Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that they are charging conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza with violating campaign finance laws. D'Souza has been a mainstay in the conservative media for years, and his outlandish theories have received heavy promotion from outlets like Fox News and prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.
Reuters reports that D'Souza "has been indicted by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate.
D'Souza made waves during the 2012 presidential election thanks to 2016: Obama's America, a shoddy "documentary" he made smearing the president as "anti-American." Though the movie was filled with nonsensical theories and inaccuracies, it became a surprise box office success thanks in no small part to hype by conservative media outlets.
Fox News and Fox Business repeatedly went to bat for D'Souza's movie, hosting him at least five times in the run-up to its wide release. (To give a sample of the tone of the segments, Lou Dobbs told his audience, "We've got a much better fate awaiting us if we just will simply awaken to what Dinesh is revealing in the wonderful movie, '2016,' August 10.")
In 2010, D'Souza was at the center of a firestorm for penning an article for Forbes magazine arguing that President Obama is animated by an "anticolonial" worldview imprinted on him by his father. In keeping with his usual scholarship, D'Souza's anticolonial theory was utter nonsense, but was nonetheless widely championed by major conservatives, including then-Fox contributor and soon-to-be presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, then-Fox host Glenn Beck (repeatedly), and Rush Limbaugh.
Though he has seemingly kept a somewhat lower profile recently, D'Souza is -- or at least was -- reportedly working on a sequel to Obama's America to release this year.
While it remains to be seen how D'Souza's conservative media allies will handle his indictment, Matt Drudge is already getting the conspiracy theory ball rolling, claiming the charges are evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder is "unleashing the dogs" on Obama critics.
CNN lived up to its reputation of providing false balance on climate science once again on the latest edition of Crossfire.
On January 6, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate and current co-host of Crossfire, opened the segment by introducing guests "on opposite sides of the global warming debate." He claimed to present some "inconvenient facts" to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on manmade global warming, stating that "temperatures have flat lined for the past 16 years," (which is not true) and asking "Is it cold enough for you?" By contrast, Van Jones began by saying, "we should not be debating whether global warming is real, whether it's caused by humans," because scientific certainty on the matter is at the "same level of agreement that you got that HIV causes AIDS."
Recent cold weather nationwide apparently spurred the debate; earlier in the day, Crossfire's Twitter account tweeted, "TONIGHT's #Crossfire:historic lows bring out the climate change skeptics." They are right about the skeptics -- cold winter weather has prompted the right wing media to resume their tradition of "snow-trolling" in force, with some even suggesting that the planet has entered a period of global cooling.
But cold winter weather is not expected to go away with climate change and does not negate the long-term trend of global warming. And it is misleading to look at the United States' weather alone when talking about global warming -- for example, this past December tied for being the second-hottest December on record since 1979 globally, even while it was unusually cold in the United States. Additionally, the polar vortex responsible for dangerous Arctic-style weather across the Midwest could be connected to global warming.
As for Crossfire's "debate," the segment only demonstrated CNN's tendency to provide false balance on climate change. The show featured League of Conservation Voter's Navin Nayak and the Heritage Foundation's David Kreutzer. Kreutzer, an economist who has no scientific degree and who previously believed that global cooling defined this century's first decade, claimed that "what you call deniers agree" that "the world is getting warmer" and "some of that warming is due to man, maybe a significant amount." But that didn't stop him from debasing the scientific consensus throughout the "debate" -- calling the 97 percent consensus a "bogus term."
Right-wing media figures have rushed to defend President Ronald Reagan's record on apartheid and South Africa in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death.
Reagan's record came under increased attention following the death of the former South African president and anti-apartheid activist. In an interview with Salon, Whitman College historian David Schmitz discussed Reagan's policy toward South Africa, which included opposition to Mandela's party, the African National Congress, labelling Mandela and the ANC as "terrorists," and vetoing sanctions against the pro-apartheid government that ruled South Africa at the time:
What about U.S. policy toward the opposition groups like the ANC and Nelson Mandela?
They called the ANC terrorists. It was just continuing this notion that the ANC members are the extremists and the South African government has these moderates, and you're going to end up with one extreme against the other if you don't work with the government. Clearly, it never worked. This was a flawed policy.
Would you argue that Reagan's foreign policy extended the life of the regime in South Africa?
Yes. It gave it life. It gave it hope that the United States would continue to stick with it. It gave it continued flow of aid as well as ideological support. It delayed the changes that were going to come. Then you had the big crackdowns in '86 and '87. So there was harm in the lengthening. There was harm in the violence that continued.
Despite his history, right-wing media figures defended Reagan's history after Mandela's death. CNN host Newt Gingrich claimed that Mandela's death was "being used inappropriately" by critics of Reagan:
CNN's Jake Tapper issued a correction for a segment that misleadingly took comments by Vice President Joe Biden out of context. Tapper's decision to correct the record is commendable, but has yet to be imitated by Newt Gingrich, who first brought the bogus story to the network.
On December 3, Biden visited the Toyko headquarters of the Japanese company DeNA. According to the Wall Street Journal, that firm "is known for encouraging its female employees to continue working through motherhood," and Biden was there to "meet with its female employees to chat about achieving a work-life balance in a country where 60% of women don't return to work after giving birth." As part of that dialogue, Biden asked a group of five young female employees, "Do your husbands like you working full time?" Illustrating the vulnerability of journalists working in the current media environment, numerous media outlets ripped Biden's comments from their context and presented them as a sexist gaffe.
That dishonest framing reached CNN the same day, when Crossfire's Gingrich tried to use them to diffuse criticism of the GOP's toxic rhetoric on women. He commented: "Democrats like to complain about a Republican war on women. That was before Vice President Joe Biden started his current tour of Japan. Today, while touring a Japanese game company, he walked up to a group of women and asked them, 'Do your husbands like you working full-time?'" Gingrich used Biden's comments to ask, "How do you explain Biden's inability to stay in touch with reality?"
The next day on his CNN program, Tapper played the same clip to illustrate the media's propensity to highlight the Vice President's gaffes and asked if Republicans are right to say there is a double standard about sexist comments.
Tapper issued a full correction on the December 6 edition of his show, apologizing for doing the vice president and the viewer "the exact same ill service" of focusing on Biden's gaffes without "providing the proper context":
CNN host Newt Gingrich declared that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' congressional testimony was worse than Richard Nixon's alleged crimes during the Watergate scandal, another round in the right-wing media's campaign to find their own Watergate scandal with which to smear the Obama administration.
During Sebelius' ongoing testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee about HHS' role in producing the Healthcare.gov, CNN Crossfire host and former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich commented via Twitter that Sebelius' "dishonesty" in her testimony "exceeds anything president [sic] Nixon was accused of."
Nixon, of course, was nearly impeached for his administration's involvement in and attempted cover-up of the wiretapping of Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The Supreme Court had to order Nixon to hand over tape recordings implicating himself in the cover-up, and he subsequently resigned from the presidency.
Perhaps conservative media should consult this helpful Media Matters flowchart in the future: Is It Watergate?
UPDATE: CNN Newsroom host Wolf Blitzer confronted Gingrich regarding his Nixon comparison, explaining, "I just want to know if you want to revise making a comparison to Nixon." When pressed by Blitzer on whether Gingrich believes Sebelius committed any crimes -- like Nixon allegedly did -- Gingrich said, "We don't know yet." Later, when Blitzer called Gingrich's comparison "overblown," Gingrich jokingly offered to "modify" his tweet, to say that Sebelius's testimony "equals anything" of which Nixon had been accused, admitting that "'exceeds' may have been too strong."
BLITZER: On the point comparing it to Nixon, comparing what she did -- what this secretary did to Nixon, that is, I mean just between you and me, that's a little overblown.
GINGRICH: Well, what do you say about an administration which, you just pointed out, the actual number may be 16 million Americans losing their policies. Now, this affects life and death. It affects --
BLITZER: You're talking about the president. Here, you said -- and I'll read it again just to be precise and then you can tell me if you want to revise it. 'Sebelius dishonesty in testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of.'
GINGRICH: Ok, I will -- I will modify it: 'Equals anything.' How is that. Exceeds may have been too strong. I think to go under oath and say with a straight face there was not an outage in a site you've been covering for a month.
Last month, Newt Gingrich's media production company was paid $9,500 by the Republican National Committee, a fact he has not divulged on Crossfire, the CNN program he co-hosts. It's the latest ethics headache brought to the network by their new host.
The RNC made the payment to Gingrich Productions on September 25 for "media services," as National Review's Jonathan Strong first reported. Gingrich Productions is a multimedia production company founded by the former Speaker of the House that features his work and that of his wife Callista, who has served as the company's president since Newt transferred control of the company to her in 2011 in preparation for his presidential run.
According to financial disclosure forms that Gingrich filed during that campaign, Gingrich Productions paid him $2.4 million in 2010. It's unclear whether such payments have restarted following the conclusion of his run, but an April 2013 Time.com article reported that Gingrich's future plans were "centered around" the company.
Gingrich Productions' website highlights Gingrich's role as host of CNN's Crossfire, "where he continues to advocate bold policy ideas." As a Fox News contributor, Gingrich regularly appeared on air to promote the work of the for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations he headed, including Gingrich Productions.
A Media Matters review of CNN transcripts found no indication that Gingrich had disclosed the RNC payment on-air. A CNN spokesman declined to comment.
As the government shutdown loomed and then became a reality, right-wing media figures have called for maintained Republican commitment to keeping the government closed until Democrats agree to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
From the September 29 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
In an apparent reversal, CNN now says that Crossfire co-host Newt Gingrich is not actually violating network standards by failing to disclose his PAC's financial relationship with politicians discussed on the program.
Rick Davis, CNN's Executive Vice President of News Standards and Practices, issued a statement to Media Matters saying the network is "clarifying" its ethics policy, and that Gingrich is "not in violation" of network rules:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program.
Davis' statement appears to be at odds with earlier comments he had made about the network's guidelines for Gingrich. In an interview with Media Matters earlier this month, Davis said that if Gingrich, who serves as honorary co-chair for the American Legacy PAC, "is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that. Disclosure is important when it's relevant."
However, as Media Matters reported, Gingrich hosted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the first episode of Crossfire's revival, and discussed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on September 24, without disclosing that his PAC had donated to the campaigns of both Republicans.
Gingrich also praised Cruz on CNN outside of Crossfire. Several hours after Media Matters first reported on Gingrich apparently violating network rules, he appeared on the September 25 edition of Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees and again appeared to cross the line. Gingrich said Cruz is "proving to be a pretty clever guy" and "there are an awful lot of Republicans who'd rather at least see someone with the guts to fight than just be told automatically let's surrender." Gingrich and CNN did not mention his PAC's ties to Cruz.
Issues with Gingrich and his PAC aren't limited to CNN disclosure problems. Mother Jones raised significant questions about whether Gingrich is fronting a "dubious PAC" since "most of the money flowing into American Legacy PAC is benefiting vendors and consultants who have long been associated with Gingrich" rather than actual candidates.
Less than a month into his tenure as a new CNN host, Newt Gingrich has already violated the ethical guidelines set for him by the network.
CNN executive Rick Davis previously told Media Matters that if Gingrich, who serves as honorary co-chair for the American Legacy PAC, "is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that. Disclosure is important when it's relevant." However, Gingrich has violated those standards since his first day of hosting.
As Mother Jones' David Corn and Andy Kroll reported today, Gingrich's PAC recently donated to the campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
After the donations were made, Gingrich hosted Paul on the first episode of Crossfire's revival -- and discussed Cruz on yesterday's episode -- without disclosing his PAC's donations in either instance.
The rebooted Crossfire debuted September 9 with a discussion about Syria featuring Paul and Sen. Bob Menendez. During the program, Gingrich sided with Paul against military strikes on Syria. A few weeks earlier, on August 20, American Legacy PAC founder and president Mike Murray sent an email to supporters announcing they're "proud to endorse Sen. Rand Paul and provide him with a check for $5,000 to aid in his re-election in 2016!"
During the September 24 edition of Crossfire, Gingrich discussed Cruz's lengthy speech against Obamacare, and complained that the Senate has become "virtually a dictatorial system" and "people like Ted Cruz, they end up giving speeches like this and making noise in the media, in part because they can't get a vote ... If Ted Cruz had come in yesterday and gotten his vote, he'd probably have gotten 12 to 20 to 25 votes." American Legacy sent an email on August 29 announcing they're "proud to announce our endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz along with a $5,000 donation to his campaign."
Following a brief hiatus for a failed presidential campaign/book tour, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is returning to the world of political punditry. Starting tonight, Gingrich will serve as one of the hosts on CNN's resurrected Crossfire.
As reported by The New York Times in August, installing Gingrich as part of a Crossfire reboot was "one of the first ideas that Jeff Zucker floated on becoming president of CNN Worldwide in January," according to Sam Feist, CNN's Washington bureau chief.
The Timesprofile documents how Crossfire was scrapped in 2004 a few months after Jon Stewart appeared on the show and accused the hosts of being "partisan hacks" that were "hurting America."
According to Gingrich, the show fell apart because "it became more of a talking-points yelling match between people who thought the job was to be smarmy."
Though Gingrich has a reputation as being one of the big minds of the Republican Party -- the Times quotes Zucker praising Gingrich as "an incredibly smart, intellectual thinker" -- he has a long history of outlandish rhetoric more befitting a radio shock jock than a wonky intellectual.
Here's a short look back at some of Gingrich's lowlights as a pundit and political figure, and the type of commentary CNN viewers can probably expect with Newt on Crossfire:
If Newt Gingrich shows signs of raising money or hiring staff for another presidential run he would have to immediately give up his new job on CNN's reborn Crossfire, a top CNN executive told Media Matters.
But until that time, Gingrich can remain on the CNN payroll even as he is involved with at least two political action committees that are working to raise money for Republican candidates and help the former House Speaker retire his 2012 campaign debt, as long as any conflict is disclosed on the show.
Rick Davis, a former Crossfire producer and current CNN executive vice-president of standards and practices, said Gingrich, who has floated a potential 2016 presidential run, would have to give up his new job at the network if he starts fundraising for a new political campaign or forms a staff to conduct such an effort.
"If they're going to get in touch with the [Federal Election Commission] and start raising some money for a campaign our relationship's over, or if they are going to start having some paid staff for some sort of campaign, our relationship's over," Davis said when asked about Gingrich.
According to Davis, Gingrich is subject to the same rules that applied to Crossfire hosts in the show's previous incarnation. Both Pat Buchanan and Geraldine Ferraro ended stints as hosts of that program to run for office, Buchanan for a 2000 presidential run and Ferraro for a 1998 Senate run.
"I was overseeing Crossfire back then and I dealt with both of them then and the policy then is the same policy now," Davis added.
Davis' comments come just days after Gingrich hinted that he may make another White House run in 2016.
In an interview with fellow Crossfire host S.E. Cupp, Gingrich said he would not rule out a 2016 run. When asked if he would "run again in the future," Gingrich replied: "I don't know. We still have a substantial campaign debt. If we can pay it off we would seriously look [at] a 2016 run."
Gingrich had been asked in the past if he would consider running for president in 2016, and said at various times, "It's not a no," "I don't rule it out, but we're not spending any energy on it," "I have no idea at this stage," "It's certainly something that we're going to keep our powder dry and see how the next two years evolve," and "I doubt that, but one never knows."
In June, National Review Online quoted a Gingrich "insider" claiming of a potential Gingrich bid: "There's no planning or anything like that. But these are people who are big fans of his, so a lot of them want to see him run in 2016."
Davis would not say if Gingrich had been asked about his 2016 plans during negotiations for the new Crossfire post, but added, "that's clearly our policy, he knows it and that's it."
Days before the re-launch of CNN's Crossfire, Newt Gingrich said in an interview with fellow Crossfire host S.E. Cupp that he won't rule out running for president again in 2016. When asked if he would "run again in the future," Gingrich replied: "I don't know. We still have a substantial campaign debt. If we can pay it off we would seriously look [at] a 2016 run."
Gingrich has been asked at various times if he would consider running for president in 2016, and said, "It's not a no," "I don't rule it out, but we're not spending any energy on it," "I have no idea at this stage," "It's certainly something that we're going to keep our powder dry and see how the next two years evolve," "I doubt that, but one never knows." In June, National Review Online quoted a Gingrich "insider" claiming of a potential Gingrich bid: "There's no planning or anything like that. But these are people who are big fans of his, so a lot of them want to see him run in 2016."
Gingrich used his prior Fox News employment as a springboard to rehab himself with Republican voters, and position himself for a longshot bid for the Republican nomination. The New York Times noted that "Gingrich's myriad appearances on Fox News over the years have been a central part of the rebirth of his political career. The television exposure, his aides believe, has allowed him to reintroduce himself to older Republicans and to introduce himself for the first time to a generation of voters who do not remember his rise nearly two decades ago." Gingrich's Fox News contract was eventually suspended as he signaled his intention to form an exploratory committee, and then terminated all together. Then-CNN media critic Howard Kurtz -- now with Fox -- wrote in The Daily Beast that Fox was allowing Republicans to "utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel, and pad their bank accounts to boot."
If Gingrich wants to bolster a president bid via Crossfire, he already has a model (though ultimately unsuccessful) in former host Pat Buchanan. As CNN noted when covering the legal and media issues surrounding Gingrich's dual roles as potential candidate and Fox employee, "CNN faced similar circumstances in the 1990s with Crossfire co-host Pat Buchanan when he ran for the Republican Presidential nomination. CNN ended Buchanan's duties on the show once it was clear that he was seriously considering a presidential bid."
CNN is using 21-year-old footage of Newt Gingrich attacking Hillary Clinton to promote the return of Crossfire, which Gingrich will co-host, and promising that the show will fixate on Clinton for the next several years.
CNN plans to relaunch the franchise in September and is running promotions for the show leading up to its September 16 premiere. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Gingrich will be "the marquee attraction" on the show.
And if a promo running at CNN.com is any indication, Gingrich will use his perch to renew his decades-long campaign demonizing Hillary Clinton. The promo, billed as a return to "Classic Crossfire," opens with the former Speaker of the House claiming: "The new Crossfire is going to bring a lot of new things to television, but it's also going to bring some that have been on a long time."
On August 12, a federal court judge ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was improperly performing the common police tactic of "stop and frisk" by unconstitutionally targeting persons of color without reasonable suspicion. The New York City Council agreed, and passed legislation over a mayor's veto on August 23 to safeguard against future unconstitutional applications of this long-standing enforcement tactic. Right-wing media responded by ignoring the constitutional violations and instead defended the NYPD's actions for "establishing a sense of order."