A Typically Malicious Morning On Fox News

With no new scandal bait emerging over the weekend for Fox News to exploit, they may consider this a slow news day. But in the 24/7 world of cable news the show must go on. Consequently, the editorial team over at Fox was forced to scrape up some chum for their ravenously disgruntled audience. And this is what they came up with:

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The Clinton Suck-Up
There’s a new book contains flattering remarks about Hillary Clinton by Gen. David Petraeus. He says that “she’d make a tremendous president,” and sites as an example of her qualifications a reason that is certain to rattle your average Foxie:

Petreaus: “Like a lot of great leaders, her most impressive qualities were most visible during tough times. In the wake of the Benghazi attacks, for example, she was extraordinarily resolute, determined, and controlled.”

Uh oh. A respected general who was revered by the right, and even solicited by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes to run for president in 2012, has high praise for Clinton and her handling of Fox’s favorite anti-Clinton cudgel, Benghazi. Fox’s response was to rush John Bolton into the studio for his reaction. Bolton seemed a bit confused as he struggled to find the meaning of this development. He eventually settled for claiming that Petraeus must have made a mistake or that he was sucking up to Clinton. That was about the best they could on short notice as they sought to walk the fine line between their reverence for Petraeus and their hatred for Clinton.

Trapped In ObamaCare
If Clinton and Benghazi are Fox’s favorite punching bags, ObamaCare is a close second. They have spent countless hours trying to sabotage the program and frighten their viewers from participating in it. This morning they brought in Fox Business anchor Melissa Francis to discuss what they called an “ObamaCare Coverage Gap.” In reality what they were describing were people whose income fell below the threshold to qualify for ObamaCare subsidies.

Originally these people were supposed to become eligible for Medicaid, but last year the Supreme Court issued a ruling that made that provision voluntary in each state. It is in mostly Republican controlled states where they declined to take advantage of the billions of federal dollars available to expand their Medicaid programs. As a result, the low income residents of those states have been left without any coverage at all. So the coverage gap that Fox attributes to ObamaCare is actually the fault of GOP governors and legislatures who were more interested in scoring a political blow than they were in the well being of their citizens. For some reason Fox left that detail out of their report.

The Olympic Terrorist Bombing
On Fox News Sunday this weekend, the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Mike McCaul (R-TX), discussed his concerns about terrorism at the Sochi Olympics and said that “There’s a high degree of probability that something will detonate, something will go off.” This is a concern that has been articulated by many people, especially after a couple of actual terrorist bombings in southern Russia. But few officials have gone so far as to say that it is “probable.” [For the record, the last terrorist bombing that occurred during the Olympics was in the United States at the games held in Atlanta. The bomber was a right-wing extremist upset by socialism and abortion. Before being caught he bombed a couple of family planning clinics.]

Which brings us to the appearance this morning by Fox contributor Ralph Peters. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he has a long record of vile commentary that includes advocating torture and accusing President Obama of seeking “common ground” with Al Qaeda. Asked to respond to McCaul’s prediction, Peters went on a bender of his own. After agreeing that the risk in Sochi is real, Peters offered some praise for how the Russians handle these sort of affairs.

Peters: “Sometimes a heavy hand and brutality works. [The Russians] don’t do stop-and-frisk, they do stop-and-frisk and beat the hell out of you. And you know what? It’s brutal, it’s ugly, and sometimes it works.”

Obviously Peters approves of the exercise of brutality. And this is not the first time he has said so. He believes that American soldiers should use the same tactics that are used against them by enemy forces and terrorists. In his view there is no place for preserving the values and humane principles that most Americans revere. And by repeatedly inviting Peters onto their network, Fox News is just as bad.

That’s how the morning went at Fox News. It was fairly typical and filled with the sort of lies and animus that is characteristic of the network. No doubt they will escalate their hostile rhetoric as the day proceeds. The morning crew is setting a pretty high bar for the prime timers, O’Reilly and Kelly and Hannity, to clear later today.

Romancing Petraeus: Why Fox News CEO Roger Ailes Debases Both Journalism And Democracy

Roger AilesThe Washington Post’s Bob Woodward just published a story revealing that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes dispatched a Fox News defense analyst to deliver a personal request to Gen. David Petraeus. Ailes sent K.T. McFarland to Kabul, Afghanistan, with the message that Ailes wanted Petraeus to run against Barack Obama for president.

The notion of a news network soliciting candidates for political office is a repulsive perversion of the role journalists play in society. Ailes heads a network that pretends to be “fair and balanced” while brazenly campaigning on behalf of the Republican Party and conservative policies. But taking that a step further into the jurisdiction of GOP candidate recruitment is a violation of the core tenets of journalistic ethics.

In the audio that Woodward posted, McFarland can be heard discussing particulars of a Petraeus candidacy including the possibility of it being run by Ailes himself, and bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has already contributed untold millions of dollars to GOP campaigns via free airtime and unconstrained support from Fox anchors, contributors, and guests. Their advocacy was so overwhelming this year that it resulted in a stunned electorate on the Republican side who believed, due to Fox coverage, that their victory was in the bag.

The conversation between Petraeus and McFarland was rife with ethical breaches on the part of McFarland. For instance, she began her message from Ailes saying “What I’m supposed to say directly from him to you, through me, is first of all, is there anything Fox is doing, right or wrong, that you want to tell us to do differently?” No self-respecting reporter would ever take orders from an interview subject on how to shape the coverage of their news. And it’s an even worse offense when it comes from the head of the operation.

What’s more, McFarland’s behavior should disqualify her from appearing on Fox as an analyst. How can she be trusted to be objective after gushing that she and “everyone at Fox love” the General? That bit of sycophancy notwithstanding, McFarland did return from Kabul and appeared on Fox with praise for Petraeus as “one of the greatest generals in American history.”

Petraeus responded to McFarland by expressing his distaste for certain criticisms of the Afghan war effort, which he said may have just been attributable to the headlines. So McFarland accommodated him by saying that it was “easy to fix” because she sits next to the woman who writes them. For McFarland to promise to insure more flattering headlines in articles about the general would be cause for termination from a reputable news organization.

Then McFarland hit Petraeus with Ailes’ advice that he reject any appointment offered by the President other than Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff. She said that Ailes specifically singled out the CIA as a post Petraeus should not accept. Her characterization of the machinations of the White House involved some sort of plot to dump Petraeus at the CIA where he wouldn’t be heard from and would not pose a threat to Obama’s reelection. Again, where do McFarland and Ailes get off politicking like this?

Despite the advice of Ailes, Petraeus told McFarland that he regarded the CIA and intelligence as a growth industry where he felt he could make a significant contribution. Obama later did offer him the job, but he was not as silent in that role as he might have hoped. The disclosure of his marital infidelity ended his career at the CIA and much of the speculation about his future.

When Woodward contacted Ailes to get his response to the McFarland/Petraeus tapes, Ailes admitted that he sent McFarland on this mission, but attempted to play down the candidate recruitment aspect of it:

“It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have. I thought the Republican [primary] field needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”

Anyone who believes that dodge is sorely in need of a transfusion of healthy skepticism. It is highly unlikely that Ailes sent McFarland to Kabul to tell Petraeus a joke. He clearly wanted the General to run for president, just like he also wanted Chris Christie to do so after Petraeus declined. It was Ailes’ objective, and that of Boss Murdoch, to bring about the defeat of Obama.

But it is also notable that Ailes felt it was his right and/or duty to shake up the GOP primaries. News people are supposed to report the news, not make it. Where does this sort of chicanery end? If Ailes thought the debate over the budget should be shaken up, might he send a hooker to the hotel room of the House Budget Committee chair? If he thought the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare needed a jolt of excitement would he plant some cocaine on a wavering justice? If he needed additional ammo with which to attack Obama, would he manufacture a phony controversy about the President being responsible for the murders of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi? Oh, wait a minute, Ailes actually did that last one already.

The revelations contained in Woodward’s story affirm that Ailes is a Machiavellian scoundrel and that Fox News is a rogue operation. Their intrusion into the political process debases journalism by breaching all standards of ethical conduct. And they debase democracy as well by exploiting their power and wealth to manipulate political outcomes. Roger Ailes has now provided verification for every criticism of his villainy that has been directed at him. And Fox News continues to lack any moral standing to be considered a legitimate news enterprise.

[Addendum 12/20/12] The media has largely ignored this story, an omission that has now been noticed and pointedly analyzed by Woodward’s former partner, Carl Bernstein, in an article for The Guardian.

Fox Nation vs. Reality: The White House Did Not Edit CIA Talking Points

Earning a place at the top of the Fox Nation web site this morning is story that complies perfectly with the non-existent journalistic standards of Fox News. The article cites the uber-conservative blog FreeBeacon and features the headline “White House Deleted Al Qaeda From CIA Talking Points.”

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As usual, the Fox Nationalists only got one thing wrong with their story: the whole story. As it turns out, there is no evidence that the White House deleted Al Qaeda from the CIA talking points. What’s more, there is nothing in the article that affirms the falsehood in the headline.

This story hinges on the latest effort by the right and Fox News to malign President Obama and to politicize the tragic deaths of Americans in Benghazi, Libya. There has been a well coordinated smear campaign seeking to blame Obama not only for attacks perpetrated by terrorists, but also for a cover-up of information about those attacks. The GOP is also exploiting the affair to derail the possible appointment of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to be the next Secretary of State.

However, the partisan outrage has been woefully short of any substance. The right has been clamoring for answers from the White House, but when they get the answers they pretend that they didn’t hear anything. The official White House response from Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, stated clearly that…

“This question came up as to whether the White House had edited Susan Rice’s points and the points that were provided to Congress and the administration — the only edit that was made to those points by the White House, and was also made by the State Department, was to change the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility” since the facility in Benghazi had not — was not formally a consulate. Other than that, we worked off of the points that were provided by the intelligence community.”


And if that weren’t clear enough, recent testimony by Gen. Petraeus backed up the White House’s version of events in closed-door testimony before congress. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a harsh critic of the President, spoke with reporters after the testimony and said that Gen. Petraeus told the committee that the CIA approved the talking points after they were edited and said it was “Okay for it to go.” When asked if he was upset about Al Qaeda being removed, he said that he was not, according to King.

Ordinarily that would suffice to quell speculation about some far-ranging conspiracy to murder American diplomats and sweep the scandal under the rug. But Fox News was never interested in the facts in the first place. They have latched unto this invented controversy to damage the President and they don’t intend to let go merely because the truth contradicts their narrative.

Fox News Shamelessly Politicizes Petraeus Resignation

This afternoon Gen. David Petraeus resigned as Director of the CIA with a letter that cited his having had an extra-marital affair.

Petraeus: Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

Despite the specificity of his letter, Fox News immediately began speculating as to the timing of the resignation and suggested that it had something to do with the investigation of the murders in Benghazi, Libya, and his scheduled testimony before congress next week.

Surprisingly, as Fox anchors were rumor mongering about Benghazi, Chris Wallace emphatically shot down such talk pointing out that Petraeus is a man of integrity who should be taken as his word. Wallace went on to point out that nobody tries to cover up political matters by confessing to cheating on their wife. But that moment of sanity was short lived.

The news broke on MSNBC at about 2:51pm ET, but Fox didn’t report it until 3:00. Then they spent about ten minutes stewing in Benghazi sauce without mentioning the Petraeus letter or the affair. It was clear they wanted to clutch onto the conspiracy theory that Obama must have orchestrated the whole thing to cover up his complicity in Benghazi-Gate. At one point Fox’s Trace Gallagher cryptically referred to Petraeus’ reason as “what we will now say is ‘unknown,’” which is evidence that he knew more than he was saying. And even after Wallace’s rational refutation, the conspiratorial ravings continued on Neil Cavuto’s program and The Five.

It simply doesn’t matter what the issue is. If Fox can’t pervert it into something that tarnishes President Obama, then it isn’t news. It couldn’t be more obvious that Fox intends to escalate their journalistic distortions in the coming second term of Obama. But it is repulsive that they would exploit this personal family tragedy as just more scandal bait to titillate their juvenile and easily manipulated audience.