Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) sparked backlash when he sent an absurd tweet blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But Graham's tweet followed in the footsteps of conservative media, who have repeatedly attempted to link Benghazi to a variety of unrelated events, or invoke the tragedy to deflect conservatives from scrutiny.
Here are just a few examples of things conservative media have linked to Benghazi:
1. Openly Gay NFL Prospect Michael Sam. Washington Times columnist Steve Deace accused President Obama and the media of using openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam as an excuse to divert attention from Benghazi and other alleged "failures" of the Obama administration. According to Deace, liberals pounced on Sam's coming out in February in order to advance "LGBTQ propaganda" -- and to shift focus away from the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission.
2. Ted Nugent. CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson invoked Benghazi in order to inexplicably shield NRA board member Ted Nugent from further scrutiny for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." On CNN's New Day, Ferguson argued that Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's loyalty to Nugent was no different than Obama's loyalty to former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, whom Ferguson falsely labeled a liar for her comments about Benghazi.
3. Chris Christie's Bridgegate. Fox & Friends devoted five segments during its January 10 broadcast to the scandal surrounding Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his administration's involvement in deliberate traffic gridlock across the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local mayor. But in every segment purporting to discuss Christie, the hosts and guests brought up Benghazi to attack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
4. The Boston Bombing. In April 2013, Rush Limbaugh invoked the New Black Panthers, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi to pre-emptively attack Obama's handling of the Boston bombing suspect, who had been apprehended by police and charged that day with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
5. Monday Night Football, The New iPhone, And Yom Kippur. The week of the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, Fox & Friends aired an image of events that were supposedly distracting Americans from the anniversary and the ongoing conflict in Syria, including Monday Night Football, the NYC primary elections, the launch of the latest iPhone, and the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
Media covering the controversy over Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent are touting a poll showing Abbott with an 11 point lead as proof that Nugent has not hurt Abbott's campaign. But data collection for the poll ended on February 17, a day before the Nugent-Abbott controversy first received widespread attention.
On February 18, the day Nugent made two campaign appearances with Abbott, the Texas Democratic Party condemned Abbott for campaigning with someone who had recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." A week-long media firestorm ensued that included condemnations of Nugent from prominent GOP figures, a disingenuous apology from Nugent, and a contentious appearance by Nugent on CNN.
On February 24, University of Texas/Texas Tribune released a poll conducted between February 7 and 17 showing Abbott leading likely opponent Democrat Wendy Davis 47 percent to 36 percent. 17 percent of voters were undecided in the poll. Notably, the polling covers a period when Davis was receiving largely negative press coverage because of a right-wing media smear campaign about her biography.
Still, members of the media have erroneously used the polling to offer insights about the impact of the Nugent controversy on the Texas governor's race.
Just seconds after urging public officials to avoid name-calling, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson falsely labeled Susan Rice a liar in order to inexplicably shield Ted Nugent from further scrutiny for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel."
Ferguson appeared on New Day Tuesday to react to NRA board member Nugent's so-called apology, first offered on Ferguson's radio show last week, and again, mockingly, on CNN Monday. During that CNN appearance, Nugent called Obama a "liar" and suggested that the president is a criminal.
After claiming that Nugent's apology was sufficient, and pleading with public officials to eschew name calling and stick to the facts, Ferguson leveled the false accusation that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice "lied" to the American people about the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi. When CNN host Chris Cuomo asked whether it was appropriate for Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott to stand behind Nugent despite his unacceptable rhetoric, Ferguson invoked Benghazi and argued that Abbott's loyalty to Nugent was no different than Obama's loyalty to Susan Rice, whom he called a liar.
"You had Susan Rice that came out and lied about four Americans dying and the ambassador of the United States of America on the anniversary of 9-11, and insulted those who died and their families by giving them a fake story about protestors," Ferguson claimed. While Cuomo rejected the analogy, he agreed it was wrong to lie to the American people and that the "situation needed to be investigated."
Ferguson's claim is rooted in the right-wing hoax that the White House dispatched Rice to mislead the American people by claiming that the September 2012 attack was sparked by protests over an anti-Muslim YouTube video that was sweeping the region. But the reality is that Rice's comments were consistent with what the U.S. intelligence community said was their best assessment at the time, a position that has been supported by independent investigations.
A January report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that there was intelligence linking the Benghazi attacks to anger over the anti-Muslim YouTube video, consistent with what Rice said when discussing the attacks days after they occurred on several Sunday morning news shows. After a year of exhaustive investigation, New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick reported that the protests were fueled in part by reaction to the video. Administration and agency emails that have been in the public record for the past year demonstrated that it was the intelligence community that said their best assessment at the time Rice discussed the attacks indicated that they were in reaction to a YouTube video.
But on the right, "Benghazi" has never been about preventing future tragedies, or learning the truth about what happened that night. The campaign to politicize the tragedy has created a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's the one word conservatives can always use to get out of a jam or change the conversation. Inside the bubble, truth doesn't matter. Because Benghazi.
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Download Fox News' brand new iPad app and you'll notice something curious: there's an ExxonMobil advertisement on nearly every page, sometimes filling the whole screen. Click on it and you can watch a video of a smiling ExxonMobil geologist touting the natural gas boom. As the tech news website Mashable reported, this is because "Exxon is the exclusive launch partner for Fox News' iPad app":
"We decided we wanted to work with one sponsor," [Fox News' Jeremy] Steinberg said, explaining that there are always question marks surrounding a launch, so Fox News wanted a partner comfortable with that. He said Exxon, which is in the midst of a new branding campaign, thought the app was a perfect platform for broadcasting its message.
It makes sense that one of the biggest funders of interest groups that obfuscate the threat posed by global warming would team up with the news outlet that has done more than any other to promote misinformation about climate science.
The partnership further undermines ExxonMobil's 2008 pledge to stop funding groups "whose positions on climate change could divert attention" from the need to develop secure, clean energy. As an internal email revealed last year, it has been the policy of Fox News to question even the basic fact that the planet has warmed in recent decades.
Climate change is not the only issue on which ExxonMobil might find Fox News' coverage agreeable. Last month in the midst of both soaring profits for big oil and attempts by Congressional Democrats to roll back oil companies' tax breaks, ExxonMobil's spin could be heard on Fox News.
With the notable exception of Bill O'Reilly, many on Fox eagerly passed along talking points first outlined by ExxonMobil vice president of public affairs Ken Cohen in a series of blog posts designed to preempt any backlash against Exxon's massive first quarter earnings report.
During an appearance on Fox News, radio host Ben Ferguson argued against Democratic proposals to roll back tax breaks for the largest oil companies by boldly declaring that ExxonMobil -- by far the most profitable corporation in the country -- doesn't actually make that much money. See, according to Ferguson, over 90 percent of the company's profits go to the U.S. government in the form of taxes:
FERGUSON: [Obama] should also stop making these oil companies into evil companies. I mean, look at the profits the other day of Exxon. They posted $11 billion in profits. They paid $10 billion of those dollars in profits went to taxes.
FERGUSON: There's a lot of companies out there that deserve tax breaks so that they operate and employ people in the United States of America. And if we're getting $10 billion out of $11 billion in profit from Exxon, which is the facts, and they're making about 3 cents on every gallon of gas right now, I think they deserve to do business here just like every other business so we keep Americans employed. [Fox News, America Live, 5/10/11]
This is highly misleading in a couple of ways. For one, Ferguson suggests ExxonMobil's tax payments come "out of" their $11 billion in reported earnings. But they don't. The reported earnings are after-tax figures.
And Ferguson is comparing apples to oranges when he claims that "we're getting $10 billion out of $11 billion in profit from Exxon." The "$11 billion in profit" is ExxonMobil's worldwide earnings for just the first three months of 2011. As for the $10 billion that Ferguson says ExxonMobil paid to the U.S. Treasury, it appears that he's been reading an ExxonMobil press release that states:
Last year, our total taxes and duties to the U.S. government topped $9.8 billion, which includes an income tax expense of $1.6 billion. [emphasis added]
So the $10 billion is what ExxonMobil says it paid in U.S. taxes in all of 2010, not the first quarter of 2011. And there's reason to be skeptical of this figure. As the Washington Post reported, this number includes $6.2 billion in gas taxes collected from its customers:
Conservative media claim that recent proposals to repeal tax breaks for the five largest oil companies will "make gasoline more expensive." However, energy experts say that cutting the tax incentives will have little to no effect on prices at the pump.
From the July 21 edition of CNN Newsroom:
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