Conservatives are using the ongoing examination of Hillary Clinton's State Department emails to once again make a series of over-the-top accusations that compare her behavior to former President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. This is the latest in a pattern of distortions which aim to elevate the email story to the same level as the worst political scandal in American history.
The latest round of faulty Watergate comparisons appears to have been sparked by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, who, along with fellow Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, famously broke the story of the 1972 Nixon-sanctioned break-in at the Watergate hotel.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe on August 18, Woodward said the controversy over Clinton's emails, and the latest development involving Clinton handing over her private server to investigators, "reminds me of the Nixon tapes" which "Nixon thought were exclusively his." He went on to claim: "Hillary Clinton initially took that position: 'I'm not turning this over, there's gonna be no cooperation.' Now they're cooperating."
Woodward is perpetuating a falsehood here. As Clinton said in a March 10 press conference: "After I left office, the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work-related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totaled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them." This month, Clinton also gave her private server to the Justice Department, in response to concerns that it might contain information now deemed classified.
In the last few years, Woodward has developed a habit of drawing parallels between modern events and Watergate, even if the facts don't always fit. He has compared the Watergate scandal to the Internal Revenue Service after its questionable scrutiny of non-profits first came to light, and to the Obama administration's response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
In fact, while discussing the bizarrely-scandalized "talking points" the administration used to discuss Benghazi in the press, Woodward launched a nearly identical line of attack to his current argument; he said that editing the Benghazi talking points could be compared to Watergate "when Nixon put out his edited transcripts to the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, 'Oh, let's not tell this, let's not show this.'" In both instances, it is not clear that Woodward was aware of the facts before using his Watergate legacy to draw inappropriate parallels.
In a segment on the August 18 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano used Woodward's comments as a springboard into a baseless and factually inaccurate discussion about the emails Clinton has released to the State Department.
Napolitano compared Clinton's personal emails to Nixon's secret recording system that he set up in the White House, with Doocy noting that "with Nixon, they had the 18-minute gap" and "with Hillary Rodham Clinton, you've got what, 30,000 missing emails?"
Neither man told viewers that the supposedly "missing" emails have been described as containing "personal and private" information.
Napolitano also asserted that Clinton's emails contained "satellite photographs of a Middle Eastern country and intercepts of foreign agents," but an Associated Press report already debunked this claim, with sources close to the investigation noting that "nothing in the emails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence methods or any other form of sensitive sourcing."
Doocy also repeated the claim that "perhaps one of her underlings stripped" classified markings from emails Clinton received, but the State Department has already said there was "no indications" of any such behavior.
Finally, Napolitano promoted a fantasy scenario about criminal charges against Clinton, speculating that she could be "indicted for conspiracy to violate the espionage laws of the United States."
He concluded that whether or not "there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against her," the FBI would "reveal it right around the time of the New Hampshire primary about five or six months from now." He added, "You can't make this stuff up."
But clearly you can.
Later in the day, Fox contributor and former UN Ambassador John Bolton appeared on America's Newsroom and called Woodward's comparison "a very apt analogy." He added that "it may be significant" that when Clinton graduated from Yale Law School, "her first job was on the Democratic staff" investigating Nixon, where the speculation that he should have burned his tapes "may be a lesson she learned back then."
These specious Watergate parallels are part of a pattern of behavior by the conservative media.
Over the years, Media Matters has cataloged at least 16 separate "Watergates" the right has accused the Obama administration of. They include Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, the BP oil spill, immigration policy, and Obama's birth certificate, among others.
Watergate involved the president of the United States soliciting a break-in of a political party's headquarters, suggesting payment of up to $1 million in hush money to bribe the burglars, being ordered by the Supreme Court to produce secret recordings of the planning for the cover-up of the burglary, and the resignation of a president for the first time in U.S. history.
Unless the discussion is about events of that magnitude, it isn't Watergate.
From the August 17 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Conservative media figures bombarded Twitter with accusations that President Obama committed "treason" and had capitulated to terrorists by reaching a deal with Iran to halt the country's nuclear armament.
From CSPAN's February 27 coverage of the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference:
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The rhetoric around the debunked right wing media meme about the existence of "no-go zones" throughout France, the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe, ratcheted up last week. Driven by politics, viewers, listeners, and page views, even the multiple mea culpas from Fox News just last weekend haven't stopped the myth.
By the conservative telling, in these supposed "Muslim only" enclaves the population has "take[n] over parts of the country, entire portions, towns," (allegedly more than 700 in France alone!), and outside police are forbidden as extremism and Sharia Law flourish. And now, they present an active threat to the United States and our American values.
"If people don't want to come here to integrate and assimilate, what they're really trying to do is set up their own culture, their own communities," Louisiana Governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential contender Bobby Jindal said last week, continuing, "What they're really trying to do is overturn our culture. We need to recognize that threat." When criticized for the bogus claim, he pointed to the work of a foreign policy think tank led by Fox News contributor John Bolton.
On his radio show, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins warned that America has already succumbed to the spread of "no-go zones," blaming a failure to assimilate into American culture. "There are some areas in this country that, in effect, that has occurred. Dearborn, Michigan, is one of the places. There are some places in Minneapolis," he said. The Muslim-bashing continued on conservative outlets like Breitbart News and WND, which continued to post stories with inflammatory headlines like, "ISLAM EXPERTS: NO-GO ZONES LOOMING FOR AMERICA; Back Jindal's view non-assimilation is trouble because Muslims 'supremacist at core,'" and "EUROPEAN 'NO-GO' ZONES REMAIN UNASSIMILATED HOTBEDS OF RADICAL ISLAM."
While the narrative is long on fear mongering, it is short on actually examining the very real societal barriers, stigma, and racism that Muslim immigrants to Europe and their second and third generation children face as they actually try to assimilate. These barriers are mostly erected by the same society and government that accuses them of not wanting to assimilate, instead fueling Islamophobia and isolation.
It's compounded in France by decades of broken promises for investment, job training programs, improved schools, rhetoric of stemming the growing tide of racism, even calls for a Marshall Plan for the working-class suburbs that surround Paris. Instead, the problem has been left to fester, further isolating the Muslim community, as the far-right European anti-Muslim movement continues to grow.
I had the opportunity to work for a number of years on a project through the French American Foundation and the American Embassy in France aimed at helping and encouraging young minority candidates, many of whom were especially inspired by President Obama's election. A majority of them were Muslim and from the banlieue. Contrary to conservative propaganda, they saw themselves as French first, period. They were passionate about their county, incredibly smart, insightful and committed to serving France by being a part of the political system, and each talked about having to work overtime to illustrate their assimilation in the face of increasing racial tensions in France.
Fox News contributor John Bolton will be appearing in the early Republican presidential primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks while he's "considering" a presidential run. Bolton has already set up a political operation through two political action committees. Fox previously severed ties with Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson because they were getting too serious about exploring runs for president.
Bolton is the quintessential Fox News candidate. He was never elected to office, and left the Bush administration nearly a decade ago. Yet he's stayed visible with Republican primary voters through his frequent paid appearances on their favorite network.
A January 22 press release from Bolton's political action committee, Bolton Super PAC, stated he will speak tomorrow at the Iowa Freedom Summit, which "will bring together conservative activists in advance of Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses." The Iowa event, hosted by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), features numerous other potential 2016 contenders. On February 2, he will return to New Hampshire to speak at a breakfast event.
The Washington Examiner reported on January 5 that a source "who works at Fox News" said "Bolton may be next" to leave the network to run for president. The source added that Bolton "just wants to stay at Fox as long as possible."
Robert Costa, while at National Review Online, reported in June 2013 that Bolton was setting up tours of early primary states, organizing meetings with party leaders, and launching "a few related groups that will help elevate his argument and his national profile." Costa reported months later that Bolton "has called veteran Republican strategists and friends from the Bush years, informally pitching them on what he envisions as a policy-driven, hawkish campaign. Most of the people on the other side of the line are surprised, even shocked, to hear that Bolton, a no-nonsense, private man, is serious."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is defending his controversial allegation about purported immigrant "no-go zones" in Europe by citing the work of a group headed by Fox News contributor John Bolton. Fox News has helped propagate the myth, and was recently forced to repeatedly apologize for its role in spreading the claims.
During a speech this week in London, Jindal claimed some immigrants are trying "to colonize Western countries because setting up your own enclave and demanding recognition of a no-go zone are exactly that." He also said, according to prepared remarks: "In the West, non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home."
Jindal's remarks echoed a similar falsehood promoted by frequent Fox News guest Steve Emerson. The purported terrorism expert claimed that the English city of Birmingham is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." Emerson and Fox News were subsequently forced to apologize. Fox also previously cited the alleged existence of "no-go zones."
Right-wing media figures attacked President Obama's announcement of an agreement on diplomatic relations with Cuba, claiming that it is "appeasement" and tantamount to "prop[ping] up another communist dictator." But foreign policy experts and commentators have long supported a deal with Cuba to loosen the embargo and improve relations.
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says his Fox News platform is helping him in the crucial primary state of Iowa.
A Huckabee profile from Real Clear Politics (RCP) documents the Fox host's recent trip to Iowa to support Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. According to reporter Scott Conroy, Huckabee was approached by several "Iowa Republican activists and volunteers" who told the Fox News host that they regularly watch his show.
Huckabee reportedly cited his platform at the network with helping put him in a "very good place to be" as he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, explaining that it has helped increase his visibility and name recognition in Iowa because he has "been in these people's homes every week":
As a driver shuttled him between events, Huckabee told RealClearPolitics that his work on Fox has put him in a "very good place to be" politically as a self-imposed decision date looms in the early spring of next year.
"When I came up here eight years ago, nobody knew who I was," he said. "I had to spell my name. They didn't recognize me, and that was true all over the country. And now I come back, and I've been in these people's homes every week."
Huckabee isn't the first Fox employee/politician to credit their role at the network with helping their political aspirations. In July, former Fox News contributor turned Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown told Fox News Radio that being on the network "really charged me up" to run for office. When he was running for president in 2012, former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum pointed to his Fox role as having "been big" because it "helped folks remember who I am."
Fox continues to allow its employees to publicly weigh runs for office while remaining on the network payroll. As Conroy points out, Huckabee's Fox News show gives him "hundreds of hours of free advertising that hits some of the most reliable Republican voters," which is "the kind of media exposure that any of the more frequently talked about GOP contenders can only dream of."
During the run-up to the 2012 Republican primary in 2010, Media Matters calculated that Fox News had essentially gifted its five employees that were considering running with roughly $55 million in free advertising. Huckabee was by far the biggest beneficiary, with about $31 million worth of free airtime.
Though Huckabee declined to run in 2012, Conroy reports that "the consensus among many plugged-in conservatives in his orbit is that he is already determined" to enter the 2016 race.
A conservative group backed by several Fox News contributors has pulled ads featuring footage of murdered journalist James Foley after his family sharply criticized the campaign as "deplorable."
Secure America Now (SAN) had been running advertisements attacking Democratic candidates with footage of Foley's beheading at the hands of ISIS. Foley's parents told New England Cable News (NECN) that the ads are "very sad" and "deplorable," and called for them to be pulled with an apology.
The group announced on October 15 that it would launch advocacy campaigns featuring the Foley footage in ads against Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Mark Udall (CO), Mary Landrieu (LA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Congressman Gary Peters (MI). Secure America Now president Allen Roth said that "Pryor, Udall, Landrieu, Shaheen, and Peters have all ignored the crisis at our southern border. While evading efforts of those attempting to secure the border, they have silently supported President Obama's rumored amnesty plans." The group also posted on Facebook that day, "Watch the ad that's got the left riled up. Help us get it out, SHARE this video now."
Roth later told NECN, "It has been brought to our attention that a news report image of American hostage James Foley that appeared in a Secure America Now video has upset his parents, so we have decided to take the video down. It was never our attention to upset Mr. Foley's family and we apologize for any pain we inadvertently caused."
Right-wing media are claiming that President Obama's decision to target the Islamic State and Khorasan terror groups with airstrikes is a political move designed to give Democrats a boost in the 2014 midterm elections.
From the June 19 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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In light of the Obama administration's mistake in releasing to the press the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, right-wing media have rushed to create a false equivalence to the Bush administration's deliberate exposure of then-covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Fox News exploited the Obama administration's accidental exposure of a CIA operative's identity, using it as an opportunity to minimize the Bush administration's culpability in deliberately exposing former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as political retribution in 2003.
On May 26, the Washington Post reported that the White House press office had mistakenly revealed the name of the CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan when it distributed a list of officials scheduled to participate in a military briefing with Obama at the Bagram Air Base during the president's surprise Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan. The list had been provided to the administration communications staff by military officials.
Fox News used the oversight as an opportunity to absolve the Bush administration and former Bush advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby for deliberately exposing the identity of then-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. On May 27, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade referenced Libby, noting that this time, "Scooter Libby cannot be blamed or imprisoned" for the oversight. Co-host Steve Doocy seized on the comment as an opportunity to draw a false equivalence between the two cases and downplay the severity of the Plame leak:
DOOCY: Okay, so you mentioned Scooter Libby, he was all part of that Valerie Plame thing. Valerie Plame has tweeted out. She writes simply: "Astonishing, White House mistakenly identifies CIA Chief in Afghanistan." Keep in mind, you know, people are talking about, well remember when it happened during the Bush years with Valerie Plame. Valerie -- President Barack Obama at the time wanted to know, called an investigation were any laws broken and stuff like that. Keep in mind that, big difference. Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C., at the CIA. This guy is actually over there. So for them to put out a list -- and I've got the memo on my iPhone right now. There's his name plain as day with Chief of Staff right after it. Doesn't anybody at the White House know what they're doing right now? It looks like a -- either they're not paying attention to details or they simply don't care.
Later on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton made the specious claim that Plame's identity was "made public by Rich Armitage, Secretary Colin Powell's deputy," and argued that the disclosure "resulted in some very unfair treatment of a lot of other people in the Bush administration like Scooter Libby." Bolton argued that the Plame disclosure was "just a malicious piece of gossip," while the Obama administration's disclosure was "utter incompetence."
These cases are not comparable. While the Obama administration's release of the CIA Chief of Station's name is a serious oversight, reports of the incident are clear that the disclosure was accidental. As the Washington Post noted, the mistake was immediately recognized and the list was withdrawn.
In contrast, the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity was a calculated move that that demolished her career after her husband wrote a New York Times op-ed critical of the Bush administration's justifications for taking the nation to war in Iraq. During the leak investigation, former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper identified former White House senior adviser -- current Fox contributor -- Karl Rove as the original source revealing Plame's identity and pointed to Scooter Libby as the corroborating source. Libby, who then served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty of perjury in the leak investigation, but his sentence was later commuted by Bush.
Conservative media can't seem to agree whether or not Hillary Clinton's 2012 concussion was faked or was so serious she now has permanent brain damage, but whichever it is they seem ready to ignore all medical evidence in order to politicize her health.
In late December 2012, shortly before she was scheduled to testify before Congress regarding the attacks in Benghazi, Clinton sustained a concussion after she fainted due to dehydration from the flu, and was subsequently hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot in her head. The State Department postponed her testimony, and she ultimately appeared before Congress in January after her doctors confirmed she would make a full recovery.
Karl Rove reportedly dismissed this medical evidence last week when he claimed Clinton might have brain damage from the episode. Rove doubled down on his remarks today on Fox. Rove insisted that while he did not use the phrase "brain damage," he did believe she had "a serious health episode" and "she's hidden a lot" of information about the extent of her injuries. Wildly speculating about her health was reasonable, according to Rove, because she might someday run for president.
But back in December 2012, conservative media weren't worried that Clinton's health might impede a presidential run; instead, right-wing media immediately accused Clinton of faking her concussion to avoid testifying on Benghazi, taking a potentially life-threatening incident, which the former Secretary of State thankfully recovered from, and making it a political cudgel.
Fox contributor John Bolton accused Clinton of faking a "diplomatic illness." Monica Crowley dismissed the illness, calling it a "virus with apparently impeccable timing." Fox's The Five took the attacks a step further by mocking the Secretary's health, accusing Clinton of running "a duck and cover" and joking, "How can she get a concussion when she has been ducking everything [related to Benghazi]?" On Special Report Charles Krauthammer quipped she was "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy," a joke Sean Hannity liked so much he laughed about it later on his own show. When this mockery came under fire, host Greg Gutfeld attempted to defend Fox's actions by dismissing their remarks as mere "skepticism" and accusing journalists of "ginning up fake hatred, or outrage, towards skeptics." It wasn't just Fox, though; The Los Angeles Times, for instance, posted an online poll giving credence to the concussion conspiracy theories, asking readers "did she fake it?"
As The Wire noted, some of these conspiracy theorists quickly flipped when conservatives realized mocking a serious health condition, including the blood clot, was not a winning strategy. The New York Post, which had initially featured the headline "Hillary Clinton's head fake," followed up with a sober report on her condition noting that "Cynics in the media and in Congress sneered that Clinton was faking the concussion to avoid testimony about the attack" -- without acknowledging their own previous coverage. The Daily Caller similarly reported in February that "whispers" suggested Clinton's health was so bad she "may not even be capable of making it to Iowa and New Hampshire," after having wondered two months before why "we're supposed to just take her word for it" that she collapsed and hit her head. Fox, however, seems to be sticking with concussion trutherism; just this month, host Eric Bolling claimed Clinton purposefully "hit her head" so someone else could "take the bullet" on Benghazi.
So she either lied about a serious injury in order to avoid testimony (which she still gave), or she's now lying about being healthy in order to run for president (which she isn't currently doing). Either way, Rove's comments continue conservative media's stubborn insistence to politicize her health in whichever direction suits them at the moment, regardless of medical evidence.