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Fox News Hyped Benghazi Probes— But Now Wants No Jan. 6 Inquiry

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Last week, Senate Republicans filibustered the proposal for a bipartisan commission to study the events of January 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

Fox News' spin during the negotiations for the January 6 commission — condemning the small number of Republicans who supported one, denying that an insurrection had ever taken place, and even bringing back the election conspiracy theories that incited the attack — was further proof of why such a commission was needed.

But on a deeper level, it also provides a further contrast between Fox's overall efforts to sweep the insurrection under the rug on the one hand, and its relentless calls for more investigations of the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya — when the network played a key role in pushing for a congressional select committee.

At the time, Fox figures even bragged about helping with the creation of the select committee, in the wake of the network's unrelenting coverage of the 2012 attacks. But in the year 2021, network personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tammy Bruce cheer on congressional Republicans for blocking a January 6 commission.

Carlson previously declared that he was "totally for" a Benghazi committee, because he was "always interested in learning more about any mystery, and Benghazi has mysteries at the center of it." But as for a January 6 commission, he now says: "It's a complete farce. It's partisan as hell. It's fake. Don't play along with the fraud," while he also ridicules the notion of an insurrection having occurred at all.

Back in 2014, Ingraham decried how "the left is already branding this as a witch hunt" when it came to the Benghazi Committee — only to turn around seven years later and declare that the House of Representatives had just "greenlit another witch hunt, this one into the January 6 riots."

In 2013, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked rhetorically, "Why not [have] a special investigative committee" into the Benghazi attacks, with the power to call "witnesses under oath?" Then in May 2021, Hannity declared that Congress was "rehashing the events of January 6," and that it was "obvious they cannot be trusted in any way, shape, manner, or form to conduct any fair hearing whatsoever."

Hannity's guest in 2013, Rudy Giuliani, who later became former President Donald Trump's attorney, said that the public needed answers on Benghazi "in order to prevent something like this from happening in the future." In 2021, Giuliani's own lawyers now say that his speech on January 6 calling for "trial by combat" before the Capitol attack was "clearly hyperbolic." (It should also be noted that Giuliani attempted to call a Senate Republican on January 6, while the chamber was in lockdown, but left a voicemail with a wrong number in which he hoped to further slow down the certification of the presidential election.)

Back in 2014, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) implored that "all we ask for is truth and justice, and we just want to understand what really happened" in Benghazi, which was "the constitutional responsibility of Congress." But in 2021, the now-Fox News contributor said that he would not have voted for a January 6 commission if he were still in Congress.

The network has also frequently hosted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), helping to promote his stances on special investigations — both for and against. Back in 2015, when McCarthy was seeking to become speaker of the House, he infamously touted to Hannity how the Benghazi special committee was set up in order to drag down Hillary Clinton's poll ratings. Hannity gave McCarthy "credit" for accomplishing those politically -motivated investigations.

When McCarthy appeared on Ingraham's Fox prime-time show in the year 2021, however, the host dismissively stated that "the Democrats are claiming that you are covering up for insurrectionists by opposing this commission." In response to the friendly question, McCarthy protested that he was instead opposing a Democratic effort to "put a political commission" in place.

Fox's refrain years ago was that a "cover-up" was going on, what Hannity called a "lie," and a congressional investigation was the only way to find the truth. But in the wake of the network's own role in spreading a big lie and even attempting to subvert a national election result in the lead-up to a violent attack on the Capitol, covering things up is now the order of the day.

For Truly Grotesque Hypocrisy, Meet The Judicial Crisis Network

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Judicial Crisis Network, the primary right-wing group involved in supporting or opposing judicial nominees, has released a hypocritical ad that calls for a nomination to be made to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and for the Republican Senate to quickly confirm the nominee.

In February 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, JCN launched an ad campaign under the banner "Let the People Decide" that argued that the vacancy's proximity to the presidential election meant that it should be filled by that election's winner, rather than by then-President Barack Obama.

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In 2019, Right-Wing Media Never Shut Up About ‘Censorship’

In 2019, conservatives on Fox News became so sure that they were being censored that they took to the popular cable network’s airwaves and refused to shut up about it.

“People are actually discriminating against conservatives every day,” one guest told Tucker Carlson. “They’re gaslighting us.”

According to right-wing psychology professor Jordan Peterson, “social justice warriors” and corporations are censoring voices like his. And Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk claimed that college campuses “have become almost islands of totalitarianism.”

Meanwhile, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has held secret meetings with President Donald Trump and tech companies have revealed unreleased data to conservatives that suggest their voices outperform liberals.

Did Trump Learn About Climate Change From Alex Jones?

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has repeatedly bragged about his communications and influence with President Donald Trump. During the presidential campaign, Trump even appeared on Jones’ show, praising Jones’ “amazing” reputation and vowing not to let him down.

As Trump withdraws from the Paris climate accord, here’s a look back at Alex Jones’ perspective on climate change


How False Equivalence Ruins Trump-Clinton News Coverage

News outlets covering the presidential election have made the mistake of treating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as two equally flawed candidates. That false equivalence has made it harder for voters to understand the categorical differences between their options on November 8.

In typical elections, news outlets often treat both major presidential candidates as relatively similar — comparing their flaws, scrutinizing their respective scandals, and framing the election as a choice between two comparable options.

That approach hasn’t been appropriate this election cycle. Clinton is not a flawless candidate — her campaign has been dogged by conspiracies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and her use of a private email server as secretary of state. But she is a relatively conventional one — abiding by both constitutional and political norms.

Trump, on the other hand, represents a dramatic break from mainstream American politics. He threatens the First Amendment, demonizes minority groups, cozies up to white supremacists, championed the birther movement, invites Russian interference in the election, promises to arrest his political opponent, lies constantly, lacks the most basic interest in and knowledge of public policy, says he may not accept the results of the election because he believes it to be “rigged” — the list goes on and on.

These are not equally flawed candidates. But a number of news outlets have treated them as such, devoting similar amounts of attention and ink to Clinton and Trump’s respective controversies.

The New York Times has been criticized for its disproportionate focus on Clinton’s email server and the Clinton Foundation, so much that the paper’s public editor penned a defense of the paper’s coverage:

The problem with false balance doctrine is that it masquerades as rational thinking. What the critics really want is for journalists to apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidates.

[…]

If Trump is unequivocally more flawed than his opponent, that should be plenty evident to the voting public come November. But it should be evident from the kinds of facts that bold and dogged reporting unearths, not from journalists being encouraged to impose their own values to tip the scale.

That approach, treating both candidates’ scandals equally and hoping voters come to the correct conclusion, is a big part of the reason that voters view Trump and Clinton as being similarly untrustworthy, and view their missteps as similarly concerning. Audiences internalize the way the media covers each candidate in relation to the other.

Treating two wildly different candidates as if they’re equally flawed is not “fairness” — it’s a journalistic failure. And news outlets that have failed to explain the categorical differences between the controversies dogging Trump and Clinton’s presidential campaigns have done a real disservice to voters who want to understand what’s at stake in November.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Illustrations by Dayanita Ramesh.

Photo: A combination photo shows Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) in Palm Beach, Florida and Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) in Miami, Florida at their respective Super Tuesday primaries campaign events on March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Audette (L), Javier Galeano (R)