The Wall Street Journal

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  • Right-Wing Media Slam Student Loan Assistance, Calling It A “Con” And A “Bailout”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined a chorus of right-wing outlets in blasting the federal government’s income-based student loan repayment program, calling it a costly “con” meant to “buy millennial votes.” Yet right-wing media are ignoring the benefits of a program that could relieve millions of student borrowers of a portion of their remaining debt and that is still generating a profit.

    Right-wing media lambasted the Department of Education and student borrowers after the Journal reported on November 30 the latest findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the government is on track to forgive $108 billion of $352 billion in student loans as part of federal income-driven repayment plans. The Journal’s editorial board blasted the government on December 1, calling the latest findings proof that the Department of Education’s loan program is a “con” designed to “buy millennial votes.” (The editorial column was the Journal’s second since November 1 lamenting the federal program, which has led to millions of students earning student loan forgiveness.) Earlier that day, Fox News host Jon Scott questioned if the program was a “bailout” for student borrowers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney also called the program “a bailout” on the November 30 edition of Varney & Co., while his guest Steve Costes added that the program is “a shame.”

    Federal student loan borrowers have multiple repayment plan options, including income-based plans that require borrowers to pay back loans based on a percentage of their income for a certain number of years, after which the remainder is eligible to be forgiven. The GAO’s findings were for the hypothetical cost in loan principal forgiveness for the 5.3 million borrowers who signed up for income-based repayment plans for loans issued over a 22-year period, between 1995 to 2017. These borrowers will likely see an average of $21 forgiven for every $100 in loans received. Despite right-wing media complaining about the cost of borrower relief for those on income-based payment plans, the GAO found that the Department of Education still nets a profit on student loans.

    The reason the government still makes a profit even after loan forgiveness is because many federal student loans have an interest rate at 6.8 percent -- a figure that is much higher than inflation or the 1 percent interest rate banks receive from the Federal Reserve. The 6.8 percent interest rate is so high that the GAO’s hypothetical borrower would pay almost double the original principal of their loan if the income-based plan had no cutoff date for forgiveness:

    Student loan debt is a leading concern among young people, with The Atlantic finding nearly 30 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 “cited paying off student loans as their biggest financial challenge.” According to Fortune, “there is little doubt that many Millennials are struggling financially” after a survey by PwC found that 79 percent of the 42 percent of millennials that have student loans struggle to pay those loans. Evidence shows student debt can impact personal wealth, delay homeownership affect personal decisions to marry or start a family, and that it has “cripple[d] retail sales growth.” The financial stress of student loans has a “devastating toll” on borrowers’ mental health, according to Complex, which cited findings by researchers that “student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning.”

    While right-wing media push many myths about student debt, student concerns are valid; according to a November 21 op-ed published by Investopedia, Americans with student loan debt have “a challenging road ahead of them in the present and the future” due to workers being unable to save for retirement. The op-ed, which was authored by a financial adviser, even questioned whether people with student loans "will be able to retire” at all. The increasing debt burden can even hinder career advancement as graduates can be forced to take jobs that may have no chance of wage growth or career development so they can make debt payments on time.

    Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

    Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.

  • Television News Praises Trump’s “Symbolic Coup” In Carrier Jobs Announcement

    Indiana-Based Company Convinces Trump To Give It Taxpayer Money, Still Moves Many Of Its Jobs To Mexico

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Broadcast and cable news personalities rushed to credit President-elect Donald Trump for closing a deal with the Indiana-based manufacturer Carrier that provides the for-profit company with millions of taxpayer dollars while allowing it to still outsource hundreds of jobs to Mexico. Journalists and reporters framed the agreement as a “symbolic coup” and “unadulterated win” for Trump’s incoming administration even as they acknowledged that supporting a relatively small number of jobs at taxpayer expense is an unsustainable manufacturing policy.

  • CNN Needs To Do Better Than This Trump Chyron

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A CNN graphic that misleadingly claimed President-elect Donald Trump “deliver[ed] on [his] vow to save” jobs at Indiana-based manufacturer Carrier demonstrates the need for the network to continue using on-screen graphics as a way of fact-checking Trump during his transition and presidency.

    Carrier announced on November 29 that it had struck a deal with Trump and the State of Indiana to keep about 1,000 jobs it had planned to move to Mexico in the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, the state will provide Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), $7 million in tax breaks over the next decade in exchange for keeping the jobs there. In addition to the $7 million in tax breaks, Trump reportedly promised UTC CEO Greg Hayes millions more in future corporate tax reductions.

    Discussing the announcement on the December 1 edition of CNN Newsroom, panelists noted multiple problems with Trump’s actions, including that the announcement could cause a “slippery slope” where “every company will expect to get huge tax incentives to stay in the United States,” a point economists and policy experts have also made. CNN commentator and New Yorker editor Ryan Lizza agreed, noting that “the precedent here can be very dangerous,” and adding, “You basically have this sort of extortion game that companies can now play because Trump has set himself up this way.” Echoing economist Jared Bernstein, Atlantic editor Ron Brownstein argued it is “unlikely that individual interventions in the decisions of individual companies is going to make a big dent in the long-term trajectory of a more automated and globalized manufacturing supply chain.”

    However, someone looking at only the TV screen would not know these potential stumbling blocks with the deal. Instead, they would see only a graphic saying, “Trump Delivers On Vow To Save Carrier Jobs,” essentially giving Trump the talking point he wanted. That graphic presents a stark contrast from what CNN’s own Kate Bolduan noted during a later segment of At This Hour in which she stated: “1,000 jobs remaining in Indiana that would have left, that is to be celebrated. … But it is a far cry from what Trump promised … on the campaign trail.”

    During the presidential campaign, CNN repeatedly used on-screen graphics to call out Trump’s lies and misleading rhetoric, such as "Trump: Never Said Japan Should Have Nukes (He Did)," "Trump’s Son: Father Apologized To Khans (He Hasn’t)," and "Trump Calls Obama Founder of ISIS (He’s Not)." CNN was not the only network to do this, with MSNBC also joining in to fact-check Trump’s claim he watched a “video of Iran receiving cash.” MSNBC’s graphic pointed out that the video was “nonexistent.”

    As ABC News legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams noted during the campaign, this practice of fact-checking Trump in real time helped solve “one of the big problems in cable news” where things sometimes are “just not true” and need to be called out as such.

    CNN’s failure to express the nuanced issues with the Carrier announcement highlights the need for CNN and other networks to have clearer on-screen graphics and continue their practice of on-screen fact-checking. These measures are crucial in preventing misleading talking points and falsehoods pushed by Trump from gaining traction.

  • WSJ Op-Ed Rehashes Discredited Evidence To Fearmonger About Noncitizen Voting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    The Wall Street Journal opinion page provided a platform for serial misinformers -- citing discredited research -- to falsely suggest that a large number of noncitizens voted in the 2016 election. The evidence used by the authors, who have made careers out of pushing misleading claims to advocate for laws that would result in voter suppression, has been criticized by academics and flies in the face of data showing no evidence that noncitizens have voted in recent U.S. elections in any significant numbers.

    In a November 30 op-ed, Hans von Spakovsky, a National Review contributor and a current senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and John Fund, a columnist for National Review, asserted that “there is a real chance that significant numbers of noncitizens and others are indeed voting illegally, perhaps enough to make up the margin in some elections.” The authors declare that “the honor system doesn’t work” and that “there are people—like those caught voting illegally—who are willing to exploit these weaknesses that damage election integrity.”

    The evidence von Spakovsky and Fund cite to back up their claim is seriously misleading, is methodologically flawed, and has been debunked by experts. Von Spakovsky and Fund point to one “2012 study from the Pew Center on the States estimating that one out of every eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate.” But as USA Today pointed out in a write-up of the study, “experts say there's no evidence that the [registration] errors lead to fraud on Election Day.” The article quoted David Becker, the director of Pew’s election initiatives, warning that “‘the perception of the possibility of fraud drives hyper-partisan policymaking.’”

    The authors also cited a 2014 study that “used extensive survey data to estimate that 6.4% of the nation’s noncitizens voted in 2008 and that 2.2% voted in 2010.” That study was endlessly hyped by right-wing media, but Brian Schaffner, a political scientist who was “a member of the team that produces the datasets upon which that study was based,” wrote, “I can say unequivocally that this research is not only wrong, it is irresponsible social science and should never have been published in the first place. There is no evidence that non-citizens have voted in recent U.S. elections.” Another expert, Michael Tesler, pointed out that the study had “methodological challenges” that rendered its conclusions "tenuous at best.”

    The authors additionally cited a Heritage Foundation report that they call “a list of more than 700 recent convictions for voter fraud” to dispute “academics who claim that voter fraud is vanishingly rare.” However, as FactCheck.org noted, the report found "less than a dozen individual cases of noncitizens convicted of registering or actually voting since 2000," and USA Today found that the report, which is “based largely on news clippings and news releases,” contains “only a handful of allegations of voter impersonation that voter ID could have prevented.”

    In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt found only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014."

    Von Spakovsky and Fund’s reliance on discredited research is no surprise, given their history of pushing misinformation about voting. Von Spakovsky, who has been featured on Fox News and on National Review for years, has demonstrated an unending willingness to distort the truth in the service of restrictive and discriminatory voter ID laws. Von Spakovsky, in particular, has repeatedly overstated the prevalence of in-person voter fraud and continues to push for voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minority communities and suppress legal voters. At National Review, he also characterized the modern civil rights movement as "indistinguishable" from "segregationists." Even former President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general Dick Thornburgh accused von Spakovsky of being “wrong on both the facts and the law.”

  • Media Fail To Explain The Impact of HHS Nominee Tom Price’s Health Care Agenda

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Major newspapers gave little attention to the harmful impact Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) policies would have on the American health care system when discussing his expected nomination to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a future Trump administration. However, experts agree that Price’s preferred positions on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and Medicaid, and reproductive health care access would harm millions of Americans.

  • Conservative Media Wrongly Pin Democrats' Election Losses On Climate Change Focus

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In the aftermath of the election, conservative media figures have alleged that Democratic candidates’ emphasis on climate change was a reason they lost, claiming this focus alienated or drove away voters. But numerous polls conducted in the run-up to the election indicated that a majority of Americans consider climate change an important issue and favor government action to address it, and an exit poll similarly revealed that most voters in Florida view climate change as a serious problem. While these polls indicate that a focus on climate change didn’t harm environmentally friendly Democratic candidates, a plausible explanation for why the issue may not have helped them is the lack of attention it received from the media, including during debates.

  • Trump Lies That Millions Voted Illegally, And Mainstream Outlets Uncritically Echo Him

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media outlets failed to hold President-elect Donald Trump accountable for his false claim that “millions of people” illegally voted in the 2016 presidential election by failing to state in their headlines and tweets -- which are what most news consumers see -- that the allegation was a lie. The claim, which Trump used to dismiss his loss in the popular vote and to attack a recount effort in Wisconsin, was originally pushed by far-right “conspiracy-theory hawking” websites. Even though fact-checking organizations debunked the idea, numerous mainstream media outlets writing about the issue on social media and in headlines either reported Trump’s lie without noting that it was false or hedged by writing only that it lacked evidence.

  • Experts Fear Trump Policies May Cause Economic Slowdown

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    After Donald Trump's election, media and experts are predicting the president-elect’s stated policies will harm the economy if implemented in 2017 and beyond. According to expert analyses, working-class Americans will face the greatest economic disruptions as a result of Trump’s policies.

  • Major Outlets Downplay The Fact That Trump’s New Chief Strategist Ran An Anti-Semitic White Nationalist Website

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Major newspapers are ignoring or burying Steve Bannon’s ties to white nationalism and anti-Semitism when reporting on his appointment as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor. By burying or dismissing the information, media are failing to provide their audiences with essential background on one of Trump’s most influential advisers.

    On November 13, Trump released a statement announcing that Bannon, who previously ran the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart News, would serve as his chief strategist and senior counselor. The same statement noted that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus would become Trump’s chief of staff. While White House chief of staff is typically the most senior position in the White House, the press release named Bannon first and described the two as “equal partners” in the Trump administration.

    Major newspapers either downplayed or entirely ignored Bannon’s connections to white nationalism and his anti-Semitic rhetoric. Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today made no mention of Bannon’s racist history in articles on his new position. Other outlets, including The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, noted his ties to white nationalism and the “alt-right,” but not for several paragraphs. Rather than describe his connections to anti-Semitism and explain that he ran a white nationalist website, the articles refer to him as a “right-wing media provocateur,” a “rabble-rousing conservative media figure,” and a “flame-throwing media mogul.” All of these descriptors whitewash Bannon’s extremism.

    In addition, none of the headlines for the aforementioned pieces included any indication of Bannon’s extremist views or ties. As The Washington Post noted, studies found that “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week.” By omitting Bannon’s white nationalist and anti-Semitic ties from headlines, newspapers are blinding the majority of Americans to the troubling background of one of Trump's most influential advisers.

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    Bannon, who served as the CEO of Trump’s campaign, previously ran the unabashedly white nationalist and anti-Semitic website Breitbart News. During the 2016 Republican National Convention, Bannon bragged that Breitbart News had become home to the “alt-right” -- which is merely a racist code word for white nationalists. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has featured racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBT rhetoric. The site recently made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas -- all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right,’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Before he died, Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart himself reportedly called Bannon “the Leni Riefenstahl of the tea party movement,” referring to the Nazi filmmaker.

    Bannon has his own history of alleged anti-Semitism. As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted on Twitter, Bannon’s ex-wife swore in court that “he said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. Esquire politics contributor Charles Pierce wrote that hiring Bannon “is exactly the same as hiring David Duke,” a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

    By ignoring or downplaying Bannon’s extremist history, major newspapers are not giving their readers the essential background information they deserve on a man who is soon to be one of the most influential people in politics.

  • WSJ Falsely Claims Anti-Labor "Right-To-Work" Laws Are The "Secret To High Employment"

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal falsely claimed so-called “right-to-work” laws assist in job creation because they serve as “an attraction for many businesses” in an editorial attacking a South Dakota ballot measure that could roll back that state’s anti-union laws. In fact, “right-to-work” laws have continually proved to be ineffective tools at boosting local economies, and they may hurt economic mobility for working Americans.

    The Journal’s editorial board slammed a ballot initiative in South Dakota that “would effectively repeal the state’s right-to-work law” by falsely claiming that such anti-union laws are one “secret to high employment.” The Journal’s assault on South Dakota’s Measure 23 echoes years of right-wing media myths on “right-to-work” laws and ignores the reality that “workers at any workplace always have the option as to whether or not to join a union.” The Journal cherry-picked two states with both low unemployment rates and “right-to-work” laws to make its farfetched assertion that cracking down on unions is good for the economy:

    Right to work simply gives workers the right not to join a union, and South Dakota has had such a law since 1947, as do 25 other states. South Dakota’s 2.9% unemployment rate is tied with New Hampshire’s for the lowest in the country. Right-to-work laws aren’t the only secret to high employment, but they are an attraction for many businesses considering states for investment.

    The measure is being pushed by the International Union of Operating Engineers. Last fall IOUE Local Chapter 49 Director of Special Projects Jason George told the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls that “unions are the only organizations in the country that are required to provide a service, but can’t charge a fee. We don’t think that’s fair.”

    South Dakota’s Measure 23 was previously targeted by the conservative National Review, which suggested on November 3 that the state’s Republican-led legislature change the legal language that the initiative is already modifying in order to nullify its effects. Right-wing media have consistently attacked labor unions, but the facts have repeatedly showed that unions boost wages and economic mobility. An in-depth May 8, 2015, profile in The American Prospect compared two states with similar economies but radically different public policy initiatives -- Wisconsin, which pursued anti-labor policies, and Minnesota, which did not, -- and found “Minnesota’s economy has outpaced Wisconsin’s.”

    Researchers have consistently found that “right-to-work” laws do not actually benefit workers. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analyzed employment growth in states with and without "right-to-work" laws and found that "the evidence is overwhelming" that "right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them." While EPI did not find that “right-to-work” laws boost employment, additional research from the think tank found wages in “right-to-work” states are 3.2 percent lower than states that do not have such anti-union laws. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) got similar results in a January 2014 report, finding that workers in “right-to-work” states made more than $7,000 less in an average year than their counterparts in “union security states.”

    In addition, research suggests that children enjoy more economic mobility and nonunion workers receive stronger compensation in local economies with high rates of union membership. The Center for American Progress (CAP) found children from union families were better off than children in nonunion families in areas with lower rates of unionization. Unions also have a positive impact on the wages of nearby nonunion workers, and the decline of union rates has had a negative impact on wages “for union members and nonunionized workers alike."

  • STUDY: Top Newspapers Give Clinton Email Story More Coverage Than All Other Trump Stories

    ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    Five top national newspapers have obsessed over FBI Director James Comey’s letter revealing newly discovered emails potentially related to the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. In the week since Comey’s letter was released, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post have published 100 stories -- 46 of which were on the front page -- about or mentioning the emails.

  • 370 Economists Debunk Trump's Right-Wing Media Myths On The Economy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Hundreds of economists, including eight Nobel laureates, signed a letter denouncing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s repeated lies about job growth, trade, immigration, the federal debt, and the state of the American economy. The misinformation the economists identified is not Trump’s alone, but the product of a right-wing media echo chamber that specializes in spreading myths about the economy to serve its partisan agenda.

    The Wall Street Journal published a letter from 370 economists on November 1 denouncing Trump’s economic policies and the distortions upon which they are built. The Journal reported that the letter was “less partisan or ideological” than similar letters aimed at political candidates and instead focused on “Trump’s history of promoting debunked falsehoods” and “conspiracy theories” instead of “engag[ing] with reality.” The economists took specific issue with Trump’s false claims that the unemployment rate is higher than the federal government reports, that increasing tariffs would lead to more U.S. manufacturing jobs, that immigration has hurt the U.S. economy, and that his proposed tax cuts will decrease the deficit. From the letter:

    • He degrades trust in vital public institutions that collect and disseminate information about the economy, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by spreading disinformation about the integrity of their work.
    • He has misled voters in states like Ohio and Michigan by asserting that the renegotiation of NAFTA or the imposition of tariffs on China would substantially increase employment in manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing’s share of employment has been declining since the 1970s and is mostly related to automation, not trade.
    • He claims to champion former manufacturing workers, but has no plan to assist their transition to well-compensated service sector positions. Instead, he has diverted the policy discussion to options that ignore both the reality of technological progress and the benefits of international trade
    • He has misled the public by asserting that U.S. manufacturing has declined. The location and product composition of manufacturing has changed, but the level of output has more than doubled in the U.S. since the 1980s.

    [...]

    • He has lowered the seriousness of the national dialogue by suggesting that the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Education would significantly reduce the fiscal deficit. A credible solution will require an increase in tax revenue and/or a reduction in spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or Defense
    • He claims he will eliminate the fiscal deficit, but has proposed a plan that would decrease tax revenue by $2.6 to $5.9 trillion over the next decade according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.

    [...]

    • He uses immigration as a red herring to mislead voters about issues of economic importance, such as the stagnation of wages for households with low levels of education. Several forces are responsible for this, but immigration appears to play only a modest role. Focusing the dialogue on this channel, rather than more substantive channels, such as automation, diverts the public debate to unproductive policy options.

    The falsehoods the economists denounce have been well-documented -- Media Matters identified 19 economic myths Trump has spread during this election cycle. The economists took issue with Trump falsely claiming the unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent, a wildly exaggerated figure that has been repeatedly debunked after being popularized by right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

    The economists denounced Trump’s attacks on immigrants and immigration reform, which have been enabled by Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and others at the network. According to Vice, Trump learned his anti-immigrant rhetoric from right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, who has attacked immigrants for years. Yet, as FiveThirtyEight chief economics writer Ben Casselman pointed out, immigration has “important economic advantages” for the United States, including stoking economic growth by imbuing the population with younger and more economically productive workers and consumers.

    The economists pointed out that Trump’s proposed tax cuts will explode the deficit by $2.6 to $3.9 trillion. Media Matters has pointed out that Trump’s tax policy agenda has been discredited as “pie in the sky” and “magical thinking” by experts on both sides of the aisle, but it has nevertheless found repeated defenders in Fox News, which falsely claims huge tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans is “how we grow the economy.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has also defended Trump’s tax plan, lauding it for reducing taxes on the wealthy.

    Even conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin -- no stranger to pushing absurd and unrealistic right-wing media narratives when it suits her -- slammed Trump’s “know-nothingism” on the economy. Conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman had also previously hit the GOP nominee for perpetuating “a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible” with his fact-free economic populism.

    But criticism from a few conservative writers does not change the fact that conservative media outlets enabled Trump’s lies, paved the way for his presidential campaign, and built the political infrastructure he needed to conquer the Republican Party. As Media Matters and others have repeatedly pointed out, Trump is a creation of the right-wing media. His willingness to echo any number of right-wing media economic myths is further proof of that.

  • Media Figures Praise Trump’s Health Care “Policy” Speech, Ignoring His Total Lack Of Specifics Or Viable Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Media figures praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his speech in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania that briefly touched on health care, calling it a “very, very good speech” focused on the substance of his proposals for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. In reality, Trump’s speech was full of recycled, unworkable Republican proposals that would increase the deficit and leave an estimated 24 million people without health insurance coverage. 

  • Right-Wing Media Fail Occam’s Razor Test In Continued Push To Scandalize McAuliffe PAC Donation

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    After initially failing to scandalize a Wall Street Journal story about political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) political action committee (PAC) to the wife of an FBI official, conservative media are trying to revive the story. Now they’re trying to hype flawed, speculative allegations of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in the fundraising for McAuliffe’s PAC in hopes of undermining the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

    In an October 23 article titled “Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife,” the Journal reported, “The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.” The piece implied that the McAuliffe PAC’s donation may have influenced FBI official Andrew McCabe, who is married to the donation’s recipient, Jill McCabe, in his later investigation of Clinton’s email use.

    Not only did journalists deride the piece’s flimsy, “embarrassing” claim, but the Journal’s own reporting also failed to support the idea that there was any impropriety by McAuliffe or McCabe. Indeed, other media outlets noted that “there’s literally nothing” to the story, both because “the timing is complicated if you’re trying to prove a Clinton email connection” and because “McAuliffe’s support of Jill McCabe was part of a much broader effort at the time to try to win back a Democratic majority in the state Senate.”

    That didn’t stop right-wing media figures from hyping the “appearance of impropriety” and claiming that McAuliffe “acted as a bag man to pay off people sniffing around Hillary’s emails.”

    After briefly piercing into the mainstream media current, the toothless story seemed to fade away, until the Daily Mail reported on October 28 that “Clinton headlined a major fundraiser” for McAuliffe’s PAC “before the group steered nearly $500,000 to” Jill McCabe. The paper suggested that Clinton’s involvement in the fundraiser again “raise[s] questions about the impartiality of the FBI's investigation.”

    But just as the initial Journal story fell apart under scrutiny of the timeline -- Andrew McCabe didn’t become involved in the FBI investigation until several months after McAuliffe’s donation to Jill McCabe -- so too does the Daily Mail’s bizarre and complicated suggestion that Clinton headlined a fundraiser because she was able to foresee that resulting donations would months later go to the wife of a man who would later be promoted twice to play a lead role in an investigation that did not yet exist.

    After organizing a timeline of the fundraiser, donation, and investigation -- and lightly suggesting the optics don’t look good (a common media technique employed when investigating many of Clinton's nonscandals) -- Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote:

    What hasn't been proven is that Hillary Clinton did anything improper. Clinton would have had to be a pretty advanced political chessmaster to do a June 2015 fundraiser with the knowledge that, in October 2015, it would benefit the wife of an FBI official who would be promoted to an oversight position into her email investigation the next February. And McAuliffe would have to be an even savvier operator to have recruited Jill McCabe to run for office in March 2015 in the hopes that, sometime down the line, her husband would get promoted to the point of overseeing an investigation that didn't yet exist. There's also no evidence Andrew McCabe actually influenced the email investigation in a way that benefited Clinton. For all we know, he could've been pushing for her prosecution only to be overruled by Comey.

    Indeed, perhaps a much simpler explanation for Clinton’s fundraising appearance and the McAuliffe PAC’s donation is that a leading Democrat raised money for the Virginia state party and the governor's PAC to try to swing the legislature to benefit the Democratic governor -- who is also an old friend -- during one of the few major off-year elections in the country.

    Yet, even though almost nothing about the story has changed, right-wing media are now hyping the Daily Mail’s “exclusive” to suggest impropriety by Clinton and McAuliffe and a compromised FBI investigation. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said the situation was “sleazy,” and the pro-Trump Breitbart News suggested the donations are “unusual” and raise questions, despite the continued lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.

  • Conservative Media Run With Wall Street Journal's Nothingburger Of A Clinton Pseudo-Scandal

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media are hyping a Wall Street Journal article that attempts to scandalize the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email use by tying political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to a 2015 state senate candidate whose husband later became involved in the FBI investigation. Journalists mocked and poked holes in the “embarrassing” story that has “literally nothing” to it.