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Ari Rabin-Havt

Author ››› Ari Rabin-Havt
  • When Did The Issa - Hillary Relationship Go South?

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    Darrell Issa

    The same day yet another House Republican investigation into the attack in Benghazi debunked tired conservative myths, The Hill excerpts a piece of Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen's book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, detailing an interesting twist in the relationship between Darrell Issa and the former Secretary of State.

    "When the call came in at three o'clock in the morning, the failure wasn't viewed, at least as of today, as Secretary Clinton's. It was really an Obama failure," the GOP House Oversight Committee Chair told the journalists in December 2012. "Her legacy is mostly intact for 2016, if she chooses."

    "The front end of it, Hillary's part of it, was very good," he continued. "I don't think she'd lie to me. In that sense, I trust her like any politician and particularly any diplomat - every word within a statement has to be carefully made sure you heard it correctly."

    The Hill also cites Issa favorably comparing Hillary Clinton to other Obama officials.

    "When you look at Eric Holder, I do not trust him. I do not believe he is trustworthy. I do no believe he is honest," he said. "In the case of Secretary Clinton, I think her personal standing - her legacy of tough but honest, diplomatic but not disingenuous - I think it's important to her."

    So if Darrell Issa had such a positive view of Hillary Clinton in December 2012, it raises the intriguing question of when the relationship went south. A look at the public record would suggest this change might have taken place the following spring, when Republicans and the conservative media shifted their ire from the President to Hillary Clinton in anticipation of her Presidential campaign.

    In April 2013, with the release of a Benghazi investigation from five Republican congressional chairman which mentioned Hillary Clinton 30 times and mentioned the President only 11, came Issa's first major attack on Hillary Clinton's credibility -- and one that represented a huge embarrassment for the GOP.

    The report referenced a cable from March 28, 2012, sent from then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz to Hillary Clinton asking for additional security resources in Libya. A reply containing the Secretary's signature was delivered in April "acknowledge[ing] then-Ambassador Cretz's formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned" from Libya.

    On the day the report came out, Darrell Issa appeared on Fox & Friends claiming "The secretary of state was just wrong. She said she did not participate in this, and yet only a few months before the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in a cable, April 2012." Issa and the conservative media believed they had caught Clinton in a lie, as she had testified before Congress in January "that the security cables did not come to my attention or above the assistant secretary level."

    Republicans and the conservative media trumpeted their evidence, but all they demonstrated was their own ignorance. As The Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, who spent years covering the State Department, explained, "every single cable from Washington gets the secretary's name at the bottom, even if the secretary happens to be on the other side of the world at the time."

    There was no reason to believe Clinton ever saw or knew about the documents in question, yet to this day neither Issa nor any of his Republican colleagues have apologized for their smear job.

  • NYTimes Investigation Brings Bad News For Benghazi Hoaxers



    A six-part series by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick destroyed several myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, myths often propagated by conservative media and their allies in Congress to politicize the attack against the Obama administration.

    Since the September 2012 attacks, right-wing media have seized upon various inaccurate, misleading, or just plain wrong talking points about Benghazi. Some of those talking points made their way into the mainstream, most notably onto CBS' 60 Minutesearning the network the Media Matters' 2013 "Misinformer of the Year" title for its botched report.

    Kirkpatrick's series, titled "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," debunks a number of these right-wing talking points based on "months of investigation" and "extensive interviews" with those who had "direct knowledge of the attack." Among other points, Kirkpatrick deflates the claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the attacks and that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack: 

    Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

    Fox News, scores of Republican pundits, and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), among others, dragged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice through the mud for citing talking points that mentioned an anti-Islamic YouTube video on Sunday morning news programs following the attacks. Despite right-wing media claims to the contrary, however, Kirkpatrick stated that the attack on the Benghazi compound was in "large part" "fueled" by the anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube. He wrote (emphasis added):

    The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.


    There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.

    Another talking point that right-wing media used to accuse the Obama administration of a political cover-up was the removal of Al Qaeda from Rice's morning show talking points. Kirkpatrick, however, affirmed in his NYTimes report that Al Qaeda was not involved in the attack in Benghazi (emphasis added):

    But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda's international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker's boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

    Kirkpatrick also dispelled the notion that the attack on the compound was carefully planned, writing that "the attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs."

    This NYTimes report should lay to rest these long-debunked yet oft-repeated talking points on the part of both right-wing media and their conservative allies.

    For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt. 

  • A New Benghazi Hoax: Misrepresenting An Out-Of-Context Email


    Image via Steve Rhodes

    As part of the latest hoax about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News is distorting a document recently unearthed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

    Fox and Judicial Watch are trying to keep alive the phony right-wing narrative that the Obama administration somehow covered up the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, in which four Americans were killed.

    A December 12 article about the Judicial Watch documents says, "Newly released documents show an official at the State Department urged a contractor providing security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi not to respond to media inquiries, in the wake of the September 2012 terrorist attack."

    Thus far, the only portion of the "documents" that Judicial Watch has released is an out-of-context, three-sentence quote from an email sent by State Department contracting officer Jan Visintainer to Blue Mountain Group, a firm that helped provide security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi. The email is dated September 26, 2012 -- about two weeks after the attacks.

    In reality, the quote from the email shows that Blue Mountain Group first suggested declining to speak with the media, and Visintainer agreed that this was the correct course. Visintainer also said he spoke about the matter with public affairs personnel at the State Department.

    Here is the entirety of the quote cited by Judicial Watch and Fox News:

    "Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments."

    Yet, in a blog post misleadingly titled "State Dept. Ordered Benghazi Security Co. to Dodge Media," Judicial Watch called this email "scandalous."

    No matter. Fox News and others in the conservative media are more than happy to forward this latest exaggeration to continue to push their Benghazi hoax

    Image via Steve Rhodes

  • The Benghazi Hoax Chapter 16: 60 Minutes


    The Benghazi HoaxAfter the publication of Media Matters' ebook The Benghazi Hoax, which tells the story of how the right twisted a tragedy into a failed witch hunt against the Obama administration, CBS News came under fire from media critics and journalism experts for airing a botched 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that featured a supposed eyewitness to the attacks who had lied about his actions the night of the attack. The story resulted in an internal investigation into how 60 Minutes got it wrong and a leave of absence by correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan. Here's the story of how CBS got burned by the Benghazi hoax.

  • Watch: This News Network Gives A 90-Second Master Class On How To Cover Poverty

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    This morning, as minimum wage workers in 100 cities around the country went on strike, CNN's New Day, in 90 seconds, demonstrated how to cover issues of poverty.

    Watch from 1:10: (Full segment included for context.)

    CNN's Alison Kosik deserves credit for reporting the facts about low-wage workers. 

    Her subject is a 58-year-old man with two college age children who works at Kentucky Fried Chicken, scraping by with a second job at Kennedy Airport -- not a teenager working for spending money -- which is who conservatives claim minimum wage workers are.  

    "Living on $7.25 -- you cannot do it," he tells Kosik. "You couldn't even pay your apartment, buy food."

    She goes on to acknowledge the struggle that fast food workers face in their daily living, pointing out how far their median wages -- even if working full time -- fall below the poverty line for families. 

    Then she turns to Columbia University Professor Dorian Warren, who studies "inequality and American politics" to explain that workers are not taking these jobs by choice, but because they are "desperate."

    Kosik concludes that 6 out of 10 jobs expected to be created in the next decade in fast-growth industries pay low wages, demonstrating the magnitude of the issue.

    In contrast, this is how a certain "fair and balanced" network covers workers seeking higher wages:

  • The Benghazi Report Darrell Issa Would Rather You Not See -- And The Media Helping Him

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    Attkisson interviewing IssaOn Wednesday, the State Department Office of the Inspector General (IG) issued the results of its investigation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board that was chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, as well as the State Department's implementation of its recommendations. The first finding of the report states [emphasis added]:

    The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended--independently and without bias--to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State's security programs.

    That flies directly in the face of mistruths and exaggerations that were released by Darrell Issa and the focus of a hearing before his House Oversight Committee last week.

    After being given advance copies of a Republican report attacking the credibility of the Benghazi review that was released on September 16, publications rushed to inform their readers of its flawed findings. There is no similar urgency on the part of the media to cover this new report which should lay to rest the notion that the Accountability Review Board was anything but an independent investigation into the tragedy that occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

  • Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh And A Big Loss For Right-Wing Radio

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Sean HannityRepublican Sen. Ted Cruz's (TX) speech on the floor of the Senate was the culmination of a several-month campaign to convince his congressional colleagues to vote against any appropriations bill that does not defund Obamacare, which gained the support of a host of right-wing talk radio figures such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Erick Erickson, and Rush Limbaugh.

    After Cruz spent 21 hours pleading for Republicans and Democrats to vote against cloture, the motion passed unanimously with the acquiescence of Cruz himself.

    Several years ago, it was expected these talkers would have cowed the Republican Conference to their whim. Today, Sean Hannity is supportive of Cruz but other elements of the conservative movement remain divided. Fox News contributor Karl Rove has used his media platform to make arguments for avoiding this fight, while fellow contributor Sarah Palin has attacked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, demanding he "release the GOP names encouraging you to trash [Ted Cruz.]"

    Since Rush Limbaugh's radio program went into syndication in August of 1988, talk radio has held unprecedented power over the GOP, wreaking vengeance on those who defied it. Erick Erickson recently cited conservative anger at George H.W. Bush for violating his "no new taxes" pledge as the reason for his defeat in 1992. 

    The age of talk radio has not been kind to the Republican Party's national candidates who have failed to capture a plurality of the popular vote in five of seven elections since Limbaugh's program went national. (In fact, one of those elections was Bush's 1988 victory, which, in reality, occurred before his influence reached its apex.)

    Conservative talk radio is good for its hosts' bottom lines because it captures the loyalty, dedication, and financial muscle of a large niche audience. This can amount to millions of listeners, hundreds of millions of dollars, but still represents a limited quantity of voters -- far less than the 50 percent it takes to win an election.

    Politicians like Cruz recognize the power of that niche in building his brand within the Republican Party.

    Cruz also recognizes the financial benefit long known by the talk radio hosts raising millions of dollars off of a stunt that threatens to do billions of dollars in damage to the economy. It's important to recognize, however, that even the majority of Republicans oppose Cruz's tactic.

    Instead of rallying in support or cowering in fear, Cruz's GOP colleagues in the Senate are bucking the conservative radio base for fear of being replaced in the primaries.

    In addition to failing to unite behind Cruz's campaign, Fox recently announced its decision to downgrade the position of its talk radio star Hannity from his prime location at 9 p.m. to the less desirable 10 p.m. timeslot. This moves makes way for Megyn Kelly who, while maintaining the network's conservative ethos, delivers a far different product than her conservative counterparts.

    It is perhaps heartening that after nearly 25 years of right-wing talking heads dragging the Republican Party away from a place where it can constructively engage with its counterparts, the Senate Republican Conference has briefly broken free of talk radio's grip.

    It remains to be seen if this a long-term trend or a short-term realignment. But for once, the calculation that what is good for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and now Ted Cruz is often to the detriment of the broader Republican Party has been heeded at this time by its leaders in the United States Senate.

  • Latest Budget Crisis Is Another Product of Conservative Media Hucksterism

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    Hawking shady products - gold coins sold at a 30-percent markup, "survival seeds," and financial newsletters only designed to enrich their authors -- has long been the core strategy of funding the conservative media enterprise. 

    But the deleterious effect of the latest conservative media scam threatens to be far greater than a tube of seeds that will yield no fruit. 

    The conservative media, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have conned their base into believing that shutting down the government -- unless Barack Obama agrees to stop the implementation of Obamacare -- is a strategically and politically salient idea for the GOP and the conservative movement. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) earlier this summer dubbed it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard."

    Fueled by television ads starring Cruz and paid for by the Senate Conservative Fund -- a PAC initially founded by Heritage President Jim DeMint to shift the Senate GOP Conference rightward -- this movement was buoyed by an active campaign from the conservative media that began months ago. In July, Rush Limbaugh called the effort to block funding the government a "crucial thing" and the "one last chance to stop" Obamacare.

    Sean Hannity called for a government shutdown months ago, telling his audience:

    "I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here.  Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down."

    Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has used his blog,, to call for the "scalps" of Republican politicians who do not "fight" to defund Obamacare with a government shutdown.

    This has set off an internal GOP war, with some on the right expressing doubt that a government shutdown is a viable or effective strategy. This was on display Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation when Tom Coburn (R-OK)  implied that his colleagues in the Senate pushing for a government shutdown weren't living in the "real world." 

    "Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this," Coburn told host Bob Schieffer. "We're not about to shut the government down over the fact that we cannot, only controlling one house of Congress, tell the president that we're not going to fund any portion of this. Because we can't do that."

    Karl Rove also took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to warn that defunding the government over Obamacare "would strengthen the president while alienating independents," ultimately leading the GOP towards electoral defeat.

    Coburn, Rove, and others calling for restraint now are simply trying to slay a monster of their own creation. In early 2009, with momentum carrying the Obama administration forward, the Tea Party and its champions fought to create this toxic environment in which forcing a government shut down over Obamacare seemed like a viable option.  

    August town hall meetings degenerated into chaos as grassroots conservatives screamed at their members about a government takeover of healthcare. Obamacare was not simply a new health insurance system; the conservative base believed it was an all-out effort by Democrats to kill their grandmothers and children with disabilities. It needed to be defeated at all costs.

    Tea Party members in Congress and the conservative media continued to use this rhetoric with their base long after their lies had been debunked and long after the bill's passage.

    They cheered as this rhetoric enabled the GOP to win 63 seats in the House of Representatives, six in the Senate, and 675 state legislative seats -- allowing them to control the redistricting process

    They pushed their state governments to reject the law's Medicaid provisions and exchanges and looked the other way as conservative groups attempted to sabotage the implementation of the law by convincing young people it would be better to go without health insurance than sign up for Obamacare. 

    Admittedly, some groused when tea party extremists rejected candidates such as Mike Castle in Delaware in favor of sure losers like Christine O'Donnell, but they stood silent as tea party members in the House made the chamber ungovernable.

    This week these strategies have finally come to a head. With the deadline for funding the government days away, the House has passed a bill sure to be rejected in the Senate and one the President won't sign. The Republican Caucus in the House is primarily made up of Tea Party members, whose districts, due to gerrymandering, are more subservient to the rhetoric of the conservative media than to the needs of the country. 

    Even those in the GOP and the conservative media lamenting this latest potential government shutdown bear responsibility for it. They have stood by and cheered since 2009 as the conservative base was spoon-fed lies about healthcare. Now that they recognize these lies have metastasized, not simply into false promises about gold coins or gardens that will feed your family after a financial apocalypse but into a political movement that will do long-term damage to the GOP, they are crying for its end. 

    However, the faulty calculation sold, and continuing to be sold, by many in the right-wing media is clear: if you can stop the federal government from murdering your grandmother and child, then a government shutdown and even electoral defeat is a small price to pay. 

  • Watch: The Benghazi Testimony The Conservative Media Will Not Dare Show You

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    Florida Representative Alan Grayson used his opportunity at today's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Benghazi to dismantle many of the myths spread by the conservative media.

    Here are just some of the myths his line of questioning debunked:

    Conservative media figures have claimed Ambassador Chris Stevens only went to Benghazi under orders from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Jeff Kuhner of the Washington Times went so far as to say Clinton "sent him on a suicide mission. Mrs. Clinton has American blood on her hands."

    Grayson's questioning of Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, debunked this myth:

    GRAYSON: Who decided that Ambassador Stevens go to Benghazi on September 11, 2012?

    KENNEDY: It was the Ambassador's decision, sir.

    GRAYSON: Now was Secretary Clinton responsible in any way for reviewing and approving the in-country movements of U.S. ambassadors, either Ambassador Stevens or anyone else?

    KENNEDY: No, sir.

    Additionally Grayson elicited testimony from Kennedy calling into question conservative myths about security at the Benghazi compound:

  • Shorter Conservative Media: 'Pay No Attention to the Man With The Gun - Follow the Shiny Objects'

    Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

    In the wake of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, conservative media figures and their allies in the pro-gun movement have their strategy down pat.

    First, accuse the president, members of Congress, or media figures who suggest that perhaps there is the need to look at our country's ineffective gun laws of politicizing the tragedy.

    Sean Hannity last night began a segment on the Navy Yard shooting question Fox News analyst Juan Williams about why advocates of gun safety laws "race to politicize atragedy and advance an agenda."

    Williams responded appropriately, turning Hannity's question on its head: "I don't think there is a race to politicize it except coming from the right," he said. "And the race to politicize it from the right is, 'Oh don't bring up guns. Don't mention guns. Guns have nothing to do with it.' "

    Next, conservatives point to any cause of the tragedy that is not the actual instrument of death. After the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting, National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre, cast part of the blame on violent video games. This has now become the go to talking point for the right.