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  • Five warning signs from new White House communications director Scaramucci's first press conference

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    1. He refused to commit to the return of regular on-camera press briefings.

    JON KARL: I see the cameras are back, will you commit now to holding regular on-camera briefings? 

    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: If [Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders] provides hair and makeup, I will consider it. But I need a lot of hair and makeup, Jon, OK? […] I am up here today only because I think it's the first day; we made a mutual decision that would make sense for me to come up here and try to answer as many questions as possible. But -- and the answer is we may. I have to talk to the president about that. I like consulting with the president before I make decisions like that.

    2. When asked if he’ll promise “accurate information and truth,” he responded "I sort of feel like I don't even have to answer that question," adding “I hope you can feel that from me, just from my body language.”

    KARL: There's been a question about credibility, some things that have been said in this room. Let me ask you a variation of what I asked Sean Spicer on his first day. Is it your commitment to, to the best of your ability, give accurate information and truth from that podium? 

    SCARAMUCCI: I sort of feel like I don't even have to answer that question. I hope you can feel that from me, just from my body language, that's the kind of person I am. I'm going to do the best I can.

    3. He deflected from a question about the Russia investigation by bragging about President Trump's supposed sports abilities.

    SARA MURRAY: Obviously we know the president has been feeling under siege with the Russia investigation, both from the Department of Justice but also on the Hill. Do you feel like he was feeling exposed? He didn't have people adequately coming to his defense? Is that part of the reason that we have you here today? 

    SCARAMUCCI: No, I don’t think so. So, one of the things that I’m doing today is – I sort of didn’t have my White House counsel briefing before I'm having the press briefing, so I want to limit my remarks related to the Russia situation and things like that. But here's what I'll tell you about the president: he's the most competitive person I've ever met, OK? I’ve seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on, he's standing in the key and he's hitting foul shots and swishing them, OK? He sinks three-foot putts. I don't see this guy as a guy that's ever under siege. This is a very, very competitive person. Obviously there's a lot of incoming that comes into the White House, but the president’s a winner, OK, and what we're going to do is we're going to do a lot of winning.

    4. He said “I sort of don’t like the fake news,” and claimed “there feels like there’s a little bit of media bias” out there. 

    MURRAY: One other question, in terms of the relationship that this press operation has had with news outlets, they've made a habit of calling these outlets they don't like "fake news," calling stories they don't like "fake news," calling errors that were then corrected -- using that as an example to call entire news outlets "fake news," is that the kind of relationship you want with media outlets? What kind of -- how do you envision that relationship?

    SCARAMUCCI: Again, I will speak for myself right now, because I don't -- it's my first day on the job, I've got to get familiar with everybody, get direction from the president, but I had a personal incident with your news organization and I thought I handled it well. You guys said something about me that was totally unfair and untrue, you retracted it and issued me an apology, and I accepted the apology immediately. For me, I've never been a journalist, but I have played a journalist on television. I used to host Wall Street Week for Fox Business, so I have empathy for journalists in terms of sometimes they're going to get stories wrong. But I sort of don't like the fake news, and if you said to me that there is some media bias out there – if you want me to be as candid as I would like to be with you guys -- there feels like there's a little bit of media bias, and so what we hope we can do is de-escalate that and turn that around and let’s let the message from the president get out there to the American people.

    5. He claimed there's "probably some level of truth" to the lie that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 general election "if the president says it."  

    REPORTER: Do you stand by some of the factual claims that have been contested, that have been made by this administration -- three million illegal votes cast for the president's opponent? Do you now, do you endorse all of those statements of fact [inaudible]? 

    SCARAMUCCI: So, a little bit of an unfair question because I'm not up to speed on all of that, so I just got to candidly tell you that. 

    REPORTER: The president said that three million people voted illegally and there is no evidence of that. Do you stand by that or not?

    SCARAMUCCI: OK, so if the president says it, OK, let me do more research on it. My guess is that there's probably some level of truth to that. I think what we have found sometimes, the president says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it's not true or isn't true, and it turns out it is closer to the truth than people think. So let me do more homework on that and I'll get back to you.

  • Somehow, Sean Hannity managed to talk about Hillary Clinton more than health care in the last week

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Over the past week, Senate Republicans worked tirelessly to take health insurance away from 32 million people -- or slightly fewer, paired with giant tax cuts for their wealthiest friends. However, Hannity viewers might have thought we were still in the election cycle of 2016 and that the news of the week actually revolved around former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    A Media Matters analysis found that from July 13 to 19, Fox News’ Sean Hannity devoted more time to so-called “scandals” surrounding Hillary Clinton than to health care -- spending 1 hour, 7 minutes and 51 seconds on his prime-time show on the Clintons compared to 44 minutes and 34 seconds on health care.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Although one whose main source for news is Hannity might not realize it, there has been a lot of health care news in the past week. On July 13, the Senate finally unveiled its newest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). By July 17, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) had announced they wouldn’t be supporting the motion to proceed on the bill, effectively killing the legislation. The same night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that Republicans would move forward with a straight repeal, an idea that met its demise the next day. The Senate GOP’s health care bills have been almost universally criticized and marred by bad poll numbers. Amid the negative coverage of the latest bill, it appears as if Hannity chose instead to focus his attention, and his viewers’, on a common right-wing foe instead: Hillary Clinton.

    Hannity’s obsessive Clinton chatter focused on bogus and debunked smears, including accusations that she colluded with Ukraine:

    Hannity also hyped a previously debunked smear from the error-filled book Clinton Cash that as secretary of state, Clinton approved the transfer of up to 20 percent of America’s uranium to Russia:

    Hannity’s absurd focus on Clinton and sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump are nothing new. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Hannity’s Clinton crusade is an attempt to paint an alternate reality for his viewers -- a reality where Clinton “scandals” are more relevant than Trump’s disastrous policy agenda. It’s clear that not only is Hannity incapable of moving past the 2016 election, but that the only move he has in his playbook is attacking Clinton.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts and SnapStream for mentions of health care, healthcare, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, or Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, and Obamacare, as well as Bill, Hillary, and Clinton on Fox News’ Hannity between July 13 and 19.

    Conversations were included in this study if health care or the Clintons was the stated topic or discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed health care or the Clintons with one another. If a speaker mentioned health care or the Clintons in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about health care or the Clintons were excluded from the analysis.

  • Republicans float vote on right-wing media’s disastrous plan to repeal the ACA with no replacement

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & ALEX MORASH

    Senate Republicans are floating a possible vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan in place, a proposal that has been pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), President Donald Trump, and right-wing media. But this plan would leave tens of millions uninsured, cause a spike in premiums, and cause insurers to flee the market.

  • No, colluding with a hostile foreign power is not normal "opposition research"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump and members of his administration have spent months describing as fake news reports on his ties to Russia and the allegations that the Russian government acted to aid his presidential campaign. They have remained steadfast amid a drumbeat of stories and even U.S. intelligence community findings about Russia, the election, and Trump’s staff. His right-wing media allies have been a key force in this endeavor, consistently finding ways to minimize or explain away damning new revelations and blaming them not on Trump, but on a shadowy nexus of Democrats, the “deep state,” and the press. This aid is essential to maintaining the president’s political position: The vast majority of Republicans have continued to support Trump in part because of the efforts of his loyal propagandists.

    Over the last week, new information has emerged that should change the trajectory of the Russia story. As The New York Times reported, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as top Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, met during the 2016 presidential campaign with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. Emails that Trump Jr. released reveal that the meeting came about after Trump Jr. was told the lawyer had damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was provided by a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Trump Jr. has effectively admitted to trying to collude with a hostile government. The debate should now move to how deep that collusion went, and who was involved.

    But this damning new information has moved few minds among the president’s core media supporters. Instead, faced with the devastating revelation that the president’s campaign was trying to collude with the Russian government, they have followed the president’s lead by offering the risible argument that anyone would have done the same thing if given the opportunity. Faced with evidence that the president’s team serves no morality but that which benefits itself, they have declared that everyone else shares this twisted worldview.

    As Newt Gingrich put it to The Atlantic, “If somebody in the middle of the campaign walks in the door and says ‘I have information that will harm your opponent,’ virtually every campaign in the world will say show me, what do you have.” “Let me tell you, if my father was running for president of the United States,” Kimberly Guilfoyle said on Fox, “I would sit down and take a meeting and find out if there was information against an opponent.” Yesterday, the president himself adopted this argument, telling Reuters, "Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do” what his son did; he reiterated the point this afternoon.

    It is obviously, flagrantly false that Trump Jr.’s actions were typical and proper. The media has said so: As The New York Times put it, “while opposition research is part of modern presidential campaigns, it normally does not come from representatives of a hostile foreign power.” Top Republican campaign operatives have said so, claiming that the incident was extremely unusual, that they wouldn’t have taken the meeting, and that the Trump team should have reported it to law enforcement. Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee to become FBI director, has said so, stating that politicians in that situation should call the bureau. And history says so: When a top aide to Al Gore’s presidential campaign received George W. Bush’s debate preparation materials in the mail, he turned them over to the FBI. (And Trump ally claims that Clinton’s campaign similarly colluded with Ukraine are specious nonsense.)

    At this point, it seems foolish to imagine that Trump’s media allies will change their opinion of the story, regardless of what new information comes forward. They are in too deep at this point, having sacrificed their credibility and independence too many times to turn back now. He expressed unchecked bigotry and they were fine with it; audio bragging about sexual assault was explained away as “locker room talk”; his campaign viciously attacked and even physically battered reporters and was cheered. At a certain point, they went too far, and now have little choice but to tell one another that colluding with a hostile foreign power is not just acceptable, but necessary.

    The president’s media allies have decided to believe the president instead of their own lying eyes. The result is a series of arguments that have the country not only unmoored from a common view of reality, but of anything approaching a common morality. The propagandists have moved the goalposts from a question of whether a presidential campaign colluded with a hostile foreign government, to whether such collusion is actually a good thing. The nagging remaining question is whether their audience will ever decide that they’ve seen enough of this farce.