A new report from discredited investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson baselessly suggested State Department staff removed damaging documents on Benghazi instead of turning them over to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for investigation. But Attkisson's claims have been denied by the State Department and are based solely on speculations from a disgruntled employee after he was disciplined for his "lack of leadership" and engagement by the ARB.
In a September 15 report for The Daily Signal, a publication of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Attkisson reported that a former State Department diplomat alleges that "Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to 'separate' damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya." The Daily Signal described this as a "Benghazi Bombshell."
Attkisson reported that the diplomat, Raymond Maxwell, a former deputy assistant secretary responsible for North Africa, says that in late 2012 he observed an "after-hours session" at which a State Department office director "close to Clinton's top advisers" directed staff to separate out Benghazi documents "that might put anybody in the Near Eastern Affairs front office or the seventh floor in a bad light" from "boxes and stacks of documents." Attkisson notes that "'seventh floor' was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors." Maxwell told Attkisson that while he was present, Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan "appeared to check in on the operation and soon left."
Speculating that potentially missing, possibly damaging documents made it impossible for the ARB's investigation to be thorough, Attkisson reported that Maxwell said "he couldn't help but wonder if the ARB--perhaps unknowingly--had received from his bureau a scrubbed set of documents with the most damaging material missing."
Fox News' America's Newsroom quickly reported Attkisson's claims, calling them a "bombshell development" and a "smoking gun of a potential cover-up":
Fox News' months-long effort to criticize President Obama's response to the Islamic State extremist group while ignoring the steps he's taken to combat the group culminated in a confused segment claiming that the U.S. has both taken and not taken military action against ISIS.
On the September 15 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth pushed for American ground troops to be sent to the Middle East to combat Islamic State forces there. Hegseth criticized Obama's response thus far, saying that allies are seeing "American ambivalence."
A more striking ambiguity took place on screen, where Fox News' text suggested simultaneously that:
The disjointed segment is representative of Fox's overall coverage of the president's response. On September 9, the hosts of Fox & Friends criticized Obama for doing too little to fight the Islamic State before pivoting to attacks on Obama for requesting funding to continue airstrikes against the group.
Conservative media are claiming that unemployed Americans are "lazy" because they supposedly spend too much time "shopping" and not enough time working or looking for work. But the data they cite includes the activities of stay-at-home parents, students, people with disabilities, and retirees who are "not employed."
On September 8, fringe conservative website CNS News published an article claiming "an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping ... than to be looking for a new job. " The article ostensibly cited data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), an annual survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). CNS claimed that "only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed" engaged in job searches or job interviews on "an average day." Meanwhile, according to CNS, 22.5 percent of the "unemployed" engaged in shopping "for items other than groceries" on "an average day."
Unfortunately, CNS did not link to its internal data or provide methodology for its reporting, leaving readers to take the website's claims at face value.
Digging into the technical notes of the ATUS reveals that the BLS does not categorize individuals as "unemployed," but rather as "not employed." This distinction is important, as it includes individuals who fit the classification of being unemployed -- not working but actively looking for work -- as well as individuals who are "not in the labor force" for other reasons, including retirement, educational pursuit, and disability. So-called "discouraged workers," the small percentage of the population who involuntarily leave the labor force due to a lack of opportunity, would also count as "not employed" by ATUS classification.
CNS' insinuation that the so-called "unemployed" spend too much time engaged in non-work activities like "shopping" is based on a fatally skewed statistical error. But that fact has not stopped right-wing media outlets from using CNS' assumptions to fuel their campaign against the unemployed.
Fox News offered Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a platform to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, raising questions about the network's willingness to be manipulated using unverified quotes in order to harm a potential presidential candidate.
During the September 3 edition of Hannity, Paul joined host Sean Hannity to discuss the threat of the Islamic State to the U.S. After Hannity asked him if IS "has declared war on us," Paul blamed Clinton for the Islamic State's rise, asserting that "in the past, you know, Hillary Clinton has said ISIS is not a threat to the United States."
Fox's Bill Hemmer later hosted Paul on the September 5 edition of America's Newsroom, where Paul again claimed Clinton has "been out there saying that ISIS is not a threat, and so not a threat to America. Those I think were her exact words." After Hemmer asked Paul whether Clinton actually said the terror group was not a threat, Paul was unable to pin down where the alleged quote was from, but responded that it was his "belief" that "a couple of months ago there was a quote saying ISIS was not a threat to America." Hemmer subsequently failed to follow up on Paul's lack of specifics.
Hemmer's question was a critical one for any journalist to ask, but his failure to demand the specific quote and Hannity's total acceptance of Paul's claim is troubling. By not pushing for proof of Paul's claim, Fox News is letting itself be used as a conduit for misinformation from one potential presidential candidate to another.
Fox News cut off its broadcast of President Obama's address in Estonia before a NATO summit to interview Karl Rove. Both MSNBC and CNN aired the entirety of Obama's speech, in which he reiterated a commitment to defending the security of NATO nations. Fox News' America's Newsroom chose to air only two minutes of the speech before cutting to a commercial. When America's Newsroom returned, it turned to Rove, who went on to slam Obama's foreign policy:
Conservative media are suggesting that the Obama administration is "working with foreigners to subvert the Constitution" by seeking a climate agreement with other nations without Senate approval, but legal experts agree that because it is not expected to be legally binding, the accord does not require Senate ratification.
August 26 marks Women's Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which gave women the right to vote. As President Obama emphasized in a proclamation marking the day, while there have been many advancements toward women's equality, "[t]here is still more work to do."
Right-wing media emphasized the supposed prevalence of "black-on-black" violence in response to the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. But such emphasis takes the crime statistics out of context in order to hype the racial aspect.
In The Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) disavowed the offensive narrative pushed by conservative media which labels needy Americans as "takers" versus more economically-prosperous "makers." However, Ryan's proposed anti-poverty policies still rely on the right-wing media myth that blames poverty on poor individuals' personal life choices.
Fox News segments on a method of natural gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" gave over five times as much airtime to guests touting the benefits of fracking as it did to one guest warning of its risks.
On August 12, Fox News aired three virtually identical segments from correspondent David Lee Miller on fracking that were conspicuously one-sided. The segments compared the economy of Pennsylvania, which has seen a recent boom in fracking, to that of the southern tier of New York, where fracking is currently under a moratorium. The segments' pro-fracking slant is clear from the outset, with Miller stating that the "key reason for the economic disparity" between the two regions is "hydraulic fracking." The segments each featured three guests to tout the benefits of fracking for a total of 21 seconds per segment, against just one guest having four seconds to explain its risks:
The segments' bias is apparent in more than just the numbers; the information presented in support of fracking was in many cases misleading.
In two of the three segments, Miller featured Gabriel Campana, Republican mayor of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who stated, "They say for every well that's created, there's over 100 jobs." But a study from the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative found that between 2005 and 2012, "less than four new shale-related jobs have been created for each new well," and noted that even industry-funded studies only estimate that each fracking well creates "as high as 31" jobs -- well below Campana's claim of over 100 jobs per well.
On Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier, Miller's fracking segment replaced Campana with Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (the segment was otherwise almost exactly the same) to claim that "the quality of life has tremendously increased for particularly the people in this region." The people in that region might disagree. Fracking processes have harmed over 200 privately owned bodies of water in the Pennsylvania since 2008, and the process still threatens drinking water in the region. Eugene DePasquale, auditor general of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection likened regulation of the fracking industry in his state to "trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose."
NPR called the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania "'Ground Zero' in the fight over fracking" after dozens of families noticed high levels of natural gas contamination in their drinking water. In 2009, fifteen Dimock families filed a federal lawsuit against Cabot Oil and Gas due to drinking water contamination, including a methane build up in one resident's well that caused an explosion. Fracking sites present other safety concerns; in February a well operated by Chevron exploded killing one worker and injuring another.
Other pro-fracking guests highlighted by Fox were a New York dairy farmer who thinks fracking is vital for his farm's "economic security," and a New York county executive who stated fracking would give the state "a substantial increase in the number of jobs, a substantial increase in the investment." The sole critic was ecologist Sandra Steingraber, who was given four seconds of airtime to state that "fracking brings temporary riches to a few and permanent ruin to many."
A "fair and balanced" segment might have noted that more New Yorkers oppose hydraulic fracturing in the state than support it, or that lax fracking industry oversight has not only led to polluted water but has left "a toll of badly injured or killed workers" and poses very real risks to the southern tier of New York.
Fox News misleadingly credited Governor Rick Perry's (R-TX) announcement that National Guard troops would be deployed to the border for reducing the number of immigrants crossing the border -- but experts find that migration regularly decreases in summer months due to dangerous summer weather.
Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge recycled House Republicans' discredited, year-old allegation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on reducing security at the Benghazi compound ahead of the 2012 attack there, scandalizing a State Department cable bearing her signature.
Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.
Fox News turned to Dr. Ben Carson -- a contributor who's compared health reform to slavery -- to give the network's first commentary on a federal court ruling that invalidated a portion of the Affordable Care Act. On July 22, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to strike down federal subsidies for health insurance plans purchased through federal exchanges in the 36 states which did not establish their own marketplaces under the ACA.
Directly after the court's decision, Fox's America's Newsroom reported the breaking news and then trotted out contributor Ben Carson, an anti-ACA activist and retired neurosurgeon, for his thoughts on the ruling. He praised the decision, saying he was "very pleased."
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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