A Daily Beast article relying on anonymous criticism of Hillary Clinton was latched onto by conservative media, who selectively quoted the article to smear the former Secretary of State for not officially designating the Nigerian group Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization.
As Maggie Haberman noted in Politico May 10, following the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram, conservatives began hyping a report from the Daily Beast which quoted an anonymous official criticizing the former Secretary of State for previously turning down requests to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, implying that such a designation could have prevented the kidnapping.
The “actual details,” as Haberman explained, revealed that experts at State were concerned an official designation would negatively elevate the group and lead to an inhumane response from Nigeria (emphasis added):
Clinton found herself on the receiving end of questions about the kidnap of 300 Nigerian girls. The Daily Beast reported that Clinton's State Department declined entreaties from congressional Republicans and others to label Boko Haram, the group responsible for the kidnappings, a terrorist organization. Secretary of State John Kerry gave the group that designation last year.
During Clinton's time at State, “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials,” the Beast quoted a former senior U.S. official familiar with the discussion as saying.
Republicans have widely circulated the original Daily Beast story. The actual details of why the Clinton-run Department declined to affix the group with terrorist status are complicated- her former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, was reportedly concerned about elevating the group among extremist outfits, and potentially giving the Nigerian government latitude to go after them in an inhumane way.
Media Matters has explained that Clinton did put top Boko Haram leaders on the terrorist list, and academic experts on Africa confirmed the Department's fears that a designation for the whole organization could have severe negative consequences. Additionally, before Boko Haram was ultimately designated an official terrorist organization under Secretary Kerry, the group had been a part of peace talks with the Nigerian government which were reportedly “on the verge” of producing a ceasefire. As soon as the designation became official, they abandoned the talks.
Some of this relevant context was included in the original Daily Beast article, but was buried toward the end. Conservative media were able to conveniently ignore the details while promoting the out-of-context attack on Clinton's tenure.
The day after the Daily Beast report was published, Fox host Megyn Kelly quoted from the article to claim the report showed Clinton “campaigned against putting these kidnappers on the list of terrorists organizations when she was in control of the State Department, and that she did that repeatedly.” O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham, who is also an ABC News contributor, read from the Daily Beast report to say “The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations” and claimed, “Terror experts are now saying that that decision may have hurt our ability to confront this vicious terror outfit which has been brutalizing Christians and others for years.”
The Daily Caller used the report to say State “went so far as to lobby against” the terrorist designation. The Weekly Standard mentioned some of the caveats to the report but claimed “questions remain about why Hillary Clinton's State Department fought so hard against the designation.” Rush Limbaugh read parts of the article on his radio show, ultimately concluding it revealed that both Clinton and President Obama were to blame.
The Daily Beast, for their part, seemed to celebrate Limbaugh selectively promoting their report, highlighting in a follow-up piece conservative media's misleading attacks on Clinton based on their reporting:
Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to U.S. Special Operations Command blew their lids at the news, broken by The Daily Beast, that Hillary Clinton's State Department refused to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization.
Rush Limbaugh claimed that Obama should be held responsible too while Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, held Hillary Clinton directly responsible. RNC Chair Reince Priebus called the refusal to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group “a leadership failure” while Newt Gingrich even called for congressional hearings.
This is not the first time Daily Beast reporting has fed conservative smears. Last year, reporter Eli Lake became a key validator of the Benghazi hoax, glossing over relevant facts in his reports on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks.