Media figures have smeared President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), by misrepresenting Hagel's support for sanctions against Iran and his support for Israel. The media have also cast doubt on the bipartisan support for Hagel's nomination.
CNN distorted former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's positions on potential U.S. negotiations with Hamas and sanctions on Iran to privilege the bogus argument that the senator is anti-Israel. In fact, Hagel's positions on these issues are not out of the mainstream and are not anti-Israel.
During a report that President Obama is going to nominate Hagel to be secretary of defense, CNN host Zoraida Sambolin played a clip of Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) saying that a Hagel nomination is an "in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel." CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty followed up that clip by asserting that Hagel's critics "would question his devotion to anything that would help Israel. He, for instance, believes in talking to Hamas." Dougherty also highlighted the argument that Hagel's views on sanctions against Iran show that he is not sufficiently pro-Israel.
But the position Hagel has taken on Hamas is well within the mainstream and the position he has taken on Iran is not an anti-Israel position, but part of his long-held view that unilateral sanctions do not work. Furthermore, Hagel is supported by high-profile pro-Israel commentators.
Regarding Hamas, in 2009, Hagel co-signed a bipartisan letter suggesting steps the United States could take to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. One of the recommendations in the letter was that the United States should take "a more pragmatic approach toward Hamas and a Palestinian unity government." The United States has a policy of not negotiating with Hamas, which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, due to its support of terrorism.
The letter stated: "Direct U.S. engagement with Hamas may not now be practical." But it added that Israel has acknowledged Hamas "is simply too important and powerful to be ignored." It recommended that the United States shift its policy "from ousting Hamas to modifying its behavior, offer it inducements that will enable its more moderate elements to prevail, and cease discouraging third parties from engaging with Hamas."
This is far from an extreme or anti-Israel position. The letter was co-signed by two former U.S. National Security Advisers, Zbigniew Brezinski, who served in the Carter administration and Brent Scowcroft, who served in the Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations. Other signers include former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker (R-KS), former 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton, and former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen also endorsed the position on Hamas taken by the letter.
Furthermore, the Israeli government itself has said it is willing to talk to Hamas under certain conditions. The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli President Shimon Peres said that "Israel would be willing to talk to Hamas, if Hamas complied with the three conditions set down by the Mideast Quartet, namely renunciation of terrorism, recognition of Israel and willingness to negotiate with Israel." The Post also reported: "There's nothing wrong with talking to Hamas, Peres clarified, but Hamas won't talk to Israel."
From the December 14 edition of CNN's Early Start:
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CNN's Christine Romans dismissed millions of Americans who rely exclusively on food stamps for nutrition in a segment discussing Newark Mayor Cory Booker's decision to take the food stamp challenge. Romans downplayed Booker's attempt to destigmatize this program when she claimed that food stamps aren't meant to be people's only source of food when in fact, millions need the program for that exact reason.
On Monday, Booker began taking the the food-stamp challenge, which requires him to live for one week on a food budget equal to that of a New Jersey resident on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
On Wednesday, Romans, serving as guest host for CNN's Early Start, aired a clip of Booker talking about the difficulty he has faced in taking the challenge, as well as a photo of what Booker was planning to eat for the week. Romans then stated:
ROMANS: And I'd just like to add a point here because a lot of times people try to do this to prove a point, I guess, to live on SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's not meant to be your own calorie intake source. ... Supplemental is the key. The government designs it so this is on top of what little money you might have, food pantries, soup kitchens. Some people are getting meals quite frankly in schools and the like. You know, like kids are getting two meals a day in school. So it's meant for a family to be supplemental. And it's never designed to be the only thing to survive.
Then, if you're going to survive on it, then we have to discuss as a country, are we -- are taxpayers going to pay for every calorie somebody consumes. Are we going to completely support people -- it's 46 million people who are getting food stamps.
Regardless of what the SNAP program was designed for, millions of Americans do rely on the program as their sole source of food. Peter Edelman, a scholar specializing in the fields of poverty and government assistance programs, stated that "six million people have no income other than food stamps." Edelman added that SNAP benefits are so low, it's difficult to understand how people can survive without other income.
CNN's false storyline that Democrats are the main obstacle preventing elected officials from reaching a budget deal disintegrated before its eyes. The network hosted two Republicans who made clear that they would not allow tax rates to increase for the wealthiest Americans no matter how many concessions Democrats made.
During the November 28 edition of Early Start, CNN repeatedly falsely portrayed disagreement over changes to the federal budget as being exclusively due to Democrats' reluctance to cut social safety net programs. But CNN hid the fact that Republican resistance to allowing for tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans is a major obstacle to a compromise to avoid tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to occur in the next year.
But during the November 29 edition of Early Start and the following show Starting Point, Republicans Congress members gave CNN a first-hand illustration of their party's refusal to compromise.
On Early Start, guest co-host Christine Romans interviewed Republican Representative Phil Gingrey (GA), asking him if he would accept an expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy, even if Democrats agreed to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Gingrey replied that while this might be good politics, he and other conservative Republicans could not agree to that. Gingree stated that he would not "waffle or waiver" on that issue:
ROMANS: Yeah. So would you -- look you talk about raising taxes. Those were temporary tax cuts. Those Bush tax cuts were extended a couple of times. And those were temporary tax cuts. I mean couldn't you live with allowing those temporary tax cuts for the richest to go away, keeping them for the middle class and then getting some of that entitlement reform you want. Wouldn't -- could you live with that?
GINGREY: You know Christine, you make that point. And from a political perspective, the optics of that, you know, might look good. And maybe the Democrats feel they have an advantage politically. But we Republicans, we conservative Republicans, fiscal conservative Republicans, feel that, that, we are right on this, that we can't allow -- because of politics -- to waffle or waiver on something we know will get this country back on the right track, will stimulate the economy. The darn stimulus sure didn't. $850 billion. So we know that lower, broader reform tax code and more people working, that's what it's going to take to finally lower the deficit and get this debt down below $16 trillion. Can you believe that?
CNN falsely portrayed disagreement over changes to the federal budget as being exclusively due to Democrats' reluctance to cut social safety net programs. In two segments on Early Start, CNN didn't mention that Republicans' resistance to increasing taxes on the wealthy is also an obstacle in reaching a compromise to avoid the automatic tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff.
In the first segment, guest host Christine Romans described the negotiations by saying, "Entitlement reform is a stumbling block here." She continued, "Democrats don't want deep cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Republicans see no other choice."
Co-host Zoraida Sambolin went further in the second segment, claiming that "the sticking point" in fiscal cliff negotiations is "entitlement reform." Sambolin continued, "Republicans appear willing to budge on higher taxes for the wealthy, but only if programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid face cuts."
CNN isn't telling the whole story. Though Romans later discussed tax revenues in an interview with Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), her segment at the top of the show erased Republicans' unwillingness to consider tax increases on the wealthy -- which has been a sticking point in the negotiations.
Immediately following the election, House Speaker John Boehner called raising tax rates "unacceptable" to the Republican House. A few days later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Wall Street Journal, "We have a voter mandate not to raise taxes," and said, "I am not willing to raise taxes to turn off the sequester. Period." Republicans' insistence on maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy has remained one of the biggest points of disagreement.
And Sambolin's claim that Republicans "appear willing to budge on higher taxes for the wealthy" is questionable at best. While a handful of Republicans have indeed signaled a willingness to compromise on raising taxes for the wealthy, most Republicans are instead saying they are open to "eliminat[ing] individual loopholes and deductions," as The Washington Post reported. And as the Post noted, ending many of those deductions would affect not only the wealthy, but would also "reach far into the middle class."
CNN's Christine Romans offered an incomplete fact check of whether GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney ever said "let Detroit go bankrupt." She focused heavily on the origin of the phrase rather than the almost-certain outcome of Romney's opposition to the auto industry bailout.
Romans appeared on CNN's Early Start to discuss the October 11 vice presidential debate and to fact-check what the candidates said. One of the claims she analyzed was Vice President Joe Biden's claim during the debate that Romney would have let Detroit go bankrupt:
We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that -- when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, "No, let Detroit go bankrupt."
Romans rated Biden's statement false, declaring that Romney had never used the exact words "let Detroit go bankrupt." The basis of Roman's judgment are the actual words Romney used in a 2008 New York Times op-ed that ran under the headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Romney, Romans argued, did not write that headline, and he "never used those words in that piece."
But the actual policies Romney advocated are far more informative than the debate over who wrote the headlines.
Romans noted that while President Obama used government funds to rescue the auto industry, Romney had an alternate vision: He "did not want a direct injection of tax-payer funds into the companies as they were." It is the absence of that public investment that is crucial.
CNN turned to conservative activist Gail Heriot to push the myth that affirmative action allows students of color to attend upper tier schools for which they are ill-equipped.
The Supreme Court is hearing Fisher v. Texas, a case challenging the University of Texas' affirmative action plan. In a report on the case, CNN's Joe Johns stated: "Conservative groups siding with Fisher argue it's not just about getting in. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission says studies show that using racial preferences can hurt minorities by starting them out near the bottom of their classes."
Johns then aired video of Civil Rights Commissioner Gail Heriot saying: "If they're towards the bottom of whatever class they go to, they are much more likely to give up on an ambition to major in science and engineering."
In fact, experts have debunked the theory Heriot pushed, which is commonly known as the "mismatch" theory. A court filing by professors of statistics and related fields explained that the research on which Heriot's argument is based "has major methodological flaws" and is "not good social science."
These experts pointed out that reliable studies actually disprove this theory. For instance, one study found that "minority students who benefited from affirmative action earned higher grades and left school at lower rates than others, and they expressed neither greater nor less satisfaction with college life in general."
Additionally, Heriot is not an unbiased member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Heriot was reportedly an alternate delegate for the 2000 Republican National Convention. She also is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, once served as an aide to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, and served as the co-chair of a 1996 effort in California that outlawed affirmative action programs.
Media outlets including the Associated Press and CNN are holding President Obama accountable for Mitt Romney's failure to lay out how he will pay for $5 trillion in tax cuts. But independent analysts have estimated that Romney's proposal would cut taxes by $5 trillion, with no specific plan to replace that revenue.
CNN's Sanjay Gupta claimed that the proposed changes to Medicare that Congressman Paul Ryan has offered would allow seniors to choose between "a voucher" system and "traditional Medicare," while keeping the system affordable. In fact, experts say the Ryan plan would threaten Medicare's long-term viability and potentially would increase seniors' medical costs by thousands of dollars.
Conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza appeared on CNN this morning to reinforce the message of his error-laden and factually inaccurate movie, 2016: Obama's America, attacking President Obama as "anti-American" and claiming he has "embraced a Third World ideology."
While CNN host Zoraida Sambolin pressed D'Souza to explain his accusations, she offered no pushback to D'Souza's outlandish claims about Obama's character nor did she point out the discredited claims contained in his movie.
Indeed, 2016 is rife with basic factual errors and logical inconsistencies:
The film is based on D'Souza's book, The Roots of Obama's Rage, which was also filled with false and misleading claims.
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From the January 20 edition of CNN's Early Start:
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From the January 19 edition of CNN's Early Start:
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