From the November 30 edition of Salem Radio Network's The Hugh Hewitt Show:
Following the November 27 shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood location that killed three people and wounded nine others, three major Sunday political shows -- Fox News Sunday, Meet The Press, and State Of The Union -- allowed guests to hype the false claim that Planned Parenthood sells "baby parts" based on a series of deceptively-edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
From the November 11 edition of CNN's CNN Tonight:
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Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt rejected recent disclosures of the partisan role of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, despite several Republican figures admitting the committee has been focused on targeting Hillary Clinton. In September, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted the committee had intended to and succeeded at hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Since then, a former staffer for the committee, Bradley F. Podliska, and a second Republican congressman, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), have also admitted the committee was "designed to go after" Clinton. While appearing on CNN, Hewitt, who will participate as a panelist at the next two CNN Republican debates, rejected the recent admissions, stating Hanna was "completely wrong and out of line" and McCarthy "actually has been manipulated ... by what he said." From the October 14 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon:
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From the September 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the September 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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After withering criticism from right-wing media figures, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt now says that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "legitimately misunderstood" the foreign policy questions Hewitt asked him during a recent interview, which he initially defended as "fair." Hewitt's backtracking comes just before the second Republican presidential debate, at which Hewitt will join a question-and-answer session that he insists will not be affected by the blowback from his interview with Trump.
From the September 4 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media rushed to attack fellow conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "stumbled" in response to the radio host's questions about foreign policy during a recent interview.
Conservative media reacted with outrage to President Obama's speech defending his administration's landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, claiming the president had taken "a blame America approach," calling it "unpresidential," and demanding impeachment, despite the fact that experts have lauded the deal as "necessary and wise."
From the August 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Right-wing media are continuing to defend Indiana's newly-enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and dismissing concerns that the law could provide cover for religious individuals or business owners intent on discriminating against LGBT customers. In fact, RFRA has been used as a defense against discrimination claims in the past, New Mexico's version was used against a gay couple just recently, and supporters of these expanded forms of RFRA have explicitly pointed to anti-gay sentiment as their intent.
Since the passage of Indiana's RFRA, right-wing media have erroneously claimed that criticism of the law is overblown, because it does nothing more than mirror the federal version of RFRA and RFRAs in other states. But Indiana's law is more expansive than other versions because it provides a legal defense to both private individuals and for-profit businesses in lawsuits even where the government is not a party, and unlike several other states who have passed RFRAs, Indiana lacks a statewide law that protects LGBT residents from discrimination.
Conservative media figures like National Review's Rich Lowry have also argued that Indiana's RFRA will not be used as a license to discriminate against LGBT customers because if RFRA laws "were the enablers of discrimination they are portrayed as, much of the country would already have sunk into a dystopian pit of hatred." Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt also downplayed the potential legal ramifications of Indiana's law, claiming on his show that the federal version of RFRA has "been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years [and] I do not know of a single incident" of the law being used to discriminate against gay people. He did not address the fact that it is the newer state versions that have sparked the current outrage.
On the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy made a similar argument in an attempt to pretend fears of the law's discriminatory effects were baseless, claiming that Indiana's RFRA is not "anti-gay" because it has "never not once" been used as a legal defense by religious business owners accused of anti-LGBT discrimination:
Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt allowed former Florida Governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush to make false claims on his radio program about Indiana's recently passed "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) without challenging Bush's statements, and was wrong about the law himself.
Hewitt, who will be asking questions on the panel* for a Republican presidential debate, has been described as a more serious right-wing radio host than other conservative figures, and someone who is more likely to hold his guests accountable for their comments. But in this case, not only did Hewitt fail to do that, he also made the same false claims about Indiana's law.
The law, signed by Governor Mike Pence (R), allows individuals and businesses to cite their religious beliefs as a legal defense against discrimination claims of those denied services due to sexual orientation or gender identity. The law is facing extensive criticism, with calls to boycott the state increasing.
On March 30, Hewitt hosted Jeb Bush on his radio show. During the interview, Hewitt asked for Bush's opinion of the law, pointing out that not many Republicans had defended Pence for signing it. Bush said he agreed with the law, claiming it was similar to laws in other states, such as Florida, and at the federal level. Hewitt misleadingly conflated the federal 1993 RFRA currently in effect in the District of Columbia with the newer -- and broader -- state versions of which Indiana is the latest example (emphasis added):
BUSH: I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to be able to be people of conscience. I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all.
HEWITT: Yeah, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed in 1993. It's been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years. I do not know of a single incident of the sort that Tim Cook was warning about occurring in the District in the last 22 years.
BUSH: But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that, based on her conscience, she couldn't be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people, was a friend of hers, and she was taken to court and still in court. Or the photographer in New Mexico. There are many cases where people, acting on their conscience, have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there's been some kind of discrimination. We're going to need this. This is really an important value for our country to, in a diverse country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people's lifestyles but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs.
Contrary to Hewitt's and Bush's claims, neither other state RFRAs nor the federal RFRA have the same reach as Indiana's law, which explicitly includes corporations as opposed to only people, and allows religious beliefs to be used as a legal defense against an anti-discrimination claim in civil cases even when the government is not involved.
Right-wing media has a long history of serving as Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) biggest cheerleaders, dating back to Cruz's 2012 Senate victory which he credited to Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck, showcasing the influence of conservative media in shaping election outcomes.
Following Cruz's announced bid for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, Media Matters looks back at some of right-wing media's most effusive praise of Cruz.
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Hannity featured the senator in an hour-long special on the March 23 of edition his Fox News show. Hannity highlighted Cruz's campaign announcement speech, and allowed Cruz to promote his platform.
Hannity has fantasized about a Cruz campaign for years before the official campaign launch. During Cruz's February 26 speech at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity jumped on the main stage to proclaim that with Cruz, "we can fundamentally transform America" in 2016.
After Cruz announced the launch of his campaign, Rush Limbaugh praised Cruz, suggesting that he "might be the smartest man in Congress."
In July 2014, Rush predicted that if Ted Cruz continued his rise in "dominant influence," he would lead a nascent Republican "revival" that is "just awaiting leadership."
In September 2013, Limbaugh lashed out at Fox News' Brit Hume for alleging that Cruz was influenced by Limbaugh and other conservative media in his repeated efforts to defund Obama's health care law. Limbaugh defended Cruz, asserting that "Ted Cruz isn't afraid of anybody," and went on to praise the Republican senator, saying "Ted Cruz is fighting for freedom in the greatest tradition of American freedom fighters." Limbaugh added that in his efforts to defund the health care law, "Ted Cruz is attempting to  marshal the support of the American people ... in the greatest traditions of the American founding and the existence of the country."
Beck praised Ted Cruz after the launch of his campaign, championing Cruz's "long, long, impressive resume," saying "you can't pigeonhole him as stupid," adding "I can't wait to see him in a debate."
On his radio show in December 2013, Beck likened Cruz to Ronald Reagan saying, he "may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99 percent of the politicians I have ever met."
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Laura Ingraham applauded him for "stand[ing] firm for the constitution," and claimed Cruz will be tough competition for Republicans because he represents "more of a traditionalist point of view" and a more "Reagan-esque" form of conservatism.
Levin railed against Fox News for "trashing" Ted Cruz after the senator launched his campaign, likening Cruz to Reagan, and asserting that like Cruz, Reagan would have been "trashed all over" Fox News.
In August 2013, Levin declared Cruz "one of the bright lights of the Republican Party" for "exciting the base" after he "demonstrated that he can beat the establishment as he did" during his 2012 Senate campaign. Levin defended Cruz from a "vicious, vile, poisonous attack by the establishment including Bush staffers."
In June 2014, Hugh Hewitt proclaimed that Cruz "may be the smartest senator," telling Joe Scarborough on his radio program, "he's just not gonna back down and we need some of that in our party." Hewitt went on to compare Cruz to Reagan, saying he has "the same demeanor" as Reagan, "the same kind of charisma, easy affability and smart, smart, smart."
"The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself."--The RNC's post-2012 election report.
Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) fumes about "gotcha" questions from "clueless" political reporters and vows not to be distracted by them on the campaign trail. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly blames the media for the swirling controversies surrounding his "combat" reporting, and even levels an on-the-record "threat" against a New York Times reporter for daring to cover the story. And now the Republican Party announces it's teaming up with partisan, conservative media partners to help host primary debates in an effort to make the forums more appealing for candidates.
The first three Republican debates will air on CNN and will be co-presented by the Salem Media Group, a major player in right-wing talk radio. (Its CEO is also politically active in conservative causes.) Salem talker Hugh Hewitt has been invited to be among those asking candidates questions at the first debate. Afterwards, Republican participants will "be invited to join Hewitt to talk candidly about the event," according to a press release. A Salem talk radio host will be included in each of the three debates.
In shifting some of the debate control away from independent journalists, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is following through on his promise last year to make the debates more GOP-friendly and to tap media participants "who are actually interested in the Republican Party."
It's true that there's nothing inherently wrong with having a talk radio partisan like Hewitt in the mix on the night of a debate. Different perspectives should always be welcome. But the inclusion of unabashed Republican cheerleaders for this year's forums appears to be driven out of fear and distrust of the news media, not out of a GOP desire for inclusion. Indeed, the move has an undeniable whiff of paranoia about it.