Right-wing media are relying on a litany of myths to defend the use of torture on terrorism suspects, responding to the findings of a Senate investigation on the practice by pretending "torture isn't torture" and improperly crediting brutal interrogation for information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden.
From the September 2 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News has pushed reset on many of its favorite Benghazi myths that have already been put to rest in the wake of the recently released Rhodes email and the House GOP's announcement of the formation of a Select Committee to investigate the attacks.
Fox News is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, an argument that an energy expert called "patently absurd."
In response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean peninsula, Fox News personalities have been pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built on an accelerated timetable, claiming that it would "weaken" Russia. But their argument has no basis in reality, as the pipeline could not realistically be built in a timetable sufficient to respond to the imminent crisis, and the tar sands oil it would deliver would not dent the global market enough to impact Russia. Energy analyst Chris Nelder explained in an email to Media Matters:
Keystone XL proponents will seize on any shred of justification for the project, no matter how tenuous. The suggestion that a very long-term project like Keystone XL, which will take a year or more to construct on any timetable, and which will deliver refined products like gasoline and diesel to a global market -- not just markets around Russia -- would somehow address the immediate situation in Crimea, is patently absurd. Further, delivering 830,000 barrels per day once it reaches full capacity will not meaningfully undercut Russia specifically in a global market that consumes 92 million barrels per day.
Yet at least six Fox News hosts and contributors have used the crisis in Crimea to push a pro-tar sands agenda:
O'Reilly: Build Keystone Pipeline To Weaken Russia. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said that "the Keystone pipeline must be approved. Why? Because Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy ... the more oil and natural gas the U.S.A. and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage. I fervently hope President Obama understands that."
KT McFarland: Obama Should Tell Putin: "I Will Allow Keystone Pipeline To Go Ahead": In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News foreign policy contributor KT McFarland wrote a mock conversation on what she hopes Obama told Putin during their March 1 phone call:
I will allow the Keystone Pipeline to go ahead, again on an accelerated basis. That will not only give a boost to the American and Canadian economies, it will start driving down the price of oil.
McFarland made a similar argument on-air when she suggested "go[ing] after the economic weapon: Build the Keystone pipeline."
As Russian president Vladimir Putin flexes his military muscles by invading Ukraine in violation of multiple international treaties, right-wing pundits are fawning over the "macho" leader's strength while complaining that President Obama wears "mom jeans" and is weak on foreign policy.
In the wake of Russia's apparent invasion of the Crimean Peninsula -- an area within the sovereign territory of Ukraine -- right-wing media have renewed their crush on the Russian leader, praising his strength and equestrian skills after TIME's Michael Crowley tweeted a photo of Obama on a bicycle and Putin on a horse, saying the juxtaposition "does kind of capture the moment."
Fox Nation made the photo its "Pic of the Day" and published a "highlight reel of Putin doing macho things" like "performing karate," riding a horse and a motorcycle (though disappointingly not at the same time), and tranquilizing a tiger.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly discussed the photo on his primetime show March 3rd, saying the photo depicted the "contrasting styles" of Putin and Obama. "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants," O'Reilly said. "The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate."
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Sarah Palin questioned the "potency" of President Obama saying, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."
Other Fox pundits have followed the same theme. Foreign policy expert KT McFarland tweeted, "Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin's sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners". Frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani lavished Putin with praise, saying that in contrast with Obama, Putin is "what you call a leader."
Of course, no one praising Putin's leadership mentions his penchant for repressing dissent and stymieing the freedoms of his people. But at least he can fend off a wild animal without his shirt on.
Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland ignored key findings in a new bipartisan Senate report on the attacks in Benghazi to revive calls for a special prosecutor or select congressional committee to further investigate the attacks, despite the fact that the new exhaustive report is largely in line with previous investigations.
On the January 15 edition of Happening Now, McFarland discussed the newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report, declaring it a "bombshell." She went on to conclude that the report proved Benghazi is "not a phony scandal" and that it showed the need for a special prosecutor or special select committee to investigate "more unanswered questions."
Fox has supported efforts to establish a special prosecutor or select committee to investigate Benghazi in the past. In May 2013, Fox turned to Whitewater deputy counsel Robert Bittman to express support for a similar investigation into Benghazi. That July, six separate Fox shows promoted a doomed right-wing effort to force the House to convene a select committee to investigate the attacks.
McFarland did not detail what "unanswered questions" are left to investigate, but the report concluded that there "were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts" in the Obama administration's early attempts to explain how the attack happened. According to the New York Times, the report "is broadly consistent with the findings of previous inquiries" into the attacks, and it "does not break significant new ground on this issue."
Fox has used the release of other investigations into Benghazi to fan the flames of this "scandal" even when the results debunk their favorite narratives. This report similarly debunks many myths about Benghazi that Fox has pushed for many months.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. said in a statement that she hopes the report "will put to rest many of the conspiracy theories and political accusations about what happened in Benghazi." It won't if Fox News has its way.
Declassified transcripts from House Armed Services Committee hearings on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks revealed Fox News' highly politicized Benghazi reporting rarely reflected the facts on the ground.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates destroyed the right-wing narrative that his memoir attacks President Obama's approach to the war in Afghanistan, a narrative instigated by Bob Woodward and subsequently perpetuated by Fox News.
Gates' memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, caused widespread controversy preceding its January 14 release because of how Gates characterized the Obama administration's handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a January 13 interview on NBC's Today with co-host Matt Lauer, Gates explained that "what has been lost in the news media is that I actually agreed with virtually every decision President Obama made on Afghanistan." Gates opened the interview lamenting that the "book has sort of been hijacked by people along the political spectrum to serve their own purposes, taking quotes out of context and so on."
Following the release of excerpts from Gates' memoir, media figures seized on the selective quotes to attack President Obama. On January 7, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, a vocal critic of the Obama administration, characterized Gates' memoir as a damning critique of Obamathat "unleashes harsh judgements about President Obama's leadership" in Afghanistan. But Woodward's own accounts of the book's contents -- he acknowledged later in the piece that Gates believed "Obama was right" on each of his decisions regarding Afghanistan -- undermined his article.
Fox News personalities quickly followed suit. In a January 8 op-ed on FoxNews.com, Fox national security analyst K.T. McFarland used Gates' memoir to claim that Obama committed troops to a strategy he didn't believe in, saying, "Obama had concluded early on that the surge was a lost cause, but he went ahead anyway," a fallacious conclusion in light of Gates' comments.
In a January 13 column on FoxNews.com, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin echoed Woodward, claiming:
The former defense secretary offers the most devastating critique to come from an Obama insider. He paints the president as estranged from the very Afghan military surge he ordered and suspicious of and hostile toward top leaders of the armed forces.
On the January 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox military analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane claimed Gates' memoir showed "President Bush wanted to win and President Obama, simply put, wanted to get out."
Fox News security analyst K.T. McFarland attacked President Obama as "egoistical but incompetent" and claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for throwing "Obama a lifeline" on Syria.
In a September 10 column on FoxNews.com, McFarland credited Putin with offering Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "a way out of the mess they'd created" for the proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. MacFarland went on to say "the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize" for saving "the world from near-certain disaster":
The fact is Obama seemed headed for an attack on Syria that no one wanted and few thought would succeed. Most thought it would only end in disaster, either with the U.S. drawn into an attack/retaliation cycle of escalation that could go on for years and spread into a regional war, or result in the overthrow of President Assad by an Al Qaeda affiliated rebels.
While the Russians may have toyed with the idea of letting American get bogged down in yet another losing Middle East war, they didn't want to risk a war that might pull them in, or lose control of the Assad government to radical Sunni jihadists.
So Putin stepped in and threw Obama a lifeline.
The Washington press corps will no doubt believe him, as usual, and lavish their usual praise.
But the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize.
Fox News' KT McFarland claimed that building the Keystone XL pipeline would decrease dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf and alleviate the impact of future Middle East conflicts on the U.S. economy. In fact, studies show the pipeline will have little effect on foreign crude oil imports, and if the economy remains dependent on oil, events in the Middle East will have a significant impact on U.S. energy markets regardless of where the nation's oil imports originate.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that building the Keystone XL pipeline would make us less vulnerable to conflicts in the Middle East, such as a potential nuclear Iran. She claimed that if "if we get our own oil" from the Keystone pipeline we won't need to rely on Middle East oil, which is responsible for pulling the U.S. "into every Middle East conflict." From the show:
A 2010 study conducted by the U.S. State Department found that building the Keystone pipeline would not significantly affect how much oil was imported from foreign countries including the Middle East. The study included a graphic which showed almost no change in foreign imports of oil with or without Keystone XL pipeline:
Right-wing media figures distorted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's congressional testimony to attack President Obama over the response to the terror attack on the Benghazi consulate. In fact, Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey explained that the attack occurred in two waves separated by large blocks of time, and White House officials were engaged with military throughout the incident.
From the December 8 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News is deep in an ethics quagmire following a Washington Post report that the network's CEO Roger Ailes used Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to try to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for the president as a Republican. While Ailes and McFarland made their secret overtures, McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves to praise Petraeus as "one of the greatest generals in American history."
According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes had McFarland advise Petraeus that he "should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director" and instead hold out for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to resign and run for president if he was not offered that post. In audio of the meeting obtained by Woodward, Petraeus also said to McFarland that he had been advised that Ailes might resign as Fox News chief and act as a Petraeus aide should the general run for president. He also said that Ailes might bankroll the campaign, although he added that maybe it was News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch who had made that offer.
Woodward also reported that Ailes has acknowledged that he did ask McFarland to make the pitch: "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have." Ailes also called McFarland "way out of line" in some of her comments.
This would be an ethical problem by itself: Ailes -- the chief of a supposedly objective news network -- was advising an active general who was commanding U.S. troops in the middle of a war to make demands of the president, and if those demands were not met, to run for president with Ailes acting as his aide.
But the ethics problem is much worse than that. McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves soon after meeting with Petraeus to praise him as "one of the greatest generals in American history" who will save us from defeat in Afghanistan. While McFarland was putting Petraeus on at least the same level as Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower, she provided no disclosure of her and Ailes' advice that Petraeus should consider running for president.
From the April 21, 2011, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
McFARLAND: When I was there two years ago, Jenna, I looked around and I concluded this is hopeless. Now with General Petraeus, who is one of the greatest generals in American history, he has gone in and he has devised a plan that will work. And the question is not, will it work, but the question is, should we be doing this? Is this an objective, is this a mission that we want? And as you have pointed out, it's expensive. And are we at this point -- you know, where is America's priorities?
JENNA LEE (co-host): Are we in this kind of stalemate [in Afghanistan] like it seems some are describing in Libya -- of course we're not there with combat troops -- but where no side is really gaining any ground and nothing really changes?
McFARLAND: Well the plan that -- the Petraeus plan is to really spend this summer -- they've diminished and decimated the middle ranks of Al Qaeda at the same time they've built up the middle ranks, the mid-level management of the Afghans. So the plan is to continue to make inroads into the Al Qaeda -- not the Al Qaeda so much as the Taliban, and then have slowly but surely the Afghans take over. And it will take a number of years to do that.
McFARLAND: We're doing the military part right, but it's a three-legged stool. And the other parts of the stool, the other legs, are the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, which has safe havens for the Taliban.
During the Happening Now segment, Fox even aired a photo of McFarland's meeting with Petraeus without disclosing what they discussed about Petraeus' future:
Fox News' The Five argued that petitions created and signed by people calling for secession from the United States following President Obama's re-election were justified because conservative-leaning "red states" are more financially responsible than liberal-leaning "blue states." But data shows that secession would lead to what is being called a "Confederacy of Takers" because "red states" tend to receive more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes, while "blue states" typically receive less.
In 2011, Obama established a mechanism for people to create and sign petitions on the White House website, and if any petition receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30 days, White House officials will respond to the petition. In the days following Obama's re-election, people have filed secession petitions for several states, including Mississippi and Alabama.
Fox's The Five gave credence to the states calling for secession, suggesting that some of the red states that filed the petitions have an economic argument. Co-host Greg Gutfeld proposed pitting "red states" featured in the secession petitions -- such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas -- against "blue states" and seeing who succeeds financially. Guest co-host and Fox regular KT McFarland suggested it was the "richer states," particularly the Southern states, that will have to bail out "bankrupt" states like California. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was similarly frustrated at states "sponging off the states that are making money."
However, according to 2010 data compiled by Talking Points Memo from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Internal Revenue Service, "red states" generally are receiving more from the federal government in benefits than they pay in taxes when compared to "blue states." Indeed, a chart made by TPM shows that several of the states calling for secession (and defended by Fox News) pay on average less in taxes than they receive in federal benefits:
Fox News hosts and contributors repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration made a "political decision" to allow Americans to be killed in the September 11 Benghazi, Libya, attack on an American compound. But U.S. agents and the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli rushed to the aid of the compound during the attack, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the attack was over before the U.S. military had sufficient information on which to act.