Fox News falsely claimed an indictment filed against alleged Benghazi attacker Ahmed Abu Khattala proves the September 11, 2012, attack was not sparked by an anti-Muslim video. But Fox ignored the fact that Abu Khattala himself reportedly cited the video as his motivation for the attack.
On October 15, Fox & Friends reported that new charges against Abu Khattala allege that he "masterminded the pillage of ... documents, maps and computers, secret stuff" from the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi during the assault. Guest host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed these details prove Fox's longtime claim that the Benghazi attack was "a planned terrorist attack. Not a spontaneous outburst of some kind of video."
But in reality, planning theft of confidential information during the assault and targeting the U.S. outpost in response to an anti-Muslim video are not mutually exclusive. Abu Khattala reportedly "told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video." According to The New York Times:
On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy's walls -- images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world.
As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview a few days later, he pointedly declined to say whether an offensive online video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. "From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad," he said.
Despite Fox's claims, the latest indictment against Abu Khattala does not contradict this account. It is unspecific about the timeline, saying that "on or before" the night of the attack Abu Khattala told people that he "believed the [U.S] facility was actually being used to collect intelligence" and that he was "going to do something about the facility." It also reports that the theft of the documents did not take place during the first portion of the attack. Abu Khattala allegedly took part in the initial 9:45 p.m. assault that set fire to the compound, retreated, and then returned to the facility with other conspirators nearly two hours later to "plunder property from the Mission's office."
Fox News has been relentless in claiming that the attack had no connection to the inflammatory video, spending 478 segments attacking administration talking points that mentioned the connection -- though the myth continues to fall flat.
Conservative media are denying recent reports that sliding financial support has stalled research on infectious diseases and vaccine development, ignoring evidence that funding shortfalls have handicapped the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, told The Huffington Post on October 10 that "a decade of stagnant spending has 'slowed down' research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases." Conservative outlets pivoted off of Collins' statement to misleadingly claim that an overall increase in the CDC's budget proves that a lack of funding has not hindered research on and the response to diseases like the Ebola virus.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy said that the "CDC budget wasn't cut at all" and told viewers to "remember that money to [the CDC and the NIH] actually went up rather than got cut." On the October 13 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh similarly argued that "the CDC got plenty of money," including "significant budget increases."
But both the NIH and agencies inside the CDC have experienced funding problems over the past decade. As The Huffington Post pointed out, the NIH's purchasing power has dipped significantly:
NIH's purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency's budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion -- barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.
Fox News hosts stoked fears that the United States' ability to respond to Ebola may be weakened by the absence of a Surgeon General, a concern that whitewashes the network's history of smearing the pending Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Following CDC director Tom Frieden's October 13 statement that a Dallas nurse's contraction of Ebola requires hospitals to "rethink" infection control and "double down" on precautions, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy suggested that the administration's response to Ebola is suffering from a lack of leadership without a designated Surgeon General, arguing:
DOOCY: You would normally think that in something like this, the Surgeon General would be in charge, but right now at this point oddly, the United States of America does not have a Surgeon General. His nomination is tied up in politics.
Doocy's concern stands in contrast to Fox News' efforts to stall and politicize the Surgeon General nomination process earlier this year.
Fox personalities repeatedly worked to cast doubt on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination, questioning his strong qualifications and smearing him as "too political" for the job. In March, network host Brian Kilmeade alleged that Murthy "hasn't done much in his career yet," and argued that "you want to be impressed with" a Surgeon General nominee's resume.
After spending much of 2009 complaining that President Obama's appointment of "czars" was akin to the crowning of monarchs and Russian practices, Fox & Friends is now calling for the appointment of an Ebola Virus czar.
Fox host Steve Doocy responded to news of the first Ebola diagnosis contracted within the U.S. by calling for an "official Ebola czar" on the October 13 edition of Fox & Friends, echoing the demand of Republican Sen. John McCain. According to Doocy, "We probably need one" because Obama isn't doing enough to fight the virus:
DOOCY: So every time there's an incident like this, you see Thomas Frieden, the guy who heads up CDC, but is he the official -- there he is right there -- Is he the official Ebola czar? We probably need one, because the president isn't, you know, he's not --
KILMEADE: Sen. McCaul is calling for one.
DOOCY: Absolutely. So with all this bad news --
KILMEADE: Congressman McCaul.
DOOCY: Where was the President of the United States over the weekend? Right after he talked to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he went golfing.
But the Fox program has a long history of mocking previous Obama administration czars.
In 2009, then-host Gretchen Carlson mocked the term and alleged, "You know when I looked up 'czar' in the dictionary, or Googled it, the word that came up was 'king.' And I was wondering to myself, why we are having so many czars/kings now in America?" Doocy added, "When you think about it, 'czar' is a Russian word." Fox then aired an altered graphic of Obama's cabinet members in Russian czar attire displaying the question, "And Now We're Russia?" Doocy went on to compare administration cabinet members to Russian monarchs:
The same year, Carlson asked whether czars in the Obama administration were "just friends of Obama who need work or payback a favor?", while Kilmeade previously questioned whether the appointment of a czar was evidence "of a new culture of corruption."
A Nebraska school district superintendent responded to Fox News' inaccurate reporting about the district's recommendations for accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students.
On October 9, Fox News ran several segments attacking the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district for distributing informational materials aimed at helping teachers better accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included recommendations that teachers stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered phrases like "ladies and gentlemen" when referring to students. Instead, teachers could use phrases like "campers," "readers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson falsely accused the school district of "banning" the use of gendered language, and a Fox News report echoed the claims of one parent who believes the school district was using "taxpayer dollars" to promote a gender-neutral agenda.
Following Fox News' inaccurate reporting, LPS Superintendent Steve Joel announced a press conference to discuss the training materials, according to the Lincoln Journal Star:
At the press conference, Joel aimed "to set the record straight" and correct the "recent confusion and misinformation" caused by inaccurate reporting about the training materials. From Watchdog.org:
[A]fter three FOX News shows derided Lincoln Public Schools' gender sensitivity training on Thursday, the superintendent called a press conference, and with his school board seated behind him, clarified what happened without backing down.
"Our teachers are allowed to use boys and girls in the classroom, and they do so in schools every day across the community," he said in the message to parents. "We are telling our staff to be sensitive to the needs of all students, and those with gender identity issues are particularly vulnerable to bullying and suicide."
During his press conference, Joel called it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school district has had to waste so much time and energy answering questions and fielding calls about the training on gender inclusiveness used during summer teacher training at Irving Middle School, and possibly other LPS schools.
Fox News is drawing sweeping and unsupported conclusions to accuse the White House of covering up a volunteer's role in a 2012 Secret Service prostitution controversy. Fox's "bombshell" claims are undermined by the fact that it has long been known that a White House volunteer was implicated in the controversy, and by the fact that a bipartisan Senate committee did not substantiate allegations that the White House tampered with an independent investigation into the controversy for political reasons.
Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. suggested that the government was at fault for the shortage of ZMapp, an experimental Ebola treatment yet to be approved for widespread public use, and slammed the first U.S. diagnosis of an Ebola patient as a "poor example of federal government intervention." But in truth, the government has "set records" in approving drugs to address Ebola outbreaks and has provided crucial funding for research and development.
On the October 7 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy and Johnson discussed why there is a current shortage of ZMapp, suggesting that a reliance on federal grants by the pharmaceutical company who produced the medication may be to blame for the shortage. Johnson faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Preventation (CDC) for not having the capacity to produce more of the drug and slammed the fact that ZMAPP has been "supported by federal grants only." He went on to suggest that if the government is "not doing the job they should be doing," perhaps they should be "stepping out of the way and let private industry do it":
But Johnson ignored the fact that the federal government has greatly sped up the drug approval process in order to address the public health threat posed by Ebola. According to an October 6 article from The Hill, the FDA recently approved the use of two experimental drugs that treat Ebola -- an act that "set agency records" for a process that "typically takes years."
The reason ZMapp shortages have occurred is not due to government failure, as suggested by the Fox figures. As ZMapp manufacturer Mapp Biopharmaceautical noted, the drug's production has been slow because "Ebola is a relatively recently discovered disease with sporadic outbreaks," and "most new drugs take a decade or more of development work prior to commercialization."
Long production times are also at fault for the shortage of ZMapp. An October 5 article from CBS News explained that the drug is made from a special "biologically-engineered tobacco" that takes some time to grow:
Making more ZMapp takes a long time because the drug is made from a certain type of biologically-engineered tobacco that's currently being grown at Kentucky BioProcessing, in Owensboro, Kentucky. "It takes time for tobacco to grow; it's a certain kind of tobacco," said Turner. "It's very special, and has been carefully developed to produce authentic human proteins faithfully." He declined to estimate how much longer it would take, or how big the supply would be. Turner added that his team is currently reviewing other ways they could feasibly produce the drug at a faster rate.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media began politicizing the first case of Ebola virus diagnosed in the United States almost immediately, speculating as to whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could be trusted to contain the virus considering its ties to the Obama administration and about Obama's own role in the diagnosis.
Fox News misled viewers about trends in household income, job creation, and the use of food stamps while claiming that President Obama's policies are to blame for a supposedly stagnant economy.
During an interview that aired on the September 28 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama argued that the United States "is definitely better off" economically than it was when he took office in 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the "terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis" that he inherited to the response by "any leader around the world."
On the September 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney attempted to refute Obama's claim of economic achievement over the past six years, citing three major indicators -- household income, part-time job creation, and food stamp participation -- to make their case.
In each instance, Fox cherry-picked data to obscure positive trends in the overall economy:
Conservative media is dubiously claiming that the rise of the Islamic State is due in part to President Obama skipping scheduled daily intelligence briefings. The basis of this claim is a misleading interpretation of how intelligence briefings are received by the White House that was debunked two years ago.
Fox News is using the horrific murder of an Oklahoma woman to misrepresent President Obama's gun policy and to falsely accuse him of "wag[ing] a war on the Second Amendment" and of wanting to "ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police."
On September 26 a man who had been recently fired from his job at an Oklahoma food processing plant attacked his co-workers, beheading one with a knife and wounding another. The attack was stopped when the suspect was shot and wounded by the business' CEO, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy. Local law enforcement has asked the FBI to investigate the crime to determine if there is any link to terrorism.
A September 30 segment on Fox & Friends used the Oklahoma murder to attack Obama, with co-host Steve Doocy asking, "So with yet another example of how guns save lives, why does President Obama and his administration continue to wage a war on the Second Amendment?"
In the discussion that followed, Doocy and guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, pushed a number of myths about actions the Obama administration has taken to reduce gun violence, including falsely claiming that Obama supports banning civilian gun ownership, that Obama wants to use an international treaty to make it "very, very difficult to carry guns," that Obama has ordered doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, that Obama has forced people to disclose their race when buying guns, and that Obama has used executive actions "to limit the uses of guns."
(The segment also included false claims about gun violence generally, including the "more guns equals less crime" conservative media myth and falsehood that civilians with guns could serve as a panacea for public mass shooting incidents.)
Conservative media attempted to revive the "death panels" zombie lie amid several weeks of good news about the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) success.
In a September 17 piece for The Atlantic, former White House health care adviser Ezekiel J. Emanuel outlined his opinions on end of life healthcare and argued that 75 is the ideal age to die.
Right-wing media jumped on Emanuel's comments as an opportunity to resuscitate the thoroughly debunked claim that the ACA would create "death panels" to ration health care and slow the growth of medical costs.
A September 24 post from National Review Online claimed that Emanuel's Atlantic article demonstrated that conservative warnings that the ACA was "a first step toward medical rationing" were plausible: "Read Emanuel's diatribe against living too long, and suddenly Sarah Palin's attack on Obamacare's "death panels" does not seem so far-fetched."
Fox News also used Emmanuel's comments as an opportunity to discuss "death panels" in a September 26 segment on Fox & Friends. Responding to Emmanuel's suggestion that there is an ideal time to die, Fox contributor Dr. Marc Siegel asked if that means they should "write off" patients at a certain age, suggesting the Post Office or IRS may one day get to make that decision. Co-host Steve Doocy added, "Maybe you're talking about those death panels that have been rumored for so long."
While right-wing media twists itself into knots stoking outrage over the long-discredited myth of "death panels," actual news reports have recently underlined the ACA's successes.
On September 18, the Obama administration announced that 7.3 million Americans had enrolled in health insurance plans through the Obamacare exchanges and paid their premiums -- a number that is "much higher than the 6 million that the Congressional Budget Office forecast would be covered this year," Politico noted, and debunks conservative allegations that the administration is "cooking the books."
But this wasn't the only good news for the health care law. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently reported that the ACA has reduced the amount of uninsured people in the United States by 26 percent. A recent report from the Commonwealth Fund also found that the health care law had decreased the uninsured rate by as much as 13 percent among Latinos, a group that has "historically suffered the highest uninsurance rate in the U.S," according to the Huffington Post.
From the September 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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News of a massive student protest in Colorado against a "conservative-led school board proposal" has prompted Fox News to rethink its stance on student freedoms.
Earlier this week, hundreds of students across six high schools in Arvada, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms amid news of a "conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority." The Associated Press reported that the curriculum proposal would establish a committee to ensure certain history materials "don't 'encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law'":
Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read "There is nothing more patriotic than protest."
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
On September 25, Fox & Friends hosted Ken Witt, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, which oversees the Arvada schools, to discuss the protests. Amid chyrons like "Political Pawns" and "Teachers Are Using Students," Witt alleged that the real issue was not the history curriculum proposal, but rather the upcoming teachers union contract :
WITT: That's the unfortunate situation that's going on. I believe that there is a significant amount of union conflict right now that we would like to not have. The issue is that it's easy to get children out. It's easy to use kids as pawns and it's not right. We have a union contract that's expiring in August of this year.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck parroted Witt's allegations, saying, "What concerns me is that what I'm hearing from you, and correct me if I am wrong, is that there is someone else behind this planting it and using these students for their own gain."