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Zachary Pleat

Author ››› Zachary Pleat
  • Chuck Todd falsely claims both parties engage in antidemocratic power grabs like the GOP did in Wisconsin. There’s no evidence of that.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After the Republican-dominated legislature in Wisconsin passed a package of bills to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor for nakedly partisan purposes, NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd spuriously claimed that such maneuvers were not unprecedented because Democrats had done the same thing to Republican governors in the past.

    There is no evidence of that -- and Todd offered none.

    On December 9's Meet The Press, after detailing some of the changes that Republicans are making -- in both Wisconsin and Michigan -- and describing them as “a couple of end runs around the November election results,” Todd said: “Now, this has happened before in many a legislature. Democrats, in fact, have done this in the past to Republican governors in lame-duck sessions in other states.”

    But Todd failed to provide a single example of Democrats taking comparable action, simply shifting to start his interview with incoming Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

    The obvious precedent for this situation is North Carolina in 2016. Republicans there used a special session for the sole purpose of pushing bills "to undermine [incoming Democratic Gov. Roy] Cooper by stripping him of his ability to make key appointments to state and local boards and mandating, for the first time, legislative approval of his cabinet.” At the time, Todd discussed the matter on Meet The Press, saying that what the Republicans were doing was "perfectly legal ...but it doesn't feel in the spirit of ending an election." In the years since, some of these changes that Todd deemed "perfectly legal" have been rolled back following court challenges.

    So what else could Todd have pointed to? The examples are minimal at best. As Russell Berman wrote in The Atlantic, "It’s not uncommon for a party on the cusp of losing power to use its final days in office to pass significant legislation even after voters have rendered their verdict. ... But until recently, it has been rarer for a party to act so punitively toward its opponents after a defeat."

    A December 4 “weekly politics chat” on FiveThirtyEight’s website featuring several experienced political journalists and election analysts discussing whether lame-duck sessions are undemocratic highlighted a single 19-year-old example of Alabama Senate Democrats taking some of the lieutenant governor’s appointment and legislative powers and giving them to the state’s Senate president pro tem in 1999. However, as the Montgomery Advertiser reported, both Republican- and Democratic-controlled state senates have decided to keep the lieutenant governor’s power the same since the 1999 rule change. In fact, Republicans recently attempted to reduce the powers of Alabama’s lieutenant governor even further.

    Limiting the powers of a state’s lieutenant governor two decades ago in an arrangement that has satisfied both parties is not at all comparable to current Republican efforts to undo election results by limiting powers. Even some Republicans are objecting to the current move in Wisconsin.

    Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, a Republican who served a short term in the early 2000s, said outgoing Gov. Scott Walker should veto many of the bills passed by Republicans to strip the incoming governor of some of his powers. In comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he said: “There are going to be differences over executive control and legislative control, but you don’t play it out in the dark of night. You don’t make the changes after an election without hearings, without having the public involved, without having a vetting process.”

    The Journal Sentinel also reported on comments from Sheldon Lubar, “longtime prominent Wisconsin Republican and former supporter of Gov. Scott Walker,” who was critical of the GOP attempt to limit the incoming Democratic governor’s powers. Lubar called the Republican legislators pushing the effort “a few petty, mean politicians” and said that if Walker signs their bills, Wisconsin voters “can look on him as somebody who ignores the will of the people and creeps into the house at midnight to steal away the result of their vote."

    Additionally, PolitiFact has explained that the actions of Walker and the Wisconsin GOP legislature are at odds with their previous positions. In November 2010, Walker sent a list of requests to the outgoing Democratic governor asking him not to take several permanent actions during his lame-duck period, in contrast with the vastly expanded actions Walker is taking now. In fact, PolitiFact also detailed a move by Republican legislators in 2011 giving the governor power to approve or reject the adoption of administrative rules -- power that they’re now trying to take away from the incoming Democratic governor.

    Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers in Michigan quickly followed in Wisconsin Republicans’ footsteps by pushing a bill to strip campaign finance oversight powers from the incoming Democratic secretary of state after also approving a separate bill to bypass the incoming Democratic attorney general on lawsuits involving the state.

    This is all symptomatic of a larger problem: The mainstream media, and Meet The Press in particular, are ignoring growing GOP contempt for democracy itself. As Eric Levitz noted in the New York magazine, the root cause of what is happening in Wisconsin is not one party passing a law, but rather GOP fearing that the party that received the most votes in an election would actually have a chance to govern. In that sense, Todd declaring this power grab normal is no different than Meet The Press inviting an oil-industry funded guest who pushed climate change denial or a conspiracy theorist who talked about the need for civility.

  • Fox Business host’s interview with Betsy DeVos ignores rule changes for campus sexual assault and failures on student debt forgiveness

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared on Fox Business Network for a softball interview during which the host, Maria Bartiromo, failed to ask a single question about either changes DeVos has initiated to rules about campus sexual assault, which would be harmful to survivors, or her failure to implement student debt forgiveness.

    In mid-November, DeVos proposed new rules for colleges and universities regarding campus sexual assault under the Title IX law, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded schools. According to The New York Times, the changes “established a narrower definition of sexual harassment, tightened reporting requirements, relieved colleges of the responsibility to investigate off-campus episodes, and outlined steps schools should take to provide support for accusers.” The new rules would also give those accused of sexual harassment and assault the right to cross-examine their accusers, which could retraumatize survivors of these incidents. According to former Department of Justice Civil Rights Division official Anurima Bhargava, DeVos’ new rules “would make schools less safe by narrowing the definition for what counts as sexual misconduct, creating barriers for students to report these incidents and limiting the responsibility of schools to respond.”

    Additionally, DeVos was sued earlier this month for the second time for failing to cancel debts of students defrauded by for-profit colleges. According to NPR, a federal judge ruled in September that her “delay of a key student borrower protection rule was improper and unlawful.” GQ explained earlier this month that DeVos has undermined the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which was “designed to forgive the student debt of people who spend ten years working in public service while making steady payments.” Under DeVos, over 99 percent of applications for debt forgiveness under this program have been rejected.

    Instead of covering these topics, the nearly 10-minute interview focused on attacking public education, criticizing teachers unions, and promoting a Department of Education mobile app for college students to enroll in federal student aid. From the November 27 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo:

  • Fox regular who called for "a cleansing" of the FBI and DOJ is advising Trump on a replacement attorney general

    Pro-Trump lawyer Joseph diGenova has repeatedly attacked the Russia probe and Sessions

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Discredited Republican lawyer Joe diGenova told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that he has been advising President Donald Trump on the replacement of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    A U.S. attorney during the Reagan administration, diGenova played a partisan role in investigations into President Bill Clinton during the 1990s, including serving as the source for a later-retracted newspaper article, and he was criticized for behaving unprofessionally while working for congressional subcommittees. He also fabricated false claims against the Obama administration over the 2012 Benghazi attack.

    DiGenova briefly joined Trump’s personal legal team regarding the Russia probe earlier this year after he defended the president on Fox News, but he was taken off the team for conflicts of interest within a week. DiGenova claims that he is still advising Trump, and he told Ingraham last night that he has “a couple of ideas which I have shared with the president” about who can permanently replace Sessions:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): I have to ask you on picks for attorney general. We all have maybe a couple ideas -- what are your ideas?

    JOSEPH DIGENOVA: Well, I have a couple of ideas which I have shared with the president, and I'm not going to share them with anybody else. So, if I say any of my ideas, I will be sharing a conversation with the president.

    DiGenova’s latest comments came just hours after Trump fired Sessions following a nearly two-year campaign of publicly humiliating the attorney general for his recusal from the Russia investigation. After the firing, Trump named Sessions’ former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker -- who has previously supported Trump against the Russia investigation -- acting attorney general.

    In an interview with the Daily Caller's Ginni Thomas, diGenova called for "a cleansing of the FBI and the upper echelons of the Department of Justice." DiGenova also called Russian interference "a false Russian conspiracy that never existed" that was built with "false facts."

    JOSEPH DIGENOVA: It's a big deal because I have a saying that the FBI used to spy on the Russians, this time they spied on us. What this story is about, it's about a brazen plot to again exonerate Hillary Clinton from a clear violation of the law with regard to the way she handled classified information with her private server, absolutely a crime, absolutely a felony. It's about finding out why, as the Inspector General is doing at the Department of Justice, why Comey and the senior DOJ officials conducted a fake criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, followed none of the regular rules, gave her every break in the book, immunized all kinds of people, allowed the destruction of evidence, no grand jury, no subpoenas, no search warrant. That's not an investigation, that's a Potemkin village. It's a farce and everybody knew it was a farce. The problem was she didn't win and because she didn't win the farce became a very serious opera. It wasn't a comic opera anymore, it was a tragic opera and she was going to be the focus.

    What this is about is, this is about a lavabo, a cleansing of the FBI and the upper echelons of the Department of Justice.

    We're going to discover that the Attorney General Loretta Lynch, her deputy Sally Yates, the head of the National Security Division John Carlin, Bruce Ohr, and other senior DOJ officials and regrettably line attorneys, people who were senior career civil servants, violated the law, perhaps committed crimes and covered up crimes by a presidential candidate. But more than that they tried to frame an incoming president with a false Russian conspiracy that never existed and they knew it and they plotted to to ruin him as a candidate and then destroy him a president.

    That's why this is important. That's why connecting the dots is important, because the FBI now has to be completely reconstructed from the ground up. The men and women at the bureau are great people, that's not who we're talking about, we never have been. We are talking about people like James Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Baker, Priestep, whose name nobody knows. He's the head of the counterintelligence division and he was the one who was involved in planning this entire crazy thing involving Fusion GPS, the false dossier, and creating evidence.

    This is what people have to understand. What the Bureau did was, by working with Fusion GPS, and giving contractors access to highly classified information, which they had no legal right to see, they needed to create something they could give to the court, the foreign intelligence court, so that they could get wiretaps and surveillance taps and email taps and phone taps on the Trump people so that if there was anything they could find it out. Of course there was nothing. There was ... there never was anything and they created false facts so that they could get surveillance warrants. Those are all crimes. Every single one of those acts constitutes a crime because it was done not for a legitimate law enforcement reason, not for national security reasons, but to create a false case against a candidate Donald Trump, a president-elect Donald Trump, and a president Donald Trump.

    On Fox, diGenova has repeatedly claimed that the Russia probe is a conspiracy to “frame Donald Trump,” and that multiple people at the FBI and Department of Justice should be investigated, fired, and arrested. He has demanded Congress impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, and he has said Rosenstein should “rot in hell” for the way he has overseen the Russia investigation. He suggested then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s secret payments to two women on behalf of Trump during the presidential campaign weren’t illegal. DiGenova also claimed that the DOJ-authorized FBI search of Cohen’s office was “an act of terror” and that a prosecutor was using “terror tactics” to “coerce” former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

    DiGenova didn’t reserve his ire only for the Russia probe and those directly overseeing it. He spent months criticizing Sessions before Trump fired him. In May, diGenova said on Fox’s Hannity that Sessions’ recusal “was an unforced betrayal of the president” -- a statement Trump loved so much he directly quoted it in a tweet that also name-checked diGenova.

    On Hannity in August, diGenova said Trump “is entitled to a fully engaged attorney general. He has never had that. ... Jeff Sessions has no command presence. He doesn’t understand the job that he has.” During that appearance, diGenova also said: “After the next election, Jeff should give the president the courtesy of a resignation.” In early October, diGenova said:

    Look, make no mistake about it: Rod Rosenstein is a creep. He is a dishonest -- fundamentally dishonest – he cares about one thing, himself, his next job, and his future. The president, of course, will keep him through the next -- through the election cycle. Keeping him after that is an open question.

    ...

    Where is Jeff Sessions? He is on a milk carton. This guy is so sad and so depressing to watch him twist in the breeze as an incompetent attorney general. And there behind him is Rasputin, Rod Rosenstein. This is an ugly period for the department, and it will not get better until both of them are gone.

    Later in October, diGenova offered more criticism: “I would say Sessions and Rosenstein will go down in history as the two worst officials in the Department of Justice in its history.”

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

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

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


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

    [Twitter, 8/6/17]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (CROSSTALK)

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

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

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

  • Fox figures constantly parrot Trump in attacking the media

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

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

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

    Video by Miles Le

    Attacks on the media are frequent and vicious on Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fox routinely celebrates Trump’s hostility toward the media

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

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

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

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

    Fox figures often target specific outlets and individual journalists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fox personalities have called for a crackdown on the free press

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fox anchor echoes Trump’s lies while advising GOP to scare Florida seniors about Medicare for All

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell urged Republicans to scare Florida’s seniors about proposed Medicare for All legislation and claim that it would result in “Medicare for none” ahead of next week’s midterm elections. In fact, the legislation in question would improve on Medicare’s single-payer health insurance, reduce the cost of health care, and extend it to all Americans.

    During a November 1 discussion on Fox News’ Outnumbered about President Donald Trump’s attacks on Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mayor Andrew Gillum, McDowell argued that Republicans should tell Florida’s seniors that “that in terms of Medicare for All, if Andrew Gillum is backing what Bernie Sanders wants to do, it's Medicare for none":

    DAGEN MCDOWELL (CO-HOST): This is getting in the weeds, and if you want to talk about health care, what Republicans ought to be saying about single payer -- the Democrats like calling it Medicare for All -- that in terms of Medicare for All, if Andrew Gillum is backing what Bernie Sanders wants to do, it's Medicare for none. Because his bill gets rid of Medicare. Where do seniors live? Florida. They want to get rid of your Medicare. That's all the Republicans need to say. They want to eliminate private competition with these bills that are in Washington. That's all they need to say. The seniors in Florida would be screaming at the top of their lungs, and the Republicans are not getting that message out.

    Despite both McDowell and Trump saying Medicare for All is “Medicare for none,” that’s simply not true. Experts have explained that Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would offer better health care for seniors than the current system because it covers more benefits while reducing the amount beneficiaries have to pay for care. The Urban Institute’s Linda Blumberg told PolitiFact that Medicare for All “would actually give an expanded version of traditional Medicare to everyone, with broader coverage -- including items such as dental and vision care -- while eliminating virtually all out of pocket costs.” RAND Corporation health policy analyst Christine Eibner also explained to PolitiFact that seniors could benefit by everyone being covered by Medicare for All because doctors are currently incentivized to choose non-Medicare patients, since private insurance pays more.

    Health policy journalist Sarah Kliff explained at Vox that Sanders’ Medicare for All plan “is more generous than the current Medicare program” because it “does not subject consumers to any out-of-pocket spending on health aside from prescriptions drugs.” Kliff also noted that Sanders’ Medicare for All “is more generous than the plans Americans currently receive at work too.”

    Health policy experts Katie Keith and Timothy Jost also went into detail about the plan’s benefits and explained that, while Medicare for All would forbid private insurance that offers the same benefits, it permits private insurance to cover benefits not covered by Medicare for All. So if Americans felt that they needed additional health insurance, they could still purchase it from private insurers.

  • Fox News interview hides that Montana Republican Senate candidate would allow insurance companies not to cover pre-existing conditions

    Fox News did not mention that Matt Rosendale reauthorized a program, previously banned for fraud, that excluded coverage for pre-existing conditions

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Montana’s Republican Senate nominee and state insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale told Fox anchor Bill Hemmer that he has “really worked very hard to make sure pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions are covered.”

    But as Montana newspapers have detailed, Rosendale supports repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, in his role as insurance Commissioner Rosendale even authorized the sale of insurance-like products that “do not guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.”

    Instead of giving his viewers these facts, Hemmer offered only a weak rebuttal, citing a brief quote from Rosendale’s opponent, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT): “He’s arguing that you’re putting pre-existing conditions at risk.”

    From the October 17 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (HOST): Matt Rosendale is my guest now in Montana. ... I did a lot of reading trying to figure out what the issues are. Health care keeps coming up time and again. Is that what decides this race in Montana?

    MATT ROSENDALE (MONTANA GOP SENATE CANDIDATE): Health care is one of the real big factors here, Bill. Jon Tester is the fella who brought us Obamacare, and my work in the auditor's office has shown that I have really worked very hard to make sure pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions are covered, and make sure people of Montana have a broad range of health care options to accommodate --

    HEMMER: Because he is arguing that you are putting pre-existing conditions at risk. This is the one thing you guys agree on, is that you both believe health care costs are going higher and there has to be a solution to it, but you differ on what the solution is.

    ROSENDALE: Absolutely. The problem is he brought us Obamacare, which is what is driving the costs up, Bill.

    HEMMER: Based on his vote for the ACA.

    ROSENDALE: I've been working for quite some time now to make sure that the people of Montana have a broad range of options to make sure they can accommodate their health care needs in a way that recognizes their budget, their personal needs, and their personal choices as well.

    Montana news coverage shows how misleading and insufficient this Fox segment is. Rosendale has introduced and supported insurance-like schemes that do not cover pre-existing conditions. Specifically, Rosendale re-authorized Medi-Share, a program that was banned for “fraudulent practices” for refusing to pay for the health care of a Montana man who had cancer. In another instance, Medi-Share refused to pay for the treatment of a Montana pastor until a court ordered otherwise.

    Here is an article from the Helena, MT-based Independent Record (emphasis added):

    In his role as state Auditor, which oversees the insurance industry in Montana, Rosendale has brought in primary care agreements that allow people to enter into direct contracts with primary care providers outside of the health insurance framework.

    He’s also advocated for the short-term plans, the ones Tester calls “junk plans,” and allowed a religious health care sharing ministry to return to operating in the state after it was banned in 2007.

    “People have a multitude of options to take care of their needs in a way that recognizes their budget, their specific health care needs and their personal choices,” Rosendale said.

    The primary care agreements were twice vetoed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, who said they did not provide value to consumers and often charged for treatments already covered by insurance.

    Medi-Share, the health ministry that is operating in Montana, was banned in 2007 because of fraudulent practices after it did not pay a claim for a Montana man who had cancer. Both products are not regulated by the auditor's office because they are not traditional insurance.

    Medi-Share and the short-term insurance plans do not guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, one of the landmark protections in the Affordable Care Act.

    Medi-Share explicitly excludes coverage for pre-existing conditions. In 2017, Montana Cowgirl Blog described what Medi-Share does offer:

    Here’s how this works: To join the pyramid you must must pledge your devout Christian faith (and even get a reference from a minister). You must not drink, take drugs or have sex outside of a “traditional” marriage. Pre-existing conditions make you ineligible to participate at all, although one does get the benefit of a “prayer chain.”

    The coverage doesn’t include products of “un-Biblical lifestyles,” such as contraception or substance use rehabilitation–or preventive care like PAP tests, colonoscopies and mammograms.

    Usually, bill-sharing plan members contribute a predetermined amount each month. When they have a medical bill, they receive monetary help from fellow members. All of the programs are careful to bury in the fine print that they not promising to pay bills, only “facilitating a voluntary sharing.” Some of these schemes even publish your medical problems in a newsletter to “share” your bill with the community in case anyone wants to chip in–so much for medical privacy.

    The pro-ACA advocacy organization Protect Our Care provided additional details about how Rosendale’s policies could leave Montana residents without coverage for pre-existing conditions.

  • Arizona journalists debunk edited video used by conservatives to smear Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media used an out-of-context video to falsely claim that Senate candidate Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) called all Arizonans "crazy." As local journalists explained, the full context of her remarks shows that Sinema was clearly referring only to Republican lawmakers in Arizona who were promoting extremist legislation, such as the state’s racially discriminatory SB 1070 "papers please" law.

    This smear originated with an October 11 tweet from the Twitter account “The Reagan Battalion,” described by The Associated Press as “an anonymous conservative group,” which published a 65 second-long video with clear edits at the 23 and 30 second marks, stripping Sinema's remarks of necessary context. According to the tweet, Sinema mocked “Arizonans as 'Crazy' and calls Arizona the 'crazy' state."

    As of 11 a.m. EDT today, that crudely edited video had roughly 240,000 views. The Reagan Battalion later posted a full 5 minute 23 second version on its YouTube account, suggesting it had the full context all along. The original, uncut video had only 3,129 views as of 11 a.m.

    Fox News host Sean Hannity ran with this false framing, citing The Reagan Battalion and saying the video showed Sinema "calling Arizonans, the people she wants to vote for her, crazy."
     

    Conservative outlet Independent Journal Review (IJR) embedded the deceptively edited Reagan Battalion video and tweet in a piece that falsely blared in its headline: “Leaked Video Shows Arizona Dem Senate Candidate Mocking Arizonans as ‘Crazy’ While in Texas.” Talk radio host and MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt tweeted: “Wow: ‘Sinema Called Arizonans “Crazy” at Texas Democratic Event in 2011,’” linking to a Washington Free Beacon story with a similarly misleading headline, despite the body of the piece acknowledging that she was referring to Republican lawmakers. Fox & Friends also aired an edited version of Sinema’s remarks which included her reference to Republicans lawmakers, yet the show still falsely claimed in an on-air graphic that “Sinema mocked Arizonans as ‘crazy’ in 2011.”

    But local journalists quickly made clear that conservatives were wrong to claim Sinema was referring to all Arizonans as “crazy.” Arizona Capitol Times editor Luige del Puerto called out The Reagan Battalion in a tweet, pointing out the clear edits and demanding it “show the unedited version so we can hear her whole speech.” He also told IJR that it was wrong to promote the misleadingly edited video. And The Arizona Republic published an article on Sinema’s full remarks with the correct context and a factually correct headline: “Kyrsten Sinema in 2011: 'There’s something wrong with the people in public office in Arizona.’” The lede of the article stated: “Rep. Kyrsten Sinema seven years ago ridiculed as ‘crazy’ the Republican elected officials leading the state at the time, and the anti-illegal immigration legislation that began in Arizona and was being replicated in state Capitols across the nation.”

    And Sinema was absolutely correct about the extremist nature of the Republican legislators in Arizona. The 2010 Arizona anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, known as the “papers please” law because it required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country without authorization, was so extreme that the Supreme Court struck down three out of four provisions of the law in 2012. The remaining provision that required officers to question people’s immigration status and demand immigration documents was largely rendered moot in 2016 when the state settled a lawsuit brought by immigrants’ rights groups. The Arizona Republic explained that the law “sparked a national outcry” and “led to a torrent of canceled trips to Arizona by would-be tourists and conventioneers, and travel bans by cities and organizations around the country who deemed the legislation discriminatory and in violation of federal law.” The same article pointed out other extreme legislation introduced by Republicans in the state legislature that year:

    In 2011, the year of Sinema’s remarks, Republicans at the Arizona Capitol had introduced other legislation targeting undocumented immigrants.

    One bill would have required hospitals to check a person’s legal status and notify law enforcement if they suspected the person was in the United States illegally. Another would have banned illegal immigrants from going to state universities and community colleges, and from getting federal benefits.

    A third targeted the issue of birthright citizenship.

    All of the bills failed.

    Russell Pearce, who was singled out in Sinema’s remarks and authored the SB 1070 legislation, was forced into a recall election over the bill and lost to another Republican the year after it was signed into law.

  • “Free speech” advocates suddenly furious that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) invited a controversial criminal defense attorney to speak in 2003

    Pro-Trump media figures smear Sinema, a Senate candidate, as “an actual Islamic terrorist”

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    The Republican Party and pro-Trump media figures are smearing Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as either a terrorist supporter or “an actual Islamic terrorist” over two 2003 events at Arizona State University she promoted that featured controversial criminal defense attorney Lynne Stewart. Stewart, who represented terror group leader Omar Abdel Rahman, known as “the blind sheikh,” was convicted two years after these events for conspiracy to provide material support of terrorism.

    Following publication of an October 10 FoxNews.com article headlined “Senate Dem hopeful Kyrsten Sinema promoted events featuring convicted terror lawyer,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) quickly issued a press release smearing Sinema for supposedly having “promoted terrorists.” (The FoxNews.com headline itself is misleading as the article notes that, at the time, Stewart had been charged but not yet convicted.) The NRSC press release inaccurately stated that Sinema was “sympathizing with convicted terrorists.” It also claimed that she “fervently defended the attorney who was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization, and promoted her on campus, saying she was ‘emphatically not guilty’ and blamed the ‘hastily enacted PATRIOT Act’ for her conviction.” The quotes are from 2003, before Stewart was convicted. Stewart died in 2017, but her conviction remains controversial in legal circles.

    NRSC communications staffer Calvin Moore leaped beyond this smear in a tweet claiming Sinema has “ties to the mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing,” which is patently absurd and false.

    Two far-right media personalities helped push the Republican smear about Sinema. Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft falsely declared in an October 11 blog post that “Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is a terrorist supporter.” Hoft pulled this description from Mike Cernovich, who at first tweeted that Sinema “worked with an actual Islamic terrorist,” then descended further into absurdity by eventually calling Sinema “an actual Islamic terrorist” and saying she’s “an actual terrorist supporter, a literal f-cking terrorist.”

    Hoft is no stranger to inviting people under indictment to speak. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, recently spoke and received an award at an event sponsored by Hoft’s Gateway Pundit. His website also has a history of supporting controversial speakers who are invited to college campuses. For his part, Cernovich is accustomed to drawing opposition to his controversial campus appearances, and he has even accompanied a neo-Nazi to a campus rally. Yet they are nevertheless suggesting that by inviting people to a campus event to hear from a defense attorney, Sinema is either supporting terrorists or acting as one herself.