Jonathan Karl

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  • Network Evening News Programs Ignore Crucial Facts In Reports On Clinton Aide's Immunity Agreement

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    In a March 2 report, the Washington Post reported that the Department of Justice granted immunity to Bryan Pagliano, an aide of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who allegedly set up her private email server. In their coverage of the report, nightly news programs on CBS, ABC, and NBC hyped claims that Pagliano's immunity signaled a troubling development for Hillary Clinton -- while neglecting to inform viewers that Pagliano's "limited immunity" is commonly requested and received in these types of investigations, and is "not indicative of guilt."

  • Conservative Media Call For Cruz-Rubio Ticket To Stop Trump

    As Political Journalists Say Contested Convention Needed To Stop Trump, Conservatives Call For Unity Ticket

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Political journalists are declaring that the only way now to prevent Trump from winning the Republican presidential nomination after his Super Tuesday victories is to have a contested Republican National Convention, in which delegates would vote by secret ballot to determine the nominee, rather than choosing the candidate they were originally pledged to support. Meanwhile, right-wing media figures are reacting to Trump's success by suggesting a joint ticket featuring Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to stop Trump.

  • ABC's World News Tonight Mainstreams Right-Wing Media's Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs Myth

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    ABC's World News Tonight pushed the myth that building the Keystone XL pipeline could create up to 40,000 jobs. In fact, the pipeline is expected to create as few as 50 permanent jobs.

    During a November 18 report on the failed Senate vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, World News Tonight anchor David Muir stated that "many argued it could have created thousands of American jobs." ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl added that "the jobs estimates range from 4,000 to 40,000 jobs. Proponents say it not only creates jobs, but it could lead to energy independence."

    But PolitiFact has classified similar claims that the construction of the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs to be "mostly false," because a vast majority of the jobs would be temporary, and it "does not amount to tens of thousands of full-time jobs in the most common sense of employment." According to PolitiFact, "the State Department estimates the operation of the pipeline will only create 35 permanent, full-time jobs and 15 temporary contractors" once construction is complete.

    The pipeline would also do little for "energy independence." Much of the oil that would be carried by the pipeline is slated for export, and U.S. imports of oil would be minimally affected by the supply that would flow through the pipeline.

  • Jonathan Karl's Latest Benghazi Scoop Was Reported By His Network In 2012

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Jonathan Karl ABC News

    ABC News' Jonathan Karl hyped misleading accusations from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the Obama administration obstructed investigations into Benghazi by not releasing an email showing the White House contacted YouTube with concerns about an anti-Islam video as the attacks unfolded. But the White House's contacts with YouTube were reported by ABC News mere days after the attacks and acknowledged by the White House.

    In the days immediately following the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other members of the administration described the assault as developing from spontaneous protests against an anti-Islam video that had been posted on YouTube, which had inspired riots across the Muslim world. That conclusion was consistent with the analysis of the intelligence community at the time. But because it was later revealed that there was no protest in Benghazi, conservatives led by Fox News have since claimed the Obama administration engaged in a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.

    In a May 22 post, Karl quoted Issa's selective leak of a single sentence from a State Department email sent on the night of the attack. That sentence explains that the White House was reaching out to YouTube with concerns that the attack stemmed from the anti-Islam video. Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claimed the State Department "has attempted to obstruct" the email's disclosure:

    A still-classified State Department e-mail says that one of the first responses from the White House to the Benghazi attack was to contact YouTube to warn of the "ramifications" of allowing the posting of an anti-Islamic video, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.


    The subject line of the e-mail, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of the attack, is "Update on Response to actions - Libya." The was written hours before the attack was over.

    Issa has asked the White House to declassify and release the document. In the meantime he has inserted a sentence from the e-mail in the Congressional Record.

    "White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advice ramification of the posting of the Pastor Jon video," the e-mail reads, according to Issa.


    "The e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative -- one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground -- before Americans were even out of harm's way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence," Issa said.

    Issa is calling on the White House to release an unclassified version of the document.

    "While the information I have cited from this e-mail is clearly unclassified, the State Department has attempted to obstruct its disclosure by not providing Congress with an unclassified copy of this document," Issa said.

    But the fact that the Obama administration reached out to YouTube due to the attack is no revelation. In fact, on September 14, 2012, Karl's then-colleague Jake Tapper reported on ABC's World News, "one other development today, the National Security Council here at the White House has reached out to YouTube to find out if their posting of that anti-Muslim film violates the terms of use." Update: Here's the video:

  • Media's Revisionist History Of The Sunday Shows After Benghazi Attacks


    Mainstream media outlets attempted to cast doubt on White House press secretary Jay Carney's explanation that a memo advising Susan Rice on her TV appearances referred to global protests as opposed to the September 11 attack specifically. However Sunday news coverage from Rice's press tour demonstrates that discussions of Benghazi did include broader context of anti-American protests in the region, as Carney had asserted.

  • ABC's Jonathan Karl And The Proof The White House Memo Wasn't Just About Benghazi

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Jonathan KarlABC's Jonathan Karl, who was previously burned when he pushed falsehoods about CIA talking points generated in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, is now adopting the conservative distortion of a separate set of talking points authored by the White House for media appearances by then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

    On September 16, 2012, Rice appeared on the Sunday political talk shows and suggested that the Benghazi terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests like those that were occurring worldwide in response to an anti-Muslim video. Conservatives have claimed that Rice's comments on the Sunday shows were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the terror attacks, to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign. This effort has often involved distorting the CIA-approved talking points that Rice used to prepare for the interviews.

    Karl came under fire in May 2013 after reporting that the network had "reviewed" emails from administration officials regarding the creation and editing of those CIA-generated talking points. While nothing Karl reported undermined assertions from the CIA that the intelligence community had approved those talking points, Karl suggested that the emails bolstered the conservative critique of the administration's response.

    In fact, Karl had never seen the emails in question -- his story was based on "summaries" of the emails and "detailed notes" from a source who, it turned out, had misrepresented what the documents actually said. After media observers slammed Karl's "sloppy" reporting, ABC News issued a statement saying that the network "should have been more precise in its sourcing of those quotes, attributing them to handwritten copies of the emails taken by a Congressional source. We regret that error." Karl himself apologized in a statement to CNN.

    Now Karl is returning to the subject of talking points used to prepare Rice for those September 16, 2012, interviews, seizing on a separate email authored by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes that was released yesterday. The email details "Goals" and "Top-lines" for Rice's interviews and provides sample questions and answers.

    Conservatives have fixated on one of Rhodes' recommendations for the interviews, detailing one of the goals as "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy." Conservatives claim this is evidence the White House was seeking to deliberately mislead the public by blaming Benghazi on the anti-Muslim video rather than terrorism in the region.

    In what Mediaite described as a "heated back and forth" during the April 30 White House Press Briefing, Karl hyped this false attack, repeatedly challenging White House Press Secretary Jay Carney over the Rhodes email and Rice's interviews.

    During their exchange, Carney sought to make clear that the Rhodes email was not just about the Benghazi attacks but was a more extensive document detailing the situation in the Middle East more broadly, and thus that the comment that "these protests are rooted in an internet video" was not about Benghazi specifically. According to Carney, Rice depended on the CIA talking points for information on Benghazi and the White House talking points for other topics.

    Conservative media have been quick to use the exchange to attack Carney and the White House. But the White House documents upon which Karl based his misleading questions support Carney's argument.

  • The Worst Hoax Of 2013

    Seven Terrible Reports On The Benghazi Pseudoscandal

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Jonathan KarlOn September 11, 2012, terrorists killed four Americans during attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Conservatives immediately sought to use those tragic killings for political benefit.

    By January 1, with conservatives having failed to prevent President Obama's re-election, but succeeding in using the issue to torpedo Susan Rice's bid for Secretary of State, Media Matters had some reason to hope that this effort would subside.

    We were wrong.

    Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media doubled down, spending much of the year trying to turn Benghazi into Obama's Watergate (or Iran-Contra, or both) and try to end any potential presidential run by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before it can begin.  And some mainstream outlets, more eager to win over a conservative audience than to check their facts, ran their own misleading, sketchily-sourced Benghazi exposés.

    Much of the discussion has centered around two "unanswered questions" that in reality were answered long ago.

    Right-wing media outlets (and mainstream outlets seeking to attract their audience) have been obsessed with asking why the Obama administration initially linked the attacks with an anti-Islam YouTube video that spurred violent protests across the Middle East in mid-September, even after it became clear that the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis had believed there was a connection between the two.

    They've also taken every opportunity to question why help wasn't sent to aid U.S. diplomats in Benghazi. Reporters have continued asking this "lingering question" even as a long line of national security experts, from both inside and outside of the administration, have explained that while the Defense Department quickly deployed Special Forces teams to the region, due to logistical issues they were unable to reach the scene until long after the attacks had concluded.

    To comprehensively debunk these claims and many more about the attacks, in October 2013 Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt released the ebook The Benghazi Hoax.

    Here are seven of the worst media reports and conspiracies from the last year on the Benghazi hoax:

  • How The Press Helped Cause The GOP Shutdown

    Years Of Bogus 'Both-Sides-To-Blame' Coverage Have Emboldened Radical Republicans

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe just days before the looming deadline for a federal government shutdown, Politico's Mike Allen was assessing the politics of the controversy and predicting which Beltway players would get tagged with the blame for the intentional legislative debacle. Despite the fact that Republicans were refusing to fund the government if the White House balked at the demand to essentially repeal its 2010 health care law, Allen suggested President Obama would be the real political loser.

    Why Obama? Because he's more famous than the GOP congressional leaders whose actions are causing the impasse.

    "A lot of people in the country don't know John Boehner. There's no one in the world who doesn't know Barack Obama," Allen explained. "So when Washington is not working, it's going off the rails in a very visible way, a way that is vivid and touches people, that's not good ultimately for the president."

    That's an awfully tenuous path to blame Obama for the Republicans' proudly obstructionist strategy to stop funding the  government.

    Yet so it goes within portions of the Beltway press corps who are straining to  include Democrats in the shutdown blame game; to make sure "both sides" are targeted for tsk-tsk scoldings about "Washington dysfunction," and that the Republicans' truly radical nature remains  casually ignored. This media act is getting old. And this media act may be emboldening the Republicans' extreme behavior.

    Note that unlike the government shutdowns during the Clinton administration, this one was not prompted by a budgetary disagreement between the two parties. It was provoked by the GOP's unheard of demand that in order to vote for government spending they agree is necessary, the White House had to strip away funding for its health care law. Also note that the looming showdown over the debt ceiling represents another orchestrated crisis in which the GOP is making unprecedented demands on the president in exchange for their votes for a policy they say they support. Both cases illustrate the folly of trying to blame the White House for failing to engage with Republicans, who have embraced a path of purposefully unsolvable confrontations.

    What's been clear for years is that the press clings to its preferred storyline: When Republicans obstruct Obama's agenda, the president's to blame for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior. In other words, "both sides" are to blame for the GOP's radical actions and the epic gridlock it produces.  

    The media lesson for Republicans? There's very little political downside to pushing extremism if the press is going to give the party a pass. 

  • Where Are ABC News' Corrections For Their False Benghazi Email Claims?

    The Network Has Yet To Correct On Air Its False Claim That It Had "Obtained" Administration Emails

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl's statement in response to criticism for the deceptive sourcing in his so-called "exclusive" on administration talking points on the September attacks in Benghazi is fundamentally misleading.

    In a statement to CNN, Karl claimed that ABC News "updated our story immediately" when it became clear it was based on misquoted emails from administration officials. But Karl also insisted the story "still entirely stands," and the network has issued no on-air corrections. In fact, in two on-air reports on the release of administration emails that debunked his reporting, Karl said that those emails "confirm" ABC News' original story.

    Conservatives have long claimed that the Obama administration edited references to terrorism out of the Benghazi talking points for political reasons. Karl buttressed those allegations with a May 10 report that claimed, based on what appeared to be direct quotes from the emails of White House and State Department aides, that "the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department."

    Karl's "exclusive" received widespread coverage even though it was largely a rehash of previously covered debates on who gave input into the talking points. It did not disprove what Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified in November: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups.

    But Karl's story dissolved after CNN's Jake Tapper obtained a key email from a White House aide that differed substantially from how it had been quoted by Karl. The ABC News reporter then acknowledged that he had never seen the actual emails on which he had reported. Rather, a Republican source had read him their own summaries of those emails.

    On May 20, CNN's Howard Kurtz reported the following statement from Karl: "Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it's become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands.  I should have been clearer about the attribution.  We updated our story immediately."

    This statement merely compounds the dubious practices that in which Karl and ABC News have engaged with regard to this story.