Hosts of the network Sunday news shows treated Benghazi myths and facts with false equivalence, an approach that hides the truth about the tragedy.
The right-wing's manufactured hysteria over the release of new White House memos and the House GOP's announcement that it would form a special select committee brought the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya back into the spotlight on the May 4 Sunday news talk shows. The latest charge from conservative media is that a newly-released email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for the September 16, 2012 Sunday talk shows -- where she suggested that the terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests -- was part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
In a seeming effort to provide false balance between the facts and the myths, the network news hosts lent credence to evidence-free claims by their guests, giving them equal weight with the truth.
Media figures are comparing the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. This comparison ignores a crucial difference: Nobody has died because of problems with HealthCare.gov, whereas at least 1,833 people died as a result of Katrina.
The media have repeatedly referred to crises during the Obama administration as "Obama's Katrina."
The Republican National Committee voted this morning to ban NBC News and CNN from hosting GOP primary debates in 2016. On paper, the vote was to protest plans by NBC and CNN to produce, respectively, a miniseries and a documentary on Hillary Clinton. But there's a whole lot more undergirding this move to exclude these outlets from the Republican debates. The long-standing animus toward the "liberal media" among conservatives has morphed into outright paranoia, and it came to a head during the 2012 campaign when George Stephanopoulos asked a debate question about contraception.
Here's what happened. Rick Santorum talked about contraception a lot during his 2012 presidential campaign. He railed against "the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea" in an October 2011 interview with an evangelical blog. He told NBC's Today on December 29 that contraception "leads to lot of sexually transmitted diseases, it leads to a lot of unplanned pregnancies." On January 2, 2012, just a few days before participating in a Republican debate co-hosted by ABC News, Santorum was asked by then-ABC reporter Jake Tapper about his belief that states should be able to ban contraception. "The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that," Santorum said.
Then, at the ABC/Yahoo News debate on January 7, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Mitt Romney if he shared Santorum's belief "that states have the right to ban contraception." Romney responded: "George, this is an unusual topic that you're raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can't imagine a state banning contraception." Shortly afterward, all hell broke loose.
From all corners of the conservative media came accusations that George Stephanopoulos, in asking about contraception, had "coordinated" with Team Obama to lure the Republican candidates into some sort of trap on birth control. Much of the speculation was driven by Dick Morris, which should have been a pretty big red flag in terms of reliability. The theory rested on the assumption that the contraception issue just came out of nowhere, which, of course, is not true -- Santorum was asked about it just five days before the debate by one of Stephanopoulos' colleagues.
From the August 12 edition of ABC's This Week:
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On ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos repeated a mischaracterization of recent testimony from Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Stephanopoulos claimed that Chu was "asked whether or not the goal of U.S. policy was lower gas prices." After playing a clip of Chu's testimony, Stephanopoulos asked David Axelrod: "Is the secretary right? Are lower gas prices not the president's goal?"
In fact, in the testimony Stephanopoulos cited, Chu was not asked whether the goal of U.S. policy was lower gas and did not say that "lower prices [are] not the president's goal."
Stephanopoulos' mischaracterization of Chu's testimony echoes a February 28 Politico story, which falsely claimed Chu had testified that the objective of U.S. energy policy was to "wean [the] U.S. off oil, not lower prices." In reality, Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) asked Chu: "But is the overall goal to get our price --" Chu interjected: "No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil to -- to build and strengthen our economy and to decrease our dependency on oil." Nunnelee never finished his question, and the meaning of the question was ambiguous.
Indeed, based on the context of the testimony, there is good reason to believe that Chu thought Nunnelee was actually asking, "Is the overall goal to get our price up to European levels."
Politico updated their story four days later, changing the language it had used and acknowledging that the original version had "mischaracterized" Secretary Chu's testimony. By that time, Politico's error had been repeated by Fox News and throughout the media.
From the March 4 edition of ABC's This Week:
More goofy "media criticism" from Brent Bozell's team.
Here's the headline:
George Stephanopoulos Parrots Democratic Talking Points on New GOP Pledge: They're 'Repealing Health Care'
That seems like an odd beef, since Republicans have been quite vocal about wanting to repeal Obama's health care reform. So what's the problem here?
In a tease for the segment, he spun, "Republicans unveil their plan for America: Cutting taxes and repealing health care." It may seem like a small distinction but Republicans oppose the new law, not the concept of Americans having health care.
Ah, because Stephanopoulos, aping "talking points" we're told, said that the GOP wants to repeal "health care" and not "health care reform," Newsbusters thinks people might be misled into thinking the Republican Party now wants to eliminate all health care for Americans.
Ugh. Please make this type of "analysis" stop.
And oh yeah, here's now Stephanopoulos later addressed the topic:
The two central items in the agenda, are extending the tax cuts passed under President Bush. Repealing the health care law by President Obama.
From the September 14 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
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From the August 2 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
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After appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, Andrew Breitbart criticized host George Stephanopoulos, claiming that he had "sandbagged" Breitbart and fellow guest James O'Keefe, continuing a pattern of attacking hosts after appearing on their shows.
After failing to receive the coverage he'd hoped for, it seems that Andrew Breitbart is trying to promote his latest collaboration with James O'Keefe by attacking George Stephanopoulos. Breitbart appeared on the June 2 edition of The Glenn Beck Program and hammered Stephanopoulos' interview on ABC's Good Morning America, saying that Stephanopoulos "sandbagged us."
These are harsh words coming from Breitbart, considering 24 hours ago he posted a glowing article on Big Government titled ABC's George Stephanopoulos: A Profile In Media Courage. The contrast between Breitbart's opinions yesterday and today are striking:
Yesterday: "While most of the feedback email of the contentious segment is running negative against George Stephanopoulos for emphasizing long debunked and retracted smears and for using the word 'criminal' throughout the piece, what is missing is an acknowledgment of how courageous Stephanopoulos was to put O'Keefe and me on the air in the first place... Certainly, Stephanopoulos took the tack of the good partisan during the interview. But he allowed O'Keefe and me to refute his partisan talking points."
Today: "ABC News flew us in to launch the census stories, and George Stephanopoulos said 'hey, I want to interview these guys.' And the entire thing became about 'James O'Keefe racist, James O'Keefe racist. James O'Keefe criminal, James O'Keefe criminal.' And all of those things have been debunked. The racism stuff we debunked. He just went straight from the Media Matters/Huffington Post Narrative."
Breitbart said in his post yesterday that "the beauty of Stephanopoulos's launching the Census story is that it now gives James O'Keefe a higher media profile." It looks as though this first tactic didn't work out for the Breitbart/O'Keefe team, and now they're resorting to hypocrisy.
Earlier today we brought you news of the President's sit-down interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in which the Good Morning America co-host asked Obama to respond to Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's criticism that his policy is "kind of like getting out there on the playground...a bunch of kids ready to fight and one of the kids saying 'go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate,'" to which the President said the Palin is "not much of an expert on nuclear issues."
Prompted by criticism over bringing up Palin's opinion (who cares?), Stephanopoulos has spoken out. Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports:
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos is defending his decision to ask President Barack Obama to respond to Sarah Palin's criticism of his nuclear non-proliferation policy, after several observers questioned the point of bringing the former Alaska Governor into the discussion.
"Whatever [Washington Monthly's] Steve [Benen] thinks of Sarah Palin," he wrote, "she's a former VP candidate -- and potential challenger to President Obama -- with a strong following in the GOP. She made a pointed critique of a new Presidential policy. By asking the President for his response, I was doing my job."
Pointed critique? Riiiiiight. For the sake of repetition, here's the clip of Palin's criticism of Obama's nuclear policy that Stephanopoulos felt compelled to air for the President's response:
PALIN: You know, that's kind of like getting out there on the playground...a bunch of kids ready to fight and one of the kids saying, "go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate."
By that standard, I have several questions Stephanopoulos may want to consider asking Obama in their next interview from my ten year old nephew.
Asked by Stephanopoulos to respond to Palin's ummm enlightening criticism that his policy is "kind of like getting out there on the playground...a bunch of kids ready to fight and one of the kids saying 'go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate,'" the President said the Fox News contributor is "not much of an expert on nuclear issues."
Of course, it was only a matter of time before the former half-term Alaska Governor's Fox News colleagues sprang to her defense saying Obama wasn't acting "presidential." I guess we should just leave the hard hitting analysis to a trio of right-wing media hacks that act nothing like journalists:
Imagine what they would have said if Obama avoided the question and refused to discuss Palin entirely.
Palin really is like catnip to the media. Perhaps we can get someone in the White House press corps to lodge daily requests for comment with press secretary Robert Gibbs on the President's opinion of Palin's Facebook status updates.
Newsbuster Scott Whitlock reminds us once again that the reason conservatives don't like the media is simply that reporters aren't on the payroll of the Republican Party:
ABC's George Stephanopoulos Frets to McCain: Tax Cuts Will 'Increase the Deficit'
Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:00 ET
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos played defense for the White House on Tuesday. While talking with John McCain about Obama's 2010 proposals, he sounded annoyed that the Senator's ideas for job creation would include tax cuts: "But, those tax cuts are going to increase the deficit, aren't they, sir?"
Now, here's the actual exchange in question:
MCCAIN: Tax cuts. Payroll tax cuts. Giving more tax incentives and breaks to small businesses. Making sure that we do not raise taxes, which may happen if the present tax cuts lapse. There's a lot of things that we can do to- including, by the way, a path to some kind of fiscal sanity. Another $1.4 trillion-
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, those tax cuts are going to increase the deficit, aren't they, sir?
So, in a span of three sentences, John McCain called for both "tax cuts" and "fiscal sanity." Stephanopoulos asked the most obvious follow-up question in the world -- won't those tax cuts increase the deficit? And Newsbuster Scott Whitlock thinks this is Stephanopoulos "fret[ting]" and "play[ing] defense for the White House."
In response to McCain making two seemingly contradictory statements, Stephanopoulos did the only responsible thing a journalist could do -- he pressed his guest to reconcile those statements. And that bothers the Newsbusters crew. This is what they mean when they rant about the "liberal media": Journalists sometimes fail to ask "how high" when told by Republicans to jump.
From the November 22 edition of America's News HQ:
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From the November 22 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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