The day after Congress finally signed off on legislation that would end a weeks-long government shutdown and prevent a debt ceiling crisis, Fox News sent a correspondent to the White House to shift the conversation to the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen devoted nearly ten minutes of the October 17 White House press briefing to questioning Press Secretary Jay Carney about the federal government's response to the Benghazi attacks.
As Mediaite's Tommy Christopher noted, at one point during the exchange Carney accused Rosen of "creating an exchange here for Fox." The network has been a central force in the right-wing media's effort to use phony conspiracy theories and blatant falsehoods about Benghazi to smear President Obama and members of his administration.
Rosen's line of questioning concerned questions raised by House Republicans at a week-old House Armed Services subcommittee hearing about a September 10, 2012, White House press office release detailing a meeting Obama had with key national security officials to ensure that steps were being taken to ensure the protection of U.S. personnel and assets on the September 11 anniversary. Rosen asked Carney "how closely vetted" the 13-month-old press release was and for more information about the meeting.
Later in the exchange, Rosen said that "the posturing of the military in a volatile time around the world" at the time of the Benghazi attacks "was so poor as to make rescue or remedy impossible." After Carney suggested that "the 'poor' statement is a reflection of an assessment made by Republicans who have, as you know, attempted, unfortunately, to make this a partisan issue," Rosen replied that "the fact that the posturing was such that it made remedy or rescue in that situation impossible is not a conclusion solely of the House Armed Services Committee or of Republicans, it is a self-evident fact."
Rosen's comments is consistent with the "cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces" that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ascribed to conservatives who claim that the Obama administration should have been able to send additional support to the aid of Americans in Benghazi. "The one thing our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way," Gates said in May, "and there just wasn't time."
Similarly, during a September hearing, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, a co-chairman of the State Department Accountability Review Board that examined the attack, explained that he had reviewed the force posture of the U.S. military and the "military did everything they possibly could that night. They just couldn't get there in time." Mullen's co-chair Ambassador Thomas Pickering added that America has "over 270 consulates and embassies around the world in some very isolated and strange places" and "we are not able to count on the U.S. military, as Admiral Mullen said, always being positioned to come in short notice to deal with those issues."
Rosen ended the exchange by asking whether the administration would "be willing to make any of those documents associated with that press release available, as you did with the Susan Rice talking points?" Carney replied "James, I think we're done here," and exited the briefing room.
Fox News' James Rosen claimed that Marine Corps Colonel George Bristol admitted to giving what "some will call" a stand down order to Lieutenant Colonel S.E. Gibson during the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But both Bristol and Gibson have said that no "stand down" order was given.
Rosen appeared on the July 31 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to discuss a briefing on Benghazi given to the House Armed Services Committee by Bristol, who commanded an Africa-based task force at the time of the Benghazi attack. Rosen claimed that Bristol acknowledged he had given Gibson, who commanded a small team of special forces troops in Tripoli, what "some will call ... a stand down order":
O'REILLY: Now there was a hearing today, the House Armed Services Committee. General George Bristol who was in charge, I guess, of the African forces that could have helped the four Americans, including the Ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi, he testified. But I'm reading over the notes here Rosen, and I've only got thirty seconds, Bristol would not say who told him not to help them. Is that true?
ROSEN: Well, first of all this wasn't a hearing, it was a briefing, which was being kind to the guy. He wasn't put under oath, so he didn't really have to testify. But he led this task force in Northern and Western Africa, and he acknowledged that he was the guy, a Marine colonel, who had the conversation with an Army lieutenant colonel who was on the ground in Tripoli and who was ready to get a whole bunch of guys on an airplane and fly from Tripoli to Benghazi to try and rescue our guys, which is the distance from Richmond, Virginia to Chicago, Illinois. It's not a short trip. And Col. Bristol, who is retiring effectively tomorrow, did acknowledge that he told Lt. Col. Gibson "stay in Tripoli." Some will call that a stand down order, Bill.
O'REILLY: Is Bristol taking the rap? That he did it? That he wouldn't order anybody?
ROSEN: He's saying, in essence, "I told them stay in Tripoli in case our embassy there -- "
O'REILLY: Did he say if anybody ordered him to say that?
ROSEN: No. He said it was his decision.
Rosen's claim is at odds with statements by both Bristol and Gibson. The Hill reported that Bristol told the congressional panel that no "stand down" order was given. Furthermore, according to a press release issued by the House Armed Services Committee, Bristol told the committee he gave Gibson "initial freedom of action to make decisions in response to the unfolding situation in Benghazi."
The former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied Wednesday that he was told to stand down during last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
In a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said his commanders told him to remain in the capital of Tripoli to defend Americans in the event of additional attacks and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.
"Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to 'stand down' by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi," the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing with military officials, including Gibson.
In one of his final opinions as a Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case wrote that "The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government." The Court's 6-3 decision granted the Washington Post and New York Times permission to resume publishing a comprehensive and classified government history of the Vietnam War. The permission was granted over the "national security" objections of the Nixon administration. Black's opinion stressed that the "press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people."
The Pentagon Papers case revolved around the more traditional press debate regarding prior restraint: if and when the government has the right to stop news organizations from disseminating sensitive information. The Supreme Court's landmark 1931 media ruling, Near v. Minnesota, declared that almost all forms of prior restraint were unconstitutional. One of the few exceptions included issues of national security.*
Of course, the recent Obama administration controversies surrounding freedom of the press revolve around national security and the intense prosecutorial efforts by the government to weed out leakers of classified information. Rather than trying to stop journalists from reporting national security news, federal law enforcement seems preoccupied with snooping around, in increasingly clandestine ways, and ensnaring reporters in criminal investigations.
Whether it was the Department of Justice's wild overreach in seizing phone records of more than 20 separate telephone lines used by Associated Press editors and reporters, or the Department's more focused, yet even more troubling, information grab of a Fox News reporter, the practice is wrong and shortsighted. It's also un-American.
The Founding Fathers had the foresight to carve out extraordinary privileges and protections for the press, and for centuries they have endured. So why now turn our storied First Amendment into the Sort Of First Amendment or the When It's Convenient First Amendment?
Imagine what international observers must be thinking as they watch the U.S. government, in the name of leak investigations, chisel away at one of America's most famous contributions to the democratic way of life: Freedom of the press.
Yet it's also important to note that despite some of the heated rhetoric in recent days, there's little evidence that the federal government is waging some sort of all-out war on journalism (that it's "spying" on reporters), or that it's set out a dangerous new policy to "criminalize" the craft. And no, Fox News certainly hasn't been "targeted" by the Obama administration, despite Fox's plaintive cries of victimhood in recent days. (There's certainly no evidence to back up Shepard Smith's baseless on-air claim that the Department of Justice "went into" Fox News computer servers and "pulled things out.")
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Fox News have come to the same conclusion -- describing the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya as an "act of terror" is different, and somehow less accurate, than describing them as a terrorist attack.
On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attacks, Obama delivered a speech in the Rose Garden in which he referred to the attacks as an "act of terror," 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." The following day, Obama twice referred to the attacks as an act of terror, once in Colorado and once in Las Vegas.
During an appearance on Fox News' America Live, Issa accused Obama of minimizing the attacks by referring to them as an "act of terror," saying: "An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack. The truth is, this was a terrorist attack."
On Fox News' Special Report, chief Washington correspondent James Rosen shared Issa's sentiment that Obama downplayed the attacks. "Obama argued that he has been characterizing Benghazi from the get-go," he said. "But the president's words in the Rose Garden on September 12 were vague, not explicit." Rosen added: "What's more, the president spent the weeks after Olsen's testimony in campaign season continuing to steer clear of the terror label."
On September 13, 2001, former President George W. Bush described the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as an "act of terror."
Fox News is heavily invested in turning Benghazi into the scandal that takes down Barack Obama. It's not just the dream of brutishly partisan actors like Sean Hannity, but the stated intention of Fox reporters like James Rosen, who told Bill O'Reilly that "there are certain elements...that are lacking here for this to become Watergate," among them the self-serving notion that the media -- save for Fox News -- refuse to dig into the "major scandal" that is Benghazi. The idea that media outlets have been reticent to investigate the September 2012 attack on the Benghazi diplomatic compound is laughably false. What Rosen really means is that the press aren't covering it in the way that Fox News is.
This plays into the Fox Cycle, a process Media Matters has documented by which false and misleading conservative attacks make the transition from right-wing hobbyhorse to national media narrative, with Fox News playing a key role in pressuring mainstream press outlets into covering the story. Fox has been working hard at doing just that this week with a series of segments on Special Report with Bret Baier featuring an anonymous Benghazi "insider" who purports to contradict the official account of the Benghazi attack.
Here, however, are five instances in which the "insider" describes events that actually took place, were already known, or have been debunked.
1. The presence of special forces in Croatia. Media Matters documented one such instance of Fox's confidential informant breaking news that everyone already knew -- the presence of a special operations force in Croatia. "I know for a fact that C-110 [a special ops team], the EUCOM CIF, was doing a training exercise, not in the region of Northern Africa, but in Europe. And they had the ability to react and respond," said Fox's unnamed source. Everyone knows that "for a fact" because it's been a matter of public record for months now and was included in the Pentagon's official Benghazi timeline. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered those forces to deploy, but they could not arrive in time.
2. Deployment of those special forces. That brings up another point of contention. Fox's source claimed: "We had the ability to load out, get on birds, and fly there at a minimum stage. C-110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in four to six hours from their European theater to react." [emphasis added] The phrase "in my opinion" is highlighted there because that's all this is. An opinion. The State Department independent Benghazi review and outside experts have a different opinion: that there were no military assets that could have made it to Benghazi in time to make a difference. This is less a contradiction of the official account than a disagreement from a party whose identity and expertise are as yet unknown. (Former Marine officer and special operations team leader Billy Birdzell dismantled Fox's source's claims about the deployment of C-110 here.)
From the May 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the August 20 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Today, Fox News' James Rosen revived the month-old distortion of President Obama's comments about small businesses not only benefitting from their own initiative, but also from the successes and contributions of others, including government.
Reporting live on the August 17 edition of Fox's Studio B from a Virginia campaign event for Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Rosen said that "aides to Representative Ryan like to call Virginia the scene of 'the line.'" Rosen added that "the line" reference derived from Obama's "now-famous comment in Roanoke, Virginia, last month ... when he told small business owners, quote, 'if you have a small business, you didn't build that'":
Of course, President Obama's comments take on an entirely different meaning in their full context. During his July 13 Roanoke speech, Obama simply pointed out that the success of small businesses can also be attributed to outside influences such as "a great teacher somewhere in your life" and investment "in roads and bridges":
OBAMA: [L]ook, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the GI Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You're not on your own, we're in this together.
Fox News is obscuring the negative impact of Congressman Paul Ryan's Medicare plan on seniors by accusing President Obama and the Democrats of "stoking fears" about the plan. In fact, Ryan's plan would adversely affect current and future seniors, forcing them, among other things, to pay more for prescription drugs, and it would create a voucher system that would drive up health care costs.
From the August 11 special edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox's chief Washington correspondent James Rosen hyped a Washington Free Beacon report alleging the Obama campaign employed call centers in Canada and the Philippines. But neither the Fox segment nor the Free Beacon article provided any substantial evidence to support such a claim.
The Obama campaign has been attacking Mitt Romney for his history of moving jobs overseas as a businessman at Bain Capital. After mentioning these reports on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Rosen touted the Beacon's claims, stating: "The Romney campaign, in turn, circulated a report in the Washington Free Beacon" which Rosen uncritically said "found the Obama-Biden campaign has paid companies headquartered in Canada and the Philippines more than $80,000 for telemarketing services."
However, ABC reporter Devin Dwyer pointed out that "the Beacon's claims are not fully substantiated" after looking at the actual facts. Dwyer first explained that Pacific East is based in Canada but has a division headquarters in Oregon. He went on to explain that the FEC filings provided no indication as to which Pacific East call centers were used by the Obama campaign or where they may have been based:
Closer examination of the facts, however, finds the Beacon's claims are not fully substantiated.
First, Pacific East, while based in Canada, has a division headquartered Beaverton, Ore., to oversee U.S. business operations. There is also no indication from FEC filings of where Pacific East call centers possibly employed by Obama's campaign may have been based. The Beacon does not cite any evidence.
Dwyer then said that the Beacon "points to expenditures in the Obama campaign's most recent Federal Election Commission filing that showed" money spent on telemarketing services from "the Los Angeles-based Donor Services Group (DSG)." Dwyer found that the Beacon's reporting on DSG also lacks convincing evidence:
As for DSG, the picture is much the same. The U.S.-based company specializes in call centers and donor outreach, according to its website. However, there is no mention of foreign operations there, or in FEC filings.
So where does "Manila" come from?
The bit appears in a 2009 services contract between DSG and a Maryland charity (Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc.) that was obtained and posted by the Weekly Standard. The document outlines four different types of DSG call centers -- one of which was based in Manila "to make inexpensive calls designed to reinstate older lapsed donors more affordably."
It's unclear whether those call centers still exist or whether the Obama campaign benefited from their services. The FEC filing, again, shows no direct evidence to support the Beacon's claim that Team Obama "paid a call center in Manila."
Appearing on C-Span to discuss the 40th anniversary of the 2 a.m. break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate office complex, Fox News' chief Washington correspondent James Rosen on Sunday seemed to go out of his way to downplay the sprawling political scandal it spawned. That scandal eventually culminated in President's Nixon's resignation.
Rosen, for instance, described Nixon as someone who was in over his head in terms of keeping track of the Watergate cover-up and the long list of players involved. Conversely, the Fox reporter tried to shift the blame onto Nixon's former aide John Dean as the person who may have "ordered" the break-in. (Dean famously turned on Nixon during his Watergate testimony before Congress.)
During his C-Span appearance, Rosen, who has written a book about John Mitchell, who was chairman of Nixon's reelection campaign at the time of the break-in after serving as his attorney general, repeatedly lashed at out Dean, accusing him of "muddying the waters of history" with regards to Watergate.
But if anyone was mudding the waters it was Rosen, who offered this startling response when asked about how Watergate had effected the American political landscape [emphasis added]:
I would say we are a more cynical nation since Watergate. We have less trust in our institutions, including the news media.
It's also the case that the Internet has occurred, has arisen, since Watergate. A number of other things; 9-11, which put Watergate in its perspective.
I think the idea of Fred LaRue skulking around Washington with a manila envelope full of recycled one hundred dollar bills sounds rather petty when juxtaposed to the incineration of three thousand people on a Tuesday morning, as we saw on 9-11.
So history continues to unfold and give us new perspective on Watergate and what its effects on the American political landscape were.
This is a bizarre, and nonsensical, way to view history.
Reporting on emails selectively released by House Republicans, numerous media outlets falsely claimed the documents show Obama donor George Kaiser -- whose family foundation invested in Solyndra -- discussing Solyndra's federal loan with the White House, with Fox going even further to claim "quid pro quo." In fact, the emails occurred after Solyndra had already received the loan guarantee and do not indicate that Kaiser discussed the loan with the White House.
As part of its week-long special targeting government regulations, Fox's "straight news" program, Special Report with Bret Baier, listed "jobs regulations" that supposedly "adversely impact ... small business owners in a real-time way." However, the regulations listed by Fox include vital statutes that are the bedrock of 20th and 21st Century worker protections in the United States.
Conservative media have baselessly claimed that President Obama's policies are to blame for a new Census Report finding an increase in poverty in the United States. In fact, the Census Bureau itself states that unemployment benefits -- extended under the Obama administration -- helped limit the number of people in poverty, and experts concur that without "extend[ed] unemployment compensation, stimulus spending and Obama's health reforms," the poverty levels would have been worse.