The Clinton Foundation returned to the headlines this week and once again the topic was promoted with lots of media hand-wringing. The problem is, it's not always clear journalists understand what the foundation does. At least it's not clear based on the media coverage.
The news this week came from a Wall Street Journal article reporting that once Hillary Clinton left her job as secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation lifted its ban on donations from foreign governments. The ban was reportedly first put in place at the request of the Obama administration, which wanted to alleviate any possible conflicts of interest with its new secretary of state. When Clinton became a private citizen again in 2013, the foundation once again accepted money from foreign governments.
"A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation said the charity has a need to raise money for its many projects," the Journal reported.
The Journal article stressed that some ethics experts thought it was bad form for the foundation to accept foreign donations because Hillary Clinton is expected to run for president. The following day, Republican partisans piled on, insisting Hillary herself had accepted "truckloads of cash from other countries." (She had not; the foundation had.) The Beltway press largely echoed the Republican spin and lampooned the foundation's move.
Did the original Journal article raise an interesting question? It did. If and when Hillary formally announces her candidacy, will the foundation have to revisit its position on accepting foreign government donations? It likely will. But the only way the story really worked as advertised this week was to casually conflate the Clinton Foundation, a remarkably successful global charity organization, with Hillary's looming campaign coffers, and to suggest everyone who's giving to the foundation is really giving to her presidential campaign.
In order to make that allegation stick, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post simply suggested there's no difference between a global charity and "a PAC or campaign entity." (That kind of changes everything.)
The only way the story gained traction, and this has been true of Clinton foundation coverage for years, was for journalists to pretend the foundation isn't actually a ground-breaking charity, in order to make vague suggestions that it's one big Clinton slush fund where money gets "funneled." ("Money, Money, Money, Money, MONEY!" was the headline for Maureen Dowd's scathing New York Times attack column about the foundation in 2013.)
In recent months, conservative media figures have undermined efforts by labor groups to organize across the United States, demonizing labor unions in the process. These anti-union attacks are largely reliant on myths alleging negative side-effects of union participation.
From the February 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News reporter John Roberts believes the Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) bridge story has the potential to be "very damaging" because "unlike what's happened with President Obama" and the controversy in which the IRS allegedly targeted conservatives, Christie's scandal happened in his "living room."
Recently released communications have revealed that a top aide to Christie urged a top transportation official who is a high school friend of Christie to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie's re-election bid. The lane closures caused a massive four day traffic jam. Christie announced during a press conference today that he fired the aide in question.
During an appearance today on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends prior to the press conference, Roberts said that the scandal "has the potential to be very damaging to Gov. Christie because, you know, unlike what's happened with President Obama -- you know, the IRS thing was a woman who was in Cleveland. This is in the governor's living room. This is his deputy chief of staff. And as you mentioned his best friend who he went to high school with. It's difficult for him to be able to fully separate himself from this without at least giving the appearance that he doesn't know what's going on in his own home."
He added that the scandal "reinforces the worst perceptions about Gov. Christie. It makes it look like a Tony Soprano-type of administration. And while people in New Jersey appreciate many of the things that the governor has done, on the national level, if you want to run for president, you can't look like this is the way that your administration would operate. "
On the day the scandal broke, Fox devoted significantly less coverage to the story than CNN and MSNBC. Fox's coverage should provide an indication of the network's hot and cold relationship with Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who Fox News chairman Roger Ailes urged to seek the presidency in 2012 and who has previously enjoyed fawning coverage across the media.
From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Defending the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the resulting gutting of the law by the conservative Justices of the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder, right-wing media insisted voter suppression is only a problem that existed in the past and long-standing voter protections are no longer necessary. But the immediate spike in discriminatory restrictions on voting after the Shelby decision proves Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right in her dissenting opinion and right-wing media was dead wrong.
Roughly 45 minutes into Fox News' "special" investigation into the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or "food stamps," per the outdated parlance), host Bret Baier posed a question that gets right to the heart of what Fox News specifically, and conservatives generally, are trying to accomplish with regard to public attitudes toward social welfare programs. "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" Baier asked, referring to people who accept SNAP benefits. Baier's just-asking-questions lament about the lack of stigmatization was all part of Fox News' slipshod and flagrant piece of agitprop intended to shame the needy and promote public resentment of the government safety net.
Everything about Baier's special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" -- from the title to its absurd focus on a thoroughly unlikable miscreant named Jason Greenslate who proudly abuses SNAP benefits -- was designed to provoke hostility to the idea of nutritional assistance programs. Greenslate, a California musician who refuses to work and spends his monthly SNAP benefits on sushi and lobsters, is an anomaly in a program that has proven to be both efficient and effective. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "fewer than 2 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to households that do not meet all of the program's eligibility requirements." The USDA estimates that just one cent of every dollar of SNAP benefits is lost to "trafficking," a type of fraud. "About three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person," per the Congressional Budget Office.
Greenslate, who is in no way representative of the typical SNAP recipient, was the subject of two separate segments, totaling nearly nine minutes, of Fox News' hour-long special. Baier proclaimed him "the new face of food stamps."
Greenslate is "the new face of food stamps" for no other reason than Fox News wants him to be. Baier offered no data to back up this assertion, and no fact-driven justification for even including Greenslate in the report. But this freeloading oaf is an easy-to-hate villain, someone the viewer can immediately dislike and a convenient punching bag for small-government agitators. Near the program's close, Fox News reporter John Roberts, interviewing Greenslate, attempted to shame him -- and every other recipient of SNAP benefits. "It used to be that, you know, that if somebody was on food stamps it's like 'hey, they're on food stamps, you know... loser,'" said Roberts.
Fox News correspondent John Roberts ignored Sen. Ted Cruz's inaccurate claim that gun violence prevention is "unconstitutional" while guest hosting Fox News Sunday. The following morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough highlighted Roberts' failure to correct Cruz's extreme talking point, one that even conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected in District of Columbia v. Heller.
From the January 6 edition of Fox News Sunday (via Nexis):
ROBERTS: Gun control -- you probably heard the last segment. We're talking about 10 bills introduced in the House of Representatives regarding gun control. Joe Biden is leading a study group at the White House. You are a fierce defender of Second Amendment rights. You were in like 2010, given the NRA's Freedom Fund Award.
Is there any new gun control that you would accept?
CRUZ: The reason we are discussing this is it the tragedy in Newtown. And every parent, my wife and I, we've got two girls aged 4 and aged 2 -- every parent was horrified at what happened there. To see 20 children, six adults senselessly murdered, it takes your breath away.
But within minutes, we saw politician running out and trying to exploit this tragedy, try to push their political agenda of gun control.
I do not support their gun control agenda for two reasons. Number one, it's unconstitutional.
ROBERTS: But is there that you would accept?
CRUZ: I don't think the proposals being discussed now makes sense.
Cruz's repetition of the NRA talking point on Fox News Sunday that the "gun control agenda" is "unconstitutional" was especially notable because he is a well-credentialed attorney who clerked for former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that "gun control" is not unconstitutional, most recently in the landmark ruling of Heller that clarified the individual right to possess firearms. In fact, Cruz's endorsement of the NRA position is not only legally incorrect, it contradicts Justice Scalia's majority opinion:
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.
[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [United States v.] Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons.
Because Cruz, a new Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is expected to know very recent and high-profile Supreme Court precedent, Fox's Roberts should have given Cruz an opportunity to correct himself on the constitutionality of "gun control." As explained by The New York Times in reference to the reports of the gun violence prevention task force recommendations that Cruz was commenting on, "[a]lthough the N.R.A. is sure to cry "Second Amendment!," the truth is that there's not a single Second-Amendment restriction in Mr. Biden's law-enforcement approved list."
Instead, that task fell to Scarborough and fellow Morning Joe regulars, who questioned how Cruz and Fox News Sunday could botch Heller without any explanation or follow-up:
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you a question, Mark Halperin. You know Ted Cruz, right?
MARK HALPERIN: I do.
SCARBOROUGH: A smart, gifted guy?
HALPERIN: He's a very smart man.
SCARBOROUGH: Has he ever read the Constitution, do you know?
HALPERIN: I'm certain that he has.
SCARBOROUGH: Isn't he like a lawyer, or something like that?
HALPERIN: He is, he's an esteemed lawyer, he was Solicitor General of Texas...
SCARBOROUGH: He's a Harvard Law graduate. So you think he's probably read a Supreme Court case before?
HALPERIN: I'm certain he has.
SCARBOROUGH: You think maybe he's read Heller, the Supreme Court...
SCARBOROUGH: Seminal case on the Second Amendment, on the definition of what's constitutional and unconstitutional, you think he's read that?
SCARBOROUGH: It's hard to know, but you would think he probably would, right? Because if he had...
HALPERIN: He would know?
SCARBOROUGH: He would not say that background checks are unconstitutional. Or any of the things that have been brought up are unconstitutional. Because the Supreme Court clearly and unequivocally said that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms, and that means keeping handguns in their home. That means being able to protect their families in their home. But they gave wide latitude to the government to regulate guns in every way that people determine.
I disagree with a lot of [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein's suggestions and recommendations, but background checks, the banning of military-style assault weapons, the banning of high-capacity magazine clips, it's all constitutional under Heller. It's not even a close call.
Fox correspondent John Roberts misrepresented Mitt Romney's position on rescuing the auto industry to suggest President Obama was lying.
During the October 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Roberts suggested Obama was lying to the audience during a campaign rally in Iowa when he said Romney wanted the auto industry to go through bankruptcy with private financing. Roberts claimed that "in truth," Romney believed the auto industry simply could not be given another bailout and that "managed bankruptcy with government backing was the best thing to save the auto industry in the long run."
Roberts misrepresented what Romney has said regarding government assistance for U.S. auto companies. In the New York Times op-ed Roberts referenced in his report, Romney stated: "The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing." Experts disagree about the meaning of this phrase, and even the Romney campaign could not clarifiy it.
There is no question, however, that Romney's ever-changing argument differs from President Obama's decision to loan federal funds to GM and Chrysler, allowing them to survive bankruptcy and save the auto industry in 2009.
Since the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News has regularly criticized President Obama over semantics and taken his words out of context, creating a fictional version of Obama's handling of the attack.
Fox News has launched a cover up of Mitt Romney's debate falsehood that President Obama waited 14 days before calling the deadly September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, an act of terror.
While debate moderator Candy Crowley immediately corrected Romney's falsehood during the October 16 presidential debate, pointing out that Obama called the attack an act of terror during his first public comments after it occurred, Fox anchor Bret Baier started the Fox cover up during the network's post-debate coverage. Baier claimed Obama wasn't "specifically speaking about Benghazi" when he referred to the attack on September 12 as an act of terror, but rather was speaking "generically."
Sean Hannity followed suit, claiming that Obama was actually referring to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Straight news anchor John Roberts said that because the remarks "came at the end" of his speech, it's unclear that Obama was referring to Benghazi.
Fox's effort to cover up Romney's debate falsehood continued throughout its October 17 coverage. Watch:
At the same time Fox was trying to deflect from one Romney debate falsehood, they were completely ignoring many other Romney falsehoods from the debate, including his debunked boast that his economic agenda will be responsible for creating 12 million new jobs in 4 years.
Fox correspondent John Roberts claimed that "it's unclear" whether President Obama was referencing the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, when he spoke of "acts of terror" in a speech on September 12, even though Obama was making the speech only because of the attack.
During the October 16 presidential debate, Mitt Romney denied the fact that Obama called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror on September 12. As transcript of the speech shows, on September 12 in the Rose Garden, Obama said of the Benghazi attack, "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. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America."
On the very next day, September 13, Obama again called the Benghazi attack an "act of terror" while speaking in Colorado: "So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished."
Still, right-wing media have pushed the transcript-truther line, claiming that despite this evidence, Obama never called the Benghazi attack an act of terror.
Today, the transcript trutherism moved on to one of Fox's "straight news" programs, America's Newsroom. After airing video of the candidates sparring over Libya during the debate, Roberts said, "So what was it that the president actually said at the Rose Garden on the 12th of September? He said, 'No act of terror -- acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.' " Roberts then claimed, "But that came at the end of his remarks, and it's unclear, at least in many people's minds, whether that was a direct reference to the attack on the Benghazi consulate."
In fact, Obama spoke in the Rose Garden on September 12 solely to address the attacks on the Benghazi consulate. The White House transcript of the speech is titled "Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya."
Fox's John Roberts cited a speech from Mitt Romney to promote the false claim that September's drop in the unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the workforce.
On America Live this afternoon, Fox News correspondent John Roberts reported that Romney reacted to the jobs report this morning by calling it "not what a real recovery looks like" because "the only reason why the unemployment figure has dropped" is "because so many people have dropped out of the workforce":
But Roberts promoted Romney's supposed comment without pointing out that it's wrong. In fact, in its report this morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that the labor force rose by more than 400,000 people:
Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following 3 months of little change. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.4 percentage point to 58.7 percent, after edging down in the prior 2 months. The overall trend in the employment-population ratio for this year has been flat. The civilian labor force rose by 418,000 to 155.1 million in September, while the labor force participation rate was little changed at 63.6 percent.
Fox has repeatedly attacked Democrats for a party platform that does not specifically use the word "God." By contrast, Fox figures downplayed the importance of the GOP platform last week, saying that Romney "doesn't write the platforms" and "doesn't have to abide" by them.
From the August 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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