Fox News is apparently desperate for a scandal over President Obama's handling of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups, especially now that the network's campaign to embroil the president in scandal over his response to the Benghazi attacks is falling apart. Fox has gone from ignoring Obama's swift responses to the IRS's actions to downplaying the significance of his firing the IRS's acting commissioner, each time distorting reality in order to call for a special prosecutor.
The release of over 100 pages of inter-agency emails obtained by CNN have threatened to derail months of right-wing scandal-mongering over the administration's response to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The emails appear to counter the conservative narrative that the State Department altered Benghazi-related talking points for political reasons. As Fox News' desperate attempts to resurrect the waning scandal fall flat, Fox pundits have resorted to criticizing the president's handling of the IRS controversy instead.
Fox kicked off its criticism by deciding Obama's initial condemnation of the IRS's actions as "outrageous" was too weak. When the president first addressed concerns over this story at a press conference on Monday, May 13, he asserted, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable." America Live host Megyn Kelly covered his remarks by wondering, "Does the president understate it when he calls this, 'outrageous'?"
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama released a statement on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable. This time, Fox simply pretended Obama made no such statement and continued to attack his remarks from two days prior, all while arguing that a special prosecutor was needed given Obama's supposed inaction.
By Thursday, Fox was fumbling over how to handle the fact that Obama had fired Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions. In the morning, America's Newsroom chose the route of merely ignoring that anyone had been fired so that host Martha MacCallum could declare, "[Obama] could be the big person. He could say, 'This stinks. You're all fired. This doesn't happen in America.' He has every ability in his position right now to take the high road. Why not? Why not do it?"
When the network finally acknowledged that Miller had been forced to resign, it did so by attempting to downplay the decision. Anchor Bret Baier questioned the action on Happening Now, claiming, "He was ready to leave, despite the fact -- I mean, before any of this already happened. He was acting commissioner and was set to leave the IRS. So that's a question for the White House; that's a question for the president. You know, was this guy fired when he was going to leave anyway?"
The Wall Street Journal continued its questionable disclosure practices with Karl Rove by publishing a column in which Rove advocates that the Republican Party adopt a strategy that a group backed by him -- the Conservative Victory Project -- has been pursuing, without noting his role in the group.
In a May 1 Journal column, Karl Rove highlighted what he felt the Republican Party should do in order to win enough seats to gain the majority of the U.S. Senate in 2014. He argued that Republicans need to out fundraise Democrats and that Republicans need to nominate electable candidates:
Republican success will depend on having quality Senate candidates. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock self-destructed last fall, and other candidates squandered important opportunities.
Fundraising is important. Last year, Democratic Senate candidates outraised Republicans by $60 million (not including the Connecticut and Pennsylvania races with GOP self-funders). The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised its GOP counterpart by an additional $20 million. Republicans won't make big pickups if there's a disparity like this in 2014.
The quality of GOP campaigns will matter as well. Republicans must go toe-to-toe with Democrats on ObamaCare, spending, deficits, the president's social agenda and, where appropriate, their opponent's character. But even done effectively, this won't be enough.
The Journal disclosed that Karl Rove "helped organize the political action committee American Crossroads," but did not disclose that he is reportedly involved with the Conservative Action Project -- an effort by conservatives to raise money to help nominate electable candidates, that The Hill reported is "being operated independent of" American Crossroads. A February 2 New York Times article described the Conservative Victory Project as an attempt to raise money in order:
[T]o recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party's efforts to win control of the Senate.
The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.
The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.
The project is being waged with last year's Senate contests in mind, particularly the one in Missouri, where Representative Todd Akin's comment that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy rippled through races across the country. In Indiana, the Republican candidate, Richard E. Mourdock, lost a race after he said that when a woman became pregnant during a rape it was "something God intended."
The Journal's past disclosure problems have been widely criticized. With Rove, the Journal for months failed to disclose Rove's affiliation with American Crossroads in columns in which he attacked President Obama and advocated for action that was being taken by his political groups. After current and former editorial page editors at major national and regional newspapers deemed the Journal's lack of disclosure "negligent," the Journal ultimately corrected this problem in September 2012.
Additionally, during the 2012 presidential election, the Journal had similar disclosure problems with numerous op-ed writers who were not identified as Romney advisers in pieces that criticized Obama or praised Romney. Editorial page editors also criticized this practice.
Fox News celebrated the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum by lionizing his administration and employing myths and falsehoods to defend his legacy. Fox News also conducted softball interviews with Bush (by his "biggest fan") and his former officials to rehab his image.
In advance of the opening of George W. Bush's presidential library, Fox News is gearing up to rehabilitate the former president's image with the help of former Bush administration officials turned Fox employees.
On the April 23 edition of America's Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum hosted former Bush senior advisor and current Fox News political analyst Karl Rove to discuss Bush's legacy. During the interview, MacCallum gave Rove a platform to praise his former boss on a wide range of issues.
Both MacCallum and Rove highlighted how history will be the true judge of Bush's performance as president:
According to TV Newser, Bush will be interviewed later in the week by his former press secretary and current Fox News host Dana Perino, whose questioning is expected to be "more personal given her prior relationship" with the former president. Special Report anchor Bret Baier will also reportedly interview Bush, with the show broadcasting from the library on both April 24 and 25.
Karl Rove accused President Obama of misleading the American people on deficit reduction when the GOP operative and Fox employee denied that Obama "has met the Republicans more than halfway" on the deficit.Rove was repeating a bogus piece of spin from GOP leadership -- on the whole, deficit reduction under the Obama administration has actually been heavily tilted towards spending cuts.
When Happening Now guest host Rick Folbaum asked Rove if Obama had "met the Republicans more than halfway," as the president has said, Rove replied, "He has not met the Republicans halfway. The Republicans gave him $600 billion in additional revenue at the end of the year on the fiscal cliff deal." Rove continued: "The president during the campaign said we ought to have, he had TV ads, saying there ought to be two and a half dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in new revenue. So he's got to come up with about $1.5 trillion in spending reductions, and there's nowhere near that in this budget."
Rove is trying to pull a fast one on Fox's viewers by omitting the crucial fact that Obama signed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts into law in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act. Those cuts are legally binding and are in place today. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "these reductions will shrink non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level on record as a share of GDP, with data going back to 1962." As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein has written, "you can't pretend the BCA cuts didn't happen."
This CBPP chart shows the balance between spending cuts and revenue increases signed into law since 2011:
Rove is not the only one trying to tell the American people that post-2010 spending cuts never happened. By starting the timer at the beginning of 2013 and ignoring Obama's actual record on deficit reduction, Rove is parroting GOP House Speaker John Boehner, who said last week that "the president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts."
Karl Rove hypocritically referred to an ad highlighting how a recent House Republican budget would harm seniors who rely on Medicare as "Mediscare" demagoguery, ignoring his own PAC's misleading Medicare-based attack on a Democrat during the 2012 election cycle.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released ads on April 1 highlighting the ramifications of the fiscal year 2014 budget proposed by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The ads accurately claim that the budget would cut Medicare and harm seniors.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently found that the Ryan budget would "cut Medicare spending by $356 billion," as well as "shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries," and could leave many 65 and 66 year olds without health insurance.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, however, Karl Rove dismissed this ad as "demagoguery" and "deeply dishonest":
The midterm election is still 19 months away, but for some it's never too early for demagoguery. And so this week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new "Mediscare" ad. The targets are 17 Republican congressmen who supported the House budget framework that includes Medicare reforms.
The ad has menacing music, doomsday predictions and a tagline that these GOP congressmen voted for "a radical vision for America" that guts Medicare. The spot is deceitful but still deserves a swift, powerful rebuttal. Even a deeply dishonest attack on Medicare, if unrefuted, can do damage.
In his critique of the "Mediscare" ad, Rove ignored his own political group's Medicare-based attack ad. American Crossroads ran a misleading ad during the 2012 election cycle attacking Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) for supposedly harming seniors by voting for "massive cuts to Medicare" to the tune of $700 billion by voting for health care reform.
Contrary to the ad's claim, health care reform did not cut Medicare. As an August 2012 ABC News post explained, the supposed "cuts" to Medicare was actually the slowing of Medicare's future growth by "getting rid of fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies." Gail Wilensky, a former administrator of the Medicare program under President George H. W. Bush, made clear in a June 2012 Bloomberg article that this growth control would not result in "reductions in the Medicare benefits promised in the law."
From the March 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the March 24 edition of ABC News' This Week With George Stephanopoulos:
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From the March 22 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the March 17 edition of Fox Broadcasting Company's Fox News Sunday:
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Conservatives continue to wage war over the future of the Republican Party, with Media Research Center president Brent Bozell and several other activists penning a letter discouraging donors from giving money to Karl Rove's new political group.
Rove has been the focus of conservative anger for weeks following the announcement of Conservative Victory Project, a new group he is launching with the help of the allies behind his Crossroads political groups. According to the New York Times, the group will seek to "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts."
The letter, flagged by TIME reporter Zeke Miller, is signed by Bozell, Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer, Citizens United president David Bossie, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and a handful of other conservative activists who claim to represent "millions of grassroots conservatives."
Addressed to "Top Crossroads Donors," the letter rips Rove's Crossroads political groups for supporting moderate candidates and having "squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in what were arguably the most inept campaign advertising efforts ever."
Conservative organization FreedomWorks is fundraising off of Fox News contributor Karl Rove's efforts to, in the group's words, "silence grassroots activists and make sure that only big-government RINO's call the shots in Washington."
Rove, along with allies from his Crossroads political groups, recently launched the Conservative Victory Project. According to The New YorkTimes, the group will work to "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts." The project has sparked a civil war among conservative commentators, with some of Rove's own Fox News colleagues calling the group "absolutely repulsive" and "an incumbency protection racket."
FreedomWorks, which attacked Rove when the project was announced, has launched NotKarlsParty.com. In a video touting the effort, FreedomWorks spokeswoman and Fox News contributor Deneen Borelli says that "Karl Rove and his unprincipled establishment candidates" are trying to "take over the GOP." The message asks followers to visit NotKarlsParty.com to "file a petition to give Karl Rove a piece of your mind."
From the February 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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In a paid speaking engagement before the Lane Country (Oregon) Republican Party, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin attacked fellow Fox News employee Karl Rove for running an "incumbency protection racket" and decried the treatment of conservative candidates "thrown under the bus by feckless Republicans."
In an excerpt of her speech on February 22 posted to YouTube, Malkin referred to Rove's "Conservative Victory Project," which is reportedly an attempt to promote more electable Republican candidates while attacking primary candidates who are unlikely to win races, as "an incumbency protection racket."
She accused Rove of "badmouthing conservatives who've had a problem with big government Republican policies of which he is the primary architect" and "badmouthing good candidates who stepped up to the plate when no one else would, who were savaged by the media and then thrown under the bus by feckless Republicans." She declared, "that's not the kind of Republican Party I want to belong to."
Malkin blamed "big government Republicans" for helping to create the "seeds that were planted" that led to the Tea Party movement because "conservatives were sick of seeing their money squandered on people who did not believe in their principles."
Other conservatives have recently panned Rove's new organization, describing them as "snakes in the GOP grass" and "the Bush insider team that helped lead to the rise of Barack Obama." Fox hosts, contributors and frequent guests like Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, Liz Cheney and Mike Huckabee have also attacked Rove for this initiative.
Attendees at the dinner paid $95 per person to hear Malkin speak (lowered from the previous price of $125). According to a report in the Register-Guard, the Lane County Republican Party paid a deposit of $7,500 towards Malkin's speaking fee, and planned a "private reception" with Malkin for "45 to 50" people paying $500 each. On her personal website, Malkin notes that "my speaking fee is high."
Perpetually fuming about President Obama, Sean Hannity widened his rant Wednesday night on Fox News and condemned the "lapdog, kiss ass media" that allegedly lets Obama have his way. Echoing the same attack, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week that "Mr. Obama is a once-in-a-generation demagogue with a compliant press corps," while the anti-Obama Daily Caller pushed the headline, "Lapdog Media Seeking Lap To Lie In."
Complaining about the "liberal media," has been a running, four-decade story for conservative activists. But what we're hearing more of lately is the specific allegation that the press has purposefully laid down for the Democratic president, and that it's all part of a master media plan to help Democrats foil Republicans.
The rolling accusation caught my attention since I wrote a book called Lapdogs, which documented the Beltway media's chronic timidity during the previous Republican administration, and particularly with regards to the Iraq War. I found it curious that Hannity and friends are now trying to turn the rhetorical tables with a Democrat in the White House, and I was interested in what proof they had to lodge that accusation against today's press.
It turns out the evidence is quite thin. For instance, one never-ending partisan cry has been the press has "ignored" the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year; that they're protecting Obama. Yet the New York Times and Washington Post have published nearly 800 articles and columns mentioning Benghazi since last September, according to Nexis.
What the lapdog allegation really seems to revolve around is the fact that conservatives are angry that Obama remains popular with the public. Rather than acknowledge that reality, partisans increasingly blame the press and insist if only reporters and pundits would tell 'the truth' about Obama, then voters would truly understand how he's out to destroy liberty and freedom and capitalism.
Sorry, but that's not what constitutes a lapdog press corps. And to confuse chronic partisan whining with authentic media criticism is a mistake. The Hannity-led claim also isn't accurate. Studies have shown that during long stretches of his first term, Obama was hammered with "unrelentingly negative" press coverage.
By contrast, the lapdog era of the Bush years represented nothing short of an institutional collapse of the American newsroom. And it was one that, given the media's integral role in helping to sell the Iraq War, did grave damage to our democracy.