Right-wing media responded in disbelief and outrage to the Supreme Court's decision holding that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Conservative media figures are floating conspiracy theories to explain Chief Justice John Roberts' decision in favor of the Obama administration, reaffirming the Affordable Care Act in the King vs. Burwell case.
Writing for the 6-3 Supreme Court majority, Roberts' opinion preserves the nationwide tax credits in the health care law that assist poor and middle-class people in the purchase of health insurance.
On his June 25 show, Rush Limbaugh promoted the theory that Roberts -- who in the past has more typically sided with the conservative justices -- had been influenced by outside businesses in order to come to his decision affirming the law.
Limbaugh highlighted a link on the Drudge Report to CNBC, which explained that health care stocks had increased after the decision was announced. He told his listeners to "follow the money," claiming the stock increases were evidence that some in the Republican Party are more responsive to "money people" and "donors" over voters.
While Limbaugh said "I'm not accusing anybody of anything," he also argued that "when you follow the money, a lot of questions that seem unanswerable become clear." He accused Chief Justice Roberts of rewriting and interpreting the Affordable Care Act "outside the bounds of law" in order to come to his desired conclusion.
Limbaugh said "there's a clear benefit to certain people" resulting from the Supreme Court decision. Rhetorically asking himself if "moneyed interests" could influence a Supreme Court justice, Limbaugh said, "I don't know" but added that it was "obvious the law was not used in rendering this decision."
Limbaugh also characterized the court's decision as "maybe even an economic opinion," but not a legal one.
Meanwhile, writing at Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, occasional FoxNews.com opinion columnist (and conspiracy theorist) Wayne Allyn Root promoted another conspiracy about the decision. Root asked, "Has Supreme Court Justice John Roberts been blackmailed or intimidated?"
Root went on to ask, "Is it impossible to believe that Obama and his socialist cabal that learned from Saul Alinsky that 'the ends justify the means' would hold something over a Supreme Court justice's head?"
Root noted, "It's time to assume the worst of this government ... All it takes to destroy America and pass Obama's agenda is to control a few key powerful positions in Washington, D.C."
He then laid out the scenario of how the purported blackmail would go down: "They threaten to expose something terrible like an affair, or corruption, or malfeasance, or immorality that would shock the nation, ruin their career, destroy their legacy, cost their marriage, destroy their relationship with their children and leave them unemployable by any respectable law firm or lobbyist."
Root concluded, "Republicans are being blackmailed, intimidated, extorted and bribed. That explains Justice Roberts and the Supremes ruling against the American People again," darkly adding, "The Obama Crime Family is in charge."
Conservative media were outraged after the Supreme Court ruled to uphold health insurance tax credits for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), just as Congress intended.
Donald Trump's presidential announcement and likely involvement in the Republican Party's presidential debate on Fox has prompted criticism of the network's debate criteria, which would prioritize Trump over elected officials.
Trump announced on June 16 that he would be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, saying that "the American dream is dead" and that he would "build a great wall" on the southern border and "have Mexico pay" for it.
Fox News announced that its scheduled August 6 presidential debate would include candidates "in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls." Current polling indicates that Trump would make the cut of the top 10. RealClearPolitics' average of recent polls shows Trump with 3.6% support, higher than figures like Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Fox figures have begun promoting the debate as the "Cleveland Primary" and as more important to the nomination process than the traditional electoral process in Iowa and New Hampshire. Candidates like Fiorina are pushing their supporters to donate to her campaign so that she can raise her visibility and qualify for inclusion in the debate.
Republicans began to push back on the criteria.
A report from the New York Times said "[m]any Republicans" were worried about Trump's likely inclusion because it would "squeeze out" more legitimate candidates. Then, a coalition of prominent New Hampshire Republicans asked the network to reconsider the criteria for the debate. In response, Fox announced that it would hold a separate debate for those candidates on the second tier of the race.
Trump's announcement has prompted a new wave of concerns for conservatives.
As Bloomberg reported, Trump appearing in the debates "is a nightmare scenario for the Republican establishment, which risks having its presidential field look more like an unwieldy circus of a reality TV show than the self-styled embarrassment of riches."
The conservative Club for Growth PAC issued a press release calling for Trump's exclusion from the debate. They described him as "not a serious Republican candidate," adding that "it would also be unfortunate if he takes away a spot at even one Republican debate."
Tom Rath, a Republican and former attorney general of New Hampshire, told the Wall Street Journal that excluding governors and senators -- some of them currently in office -- from the debate in exchange for Trump "doesn't make sense to me."
Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin argued that "it would be wise to keep Trump at bay," and complained that "Fox News's criteria of using national polls to gain entry into the debates was a flawed mechanism from the start," because it "rewards celebrity candidates." She instead advocated for using state polling since it would make it "harder for Trump and other cranks to qualify."
As Media Matters has often documented, in recent years Trump has become a regular fixture in conservative media, particularly on Fox News. Despite indulging in birther conspiracy theories about President Obama, calling climate change a "hoax," promoting a false connection between vaccines and autism, and calling for a revolution after Obama's re-election, Trump was never turned away. He was invited on multiple occasions to address the conservative CPAC conference (including one year where New Jersey governor Chris Christie was excluded from the proceedings).
Trump was among the most frequent guests on Fox News among probable presidential candidates. He appeared on the network 48 times between January 2013 and April of this year, well ahead of figures like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush. In May, Trump appeared on Fox for 51 minutes, ahead of all but two likely presidential candidates.
After Trump's presidential announcement, several Fox News figures heaped praise on him. Host Neil Cavuto said he would be "a force to be reckoned with," while Sean Hannity compared him to Ronald Reagan. After hosting him for a prime time interview, Bill O'Reilly said, "I'd rather have the straight talk of Donald Trump than the obfuscation of Hillary Clinton any day, at any time."
A report from New York magazine indicates that Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes is leaning towards Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican presidential nomination, while personally involving himself in the network's attacks on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The report, from media writer Gabriel Sherman, is tied to the recent shakeup in the corporate leadership of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox. Rupert Murdoch is stepping down from 21st Century and installing his son James, who presided over publications involved in the phone hacking scandal in England, as the company's new CEO. But Ailes will reportedly continue to report directly to Rupert Murdoch, and not to James, who he reportedly once described as a "fucking dope."
Sherman reports that Fox insiders say that Ailes -- a long time conservative activist who worked on Richard Nixon's presidential campaign -- "simply isn't dazzled by any of the GOP contenders" for president "so far" and has even personally clashed with Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, chiding Christie for appearing with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy as "the fat kid in high school chasing the popular kid" (At the time of the hurricane Murdoch said that Christie had to "take blame" if Obama was re-elected).
Yet Ailes is "said to like" Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is "a ready-made Fox hero" for his Midwestern roots and union-busting agenda. Sherman also notes that Walker's "hard-line" immigration position is "in sync with Fox's." Fox has been a reliable ally for Walker in his fights against public sector labor unions, and on-air hosts have described the governor as a "sexy guy" and someone who makes "my toes curl." In turn, Walker advised fellow Republicans to use Fox to get their "message out."
Media Matters has extensively documented the "Fox News primary" in which Republican presidential candidates vie against each other for the network's attention in order to build a following and campaign funds from the network's heavily conservative audience. Some of the current candidates, like Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson, were Fox News employees. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considering a run, also worked for Fox.
Fox's role as kingmaker of the Republican field is more pronounced in this cycle as the network is determining who qualifies to participate in the first official television debate in what some at Fox have described as "Fox's Cleveland primary." Sherman notes that after the failed 2012 election, "many GOPers privately blamed Fox for turning debates into a reality-show spectacle."
Sherman also reports that Ailes is eager to tell the story of "Hillary Clinton as Über-villain" in the 2016 election, harkening back to a 1994 interview in which Ailes accused Clinton of a "suicide cover-up - possible murder." An associate of Ailes told Sherman that it would be "Freddy Krueger time" at the White House if Clinton is elected.
According to Sherman, Ailes "helped edit" Fox's prime time special promoting author Peter Schweizer's error-riddled and dishonest book, Clinton Cash. A Media Matters analysis showed that the network gave Clinton Cash $107 million in free publicity over five days, despite the numerous false and inaccurate claims in it.
Jeb Bush, who is expected to announce a run for president next week, has received withering criticism from prominent conservative radio hosts Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham. The conservative talkers have attacked Bush as "not a Republican," an "egomaniac," and someone who must "be fought" in the Republican primary.
Bloomberg Politics co-managing editor Mark Halperin is scheduled to conduct a "Sunrise Pilates" session co-hosted by Ann Romney at a retreat for wealthy Republican donors.
His official biography says Halperin "leads Bloomberg's political and policy coverage, including news, analysis, commentary, narrative, data analytics and more across all platforms."
According to Time, Halperin is listed on the official schedule to lead the session with Ann Romney on Saturday, June 13, at the The Chateaux at Silver Lake at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. Time describes the event, put together by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as "Club Med for the political mega-donors."
Time adds that "the event offers high-profile and high net-worth individuals the opportunity to gather in picturesque Deer Valley, Utah, and the chance to meet with at least six presidential candidates." The Time piece included a reproduced copy of the event itinerary, showing Halperin's scheduled session.
According to an AP report, Yahoo news anchor Katie Couric is also scheduled to be a guest at the event, but isn't listed as engaging in any activities with the candidates, donors, or their spouses.
Halperin's past work includes a column suggesting that a racially based attack on Barack Obama was a viable strategy for Republicans in 2008, while another advised Republicans on how to win the 2010 midterm election. In 2011, Halperin was suspended by MSNBC for calling President Obama a "dick."
Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor since 2001, was named chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board on Monday. Under Gigot, the Journal editorial page has had several ethical lapses and has been a regular source of misinformation on climate science, health care, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.
Pulitzer administrator Mike Pride told Media Matters a new board chair is chosen annually and the board member or members who have served nine years of their 10-year term normally get the post.
Gigot, who is going into his 10th and final year on the board, was the only member in that position this year, Pride said.
"It is really relatively automatic and nine years on the board give you a greater understanding in the way things work."
Pride, a former board member from 1999 to 2008, left in April 2008 after one year as co-chair with Joann Byrd. He is also the former editor of Concord Monitor. Pride became board administrator in September 2014.
But while Gigot's appointment is fairly routine, his position is one of power and influence over the board that distributes the most coveted awards in journalism, Pride said.
"The chair has some powers for sure in deciding which things we emphasize and which things we focus on," Pride said, later adding, "It's not a weak position at all, it's a strong position."
"He is on all the committees and is really involved in everything."
Gigot's appointment comes at a time when the Pulitzer Prizes have undergone sharp changes in recent years. In 2008, the categories were opened up to allow online-only entries, a major shift for the prizes that had previously been limited to newspapers.
And this year marked the first time magazine entries were allowed, in two categories. As board chair, Gigot can influence what changes are made or not, Pride said.
"The chair has a big effect on that so if the chair decides to slow down something the process will slow down," he explained. "If the chair decides to move faster, it will move along. It is a person that helps to determine the future of the prizes."
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen called news of Gigot's new position "strange," noting that the Journal's newsroom "often rolls its eyes at the editorial page's evidentiary standards."
In 2011, Women's Wear Daily reported that the Journal's newsroom "often has objections to Paul Gigot's editorial page." The New York Observer noted that "under editorial-page editor Paul Gigot, opinion writers freely dispute the facts reported in the rest of the paper," while "news staffers disavow the contributions from Mr. Gigot's side."
One staffer told the Observer in 2006 that the editorial section is "wrong all the time" and that "they lack credibility to the point that the emperor has no clothes."
Rosen also noted it should "concern journalists" that the Journal editorial page under Gigot "has been a leader in the manufacture of doubt about climate change." As evidence, he linked to a Journal editorial comparing modern climate research to the party dogma of the Soviet Union.
The Journal's editorial page has also been criticized for ethical lapses under Gigot. In the run-up to the 2012 election, the paper routinely failed to disclose columnist Karl Rove's ties to political organizations acting to prevent President Obama's re-election and published at least 23 different op-eds from various Mitt Romney advisers without disclosing their blatant conflict of interest. (The paper eventually added a mention of Rove's political groups to his bio.)
In addition to its climate coverage and ethical problems, Gigot's editorial page has misled on several issues over the years, including electoral politics, the labor movement, health care, and the economy.
The Journal editorial page's low point under Gigot was probably its role in furthering falsehoods in the run-up to the Iraq War. The Journal routinely promoted the idea that Saddam Hussein either had -- or was on the verge of obtaining or producing -- weapons of mass destruction. A characteristic Wall Street Journal editorial from 2003 claimed that the coalition force would find "nasty weapons and the cheering Iraqis...when it liberates the country."
Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy detailed the entanglements between several media properties owned by Rupert Murdoch that are promoting the upcoming book Clinton Cash from conservative activist Peter Schweizer.
In an April 27 column headlined "In Defense of the Clinton Foundation," Newsmax CEO and editor Christopher Ruddy -- who is himself a donor to the Foundation -- discussed the allegations made against the charity in Clinton Cash, which were recently hyped in a Fox News special. He writes that the claims in the book, which suggests the Clintons used donations to influence foreign policy, are "unsubstantiated, unconnected, and baseless," and tells journalists to "follow the money" when discussing the book itself, warning that "where there's smear, there's not always fact."
Ruddy notes, "The sister companies of News Corp and 21st Century Fox own HarperCollins, which published Peter Schweizer's book; they own The Wall Street Journal, which first raised the issue of the foreign donations; they own the New York Post, which broke the details about the Schweizer book; and they own Fox News, which gave the story oxygen and legs."
He adds, "With so much media mojo from one company, there is no doubt they will be doing some pretty good 'cashing in' from the many millions of dollars their new best-seller will generate."
Schweizer has a long history of errors and retractions, and the stories released from Clinton Cash fail to implicate former Secretary Clinton, President Clinton, or the Foundation in any wrongdoing. However, Murdoch properties have still promoted its claims.
Newsmax is a conservative publication, which has gone after the Clintons and other Democrats and progressives for years. But in the course of writing about the Clinton Cash allegations, Ruddy explains that he doesn't want to go back to the 1990s, "when one allegation led to a daisy-chain effect, and the GOP ended up looking bad as the Democrats kept winning."
Fox News' special based on discredited conservative journalist Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash dishonestly promoted several of the author's speculative attacks on Hillary Clinton.
In the April 24 special, The Tangled Clinton Web, host Bret Baier gave Schweizer a platform to discuss a series of stories that fail to connect the dots between donations to the Clinton Foundation, speaking fees earned by former President Bill Clinton, and policies supported by the State Department during Secretary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration.
Schweizer is a Republican activist whose previous reporting has been marked by false claims and retractions.
Journalists who have reviewed Schweizer's Clinton book have noted that his reporting lacks a "smoking gun" to back up his suggestions of impropriety. Reporters have also pointed to several errors in his book. But host Bret Baier warned at the conclusion of the program that the claims could lead "people" to "worry that another Clinton administration could mean influence peddling on a scale never before imagined."
Schweizer and Baier tried to connect the decision by Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson to pay Bill Clinton for a speech in November 2011 with the exclusion of the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran, which does business with Ericsson.
From the special:
SCHWEIZER: Beginning in 2009, the Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is coming under pressure in the United States, because it's selling telecom equipment to oppressive governments around the world. In the midst of all of this, they decide to pay Bill Clinton to give a speech for the first time ever. They pay him a whopping $750,000.
BAIER: Soon after, Hillary Clinton's State Department urged new, broader sanctions against Iran, but the guidelines did not include telecom, which is Ericsson's business.
In fact, the Iran sanctions in question actually took the form of executive actions from President Obama, and not State Department initiatives.
Baier and Schweizer provided no evidence that telecommunications were excluded from the sanctions as a result of the speech. In fact, the sanctions in question specifically targeted Iran's energy sector. As CNN reported at the time, "The U.S. government tightened restrictions on companies that provide Iran with equipment and expertise necessary to run its vast oil and chemical industry."
When Yahoo News reviewed the chapter of Clinton Cash featuring this allegation, they noted that there was "no smoking gun" connecting the speech and the sanctions. Yahoo News further noted that a Clinton aide pointed out that telecommunications manufacturers like Ericsson have not been added to the sanctions since Clinton left the State Department, casting doubt on the suggestion of a connection between the 2011 Bill Clinton speech and U.S. sanctions policy.
Schweizer and Baier baselessly suggest that a donation to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi caused the State Department to certify Ethiopia's human rights record, allowing them to receive U.S. aid.
Schweizer reports that Al-Amoudi's 2009 donation was highlighted at the time by "Ethiopian groups in the west, because they are very concerned about the repressive government in Ethiopia and the fact that Sheikh Al-Amoudi has a large business empire in Ethiopia." He goes on to connect these concerns to the fact that "when Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, one of the things that she needs to do is certify Ethiopia on human rights, but Hillary Clinton granted them a waiver which allowed them to continue U.S. assistance even though that they weren't complying with U.S. law."
But contrary to the special's suggestion that Ethiopia was allowed access to U.S. assistance directly because of this Clinton Foundation donation, that access predated and continued after Clinton left the State Department. In fact, the document Fox showed on-screen in support of their claim actually postdates her tenure.
As evidence of their theory, Fox aired an image of a Department of State Public Notice 8553, titled "Waiver of Restriction on Assistance to the Central Government of Ethiopia":
That waiver, signed by then-Deputy Secretary William J. Burns, is actually dated July 10, 2013 -- months after Clinton left office. It appears in the December 18, 2013, edition of the Federal Register, which also reports that identical waivers were granted to the governments of 11 other African nations.
Such aid is not a new phenomenon. The State Department's Agency for International Development has provided economic assistance to Ethiopia for decades, including throughout the Bush administration.
Baier and Schweizer baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor.
During the segment, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One, chaired by a Clinton Foundation donor, to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
NBC News has noted in discussing a similar story by The New York Times that this implication "doesn't hold up that well." Indeed, as Media Matters has noted: