turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/17/12]

GOP Oversight Committee Chairman: "Is There Political Influence And Connections [Involved In Solyndra]? Perhaps Not." Politico reported:

More than a year into a probe that's extended to the Energy Department loan guarantee portfolio, Republican investigators even acknowledge they've fallen short of substantiating their allegations that the administration helped political allies like Tulsa oilman George Kaiser secure hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies through a loan guarantee to Solyndra.

"Is there a criminal activity? Perhaps not," Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told POLITICO after last Tuesday's showdown with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Is there a political influence and connections? Perhaps not. Did they bend the rules for an agenda, an agenda not covered within the statute? Absolutely." [Politico, 3/27/12]

Solyndra Investors And Lobbyists Included Republican Supporters. As the Huffington Post reported, one of Solyndra's lobbyists was Bill Weld, a "semi-prominent supporter of Mitt Romney." And Solyndra's second largest investor was Madrone Captial Partners, which is linked to the Walton family, who are major Republican donors. [Huffington Post, 5/31/12] [Media Matters, 9/19/11]

Solyndra Was Seen By Many As Promising. The federal government was not the only entity to see Solyndra as promising. The Wall Street Journal ranked Solyndra as the top U.S. clean tech company and one of the top five "next big" venture-backed companies. MIT's Technology Review chose Solyndra as one of the world's 50 most innovative companies. Other analysts also praised Solyndra, which led it to raise more than $1 billion in private capital. [Media Matters, 9/19/11]

For more information regarding Solyndra, click here and here.

Right-Wing Media Baselessly Implicates Top Obama Officials In Security Leaks 

THE FACTS: MEDIA REPORT ON NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY AND TACTICS DURING THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

NY Times Reported On Terrorism "Kill List" And Iranian Nuclear Computer Virus In 2012, The New York Times reported that Obama personally reviews and signs off on a list of terrorist suspects that the U.S. military is allowed to use drone strikes to take out. The paper also reported that the United States was involved in the StuxNet virus, which was used to infect the computer systems of Iran's nuclear infrastructure. [New York Times, 5/29/12, 6/1/12]

Republicans Called For An Independent Counsel To Investigate The Leak. Following the Times report, several Republicans called for an independent counsel to investigate the source of the stories on the "kill list" and the StuxNet virus. [New York Times, 6/7/12]

RIGHT-WING MEDIA ACCUSE THE WHITE HOUSE OF NATIONAL SECURITY LEAKS

Fox's Krauthammer: "It's Obvious That The Administration Had To Have A Hand" In Security Leaks. On Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed: "It's obvious that the administration had to have a hand in" leaks of sensitive national security information," and that these leaks are endangering the nation. [Fox Nation, 6/6/12]

Fox National Security Analyst McFarland: "Obama Administration Seems To Have Engaged In A Systematic program Of Leaking." In a piece posted to FoxNews.com, Fox News national security analyst K.T. McFarland wrote that "the Obama administration seems to have engaged in a systematic program of leaking the most highly classified information about our successful intelligence operations for its own political gain." [FoxNews.com, 6/7/12]

Fox's Gutfeld: "The Leaks Are Coming From The White House." Greg Gutfeld, co-host of Fox News' The Five, claimed that national security "leaks are coming from the White House." [Media Matters, 6/9/12]

IN FACT, NO EVIDENCE EXITS THAT IMPLICATES THE WHITE HOUSE IN THE LEAKS

NY Times Editor: National Security Stories Were "Clearly The Produce Of Tons Of Reporting." A June 6 Politico article discussing the supposed leaks quoted New York Times managing editor Dean Baquet, who said:

"I can't believe anybody who says these are leaks," he said. "Read those stories. They are so clearly the product of tons and tons of reporting." [Politico, 6/7/12]

Wall Street Journal Investigative Reporter: National Security Stories Were A Product of "Shoe Leather Reporting," Not High-Level Leaks. James Grimaldi, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for The Washington Post who is now at The Wall Street Journal, said the Times' cyberattack story does not appear to be authorized "from the highest levels of government." In an interview with Media Matters' Joe Strupp, Grimaldi said:

"That to me does not look like a spoon-fed authorized leak from the highest levels of government," he said of Sanger's article. "That looks to me like it's shoe-leather reporting that is inch-by-inch spade work trying to find out from the ground up what happened. By the time he goes to the top people, he's already got the story. If that's the case, then it obviously wasn't leaked by U.S. officials first." [Media Matters, 6/14/12]

Washington Post Investigative Reporter: Stories Came From "Classic Investigative Reporting." Washington Post two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Dana Priest told Strupp that the Times stories look like "classic investigative reporting":

"That is what this looks like, classic investigative reporting," Priest said in an interview. "Talk about the reporters who are on these stories, they are all veteran investigative reporters. They don't do their work by sucking up to politicians in the hopes they will leak them some things. They do the investigative work. I don't know if people outside understand that."

She later added: "At some point, if the reporter and the paper is mature about what they are doing, they realize that national security reporting is a serious thing and they must try to engage the administration. But it is rare in my experience that the government adds anything of significance, it mainly tries to subtract things. That is their role." [Media Matters, 6/14/12]

For more on veteran investigative reporters dismissing allegations of high-level national security leaks click here

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