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Julie Millican

Author ››› Julie Millican
  • The apathy in the media regarding Brett Kavanaugh is a national scandal

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Picture this: A controversial, deeply unpopular president mired in scandal makes a Supreme Court nomination that his party is desperately trying to jam through the process before virtually anything is known about the nominee. Then, in the middle of it, an anonymous senior official in the president’s administration pens an op-ed in The New York Times that lays out serious questions about the president’s fitness for office and the dangers he poses to the country. You’d think that conversation in the media would focus on the fact that this president -- who is so unstable that his own senior staff members are sounding the alarm -- is about to make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

    You’d be wrong.

    Let’s start at the beginning. In late June, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, and President Donald Trump moved quickly to nominate Brett Kavanaugh -- a former George W. Bush administration official who currently sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit -- to replace him. Kavanaugh’s path to confirmation has carried all the hallmarks of the Trump administration: conflicts of interest, unprecedented secrecy, violations of norms, whiffs of corruption, and lies.

    Senate Republicans have assisted the Trump White House in obscuring Kavanaugh’s full record, particularly related to his time at the Bush White House. Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) requested only 10 to 15 percent of the documents available from Kavanaugh’s time at the White House. According to Democrats, just 4 percent of Kavanaugh’s White House records were made public at the outset of confirmation hearings. Some 101,921 pages were not released due to a dubious, last-minute claim of executive privilege by the Trump administration. Additionally, mere hours before Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing was to begin, the administration dumped over 40,000 documents on the committee for members to somehow review before the hearing began.

    On top of that, the documents were vetted and cleared by an outside team led by a Republican operative, attorney, and personal friend of Kavanaugh named William Burck before they were released to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This was an unprecedented move that the National Archives, which normally conducts such reviews, went out of its way to distance itself from the document production process, issuing a statement saying that this “has never happened before” and that it did not “represent the National Archives or the George W. Bush Presidential Library.”

    Burck was a close colleague of Kavanaugh’s in the Bush administration, and more recently, as reported by Vox, he also “represented at least three current or former Trump White House officials” -- White House counsel Don McGahn, former Trump chief of staff and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, and former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon -- in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia. But that’s not all: Apparently, Republican leaders did initially think a more complete review of Kavanaugh’s record was appropriate … until they held a private meeting with McGahn in July and abruptly reversed course.

    Even still, using the paucity of documents made available, senators have all but accused Kavanaugh of lying under oath during his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings to become a federal appeals court judge. Back then, to quote Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) from Wednesday’s confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh was questioned “extensively” about a Bush administration-era scandal in which “two Republican [congressional] staffers … regularly hacked into the private computer files of six Democratic senators,” stole thousands of files, then used those files “to assist in getting President Bush's most controversial judicial nominees confirmed.” At the time, as Leahy explained, Kavanaugh repeatedly denied that he had any idea about these activities and claimed he had never received any of the stolen materials. We now know that’s a lie. During Kavanaugh’s first day of questioning, Leahy confronted him with an email clearly showing Kavanaugh was in possession of some of the stolen documents and strongly suggested that Republicans were withholding documents that showed that not only did Kavanaugh receive stolen documents, but he also knew damn well they were stolen. (Leahy showed additional stolen emails sent to Kavanaugh during the second day of questioning, including one with the subject line “spying.”)

    Normally, a Supreme Court nominee apparently committing perjury during a confirmation hearing would be explosive news that’s covered extensively. Normally, reporters would be shouting about the records that continue to be withheld. Normally, they would ask, “What are they hiding?” Such scrutiny is even more important considering the the other major news story of the day -- that a senior administration official published an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times confirming numerous other reports that the White House is a volatile shitshow run by a madman whose fitness for office is routinely questioned by the very people working for him.

    If you thought that would be the tenor of the evening news coverage on September 5, you’d be wrong. For instance, none of the broadcast newscasts reported on the very real possibility -- raised by evidence presented in the hearings -- that Kavanaugh lied under oath about knowingly receiving stolen documents when he worked in the Bush administration. And the controversy surrounding the withholding of documents about his record was hardly mentioned at all. ABC and NBC News made no mention of the extremely contentious issue, while CBS News simply reported that “several Democrats also complained today, like they did yesterday, that they needed more documents to consider this nomination, but Republicans said that was just politics, that they had more documents on Kavanaugh than any nominee in history.”

    Instead, the Beltway press has been far more interested in gossiping about the chaos within the White House than discussing what it expected to be “very long days” filled with “long, boring” testimony. A Media Matters review of the broadcast networks’ morning and evening news programs, for instance, showed that since the first day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings ended, the networks have spent over twice as much time covering leaked passages of Bob Woodward’s upcoming book Fear -- which reported what we already knew about the volatile environment within the White House -- and the anonymous op-ed than they did covering the Kavanaugh hearing.

    What should have already been a newsworthy story about a scandalous process including a potential cover-up should have been even more newsworthy when you consider the fact that this was all happening in order to rush through a Supreme Court pick chosen by a person whose own staff says he isn’t fit to be in office.

    You’d think the press would be interested in covering it.

  • Fox & Friends Cribs RNC Doc To Attack Dems For "Pivoting" To "Jobs"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Fox & Friends aired several segments today criticizing Democrats and President Obama for "pivoting" to "jobs" after the default crisis was resolved. The co-hosts wondered "what's new" about their pledges, as Obama has been "talking about" jobs and the economy "for two years," which they suggested meant Obama wasn't actually as focused on jobs as he claimed to be.

    If this sounds familiar, then you, too, probably read an August 2 Republican National Committee (RNC) research document that made the exact same argument using very similar language.

    At the very least, it seems pretty clear that Fox & Friends' segments were inspired by the RNC's research department. Observe:

    • RNC Says: "Obama will be more focused on saving his own job."
    • Fox & Friends Says: Co-host Steve Doocy said of Obama and Democrats: "Obviously what they're doing is they're trying to protect their jobs."
    • RNC Says: Democrats are "Pivoting in Circles."
    • Fox & Friends Says: Doocy said of Democrats: "They're pivoting so much they're spinning around in a circle."
    • RNC Says: "ObamaCare Was A Distraction From The 'Jobs Problem.' "
    • Fox & Friends Says: Co-host Gretchen Carlson concluded the show's first segment on the topic by saying: "When you look back in history, people will say that he was not talking about jobs when he was talking about health care. ... Many could argue that maybe he should have been talking about jobs, and maybe we wouldn't be at the situation that we are now."
    • RNC Says: The Democrats' "pledges" to focus on jobs "sound familiar."
    • Fox & Friends Says: During their segments, on-screen text aired which said, "Déjà vu? President Offers Similar Strategies In Speech."
    • Fox & Friends Says: Doocy also quipped that Obama's "been talking about the economy and it being fragile, and jobs is his job one for the last two years. So what's new?"
    • ·Fox & Friends Says: Fox & Friends also repeatedly aired a video montage of Obama discussing jobs as his priority during the past two years.

    Of course, this isn't the first time Fox has looked to the Republican Party's research or press releases for inspiration.

  • Predictable: Fox Lobs False Attack At Obama Over His Ramadan Statement

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    On August 1, President Obama issued a statement "on the occasion of Ramadan," in which he and the First Lady extended their "best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world." On August 2, Fox & Friends co-hosts reacted with predictable outrage, falsely declaring that he issued a "proclamation" in honor of the holiday. Reviving their bogus attack on Obama for not issuing an Easter proclamation, the co-hosts whined that Obama did "nothing big" for "Christianity's holiest, most sacred holiday," but for Ramadan he "issued an absolutely lovely statement regarding Ramadan" and "will also host a -- an Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast that occurs after sunset." Of course, their attack falls flat for multiple reasons.

    While the co-hosts acknowledged that Obama hosted the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll, they suggested that the rest of Obama's official recognition of the holiday was limited to a brief "mention ... in his weekend address." In fact, in addition to the Easter Egg Roll and his weekly address, Obama hosted an entire Easter Prayer Breakfast in which he discussed how the "resurrection of" his "savior, Jesus Christ ... puts everything else in perspective." In his very personal speech, Obama quoted the Scripture and said of Jesus' "slow march up that hill" and "the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross" Jesus was subjected to:

    [W]e're reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

    In the words of the book Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

    This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this "Amazing Grace" calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

    Acknowledging this speech, however, would interfere with Fox & Friends' outrage. So would reporting that no presidential proclamations have been made on Easter for at least the past 20-plus years.

    Which brings me to this: Fox & Friends' claim that Obama issued a "proclamation" for Ramadan is false. He issued a statement in honor of the holiday, but he did not issue a proclamation.

  • Right-Wing Media Cheerlead Default To Defeat Obama In 2012

    ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Recently, right-wing media figures have advised congressional Republicans to refuse to compromise in the debt ceiling debate, even allowing the country to default, because, they argue, the consequences of a default could hurt President Obama in 2012. Economists agree that there could be severe consequences to the economy if the debt ceiling is not raised.

  • Fox & Friends Does Damage Control For Its Corporate Parent

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Media Matters documented that Fox News hasn't spent much time reporting on what is undeniably one of the biggest news stories percolating in the recent news cycle -- News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal. The scandal is so large that even the FBI has gotten involved, reportedly opening a preliminary investigation into News Corp., stemming from allegations that News Corp. journalists sought to hack 9-11 victims' phones. Fox & Friends, in particular, has made scant mention of the scandal, regulating its coverage mainly to news briefs. Until today.

    In what could be seen as a sign that News Corp. is actually terrified about the unfolding and far-reaching hacking scandal, Roger Ailes sent out his favorite attack dogs to defend Fox's parent company. Fox & Friends hosted a segment with Robert Dilenschneider, head of a communications firm, to discuss the issue. In a nutshell, co-host Steve Doocy and Dilenschneider argued that everyone just needed to get over the scandal and move on.

    Here are their arguments:

    1) The "public" and the "media" are "piling on" News Corp., and that needs to stop.

    2) The scandal is no big deal because the Pentagon and other major corporations have been hacked.

    3) News Corp. has done "all the right things" in response to the scandal.

    4) We've got "serious problems in this country right now," so why is the media "talk[ing] about this?"

    5) This happened years ago, so what's the big deal?

    6) Everyone just needs to "move on and deal with the important topics of the day."

  • Right-Wing Media Praised GOP For Walking Out On Default Crisis Talks, Now Attack Obama

    ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Following reports that President Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) had a "blow up" while negotiating solutions to the default crisis, in which Cantor accused Obama of "abruptly walking out" of the talks, right-wing media have attacked Obama as a "petulant child" for allegedly doing so. However, in June, right-wing media praised Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) for walking out of default crisis negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden.

  • UPDATED: Guess Who Didn't Pay Federal Income Tax And Got Billions In Refunds? News Corp!

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    UPDATE: After this blog post was written, Reuters issued the following statement:

    Please be advised that the David Cay Johnston column published on Tuesday stating that Rupert Murdoch's U.S.-based News Corp made money on income taxes is wrong and has been withdrawn. News Corp's filings show the company changed reporting conventions in its 2007 annual report when it reversed the way it showed positive and negative numbers. A new column correcting and explaining the error in more detail will be issued shortly.

    UPDATE #2: David Cay Johnston has since issued the following column explaining his error. In it, he further noted:

    The other facts I reported remain:

    * Among the 100 largest companies in the United States, News Corp has the third largest number of subsidiaries in tax havens, a Government Accountability Office study found in 2009.

    * On an accounting basis, which measures taxes incurred but often not actually paid for years, News Corp had a tax rate of under 20 percent, little more than half the 35 percent statutory rate, its disclosures show.

    * Murdoch has bought companies with tax losses and fought to be able to use them, which reduces his company's costs.

    * News Corp lawyers and accountants are experts at making use of tax deferrals, though the company's net tax assets have shrunken from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $3.3 billion last year as the benefits were either used or expired.

    Fox News is famous for complaining about taxes. They consistently decry what they see as President Obama's desire to "soak the rich"; they see "class warfare" against the rich almost everywhere; they consistently whine that middle- and low-income families pay no federal income tax; and they relentlessly attacked GE for not paying any federal income tax this past year, going so far as to suggest that this was somehow because GE's CEO is part of Obama's Economic Advisory Panel. But here's a story I wouldn't expect Fox to be highlighting any time soon. As it turns out, News Corp., Fox News' parent company, not only hasn't paid federal income tax in years, it reportedly received billions in tax refunds, mainly from the U.S. government.

    According to Reuters' David Cay Johnston:

    Over the past four years Murdoch's U.S.-based News Corp. has made money on income taxes. Having earned $10.4 billion in profits, News Corp. would have been expected to pay $3.6 billion at the 35 percent corporate tax rate. Instead, it actually collected $4.8 billion in income tax refunds, all or nearly all from the U.S. government.

    The relevant figure is the cash paid tax rate. This is the net amount of corporate income taxes actually paid after refunds. For those four years, it was minus 46 percent, disclosure statements show.

    Even on an accounting basis, which measures taxes incurred but often not actually paid for years, News Corp. had a tax rate of under 20 percent, little more than half the 35 percent statutory rate, company disclosures examined by Reuters show.

    I wonder what Fox News must think about that.

  • Fox's Latest Example Of "Bachmann Derangement Syndrome" Is Just As Bogus As The Rest

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Gretchen Carlson is outraged. Outraged that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) had the nerve to accurately call out Republicans, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, for being anti-women's rights. During a recent appearance at the progressive Campus Progress' national conference, Ellison was asked, "[H]ow can we go forward in an America for equality when women are consistently paid" less than men and represent a minority in Congress despite making up a majority of the country? Ellison responded, in part, by pointing out that "we need to ... confront this idea of income and wealth inequality," noting that "we can use law to solve this problem." He then cited the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as an example of how Congress might be able to address this issue. He went on:

    ELLISON: I recently hosted a forum in my district called Women's Rights in the Era of Extremism. And this is an era of extremism. These same people who want to shrink government till you can drown it in a bathtub also want mom to get back in the kitchen and take her shoes off and get pregnant. You understand? They are offended by strong, powerful women. And here's the sad part -- some of them are women themselves. Michele Bachmann being an example. So let's stand up -- let's stand up for women's rights, and brothers don't leave the sisters out there. We gotta be in this thing together.

    Now that comment was too much for Carlson to handle. Carlson nearly shouted:

    CARLSON: Let me just say this, as a strong, powerful woman, that is offensive. That is offensive. How dare you say that about any woman? You don't know what she wants. You don't know that she thinks it's OK to be back in the kitchen and pregnant. Are you kidding me? She wouldn't be running for president unless she wasn't a strong, powerful woman. She wouldn't be getting those people out on the sidelines there of all those streets in Iowa and every other state she goes to unless she was a strong, powerful woman. Just because she has a differing point of view from other people does not mean that she's not a strong, powerful woman.

    Of course, in her rant, Carlson completely misses or disregards Ellison's entirely accurate point. Bachmann is against pay equality. She voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Bachmann also may not have a problem with women getting pregnant due to GOP policy. After all, she voted to defund Planned Parenthood as well, which is a huge provider of women's health services like offering subsidized birth control to low-income women. She's a co-sponsor of legislation that would "prohibit federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of a health plan that includes coverage of abortion services."