Toxic air pollution from power plants has been linked to serious health problems including cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, and mercury in particular is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. But that hasn't stopped conservative media from joyfully celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision that jeopardizes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to rein in this harmful pollution.
Right-wing media outlets are attacking a new rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed to increase diversity in American neighborhoods, calling it an attempt by President Obama to dictate where people live. But the program merely provides grant money to encourage communities to provide affordable housing and greater access to community resources.
Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.
From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Right-wing media figures are criticizing 2016 hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for his comments blaming the rise of ISIS on Republican foreign policy positions, lashing out at Paul as an "Obama Republican" and accusing him of "rewriting history."
From the May 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell threw cold water on Fox News' latest faulty Benghazi narrative, characterizing a report that says the Obama administration knew that the attacks were planned in advance as inaccurate. Morell criticized Fox and the media at large for habitually scandalizing the Benghazi attacks based on incomplete or unsupported claims.
Michael Morell criticized Fox News and other media outlets for perpetuating "Benghazi myths" in a May 25 article for Politico, accusing "pundits [who] don't understand intelligence work" of spreading misinformation. Morell lambasted a recent report that claimed that the "Obama administration knew that al Qaeda terrorists had planned" the Benghazi attack "10 days in advance." explaining that the report was based off "raw intelligence" from a single source and did not accurately represent the conclusions of the intelligence community.
"The only thing that newly released document proves," Morell wrote, "is that the people who trot out these reports do not understand the world of intelligence and do not take the time to ask the right people the right questions before publishing the 'news.'" Morell noted that numerous other unclassified documents directly contradict the single Defense Intelligence report scandalized by the media:
The DIA report in question was an "Intelligence Information Report" or IIR. It is what we term "raw intelligence." It was not the considered view of DIA analysts. Often from a single source, these bits of information represent one thread that some intelligence collector has picked up. The all source analysts in the Intelligence Community are charged with looking at that snippet of information and every other bit of available information from communications intercepts, human intelligence, open source material and much more to come up with an overall judgment.
Those all source analysts--without any input or pressure from above--looked at all the available information and determined that there wasnota significant amount of planning prior to the attacks. You don't have to take my word for it. You can look at the briefing slides produced by the National Counterterrorism Center (which is not part of CIA) and coordinated across the Intelligence Community. These slides were declassified over a year ago and were appended to the report on Benghazi produced by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee. In describing the attacks at the State Department facility, the slides say "attackers moving in multiple directions," "attackers do not appear well coordinated" and "no organized effort to breach every building." Not the words one would expect to see associated with an attack planned well in advance.
Morell went on to blast Fox for also cherry-picking from the indictment of Abu Khattala, the only participant in the attacks currently in U.S. custody, to support its Benghazi claims. During the May 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier quoted the indictment in an effort to push the network's faulty assertion that the attack had been pre-planned, claiming that it had noted "premeditation" and demanding Morell answer whether the indictment was wrong. But Morell notes that Baier left out important context from the indictment that indicated "the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack":
What my interviewer failed to share with his viewers were these words from the indictment: "Beginning on a date unknown to the Grand Jury but no later than on or about September 11, 2012...defendant Khatallah did knowingly and intentionally conspire...." (emphasis mine). What does this mean? It means that the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack either. Exactly the point of the intelligence community analysts.
Fox News has similarly continuously seized on every available opportunity to scandalize the attacks on the diplomatic compound at Benghazi. In the 20 months between September 2012 to May 2014, the network aired an astounding 1,098 evening and primetime segments dedicated to Benghazi. Despite numerous reports debunking the network's false narratives surrounding the attack, Fox has relentlessly continued to promote them.
Fox News' misleading smear of food stamp recipients as surfing freeloaders found its way into a congressional hearing aimed at examining the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On May 20, the House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing addressing the "Past, Present, and Future of SNAP." Throughout the hearing, Fox News' misleading 2013 special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" that attempted to make a surfing freeloader "the new face of food stamps" was referenced several times as evidence of abuse within the program.
Fox's misrepresentation of food stamp recipients found its way into the hearing when two members on the committee used the special as anecdotal evidence of abuse within SNAP. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) used Fox's example of a "surfer out in California living on food stamps and eating lobster" as evidence of abuse within the program, though he "forg[o]t which network" aired the special.
Later, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) also referenced "the surfer that was on one of the news channels," claiming, "unfortunately, we see that in our districts, and I hear stories about that every day."
The surfer mentioned by Reps. Gibbs and Yoho was Jason Greenslate who featured in Fox's special as part of Fox News' longstanding history of maligning the poor and misrepresenting food stamp recipients. After it aired, the network delivered physical copies of the special to members of Congress in an attempt to influence a vote to cut SNAP benefits by billions of dollars.
What the special failed to note was the fact that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, the fraud and waste rate in SNAP is roughly only 1 percent. The special also ignored the fact that SNAP kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, many of whom are children, and that 82 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled American.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), fought to correct the record by pointing out the "surfer on food stamps" is "not the reality of the program, and it's our job to tell anybody who says it is, that it isn't" (emphasis added):
REP. MCGOVERN: I want to make sure the record is corrected on this, we heard a couple of times mention the guy who is a surfer on food stamps. That is not the reality of the program, and it's our job to tell anybody who says it is, that it isn't. The majority of people on this program are kids, are senior citizens, are those who are disabled. And of those who are able-bodied, the majority of them work. Given the opportunity between working at a job that pays a wage where I wouldn't have to rely on this benefit, or a job that I have to work full-time and I still need to rely on SNAP, I mean, we know what people would decide. So let's not demonize this program by taking some examples that may have appeared on some news show that I won't mention the name of the news show, but anyway. But the point of the matter is we ought to be talking, we ought to make sure that the narrative we are echoing here reflects the reality.
Fox News' Special Report cherry-picked Justice Antonin Scalia's religious freedom concerns from the Supreme Court's oral arguments on constitutional protections for same-sex marriage to question whether clergy may "be required to conduct same-sex marriages." But this selective reporting ignores the fact that Scalia's line of questioning was immediately debunked by his fellow justices as well as the pro-marriage equality lawyer.
On April 28, the court heard landmark arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will decide whether the U.S. Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex marriages, or at least requires them to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it's legal.
During the April 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier highlighted a dubious line of questioning between Scalia and Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex couples, that suggested a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would require clergy with religious objections to perform those ceremonies. Baier reiterated Scalia's question to The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, who agreed and argued that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would leave religious liberties vulnerable:
BAIER: There's one more thing. If states license ministers to conduct marriages, would those ministers -- if it is constitutional -- then be required to conduct same-sex marriages?
HAYES: Right, and then you go to the religious liberty argument. I mean, this is one area where I think conservatives are shifting their focus now, in a sense almost conceding that the gay marriage debate for all intents and purposes in the political realm is over, but can they sort of protect those religious liberties that, you know, certainly I would argue that the founders intended.
Fox News' special based on discredited conservative journalist Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash dishonestly promoted several of the author's speculative attacks on Hillary Clinton.
In the April 24 special, The Tangled Clinton Web, host Bret Baier gave Schweizer a platform to discuss a series of stories that fail to connect the dots between donations to the Clinton Foundation, speaking fees earned by former President Bill Clinton, and policies supported by the State Department during Secretary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration.
Schweizer is a Republican activist whose previous reporting has been marked by false claims and retractions.
Journalists who have reviewed Schweizer's Clinton book have noted that his reporting lacks a "smoking gun" to back up his suggestions of impropriety. Reporters have also pointed to several errors in his book. But host Bret Baier warned at the conclusion of the program that the claims could lead "people" to "worry that another Clinton administration could mean influence peddling on a scale never before imagined."
Schweizer and Baier tried to connect the decision by Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson to pay Bill Clinton for a speech in November 2011 with the exclusion of the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran, which does business with Ericsson.
From the special:
SCHWEIZER: Beginning in 2009, the Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is coming under pressure in the United States, because it's selling telecom equipment to oppressive governments around the world. In the midst of all of this, they decide to pay Bill Clinton to give a speech for the first time ever. They pay him a whopping $750,000.
BAIER: Soon after, Hillary Clinton's State Department urged new, broader sanctions against Iran, but the guidelines did not include telecom, which is Ericsson's business.
In fact, the Iran sanctions in question actually took the form of executive actions from President Obama, and not State Department initiatives.
Baier and Schweizer provided no evidence that telecommunications were excluded from the sanctions as a result of the speech. In fact, the sanctions in question specifically targeted Iran's energy sector. As CNN reported at the time, "The U.S. government tightened restrictions on companies that provide Iran with equipment and expertise necessary to run its vast oil and chemical industry."
When Yahoo News reviewed the chapter of Clinton Cash featuring this allegation, they noted that there was "no smoking gun" connecting the speech and the sanctions. Yahoo News further noted that a Clinton aide pointed out that telecommunications manufacturers like Ericsson have not been added to the sanctions since Clinton left the State Department, casting doubt on the suggestion of a connection between the 2011 Bill Clinton speech and U.S. sanctions policy.
Schweizer and Baier baselessly suggest that a donation to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi caused the State Department to certify Ethiopia's human rights record, allowing them to receive U.S. aid.
Schweizer reports that Al-Amoudi's 2009 donation was highlighted at the time by "Ethiopian groups in the west, because they are very concerned about the repressive government in Ethiopia and the fact that Sheikh Al-Amoudi has a large business empire in Ethiopia." He goes on to connect these concerns to the fact that "when Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, one of the things that she needs to do is certify Ethiopia on human rights, but Hillary Clinton granted them a waiver which allowed them to continue U.S. assistance even though that they weren't complying with U.S. law."
But contrary to the special's suggestion that Ethiopia was allowed access to U.S. assistance directly because of this Clinton Foundation donation, that access predated and continued after Clinton left the State Department. In fact, the document Fox showed on-screen in support of their claim actually postdates her tenure.
As evidence of their theory, Fox aired an image of a Department of State Public Notice 8553, titled "Waiver of Restriction on Assistance to the Central Government of Ethiopia":
That waiver, signed by then-Deputy Secretary William J. Burns, is actually dated July 10, 2013 -- months after Clinton left office. It appears in the December 18, 2013, edition of the Federal Register, which also reports that identical waivers were granted to the governments of 11 other African nations.
Such aid is not a new phenomenon. The State Department's Agency for International Development has provided economic assistance to Ethiopia for decades, including throughout the Bush administration.
Baier and Schweizer baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor.
During the segment, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One, chaired by a Clinton Foundation donor, to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
NBC News has noted in discussing a similar story by The New York Times that this implication "doesn't hold up that well." Indeed, as Media Matters has noted:
Fox News baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor. But Clinton reportedly had no personal involvement in the deal, which was approved by representatives of nine U.S. agencies after a rigorous review process.
On the April 4 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier previewed his upcoming hour-long special on discredited conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, in which he accuses Bill and Hillary Clinton of influence peddling with foreign governments in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees. The segment focused on Schweizer's allegations regarding Clinton's purported role in approving the sale of the uranium mining company Uranium One to the Russian government.
New York Times reporter Jo Becker, whose own reporting on the Uranium One story has been criticized by the Clinton campaign for burying "original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale," also appeared in the segment. Both the Times and Fox reportedly "made arrangements for exclusive access" to the book.
During the preview, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Baier concluded: "So what this amounts to, in the end, is a Russian company essentially controlled by Vladimir Putin, will now be in charge of a substantial portion of American uranium. Russia sends uranium to its client state, Iran. So American uranium could well be sent to the very nation we're negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Thus, we see how far-reaching the effect of the Clinton blur, as Schweizer puts it, can be."
But Baier's preview omitted important context to misleadingly suggest that Clinton personally approved the Russian purchase. According to Time, which received this chapter of Schweizer's book in advance, the State Department's role in approving the deal was part of an extensive bureaucratic process, and Schweizer's chapter offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the deliberations. In fact, Time quotes Jose Hernandez, who as former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs was involved the deliberations on behalf of the State Department, denying that Clinton was involved in the matter at all.
Moreover, Time pointed out that the "deal's approval was the result of an extensive interagency process that required the assent of at least nine different officials and agencies" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. According to the report, "State has just one vote on the nine-member committee, which also includes the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy. Disagreements are traditionally handled at the staff level, and if they are not resolved, they are escalated to deputies at the relevant agencies. If the deputies can't resolve the dispute, the issues can be elevated to the Cabinet Secretary level and, if needed, to the President for a decision. The official chairman of CFIUS is the Treasury Secretary, not the Secretary of State."
Furthermore, the Uranium One deal also had to receive approval from "the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency outside of the State Department's purview, as well as Utah's nuclear regulator. The deal also received approval from Canada's foreign investment review agency."
Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon has denied any wrongdoing by Clinton and criticized Becker for burying crucial facts from her report "that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale."
Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today's New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government's 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story -- like the book on which it is based -- wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton's State Department pushed for the sale's approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.
Fox News has begun their campaign on behalf of Clinton Cash, an anti-Clinton book authored by a Republican activist and strategist whose history of reporting is marked by errors and retractions. The network reportedly has an "exclusive agreement" to report on the book, published by the network's corporate cousin. According to Fox, the book is "very damning" and will cause a "reverberation" that could "threaten" Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Fox News' Special Report helped GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reframe the reproductive choice debate by misleadingly hyping a poll that found that a majority of Americans support a legal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare and studies show a majority of Americans continue to support access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, and various other health care reasons.
According to Politico, on April 8, Sen. Paul "refused to tell The Associated Press whether he would support exceptions for abortions in instances of rape or incest or if the birth of a child would risk the mother's life." Later that day, Paul told journalists in New Hampshire, "Why don't we ask the DNC" whether it is "OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus."
Paul's comment was lauded by right-wing media, and on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed his statement put Democrats on the "defensive" over "views on abortion most Americans find extreme." During the segment, Bream highlighted a Quinnipiac poll showing "a majority of Americans support legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy," to paint Democrats as extreme. Later in the show, panelists A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Hayes applauded Paul for "flipping the script" and exposing Democrats' "extremism" on reproductive choice. Hayes called him "absolutely brilliant" saying he "reframed the issue entirely," and Charles Krauthammer praised Paul's move saying banning abortion is "the right thing to do, and it's a winning issue."
Fox's praise for Paul's misleading characterization of the reproductive choice debate is unsurprising given the network's history of helping the GOP rebrand itself - as Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel pointed out, Paul's attempt to flip the script was "exactly what the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC ha[s] been advising Republicans to do since 2012."
Fox News anchor Bret Baier debunked the network's defense of Indiana's discriminatory "religious freedom" law, explaining that the law is broader than both federal law and similar measures in other states.
Last week, Indiana became the center of a political firestorm after the state legislature passed its version of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), a law that allows private individuals and for-profit business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a legal defense against claims of discrimination from consumers who have been wrongfully denied services based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana explained, Indiana's RFRA "may embolden individuals and businesses who now feel that their religious liberty is 'burdened' by treating a member of the LGBT community equally and that their 'burden' trumps others' rights to be free from discrimination."
Proponents of the law, including Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence, have downplayed these potential consequences by incorrectly claiming that the law is noncontroversial because it merely mirrors the federal RFRA and RFRAs in other states. It's a talking point that has been repeated on Fox News, which has so far depicted Indiana's law as a benign attempt to protect the devout from government encroachment on religious freedom.
But during the March 30 edition of Happening Now, Baier deflated his network's defense of the law, explaining to host Eric Shawn that Indiana's RFRA is "broader" than both federal law and other state RFRAs:
ERIC SHAWN: You know, the law was intended to protect personal religious liberties against government overreach and intrusion. So what happened?
BAIER: Well, Indiana's law is written a little differently. It is more broad. It is different than the federal law that it's close to, but different than, and also different than 19 other states and how the law is written. In specific terms, Indiana's law deals with a person who can claim religious persecution but that includes corporations, for profit entities and it could also be used as a defense in a civil suit that does not involve the government. That is broader than the other laws. This is where it's a little different in Indiana's case. You saw governor Mike Pence try to defend the law and say it's just like the 1993 federal law where it's just like 19 other states, but as you look in the fine print, it's not really, and it may be something that Indiana deals with in specifics to line up with the others.
SHAWN: Obviously, it had good intentions. What do you think happened to make it kind of go off the rails this way?
BAIER: Well, how it was structured, Eric. And I think that, you know, there may be good intentions behind it but how it's being interpreted is being a little bit more forward leaning than any other Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the books. What this does politically, obviously Mike Pence has been talked about as a governor thinking about a 2016 run. We don't know if he's going to do it or not. But that interview with Stephanopoulos over the weekend was obviously not a great back and forth in defense of this law that likely is going to have to be at least tweaked, if not changed. [emphasis added]
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz downplayed the bloody arrest and subsequent national media coverage of a black University of Virginia (UVA) student, arrested during an alleged dispute over his ID, claiming "such arrests are common in this college town."
The Washington Post reported that Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is under scrutiny after the violent arrest of UVA student Martese Johnson, who "sustained head injuries that left him with bloody streaks down his face" following St. Patrick's Day celebrations near the UVA campus in Charlottesville. Photos of Johnson's bloody face sparked widespread outrage and protests over the use of excessive police force.
During a segment on March 20 edition of Special Report, Kurtz criticized the national media attention claiming that this was a local story with "no evidence that race was a factor" in the arrest. Kurtz later downplayed the arrest as typical, asserting that "bartenders tell us such arrests are common in this college town."