Peter Johnson Jr.

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  • Fox News Misses Important Context On Economic-Based Election Predictions To Claim GOP Victory

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. left out important context during a discussion of economic models that predict a GOP victory in the presidential election. Johnson seemed to be drawing his information from The Hill, which had reported on the models the day before, but he failed to mention the paper's point that the models "are being challenged like never before by the presence" of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

    On the April 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Johnson discussed a story first reported by The Hill, which detailed how three economic models -- from Yale University economist Ray Fair, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz, and Moody's Analytics -- can be used to predict election outcomes. Johnson, who did not credit The Hill for the story, said that "whether it's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ... or any of the other candidates that are now running, the Republicans win according to these models":

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The numbers don't lie. A Republican in the White House, no matter the nominee, is a mathematical certainty--that's what two highly respected economic models are saying this morning. These models have picked the winner in nearly every presidential contest for decades, but what makes them so sure this time? Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. joins us now to weigh in on this.

    PETER JOHNSON JR.: Good morning. This is really fascinating. They're saying whether it's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, whether it's any of the candidates that are now running, the Republicans win. So let's look at the models and why they're saying it, because you'll find it interesting. So, the first model is the Ray Fair election model. It says the GOP wins. The Alan Abramowitz election model -- he's from Emory University -- says the GOP wins. And then Moody's has a model; they say the Democrats win. Let's look at what they're saying here. The Fair election model, created by Yale professor Ray Fair, it's correctly forecast all but three presidential elections since 1916. And so, let's talk about the factors with regard to that. In his model, the per capita growth rate before the election of the GDP, inflation over the entire presidential term, and the number of quarters the per capita GDP grows. So it's all, Ainsley, economically based. Not based on individual personalities, not based on current poll numbers at all.

    EARHARDT: What about some of the other models? What are the factors?

    JOHNSON: There's another model, Professor Abramowitz's election model, he's an Emory professor. He's predicted every presidential election, since it launched in 1992, accurately. And his factors include an incumbent president's job approval rating, the economy's growth during the first half of the year, how long the incumbent party has been in the White House. And based on those factors, he says he's able to predict that the Republicans will win. Now, there's a lot of volatility obviously in this race. We have two of the highest negative presidential campaigns that we might see as nominees in the end, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They both carry a lot of negatives. So what effect will that have on the economics?

    EARHARDT: And they don't predict which Republican candidate will win; they just say a Republican.

    JOHNSON: It's based on income. It's based on economic growth. It's based on voters being affected by the statistics in a visceral way. In a real way. The final look at it is Moody's. Moody's says they're going to judge it by electoral college votes, income growth by state, home gasoline prices by state, and presidential approval numbers currently. Their particular model says that the Democrat wins. So most of these models are pointing to the Republicans, but Moody's say it's a Democrat. So by the numbers, the Republicans win, according to these models.

    But The Hill notes that this year's unusual campaign is casting uncertainty on the economic models, saying that Trump's presence has "shaken up politics," and that his fights with his opponents "have electrified his supporters but have turned off other voters."

    Supporting that point, Ray Fair told The Hill, "If there's any time in which personalities would trump the economy it would be this election." The New York Times also recently reported on his prediction, noting that Fair "says his model may well be wrong about this election. 'Each election has weird things in it, yet the model usually works pretty well,' he said. 'This year, though, I don't know. This year really could be different.'"

    Regarding the Abramowitz model, The Hill pointed out that "the Democratic candidate can expect to receive 48.7 percent of the vote -- with Obama's approval rating at 50 percent," but it also mentioned that since Abramowitz's last prediction, President Obama's approval rating has gone up to 52 percent. The article even cited a recent quote from Abramowitz in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he noted that the president's rising approval rating may be "significant for the general election."

    The Hill also quoted economist Dan White from Moody's, who explained that "there's a lot more uncertainty" in this election "that could upset the balance and the historical relationship of how marginal voters vote." The Moody's model predicts that "the Democratic nominee would take 332 electoral votes compared to 206 for the Republican nominee," The Hill explained -- the same Electoral College outcome witnessed in 2012. White told the paper that a factor in the prediction was the president's increased approval rating, which he said may have been boosted by "the unruly GOP."

  • Roger Ailes' "Mouthpiece" Is Urging Republicans Not To Obstruct Obama's Supreme Court Pick

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Ailes/JohnsonPeter Johnson Jr., the Fox News analyst who reportedly serves as network chairman Roger Ailes' on-air "mouthpiece," has repeatedly urged Senate Republicans not to proceed with their unprecedented strategy to obstruct President Obama's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee.

    Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans embarked on an extreme plan to refuse to consider any nominee Obama might make to replace him. On February 22, Senate Republicans announced that they would refuse even to hold hearings to consider any Obama nomination.

    Some right-wing commentators have urged the GOP to carry out this extreme effort. But the plan has received a mixed response from Fox News, with some commentators urging Republicans to "stand firm," while others have said that the senators are "making a mistake." Johnson has been the network's most vehement opponent of the GOP's strategy, using a series of Fox & Friends appearances to castigate the party for its "unprecedented" acts.

    On February 16, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that Scalia's seat "should not be filled until we have a new president," Johnson told the hosts of Fox & Friends that "Republicans have to recalibrate immediately" and admit they made a mistake, adding: "It's not smart. It's not good for our future. It's not good for our governance, and it's not good for the notion that this government is responsive to the needs of the people. We need a Supreme Court with nine folks on it. It's that simple. They need to step it back today."

    The next morning, Johnson praised Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for walking back his initial statement that the next president should be the one to fill the vacated Supreme Court seat (Grassley would later re-reverse his position). Johnson explained, "Republicans are stepping it back because they don't want to be seen as obstructionist. They don't want to be harassed by editorial boards or commentators like me yesterday that said, listen, step it back."

    And today, after McConnell announced that an Obama nominee would not even receive a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Johnson said that the move was "unprecedented in American history" and "might be a constitutional crisis." He added that the move was a partisan effort to ensure "the survival of the Republican Party" at a time when conservative activists are angry with the GOP, and concluded, "The pressure will mount every day when the Republicans refuse to even shake hands or say hello to that presidential nominee."

    Johnson is not just any Fox News contributor -- he is Ailes' personal lawyer and has been identified as a key confidante of the Fox News chairman as well as his on-air "mouthpiece." Johnson reportedly confers with Ailes regularly and then voices his opinions over the network's airwaves.

    New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, who subsequently authored a biography of Ailes, reported in 2012 (emphasis added):

    But if you want to know what Roger Ailes really thinks about the news these days, here's a tip: Pay close attention to Peter Johnson Jr., Fox News' legal analyst. The Columbia-educated lawyer is certainly not as familiar to most viewers as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, but inside the network, Johnson has become, in many respects, more influential, thanks to his ties to Ailes. To understand Fox right now, you have to understand the unique role Peter Johnson Jr. has come to play in Ailes's inner circle.

    Consider this: Johnson is an on-air pundit, weighing in on topics as varied as Trayvon Martin, Occupy Wall Street, Obamacare, and Benghazi. He is a regular fill-in host on Fox & Friends. And he is Ailes's personal attorney who negotiated the network chief's new four-year contract with News Corp., said to be worth upward of $30 million a year. Fox executives frequently find Johnson conferring with Ailes privately. "He is a fixture in Ailes's office," one Fox source explained.

    But Johnson's value to Ailes extends far beyond his work as a lawyer. This election season, when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air. One insider told me that Johnson is allowed to use the teleprompter to read from scripts, a perk which is normally reserved for Fox hosts. "Johnson has a rare privilege other contributors don't have," the source said. "He can load a script directly into the teleprompter. So it's not even Ailes unplugged. It's Ailes plugged in ... It's why he sounds like Roger."

    When Roger Ailes thinks a Republican political strategy is too extreme, the GOP has a problem.

  • 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
     
  • Donald Trump Joins Right-Wing Media In Their Crush On Vladimir Putin

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump excused Vladimir Putin's extensive human rights violations by saying that "at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country." His praise for the Russian president echoes that of right-wing media, who have swooned over Putin for years as a way of attacking President Obama's supposed weakness.