The Washington Free Beacon hid crucial details about a conservative group bent on smearing Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
In a February 13 report, the Free Beacon highlighted a Reuters article about OPSEC to promote the group's latest smear campaign. OPSEC, described by the Free Beacon only as "military slang for 'operational security,'" is releasing a report attacking the former secretary of state for her actions before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 attacks. The Free Beacon used the report to imply Secretary Clinton was personally responsible for the terrorist attacks, claiming "the attack was not caused by inadequate information but by inadequate leadership" and that her personal choices "enabled the attack."
But as the original Reuters report explained, OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and special forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group "first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign," when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of "seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden." (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as "false" and "mostly false.") Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC's 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.
OPSEC's president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of "shady campaign tactics" in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group's maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on "electioneering communications" alone.
Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department's role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.
As Reuters noted:
Thomas Pickering, who chaired the State Department's official inquiry, said his panel concluded Clinton's performance was appropriate: "We did look at her role. We thought that she conducted her meetings and activities responsibly and well."
Republican censure of Mrs. Clinton is expected to intensify, even though it is unusual to see such fierce, coordinated opposition to a would-be presidential candidate surface 2-1/2 years before nominating conventions.
Pickering condemned the way the Benghazi incident was being politicized: "Our investigation was certainly independent, thoroughly researched, carefully presented." He said the new round of accusations appears to be "clearly an effort to introduce once again partisan politics into an issue which should be furthest from partisan politics."
A right-wing website apparently cribbing from a conservative research group falsely claimed that a Democratic senator flip-flopped on President Obama's State of the Union in two interviews on the same night. In fact, the interviews in question took place a year apart.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) had told one local affiliate that he was "disappointed" in Obama's speech because it supposedly lacked specifics, then praised the speech for providing specifics in an interview with a different affiliate later that night. From their January 29 article:
Pryor told Arkansas' KFTA that he was "disappointed" at the lack of specifics in Obama's speech.
"Overall, I'm disappointed with the president's State of the Union address because he was heavy on rhetoric, but light on specifics about how we can move our country forward," said Pryor.
"I've always said that I'll work with the president when I think he's right, but oppose him when I think he's wrong," added Pryor.
Pryor later told THV11 that he was happy with the speech, pointing out that Obama tried to give specifics and to be bipartisan.
The Free Beacon has since appended their post with the following update apologizing for their error:
The original version of this post mistakenly said that both of the clips in the video above came from this year. They did not: Sen. Pryor was generally supportive of the president's 2013 State of the Union, but was critical of this year's address. What changed his tune? Rep. Tom Cotton's strong challenge to Pryor's incumbency may have played a role. Whatever the case, our original item was incorrect. We regret the error.
A video attached to the piece appears to have been updated to note that the interviews occurred during different years.
How did the Free Beacon make such a mistake? Weigel suggests they may have gotten the story from America Rising, a research group that supports conservatives, which had posted the same 2013 video clip that appeared in the Free Beacon video, similarly misidentified as occurring last night.
For their part, America Rising has issued no update or apology; they've simply pulled the clip.
Conservative media are selectively and deceptively quoting from an exchange between CNN's Dana Bash Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to make it appear as if he dismissed the plight of cancer-stricken children being denied access to clinical trials due to the shutdown of the federal government. In fact, Reid said that legislators should fully fund the government, rather than force different groups to fight over funding.
Specifically, conservatives are claiming that Reid replied to a reporter's question, "If you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you?" by saying "why would we want to do that?" In fact, Reid was responding to Sen. Chuck Schumer, who had interjected, saying "why pit one against the other?"
On October 1, the federal government was shut down after conservative Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless that funding was tied to the defunding or delay of Obamacare. As part of an effort to avoid political damage from that unpopular decision, House Republicans have called for piecemeal bills that would fund some parts of the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health and national parks.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi summer action film Elysium is raising hackles in the conservative media.
Set 140 years in the future, the rich have relocated off a crowded and polluted Earth and live life isolated on a space station called Elysium, filled with plenty of greenery, large homes, private security, and most importantly, a machine that can cure all medical issues -- technology not available to anyone not a citizen of Elysium. This paradise exists only a quick 19-minute shuttle flight away from Earth; with no hope of breaking the class barriers, immigrants attempt to sneak onto the space station in rickety and dangerous shuttles. Most of them are killed in the process, and those who make it there alive are instantly sent back to Earth.
Rush Limbaugh denounced Elysium as "a full-fledged anti-capitalist, pro-socialism movie" before expressing anger that the filmmakers and star Matt Damon deny there's political bias in the film.
At the Daily Caller, R.J. Moeller wrote that Damon and Blomkamp "know that the movie-going audience is primarily comprised of 12-21 year old boys who wouldn't know socialist propaganda if it spit in their Monster energy drink."
By contrast, progressive culture critic Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that, far from a political screed, Elyisum "fails in its mission to speak truth to power." The film never discusses the causes of inequality nor advocates real solutions to the problem. The right's real objection to Elyisum is that the very nature of the economic disparity at the heart of the story illustrates a world suffering the consequences of the policies conservatives advocate.
In the four years since the minimum wage was last raised, right-wing media have forwarded a number of myths to prevent any possible increase in the future, which often directly contradict economic evidence.
Right-wing media misleadingly hyped a congressional hearing to falsely claim that disability fraud is leading to increased claims and depleting the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. However, testimony from a Social Security Administration official at the hearing revealed that fraud is not a major problem in the disability program and demographic changes explain increased disability claims.
Media outlets have pounced on a quote from one member of a science advisory panel to once again claim a White House "war on coal," but they are missing crucial context about President Barack Obama's expected plan, which sets aside money for the development of so-called "clean coal" technology in addition to proposing necessary regulations on the pollution that coal-fired power plants currently emit.
Tuesday, The New York Times published a quote from Harvard University professor Daniel P. Schrag, a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, in anticipation of the Obama administration's announcement of measures to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change:
"Everybody is waiting for action," he said. "The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."
The Washington Post singled out the remarks in a post titled "Obama science adviser calls for 'war on coal." However, Schrag is not Obama's primary science adviser -- he is simply one of 18 advisors in a group that includes current and former executives from Microsoft, Google and tech conglomerate Honeywell, Inc. Additionally, as the Post noted, "he is not closely involved in setting regulatory policy for the White House."
Right-wing outlets immediately began publicizing the remarks, suggesting they are a sign of President Obama's true motives, with The Washington Free Beacon claiming the quote shows that the president's plan "is explicitly aimed at attacking the coal industry." Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin followed up by asking "Is Obama waging a 'war on coal?' and responding that "[t]o a large extent, the answer is yes."
However, Schrag's remark is not representative of President Obama's record as The Columbia Journalism Review and others have previously pointed out. Schrag responded to an email inquiry from Media Matters that he believes "there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants" (emphasis added):
The quote was slightly out of context. I was asked about the question of a war on coal, and I explain that shutting down conventional coal plants is a critical step in moving towards a low-carbon economy. But the phrase "war on coal" is really inappropriate and I shouldn't have used it - simply because it is not the coal that is the problem, but the emissions from coal, and what they do to our health, the health of our children, and of course the climate. So there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants. But conventional coal, that is harming our children and changing the climate system should have no place in our society.
Conservative media figures are painting a new White House push on affordable housing with the same dishonest brush they used to shift blame away from Wall Street for the housing bubble that precipitated the 2007-08 financial crisis.
On the April 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said that "lowering standards for who can borrow money to buy a home" is "what got us into trouble in the first place." The Washington Free Beacon made the same claim in an article titled "Subprime: The Sequel," and Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com claimed "the central failure in that bubble...was incentivizing increasingly risky loans with government cash and coercion."
But the housing bubble of the early 2000s was caused by private sector lending behavior, not government policy. The government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, commonly called the GSEs, didn't lead private financial institutions into the subprime market and the complex financial instruments that made the bubble so toxic. Instead, they followed Wall Street there. As the University of North Carolina's Center for Community Capital explained, "Ultimately, profit not policy was what motivated Fannie and Freddie and loan products not borrowers were what caused their collapse."
The data support this explanation. The loans to borrowers with lower credit scores which the GSEs bought up fared much better than did similar privately-securitized loans. (Six times better, according to the Center for American Progress). A Federal Reserve report using different methodology "found no evidence" that government policies designed to encourage lending to lower-income borrowers had contributed to the subprime bubble. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's final report examined and thoroughly debunked the contrary argument, primarily made by the American Enterprise Institute's Ed Pinto:
In direct contrast to Pinto's claim, GSE mortgages with some riskier characteristics such as high loan-to-value ratios are not at all equivalent to those mortgages in securitizations labeled subprime and Alt-A by issuers. The performance data assembled and analyzed by the FCIC show that non-GSE securitized loans experienced much higher rates of delinquency than did the GSE loans with similar characteristics.
Morrissey's post labels Pinto, former executive at Fannie Mae, a kind of soothsayer "who originally pointed out the failure at [the Federal Housing Administration]." But beyond the wonks who've debunked Pinto's claims, financial experts and journalists like Bailout Nation author Barry Ritholtz, The New York Times' Joe Nocera, and Bloomberg's David Lynch have shown him to be a primary driver of the false blame-the-government narrative of the crisis five years ago that conservative media are applying to housing policy developments in 2013.
An April 2 Washington Post article on the White House's efforts to broaden the reach of the current housing market resurgence notes that the recent improvement in the market "has been delivering most of the benefits to established homeowners with high credit scores or to investors who have been behind a significant number of new purchases." Housing officials, however, argue that a housing recovery that is limited to near-riskless buyers is constraining the broader economic recovery. According to the piece:
From 2007 through 2012, new-home purchases fell 30 percent for people with credit scores above 780 (out of 800), according to Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke. But they declined 90 percent for people with scores between 680 and 620 -- historically a respectable range for a credit score.
"If the only people who can get a loan have near-perfect credit and are putting down 25 percent, you're leaving out of the market an entire population of creditworthy folks, which constrains demand and slows the recovery," said Jim Parrott, who until January was the senior adviser on housing for the White House's National Economic Council.
"I think the ability of newly formed households, which are more likely to have lower incomes or weaker credit scores, to access the mortgage market will make a big difference in the shape of the recovery," Duke said last month. "Economic improvement will cause household formation to increase, but if credit is hard to get, these will be rental rather than owner-occupied households."
Yet conservative ideologues in the media appear eager to cast any attempt to expand the list of winners in the housing market's comeback as a doomed repetition of an invented history of a crisis that was actually caused by widespread private-sector fraud, greed, and collusion.
Talk about lowering the bar to can't-miss depths.
In its Sunday, page-one profile of partisan "provocateur" and Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb, the New York Times pointed to a report the right-wing site published this month, which raised questions about a speech Chuck Hagel gave in 2007. Free Beacon claimed Hagel had called the State Department "an adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister's office."
The report represented yet another missile fired by the sprawling, well-funded, far-right smear campaign to obstruct Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. (A campaign that seems destined to fail, by the way.)
Writing up Goldfarb's supposed successes, the Times treated the Hagel report as a singular Free Beacon victory. (Sen. Lindsey Graham mentioned it on the floor of the Senate!) Even though, as the Times itself point out, Hagel denied the quote and no video was ever found to confirm it. Additionally, one professor who was present at the speech adamantly denied Hagel ever made the State Department comment.
But hey, other than that Free Beacon totally nailed the anti-Hagel story.
Also, note that Goldfarb has a long history of making stuff up, calling it news, and then refusing to admit to his published fabrications. The Times, in its puffy profile about how Goldfarb deftly outwits liberals, failed to mention that troubling career trait.
Coming in the wake of last week's Friend of Hamas debacle at Breitbart.com, the Times' toast to the factually challenged Goldfarb raises questions as to how the mainstream media treat disingenuous players inside the GOP Noise Machine. (Historically, the press has played nice with them.)
The good news about Ben Shapiro's colossal Breitbart failure with regards to his bogus claims about the (fictitious) Friends of Hamas group that allegedly had nefarious ties with Hagel? It helped shine a spotlight on the type of dishonest skullduggery that goes on within the conservative blogosphere on a nearly daily basis. The bad news is too many publications analyzed the Breitbart debacle against the backdrop of journalism and fact finding.
It's time for journalists to give up the ghost and stop pretending that lots of players on the far right media spectrum even try to engage in journalism as it's commonly defined. (Thankfully, some exceptions exist.)
It's not journalism. It's not even partisan opinion journalism. It's proud propaganda. More and more, it's the intentional spreading of rumor and misinformation for political gain. (And often done in conjunction with the Republican Party.) For too long, the press has allowed right-wing players to hide behind the shield of journalism, and then acted surprised when they cut egregious ethical corners.
Conservative media voices have insisted that an increase of the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $9 would harm the economy. However, a wealth of economic evidence disputes the claims that minimum wage hikes are job killers, that the minimum wage is already high, and that it only applies to jobs held by relatively young workers.
After former Sen. Chuck Hagel was nominated as defense secretary, right-wing media outlets attacked him with distorted quotes, and similarly deceptive uses of those quotes surfaced at Hagel's hearing on Thursday.
During the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) highlighted a statement that Hagel made in a 2006 speech about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that was occurring in Lebanon at the time. Cruz claimed that Hagel had accused Israel of committing a "sickening slaughter."
But as Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out, this echoes a distortion promoted by The Weekly Standard. In reality, Hagel said that the "sickening slaughter on both sides must end" (emphasis added). As Weigel explains, Hagel "described the conflict that way -- a sickening slaughter was occurring -- blaming both sides, and quickly following up by criticizing Iran and invoking the 'special relationship'" between Israel and the United States.
Cruz also showed video of Hagel answering questions on an Al-Jazeera show in 2009. One of the questions Hagel fielded on the show was an email that asked:
Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the U.S. is that of the world's bully? Don't we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms (nuclear or otherwise)?
On the program, Hagel responded, "Well, her observation is a good one, and it's relevant. Yes to her question."
According to Cruz, the clip showed Hagel "explicitly" agreeing that the United States is "the world's bully." This echoes the take of the Washington Free Beacon, which discussed this exchange in a January 9 post misleadingly headlined "Hagel Agrees that America is 'the World's Bully.' " But as is clear from the question itself, Hagel agreed that there is an image of the U.S. as a bully that needs to be corrected.
Media figures have smeared President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), by misrepresenting Hagel's support for sanctions against Iran and his support for Israel. The media have also cast doubt on the bipartisan support for Hagel's nomination.
Right-wing media, including Fox News and the Drudge Report, are attacking NBC's Bob Costas for daring to question America's "gun culture" in the wake of the tragic murder-suicide committed by a Kansas City Chiefs football player. The Drudge Report characterized Costas' comments as a "gun control rant" while Fox criticized him for "lecturing America on gun control" in the wake of the tragedy.
On December 1, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend at the house they shared before subsequently killing himself in front of his head coach and other members of the Chiefs organization. The following evening, during halftime of NBC's Sunday night football game, Costas endorsed part of a column by sportswriter Jason Whitlock who criticized the gun culture in America.
Costas said: " 'Our current gun culture," Whitlock wrote, 'ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.' " Costas later added: " 'But here,' wrote Jason Whitlock, 'is what I believe: If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.' "
Fox News' Fox & Friends repeatedly questioned whether it was "appropriate" for Costas to be "lecturing America on gun control."
In the wake of previous tragedies, conservative media figures have advocated against gun laws and even denied that gun violence is a serious problem in the United States. Now they've turned their focus to Costas who brought up the subject of America's gun culture in the wake of the latest high-profile example of gun violence.
Fox News, which has spent the day promoting conspiracy theories about the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is now trumpeting the fact that BLS economists have donated to the Democrats and President Obama to reinforce their theory that BLS data is biased toward Obama. But one of the economists Fox identified is no longer a BLS employee, and only a tiny fraction of BLS workers have even made campaign donations.
This morning, BLS released the September jobs report showing that the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.8 percent. It was the first time in nearly four years that the rate has fallen below 8 percent. Media conservatives -- who have a history of attempting to negate positive jobs data -- rushed to discredit the data, claiming the jobs numbers were "total pro-Obama propaganda."
During a segment in which he stressed that Fox News had done its "homework," Your World guest host Eric Bolling named two economists he said work for BLS currently "who've both been donors to the Obama campaign," asking, "Should I make any assumptions from that?"