Conservative media are pushing selectively cropped footage of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey as evidence that President Obama was "AWOL" the night of the Benghazi attack. In reality, Panetta and Dempsey emphasized that Obama's involvement was appropriate and that the White House was kept "well-informed" throughout the night.
After outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before Congress on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, The Weekly Standard selectively cropped a portion of his testimony and blogged that Panetta found Obama to be "absent" the night of the assault. The Weekly Standard's attack on Obama subsequently made the conservative media rounds to Fox Nation, The Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and Fox News.
In its post titled "Panetta: Obama Absent Night of Benghazi," where this smear seemingly originated, The Weekly Standard highlighted Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R-NH) questions to Panetta as proof of Obama's absence:
AYOTTE: Did you have any further communications with him that night?
AYOTTE: Did you have any further communications - did he ever call you that night to say, "How are things going? What's going on? Where's the consulate?"
PANETTA: No, but we were aware that as we were getting information on what was taking place there, particularly when we got information that the ambassador, his life had been lost - we were aware that that information went to the White House.
AYOTTE: Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?
AYOTTE: No one else called you to say, "How are things going?"
The Drudge Report and others are suggesting that energy efficiency efforts somehow caused the power outage that occurred during the Super Bowl. But these attempts to scapegoat green energy are wrongheaded -- the outage occurred within the stadium, not among the energy efficient lighting outside the stadium.
Prior to Super Bowl XLVII, the New Orleans Host Committee worked to reduce the environmental impact of the game on and off the field, including by installing an energy efficient lighting display of LEDs outside the stadium.
During the second half of the game, many of the Superdome stadium's overhead lights blinked off, along with scoreboards, CBS-run cameras and other systems. The partial outage lasted for more than 30 minutes. The Drudge Report used the blackout to mock the possible "CURSE" from an efficient lighting display composed of LEDs on the outside of the Superdome:
Many prominent conservative media figures seized on the false implication -- Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich said "it's all [former Energy Secretary Steven Chu's] fault," and the Daily Caller suggested that the energy efficient lighting was the "cause" of the blackout.
But, as Politico and TIME's Mike Grunwald pointed out, these exterior LED lights did not go dark:
The Drudge Report snarkily linked to an Energy Department article published Saturday that praised New Orleans for being at the "Energy Efficient Forefront" and noted that the Superdome "features more than 26,000 LED lights" that conserve energy. However, others quickly pointed out that those are exterior lights, not the lights that went dark inside the dome.
Whatever the cause turns out to be, New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman saw one enduring U.S. tradition alive and well in the blackout aftermath.
"Only in America," he tweeted Sunday night, linking to Drudge's DOE link. "Blackout at Superdome actually becoming a political issue."
A Fox News guest falsely claimed that payments received by dependent children and divorced spouses of retired wage earners are bankrupting Social Security. In fact there is no major problem with Social Security's finances and the benefits Fox criticized make up a miniscule portion of the benefits Social Security pays out.
Despite evidence to the contrary, right-wing media have frequently questioned the financial health of Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security spending will not rise sharply in the future, only rising from 4.87 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 to 6.63 percent of GDP over the next 75 years. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Social Security's shortfall over the next 75 years can be almost completely made up by simply allowing the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration to expire for the wealthiest Americans.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked if payments received by dependent children and former spouses of retirees is "why [Social Security] could be going broke." Doocy called these payments part of a "great big gravy train." His guest, Michael Huffman of the Daily Caller, said that these payments are part of "what's wrong with Social Security," and added that these payments have "got to be contributing to bankrupting the system."
In fact, these old-age payments to dependent children and ex-spouses do not account for a sizable number of Social Security recipients or payments.
In anticipation of a Senate vote on a United Nations treaty that seeks to promote equal rights for people with disabilities, conservative media have revived the debunked myth that the treaty threatens U.S. sovereignty.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets global standards for the treatment of people with disabilities, asking signatories to "ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability." More than 120 nations have ratified the treaty, and though the United States signed it in 2009 and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved it, the Senate has been unable to obtain the required number of votes to push it through. A Senate vote is scheduled to take place today.
Conservative media claim that signing the treaty would require the United States to alter its laws to meet these standards. Writing at National Review Online, the National Review Institute's Betsy Woodruff claimed that the treaty "could potentially undermine American sovereignty" and said it would be "self-abasing" for the U.S. "to comply with the treaty." Similarly, at the Daily Caller, Walter Olson of the Cato Institute equated signing the treaty with "sign[ing] away our national sovereignty on questions of how best to accommodate the disabled."
However, these claims are baseless, as U.S. law already meets the standards the treaty requests. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications." If a law, policy, or program is found to be discriminatory, the government has the power, through the Department of Justice, to enforce the ADA on both a private and public level. Thus signing the treaty would merely reaffirm the U.S. commitment to equal rights.
Both the Washington Post and The New York Times threw cold water on this fearmongering. The Post noted that the treaty "would not require the United States to change its laws." The Times further reported:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved [the treaty] last July in a bipartisan vote, 13-6, while also passing a resolution to clarify, in case anybody was worried, that the United States would surrender none of its sovereign authority by joining the convention. The treaty would have no power to alter or overrule United States law, and any recommendations that emerge from it would not be binding on state or federal governments or in any state or federal court.
The baseless argument that the treaty threatens U.S. sovereignty is not new. In September, The Washington Times published an editorial warning that the "United States could soon find itself taking orders from international bureaucrats on how to treat people with disabilities."
After Time magazine announced that Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student who advocated for reproductive health coverage, would be one of 40 candidates for its "Person of the Year" award, the right-wing media reacted with vicious attacks on Fluke. The right-wing media have consistently attacked Fluke since Rush Limbaugh responded to her congressional testimony earlier in the year by calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute."
The Daily Caller attempted to stoke anger about a Homeland Security Web page for new immigrants that provides information about government benefit programs, but buried at the end of its article the fact that the page was created in 2007. The Daily Caller also implied that immigrants abuse the U.S. social safety net, but there are strict eligibility requirements for social welfare programs, and most immigrant visa applicants must sign an affidavit stating they have adequate financial support.
Following President Obama's re-election, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans would be "willing to accept new revenue" under certain circumstances in order to prevent automatic budget cuts in 2013. Daily Caller investigative reporter Matthew Boyle responded by urging conservatives not to "allow Boehner to cut deals with Barack Obama":
It's obviously too early to know for certain, but on the final day of the 2012 presidential campaign there seems to be a general consensus forming that President Obama is well-positioned to beat Mitt Romney at the polls tomorrow. And in the face of that prospect, some in the media are already beginning to challenge the legitimacy of Obama's reelection.
On November 4, Politico published an article enumerating the "lessons learned" from the 2012 campaign. Among them was the surprising assertion that the coalition Obama put together to win reelection -- "Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites" -- is insufficient to provide the incumbent the political capital he might otherwise enjoy were he to have the support of independents and white voters. "A broad mandate this is not," declared authors Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen.
Politico didn't explain why broad mandates rest on the shoulders of whites and independents, simply asserting instead that Obama, should he win, will win in a way that lacks legitimacy. Part of their analysis, however, rested on the myth that the United States is "a center-right country," which certainly helps to explain why they'd view an electoral coalition that excludes the center-right's top constituency -- white men -- as a political nonstarter.
While Politico went the route of demography, conservative pundits are instead opting for catastrophe. Specifically, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, suggesting that Romney was poised to run away with the election until Sandy halted his "momentum" and gave Obama a boost in public opinion going into the campaign's final week.
Right-wing media are abetting Mitt Romney's attempt in the third presidential debate to hide his opposition to the successful U.S. automobile industry rescue. In fact, Romney condemned the auto rescue, a rescue that experts say was necessary to save the industry.
The right-wing media are hyping a video of President Bill Clinton's speech that was heavily cropped by the Republican National Committee to claim he agreed with Mitt Romney that President Obama has not fixed the economy. But in the full video, Clinton makes clear that the economy has improved under President Obama but hasn't yet fully recovered, a claim nearly identical to one Obama himself has made several times.
At a campaign event for President Obama in Ohio, Clinton pointed out that, while the economy has not fully recovered, the policies implemented under Obama prevented the economy from sliding into a depression and have created millions of jobs over the last three years. Clinton described the economy as "plainly moving back" and concluded "why in the wide world would you dump a strategy that is working for one you already know will not work?"
But the right-wing media are using a heavily-cropped version of Clinton's speech taken from the GOP's YouTube channel to make it seem like Clinton was supporting Romney's attacks on Obama's record. The cropped version features President Clinton saying:
CLINTON: Governor Romney's argument is, "we're not fixed, so fire him and put me in." It is true, we're not fixed. When President Obama looked into the eyes of that man who said in the debate, "I had so much hope four years ago and I don't now," I thought he was going to cry. because he knows that it's not fixed.
Breitbart.com featured the video under the headline "Clinton: 'It is true' Obama hasn't fixed economy." The Weekly Standard's blog described the video by claiming " Bill Clinton said that Mitt Romney's argument 'is true, we're not fixed.' " The Daily Caller wrote:
Ed Klein, terrible journalist and prurient hack, writes today for the Daily Caller (naturally) that Hillary Clinton's statement taking responsibility for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi were motivated by a secret plan to capture the White House in 2016.
Sourcing his report to "a member of Hillary's inner circle to whom I have spoken" (Klein has a remarkable gift for retaining access to Clinton insiders despite years of peddling trashy nonsense about the former first lady), Klein writes that Clinton threatened to resign if the White House "continued to make her the scapegoat for Benghazi," but her secret team of lawyers and strategists came up with a more "rational" course of action.
Here's how he describes the plan:
After the Clinton legal team had a chance to review the State Department cable traffic between Benghazi and Washington, the experts came to the conclusion that the cables proved that Hillary had in fact given specific instructions to beef up security in Libya, and that if those orders had been carried out -- which they weren't -- they could conceivably have avoided the tragedy.
Clearly, someone in the Obama administration dropped the ball -- and the president was still insisting that it was not his fault.
In the end, then, Hillary decided to assume responsibility to show that she was acting more presidential than the president.
I am told by my sources that she firmly believes that when the State Department cable traffic is made public, either through leaks to the press or during formal House committee hearings, it will exonerate her and shift the blame for the entire mess onto the president.
Let's break this down this "rational" scheme, shall we?
According to Klein, Clinton knowingly and falsely accepted responsibility for Benghazi security in order to cover for President Obama so that he might stand a better chance at reelection. Clinton was also fully aware that there are secret State Department cables showing that, in taking responsibility for Benghazi, she was not telling the truth, and that these cables will soon see the light of day. This calculated effort to cover up the alleged truth about Benghazi under the assumption that the truth will eventually be exposed is, per Klein's telling, all part of a plan to make Clinton seem presidential. Because if there's anything that screams "leadership," it's complicity in a cover-up.
This makes absolutely no sense. None whatsoever.
Nevertheless, Fox News "straight journalist" Bret Baier is on the case, taking his cues from a credibility-vacant huckster's axe-grinding nonsense.
Conservative media outlets including The Weekly Standard, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Breitbart.com, and the Drudge Report have claimed that Michelle Obama broke the rules by joining audience applause at one point during the debate. Fox Radio's Todd Starnes went so far as to call Michelle Obama unbecoming. These attacks come despite the fact that Mitt Romney repeatedly violated the debate rules.
Prior to the debate, the campaigns agreed to a rule stating that "the candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates."
Nevertheless, Romney repeatedly asked Obama questions during the debate on a variety of subjects including oil drilling, the investments in Obama's pension, and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
All of which leads to the possibility that the conservative media is less concerned with the debate rules than they are with changing the subject from the substance of the debate.
CNN's Candy Crowley is debunking a claim pushed by the right-wing media that she walked back a fact check of Mitt Romney's remarks about the attack in Libya during the second presidential debate.
During the debate, Romney expressed disbelief that President Obama referred to the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as an "act of terror" the day after the attack occurred. Crowley noted that the president did in fact use those words, and she has consistently made that same point since the debate.
Here's the exchange at the debate:
ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That's what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.
It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror...
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
CROWLEY: It did.
Crowley was correct. The day after the attack, Obama addressed the nation from the White House Rose Garden and said:
As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
Right-wing bloggers are falsely claiming that Joe Biden is "lying" about having played football at the University of Delaware. Contrary to their claims, several newspapers have interviewed people who knew Biden while he played freshman football at Delaware.
More than 20 years of reporting debunks this claim. For instance, a 1987 Washington Post article retrieved from the Nexis database quoted Biden's father, Joe Biden Sr., saying that he made his son leave the team because of poor grades after his freshman season. A 1987 Los Angeles Times article reported that Biden's college roommate said the same thing (via Nexis):
"He probably never studied as hard as other people did," recalled Biden's roommate at the University of Delaware, Donald Brunner, now a senior vice president with J. P. Morgan. Brunner and Biden both played football as freshmen, but Biden then quit the team, Brunner said, under pressure from his father, who thought that he was devoting too much time to sports and not enough to books.
In 2008, The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, published an article about Biden's high school and college football days. One of Biden's teammates at Delaware, Jack Istnick, recounted a story from practice (article available for purchase here):
Every now and then, the freshman players would help the varsity practice.
One day, Biden and Jack Istnick were shagging punts for the varsity so it could work on its kick-coverage teams. This was done at full speed with full contact. The ball was kicked to Biden, who got "absolutely leveled," Istnick said, "mainly because I didn't block anyone."
"The [freshman] coach, Scottie Duncan, looked at me and looked at Joe lying on the ground and said to me, 'Don't you like him?' "
The Breitbart post uses an ellipsis-laden quote from a September 8 speech Biden made at Ohio University as evidence that he lied specifically about having played in a football game there in 1963:
"I came ... I was a football player ... I came here in 1963 ... and we beat you Bobcats, 29-12," Biden said.
However, a CBS News video of Biden's appearance, used by NRO, shows that Biden did not actually claim to have played in the game.
Right-wing media have attacked early voting, claiming it leads to fraud, pushes uninformed voters to cast ballots too early, and is unconstitutional and untraditional. In fact, early voting increases the integrity of the voting process, and the vast majority of early votes are cast in the final two weeks before the election by decided voters. Early voting dates back to the founding of the country.