George Will

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  • Here Are All The Reasons Media Think Trump Is Not Releasing His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated his plan not to release his tax returns prior to the election due to an IRS audit -- despite the IRS saying he is not precluded from doing so -- media figures questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s excuse, arguing instead that it could be due to his possible business dealings with Russia, paying little to no taxes, and not giving to charity, among other reasons.

  • Conservatives Lose Their Excuse To Question The Results Of The Clinton Email Investigation

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY, CYDNEY HARGIS & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Conservatives have just lost their excuse to question the results of the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server, which legal experts say lacks a “legitimate basis” to charge Clinton with crimes. Right-wing media figures have ignored those experts to suggest that if the investigation does not result in a Clinton indictment, it must be politically tainted. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch affirmed that she will “be accepting the recommendations” made by “career agents and investigators” and FBI Director James Comey in the case, and conservative media have spent months lauding Comey’s “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation.

  • The Dean Of Yale’s Law School Just Schooled The Washington Post On Exxon And The First Amendment

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Yale Law School Dean Robert Post took to The Washington Post to completely dismantle the bogus claim that the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. And in doing so, he pointed to one of several opinion writers who have misinformed the Post’s readers by advancing this “free speech” defense of Exxon's alleged deception on climate change. 

    Writing in The Washington Post on June 24, Robert Post criticized “ExxonMobil and its supporters” in the media for deceptively “[r]aising the revered flag of the First Amendment” to condemn attorneys general who are investigating Exxon. The attorneys general are looking into whether the oil company committed fraud by deliberating withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. As Post explained, Exxon and its allies are “eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.” He added: “Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.”

    One of the conservative media figures that Post called out for distorting the Exxon investigations was The Washington Post’s own George Will, who penned an April 22 column peddling the false claim that the attorneys general pursuing Exxon are seeking to “criminalize skepticism” about climate change. And that wasn’t the only basic fact that Will butchered, as the Climate Denier Roundup explained at the time:

    George Will used his column in the Washington Post to offer a lesson on how this campaign [against Exxon] is part of a larger progressive strategy to shut down debate. But apparently it’s Will that needs a history lesson, as he uses as evidence a story about a 2013 IRS investigation accusing the agency of targeting conservatives. But that investigation “found no evidence” that the IRS actions were politically motivated.

    Unfortunately, Will is not the only voice on the Post’s opinion pages who has misrepresented the facts to defend Exxon.

    As the Climate Denier Roundup noted, the same day that Will’s column ran, the Post also published an op-ed by two officials at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think tank that peddled climate science denial while receiving funding from Exxon. The CEI op-ed repeated the falsehood that the attorneys general are seeking to “run roughshod” over Exxon’s First Amendment protections and prosecute “dissent.” It also engaged in carefully crafted legalese about CEI’s relationship with Exxon, as the Climate Denier Roundup observed:

    Worth noting CEI’s careful phrasing about its relationship with Exxon, which CEI says “publicly ended its support for us after 2005.” With Donors Trust and others making it possible to anonymize giving, the key word is “publicly.”

    Flashback to November 2015, and the story at the Post is much the same. Like Will, the Post’s Robert Samuelson claimed in a November 8 column that investigations of Exxon are an “assault” on free speech, and that the “advocates of a probe into ExxonMobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions.” Samuelson also repeated Exxon’s bogus talking point that a 1989 Exxon document proves that groundbreaking reports about Exxon by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times "'cherry-pick[ed]' their evidence."

    Then there’s the Post editorial board itself, which prematurely concluded in a November 15 editorial that Exxon “didn’t commit a crime.” Perhaps the Post will reconsider after hearing from Robert Post on that matter. 

    From Robert Post’s June 24 op-ed in The Washington Post:

    If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.

    [...]

    ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.

    The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.

    Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.

    The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.

    [...]

    If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.

  • George Will: Republicans Must Keep Trump Out Of The White House Even If He's The Nominee

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will urged Republicans to keep Donald Trump out of the White House if he is selected as the Republican nominee for president, writing that political prudence “demands the prevention of a Trump presidency.”

    Many right-wing media pundits and commentators have expressed their fear of a Trump nomination, with some joining the so-called “Never Trump” movement. Those conservative have vowed that they would actively oppose Trump even if he became the nominee, with some like Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol vowing to recruit a third-party candidate to run against Trump, and others stating they would vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump if she becomes the Democratic nominee.

    In his April 29 Washington Post column headlined “If Trump is nominated, the GOP must keep him out of the White House,” Will committed himself to this movement, arguing that the GOP needs to be rebuilt from the damage Trump has done to the party, and urging voters to support Cruz so that the Republican convention can “choose a plausible nominee” who might win a general election, instead of “passively affirm[ing] the will of a mere plurality of voters.” If Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, Will wrote, conservatives have the task of “help[ing] him lose 50 states” so the GOP can preserve its identity:

    Donald Trump’s damage to the Republican Party, although already extensive, has barely begun. Republican quislings will multiply, slinking into support of the most anti-conservative presidential aspirant in their party’s history. These collaborationists will render themselves ineligible to participate in the party’s reconstruction.

    […]

    Republican voters, particularly in Indiana and California, can, by supporting Cruz, make the Republican convention a deliberative body rather than one that merely ratifies decisions made elsewhere, some of them six months earlier. A convention’s sovereign duty is to choose a plausible nominee who has a reasonable chance to win, not to passively affirm the will of a mere plurality of voters recorded episodically in a protracted process.

    Trump would be the most unpopular nominee ever, unable to even come close to Mitt Romney’s insufficient support among women, minorities and young people. In losing disastrously, Trump probably would create down-ballot carnage sufficient to end even Republican control of the House.

    […]

    The minority of people who pay close attention to politics includes those who define an ideal political outcome and pursue it, and those who focus on the worst possible outcome and strive to avoid it. The former experience the excitements of utopianism, the latter settle for prudence’s mild pleasure of avoiding disappointed dreams. Both sensibilities have their uses, but this is a time for prudence, which demands the prevention of a Trump presidency.

    Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life.

    […]

    If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power.

  • Right-Wing Media's Worst Attempts to Downplay Sexual Assault and Diminish Survivors

    ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Media Matters looks back at right-wing media's history of downplaying, and questioning the legitimacy of, sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have called reporting statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a "coveted status," said the sexual assault epidemic is "not happening," blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault constitute "a war happening on boys."

  • George Will Dismisses GOP Obstruction Of Merrick Garland As "A Partisan Reflex In Search Of A Justifying Principle"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative columnist George Will dismissed the varying excuses Republican senators have made to justify their refusal to consider President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court as "radiating insincerity."

    Leading up to and following President Obama's March 16 Supreme Court nomination of Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Republican lawmakers have said they would refuse to consider any nominee, despite it being an unprecedented action. Republican lawmakers, echoed by some of the media, have misleadingly cited past actions and comments by President Obama and Vice President Biden as justification for their obstruction.

    In his March 18 Washington Post column, Will blasted the Republicans' justifications for refusing to consider Garland, writing that their "incoherent response" is "a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle." Will added that the "multiplicity of Republican rationalizations for their refusal to even consider Merrick B. Garland radiates insincerity":

    The Republican Party's incoherent response to the Supreme Court vacancy is a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle. The multiplicity of Republican rationalizations for their refusal to even consider Merrick B. Garland radiates insincerity.

    Republicans instantly responded to Antonin Scalia's death by proclaiming that no nominee, however admirable in temperament, intellect and experience, would be accorded a hearing. They say their obduracy is right:

    Because they have a right to be obdurate, there being no explicit constitutional proscription against this.

    Or because President Obama's demonstrated contempt for the Constitution's explicit text and for implicit constitutional manners justifies Republicans reciprocating with contempt for his Supreme Court choice, regardless of its merits.

    Or because, 24 years ago, then-Sen. Joe Biden -- he is not often cited by Republicans seeking validation -- suggested that a president's right to nominate judges somehow expires, or becomes attenuated, in a "political season," sometime after the midterm elections during a second presidential term.

    Or because if a Republican president tried to fill a court vacancy during his eighth year, Democrats would behave the way Republicans are behaving.

    In their tossed salad of situational ethics, the Republicans' most contradictory and least conservative self-justification is: The court's supposedly fragile legitimacy is endangered unless the electorate speaks before a vacancy is filled. The preposterous premise is that the court will be "politicized" unless vacancies are left vacant until a political campaign registers public opinion about, say, "Chevron deference."

    This legal doctrine actually is germane to Garland. He is the most important member (chief judge) of the nation's second-most important court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the importance of which derives primarily from its caseload of regulatory challenges. There Garland has practiced what too many conservatives have preached -- "deference" in the name of "judicial restraint" toward Congress, and toward the executive branch and its appendages in administering congressional enactments. Named for a 1984 case, Chevron deference unleashes the regulatory state by saying that agencies charged with administering statutes are entitled to deference when they interpret supposedly ambiguous statutory language.

    In his record of deference, Garland resembles two justices nominated by presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, respectively -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and, even more, Scalia, who seems to be more revered than read by many conservatives. Garland's reluctance to restrict the administrative state's discretion would represent continuity in the chair he would fill.

  • STUDY: How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2015

    ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER, DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial. On a more positive note, CBS and NBC -- and PBS, which was assessed separately -- aired many segments that explored the state of scientific research or detailed how climate change is affecting extreme weather, plants, and wildlife.

  • Fox vs Fox: GOP Supreme Court Obstruction Edition

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Following threats by Senate Republicans that any Supreme Court nominee named by President Obama would not be considered for nomination, Fox News personalities have shown disagreement over the strategy, with some arguing Republicans want Obama to "ignore the Constitution" while others have described any fair hearing given to a potential nominee as "caving" to the president.

  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Conservative Civil War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative pundits are bickering over Donald Trump's campaign, especially after National Review's "Against Trump" issue and the backlash it engendered. On one side are pundits who want to stop Trump's candidacy in its tracks. On the other are conservatives who are lauding Trump's candidacy, even if they have not officially endorsed him. Media Matters breaks down exactly who is on which side (click for the full-sized image):

    Civil War over Donald Trump

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko, Research by Eric Hananoki
     
  • "Hollywood Asshole": The Celebrities Conservative Media Went After In 2015

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Right-wing media spent much of 2015 lashing out at celebrities. From seething over celebrities who spoke out against sexism and pay inequality in Hollywood and supported the Black Lives Matter movement, to objectifying female bodies, bashing the Pope, and telling an actress to "deport herself," Media Matters looks back at some of conservative media's most outrageous temper tantrums of 2015: