Author Page | Media Matters for America

Katie Sullivan

Author ››› Katie Sullivan
  • Right-wing media react to Julie Swetnick’s report of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh

    Swetnick says she “witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom”


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 26, a third woman came forward with an account of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Julie Swetnick said in a sworn declaration, initially posted on her lawyer Michael Avenatti’s Twitter account, that she witnessed Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge “drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct,” including “abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.”

    According to Swetnick, Judge, Kavanaugh, and others would make efforts to “‘spike’ the ‘punch’ at house parties … to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say ‘No,’” and they would make “efforts” to “cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.” Swetnick also stated, “In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.”

    Several right-wing media figures reacted to this story by attacking Swetnick, casting doubt on her story, and defending Kavanaugh:

    The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson: “So the FBI conducts six investigations into Kavanaugh and totally misses that he's been running drug and rape gangs since age 15, but the solution is to have the FBI do a seventh investigation?”

    Erickson: “If you know there's a band of 15 year olds running drugs and raping fellow teenagers, why'd you keep going to the parties? Why'd you never tell anyone else about this rape gang?”

    Erickson, again: “Was Bill Cosby ever at a Georgetown Prep party?  Because this sounds more like they confused Kavanaugh for him.”

    The National Review’s David French: “Please someone help me with this. … Lots of people knew [Georgetown Prep boys] were committing gang rape, … [but] no one has talked publicly for three decades, until the day before a crucial Senate hearing. What?”

    Radio host Hugh Hewitt quote-tweeted French’s tweet, writing: “It is not plausible. Committee staff should speak with her and senators/committee counsel should question Kavanaugh specifically on new affidavit. Then vote Friday. The parade of late hits won’t stop, won’t be illumined by delay.”

    The National Review’s Rich Lowry: “One obvious question about this account: Why would she constantly attend parties where she believed girls were being gang-raped?”

    The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti: “At no point in this allegation does Avenatti's client claim she was raped by Brett Kavanaugh.”

    The Daily Caller’s Derek Hunter: “Curiously @CNN is ignoring the garbage allegations of multiple gang rape parties. Yet they’re taking the test as gospel. What a bunch of bullshit.”

    The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey: “Why the fuck did this woman go to ‘multiple parties’ where she knew gang rapes were a common occurrence?”

    Fox News’ Stephen Miller: “This is going to end up at someone saw Kavanaugh do the shocker one time.”

    The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway: “One thing that is not being captured in the media/Dem coordinated ‘Destroy Kavanaugh’ campaign is how unspeakably angry it is making a huge percentage of the population… They are *angry.*

    Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter re-tweeted Avenatti’s tweet of Swetnick’s name and photo, with the caption “full of it.”

    Schlichter: “This is all bullshit. Confirm him.”

    Conservative radio host Buck Sexton: “We are left with 2 choices. 1) Kavanaugh was part of a secret roving gang rape squad in DC that was systemically violating women. … 2) This is the most disgustingly dishonest, coordinated smear campaign in US history.”

  • CNN panel on Kavanaugh sexual misconduct report features two journalists and a pro-Kavanaugh conservative activist

    Imbalanced panel allows Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino to attack accounts of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez without counterweight

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    A CNN panel on New Day featured, along with two journalists, the chief counsel and policy director for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network to comment on a second report of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. On September 23, The New Yorker published the account of Deborah Ramirez, a college classmate of Kavanaugh, who says he "exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away." Last week, The Washington Post published the story of Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school.

    Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino appeared on CNN along with a reporter and a CNN legal analyst. In the segment, Severino claimed that Kavanaugh "has been subject to a sustained campaign -- public smear campaign against him for the last two weeks." She asserted without evidence that "the initial Ford allegations are unraveling before our eyes," adding that "the Democrats are going crazy trying to find something else they can do" to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation and that Ramirez’s "allegation is even less credible." CNN offered no explanation in the segment for why it invited a conservative, pro-Kavanaugh activist without any counterbalance on the panel.

    Judicial Crisis Network has pledged $1.5 million in advertising to push for Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

    From the September 24 edition of CNN's New Day:

  • Trump's lawyers now say collusion is not a crime. Right-wing media have been saying that for over a year.


    Two lawyers for President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, have begun publicly making the case on behalf of their client that colluding with a foreign country to swing an election is not be a crime. During a July 30 appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Giuliani claimed that “collusion is not a crime,” an argument he went on to repeat that same day to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. The next day, Sekulow appeared on Fox & Friends and declared multiple times that “collusion is not a crime.”

    This isn’t the first time that Giuliani has suggested that potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may not have been illegal. In May, he told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that there is “nothing illegal” about “looking for dirt” on political opponents, even “if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American.” And Trump in December himself told The New York Times, “Even if there was [collusion], it's not a crime." These claims from the president and his lawyers echo more than a year of similar protestations by right-wing and pro-Trump media figures:

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The breaking news today is [special counsel Robert] Mueller is just now starting investigating Russia collusion, which isn’t a crime.”

    • Hannity: “Today is the one-year anniversary of the Mueller witch hunt, and so far the special counsel has not provided a single shred of evidence of any collusion. And collusion is not against the law.”

    • Hannity: “Collusion is not a crime.”

    • Hannity : “Collusion’s not a crime. That’s the whole irony here.”  

    • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: Trump “only needs to answer questions about crimes. If it’s not a crime to fire [former FBI Director] Jim Comey, then what crime are we talking about? Collusion? Russian collusion is not a crime.”

    • Pirro: “Collusion is not a crime, so why are all the Democrats saying we’re looking for collusion? Collusion is not a crime. How stupid are they?”

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “Collusion’s not a crime. ... As Andy McCarthy keeps saying, collusion -- there is not a crime in actually speaking to Russian officials during an election cycle.”

    • Fox’s Gregg Jarrett: The FBI “launched the investigation, as I argue in my book, to frame Donald Trump for things he didn’t do, for crimes he didn’t commit. Collusion is not even a crime in a political campaign."

    • Jarrett: “You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election.”

    • Jarrett: “It was always a myth that collusion in a political campaign is a crime. It’s not.”

    • Jarrett: “Collusion is only criminal in an antitrust setting. It has nothing whatsoever to do with elections.”

    • Fox Business Network’s Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: “As the president’s attorney Jay Sekulow has pointed out a bunch of times, collusion is not a crime. And that’s absolutely true.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Alan Dershowitz: “You cannot impeach a president unless he’s committed a crime. Collusion is not a crime.”

    • Dershowitz: “Collusion is not a crime. I have seen no evidence of collusion.”

    • Dershowitz: “I’ve been teaching criminal law for 50 years, and I know the federal criminal code pretty well. The word ‘collusion’ appears only in one context, and that is if businesses collude with each other in violation of the antitrust law, that’s a crime. But there’s no crime of collusion with a foreign government.”

    • Dershowitz: Mueller is “inventing a crime. There’s no such crime as 'collusion' in the federal statute.”

    • Fox's Brit Hume: “Can anybody identify the crime? Collusion, while it’d obviously be alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign -- of which there is no evidence by the way, of colluding with the Russians, -- it's not a crime.”

    • NRATV’s Dan Bongino: “I don’t believe the collusion story at all. But the fact is, Tucker, even if there was collusion, collusion isn’t even a crime.”

    • Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “What is the crime? If the Russian KGB chief is talking to Paul Manafort and the chief says, ‘You know, I've got this dirt here that says Hillary Clinton was this or that.’ And Paul Manafort says, ‘Next Wednesday, why don't you release that. That'd be great for us.’ I don't know that that's a crime at all, what’s the crime?”

    • Conservative author Ronald Kessler: “There’s no violation of the law if, in fact, the campaign colluded with Russia, whatever that means.”

    • Conservative author Michael Reagan: “Collusion is not breaking the law.”

    • Pro-Trump Twitter troll Bill Mitchell:

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Simone:
    • Frequent Fox guest Jonathan Turley on Fox & Friends: “Collusion itself is not a crime”

    Video by John Kerr

  • Right-wing media are mad Trump picked Putin over US intelligence. He was just following their lead.

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In an unusual development, many right-wing media figures have criticized President Donald Trump for throwing the U.S. intelligence community under the bus during a July 16 appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin by refusing to affirm its conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. While it’s uncommon to see typically sycophantic figures rebuking the president, this criticism is particularly surprising given right-wing media’s own history of encouraging Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community for just that finding.

    During the press conference in Helsinki after his one-on-one meeting with the Russian president, Trump touted Putin’s denial of interfering in the U.S. elections and claimed he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would have meddled. Many right-wing media figures were displeased with this response and rebuked the president’s behavior:

    • Fox News’ Abby Huntsman (whose father currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Russia): “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”

    • Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately.”

    • Fox News analyst Jack Keane: “That’s alarming that the president would not stand behind that entire intelligence community and judicial process and back them up a hundred percent.” Keane also stated: “To stand there on a world stage and appease Russia in disfavor to our intelligence community was a thing that shocked me."

    • Fox’s Trish Regan: “This was clearly not [President Trump's] best performance. ... He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community."

    • Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera tweeted: Trump “seems to distrust & despise @HillaryClinton & #SpecialCounsel more than he distrusts& despises #Russia & #GRU He also didn’t embrace our own intelligence community, which says Russia is guilty of meddling.”

    • Fox News analyst Brit Hume: “Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least.”

    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: said that “When Newt Gingrich, when Gen. Jack Keane, when [Chairman of American Conservative Union] Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it’s time to pay attention.” He also claimed that Trump “fell short” in Helsinki.  

    • Townhall’s Guy Benson: Trump’s response to the question if he believes U.S. intel or Putin was an “atrocious, humiliating answer.”

    • The Washington Examiner’s Byron York: “Concerning Trump's newser remarks specifically on Trump-Russia affair: Appalling.”

    Right-wing media’s apparent shock at the president’s actions, however, is itself laughable, given Trump’s history of attacking the U.S. intelligence community over the Russia investigation, and right-wing media’s own war against intelligence officials. Right-wing media have spent years besmirching the intelligence community to protect Trump and undermine the Russia investigation, often pushing outlandish conspiracy theories about a “secret society” and attempted “coups,” or else aggressively targeting individual officials in order to delegitimize intelligence findings that might hurt Trump. There is plenty to scrutinize the intelligence community over, but it is wildly hypocritical that right-wing media are finding Trump’s rhetoric about the Russia investigation “appalling.” After all, he probably got it from them.

  • The Supreme Court just made it easier for states to kick people off of voter rolls. Media should let voters know.

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    On June 11, the Supreme Court handed down its decision on an Ohio voting rights case that will make it easier for the state to purge infrequent voters from its voter roll, a process that tends to disproportionately hurt young people, people with low incomes, and people of color. This is a victory for Republicans, who for years have waged a war on voting rights in an effort to suppress voting by populations that tend to pick Democrats. Media should be reporting on this case and on voter suppression measures more broadly, both as a policy issue and to inform people of what they need to do in order to vote.

    The Supreme Court’s decision in the Ohio case, which allows the state to purge voters who haven’t voted in recent elections and who haven’t responded to a mailed notice to confirm their residency, “could be a major victory for Republicans ... and a stinging loss for Democrats,” because “minorities, young people and those with lower incomes are most likely to be disenfranchised by the state's policy,” according to USA Today. Mother Jones’ Ari Berman reported that “Ohio purged more than 2 million registered voters between 2011 and 2016, more than any other state. Black voters in the state’s largest counties were twice as likely as white voters to be removed from the rolls.” NBC News reported, “At least a dozen other politically conservative states said they would adopt a similar practice if Ohio prevailed.” An election law expert added, “‘You’ll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls.’” And in her dissent, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the decision ignores the history of voter suppression in the United States:

    In light of this decision and the years-long assault on voting rights Republicans have waged (including on Fox News), media need to report on voting rules, both in order to inform their audiences of what hurdles they might need to clear to carry out their constitutional right to vote and to give them policy information on which they might base their votes.

    In the past, media have often failed in their voting rights reporting. Much of the coverage of voting issues appears in conservative media, which have a history of misinforming -- or outright lying -- about the prevalence of voter fraud. In the runup to the 2014 midterms, nightly newscasts largely ignored the issue of voting rights. In about half of its articles on voter fraud from September 2012 to September 2014, The New York Times failed to clearly state that in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent, even as it included claims from Republicans suggesting that such fraud exists. Later analyses found that voter suppression measures may have materially impacted the 2014 elections.

    From July 2016 through June 2017, Media Matters analyzed broadcast network morning and evening shows and evening cable news shows and found:

    • Fox News far outpaced other networks in spreading falsehoods on voting.
    • Republican politicians made 88 false statements about voting, while Democratic politicians made no such false statements.
    • Only five segments mentioned gerrymandering.
    • Less than 9 percent of segments acknowledged the impact voting restrictions had on the 2016 election.
    • Fewer than 30 percent of segments mentioned state-based efforts to suppress votes.
    • Over 70 percent of segments on voting featured Donald Trump’s debunked voter fraud accusations.

    And after 2017 elections in which Democrats overperformed and exceeded expectations, right-wing media once again turned to a series of voting myths and talking points parroted by Republicans, including misinformation about voter fraud, voter IDs, and felon voting.

    There is particular need for good local media coverage. Voting is a local issue, and people tend to trust their local news coverage more than national news. But Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative local TV news giant that has been injecting local newscasts with right-wing spin for years, is moving to acquire more local news stations. Sinclair has already shown a willingness to subject its viewers to misinformation about voting and last year it produced a must-run segment that suggested voter fraud might be far more common than it actually is.

    If media are not explaining to Americans what voters need to do in order to cast their ballots, the odds of people showing up to vote and being turned away undoubtedly grows. The fact of the matter is that Election Day is too late for this coverage. Retrospectives after the fact will not change long lines, refused ballots, or outright disenfranchisement. While political pundits are obsessed with making every problem a “both sides” story, only one political party is trying to limit the ability of its opponents to vote. That’s the real story, and there’s no way to sugar coat it.

  • Study finds 5,000 people may have died from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Cable news focused on Roseanne instead.

    Cable news covered Roseanne for over 10 hours. They covered Hurricane Maria's death toll in Puerto Rico for just over 30 minutes.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Tuesday, Harvard researchers published a study estimating that approximately 5,000 deaths can be linked to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The same day, ABC canceled Roseanne Barr’s eponymous show Roseanne after Barr sent a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama. Cable news covered Barr’s tweet and her show’s cancellation 16 times as much as the deaths of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

    While the official death toll remains at just 64, the Harvard study, written up in The Washington Post, “indicated that the mortality rate was 14.3 deaths per 1,000 residents from Sept. 20 through Dec. 31, 2017, a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate compared with 2016, or 4,645 ‘excess deaths.’” BuzzFeed News, which also reported on the study, further explained that the researchers adjusted their estimate up to 5,740 hurricane-related deaths to account for “people who lived alone and died as a result of the storm” and were thus not reported in the study’s survey.

    Cable news barely covered the report. The May 29 broadcasts of MSNBC combined with the network's flagship morning show the next day spent 21 minutes discussing the findings. CNN followed with just under 10 minutes of coverage, and Fox covered the report for just 48 seconds. 

    By contrast, cable news spent over 8 and a half hours discussing a tweet from Barr describing Jarrett, a Black woman, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes and the subsequent cancellation of her show.

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Media coverage of the crisis in Puerto Rico has been dismal since the hurricane hit; even when outlets reported on major scandals about the mismanaged recovery, the coverage was negligible and faded quickly.

    Many in the media have been quick to label Barr’s obviously racist tweet as racist. But they've failed in their coverage of the mismanaged recovery in Puerto Rico, which is also explained -- at least in part -- by racism. The Root explained why “Puerto Rico’s crisis is not generally seen as a racial matter. But it should be.” Vox explained “the ways the island and its people have been othered through racial and ethnic bias” and noted that “both online and broadcast media gave Puerto Rico much less coverage, at least initially, than the hurricanes that recently hit Texas and Florida.” A Politico investigation found that “the Trump administration — and the president himself — responded far more aggressively to Texas than to Puerto Rico” in the wake of the hurricanes that devastated both. Trump tweeted just days after Hurricane Maria hit that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.” Only half of Americans are aware that Puerto Ricans are in fact U.S. citizens. And MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude, chair of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University, pointed out, “When you think about 4,600 people dying -- of color -- dying in Puerto Rico, it reflects how their lives were valued, or less valued.”

    Dina Radtke contributed research to this piece.

  • Study finds that Hurricane Maria killed thousands more than the government claims. Media need to do better for Puerto Rico.

    Harvard study finds actual death toll is at least 72 times higher than the official count


    On May 29, The Washington Post reported on a new Harvard study concluding that “at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria and its devastation across Puerto Rico last year,” which is approximately 72 times higher than the government’s official death toll of 64. 

    According to the Post article, the Harvard study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that “health-care disruption for the elderly and the loss of basic utility services for the chronically ill had significant impacts” across the island, including “some communities [that] were entirely cut off for weeks amid road closures and communications failures.” A BuzzFeed write-up of the same study explained that, while at least “4,645 more people died in the final months of 2017” than in previous years, researchers adjusted their estimate up to 5,740 hurricane-related deaths to account for “people who lived alone and died as a result of the storm” and were thus not reported in the study’s survey. 

    If Harvard’s death toll estimate is accurate, Hurricane Maria was the second deadliest hurricane in U.S. history and the deadliest in 117 years.

    And yet, even as U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico continued to die in 2017, media quickly dropped their focus on the crisis. The first Sunday after the storm, the five major political talk shows cumulatively dedicated less than one minute to coverage. And the overall coverage of the crisis sharply declined after President Donald Trump visited the U.S. territory on October 3; a Media Matters study found that prime-time cable news coverage of Puerto Rico’s recovery plummeted after that date. 

    As the mismanaged recovery continued, media largely talked about the ongoing crisis only when a major scandal was reported, and even then the coverage was negligible and quickly faded. 

    Media should publicize the results of the Harvard study and the woefully inaccurate official death toll, demanding an explanation for how the government hid the magnitude of the casualties. And as the next hurricane season approaches, we need to pay attention to the people who live in Puerto Rico and demand accountability from the government.

  • MSNBC helps Roger Stone sell books after previously banning him for his abusive behavior

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Roger Stone appeared on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports to promote his new book, even though MSNBC previously announced that Stone would be no longer welcome on the network. Stone had been banned for making abusive comments about MSNBC personalities.

    Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump and a long-time conspiracy theorist who is now an Infowars correspondent, was banned from all three major cable news networks because of his sexist, racist, and threatening rhetoric. He was also locked out of his Twitter account in April 2017 after he threatened a Media Matters employee, and he was permanently suspended from the platform in October following attacks on several CNN employees.

    MSNBC previously confirmed that Stone -- who twice offered a cash reward to anyone who "punches out" network host Chris Matthews and who called host Al Sharpton a "professional negro" who ate fried chicken, and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow "Rachel the muff-diver" -- would not be welcome on the network.

    But MSNBC and CNN have both recently decided to give Stone a platform to promote his new book, Stone’s Rules. In Stone’s May 8 appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports, Mitchell asked him to comment on Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and pressed him about his connections to WikiLeaks, but she also plugged the book.

    The decisions to reverse bans on hosting Stone might be defensible if he were in the news or there were some other newsworthy reason. In this case, they’re just helping him sell books.

  • Congressional Republicans regularly guest host a show on Fox News

    Republican members of Congress regularly appear as panelists on Fox's Outnumbered, where they have an hour-long platform to push opinions without any real challenge

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) guest hosted Fox News’ Outnumbered, where he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, made incorrect statements on a range of topics, and offered nuanced takes on foreign policy like, on Iran, “Don't underrate killing them all. That gets everybody's attention." And this was not an isolated thing; Republican elected members of Congress regularly appear as guest hosts on this program.

    Every day on Outnumbered, the panel is comprised of four women and one man (aka “#OneLuckyGuy”). While a few of the panelists appear most days, there is some rotation for the other spots. And in just the last eight months, seven Republican members of Congress have rotated in for a total of 12 appearances: Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida (three appearances); Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia, Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, and Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York (two appearances each); and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Graham (one appearance each).

    Based on Graham’s appearance today, it’s not hard to see why a Republican member of Congress would want such a cushy gig. Graham spoke longer than any other panelist, expressed political positions that were all generously praised by the other hosts, and faced no serious pushback or challenging follow-up questions to anything he said. He was asked for his opinion on a range of topics, including North Korea, Iran, immigration, the FBI and its alleged misconduct in the 2016 election, Trump's failed nominee for VA secretary, and the 2018 Senate race in West Virginia. Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) of what he said:

    On Iran: “Don't underrate killing them all. That gets everybody's attention.”

    Made hawkish threats to North Korea: If North Korea tries to play Trump, “we're going to have a war and North Korea’s going to lose it. A lot of people are going to die. It would be terrible to have a war with North Korea but Donald Trump’s not going to be played, and I’ll tell you right now, North Korea’s playing with fire.”

    Under-stated the federal military budget and over-stated the budget of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Graham claimed that “Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid make up almost 75 percent of the debt. You could eliminate the Department of Defense and not even move the debt needle.” Graham not only conflated the federal budget with the debt, he misstated the numbers. In fiscal year 2016, Social Security and the government’s four main health insurance programs -- Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies -- together totaled 50 percent of the federal budget. Defense and security-related international activities accounted for 16 percent of the budget

    Bashed his colleague Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) for being transparent with the public about serious allegations against Trump’s nominee for secretary of Veterans Affairs.

    Called for a second special counsel to be appointed to investigate alleged anti-Trump bias in the Department of Justice and FBI, and made multiple incorrect statements about the FBI’s Trump and Clinton investigations. Among other things, Graham claimed:

    • That Hillary Clinton’s interview with the FBI was suspect because she was not under oath. In fact, it is a crime to lie to the FBI, whether or not you are under oath.
    • That the Steele dossier is “bogus” and shouldn’t have been used to obtain a FISA warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, in part because the application didn’t state who specifically funded it. A memo released by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee stated that the FISA application made clear that the dossier was funded by Trump’s opponents, that the FBI did not rely solely on the dossier for the warrant, and that the FBI actually verified parts of the dossier.
    • That the “head investigator” in the Clinton email probe was “talking about creating an insurance policy to make sure Trump didn't win.” This claim is a mischaracterization of a text message sent by an FBI agent involved in the Trump and Clinton investigations (not the “head investigator”) and, according to The Wall Street Journal, the “insurance policy” text message the agent sent was not a suggestion that the FBI sabotage Trump’s candidacy, but rather a caution that the FBI should continue the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia more aggressively than a colleague recommended out of a belief that it was possible Trump could win the election and be compromised while president.
    • That the FBI officials “had their thumb on the scale for” Clinton. Claims along these lines ignore the reality that the FBI confirmed an investigation into Clinton, sent a letter to Congress days before the election that it was reopening the investigation into her emails, and denied the existence of an investigation into Trump even though one was active.

    Repeatedly praised Trump. Graham gushed over Trump’s handling of North Korea, his take on immigration, and his vision of a revised Iran nuclear deal. He also painted Trump as a victim of the Department of Justice and the FBI. The only thing Graham said about Trump that approached criticism was that Trump “is not helping himself” by threatening Tester.

    Outnumbered is billed as one of Fox News’ opinion shows, not as a straight news show. Nevertheless, the fact that Republican (and only Republican) elected officials are given the platform to push their talking points -- which are also part of Fox’s standard fare -- without being challenged is one more data point showing how the network acts as little more than a media wing of the Republican Party.

  • For once, Andrew Napolitano admitted his baseless speculation about Trump was wrong

    According to Napolitano, Trump is usually the victim of others’ misconduct

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano did a rare thing today: He apologized for a claim he made on air. Napolitano had previously suggested that former FBI Director James Comey had committed a crime by sharing memos detailing his meetings with President Donald Trump with a friend. Fox has now confirmed that the friend had the necessary clearance to view the materials, which prompted Napolitano to apologize. But Napolitano’s (wrong) accusation follows a pattern; much of his recent “legal analysis” has involved baselessly speculating about misconduct by various current and former government officials, most of which ultimately somehow victimizes Trump.

    On April 24, Fox News reported that Daniel Richman, the recipient of Comey’s memos who then shared some of their contents with the media, confirmed to its reporters that he was a special government employee (SGE) and that he had clearance to view classified materials. The next day on Fox’s Outnumbered, Napolitano apologized for previous speculation that Comey had committed a crime:

    ANDREW NAPOLITANO: It appeared when the memos were released, these are the seven memos that Jim Comey wrote about his interactions with the president, some of which had blacked out, that turns out that they had classified materials in them and I owe Jim Comey an apology because I said if this stuff had classified materials in it and he gave it to the professor, that is a crime, to fail to secure state secrets if they were properly classified. Now it turns out that the professor had a security clearance. So there was no crime, Mr. Comey, and I apologize. I was wrong.

    But for at least a year, Napolitano’s specialty has been to cherry-pick facts or take advantage of partially reported stories with incomplete information to argue that Trump is actually the victim of misconduct from other current and former government officials. While law enforcement and government officials certainly are not infallible, the baseless -- and often demonstrably incorrect -- way that Napolitano tosses out his accusations has been, for lack of a better word, absurd.

    • In March 2017, Napolitano stated that former President Barack Obama “went outside the chain of command” and asked Government Communications Headquarters, Britain's spy agency, for surveillance of Trump. His claims were later repeated by then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer and ultimately resulted in an international incident between the U.S. and Britain. Media Matters found that the source of this claim was a discredited former CIA analyst who had floated the conspiracy theory on the Russian state-sponsored news network RT. Napolitano’s claim was later debunked by Comey, numerous other British and American government officials, and even Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). Napolitano was kept off of Fox News for a period of time following this incident.
    • In May 2017, Napolitano said "it appears that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, was aware" that information about former national security adviser Michael Flynn was given to The Washington Post "in an attempt to destabilize a validly elected administration, Donald Trump.
    • In June, Napolitano suggested former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had “made law enforcement decisions for political purposes.” According to the story that claim was based on, Comey showed Lynch a “highly sensitive piece of evidence … that suggested Lynch had agreed to put the kibosh on any prosecution of Clinton.” The evidence cited was a Russian intelligence document “viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake,” according to The Washington Post.
    • In August, Napolitano speculated that a rule change by Lynch "probably triggered the unmasking of then-President Elect Trump and General Flynn" and that “the unmasking goes back deep into the Obama administration in an effort to embarrass President Trump and his allies in Congress.” In the segment, he noted that unmasking for national security reasons is lawful, but “if it's done for a political purpose, it's a felony.” Napolitano offered no evidence that Trump was in fact unmasked or that any unmasking would have been politically motivated.
    • In December, Napolitano claimed that the General Services Administration (GSA) acted unlawfully by not informing Trump transition team of special counsel Robert Mueller's request for its emails. BuzzFeed News reported that the GSA in fact had informed the Trump transition team that "materials ‘would not be held back in any law enforcement’ actions.”
    • In February, Napolitano speculated that Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray could have been involved with the missing text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, saying that he doesn’t know if Wray’s “hands are clean on this.” The text messages were ultimately recovered.
    • Also in February, Napolitano questioned the timing of an email that Obama national security adviser Susan Rice wrote to herself on January 20, 2017, about a January 5 meeting with senior administration officials. He argued the memo was an an attempt to "rewrite history" and "make it look as if something happened that didn't happen." The memo reportedly documented Obama's concern that "intelligence officials be cautious about sharing information about the Russia investigation with the Trump transition team, 'particularly' incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn." Rice's attorney later explained that she wrote the email on January 20 on the advice of the White House counsel's office.

    Of course, even as Napolitano levies charges at anyone in sight, he’s excused any potential evidence suggesting wrongdoing on Trump’s part. Just in the last few months, he’s dismissed reports that Trump may have improperly influenced then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe by asking how he voted in the 2016 presidential election and reports that Trump may be tampering with witnesses in the investigation of his campaign by asking them about their testimony.