Happening Now

Tags ››› Happening Now
  • Fox Says "Controversy" Surrounding Trump's White Nationalist-Enabling Adviser Stephen Bannon Is That He Doesn't Like Paul Ryan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News featured a discussion with Special Report anchor Bret Baier about the "controversy" surrounding President-elect Donald Trump's pick for chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. Baier and Happening Now host Jon Scott covered Bannon's "call for Paul Ryan to be removed as speaker," but not Bannon's embrace of anti-Semitism and white nationalism.

    Baier characterized Bannon as "someone who, from the outside, … wanted to take down the Republican Party," and Scott noted that Bannon "called for ... the ouster of Paul Ryan." Baier added that Bannon "does come with a lot of controversy" and has "stoked real concerns, especially on the left." Their vague language obscures the reality of what makes Bannon so controversial. Under Bannon's tenure, Breitbart News ran multiple atrocious headlines such as "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew" and "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy." Bannon himself trumpeted Breitbart News as "the platform for the 'alt-right'," and Breitbart dutifully helped boost Trump's chances in the election. Furthermore, Bannon encouraged the Trump campaign to incorporate bigoted "alt-right" beliefs and policies into their platform, to the delight of white nationalists. But Baier and Scott found none of this "controversy" worth mentioning. From the November 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

    BRET BAIER: Steve Bannon is someone who, from the outside, wants to -- wanted to -- take down the Republican Party -- and made no bones about saying that. So you have the guy who embodies the Republican Party and the guy who wanted to take down the Republican Party working together inside the Trump White House.

    [...]

    JON SCOTT (CO-HOST): Stephen Bannon's title, chief strategist. … He has been a Navy officer, he was, as we mentioned, head of Breitbart News, he's been an investment banker for Goldman Sachs. But he also, as you pointed out, called for Paul Ryan's elim -- you know, stepping down, the ouster of Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus are very close, like this. It's an odd combination, sort of like President Lincoln's team of rivals. 

    BAIER: Well, that's right, and I think that the structure in the campaign seemed to work for the Trump campaign and that's why you put Bannon in there in this role to provide some cover from the Trump folks who would worry that he was automatically being absorbed into this establishment structure inside Washington. However, Priebus is right -- you need relationships up on Capitol Hill to get stuff across the finish line. There is an excitement on the Republican side that they are going to get a lot done, quickly, and it's going to tick down, and in order to do that orderly, you have to have some relationship on the inside and up on Capitol Hill.

    SCOTT: So if you've got a Republican-led House and Senate, nobody is going to be able to help you get legislation passed more quickly than the guy who up till now has headed the Republican National Committee. 

    BAIER: Exactly. And you’re going to have those inside conversations. He’s going to be able to say which trains come on the tracks, you know, get into the oval office -- that's the chief job of the chief of staff is who gets in to see the president. But Steve Bannon, much like David Axelrod in a strategist role inside the White House, not only puts you close to the president but also prevents, perhaps, him from running this movement on the outside to take down the Republican Party. Whether that was a serious thought of why he was chosen, we don't know. I will say this: He come with a lot of controversy, a lot of things he has said before, a lot of things that online has come out of Breitbart has really stoked some real concerns, especially on the left, and they'll have to deal with that as they get ready to take office January 20th.

  • Even Bret Baier Has Now Abandoned Bret Baier's Anonymously Sourced FBI Report

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    On November 2, days before the presidential election, Fox host Bret Baier cited two anonymous sources to issue three explosive claims: The FBI is currently engaged in a “very high priority” investigation of “possible pay-for-play interaction” between Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation that is uncovering an “avalanche” of evidence; the FBI believes with “99 percent accuracy” that Clinton’s private email server was hacked by at least five foreign intelligence services; and that these investigations “will continue to likely an indictment.”

    Today, Baier issued an apology that effectively walked back all three claims.

    Baier’s original reports were based on “two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation.” In the 24 hours following his initial claims, Fox gave the story more than two hours of airtime, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump trumpeted the story on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, several other networks debunked Baier’s reporting. But according to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, even if Fox’s reporting is wrong, “the damage is done to Hillary Clinton” and the facts don’t “change what’s in voters’ minds right now.”

    Below is a comparison of Baier’s original reports, his apology statement this morning, and reporting from other networks.

    The Clinton Foundation

    Baier’s Original Reporting

    Baier repeatedly hyped the magnitude of the Clinton Foundation investigation, calling it “a quote ‘very high priority’” and saying agents “had collected a great deal of evidence,” with “an avalanche of new information coming in every day.” He claimed that the investigation is “far more expansive than anybody has reported.”

    From the November 2 edition of Special Report:  

    The Clinton Foundation investigation is a quote "very high priority." Agents have interviewed and re-interviewed multiple people about the foundation case, and even before the WikiLeaks dumps, these sources said agents had collected a great deal of evidence. Pressed on that, one source said quote "a lot of it". And there's an avalanche of new information coming in every day -- some of it from WikiLeaks, some from new emails.

    The agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case. And they will be going back and interviewing the same people again -- some for the third time.

    Also from the November 2 edition of On the Record:

    BAIER: Here's the deal. We talked to two separate sources with intimate knowledge of what's going on with these FBI investigations. A couple of things, one, the Clinton Foundation investigation is far more expansive than anybody has reported, I think, so far.

    [...]

    Three, the Clinton Foundation investigation is so expansive they have interviewed and re-interviewed many people. They described the evidence that they have as quote “a lot of it.” And there is an avalanche coming every day with WikiLeaks and the new emails. They are quote "actively and aggressively pursuing this case."

    Baier’s Apology

    In his apology, Baier said only that the investigation into the Clinton Foundation is “continuing” and that it’s a priority “for those investigators working it.” He nonetheless claimed to “stand by the sourcing on the ongoing active Clinton Foundation investigation” and that Fox is  “working to get sources with knowledge of the details on the record.”

    Other Reporting

    ABC News reported that “there has been no change in posture” for the investigation since February, when “prosecutors and senior FBI officials agreed there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing, and that a criminal case tied to the Clinton Foundation could not be made.”

    NBC News’ Peter Williams reported that “FBI officials tell me there's been virtually no movement” on the Clinton Foundation inquiry “for the last several months.”

    The Clinton Email Server

    Baier’s Original Reporting

    Baier originally claimed that “we have learned that there is a confidence from these sources that her server had been hacked and that it was about a 99 percent accuracy that it had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies, and they believe that things had been taken from that.”

    Baier’s Apology

    In his apology, Baier admitted that “I was quoting from one source about his certainty that the server had been hacked by five foreign intelligence agencies. And while others believe that is probable because of the confirmed hacking of email accounts Secretary Clinton communicated with, as of today there are still no digital fingerprints of a breach no matter what the working assumption is within the bureau. All the time, but especially in heated a election on a topic this explosive, every word matters, no matter how well-sourced.”

    Other Reporting

    Williams reported that there is “no such view” of hacking at the FBI, which has “concluded they couldn't know for sure, but they found no positive proof of any successful hacks.”

    A Possible Indictment

    Baier’s Original Reporting

    In his On the Record appearance, Baier said that the “investigations will continue. There is a lot of evidence. And barring some obstruction in some way, they believe they will continue to likely an indictment.”

    Baier’s Apology

    In his apology, Baier said that his reference to a “likely” indictment was “a mistake” because “no one knows if there would or would not be an indictment no matter how strong investigators feel their evidence is. It is obviously a prosecutor who has to agree to take the case and make that case to a grand jury.”

    Other Reporting

    ABC News reported that the indictment claim was “inaccurate and without merit.” NBC’s Williams reported that “this idea that there are indictments near or something like that, I am told is just not true.” And according to CNN, Baier’s use of the word  indictment was “wrong” because “there is no evidence ​that any ​of the Fox ​stuff is true. That there is nothing close to an indictment. “

  • ABC News And NBC News Dispute Fox Anchor Baier’s “Inaccurate” Clinton Foundation Investigation Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    ABC News and NBC News are both disputing Fox News’ anonymously sourced report that there is an active, “very high priority” FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation which has collected “a great deal of evidence,” citing their own anonymous sources. Both ABC and NBC report that the investigation in question produced little evidence of wrongdoing and there have been no recent developments in the case.

    On November 2, days before the presidential election, Fox News’ Bret Baier cited two anonymous sources “with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation” to claim that the investigation “into possible pay-for-play interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foundation” is a “‘very high priority'” and that “agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case.” Baier said FBI agents “had collected a great deal of evidence” to suggest wrongdoing. The story has been trumpeted on Fox and in the conservative media and was highlighted during a November 3 speech by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  

    MSNBC anchor Kate Snow noted on November 3 that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “cited a Fox report” to allege that the FBI investigation “is likely to yield an indictment” and the Justice Department “is trying to protect” Clinton. Snow also reported, however, that “law enforcement officials tell NBC News” that “there have been no developments” in the Clinton Foundation case “for several months,” presumably because there is insufficient evidence for an indictment. From the November 3 edition of MSNBC Live:

    KATE SNOW (HOST): Let me ask you about something Donald Trump said just a couple of hours ago in Jacksonville, Florida. He went on kind of went on a rant against Hillary Clinton and the about the FBI. He cited a Fox report that said that Clinton might face indictment related to the Clinton Foundation; I just want to note that law enforcement officials tell NBC News that the FBI did take an initial look at the Clinton Foundation based on allegations that were made in the press, and a book that’s gotten some attention -- excuse me -- but that there have been no developments on that front in the last several months. That said, here’s what Donald Trump said:

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    DONALD TRUMP: The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment. But just remember, the system is rigged. Just remember that. And reports also show the political leadership at the Department of Justice is trying to protect Hillary Clinton and is trying to interfere with the FBI investigation

    [END VIDEO]

    ABC News’ sources similarly called the Fox report “inaccurate and without merit.” In a November 3 article, Matt Levine wrote that ABC News’ sources told him that in February, “prosecutors and senior FBI officials agreed there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing, and that a criminal case tied to the Clinton Foundation could not be made.” ABC further reported:

    Investigators and higher-ups have continued to discuss the matter, but there has been no change in posture, sources said. Authorities still believe there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and they do not believe there is a sufficient reason to pursue charges, according to the sources.

  • Fox’s Bret Baier Walks Back Flawed Reporting About “Likely” Clinton Indictment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ Bret Baier walked back his November 2 claim, which was based on two unnamed sources, that FBI investigations relating to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will “continue to likely an indictment.” On the November 3 edition of Fox’s Happening Now, Baier described his comments as “inartful,” acknowledging that “that’s not the process.” Baier’s uncritical reporting of anonymous, unvetted sources has been parroted by a stream of Fox hosts and correspondents, as well as right-wing blogs

    The Daily Beast has reported on a pipeline between conservative FBI agents (both active and retired) -- angered by FBI Director James Comey’s conclusion in July that there was insufficient evidence to recommend any indictment in the review of Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state -- and Fox News. According to The Daily Beast, “Trump supporters with strong ties to the agency kept talking about surprises and leaks to come -- and come they did.” From the November 3 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:

    MARTHA MACCALLUM (CO-HOST): The FBI sources that you spoke with suggest that an indictment is likely. That would prove -- go ahead.

    BRET BAIER: I want to be clear -- I want to be clear about this, and this was -- came from a Q and A that I did with Brit Hume after my show and after we went through everything. He asked me if, after the election, if Hillary Clinton wins, will this investigation continue, and I said, “yes absolutely.” I pressed the sources again and again what would happen. I got to the end of that and said, “they have a lot of evidence that would, likely lead to an indictment.” But that’s not, that’s inartfully answered. That’s not the process. That’s not how you do it. You have to have a prosecutor. If they don't move forward with a prosecutor with the DOJ, there would be, I'm told, a very public call for an independent prosecutor to move forward. There is confidence in the evidence, but for me to phrase it like I did, of course that got picked up everywhere, but the process is different than that.

  • Fox News Scandalizes Clinton Campaign For Their “Heads Up” About Publicly Available Information

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News is falsely claiming that a Justice Department official shared “inside information” with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to delegitimize the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server that found no grounds for prosecution. In fact, the information in question was publicly available.

    Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry claimed that there is “a possible conflict of interest in the FBI probe” into Clinton’s server Assistant U.S. Attorney General Peter Kadzik emailed Clinton campaign manager John Podesta in May 2015 -- in a stolen email WikiLeaks recently released -- to share “inside information” that the head of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice would testify before a House Judiciary Committee meeting, potentially about Clinton’s emails. Henry claimed that Kadzik was “trying to hide” his “heads up” from “public record” by sending it from Kadzik’s private email address to Podesta’s private address. From the November 2 edition of Happening Now:

    ED HENRY: You were just playing Donald Trump talking about Peter Kadzik. He's somebody who's the assistant attorney general -- big job at the Justice Department, overseeing congressional relations. He was part of informing Congress about the fact that this FBI probe was essentially back on, questions because of that dinner he had with John Podesta, the previous relationship representing him, and now WikiLeaks has a new email. This one as well from 2015, in which we see Kadzik giving what he called a “heads up” to John Podesta. 

    [...]

    So, look, this was someone who had inside information about what was going on. He's giving the Clinton campaign a heads up about the State Department emails. And guess what? He did not send it on his Justice Department email. That would have been a public record. He sent it from his Gmail to John Podesta's Gmail; the only way we know is because of WikiLeaks. But they were trying to hide this, Heather.

    But Henry’s suggestion of wrongdoing fails to note that information about the House hearing in question -- and all witnesses scheduled to testify, including the subject of Kadzik’s “heads up,” Benjamin Mizer of the Civil Division -- was publicly posted on House.gov, as the details about all public House hearings are. Bloomberg Politics’ Ben Brody noted that “Kadzik was alerting Podesta to public events” because “the Judiciary Committee held an open hearing that day, and a new filing in the court case” was made “a day earlier.”

    This is not the first time that Fox News has sought to create a scandal based on communications from Kadzik; Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy pushed the false conservative claim that Kadzik was “overseeing” the FBI’s email review when in fact, his responsibility is communicating with Congress about the investigation when appropriate. 

  • Fox Boosts Trump’s “Rigged Voting” Claims With Right-Wing Zombie Myth Of Vote Flipping

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News figures are hyping unverified stories of electronic voting machines allegedly switching voters’ votes for president amid cries from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of “large scale voter fraud.” In fact, “just about every voting technology expert” says voting machines are not rigged to flip votes, and instead “human error” and aging machines often lead to incorrect vote choices, which can be fixed. Conservatives hyped alleged vote flipping during the 2012 election as well.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Year-Old Story To Baselessly Claim Obama Lied About Clinton's Private Server

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media outlets have breathlessly scandalized a stolen email released by WikiLeaks showing President Obama received emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. These outlets claim the email proves Obama lied when he claimed to have learned about her private email server from news reports about it, even though the White House clarified over a year ago that while the president knew her email address, he did not know about the server.

  • Fox Cares About Equal Pay Only When It's Politically Advantageous

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News hyped the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks that show members of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign team discussing pay disparities at the Clinton Foundation, saying it’s proof that the foundation was “not paying women equally” and asserting that it shows “hypocrisy” from Clinton, who has fought for equal pay. But Fox’s claim doesn’t hold up, as “the statistical pool is too limited” to draw any conclusions on equal pay, according to PolitiFact. Fox has a pattern of hyping deceptive and false attacks on Democrats’ records with gender pay disparities, while at the same time dismissing the larger problems around gender pay inequality.