In recent weeks, Sunday morning network news programs have virtually ignored economic issues, instead devoting hours of coverage to the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya; improper targeting of conservative nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service; controversial federal investigations of national security leaks; and new revelations about National Security Agency surveillance programs.
From the June 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Fox News Sunday selected Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, attorneys who represented witnesses at a Republican-led hearing on the attacks at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, for its "power players of the week," an unfortunate choice given that both individuals misled Fox News and its viewers about allegations of threats and intimidation against their clients and about efforts by the administration to prevent their clients from testifying.
Though Fox News Sunday aired certain aspects of Toensing and diGenova's biographies, the segment neglected to mention that the two have a history of poor professional conduct, including criticism from a Democratic congressman for inappropriate behavior and actions while they worked as congressional investigators due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. They were also accused of having a conflict of interest for representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation while simultaneously serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation. More recently, Toensing pushed the false claim that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame had not been covert, in addition to other falsehoods.
On April 29, Fox's Special Report aired video of Toensing claiming that people who wanted to testify on Benghazi "have been threatened," which Fox & Friends aired the following morning. Toensing was also cited by Special Report on April 29 in reporting the allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence" and that possible witnesses were having their careers threatened. And a May 6 FoxNews.com article by Fox Washington correspondents James Rosen and Chad Pergram sourced a claim that a witness named Mark Thompson "has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress" to diGenova, who was representing Thompson.
But testimony by the witnesses at a GOP-led hearing on May 8 and subsequent interviews of their attorneys on Fox News revealed that Toensing and diGenova misled the network by claiming that their clients had suffered threats, intimidation, and orders to keep quiet. When asked on Fox's Your World on May 9 about claims that Thompson had been threatened, diGenova replied that Thompson "actually hasn't said that," and explained that his client "didn't feel intimidated."
Gregory Hicks, another witness at the hearing -- represented by Toensing -- explained under questioning that he had not been told not to speak to congressional investigators, only that he was required to have a State Department attorney present while doing so. Hicks also explained that, in contrast to claims that the administration tried to silence him, he was interviewed twice by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was created to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Hicks' testimony further contradicted Toensing's April 29 claim to Special Report that careers were being threatened when he explained that "the overriding factor" in his determination to not return to his post in Libya was to remain with his family in the United States.
From the May 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
William Kristol wants to go to war in Syria, but he won't say what that war should look like. Appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the Weekly Standard editor (and noted Iraq war hawk) attacked President Obama as "totally irresponsible" for indicating that he doesn't want "to start another war," saying: "You've got to do what you've got to do."
When host Chris Wallace pointed out to him that there are "no good choices" for intervening in the Syrian conflict and asked, "so what do you do?," Kristol brushed it off without indicating how he thought the president should respond: "You do what you think is best. You're commander in chief, you've got an awful lot of options."
Kristol's call for (non-specific) military action got a boost from Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, who observed: "There's something to be said for doing something. That if they cross a line, you've got to do something. Now whatever it is may not directly affect the chemical weapons use, but if it directly affects and harms the regime's prospects in the war, that would at least be a consequence."
According to Hume, doing "something" (whatever that is) wouldn't be as difficult as people suspect. "This isn't Mission: Impossible."
From the April 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the March 17 edition of Fox Broadcasting Company's Fox News Sunday:
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Zeb Colter, an anti-immigrant character from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that has recently drawn the ire of right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck, would be right at home in the conservative media. Many of Colter's bigoted and flawed arguments have been the right's stock-in-trade for years.
Beck targeted the Colter character on his radio show, arguing that Colter is "demonizing the Tea Party." Beck also accused the WWE of "mocking me for standing up for the Constitution." Beck's co-host Stu Burguiere complained: "It seems that the villain, the guy you're supposed to hate, is this stereotype of a conservative that I've never met."
Colter currently appears on WWE programming alongside wrestler Jack Swagger, spouting a lot of heated anti-immigrant rhetoric in the middle of a scripted feud with Mexican-born wrestler Alberto Del Rio. According to WWE, Colter's rhetoric is intended to "to build the Mexican American character Del Rio into a hero given WWE's large Latino base."
WWE explains that in order "to create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines."
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace allowed Bill Kristol to attack the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary without disclosing that Kristol is currently waging a full-scale campaign to oppose the nominee. Wallace further failed to challenge Kristol on his previous support of Hagel until he publicly supported a withdrawal from the Iraq War.
Fox News contributor Bill Kristol has been leading a relentless attack campaign against former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for defense secretary. During television appearances and on his site The Weekly Standard, Kristol is actively encouraging the Senate to block Hagel's nomination. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a political advocacy group Kristol founded, has even launched an anti-Hagel website complete with attack ads.
Yet on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Kristol to opine on Hagel's nomination without any mention of his advocacy to prevent Hagel from becoming defense secretary. After saying Hagel is a "controversial pick for defense secretary," Wallace directed Kristol: "Your comments on Hagel?" Kristol replied, "I don't think Chuck Hagel is the right man to be secretary of defense. We'll see if the United [States] Senate agrees with that." Kristol opposes the nomination on the false grounds that Hagel is hostile to Israel and sympathetic to Iran.
Kristol even interjected Hagel attacks into unrelated conversations.
A Media Matters analysis finds that news coverage of climate change on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX remained low in 2012 despite record temperatures and a series of extreme weather events in the U.S. When the Sunday shows did discuss climate change, scientists were shut out of the debate while Republican politicians were given a platform to question the science.
From the December 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Fox's Chris Wallace falsely claimed that President Obama has proposed a plan where Congress would give up its power to control the debt limit. In fact, under the proposal Congress would still have a role in authorizing debt ceiling increases, while making it more difficult for legislators to cause economically harmful and potentially disastrous crises by holding up necessary increases in borrowing authority.
Wallace claimed on Fox News Sunday that the White House is proposing "in effect that Congress gives up its power over the debt limit." He also said to House Speaker John Boehner that Obama and Democrats "want you, Congress, to give up any powers over voting an increase in the debt limit forever."
In reality, according to reporting from The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, the administration's proposal maintains a role for Congress in approving debt limit increases. The proposal would subject attempts by the president to raise the debt limit to a congressional vote. The president can veto a resolution denying the increase in borrowing authority, and Congress can still prevent the ceiling from rising by overriding the veto.
According to Klein, the proposal "could do more to protect our economy than anything else in the debt deal." That's because a fight over the debt limit, like the one that occurred in the summer of 2011, can have negative economic consequences even if the issue is resolved before the administration loses the ability to finance government spending.
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that that episode cost taxpayers nearly $19 billion in additional interest costs. If Congress doesn't allow the debt limit to rise, and the U.S. was unable to pay the interest on its debt, "financial markets would unravel and the U.S. and global economy would enter another severe recession," in the words of economist Mark Zandi.
From the November 25 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel claimed that President Obama has "moved the goalposts" by calling for ending the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of taxpayers -- despite the fact that Obama has advocated for that policy in both his 2012 and 2008 presidential campaigns.
On the November 18 edition of Fox News Sunday, Strassel criticized Obama for supposedly insisting that tax rates on upper-income taxpayers must rise to the level they were during the Clinton administration as part of a deficit reduction plan, stating, "The president has now moved the goalposts and said, 'Well, it isn't just revenue, it has to be a specific kind.' " When host Chris Wallace pointed out that Obama "did mention this once or twice during the campaign," Strassel responded, "Yeah, he did, except for the question is, are you going to stick on what you campaigned on, or are you going to find a compromise in the end?"
As Wallace correctly noted, Obama regularly advocated ending the Bush tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers during the campaign, which contradicts Strassel's assertion that Obama "moved the goalposts." A July 9 USA Today article, for instance, reported that "In a White House ceremony, Obama said lower tax rates should end for Americans making more than $250,000 a year." Obama is continuing to advocate the same position: Politico reported on November 17 that Obama "repeated his call Saturday for Congress to extend the Bush-era middle-class tax cut without delay" and urged Congress not to "hold the middle class hostage while Congress debates tax cuts for the wealthy."
Obama, in fact, has been advocating the end of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy long before the 2012 campaign:
Further, contrary to Strassel's suggestion that Obama's continued advocacy for ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy precludes him from reaching "a compromise in the end," Obama has said he's "open to new ideas" if another solution achieves his goals. The Associated Press reported on November 14: "Asked if he viewed it as a deal-breaker if Republicans refused to allow the top tax rate to revert to 39 percent from the current 36 percent, [Obama] said, 'I just want to emphasize I am open to new ideas if the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, reduces our deficit.'"