Fox News continued to push for a special prosecutor following reports that the White House chief counsel knew of an IRS investigation but did not inform the president, a claim that ignores the legal and political problems raised by involving a president in an ongoing investigation.
On Fox News' Happening Now, contributor Nina Easton reported that White House chief counsel Kathryn Ruemmler knew about the investigation into claims that the IRS delayed approval of nonprofit status to conservative groups. After host Jon Scott asked why Ruemmler would know about the investigation and not inform Obama, Easton claimed a special prosecutor should be assigned to find out if the White House was being dishonest about when the president had been informed.
EASTON: I think this all feeds Senator Rob Portman's call this weekend for the need for a special counsel.
A special counsel could be bad news for the administration because whenever a special counsel gets into a situation, it becomes not only "who knew what when," but "are you providing a truthful rendering of events that have occurred?"
But Easton's call for a special prosecutor ignores the actual reason the president was not informed- to avoid the appearance of influencing an independent investigation. The Wall Street Journal quoted two former White House officials who pointed out that the White House counsel made the right decision to allow the investigation to conclude before informing the president:
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was notified in a March 2013 meeting with the Treasury inspector general for the IRS that an audit was "forthcoming," according to the Treasury Department. But at that meeting, the inspector general didn't provide details of his findings, the Treasury said.
Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel under former President Bill Clinton, said Ms. Ruemmler's office acted correctly in not sharing the information directly with the president.
If she had instead gotten "involved and called people over to the White House for a full briefing to know all the details, you know what we'd be talking about now? We'd be talking about whether she had tried to interfere with the IG's investigation," Mr. Quinn said.
John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under Mr. Clinton, said: "The worst thing is if you do anything that is perceived to be interfering with an independent investigation" especially if it isn't fully complete. "That gets you in such trouble your head spins."
Fox News is apparently desperate for a scandal over President Obama's handling of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups, especially now that the network's campaign to embroil the president in scandal over his response to the Benghazi attacks is falling apart. Fox has gone from ignoring Obama's swift responses to the IRS's actions to downplaying the significance of his firing the IRS's acting commissioner, each time distorting reality in order to call for a special prosecutor.
The release of over 100 pages of inter-agency emails obtained by CNN have threatened to derail months of right-wing scandal-mongering over the administration's response to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The emails appear to counter the conservative narrative that the State Department altered Benghazi-related talking points for political reasons. As Fox News' desperate attempts to resurrect the waning scandal fall flat, Fox pundits have resorted to criticizing the president's handling of the IRS controversy instead.
Fox kicked off its criticism by deciding Obama's initial condemnation of the IRS's actions as "outrageous" was too weak. When the president first addressed concerns over this story at a press conference on Monday, May 13, he asserted, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable." America Live host Megyn Kelly covered his remarks by wondering, "Does the president understate it when he calls this, 'outrageous'?"
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama released a statement on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable. This time, Fox simply pretended Obama made no such statement and continued to attack his remarks from two days prior, all while arguing that a special prosecutor was needed given Obama's supposed inaction.
By Thursday, Fox was fumbling over how to handle the fact that Obama had fired Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions. In the morning, America's Newsroom chose the route of merely ignoring that anyone had been fired so that host Martha MacCallum could declare, "[Obama] could be the big person. He could say, 'This stinks. You're all fired. This doesn't happen in America.' He has every ability in his position right now to take the high road. Why not? Why not do it?"
When the network finally acknowledged that Miller had been forced to resign, it did so by attempting to downplay the decision. Anchor Bret Baier questioned the action on Happening Now, claiming, "He was ready to leave, despite the fact -- I mean, before any of this already happened. He was acting commissioner and was set to leave the IRS. So that's a question for the White House; that's a question for the president. You know, was this guy fired when he was going to leave anyway?"
Fox News is desperate.
The Roger Ailes scandal machine, watching its Benghazi witch hunt crumble all around it, is now trying to stoke outrage that President Obama downplayed the tragedy in Benghazi and insulted the survivors by calling it an "incident" during his May 16 comments to the press.
Here's Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett on the May 16 Happening Now reacting to comments Obama made on the Benghazi tragedy:
He referred to Benghazi as an incident, which I'm sure is an insult to the survivors and the family members of the four murdered Americans.
Got that? Obama, whom Fox figures have accused of letting Americans die for political gain, now stands accused of insulting the survivors by downgrading the tragedy to an "incident."
Except Obama also called Benghazi a tragedy in the very speech that triggered Jarrett's outrage:
We lost four brave Americans, patriots who accepted the risks that come with service because they know that their contributions are vital to our national interests and national security. I am intent on making sure that we do everything we can to prevent another tragedy like this from happening.
But that means we owe it to them and all who serve to do everything in our power to protect our personnel serving overseas. That's why at my direction we've been taking a series of steps that were recommended by the review board after the incident.
It is a fitting coda to Fox's months-long scandal mongering over the tragedy in Benghazi. Jarrett is deceptively attacking the president over comments he made in the Rose Garden, the very spot where Obama first labeled the attack an act of terror, comments that have been decontextualized and parsed endlessly to help promote the entire pseudo-scandal.
Fox's desperate attempt to breathe life back into the "scandal" comes days after the network's scandal machine began a campaign to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the president. This is how the voice of the opposition works. Turning Benghazi into Obama's Watergate is central to the Fox goal of bringing down the administration.
Which is why Fox is desperate to keep it going.
Fox News and Fox Business previously portrayed electric carmaker Tesla Motors as another "failure" of the Obama administration's green energy investments. But since it is now clear that the company is doing well, both networks have developed amnesia about its federal loan, with Tucker Carlson claiming that "they don't take any government subsidies at all."
Tesla recently reiterated its plans to repay a loan granted through the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program ahead of schedule. This followed a series of positive developments, including the company's first quarterly profits and a shining review of the Model S sedan by Consumer Reports. Financial services firm Morgan Stanley recently told Raw Story that "Many funds approach an investment opportunity by first asking: does the company do something better or cheaper than anybody else? Tesla is beginning to convince the market it may do both."
But no matter how Tesla fares in the coming years, it seems likely that Fox News will change its reporting to follow suit. In 2012, Fox News' claim that Tesla was a "failed" company was eventually adopted by the campaign of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Later, Fox News admitted Tesla was a "success", eventually forgetting its federal loan in the process.
Video created by Max Greenberg and John Kerr.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier complained that President Obama's description of his administration's response to attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya attempted to rewrite history. On May 13, Obama recalled how he had previously described the attacks in the context of terrorism. Baier argued that if Obama's comments were laid out in a video timeline, "it doesn't match up to what he said today" -- but a video timeline produced by Media Matters illustrates the opposite.
Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint press conference on May 13, where Obama was asked about his administration's response to the attacks on our U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama pointed out that he had explicitly deemed it an "act of terror" while speaking in the Rose Garden the day after the attack. He noted how, "What we have been very clear about throughout that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were."
Baier appeared on Happening Now after Obama's press conference, where he stated, "Let me say one thing about [Obama's] timeline on talking about terror." Baier suggested that if you "set that aside" Obama's remarks in the Rose Garden - where he called Benghazi an "act of terror" - then Obama has avoided referring to Benghazi as such. Baier went on, "If you just lay it out in a timeline, what the president said and what he was asked about it, it doesn't match up to what he said today."
Media Matters indulged Baier's request for a video timeline, which reveals that Obama both called the Benghazi attacks an act of terror while emphasizing that an investigation was ongoing, just as the president said today:
Fox has misrepresented Obama's statements on whether the Benghazi attacks constitute an act of terror for the last eight months, often ignoring his remarks entirely or bizarrely claiming Obama was referring the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, not the Benghazi attacks, when he spoke from the Rose Garden.
While reporting that weekly jobless claims have fallen to a five year low, Fox News' Jenna Lee said that, "much of the job growth has come from fewer layoffs, not increased hiring, which begs the question whether it is real job growth at all." While Lee implied an inverse relationship between jobless claims and job growth, the U.S. Labor Department's first time unemployment claims report is only an indicator of layoffs, not job growth. In fact, the April jobs report showed that 165,000 jobs were added to the economy and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent - the lowest since December 2008.
On the May 9 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jenna Lee reported on the weekly initial jobless claims report issued by the Labor Department. Lee acknowledged that the numbers were encouraging but then erroneously framed the report as an indicator of slowed job growth, questioning "whether it is real job growth at all."
Lee's question implied an inverse relationship between the job growth and initial jobless claims report, which is a weekly report that tracks the number of Americans who apply for unemployment benefits. Jobless claims don't measure job growth, as Lee implies. The data are only a proxy for layoffs and necessarily do not measure job growth - if someone does not get laid off, that's a job maintained, not created. Contrary to Lee's suggestion, Bloomberg reported that, "Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates."
Lee questioned "whether it is real job growth at all." According to the report that actually tracks job growth, employers added 165,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent -- the lowest it has been since December 2008. Private sector job growth has consistently risen since 2009:
But Fox News recently attacked that report, too. Their coverage was largely negative, despite the fact that economists generally agree that the report shows positive gains in the labor market.
Fox News devoted significantly more airtime to the Heritage Foundation's claims that providing legal status to undocumented immigrants will have negative fiscal impact, but mostly ignored pro-immigration rallies during the same period.
Fox News is launching a new round of smears against the Obama administration over the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, using old, long-debunked falsehoods as ammunition.
The day after the Benghazi attack, on September 12, President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden about Benghazi, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America." Obama referred to Benghazi twice more as an "act of terror" on September 13, two days after the attack.
But Fox spent months pretending Obama never labeled Benghazi as an act of terror, omitting his statements in video montages, and claiming that Obama was referencing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks instead. Fox so successfully omitted Obama's words that even presidential candidate Mitt Romney believed Obama delayed calling Benghazi an "act of terror."
Fox also conducted a witch-hunt against United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who appeared on five Sunday news shows on September 16 and reported that the intelligence community's best current assessment of the attack was that a small number of extremists appeared to have taken advantage of a larger protest at the compound over an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. Fox twisted Rice's remarks and accused her of altering the intelligence community's original talking points in order to cover up its belief that Al Qaeda played a role in the attack. In reality, as The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes inadvertently pointed out, the CIA's original talking points draft read that a spontaneous protest in Benghazi evolved into the consulate attack, just as Rice reported.
Eight months later, Fox is back to parroting these same untruths to reprise their Benghazi smear campaign.
On May 6's Happening Now, host Jon Scott spoke with anchor Bret Baier about upcoming congressional hearings on Benghazi. Fox again ignored Obama's declaration that Benghazi was an "act of terror," airing this graphic during Baier's interview:
Fox News' coverage of the April unemployment report was largely negative, despite the fact that economists largely agree that the report shows positive gains in the labor market.
Fox News host Jon Scott identified all retirees as those "who could be working" in order to disparage the labor force participation rate from April's positive jobs report.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) May 3 jobs report determined that the economy added 165,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate fell from 7.6 to 7.5 percent. BLS also reported that the labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 63.3 percent.
On Happening Now, Scott wondered of the labor force participation: "So, if this participation rate is at 63 percent, that leaves, what? Thirty-seven percent of the country who could be working, not working?" Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office under President George W. Bush, responded, "Yeah. If you look at the ratio of the number of people in the United States who are working, to the number in the United States, that's a low number. We're not taking advantage of the skills of our population."
BLS determines the unemployment rate after conducting the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample of approximately 60,000 households where people are asked about the labor force status of household members.
The labor force participation rate that Scott referenced is the percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population who identified as either employed or actively looking for work. But here's where he dropped the ball -- the civilian noninstitutional population, as BLS defines it, includes all people 16 years of age and older, who are neither institutionalized (in a penal or mental institution) nor active duty military. So the 37 percent of people who self-identified as "not in the labor force" includes retirees and stay-at-home spouses, not generally groups "who could be working" or want to work.
Holtz-Eakin's claim was even more extreme, comparing the civilian labor force to the total population of the nation, which of course includes children.
Over the objections of their own legal experts, right-wing media continue to argue the alleged Boston bomber should be denied constitutional rights unlike the hundreds of terrorists before him who have been successfully tried and convicted.
Prominent right-wing media figures have advocated a wide range of unconstitutional treatment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old U.S. citizen accused of complicity in the Boston marathon bombing and subsequent murder of a police officer. Echoing GOP politicians from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), right-wing media have called for Tsarnaev to be denied the constitutional protections regularly given to domestic or foreign terrorists in this country, both before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Fox News hosts have suggested using torture on Tsarnaev because not all American citizens are "worthy of the constitutional rights that we have." The Wall Street Journal joined the dangerous clamor (fueled by Graham and Bachman) to indefinitely detain Tsarnaev in military custody as an "enemy combatant." Conservative pundit Ann Coulter told Fox's Sean Hannity she wanted authorities to "shoot up the boat" when they found Tsarnaev unarmed and "get him an automatic death penalty there."
When the Department of Justice initiated criminal proceedings against Tsarnaev, right-wing media turned their ire upon Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for not preventing the federal judge from following the law. National Review Online's John Yoo accused the president of the "elevation of ideology over national security." Fox host Megyn Kelly continues to pretend "the public safety exception to Miranda lasts only 48 hours." A Washington Times columnist called for President Obama's impeachment because he is "unwilling" to protect America.
In recent weeks, Fox News has admitted that electric carmaker Tesla Motors is a "success story" -- but now the network suddenly has amnesia about the federal assistance that helped it succeed.
On Friday, Fox News anchor Jon Scott hosted Wall Street Journal automotive industry reporter Joseph White to discuss Fisker, an electric carmaker beset by financial troubles after receiving support from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Scott suggested Fisker is representative of the DOE's loan guarantee program, adding: "Meantime, there's another company, Tesla, smaller company, did not get a government loan as far as I'm aware ... Tesla seems to be making a go of it so far."
White quickly corrected Scott, pointing out that Tesla actually received the same type of government loan guarantee that Fisker did. Indeed, Fox News previously used government assistance for Tesla as an example of supposedly "Failed Green Energy Policies," a characterization then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney later echoed.
However, recent events have forced even Fox News to admit that Tesla is a "success story." Tesla's Model S electric sedan was named car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend and is en route to exceeding corporate sales goals. The company has also announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early.
UPDATE (4/26/13): When covering a negative review of Tesla's car, however, Jon Scott did remember that Tesla was government-funded, stating in February 2013, "we are all sort of co-owners of Tesla -- that company got hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as part of the president's, you know, green energy thing":
The Associated Press is making an unsupported claim that the Obama administration knew electric automaker Fisker was missing milestones required for its loan guarantee well before it froze the loan in mid-2011 by taking newly obtained documents out of context.
The AP article, published the day of a House hearing on the loan guarantee granted to the troubled company, appears to be based on what a Department of Energy official characterized in an email to Media Matters as "selectively released" documents from Republican politicians leading that hearing.
The article's lede claims that the documents "show that the Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the loan." However, neither of the documents it cites substantiates that claim.
The first document was an internal email speculating that Fisker could miss a milestone that it met five days later, as AP noted six paragraphs in:
Aoife McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said the June 2010 email was taken out of context.
"The document shows that one person at a meeting discussed the possibility that Fisker might not meet a financial commitment" required by the Energy Department, McCarthy said in an email late Tuesday. DOE received the needed certification five days later and subsequently made the loan payment, she said.
The second document is from April 2010 -- before the loan agreement had even been officially closed -- and thus before milestones had kicked in, as a DOE official explained in an email to Media Matters (emphasis added):
Fox News played a portion of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) speech at Howard University where he claimed "I have never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act" without noting his long history of controversial statements regarding the anti-discrimination law.
During a recent visit to Howard University, a historically black college, Paul claimed that "no Republican questions or disputes civil rights" and that he has "never wavered in his support of civil rights or the Civil Rights Act." Fox News aired Paul's claim and reported on his visit as "an effort to reach out to the youth and minority vote" and added that the senator urged the students to be open "to the Republican message":
But Fox ignored Paul's previous comments on the Civil Rights Act that contradict his statement to Howard students. Paul has been asked on several occasions about his stance on the Civil Rights Act, where he answered "I abhor racism... but at the same time I do believe in private ownership." The Washington Post reported that in a 2002 letter to the editor to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul claimed a "free society" should allow "hate-filled" groups to discriminate based on race. From the article:
Breitbart.com and National Review Online (NRO) are using today's Equal Pay Day holiday to misinform about gender wage inequality. Right-wing media have routinely downplayed and obscured legitimate concerns about wage inequality.
Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. According to a White House proclamation released on Equal Pay Day in 2012, "National Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day's pay for an equal day's work."
Breitbart.com and NRO both posted a video today that claims the gender wage gap is a myth, positing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video comes from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."
Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that "in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent." According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. The claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has also been debunked, mostly recently in the AAUW's 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report.
Breitbart.com and NRO's misleading claims about gender wage inequality follow a long trend of right-wing media's misinformation on equal pay. Here are just a few examples since 2012: