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Hannah Groch-Begley

Author ››› Hannah Groch-Begley
  • CNN's Reliable Sources Airs New Audio Disproving O'Reilly's JFK Story

    CNN's Brian Stelter On Higher Quality Recording Of O'Reilly Phone Call: "Clearly This Tape Shows He Was Not There"

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    CNN report debunking Bill O'Reilly's JFK Story

    CNN's Reliable Sources aired a new, clearer version of audio that further disproves Bill O'Reilly's claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

    O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed in his books and on Fox News that while he was reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977, he was directly outside at the exact moment that George de Mohrenschildt -- an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald -- shot himself in a Florida home. O'Reilly has offered no evidence to confirm this claim, and the police report filed at the time makes no mention of him.

    Media Matters further reported that multiple former colleagues and journalists in Florida at the time have disputed O'Reilly's story that he "heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide."

    Adding to the mounting evidence against O'Reilly's tale are tape recordings of a phone conversation between O'Reilly and a congressional investigator who was interviewing de Mohrenschildt before his death. On the tapes, O'Reilly can be heard asking the congressional reporter about the details of the suicide, and adding that he is not yet in Florida -- a claim that is at odds with O'Reilly's statements that he was near the home where de Mohrenschildt killed himself.

    Lower-quality copies of these tapes were first posted online by former Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley in a 2013 piece for his website JFKFacts.org, as Media Matters noted in our initial report.

    Now, CNN has obtained the original tapes from the congressional investigator's widow, and the audio is significantly cleaner and easier to hear. O'Reilly can clearly be heard asking the congressional investigator where the suicide took place, if a gun was used, and saying "I'm coming down there tomorrow. I'm coming to Florida ... I'm going to get in there tomorrow."

    As Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter reported, "clearly this tape shows he was not there."

    Stelter also interviewed Morley, who said that he previously attempted to bring this audio to Fox News' attention, but received no response.

    O'Reilly has come under fire for multiple fabrications in the past few weeks, and has responded dubiously. However, O'Reilly and Fox News have so far not responded to the mounting evidence against his JFK story, instead directing inquires to the publisher of O'Reilly's book on the Kennedy assassination.

  • Fox News, Murdoch Papers Fall Silent On O'Reilly Fabrication Questions

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Bill O'Reilly

    Fox News and owner Rupert Murdoch's newspapers The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal have all fallen silent as more questions emerge about Bill O'Reilly's claims about his reporting career. 

    The New York Post has never reported on any of the recent revelations that O'Reilly has inflated tales of his journalism career, while the Wall Street Journal provided just one article right as the controversy began, and Fox News' scant coverage has disappeared as they now ignore all new developments, according to a Media Matters review.

    O'Reilly has come under heavy criticism for multiple lies and exaggerations, after a Mother Jones report first noted the Fox host has a history of misleadingly claiming to have been "in the Falklands" and in "combat" during the Falklands War. Media Matters has also identified serious discrepancies in O'Reilly's stories about witnessing nuns being shot in El Salvador, and overhearing the suicide of a figure linked to President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

    When the original Mother Jones piece broke, Murdoch's Fox News went to war with the magazine. O'Reilly immediately gave a series of interviews to other news outlets, denying the allegations by saying he had never said he was on the Falkland Islands themselves, and launching personal attacks.

    On Fox News itself, O'Reilly first lashed out at critics during his February 20 show and dismissed the Mother Jones report as "garbage," and later used his February 24 show to try to shift the focus away from the scrutiny. Fox's MediaBuzz also covered the story, giving O'Reilly another platform to attack his critics. No other Fox News program covered the story, according to a search of the Nexis and Snaptream databases. 

    The Wall Street Journal, which is also owned by Murdoch, similarly reported on O'Reilly's initial denials.

    When Media Matters further reported on February 25 that O'Reilly had fabricated the claim that he personally "saw nuns get shot in the back of the head" in El Salvador, O'Reilly also offered a statement to Mediaite claiming that when he said "I was in El Salvador and I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head" he was referring to seeing "horrendous images" of nuns murdered, not personally witnessing their deaths.

    He did not, however, mention the El Salvador controversy that night on his show, and Fox's PR department released a statement the same day suggesting they would not continue to respond to the "accusation du jour." Additionally, neither Fox nor O'Reilly have directly addressed Media Matters' report on the substantial evidence undermining O'Reilly's claim that he "heard" a shotgun blast when a figure linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy committed suicide.

    Outside of O'Reilly's own program, no Fox News show has even hinted at these developments, according to a search of the Nexis and Snaptream databases. 

    Similarly, other Rupert Murdoch-owned media properties have fallen silent or failed to mention the controversies entirely.

    Though the Wall Street Journal reported on February 20 on O'Reilly's initial denials of the Falklands story, the paper hasn't mentioned O'Reilly since. According to a search of the newspaper's website and Factiva, the paper has not reported any of the new developments.

    And The New York Post hasn't published any stories about O'Reilly this month, except for a brief mention in an Inside Edition anniversary special piece.

    The evidence of O'Reilly fabricating and exaggerating past experiences has sparked national news coverage in other non-Murdoch outlets, including CNNMSNBCPoliticoThe Washington PostThe Daily BeastThe Huffington Post, and more.

    Previously, Murdoch-owned properties have not shied away from reporting on O'Reilly controversies. For example, the New York Post published multiple reports in 2004 on the alleged $60 million dollar settlement over an O'Reilly a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Andrea Makris, a former O'Reilly producer.

  • Now Sharyl Attkisson's Lawyer Suggests Her Personal Computer Wasn't Hacked

    Attkisson Had Claimed That Computer Was Hacked In Book, Lawsuit

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Sharyl Attkisson

    Sharyl Attkisson's lawyer told the Daily Beast that an investigation that found no evidence her personal computer was hacked is "irrelevant" because it reviewed the wrong computer, despite her own repeated claims that the desktop in question had been compromised. He also falsely claimed her lawsuit against the federal government for alleged hacking was focused solely on a separate work computer.

    Attkisson, a former CBS reporter who now freelances for conservative outlets, previously claimed that her personal Apple laptop, personal Apple desktop, and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop had been breached as part of a federal effort to monitor her because she did reporting critical of the Obama administration.

    In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were "sophisticated" methods. They did not identify the party or parties behind the breach.

    Attkisson writes in her book Stonewalled that she subsequently gave her "personal Apple desktop iMac computer" to the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General for review, claiming that she believed a government agency was monitoring it. A report of that review, entered into public record on January 29, found no "evidence of remote or unauthorized access" on the "personal iMac computer" OIG examined. (The report also raised serious questions about the techniques used by CBS' private technician, who examined the CBS laptop and her personal computers.)

    Now, when asked to explain why the OIG was unable to find evidence of hacking on the personal Apple computer, Attkisson's lawyer Tab Turner is claiming that the findings are "irrelevant," because the OIG looked at the wrong computer. The Daily Beast reported:

    Concerning the Inspector General's report, Turner characterized it as "irrelevant," claiming that Attkisson's "work computer" is "the sole focus" of her legal complaints.

    As for why the Feds reached their decidedly unhelpful conclusions, Turner said: "It's pretty simple. They didn't look at the computer."

    It is entirely unclear why Attkisson would have turned her personal computer over to the OIG for review if, as her lawyer's statement suggests, she did not believe that machine had been compromised. Indeed, Turner's claims contradict Attkisson's own statements about the computer.

    Moreover, the work computer is not "'the sole focus' of her legal complaints." In fact, the lawsuit filed in the D.C. Superior Court claims that all three of Attkisson's computers were compromised.

    The lawsuit claims that the CBS News technician found "evidence on both Ms. Attkisson's Toshiba laptop and Apple desktop computers of a coordinated, highly-skilled series of actions and attacks at the operation of the computers and the storage and access of data thereon." It claims Attkisson personally "observed for the first time that a third computer, her personal MacBookAir, was access remotely, controlled, and that data was deleted." Finally, the lawsuit claims that "The surveillance of Ms. Attkisson's computers" -- plural -- "violated the Fourth Amendment."

    Attkisson has changed her hacking story multiple times, and the twists in the tale lead to certain confusions. For example, the Daily Beast piece, which questioned Attkisson's lawyer, claims Attkisson gave the OIG "her MacBook Air." Attkisson's 2014 book Stonewalled and the OIG report itself, on the other hand, say the investigation was of her Apple iMac desktop. Regardless, it appears that her lawyer believes the only computer with any evidence on it is the CBS Toshiba work laptop -- contradicting Attkisson's own previous statements on the matter.

    In fact, Stonewalled begins on the very first page, under the subtitle "My Computer's Intruders," with a description of suspicious activity -- on Attkisson's Apple desktop computer.

    Attkisson's Stonewalled, Page 1

  • ABC News' Laura Ingraham Pushes Vaccine Myth That ABC News Called Discredited

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Laura Ingraham on ABC News

    ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham falsely suggested there's a link between vaccines and autism, which flies in the face of substantial scientific evidence and her own employer's reporting on the issue.

    A domestic measles outbreak has highlighted the rising numbers of American parents who disregard medical recommendations and choose not to vaccinate their children, often for religious or personal reasons.

    On February 2, Ingraham spoke with a caller on her radio show who claimed that vaccinations had "something to do with" her child getting autism. Ingraham suggested that this might be a compelling reason to forgo vaccinating children, saying that there has been "anecdotal evidence" pointing to "overnight change" in children who have been vaccinated. 

    Contrary to Ingraham, ABC News reported just the day before that the science is clear: there is no link between autism and vaccines.

    As ABC's This Week explained on February 1, a "now discredited study" published in 1998 originally gave rise to this myth about autism. The Lancet, the medical journal which published the study, retracted it in 2010, while The British Medical Journal called the research "fraudulent" and authorities stripped the doctor of his license. Multiple studies since then have confirmed that vaccines are safe.

    "Study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told ABC. Measles, he said, is a "serious disease, and it would be terrible if we have preventable illness, even death, from this disease that's preventable with a safe and effective vaccine."

    New York Times report explained how irresponsible media coverage has played a role in perpetuating this dangerous myth about vaccines. Right-wing media figures, including Fox & FriendsSharyl Attkisson, and now Ingraham, have long helped prop up discredited science and baseless fearmongering about the safeties of vaccines. Glenn Beck and multiple Fox News figures have repeatedly floated debunked claims vaccines may be linked to autism. Rush Limbaugh even declared in 2009 that it was "hard to disagree" with claims that the swine flu vaccine was "developed to kill people."

    During her radio show, Ingraham went on to claim that measles is "not generally a deadly disease" -- ignoring the fact that "measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children" worldwide -- and to baselessly speculate that undocumented immigrants were to blame for spreading infectious diseases such as measles and TB in the U.S.

    ABC News hired Ingraham as a contributor in April 2014, despite her long history of inflammatory and misinformed rhetoric. 

  • Right-Wing Smear Baselessly Links Obama Admin to Anti-Netanyahu Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Obama and Netanyahu

    Right-wing media are baselessly connecting the Obama administration and the State Department to a local Israeli campaign against current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, American political consultants from both parties have been independently working in Israeli campaigns for decades -- including former Obama aides who have worked for Netanyahu.

    Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote on February 2 that a former Obama campaign staffer went to Israel "to oust Netanyahu," suggesting the former staffer would not do this work "if he thought Obama opposed it" and implying the administration was "actively working to defeat Netanyahu":

    Obama's 2012 national field director, Jeremy Bird, was headed to Tel Aviv to manage a grass-roots campaign to oust Netanyahu. Bird would not be working to defeat Netanyahu if he thought Obama opposed it. Can you imagine Karl Rove going to London while George W. Bush was in office to help conservatives oust Prime Minister Tony Blair? It further emerged that the group behind Bird's anti-Netanyahu effort has received State Department funding and lists the State Department as a "partner" on its Web site. 

    But before this false idea hit the Post, it bubbled up from the right-wing media echo chamber. 

    Two policy groups in Israel, OneVoice and Victory 15, are currently working together to promote platforms that reportedly "are not friendly" to Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming election.

    The groups have also partnered with American consulting group 270 Strategies, which is headed by Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign staffer. OneVoice began working with 270 Strategies in 2013, long before the Israeli elections were announced.

    There is a long history of U.S. political consultants from both parties working for Israeli political campaigns. As the New York Times reported, former Obama campaign strategist Bill Knapp worked as an adviser to Netanyahu in 2009. Josh Isay, whose firm worked on the Obama campaign, has also worked for Netanyahu. Bill Clinton campaign strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg worked for an Israeli Labor Party candidate in 1999; up until recently Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein worked for Netanyahu.

    Nevertheless, conservatives have jumped on 270 Strategies' current work to falsely accuse the Obama administration -- and President Obama personally -- of attempting to influence Israeli politics.

    In particular, the right-wing criticism revolves around the administration's response to Rep. John Boehner's (R-OH) recent announcement that Netanyahu was invited to speak before the U.S. Congress without President Obama's knowledge shortly before Israel's election, an unusual intervention in foreign policy and almost-unheard of action between heads of state. Conservatives claim that 270 Strategies' work with OneVoice proves Obama is either retaliating against Netanyahu or engaging in a similar effort to meddle in foreign politics; but again, 270's work on the ground in Israel began long before this most recent disagreement, and it is typical for American political consultants to engage in Israeli politics.

    Fringe blogs Gateway Pundit and PJ Media led the charge, publishing the "report" on January 26 claiming "The Obama administration is backing the campaign to defeat Netanyahu." The Drudge Report hyped an inside look at the "HQ of ex-Obama staffers' anti-Bibi campaign," right below a story labeled "White House ratchets up criticism of Netanyahu." Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) even followed up with a blog on Breitbart.com to ask, "Has President Obama launched a political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu?"

    Fox News also picked up the claim, with host Megyn Kelly suggesting that the administration sent an Obama "field general" to help Israel "elect Netanyahu's opponent":

    [The Obama administration says] that they're fine, they are not going to interfere with the Israeli election, they don't want anything to do with that and yet, we have reports yesterday that this guy Jeremy Bird, who was the field general for Obama's re-election campaign is helping in Israel elect Netanyahu's opponent and to replace the current government there. Pure coincidence?

    When Kelly's guest Joe Trippi then explained that former campaign staffers frequently work on international campaigns -- on either side of various issues -- National Review's Rich Lowry attempted to argue that "you cannot find anyone significant around President Obama who would ever go to work for Bibi Netanyahu, which, again, goes to the animosity they have to this man personally and for the point of view he represents."

    Many of the media outlets took the smear further, by also claiming that tax-payer dollars were funding the campaign. OneVoice briefly received a one-time grant for about $200,000 from the State Department, which ended in November 2014. As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki noted in a briefing, the grant "ended before there was a declaration of an Israeli election."

    Nevertheless, media outlets such as the Daily Caller insisted that OneVoice was currently "backed by the Department of State" and labeled it "Kerry's Diplomatic Protection Racket." Kelly even suggested that OneVoice "should be forced to return the $200,000 to the taxpayers."

    Now, this right-wing distortion of the facts has made it all the way to the Post.  

  • Federal Report: Investigation Found No Evidence Sharyl Attkisson's Personal Computer Was Hacked

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Sharyl Attkisson

    An investigation by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found no evidence that Sharyl Attkisson's personal computer was hacked. The former CBS reporter has claimed that her computers had been breached as part of a federal effort to monitor her because she did reporting critical of the Obama administration.

    Attkisson, who left CBS News last year and now writes for the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, previously claimed that her personal Apple laptop, personal Apple desktop, and a CBS News-issued Toshiba laptop were hacked while she was reporting on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. In June 2013, CBS News confirmed that the CBS News computer was breached, using what the network said were "sophisticated" methods. They did not identify the party or parties behind the breach.

    But according to her 2014 book Stonewalled, unnamed sources confirmed for Attkisson that an unnamed government agency was behind the attack. Attkisson reiterated her claims in January 29 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    As part of that hearing, an abbreviated report of the Office of the Inspector General's review of her allegations was entered into public record and obtained by Media Matters. The investigation, based in part on the OIG's examination of her personal Apple computer, found that the OIG "was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise." As Post opinion writer Erik Wemple first reported, the review found that "Attkisson is not and has not been under investigation by the FBI."

    Attkisson had provided to the investigators a cellphone video she took of one apparent hack, which showed words typed into a Microsoft Word document on her personal laptop rapidly disappearing. Computer security experts told Media Matters when the video was first made public that it more likely showed her computer malfunctioning due to a stuck backspace key.

    The OIG report seems to confirm that suspicion. "The video of text being deleted from a document appeared to be caused by the backspace key being stuck, rather than remote intrusion," the report states. The OIG found that a second video Attkisson provided of her CBS laptop showed "a standard error prompt."

    Furthermore, the OIG report found that a "suspicious" cable Attkisson had described in the book and to the OIG as potential evidence of a "tap" was "a common cable" used by her internet provider that "could not be used to monitor or otherwise affect the phone or internet service at her residence."

    An individual who examined Attkisson's computer prior to the OIG investigation, according to the report, used a "method of forensic examination" which "is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." This individual's actions "could have obscured potential evidence of unauthorized access."

    Attkisson claims that this individual was hired by CBS News and sent to her house to examine her personal computer, but CBS News told the OIG that they did not conduct any analysis on her personal computer.

    Media Matters has previously noted that Attkisson reversed herself on whether various technological problems she experienced were tied to the intrusion on her system. In the book, she suggested her phone, television, personal laptop, and cable systems had all malfunctioned due to the hacking. But during a radio interview she said the "disruptions happening in my electrical systems at home may in the end have nothing to do with the intrusion."

    Attkisson is currently suing the government for alleged "unauthorized and illegal surveillance of the Plaintiff's laptop computers and telephones from 2011-2013." 

  • The Benefits Of Paid Family Leave That Right-Wing Media Ignore

    ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Right-wing media figures misleadingly attacked and dismissed the need for paid parental leave after President Obama's State of the Union speech advocated for expanding these programs to more Americans. In fact, economists have found that increasing paid leave would boost the economy, increase wages, and keep families out of poverty.

  • Right-Wing Media Use Paris Attack To Smear Hillary Clinton

    Media Take Georgetown Speech Out Of Context To Manufacture Clinton "Empathy" With Terrorists

    ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD & HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Right-wing media are using the Paris terrorist attack to falsely claim Hillary Clinton has encouraged empathizing with terrorists like the ones who carried out the attack. But conservatives' attacks on Clinton are badly distorting remarks she made during a December speech in which she emphasized the value of understanding one's enemy, and she has repeatedly stated her opposition to negotiating with violent ideological groups.

  • The Media In 2014 By The Numbers

    ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    2014 was a year of eye-popping media numbers, from millions of dollars' worth of coverage devoted to a trumped-up scandal to mere seconds devoted to historic news. Here are some of the most important -- and most surprising -- figures from the year.