Judicial Watch is a conservative activist group that has been one of the organizations driving the media narrative on Hillary Clinton's emails. They have a history of dishonest activism, promoting conspiracy theories, and pushing false or misleading narratives.
The organization was formed in the 1990s by conspiracy theorist Larry Klayman, who used the technique of filing spurious lawsuits in an attempt to bring down the Clinton administration. It is now headed by Tom Fitton, who has continued Klayman's methods in an ongoing campaign to antagonize the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats.
The organization has played a key role in the ongoing controversy over the email system Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state. Records obtained from the State Department by Judicial Watch have served as fodder in the media and for the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
This week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the frontrunner for the soon-to-be vacant Speaker's office, boasted on Fox, "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen."
Judicial Watch has tried to stake its own claim to denting Clinton, with Fitton claiming in a press release, "Judicial Watch has had more success investigating the IRS, Benghazi, and Clinton email scandals than any House committee under Boehner's direction."
Since it was reported in March that Clinton used a private email server, Judicial Watch has been mentioned dozens of times in reports on the story, including in major outlets like Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today.
But if history is any indication, media outlets risk credibility and accuracy by relying on Judicial Watch.
The media's reliance on Judicial Watch's work comes with a significant risk, as the conservative group often overreaches in its attacks on Democrats and progressives.
For example, on September 24, Judicial Watch released records it had received from the State Department which it claimed "reveal former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally signed the authorization for Huma Abedin, her then-deputy chief of staff, to become a special government employee."
The New York Times reported on Judicial Watch's findings, writing that the documents "show that Mrs. Clinton personally signed forms establishing a new title and position for the aide, Huma Abedin, in March 2012." Politico, Fox News, and other outlets also published stories based on the document.
Those stories were wrong.
As the Times reported a few days later, the document that Judicial Watch had given to the media had the signature redacted "in a box intended for the aide's supervisor," and the assumption was apparently made that Sec. Clinton had signed it. But later a copy of the document was given to the Times and it showed that it was signed by Cheryl Mills, who was then Clinton's chief of staff.
In other words, the entire premise of the Judicial Watch release was false (the uncorrected headline remains on the Times website).
Judicial Watch has often started stories that are simply untrue and collapse almost immediately under scrutiny.
For example, Judicial Watch alleged that the Obama administration had appointed 45 "czars" to serve under him, a claim which then became the basis for a viral email attacking the president. As explained by PolitiFact in 2014, Judicial Watch stretched the truth by listing senior advisor Valerie Jarrett as a czar, crediting the Obama administration for czars created under the Bush administration, and describing Ray Mabus as the "Oil Czar" when in reality he was Secretary of the Navy, a Senate-confirmed position.
Judicial Watch accused then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of engaging in "boorish demands for military travel" that are "more about partying than anything else" and highlighted expenditures of "$101,429.14 ... for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol." After conservative outlets regurgitated the claims, FactCheck.org investigated and found that "costs are not as high as critics claim, and they're comparable to those of her Republican predecessor."
Last year, Judicial Watch alleged that a company had been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "for requiring workers to speak English." But in reality, the EEOC said it sued the company for violating its employees' rights by subjecting them to a "sham performance improvement plan" that focused on their English language skills.
Judicial Watch has concocted conspiracy theories that end up being amplified by conservative and mainstream media, as well as elected officials.
Judicial Watch claimed that the Justice Department was helping to "organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman," the Florida man who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin. In reality, the unit of the DOJ was sent to Florida in order to defuse tensions in the community, and as the Orlando Sentinel reported, they "reached out to the city's spiritual and civic leaders to help cool heated emotions."
Judicial Watch claimed that the Islamic State (ISIS) had set up a terrorist camp in Mexico "just a few miles from El Paso, Texas," facilitating the smuggling of terrorists into the United States. Conservative media outlets picked up Judicial Watch's claim.
Authorities in the United States and Mexico rejected the group's fearmongering.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said there was "no indication that this claim has any validity to it," while an FBI spokesperson told PolitiFact, "there is no credible information to support" the allegation. The government of Mexico stated: "The government of Mexico dismisses and categorically denies each of the statements made today by the organization Judicial Watch on the alleged presence of ISIS's operating cells throughout the border region." Similarly, the Texas Department of Public Safety said they had "no credible information to corroborate or validate this story."
PolitiFact rated the claim as "false." A similar claim by Judicial Watch in September of 2014 became the basis of a statement by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that ISIS is "present in Ciudad Juarez" in Mexico. Government agencies denied that allegation as well, and PolitiFact rated it "mostly false."
Throughout the Obama administration, there have been repeated news stories discussing the cost of travel arrangements for the Obama administration, particularly for first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters.
These stories have often been based on reports generated by Judicial Watch, and their website boasts an archive of releases on the topic (despite the organization's existence during the Bush administration, the "First Family" Vacations archive is limited to travel from 2010-present).
Many of these releases also exaggerate the truth. In 2010, Judicial Watch alleged that the Obamas went on a "private family safari" at taxpayer expense, but the safari was paid for with the Obama's own funds. They also claimed the trip "was as much an opportunity for the Obama family and friends to go on a safari as it was a trip intended to advance the administration's agenda in Africa" but the schedule was filled with official events:
The six-day trip was dominated by official events and meetings with world leaders. Mrs. Obama met with the South African president's wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma; spoke to the Young African Women Leaders Forum; participated in community service events in Johannesburg; visited U.S. embassies and consulates; spoke at the University of Cape Town and met with students from poor communities; held a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu; met with Botswanan president Ian Khama; and gave interviews to several news outlets, including NBC, ABC, BET, and CNN.
Judicial Watch was designed almost two decades ago to use the courts and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to trip up and raise implications about Democrats and other related elected officials. It does so through dishonest claims and inaccurate document releases. Despite their history, the media has continued to rely on them, only to sometimes be caught hyping inaccurate supposed scoops.
Pope Francis is making his first visit to the United States this week. Prior to his visit, conservative media figures have attacked him over his efforts to combat climate change and inequality, labeling him a "Marxist" who is a "danger to the world."
While leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Fox News waged a protracted public feud for much of August, the network continued to lavish the business mogul with far more interview airtime than the other sixteen contenders. After being given nearly 5 hours of airtime in August, Trump now has 10 hours and 21 minutes of airtime since the beginning of May, nearly double that of former Fox host Mike Huckabee, who is second with 5 hours and 16 minutes.
Fox News and Trump engaged in a war of words after Megyn Kelly questioned Trump about his history of sexism during the network's August 6 Republican presidential debate. The argument culminated the last week of the month after Trump promoted a tweet calling Kelly a "bimbo," which prompted a statement from Fox News chief Roger Ailes demanding an apology -- Trump, of course, declined.
Following a press conference in which Trump complained that Fox News "treats me terribly," he announced on Laura Ingraham's radio show on August 26 that he and "good friend" Roger Ailes had once again smoothed things over. Despite yet another truce, Trump has not had a new interview on the network since an August 24 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, the night he promoted the "bimbo" tweet about Kelly. (Though O'Reilly Factor did re-air an edited version of Trump's August 24 interview on August 28.)
Trump led all candidates in airtime during August, though his lead is bolstered by lengthy interviews on both Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine that the network re-aired multiple times in primetime.
Lagging well behind Trump's 4 hours and 48 minutes of airtime were Carly Fiorina (1 hour and 30 minutes), Mike Huckabee (1 hour and 22 minutes), Chris Christie (1 hour and 15 minutes), Ben Carson (1 hour and 13 minutes), and Scott Walker (1 hour and 2 minutes). No other candidate had more than an hour of airtime.
In overall airtime, Trump is lapping the field. His 10 hours and 21 minutes of airtime dwarf runners up Huckabee (5 hours and 16 minutes), Fiorina (4 hours and 18 minutes), and Rick Perry (4 hours and 12 minutes).
For August, Hannity once again featured the most candidate interview airtime, with 3 hours and 21 minutes.
Overall, Hannity continues to far outpace other programs in candidate interview airtime. His show has featured more than 13 hours of interviews since May 1.
Most Total Airtime In August: Donald Trump (4 hour and 48 minutes)
Most Total Appearances In August: Donald Trump (17 appearances)
Fox Show With The Most Total Candidate Airtime In August: Hannity (3 hours and 21 minutes)
Fox Show With The Most Candidate Appearances In August: Fox & Friends and The O'Reilly Factor (20 appearances each)
Softball Question of the Month: During the August 4, 2015 episode of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly pressed hard to pin down just how nervous Donald Trump was feeling about the August 6 Fox News Republican presidential debate [transcript via Nexis]:
O'REILLY: Ok. Now, are you nervous? Do you get nervous? I mean, you know, it's a big deal, 48 hours, this is probably the biggest thing in your life. I mean, you can tell Geraldo that he is a pinhead on your other show that you are not doing anymore, but that's nothing compared to this worldwide debate. Are you nervous?
TRUMP: Well, I mean, the biggest thing in my life is my family and my children in all fairness -- Bill. This is a different kind of a thing.
O'REILLY: Ok. But I'm now talking professional. Right.
TRUMP: This is a different kind of a thing. This is a big league deal. There is no question about it. Everybody is talking about it. I'm getting calls from the biggest people in the world. They are watching. They are watching.
O'REILLY: Well, you are on the biggest show in the world right now. Come on. You know where you are.
TRUMP: Well, I'm on a great show.
O'REILLY: But do you get nervous? Are you apprehensive? You know, are you staying up at night? I know you don't sleep much at all. But are you a little apprehensive?
TRUMP: I would think so. I mean you don't know what's going to come at you. You don't know where these other people are going to come. You don't know whether or not the three folks that are asking the questions, I mean they are going to try to trick you up which is unfortunate because all of that has nothing to do with being a great president.
But I'm doing it because it's something you have to do. And, again, I have never debated. My sort of my whole life has been a debate, but I have never debated before. These politicians all they do is debate.
Most Total Airtime Since May 1: Donald Trump (10 hour and 21 minutes)
Most Total Appearances Since May 1: Donald Trump (54 appearances)
Fox Show With The Most Total Candidate Airtime Since May 1: Hannity (13 hours and 11 minutes)
Fox Show With The Most Candidate Appearances Since May 1: Hannity (64 appearances)
Previous Fox Primary Reports
For this study, we used FoxNews.com's "2016 Presidential Candidate Watch List." Jim Gilmore's inclusion in the study began after his formal announcement on July 30.
Media Matters searched the Nexis database and our internal video archive for all guest appearances on Fox News Channel between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and Fox News Sunday for the 17 presidential candidates in question: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
Beginning with the August report, Media Matters has collected appearances on weekend shows in addition to weekday shows and Fox News Sunday. All weekend data from May 1 onward is now included.
For programs where a transcript was unavailable, we reviewed the raw video.
Charts by Oliver Willis. Additional research by Media Matters' research staff.
In reporting on conservative activist James O'Keefe's latest absurd adventure, major media coverage acknowledged it was a flop and something of a joke, except for the New York Times.
O'Keefe held a press conference to announce that his group Project Veritas had released an undercover video of the Clinton campaign allowing a Canadian to give a Project Veritas operative money so that she could purchase a Clinton t-shirt, which was a campaign product that could not be legally purchased by a non-American. At his event O'Keefe presented the incident as if it were a major scandal, while most of the press reported that it was at best a trivial infraction of less than $80.
Bloomberg Politics compared the offense to "jaywalking," National Journal described O'Keefe's press conference as a "vortex of political absurdity" and noted that "we had been snookered into another supposedly salacious release from O'Keefe's organization." The Los Angeles Times said the story, "billed as a blockbuster," was "hardly the stuff of a Pulitzer Prize. " The event and revelation were so underwhelming that a reporter from the Daily Beast asked O'Keefe, "Are you sure it's not a joke?"
The New York Times' Alan Rappeport, in an article headlined "James O'Keefe, Political Sleuth," was far more charitable than the rest of the media. Rappeport wrote that O'Keefe "fired an opening salvo" in 2016 coverage and "campaigns were put on notice on Tuesday."
The Times accepted O'Keefe's framing of the exchange between the Canadian woman and the Project Veritas staffer, writing, "Mr. O'Keefe made the case that the video showed a willingness by the campaign to skirt laws that forbid taking donations from foreigners by using a conduit." In fact the video shows a Clinton staffer pointing out that a foreign national is prohibited from buying the t-shirt in question.
Rappeport proceeded to parrot O'Keefe's argument by noting, "Foreign donations are a sensitive subject for the Clintons, as their family foundation has been under scrutiny for accepting money from overseas." The Times has repeatedly misinformed its readers on the nature of donations to the Clinton Foundation. To reiterate, this is in reference to a $75 transaction over a t-shirt.
The paper even sought comment from the Federal Election Commission, reporting that "at least four commissioners would have to agree that there was a violation before any penalties could be imposed."
While the Times noted that reporters attending O'Keefe's presentation snickered at the obvious absurdity of the occasion, the Times report gave O'Keefe's deceptive claims an enormous and largely uncritical platform.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe has once again overpromised and underdelivered. This time, he claims his latest sting operation found Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign breaking the law, when in reality all that happened was the purchase of a t-shirt.
O'Keefe's Project Veritas Action accused the Clinton campaign on September 1 of allowing a Canadian tourist to launder money, in the form of allowing a t-shirt to be purchased.
In the video representatives of the Clinton campaign at a campaign event point out to a woman from Montreal that that the campaign can't take contributions from anyone who isn't American. An undercover activist from Project Veritas then makes the purchase on behalf of the Canadian.
As The Washington Post's Dave Weigel points out: "There are just two catches. One: No one's ever thrown the book at an American for purchasing merchandise from a campaign, then giving it to a foreigner as a gift. Two: The person who takes the Canadian's money and gives it to the Clinton campaign is the Project Veritas Action journalist."
Weigel further notes, "Daniel Pollack, the director of communications at Project Veritas, argued that the on-camera swag exchange was part of a Clinton scandal continuum, comparable to the stories about foreign businessmen donating to Bill Clinton's foundation and expecting something from Hillary Clinton's state department."
O'Keefe held a press conference September 1 to promote the video, where journalists reportedly asked him "Is this a joke?"
O'Keefe's crew has reportedly already made multiple other attempts to sabotage the Clinton campaign.
Project Veritas last month released a video showing their operative undercover with the Clinton campaign, discussing the registration process and whether they can register people who don't support Clinton.
A Clinton campaign staffer is then shown telling the Project Veritas operative that they will register anyone who asks, regardless of their presidential preference. As Time reported, "Nothing in the video shows the Clinton campaign violating the law, or the campaign's own policy. But Veritas claims, nonetheless, that the campaign is 'skirting the law' by first asking whether potential voters are supporters before making the registration offer. This approach to training volunteers is standard operating procedure across field campaigns, according to a Republican field staffer, who requested anonymity."
Time reports that in addition to the t-shirt scheme, Project Veritas operatives approached the campaign and attempted to pass a cash donation to volunteers and interns while another told the campaign they wanted to illegally funnel donations through a third party.
These failure-laden sting attempts continue O'Keefe's pattern of using deceptively-edited videos, childish costumes, and sometimes committing crimes, in a futile campaign to attack the left. Even Fox News hosts have been embarrassed for O'Keefe, telling him to "give it a rest."
Fox News chief Roger Ailes has apparently negotiated another ceasefire in the back and forth between his network and leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Fox figures and Ailes pushed back on Trump early this week after he again asserted that Megyn Kelly was a poor journalist and promoted a tweet calling her a "bimbo."
After Ailes and Trump traded hostile press releases, on Wednesday Trump told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that he and Ailes spoke and settled the latest dispute: "Roger Ailes is great. He's a special guy and a good friend of mine. We just spoke two minutes ago. I mean, Roger Ailes is a great guy and no, I have no problem."
As the Washington Post's Erik Wemple argues, this is evidence of Ailes working outside of the realm of a news network executive to directly confer with a political candidate: "Yet by participating in these peace-making discussions with Trump, Ailes comes off more as a player in the GOP primary game than as a news executive. His role is to drive news stories on Trump, not to hop on the phone with him to work things out."
Fox News continued to chip away at Donald Trump after he renewed his attacks on host Megyn Kelly. This latest round includes Bill O'Reilly, Fox's highest-rated host, as the network turns on the candidate they built into the current Republican presidential front-runner.
Yesterday, Fox News anchors and hosts joined in a mass attack on Trump after he attacked Kelly as a poor journalist and promoted a tweet calling her a "bimbo."
Fox figures slammed Trump on-air and on social media as network CEO and chairman Roger Ailes issued a press release demanding that Trump apologize to Kelly.
It is the latest round in an on-again, off-again feud between the candidate and the network, prompted by aggressive questioning at the recent Republican presidential debate.
As the back and forth re-ignited, New York's Gabriel Sherman reported that according to a source, Ailes asked a Trump ally "What's wrong with this guy?" and added, "I don't know what to do." A source close to Ailes also told Sherman, "Roger says Trump is unelectable. His goal here is to save the country."
Later in the day at a press conference in Iowa, Trump complained that Fox News "treats me terribly," adding, "I don't think I get good treatment from Fox." He rejected Ailes' request for an apology to Kelly, and argued that Kelly "should be apologizing to me."
On last night's O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called on Trump to stop attacking Kelly. O'Reilly noted, "The Kelly/Trump story is relevant to me because I'm friends with both of them. They both bring things to America that are worthy and positive. Ms. Megyn has taken the high road by not responding. Donald Trump should cease, and Roger Ailes is a stand-up guy."
Greta Van Susteren read Ailes' statement on the incident in full during On The Record, as had been done on the network earlier in the day.
This morning, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said Trump should "stick to the issues" and "stop aiming at Fox News." In an exchange at the end of the show, anchor Gregg Jarrett joked with co-host Brian Kilmeade that he would get angry at him "like Trump."
Fox's aggressive posture towards Trump is a departure from how the first round of attacks were handled by the network.
According to an earlier report from CNN's Brian Stelter, Fox hosts wanted to publicly come to Kelly's defense but "the network wanted silence." Stelter wrote that "Ailes did not want to escalate the feud by appearing to fire back. His camp believed that Trump had to be handled delicately, given how disgruntled and unpredictable the candidate was."
On CNN's New Day, former Fox anchor Alisyn Camerota noted the irony of Fox going after Trump after building him up as a political voice. As Media Matters has documented, Trump is the presidential candidate that has benefitted from the most exposure on Fox.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reignited his on-again, off-again feud with Fox News by posting several attacks against anchor Megyn Kelly to his Twitter account. In response, Fox's anchors, hosts, and its chairman and CEO pushed back, and are now demanding an end to Trump's attacks and an apology in a new press release.
The first round of the Fox-Trump dispute came after the candidate criticized Kelly for what he characterized as hostile questions during the Fox Republican presidential debate, going so far as to accuse her of having "blood coming out of her wherever" during the event.
After that controversy, Fox head Roger Ailes issued a release stating that he and Trump "had a blunt but cordial conversation and the air has been cleared."
Trump continued to make disparaging marks about Kelly, however, claiming that Kelly was off-air during her vacation due to his initial clash with her. Fox denied the charge and called it a conspiracy theory.
On August 24, Trump once again returned to attacking Kelly, writing, "I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!" He added that Kelly "must have had a terrible vacation, she is really off her game," noting that she had "no clue on immigration" and criticizing her interview with Dr. Cornel West.
In response, many Fox personalities took Trump to task.
Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade called Trump's attacks "unwarranted-unacceptable;" America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer tweeted, "Easy, Mr. Trump;" Fox senior meteorologist Janice Dean wrote that it was "unpresidential," and The Five co-host Dana Perino praised "the intelligence, class & grace" of Kelly.
Special Report host Bret Baier told Trump "this needs to stop," while Sean Hannity added, "Focus on Hillary, Putin, border, jobs, Iran China & leave @megynkelly alone." The network's senior political analyst Brit Hume asked if Trump was a "seven-year-old" for the tone of his comments.
These tweets were followed by an August 25 press release from Ailes:
"Donald Trump's surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise," Ailes statement reads. "I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump's verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer," Ailes said. "Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we're certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made FOX News Channel the number one news network in the industry."
On the Fox daytime program Happening Now, anchor Jon Scott read the entire statement on-air.
Trump quickly replied:
"I totally disagree with the FOX statement. I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist. I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as FOX deserves. "
Former Fox contributor and editor of the Weekly Standard Bill Kristol had a different point of view. Appearing on Newsmax TV, Kristol said Trump's comments were "excessive" but Fox shouldn't be too "thin-skinned." He noted Trump was likely to "antagonize" Megyn Kelly fans who he would probably prefer to have on his side.
Despite the flare-ups, Fox and Trump have had a symbiotic relationship. His frequent appearances on the network, particularly on Fox & Friends, made the former reality TV star into a political figure, and since he decided to run for the presidency, Fox has featured him far more often than any other candidate.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd did him "a big favor" by featuring him in a recent column.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Trump described Dowd as a "great person" who has "written a lot about me over the years." He added that Dowd "understands that I adore women."
Dowd featured Trump in her August 8 and August 15 columns, as well as an online article detailing the candidate's thoughts on a variety of topics, from Iraq to Bill Clinton.
On August 8, Dowd described Trump as "the gleefully offensive and immensely entertaining high-chair king in the Great American Food Fight." She also wrote, "I enjoy Trump's hyperbolic, un-P.C. flights because there are too few operatic characters in the world."
In her August 15 column, an interview with Trump, she wrote, "The billionaire braggart known for saying unfiltered things is trying to be diplomatic. Sort of."
Trump also gave The Hollywood Reporter his thoughts on other media figures.
Trump said he and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch "have been friendly," noting that "he had some very evil tweets, and now they've been nice lately."
Trump still apparently has issues with Megyn Kelly's debate question about his past sexist comments, noting, "I don't understand how [Fox News chairman and CEO] Roger [Ailes] could have allowed that first question to be asked."
He said Ailes "is certainly very impressed with my poll numbers" and that "when he looked at the ratings, what happened to the ratings at Fox, I think that makes him think about it even from a financial standpoint." Trump described his relationship with Ailes as "great," claiming he had lunch with him "three weeks ago."
Trump called Internet gossipmonger Matt Drudge a "legend" and "an amazing guy" who has "been so fair to me."
Conservatives are using the ongoing examination of Hillary Clinton's State Department emails to once again make a series of over-the-top accusations that compare her behavior to former President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. This is the latest in a pattern of distortions which aim to elevate the email story to the same level as the worst political scandal in American history.
The latest round of faulty Watergate comparisons appears to have been sparked by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, who, along with fellow Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, famously broke the story of the 1972 Nixon-sanctioned break-in at the Watergate hotel.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe on August 18, Woodward said the controversy over Clinton's emails, and the latest development involving Clinton handing over her private server to investigators, "reminds me of the Nixon tapes" which "Nixon thought were exclusively his." He went on to claim: "Hillary Clinton initially took that position: 'I'm not turning this over, there's gonna be no cooperation.' Now they're cooperating."
Woodward is perpetuating a falsehood here. As Clinton said in a March 10 press conference: "After I left office, the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work-related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totaled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them." This month, Clinton also gave her private server to the Justice Department, in response to concerns that it might contain information now deemed classified.
In the last few years, Woodward has developed a habit of drawing parallels between modern events and Watergate, even if the facts don't always fit. He has compared the Watergate scandal to the Internal Revenue Service after its questionable scrutiny of non-profits first came to light, and to the Obama administration's response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
In fact, while discussing the bizarrely-scandalized "talking points" the administration used to discuss Benghazi in the press, Woodward launched a nearly identical line of attack to his current argument; he said that editing the Benghazi talking points could be compared to Watergate "when Nixon put out his edited transcripts to the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, 'Oh, let's not tell this, let's not show this.'" In both instances, it is not clear that Woodward was aware of the facts before using his Watergate legacy to draw inappropriate parallels.
In a segment on the August 18 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano used Woodward's comments as a springboard into a baseless and factually inaccurate discussion about the emails Clinton has released to the State Department.
Napolitano compared Clinton's personal emails to Nixon's secret recording system that he set up in the White House, with Doocy noting that "with Nixon, they had the 18-minute gap" and "with Hillary Rodham Clinton, you've got what, 30,000 missing emails?"
Neither man told viewers that the supposedly "missing" emails have been described as containing "personal and private" information.
Napolitano also asserted that Clinton's emails contained "satellite photographs of a Middle Eastern country and intercepts of foreign agents," but an Associated Press report already debunked this claim, with sources close to the investigation noting that "nothing in the emails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence methods or any other form of sensitive sourcing."
Doocy also repeated the claim that "perhaps one of her underlings stripped" classified markings from emails Clinton received, but the State Department has already said there was "no indications" of any such behavior.
Finally, Napolitano promoted a fantasy scenario about criminal charges against Clinton, speculating that she could be "indicted for conspiracy to violate the espionage laws of the United States."
He concluded that whether or not "there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against her," the FBI would "reveal it right around the time of the New Hampshire primary about five or six months from now." He added, "You can't make this stuff up."
But clearly you can.
Later in the day, Fox contributor and former UN Ambassador John Bolton appeared on America's Newsroom and called Woodward's comparison "a very apt analogy." He added that "it may be significant" that when Clinton graduated from Yale Law School, "her first job was on the Democratic staff" investigating Nixon, where the speculation that he should have burned his tapes "may be a lesson she learned back then."
These specious Watergate parallels are part of a pattern of behavior by the conservative media.
Over the years, Media Matters has cataloged at least 16 separate "Watergates" the right has accused the Obama administration of. They include Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, the BP oil spill, immigration policy, and Obama's birth certificate, among others.
Watergate involved the president of the United States soliciting a break-in of a political party's headquarters, suggesting payment of up to $1 million in hush money to bribe the burglars, being ordered by the Supreme Court to produce secret recordings of the planning for the cover-up of the burglary, and the resignation of a president for the first time in U.S. history.
Unless the discussion is about events of that magnitude, it isn't Watergate.