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.
The right-wing media's smear campaign against the Obama administration over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, appears to be paying dividends in the form of donations.
A Media Matters review of fundraising emails and websites found that conservatives have routinely invoked Benghazi to ask followers for money. The fundraising solicitations accuse the Obama administration of "lies," "cover-ups," a "dereliction of duty," and crimes worse than Watergate.
The fundraising is only likely to intensify with the recent creation of a House select committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the attacks. The Republican leadership convened the committee despite numerous previous inquiries into Benghazi. The Department of Defense wrote in March that it had already participated in "approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews" about the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said on MSNBC today that fellow Republicans should not fundraise off of the Benghazi attacks, stating: "Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans."
Like their counterparts in the media, the main Republican Party campaign apparatuses are actively fundraising off of Benghazi. The Republican National Committee has a donation page asking Republicans to demand "the truth about Benghazi" by contributing money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee asks Republicans to "donate today" because of Benghazi. And the National Republican Congressional Committee has a fundraising page stating: "You're now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let's go after Obama & Hillary Clinton. Help us fight them now." The page features an image of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the text, "Benghazi Was A Coverup. Demand Answers."
Here are five recent examples of conservative pundits raising money off their Benghazi witch hunt.
Fox News' newest questions surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, were already addressed several months ago by the Senate and intelligence community's investigations into the attacks.
Ahead of former deputy CIA director Michael Morell's testimony this week before a Republican-led House committee on Benghazi, conservative media are reviving their accusation that the Obama administration changed talking points after the attack for political reasons. According to the right-wing conspiracy theory, the CIA station chief in Libya told Morell via email that the attacks were not an escalation of protests over an anti-Islam video, yet Morell didn't use that email to delete the talking points' references to demonstrations later used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice on the Sunday news shows.
On April 1, The Washington Times cited anonymous sources to claim that Morell told the White House and State Department that the station chief "had concluded that there was no protest but senior Obama administration and CIA officials in Washington ignored the assessment," an accusation Fox News quickly promoted.
America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer speculated that "if you can prove that" Morell told the White House about the station chief's email, "that would be a strong indictment." Fox contributor John Bolton claimed that "Morell was trying to please his masters in the White House" by allowing references to protests to stay in the talking points.
The conspiracy theory has already been publicly addressed and debunked.
Fox News commentators have been rushing in to blame President Obama for the Russian military's excursion into Ukraine. It's because of Obama's "weakness" that Vladamir Putin has seized the military initiative, announced Sarah Palin.
The crisis proves Obama's guilty of misunderstanding the Russians and not being "interested in American national security affairs," according to John Bolton. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Fox viewers Obama "left a vacuum that Putin is filling," and Steve Doocy complained the president hasn't done "much" to solve the situation.
Also, Obama needs to get a "backbone" and he's "lost moral authority." All this while Fox has marveled over Putin's prowess as a true "leader," and swooned his supposed physical superiority over Obama.
Please note that in August 2008, during President Bush's final months in office, a strikingly similar scenario played out when Russian forces invaded the former Soviet state of Georgia. At the time, the Bush White House sounded an awful lot like today's Obama White House. From Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, now a Fox host:
"The United States supports Georgia's territorial integrity. We call for an immediate ceasefire. We urge all parties Georgians, south Ossetians, Russians to deescalate the tensions and to avoid conflict. We are work on mediation efforts and to secure a ceasefire, and we are urging the parties to restart their dialogue."
Yet unlike today, the Putin-led excursion in 2008 completely failed to spark the panicked rhetoric that's become Fox News' trademark since Russian troops crossed over into Ukraine last week. Notably absent from the 2008 Georgia coverage was relentless finger pointing and blaming the White House for the extreme actions of a foreign leader thousands of miles away. There was also none of the Putin cheerleading that we hear on Fox News today.
In fact, some of the Fox commentators currently stoking the flames of "crisis" were rather non-judgmental when Russian tanks moved into Georgia. "I don't think the Russians are reckless," Charles Krauthammer announced on August 8, 2008, as Russian fleets advanced into the Black Sea and Russian jets launched raids targeting government buildings in Georgia. "What they are doing here is reasserting control of this province. And when it's done, which will probably happen in a couple days, the firing will crease."
Three days later, Krauthammer insisted there was nothing for the United States to do as the crisis escalated: "Well, obviously it's beyond our control. The Russians are advancing. There is nothing that will stop them. We are not going to go to war over Georgia." Krauthammer's Fox colleague Jeff Birnbaum, agreed: "Because Georgia is not part of NATO, there's really no danger the United States or Europe will get in involved in what is really a civil war almost between--within this small part of Georgia."
Fox News' message to America then? Just relax. There's nothing the U.S. can do about Russia invading its sovereign neighbor and it will all be over soon.
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
Scott Brown has some more company among Fox News employees publicly toying with runs for political office while still working for the network.
According to The Washington Post, Fox host Mike Huckabee "might be willing" to take another shot at securing the Republican presidential nomination. Huckabee told the Post that he is considering making a run in 2016 due to the encouragement he is getting "from places where I never got it before," including "business, people some would maybe call the establishment."
In an apparent attempt to drive home his seriousness about a possible run, Huckabee reportedly showed the paper a private poll "which he said was commissioned by supporters who are urging him to run again, which indicated he has the potential to make a strong showing in both Iowa and South Carolina." Huckabee joins John Bolton, who started teasing a potential 2016 run early this year, and Scott Brown, who seems on the verge of running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, as Fox employees cashing a paycheck while openly considering runs for office.
The revolving door of Republican politicians and Fox News contributors is nothing new.
Fox News' John Bolton described a historic diplomatic deal between Iran and six world powers as "abject surrender" and attributed failure to a series of economic sanctions against Iran that many experts believe were responsible for bringing the nation to the bargaining table. Bolton followed up by advocating for airstrikes against Iran, a tactic some experts describe as "futile."
CNN's Fareed Zakaria reported that a new agreement between Iran and the U.S. over Iran's nuclear program "essentially freezes Iran's program for six months -- and rolls back some key aspects of it -- while a permanent deal is negotiated." Zakaria added that "[i]n return, Iran gets about $7 billion of sanctions relief, a fraction of what is in place against it. The main sanctions -- against its oil and banking sectors -- stay fully in place."
On the November 25 edition of Fox's America's News HQ, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton criticized the deal as "abject surrender" to the Iranians. Bolton claimed sanctions "were never going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons anyway" because" sanctions need to be administered by a living breathing president," and in Bolton's mind, Obama isn't capable of success on this front. Bolton added that we must accept one of two propositions; a nuclear Iran, or support Israeli airstrikes.
But experts point out that strong sanctions put in place by Obama in 2010 have helped to bring Iran to the bargaining table, a fact Fox and Bolton failed to discuss. In February, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained in an interview on CBS This Morning that "the sanctions are working."
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
Three Fox News personalities currently sit on the advisory board of Secure America Now, a conservative advocacy group that has called for a select committee to investigate the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Fox News has heavily promoted calls to form a select committee on Benghazi alongside nonstop misinformation about the attacks.
John Bolton, Pat Caddell and Mike Huckabee are all listed as members of the group's advisory board. Bolton and Caddell are Fox News contributors, while Huckabee hosts his own show on the network on weekends.
Secure America Now's president, Allan Roth, said the group would market a new web video "far and wide and continue our campaign to get the Congress to appoint a Select Committee" to investigate the attack. Roth appeared on Fox host Sean Hannity's radio show on September 11 to promote the video and told him, "I just want to thank you for being one of the rare members of the news media who has dedicated time and the effort to keep the Benghazi story alive."
Hannity, of course, has relentlessly pushed myths and falsehoods about the attack.
Fox News has repeatedly promoted efforts to force the House to convene a select committee,even though the issue would be highly unlikely to survive a floor vote due to opposition from Democrats and some Republicans.
Former Rep. Allen West (R), a Fox contributor, appeared at a press conference outside the Capitol on Wednesday organized by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to push for the formation of a select committee, and also advocated for a military strike on Libya in retaliation for the Benghazi attack.
Fox News reacted to reports that a suspect in the September 2012 Benghazi attack has been indicted by attacking the Obama administration. This included pushing the narrative that terror suspects should be tried in military courts, ignoring the far more successful record of civilian courts in such trials.
Prior to the 2012 election, Fox News was the target of widespread criticism for employing no fewer than five people who were considering seeking the Republican nomination for president. One of those five, Fox contributor John Bolton, is reportedly already getting the ball rolling on the 2016 edition of the Fox News primary.
In an article at National Review Online, Robert Costa explained that possible 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) "views on foreign policy" are concerning "Republican hawks." According to Costa, "several leading conservative power brokers" are turning to Bolton as a more aggressive foreign policy alternative to Paul and are urging the former U.S. ambassador to the UN to throw his hat in the ring for 2016.
Per Costa, the former Bush administration U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is giving the idea "serious consideration." He is reportedly planning tours of early primary states and meetings with party leaders in order to "make the case for a muscular foreign policy." Bolton will also reportedly be launching "a few related groups that will help elevate his argument and his national profile."
Any possible Bolton run will be also aided by his role at Fox, which has long served as a launching pad for various Republican candidates to explore campaigns for office. In 2010, former Fox contributor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum pointed to his job at Fox as having "been big" for helping "folks remember who I am ... It's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."
Bolton is a regular fixture on the network, where he is brought on to rail against the Obama administration's handling of foreign policy issues and call for the use of military force to respond to international problems.
In 2010, while Bolton was making noise about possibly running for president in 2012, the network hosted him for 5 hours and 46 minutes of airtime, which Media Matters calculated was equivalent to more than $3.7 million in free advertising.
The network has already shown it is eager to promote the 2016 presidential ambitions of its employees. After host Mike Huckabee was asked whether he was considering a presidential run during a Newsmax TV interview and responded that he was "not ruling it out," Fox Nation highlighted the story under the headline, "Huckabee Hints At 2016 Run."
Fox News hosts and contributors baselessly stated that cuts to America's deployed nuclear arsenal proposed by President Obama would jeopardize U.S. national security. In fact, nuclear weapons experts assert that reducing nuclear arsenals helps the nation's security and say that the U.S. could have effective deterrence with fewer warheads.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News Channel's America's Newsroom:
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Fox News contributor John Bolton delivered a devastating blow to the right-wing scandal mongering over Benghazi when he acknowledged that it was impossible to know at the exact moment of the September 2012 terrorist attack whether it was appropriate to shift security resources away from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
A key aspect of the right's conspiracy theory posits that an Obama administration official refused to send reinforcements to the Benghazi diplomatic outpost to defend Americans under sustained attack by terrorists. It's been amply established at this point that a team of reinforcements was dispatched from Tripoli, where the main embassy is located, to Benghazi, some 400 miles away, after the attacks began. That security team arrived after a first attack ended, the attack that ended in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, but before a second attack began.
Bolton, appearing on the May 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, took issue with the decision not to send a second reinforcement team to Benghazi - a central component of hyper-partisan congressional hearings underway this week. Critics of the administration have pointed to that decision as evidence that it abandoned Americans who were under attack. But the additional reinforcements would not have been able to get to the Benghazi compound before the second attack was concluded. Here's Bolton's response:
When the attack began, no one could know when it would end. No one could know what the geographical limitation was. Was it simply an attack in Benghazi? Could terrorists be poised to attack the embassy in Tripoli? Were other posts around the Middle East in jeopardy? So the notion that you're just going to sit and wait for this to work itself out left a lot of other people at risk.
But it's precisely the fact that it was unclear that the embassy in Tripoli was safe that informed the decision over whether to send a second reinforcement team away from the embassy. NBC News reported that Department of Defense officials confirmed that a second unit was denied authorization to leave Tripoli for Benghazi during the night of the attack, in part because the security situation in Libya remained unclear:
U.S. military officials confirmed late Monday that a four-man Special Operations Forces team was denied permission to leave the US Embassy in Tripoli following reports that the consulate in Benghazi had been attacked.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the team was reviewing security at U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East and was not prepared for a combat assault mission, being armed with only 9mm sidearms.
They also noted that the situation at Benghazi remained unclear and there were concerns the Embassy in Tripoli also could become a target.
Bolton's seemingly accidental acknowledgement should put an end to the campaign - enabled and encouraged at every step by Fox News - to drum up a scandal of Watergate-sized proportions.
Right-wing media are using a congressional hearing to push new myths about the Obama administration's response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, these myths are discredited by previous congressional reports and testimony, which show that the politicized nature of the hearings come from right-wing media and Congressional Republicans, that the military could not have rescued personnel from the second attack, that the administration was in constant communication at all levels during the attacks, and that the intelligence community believed there was a link to an anti-Islam video at the time of the attacks.