From the April 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Following its protracted campaign to smear Hillary Clinton as a dishonest and untrustworthy leader, Fox News is working overtime to explain away its own polling revealing that the American people trust the former Secretary of State more than the Republican Party and the slew of potential GOP presidential candidates.
According to Fox News' most recent poll data, 54 percent of registered voters consider Hillary Clinton "honest and trustworthy," a higher percentage than potential Republican 2016 presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Christie Christie received. At 49 percent, her favorability rating is higher than that of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and all GOP 2016 contenders.
Fox hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy addressed Clinton's poll numbers on the April 17 edition of Fox & Friends by blaming liberal bias in the mainstream media. Doocy complained that Clinton was viewed as more trustworthy than Christie because the "mainstream media [...] beat the drum" against Christie rather than report on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, in an effort to "take him out." According to Hasselbeck, the poll could be due to a perception bias that favors women:
DOOCY: You know what's interesting about that poll is -- remember it wasn't too long before the whole bridge thing hit the mainstream media fan where Chris Christie was actually leading Hillary Clinton. But then the mainstream media -- and some cynics on the right would say, well they were just trying to take Chris Christie out because he posed the greatest threat for Hillary Clinton -- nonstop coverage on all the channels about that Bridgegate thing.
And when you think about the two potential candidates, you've got Chris Christie who, you know, a while back was involved, his administration put up 25 traffic cones in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and generated hundreds of hours of mainstream media Bridgegate television. And then far screen right you've got Hillary Clinton who ran the State Department which denied extra security for Libya and four Americans wind up dying. I mean that is quite a contrast. You've got 25 orange cones versus four dead Americans -- but you've got the mainstream media and they beat the drum for Chris Christie, against him, and nobody on the other side of the channel is really covering Benghazi, unless us.
HASSELBECK: Well, perception and reality are two different things. I think it is. In the past women have polled better in terms of trust when it comes to politics. But again, as you mentioned, you know, this is a woman who has been ridden with scandal in the past particularly recently when we talk about Benghazi and four Americans dead. She is still found to be more trustworthy at this point. Go figure.
It's understandable that Fox would prefer to discount these findings. The network has put a significant amount of effort into skewing public opinion of Clinton, pushing repeatedly debunked myths in an attempt to tarnish her image in expectation of a presidential bid in 2016. These efforts are in stark contrast with Fox's willingness to hide information that could hurt potential GOP presidential candidates like Christie, whom Fox personalities have previously showered with praise.
Now that the 2014 midterm elections are just around the corner, right-wing media are dragging out some of their favorite attacks on voting rights, despite the fact that these myths have been thoroughly debunked.
Conservative media figures that embody messages of misogyny and hate will take center stage at a GOP candidate forum in Iowa, despite the party's own acknowledgment that future electoral victories hinge upon the development of a more tolerant platform.
After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee drafted a series of recommendations on how to evolve and grow the party into a force that can win consistently in the 21st century. To a large extent, the plan recommended reaching out to women and minorities, after Democrats won both groups by healthy margins that year. The RNC report recommended "developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women." It went on to suggest that the party needs "to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too."
But in a move that seems in total opposition to those recommendations, the Iowa Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, as well as Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have chosen to partner with Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, radio host Steve Deace, and The Family Leader, an anti-gay organization headed by Bob Vander Plaats, to conduct a forum for the candidates on April 25.
Despite his role as "moderator" for the event, Erickson's far-right views on women and minorities are anything but moderate. Erickson has argued that businesses that serve gay couples are "aiding and abetting" sin, that proposed anti-discrimination laws are part of a war on Christians waged by "evil" gay rights activists, and that marriage equality is akin to incest. According to the pundit, gay people are definitely "on the road to hell."
After debuting in 2013 to major media coverage and virulent opposition from conservative activists, Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project political group is seemingly defunct. According to FEC filings, as of March 31, the group has $667 cash on hand after taking in only $2,214 in the first quarter of 2014.
Rove's Conservative Victory Project was announced in a 2013 New York Times article, which explained that the Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official was joining forces with "the biggest donors in the Republican Party" to create a group which would "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts." The Times reported that the "project is being waged with last year's Senate contests in mind, particularly the one in Missouri, where Representative Todd Akin's comment that 'legitimate rape' rarely causes pregnancy rippled through races across the country."
Numerous conservative figures responded to the announcement by loudly and repeatedly ripping Rove and Conservative Victory Project for its supposed betrayal of true conservatives and attempts at "fratricide." Several conservative activists went so far as to pen a letter to Crossroads donors imploring them to refuse to give money to the new group.
Whether it's directly attributable to the backlash or not, conservatives need not worry about Rove's Conservative Victory Project influencing Republican primaries this year, because the group is all-but-inoperative. As Media Matters previously reported, in the second half of 2013, Rove's group only brought in $10,798, ending the year with only $200 in cash on hand. The trend continued in the first quarter of 2014, with Conservative Victory Project apparently doing no fundraising. Between January 1 and March 31, the group brought in only $2,214, all of which came one of Rove's other political groups, American Crossroads.
While Conservative Victory Project is seemingly dead in the water, Rove's American Crossroads Super PAC continues to rake in millions of dollars, investing some of it in Republican primaries. National Journal explains that in the wake of the Conservative Victory Project kerfuffle, Crossroads' primary spending has shown the group to be "risk-averse" and treading lightly, avoiding criticizing Republicans aggressively and looking too much like the group is "handpicking" establishment candidates.
From the April 7 edition of MSNBC's The Reid Report:
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Fox News has hired back Liz Cheney as a contributor after her unsuccessful Senate run. Cheney's rehiring is the latest example of the cushy platform Fox News provides for Republicans before and after they run for political office.
Cheney announced last July that she was challenging Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, and left her post as a Fox News contributor. Fox had frequently turned to Cheney on national security issues, and her appearances featured little more than the usual Republican platitudes against the Obama administration. Like others, Cheney found ways to use her Fox platform to set up her future run.
Cheney's campaign failed to gain traction, and was notable for a series of missteps, including the filing of a false application for a fishing license, and a family feud over Cheney's opposition to marriage equality. Cheney received support from Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Andrea Tantaros. She dropped out of the race in January, citing family health issues.
The former Bush administration official returned to Fox News as a contributor on the April 6 edition of Fox News Sunday. Little changed, as Cheney defended Bush against a Senate report criticizing Bush's torture program, and claimed that that legislators should spend more time investigating the already thoroughly investigated Benghazi. PolitiFact criticized Cheney for falsely claiming the "numbers of people that support Obamacare and like it have been steadily dropping."
Cheney joins a long list of Republicans who have found a home at Fox News after unsuccessful campaigns. That list includes Herman Cain, Al D'Amato, Mike Huckabee, John LeBoutillier, KT McFarland, Angela McGlowan, Oliver North, Sarah Palin, Jeanine Pirro, Pete Snyder, and Allen West. Keith Ablow and Geraldo Rivera both considered, but decided against recent campaigns, while Scott Brown left Fox in March to run for Senate in his newly adopted state of New Hampshire.
Both McGlowan and Snyder were Fox News contributors who left the network to run for office, and were subsequently rehired. On the flipside, former contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were not hired back after their presidential runs (Gingrich criticized Fox News during the campaign, prompting Fox News head Roger Ailes to claim he's angling for a job with CNN -- where Gingrich is now a host).
While defending the Supreme Court's decision to undo decades of precedent and policy in campaign finance law, hosts of Fox News' The Five falsely suggested that unions can donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. In fact, unions are barred from directly donating to candidates and political parties.
In its April 2 decision on McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court decided that overall campaign contribution limits, previously set at $123,200 per individual per two-year election cycle, were unconstitutional. This allows future contributions to be spread among an unlimited number of political candidates, political parties, and PACs.
On April 4, as The Five co-host Bob Beckel criticized the decision and explained that these contribution limits were passed into law following the Watergate scandal, his fellow hosts Dana Perino and Eric Bolling claimed that unions face no limits on contributions, while there were limits on individuals.
But Perino and Bolling are incorrect. While unions, as well as corporations, can as of the 2010 Citizens United decision spend unlimited amounts on elections, they are still barred from direct contributions to candidates or political parties -- which is what the McCutcheon case was about. As USA Today explained:
It's the most important campaign-finance ruling since the high court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts independently to influence elections.
The limits on campaign contributions had stood for nearly 40 years. The high court drew a distinction between those contributions, which it said could lead to corruption, and money spent independently in its landmark 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling. Independent spending was expanded in the Citizens United case to include unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions.
Independent expenditures, which unions are allowed to make, are not the same as direct contributions to political candidates and political parties. A guide to federal election rules from The Campaign Legal Center states: "Corporations and labor unions are prohibited from using treasury funds to make a contribution to candidates, political parties, and many types of PACs."
Right-wing media champions of voter purges have been quiet in response to a federal appeals court's decision that Florida officials' attempts to remove noncitizens from voter rolls clearly violated federal law, which protects citizens from these overbroad and error-riden challenges.
Shortly before the 2012 election, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and his Secretary of State Kenneth Detzner (R) undertook an effort to purportedly purge the state's voter rolls of noncitizens. The Department of Justice challenged the purge in court, arguing that Florida had violated federal law that prohibits states from booting voters off the rolls within 90 days of a federal election. This law is in place to prevent depriving citizens of the vote because of faulty database checks, performed without enough time to correct the state's errors.
At the time, right-wing media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and National Review Online were overwhelmingly supportive of Governor Scott and his attempts to block people from voting. WSJ's senior editorial writer Jason Riley dismissed the DOJ's challenge, since "[t]he Obama Administration sees racial animus and voter-suppression conspiracies in any Republican-led effort to improve ballot integrity." NRO contributor Hans von Spakovsky also dedicated numerous posts to the issue, calling the DOJ's lawsuit "spurious," and evidence of "politics and ideology driving the legal decision-making" at the agency "as opposed to nonpartisan, objective analysis of the facts and the law."
Von Spakovsky had even more to say on the subject. In a different post about the case in 2012, he complained about the DOJ's "lawlessness" in its attempts to restore the voting rights of affected citizens in Florida:
Time and again, the Holder Justice Department has exhibited politically driven law enforcement. But its latest instance of lawlessness is absolutely brazen.
This goes far beyond Holder's previous actions, such as belittling claims of voter fraud and trying to stop voter ID and other reform measures intended to improve the integrity of the election process. This letter would directly abet vote thieves in a key state as Holder's boss seeks reelection [in 2012].
The Wall Street Journal editorial board was quick to support a Supreme Court decision on campaign finance, in which the conservative justices once again ignored legal precedent and usurped the role of Congress to legislate complicated policy.
On April 2, the Supreme Court decided McCutcheon v. FEC (also known as "the next Citizens United"), and held that overall campaign contribution limits -- previously set at $123,200 -- were unconstitutional. Although the Court did not rule on the individual campaign limits of $5,200 per candidate in the two-year election cycle, the conservative justices struck down the aggregate limits, allowing future contributions to be spread among an unlimited amount of candidates, political parties, and PACs. Although Congress had set those overall campaign limits in the wake of the Watergate scandals to guard against institutional corruption or the appearance of corruption -- a goal repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court -- the Court in McCutcheon ignored this precedent, judicially narrowing future regulation so that "Congress may target only a specific type of corruption -- 'quid pro quo' corruption."
The WSJ, which has been misinforming about this case from the beginning, was predictably pleased with the outcome in McCutcheon. Although the WSJ editorial board lectures about fidelity to the law when it comes to legal decisions that might affect corporate wealth, it was not so bothered at the Court's rejection of precedent in McCutcheon. In an April 2 editorial, it celebrated the decision as a win for "the core promise of American liberty" and applauded the Court for "walking back" a "historic blunder." In fact, the WSJ really only had one complaint about the McCutcheon decision: why didn't conservative Chief Justice John Roberts go even further?
In its original First Amendment sin, Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, the Court said government can regulate political contributions to limit the risk of "quid pro quo" corruption. That is, money in return for a political favor. But Congress has gone well beyond that narrow definition of corruption to include trying to limit some donors but not others or simply the amount of money in politics.
We wish the Court had gone further and overturned all of Buckley, as Justice Clarence Thomas urged in his concurring opinion. As he put it, Buckley is now "a rule without a rationale" given how much the Court has eroded its original logic. But the Justices didn't need to go that far to overturn overall donor limits, and Chief Justice Roberts prefers incremental legal progress. Justice Thomas is nonetheless a John the Baptist on political speech, and the current majority may vindicate his logic in a future case.
We hope it's soon given the pernicious doctrine laid out in the dissent joined by all four liberals. "The First Amendment advances not only the individual's right to engage in political speech, but also the public's interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer (his italics).
"Collective speech" sounds Orwellian as a legal doctrine that invites government as a leveller of free speech and is alien to the U.S. constitutional tradition. The scary thought is that the Court is only one heart attack away from gutting the core promise of American liberty.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Billionaire Sheldon Adelson has a history of illegal behavior and controversial comments -- facts that were left out of mainstream print reporting on GOP candidates trying to win his favor last week.
The Republican Jewish Coalition met March 27-29 in Las Vegas, and the event was dubbed the "Adelson Primary" as GOP presidential hopefuls used the meeting to fawn over magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm, who reportedly spent nearly $150 million attempting to buy the 2012 election with donations to a super PAC aligned with Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove's American Crossroads). Before switching allegiance to Romney, Adelson had donated millions to Newt Gingrich. He has also given generously in the past to super PACs associated with a variety of Republican politicians, including Scott Walker, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor.
Hoping to benefit from Adelson's largesse, potential 2016 Republican candidates including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gathered at Adelson's casino to "kiss the ring."
While Republicans' efforts to court Adelson made big news in print media over the past week, none of the articles mentioning Adelson in The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, or The Wall Street Journal mentioned that he has come under investigation for illegal business practices, including bribery, or his history of extreme remarks.
From the March 30 edition of MSNBC's Up With Steve Kornacki:
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has again dipped into the fringes of the conservative media for support. The Washington Post reported that Paul is building a national network to potentially support a 2016 presidential run, and is using Fritz Wenzel as his pollster.
Wenzel is a birther who has called President Obama an "imposter," and teamed up with conspiracy site WND to push dubious polling about the president's birth certificate. In addition to promoting conspiracy theories, Wenzel is also an objectively poor pollster. He has a long history of offering wild electoral predictions, prompting Slate reporter Dave Weigel to dub him the "pollster that's always wrong."
Wenzel's WND polling isn't limited to birtherism. WND articles about his polls carry headlines like, "AMERICANS WANT 'GAY' LESSONS BANISHED"; "POLL: SEEDS OF TYRANNY PRESENT IN AMERICA"; "ANSWER TO BENGHAZI OBFUSCATION? IMPEACHMENT"; and "POLL: PALIN WOULD STIR UP EVEN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY" (a poll that claimed Palin would be competitive against Obama in a Democratic primary).
Wenzel's problematic history means the media should treat his polling and analysis skeptically as Paul ramps up his presidential efforts.
The website of Wenzel Strategies touts an endorsement from Paul, who states: "Fritz Wenzel and Wenzel Strategies played a crucial role in my [Senate] election victory ... He is smart, swift, great to work with, and provides top-quality work. I would recommend him to any political campaign." Wenzel was also the pollster for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.
Paul's birther pollster is his latest connection to fringe conservative media. Last year Jack Hunter resigned from Paul's Senate office after his "neo-Confederate" and "pro-secessionist" punditry (including defenses of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth) surfaced. Hunter co-wrote Paul's 2011 book, and also appeared in The Daily Caller and on Fox Business. Paul has also repeatedly appeared on the program of leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Paul used Jones' program as a publicity and fundraising platform during his U.S. Senate campaign, and Jones was an enthusiastic and active supporter of his candidacy.
From the March 27 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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