Fox News accuses CNN's Jim Acosta of "crossing a line" with criticism of Trump administration for hiding press briefings
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Fox & Friends' lack of journalistic standards: A story in 3 parts
Throughout the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the morning show hosts had to continuously walk back and correct a report in which they claimed that former FBI Director James Comey had visited The New York Times the night before. Fox & Friends’ initial incorrect reporting, which was eventually walked back through two follow-up segments, highlights the lack of journalistic standards on Fox News’ flagship morning show.
In the first report, Fox & Friends reporter Jillian Mele stated, “The New York Times gets a special visitor,” to which guest host Ed Henry replied, “Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It’s so odd.”
JILLIAN MELE: The New York Times gets a special visitor. The Daily Mail got these pictures of former FBI Director James Comey stopping by their office in Manhattan. He reportedly spent three hours inside.
ED HENRY (CO-HOST): Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It's so odd.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Why would he go right in the front door?
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): I know. He’s not even trying to hide.
HENRY: He’s wearing sunglasses.
Fox & Friends began to backtrack in its second segment on the matter, noting that a spokesperson for The New York Times had stated that Comey hadn’t gone to the paper's offices, and admitting that Comey could have entered other offices within the New York Times building. The hosts semi-acknowledged that “there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children” that Comey actually attended. (Reporting from the previous night had pictures of Comey at that event.) The hosts, however, continued to cast doubt, stating, “We just don’t know.”
STEVE DOOCY: Well, yesterday, just about four blocks from where we’re sitting right now, somebody realized, hey, who’s that really tall guy going into The New York Times?
ED HENRY: I’ve seen him on TV.
DOOCY: He’s wearing sunglasses. There he is right there, he’s holding his coat. He’s going in with his wife, and he came out with his wife, and --
HENRY: It’s James Comey.
DOOCY: -- and sunglasses off. It's the former FBI director going into the New York Times building.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Clearly didn't want to hide it. He’s going in the front door, not the even a back door. He was in there for three hours.
DOOCY: Yeah. The New York Times spokesperson says he did not visit the New York Times newsroom, however, there are other businesses in that building. Also, didn't go to the newsroom, could have gone to another part.
EARHARDT: It just doesn’t look good. After he admitted to leaking to his friends that work in, that are his journalist friends, it doesn't look good.
HENRY: There are reporters for The New York Times, we should say, who are tweeting last night and this morning that there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children and that James Comey and his wife may have been visiting them as a charitable thing. They were in there for a couple of hours. Whether they visited more than one office we simply don't know.
DOOCY: So, it would just be a coincidence that he also leaked stuff to somebody who leaked to them.
HENRY: Yeah, might be a coincidence, yeah.
EARHARDT: Could be a Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton thing. They talked about grandkids, but they were in the plane for a long time; he was in there for three hours.
HENRY: What kind of sunglasses to wear.
In the final report on this topic, hosts continued to walk back their own reporting and speculation, claiming that “now we’re learning more,” despite the fact the tweet they were referring to was sent the previous evening. Host Steve Doocy noted that “there was some speculation” that Comey was at the New York Times building to meet with reporters, failing to note that he and his co-hosts contributed to the speculation, but adding, “As it turns out, that is not the case.”
STEVE DOOCY: Speaking of talk, yesterday there was extremely tall man with glasses seen walking into the New York Times building.
ED HENRY: There he is.
DOOCY: Does that look familiar?
HENRY: That’s James Comey.
DOOCY: That is James Comey.
HENRY: He’s going into the New York Times building.
DOOCY: Three hours later there he comes out. There’s a great big story on Daily Mail about James Comey spotted at the New York Times building. We reported that this morning. We said that the New York Times spokesperson said that he did not visit the newsroom, and now we're learning more from, I think, Maggie Haberman at The New York Times -
HENRY: Yeah, saying he didn't visit the newsroom. A person close to him said that he and his wife went to a ceremony for CASA, at Covington & Burling, a major law firm, which is also in the New York Times building, and apparently that law firm was hosting some sort of charity event for abused kids. There’s some photos on Twitter of James Comey and his wife talking to those kids. Sounds like a wonderful cause. If that’s what he was doing, hats off to him.
DOOCY: Sure. And there was some speculation -- well, maybe he went to The New York Times because it wasn’t so long ago he gave that Columbia professor his notes so that they could leak it to the Times. As it turns out, that is not the case. He was there --
HENRY: Great if he was doing charity work. It does not erase the fact there’s been all kinds of leaks at The New York Times. Period, end of story.
The evolution and complete breakdown of Fox & Friends' initial reporting highlights the complete lack of journalistic standards on Fox’s morning show. Earlier this month, the hosts cited a story relying solely on “one of the online blogs.” The Fox & Friends hosts have consistently shown that they will report on a story without looking for the facts or truth behind the narrative they want to push; no one should take them at their word.
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Fox News correspondent Ed Henry misleadingly recounted May 3 testimony provided by then-FBI Director James Comey during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to falsely suggest that Comey had lied under oath. Henry’s flawed version of Comey’s responses to a Republican senator’s line of questioning mirrors a May 12 Breitbart.com article, which made the same misinformed suggestion.
On the June 11 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz, Henry quickly rattled off a series of questions posed to then-FBI Director James Comey by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during a May 3 hearing. After quoting Grassley’s questions from a transcript, Henry then paraphrased Grassley, claiming the senator asked Comey “whether he had allowed others to leak anything,” to which Comey responded, according to Henry’s erroneous account of the May 3 hearing, “no, no, no.” Henry suggested that this supposedly misleading testimony from Comey stood as evidence that the ousted FBI director was no “white knight” before claiming that Comey seemed “like someone who had been leaking a lot before”:
ED HENRY: This idea that he's a white knight, this idea that oh he's shocked, shocked by leaks. I went back and looked at the record, and I think a lot of people have missed this. May 3, he was under oath, Senate Judiciary Committee before he was fired, and James Comey was asked by Chuck Grassley, "have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters related to the Trump investigation or Clinton investigations?" "Never." Followed up, "have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to leak information in either of those?" He says, "No." And then finally he said, "are you aware of any classified information related to the president or his associates leaking out?" "Not to my knowledge." This was before he got fired. "Not to my knowledge” is kind of an odd answer, number one. But number two, the idea that Grassley asked him whether he had allowed others to leak anything, and he said, under oath, "no, no, no."
Hang on a second. Now, the playbook according to James Comey in this latest hearing is, "I can use somebody over at Columbia." You didn’t really believe that was the first time James Comey did that? It sounded like someone who had been leaking a lot before.
In fact, according to a transcript from the May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey, under oath, did not answer misleadingly to a broad question that Henry claims was posed to him by Grassley about “whether he allowed others to leak anything.” Comey only specifically denied that he: 1) was “an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation;” 2) that he “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation;” and 3) that “any classified information relating to President Trump or his ... associates [had] been declassified and shared with the media”:
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
JAMES COMEY: Never.
GRASSLEY: Question two, relatively related, have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
GRASSLEY: Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association — associates been declassified and shared with the media?
COMEY: Not to my knowledge.
On June 8, Comey testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he used “a good friend … who’s a professor at Columbia Law School” to provide information to The New York Times. Comey was not the anonymous source, nor was “someone else at the FBI,” and Comey established in his June 8 testimony, during a back and forth with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), that the information eventually provided to the Times by an intermediary was not classified material. And of course, this New York Times report was published on May 11, a week after Comey’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, and two days after Trump fired him as FBI director.
Suggesting that Comey lied under oath in response to Grassley’s line of questioning is false, and Henry’s misconstrued paraphrasing of Grassley’s question matched earlier attempts to defame Comey from Breitbart.com and other fake news purveyors.
President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been defined, in part, by his administration’s hostility to the press. As Media Matters has documented, Trump has attacked the press well over 100 times to date. As Trump vilifies the press, Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests help cheer him on by supporting, enabling, and condoning his attempts to discredit mainstream media outlets.
Reports On Ossoff’s Fundraising Ignore Advantage Republicans Have From Outside Spending
Following the special election primary for a vacant House seat in Georgia, media figures are repeating President Donald Trump’s spin highlighting out-of-state donations that helped Democrat Jon Ossoff. The focus on Ossoff’s fundraising, however, ignores the disproportionate advantage the Republican Party and Republican candidates got from outside groups in the race.
On February 16, President Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he dodged questions and repeatedly mocked the media. During and after the press conference, right-wing media figures praised his performance, calling him "brilliant," "in control" and "awesome to watch."
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has attracted widespread criticism for “a series of false statements” he made about the size of the crowds at the presidential inauguration. Prior to Spicer’s meltdown, however, some media figures were full of praise for the “competent, thorough” “straight shooter.” Later, other media figures credited him for a supposed “reboot” in his first official press briefing as White House press secretary.
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Fox News Already Reported Speculation That Libya Consulate Guards Turned On U.S. Personnel Four Years Ago
On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, Fox News pushed a report detailing the “explosive charge” that a security company hired to protect the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was staffed with locals that participated in the September 11, 2012, attack that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Fox actually reported identical speculation more than four years ago; their sources for the charge are an anonymous “independent security specialist, the co-author of a book that stated that there is “no evidence” the guards “were in league with the attackers,” and an organization filled with birthers and conspiracy theorists; and the network’s previous reporting about the security company featured noted fabulist Dylan Davies.
A week after the September 11, 2012, attack, Fox correspondent Ed Henry reported that “there are reports that security guards” hired by the British security contracting firm Blue Mountain Group “ “turned on the ambassador and that led to his death.” From a Nexis transcript of the September 18, 2012, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier (subscription required):
HENRY: Today, [State Department spokesperson Victoria] Nuland clarified the administration had, in fact, hired a private security company, Blue Mountain Group, to work inside the perimeter.
NULAND: They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening the cars.
HENRY (on-camera): Significant, because there are reports that those Libyan security guards turned on the ambassador and that led to his death. Now, late today, Secretary Hillary Clinton said there was no actionable intelligence about an imminent attack in Libya. The keyword being actionable there.
Tonight, a FoxNews.com report by Malia Zimmerman and Adam Housley called similar reports an “explosive charge,” and presented them as completely new information:
An obscure private firm hired by the State Department over internal objections to protect U.S. diplomats in Benghazi just months before the American ambassador and three others were killed was staffed with hastily recruited locals with terror ties who helped carry out the attack, multiple sources told Fox News.
The explosive charge against Wales-based Blue Mountain Group comes from several sources, including an independent security specialist who has implemented training programs at U.S. Consulates around the world, including in Benghazi, where he trained a local militia that preceded Blue Mountain. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Blue Mountain used local newspaper ads to assemble a team of 20 guards, many of
whom had terror ties, after securing a $9.2 million annual contract.
“The guards who were hired were locals who were part of the Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qaeda groups operating in Benghazi,” said the source, whose assignment in Benghazi had ended in November 2011. “Whoever approved contracts at the State Department hired Blue Mountain Group and then allowed Blue Mountain Group to hire local Libyans who were not vetted.”
John “Tig” Tiegen, one of the CIA contractors that responded to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack and co-author of “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” confirmed to Fox News that the local Libyans who attacked the consulate that night included guards working for Blue Mountain.
"Many of the local Libyans who attacked the consulate on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, were the actual guards that the State Department under Hillary Clinton hired to protect the Consulate in Benghazi,” Tiegen told Fox News. “The guards were unvetted and were locals with basically no background at all in providing security. Most of them never had held a job in security in the past.
“Blue Mountain Libya, at the time of being awarded the contract by our State Department, had no employees so they quickly had to find people to work, regardless of their backgrounds,” he said.
One former guard who witnessed the attack, Weeam Mohamed, confirmed in an email sent to the Citizens Commission on Benghazi and obtained by Fox News, that at least four of the guards hired by Blue Mountain took part in the attack after opening doors to allow their confederates in.
“In the U.S. Mission, there were four people [who] belonged to the battalion February 17,” Mohamed wrote to the Commission, an independent body formed with Accuracy in Media to investigate the attack and the administration's handling of it.
Fox’s sourcing for the story -- which would contradict several reports by congressional committees and a review by the State Department -- is extremely dubious. Their lead source is anonymous. Their second source, Tiegan, wrote in his bestseller 13 Hours that there was “no evidence” the guards helped the attackers. From 13 Hours (page 84-85):
Who opened the gate wasn’t clear, but responsibility for the entrance rested with the Blue Mountain Libya guards. By some accounts the armed invaders threatened the unarmed guards, who immediately acquiesced. A US government review raised the possibility that the “poorly skilled” local guards left the pedestrian gate open “after initially seeing the attackers and fleeing the vicinity.” No evidence has shown that the Blue Mountain guards were in league with the attackers, but maybe they were incompetent. As the report noted, “They had left the gate unlatched before.” Further complicating matters, the camera monitor in the guard booth at the front gate was broken, and new surveillance cameras.
The network’s third source comes by way of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi, which is staffed by multiple birthers, anti-Muslim activists, and conspiracy theorists who maintained that there was a Benghazi “cover-up.”
Fox previously relied upon Blue Mountain Group security contractor Dylan Davies for Benghazi reporting -- in fact, Housley himself acknowledged on-air that some of the network's 2012 Benghazi coverage had cited Davies, but they "stopped speaking to him when he asked for money." In 2013, CBS News retracted a report that featured Davies’ fabricated claims about having scaled a wall of the Benghazi diplomatic compound while it was under attack and striking a terrorist with his rifle.
It’s no surprise that Fox News, whose obsession with finding a way to turn the tragedy in Benghazi into political attacks on President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would close the 2016 presidential campaign with a new Benghazi conspiracy.