Author Page | Media Matters for America

Grace Bennett

Author ››› Grace Bennett
  • Seven times Trump’s new acting attorney general defended him from the special counsel investigation

    Before becoming acting AG, Matthew Whitaker appeared on cable news as a legal commentator

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN, GRACE BENNETT & ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On November 7, the day after the 2018 midterm elections, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned from his position -- reportedly at the request of President Donald Trump -- and Trump announced Matthew G. Whitaker would take his place as acting attorney general. Whitaker, who had been serving as Sessions’ chief of staff, previously worked as a U.S. attorney under President George W. Bush and as the director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a group that calls itself a conservative ethics watchdog. More recently, he appeared multiple times on Fox Business Network, and on CNN as a legal commentator to discuss the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Here are seven times that Whitaker defended Trump or attacked the investigation:

    Whitaker: Comey “didn’t report” his interactions with Trump “to any of his higher ups, which would be a real inference that he didn’t believe the president was trying to obstruct justice.”

    CHARLES PAYNE (HOST): Again, corroboration by Comey that indeed he told Trump more than once, on three occasions, that he was not the center of an investigation. I guess it might get back to the situation with Michael Flynn and how you parse these words: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.” How do you see it?

    MATTHEW WHITAKER: Yeah, I see it similar to that, but what I also see is that what Jim Comey did at the time -- he admits that he didn’t report this to any of his higher ups, which would be a real inference that he didn’t believe the president was trying to obstruct justice. And I also note that in his prepared testimony, you know, that Jim actually says that the president wanted to know if anyone in his campaign or his administration had done anything illegal and did want those people ferreted out and potentially prosecuted. So I don’t think this looks anything like an obstruction of justice claim, or even an impeachable offense. [Fox Business, Making Money With Charles Payne, 6/7/17]

    Whitaker defended Trump firing Comey for the handling of the Clinton email investigation.

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): You know Comey, you like Comey, but you say President Trump was right to fire him. Make your case.

    WHITAKER: Well my case is pretty simple. When I came into the Department of Justice, Jim Comey was the deputy attorney general, and he orientated me to the Department of Justice, and over the years that we served together, I would interact with him on a regular basis. I know him well. And what I do know though is if you read Rod Rosenstein’s memo that outlined the basis for firing Jim, that he was accurate, that Rod’s case talks about how he took, how Director Comey at the time took the Hillary Clinton email server situation and made it not just a denial of prosecution, but made it kind of a little bit of a political circus, and ultimately did things inconsistent with not only FBI policies but also FBI traditions.

    VARNEY: The criticism of James Comey is that he went public and politicized the FBI and put the FBI into the middle of political debate and that’s something you really should not do. Is that in a nutshell, that’s the criticism?

    WHITAKER: That is the criticism. It’s also he took the role of the Department of Justice and the attorney general and made it his own -- and explained why a prosecutorial decision was made, which was not his role to make. [Fox Business, Varney & Company, 6/8/17]

    Whitaker calls Mueller examining the Trump Organization’s finances a “red line,” adding, “We cannot have [an] unaccountable prosecutor that pursues whatever they want to pursue.”

    CHRIS CUOMO (HOST):The big push back that we keep hearing Matthew, while premature at this point of investigation is none of this is a crime. Nothing that you guys are talking about is a crime. There's no proof there's any criminal transactions of a financial nature, even if the President had a heavy hand in drafting and arguably misleading statement about the Don Trump Jr. meeting. Not a crime.

    WHITAKER: Right. I think one of the developments today is the fact it's been leaked that grand jury subpoenas have been issued from the grand jury. But we still haven't had any evidence or proof of any crime and I guess I would like the go to the one point that needs to be made here and that is if Bob Mueller and his small U.S. Attorney's office does go beyond the 2016 election and get into Trump organization finances unrelated to the 2016 election and really unrelated to Russian coordination, if it exists. I think that would be crossing a red line. I think that is when the deputy Attorney General, the acting Attorney General for the purpose of this investigation Rod Rosenstein, who I served with in the Bush administration, he needs to step in and pull the reigns (sic) back on Bob Mueller if he starts to go outside of the bounds of his delegation of authority.

    CUOMO: Gentleman for a moment, just for the audience that didn't have the insanity to go to law school. Just because you hear scary words like grand jury and subpoena, the process should not be mistaken for the productivity. We don't know what will come from the requests for information and testimony. We'll have to see. I understand the special counsel has criminal jurisdiction here.

    But there is a parallel, at least co concern of a political nature and you mentioned earlier Matthew, Rosenstein may have to step in and pull back the reins if Mueller goes too far. But imagine if that were happen. Imagine if the president word to make good on his threat, a hyperbolic as it may have been intended, don't go after my money. That is too far, and then what would happen in this situation? Not legally but the optics and the politics and the realities of Rosenstein saying to Mueller stop doing that or the President saying Mueller's gone too far, step in. What would that mean?

    WHITAKER: It would be a complete political conniption in Washington D.C. But it would also I think be consistent with the constitution. We cannot have unaccountable (sic) prosecutor that pursues whatever they want to pursue without any relationship to the people ultimately --  [CNN, CNN Tonight, 8/3/17]

    Whitaker defended Donald Trump Jr. on his Trump tower meeting: The Russian lawyer “used a pretext to get a meeting” with Trump Jr., and “we have no information right now that would suggest that he knew who this individual was that he was meeting with.”

    WHITAKER: As a former U.S. attorney, we did conspiracies all the time and prosecute conspiracies. I mean what happen here is this lawyer used a pretext to get a meeting with, you know, some important campaign officials to really talk about the issue she wanted to talk which is getting rid of this U.S. policy regarding adoptions and used, you know, quite frankly here in Iowa we can call it a B.S. excuse of saying that she had opposition research.

    And listen nobody's talking about what that opposition research is because we all agree it's ludicrous. I mean that the fact that Russians are funding the DNC and, you know, helping Hillary Clinton. No one's advancing that. And Don Jr. when he heard that certainly dismissed it quickly as base on what he said. And I think, you know, sort of to suggest that there's a conspiracy here.

    I mean you would always take meeting. You would have somebody from your campaign take the meeting to try to get the information.

    ...

    WHITAKER: Well, we have no information right now that would suggest that he knew who this individual was that he was meeting with or who the three were going to meet. They just knew that they must have been sold the fact that there was some really good information that they needed to hear. And then having been in campaigns, I know what that pitch looks like. And you would always have somebody from the campaign take that meeting and hear that person out. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 7/10/17]

    Whitaker tweeted an opinion piece headlined, “Note to Trump's lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob,” calling it “worth a read.”

    [Twitter, 8/6/17]

    Whitaker: “Mueller's investigation of Trump is going too far.”

    Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.

    It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.

    It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel.

    If he doesn't, then Mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family -- and by extension, to the country. [CNN, 8/6/17]

    Whitaker objected to Mueller examining Trump’s finances, agreed with Trump it was a “red line.”

    KATE BOLDUAN (HOST): Matthew, the deputy attorney general says they are not going on any fishing expedition, but you think they are. Why?

    WHITAKER: Well, I was concerned when I read the CNN reporting, which you mentioned, that they were looking -- that the special counsel is looking at Trump's finances, unrelated to the 2016 election, unrelated to Russian coordination in that regard. I think that is a red line that is beyond the scope of the letter that the deputy attorney general issued and appointed Director Mueller as special counsel. Really, it's not controversial. It would be a fishing expedition if they start looking into essentially all of Trump's finances. I know that's what some on the left want. There is a Fourth Amendment issue, even as it relates to the president and others in his family. We cannot have unfettered prosecutors turning over every rock unrelated to any nexus to the underlying issues, which is the Russian coordination and the 2016 election.

    WHITAKER: I've noticed a lot of pushback from folks in response to my piece on CNN.com from yesterday where they say, well, Ken Starr, you know, in your analysis exceeded his authority and the independent --

    (CROSSTALK)

    BOLDUAN: Started with a land deal gone bad, and ended up with Monica Lewinsky.

    WHITAKER: Yes. There are two differences. One, it wasn't independent counsel under a different law. But also Ken Starr went back and sought, expanded jurisdiction, as Michael's describing, so he could go after other things unrelated to the initial investigation, which was the Whitewater land deal. So, I think there are key distinctions there.

    Listen, I -- you know, I'm not certain. I have to take the CNN reporting that they are looking at unrelated financial crimes as true. That gives me a lot concern. As a former prosecutor, somebody that presented cases to grand juries, grand jury investigations, I understand following the money. But at the same time, we cannot go on fishing expeditions, which are essentially casting a broad net looking for crimes unrelated to the purpose of the investigation, which is Russian coordination with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. [CNN, At This Hour, 8/7/17, via Nexis]

  • Fox figures constantly parrot Trump in attacking the media

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT, COURTNEY HAGLE & ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News and some of its high-profile hosts are attempting to distance themselves from President Donald Trump’s constant attacks on the media, which he has famously smeared as the “enemy of the people.” Martha MacCallum, host of Fox’s The Story, told Politico that she finds Trump’s rhetoric “wrong” and “disturbing.” Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of Fox & Friends, told viewers that he wished the president would “lose” the term “enemy of the people.” Pointing to Kilmeade’s comment, a Fox spokesperson argued to Forbes that “many of the FNC and FBN programs regularly push back on the Trump narrative.”

    These halfhearted deflections are undoubtedly an effort to avoid any blame for recent attempted violence amid calls for a boycott of the network’s advertisers. But in reality, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have directly contributed to hostility against journalists and the media by regularly launching Trumpian attacks at outlets and reporters. They dismiss media outlets as “fake news,” label the media “the enemy of the people,” vilify individual journalists, and call for the Trump administration to crack down on the free press.

    Video by Miles Le

    Attacks on the media are frequent and vicious on Fox

    Fox’s Pete Hegseth has smeared the media as “the opposition party, the left-stream media, the legacy media, whatever you want to call them,” and argued that journalists “ continue to expose themselves because they can't hold back on their dedication to tearing down any single member of the Trump administration.”

    Fox’s Sean Hannity complained that “the propaganda media” is “out to destroy Trump. That is their main purpose. They want to advance the interests of liberal Democrats and the left. Now -- they're not journalists. They’re not reporters. They’re rigid, radical left-wing ideologues.”

    Hannity also said: “The alt-left propaganda media is getting worse every single day. They’re now at war with you, the American people.”

    Fox guest and Daily Caller writer Stephanie Hamill said: “Some of these journalists have an agenda, and they’re pushing a globalist agenda. And so when Trump calls the media the fake news media, the enemy of the people. They are the enemy of the people when they’re not being honest.”  

    Frequent Fox guests Diamond and Silk: “Not only are [the media] the enemy of the people, they are the enemy of the truth. Because they spread lies, and that’s why we call them the fake news.”

    Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to planned editorials criticizing Trump’s rhetoric about the media as “anti-Trump screeds” and “coordinated national left-wing fake news.”

    Dobbs argued that “the left-wing media” was aiding the Democratic Party in carrying out “a coup d'etat against President Trump.”

    Fox host Laura Ingraham accused the media of “actively concealing the heinous actions” of groups like antifa “because they serve their ends.”

    Fox’s Jesse Watters said the press, along with leakers, comprise “the official Democratic Party opposition.”

    In response to newspapers’ condemnation of Trump’s rhetoric, Fox Business guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.”

    Frequent Fox guest Michelle Malkin: “The media is the opposition party. I gotta get that on a bumper sticker.”

    Fox host Steve Doocy: The media want “to destroy [Trump] for the most part, because they didn’t like him. Look, nobody in the mainstream media for the most part predicted or wanted Donald Trump to win. He won, ha ha, he would go, and now, look, it’s the state of journalism today.”

    Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Media coverage “enrages” the president, “and I understand why. And I think he’s probably right to be mad.”

    Hannity criticized the media for being "filled with all opinion" and "kissing [Obama's] ass,” instead of holding government accountable.

    Hannity dismissed claims that he was  “inciting violence” by criticizing the “fake news media” for “reporting fake news almost every night”:

    Fox hosts regularly insult the media’s coverage of stories that reflect negatively on Trump or Republicans  

    Lou Dobbs slammed the “national left-wing media” for covering Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ racist comment about his opponent, Andrew Gillum.

    Sean Hannity smeared media coverage of the package bomber targeting high-profile Democrats and CNN, calling it “so over the top, so outrageous, so disgustingly partisan.”

    Hannity complained that media “betrayed the American people” in their coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation.

    Hannity also slammed the media for covering his disastrous interview with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, calling reporters “lazy, … abusively biased echo chamber people in the fake news overpaid media.”

    Fox’s Jeanine Pirro whined that coverage of Trump and Russia is “like propaganda.”

    Fox routinely celebrates Trump’s hostility toward the media

    In response to a particularly vicious press conference in which Trump “launched an extraordinary denunciation” of the media, according to CNN, former Fox host Eric Bolling claimed that the room “looked like a WWE arena, with the mainstream media having fits about being called out for their unfair reporting.”

    Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle called the same press conference “wildly entertaining.”

    While interviewing the president, Fox’s Pete Hegseth asked him which  is his biggest opponent -- the Democrats, the “deep state,” or the “fake news media.”

    Fox & Friends celebrated Trump’s made-up "awards" attacking media: “Excitement for President Trump's fake news awards is so off the charts.”

    Fox figures often target specific outlets and individual journalists

    When the White House banned CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from an open press event, Lou Dobbs celebrated the move: "It's about time there were consequences for disrespectful behavior."

    Dobbs smeared CNN’s Jim Acosta as “triggered” and “delicate” after Trump supporters harassed him at a rally.

    Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Acosta's conduct makes him "an enemy to the American people."

    Hannity argued that the president shouldn’t “do any more interviews with Lester Holt, which then is sent over their cable channel and CNN so they can rip it apart.”

    Hannity also claimed that “corporate jihad” is “being waged by NBC News against President Trump,” and he went on to attack the “alt-left propaganda, destroy-Trump-at-all-costs media.”

    Fox contributor Michael Goodwin attacked The New Yorker's Jane Mayer for her reporting on sexual assaults: "She's been on this rampage for 25 years.”

    Fox & Friends defended Trump after he launched a sexist attack on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, saying the media had a “melt down” over the comment and arguing that Brzezinski “make[s] a living insulting” Trump.

    After Trump tweeted a photoshopped GIF of him “body slamming” CNN, Fox & Friends Sunday praised and joked about the GIF.

    Brian Kilmeade claimed CNN “went unhinged” after Trump posted the GIF, and Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that the network has “this unremitting hostility to Donald Trump.”

    Fox personalities have called for a crackdown on the free press

    Fox’s Newt Gingrich urged the administration to “close down the press room, send the reporters off. They can sit over at the Hay-Adams. They can go to Starbucks across the street. I don't care where they go.” Sean Hannity rejoiced at the idea: “The media will implode! They would not know how to deal with this.”

    Gingrich argued that the White House should “suspend” CNN’s Jim Acosta “for 60 days… as a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” on how they’re allowed to behave.

    Gingrich claimed that if he were the president, he “would kick some of the [news] organizations out. I would flood the White House press corps with lots of people,” adding that Trump should recognize “this is a real war.”

    Hannity: “As long as they keep reporting fake news, bizarre conspiracy theories, and show this bizarre fascination and paranoia about Russia, how about no more press conferences for the Hillary Clinton-colluding media?”

    Hannity claimed that the president shouldn’t “do interviews with the network so they can spend hours and hours and hours tearing up every word this president says, something they'd never do to Obama. End it. He doesn't need the press.”

  • Right-wing media are celebrating the election of far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil and comparing him to Trump

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & COURTNEY HAGLE


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    On October 28, far-right Brazilian Congress member Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. Bolsonaro has repeatedly embraced authoritarianism, and he has a history of espousing misogynistic, racist, anti-LGBTQ, and other extremist rhetoric. Right-wing media are celebrating his victory and high poll numbers by cheering on his proposed policies and highlighting the similarities between Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump:

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said Brazilians are “looking at Bolsonaro as someone who’s more like Trump, who’s going to get back to the basics on the economy. And I bet Bolsonaro and Trump form a very productive relationship trade-wise -- watch the trade deal that’s going to come out of this Bolsonaro-Trump relationship.”
    • During the October 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said Brazilians “wanted to bring in someone from the outside who spent very little of his own money in order to win.” Fox’s Rob Schmitt added that Brazilians wanted “change,” and “got it,” with “the Trump of the tropics.”
    • Fox’s national security and foreign affairs expert Walid Phares celebrated Bolsonaro on Fox Business Network, claiming, “He’s going to go anti-terrorism, anti-smuggling, he's going to reform the economy, and he made a statement that he is going to be a partner with the United States against those extremists and also helping us with the issues of the migrants.”
    • Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn boasted in his morning newsletter that “President Trump’s country - first policies are becoming more popular around the globe” and expressed his hope that “the positions shared by these two leaders will result in a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the U.S. and Brazil.”
    • Hugh Hewitt shared an article about Bolsonaro’s win and tweeted: “Brazil deregulated will work with Columbia Mexico U.S. for a booming hemisphere”
    • In The Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft wrote that “Anti-Communist ‘Trump of the Tropics’” Bolsonaro won the election and complained that Reuters “calls Bolsonaro ‘far right’ because he openly opposes communism.”
    • Pamela Geller wrote that Bolsonaro’s ascent to power is “similar to what the United States experienced with President Trump. Bolsonaro has been called ‘Brazil’s Trump’ due to his nationalistic policies and his tough stance on crime.” Geller also criticized the media’s coverage of Bolsonaro as a “far-right politician,” drawing comparisons between the media’s treatment of him and Trump.
    • The Daily Caller’s Jason Hopkins praised “Trump of the Tropics” Bolsonaro’s tough stance on crime and free-market economic reforms, arguing that his support comes not from “establishment figures and those in the American left-wing media,” but from “Brazilian citizens who wanted change.”
    • Far-right troll Mike Cernovich complained that “many Brazilian friends have told me Bolsonaro is being lied about in the media,” repeatedly claimed Bolsonaro is not “far right,” and argued, “The far left is being rejected worldwide. … The Brazilian people voted for change.”
    • Far-right agitator Katie Hopkins noted Bolsonaro’s victory alongside an anti-Islam image, and she added that she is “bloody loving the rise of the right.”

    Bolsonaro’s rise followed years of anti-democratic statements from him that can only be read as fascist. An October 28 article in The New York Times compiled some of the Brazilian president-elect’s most extreme comments. When asked in a 1999 interview whether he would shut down Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro replied:

    There is no doubt. I would perform a coup on the same day. [Congress] doesn’t work. And I am sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud because it doesn’t work. The Congress today is useless … lets do the coup already. Let’s go straight to the dictatorship.

    He also appeared to advocate for a violent “civil war” to “do the job that the military regime didn’t do: killing 30,000.” Bolsonaro has repeatedly advocated for torture and threatened earlier this month to jail his political opponents after taking office.

    The Times also reported that Bolsarano once told a fellow lawmaker that he “would not rape [her] because you [she is] not worthy of it.” He has stated that he would not hire women equally, and he referred to having a daughter as a “weakness.” In 2011, he claimed he would “rather his son die in a car accident than be gay,” and two years later he claimed that he would “rather have a son who is an addict than a son who is gay.” Just last year, Bolsonaro implied that Afro-Brazilians are lazy, claiming, “They don’t do anything. They are not even good for procreation.” Bolsonaro has promised to roll back policies meant to protect the environment, and, according to the Times, he claimed the “Amazon is like a child with chickenpox, every dot you see is an indigenous reservation.”

  • On CNN, the NYT’s Jonathan Martin claims there’s “an argument” that Republicans want to protect pre-existing conditions coverage

    Some Republicans have reversed course to claim they support pre-existing conditions coverage, but have voted to repeal the whole ACA without calling for the exception

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During the October 26 edition of CNN’s New Day, The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin suggested that Republicans “have an argument” when they say “we want to scrap the parts” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but save other provisions like protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In reality, there is ample evidence that Republicans are happily targeting pre-existing conditions coverage.

    The vast majority of congressional Republicans have spent years attempting to repeal the ACA and offering replacements that would have substantially weakened or eliminated protections barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has publicly stated his intention to revisit a full repeal should Republicans do well in the midterm elections. Moreover, many Republicans remain publicly supportive of a lawsuit brought by “Republican attorneys general representing 20 states” that could end pre-existing conditions coverage. The president, McConnell, and other Republican officials and candidates all support the lawsuit. Faced with overwhelming public support for the ACA’s pre-existing conditions coverage, Republicans have started lying about their party’s very recent history of favoring restricted access for those with pre-existing conditions.

    On New Day, Martin suggested Republicans could argue that the narrative that they're against protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is not “fair” because Republicans in Congress had to vote against the Affordable Care Act as a whole entity, even if they supported some components of the law. However, these Republicans never expressed support for protections for people with pre-existing conditions until the midterm elections began to approach and haven't explained how they plan to repeal the ACA while protecting that provision. In reality, mandatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions only became possible because of the ACA’s individual mandate, which conservatives rallied against for years. The individual mandate forced healthy people to purchase insurance, helping to offset costs of covering those with pre-existing conditions. Conservatives’ efforts to repeal the ACA as a whole cannot be separated from attacks on pre-existing conditions. Republicans did pitch one new bill as a way to protect coverage, but it was quickly revealed to be “a fraud.”

    During his appearance on CNN, Martin gave undue benefit of the doubt to GOP claims by ignoring obvious evidence of Republicans’ antipathy toward pre-existing conditions coverage and suggesting that they might want to protect it after all:

    JONATHAN MARTIN (THE NEW YORK TIMES): The challenge they have is that they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a key part of which includes those protections. Now, the Republicans will say, “Look, we want to scrap the parts of the ACA that we don't like, we will save those.” And so they have an argument there. But obviously, politics is not always fair in terms of when you sort of vote to repeal a large bill and there’s popular items therein, that isn't always specified.
  • Fox News has become a platform for Republicans to lie about their stances on pre-existing conditions

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As the midterm elections creep closer, Fox News has hosted a series of Republican candidates and party spokespeople eager to mislead viewers about their stances on health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. In the past eight days, Fox hosted four Republicans seeking office in November to brag about their alleged support for pre-existing condition coverage -- even though each of these candidates previously supported legislation that would make it more difficult for people with pre-existing conditions to access care. In none of those interviews did the host challenge the candidate’s claims, allowing the false information to go unchecked.

    On the October 10 edition of Fox’s flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, Arizona congresswoman and Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally told the hosts that she has “voted and [is] passionate about making sure we protect people with pre-existing conditions.” However, HuffPost pointed out that McSally “voted for her party’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including regulations that block insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.” In fact, her fervor for the bill was so strong that she reportedly “stood up in GOP conference meeting and said let's get this ‘fucking thing’ done.”

    Less than a week later, Rep. Lou Barletta, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, claimed on the October 16 edition of Fox & Friends that he “would not support anything that would deny anybody [with] pre-existing conditions” coverage. But Barletta supported Republican legislation to overturn the ACA last year, even though experts note that the bill “could have driven up premiums for people with pre-existing conditions who lose their insurance” and that it “lacked any guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions would get access to affordable coverage.”

    Later that day, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun said on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier that he wanted to be “crystal clear” about his stance and that he would “never be for any replacement [for the ACA] that didn't cover pre-existing conditions.” However, PolitiFact noted that Braun has repeatedly backed legislation and lawsuits that would have threatened pre-existing condition coverage. Braun supported the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, which would have made coverage for pre-existing conditions “more expensive and less accessible,” according to Urban Institute health policy analyst Linda Blumberg. Braun also endorsed a lawsuit that would “effectively end mandatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.”

    And on the October 17 edition of America’s Newsroom, Montana’s Republican Senate nominee, Matt Rosendale, told Fox anchor Bill Hemmer that he has “really worked very hard to make sure pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions are covered.” In reality, as Montana’s state insurance commissioner, Rosendale allowed “the sale of insurance-like products that ‘do not guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.’” In fact, a program Rosendale re-authorized after it was banned in Montana due to allegations of fraud, Medi-Share, “explicitly excludes coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

    In addition to these candidates, Fox has also hosted Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and President Donald Trump, who each falsely painted Republicans as champions of protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions. McDaniel said, “Of course we’re going to protect pre-existing conditions,” and Trump said, “We are 100 percent for pre-existing -- and covering people with pre-existing conditions.” But again, neither of these claims were challenged. In reality, the Trump Department of Justice has argued that protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be abandoned, and a recent Republican bill that was pitched as a way to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions was quickly revealed to be “a fraud.”

    Faced with overwhelming public support for the ACA’s pre-existing conditions coverage, Republicans have been forced to lie about their party’s very recent history of favoring restricted access for those with pre-existing conditions. Fox News has served as a willing partner to spread these falsehoods.

  • National TV news stations drop the ball on Georgia voter suppression 

    Fox News, ABC, and NBC have completely ignored the news that Georgia's secretary of state, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, is sitting on tens of thousands of voter applications, while CNN and CBS just began covering it today

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Georgia’s secretary of state and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Brian Kemp, is blocking the voter registrations of tens of thousands of people in his state, potentially keeping them away from the polls on November 6 in his face-off against Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams. His voter suppression tactics, which disproportionately affect Black voters, aren't new, but they are a direct assault on voting rights, and most national TV news stations have completely ignored the story.

    On October 9, The Associated Press reported that Kemp has “cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012” through purges of voter rolls, including almost 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone. Additionally, the AP found that Kemp is currently holding up 53,000 new voter registration applications; nearly 70 percent of those applications come from Black citizens, in a state that is 32 percent Black. The applications are ostensibly being held because the information on them does not exactly match state or federal records, but these disparities could be as minor as a missing hyphen or a typo.

    Many Georgians may be unaware that their applications have been put on hold or that they’ve been purged from the voter rolls, and now that the October 9 deadline to register to vote has passed, Kemp may have successfully suppressed their vote come November. Voters whose applications are being held up may still be able to vote if they present the right form of ID at their polling place, but this fact has been poorly publicized and could result in confusion for poll workers. This is just the latest episode in a well-established pattern of Republicans employing voter suppression tactics. Blocking people -- and especially minorities -- from voting is an obvious attack on democracy that deserves widespread media coverage. Unfortunately, most of TV news has turned a blind eye to Kemp’s suppressive tactics.

    Fox News, NBC, and ABC all completely ignored the story this week, making no mention of Kemp’s voter suppression since the AP report dropped on October 9. CBS made one attempt to cover the story, a quick report on its morning news show on October 12. CNN also failed to cover the story this week until October 12, when its programs finally began including packaged reports and other segments.

    MSNBC is the only network to adequately cover the story, with mentions of Kemp’s voter suppression starting on Tuesday and reports on details of the story beginning on Wednesday. On October 11 alone, MSNBC discussed the story on seven of its programs and dedicated over half an hour of coverage total, and the network has continued its reporting today. The coverage has been quick to condemn Kemp’s actions, offer details about the AP report, and effectively explain the craven and political motivations behind Republican voter suppression:

    This isn’t Kemp’s first foray into widespread voter suppression, nor is it the media’s first time botching coverage on important stories about voting rights. Fox News has long served as an ally in Republican attempts to stop voters from making it to the polls, but by failing to report on these efforts, mainstream media are also complicit in the destruction of voting rights.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Snapstream video database’s transcript and closed-captioning archive for any instances of the words “Georgia,” “Kemp,” “Abrams,” “exact match, "exact matching,” any iterations of the words “purge” or “suppress,” or any use of the word “vote” within 10 words of “purge” or “roll” between October 9, when the story broke, and October 12 on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS.

  • CNN's conservative pundits are helping the GOP fearmonger over “scary” liberal protesters 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, right-wing media and Republican officials have found a new favorite scare tactic: hyping nonsensical claims of radical Democrats and an “angry mob” of “scary,” violent, liberal protesters trying to disrupt American values and take over the country. This transparent effort at turning out Republicans to the polls has been parotted by a number of  right-wing pundits paid by CNN for their political analysis.

    Right-wing media, especially the Trump-aligned Fox News Channel, responded to the confirmation battle of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by accusing Democrats, protesters (many of whom were sexual assault survivors)  and the left broadly of violent radicalism. Republican politicians, including the president, have been quick to echo these claims. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) argued that Democrats “encouraged mob rule” during the Kavanaugh hearings, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commended Republicans for standing “up to the mob.” During an October 9 rally in Iowa, President Donald Trump -- who regularly called for actual violence during the 2016 campaign and who said last year that there were “very fine people” at a white supremacist rally that resulted in one person dying -- condemned Democrats as an “angry left-wing mob” that is “too dangerous to govern.” The president insisted that the party cannot be trusted with power because “you don't hand matches to an arsonist.”

    Conservative denouncements of left-wing violence are obviously absurd, and markedly hypocritical, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing CNN pundits from fearmongering about the supposed “mob behavior” of the left. On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, commentator Steve Cortes called it “scary” that the left has been using “mob tactics” and “violence” to a “dramatic degree.” During the October 9 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, political commentator Alice Stewart claimed that Republicans were correct in calling protesters a “mob” because they were “banging on the doors of the Supreme Court and chasing senators out of public restaurants and yelling at senators in an elevator.”

    During the same segment, CNN’s Matt Lewis equated protesters to the alt-right and specifically white supremacist Richard Spencer before host Don Lemon interrupted him. He then accused the protesters of “mob behavior,” and got into a heated exchange with Lemon about whether activists disrupting people who are complicit in the administration’s inhumane policies constitutes mob action.  And on The Lead with Jake Tapper, network contributor Scott Jennings argued that the Kavanaugh hearings showed conservatives “what life would be like if you let the angry mob take over,” and claimed that if he were running a campaign he would use “video of this angry mob.”

    There is, of course, tremendous irony here; CNN hired Corey Lewandowski as a political commentator after Lewandowski was forced out of the Trump campaign for assaulting a reporter. CNN was also duped by conservatives earlier this year into fretting over “civility” as it conflated examples of liberals being rude with conservatives being racist.

    CNN’s model of false balance and “both sides” punditry and its obsession with employing and hosting a roster of right-wing ideologues is nothing new, but it does continue to lead to the espousal of extremist opinions on the network.

  • Mainstream media are trying to spin Nikki Haley as a moderate

    During her tenure at the UN, she advocated and defended extremist policies 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the October 9 announcement of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s resignation, mainstream media figures and organizations were quick to sing her praises and label her a “moderating voice” within the administration. In reality, Haley’s tenure at the U.N. was marked by the U.S. adopting extreme policies, which Haley advocated and defended.

    The day Haley resigned, The New York Times tweeted that her departure left “the administration with one less moderate Republican voice.” Meanwhile, on CNN, political commentator Chris Cillizza and anchor Jim Sciutto both said she was -- or was seen as -- a “moderating influence,” and the network’s global affairs analyst, David Rohde, also called her “sort of a moderating voice.” Network host Brooke Baldwin said, “I’m wondering who then becomes that strong -- that push-back voice in this administration once she leaves?”

    It was a similar story on MSNBC, where political contributor Ben Rhodes, a former Obama official, argued that Haley “comes from a more conventional Republican approach to foreign policy that stands up to Vladimir Putin, that wants to be tough on Russia, that wants to promote democracy and human rights around the world.” MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell called Haley “moderate” multiple times, claiming that she was “one of the administration’s last moderate Republican voices.” Similarly, NBC political reporter Josh Lederman commended Haley as someone who could  “talk about ... issues in a way that sort of softened them” and claimed she could make Trump’s policies more “palatable” to “more moderate people.” Others went further in their praise. MSNBC’s Charlie Sykes called Haley “one of the stars of this administration,” and Chris Matthews compared her to President John Kennedy, saying “we spot leaders” by their “courage to get ahead of the crowd” and “act in a way that leads the way.”

    Despite mainstream figures’ efforts to frame Haley as a moderate, her record is filled with instances of her embracing extreme policies:

    • During her tenure as U.N. ambassador, Haley defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement now signed by every other county in the world.

    • She led the country’s withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, an organization The New York Times calls “the world’s most important human rights body.” Haley called the organization “so corrupt.” Every country in the world participates in UNHRC meetings and deliberations with the exceptions of Iran, North Korea, Eritrea, and now the United States.

    • Haley defended the administration’s decision to gut funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the U.N.’s pivotal assistance program for Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Millions of Palestinians rely on UNWRA for health care, education, and basic resources, like food.

    • She applauded the Trump administration’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal as the  “absolutely … right decision.” The exit rankled American allies, many of whom chose to remain in the deal.

    Mainstream media figures have ignored this evidence that Haley allowed and encouraged American extremism and bullying, instead casting her as a maverick within the administration. Their interest in finding someone within the administration to label “moderate” is another example of the mainstream media’s fetish for normalizing Trump-ism.

    Tyler Monroe and Gabby Miller contributed research to this piece.

  • On Fox & Friends, the former ICE director praises Trump for “pushing for the rule of law”

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    On October 9, Fox & Friends hosted former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan to brag about President Donald Trump “pushing for the rule of law” and working to “enforce the laws on the book.” His assertion that Trump stands for law and order falls even flatter than usual given a recent New York Times investigation that revealed the Trump family’s fraudulent tax schemes.

    While Homan was touting Trump’s alleged support for the rule of law, both he and the hosts failed to mention the Times report, which detailed intricate and fraudulent tax-dodging schemes used by the Trump family to pass along undertaxed inheritance. The paper reported, “President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents.” Since the story broke, New York state and city tax authorities have opened investigations into the apparent tax evasion.

    Fox & Friends originally responded to the Times story by complaining that the paper was “bashing” Fred Trump, the president’s father. Less than a week later, the show seems to have moved on by ignoring the story altogether, instead sticking to the script that has Trump playing the law-and-order president. From the October 9 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

  • Fox & Friends fearmongers about left-wing violence while ignoring violence and threats from the right 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Today’s edition of Fox & Friends painted a picture of a society terrorized by left-wing violence and threats toward conservatives, completely ignoring very real incidents of violence and intimidation against Democrats and professor Christine Blasey Ford.

    Hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and guest host Ed Henry spoke at length about the supposed violence of the left, and fearmongered about the danger it entails for conservatives. Some of the hosts’ most pressing concerns included people protesting inhumane policies by yelling at politicians dining in restaurants, and peaceful protesters placing cameras in politicians’ faces. While the discussion did highlight some genuinely concerning threats against Republican senators, the hosts did not mention any threats against their Democratic colleagues or their staffs.

    Just three days ago, a Florida supporter of President Donald Trump was arrested after repeatedly posting online about his plans to kill Democratic senators. In one post, he wrote that he was “about to accept an offer on my house just to get more money to fund my plan to kill Democrat office holders and their families.” He also expressed hope that fellow conservatives would break into liberals’ homes and murder them in their sleep. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama reported that his female staff members have received violent threats from supporters of newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And Christine Blasey Ford, who testified under oath that Kavanaugh assaulted her while in high school, has been the target of sustained harassment and death threats for weeks. The threats are so serious and pervasive that she still cannot return to her home, even after Kavanaugh was confirmed and sworn in as a Supreme Court justice.

    Fox & Friends chose to ignore these clear incidents and threats of right-wing violence, and instead focused on fearmongering about an allegedly lawless left. From the October 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends: