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Zachary Pleat

Author ››› Zachary Pleat
  • Fox’s Andrew Napolitano says it’s wrong to impeach Trump without broad bipartisan consensus. He called for Obama’s impeachment at least nine times.

    Napolitano even once called for impeaching Obama on Alex Jones' show

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said on Fox & Friends that “it is wrong to impeach the president without a broad national bipartisan consensus behind it,” adding, “No such consensus exists now.” Napolitano was much more glib with calls to impeach President Barack Obama; during the Obama administration, Napolitano urged Republicans to impeach the president no less than nine times.

    From the May 16 edition of Fox & Friends:

    Between 2010 and 2015, Napolitano repeatedly urged Congress to impeach Obama for various reasons. In June 2014, Napolitano said he thought the case for impeaching Obama for exchanging an American prisoner of war was “a very, very valid argument.” The next month, he urged Republicans to impeach Obama for alleged “executive overreach” -- and he doubled down on this two weeks later.

    In February 2013, the Fox analyst floated impeachment for the way Obama cut government spending as mandated by sequestration under the 2011 Budget Control Act. That December, Napolitano called for Obama to be impeached for the way his administration was implementing the Affordable Care Act.

    But nothing scratched Napolitano’s pro-impeachment itch like Obama’s immigration policies; the Fox analyst suggested Obama should be impeached over his immigration policies at least four times -- including once on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio show.

    And by Napolitano’s own standard of broad bipartisan consensus for impeachment, there was no such support for it during Obama’s presidency. A widely reported July 2014 poll, halfway into Obama’s second term, showed 33% of Americans supported impeaching the president, while 65% opposed it. In contrast, a recent poll shows that 45% of Americans, a plurality, support impeaching Trump.

  • Conservative media downplay the Trump administration's unprecedented stonewalling of congressional oversight

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    As legal experts, historians, and Democratic lawmakers have sounded the alarm over President Donald Trump’s blanket obstruction of congressional oversight of his presidency -- suggesting we have reached or are approaching a constitutional crisis -- Trump’s conservative media allies are brazenly misrepresenting the arguments and suggesting everything boils down to a fight over the Mueller report, claiming Trump’s obstruction is normal, and ridiculing Democrats for speaking out.

  • Fox anchor repeats Trump’s lie about the economic harm from his tariffs on imports from China

    Economists say Trump’s tariffs have hurt America’s economic growth

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News anchor Sandra Smith parroted a tweet from President Donald Trump crediting the recent 3.2% GDP growth in part on his tariffs on imports from China. But economists, including those with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), have explained that Trump’s tariffs have actually slightly depressed U.S. GDP growth.

    Economists warned at least a year ago that Trump’s tariffs would hurt the U.S. economy. Now, a May 10 CNBC article quoted Oxford Economics economist Greg Daco, who estimated that “the tariffs in place since last year depressed U.S. gross domestic product by about 0.1 percentage point this year.” Daco further estimated that Trump’s new tariffs and China’s retaliatory tariffs would “cut U.S. GDP by 0.3 percentage point next year, costing the U.S. economy about $62 billion.” Daco’s estimate of the tariffs’ effect so far matches a January estimate by the CBO that Trump’s tariffs “will limit growth of U.S. real gross domestic product by an average of 0.1 percent each year for the next 10 years if they remain in place at current levels.” Fox has previously downplayed the negative economic impacts from Trump’s tariffs, but Smith ignored them entirely when she repeated Trump’s lie.

    From the May 13 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    SANDRA SMITH (CO-ANCHOR): You know, it’s amazing to see the president in his words this morning, he’s been tweeting a lot this morning. Here’s one of them: “The unexpectedly good first quarter 3.2% GDP was greatly helped by tariffs from China. Some people just don't get it.” You know, in the wake of that monstrous GDP number and the big drop in the unemployment rate and the added jobs that we recently saw, some who don't usually give the president credit for the growth in the economy were giving him credit there. Here is the president saying you’re not giving me enough credit for what this has already done to the United States.

  • Fox contributor falsely claims “almost 9 out of 10 families” applying for asylum “aren’t making it to court” for their hearings

    Former acting ICE Director Tom Homan cited congressional testimony that actually proves him wrong. The vast majority of families applying for asylum appear for their court cases.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News contributor and former acting ICE Director Tom Homan, in an effort to inflate problems at the southern border, claimed “86%, almost 9 out of 10 families, aren't making it to court” for their asylum hearings, citing congressional testimony.

    But the testimony Homan appears to be referring to actually showed that most such families do show up for their court cases -- which lines up with studies and results from an Obama administration program where the vast majority of families over a period of 10 years attended their hearings. The numbers Homan gave referred only to a pilot program launched by the Trump administration in late 2018.

    On May 8, Acting Executive Associate ICE Director Nathalie Asher testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that 87.5 percent of removal orders for cases in a limited Department of Justice pilot program to expedite family asylum cases within a year “were issued in absentia” when the persons didn’t appear for their cases. However, immigration lawyers say that this Trump administration pilot program could violate immigrants’ due process rights.

    Asher’s testimony also stated that in fiscal year 2018, just 27.4% of family units failed to appear for their court dates -- far less than the “almost 9 out of 10 families” Homan claimed. Asher even admitted that the traditional program for these families “is effective in ensuring that its vetted participants show up to specified hearings.”

    Other data also show that a sizeable majority of immigrants in recent years who are not detained attend their immigration court proceedings. Family units applying for asylum that participated in an Obama administration pilot program had nearly perfect attendance for their ICE check-ins and court hearings -- but the Trump administration canceled that program. And multiple studies and analyses have shown that the rate for several categories of asylum seekers had court hearing attendance rates of over 90%. Homan, who regularly appears on Fox to misinform on immigration and advocate for harsh measures against asylum seekers, has the numbers completely backwards.

    From the May 10 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): So, the situation on the border apparently getting worse. More than 100,000 illegal immigrants were either apprehended or turned away at the southern border in one month, in the month of April. Tom Homan, retired ICE director and a Fox News contributor. Sir, thanks for coming back here. Administration's looking for some more money, let me get to that in a moment. There was a big hearing yesterday on the Hill. We had a member of the Border Patrol on out air last hour. He's just saying that Congress doesn't care because Congress isn't getting it done. Now you see the numbers from April and they tell you what?

    TOM HOMAN (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well look, I've been saying for months Congress doesn't care. Look, I think their resistance to Trump, they want to see -- they want to see this president fail on his number one campaign promise. I've said it many times, they're putting their hatred of this president above their responsibilities to secure this border. They can't be ignorant to what's happening. All you got to do is watch the videos, watch the numbers. The borders -- I've done this 34 years. This is unprecedented. I've never seen it this bad on the border. And they're sitting there watching the parade go by. Nothing is happening, and it's terrible. The morale of the Border Patrol is going downhill. More people are being released. As of yesterday's testimony, 86%, almost 9 out of 10 families, aren't making it to court. They don't show up. They become a fugitive and they hide in the United States waiting for the next DACA or waiting for the next amnesty. It's terrible, it's out of control. Worst I've ever seen it in my entire career.

  • Fox & Friends falsely compares the House vote to hold Bill Barr in contempt to the contempt vote for Eric Holder. But Holder actually tried to satisfy subpoenas.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    After the House Judiciary Committee recently voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian election interference, Fox & Friends falsely equated the situation to House Republicans' 2012 contempt vote against former Attorney General Eric Holder. But Holder had attempted to satisfy Congress’ overly broad subpoena requests, including with document production, in contrast with Barr.

    The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt on May 8 after Barr defied a subpoena, his latest action stymying Congress’ look into the results of Mueller’s investigation. After receiving the report from Mueller, Barr went to great lengths to pre-spin the results -- spin that Mueller himself complained to Barr “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report. Barr missed the House’s first deadline to turn over the full Mueller report by April 2 and two weeks later gave Congress only the redacted report that was also released to the public. In a letter, Barr informed the chairs of the Senate and House judiciary committees that he would provide a “less-redacted” version of the Mueller report only to the chairs and ranking members of those committees and the “Gang of Eight.” The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller report and underlying materials on April 19. On May 2, Barr also refused to testify to the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee about the Mueller report, citing his objection to the plan to have lawyers ask questions.

    Barr’s repeated attempts to frustrate Congress’ access to the findings of the Mueller report are in stark contrast with how Holder attempted to comply with Republicans’ congressional subpoena about an ATF operation in 2011. The deputy attorney general at the time explained to Congress the “extraordinary lengths” the Department of Justice went to in an attempt satisfy the Republicans’ subpoena. According to the DOJ, it had satisfied the vast majority of the subpoena’s questions before their June 2012 contempt vote. And the Obama White House explained in 2012 that the DOJ had produced thousands of documents and testified at 11 congressional hearings.

    But in its May 9 discussion of the contempt vote against Barr, Fox & Friends ignored this disparity between Holder’s attempts to cooperate with congressional investigations and Barr’s outright obstruction.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Let’s talk a little bit about what happened yesterday in the House of Representatives. House Judiciary Committee voted to hold the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, in contempt of Congress. It now goes to the full House.

    ...

    DOOCY: Remember when Eric Holder was held in contempt by the full House back in 2012? Listen to some members of the media, what they were talking about regarding Eric Holder and Fast and Furious. He refused documents as well. But, the media back in 2012 sounds exactly like a lot of Republicans today.

    ...

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So is it amazing to you that the same people with mildly different hairstyles have taken the opposite position four years later?

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): When it was Holder, how could they? Adam Schiff said this is partisan abuse. You know what he is saying now with Barr? What he said yesterday? We had no choice.

  • Fox host downplays student debt crisis by dismissing Warren’s plan to cancel debt as “buying votes”

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    Fox Business’ Stuart Varney attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal to provide debt relief to over 42 million student borrowers and to make public college free, characterizing it as nothing more than a vote buying scheme. But the student debt crisis is a major problem for the U.S. economy, with tens of millions of defaults expected in the next few years.

    During the April 23 edition of Fox & Friends, Varney first correctly explained that Warren’s proposal would provide debt relief for about 42 million Americans, wiping out up to $50,000 of debt for most student borrowers, and would make public colleges tuition-free. But he quickly claimed that the proposal is “buying votes with other people’s money” and complained that the plan would be funded by taxing America’s wealthiest millionaires and billionaires. Varney concluded by mocking Warren and her plan: “It’s buying votes. ‘Vote for me, millennials, and look what I can do for you.’”

    Varney failed to acknowledge the severity of the student debt problem. As CNBC’s report on Warren’s proposal explained, “By 2023, nearly 40% of borrowers are expected to default on their student loans, an event that only increases their debt and devastates their credit.” And student debt disproportionately harms students of historically Black colleges and universities: According to The Wall Street Journal, students of these schools have 32% higher median debt load than students from other public universities.

    Warren wrote that her proposal to forgive student debt and make public college free would “substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps.” And NPR explained the obvious economic benefits of reducing so much debt: “Federal agencies have calculated in the past that the current $1.5 trillion of outstanding student loans could be impacting consumer spending and demand for mortgages — so canceling many of those loans could indeed goose the economy.”

    Varney, who has said he is among the top 1% of income earners, has a long history of dismissing the struggles of Americans who are not rich. In 2011, he said that many poor people “have things. What they lack is the richness of spirit.”

    Varney has also attacked many Democratic proposals and policies that would provide relief and an even playing field for lower income families. In April 2018, Varney said that now-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ job guarantee plan was “a vote-buying operation.” In October 2015, Varney said that multiple policy proposals from Democratic presidential candidates, including paid family leave and health care for all children, were just their attempts at “buying votes.” And before that, during the Obama administration, Varney repeatedly characterized the federal government’s efforts to ensure that people who qualified for benefits had access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, as Democratic plots to “buy votes.”

  • Fox correspondent channeled network’s opinion side at Barr’s press conference

    Catherine Herridge asked Attorney General Barr what Hannity and Fox & Friends have been demanding: When will he investigate the investigators?

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In yet another blow to the supposed separation between Fox’s “news” side and its opinion hosts and contributors, correspondent Catherine Herridge wasted her question at Attorney General William Barr’s press conference by echoing the demands of Fox & Friends just hours earlier and Hannity the night before: When will he investigate the origins of the probe into the Trump campaign?

    Herridge chose to channel the narrative from Fox’s opinion shows at Barr’s press conference by asking, “Is there anything you can share today about your review of the genesis of the Russia investigation and whether assets have been provided to investigate?”

    This same question was repeatedly raised on Fox News earlier this morning. As the nation awaited the release of Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked, “How soon do we pivot to how this whole thing started?” Before the press conference began, Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy said that Barr should talk about “an inquiry into the origins of the investigation.” Fox & Friends guest and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, misrepresenting what actually took place, said: “We need to hold the people who did that spying accountable.” Fox contributor David Bossie followed that up by saying, “I hope that during this morning's press conference that the attorney general is going to tell the American people that he has impaneled a grand jury to investigate the investigators.” And Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz expressed a desire for Barr to skip past any investigation and go straight to prosecutions.

    All of that was just from this morning’s Fox & Friends. And it was just a continuation of similar absurdity from last night’s Hannity. During his monologue, Sean Hannity said:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The investigations taking place right now in the DOJ, in Congress, are the only thing standing in the way of this country becoming a banana republic. If we don't investigate investigators, lock up the bad actors, this country will be over as we know it. All must be held to account, including those who rigged Hillary's probe, persecuted Trump, spied on a political campaign, tried to rig a presidential election, attempted a deep-state coup on a duly elected president of the United States. If justice is not served, say goodbye to our democratic republic, say goodbye to your freedoms. You can say goodbye to your precious rights endowed by our Constitution and creator, God.

    We must protect also the 99.9% of good people in the FBI, in the intelligence community, that protect the innocent people here and around the globe, premier agencies around the world. It's only 1% that did wrong. We either get equal justice that we deserve, or we’ll have no country.

    Hannity later said, “I want to know what [former President Barack] Obama knew, and [former national security adviser Susan] Rice knew, and [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper knew, and [former CIA Director John] Brennan knew.”

    His guests followed suit. Republican lawyer Joe diGenova expressed confidence that Barr “will start a process which is going to lead to a series of federal grand juries to hold accountable all the people you are talking about.” GOP attorney Victoria Toensing said “justice will be served” for Trump’s investigators, and Hannity contributor Sara Carter asserted:

    There are a number of indictments that are on the way. There's going to be a very serious investigation into what had happened and what had transpired since the Hillary Clinton investigation by the FBI, all the way through the origins at the very beginning of the investigation into then-candidate Trump and those within his campaign. And this is going to be significant because they are going to look for these origins, and I think -- I agree completely with Joe and with Victoria that it's going to lead all the way back to the White House. And that is what I'm hearing and I'm talking about the Obama administration.

    This narrative has been a fixation among Fox’s opinion hosts -- particularly Hannity, a close Trump adviser -- for months. That it would become the single focus of the Fox correspondent asking a question of the attorney general shows there is no division between Fox’s “news” and its opinion side -- the network is a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, plain and simple.

  • Minutes after being told Barr walked back his 'spying' assertion, Fox news anchors repeatedly pushed it anyways

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Within 10 minutes of Chris Wallace clarifying that Attorney General Bill Barr had walked back his claim of FBI spying on the Trump campaign, Fox News anchors Sandra Smith and Bill Hemmer both continued to push the claim that Barr said, “quote, 'there was spying on the Trump campaign.'” Smith and Hemmer are the anchors of America's Newsroom, one of the programs in Fox's ostensibly straight news division.

    Barr was testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee about the Mueller report on April 10 when, citing no evidence, he repeated the claim that the FBI conducted “spying” -- a term “typically associated with unlawful surveillance” (emphasis added) -- on the Trump campaign in 2016. Later in his testimony, Barr walked the statement back, saying: “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying that I am concerned about it and I’m looking into it.”

    On the April 12 edition of America’s Newsroom, Smith asked Wallace about the reaction to Barr’s testimony. Wallace responded that “we knew it was going to be highly charged politically” and explained why it was wrong to characterize Barr’s comments as him affirming claims of spying on the Trump campaign:

    CHRIS WALLACE (FOX NEWS SUNDAY ANCHOR): The word spy is charged. And I think that Barr realized that because at the end of his congressional hearing, he said, look, after reviewing all of the -- as he put it -- the colloquies I have had with various members of the Senate, maybe I should say surveillance and whether or not it was proper or not.

    There is an absolutely legitimate question, and a legitimate investigation in fact is already going on by the inspector general as to whether or not the surveillance of the Trump campaign, members of that campaign, was legitimate -- was based on reasonable concerns. The use of the word spy, that was charged. I mean, think of it. If you were going to talk about the Justice Department surveilling organized crime figures, would you call that spying? No, you’d call it surveillance. [CROSSTALK] And Barr was saying -- no, if I may just finish, inasmuch as Barr is saying “look, I'm going to investigate whether it was legitimate surveillance or not,” maybe use of the word spying, he got ahead of himself.

    Yet, shortly after the segment, Hemmer and Smith both stripped out the context, making the story mesh better with the Fox News party line. Hemmer teased an upcoming segment by saying: “Also, the Attorney General Bill Barr telling Congress he believes there was spying on the Trump campaign.” Smith then opened another segment minutes later, saying: “Reaction now to Attorney General Wallace Barr saying there was, quote, ‘spying on the Trump campaign.’”

    One Trump campaign associate, Carter Page, is known to have been the subject of a surveillance warrant. As the Associated Press noted (emphasis added), "The warrant was obtained after Page had left the campaign and was renewed several times." Additionally, an informant was sent to speak to two advisers to the Trump campaign, but as The New York Times explained, the move was "a typical investigative step" that came only "after agents uncovered evidence that both had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign."

  • Lou Dobbs misrepresented a poll that had the president at 55% unfavorable, and Trump tweeted it out as “great news”

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox Business host and Trump sycophant Lou Dobbs last night falsely stated that 55% of Americans approve of President Donald Trump. Dobbs was using the results of a Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service survey that had actually found 55% of registered likely voters had an unfavorable view of Trump. But a graphic on Lou Dobbs Tonight incorrectly showed 55% overall approval of the president. Trump, who regularly watches Dobbs’ show and often speaks with him on policy matters, shared the graphic with his Twitter followers as “great news.”

    As reporters and the director of the institute noted, the survey had found that Trump’s approval rating was at only 43%.

    Not only was the graphic incorrect, but Dobbs himself repeated the false figure three times:

    LOU DOBBS (HOST): The president’s victories are showing up in the polls. According to a Georgetown University poll, the president's overall approval is now 55% -- let’s hear that, 55% -- and the approval rating for the president's handling of the economy, a robust 58%. Fifty-five percent is pretty robust too, don't you think?

  • Report: Sean Hannity worked with Trump and Republicans on health care policy

    This latest example of a Fox host advising the president further proves there is little separation between Fox News and the Trump administration

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    An excerpt from a book on the Trump administration titled “The Hill to Die On” revealed that Fox News host Sean Hannity was a participant in a conference call on health care between President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    The Washington Post reported that in the book, which “chronicles Congress in the age of Trump” and will be released April 9, Hannity “makes several appearances, including on a health-care conference call with Trump and a few Republican lawmakers where, ‘much to everyone’s surprise,’ Hannity is also on the line.”

    Hannity has repeatedly encouraged Republicans to help President Donald Trump repeal Obamacare -- at one point offering former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) both of his shows to promote Republican health care legislation -- and recently he applauded the Trump administration’s decision to try overturning the entire health care law, which would strip access to health care for tens of millions of Americans. In 2013, Hannity aired a special on "Obamacare horror stories." A subsequent investigation found that none of Hannity's guests even attempted to shop on the exchange. Hannity was also one of the biggest proponents of the "Death Panel" lie. And he's pushed numerous other Obamacare lies as well.

    While shocking, it should not be surprising that Hannity was dialed in to the meeting. Fox News has long been intertwined with the Republican Party. The network has served as the GOP’s communications arm. Numerous Fox personalities have helped Republicans by campaigning for them or attending their fundraisers. Fox has even served as a warming bench for Republican presidential aspirants.

    But this relationship has grown much closer since Trump became president. Hannity and Trump talk on the phone regularly. Reports show that Hannity has advised Trump and those close to him on immigration policy, general strategy and messaging, and on the Trump/Russia investigation. A senior Trump economic adviser revealed that the president interrupted an economic briefing to call Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. Both Hannity and Doobs advised Trump on the most recent government shutdown. And Trump invited Hannity and fellow Fox host Jeanine Pirro on stage at one of his rallies to thank them for their support. These examples only scratch the surface of the depth of ties between Fox News and the Trump administration -- which has hired multiple Fox employees.

    The book’s example of the closeness between the conservative network and Trump comes at a crucial time for Fox’s reputation. Fox has attempted to differentiate its “news” and “opinion” sides after the Democratic National Committee rejected the network as a presidential primary debate host. But there is little difference between the two sides of Fox News when it comes to conservative misinformation, just as there is little separation between Fox and the Trump administration.