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  • 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

  • Right-wing media use Parkland school shooting to rail against abortion

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update: This piece has been updated to include additional examples.

    On February 14, after a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, left 17 dead, right-wing and anti-abortion media made outlandish comparisons between gun regulation and abortion restrictions, as well as comparing the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Planned Parenthood.

    • Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, compared the debate around gun violence prevention policies following the Parkland shooting to calls from the anti-abortion movement to restrict access to abortions after 20 weeks. Noonan claimed, “On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood.” Noonan argued that lawmakers should “trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved.”
    • After Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that gun regulation is needed because Americans cannot stand by while “our babies are being slaughtered,” The Western Journal -- which is known to peddle fake news -- highlighted conservatives on Twitter who “were quick to point out the glaring hypocrisy in her statements, suggesting that one cannot decry the deaths of babies while being such a strong advocate for the practice of abortion,” including actor James Woods’ tweet:

    • The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson similarly attacked Harris with an article titled “Pro-Abortion Senator Horrified About ‘Slaughter of Babies.’”

    • RedState’s Josh Kimbrell wrote, “It is a contradiction in political philosophy to promote Planned Parenthood while accusing gun rights advocates of being against life.” Kimbrell claimed that while Planned Parenthood “is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every single year,” the NRA “does not advocate gun violence or promote a culture of death.” Instead, Kimbrell argued, the NRA “provides excellent gun safety training resources to all ages.”
    • During a February 22 appearance on Fox News @ Night, Townhall's Guy Benson talked about the supposed media bias of outlets reporting on the NRA’s political donations but not covering donations from Planned Parenthood’s political arm. He was referring to a Senate vote against a ban on abortions at 20 weeks:

    GUY BENSON: CNN, one of our rival networks, tweeted out a list of the Republicans who had voted no, with a list of their ratings from the NRA, and people were highlighting how much money they had taken from the NRA. And that type of coverage simply did not exist with the Democrats and Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby when they voted for a life-and-death issue against the strong wishes of the American people. And, to me, that dichotomy is striking and unavoidable.

    • On the February 21 edition of One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler also compared donations from the NRA and Planned Parenthood. Wheeler said that not only was it a “hideous lie” that the “NRA buys off politicians in an effort to push a pro-gun agenda that costs the lives of millions of children,” but also that it was “ironic because liberals have no problem with another organization that also donates to politicians and actually does kill millions of children -- Planned Parenthood.”
    • Writing for Townhall, conservative blogger Erick Erickson also compared Planned Parenthood to the NRA, saying that “elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives.”
    • Christian Schneider, an opinion columnist at USA Today, wrote that the “double standard” of media coverage could be summed up as: “When Democrats work on behalf of a special interest that aborts millions of children, they are doing so from a place of conscience and ideological purity. When Republicans argue in favor of Second Amendment rights, it is because they have been bought off by a disfavored lobbying group looking to profit from carnage.” Schneider explained that this “double standard” is a “cynical ploy that only devalues Congress in the voters’ eyes. And it is especially destructive when applied only to one party.”
    • Fox News’ Laura Ingraham used the high schools students who survived the Parkland shooting and have been calling for gun safety policies to make a comparison to media coverage of the anti-abortion March for Life. On the February 20 edition of her Fox News show, The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham said that “the media has a little double standard problem here” because of what she deemed under-coverage of the March for Life. She claimed that “18- to 34-year-olds were the second most likely age group to oppose” abortions after 20 weeks -- a statistic the media should think more critically about before reporting -- and said the media should “give those kids some mention as well and maybe a little empathy, or at least a little fair coverage. That would be nice. The kids count? Well, that means all of their views.”
    • Tucker Carlson made a similar comparison to the March for Life on the February 21 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson said that “thousands of other children come to Washington for the March [for] Life,” and that “like the kids from Parkland, they’re against killing.” Carlson also questioned the media response to the March for Life in comparison to coverage of the Parkland shooting, asking, “Do the media hold these kids up as the last word on the subject? Do they attack anyone who questions them? Please. A lot of news outlets don't even bother to cover that march at all.”

    Other outlets promoted similar talking points comparing abortion restrictions and gun regulation

    • On the February 20 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Time magazine’s Michael Duffy and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell praised Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column in which she called for a “trade” between banning assault weapons and restricting abortion after 20 weeks:

    MICHAEL DUFFY: Science is chasing politics in both those cases. And Peggy Noonan wrote a really interesting column on Saturday, I think, where she said --

    ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s a wonderful column.

    DUFFY: -- where she said -- she had a proposal at the end that was shocking at first when you read it that basically said the right should give on late-term abortion -- I'm sorry, the left --

    MITCHELL: The left, exactly.

    DUFFY: -- should give on late-term abortion and the right should give on some of these gun restrictions, particularly with respect to assault weapons. And that that’s a vote, she said, for life in general. And she cited young people as a changed political factor.

    MITCHELL: I'm glad you mentioned that, Mike. Because she is ahead of the curve in all of these cultural issues, I think, Peggy has a unique sensibility. And --

    DUFFY: It was an interesting trade up.

    • In a column for the Chicago Tribune, John Kass made an argument similar to Noonan’s. He argued that Republicans can call for “gun-violence restraining orders” and Democrats can agree to support a ban on abortion after 20-weeks as both "common sense" compromises.

    The comparison also spread to social media and message boards

    • On Reddit, the “r/The_Donald” forum featured several threads touting right-wing media’s comparisons between Planned Parenthood and NRA or abortion with guns. The titles of these threads included “If You Want To Take My Guns, I Want To Take Your Abortions That Kill 300,000 Children A Year” and “2017 killing statistics. Planned Parenthood: 328,348. NRA members: 0." Some of these threads drew significant engagement from users:

    UPDATE: Right-wing media continued using the Parkland shooting to attack Planned Parenthood and abortion rights

    • Radio host Michael Graham wrote for The Federalist that politicians who claim to be personally opposed to abortion, but vote for pro-choice policies are “too timid to vote” for abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood is the NRA of the Democratic Party. Only worse.” Planned Parenthood is worse, Graham said, because although some Republicans support gun regulation, no Democrat supports abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood and its allies wouldn’t let it happen.” Graham further argued that “Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby are proof that you don’t need a gun to be a bully.”
    • National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis compared outrage over politicians taking donations from the NRA to what she perceived as a media silence about politicians taking donations from Planned Parenthood, noting that “mainstream outlets” never “point to the campaign contributions that Democratic politicians accept from Planned Parenthood and its close cousin NARAL.” DeSanctis stated, “If the Left and its friends in the media truly cared about the influence of ‘dark money,’ they would bother to report this information about Planned Parenthood.”
    • On the March 1 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson asked Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), “What would drive a 19-year-old to want to murder strangers?” In response, Duffy partly blamed abortion, saying, “We dehumanize life in those video games, in those movies, and with abortion.”
    • Duffy returned to Fox News during the March 2 edition of The Ingraham Angle, where Duffy and host Laura Ingraham repeatedly claimed that calling out Planned Parenthood instead of the NRA made more sense to them. Ingraham stated, “If we're going to judge people based on an organization’s blood spilled, well, I hope Planned Parenthood is going to lose all of its partnerships or affiliations, given the fact that we have about 57 million babies who never got to see the light of day.” Duffy agreed, saying, “If you want to save kids' lives, I would look to the Democrat (sic) Party and Planned Parenthood and the left-wing media. And Planned Parenthood killed 300 of the most defenseless, voiceless, little babies last year alone.” After Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) wondered how the conversation moved to abortion and attempted to bring it back to gun regulation, Ingraham stated, “I thought it was pretty clear, but I'll explain it again if you’re confused. We're talking about the blood of children, innocent children who were gunned down in that school, and we're talking about the blood of the most innocent who are defenseless in the womb.”
    • On March 2, NRA TV contributor Dan Bongino claimed on Tucker Carlson Tonight that it is “so beyond stupid” to debate with liberals on gun regulations because, he said, liberals don’t support putting “any abortion laws on the books” as “they’ll all be ignored” anyway, but believe “gun laws, those will really work.” Host Tucker Carlson agreed with Bongino’s argument, saying that for liberals, “abortion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution is the beating heart of our constitutional rights.”
    • Fox contributor David Bossie argued on the March 2 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino that “it's interesting that people want to protect Planned Parenthood by killing babies on one hand and, on the other hand, they want to take guns away.”
    • During the March 4 edition of Fox and Friends Weekend, conservative radio host Kathy Barnette said, “Tragically Nikolas Cruz killed 17 little souls on that day, but Planned Parenthood kills over 800 babies on a daily basis, and where is the moral outrage on that?” Host Rachel Campos-Duffy replied, “Absolutely.”
  • Fox neglected to cover the FBI’s "grave concerns" about the Nunes memo for nearly two hours

    When Fox finally covered the story, it questioned whether the FBI’s actual concern was that “it paints the FBI in an unflattering light”

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Fox News waited nearly two hours to report on a statement from the FBI citing “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a classified memo that the House intelligence committee has voted to release. When it did cover the story, Fox’s Chris Wallace suggested that the statement may have been because “they think it paints the FBI in an unflattering light.” Fox’s attempt to minimize the FBI’s statement is part of the network’s ongoing push to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with the Russians.

    On January 29, the House intelligence committee voted to release a memo that some Republicans claim shows the Justice Department and the FBI “misus[ed] their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.” Despite the Justice Department’s warnings that “it was ‘extraordinarily reckless’ for Republicans to push to release” the memo, President Donald Trump has expressed support for its release multiple times. Two days after the House intelligence committee vote, the FBI released a statement that claimed the memo had “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” echoing congressional Democrats’ criticism of the memo and the Justice Department’s stated concerns.

    Within 20 minutes of the FBI statement’s release, MSNBC featured its correspondent Pete Williams who noted it was “unusual” and guest Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institute who said the statement showed the memo was essentially “a lie about the FBI.” CNN also quickly featured a panel that noted the statement showed there were “concerns broadly in the intelligence community about the risking of sources and methods that underlie the intelligence of this report.” By contrast, Fox did not cover the FBI’s statement until The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, almost two hours later.  During that segment, Fox News’ Chris Wallace attempted to misconstrue the FBI’s concerns, saying to host Dana Perino, “You have to wonder” whether the FBI has concerns that the memo could “expose some national security sources,” or whether they were worried that the memo “paints the FBI in an unflattering light."

    DANA PERINO (HOST): We now bring in Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday. Thank you for being with us this morning. We were just together last night and already this morning, there was so much breaking news. Let me get to the first one with you. In my experience, a dispute between the FBI and the White House is actually very unusual. What are your thoughts?

    CHRIS WALLACE: Absolutely. And generally speaking, in that kind of a situation, the White House would bow to the FBI. But Gen. Kelly and President Trump, who was on a hot mic yesterday saying 100 percent we're going to release the memo soon, seem to be pushing back on the FBI. Now look, when they talk about grave concerns about accuracy, you have to wonder are there grave concerns that this could expose some national security sources and methods, that kind of thing? Or are there grave concerns because they think it paints the FBI in an unflattering light? We don't know that. But you sure hope as those national security lawyers, that Gen. Kelly was talking about, inspect this that they do everything they can to protect national security and don't necessarily protect the political security or image of the FBI.

    It is hardly surprising that Fox would minimize the importance of FBI’s statement by first ignoring it and then having its host raise questions about FBI officials’ motives. The network has heavily hyped the memo and has led a growing campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation.

  • Fox’s Dana Perino allows guest to attack the CFPB without disclosing he represented anti-CFPB clients

    Shannen Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” according to The Weekly Standard

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Fox News host Dana Perino allowed conservative lawyer and columnist Shannen Coffin to criticize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on her show without divulging his representation of clients antagonistic to the CFPB.

    On the November 27 edition of Fox News' The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, host Dana Perino interviewed Coffin about his recent column for The Weekly Standard titled “The Definitive Explanation of Why Trump Is Right on Mulvaney, English, and the CFPB.” During Coffin’s appearance on the show, Perino quoted from this column at length, and allowed Coffin to criticize the CFPB as he argued that there are “no checks and balances” when it comes to the agency. 

    But at no point during Coffin’s appearance did Perino acknowledge that Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” as noted in the Weekly Standard column that Perino quoted.

    This is not the first time that Fox has allowed guests to shill for conservative causes or personalities without divulging important information about their potential conflicts of interest. From the November 27 edition of Fox News' The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino:

    DANA PERINO (HOST): Amid the ongoing saga over who will take over the consumer financial protection bureau, my next guest says this legal battle will likely be a long one. Quote: “The dispute and the resulting litigation will cast further doubt over the legitimacy of an already troubled agency, a result that would run counter to Cordray’s stated purpose in launching his little bureaucratic war, but would let him continue to protect his bureaucratic legacy for just a little while longer, at a price of accountability to We the People.” Shannen Coffin is an attorney at Steptoe & Johnson. Shannen, take me back to 2010. What was the intent of the CFPB, and where did everything go wrong?

    SHANNEN COFFIN: Oh boy, that’s a big question. Well, look, the desire was to consolidate some other governmental agencies’ power into one bureau that would have regulatory control over consumer financial products. And the problem is though, the power here is so concentrated in one person. Unlike other agencies that are accountable directly to the president or some agencies that are made up of commissions that are made up of multiple members, you’ve got one guy, this Richard Cordray, who just resigned on Friday, who has all of the power. And a court that has looked at that said that is too much power. They have to be -- in order to be accountable in our constitutional system, he has to answer to the president. And that’s the constitutional background about this agency.

    PERINO: And doesn’t it also get its money to run, not from the Congress, but from profits from the federal reserve?

    COFFIN: That’s right. So the federal reserve pays the freight on the CFPB. Congress doesn’t appropriate funds directly like it does for every other agency. So you don’t even have real accountability to Congress. So there are just no checks and balances on the system. And this latest dispute is really another sign of that.