Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes defended rancher Cliven Bundy in his lawless stand against the federal government. Referencing federal employees' actions in legally confiscating Bundy's cattle because of unpaid fees and fines, Starnes said: "Don't they still have laws on the books about cattle rustling out in Nevada? ... Back in the day, they used to string folks up for stealing cattle."
Bundy is a Nevada rancher who has for decades refused to pay the federal government the fees required to allow his cattle to graze on public lands. Last year a federal court ruled that Bundy had to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated to pay the roughly $1.2 million in fees and fines he's accumulated. The confiscation began earlier this month, but was halted because the Bureau of Land Management had "serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public."
Bundy does not recognize federal authority over the land in question, and he and his armed supporters have repeatedly threatened violence against the federal government. Despite his lawlessness, Bundy has become a cause célèbre for many in the right-wing media.
During an appearance today on the radio program of Republican strategist Alice Stewart, Fox's Todd Starnes championed Bundy as an example of Americans "saying enough is enough" with the federal government.
"We do know that the feds returned some of the cattle that they had taken from the Bundy Ranch. What I find interesting, though, Alice, is don't they still have laws on the books about cattle rustling out in Nevada?" Starnes said. "Back in the day, they used to string folks up for stealing cattle."
Starnes later claimed that the Bundy incident shows that "Americans have really reached a boiling point here" and Americans have finally said, 'You know what? We're not going to stand by and let the Constitution be tramped.'"
He also took the opportunity to link the situation to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, stating: "Look at all the government firepower that was out there at that ranch. They had more guns there than they did at the consulate in Benghazi ... if only Ambassador [Christopher] Stevens had been a protected tortoise."
Despite his own inflammatory rhetoric, Starnes did caution against the behavior of some Bundy-supporting militia members, saying it's "very disturbing" they were "[s]eeming to taunt the federal agents. And I think that they need to be very careful about that."
The Hill published an op-ed criticizing the "growing fascination with publicly funded broadband networks" and touting the "private-sector" as the best way to build telecommunications networks. But the Capitol Hill paper failed to disclose that the author is a telecom consultant and co-chair of a telecom trade association.
Larry Irving wrote an April 9 piece claiming "the specter of governments operating broadband networks in competition with the private sector, or of state or local governments serving as both regulators and owners of competing broadband networks, could stifle investment or reduce private-sector access to capital." Irving added that "with the exception of bringing or improving service to remote geographies, I don't see many problems that government-owned or -operated broadband networks will solve."
The Hill simply identified Irving as follows: "Irving is the CEO of the Irving Group and served for almost seven years as assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)."
That identification vastly understates Irving's financial connections to the industry he wrote about. Irving is the founding co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an IRS 501(c)(6) telecommunications trade association whose purpose is to "prevent the creation of burdensome regulations," according to documents filed with the IRS. IIA reportedly receives financial support from AT&T and includes members such as Alcatel-Lucent and TechAmerica, which lobbies on behalf of technology companies. The group's 2011 IRS tax form -- the most recent one available -- states it received over $18 million in revenue.
While The Hill noted that Irving heads the Irving Group, it did not disclose that the firm provides "strategic advice and assistance to international telecommunications and information technology companies."
Fox host Chris Wallace reacted to a U.S. Senate investigation into the Bush administration's torture policies by claiming he "would have waterboarded" Al Qaeda terrorist "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." Wallace's remark came after it was reported that the investigation concluded waterboarding Mohammed didn't provide critical information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, as defenders of the technique had claimed.
Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary and conclusions of a lengthy report about the Bush-era CIA's detention and interrogation program. The White House will now have to approve the release. The Associated Press reported that aides and people briefed on the report said the investigation found waterboarding was ineffective.
With regard to Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, the AP reported the "Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical" and "confirmed only what investigators already knew":
The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused 9/11 mastermind who was waterboarded 183 times. Mohammed, intelligence officials have noted, confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al-Qaida courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
The Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical, according to the aides. Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, they said. And Mohammed neither acknowledged al-Kuwaiti's significance nor provided interrogators with the courier's real name.
The debate over how investigators put the pieces together is significant because years later, the courier led U.S. intelligence to the sleepy Pakistani military town of Abbottabad. There, in May 2011, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.
Essentially, they argue, Mohammed, [senior al-Qaida operative Abu Faraj] al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier. And when they denied the courier's significance or provided misleading information, investigators would only have considered that significant if they already presumed the courier's importance.
The classified Senate report adds more support to other national security experts who have concluded that waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not provide effective information leading to bin Laden's capture.
During an April 4 appearance on The Mike Gallagher Show, Wallace previewed Fox News Sunday by saying he'd talk about "enhanced interrogation and whether or not the CIA covered up what was actually going on. I personally, I would have waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed myself." On Fox News Sunday, Wallace noted the investigation's reported conclusion "that the enhanced interrogation produced little intelligence of significance." In 2009, Wallace similarly remarked that when it comes to waterboarding, "I'm with" fictional 24 character "Jack Bauer on this."
Listen to Wallace's remark below:
Fox News has hired back Liz Cheney as a contributor after her unsuccessful Senate run. Cheney's rehiring is the latest example of the cushy platform Fox News provides for Republicans before and after they run for political office.
Cheney announced last July that she was challenging Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, and left her post as a Fox News contributor. Fox had frequently turned to Cheney on national security issues, and her appearances featured little more than the usual Republican platitudes against the Obama administration. Like others, Cheney found ways to use her Fox platform to set up her future run.
Cheney's campaign failed to gain traction, and was notable for a series of missteps, including the filing of a false application for a fishing license, and a family feud over Cheney's opposition to marriage equality. Cheney received support from Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Andrea Tantaros. She dropped out of the race in January, citing family health issues.
The former Bush administration official returned to Fox News as a contributor on the April 6 edition of Fox News Sunday. Little changed, as Cheney defended Bush against a Senate report criticizing Bush's torture program, and claimed that that legislators should spend more time investigating the already thoroughly investigated Benghazi. PolitiFact criticized Cheney for falsely claiming the "numbers of people that support Obamacare and like it have been steadily dropping."
Cheney joins a long list of Republicans who have found a home at Fox News after unsuccessful campaigns. That list includes Herman Cain, Al D'Amato, Mike Huckabee, John LeBoutillier, KT McFarland, Angela McGlowan, Oliver North, Sarah Palin, Jeanine Pirro, Pete Snyder, and Allen West. Keith Ablow and Geraldo Rivera both considered, but decided against recent campaigns, while Scott Brown left Fox in March to run for Senate in his newly adopted state of New Hampshire.
Both McGlowan and Snyder were Fox News contributors who left the network to run for office, and were subsequently rehired. On the flipside, former contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were not hired back after their presidential runs (Gingrich criticized Fox News during the campaign, prompting Fox News head Roger Ailes to claim he's angling for a job with CNN -- where Gingrich is now a host).
Fox News host Gregg Jarrett ridiculed New York Mets player Daniel Murphy for taking paternity leave for the birth of his son. Jarrett said Murphy "is rich. He could have like twenty nannies taking care of his tired wife, and he's got to take off two days? It's absurd. It's preposterous."
Jarrett's remark came after controversy over similar criticism by New York radio broadcasters Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa. Esiason, a former professional quarterback, said he would have told his wife to have a C-section so he wouldn't miss any games, while Francesa said, "You see the birth and you get back ... Your wife doesn't need your help the first couple days." Esiason later apologized for his "flippant and insensitive remark." Francesa is reportedly standing by his remarks.
Paternity leave is a common practice in baseball. Fairleigh Dickinson University professor Scott Behson wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "almost 100 baseball players, including three other players this season, have taken paternity leave since MLB enacted the policy in 2011, according to Paul Mifsud, Senior Counsel for Labor Relations for Major League Baseball. None have received the public criticism Murphy had to endure." Teams are not short a player during paternity leave, as they are allowed to replace that player for up to three days (Mets minor league infielder Wilmer Flores, for instance, substituted for Murphy).
Major League Baseball, however, is an outlier when it comes to providing paid paternity leave in the United States. The United States does not guarantee paid maternity or paternity leave, and just "three states, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, offer paid family and medical leave."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has again dipped into the fringes of the conservative media for support. The Washington Post reported that Paul is building a national network to potentially support a 2016 presidential run, and is using Fritz Wenzel as his pollster.
Wenzel is a birther who has called President Obama an "imposter," and teamed up with conspiracy site WND to push dubious polling about the president's birth certificate. In addition to promoting conspiracy theories, Wenzel is also an objectively poor pollster. He has a long history of offering wild electoral predictions, prompting Slate reporter Dave Weigel to dub him the "pollster that's always wrong."
Wenzel's WND polling isn't limited to birtherism. WND articles about his polls carry headlines like, "AMERICANS WANT 'GAY' LESSONS BANISHED"; "POLL: SEEDS OF TYRANNY PRESENT IN AMERICA"; "ANSWER TO BENGHAZI OBFUSCATION? IMPEACHMENT"; and "POLL: PALIN WOULD STIR UP EVEN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY" (a poll that claimed Palin would be competitive against Obama in a Democratic primary).
Wenzel's problematic history means the media should treat his polling and analysis skeptically as Paul ramps up his presidential efforts.
The website of Wenzel Strategies touts an endorsement from Paul, who states: "Fritz Wenzel and Wenzel Strategies played a crucial role in my [Senate] election victory ... He is smart, swift, great to work with, and provides top-quality work. I would recommend him to any political campaign." Wenzel was also the pollster for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.
Paul's birther pollster is his latest connection to fringe conservative media. Last year Jack Hunter resigned from Paul's Senate office after his "neo-Confederate" and "pro-secessionist" punditry (including defenses of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth) surfaced. Hunter co-wrote Paul's 2011 book, and also appeared in The Daily Caller and on Fox Business. Paul has also repeatedly appeared on the program of leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Paul used Jones' program as a publicity and fundraising platform during his U.S. Senate campaign, and Jones was an enthusiastic and active supporter of his candidacy.
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich is busy running for reelection, but that hasn't stopped his former Fox News colleagues from promoting him as a possible 2016 presidential candidate. Fox News has praised Kasich's tenure as governor, and touted him as "a serious potential candidate for president" with a record that gives progressives "reason to fear."
Kasich is the quintessential Fox News candidate, having used a perch at the network to profitably stay in the public eye between runs for public office. He joined Fox in 2001 after serving nine terms in Congress and left in 2009 to run for Ohio governor. He was a frequent presence on the network as a guest host for The O'Reilly Factor, and the host of the programs From The Heartland and Heroes.
Fox News treated Kasich to numerous softball interviews during his successful 2010 run. Sean Hannity told Kasich during one such interview: "You do me a favor. Go get elected governor" and "You can help us. Win the state of Ohio." During an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Kasich asked for donations while Fox News put his website address on-screen (which drew a complaint, later dismissed, from the Democratic Governors Association).
Kasich's gubernatorial campaign also received fundraising support from Fox News. Sean Hannity headlined a "high-dollar fund-raiser" for Kasich in October 2009. Mike Huckabee appeared at a 2009 Kasich campaign event. Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch and his then-wife contributed $20,000 to the campaign, and then-Fox News parent company News Corporation gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which helped elect Kasich.
Kasich has claimed he's not interested in running for president in 2016, telling an Ohio reporter that he "tried to run for president back at the end of the '90s and 2000 and no one was interested ... Now, I'm not interested." In his gubernatorial campaign, Kasich will likely face Democrat Ed FitzGerald, who has unsuccessfully asked Kasich to sign a pledge promising to serve a full term if reelected.
A 2016 Kasich campaign has been a popular topic of conversation for Fox News. While the network frequently applauds Ohio's economic performance during Kasich's tenure, the state's "rate of job growth was below the national average."
UPDATE 2 (3/14/14): Brown's Fox News contract was "officially terminated" on March 14 as a result of his run for office, according to executive vice president Bill Shine.
UPDATE: The Associated Press is now reporting that according to "several" New Hampshire Republicans, Brown "is expected to launch an exploratory committee to enter the race as soon as Friday." Fox News previously suspended the contracts of then-contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum when they took steps toward forming exploratory committees.
Media Matters president Bradley Beychok issued the following statement in response to the AP report:
"Fox News should immediately suspend Scott Brown's contract. The network set this standard. To use their own words: taking steps to form an exploratory committee is a 'clear conflict.' So, what is Roger Ailes waiting for?"
The Associated Press is reporting that Fox News contributor Scott Brown's camp "has quietly begun offering paid positions to Republican operatives for a prospective New Hampshire campaign." Fox News, which previously said it would suspend a contributor's contract if they show a "serious intention" to run for office, should suspend Brown's contract until he finally decides.
The AP report added that "Several people involved in the discussions believe that Brown has decided to run, but there remains a healthy dose of skepticism given the former Republican senator's recent track record." CNN similarly reported on March 9 that "a number of GOP sources in New Hampshire report receiving calls in recent days from Brown or his top allies, and there's word from GOP operatives that there are conversations about building a Senate campaign staff"; CNN also wrote that activists said they won't believe Brown is running until he "makes a public statement or files candidacy papers." Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted last month she was told it is "certain" that Brown is going to run.
Fox News hired Brown in 2013 after previously boosting his Massachusetts Senate campaign with fawning coverage (during one segment, Fox hosts played with a Scott Brown action figure). Fox re-signed him to a contract last month.
Brown's status as both a potential candidate and Fox News political analyst has led to embarrassing segments for the news channel.
One recent appearance was devoted to a discussion of how Brown looked shirtless. In another, Brown attacked potential opponent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Senate Democrats over health care. He also touted his New Hampshire bona fides by boasting about how he's been a resident there for "a couple of months." Brown's last Fox appearance was on the March 7 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, where he said "the first order of business is to take over the Senate in '14 and retain the House in '14." He has also published FoxNews.com columns that sound like stump speeches -- headlines include, "GOP can once again lead as the party of fiscal responsibility" and "Time to hold Democrats in Congress responsible for the mess they created."
Fox News host Howard Kurtz noted the benefits of Republicans delaying their intention to announce campaign runs, writing: "The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot."
The conservatives behind some of the worst political smear campaigns have started a super PAC.
Takeover Super PAC is backed by a team that includes Joseph Farah, founder of the fringe conspiracy site WND; Jerome Corsi, a leading member of the Swift Boat and birther campaigns; and Floyd Brown, producer of the racist Willie Horton ads.
The group says it will "win elections and take our country back from the liberals and socialists" and exhorts potential donors, "If you're tired to [sic] putting your money to work for turncoats and traitors, join us." Takeover claims liberals want to eliminate the right to privacy, the Second Amendment, religion, want to "permanently enslave the American people" with Obamacare and entitlements, and ultimately desire "a tyrannical dictatorship."
In a fundraising email announcing the PAC, Farah stated that he's "not giving my money to the RNC any longer. I'm not giving a dime to Karl Rove's Tea Party-hating PAC, and I'm not supporting spineless Republicans who lead us down the same liberal roads. I'm giving my money to Takeover Super PAC." Farah and other conservatives have been feuding with Rove, a fight that intensified when the former Bush adviser launched an effort to protect Republicans against tea party challengers.
The section of Takeover's website for supported candidates is currently empty. Several navigation buttons on its website, such as links to its Facebook (which links to "facebook.com/takoversuperpac [sic]"), Twitter (which links to "twitter.com/takoversuperpac [sic]"), and YouTube pages do not work -- and a page devoted to the "Takeover Store" is also blank.
Takeover's advisory board indicates the group will be heavily intertwined with professional consultants.
The super PAC's executive director and treasurer is "Internet marketing and communications entrepreneur" Thomas Freiling. He previously headed Patriot Super PAC, which paid him $78,239 during the 2012 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data via OpenSecrets.org. Freiling's consulting firm Fairfax Technologies also received $18,044. Patriot Super PAC paid $374,976 to Internet communications consulting firm Grassroots Action Inc. Grassroots is headed by Steve Elliott, who also sits on Takeover's advisory board. Patriot Super PAC raised $922,266 during the 2012 cycle, and spent $163,418 on independent expenditures.
Board member Floyd Brown is president of Excellentia Inc., a conservative marketing firm. Another board member, Richard Viguerie, pioneered the use of direct mail fundraising.
The toxic background of the group's board members may actually end up hurting any supported candidates. Here's a closer look at three of the group's advisors.
Politico's Dylan Byers reports that sources say Attkisson left CBS because she "had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network's liberal bias" while some staffers characterized her work as "agenda-driven, [which] had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting."
Attkisson is writing a book tentatively titled "Stonewalled: One Reporter's Fight for Truth in Obama's Washington" for HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corporation, the corporate sibling of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox.
If Attkisson joins Fox, she'll follow the path of several other controversial media figures who conservatives believed were mistreated by the media. Those include Doug McKelway, Lou Dobbs, Don Imus, and Judith Miller. Reporter Bernard Goldberg joined Fox News after leaving CBS and accusing his former employer of liberally slanting their news coverage.
Fox News has showered praise on Attkisson in recent months, with personalities indicating they want her to join the conservative network.