Following the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, Fox News repeatedly championed the performance of Sen. Marco Rubio and his claim that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" during her Benghazi testimony for supposedly misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks. That allegation has been repeatedly debunked by journalists at numerous media outlets for disregarding the fact that intelligence was rapidly evolving in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and ignoring the possibility that "the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video."
Fox News is obsessively promoting as a "smoking gun" the debunked allegations that Hillary Clinton intentionally misled the public about the Benghazi attacks, knowingly telling the public that an inflammatory video spontaneously inspired the violence while privately acknowledging it was pre-planned. However, Clinton has explained that the State Department's understanding of and explanation for the attacks changed as "piecemeal" and "conflicting" early intelligence reports were replaced by more reliable information.
News outlets are calling out a misleading conservative media claim that Hillary Clinton's email use mirrors the improper acts of former CIA Director John Deutch, who intentionally created and stored top secret material on unsecure systems. By contrast, "State Department officials say they don't believe that emails [Clinton] sent or received included material classified at the time," which is why experts conclude the Deutch case does not "fit the fact pattern with the Clinton e-mails."
From the August 18 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News repeatedly failed to disclose that its debate analyst Marc Thiessen has worked for debate participant Scott Walker. During his Fox appearances, Thiessen praised Walker as one of the "obvious winners" and singled him out as having a "great" debate moment.
During an August 6 appearance shortly after the debate, Thiessen said "Bush and Walker I think did very well." Thiessen also said Christie fared well. He criticized Trump as having a "really, really tough night."
Host Megyn Kelly, who moderated the debate, identified Thiessen as "the former chief presidential speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor."
Thiessen also heavily praised Walker during an August 7 appearance on America's Newsroom, claiming that "the obvious winners are Bush and Walker because they were in the lead so they didn't need to hit home runs, and they both put in strong performances, especially Walker, I think, had a great moment when he took on -- jumped in and took on Hillary Clinton, which, I think, there was not enough of that in the debate last night."
Fox News host Bill Hemmer identified Thiessen as a Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor. Like Kelly, he did not identify Thiessen's conflict of interest.
The Washington Post, where Thiessen works as a columnist, reported on March 6 that "Walker is also seeking counsel from several hawks from George W. Bush's administration -- including Abrams, Bush's deputy national security adviser, and Marc A. Thiessen, a Post columnist and former Bush speechwriter known for his staunch defense of waterboarding and other interrogation tactics barred by President Obama. Walker selected Thiessen to co-write his 2013 book, 'Unintimidated,' and the two men became confidants during hours of Skype conversations each weekend."
Politico reported in February that Walker "said he sat down for three-and-a-half hours of foreign policy meetings" including with Thiessen.
New York Daily News Washington Bureau reporter Cameron Joseph criticized Fox News on Twitter, writing: "Curious how Marc Thiessen can be on Fox right now analyzing the debate. He co-wrote Scott Walker's book, and they don't even ID him as such."
Conservative media defended Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent claim -- that President Obama's negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will take Israelis "to the door of the oven" -- by praising the Holocaust comparison as "absolutely true" and "an accurate description."
Right-wing media praised Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ahead of his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, highlighting his record as governor and his efforts to reduce the power of labor unions.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer parroted an erroneous claim that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account is unprecedented, when, in fact, former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a private email account to conduct government business during his time in the Bush administration and did not preserve those records.
Right-wing media outlets are attacking a new rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed to increase diversity in American neighborhoods, calling it an attempt by President Obama to dictate where people live. But the program merely provides grant money to encourage communities to provide affordable housing and greater access to community resources.
Fox News is outraged that an ABC News anchor waited to disclose charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation, despite the network's marked history of failing to disclosure its pundits' political and financial conflicts of interest.
Right-wing media are indignant that President Obama appeared in a BuzzFeed video taking a selfie and saying "YOLO" as part of a promotion for HealthCare.gov.
Right-wing media are baselessly connecting the Obama administration and the State Department to a local Israeli campaign against current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, American political consultants from both parties have been independently working in Israeli campaigns for decades -- including former Obama aides who have worked for Netanyahu.
Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote on February 2 that a former Obama campaign staffer went to Israel "to oust Netanyahu," suggesting the former staffer would not do this work "if he thought Obama opposed it" and implying the administration was "actively working to defeat Netanyahu":
Obama's 2012 national field director, Jeremy Bird, was headed to Tel Aviv to manage a grass-roots campaign to oust Netanyahu. Bird would not be working to defeat Netanyahu if he thought Obama opposed it. Can you imagine Karl Rove going to London while George W. Bush was in office to help conservatives oust Prime Minister Tony Blair? It further emerged that the group behind Bird's anti-Netanyahu effort has received State Department funding and lists the State Department as a "partner" on its Web site.
But before this false idea hit the Post, it bubbled up from the right-wing media echo chamber.
Two policy groups in Israel, OneVoice and Victory 15, are currently working together to promote platforms that reportedly "are not friendly" to Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming election.
The groups have also partnered with American consulting group 270 Strategies, which is headed by Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign staffer. OneVoice began working with 270 Strategies in 2013, long before the Israeli elections were announced.
There is a long history of U.S. political consultants from both parties working for Israeli political campaigns. As the New York Times reported, former Obama campaign strategist Bill Knapp worked as an adviser to Netanyahu in 2009. Josh Isay, whose firm worked on the Obama campaign, has also worked for Netanyahu. Bill Clinton campaign strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg worked for an Israeli Labor Party candidate in 1999; up until recently Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein worked for Netanyahu.
Nevertheless, conservatives have jumped on 270 Strategies' current work to falsely accuse the Obama administration -- and President Obama personally -- of attempting to influence Israeli politics.
In particular, the right-wing criticism revolves around the administration's response to Rep. John Boehner's (R-OH) recent announcement that Netanyahu was invited to speak before the U.S. Congress without President Obama's knowledge shortly before Israel's election, an unusual intervention in foreign policy and almost-unheard of action between heads of state. Conservatives claim that 270 Strategies' work with OneVoice proves Obama is either retaliating against Netanyahu or engaging in a similar effort to meddle in foreign politics; but again, 270's work on the ground in Israel began long before this most recent disagreement, and it is typical for American political consultants to engage in Israeli politics.
Fringe blogs Gateway Pundit and PJ Media led the charge, publishing the "report" on January 26 claiming "The Obama administration is backing the campaign to defeat Netanyahu." The Drudge Report hyped an inside look at the "HQ of ex-Obama staffers' anti-Bibi campaign," right below a story labeled "White House ratchets up criticism of Netanyahu." Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) even followed up with a blog on Breitbart.com to ask, "Has President Obama launched a political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu?"
Fox News also picked up the claim, with host Megyn Kelly suggesting that the administration sent an Obama "field general" to help Israel "elect Netanyahu's opponent":
[The Obama administration says] that they're fine, they are not going to interfere with the Israeli election, they don't want anything to do with that and yet, we have reports yesterday that this guy Jeremy Bird, who was the field general for Obama's re-election campaign is helping in Israel elect Netanyahu's opponent and to replace the current government there. Pure coincidence?
When Kelly's guest Joe Trippi then explained that former campaign staffers frequently work on international campaigns -- on either side of various issues -- National Review's Rich Lowry attempted to argue that "you cannot find anyone significant around President Obama who would ever go to work for Bibi Netanyahu, which, again, goes to the animosity they have to this man personally and for the point of view he represents."
Many of the media outlets took the smear further, by also claiming that tax-payer dollars were funding the campaign. OneVoice briefly received a one-time grant for about $200,000 from the State Department, which ended in November 2014. As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki noted in a briefing, the grant "ended before there was a declaration of an Israeli election."
Nevertheless, media outlets such as the Daily Caller insisted that OneVoice was currently "backed by the Department of State" and labeled it "Kerry's Diplomatic Protection Racket." Kelly even suggested that OneVoice "should be forced to return the $200,000 to the taxpayers."
Now, this right-wing distortion of the facts has made it all the way to the Post.
Conservative media are attempting to discredit the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA's use of torture on terrorism suspects by comparing it to a controversial Rolling Stone article detailing an alleged rape at the University of Virginia that was criticized for not interviewing students implicated in the assault.
The Washington Post updated a piece from columnist Marc Thiessen to note his financial ties to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and indicated the need for better disclosure in future Thiessen columns on the 2016 presidential campaign, in response to inquiries from Media Matters.
On September 1, the Post published a column from Thiessen criticizing the idea of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney running for president again in 2016. In the piece, Thiessen identified Scott Walker as one of several "successful governors" that would be a preferable candidate. Thiessen co-authored Walker's 2013 book, a fact the columnist has previously disclosed when writing about the governor for the Post but which went unmentioned in his latest column.
Media Matters published a piece criticizing the Post and reached out to the paper's editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, who indicated that Thiessen's mention of Walker was "so glancing" that it did not warrant disclosure. But the Post subsequently reversed course, adding text to the column explaining, "Full disclosure: I co-authored a book with Walker."
Hiatt told Media Matters that he intends to meet with Thiessen to discuss the need for a "best approach" to disclosure in future columns touching on the 2016 presidential campaign.
"You are right that he has disclosed the relationship with Walker whenever he writes about Walker. In this case the reference to Walker was so glancing that I didn't think the co-authorship needed to be re-disclosed," Hiatt said in an email. "But you ask a reasonable question, and as the campaign proceeds I will talk with Marc about what the best approach will be."
The original lack of disclosure drew criticism from media ethicists who said leaving out the fact that Thiessen had co-authored a book with Walker is misleading to readers.
"I think this kind of entanglement is unacceptable," said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. "Where you don't know if a particular writer's column is a payback for favors done in the past or auditions for jobs sought in the future. The reader is not in a place to make any intelligent decisions based on the off-screen relationships. The fact that he is getting money off screen is just not compatible with that."
As Wasserman suggested, Thiessen's extensive political career would make him a plausible hire in a Walker administration. The two have "developed a bond," according to the Post's own reporting.
Kevin Smith, ethics committee chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, said such financial connections "widen an already large divide between the journalist and the public's right to be accurately and fairly informed."
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who has a financial relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, is using his Washington Post column to lavish praise on the Wisconsin Republican and help position him for a 2016 presidential run.
In 2013, Thiessen co-authored Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge with Walker. According to the book's publisher, Unintimidated "tells the dramatic story of how one brave leader drove real change in his state, and what the rest of the country can learn from him. ... It's not just a memoir -- it's a call to action."
A few months ago, Post reporters Philip Rucker and Robert Costa documented the trend of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates attempting to "study up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous administrations." Among those listed was Walker, whom they reported has "developed a bond with Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen." According to the Post, "when Thiessen helped Walker write the governor's memoir, they talked via Skype about many issues."
The Post reported after the book's announcement that considering Walker's looming re-election campaign and possible 2016 presidential run, "writing a book with a high-profile GOP strategist is a notable step onto the national stage." Thiessen's help in getting Walker on the national stage isn't limited to the book -- he has also devoted significant column space to praising him, often at the expense of potential 2016 rivals.
Given his career of service to Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill, Thiessen's support for Walker at the Post may preface a future role with a Walker campaign or administration.