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Craig Harrington

Author ››› Craig Harrington
  • The president is live-tweeting Fox News again: Amtrak edition

    Donald Trump was apparently “monitoring” the Amtrak derailment via Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump tweeted that a train derailment stood as proof that Congress ought to pass his infrastructure plan just moments after a guest on Fox News made the exact same (and incorrect) point. Trump later claimed to be “monitoring here at the White House,” but it kind of seems like he was just watching TV along with the rest of us.

    On December 18, a southbound Amtrak train derailed while crossing an overpass outside Dupont, WA. The incident resulted in several fatalities and sent dozens of riders to the hospital . While Fox News was covering the rescue and recovery efforts live on Outnumbered: Overtime, guest Oliver McGee (a civil engineering expert and anti-Obama political activist) suggested that the derailment was proof that America needed to upgrade its passenger rail infrastructure, adding, “This is what President Trump is calling for in that infrastructure bill” (emphasis added):

    OLIVER MCGEE: We need positive train control because that ensures train separation and collision avoidance, ensures line speed enforcement, and that the temporary speed restrictions that are necessary for making wide turns and sharp turns. And more importantly our train system has to slow down at some points -- to as small as 30 miles per hour, and that’s required in order to negotiate the infrastructure itself. And this is what President Trump is calling for in that infrastructure bill. To just rehabilitate our crumbling infrastructure.

    McGee’s comment, which he made at roughly 1:39 p.m. EST, was followed almost immediately by a tweet from Trump proclaiming that the derailment “shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly.”

    Another 10 minutes passed before Trump expressed condolences for those killed and injured in the incident, again just moments after Fox returned to mentioning casualties from the incident in its on-screen chyron:

    This is not the first time Trump has seemingly tweeted his thoughts and opinions in direct response to Fox programming. And, as is often the case, Trump’s tweets and retweets based on his consumption of Fox News are often misleading or inaccurate. In this instance, Trump’s budget request submitted earlier this year actually proposed drastically reduced investments in Amtrak and overall transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, according to transportation expert Russell Quimby who responded to Trump’s tweet on MSNBC Live, given that most of the railroad system in the United States is “private infrastructure” and “privately owned,” Trump’s proposed policy solution would probably not have affected this incident in any way:

  • Media keep calling the GOP's corporate tax bill a "win" for Trump

    The extraordinarily unpopular bill is built on lies and ignores what we know about economics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump and his Republican congressional allies are enjoying a round of praise from media commentators for finally getting a legislative “win” on the board as their tax bill closes in on passage before the end of the year. The budget-busting corporate giveaway will enrich the superwealthy and do little for Americans who have to work for a living.

    Republicans finally unveiled the finished version of their tax legislation last Friday evening, and -- despite the public having just days to absorb its 1,097 pages -- both chambers of Congress plan to vote on the bill before the end of the week. If everything goes according to plan, the president will sign the bill into law just in time for members to head home for the holidays.

    After a year plagued by self-destructive outbursts, failed policy changes, unprecedented legal troubles, embarrassing scandals, humiliating legislative defeats, and nationwide political upheaval, many in the press are framing the GOP tax proposal as a crucial “win” for Trump and his party.

    On the December 18 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow wondered how anyone could argue the past year “hasn’t been a win for the president on some big fronts,” given a handful of recent accomplishments, including the new tax bill. Reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns agreed with Harlow’s assessment while noting that such favorable framing fits “the way that the White House has been messaging their own achievements”:

    During an earlier segment on CNN’s New Day, guest A.B. Stoddard suggested that the Republican tax bill, which the Economic Policy Institute has labeled “a scam,” could count as “a great boon for Republicans” and “a win on the board,” if the bill actually fulfilled its over the top promises. (It won’t.) Commentary framing the expected party-line vote as a major victory for the GOP also cropped up in The Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, and The New York Times. Reporters have seemingly gone out of their way to pat Republicans on the back for endorsing legislation so historically unpopular it registers significantly less support than some previous tax hikes:


    FiveThirtyEight.com

    In a December 15 video, Eric Schoenberg of the activist group Patriotic Millionaires explained how the GOP tax bill overwhelming favors wealthy people like him (and the Trump family) while doing little for lower- and middle-class people. Trump and the Republicans continue falsely claiming that the bill will spur business development, boost wages, and stoke renewed economic growth, but the message is such a fantasy even Fox News had to admit there was nothing to it. Previous studies from the Congressional Research Service and the Brookings Institution have demonstrated little relationship between tax cuts for the wealthy and invigorated economic activity, which Trump and the GOP have promised will result from this tax bill.

    The bill permanently cuts taxes for corporations while giving only modest, temporary relief for working people. It loosens tax structures affecting the wealthiest Americans while threatening funds for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other initiatives that guarantee basic economic security to low-income families. The bill promises to add another $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade despite years of hysteria about Obama-era revenue shortfalls. The bill also senselessly repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will likely result in millions of Americans dropping out of the insurance market.

    Rather than praising the Republican Party for ending a remarkably unproductive year by managing to cobble together a tax giveaway to the super rich, journalists should report on what is actually in the bill. Trump and the GOP have definitely enjoyed some "wins" this year, but reporters need to point out that the Republican Party's successes have often resulted in pain and suffering for millions of Americans.

  • This is how TV news ought to be covering the death of net neutrality

    Don’t give in to the spin, stick to the facts, and provide viewers with some sense of the stakes

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: As expected, the commissioners of the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to rescind the net neutrality protections instituted by the agency in February 2015. Internet advocacy groups responded to the vote by announcing legal challenges.

    Broadcast and cable news programs have been largely silent on the topic of net neutrality in the weeks since the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicated its intention to rescind Obama-era consumer protections codifying a free and open internet. With the FCC set to begin deconstructing those regulations today, news coverage must provide viewers with enough context to make clear the stakes of this dramatic policy shift.

    The FCC’s commissioners, a majority of whom are Republican appointees, are expected to vote “along party lines to scrap Obama-era net neutrality rules” during its December 14 meeting, marking “a huge victory for the big internet service providers” who have sought to dismantle the consumer protections governing how customers and content-providers interact online. According to a December 12 report from Reuters, three major net neutrality advocates -- Public Knowledge, Common Cause, and Free Press -- have given up attempting to convince Republican-appointed FCC commissioners to reconsider their decision and, with little reason to expect a legislative solution from an unproductive Republican majority in Congress, are “preparing to turn to litigation as a last resort.” Another major net neutrality advocacy group, the Internet Association -- which represents technology giants and content providers like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft -- is also weighing possible legal challenges to the FCC’s ruling, according to the report.

    The FCC’s Trump-appointed chairman, Ajit Pai, spent the days leading up to the December 14 vote doing a tour of friendly conservative media outlets to promote his anti-neutrality agenda without facing any pushback from consumer advocates and regulatory experts. Chairman Pai argued that his move to install a so-called “light touch” regulatory framework is just a return to the way the internet worked pre-2015, never mentioning that net neutrality was instituted that year in response to worries that the free and open internet Americans had come to rely on might soon disappear. (Pai’s right-wing media blitz neglected to mention his previous work on behalf of Verizon, one of the telecommunications conglomerates pushing to unwind net neutrality.)

    Broadcast and cable news programs, which Media Matters demonstrated have been conspicuously absent from net neutrality discussions, need to emphasize for their audience what is at stake in the ongoing net neutrality fight. Despite the overall inadequate coverage, there have been several examples over the past month demonstrating how news programs can inform viewers, advance the discussion, and give time to expert perspectives.

    On the December 13 edition of MSNBC Live, host Stephanie Ruhle brought on guest Jeff Jarvis who said that  rescinding net neutrality would “enable the oligopoly of cable and telephone” to control content on the internet while showcasing Pai's inconsistent approach to regulating the service providers he is aligned with and content producers who might not share his political perspective. Two weeks earlier, during the November 23 edition of MSNBC Live, host Ali Velshi and tech entrepreneur Michael Fertik engaged in a similarly fruitful discussion that provided viewers with specific examples of how telecommunications companies might take advantage of consumers in a world without mandatory net neutrality:

    During the November 26 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter and New York Times reporter David Gelles also delved into the net neutrality debate, and again stressed the ideological inconsistency of the Trump administration’s position. Gelles pointed out that Trump’s threat to block a proposed media merger by citing concerns about competition and consumer choice was directly at odds with his FCC chairman’s decision to entrust the same media titans as caretakers of the free and open internet:

    Consumer advocates have long been concerned that an internet unprotected by net neutrality could devolve into a maze of predatory and expensive consumer traps similar to what we see in countries without net neutrality, which do not provide consumers with the same protections Americans benefit from today. The Republican-led FCC has already demonstrated that it plans to use its time during the Trump era empowering corporate interests, fighting for right-wing pet priorities, and ignoring American consumers. Mainstream news outlets need to start making that story clear.

  • Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle unleash a torrential debunking of a GOP congressman's tax policy lies

    This is exactly how journalists need to treat the Republicans’ messaging nonsense on their giveaway to the rich

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle thoroughly debunked conservative talking points about the Republican Party’s pro-corporate tax policy during an interview with an ill-prepared member of Congress, who was attempting to build support for his party’s proposed tax changes that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy.

    During the December 4 edition of MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, Velshi presented a detailed outline of the many ways in which Republican tax bills in the House and Senate will fall short of GOP promises and commitments. Velshi noted that numerous independent analyses have shown the GOP plans will add upwards of $1 trillion to the national debt, and pointed out that despite “huge changes made to our tax code … we’ve seen no observable shift to long-term growth rates in the last 150 years.” Velshi also pointed to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which found that none of the 42 leading economists surveyed believe the plans will be able to boost economic growth rates by enough to make up for lost revenue. He concluded the segment by pointing to a recently-released Goldman Sachs analysis of the Senate tax bill, which concluded that economic growth stemming from the tax bill will be lower than Republicans have claimed, and, as Velshi stated, “possibly even … negative” after a few years:

    Immediately after outlining all the problems in the GOP tax plans, MSNBC invited Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) on the program and gave him an opportunity to defend his party’s policy priorities. Stewart’s performance did not go as he might have anticipated, with co-hosts Velshi and Ruhle taking turns debunking GOP talking points and pillorying Stewart’s excuses for the tax plan.

    The co-hosts rebuffed Stewart’s repeated assertions that tax cuts for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals will boost economic growth (a 2012 Congressional Research Service study found no correlation between income tax rates and economic growth, and a 2014 study from the Brookings Institution argued the relationship between tax cuts and growth was “theoretically uncertain”), they corrected his false claim that the United States has the world’s highest corporate taxes (effective corporate rates are the same as other developed countries), and they called out his false claim that “the American people want us to do this” (the GOP tax plans are actually extremely unpopular). When Stewart claimed the GOP plans are effective in simplifying the tax code, Ruhle challenged him over and over to name a single corporate loophole that is being removed (he couldn’t), and both co-hosts stung Stewart over how Republican plans fail to address the so-called “carried interest” loophole, which helps extremely high-income individuals avoid paying taxes on some of their income.

    By the end of his nearly 11-minute grilling, Stewart was actually defending the discredited theory of “trickle-down economics” by name, which Velshi correctly noted was such a disaster in Kansas that the state’s Republican-dominated legislature had to abandon their conservative tax agenda.

    This takedown from Velshi and Ruhle is not the first time the MSNBC duo has discredited the GOP’s hollow economic message. Both Velshi and Ruhle have spent considerable time over the past several months pointing out that the Republican agenda favors wealthy individuals, profitable corporations, and the Trump family at the expense of lower- and middle-income Americans. This important work in correcting purposeful misinformation about the GOP's right-wing agenda is all the more important as Republican lawmakers prepare to enact tax policy changes that could affect millions of Americans for years to come.

  • Watch a Fox News contributor laughably spin all of Trump’s talking points on the Michael Flynn guilty plea

    Steve Cortes' disgraceful performance was even labeled as a "Baghdad Bob" moment by a Fox colleague

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News contributor Steve Cortes, who acted as a Trump campaign surrogate during the 2016 presidential election cycle, pulled out all the stops in response to breaking news that former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with agents of the Russian government. Cortes downplayed the bombshell news, saying it wasn’t “even a firecracker,” claimed the whole narrative was a “collusion delusion,” and asserted that “regular Americans” are not concerned with Russia.

    President Donald Trump’s numerous other right-wing media defenders also downplayed the significance of reports that Flynn had agreed to plead guilty to charges emanating from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and attempted to deflect attention to other pseudo-scandals. The White House also issued a statement to further downplay the severity of the situation.

    Cortes’ performance during a December 1 appearance on Fox's Outnumbered Overtime offered arguably the most succinct synopsis of these defensive talking points you'll find anywhere, including:

    • “We already knew [Flynn] lied … that’s why he was fired.”
    • “We are still so far away from collusion … that is tied directly to the president himself.”
    • “What Gen. Flynn did, in terms of outreach [to Russia], I don’t think was wrong.”
    • “There’s an obsession with Russia, there is a ‘collusion delusion’ here.”
    • “This election was not won because of Russia.”
    • “Part of the problem of a special counsel … is that it can be open-end[ed].”
    • “People who ... generally despise Trump are pretty obsessed with Russia, regular Americans are not.”
    • “Gen. Flynn committed a ‘process crime’ … not a crime in action, not anything remotely close to treasonous.”
    • The “Russia obsession” is nothing more than “swamp machinations.”

    Minutes later, Weekly Standard editor-in-chief and long-time Fox contributor Steven Hayes appeared on the same program and expressed disbelief at Cortes’ performance, comparing him disfavorably to the infamous Iraqi propagandist Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, known colloquially as “Baghdad Bob.”

  • Politico fails to disclose conflicts of interest in article attacking Democrats for protecting consumers

    A strong, independent CFPB was created to rein in a predatory financial industry, not cater to political whims

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recent article in Politico blamed Democrats for the ongoing Republican campaign to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), misleadingly alleging that “Democrats are facing the consequences of their decision to protect the agency’s powerful independent director,” without disclosing the conflicts of interest of the experts it cited in support of such a view.

    Such a commission structure at CFPB has long been a goal of financial industry lobbyists and some Republicans seeking to roll back consumer protections put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act, because it would make the agency less responsive to predatory practices targeting Americans, delaying its decision-making and ability to protect consumers.

    In the November 27 article, Politico's financial services reporter claimed the succession crisis at the CFPB created by the recent resignation of long-time Director Richard Cordray “highlights how Democrats” are responsible for “the turmoil” because they rebuked GOP overtures that would have weakened the agency at its inception. From the article:

    But while the process plays out in court, the turmoil highlights how Democrats shunned Republican efforts to broaden the governance of the fledgling agency from a single appointed director to a bipartisan commission that would have included members with diverse political viewpoints.

    [...]

    In truth, the bureau has been mired in controversy since its creation. Warren has built a political career railing against Wall Street. Cordray infuriated industry and inspired lawsuits. And the bureau itself is unique, investing great power in one person with almost no accountability.

    It was predictable that such a toxic mix would eventually explode. Now Democrats are facing the consequences of their decision to protect the agency’s powerful independent director. Anybody Trump nominates to replace Cordray will have the ability to undo a lot of his work. On Monday, Mulvaney wasted no time, imposing a regulatory and hiring freeze.

    This analysis mirrors misleading arguments made by the conservative Washington Examiner and the right-wing blog RedState, which both seemed to revel in the supposed reckoning Democrats brought on themselves. In the midst of these ongoing media attacks, the Republican-controlled Congress has already moved to weaken the CFPB, a fact never mentioned in the Politico piece.

    The Politico article also echoes financial industry talking points in favor of implementing a commission structure at CFPB, going so far as to rely on a quote from Richard Hunt, the president of the Consumer Bankers Association, without pointing out he has spent years demanding the agency be turned into a weaker bipartisan commission. Indeed, more than a dozen financial and real estate lobbying arms, including the Consumer Bankers Association, wrote to Congress in June asking that the Republican-controlled House and Senate move to reshape the CFPB’s governance structure.

    But the very reason the CFPB avoided a similar commission when the agency was created was because in the aftermath of the financial devastation of the Great Recession (unleashed in part by underregulated financial industry actors), the decision was made to avoid a weakened commission that would be susceptible to just this sort of political pressure, or the type of partisan paralysis that has afflicted similar bipartisan efforts.

    Making matters worse, the only Democrat featured prominently in the article has voiced opposition to CFPB consumer protections in the past, and works at a law firm that proudly boasts of its experience fighting the agency on behalf of “bank and non-bank consumer financial services providers.” Politico’s failure to disclose this clear conflict of interest is the kind of oversight one might expect from Fox News.

    This is not the first time Politico has targeted the CFPB. A piece attacked the consumer advocacy agency in November 2015 after it used research from a consumer advocacy group while drafting new rules aimed at ending racial biases in auto lending. The 2015 criticism followed a salvo from the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, which slammed the CFPB for daring to stand up against racially biased lending practices.

    Conservative politicians and media outlets have routinely pilloried the CFPB since its inception, sometimes inventing reasons to smear the agency. Some antagonists have even attacked the CFPB for paying its employees competitive salaries, falsely claiming along the way that the agency is misusing tax dollars (it’s actually funded by the Federal Reserve).

  • How cable news should cover Trump's latest effort to screw you over while helping big banks

    White House appointment to CFPB could doom successful watchdog agency

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN’s morning news program New Day set a standard for covering the dispute between the White House and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over who should lead the agency after the departure of its long-time director, Richard Cordray. Meanwhile, Fox News largely carried water for the administration, framing the dispute in its morning show Fox & Friends as a fight between President Donald Trump and the so-called “swamp,” while MSNBC’s flagship morning program Morning Joe neglected the legal brinkmanship entirely.

    On Friday, November 24, Cordray announced his resignation from the nation’s premier consumer financial watchdog agency and elevated his chief of staff, Leandra English, to the position of deputy director. According to The Washington Post, Cordray argued in his resignation letter that designating English as the agency’s new deputy, and thus as its acting director in his absence, “would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition” until the Senate confirmed a permanent replacement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shared Cordray’s sentiment, pointing out on Twitter that the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, was very clear about the proper process for succession at the regulatory agency: The deputy director “shall be appointed by the Director” and serve as acting director in that person’s absence.

    Despite the clear letter of the law, the Trump administration nominated its own acting director: the head of Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman and outspoken opponent of the CFPB with close ties to a lobbyist who currently represents a bank “facing the prospect of major CFPB sanctions.” Acting Director English summarily filed suit against the White House in federal court for “Disregarding ... statutory language” on the proper process of naming a new director and for attempting to implant Mulvaney to serve “indefinitely as the interim head of a statutorily ‘independent’ agency” despite his current role as White House budget director.

    The succession crisis at CFPB, and the looming court battle over the president’s latest decision to circumvent legislative statutes in pursuit of his own agenda, should have provided ample material for reporters and analysts at each of the largest cable news outlets. Unfortunately, only CNN’s New Day seemed up to the task the day after the lawsuit was filed.

    CNN reporters led with the CFPB story throughout the morning of November 27, outlining the legal basis for the administration’s case as well as the case made by Acting Director English. The network’s legal and political analysts also dissected how the dispute over CFPB’s leadership is part of the Trump administration’s broader plan to dismantle regulatory and oversight mechanisms throughout the federal government. New Day even featured a lengthy interview with former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who co-authored Dodd-Frank, where he highlighted the importance of maintaining an independent financial watchdog to implement consumer protections that would prevent returning to the catastrophic circumstances of the 2008 financial collapse.

    Compared to extensive coverage from CNN, MSNBC’s Morning Joe had nothing to say about the issue. Meanwhile, the Trump sycophants at Fox & Friends briefly addressed the dispute twice, characterizing it as a fight between Trump and the so-called “swamp” and wondering why the president ought not have unilateral authority to usurp the independence of agencies like the CFPB.

    The Trump administration’s current assault on the CFPB is only the latest in a series of Republican attempts to take down the agency. Right-wing media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, have vilified the CFPB for years, but their calls to destroy the independent financial regulatory process have been supercharged by the rise of Trump and his GOP enablers.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “CFPB,” “Mick Mulvaney,” and “Leandra English” on the November 27 editions of CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Fox & Friends gave Trump's FCC chairman a free pass to spin his assault on net neutrality

    Ajit Pai knows he has an ally at Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Ajit Pai, the Republican-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), enjoyed a lighthearted interview on President Donald Trump’s favorite news program this morning in which he was allowed to spin the reasons he is rescinding Obama-era consumer protections guaranteeing fair and open access to the internet.

    During a November 22 interview with Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy allowed Pai to dubiously defend his plan to repeal net neutrality standards that were implemented in 2015 as a win for “the internet economy in America” and for nearly 300 million internet users in the United States. Doocy presented his guest with easy questions, which Pai quickly deflected with talking points claiming that his move to gut net neutrality was merely a return to the same “free and open internet” expected by consumers “before these regulations started.”

    But Pai’s move to end net neutrality, which classified high speed internet as a public utility, is widely viewed as a win for the telecommunications giants. It is also a big win for conservative media, including Fox News, which vilified net neutrality during the Obama administration.

    Internet advocates warn that service providers may soon charge extra to unlock faster access to popular websites and online content, as is already the case in some countries, but Pai brushed off those concerns as “a false fear” while passing responsibility for regulating these predatory business practices to the Federal Trade Commission. At no point during the show did Doocy ask Pai about an investigation spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which uncovered what Schneiderman called “a massive scheme” to flood the FCC with anti-regulatory comments supportive of dismantling net neutrality using personal information stolen from thousands of American citizens.

    Pai’s move to gut net neutrality, which TV morning shows barely covered as the news broke, is not the first time the chairman has used the FCC to fulfill the demands of media outlets that have a direct line to the White House. In February, Pai imposed unnecessary cuts to an extension of the Lifeline program (which Fox News and host Sean Hannity assailed for years as so-called “Obamaphones”) that provided internet subsidies to qualifying low-income Americans. In April, he moved to ease merger restrictions that could materially benefit Trump-aligned Fox News and Sinclair Broadcast Group, and in the months since, the commission has made several additional changes to FCC rules that directly aid Sinclair’s conservative local news takeover

  • House Republicans target Bob Mueller, FBI with Fox News’ Uranium One smear

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Taking their cues from Fox News host Sean Hannity, three Republican congressmen introduced a resolution in the House demanding special counsel Robert Mueller step down from his role of investigating possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and agents of the Russian government.

    On November 3, Politico reported that Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) introduced a measure that “while nonbinding, would put the House on record as describing Mueller … as unfit” to lead the Trump-Russia investigation, “because of his relationship” with former FBI Director James Comey, and his handling of an FBI investigation in 2010 when he was the head of the bureau. The representatives claimed that Mueller and the FBI are compromised because of their supposed neglect to adequately investigate “a seven-year-old sale of uranium production facilities to Russian interests,” according to Politico, which right-wing media falsely believe was inappropriately approved by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

    “[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states.

    [...]

    Mueller, they note, was presiding over the FBI at the time the agency was investigating a Russian bribery and extortion scheme connected to the uranium deal, but the agency declined to notify Congress of its investigation and prevented a confidential informant from notifying lawmakers.

    “Any thorough and honest investigation into the corruption of American-uranium related business must include investigating the willful blindness of the FBI and its leaders,” according to the resolution.

    The demand for Mueller’s resignation from lawmakers in Congress comes after months of attacks leveled by pro-Trump media. But their conspiratorial focus on Mueller’s supposed involvement in a uranium deal reveals the extent to which many Republicans may be taking their cue from Fox News, particularly Sean Hannity.

    Just three weeks ago, right-wing journalist John Solomon authored a flimsy article in The Hill, which revived the debunked Uranium One conspiracy theory. Hannity rushed to amplify the story, claiming the real collusion was between Clinton and Russia while impugning Mueller’s character. As recently as October 24, Hannity encouraged Congress to call on Mueller to testify about his “past role” in the Uranium One story, adding “there’s no way the American people can trust Robert Mueller to investigate anything Russia related, to be fair and impartial, it’s impossible because of his past role in this. He should resign immediately, tonight.” In a November 1 tirade, Hannity hyped “massive conflicts of interest coming from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team” calling them “beyond shocking” and “beyond disturbing.” Hannity alleged that the special counsel investigation “has become a partisan witch hunt that is now rotten to the core” before attempting to tie Mueller to the alleged uranium plot. Hannity also suggested that Mueller might have an ax to grind with Trump after not being chosen to replace Comey at the FBI.

    Fox News has became fully invested in stoking the conspiracy theory, despite the fact that none of the right-wing talking points about it are true -- and they are embarrassingly easy to fact check. Rep. Biggs himself appeared on the October 28 edition of Fox News’ America’s News HQ and falsely suggested Mueller had “a conflict of interest” in investigating Trump because “he’s tied back to the original Uranium One scandal.”

    The recent right-wing hysteria around Uranium One is peculiar given that it first gained public attention in April 2015 with the publication of Republican opposition researcher Peter Schweizer’s deeply flawed anti-Clinton oppo dump. Schweizer falsely alleged that Clinton used her position to promote the sale of American uranium assets to state-owned Russian entities in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. Those allegations were quickly debunked after reporters began reviewing the sale (hint: Clinton played virtually no role) and Schweizer was later forced to admit part of his argument was a lie. But Fox News never gave it up. Indeed, just last night, Hannity told Schweizer that he was proud to have hosted the first interview for Schweizer’s discredited book while boasting about his constant recent coverage of the Uranium One story.

    Previously, Fox hosts and guests have baselessly accused Mueller of leaking damaging information about the Trump-Russia inquiry to the press in hopes of building up the public’s distrust in him. Now, in the wake of key members of the Trump campaign team getting indicted, Trump’s conservative media sycophants seem to hope that the bogus Uranium One conspiracy theory will succeed in derailing Mueller’s efforts.

  • Fox News' lies about Chuck Schumer and NYC terror attack work their way across the country

    Patrons at a rural Midwest diner parroted lies spread by Fox & Friends while being interviewed on the program

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A series of Fox & Friends interviews at a diner in rural Indiana this morning put the pervasive impacts of the Fox News propaganda mill on full display. Patrons some 750 miles removed from the recent terror attack in New York City reiterated the network’s misleading talking points about Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) supposed role in allowing the attack to occur.

    Fox & Friends correspondent Todd Piro asked patrons of Indy’s Family Restaurant in Martinsville, IN, to share their thoughts about the October 31 truck attack in Manhattan, which he claimed is “front and center on everybody’s mind” in the tiny community. Two patrons pointedly blamed Schumer -- and his support 27 years ago for the diversity visa lottery program -- for the attack, saying that “those eight people would be alive today” if he had never supported the visa program and claiming that he has “blood on his hands”:

    PATRON: It’s vital that we protect our country, and the geniuses that came up with this idea -- and I hear from the news it was Sen. Schumer and Teddy Kennedy [a senator at the time] was the one that pushed this through -- those eight people would be alive today if those geniuses had kept their thoughts to themselves.

    TODD PIRO: You say the diversity visa is a horrible idea. Why do you say that?

    PATRON: It's a bad idea because bad things result from it. I think when Chuck Schumer passed that bill -- we have Americans dying now because of the folks that come in because of this. We have enough of our own problems without importing more problems. And, it's just my opinion, but Chuck Schumer has got blood on his hands. And we are sacrificing our citizens on the altar of diversity, and I’m not happy about it.

    These Martinsville residents may as well have been reading from the teleprompter back at Fox & Friends, which amplified the misleading attack on Schumer yesterday morning and was rewarded moments later by a tweet in which President Donald Trump echoed the show’s lies. Even the phrase “importing more problems” was directly sampled from a Fox & Friends guest whom Trump quoted. Fox continued its smear campaign against Schumer last night on Hannity, and now those attacks have become lodged in the consciousness of conservative-media consumers.

    In reality, the diversity visa lottery program was just one part of legislation then-Rep. Schumer introduced in 1990, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate before Republican President George H.W. Bush signed it into law. Furthermore, Schumer joined a bipartisan group of senators in 2013 to end the diversity visa as part of a push for comprehensive immigration reform; the proposed reforms were eventually abandoned amid intense pressure from right-wing antagonists, including Trump.

    Diversity visas have helped hundreds of thousands of aspiring immigrants move to the United States, including an Egyptian Muslim man who helped prevent a terror attack in New York City, but the program has become the target of anti-immigrant backlash in the wake of this week’s attack.