ABC News is buying into right-wing scandal mongering over the tragic September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, with an "exclusive" report that doesn't stand up to minimal scrutiny, with flaws that are being used by the right to call for a major investigation.
The so-called "exclusive" report, posted at ABCNews.com, purports to uncover dramatic new developments in the right wing's Benghazi witch hunt, but in reality it is little more than a rehash of previously covered debates over whose input was given to the early draft of intelligence talking points put together in the early days of the investigation into the attacks. None of this largely rehashed debate disproves what Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified in November: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups.
The May 10 ABC News report focuses on the much discussed CIA talking points that were prepared in the days immediately after the September 11, 2012, attack, and which were used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in her appearance on several news programs to discuss those attacks. Nothing in the ABC News report focuses on the actual events of September 11, 2012, only on the editing process of a talking points memo and what information should be made available for public dissemination during an ongoing investigation into a terrorist attack:
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
Karl goes on to explore whether this disproves comments White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made in late November 2012, more than 2 months after the attack, about the role the White House and the State Department played in editing the final version of those talking points; whether the editing process proves that the White House was engaged in an effort to downplay the role of terrorism in its public statements immediately after the attack; and whether the editing process proves that the talking points were scrubbed of references to terror solely for political reasons.
Karl's report feeds into the right-wing conspiracy mongering over the Benghazi attacks and the desperate campaign to fabricate a cover-up. Friday morning, Fox News hosts cited the report as evidence that a major investigation was needed.
Yet Karl's speculation is easily disproved.
The entirety of the ABC News report focuses on emails that lay out the process of drafting the intelligence community's talking points and the debate over whether to include references to terrorist groups, and whether those references were "scrubbed" to cover up failures at the State Department. What Karl doesn't point out is that the former head of the CIA said that this is not the case. After Petraeus gave closed-door testimony before congressional leaders in November, The New York Times reported:
David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.
Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack -- including Al Qaeda's franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah -- were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
Karl also forwards the notion that the White House was aggressively trying to downplay the role that terrorism played for political reasons while the President was calling the attacks an act of terror at the same time. In his first public comments after the attack, President Obama very clearly referred to the attack as an act of terror. One day later, Obama again referred to the Benghazi attacks as an act of terror. Those comments came September 12 and September 13. Yet Karl implies that edits to a document that were made on September 14, after Obama had already labeled the attack an act of terror, demonstrate that the administration was trying to downplay the role that terror played.
This leaves Karl with the "exclusive" that emails weighing in on early drafts of the talking points amounts to a contradiction with comments Carney made in November:
"Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC's best assessments of what they thought had happened," Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012. "The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word 'consulate' to 'diplomatic facility' because 'consulate' was inaccurate."
But as Carney notes in comments printed at the end of the ABC News report, there has never been a question that multiple agencies had input into the formation of the talking points, which in the end were drafted by the intelligence community:
"The CIA drafted these talking points and redrafted these talking points," Carney said. "The fact that there are inputs is always the case in a process like this, but the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive. They corrected the description of the building or the facility in Benghazi from consulate to diplomatic facility and the like. And ultimately, this all has been discussed and reviewed and provided in enormous levels of detail by the administration to Congressional investigators, and the attempt to politicize the talking points, again, is part of an effort to, you know, chase after what isn't the substance here."
ABC is left with a major exclusive dissecting the distinction between input and editing.
Fact-checkers have said that nearly every claim made in the latest Romney ad attacking green energy investments and the stimulus is misleading or false. Yet on The O'Reilly Factor, Lou Dobbs said "Basically [the ad is] true," and he and O'Reilly went on to amplify several of the misleading attacks in the ad.
Reporting on emails selectively released by House Republicans, numerous media outlets falsely claimed the documents show Obama donor George Kaiser -- whose family foundation invested in Solyndra -- discussing Solyndra's federal loan with the White House, with Fox going even further to claim "quid pro quo." In fact, the emails occurred after Solyndra had already received the loan guarantee and do not indicate that Kaiser discussed the loan with the White House.
Looking for "another Solyndra," ABC News has run several reports about $1 billion in federal loans to advanced car companies Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors. ABC's big scoop last week -- that Fisker hired a company in Finland to assemble some if its cars -- was actually a recycled story pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.
ABC delivered another round of reports last night and got some of its facts wrong. Nightline host Terry Moran introduced the segment as a story about Obama's 2009 stimulus bill:
MORAN: Two and a half years ago President Obama pushed a $787 billion stimulus bill through Congress that he said would create millions of jobs, but now the president's under attack by critics who say that stimulus hasn't created a significant number of jobs and costs too much. Tonight ABC's Brian Ross looks at two companies that received a billion in government loans and asks, what did they do with it?
Actually, these loans don't have anything to do with the stimulus package (which, by the way, increased employment by 1 to 2.9 million as of August, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. If ABC thinks that isn't a "significant number," it should say so.)
The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program was established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which received broad bipartisan support. President Bush and Congress determined that investing in energy-efficient vehicles was worth risking $7.5 billion, which is how much they gave the program to cover the cost of any defaults or delinquencies.
Somehow, ABC managed to avoid mentioning any of this in its three reports on the loans yesterday.
A story touted as "an ABC News exclusive" actually rehashes a flawed narrative pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.
In collaboration with iWatch News, Brian Ross and ABC's "investigative unit" reported late last week that Fisker Automotive, a hybrid car maker that received a federal loan, "is assembling its first line of cars in Finland." The loan itself, however, can only be used to support operations based in the U.S.
ABC published the story, titled "Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland," on Thursday night and Ross reported the "ABC News exclusive" on Friday's edition of Good Morning America. Ross said that World News and Nightline would also feature the story on Friday, but ABC did not run those segments.
Instead, Ross appeared on the Fox Business Network Friday night, where he told host David Asman that those in the administration criticizing his reporting "just don't like the takeaway, which is that they got the loan and they're building the car in Finland."
But this news isn't new. In fact, it was explained by the Department of Energy (DOE) in a September 2009 press release announcing the conditional loan. According to the release, "final assembly" of the high-end Fisker Karma "will be done overseas." Indeed, Fisker had a contract to assemble the Karma in Finland before the company ever received funds from DOE. ABC failed to note this fact and the misunderstanding was compounded by other news outlets covering ABC's report.
The loan supports design work carried out in Michigan and California for the Karma, as well as the assembly of Fisker's lower-cost hybrid, Project Nina, which will take place at a former GM factory in Wilmington, Deleware. Fisker began hiring for the Delaware plant in June.
ABC News has published a lengthy article on its website that misleadingly suggests taxpayers are being ripped off because a car company that got a federal loan guarantee is assembling its vehicles in Finland. The story is headlined "Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland."
In fact, the article reports that the company, Fisker Automotive, has created 100 auto-plant jobs in Delaware in addition to 500 manufacturing jobs in Finland. Fisker's founder also told ABC that his company has spent the federal money it has received on marketing, engineering, and design work done in the United States, not on the Finnish jobs.
Here are the first four paragraphs of the article:
With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.
Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.
"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC News. "They don't exist here."
Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money so far has been spent on engineering and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive. [emphasis added]
Twenty-eight paragraphs later, readers learn that Fisker has indeed created auto-plant jobs in the U.S.:
The announcement that the plant would re-open followed a heavy lobbying push by Delaware politicians from both parties, who cited the news as a sign of industry's turnaround. In September 2009, Republican Rep. Mike Castle wrote directly to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, saying the Fisker proposal had "great merit," and urging Chu to give the company "careful consideration" for the loan.
The governor and state politicians took turns, along with Biden, to proclaim the project to cheering blue-collar workers clad in jeans, caps and jackets. They said it would produce thousands of jobs and have cars rolling off the line by next year. Fisker said he remains convinced those jobs will come. While he has hired marketing, design and engineering teams in the U.S., the auto plant jobs in Wilmington right now number about 100. [emphasis added]
Henrik Fisker explained that the Department of Energy told him that federal loan money could not be spent in Finland:
In a lengthy interview, Fisker said he apprised the Department of Energy of his decision to assemble the high-priced Karma in Finland after he could not find an American facility that could handle the work. They signed off, he said, so long as he did not spend the federal loan money in Finland -- something he says the company has taken care to avoid. He said the decision, ultimately, was to help prevent his company from following the path of Solyndra, which exhausted nearly all of its loan money on a high-tech solar manufacturing plant in Freemont, California.
"If you just start doing like what Solyndra did, making a factory in a place where it was too expensive to manufacture ... [you] obviously fail," he said. [emphasis added]
And the DOE confirmed this in a statement released Thursday night:
While the vehicles themselves are being assembled in Fisker's existing overseas facility, the Department's funding was only used for the U.S. operations. The money could not be, and was not, spent on overseas operations. The Karma also relies on an extensive network of hundreds of suppliers in more than a dozen U.S. states.
The article also suggests the Obama administration improperly loaned money to Fisker and Tesla Motors, another electric car company, because Obama donors are involved in the companies' financing:
An investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News that will air on "Good Morning America" found that the DOE's bet carries risks for taxpayers, has raised concern among industry observers and government auditors, and adds to questions about the way billions of dollars in loans for smart cars and green energy companies have been awarded. [emphasis added]
However, the article reported that both the administration and the companies denied impropriety in the awarding of the loans, and the article offered absolutely no evidence to contradict their statements:
In the rush to cover the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a loan guarantee from the federal government, many news media outlets have misrepresented or omitted key facts.
Continuing its pattern of promoting and embracing Donald Trump's birtherism, Fox Nation today is promoting Trump's second attempt to release his "official" birth certificate and in the process promotes yet another falsehood forwarded by the Trump camp.
The article to which Fox Nation links, an ABCNews.com piece, reports that a member of Trump's staff, Thuy Colayco, wrote a brief memo falsely claiming that with the birth certificate released by the Obama 2008 presidential campaign "you would not be able to get a proper passport from the Post Office."
What Fox Nation won't tell you is that the Trump memo is dead wrong. Back in 2008, Factcheck.org squashed this argument by showing not only that the document Obama released was legit, but that it "has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport." Factcheck.org noted that the State Department requirements include "your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records." Upon review, all said elements were found "evident" on President Obama's certificate, thereby making Obama a citizen of the United States and eligible to obtain a passport in his name.
Here's the ABC headline [emphasis added]
Airport Pat-Downs: TSA Says it Can Fine You for Backing Out: Government Can Fine People $11,000 for Refusing Airport Scans or Pat-Downs; Will it?
And the nut graph:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it can fine individuals up to $11,000 for walking away from the airport security process. But will it? People in government say the fine is mostly a deterrent so that terrorists cannot back out of a security check once it starts.
So based on ABC's reporting and presentation, news consumers would assume this is another wrinkle in the unfolding TSA story, right? Suddenly the TSA is threatening to fine flyers?!
Wrong. In truth, the TSA has had the legal power since August of 2009 to fine passengers who attempt to back out of the screening process after it begins. Has the TSA ever levied a five-figure fine? According to the ABC report, the agency has not.
So why does ABC present this as news? I don't know, although it does play into the TSA media frenzy that's been in full swing all week. It's also unclear why ABC keeps claiming the TSA "says" it can fine people, as if the agency recently made some bold claim to that effect. Again, the fines, or the possibility of fines, have been in place for 16 months. This is not news.
But ABC pretends it is.
Media outlets have run with the false claim that President Obama's upcoming interview on The View will mark the first time a sitting president has appeared on a daytime talk show, when in fact, President Bush appeared on Dr. Phil in 2004. Right-wing media have seized on this false claim and his appearance in general to attack Obama's "priorities."
According to ABC News' Ariane de Vogue, former Judge Robert Bork will announce his opposition to Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court tomorrow. According to de Vogue, "Bork will take exception, among other things, with Kagan's one time praise for Judge Aharon Barak, the retired Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Israel." However, Kagan is not alone in praising Barak. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly sang Barak's praises while presenting him an award. And former Bush administration Solicitor General Charles Fried called Barak "superhuman."
As de Vogue writes, "In 2006 Kagan praised Barak at an event in Harvard. She called Barak 'my judicial hero,' and said, 'He is the judge who has best advanced democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and justice.' "
But Kagan's praise for Barak is hardly evidence that she is outside the mainstream. Indeed, at the same event in which Kagan praised Barak, Fried described Barak as "superhuman, a mythical character" who "manages to integrate the principle elements of law and judging, that is to say text, history, custom, precedent and to come up with the one right answer."
From the event (at the 42:45 mark of the C-SPAN video):
FRIED: The philosopher Ronald Dworkin -- in his, I think, chef-d'ouvre, his absolutely best piece written many years ago and published in the Harvard Law Review, which was called "Hard Cases" -- develops a theory of judging. And his picture is of a judge, superhuman, a mythical character, whom he calls Hercules, who manages to integrate -- and I use the word integrate in the mathematical sense where you [gestures] -- manages to integrate the principle elements of law and judging, that is to say text, history, custom, precedent and to come up with the one right answer. It is a remarkable experience to be in the presence of and to have just heard a lecture from a living myth. Because Hercules lives, and you have just heard from him.
In addition, in a July 10, 2007, profile of Barak in the Jewish Daily Forward, Benjamin Soskis wrote that Scalia presented Barak with the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists' Pursuit of Justice in March 2007. Soskis wrote that Scalia was "singing Barak's praises," even as he "addressed the other obvious disparity between himself and the honoree."
Conservative media have suggested that the Department of Homeland Security is to blame for alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad boarding a plane. However, administration officials have stated the airline failed to review the updated no-fly list after Shahzad's addition, and that sending the passenger manifest to Customs and Border Protection successfully prevented Shahzad's escape.
That alone should tell you everything you need to know about Corsi, but there are so many other reasons he's not a credible figure. There's the birtherism. The appearance on a "pro-White" radio show. The bigoted comments on Free Republic. The promotion of laughable conspiracy theories about global government and the "North American Union." The failed Obama smear book.
So why would ABC quote him in an article about "birth tourism," the purported efforts by pregnant foreign women to give birth in the United States so their children will be U.S. citizens?
Right-wing media figures seized on what ABC News' Jake Tapper has described as an "apparently erroneous" report of a statement allegedly made by President Obama's nominee for special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain to portray him as a "pro-jihadist," a "radical," and a "terrorist sympathizer." But, as Tapper points out, Hussain has argued that terrorism is "antithetical" to Islam had has written extensively on "[d]iscrediting the terrorist ideology...to stop al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups."
For many years, Media Matters and others have documented the mainstream media regularly substituting false balance in news stories in lieu of doing actual reporting. In a story on the Obama administration's policy towards Osama Bin Laden, ABC News' Huma Khan elevates a wild conspiracy theory to just one side of a story.
Some conspiracy theorists have said the U.S. government created the most recent bin Laden tapes. Others have dismissed his tapes as fake, but no one has been able to say with certainty if the world's most-wanted terrorist is still alive.
The idea the the U.S. government faked tapes with Osama Bin Laden is a pretty serious charge that, if true, would have amazingly complex implications for every single American citizen, and the world. The problem is, it is a conspiracy theory in the same class as faked moon landings and alien abductions. There is no actual, factual evidence to back up such an assertion. ABC elevates these claims by making it just one competing narrative in a "fair and balanced" news story that leaves us all less informed.