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Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- alleging he “retaliated against” her because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him” -- is only the latest in a long line of sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits against the network’s executives and on-air personalities.
Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.
Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are taking advantage of the complexity surrounding the 2012 attacks by trying to pass off old details as “new revelations.” Reporters should be careful not to fall for their spin.
Among the “many new revelations” the Benghazi Select Committee Republicans claim to show in the press release accompanying their final report on the attacks is that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was preparing for a trip to Libya at the time of the attacks, and that as part of that trip Ambassador Chris Stevens wanted the Benghazi diplomatic facility to be made a permanent Consulate:
Emails indicate senior State Department officials, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Huma Abedin were preparing for a trip by the Secretary of State to Libya in October 2012. According to testimony, Chris Stevens wanted to have a “deliverable” for the Secretary for her trip to Libya, and that “deliverable” would be making the Mission in Benghazi a permanent Consulate.
In reality, former Deputy Chief of Mission to Libya Gregory Hicks detailed these facts in public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on May 8, 2013 (via Nexis, emphasis added):
REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Mr. Hicks, why was ambassador Stevens headed to Benghazi? There were a lot of concerns about him. There were a lot of security issues that Mr. Nordstrom had listed in numerous reports leading up to his trip there.
Why was the ambassador headed there?
HICKS: According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post.
REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): OK.
Did you tell the Accountability Review Board about Secretary Clinton's interest in establishing a permanent presence in Benghazi?
Because, ostensibly, wasn't that the reason that the ambassador was going to Benghazi?
HICKS: Yes, I did tell the Accountability Review Board that Secretary Clinton wanted the post made permanent. Ambassador Pickering looked surprised. He looked both ways on the -- to the members of the board, saying, "Does the 7th floor know about this?"
And another factor was our understanding that Secretary Clinton intended to visit Tripoli in December.
This isn’t the only case where Republicans are pushing out “new revelations” that have been previously reported, as Roll Call columnist and Hillary Clinton biographer Jonathan Allen noted:
Pretty clear this big find by Benghazi Committee has previously been reported. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/AnuFUXfcum
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) June 28, 2016
The Benghazi story is extremely complex, and “bombshells” have often turned out to be reheated old news. Journalists should be careful not to be a conduit for Republicans efforts to turn such details into new scandals.
UPDATE: The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reports on one reason why initial stories on the Republican report have been so vulnerable to spin from GOP: Reporters from several outlets were given embargoed portions of the report, but under the terms of their agreement with the committee were barred from discussing it with Democrats until the embargo ended -- at 5 a.m. ET this morning. Wemple notes that this timeline made it impossible for reports to both be released in a timely fashion and include reasoned responses from sources other than the Republicans on the committee or their staff.
He concludes that this "should prompt all the participants to examine how they do business, especially considering that reporting on Benghazi has been marred in the past by highly consequential, skewed leaks," but that that won't happen. From Wemple's post.:
The embargo against news organizations appears to have lifted around 5:00 a.m.; the report was released to the public at around 8:30 a.m.; Benghazi committee Democrats received a paper copy at 7:45 a.m. and a digital one at 8:00 a.m. What this all means is that organizations that received the early peek at sections of the report could check with their Clinton campaign and State Department sources around dawn. The problem: Those sources themselves likely didn’t have the report at that time.
Upshot: People at the Clinton campaign and the State Department played a great deal of catch-up today. Politico’s story on all of the alleged stonewalling, for instance, first hit the Internet without any specific rebuttal from the State Department itself, the target of much of Politico’s piece.
Embargoes have existed for years, so there’s nothing terribly new about this rash of silver-platter stories. And many Washington journalists have played ball with this awful institution — including the Erik Wemple Blog. The stories that today resulted from this journo-exclusive culture will surely do well in terms of pageviews and other Internet metrics. They won’t endure, however: Any 800-page report takes days, not hours under the harrowing rules of an embargo, to digest and properly vet. The notion that news organizations were trying to abridge the thing based on partial spoon-feeding and lightning-quick responses from the targets should prompt all the participants to examine how they do business, especially considering that reporting on Benghazi has been marred in the past by highly consequential, skewed leaks. Nothing of the sort, of course, will happen. In any case, the best stories on this report have yet to be published.
For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com
Following the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to strike down Texas' HB 2, a strict Texas abortion law, right-wing media figures reacted by claiming the Supreme Court “sides with the killers of unborn babies” and saying the ruling was “a victory for those who celebrate baby killing.”
Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.
As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.”
In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.
In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.
Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”
CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:
“It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”
GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.
The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.
Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:
But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.
Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”
The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.
Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko.
Harvard Professor Gives Insight Into New Shorenstein Report About How The Media Helped Trump And Hurt Clinton
The author of a new Harvard study on the media’s coverage of the presidential primary says the press clearly helped Donald Trump on his path to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.
This week, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a detailed report on the media’s coverage of the presidential race in 2015, the year leading up to the first primaries. The study found that “Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch."
The study’s author, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, told Media Matters in an interview that the massive amount of Trump coverage -- as well as its largely positive tone -- predated Trump’s rise in the polls and “helped position him to make a stronger run.”
“In the past, to get a lot of coverage pre-Iowa you had to be pretty high in the polls, and they started to give him heavy coverage when he was way down there, in the single digits,” Patterson said in an interview. “It is virtually impossible when you go back through all the races before 2016 when you were in a multi-candidate field and you were down where he was you are almost an afterthought to journalists.”
The study looked at coverage of the candidates prior to the caucus and primary votes by Fox News, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Equating the Trump coverage to advertising dollars, Patterson’s report found that Trump received about $55 million worth of positive and neutral coverage in the eight outlets studied, well ahead of the second place candidate, Jeb Bush, at $36 million.
“It’s gold, it works in every way in [his] favor,” Patterson said. “As you start to go up in the polls, there is a circular pattern, you can raise money and it becomes easier to pull voters into your column. What was abnormal was this extraordinary amount of attention Trump got early on even though he did not appear on paper to be a credible candidate. He was far down in the polls, but he made statements that made for great stories.”
The study found that all eight of the news outlets studied gave Trump predominantly positive or neutral coverage, from The New York Times, where 63% of stories about Trump were positive or neutral, to USA Today, which led the way with 74%.
By the same token, Clinton received largely negative coverage across the eight news outlets during 2015. The report argues of this disparity, "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump’s positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end."
Patterson pointed to reporting on Clinton's use of a private email account while secretary of state and Republicans' ongoing focus on the 2012 Benghazi attacks as two of the most negatives stories.
“In her case, the emails and the questions about the emails, how big an issue is this actually, that was a big part of her coverage,” Patterson said. “Benghazi was a bigger part of the news early on and then she had that day-long session with Congress that a lot of people thought she did quite well with. Of all the candidates of recent decades who have been front-runners, she has had the strongest headwinds of negative coverage.”
But Patterson said the press may have over-covered the email issue and failed to put it in proper context.
“How big an issue is the email controversy in the context of the candidate’s preparedness and ability to be president of the states?” he asked. “I think you would get some who say it is a molehill into a mountain. My own sense is that as a standalone issue the emails are pretty small potatoes in the realm of presidential preparedness. It has been a common practice in Congress and among cabinet officers to combine them one way or another. She is not an outlier on this and you could ask why the press has not brought that part of the story into it.”
Patterson added that even apart from those controversies, Clinton’s “substantive issue coverage was more negative than the other candidates.”
Despite the helping hand the media gave Trump during the primaries, Patterson notes that “in the past few weeks, Trump has gotten the kind of press scrutiny that if it had come earlier it would have been a drag of some kind on his candidacy, perhaps enough to make it hard for him to go into the convention with a majority.”
NBC News: “Most Of The Victims Were Latino.”
NBC News elevated the Orlando massacre’s disproportionate impact on the Latino community in a June 13 report. As noted by NBC News, it was Latin Night at the club when the attack occurred, and “most of the victims were Latino.”
On June 12, a gunman wielding an assault weapon killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a Orlando, FL, gay nightclub. In NBC News' report highlighting the impact the attack had on the Latino community, the network elevated Hispanic voices, interviewing LGBT Latinos, survivors of the attacks, and friends and family members of the victims, providing necessary visibility to a community that goes often underrepresented in the media.
NBC News provided a platform for Latinos to explain why the gay club “was a safe space” for LGBT Hispanics -- “because it was Latin Night, where you could finally hold someone's hand, or to kiss them while feeling like the majority and unoppressed."
It was Latin Night at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And as news unfolded of the nation's worst mass shooting, it quickly became evident that most of the victims were Latino.
"De verdad que no tengo palabras - truly I have no words," said Carlos Batán to Telemundo reporter Rogelio Mora Tagle. Batan choked up as he remembered how his best friend, whom he didn't name out of respect until more news had come out, was the first person he had met in Orlando when he moved from Puerto Rico four years ago. Through tears, Batán said his friend had gone to Pulse for a night of dancing, only to fall victim to the violent shooting. "I can't believe the days in which we're living, there is no respect for human life."
Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is running for the Florida state Legislature and is the government affairs manager for Equality Florida, said as soon as he learned of the shootings Sunday morning he reached out to friends to make sure they were safe because he knew people he knows would be there. Smith, who would be the first openly gay Latino in the Florida legislature and is of Peruvian descent, said he was getting calls from friends and family who were checking on him.
While violence against the LGBTQ community is something he has dealt with through Equality Florida, the civil rights group for which he works, the tragedy has made discrimination and gun violence more real, he said.
"It's more real in every way, not only is Orlando our home, but this is our people. I see the Latino families in person here on the ground and on TV embracing each other, holding each other tight and I see my own family," Smith said.
For many of the area's Latinos, the best thing to do was to try to help.
Franco Camborda, a 19-year-old student at the University of Southern Florida, said people were waiting in blood donation lines for as many as eight hours. Because the blood donation centers were so busy, Camborda said he and his friends left their phone numbers and will be ready to donate as soon as they get a call.
"When I heard it was Latinos, it hit me hard because we are already a minority —Pulse was a safe space, especially because it was Latin Night, where you could finally hold someone's hand, or to kiss them while feeling like the majority and unoppressed."
Right-wing media are claiming that President Obama’s endorsement of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is “a terrible conflict of interest," suggesting the FBI could otherwise indict Clinton but will not do so because of the endorsement. Mainstream media and legal experts have reported for months that the “chatter” that Clinton will be indicted “is just plain ridiculous,” noting that “there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate basis for any sort of criminal charge against” Clinton.
A CNN report revealed that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has previously released tax returns while being audited by the IRS, undermining his and Fox figures’ defense that a current, ongoing IRS audit of Trump’s taxes precludes him from having to release his tax returns.
Conservative Media Conspiracy Theories Doused By The Facts
U.S. officials say they have not yet found evidence that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton willfully broke the law with use of her private email or that her server was hacked, according to two new reports, undercutting the conservative witch-hunt for a bombshell in the Democratic presidential front-runner’s email setup.
Prosecutors and FBI officials “have so far found scant evidence that [Hillary Clinton] intended to break classification rules,” according to a May 5 Washington Post report. The article noted that “prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not”:
Prosecutors and FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence that the leading Democratic presidential candidate intended to break classification rules, though they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter
The involvement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not indicative that charges are imminent or even likely. One official said prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not.
CNN underscored the findings in the Washington Post article, reporting that “The investigation is still ongoing, but so far investigators haven't found evidence to prove that Clinton willfully violated the law.” The reports join the growing chorus of legal experts and government officials who have undermined claims made by right-wing media figures, who have repeatedly scandalized Clinton’s use of a private email server by arguing that she broke the law using her server for State Department emails.
Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge, who has a history of hyping evidence-free claims, most recently reported on May 4 that “the infamous Romanian hacker known as ‘Guccifer’ … easily – and repeatedly – breached former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server,” a claim parroted by various right-wing media figures.
But U.S. officials “dismissed claims [by “Guccifer”] that he was able to breach Clinton’s personal email server,” according to the Post, noting, “investigators have found no evidence to support the assertion.” NBC News also reported that the hacker “could provide no documentation to back up his claims,” and Politico reported that an “internal FBI review of Clinton’s email records did not indicate traces of hacking.”
Fox also alleged that the Obama administration is “slow-rolling” the Select Committee on Benghazi Committee’s investigation into Clinton’s email use, scandalizing the fact that a “special unit to review Benghazi documents” was convened later than expected.
The Department of Defense recently criticized the committee, slamming it for “straining the department's resources” chasing “documents and interviews” often based on “speculative or hypothetical” queries, according to Politico. A letter sent by Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger derided the Republican-led committee’s “multiple and changing requests,” some of which have been “unfair … unproductive … [and] unnecessary,” and implored the committee to “remain focused on obtaining facts rather than encouraging speculation.”
Since Clinton’s use of private email was revealed, conservative media figures have made multiple baseless allegations, only to be burned by facts. The new revelations that investigators have not yet found evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton only add to the growing list of debunked myths spuriously pushed by right-wing media.
Right-wing media are credulously reporting claims from the extradited Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer,” who is currently in prison in Virginia, that he “breached” Hillary Clinton’s email server. The hacker has provided no documentation to prove his claims, and the FBI’s security review of Clinton’s emails has reportedly found no evidence of hacking.
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Right-wing media figures have been laying the foundation to allege a "scandal" and "cover-up" if the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's email server does not result in Clinton's indictment, thus setting her up for a lose-lose situation. Yet multiple law experts have explained that an indictment is highly unlikely.
The Numbers Have Changed From 150 To 12
Since January, numerous outlets, including Fox News and The Washington Post, have cited anonymous or discredited sources to claim that up to 150 FBI agents were investigating Hillary Clinton's private email server. But the number of agents has been a moving target, with the Post later correcting itself to say it was "less than 50" and NBC saying March 30 that the number is closer to 12. NBC's source -- also anonymous -- called the earlier figures "ridiculous" and said, "You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something."