From the May 24 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News is apparently desperate for a scandal over President Obama's handling of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups, especially now that the network's campaign to embroil the president in scandal over his response to the Benghazi attacks is falling apart. Fox has gone from ignoring Obama's swift responses to the IRS's actions to downplaying the significance of his firing the IRS's acting commissioner, each time distorting reality in order to call for a special prosecutor.
The release of over 100 pages of inter-agency emails obtained by CNN have threatened to derail months of right-wing scandal-mongering over the administration's response to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The emails appear to counter the conservative narrative that the State Department altered Benghazi-related talking points for political reasons. As Fox News' desperate attempts to resurrect the waning scandal fall flat, Fox pundits have resorted to criticizing the president's handling of the IRS controversy instead.
Fox kicked off its criticism by deciding Obama's initial condemnation of the IRS's actions as "outrageous" was too weak. When the president first addressed concerns over this story at a press conference on Monday, May 13, he asserted, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable." America Live host Megyn Kelly covered his remarks by wondering, "Does the president understate it when he calls this, 'outrageous'?"
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama released a statement on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable. This time, Fox simply pretended Obama made no such statement and continued to attack his remarks from two days prior, all while arguing that a special prosecutor was needed given Obama's supposed inaction.
By Thursday, Fox was fumbling over how to handle the fact that Obama had fired Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions. In the morning, America's Newsroom chose the route of merely ignoring that anyone had been fired so that host Martha MacCallum could declare, "[Obama] could be the big person. He could say, 'This stinks. You're all fired. This doesn't happen in America.' He has every ability in his position right now to take the high road. Why not? Why not do it?"
When the network finally acknowledged that Miller had been forced to resign, it did so by attempting to downplay the decision. Anchor Bret Baier questioned the action on Happening Now, claiming, "He was ready to leave, despite the fact -- I mean, before any of this already happened. He was acting commissioner and was set to leave the IRS. So that's a question for the White House; that's a question for the president. You know, was this guy fired when he was going to leave anyway?"
Fox News ignored President Obama's explicit demand for accountability in the wake of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups. The network's omission gave it cover to accuse Obama of not taking the IRS's actions seriously and to call for a special prosecutor.
Obama first addressed the IRS controversy during a May 13 joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, where he condemned the IRS's behavior with the caveat, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable."
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama granted the IRS no such caveat. He released a statement definitively naming the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable:
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog's report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I've directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General's recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again.
Yet the next day, America Live host Megyn Kelly and Fox's digital political editor Chris Stirewalt pretended Obama issued no such condemnation.
Instead, Kelly claimed that even after the IG's report was released, "we still have the president saying, 'Well, if they did it, if they did it, if they did it." She ranted, "I don't understand, more so today than the other day, why the president used that word 'if.' 'If these people did this, if these people did that.' Now that I've seen the Inspector General report -- and you're telling me -- now Fox News just got it last night. But other news organizations had it leaked to them early. You're telling me President Obama couldn't have got it when it was complete on Monday?"
Kelly and Stirewalt used their mischaracterization of Obama's response to call for a special prosecutor into the IRS's actions. Stirewalt told Kelly that if he were the president, he would "find a Republican of good standing" to appoint as an independent investigator. Kelly responded with the charge, "Where is the harm to this administration, if as these IRS employees state, no one outside of the IRS had anything to do with this, this was just IRS employees deciding to target conservatives. So if the White House and no one else had anything to do with it, where is the harm? Why doesn't the president just say 'absolutely'?"
Fox's Lou Dobbs and Megyn Kelly attacked President Obama as "Nixonian" and claimed that he revealed his "inner Nixon" over scrutiny that the IRS applied to tea party groups, despite the fact that the president labeled the IRS's actions "outrageous."
Obama addressed concerns at a press conference Monday over reports that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to tea party groups. He vowed to hold the agency "fully accountable" and called the alleged misdeeds "outrageous." Pointing to those comments, Kelly asked if Obama's condemnation was forceful enough, while Dobbs compared Obama with President Nixon, stating, "This is an agency with an enemies list. This is Nixonian. This is a president whose inner Nixon is being revealed."
But Carl Bernstein, one of The Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, deflated the idea that the IRS targeting was comparable to Watergate in an interview with Politico:
'In the Nixon White House, we heard the president of the United States on tape saying 'Use the IRS to get back on our enemies,' said Bernstein, whose reporting helped lead to Nixon's eventual resignation. 'We know a lot about President Obama, and I think the idea that he would want the IRS used for retribution -- we have no evidence of any such thing.'
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the May 9 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News' Megyn Kelly worried that the network's extensive live coverage of the House Oversight Committee hearings on Benghazi was providing "lopsided" airtime to questions from Democrats -- though Fox had actually devoted over twice as much airtime to Republican questions.
Three State Department officials testified today before the House Oversight Committee about the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Fox afforded live coverage to the hearing, beginning when the three witnesses testifying, Gregory Hicks, Mark Thompson, and Eric Nordstrom, were sworn in.
For over an hour, Fox stayed live on the hearings without a single interruption. During this time, the network showed 32 minutes of Republican committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa's (CA) questions and witness responses. But when Issa yielded the floor to the ranking Democratic committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), for his turn to question witnesses, Fox cut to commercial, breaking live footage for the first time.
Rather than immediately returning live to Cummings' questions after the commercial break, Happening Now host Jon Scott instead spoke to Fox contributor John Bolton about the hearing, while a split-screen showed the hearing and Cummings' questioning continue. In total, Fox aired only two minutes of Cummings' questions and witness responses before returning to commercial break.
Fox favored Republican questioning right from the start of the hearing, yet Kelly implied that the network's coverage had been lopsided in favor of Democrats.
Approximately two hours into Fox's hearing coverage, during questioning from Republican Rep. John Mica (FL), America Live host Megyn Kelly broke in and expressed concern that, "We're getting a little lopsided in terms of the Democrats versus the Republicans, so we're going to try to rectify that for you after the break, and play more of Mr. Mica right after this quick commercial break." Fox continued airing what was left of Mica's questions upon returning from break. But then as Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) took the floor, Fox halted live coverage so that Kelly could speak to another Fox correspondent. As she skipped the Democrat's question period, Kelly stated, "And so we're going to try to even it out. We're going to try to get on the same number of Democrats and Republicans as we watch this coverage."
At the time of Kelly's remark, eleven politicians -- six Republicans and five Democrats -- had asked questions of the Benghazi witnesses. And despite Kelly's suggestion, during this time Fox devoted 46 minutes of live coverage to Republicans' questions and answers, airing only 19 minutes of Democrats' questions and answers.
This post has been updated to correct the number of congressmen who posed questions prior to Kelly's remarks.
During a key moment in her congressional testimony on the September 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effectively exposed the witch hunt that conservative media helped Republican lawmakers lead:
[T]he fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?
It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.
That was Clinton's now famous response to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who questioned the secretary over the State Department's role in editing the administration's public talking points - questioning that no doubt delighted a legion of scandal mongers in the right-wing media desperate to spin those talking points into a Watergate event that would bring down the Obama administration.
Since the moment news broke that a U.S. ambassador was among four Americans killed in terrorist attacks on a diplomatic outpost, the right has desperately tried to prove that the administration was engaged in a "cover-up." Meanwhile, serious, independent investigators have worked to uncover how to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.
This week, as House Republicans prepare to renew their hyper-politicized Benghazi trials, that question - what difference does it make whether the immediate talking points were exactly right on the motive - has again been thrust to the forefront. Fox News analyst Brit Hume, appearing on the May 7 edition of America Live, offered something of a response to Clinton's testimony and in the process provided a hint as to why this matters at Fox:
The murdered ambassador there was her subordinate. The staff there at the embassy were her subordinates. So if she took a walk during this, that doesn't exactly recommend her for the person that who's going to receive the middle-of-the-night phone calls, does it? I mean, I don't think there's any way for her to escape this even if she succeeds in arguing that she didn't her fingerprints on it. If she didn't, she should have.
See, for Fox, the tragedy does not lend itself to asking how to do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again. Instead, the tragedy creates an opportunity for Fox News and the Republican Party to try to bring down the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton over questions like who edited the talking points after the fact.
Fox News guest Michael Cutler, a former agent with the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Services and also a fellow at the nativist organization the Center for Immigration Studies, used the Boston Marathon bombing investigation to attack the deferred action program for undocumented students. In reality, the program, which is intended to provide deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, is unrelated to the circumstances of the suspects' immigration status
During a discussion with Fox News host Megyn Kelly about recent arrests in the Boston Marathon bombings, Cutler used the fact that one of the suspects reportedly was here on a student visa to attack the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After casting doubt on the process by which asylum is granted, Cutler brought up DACA and suggested the program had similar security lapses. He asked: "Do you really think anyone is scrutinizing anything?" He also claimed that the program approves 99.5 percent of applicants:
In fact, those who qualify for deferred action are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before age 16. While the Boston bombings suspects' current immigration status is in dispute, they were reportedly in the United States under student visas and were legal non-immigrants.
Currently, there is not a mandatory in-person screening process for DACA applicants. However, in-person interviews may be requested for applicants who are suspected of fraud and for quality assurance purposes. But the process to apply is so arduous that these applicants are heavily scrutinized. Other than the several pieces of identifying documentation needed to begin the process as well as the $465 in fees, each applicant must go through a biographic and biometric background test.
Fox News has repeatedly invoked the Boston bombings to suggest that immigration reform could exacerbate existing problems within the immigration system. However, their commentary actually highlights shortcomings that the bipartisan Senate bill will address in full.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly and frequent contributor Jay Sekulow attacked Attorney General Eric Holder for a speech he gave highlighting the work of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in combatting threats against Muslims, a timely topic given the anti-Muslim backlash seen in right-wing media following the Boston Marathon bombings.
On April 29, Holder spoke at the centennial summit of the ADL and commended the organization for its long history fighting anti-Semitism, stating the organization would continue to "find a committed and active ally in this Attorney General." Holder closed his remarks by noting that it was two weeks to the day of the Boston bombings and praised ADL for its additional work fighting anti-Muslim bigotry, a commitment Holder assured the audience the Department of Justice shares. As explained by Holder, "just as we will pursue relentlessly anyone who would target our people or attempt to terrorize our cities - the Justice Department is firmly committed to protecting innocent people against misguided acts of retaliation."
In a "Fox News Alert" segment on America Live, Kelly attacked this speech by asking, "Has there been backlash against Muslims in the wake of Boston? And is this a time for the attorney general to be effectively scolding Americans, not to be bigoted and not to be ignorant?" Kelly also claimed that because Holder said this at the ADL's summit, "the context could be perceived by some to be somewhat offensive." In addition to pushing the argument that the bombing suspect should have been treated as an un-Mirandized "enemy combatant," Sekulow admonished Holder because "the attorney general of the United States needs to do us all a favor. Catch the terrorists. That's what he needs to be doing."
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Megyn Kelly hosted Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's supposed lack of concern over the security issues at American facilities in Libya. During the interview there was no mention of Rep. Chaffetz's own vote to cut funding to embassy security or reports that have undermined right-wing attacks on Clinton.
On Fox News' America Live, Kelly provided Chaffetz with numerous opportunities to bash Clinton - asking if Clinton "blatantly lied" over requests being made for more security at the embassy, allowing Chaffetz to make claims that Clinton personally denied more security for the embassy, and speculating that there are documents being hidden from lawmakers that prove Clinton had direct knowledge regarding the lack of security at the embassy.
While providing Chaffetz opportunities to attack Clinton, Kelly failed to note that several outlets have pointed out significant flaws in the GOP's report. Chaffetz' claims are largely based on an April 2012 cable that responded to requests for additional security resources. While the cable was sent under Clinton's name, this does not necessarily indicate her direct involvement. As Foreign Policy magazine pointed out:
It's not clear who in the State Department sent the April 19 response. But as a general rule, "every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," a former State Department official noted, adding, "Though they are trying to make this new, it's not. After 30+ hearings and briefings, thousands of pages, this has all been addressed."
Kelly also did not challenge Chaffetz on his vote to cut funding for embassy security, nor did she point out that Chaffetz justified his vote as an attempt to "make priorities and choices" in an interview on CNN with Soledad O'Brien:
O'BRIEN: Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?
CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have -- think about this -- 15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, private army there for President Obama in Baghdad.
And we're talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you're in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.
O'BRIEN: OK, so you're prioritizing. So when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you've just said absolutely, that you cut.
You are the one to vote against, you know, to increase security for the State Department, which would lead directly to Benghazi. That seems like you're saying you have a hand in the responsibility to this.
According to The New York Times, House Republicans cut "nearly a half-billion dollars from the State Department's two main security accounts." The cuts included local guards, armored vehicles, and security technology.
Fox News figures invoked the trial of Kermit Gosnell to attack Planned Parenthood and President Obama, who is scheduled to address the organization this week.
On Fox's America Live, host Megyn Kelly and contributor Monica Crowley invoked the murder trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell to attack Obama and Planned Parenthood. During the segment, Kelly claimed Planned Parenthood was "under fire for reportedly knowing about some of the horror stories from the Gosnell clinic but not doing more with that information" and downplayed reports that Planned Parenthood officials encouraged women who complained about Gosnell's clinic to report their experiences to the Department of Health:
But Fox's attack on Planned Parenthood is based on a distortion of the actual story. Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, explained that Planned Parenthood staff was made aware of the clinic's conditions, but not necessarily the illegal activities that occurred there. When staff members were informed of these conditions, they encouraged patients to report them to the Department of Health.
In a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Steinberg confirmed that the reports of Gosnell's clinic were confined to complaints about "the uncleanliness of the facility":
Fox News hosted anti-Islam activist Steve Emerson to repeat the disputed claim that a Saudi student he named as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings is slated for deportation, one of several claims that Emerson got wrong about the bombings this week.
Emerson, who styles himself as some kind of expert on terrorism and Islamic extremism especially, has a tenuous history with the facts. Indeed, his analysis of Boston is reminiscent of his blunders about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 -- when his certainty that Islamic terrorists were behind the incident was exposed as false.
On April 16, C-SPAN hosted Emerson to discuss the Boston bombings. As Salon reported, Emerson cited "classified information" when he fingered a "Saudi national" as a possible suspect because, he stated, "the burns on his skin match the explosive residue of the bomb that exploded."
A few hours later on Fox News, Emerson recanted, saying: "We're back to square one in terms of suspects because the Saudi suspect has been ruled out." Indeed, the Saudi student has been cleared of suspicion and according to law enforcement was never in custody.
But on Fox, Emerson continued to tie the bombings to "jihadists," claiming that the "actual fragment, which were nails and ball-bearings" used in Boston are "a hallmark, by the way, of jihadist suicide bombings." As The Daily Beast pointed out in response to Emerson's incorrect musings:
[T]he Boston Marathon bombs don't appear to have been suicide bombings at all, but just as he did in Oklahoma City, Emerson is attributing widely used modi operandi and ascribing it to Muslim terrorists. Just as Tim McVeigh and Anders Breivik might have been surprised to learn that only Middle Easterners seek to "inflict as many casualties as possible," so too would Ted Kaczynski (an anti-technology zealot known as the Unabomber) and David Copeland (a British neo-Nazi known as the Nailbomber) be surprised to learn that putting nails in bombs as shrapnel qualifies them as "jihadists." And actual terrorism expert Will McCants Tweeted a 2011 case where white supremacists had used ball bearings in a bomb.
Indeed, it is now being reported that two brothers who may be from Russia's Caucasus region are believed to be responsible for the Boston bombings.