Nominations & Appointments | Media Matters for America

Nominations & Appointments

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  • Fox News and Trump are trying to discredit the DOJ's IG report about the Clinton email investigation

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News is laying the groundwork to discredit a Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general’s report regarding the department’s handling of the 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

    According to a leaked portion of the report, first reported on June 6 by ABC News, the DOJ inspector general “concluded that James Comey defied authority at times during his tenure as FBI director” by “ignoring objections from the Justice Department when he disclosed in a letter to Congress just days before the 2016 presidential election that FBI agents had reopened the Clinton probe.” Political analysts and polls point to Comey’s decision to inform Congress of the reopening of the Clinton email investigation as a critical episode in Trump’s eventual victory.

    Early this week, a number of Fox hosts -- including the Fox & Friends hosts, Sean Hannity, and Lou Dobbs, all of whom also act as unofficial Trump advisers -- suggested that the report, which has yet to be fully released, is beset by corruption. On June 5, the president chimed in, saying that he hoped the report wasn’t being “changed and made weaker.” Since Trump’s tweet, Fox News has continued attempting to discredit the review by baselessly asserting that it’s being “scrubbed” by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who was appointed by Trump himself), even after having hyped the report for months. In fact, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano (who is known to spread baseless conspiracy theories) repeated Trump’s sentiment regarding the inspector general report when he took to the president’s favorite morning show on June 7 to push an unsubstantiated claim that the DOJ report “might not be a truthful document.”

    From the June 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): OK, so the leaks were -- because this is circulating, where people can essentially make a rebuttal and try to get them fix it.

    ANDREW NAPOLITANO (FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST): Yes.

    DOOCY: Joe diGenova was on our air in the last 24 hours, and he said that he thinks that Rod Rosenstein, who’s the number two guy at the DOJ, might be actually scrubbing this report to try to get all the bad stuff out of it.

    NAPOLITANO: If Joe is correct -- and I have great respect for him -- if Joe is correct, this is an outrage and it is a neutering of a very highly respected inspector general who was appointed by George W. Bush and by Barack Obama.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So, judge, here’s the thing: You can do whatever you want to the report. But when you put him, the inspector general, in front of Congress, any committee, he’s going to answer about his conclusions. Not what's been scrubbed, correct?

    NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't know, Brian. If he gives -- that's fascinating. Because, if he gives a different version under oath than he gave in writing, then the scrubbing is going to become the issue. Wait a minute, you found this about Jim Comey? You’re telling us about it now but you didn't put it in the report?

    DOOCY: Why’d you change it?

    NAPOLITANO: Was it in the report and did you take it out? And if you took it out, did somebody tell you to take it out? Now we have another compounded error here.

    KILMEADE: Because [DOJ Inspector General Michael] Horowitz is not compromised -- he’s the inspector general.

    NAPOLITANO: I don’t know where this is going to go. I'm glad we have these leaks -- some leaks are good leaks -- but I’m glad we have these leaks, because the public needs to know that this might not be a truthful document.

  • Trump's newest national security staffer spread anti-Muslim sentiments and wrote that Bush was vindicated about Iraq having WMD

    John Bolton hired Fred Fleitz at the NSC. Here's what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fred Fleitz, the new chief of staff for national security advisor John Bolton, comes from an anti-Muslim hate group and has fearmongered about Muslims during his numerous appearances on right-wing media outlets. He also repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support Donald Trump and claimed former President George W. Bush was vindicated in his lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

    Fleitz worked as Bolton’s chief of staff when Bolton was serving as undersecretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, and he was a CIA analyst prior to that. But more recently, Fleitz was a senior vice president at the right-wing Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-Muslim hate group in 2015, describing it as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.”

    Fleitz is in good company with Bolton, who chaired the Gatestone Institute -- which NBC News described as “a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news” -- from 2013 till March of this year, just before Trump appointed him as national security adviser.

    In a December 2015 Fox News appearance, Fleitz echoed a baseless right-wing media narrative that neighbors of the terrorists who shot and killed 14 people and wounded numerous others in San Bernardino, CA, saw suspicious activity by the shooters but didn’t alert law enforcement over fears of “racial profiling,” saying, “If someone had spoken up and said they saw this suspicious activity, … 14 people would be alive today.” During a March 2016 appearance on Fox, Fleitz helped host Neil Cavuto push the debunked right-wing myth of Muslim “no-go zones,” referring to them as “safe havens in Europe.”

    And in a June 2017 Breitbart News Daily radio appearance, Fleitz fearmongered about Muslims in the United Kingdom, saying some communities of British Muslims “are deliberately not assimilating, are being taught to hate British society,” and claimed, “We may have generations of radical Islamists in the U.K., until the British government wakes up and stops the situation.” Fleitz also said that “there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me,” blaming them for a measles outbreak in Minnesota that year. Conspiracy theory website WND (formerly known as WorldNetDaily) had previously pushed this smear, blaming the low rate of immunizations of Somali Muslims in the area on the Quran. But The Independent explained that the Somali Americans in Minnesota used to vaccinate their children more than other Minnesotans” until the mid-2000s, when the rate began dropping because anti-vaccine activists repeatedly visited the area to convince the community of the debunked claim that vaccines can cause autism.

    Fleitz’s public anti-Muslim attitude and his senior position in a hate group aren’t the only problems with his appointment to the National Security Council. In several op-eds posted to right-wing media websites, Fleitz repeatedly questioned the intelligence community assessment from early 2017 that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Trump -- an assessment recently backed up by the Senate intelligence committee -- calling it “rigged” and a “politicized analysis to sabotage an incoming president from a different political party.” Fleitz also said in a December Fox Business appearance that “the collusion thing” between Trump’s team and Russia “is just such nonsense,” citing the Trump administration’s sale of arms to Ukraine as proof.

    Fleitz also incorrectly argued in an October 2014 column on the Center for Security Policy’s website that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq proved that Bush was right about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

    Revelations last week by the New York Times that U.S. troops found chemical weapons in Iraq – about 5,000 CW warheads, shells and aviation bombs – but the size of this find and injuries from these weapons to American soldiers were covered up by the Bush administration has caused experts on both sides of the political spectrum to scramble to answer one question: does this prove President Bush was right that there were undeclared weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the 2003 war?

    I believe the answer to this question clearly is yes.

    Others in right-wing media also spread this fantasy. But as the Times article noted, “the discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale,” because they had all been manufactured prior to 1991 and were “filthy, rusty or corroded,” thus not backing up Bush’s claim that Iraq “was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker also explained that the Bush administration “staked its WMD claims on an active, on-going program that was restarted after the Kuwait conflict," and stated: “Anyone who claims that the New York Times story vindicates George W. Bush-era claims of Iraq WMD automatically earns Four Pinocchios.”

  • Fox News repeatedly claims information obtained by torture led to Osama bin Laden’s death. It didn't.

    The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the coverage leading up to and following CIA acting Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become director, multiple Fox News personalities and guests have asserted that torture helped lead to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, the Senate’s 2014 investigation of the CIA torture program indicates that there is no evidence for this claim. 

    In recent days, Fox figures and guests have made bold claims that torturing detainees at secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” resulted in valuable intelligence that helped track down the former leader of Al Qaeda:

    • On his May 7 Fox show, Sean Hannity cited an earlier guest to claim that if there had been “no waterboarding we wouldn't have found Osama bin Laden's courier and we wouldn't have gotten bin Laden.” Hannity made the same claim the following night. 
    • In an May 8 appearance on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the torture program “gave us clues that led directly to helping identify the location of Osama Bin Laden.” Cheney repeated the claim two days later on Fox Business. 
    • On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle asserted that “the water boarding led them to Osama Bin Laden's house.”
    • On May 10, all three co-hosts of Fox & Friends agreed that “you don’t get bin Laden” without torture.
    • On the May 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Geraldo Rivera commented that “torture in retrospect may seem regrettable, but there’s no denying that it did lead to the courier that did lead us to the terror mastermind” Osama bin Laden.

    In 2014, the Senate investigated the CIA’s torture program. According to a Vox summary of the 525-page document, the Senate report reveals that the CIA extracted “key intelligence” on bin Laden courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti -- “‘including information the CIA would later cite as pivotal’ in finding Bin Laden” -- by 2002. However, “the CIA didn't acquire any intelligence on al-Kuwaiti via torture until 2003. The CIA had begun trying to find and identify al-Kuwaiti well before any of that information was in.”

    In 2004, the CIA torture program did capture a man named Hassan Guhl who told the U.S. government that al-Kuwaiti was a bin Laden assistant and that the Al Qaeda leader "likely lived in a house with a family somewhere in Pakistan," according to Vox. However, “Ghul told the CIA all of that before they decided to torture him.” The Senate report explains that “during and after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Ghul provided no other information of substance on al-Kuwaiti." From the Senate’s report on CIA torture, via NPR:

  • Fox News uses Nuremberg defense to cover for Gina Haspel’s torture record

    Network figures say Haspel was “simply following orders” 

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Gina Haspel’s March 13 nomination as CIA director is reviving the debate about torture, and Fox News is defending her role in the agency’s George W. Bush-era program by insisting that she was “simply following orders” and should not be held responsible for her contributions to the torturing of detainees.

    Haspel, who became the agency’s acting director on April 26 after a long tenure there, oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand where suspected terrorists were detained and tortured, including one man who was waterboarded three times. Haspel was also “a strong advocate” for destroying tapes of CIA torture sessions, The New York Times reported, a stance Haspel herself reiterated in her confirmation hearing. 

    As debate swirled about Haspel’s involvement in torture leading up to her confirmation hearing, Fox News took the lead in providing media cover for her. Several Fox personalities have zeroed in on some variation of the argument that “she was just following orders” -- a defense made infamous by multiple high-ranking Nazi officials who attempted to defend themselves during the Nuremberg trials.

    In addition to insisting that Haspel was merely following orders, Fox personalities have defended her nomination by suggesting that being tortured is similar to having a difficult job, and that Haspel would make a good TV “hero” for running a secret CIA prison as a woman. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade even suggested Haspel refuse to “apologize for the Americans who are alive today and were not burned alive or had their heads cut off” thanks to torture.

    Haspel’s apparent predilection to follow orders is especially worrisome given that Trump has repeatedly threatened to bring back torture. In Trump’s first days in office, a White House draft order called for a review and possible reopening of CIA “black site” prisons. In his first presidential TV interview, Trump said of waterboarding, "Absolutely I feel it works," adding that America has to "fight fire with fire." During the campaign, Trump infamously called for America to kill the families of terrorists, which would violate the Geneva Conventions. Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and also called for America to “broaden” the laws prohibiting torture in order to “beat the savages.” And while some, like former CIA Director Michael Hayden, are saying that Haspel will stand up to Trump, her record shows otherwise

    Video by Miles Le

  • Cheney biographer Steve Hayes tells Gina Haspel to bring back torture

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    As CIA director nominee Gina Haspel prepared for her confirmation hearing, The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes, who has authored a sympathetic biography of Iraq War architect and former Vice President Dick Cheney, advocated for her confirmation on Fox News and encouraged her to go forward with a “detention and interrogation program” if accepted to the post.

    On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Hayes joined host Bill Hemmer in downplaying Haspel’s leading role in operating a black site in Thailand and later destroying possibly incriminating evidence of torture, telling Hemmer that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) will “try to make a big deal of that.” Hayes also asserted that “the American people … would like somebody who is regarded as tough on terror,” boosting a talking point from the White House:

    Finally, Hayes endorsed the future use of a “detention and interrogation program” if Haspel is confirmed, saying, “I, for one, would like there to be a detention and interrogation program. Now we can have a debate about whether it should include some of the advanced interrogation techniques that were used, but one of the problems under the Obama administration is that there was no serious detention and interrogation program for the jihadist leaders that we captured.” These tactics have not only proven ineffective, but the record of torture under the Bush administration had serious issues with regards to human rights and legality. Hayes mentions none of this.