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After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.
For months, media have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was beginning to “pivot” to become a more “serious-sounding candidate” whenever he appeared to begin using “a more subdued tone” or briefly refrained from insulting his opponents.
Fox News figures praised Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s foreign policy address as “presidential” and “a significant step forward.”
Trump Claims His Foreign Policy Will Put "America First." According to an April 27 New York Times article, Trump gave a speech on his vision for foreign policy, criticizing President Obama and Hillary Clinton for what he described as “missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals":
Donald J. Trump, exuding confidence after his resounding primary victories in the East, promised a foreign policy on Wednesday that he said would put “America first.” He castigated President Obama and Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and a possible opponent in the general election, for what he described as a string of missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals.
Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation’s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.
“America is going to be strong again; America is going to be great again; it’s going to be a friend again,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy, based on American interests and the shared interests of our allies.” [The New York Times, 4/27/16]
Sean Hannity: “This Was A Pretty Amazing Speech Today, Obviously Presidential In Nature.” On the April 27 edition of Fox’s Sean Hannity’s radio show The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity praised Trump’s speech as “amazing” and “obviously presidential in nature” and said:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): This was a pretty amazing speech today, obviously presidential in nature, obviously depth and -- just the opposite of the way Trump has run his campaign up to this point, where he gave a scripted foreign policy speech that went into much detail at the Center for National Interests. He used lines like, "It’s time to shake off the rust of America's foreign policy, invite new voices, new visions into the fold is something that we have to do.” The direction he outlines he said will also return us to a timeless principle and that “foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.” It has to be first, it has to be. And then he went on to say that America first will be the major overriding theme of his administration. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 4/27/16]
John Bolton: Trump’s Speech Was “A Significant Step Forward.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox contributor John Bolton lauded Trump’s foreign policy speech as “a significant step forward.” Bolton claimed the address “brought Trump more into the mainstream” of GOP thinking and added that the purpose of the speech was to put Trump’s campaign “in a more presidential mode”:
GREGG JARRETT (HOST): John Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News contributor. Ambassador, good to see you. He advocated aggressiveness while advocating disengagement. Confusing?
JOHN BOLTON: Well, I don’t think that’s exactly what he was saying. I think the points that he was trying to make, as I heard the speech, center on making American national interests the touchstone of what our foreign policy’s based on. And I think in far too many cases we have strayed from that into a kind of abstract philosophy about what's good for the whole world. The job of the president is to protect America. Others can look after themselves. So in that sense, I think by focusing on what’s important to us, he was able to go into a critique of Obama over the last seven years, and he basically repeated there what virtually every Republican member of the House and the Senate has said, namely, that under Obama our friends don’t respect us and our enemies don’t fear us. So I actually think the speech brought Trump more into the mainstream of Republican foreign policy, we can have a debate on it obviously on specifics, but I thought it was a significant step forward. [Fox News, Happening Now, 4/28/16]
Laura Ingraham: Trump’s Foreign Policy Is “The Only Thing We Should Be Doing.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham’s The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham compared Trump’s “sane” foreign policy speech with President Obama’s “muddled” international efforts and described the priorities Trump outlined as “the only thing we should be doing ”:
LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): What's more in tune with the way your family talks about foreign policy? You hear your friends down the road, you know, conversation at work. What's more sane? Thinking you’re going to turn Middle Eastern countries into Western democracies or the idea of conserving our resources, rebuilding the homefront, and only getting involved in conflicts when it makes sense for the United States of America? To me, to me the latter is the only thing we should be doing. I love how people act like it's still 2004, or, frankly, 1996 and our economy, we have a budget, budget balanced, we have no heavy debt to really speak of. And people just act like it doesn't matter how much debt we have, it doesn't matter how much we owe the world, it doesn’t matter much in the way of bonds we have outstanding. None of that matters; we can keep just spending money like there’s no tomorrow. Hey, if the next generation has to have its social security cut, or draconian cuts in things that they paid into, then so be it. That’s just what we have to do. Then you have Obama that just has no coherent foreign policy at all except just to weaken us. So on the one hand you have the neoconservative foreign policy, which is basically you’ve never met a war you don't like. On the other hand you have Obama, which is completely muddled, and I guess it's foreign policy by drone. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 4/28/16]
Harris Faulkner: “Clearly [Trump’s] Got Something Behind Him Now That’s Working.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Harris Faulkner praised Donald Trump for his “real, intimate understanding” of “where the Obama doctrine...has failed” and said Trump “was connected with the material” and “clearly he’s got something behind him now that’s working”:
HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): Even as you were watching that speech yesterday, what Donald Trump did at first was lay out where the Obama doctrine, if you will, has failed. He had a real, intimate understanding of that, and I realize there was a prompter involved, but I never, you know, just from watching, because we covered it live here on Outnumbered, it happened during our hour. We have dissected enough of these types of speeches and news conferences by a lot of people to know when somebody is kind of faking the funk. I mean, he was connected with the material. Now, he's got a lot of advisers, we don't know who the lists are, but clearly he's got something behind him now that's working. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 4/28/16]
Fox’s Gillian Turner: “This Was The Best Tone And Tenor We’ve Heard From Him.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Fox's Gillian Turner said Trump’s speech “was the best tone and tenor we’ve heard from him on the national defense, probably for the duration of the campaign so far” and said she “would have liked to have seen it six to eight months ago”:
JON SCOTT (HOST): Gillian, I know that all of Washington, the foreign policy establishment, you might say, has been waiting for this speech. What do you think they heard? How is it being received?
GILLIAN TURNER: A lot of anticipation surrounding it. The question was is this going to be Mr. Trump’s sort of come to Jesus moment with the establishment, and I believe that it was. This was the best tone and tenor we’ve heard from him on the national defense, probably for the duration of the campaign so far. I agree with the ambassador, I would have liked to have seen it six to eight months ago, would have made me feel a lot better about his prospects as commander in chief, but what I think he did today was he brought the substance to the heart of the Washington establishment. And I think that’s going to go a long way towards engendering some good will going forward as he tries to build his foreign policy team. [Fox News, Happening Now, 4/27/16]
Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “He Said The Most Important Word Correctly: America. He Gets It.”
Washington elites mock Trump for mispronouncing Tanzania. They don't get it. He said the most important word correctly: America. He gets it.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) April 27, 2016
Fox’s Richard Grenell: “This Speech Shows Trump Is Growing As A Candidate. It Will Help Him A Lot.”
This speech shows Trump is growing as a candidate. It will help him a lot.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) April 27, 2016
Conservative Media Follow RNC Lead In Smearing Clinton For Accurately Stating No Americans Died In Military Campaign To Oust Gadhafi
Right-wing media figures are distorting a comment made by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a MSNBC town hall, where Clinton said "we didn't lose a single person" during the 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya. Conservative commentators parroted the GOP in berating Clinton for allegedly "forgetting" about the four Americans who were killed during the 2012 Benghazi attacks, when in reality Clinton was referring only to the military intervention in Libya, which ended nearly a year before the Benghazi attacks.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and his campaign have reportedly received advice from an increasing number of controversial Republican figures and political strategists, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, political strategist Roger Stone, and former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. Various members of this "political kitchen cabinet" have launched sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton, claimed Obama does not love America, and denied the science of climate change.
Fox News slammed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after he announced he would not participate in the January 28 Republican presidential primary debate co-sponsored by Fox News because of his on-going feud with moderator Megyn Kelly.
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The National Rifle Association is promoting the claim that President Obama is "our biggest threat to national security" in response to reports that Obama will soon take several executive actions to address gun violence.
Obama reportedly plans to announce the executive actions some time during the "next several days." While details of Obama's proposals have not been released, several news reports indicate that Obama will shrink the "gun show loophole" by using regulatory authority to require unlicensed sellers who are engaging in high-volume gun sales to become licensed and perform background checks on customers.
The NRA responded to Obama's forthcoming proposals in a January 4 video, with the gun rights organization labeling the president "our biggest threat to national security":
In the video, the charge that "the biggest threat to national security is sitting in the Oval Office" is made by former Bush administration official John Bolton, a Fox News contributor. Bolton has served in an NRA leadership position and frequently appears in NRA News videos to advance the gun organization's views.
The NRA previously supported, in the words of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, "mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show," although the gun group has since abandoned this position and now claims expanded background checks would be the precursor to the confiscation of privately owned firearms.
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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.
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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.
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Origins Of A Right-Wing Fallacy
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.