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Simon Maloy

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  • The sinister pro-Trump propaganda of Lou Dobbs

    Tune in to Lou Dobbs Tonight for creepy adulation of Donald Trump and routine calls to imprison the president’s opponents

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    At his New Year’s Eve celebration at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump grabbed a microphone and gave thanks to the guests who paid him several hundred dollars each for the privilege of attending. As he spoke, the president singled out one attendee for some especially fulsome praise: Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs. “The great Lou Dobbs is here, by the way,” Trump said. “Boy, I tell you, I’ve loved him for years, but now I really love him. And you know what? It’s not about me. It’s about -- he is saying what he believes.” To applause and cheers, the president heaped his admiration on the cable news personality: “I just want to tell you, you are fantastic, and we appreciate it. Everybody in this room appreciates it.”

    If you know anything about Donald Trump then you can probably guess why he loves and appreciates Lou Dobbs so much: Dobbs is a committed and shameless sycophant to the president. Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and the other pro-Trump mercenaries who turn Fox News into de facto state television get the lion’s share of attention and criticism, but Dobbs’ Fox Business show is a bluntly propagandistic farce that treats Trump less as a president than a cult leader.

    The running theme of Lou Dobbs Tonight is easy to suss out: Trump is single-handedly restoring American glory despite the subversive opposition of his many internal enemies. The president’s adversaries include Hillary Clinton, Democrats, Republican congressional leaders, the “deep state,” the left-wing media, and countless other supposed malefactors. For Dobbs, one critical word aimed at the president is enough to make you a “subversive” and an enemy of the American people.

    There are a wealth of examples one could choose from to illustrate this dynamic, but Dobbs’ reaction to Trump’s reported denigration of Haiti and “shithole” African nations offers an apt data point. Dobbs kicked off his January 12 show with a defense of the president’s “colorful language” and a swipe at “duplicitous Dems” who were “claiming offense.” Without actually describing what the president is supposed to have said, Dobbs explained Trump’s “fundamental point” in insulting poorer nations and their citizens: something about the misuse of international aid.

    “What has happened to all of the aid that the U.S. government has sent to Haiti over the past quarter century?” Dobbs demanded. “Why should any president, but particularly this one, have to put up with the self-serving ignorance of the Dems and the left who call Mr. Trump a racist because he questioned why all that aid hasn't been enough to diminish if not eliminate horribly persistent poverty?”

    No reporting anywhere has linked Trump’s remarks to international aid or poverty alleviation. Not even the White House has tried floating that defense. Dobbs just conjured it up on his own and presented it as an obvious truth that the president, in his serene majesty, stated plainly only to be viciously and unjustly attacked. “President Trump shouldn’t put up with that disrespect, that ignorance, in my opinion,” Dobbs added.

    It was insane, counterfactual propaganda delivered with maximum outrage and designed to portray Donald Trump as a near-infallible demigod.

    Every episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight is pretty much exactly like this.

    Loved by Lou

    By Lou Dobbs’ reckoning, Trump is owed undiluted respect and deference at all times, and even the slightest hint of insolence should not be tolerated.

    This goes for everyone, including people who praise Trump but don’t do it quite hard enough to satisfy Dobbs. On December 19, Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union lauded the president for his “good gut” in negotiating the tax cut package. For Dobbs, celebrating Trump’s “gut” was almost an insult. “You said ‘a good gut.’ I understand the praise of intuitive success,” Dobbs said, “but I think it’s time for people to start talking about the man’s intellect, about his judgment, and suggesting he’s intuiting all of this, I think, is a disservice to him.”

    Dobbs also expects Trump’s judicial nominees to maintain unfailing respect for the president or face harsh consequences. Back in February, then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that Trump’s relentless attacks on the judiciary were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” For this mild rebuke of the president, Dobbs demanded Gorsuch withdraw his own nomination immediately. “Gorsuch has really demonstrated a lack of honor,” Dobbs said on February 9, 2017, “and if he has honor, he should withdraw his name out of just the pure disrespect he’s shown our president, his lack of grace.”

    It’s all about “respect,” and Dobbs throws as much as he can at the president regardless of what Trump says or does. Since the first days of the Trump administration, he’s demonstrated a talent for lyrical suck-uppery, using florid language to describe everything Trump does as a history-making success.

    On January 25, 2017, while speaking to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, Dobbs marveled at “a presidency that is moving at breakneck speed. … I don't think anyone's has seen the like of this certainly in modern history.” At that point, the Trump administration had burned two days -- roughly half its existence -- fighting with reporters about the size of the president’s inaugural crowd and his loss of the popular vote. But Dobbs was incredulous that anyone could see anything but success. “Those who find darkness in this explosion of light in Washington, D.C., have to be in a far corner of the left, I think, to be making that -- coming to that conclusion.”

    On May 22, 2017, as he was providing live coverage of a suicide bomb attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, Dobbs offered his gratitude to Trump for running for office. “I have to tell you, I am so thrilled that this man decided to run for president,” he said. “He could have done lots of other things with his time that would have taken far less of his stomach lining and his patience ... no matter how strong -- and he is plenty strong.”

    Then Dobbs offered his theory for why the Manchester attack happened: Terrorists worldwide were cowering in fear of Trump following his brief trip through the Middle East. “I really believe that it is an expression tonight that we’re watching, that they -- the Islamic State and radical Islamists at large -- so fear this president with what he’s achieved,” Dobbs ventured. “I think they’re so afraid of him that they don’t know what to do and this was the best that they could do to take attention away from what has been an immensely successful period of negotiation and success on the part of this president in so many ways, in such short order.”

    Dobbs has reaped rewards from his cringe-inducing obsequiousness in the form of White House access. Top-level White House staffers are regular guests on his program, where they are given free license to spout the administration line, often with the host’s encouragement and participation. Dobbs also managed to snag an interview with Trump himself in October 2017 and was savagely mocked for his sycophantic questioning. The president rhetorically wandered throughout the interview and was unable to coherently answer even the softest of questions, but Dobbs was there to either supply the answer for him or redirect the interview to another topic.

    Since then, Dobbs’ adulation of Trump has only grown more fervent. “This president and his family have sacrificed so much to serve this nation, and for their trouble they are attacked from all sides,” Dobbs said on January 3, his first show since Trump’s Mar-a-Lago shout-out. The attacks on Trump are “unprecedented, utterly unfair, and wrong according to every American value and standard,” he said, because “this president has worked wonders, and he’s worked hard, tirelessly, and more than anyone else in Washington.”

    Enemies of the state

    Over-the-top hosannas to the massively unpopular president aren’t enough to fill an entire hour of programming. Nor do they adequately stimulate the overdeveloped rage centers of your average cable news viewer’s brain. So, to complement his fawning adoration of the president, Dobbs sprays hot venom at anyone and everyone who he believes has committed the figurative -- or, as we’ll see in a moment, literal -- crime of showing insufficient deference to Donald Trump.

    There are a lot of people Dobbs wants to see sanctioned by law enforcement and/or thrown in prison, and the most prominent among them is former President Barack Obama. Last November, Obama went on an overseas trip and, while in Paris, obliquely criticized Trump for backing out of the international climate accord that bears that city’s name. Dobbs, as you might imagine, was not happy about this.

    “This is just bad manners. It's boorish, it's absurd. He doesn't realize how foolish he looks,” Dobbs observed on December 1, 2017. “I think the U.S. Marshals should follow [Obama],” he added. “He should be brought back by the Marshals. Isn’t there some law that says presidents shouldn’t be attacking sitting presidents?”

    There is no law preventing former presidents from being rude, even when they’re in France. Nor is there a law against presidents making foreign policy decisions that cable news hosts disagree with, but Dobbs thinks there should be. “I think we’ve got some pretty clear criminal acts, or at least apparent criminal acts,” Dobbs opined on December 1, referring to “an administration, in this instance, that waits until it has less than a month left in office before President Obama decides to retaliate against the Russians for their intervention in our elections.” Obama did “absolutely nothing about Crimea -- what would you call that?” Dobbs angrily asked, adding: “Shouldn’t there be a statute that covers that kind of wrong-headedness and absolutely absurd actions in the foreign policy?”

    A few days prior to that, Dobbs tore into Richard Cordray, former director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for designating Deputy Director Leandra English as acting head of the agency prior to his resignation. Shortly after Cordray elevated English, the Trump administration moved to install White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as director, and English took the matter to court in an attempt to block Mulvaney’s appointment. A federal judge ruled in the White House’s favor, but Dobbs felt more stringent measures were warranted for “lowlifes” Cordray and English. “Why didn’t that judge throw them both in jail for being frivolous and actually subversive,” Dobbs wondered on November 28.

    As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign activities started producing more indictments and guilty pleas, Dobbs became more adamant that pretty much everyone involved with the investigation be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned. “A call for the firing of Robert Mueller no longer really truly satisfies any call for accountability,” Dobbs said on December 4, arguing that Mueller, FBI agent Peter Strzok, and former FBI Director James Comey “should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against the sitting president and the voters who supported them.”

    On December 13, Dobbs called for a grand jury to investigate Strzok’s text messages, saying he was “really very tired of political accountability” and “I much prefer to see jail sentences for violating the trust of the American people, and working against the constitution and yes, the president of the United States.” On December 14, Dobbs said the Russia investigation showed that the Justice Department is “rancid” and the FBI is “riddled with corruption” that “has to be rooted out, people have to go to jail.” On December 15, while discussing the Russia investigation with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Dobbs said “I think it’s time to think about who should be put in jail for dishonoring their oath of office, for violating our constitution and subverting this president and subverting this government.”

    On January 22, Dobbs once again called for the U.S. Marshals to spring into action and “take into custody the top people” at the Justice Department and the FBI over some missing text messages between Stzrok and attorney Lisa Page. The following day, Dobbs allowed himself a little more hyperbolic flourish, declaring that “it may be time to declare war outright against the deep state, and clear out the rot in the upper levels of the FBI and the Justice Department.”

    All these arrests and jail sentences would be for “crimes” that either don’t actually exist or which Dobbs can’t demonstrate proof of beyond asserting that they happened. The only consistent theme in all this is that each person Dobbs wants to have prosecuted and locked up is, in his mind, a political enemy of President Trump’s.

    Creepy propaganda

    There’s no complicated secret to understanding why Dobbs is such a Trump devotee. He’s been a hardline anti-immigration agitator for years: In the mid-2000s, he started injecting anti-immigrant commentary into his CNN program, and he famously (and wrongly) blamed a non-existent spike in leprosy on undocumented immigrants. His televised persona evolved from well-heeled, stentorian headline reader to self-made populist hero and perpetually aggrieved scourge of “elites” -- a conversion that, coupled with his increasingly inflammatory and inaccurate opinion segments, precipitated his departure from CNN in 2009. Dobbs pegged the market for Trumpism long before Trumpism had Trump.

    It’s easy to laugh at a perpetually overwrought fanatic like Dobbs as he loses himself nightly to the imagined glory of a widely disliked demagogue. But it’s important to remember that Dobbs represents a broader corruption of conservative media in the age of Trump. Much of Fox News’ programming is similarly devoted to glorifying the president and whipping up as much anger as possible at his opponents. What sets Lou Dobbs Tonight apart from the rest is how intensely and creepily propagandistic the show is.

    This propaganda gets frequent endorsements from the president, who regularly tweets his gratitude for Dobbs’ histrionic coverage of his administration. This feedback loop creates an impenetrable sphere of disinformation -- a bizarre unreality in which the beneficent and virtuous president does not fail but is consistently frustrated by criminals and subversives in his self-sacrificial quest to save the country. It’s all scummy and bizarre and dangerous, and it happens every evening on Lou Dobbs Tonight.

    Update:

    Following the publication of this piece, Dobbs blocked me on Twitter. 

    Videos by John Kerr. 

  • Bannon bottoms out

    What Steve Bannon’s humiliating ejection from Breitbart means for the pro-Trump movement

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters 

    Steve Bannon is out at Breitbart.com and everything about that is hilarious. Bannon has completed one of the most rapid implosions you’re ever likely to see from a public figure, going from high-powered presidential adviser to disgraced and universally reviled pariah in less than a year. His (largely self-created) reputation as a shadowy master political tactician and dangerous “revolutionary” has been ground to powder. Last April, Time magazine profiled Bannon as "The Great Manipulator," and since then he's manipulated himself into a historic electoral defeat and out of two jobs.

    At every step along this ignominious journey, Bannon showed terrible judgment and sabotaged his own interests with his vanity and relentless need for validation from the "left-wing media" he professes to loathe. He got fired from the White House after volunteering an interview to the liberal American Prospect in which he trashed the administration's China policy. He tried to anoint himself the true leader of Donald Trump's political movement by defying the president and endorsing bigoted lunatic Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama. Bannon redoubled his support for Moore after the candidate was credibly accused of sexual assault, and he absorbed the blame for Moore's shocking defeat to Democrat Doug Jones.

    Then came Michael Wolff’s book and its insider account of the Trump administration’s dysfunction, which featured Bannon attacking Trump’s son and other top campaign officials for the “treasonous” June 2016 Russia meeting. Bannon dished so many on-the-record quotes because he wanted to burnish his own reputation and because he had someone who would listen. The Russia quote went too far, though, and Bannon came under attack from the president and his former patrons, hedge fund billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Bannon, the self-described street-fighting, take-no-prisoners political war machine, meekly attempted to worm his way back into Trump's good graces, but to no avail.

    Getting tossed from Breitbart like a Depression-era hobo from a freight train is obviously bad news for Bannon, especially since he had tried to spin his post-White House return to the site as a power move. "I've got my hands back on my weapons," he told the The Weekly Standard at the time, adopting the nickname "Bannon the Barbarian.” But what does Bannon's exit mean for Breitbart.com and the broader pro-Trump coalition?

    What needs to be stressed here is that Bannon was excommunicated largely for his tactics, not his politics. Bannon tried to position himself as an independent leader of the Trump coalition, which obviously was not going to sit well with a president who fancies himself a Messiah-like head of a historical movement. He earned Trump's opprobrium not by challenging him on policy, but by calling his son's actions treasonous and unpatriotic. The swiftness with which the entire MAGA leadership reoriented to cast Bannon as an insignificant un-person makes clear how much of the movement is driven by personality as opposed to policy.

    And that brings us to Breitbart, which fired its leader after determining that, as an ostensible purveyor of journalism, it could not have someone critical of the sitting president on its masthead. The Atlantic quoted a “source close to Bannon” saying that he had to go because “him being involved in politics was interfering with Breitbart’s ability to act as a news organization.” That’s obvious bullshit, given that Breitbart owed much of its post-2016 relevance to Bannon's alleged ability to elevate candidates who could challenge the Republican establishment.

    The problem wasn't Bannon's activism, but the fact that he was terrible at it and chose awful candidates whom Breitbart would eagerly debase itself to defend. No one in the MAGA movement had any public grievance with Bannon’s meddling in elections or his use of Breitbart resources to bolster his candidates until Roy Moore lost.

    As for Breitbart.com itself, the website had been functioning as Bannon's personal public relations shop; his every public utterance was given a splash headline, even when the story was literally “Steve Bannon has read a book.” Now it will have to fall back on its core missions: stoking racial resentment, failing badly at pretend journalism, and slavishly defending Trump. For conservatives, Breitbart will almost certainly be a go-to source for immigration news as the immigration policy debate spins up, much as it was during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    For Bannon, the future is (to put it charitably) uncertain. His power and reputation were always oversold, and his egotism, hard-charging extremism, and seemingly total lack of political intelligence mean that he’ll always be prone to self-destruction. Right now he looks to be a persona non grata to just about every conservative power center. But the right has a proud tradition of failing up, and there are always more right-wing billionaires with little sense but lots of money to throw around, so even after a public humiliation as long and total as the one he’s brought on himself, Steve Bannon might just be OK.

  • Just ignore Trump’s media “awards”

    The best thing media outlets could do in response to President Trump’s latest cynical stunt is to give it absolutely zero coverage

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A little less than a week ago, the president of the United States announced during one of his characteristic fits of Twitter pique that he would be putting on his very own awards show. “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR,” Donald Trump tweeted on January 2. He scheduled the big announcement for Monday, January 8 -- today -- at 5 p.m.

    No one really knew what the hell to make of all this, given that the whole concept came out of nowhere -- it capped a busy Twitter afternoon for the president in which he lashed out at the Pakistanis and the Palestinians and also threatened nuclear war with North Korea. The most likely explanation for this cockamamie “awards” presentation is that Trump got mad at something he saw during his many hours of TV watching, came up with this idea on the spot, and tweeted it out before anyone on his staff had a chance to tell him not to.

    The obvious slapdash nature of Trump’s “awards” idea, combined with the short timeframe and the president’s well-established habit of not following through on his own announcements, meant that there was a strong chance it wouldn’t actually happen. And, sure enough, yesterday afternoon Trump pushed back the date of the “awards” from today to next Wednesday, January 17.

    Regardless of whether the president actually meets his new deadline, I have a simple suggestion for how press outlets should cover Trump’s dumb “awards” presentation going forward: don’t.

    Give it zero coverage. Just ignore him completely.

    I realize I’m fighting a losing battle here, but there is no compelling reason for any news organization to devote a single moment of attention to this massively cynical stunt by the president. First of all, there is no actual “news” to be had. The overarching story -- Donald Trump hates the media -- is already well-worn and doesn’t carry any new policy or political significance. Trump singles out specific media personalities for criticism all the time, and it’s all-but guaranteed that the “winners” are going to be people that the White House has already attacked and/or demanded be fired.

    Viewers and readers will be missing out on literally nothing if they’re not told which reporter Trump thinks is the biggest liar. The contrived “awards show” branding is the only new angle to this nonsense, and its sole purpose is to draw press attention to the president.

    That brings us to the second reason why media outlets should determinedly ignore this farce: Trump is using you and he’s not being at all coy about it. There is no good faith to be found here, and the president has no interest in the media outside of how he can use it to promote himself. In this case, he’s taking a gratuitous kick at the industry over some of its failures to nurture his own sense of victimhood. There’s no reason why anyone in the press has to play along with this foolishness that he whipped together while rage-tweeting on a lazy afternoon.

    What Trump is counting on is that the media won’t be able to resist a story about the media, and his cynicism in that regard is justified given the vanity and navel-gazing instincts of the political press. The immediate reaction from reporters and pundits to Trump’s “awards” was a round of thirsty joking about how they hope they get picked. The as-yet nonexistent “awards” have already become something of a status symbol, with celebrity D.C. chef Jose Andres offering a free lunch to the “winners.” There seems to be a general understanding that this is a dumb game that accomplishes nothing beyond reinforcing existing animosities and perpetuating the perverse relationship that exists between Trump and the press, but no one seems to want to change it.

    The arguments for ignoring Trump completely are many and good. The first is that it’s the precise opposite of what he wants. Trump is angling to pick a fight and he thinks he can do it with nothing more than a few angry tweets. For news outlets that are struggling to find the balance between adversarial coverage of the president and outright hostility, this is a lay-up: just don’t cover this one inconsequential thing that he really wants covered. Also, resolute silence from the people he’s needlessly attacking will drive Trump nuts. The “winners” in particular should say absolutely nothing about it -- just let the president bark all he wants and get on about your business.

    There’s also an element of dignity and self-respect in not indulging this insane freakshow. There were a lot of high-profile errors and mistakes from reporters this year, but the industry can and should address that on its own terms and not give any hint of deference to the bad-faith, self-interested howling of Donald Trump.

    The best, easiest thing the press could do in response to Trump’s “corrupt media awards” provocation is nothing. Trump’s stunt only works if it gets attention, so don’t give it the attention it hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve.

  • The long, public humiliation of Steve Bannon

    Update: Bannon out at Breitbart 

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE (1/4) : The Wall Street Journal reports that Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the pro-Trump hedge fund billionaires who bankroll Bannon’s “populist” movement, are debating whether to oust him as the chairman of Breitbart.com and that many Breitbart board members are “supportive of the move.” Getting fired from Breitbart would be a hilariously perfect denouement to the Bannon saga given how he spun his return to the website after getting fired from the White House. “I've got my hands back on my weapons,” Bannon said at the time. “I am definitely going to crush the opposition.”

    UPDATE (1/9): According to The New York Times, Bannon "is stepping down from his post as executive chairman of Breitbart News" at the behest of Rebekah Mercer.

    Original article below. 

    It’s been quite a news day for Steve Bannon. The Breitbart.com chairman and former White House strategist made headlines this morning when excerpts from author Michael Wolff’s new book on the Trump administration quoted him disparaging Trump campaign officials for the now-infamous June 2016 Russia meeting. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon told Wolff.

    Those are some pointy words for a former top official in both the Trump campaign and White House to state on the record, even if they don’t add anything to our understanding of what the Trump campaign was up to. Given the sensitivity the president harbors toward the Russia investigation and his insistence on slavish loyalty from his underlings, it was only a matter of time before Trump responded to Bannon’s remarks. In characteristically Trumpian fashion, the White House turned a flamethrower on its erstwhile ally.

    “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” the delightfully petty statement from the president of the United States begins. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well.”

    What are we to make of all this? Well, once again we’re seeing that Steve Bannon isn’t the diabolical master of the political dark arts that he insists he is.

    In the months since he departed the White House, Bannon has done little but absorb punishment and defeat. He staked his own reputation (and, he insisted, the future of the Trumpian political movement) on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, whose candidacy caved in on itself amid numerous reports of sexual misconduct, handing the Democrats their first Senate victory in the state in decades.

    As he was taking the blame for Moore’s loss, Bannon was also forced to make a show of cutting ties with another fringe whacko he’d been trying to get elected to federal office: Paul Nehlen, a “pro-white” primary challenger of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) who recently took up anti-Semitic tweeting as a hobby.

    On top of all that, Breitbart.com Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow publicly admitted that he believed Roy Moore’s accusers and thought the reports against him were credible, but the website rallied to Moore’s defense regardless in order to protect Trump from having to answer for his own multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

    So Bannon was already losing allies and credibility while struggling to convince people that he was politically useful. Then these book excerpts come out and suddenly the president for whom he once proudly described himself as a “wingman” is publicly calling him a hack, a failure, and a fraud.

    I suppose it’s possible that Bannon is executing some sort of elaborate rope-a-dope or 46-dimensional chess strategy in which he’s merely feigning to be a laughingstock in the eyes of everyone in power, but that feels overly generous. The more satisfying explanation is that Bannon is an incautious and ineffective extremist whose relevance depends on convincing people against all evidence that he’s a master tactician and dangerous “revolutionary.”

  • Steve Bannon’s self-immolation

    Roy Moore’s upset defeat shows us that Steve Bannon isn’t the Machiavellian genius he sells himself as

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Steve Bannon, we’re told, is a “street fighter.” That’s what Bannon told us, anyway, when he went on 60 Minutes earlier this year shortly after his brief tenure in the Trump administration came to an end. “I think I’m a street fighter,” Bannon said, adding that he was also going to be President Donald Trump’s “wingman outside for the entire time.” And as the president’s street-fighting outside wingman, Bannon said he and Breitbart.com were going to protect the administration. “Our purpose is to support Donald Trump,” he explained, and “to make sure his enemies know that there’s no free shot on goal.”

    Already we’re lost in lazy metaphors here, but if we apply each discrete self-applied sobriquet to Bannon and his role in the Alabama special Senate election, we find that the “street fighter” got KOed, the “wingman” got Goosed, and the keeper notched a spectacular own goal.

    Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore to take over the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year, and Jones’ upset victory was a stinging slap for Bannon and his Breitbart lackeys. Moore’s candidacy was an obvious disaster from the start -- he is a howling extremist, virulently anti-gay, and he’d twice been booted off the state supreme court for refusing to adhere to higher court rulings. But for Bannon, this unstable and politically toxic yahoo was precisely the sort of “populist” candidate who could be counted on to support Trump’s (and Bannon’s) agenda.

    Bannon had such faith in Moore that he broke with Trump, who endorsed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in the Republican primary, and hit the campaign trail on Moore’s behalf. “I think Roy Moore is the guy that's going to represent Donald Trump and fight the establishment,” Bannon told Sean Hannity in September.

    When the Washington Post broke the news that multiple women were accusing Moore of sexual misconduct -- including one woman who said Moore assaulted her when she was 14 -- Bannon was faced with a decision: abandon his candidate and risk ceding the seat to the Democrats, or stand alongside Moore as he faced credible reports of sexual assault. Bannon opted to stick doggedly with Moore and began concocting fanciful allegations of a conspiracy (stretching all the way to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) to discredit his candidate. Breitbart.com took up the cause with laughable attempts to undermine the Post’s reporting and construct a separate reality in which the reports about Moore had been debunked.

    Bannon poured everything he had into trying to keep Moore viable and gave little worry to the obvious signs that his candidacy was falling apart. Moore’s campaign shifted its focus to attacking the media while the candidate himself vanished from the trail, emerging only to spin elaborate, conspiratorial attacks on the many left-wing phantoms he claimed were aligning to damage his candidacy. Moore’s surrogates gave a series of shambolic and absurd interviews to cable news channels as they ineptly sought to defend their candidate’s extreme record. Bannon spoke at Moore’s final rally on Monday night -- a rally that also featured Moore’s wife address charges of anti-semitism by proudly declaring that “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”

    Bannon coasts on a reputation as a master political strategist and presents himself to the world as a sort of frumpy modern-day Machiavelli. But throughout the entire Moore campaign, he’s demonstrated little in the way of political intelligence. Aligning with Moore was liable to backfire from the get-go -- he was a weak and vulnerable candidate even before reports surfaced that he was a serial sexual abuser. The only messages Moore had to offer voters were relentless grievance, vacant flag-waving nationalism, and whacked-out conspiracy theories.

    The same was true for Bannon, whose campaign speeches for Moore digressed into lengthy harangues aimed at Mitt Romney and the “opposition party” media. His best effort at knocking down the sexual misconduct reports against Moore involved asserting the existence of an anti-Moore plot and just assuming partisanship and anti-media sentiment would overcome his lack of evidence. “The whole thing was a setup. This whole thing was weaponized right?” he said at a December 5 rally. “You know that. Folks down here in Alabama know that.”

    Well, it turns out they didn’t know that. And now Bannon, after all that feeble and unsteady “street fighting,” is left having to explain how a political strategist of such self-proclaimed insight and deviousness managed to help lose a Senate seat that the GOP should have had little difficulty holding onto. The easiest explanation is that Bannon’s reputation as a “street fighter” and master of the political dark arts is oversold nonsense, and the proof of that resides with senator-elect Doug Jones.

  • The right-wing scramble to lie about Beverly Young Nelson

    Breitbart and Fox News seize an opportunity to dishonestly undermine the sexual assault reports against Roy Moore

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s allies in the conservative media have been trying desperately to undermine the numerous credible reports of sexual misconduct by Moore, and today they thought they’d finally spied an opportunity -- which they immediately seized on with characteristic dishonesty.

    Beverly Young Nelson, who says Moore assaulted her when she was 16 years old, went public with her story at a November news conference and offered evidence of her past relationship with Moore: a high school yearbook containing a signed inscription from the Alabama Republican. Today, in an interview with ABC News, Nelson told reporter Tom Llamas that while the inscription and the signature were written by Moore, she added notes underneath indicating the date and location.

    In certain corners of the conservative media, all hell broke loose as Moore’s defenders claimed that this “bombshell” revelation vindicates their candidate, whose campaign had argued that the handwriting did not match Moore’s and that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

    Obviously this is information that should have been disclosed when Nelson (and her attorney, Gloria Allred) went public with her story, given the sensitivity of the issue and the weight placed on the yearbook as material evidence of the relationship between Moore and Nelson. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Moore and his defenders would challenge the authenticity of the inscription -- one of those defenders, apparently, is President Trump, who reportedly has been privately calling the signature a forgery.

    Nelson’s clarification provided Moore’s supporters an opening to mount a deceitful campaign to discredit her. She maintains that the message and signature in her yearbook still belong to Moore, but Moore’s allies in the conservative media are embellishing what Nelson said and dishonestly reframing her comments to make it seem like she admitted to fabricating the whole thing.  

    They’re accomplishing this through deliberately sloppy language and tendentious use of the word “forged.” Breitbart.com’s headlined screamed “Roy Moore Accuser Beverly Nelson Admits She Forged Yearbook,” which is a perniciously false characterization of what Nelson said. “Roy Moore accuser admits she forged part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama senate candidate,” read a (since deleted) Fox News tweet. Right-wing crank Dinesh D’Souza tweeted that Nelson had “forged his signature in her yearbook,” which is not at all what happened.

    Setting aside the bad-faith argument being put forth by Breitbart and Fox News, there’s still the fact that eight other women have come forward to accuse Moore of sexual assault and other inappropriate behaviors, often dating back to when they were very young. Moore’s conservative defenders don’t have anything to say about those women beyond insane conspiracy theories about George Soros and Mitch McConnell engineering some sort of anti-Moore plot. (And they’re determinedly unconcerned by the fact that Moore, after having admitted meeting some of his accusers, changed his story to claim he doesn’t know any of them.)

    The unstated but obvious goal behind the rush to exaggerate and mischaracterize what Nelson actually said is to discredit everyone who has come forward with stories of misconduct by the Alabama Republican. As I wrote earlier this week, Moore’s allies in the conservative media have mounted a sustained and dishonest campaign to defend the candidate and concoct an alternate reality in which the charges against him have been proven false. Right now they’re trying to throw so much mud that some of it sticks to the other women whose stories have nothing to do with Beverly Young Nelson's yearbook.

  • Fox News is practically begging Trump to fire Mueller

    In the aftermath of the Flynn plea, Fox News’ attacks on Robert Mueller have become completely unhinged

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ prime-time block of programming these days is extremely dark. The network’s evening hosts have been in a highly agitated state, filling the airwaves with grave warnings about totalitarianism, covert subversion by anti-democratic forces, and midnight raids on the quiet homes of unsuspecting citizens. This churning miasma of corruption and menace is sourced to a single nefarious person whose scheming -- if left unchecked -- could undermine civil society and pose a threat to the very fabric of American democracy itself.

    That person is special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Mueller has never been the most popular person at Fox News given that he’s busily investigating Donald Trump, whom the network treats less as a president and more as a living sun god. Fox’s biggest names have been working to discredit Mueller and calling for his head for months. (A Media Matters study found that Sean Hannity had called for Mueller to resign or be fired 40 times between May and the beginning of November.) But ever since news broke that Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn had cut a deal with the special counsel and pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, the level of anti-Mueller histrionics at Fox has spiked as the network’s hosts and contributors paint Mueller and his investigation as existential threats to the country.

    Sean Hannity kicked off his December 6 show by ripping into “Robert Mueller's partisan extremely biased hyper-partisan attack team.” To Hannity, the fact that Mueller (a registered Republican as of several years ago) hired investigators who donated to Democratic campaigns meant that “Robert Mueller has assembled the most partisan special counsel in history. Now, they are in utter disgrace in terms of equal justice under the law.” Per Hannity, Mueller and his team “now pose a direct threat to you, the American people and our American republic.”

    Then Hannity turned to Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, who piled on the hysterics. “I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt,” he said, referring to Mueller’s dismissal of investigator Peter Strzok, who had sent text messages in 2016 mocking Trump. “Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America's secret police,” Jarrett added, explaining that it has become “like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night, banging through your door.”

    Hannity was in complete agreement. “This is not a game. This is not hyperbole you are using here,” he said of Jarrett’s obvious hyperbole. “Ask Paul Manafort,” Jarrett replied. “They came for him and broke through his front door.” Hannity was shocked. “If it can happen to him, Gregg …” Jarrett finished the thought. “It can happen to all of us. Absolutely. The FBI is a shadow government now.”

    Pardon me while I get a change of pants.

    This is all quite insane. When Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman and shadowy millionaire lobbyist who is wrapped up in off-the-book Ukrainian financial deals, is your avatar of the persecuted everyman, you’re playing a desperate and losing hand.

    As for the KGB nonsense, it is true that the FBI conducted a no-knock raid on Manafort and subsequently arrested him after a grand jury returned indictments for conspiracy and money laundering. But doing things like obtaining warrants and presenting evidence to a grand jury are precisely what secret police forces -- KGB and otherwise -- don’t do. The whole point of a “secret police” is to obviate due process, and by all indications the arrest of Paul Manafort was by the book.

    Later the same evening, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Laura Ingraham’s program and started howling about the threat Mueller poses to America itself. “Mueller is corrupt, the senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt and until you get back up and say -- realize how really truly corrupt this is, there's a sickness here,” Gingrich said. “I think it is frightening,” he added. “If you believe in the rule of law and you believe in America, what we are learning is genuinely frightening.”

    On December 4, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs went the extra mile, slamming Mueller as a partisan hack but also calling for him to be prosecuted for unspecified “crimes” against Trump. “A call for the firing of Robert Mueller no longer really truly satisfies any call for accountability,” Dobbs said. “Strzok and Mueller and Comey, in my judgment, should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported them. Just one man's opinion.”

    All this overwrought talk of the KGB and threats to democracy made a compelling show for Fox News’ core audience of angry seniors. My suspicion is that the message is intended for one specific angry senior who is known to be a devoted Fox viewer: Donald Trump.

    As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote in October, there exists “a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt -- with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary.” In the aftermath of the Flynn bargain, Hannity, Jarrett, and pals are putting in extra work to frame Mueller and his investigation as over-the-top threats to the country and Trump’s presidency that must be eliminated. That’s a message Trump wants to hear, and everyone knows he’s watching.

  • Stop blaming "the media" for Roy Moore

    Right-wing pundits sidestep their own movement’s toxic pathologies to blame the press for Moore’s potential win

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recurring feature of conservative punditry in the age of Trump is the idea that Republican voters generally -- and the conservative movement specifically -- cannot be held to account for their excesses, moral failings, and political disasters. Each time Republicans and their voters act in ways that right-wing pundits acknowledge are deleterious to civic health and deeply immoral, there’s a mad rush to recast those behaviors as the fault of liberal failures. We’re seeing this dynamic play out as Alabama voters seem poised to elect Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate and right-wing pundits attempt to deflect blame for this potential outcome onto “the media.”

    Former George W. Bush speechwriter William McGurn wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal arguing that if Moore does win despite reports of child molestation and sexual assault, a large chunk of the blame will belong to “the liberals who are enabling him,” a group that includes “the national press corps.” Matt Latimer, another former Bush speechwriter, wrote a Politico op-ed arguing that “the real reason” Moore remains politically viable is “that the media has totally lost its connection with a large portion of the nation, almost all of them conservatives.” Over at The Federalist, Bethany Mandel argues that “it’s media’s fault” that a large majority of Alabama Republican voters don’t believe the Washington Post’s stories on Moore’s reported misconduct.

    This argument isn’t especially surprising given that one of the pillars of modern conservatism is reflexive animosity toward “the liberal media.” The popularity of outlets like Fox News and Breitbart.com stems directly from a concerted, decades-long effort across the entire conservative movement to render “mainstream” sources of news suspicious and inherently untrustworthy. But claiming that “the media” are to blame for Republicans backing Moore is a deflection that accomplishes little beyond confirming the biases of the writers while backhandedly affirming Moore’s claims that he’s under persecution by the press.  

    Writers like McGurn, Latimer, and Mandel are in a difficult spot because while they clearly believe the Post’s reporting and think it stands up (none make any attempt to rebut it or suggest that the case against Moore isn’t a solid one) their party’s voters are flatly disregarding those reports and are poised to elect Moore to the Senate (71 percent of likely Republicans voters in Alabama say the claims about him are false). They try to square that uncomfortable circle by cherry-picking other unrelated media failures -- like ABC News reporter Brian Ross’ botched story on former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s plea deal with federal prosecutors -- to exculpate conservative voters who refuse to believe the Post.

    “In their quest to tarnish the reputation of President Trump and try to remove him from office, the media has become particularly adept at getting more than a few things wrong,” Mandel writes. “They [Alabama Republican voters] may well be wrong about Mr. Moore and his accusers,” McGurn observes, “but is their skepticism really that difficult to understand?”

    Well, no, actually, but not for the reasons Mandel and McGurn offer. They’re attacking the media for not being credible enough to people who’ve been told for decades on end that the media aren’t credible. So it’s not surprising that Alabama voters distrust the media. But the fact that they refuse to see the truth that’s staring them in the face is less an indictment of the media than the toxicity of a conservative political culture that teaches voters to disbelieve all news they don’t want to hear and seek information only from outlets that reaffirm their existing viewpoints.

    Conservative media outlets Republican voters prefer over the “mainstream media” have embarked on a dishonest campaign of distraction and obfuscation to discredit the Post’s reporting and bolster Moore. Breitbart.com sent reporters down to Birmingham to (unsuccessfully) undermine the Post, but their failed efforts still resulted in splash-page “EXCLUSIVE” articles suggesting that Roy Moore had been the victim of a smear. Some Fox News figures lined up behind Moore and against the Post as they dutifully parroted the Moore campaign’s absurd attempts at discrediting the candidate’s accusers. Just hours after the Post's first Moore article was published, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett told Hannity viewers, "I am suspicious of this because of the source, The Washington Post, which has a dog in this fight having endorsed his opponent."

    This isn’t merely a question of conservative voters thinking “the media” in general are untrustworthy -- they’re being specifically told by right-wing media that the Post’s story is false and that Moore is being unjustly attacked. So even in a situation where a media outlet meets the standard of accuracy and trustworthiness conservative pundits claim has been irretrievably lost, it still comes under assault from the right-wing press in a flagrantly dishonest attempt to discredit it.

    That feels like a significant part of the explanation for why Alabama Republicans are gearing up to make Roy Moore their next senator, and why they’re apparently more comfortable electing a reported sex criminal than a Democrat. But conservative pundits glide right past it so they can disingenuously argue, as McGurn does, that Moore’s election “may be as much the fault of those who opposed him as those who supported him.”

  • Sebastian Gorka: Swamp Thing

    Lacking any real experience or qualification, Sebastian Gorka has moved quickly to cash in on his brief White House tenure

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Some big congratulations are in order for Sebastian Gorka. A couple of months after “resigning” from his well-compensated White House job, which consisted mainly of going on TV to propagandize on behalf of President Trump and spin fanciful nightmares about Shariah law, he’s landed a new gig as a “national security strategist” for Fox News. I can’t pretend to know what that job title is supposed to mean, but in practice Gorka has been doing more of the same -- he’s paid to go on TV and lionize his former boss while whipping up panic about dangerous Muslims.

    This is quite a success story for Gorka, a self-styled national security “expert” who doesn’t really know much about national security. He’s such a flagrant poser that actual national security experts practically trip over themselves to go on record calling him an ignorant charlatan. Lesser frauds might have had their ambitions derailed by their transparent ignorance and links to Hungarian neo-Nazi groups --but not Gorka. He faked it until he made it all the way to an office in the West Wing (from which he was ignominiously booted after just seven months).

    What strikes me about Gorka’s new job at Fox is its audacious swampiness. There isn’t really any good reason to give Sebastian Gorka a job as a “national security strategist,” whatever that is. By some accounts, Gorka had no actual “national security” role in the White House and was essentially a glorified spokesman. But for Fox News, a recently departed White House staffer who still has strong ties to the political machine of the president the network supports is a valuable commodity, so carving out some bullshit patronage for him makes sense.

    As for Gorka, he’s quite shamelessly moving as quickly as he can to cash in on his brief, ridiculous tenure in the Trump administration. Before landing at Fox, he was briefly employed by the MAGA Coalition, a pro-Trump super PAC founded by conspiratorial whackos. The Daily Beast reported this week that Gorka has also been working as a paid lecturer for the Heritage Foundation. The cushy gig at Fox is the third sinecure he’s locked down since being ejected from the Trump administration. For someone who spends a lot of time inveighing against the corruption of “the swamp,” Gorka clearly has no problem monetizing the paltry 200-plus days he spent as a government official.

    So what has Gorka been doing to earn his Fox News paycheck? His primary responsibility to date has been to go on Hannity and Fox & Friends (two of the network’s more toxically dishonest programs) to conspiratorially gibber about political news and launch acidic broadsides against any critic of Donald Trump. What the network is not getting from its new “national security strategist” is much in the way of national security strategy.

    In the past couple of weeks, Gorka appeared on the network numerous times to discuss reports of sexual misconduct by prominent Democrats -- a topic that has nothing to do with national defense, but is tailor-made for someone whose only real talent is attacking Donald Trump’s political enemies. “The left as a whole has no vision and no morals, they are spiritually and politically bankrupt,” Gorka barked during a November 21 Hannity segment on a sexual misconduct report against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

    That segment never once came within striking distance of anything even tangentially related to national security, nor did his November 27 spot on Hannity reacting to Donald Trump’s racist attack on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas.” As Gorka saw it, the real villain was Sen. Warren. “This is a woman who had a no-show job, or a job where she taught one course and then picked up $400,000 from Harvard a year,” sneered Gorka, who earns his living via 10-minute cable news hits and speaking fees from a right-wing think tank.

    Gorka has also logged several segments on the Uranium One “scandal.” If one were inclined to be extremely generous, one could categorize those segments as being related to “national security,” given that Uranium One involves a former high-level national security official (Hillary Clinton) and fuel for nuclear weapons. But I can’t be that generous because the Uranium One scandal is a complete fabrication.

    And Gorka’s interest in the Uranium One “scandal” has less to do with its nonexistent national security aspect than its similarly vacant promise of legal consequences for Clinton. “Your slides yesterday were magnificent,” Gorka told Sean Hannity on November 15, referring to a conspiratorial Uranium One flowchart Hannity slapped together. “Those should be used in the court of law to prosecute everybody involved with Uranium One who undermined the American national security.”

    But I want to be careful here and give Sebastian Gorka the credit he is due -- he has brought some national security strategizing to Fox News’ airwaves. For example, on the November 9 edition of Hannity, Gorka reminded viewers that “the first rule of war is that the initial report from the battlefield is almost always wrong.” That’s sound military advice, though I have to point out that he said it in the context of questioning the credibility of the women reporting Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore for sexual assault. “Let's stop, find what the facts are. Is this person credible?”

    On the November 18 edition of Watters’ World, Gorka observed that “Steve has read his Sun Tzu, he knows how to do this.” Sun Tzu, of course, was the Chinese general credited with writing The Art of War, a book that has inspired countless military leaders and vanity license plates. The “Steve” in this sentence, however, is not a military leader but, rather, Steve Bannon, whom Gorka was praising for trying to goad Hillary Clinton into running for president again in 2020.

    These two quips nicely encapsulate the essence of Gorka: an otherwise unremarkable pundit who wraps himself in a millimeter-thick patina of “national security” gravitas. His shallow insights and analysis are identical to the dreck emanating from fringe think tanks and lesser-known far-right Islamophobes. But he’s clever enough to seek out people and institutions who will give him money and important-sounding positions despite his lack of qualification: the Trump White House, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, etc. Gorka is a creature of the swamp.

  • Who’s afraid of Steve Bannon?

    The Breitbart chairman’s reputation as a savvy political operator shouldn’t survive Roy Moore’s candidacy

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Steve Bannon would have you believe that he stands at the crossroads of history, directing traffic. Ever since he emerged as a national political figure in the latter stages of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Breitbart.com chairman has cultivated a reputation as a wily tactician, the leader of a nascent nationalist revolution, and a visionary whose dreams of a new political order are just beginning to come to fruition. During his brief tenure as chief adviser to President Trump, his various power grabs and heavy-handed policy maneuvers led to the perception that “President Bannon” was the real power in the White House.

    Bannon understands the value of this reputation as a mad political genius and he does what he can to play the part. Most quotes you’ll read from Bannon in the press are studded with flamboyant self-promotion and mustache-twirling exposition typically reserved for Golden Age comic book villains. “Darkness is good,” Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter shortly after the 2016 election. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power.” Bannon has reportedly described himself as a “Leninist” who wants to “destroy the state … bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

    This theoretical Steve Bannon is constantly luring his unwitting enemies into traps and is always winning even when it looks like he’s losing. He is Rasputin, Machiavelli, and Doctor Doom all in one rumpled package.

    It’s all a crock. In the real world, the genuine Steve Bannon spent the past week haphazardly slinging conspiracy theories and sounding like an unglued lunatic in an ineffectual bid to rescue Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore from multiple reports of sexual assault and child molestation.

    The damage-control operation kicked into gear even before news of Moore’s alleged misconduct was first reported by The Washington Post. After the Post approached the Moore campaign asking for comment, the campaign fed the scoop to Breitbart reporter Aaron Klein. Klein obligingly published a piece that ran interference on behalf of Moore, framing everything around his denials and casting the Post as an untrustworthy and biased villain.

    The pre-emptive knockout didn’t work, so Bannon took more aggressive measures. He dispatched Klein and Breitbart Washington Political Editor Matt Boyle to Alabama to, in the words of Axios’ Jonathan Swan, “discredit the Washington Post's reporting on Roy Moore's alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers.” This escalation produced similarly disappointing results: Klein ended up filing an “exclusive” that claimed to undermine the Post’s reporting but accidentally confirmed it, while Boyle spent his time counting the number of applause breaks during a Moore speech.

    While Bannon’s crack journalists were bumbling around Birmingham, he got busy trying to spin up a protective narrative around Moore. But without any exculpatory evidence to lean on and with mounting proof of Moore’s guilt, Bannon could go in only one direction: a far-reaching anti-Moore conspiracy.

    Speaking at a political event in New Hampshire shortly after the Post story broke, Bannon said he found it “interesting” that “the Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence?” Even though he hadn’t proved (or even directly alleged) any malfeasance on the Post’s part, Bannon congratulated himself for taking a stand against the media. “I don't mind it. I'll call them out every day.”

    As Moore’s political standing deteriorated and national-level Republicans began distancing themselves from his campaign, Bannon started arguing that the conspiracy ran deeper than anyone could possibly imagine. “You’re going to find out that what happened down there was Republican operatives had this information or were concocting some of this information, working with the Washington Post, who is lying about this,” Bannon said on Breitbart News Daily. He also identified the unlikely mastermind behind it all. “This is just another desperate attempt by Mitch McConnell to keep power,” Bannon said of the Senate majority leader, “and it’s not going to work.” It might seem counterintuitive that the leader of the Republican Senate majority would sabotage his own party’s nominee and reduce his party’s majority as a means of retaining power, but, then again, most of us can’t see around corners like Bannon can.

    The reason Bannon and Breitbart.com rode to Moore’s rescue is that Bannon -- who, again, glides along on his reputation for political vision -- put Moore in the vanguard of his “economic nationalist” movement. Bannon broke with Trump to endorse Moore, and he was the headline speaker at Moore’s rally the evening before the September 26 primary runoff election. “Tomorrow is going to decide who has sovereignty in the United States of America,” Bannon told the crowd in characteristically grandiose fashion.

    Anyone with an ounce of prudence would have been extremely wary of so tightly aligning himself with Moore, whose political career prior to the sexual assault reports was defined by extremism and controversy. But Bannon doesn’t do caution. He’s leading a movement that deliberately stokes racial resentments, places national identity above all other concerns, and actively rejects multiculturalism. Such a movement can’t help but attract kooks, racists, and extremists. It’s Bannon’s job to make them respectable and, if possible, elect them to high office.

    Bannon’s gamble on Moore blew up spectacularly, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with Moore’s background could have told you it very likely would. It’s become so damaging that, as The Daily Beast reports, Bannon and his lackeys are belatedly second-guessing their continued support for Moore as the accusations against him have mounted. According to the outlet’s sources, Bannon said, “I will put him in a grave myself” if it turns out Moore lied about committing sexual assault.

    This is classic Bannon -- it sounds threatening and supervillain-ish, but when you actually think about what he’s threatening, it’s completely empty and ludicrous. According to Bannon, if it’s proven conclusively that Roy Moore lied about molesting children, then Bannon will personally see to it that Moore’s reputation and political career are finished -- as if there’d be anything left at that point for Bannon to put in a “grave.” Bannon’s more immediate concern is salvaging his own reputation as an electoral savant and hoping everyone will forget that he was reckless enough to make an accused sex criminal the face of his political movement.