Fact-Free Fox News

There’s a shameless quality to Fox News that echoes the fact-free White House.

Nov 22, 2017 at 11:57 am

There’s a shameless quality to Fox News that echoes the fact-free White House. 

Fox will broadcast a fake story that it has already contradicted so long as it defames Hillary.

It’s an obsession Fox shares with Trump: Alternative facts are OK and this practice demonstrates why public figures fear Fox News defamation more than they desire its support.

A recent example was perfect three-way for Fox & Friends: The bogus story bashed Democrats, real news networks and Hillary.

Appearing on Fox & Friends, Kayleigh Mcenany, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, brought up Donna Brazile’s new book criticizing Hillary’s influence over the Democrats’ nominating process.

Mcenany said that “not a single network — not ABC, NBC, CBS — devoted one second to these claims. It’s appalling.”

Not true. That went unchallenged even though Fox & Friends hosts alluded to some of this coverage earlier in the same show.

“Donna Brazile, have you heard? She has a book out,” Steve Doocy said.

“She has been on every single network pushing this book,” responded cohost Ainsley Earhardt.

True. The Huffington Post reported that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC “all covered Brazile’s revelations and several of the networks featured interviews with her. The networks also used Brazile’s book as a peg for stories about divisions within the Democratic Party and about Brazile herself.”

Now, do a quick 180 but stay tuned to Faux News. Anchor Shepard Smith debunked one of Trump’s favorite libels: Hillary committed treason when she sold our uranium to the Russians. This goes beyond Fox News pushing a lie. Trump wants a federal criminal investigation of Hillary’s alleged  role in the sale.

In an instant, Fox News viewers reacted to Smith’s apostasy with fury, chanting, “Lock him up, lock him up.”

Here’s Smith’s summary of the false accusation:

“Nine people involved in the deal made donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling more than $140 million. In exchange, Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton approved the sale to the Russians, a quid pro quo. The accusation first made by Peter Schweizer, the senior editor-at-large of the website Breitbart in his 2015 book Clinton Cash. The next year, candidate Donald Trump cited the accusation as an example of Clinton corruption.”

Then Smith played a video clip in which Trump says:

“Hillary Clinton's State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America's uranium holdings to Russia. Well, nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.”

After which, Smith added his subversive  j’accuse: "The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale. She did not."

Smith continued, and it’s worth quoting at length:

“That statement is inaccurate in a number of ways. First, the Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction. It could do neither.

“Here’s how it does work. By law, when a foreign company wants to buy anything with potential national security implications, an interagency committee of the federal government must approve it.

“The committee was given a broad mandate under President Reagan to advise the president on foreign investment transactions. That committee is called CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. It includes nine department heads.

“The secretary of the treasury is the chairperson. The rest are the heads of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State and Energy, plus the office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. That's CFIUS.

“The nine department heads all approved the sale of Uranium One. It was unanimous, not a Hillary Clinton approval. We don't know definitively whether Secretary Clinton participated at all directly. The then-Secretary of State — I should say Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernando — represented State on CFIUS. He says she did not, reporting that the secretary never intervened.

“Further, neither Secretary Clinton nor the committee as a whole could stop any deal of this kind. The committee members evaluate a sale of anything potentially related to national security.

“By law, if one member objects, the president and only the president can veto such a transaction. No committee member of the nine objected.

“Federal approvals were also needed. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the sale on November the 24th of 2010 and in doing so, stipulated that no uranium produced may be exported. So where does the uranium go?

“Well, the Energy Information Administration or EIA reports that unless special permission is granted by the Department of Energy or other governmental agencies, Uranium One sells the uranium that it mines in the United States to civilian power reactors in the United States.

“But operators of those reactors have many other sources for their uranium. Last year, 89 percent of uranium used by power plants in the U.S. came from foreign producers, according to the EIA.

“Regarding the donations to the Clinton Foundation, again, the accusation is that Hillary Clinton's State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America's uranium holdings to Russia while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.

“Here, the timing is inaccurate. Most of those donations were from one man, Frank Giustra, the founder of the company in Canada. He gave $131 million to the Clinton Foundation. But Giustra says he sold his stake in the company back in 2007.

“That is three years before the uranium/Russia deal and a year and a half before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. We can’t independently verify his statement, but if true, the donation to the Clinton Foundation from confirmed Uranium One investors drops from more than $145 million to $4 million.

“The Clinton Foundation did not disclose those donations. After a New York Times story exposed them, the foundation reported it made mistakes, saying it had disclosed donations from a Canadian charity but did not specify the names of the donors to that charity who had associations to the uranium company.

“Even so, the accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale. She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale, the president approved the sale, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others had to offer permits, and none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia. That is Uranium One.”

Curmudgeon Notes

• It’s a rare ad that I don’t like; ads support newsrooms. What I don’t like is the sneaky way the Enquirer packages material as news in special sections. Recent Sunday sections, Memory Care and Welcome Home, had lots of real ads. That’s good. They also had “stories” and photos provided by people selling something. If you look closely, credits at the bottom of the articles indicate they were not Enquirer newsroom products. Why not put that at the top and label these special sections as promotional?

• I’m sure the United Way of Greater Cincinnati does some good, especially for low-income communities. A recent Enquirer story about the retirement of president and CEO Rob Reifsynder (sic) said that “according to publicly available documents, Reifsnyder (sic) was paid a base salary of $382,892 in 2016.”

Apart from its inability to spell his name correctly, the Enquirer missed a great chance to tell us how much other Great and Good are paid for helping local poor.

• Elsewhere, Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, made good on his threat when journalists at newsy DNAinfo and the Gothamist voted 25-2 to join the Writers Guild of America. He closed both websites. That put 115 people on the street in New York and Chicago and initially pulled down the entire archive, blocking former employee access to their work.

The Guardian punches a hole in Americans’ unrealistic vision of Canadians’ right to health care and universal health insurance: There is no government drug coverage. That’s unique among developed nations with universal health insurance. According to the Guardian, Canada’s drug prices are almost as high as ours.

• Like an oil slick, American Fox News sleaze fouls British TV.

There, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom faulted two Fox News programs shown on  British TV for their characteristic lack of impartiality. 

Ofcom said a Sean Hannity show on Trump’s travel ban “did not sufficiently reflect alternative viewpoints.”

That matters, Ofcom said, because Hannity’s program “dealt with major matters relating to current public policy that, as well as being of international significance, were of particular relevance and significance to UK viewers."

Ofcom said a Tucker Carlson program “accused various public bodies and individuals in the UK, including Prime Minister Theresa May, of ‘doing nothing to counter terrorism; stop radicalisation; protect citizens from terrorism; or protect thousands of underage girls from rape and abuse.’ ”

Ofcom said, “there was no reflection of the views of the UK Government or any of the authorities or people criticised, ‘which we would have expected given the nature and amount of criticism of them in the programme.’ ”

Just as bad, Carson “did not challenge the views of his contributors, instead, he reinforced their views,” Ofcom said. Fox surrendered its UK license on Nov. 1, but Ofcom said it still was “appropriate” to publish its rulings.

• When a 30-something lawyer dates girls so young that he says he always asked their mothers for permission, it’s a helluva story.

That’s what we call a “smoking gun” and most news media initially missed it in coverage of accused predator Roy Moore’s cultural defense and biblical piety.

Instead, reporters and cable talking heads concentrated on Moore’s assertion that he dated “a lot of young ladies” in the 1970s when he got out of the service and went to work as a state lawyer.

But children or teenagers? “Not generally, no.”

I’ll leave it to Alabama voters whether Moore is fit to serve in the U.S. Senate or went beyond what was acceptable in their white, Southern Protestant and evangelical culture.

What’s fascinating to me — a former religion reporter — is how men and women who share Moore’s claimed evangelical beliefs and virtues disagree over his moral fitness for office.

• I probably should be embarrassed admitting that I read dailymail.com, knowing the paper and website have a Trumpian disregard for facts.

Sometimes, it’s just plain dumb. dailymail.com reported that Houston Astros led the Dodgers 3 games to 2 after the sixth game of the World Series.

More recently, with Zimbabwe in the news, dailymail.com offered an album of photos of white-ruled Rhodesia before black majority rule under genocidal dictator Robert Mugabe.

The photos purportedly were “from late 1890s and early 1900s.”

Some were. They unfailingly showed black Africans as laborers.

Many photos were far newer.

For instance, a white farmer stands in front of his 1950s car despite the caption saying it was 1910.

Other photos purport to show visiting post-war British officials.

However, protesters’ signs promote UNIP, the United National Independence Party, which was in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia, a protectorate separate from Southern Rhodesia.

Still another photo shows UNIP leader Kenneth Kaunda who became president of neighboring Zambia in 1964.

• Now that Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is gone or going, I fear news media will succumb to the mistake they made when Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad died in 2000.

Pundits speculated that al-Assad’s son, Bashar, would be more moderate, even liberal, than his murderous father. In part, this reflected Western confidence in the affect of an Arab-French school in Damascus and his postgraduate years in ophthalmology in London.

Syria’s civil war is evidence of commentators’ misplaced hopes.

At least in Zimbabwe, there are warning signs. The new leader and Mugabe’s former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is known as “the crocodile” for his deadly ruthlessness as chief of intelligence responsible for repressing opposition parties.

Watch business reporting about Zimbabwe. Wishful thinking may involve hopes that Mnangagwa will open his starving, bankrupt country to outside investors.

CONTACT BEN L. KAUFMAN: [email protected]