Fox News falsely claimed an indictment filed against alleged Benghazi attacker Ahmed Abu Khattala proves the September 11, 2012, attack was not sparked by an anti-Muslim video. But Fox ignored the fact that Abu Khattala himself reportedly cited the video as his motivation for the attack.
On October 15, Fox & Friends reported that new charges against Abu Khattala allege that he "masterminded the pillage of ... documents, maps and computers, secret stuff" from the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi during the assault. Guest host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed these details prove Fox's longtime claim that the Benghazi attack was "a planned terrorist attack. Not a spontaneous outburst of some kind of video."
But in reality, planning theft of confidential information during the assault and targeting the U.S. outpost in response to an anti-Muslim video are not mutually exclusive. Abu Khattala reportedly "told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video." According to The New York Times:
On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy's walls -- images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world.
As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview a few days later, he pointedly declined to say whether an offensive online video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. "From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad," he said.
Despite Fox's claims, the latest indictment against Abu Khattala does not contradict this account. It is unspecific about the timeline, saying that "on or before" the night of the attack Abu Khattala told people that he "believed the [U.S] facility was actually being used to collect intelligence" and that he was "going to do something about the facility." It also reports that the theft of the documents did not take place during the first portion of the attack. Abu Khattala allegedly took part in the initial 9:45 p.m. assault that set fire to the compound, retreated, and then returned to the facility with other conspirators nearly two hours later to "plunder property from the Mission's office."
Fox News has been relentless in claiming that the attack had no connection to the inflammatory video, spending 478 segments attacking administration talking points that mentioned the connection -- though the myth continues to fall flat.
Conservative media are denying recent reports that sliding financial support has stalled research on infectious diseases and vaccine development, ignoring evidence that funding shortfalls have handicapped the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, told The Huffington Post on October 10 that "a decade of stagnant spending has 'slowed down' research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases." Conservative outlets pivoted off of Collins' statement to misleadingly claim that an overall increase in the CDC's budget proves that a lack of funding has not hindered research on and the response to diseases like the Ebola virus.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy said that the "CDC budget wasn't cut at all" and told viewers to "remember that money to [the CDC and the NIH] actually went up rather than got cut." On the October 13 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh similarly argued that "the CDC got plenty of money," including "significant budget increases."
But both the NIH and agencies inside the CDC have experienced funding problems over the past decade. As The Huffington Post pointed out, the NIH's purchasing power has dipped significantly:
NIH's purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency's budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion -- barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.
Fox News hosts stoked fears that the United States' ability to respond to Ebola may be weakened by the absence of a Surgeon General, a concern that whitewashes the network's history of smearing the pending Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Following CDC director Tom Frieden's October 13 statement that a Dallas nurse's contraction of Ebola requires hospitals to "rethink" infection control and "double down" on precautions, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy suggested that the administration's response to Ebola is suffering from a lack of leadership without a designated Surgeon General, arguing:
DOOCY: You would normally think that in something like this, the Surgeon General would be in charge, but right now at this point oddly, the United States of America does not have a Surgeon General. His nomination is tied up in politics.
Doocy's concern stands in contrast to Fox News' efforts to stall and politicize the Surgeon General nomination process earlier this year.
Fox personalities repeatedly worked to cast doubt on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination, questioning his strong qualifications and smearing him as "too political" for the job. In March, network host Brian Kilmeade alleged that Murthy "hasn't done much in his career yet," and argued that "you want to be impressed with" a Surgeon General nominee's resume.
Fox News ramped up its attempted character assassination of CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden with direct calls for his resignation, suggestions that he is uninformed on the spread of infectious disease, and a comparison of the public servant to Saddam Hussein's one-time propaganda minister.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Laura Ingraham attacked Dr. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for his handling of public relations in the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola contraction in the United States. Ingraham assailed Director Frieden, claiming that he "is on the verge of becoming the Baghdad Bob of the health care community," and claimed that he seems less like a health care professional and more like a member of "the Obama spin room." Co-host Brian Kilmeade joined the attack, claiming the Frieden talks to the public "like children" before promoting the idea of appointing former Republican Senator Bill Frist to run the United States' Ebola response:
Ingraham's use of "Baghdad Bob" is an allusion to former Ba'ath Party spokesperson and Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf, who gained international notoriety in 2003 for repeated and obviously false claims that American troops were being rolled back by the defensive forces of Saddam Hussein's regime.
After spending much of 2009 complaining that President Obama's appointment of "czars" was akin to the crowning of monarchs and Russian practices, Fox & Friends is now calling for the appointment of an Ebola Virus czar.
Fox host Steve Doocy responded to news of the first Ebola diagnosis contracted within the U.S. by calling for an "official Ebola czar" on the October 13 edition of Fox & Friends, echoing the demand of Republican Sen. John McCain. According to Doocy, "We probably need one" because Obama isn't doing enough to fight the virus:
DOOCY: So every time there's an incident like this, you see Thomas Frieden, the guy who heads up CDC, but is he the official -- there he is right there -- Is he the official Ebola czar? We probably need one, because the president isn't, you know, he's not --
KILMEADE: Sen. McCaul is calling for one.
DOOCY: Absolutely. So with all this bad news --
KILMEADE: Congressman McCaul.
DOOCY: Where was the President of the United States over the weekend? Right after he talked to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he went golfing.
But the Fox program has a long history of mocking previous Obama administration czars.
In 2009, then-host Gretchen Carlson mocked the term and alleged, "You know when I looked up 'czar' in the dictionary, or Googled it, the word that came up was 'king.' And I was wondering to myself, why we are having so many czars/kings now in America?" Doocy added, "When you think about it, 'czar' is a Russian word." Fox then aired an altered graphic of Obama's cabinet members in Russian czar attire displaying the question, "And Now We're Russia?" Doocy went on to compare administration cabinet members to Russian monarchs:
The same year, Carlson asked whether czars in the Obama administration were "just friends of Obama who need work or payback a favor?", while Kilmeade previously questioned whether the appointment of a czar was evidence "of a new culture of corruption."
A Nebraska school district superintendent responded to Fox News' inaccurate reporting about the district's recommendations for accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students.
On October 9, Fox News ran several segments attacking the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district for distributing informational materials aimed at helping teachers better accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included recommendations that teachers stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered phrases like "ladies and gentlemen" when referring to students. Instead, teachers could use phrases like "campers," "readers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson falsely accused the school district of "banning" the use of gendered language, and a Fox News report echoed the claims of one parent who believes the school district was using "taxpayer dollars" to promote a gender-neutral agenda.
Following Fox News' inaccurate reporting, LPS Superintendent Steve Joel announced a press conference to discuss the training materials, according to the Lincoln Journal Star:
At the press conference, Joel aimed "to set the record straight" and correct the "recent confusion and misinformation" caused by inaccurate reporting about the training materials. From Watchdog.org:
[A]fter three FOX News shows derided Lincoln Public Schools' gender sensitivity training on Thursday, the superintendent called a press conference, and with his school board seated behind him, clarified what happened without backing down.
"Our teachers are allowed to use boys and girls in the classroom, and they do so in schools every day across the community," he said in the message to parents. "We are telling our staff to be sensitive to the needs of all students, and those with gender identity issues are particularly vulnerable to bullying and suicide."
During his press conference, Joel called it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school district has had to waste so much time and energy answering questions and fielding calls about the training on gender inclusiveness used during summer teacher training at Irving Middle School, and possibly other LPS schools.
Fox News is drawing sweeping and unsupported conclusions to accuse the White House of covering up a volunteer's role in a 2012 Secret Service prostitution controversy. Fox's "bombshell" claims are undermined by the fact that it has long been known that a White House volunteer was implicated in the controversy, and by the fact that a bipartisan Senate committee did not substantiate allegations that the White House tampered with an independent investigation into the controversy for political reasons.
Fox News hyped a Watchdog.org study purporting to show Colorado recipients of government assistance programs accessed the government funds from exotic, out-of-state locations, suggesting the recipients were on lavish vacations. But Fox's report failed to mention that the study found only two percent of withdrawals were made outside of Colorado.
An October 6 Watchdog.org report found that $3.8 million was withdrawn by Colorado recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), commonly referred to as "welfare," outside the state in the past two years. The study cited some of the more "exotic" places where these withdrawals had occurred, such as Las Vegas, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.
Fox hyped the study on the October 8 edition of Fox and Friends. Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck interviewed Colorado State Representative Tim Dore (R) about the report, asking him how he plans to "specifically stop this spending of hard-earned tax dollars on vacation spots and strip clubs?"
Later, Special Report host Bret Baier covered the study claiming "your tax dollars are helping welfare recipients enjoy vacations at some very exotic destinations."
But Fox's coverage failed to note that Watchdog.org's study found that out-of-state withdrawals represented just 2 percent of Colorado program recipients' ATM withdrawals, and only 1.7 percent of withdrawals outside states bordering Colorado. The purported abuse is even more absurd for the specific destinations Fox highlighted: the $6,451 withdrawn in Hawaii, for example, represents 0.003 percent of the $170 million total.
Fox has a history of hyping misleading stories to demonize government assistance. Last month, Fox & Friends falsely claimed that TANF money in Colorado was being used to buy marijuana, leading to the passage of two pieces of legislation in the United States House of Representatives.
Fox News used doctored video of an interview with President Obama to claim his description of briefings he received on the night of the Benghazi attack contrasts with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's. In reality, their accounts are consistent.
Panetta discussed the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi during a September 7 interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. The Factor -- and subsequently the October 8 edition of Fox & Friends -- exploited the interview to revive the debunked claim that Obama didn't describe the Benghazi attacks as terrorism and conclude "the administration did not want to talk about terror." To make their point, each program featured a clip of the president's interview with O'Reilly in February in which the Fox host asked the president about the "terror" designation. The clip egregiously omits Obama's response to the dialogue, in which the president explicitly says, "When somebody is attacking our compound ... that's an act of terror, which is how I characterized it the day after it happened."
Here's a more complete transcript of the the February 2 interview [omitted portion in bold]:
O'REILLY: Did he tell you, Secretary Panetta, it was a terrorist attack?
OBAMA: You know what he told me was that there was an attack on our compound...
O'REILLY: He didn't tell you [...] he didn't use the word "terror?"
OBAMA: You know, in -- in the heat of the moment, Bill, what folks are focused on is what's happening on the ground, do we have eyes on it, how can we make sure our folks are secure...
O'REILLY: Because I just want to get this on the record...
OBAMA: So, I...
O'REILLY: -- did he tell you it was a terror attack?
OBAMA: Bill -- and what I'm -- I'm answering your question. What he said to me was, we've got an attack on our compound. We don't know yet...
O'REILLY: No terror attack?
OBAMA: -- we don't know yet who's doing it. Understand, by definition, Bill, when somebody is attacking our compound...
OBAMA: -- that's an act of terror, which is how I characterized it the day after it happened.
Fox has spent more than two years and 244 segments propping up baseless allegations that the White House engaged in a Benghazi "cover-up" with accusations that the administration waited weeks to admit to the attacks were "terror" or a "terrorist act," though in reality, Obama called the Benghazi attack an "act of terror" during his Rose Garden speech on September 12, the morning after the attacks and repeated the reference twice the next day, during speeches in Colorado and Nevada.
From the October 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media are attacking actor Ben Affleck for comments he made objecting to disparaging generalizations about Islam during a heated exchange with HBO host Bill Maher, using their dialogue as ammunition to continue claiming that the religion has a unique connection to extremism and that Muslims have not done enough to root out religious zealotry.
Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. suggested that the government was at fault for the shortage of ZMapp, an experimental Ebola treatment yet to be approved for widespread public use, and slammed the first U.S. diagnosis of an Ebola patient as a "poor example of federal government intervention." But in truth, the government has "set records" in approving drugs to address Ebola outbreaks and has provided crucial funding for research and development.
On the October 7 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy and Johnson discussed why there is a current shortage of ZMapp, suggesting that a reliance on federal grants by the pharmaceutical company who produced the medication may be to blame for the shortage. Johnson faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Preventation (CDC) for not having the capacity to produce more of the drug and slammed the fact that ZMAPP has been "supported by federal grants only." He went on to suggest that if the government is "not doing the job they should be doing," perhaps they should be "stepping out of the way and let private industry do it":
But Johnson ignored the fact that the federal government has greatly sped up the drug approval process in order to address the public health threat posed by Ebola. According to an October 6 article from The Hill, the FDA recently approved the use of two experimental drugs that treat Ebola -- an act that "set agency records" for a process that "typically takes years."
The reason ZMapp shortages have occurred is not due to government failure, as suggested by the Fox figures. As ZMapp manufacturer Mapp Biopharmaceautical noted, the drug's production has been slow because "Ebola is a relatively recently discovered disease with sporadic outbreaks," and "most new drugs take a decade or more of development work prior to commercialization."
Long production times are also at fault for the shortage of ZMapp. An October 5 article from CBS News explained that the drug is made from a special "biologically-engineered tobacco" that takes some time to grow:
Making more ZMapp takes a long time because the drug is made from a certain type of biologically-engineered tobacco that's currently being grown at Kentucky BioProcessing, in Owensboro, Kentucky. "It takes time for tobacco to grow; it's a certain kind of tobacco," said Turner. "It's very special, and has been carefully developed to produce authentic human proteins faithfully." He declined to estimate how much longer it would take, or how big the supply would be. Turner added that his team is currently reviewing other ways they could feasibly produce the drug at a faster rate.
Fox News misrepresented the latest news about a controversy over the Advanced Placement (AP) history curriculum in Jefferson County, Colorado, falsely portraying a vote by the county's school board as a decision to "mak[e] history courses more patriotic." In fact, the board voted to change the way the school district reviews its curricula, but it did not adopt the supposedly "patriotic" changes to the AP history curriculum, which Fox has been promoting.
Hundreds of Jefferson County high school students have walked out of class over the past few weeks in response to the proposed changes to the AP history curriculum. The original resolution, introduced by school board member Julie Williams, "stated that AP history classes should promote 'patriotism and ... the benefits of the free-enterprise system' and should not 'encourage or condone civil disorder.'"
Fox News has reported on this story several times, including hosting Ken Witt, the conservative president of the school board, to scapegoat teachers unions for supposedly "using students" as "political pawns," despite a statement to the contrary by the president of the local teachers union. Fox host Gretchen Carlson even told students "that if they 'don't like it here,' then they should just 'get out.'" Fox's disapproval of these protests stands in stark contrast to the network's previous lauding of students who stood up against things like healthy school lunches and rules regarding religious texts.
On the October 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Heather Nauert reported on the Jefferson County school board meeting the night before, claiming that the board "voted 3-2 in favor of making history courses more patriotic" while an on-screen graphic read "A Win For Patriotism":
NAUERT: The controversial history plan that sparked massive protests in Colorado still alive this morning despite students, parents, and teachers protesting for days. The Jefferson County School Board voted 3-2 in favor of making history courses more patriotic. There was a bit of a compromise, though. The board will let students and teachers get more involved in that process. [emphasis added]
Nauert's report, however, is misleading. Though she is correct that the vote allows for input from students and teachers, according to reporting from local TV station KUSA and the Associated Press, the board in fact voted 3-2 "to revise procedures for reviewing curriculum but did not specifically approve a review of AP U.S. History." The report continued:
Ultimately the board adopted a compromise proposal penned by Superintendent Dan McMinimee to revise current review procedures to include students, teachers and other community members. But the committee that was approved is not course-specific and has not been charged at this point with reviewing AP U.S. History, according to Marlene Desmond with Jeffco Public Schools.
While another Associated Press report acknowledged that Williams "refused a call to withdraw her original proposal," The Washington Post emphasized that "it's not immediately clear whether the committee will review the history course, only that the meetings must be held in public." In addition, NPR reported that after two weeks of protest in the county, "the original language about patriotism was dropped," though "the resolution still calls for a committee to review course materials."
Meanwhile, FoxNews.com published an Associated Press story that also described the events accurately.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News is continuing their campaign to rehabilitate the legacy of former President George W. Bush by falsely claiming that he predicted the rise of the Islamic State in 2007 speech. But Bush's speech was merely to garner support for the 2007 surge against al Qaeda in Iraq.
During an October 2 interview on Fox Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade spoke with Bush about the pull out of American forces in Iraq and the subsequent rise of the Islamic State. Kilmeade suggested that Bush predicted the rise of the Islamic State and asked the former president "How did you know" that "we needed a surge" in order to prevent an occurrence like this?
Kilmeade also asked Bush whether he agreed with Gen. Martin Dempsey's assessment that Obama should have left a residual military force in Iraq. And though Bush acknowledged that having a former president "second guessing" is not "good for the presidency or the country," he said that he agreed with Dempsey's assessment.
Later that day, on The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson parroted the idea that Bush predicted the rise of the Islamic State claiming that "some of what he says has happened," adding that Bush was "exactly right":