Oliver Willis

Author ››› Oliver Willis
  • Sad! Conservative Media Resort To Unskewing Negative Trump Polls

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    There they go again.

    Conservative media figures, apparently disheartened by recent poll results showing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump heading in the wrong direction, are once again claiming biased or unreliable pollsters are unfairly weighting results against their party. If this sounds familiar, it’s because they did the same thing in 2012, spending months attempting to “unskew” polls showing Mitt Romney losing, only to watch him be soundly defeated on election day.

    In the run-up to the 2012 election, conservatives consistently complained that polls showing President Obama in the lead were inaccurately counting the gap between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. According to this school of thought, the polls were being “skewed” to show Romney losing. One blogger, Dean Chambers, took the data in the polls and reweighted them with a partisan split friendlier to Republicans resulting in “unskewed” polls showing Romney easily winning. Chambers’ work -- which was more akin to wishful thinking than academic analysis -- was nonetheless widely cited by conservative media as evidence of a concerted effort to influence the results of the presidential election in Obama’s favor.

    The polls were not skewed. An average of 2012 election polling predicted that Obama would win by 0.7%. In reality, the victory was by a margin of 3.86%. If anything the polls undercounted Obama’s support.

    Polls can of course go up and down, and the occasional outlier is inevitable. But the argument that the partisan split that pollsters report as they survey voters is somehow skewed to help Democrats is a conspiracy, not actual analysis.

    Despite this, conservative media are once again pushing the “unskewed” theme as recent polls show Clinton leading Trump.

    This time, the charge against the polls is being led in part by the candidate himself. Trump recently responded to a poll showing him losing with tweets that complained “The @ABC poll sample is heavy on Democrats.  Very dishonest - why would they do that?” and “The ‘dirty’ poll done by @ABC @washingtonpost is a disgrace. Even they admit that many more Democrats were polled.”

    The ABC News/Washington Post poll in question shows Clinton ahead of Trump 51%-39%.

    FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noticed the reboot of the “unskewed” theme and asked, “Has anyone seen Donald Trump and Dean Chambers in the same room together?”

    Conservative media figures have also zeroed in on the ABC/Wash. Post poll for criticism. On Fox News’ Fox and Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said that in the methodology for the ABC/Washington Post poll “they actually talked to 12 percent more Democrats than Republicans,” adding, “According to the Gallup poll, there are 3 percent more Democrats in the country than Republicans, so it looks like they've got a favorite in it.” During the same segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade explained to viewers, “So far Donald Trump leads in most independent polls.” This is true, if by “most,” Kilmeade meant none of the last 21 polls included in Real Clear Politics’ general election polling data.  

    The methodology for the poll, conducted by Langer Research for ABC/Washington Post, addresses the partisan breakdown":

    Partisanship can follow political preferences, and in this poll Democrats account for 36 percent of all adults and 37 percent of registered voters – a non-significant (+3) difference from last month. (The former is numerically its highest since 2009, the latter, since 2012.) Republicans account for 24 percent of all adults and 27 percent of registered voters, about their average in recent years, with the rest independents.

    This accounts for little of the shift in voter preferences, however. Even using the same party divisions from last month’s ABC/Post survey, in which Trump was +2, he’d now be -8. The reason, mentioned above, is his comparatively weak performance among Republicans – 77 percent support – compared with Clinton’s support among Democrats, 90 percent. 

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Clinton with a 13% lead over Trump prompted an outburst as well.

    On Fox News host Sean Hannity’s official website, a blog post complained the poll “is heavily skewed.” On his June 27 radio show, Hannity cited the partisan breakdown and described it as a “misleading poll” because the media is “in the tank for Hillary.”

    Hannity apparently didn’t learn his lesson about attempting to unskew polls in 2012, when he was saying things like, “These polls are so skewed, so phony, that we need to start paying attention to what’s going on so that you won’t be deflated.”

    In a post purporting to highlight “More Polling Tricks” from an “EXTREMELY SKEWED” poll, conservative blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit complained this week that “Reuters freighted their poll with 20 percent more Democrats than Republicans” and concluded that “we can safely say that Trump appears to be in much better shape than the poll suggests and could likely be headed to a landslide victory in November.”

    Hoft made a similar argument in September of 2012, complaining that a CNN poll showing Obama leading Romney “drastically oversampled Democrats to get this stunning result.” He then went on to cite Dean Chambers, who said that when “unskewed” the CNN poll showed Romney leading by eight percent.

    Perhaps remembering how much egg the conservative media had on its face after the 2012 debacle, Fox News contributor Brit Hume tried to steer his fellow conservatives away from repeating their mistakes.

    In an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Hume noted that Trump “couldn’t stop talking” about polls showing him in the lead during the primaries, but now “his supporters, the ones I hear from anyway say that the poll is rigged, and all the rest of it.” Then he told host Martha MacCallum, “I don't think your viewers should pay too much attention to that. Look at the polling averages. Look at all the polls put together, to see what you get. And I think the picture's pretty clear. He's trailing, but not insurmountably.”

  • Gary Byrne’s Crisis Of Character: The Latest Anti-Clinton Conspiracy Book In Donald Trump’s Library

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his conservative media allies have been aggressively promoting Crisis of Character, an upcoming book by former Secret Service officer Gary J. Byrne that purports to reveal the inside story of serving under President Clinton and then-first lady Hillary Clinton. But rather than provide insight into their character and leadership style, Byrne is just the latest in a line of authors to package unverified gossip about the Clintons in book form.

    Media Matters obtained Crisis of Character ahead of its June 28 publication date. Before its official release the book is already receiving the familiar red carpet treatment for anti-Clinton books in conservative media.

    And it’s not a coincidence that Crisis of Character is being promoted by conservative outlets like the New York Post, the Drudge Report, the Daily Mail, Breitbart.com, Trump ally Alex Jones, and on Fox News. The National Enquirer, one of the only publications to endorse Trump, promoted the book and called Byrne “daring.”

    Writing on Facebook about the conservative media coverage of his book, Byrne said, “I must have done something right in my life” to be “in big red font on front page of Drudge’s website.”

    Sean Hannity and Trump promoted the book and used it as a springboard to attack Clinton’s fitness for office on the June 8 edition of Hannity's Fox News program. After listing some of the main attack narratives from the book -- claiming Clinton is “impulsive” and lacks “the temperament” to be president -- Hannity asked Trump, “You think the media is fair in their coverage of that versus how they cover you?” Trump, of course, gladly swung at the softball, claiming the book has gotten “very little coverage which is really amazing because basically it says her temperament is a disaster, which I know. And you know.”

    Trump has also promoted Crisis of Character on Twitter, writing, “A former Secret Service Agent for President Clinton excoriates Crooked Hillary describing her as ERRATIC & VIOLENT” and “Secret Service Agent Gary Byrne doesn't believe that Crooked Hillary has the temperament or integrity to be the president!”

    This is part of a pattern for Trump. He has previously cited anti-Clinton conspiracy books from authors Ed Klein and Roger Stone and Robert Morrow, promoting their work in interviews, campaign rallies, and on his Twitter account.

    But in reality, Crisis of Character appears to be more about score-settling by Byrne and a vehicle to insert himself into the ongoing conservative media narrative about Clinton. The book is filled with the sort of vitrolic attacks on the Clintons and other progressives and fulsome praise for conservatives that fill so many other anti-Clinton tomes. The original information that his publisher claims he can provide based on his service in the Clinton White House cannot be trusted, as it clashes with his own words given in testimony to Ken Starr.

    Byrne holds himself up as a truth-telling whistleblower, forced to reveal what he learned out of a sense of duty to the country (he compares Clinton being elected president to the 9/11 attacks), but in reality the book re-heats stale conservative attacks that have already gone through the conservative media pipeline repeatedly for over twenty years (including the conspiracy theory that the Clintons may have had former aide Vince Foster murdered).

    Byrne Hates The Clintons, Loves “Papa Bush”

    After a laundry list of complaints about the Clintons and specifically Hillary Clinton, Byrne writes in the introduction that he has “not written a word of this book with a political agenda.”

    He complains that she engaged in “obscenity-laced tirades” that were “like watching Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny obsessing about a quart of missing strawberries.” Byrne’s purple prose continues as he gripes about Clinton’s “leadership style – volcanic, impulsive, enabled by sycophants, and disdainful of the rules set for everyone else.”

    That disdain for Clinton echoes throughout the entire book, and is a theme he returns to again and again. He describes Hillary Clinton as “spoiled,” accuses her of throwing “massive tantrums,”calls her a “joke” who was “all bark, no bite, but in a very real power position,”describes her as “the world’s biggest Bridezilla” and calls her “high-strung” and “a cheerless grifter always on her scheming way to someone or something else more important than the person directly in front of her.”

    He blames Clinton for the fact that “some agents literally went mad,” and accuses her of fostering “a ‘f--- it’ mentality” that “trickled down,” leading to Secret Service agents turning to alcohol, drugs, performance enhancers and “even prostitutes.”

    In an early sign that the book is warmed-over conservative agitprop, Byrne recaps stories about Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Whitewater as examples of the “scandals” that “tarnished the Clinton brand and presidency.”

    By comparison, Byrne is effusive in his praise for former President George H.W. Bush, whom he worked for at the White House. He repeatedly refers to the Republican as “Papa Bush.” He describes him and first lady Barbara Bush as “100 percent class.” In Byrne’s eyes, “Papa Bush” “understood what it meant to be presidential.”

    Cementing his admiration for Bush, Byrne notes that during the 1992 presidential campaign, “seeing how candidates and pundits critiqued the president wounded me.”

    Foreshadowing the invective to come, Byrne admits that he felt “sentimental regarding Papa Bush” during the transition to President Clinton.

    Byrne Vs. The Left

    Byrne wears his conservative politics on his sleeve throughout the book. Early on he complains that a female partner was “obviously hired to fill a quota,” describes her as “clueless,” and notes that “diversity encroached on merit.”

    He invokes the phrase “What difference did it make (to borrow a phrase from Mrs. Clinton” while attacking the Assault Weapons Ban, which he complains “accomplished nothing beyond humoring gun control advocates.” (For years, conservatives have misrepresented Clinton saying “what difference, at this point, does it make” about talking points used after the Benghazi attacks to suggest she was dismissing the deaths of Americans.) Byrne also accuses President Clinton of having an “anti-Second Amendment sentiment.”

    The author blames a “creeping liberal mindset” for recent problems with security at the White House, arguing that “we need to empower the warrior mindset, not the liberal one.”

    With disdain he criticizes the “grossly immature” Clinton administration staff who “wore jeans and T-shirts” as they engaged in “grand ideological bull sessions.” He writes that this approach led to “the incident at Mogadishu,” and invokes their “constant insistence” that law enforcement officials like the Uniformed Division “had to look like their perception of good guys.”

    Byrne complains that a 1995 incident in which Secret Service agents used gloves when an HIV-positive delegation visited the White House resulted in “the charge of the Politically Correct Brigade.” At the time, White House press secretary Michael McCurry said, “It's safe to say that the chief of staff and others were distressed by that and believe it to be an error of judgment.”

    Byrne’s Vince Foster Conspiracy Theory

    The most gratuitous swipe at Hillary Clinton’s purported attitude is Byrne’s version of White House aide Vince Foster’s suicide. (Foster’s suicide has been the focus of conspiracy theories by conservatives for years, including most recently by Trump.) He notes that “word circulated that she berated him mercilessly.” Byrne claims that “the first time I saw Foster I figured he wouldn’t last a year,” and that he “looked uncomfortable and unhappy in the White House.” He compares Clinton’s staffers like Foster to “battered wives: too loyal, too unwilling to acknowledge they’d never assuage her. They had no one to blame but themselves, but they could never admit it.”

    Byrne then regurgitates one of the long-since debunked conspiracy theories surrounding Foster’s death, writing about “a rumor” among law enforcement that Foster’s suicide weapon “had to be repaired in order for the forensics team to fire it.” Byrne claims that this and other stories made the death “spooky” and cites Foster’s suicide note in which he says “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington.”

    Byrne doesn't only question whether the Clintons murdered Foster, he also suggests he was worried that they might have wanted to kill him as well.

    Byrne writes that on a couple of occasions while he was being interviewed by lawyers as part of Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation, he “placed myself on the couch facing the door with my sidearm loaded… ready at the slightest sound to draw and fight.” He added that he felt he has “put a target on his family.” Byrne goes on to detail in the following pages how he feared that the Clintons might try to kill him. He writes that he came to question whether the Clintons might have been “behind so many of the suspicious -- or merely coincidental -- deaths surrounding their activities,” including Foster’s death. He adds, “It was my word, and my word only, against the most powerful people in the world. I’d seen them lie and intimidate. It wasn’t a stretch to think that things might escalate."

    White House Testimony Embellishment

    Byrne was sometimes on duty when Monica Lewinsky went to the Oval Office to see Bill Clinton. He goes on at length about how he curtailed Monica Lewinsky’s attempts to get access to the Oval Office.

    In the midst of that narrative, Byrne writes about a time he “shooed her like a stray cat” to which she “hissed another lame excuse” for why she was around.

    Eventually Byrne was required to testify about Lewinsky for Ken Starr’s investigation (to his credit, Byrne concedes that by this point the investigation had nothing to do with Whitewater, the real estate deal that initiated it in the first place).

    Byrne claimed that he saw “lipstick” on a towel from someone “entertaining the president late at night,” and writes that he made the allegation that it came from the West Wing receptionist when he later testified.

    But this story was less definitive when Byrne testified. In 1998, Byrne said he had “no idea” who the lipstick belonged to and speculated that it “could have been the First Lady’s, I have no idea,” then later said he had "connected it" with a receptionist. Was it even lipstick? He told Starr he didn’t know “if there was actually lipstick” on the towels but “got the impression” that lipstick was present.

    The Starr Report also noted in reference to Byrne’s testimony that “some details of his account varied in different tellings.” Byrne also testified at the time that Secret Service agent John Muskett told him that he found Clinton and Lewinsky in a compromising moment, but Muskett denied it. Byrne even testified that his account of Muskett’s story may have incorporated some gossip, and that he was relying on memories of events that occurred “two and a half, almost three years” before the testimony. It has now been 21 years since the events allegedly occurred.

    An Associated Press report from the time noted that Byrne “felt compelled to remind the prosecutors that he was merely relaying gossip he had heard. ‘It was based on other, other innuendoes and accusations, little tidbit rumors, that kind of stuff.’”

    Why Did Gary Byrne Write This Book?

    In the afterword, Byrne does his best impression of a Fox News host and re-tells the conservative version of numerous anti-Clinton stories. He discusses her private email server, the Clinton Foundation -- citing Peter Schweizer’s error-riddled book Clinton Cash as evidence -- and unsurprisingly lays the blame for the Benghazi incident at Hillary Clinton’s feet: “Hillary Clinton lied about the reason for the Benghazi attack.”

    Byrne warns that the prospect of Clinton running for president makes it feel “as if America were trapped in some great, cruel time machine hurtling us back to the land of Monica and Mogadishu and a thousand other Clinton-era nightmares.”

    He explains, “my obligation today is to raise my voice, to help safeguard the presidency from Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

    Byrne concludes, “On 9/11 we vowed ‘Never forget.’ But we always somehow do,” adding, “I realize better than most Americans that we have pretty much forgotten what an amateur-night, three–ring circus the Clinton White House was. But I haven’t forgotten.”

  • Trump’s Kitchen Cabinet: What The Media Needs To Know About The Nominee’s Top Advisers And Supporters

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Donald Trump has allied himself with a cast of characters and hangers-on who, should he win the presidency, would likely have his ear. Below is a guide to the people the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has chosen to surround himself with.

    Alex Jones

    Jones

    The Trump Connection

    Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones has been one of Trump’s loudest and most passionate supporters. And the feeling is apparently mutual. In addition to promoting Trump on his show incessantly, Jones hosted Trump for an interview, praised him as a “George Washington” figure, and encouraged listeners to donate to his campaign. (During the appearance, Trump praised Jones for his “amazing” reputation and promised, “I will not let you down.”) Trump confidant Roger Stone has also become a regular on Jones’ show, and the two worked together to organize protests on Trump’s behalf at the Republican convention.  After Trump essentially clinched the nomination, Stone went on Jones’ show and told the host, “Trump himself told me that he has seen so many of your supporters and listeners at his rallies,” adding, “I’m certain that he is grateful for your support.”

    What You Need To Know

    Alex Jones is a self-described “founding father” of the “9/11 truth movement” who believes that the terrorist attacks were a “false flag.” Jones also has promoted conspiracy theories alleging that events like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Aurora movie theater shooting were all government-orchestrated attacks.

    Roger Stone

    Stone

    The Trump Connection

    Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone is a longtime Trump ally. Stone worked on his campaign until August of 2015, continues to serve as a prominent advocate for Trump’s candidacy, and regularly speaks with Trump, including recommending top aide Paul Manafort to the campaign.

    What You Need To Know

    In addition to his political dirty tricks, Stone has an extensive history of violent, racist, and sexist comments. He started an anti-Hillary Clinton group in 2008 with the acronym “C.U.N.T.,” and has called for her to be executed. He called cable news commentators a “stupid negro” and “Mandingo,” and he promotes conspiracy theories about the Clinton and Bush families murdering dozens of people. His next book is about how the Clintons purportedly murdered JFK Jr. “because he was in the way.”

    Ed Klein

    Klein

    The Trump Connection

    Disgraced journalist Ed Klein said he has known Trump for 35 years and claimed, “I understand him better than most people outside his immediate family.” Klein recently had lunch with Trump as he campaigned in Indiana. Trump has repeatedly promoted Klein’s books on his Twitter account.

    What You Need To Know

    Journalists have described Klein’s columns and books attacking the Clintons and Obamas as “fan fiction” and “smut.” He has launched numerous unfounded smears, including the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill Clinton raped Hillary (he later walked back the allegation). Publisher HarperCollins reportedly dropped Klein’s Blood Feud because it “did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers.” Klein has repeatedly distorted quotes in his work, and even conservative figures have expressed skepticism about the veracity of his reporting.

    Rudy Giuliani

    Giuliani

    The Trump Connection

    Trump told Fox News that former New York City mayor and failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani might be his choice to head up a commission to review his proposal for a temporary Muslim ban.

    What You Need To Know

    Giuliani has a long history of anti-Muslim comments and statements. He argued in favor of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) idea that one way to fight terrorism is to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” said sexual assault in Germany proved that “these [Syrian] refugees are inherently a problem,” and praised Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for holding anti-Muslim hearings in Congress.

    Jeffrey Lord

    Lord

    The Trump Connection

    Lord, a contributor to the conservative American Spectator, has been a big booster of Trump’s candidacy. CNN hired Lord to present a pro-Trump point of view. According to Lord, Trump helped land him the gig. The Patriot-News reported last year, “Lord said Trump complained to CNN execs that the network only featured commentators who didn't get him, so CNN asked The Donald who in the world of conservative media he would suggest, and he said Jeffrey Lord.”

    What You Need To Know

    Lord infamously tried to prove that a black man who was beaten to death was not technically lynched, a position that was even condemned by his colleagues at the Spectator. During his CNN appearances, Lord has defended Trump’s attack on Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, excused Trump’s failure to disavow the KKK, and described the Klan as a “leftist terrorist organization.”  

    Ben Carson

    Carson

    The Trump Connection

    Carson endorsed Trump after he dropped his presidential bid and was then tasked with being Trump’s liaison between his campaign and Speaker Paul Ryan. Carson also apparently had some role in Trump’s vice presidential selection team.

    What You Need To Know

    Carson has caused controversy with a series of bizarre and offensive comments as an author, a Fox News contributor, and during his short-lived presidential campaign. During a Fox News appearance, Carson infamously compared marriage equality supporters to those who would advocate bestiality and pedophilia, and argued in his 2012 book that marriage equality could destroy America “like the fall of the Roman Empire.” Carson also claimed that the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain, said being gay was a “choice,” described Obamacare as “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and argued that Jewish people could have prevented the Holocaust if they had guns.

    Paul Manafort

    Manafort

    The Trump Connection

    Republican strategist Paul Manafort was hired by Trump as a senior aide to his political campaign. Manafort was later promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist.

    What You Need To Know

    Manafort was partners with Roger Stone in the lobbying and consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. After a congressional investigation, Manafort admitted that the work he performed after receiving consulting fees was “influence peddling.”

    Manafort and his firms have worked with several unsavory clients including “a business group tied to Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines; Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president and ally of Vladimir Putin; and Lynden Pindling, the former Bahamian prime minister who was accused of ties to drug traffickers.”

    During the Republican primaries, Manafort accused Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign of engaging in “Gestapo tactics” in order to win over convention delegates.

    Michael Savage

    Savage

    The Trump Connection

    Radio host Michael Savage was an early backer of Trump in the conservative media who has described himself as “the architect of Trump’s messaging." Trump has appeared on his program multiple times -- in one appearance, Savage offered himself up to head the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a suggestion that Trump described as “common sense.”

    What You Need To Know

    Savage has a long history of outrageous and violent rhetoric. In 2008, he warned, “I fear that Obama will stir up a race war … in order to seize absolute power.”

    Savage also claimed that President Obama “wants to infect the nation with Ebola” and is gearing up the government to “fight a war against white people.” Savage accused Obama of engaging in “genocide” against the white race.

    Savage has described PTSD and depression sufferers as “weak” and “narcissistic” “losers.” Referencing military veterans suffering from PTSD, Savage said, “no wonder ISIS can defeat our military.”

    Additionally, Savage has called for a “revolution” in response to multiculturalism, said “I’d hang every lawyer who went down toto Guantanamo” Bay, accused President Obama of being the “new Mao,” theorized that Democrats would declare martial law, and said “the radical left and the radical Muslims are natural blood brothers.”

    Savage and Trump swapped notes on the conspiracy theory that Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered.

    Ann Coulter

    Coulter

    The Trump Connection

    Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has repeatedly promoted Trump’s candidacy. Trump called Coulter’s anti-immigrant book, Adios, America! “a great read.” In return, Coulter said she believes that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was inspired by her.

    What You Need To Know

    Coulter has developed a reputation over the years for making hateful and disgusting public comments, often with a bigoted message that even conservatives have recoiled from. The conservative National Review dropped her column when, after 9/11, she said America should “invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

    Coulter’s book was apparently modeled on the rhetoric of white nationalists and other anti-immigrant extremists, and she credited white nationalist Peter Brimelow as an “intellectual influence” on her work.

    While defending Trump, Coulter called South Carolina-born Governor Nikki Haley an “immigrant” who “does not understand America’s history,” and made derogatory attacks on Jews while complaining about Trump’s rivals in a primary debate.

    She has also regularly offered bigoted anti-immigrant rhetoric, including the claim that “immigrants are more dangerous than ISIS” and “‘real’ Hispanics are on welfare.”

    Laura Ingraham

    Ingraham

    The Trump Connection

    Radio host Laura Ingraham has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s candidacy and has praised his anti-immigrant rhetoric. She once compared Trump to Abraham Lincoln.

    What You Need To Know

    Ingraham has often used her show to demonize and attack immigrants. Ingraham said Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people,” called the children of undocumented immigrants “anchor fetuses,” and suggested that deported immigrants attempting to re-enter the country should be “shot.”

    Chris Christie

    Christie

    The Trump Connection

    New Jersey governor Chris Christie endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the campaign and has served as a leading surrogate for the candidate

    What You Need To Know

    Christie has become infamous for his public arguments with voters and other figures. He told a critical voter he was “a real big shot shooting your mouth off,” called a reporter “a complete idiot,” and told a resident asking about stalled rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”

    In addition to his demeanor, Christie’s administration was involved in the Bridgegate scandal, where his subordinates conspired to block traffic on the George Washington Bridge as payback for political slights against the governor.

    Larry Kudlow

    Kudlow

    The Trump Connection

    Larry Kudlow was part of the Office of Management and Budget in Reagan’s first term, and is now a columnist and on-air personality for CNBC. Trump enlisted Kudlow (along with Stephen Moore) to work on changes to his economic plans.

    What You Need To Know

    Kudlow was a big supporter of George W. Bush’s economic policies and was infamous for missing the warning signs of the coming economic meltdown.

    Kudlow dismissed people concerned about the real estate bubble in the mid-2000s as “bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes.” In December 2007, as the National Bureau of Economic Research marked the beginning of the Great Recession, Kudlow wrote, “there’s no recession coming.”

    Stephen Moore

    Moore

    The Trump Connection

    Conservative economic columnist Stephen Moore was enlisted, along with Larry Kudlow, to tweak Trump’s economic policy in the general election.

    What You Need To Know

    Like Kudlow, Moore has a terrible track record when predicting the effect of both conservative and progressive policies on the economy. He also regularly makes false claims to attack policies like taxes, regulation, the minimum wage, and Obamacare.

    The editorial page director of the Kansas City Star declared she “won’t be running anything else from Stephen Moore” after he used false employment numbers in a column attacking economist Paul Krugman.

    In a column promoting Trump's candidacy, Moore wrote, "It is striking that Trump is the anti-Obama in every way."

    General Michael Flynn

    Flynn

    The Trump Connection

    Retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is reportedly “a trusted Trump adviser and go-to man on intelligence and national security.”

    What You Need To Know

    Flynn was forced out of his position in 2014 after clashing with senior officials. He has complained that “‘political correctness’ has prevented the U.S. from confronting violent extremism, which he sees as a ‘cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion.’”  Flynn accuses the U.S. government of concealing “the actions of terrorists like bin Laden and groups like ISIS, and the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam.”

    Flynn has publicly supported Trump’s idea that the families of terrorist suspects should be killed, and he also backs Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. Flynn has written that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

    In 2015, Flynn flew to Moscow and was filmed having a formal dinner with Vladimir Putin. The Daily Beast reported that “Pentagon brass were taken by surprise that he didn’t notify the department.”

    Scottie Nell Hughes

    Hughes

    The Trump Connection

    Scottie Nell Hughes is a cable news pundit who has often spoken in defense of Donald Trump. Glamour notes she “has been on the front line for Trump campaign since she introduced him at a September mega rally in Dallas.”

    What You Need To Know

    Hughes was previously the news director for the “Tea Party News Network.” She uses odd logic to launch defenses of Trump’s actions.

    When some called for riots at the Republican convention in defense of Trump, Hughes told CNN “it’s not riots as in a negative thing.” Hughes said that Trump’s statement that women should be punished for abortions had been “misconstrued,” and that the media paying attention to Trump’s sexist tweets is unfair.

    Images by Sarah Wasko

  • Stone Backtracks On Claim That Trump Paid Willey, Raises New Questions

    Roger Stone Tells Alex Jones That He "Was Told" Trump Paid Willey, Does Not Say Who Told Him

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Stone

    Roger Stone is now backing away from his claim that Donald Trump gave Kathleen Willey money so she could attack the Clintons. While he said in February that Trump had donated to a fund to help Willey pay off her mortgage, Stone today claimed that “at one time I was told that Donald Trump made an online contribution to the fund” set up to help Willey, but “in retrospect he did not.”

    Stone also told Jones today that, “I, along with others did set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to try to pay off her mortgage.” Despite his apparent role in initially setting up the account, Stone did not explain who originally told him about the alleged donation or how he came to the conclusion that Trump had not donated.

    Yesterday, the Trump campaign released a web video highlighting Willey’s allegation that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her in 1993. (Willey’s claim was later investigated by the Office of the Independent Counsel.)

    As Media Matters reported, during a February interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Stone assured Jones that Trump had contributed money to help pay off Willey’s mortgage “so she can hit the road and start speaking out on Hillary.” While soliciting donations to Willey’s mortgage fund from Jones’ audience, Stone claimed at the time, “We have raised a substantial amount of money. Trump is himself a contributor -- I’m not ready to disclose what he has given.”

    Asked by Fox News about Stone’s comments, the Trump campaign said there was “no truth” to the claim. Stone also responded by tweeting, “A bald face Lie- @realDonaldTrump has not paid @kathleenwilley mortgage.”

    Stone is a longtime associate of Trump who says that he speaks regularly with the candidate, including a phone call this morning to congratulate him on the Willey web video.

    He has for decades been involved in conservative politics, orchestrating political dirty tricks and spouting racist, sexist, violent rhetoric while publishing numerous conspiracy theories about the Clintons.

  • Trump Disavowed Racist Butler, But Works With Ally Who Said Clinton Should Be “Executed For Murder”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Stone

    Donald Trump publicly disavowed his former butler after violent, racist comments from him emerged, but as recently as last week Trump spoke with Roger Stone, who said Hillary Clinton should be “executed” and called an African-American commentator a “stupid negro.”

    Mother Jones reported that Donald Trump’s former butler, Anthony Senecal, who also served as the in-house historian for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, had posted a series of racist Facebook posts filled with violent imagery directed at President Obama.

    Senecal said “our pus headed ‘president’” should “have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent in his first term.” He also referred to Obama as a “prick” who “needs to be hung for treason.”

    After the story was published, the Secret Service indicated it would be investigating Senecal’s alleged threats.

    The Trump campaign told CNN that they “totally and completely disavow the horrible statements made by him regarding the President.”

    But Trump is still closely connected to dirty trickster Roger Stone even after Stone’s history of violent and racist rhetoric had been exposed.

    Stone worked for Trump’s presidential campaign until August of last year, and since then has promoted Trump’s candidacy and runs a super PAC supporting Trump. Stone said he speaks with Trump “on a semi-regular basis” to discuss politics and the campaign.

    On the May 6 edition of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio show, Stone said he had spoken with Trump earlier that day.

    Stone has used rhetoric very similar to the butler that Trump has now condemned.

    On his Twitter feed, Stone claimed that Hillary Clinton "must be brought to justice - arrested , tried , and executed for murder," and called Bernie Sanders a “Soviet agent” who “should be arrested for treason and shot.” Stone also said philanthropist George Soros should be “detained, charged, tried, convicted and executed” and called for Connecticut governor Dan Malloy to be hanged.

    Stone also fantasized about the deaths of several media figures. He told journalist Jill Abramson to “DIE BITCH,” wrote about CNN commentator Ana Navarro “killing herself,” and said of Fox commentator Ed Rollins: “If he isn’t dead he should be.”

    Stone used racist language online as well. He said that commentator Roland Martin is a “stupid negro” and a “fat negro,” called radio host Herman Cain “mandingo,” and described former Rep. Allen West as an “arrogant, know-it-all negro.” Stone also said Al Sharpton is a “professional negro” who likes fried chicken.

    He also referred to Roland Martin (who is African-American) and Ana Navarro (who is Latina) as “quota hires” because they are “so dumb and unqualified that one can reach no other conclusion.”

    After Media Matters publicized Stone’s comments, CNN said they had banned him from appearing on their network, as has MSNBC

    Alex Jones, who has emerged as a leading Trump supporter, called for columnist George Will to “blow what little is left of your brains out” in response to his opposition to Trump’s candidacy.

  • Donald Trump Lunches With Disgraced Writer Ed Klein, Author Of Clinton-Bashing “Fan Fiction”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Ed Klein

    Donald Trump had lunch with disgraced author Ed Klein, who has written several books and columns making lurid and absurd allegations about the Clintons, President Barack Obama and others. That work has been described as "fan fiction" and "smut," while even conservatives have expressed doubt about Klein's credibility.

    Washington Post national political correspondent Philip Rucker reported that Trump met with Klein along with Trump campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and Daniel Scavino at a delicatessen in Indianapolis. Rucker wrote that Klein is "perhaps best known for his series of bombshell books spreading rumors and innuendo, much of it discredited." The Post reporter added that Klein "said he is following Trump around for a couple of days to gather material for a new book."

    Klein has been a fixture in conservative media for years. His work is notable for being extremely salacious, sloppy, and provably inaccurate. Journalists have described his work as "smut," "junk journalism," "fan fiction," and "devoid" of "basic journalistic standards."

    Klein says he has known Trump for 35 years and has "met with him on numerous occasions, talked to him on the phone countless times, traveled with him, and written two lengthy magazine cover stories about him." He adds, "I believe I understand him better than most people outside his immediate family."

    Among the claims Klein has previously made is the allegation that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill Clinton raped his wife. Publisher HarperCollins reportedly dropped one of his books because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." A conservative publisher, Regnery, later published that book and its follow-up.

    Klein is also known for using completely distorted quotes in his books and columns, while others sound as if they were completely made up. One reporter wrote that Klein’s reporting features "dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."

    The details in Klein’s work have been so unbelievable that even conservatives have called it into question. Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade was skeptical of one of Klein’s too good to be true quotes in his book Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, and Rush Limbaugh even said, "some of the quotes strike me as odd, in the sense that I don't know people who speak this way."

    Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan described Klein’s book The Truth About Hillary as "poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced and full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work."

    Klein writes regular columns that appear in right-wing publications like Townhall.com and Newsmax. Those columns continue Klein’s well-worn tactics. In one column, Klein speculates about Clinton’s health, writing, "Bill’s worst fear, according to my sources, is that Hillary will stumble or fall at a critical moment in the campaign and reveal that she’s not up to handling the job of commander in chief."

    Trump has repeatedly promoted Klein’s books on his Twitter account. Earlier in the year, Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign used an unverifiable Bill Clinton quote sourced to Klein in campaign mailers and fundraising appeals.

  • Wayne Simmons, Right Wing Media’s Benghazi Expert, Pleads Guilty To Fraud

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Wayne Simmons

    Wayne Simmons, who presented himself as a national security expert and was a part of the conservative media push for a congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack, has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.

    In an April 29 press release the Department of Justice noted that Simmons “falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency” and had pleaded guilty “to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.”

    The release further noted, “Simmons admitted he defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.”

    Dana J. Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said, “Simmons admitted he attempted to con his way into a position where he would have been called on to give real intelligence advice in a war zone. His fraud cost the government money, could have put American lives at risk, and was an insult to the real men and women of the intelligence community who provide tireless service to this country.”

    Simmons was a frequent guest on Fox News, appearing on the network dozens of times purporting to be a former CIA operative. In those appearances, Simmons regularly criticized Democrats on foreign policy and national security issues. In one instance, he said, “If the Democrats come into power in the United States and re-employ their vision of defense for this country, we will have 9-1-1s unabated.”

    Simmons was a member of Accuracy in Media’s (AIM) “Citizens' Commission” on Benghazi -- part of the conservative media’s ultimately successful push to get House Republicans to set up a panel to investigate the Benghazi attack. In that capacity, Simmons appeared on Fox and falsely claimed that the Obama administration had decided “to not rescue our former CIA operatives and our military” in Libya.

    When Simmons was first arrested for the fraud charges, AIM scrubbed references to his role from its website. Fox News acknowledged that he had appeared on the network as a “national security and terrorism expert,” but said he “was never employed by the channel and was never paid by Fox.”

  • Rush Limbaugh Attacks Trump Claim That GOP Delegate Selection Process Is “Rigged”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Limbaugh

    Rush Limbaugh ridiculed complaints that the Republican National Convention delegate selection process is rigged, a claim that has been repeatedly made by Donald Trump.

    In the last few weeks, Trump and his allies have made what the New York Times has characterized as “an aggressive effort to undermine the Republican nominating process by framing it as rigged and corrupt,” as rival candidate Ted Cruz has “outmaneuvered him in delegate contests in states like Colorado, North Dakota and Iowa.” The result of Cruz’s moves could result in Trump being short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

    Trump complained, “Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal.” His campaign recently hired Roger Stone associate Paul Manafort to oversee efforts to keep delegates in line ahead of the convention. The Times said the hire was “a sign that Mr. Trump is intensifying his focus on delegate wrangling as his opponents mount a tenacious effort to deny him the 1,237 delegates he would need to secure the Republican nomination.”

    On the April 25 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh attacked claims that the process is being rigged or that the delegate fight is beyond traditional campaign activity.

    Limbaugh told his audience, “nobody is being cheated,” pointing out that “I'm really trying to get you to not think that this particular system is being rigged or you're being cheated. You're not, this is how politics is.”

    Limbaugh noted that the strategy being used by the Cruz campaign “has always been the way it happens,” adding, “There is nothing happening this year that has not happened before in terms of delegate selection, allocation or what have you.”

    He concluded, “I think you've got a lot of people in the media spreading all this, just to incite people, just to get them all fired up and charged up and just spread this narrative that there's cheating going on when either they don't understand it, or they want the fireworks, they want charged up and angry callers calling in raising hell for the sake of it, ratings or what have you.”

    Despite Limbaugh blaming “the media” for “spreading all this,” it has been Trump himself who has promoted and repeatedly made this claim about the delegate process.

    Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight notes that Trump’s complaints that the system is rigged have largely been echoed in the media, and have helped to increase support for him in polling of Republican primary voters.

  • New York Observer Reporter Quits Over Paper’s Cozy Relationship With Trump

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Kushner, Trump

    A political reporter for the New York Observer has quit, citing the paper’s close relationship with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

    Ross Barkan, the paper’s national political reporter, made his announcement on his Twitter account, writing, “Personal news: I'm announcing today that my last day at the New York Observer will be April 27th.”

    Barkan told Politico that the Observer’s recent endorsement of Trump – along with The National Enquirerthe only papers to do so – was a factor in his decision: “It was a decision I’ve been wrestling with for more than a day and more than a week. I didn’t expect [the endorsement] was coming. It blindsided me.”

    Jared Kushner, the owner of the paper, is married to Ivanka Trump (Trump’s eldest daughter).

    Barkan also criticized Observer editor in chief Ken Kurson for helping Kushner write Trump’s March 21 AIPAC speech. Barkan said, “The AIPAC situation was very troubling. Anyone knows that an editor in chief should not be reviewing the speech of a presidential candidate. I don’t care if it’s Trump or Bernie Sanders.”

    He told Politico that the “AIPAC situation did not please” the rest of the Observer’s politics desk, including political editor Jill Jorgensen and reporter Will Bredderman.

    When it was first reported that the Observer had a hand in writing Trump’s speech, the Huffington Post noted that it “raises questions of conflict of interest given that he also oversees election coverage.” Kurson told Huffington Post: “It’s a complicated world and I don’t intend to let the eleven people who have appointed themselves the journalist police tell me, at age 47, how to behave or to whom I’m allowed to speak.”

    In 2014, ice cream shop manager and political science major Bill Gifford told the New York Times that Kurson had approached him to write “a smear piece” about New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is suing Trump over his controversial Trump University business.

    Gifford declined to write the piece, but the Observer later published a piece the Times described as “a searing, 7,000-word indictment of Mr. Schneiderman, portraying him as vindictive and politically opportunistic” that “also included a robust defense of Donald J. Trump.”

  • You Can See Mark Fuhrman On The People Vs O.J. Simpson... Or On Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Fuhrman

    Last night, many people were surprised when I noted on Twitter that former Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman -- currently back in the news due to FX's dramatic miniseries The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story -- w­orks for Fox News. But it's true. Despite committing perjury and being caught on tape spewing racial epithets, Furhman got a gig on Fox News, which frequently hosts him to discuss racially charged news stories.

    Fuhrman, who was a witness for the prosecution during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, became toxic with the discovery of hours of audio tape of him using racial epithets. As New York Times television writer Danielle Henderson described them, "The Fuhrman tapes are deplorable, laden with racial epithets, confessions of coercion, and blatant bragging about how he's worked the system in order to victimize minorities."

    Fox News describes Fuhrman as "a forensic and crime scene expert for FOX News Channel" in his official biography, and while the network notes that he "served as a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective for 20 years" and "was a witness in the O.J. Simpson trial," it omits any mention of the controversy over his racist comments that featured so heavily in the case.

    As laid out by the Philadelphia Inquirer during the trial, after Fuhrman testified as a witness for the prosecution about the evidence he had uncovered at the murder scene and at O.J. Simpson's home, defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey asked Fuhrman, "Do you use the word nigger in describing people?" Fuhrman responded "No, sir."

    Bailey followed up and asked him, "And you say on your oath that you have not addressed any black person as a nigger or spoken about black people as niggers in the past 10 years, Detective Fuhrman?" Fuhrman replied, "That's what I'm saying, sir."

    Concluding the line of questioning, Bailey asked Fuhrman, "So that anyone who comes to this court and quotes you as using that word in dealing with African-Americans would be a liar, would they not?" To which Fuhrman replied, "Yes, they would."

    In 1985, Fuhrman gave a recorded interview to aspiring screenwriter Laura McKinney, who was working on a screenplay about female police officers. During that interview, Fuhrman used the word "nigger" to refer to African-Americans 40 times. 

    As a result, during the Simpson trial, Fuhrman was widely condemned and even the prosecutor referred to him as a "bad cop"during closing arguments.

    In October of 1996, after Simpson had been acquitted of the double homicide, Fuhrman was charged with perjury, and he entered a plea of no contest, admitting that he had lied under oath about using the racial epithet. He was given probation and a fine, but no jail time. At the time, LAPD Chief Willie L. Williams said of Fuhrman: "The wounds that were opened up by his comments will take years for this department to overcome."

    After writing a series of true-crime books, Fuhrman resurfaced as part of the Fox News team. During Fuhrman's time on the network, Fox has used him as an expert voice on several racially charged incidents involving police:

    • Fuhrman told Fox News about the "people" he "dealt with" for 20 years who would "kill somebody and go have some chicken at KFC."
    • Fuhrman was invited on Fox to discuss the killing of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
    • Fuhrman appeared on Fox to discuss the videotaped beating of a black man by white LAPD officers.
    • Fuhrman appeared on Fox's Kelly File to discuss protests in Ferguson, MO.
    • On Fox, discussing the arrest of a Muslim teen over a homemade clock, Fuhrman said, "I don't feel sorry for Ahmed ... He was passive aggressive."
    • On Fox, Fuhrman defended the actions of a school police officer who dragged and threw a black student across the floor.

    In addition to criminal justice issues, Fuhrman has also appeared on Fox to discuss the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare.

    On February 3, Megyn Kelly discussed The People Vs. O.J. Simpson on her show, The Kelly File. Kelly noted that Fuhrman was a "frequent guest on this show," but instead of hosting Fuhrman, she spoke with Simpson defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Discussing Fuhrman, Dershowitz said, "He's a smart guy, and I think he's rehabilitated himself. Look, he had a terrible past and did some terrible things and said some terrible things. He helped us win the case."