White House correspondence, indeed

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Buzz Cut:

• White House correspondence, indeed

• Study on ‘dark money’ funded by… wait for it

• Bubba: ObamaCare ‘dimly understood’

• Warren blasts FCC’s on Internet regs

• Who do you get for $20?


If you ever wondered how important the media narrative is to elections, we have a time capsule from the 2012 race to show it.

The Associated Press’ Matthew Lee would win accolades on the left just two weeks after the election for his press-conference bludgeoning of then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland about the administration’s refusal to denounce Israel for attacks against the Islamist militants of Hamas – suggesting the strikes might be “war crimes” and intoning about a “catastrophic humanitarian situation” in Gaza – and fuming over the administration’s stated support for Israel.

But before the election, Lee was angry with Nuland over a different topic: what he saw as the administration’s laggardly response to coverage by Fox News about the Sept. 11, 2012 raid on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya. In a newly released email exchange two days after the attack, when the Obama administration was still publicly claiming that the raid was a spontaneous event rather than a planned strike, Lee concurred with Nuland’s description of Fox’s coverage as “bull----” but then says “this is killing you guys.”

Reporters often offer sources the chance to tell their side of the story and might encourage a spokeswoman to “set the record straight.” That’s a good and ethical way to coax a source into giving an exclusive interview or providing background information. But Lee doesn’t appear to be asking for anything here. He’s just scolding Nuland and complaining about Fox News, which he said was “shocking.” The thread appears to close, in fact, with her assuring Lee that a famously pro-administration competitor had been given the story and that it had made the most influential political Web site, The Drudge Report.

That story trumpeted: “A U.S. official told POLITICO: ‘There’s no intelligence indicating that the attack in Benghazi was premeditated.’” But there was such intelligence. And the attack was premeditated.

But true or, as we now know, false, none of that would be any help to Lee professionally, so why did Nuland bring it up?

Lee has won accolades on the right of late for pointing out in another round of briefing bludgeoning that Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State accomplished little of note, but his sympathies seem pretty obvious here, or at least Nuland thought they were.

As it turns out, Fox News was ahead of the pack on the story and, as another embarrassing round of disclosures revealed this week, the administration not only hid the truth from reporters ahead of the election but also elided about the existence. Watching the evident anger on the part of ABC News’ Jon Karl as his former colleague Jay Carney delivers an answer to the latest disclosure that was so absurd as to be taunting. He ought to be angry. The White House covered up its doctored talking points and then shamed Karl and others for reporting that turned out to be basically on the nose.

This weekend, the Washington press corps will celebrate itself at the White House Correspondents Association’s annual dinner. There will be lots of complaining about how crummy the current administration is about granting access. There will be little outrage, however, over an administration that has frequently been caught lying and misleading and then bullying reporters – tactics that go beyond the usual rough and tumble of the Washington press game. Remember, this is an administration that has criminally targeted reporters for pursuing stories and gobbled up phone records at the AP.

If all of the reporters are not as angry as Karl was about this kind of brazenness, then perhaps what Nuland assumed about Lee back in 2012 is really true about MOST OF the rest.

[Reporters report on the reporting on themselves - Politico polled 60 of the “elite of the elite” reporters to find out what it is like to be White House correspondents.]

Benghazi hearing today - Following Wednesday's heated exchange at the White House briefing over the former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice’s controversial Sunday show talking points on Benghazi, the former head of the US Africa Command is scheduled to testify about the Benghazi attack before the House Oversight Committee.

[Watch Fox: Sen. John McCain, R-Az., appears in the 10 a.m. ET hour]


The Obama administration and Republicans continue to fight about how many people have signed up—and paid for—health insurance plans in the marketplace. House Republicans say 67 percent of enrollees have paid premiums, while Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright argues, “These claims are based on only about half of the approximately 300 issuers in the federally-facilitated marketplace and they do not match up with public comments from insurance companies themselves, most of which indicate that 80 to 90 percent of enrollees have paid their premium.”

Not the first time – The constant back and forth is nothing new to the administration, and remember the president has been busted in the past for false assertions about his signature health care law. The most infamous of these claims, of course, is President Obama’s promise time and again, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” which earned him WaPo’s biggest Pinocchio of the year award, and also was named PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year.” Last month, President Obama boasted 35 percent of people enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35. WaPo’s Glenn Kessler explained why this was misleading: “The young invincibles are between the ages of 18 and 34 — and as White House ‘fact sheet’ acknowledged, that figure is 28 percent. The 35 percent figures includes children under the age of 18.” And let’s not forget the administration’s claims about expanded Medicaid enrollment, which fact checkers say are wildly overinflated.

Ruh-roh - Even if 28 percent of “young invincibles” have signed up, a figure important because young enrollees are needed to compensate costs for older, sicker Americans in the marketplace, those 18 to 35 year olds haven’t written the checks quite yet. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce says only 25 percent of younger individuals have paid their bill so far.


Free Beacon: “Liberal senators and [President Obama] appointees on Wednesday decried the influence of anonymous campaign donations in American politics while citing data from organizations that accept anonymous donations. Sen. Angus King (I., Maine) said in an opening statement before a Senate Rules Committee hearing that so-called ‘dark money’ is a ‘systemic issue that threatens all of us and our very democracy.’ King cited data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and the Wesleyan Media Project to note that spending by groups that do not disclose their donors is nearly four times higher than it was at this time in 2012. However, King did not mention that both of the groups have received financial support from foundations that do not disclose their donors. CRP received $350,000 from …groups that are linked to liberal mega-donor George Soros…Additionally, the Wesleyan Project has received support from the Knight Foundation, another group that is linked to … Soros-funded groups…FEC vice chairwoman Ann Ravel was one of the witnesses at the hearing…However, Koch Industries—owned by businessmen [Charles Koch] and David Koch—vigorously denied the allegations in an October statement and said they were not involved in the Proposition 32 issue[,a prohibition on using union dues for political purposes.]…Ravel was later forced to admit that the Koch brothers were not involved in the ballot initiatives. ‘The Koch brothers have never been implicated themselves as having been direct donors,’ she said… Wednesday’s hearing also came amid the annual meeting for the secretive club of wealthy liberals known as the Democracy Alliance, which has steered more than $500 million to liberal groups since its inception in 2005. One of its members, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, has pledged to spend $100 million on candidates in the midterm elections who say they support environmentalist causes—but recently said he will not disclose the donors. Neither the alliance nor Steyer were discussed at the hearing.”

New research shows that those who use their middle initial in their name seem more intelligent. Pacific Standard: “’The display of middle initials increases the perceived social status of these people, and positively biases inferences about their intellectual capacity and performance,’ they write in the European Journal of Social Psychology….The first featured 85 students from the University of Limerick, who were asked to read a short article describing Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and evaluate how well it was written. The author of the text was presented as David Clark, David F. Clark, David F.P. Clark, or David F.P.R. Clark. The results: ‘David F. Clark’ received higher marks than ‘David Clark,’ with ‘David F.P.R. Clark’ scoring even higher. ‘It seems that one middle initial is sufficient to produce the middle initials effect,’ the researchers write.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM


Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve –  43.6 percent//Disapprove – 51.8 percent

Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28.1 percent//Wrong Track – 63.1 percent 
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.4 percent// Republicans 41.6 percent


Former President Bill Clinton criticized the media coverage of passage and implementation of ObamaCare during a lecture at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Wednesday. “If a policymaker is a political leader and is covered primarily by the political press, there is a craving that borders on addictive to have a storyline. And then once people settle on the storyline, there is a craving that borders on blindness to shoehorn every fact, every development, everything that happens into the story line, even if it’s not the story,” said Clinton.  He also pointed to the fact that ObamaCare is not understood by the public, hinting it to be the fault of the Obama administration. “I think that it’s very important to understand we live in a time when for a whole variety of reasons, policymaking tends to be dimly understood, often distrusted and disconnected from the consequences of the policies being implemented.”


A new Quinnipiac University poll showed that Florida Republicans prefer their former Gov. Jeb Bush to their current Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., when it comes to 2016 candidates, giving Bush 27 percent of their support compared to 11 percent for Rubio. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did slightly better with 14 percent, while Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, all polled in the mid-single digits with GOP primary voters.

Heavy for Hillary - But among all voters surveyed, the same poll shows that Floridians would choose 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton over Bush, 49 to 41 percent.  Respondents also said they would choose Clinton over each of the potential GOP presidential nominees by even wider margins.


Des Moines Register: “Potential 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie will do two fundraisers for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad soon, one in May and one over the summer. Branstad will travel to New Jersey for an event Christie is planning for him in late May, campaign aides confirmed to The Des Moines Register today. And Christie, the governor of New Jersey, will travel to Iowa for a fundraiser for Branstad here, likely in July, aides said.”


HuffPost: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) blasted the Federal Communication Commission's recent proposal to let internet service providers charge for access to their customers, saying it would ‘gut’ the principle of net neutrality. ‘We don’t know who is going to have the next big idea in this country, but we’re pretty sure they’re going to need to get online to do it,’ Warren wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday. ‘Reports that the FCC may gut net neutrality are disturbing, and would be just one more way the playing field is tilted for the rich and powerful who have already made it.’”


North Carolina Senate hopeful Thom Tillis has been consistent in the polls and clearing the 40 percent mark need to forgo a July 15 run-off. But fellow GOP primary challenger Greg Brannon will host Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Monday to hopefully break Tillis’s lead before the May 6 primary. According to a statement from Brandon, Paul will head to Charlotte to hold a “grassroots rally” in support of Brannon’s campaign.


Watchdog.com: “An independent poll taken in mid-April has Nebraska’s Senate race in a statistical dead-heat, with newcomer Ben Sasse leading with over 29 percent, followed closely by Shane Osborn with nearly 27 percent…. The poll was commissioned by the Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest tea party political action committee…. However, in the hotly contested GOP primary race that lately has revolved around which candidate has the most genuine Tea Party support in Nebraska, the poll showed Sasse had a 12-point advantage among self-identified Tea Party supporters, garnering 37 percent to Osborn’s 25 percent. Sasse had a 71 percent favorability rating among Tea Partiers, compared to Osborn’s 65 percent. … Sasse also picked up a coveted endorsement Wednesday from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, marking only the second time the farm group has made an endorsement in a statewide primary. The other time was in 2006, when they endorsed Gov. Dave Heineman over Tom Osborne.” Nebraska's primary election is May 13.


Conservative group Club for Growth released a statewide ad Wednesday saying the Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is “refusing to debate” Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel. “After five decades in Washington, Cochran won't even come home to defend his record. Why? Maybe because Cochran’s record is filled with bailouts, tax hikes, trillions in debt, and pay raises for himself.” Recent polls show Cochran remains ahead. The two face off in the June 3 primary.


Republican senate hopeful Rep. James Lankford released a new ad Wednesday in hopes of succeeding retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. The ad features Lankford, sitting at a restaurant table with constituents, explaining the importance of freedom. “All the freedoms that we had in the past now are evaporating,” says Lankford. “We are losing our freedom and we are losing it quickly because of this administration. We have to stand up to that.”  If neither Lankford nor GOP primary challenger former Okla. House speaker T.W. Shannon reach 50 percent in June 24 primary, they will head to the August run-off .


Millionaire Iowa Senate hopeful Mark Jacobs released a new ad Wednesday in which his children highlight his Iowa roots, conservative background and “nice hair.” “ You will balance the budget,” says Jacobs’ youngest son, Sam. Sister Christy continues, “Cut taxes, create jobs…deduce debt and raise our allowance.”  Jacobs quips, “except for the allowance, I approve this message.” Republicans Scott Schaben, Joni Ernst, Sam Clovis, Matt Whitaker, along with Jacobs are eyeing the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s, D-Iowa, in the June 3primary.  The winner will go on to face democrat Rep. Bruce Braley in the November election.

Fires back after attack ad – Jacobs released another ad Wednesday defending his conservative reputation. “What I will do is show up for work every day and support conservative values and Iowa jobs.” In the ad, Jacobs also compares attack ads to bullies that throw rocks behind the fence instead of having the courage to show their face.

Whitaker touts Iowa home – In Republican Matt Whitaker’s first TV ad, he touts his Iowa football roots and firm stance on issues. “As your U.S. attorney, I protected Iowa, putting thugs and predators behind bars. And as you senator, when it comes to standing up to Barak Obama, I won’t waiver.” The ad will air across Iowa.


Washington Examiner: “Even though Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is trying to fend off Rep. Cory Gardner to keep his Senate seat, he does like at least one thing about his Republican challenger -- his natural gas export bill. Udall said Wednesday he would try to tie an amendment modeled on a Gardner-sponsored bill the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed earlier in the day to an energy-efficiency bill that could hit the Senate floor next week…Both lawmakers have tried to position themselves as the champion for natural gas exports -- which would incentivize new drilling in natural gas-rich Colorado -- in what has become a tight race heading into the November midterm election. It got to the point that when both dropped virtually identical bills in early March, Udall reminded the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that he had introduced his legislation first.”


The Hill: “The New Hampshire Democratic Party is requesting a Federal Elections Commission investigation into whether Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown failed to report campaign expenditures while he was exploring a bid. In the nine-page complaint, the party also questions whether Brown may have filed as a candidate later than required by FEC regulations, following his admission this weekend that he decided to make his bid on Feb. 14, though he spent the subsequent month saying he hadn’t yet made a decision. ‘Scott Brown decided to become a candidate for Senate on Valentine’s Day, and that should have triggered FEC filing requirements and deadlines that he clearly did not meet. We're asking the FEC for a thorough and swift investigation,’ said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley in a statement announcing the complaint.”


Democratic Kentucky Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes launched a new minute online ad bashing Sen. Mitch McConnell for high unemployment in Kentucky as well as touting her own job agenda. “As your United State Senator I will fight each and every day for policies, good policies that create jobs, prepare our workers to train them for the jobs of tomorrow,” says Grimes.


Republicans have their sights set on six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. So which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Fox News First reader Lois asked, “I wonder why you don't include Michigan....Terri Lynn Land (R) taking over Sen. Carl Levin's seat.  She looks like she will win!”

[Ed. note: It’s up to you, Lois! We’re just passing along the consensus of reader picks. One day soon, though, I’ll be sharing my top six. Stay tuned…]

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.


More than 80 percent of health care workers in Michigan are choosing to part ways with the SEIU, the union that represents them. Since state voters ended forced unionization by approving right-to-work legislation in 2012, union reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor show more than 44 thousand home-based caregivers are opting out. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The workers previously were forced to pay dues or fees to the SEIU after the union orchestrated a scheme that took money from the Medicaid checks of the people the workers were caring for in homes across the state. The ‘dues skim’ ended in 2013, but not before the SEIU took more than $34 million from the elderly and disabled across the state.” The shedding of members will mean a 4.2 million dollar loss for the union. “When given the choice, those in the program didn’t want to give the union a dime,” said Mackinac legal analyst Patrick Wright.


Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano compares the racist comments from the Los Angeles Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and discusses where the government fits into the situation: “Hateful and hurtful words have natural and probable consequences where the people are free to counter them. The government has no business cleansing the public marketplace of hateful ideas. The most effective equalizer for hatred is the free market. It will remedy Sterling’s hatred far more effectively than the NBA can. As advertisers and sponsors and fans desert Sterling-owned properties, he will be forced to sell them, lest his financial losses become catastrophic. And it has removed Bundy from the public stage altogether.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.