Congress and the Department of Justice are investigating the possibility that classified national security information has been leaked to the media and published in a series of recent news reports. But Fox News figures are not waiting for the results of these investigations.
Instead, they are attempting to scandalize President Obama's foreign policy achievements, declaring definitively -- and without hard evidence -- that the White House disclosed classified information through politically motivated leaks.
On Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said that "it's obvious that the administration had to have some hand in some of this." Fox News national security analyst K.T. McFarland wrote in a column for FoxNews.com that "the Obama administration seems to have engaged in a systematic program of leaking the most highly classified information about our successful intelligence operations for its own political gain." And Fox co-host Greg Gutfeld said flatly that "the leaks are coming from the White House."
They all made their accusations without offering any proof. And in fact, President Obama has denied that the White House purposely leaked classified information, calling such suggestions "offensive" and "wrong." And the managing editor of The New York Times, whose reporting is at the center of the controversy, has denied that "the paper is on the receiving end of silver-platter leaks from the Obama administration."
Even Republican leaders of the congressional intelligence committees have said that they're committed to a fair investigation.
But not Fox News.
Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland has again claimed that Iran is on the verge of having nuclear weapons, despite the fact that there are significant questions as to whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all.
During an appearance on Fox's "straight news" program America's Newsroom, McFarland told co-host Bill Hemmer that "Iran is an expansionist country on the verge of getting nuclear weapons."
However, there are significant questions about whether Iran is even planning to acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is trying to build a bomb. According to Greg Thielmann, former State Department intelligence analyst and former Senate Intelligence Committee senior staffer, and Benjamin Loehrke, senior policy analyst at Ploughshares Fund (a global security foundation), the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) November 8, 2011 report is consistent with that finding.
Moreover, in January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence community does not know whether Iran will try to build a bomb.
Of course, the claim that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons is particularly rich coming from McFarland, as she has been warning for years that Iran is just around the corner from having nukes. In December 2008 McFarland said, "Iran is probably two years away from a nuclear weapon. Now, that's really frightening. But that's two years." In April 2010 she said that "in a couple of months time -- 6 months, 9 months -- we're going to be faced with this choice: bombing Iran or letting Iran get the bomb." And just earlier this year she distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner."
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the May 21 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Sean Hannity devoted his Fox News show Friday to furthering misleading attacks on President Obama's record on national security.
Hannity opened his show by playing a misleading political ad from a right-wing political activist that deceptively edited statements President Obama made about the Osama bin Laden raid to make it look like Obama took all the credit for the success of the raid himself. Hannity then asked audience members whether they agreed that Obama "politicized the killing of bin Laden this week":
The reality is that President Obama has repeatedly thanked and praised the American troops and other military and intelligence individuals who participated in the mission.
Hannity later turned to birther and less than ethical Fox military analyst Gen. Thomas McInerney to criticize the Obama administration for attempting to negotiate with the Taliban. McInerney said "you can't negotiate with them." However, CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and many other national security experts have said that it is in America's interest to negotiate with the Taliban.
Perhaps the most disgraceful part of Hannity's special was when he brought up the topic of waterboarding and said that "President Obama calls that torture." Fox national security analyst KT McFarland then offered a full-throated defense of the practice:
McFARLAND: No, it's not torture. And there's a second issue, which is: Did it work? And it worked. And if it worked, it's kept the United States safe for this last 10 years -- even if it's torture, it's probably worth doing.
In fact, former interrogators, intelligence officials, and experts have stated that torture did not lead to bin Laden's whereabouts, and furthermore, that it doesn't provide trustworthy information.
And it's not just President Obama that "claims" waterboarding is torture.
From the May 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Writing in Foreign Policy, Harvard University international affairs professor Stephen M. Walt listed his "Top Ten Media Failures in the 2012 Iran War Scare" and provides examples of media outlets that he believes are responsible for those failures. One other media outlet that quickly comes to mind as an example of extremely poor Iran coverage is Fox News.
For some time now, Fox's coverage of the Iran debate has left much to be desired, and indeed, Fox has committed many of the "top ten media failures" that Walt identified.
"#1 Mainstreaming the war." Walt wrote that media outlets repeatedly push the idea that "war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc.," which could potentially "convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives." Fox has done this repeatedly. For example, Fox military analyst Jack Keane said on Happening Now: "I think it's inevitable" that the United States will have "some kind of conflict" with Iran. Regular Fox guest and former CIA official Michael Scheuer has likewise said that the U.S. is "going to war against the Iranians," and Fox News host Sean Hannity has even said that he thinks war with Iran "has already started."
"#2: Loose talk about Iran's 'nuclear [weapons] program.' " Walt stated that a "recurring feature of Iran war coverage has been tendency to refer to Iran's 'nuclear weapons program' as if its existence were an established fact." Fox has done this too. During an appearance on America's Newsroom, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner," co-host Martha MacCallum failed to point out that there are significant questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all.
Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is even trying to build a bomb. And in January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence committee does not have evidence to say that Iran is trying to build a bomb.
Recently, conservative media have been pushing for Israel or the United States to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, in some cases justifying an attack by claiming that Iran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon. In the context of Fox's efforts to beat the drums of war, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner." (Panetta actually said, "The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.")
Contrary to what conservatives claim, however, there are significant questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all. Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is even trying to build a bomb. In January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence committee does not have evidence to say that Iran is trying to build a bomb.
But there is another good reason to have some skepticism when conservatives warn that Iran is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon: they have been warning that Iran is months, a year, or at most two years away from the bomb for years. Here are some examples:
Following the Obama administration's announcement of an overhauled defense strategy that will guide cuts in defense spending, the right-wing media have claimed President Obama is "weakening national security" and marking a "new milestone" in "America's strategic retreat." But experts have said that the proposed plan is fiscally responsible while remaining "the world's most dominant military."
From the December 16 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Following the Justice Department's announcement that an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States has been foiled, right-wing media called for the bombing of Iran. Indeed, conservative media figures have repeatedly endorsed military action against Iran and other countries.
On the August 11 edition of Fox News' Red Eye, panelists called children who appeared in a video produced by a coalition of progressive groups "a bunch of dorks" and "little bastards."
After airing the video -- part of the "Contract for the American Dream" campaign - Fox News contributor KT McFarland said, "These kids are a bunch of dorks." Later, a co-panelist, comedian Joe DeVito, stated of the children, "Those little bastards are making me so angry."
Previously, Fox News called the video "indoctrinat[ion]" and "Kiddie Propaganda."
From the August 11 edition of Fox News' Red Eye:
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Fox News has recently tried to spin GOP voter dissatisfaction with the 2012 presidential field by suggesting it is a manufactured Democratic talking point designed to "handicap" the candidates, when, in fact, polling has consistently shown Republicans are dissatisfied with the GOP field. This spin comes as Fox is investing a significant amount of resources into promoting the GOP presidential candidates.
The conservative media are suggesting that former President Bush deserves more credit than President Obama for the death of Osama bin Laden. This is in stark contrast to their usual attacks that Obama is responsible for things that are happening during his presidency, including those tied to Bush-era policies like the Gulf oil spill, the weak economy, and the nation's deficit problems.