With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
The conservative group Accuracy in Media (AIM) has removed references to Wayne Simmons from its Benghazi commission website after he was arrested on "charges of major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government," including allegedly falsely claiming he worked for the CIA.
Media Matters this morning reached out to AIM about the removal of Simmons from its website, which at the time did not include any explanation for the deletions. This afternoon the group released the following statement about Simmons on their website:
We were stunned and saddened to hear the news about Wayne Simmons. He has been a colleague of ours on the Citizens' Commission on Benghazi since we were established in 2013. We have removed Wayne's name from the list of members on the website of the CCB, pending the outcome of the legal proceedings. As with everyone charged with a crime or crimes in this country, he is innocent until proven guilty. We wish him the best.
On July 29, 2013, AIM announced in a press release that it was launching the Citizens' Commission on Benghazi (CCB) "with some of the country's top retired military officers and national security officials," including "Wayne Simmons, former CIA officer." That press release is no longer online. Other deletions include:
The speakers stressed the importance of the press, the Fourth Estate, in continuing to call for answers. Unfortunately, the George Soros-funded Media Matters, which attended the event, hyper-focused on the praise at the event for Fox News' reporting, calling AIM a "fringe" group promoting "outlandish conspiracies about the incident" which had questioned the credibility of generals and repeated the "stand down" controversy. When questioned about the role that Fox has played in the Benghazi scandal--a question posed, in fact, by Media Matters--Simmons told Media Matters that he "would suggest that, fortunately for the country, that Fox had the foresight to recognize early that there really was something dramatic and very important to the country that happened in Benghazi and the decision makers at Fox chose to not allow that to fall to the wayside."
AIM's Benghazi commission still has other questionable characters including birthers and anti-Muslim advocates. AIM itself has frequently pushed fringe rhetoric relating to LGBT issues, President Obama's birth certificate and Vince Foster's suicide.
Simmons was a frequent and favorite guest on Fox News, where he pushed for the House to form a Benghazi Select Committee and claimed the White House decided "to not rescue our former CIA Operatives and our military" in Benghazi.
The right-wing media's smear campaign against the Obama administration over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, appears to be paying dividends in the form of donations.
A Media Matters review of fundraising emails and websites found that conservatives have routinely invoked Benghazi to ask followers for money. The fundraising solicitations accuse the Obama administration of "lies," "cover-ups," a "dereliction of duty," and crimes worse than Watergate.
The fundraising is only likely to intensify with the recent creation of a House select committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the attacks. The Republican leadership convened the committee despite numerous previous inquiries into Benghazi. The Department of Defense wrote in March that it had already participated in "approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews" about the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said on MSNBC today that fellow Republicans should not fundraise off of the Benghazi attacks, stating: "Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans."
Like their counterparts in the media, the main Republican Party campaign apparatuses are actively fundraising off of Benghazi. The Republican National Committee has a donation page asking Republicans to demand "the truth about Benghazi" by contributing money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee asks Republicans to "donate today" because of Benghazi. And the National Republican Congressional Committee has a fundraising page stating: "You're now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let's go after Obama & Hillary Clinton. Help us fight them now." The page features an image of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the text, "Benghazi Was A Coverup. Demand Answers."
Here are five recent examples of conservative pundits raising money off their Benghazi witch hunt.
Fox News figures took part in a press conference today announcing a "citizen's commission" to investigate the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. In the process they promoted outlandish conspiracies about the incident while re-hashing false stories that have been investigated and debunked.
The event was organized by Accuracy in Media (AIM), a fringe conservative group responsible for promoting many conspiracy theories over the years. Roger Aronoff, AIM's editor, led the event.
In attendance were Admiral James Lyons (Ret.), General Thomas McInerney (Ret.) and former CIA officer Wayne Simmons. McInerney is a Fox News military analyst, while Simmons is a frequent guest on Fox. Lyons regularly writes opinion columns for the Washington Times.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, rallying across the country to raise awareness about pressing environmental challenges. Organized by a Democratic senator and a Republican congressman, Earth Day 1970 "achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats," according to Earth Day Network, and provided momentum for the passage of landmark legislation to protect our air, water, and endangered species.
But in today's political climate, even Earth Day has become the target of partisan attacks from the right.
This past Sunday, as millions of Americans celebrated Earth Day, conservative media figures spent the day downplaying the impact of human activity on the environment, advocating for more fossil fuel development, and taking credit for misleading the public about the threat of climate change. Others attempted to spread fear about the holiday by noting that it falls on Vladimir Lenin's birthday, and by linking it to a convicted murderer who falsely claimed to be behind the first Earth Day.
And one right-wing blogger recalled how he tried to delay his son's birth because he "really didn't want a child born on Earth Day."
It was not long ago that Earth Day -- and the values of conservation and environmental responsibility it represents -- enjoyed bipartisan support. The Times-Picayune reported on Sunday on the shift that has taken place over the last 40 years:
CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson received an award last month from the right-wing group Accuracy in Media, which is best known for peddling wild conspiracy theories. Christopher Isham, CBS vice president and Washington bureau chief, accepted the award in person on her behalf. Attkisson and Isham accepted AIM's award despite news experts warning that Attkisson's credibility would be harmed by doing so.
Since then, AIM has returned to doing what it does best: promoting conspiracy theories. And AIM's Cliff Kincaid has a doozy in his March 26 "special report": He asserts it "has to be seriously considered" that Army Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians, may have been a sort of Manchurian candidate who was working with the Taliban. Kincaid writes that the "rampage had the earmarks of somebody programmed or manipulated to kill."
More from Kincaid:
What can be safely assumed at this point is that the anti-American narrative that the U.S. was backing Bales with a squad of soldiers in a deliberate conspiracy to massacre civilians is almost certainly a conspiracy theory that is part of a global attempt to convince the world of the opposite of what really happened.
Which means that another theory -- that Bales engaged in the killings, with the help of the Taliban, in order to accelerate an American withdrawal -- has to be seriously considered.
There is no direct evidence at this stage for the theory of Bales as an enemy agent or dupe. But Bales' attorney says he has seen "no forensic evidence" and there have been "no confessions" to support the Army's case. The fact is that so little is known about the killings that both sides of the story -- the one told by the U.S. Army and the one told by anti-American foreign propagandists -- have to be questioned.
If the enemy recruited Bales and then helped him carry out the massacre, so it could be blamed on the U.S., then we gain an additional important insight into the brutal nature of those who want the U.S. to leave so they can take over. Staging a massacre and blaming it on the Americans is something that makes sense, if we examine what is already known about the killings.
Consider that the enemy has infiltrated and recruited among members of the Afghan Army. Is it so far-fetched to believe that an American soldier was recruited as well? Perhaps he was not converted to Islam. But he may have had his outlook on the war completely twisted by the propaganda telling him that he is a member of an occupying force that has to leave the country.
Kincaid goes on to state that "a cover-up may be underway, intended to obscure the nature of the apparent brainwashing that Bales underwent at some point in his military career."
Are Attkisson, Isham, and CBS still proud to have received that award from AIM?
CBS Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson did not appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference today to receive her journalism award from fringe group Accuracy In Media (AIM), despite previous reports that she would speak at the event. Instead, CBS Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham accepted the award on her behalf.
AIM said earlier this week that Attkisson had "confirmed and reconfirmed" her attendance at the award presentation and that she would address the audience for 8-10 minutes. Isham did not speak at length, telling the audience: "Sharyl was very sorry not to be here today. She is traveling out of town on assignment, so I'm going to accept this award on her behalf, on behalf of CBS News."
After saying Attkisson would be donating the award to the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Isham added: "CBS News is very proud of Sharyl's groundbreaking reporting, as you've described it. It represents the best at CBS News -- original reporting that we are extremely proud of."
Attkisson's reported decision to accept AIM's award -- which before this year had only been given to conservative commentators -- drew attention, due to AIM's history of promoting virulently anti-gay views and conspiracy theories. In less than 24 hours over 11,000 people signed a Media Matters petition urging CBS not to legitimize AIM by accepting the award.
Among other veteran journalists who questioned the move, former CBS Washington bureau chief Ed Fouhy said Attkisson risked becoming "another pawn in the ideological chess games being played with such intensity in Washington." Charles Davis of the University of Missouri School of Journalism added: "I'm not going to ever applaud a journalist for accepting an award that essentially recognizes the fact that the advocacy group likes what they reported."
In announcing this year's winners, AIM praised Attkisson for her January 13 "investigation" purporting to reveal 11 "New Solyndras." But Attkisson's report suffered from factual problems that CBS has yet to correct. Attkisson has also been criticized for a series of articles fueling unsupported claims about a link between vaccines and autism.
Veteran journalists and media ethicists -- including a former CBS News Washington bureau chief -- are criticizing CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson for accepting an award from Accuracy in Media, a conservative group with a long history of promoting anti-gay views and conspiracy theories.
Attkisson is scheduled to accept the award in person Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.
Several longtime news experts contend Attkisson is hurting her own credibility and that of CBS by participating in the event.
"If you go out and you've received an award from any organization with an agenda, then any reader of your work or viewer of your work has a right to question your impartiality or your fairness," Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker, told Media Matters in an interview. "I don't think journalists should accept awards from either right-wing or left-wing, conservative or liberal organizations, or from any other organized group that has an agenda. We're not supposed to have an agenda. By accepting those awards or appearing, you are raising questions about your own dispassion. We have enough of those questions already about journalists."
Ed Fouhy, a former long-time CBS News producer and one-time Washington bureau chief for the network, called Attkisson a "pawn."
"Sharyl Attkisson is making a mistake in accepting an award from A.I.M. By doing so she becomes just another pawn in the ideological chess games being played with such intensity in Washington," Fouhy stated. "Her acceptance helps to legitimize A.I.M., a fringe group, whose sole agenda is and has been for many years, to undermine the credibility of the mainstream media, fueled by the donations of millionaire conspiracy theorists."
Fouhy, also a former CBS News vice president, then noted A.I.M's past efforts against the network dating back many years:
"Reed Irvine, founder of A.I.M., and his political heirs have long made CBS News a special target in their fevered attempts to propound the myth of the liberal media. Going back to Watergate days, A.I.M. has relentlessly tried to intimidate and harass CBS News journalists. Ms. Attkisson may not be aware of that history but she should know that accepting awards from groups with political agendas, whether of the right or the left, is a bad idea."
While CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson attends the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference this week to accept an award from the far-far-right group, Accuracy In Media, perhaps she will have extra time to take in some of the discussions scheduled to take place.
According to the posted agenda, these will be among the CPAC offerings Attkisson could sit in on:
-"How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America"
-"Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department"
-"Obama vs. The Constitution: How a Harvard Law Graduate President Is Shredding the Constitution"
Fascinating topics, no doubt.
Of course, last year CPAC made news when it banned the conservative gay group, GOProud, from being a conference sponsor in 2012. GOProud's inclusion in 2011 prompted angry boycotts from social conservative groups. AIM itself has a long and disturbing history of publishing columns condemning gays and their "sympathizers" as subversive agents of death.
There really is no cockamamie conspiracy AIM hasn't pursued over the years, including its pathetic attempts to promote the "cover-up" surrounding the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster.
Which reminds me, when Attkisson has finished her ten-minute award ceremony remarks for the appreciative CPAC audience, maybe she'll get a chance to ask Cliff Kincaid, director of AIM's Center for Investigative Journalism, about all the reporting he's done on President Obama's birth certificate.
In case Attkisson hasn't had time to read up, here's a sample of Kincaid's penetrating birther analysis:
-"Anybody who has an original copy of their own birth certificate, or a certified copy of their own original birth certificate, should immediately understand that the Obama version is lacking in basic information that should be publicly available."
You get the idea, even if CBS News does not: Sending a straight news reporter to an Obama-bashing conference to receive an award from a proud birther organization is a very, very bad idea, and one that will do needless damage to CBS' reputation.
As Media Matters accurately noted this week, AIM represents a "cesspool of hate and conspiracy theories." That's not hyperbole. That's the documented truth; go read for yourself.
So that's a problem in terms of CBS News maintaining its reputation as an honest news broker. But that's not all. When you add onto that the myriad of loony conspiracy theories that AIM has pushed, the Attkisson decision makes even less sense. And when you top it off with the fact that AIM represented an engine that helped drive the blind idiocy behind the birther charade, then you really have to wonder what CBS News is trying to accomplish this week at CPAC.
According to a network spokesperson, "CBS News journalists are regularly honored by a broad spectrum of organizations for their outstanding original reporting." That makes sense and I'm sure it's true. But at some point common sense ought to come into play.
Here's a simple, hypothetical question for CBS News executives: Eight years ago, would you have allowed a straight news reporter to accept an award from a radical left-wing group that dedicated untold hours trying to document how the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attacks? And would you have allowed your straight news reporter to receive the award, and to address an appreciative crowd, at a national conclave of Bush-hating nut jobs?
I didn't think so.
CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson is set to receive a journalism award at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference from Accuracy in Media, a right-wing group with a long history of promoting anti-gay views and conspiracy theories. Attkisson -- the first reporter from a mainstream news outlet to receive AIM's annual award -- has produced some notably bad journalism over the past year, particularly on the topics of clean energy and vaccines.
Before the Senate unanimously confirmed Leon Panetta to head the Department of Defense last month, there was a notable smear simmering in the right-wing fever swamp: Leon Panetta may be a communist.
The story began with a column by Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, which hinged on "a close and personal relationship" Panetta supposedly had "with a member of the Communist Party by the name of Hugh DeLacy."
Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid devoted his January 9 column to defending the publication American Renaissance from accusations made about it in a law enforcement memo cited by Fox News regarding Arizona shooting suspect Jared Loughner. According to Kincaid, American Renaissance is merely a "conservative" group that is "politically incorrect because of its criticism of racial preference and 'diversity' programs and immigration policies that weaken the strength of a country." Kincaid added that "there is no evidence that American Renaissance by any objective standard is a racist organization. It does deal with racial issues. But so does the Congressional Black Caucus."
The Anti-Defamation League calls American Renaissance a "white supremacist journal" that "promotes pseudoscientific studies that attempt to demonstrate the intellectual and cultural superiority of whites and publishes articles on the supposed decline of American society because of integrationist social policies." As we've documented, American Renaissance and its editor, Jared Taylor, are very much obsessed with race. Taylor has declared that we don't "need more Hispanics" and attacked Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for not "pronouncing her name the way an American would."
While calling itself an advocate for "race realism," American Renaissance has made clear that it claims to speak for whites, writing in its inaugural 1991 issue introducing the publication that "Fifty years ago, the United States had an unmistakable national and cultural core. In another half century, if whites continue to cooperate in their own dispossession, this nation will have no core and no identity." The publication added, "We cannot expect Mexican immigrants, Vietnamese refugees, or militant blacks to care if Shakespeare disappears from our schools or if the Jefferson Memorial falls into decay." It also stated that "blacks and Hispanics are, compared to whites, far more likely to be poor, illiterate, on welfare, or in jail; they are far more likely to have illegitimate children, be addicted to drugs, or have AIDS. By no definition of international competitiveness can the presence of these populations be anything but a disadvantage."
Further, Taylor is on the editorial advisory board of the Citizens Informer, published by the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor to the White Citizens Councils of the segregationist South. The Council states on its website that they "oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called 'affirmative action' and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
In his defense of American Renaissance, Kincaid also noted its upcoming conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here are some of the scheduled conference speakers:
Now, Kincaid isn't exactly known for anything remotely resembling journalism; while he has a college degree in it, it's not what he has spent his career practicing. In addition to the above-linked homophobic rants, Kincaid has embraced birtherism, smeared Ted Kennedy by claiming he likely engaged in "a drunken orgy" on the night of the Chappaquiddick incident, and speculated about Hillary Clinton's supposed lesbianism. He's also shown a tendency to ignore facts that conflict with his far-right agenda.
As far as AIM's own respect for journalism is concerned, one need only look to the AIM website's publication of a blog post falsely smearing Obama administration official Kevin Jennings as a "pedophile" who is "teaching 14-year-old boys the dangerous sexual practice of 'fisting.' " AIM had no choice but to delete the post and apologize, but not before spreading even more smears about Jennings.
So, yeah, the idea of Kincaid leading something related to "investigative journalism," and AIM operating it, is pretty much a joke.
Last December, we detailed how Accuracy in Media intern Allie Duzett falsely attacked Obama administration official Kevin Jennings as a "pedophile," which resulted in AIM having to delete the post and issue a retraction. One would think that exposing her employer to possible legal action would have ended Duzett's writing career at AIM.
Duzett resurfaced at AIM this week with a pair of blog posts. There appears to be nothing legally actionable in either of them, though in one she calls The New York Times "highly biased" and ludicrously suggests that Fox News isn't.
During her exile from AIM, Duzett has kept herself busy: According to her LinkedIn profile, she is working for the conservative Heritage Foundation as an "Information Systems Assistant," where she "solve[s] over 100 technical problems in a routine month" and "blog[s] on the Foundry about United States domestic policy." (We could find only four posts by her on Heritage's Foundry blog.)
So that's two organizations that perhaps need to explain their relationship with someone who forwarded such an egregiously false claim – one of whom has already been burned once by her.