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Ainsley Earhardt

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  • “It seemed pretty dangerous”: Right-wing and pro-Trump media lash out at Kavanaugh confirmation hearing protesters

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Members of the right-wing and pro-Trump media -- typically the self-proclaimed vanguards of “free of speech” -- are lining up to attack protesters who are exercising their First Amendment rights by voicing their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They’ve attacked protesters as “venomous” and “dangerous” and even leveled sexist digs at female protesters, saying that they “are showing how truly ugly women can be.”

  • No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen were found guilty and pleaded guilty, respectively, each on eight criminal counts, right-wing media immediately rose to President Donald Trump’s defense. Multiple media figures claimed that none of the charges had anything to do with Trump and that Trump’s former associates pleaded guilty to crimes that “don’t exist.”

  • The Fox News president: Trump confirms he's just repeating what he hears on TV

    Trump spends his latest interview with Fox & Friends echoing the network's talking points

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s interview this morning on Fox News throws into sharp contrast the manner in which he is absorbing and regurgitating the arguments of his sycophantic defenders at the network. In this feedback loop, Trump gets faulty information from Fox and then repeats it on its airwaves, reinforcing the loyalty of his core supporters and pushing the network’s misinformation out into the broader media.

    On Tuesday, Michael Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer for years, pleaded guilty in federal court to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations. Notably, Cohen implicated the president in unlawful corporate and campaign donations made during the 2016 presidential campaign in order to keep two women who said they had affairs with Trump from speaking out publicly. The same day, a jury convicted former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank fraud.

    Trump made his first extensive comments about his associates-turned-felons in an interview with Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt that was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday. Trump regularly watches the program, praises its hosts for providing positive coverage of his administration, and rewards them with exclusive interviews in which they offer up softball questions. Using a technique of offering very general queries and few follow-ups, Earhardt provided a platform for the president to say whatever was on his mind. And as usual, what was on his mind was what he had recently seen on Fox News.

    Asked whether he had directed Cohen to negotiate “the payments,” a reference to hush money paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, the president denied it, adding that Cohen had “pled to two counts that aren't a crime, which nobody understands.” He continued, “I watched a number of shows -- sometimes you get some pretty good information by watching shows -- those two counts aren't even a crime. They weren't campaign finance.” A couple minutes later he returned to the point, saying that federal prosecutors “put the two counts of campaign violations in there, but a lot of lawyers on television and also lawyers that I have seen [say] that they are not even crimes.”

    The president didn’t get “pretty good information from watching shows”; his argument is false and nonsensical. But it is one that pro-Trump lawyers had been making on Fox in the day between Cohen’s plea and Trump’s interview.

    Mark Levin, who hosts Fox News and radio shows and served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, argued on Tuesday’s night’s Hannity that Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, “had his client pleaded two counts of criminality that don't exist,” claiming that all the payments in question had been legal but that Davis “had his client plead guilty to two offenses that aren't offenses that the prosecutor insisted were offenses.”

    The next morning, Gregg Jarrett, a Fox legal analyst notorious for concocting absurd legal theories in which the president and his associates did nothing wrong, similarly claimed that “this is not an illegal campaign contribution.” (Trump was apparently watching that edition of Fox & Friends and subsequently tweeted that Cohen “plead (sic) guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime.”)

    Trump also referenced an argument from Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer who regularly defends the president on television, saying of Cohen, “You get 10 years in jail, but if you say bad things about somebody, in other words, make up stories if you don't know, make up stories, they just make up lies. Alan Dershowitz said ‘compose,’ right? They make up lies, I’ve seen it many times.” Trump was referring to Dershowitz’s claim on Monday’s Hannity that the special counsel is “not interested in Manafort's alleged crimes. They are only interested in squeezing him in order to get him to flip and to either sing or compose.” Sean Hannity, a close presidential adviser whose Fox show Trump regularly watches and who has also employed Cohen as a lawyer, has made a similar argument, saying Monday that he believes Cohen “changed his story” and implicated the president because he was “forced by prosecutors.” 

    These were the only times during the interview where Trump directly cited the people he’s seen defending him on television, but several of his other claims also seem to have been ripped directly from Fox segments:

    • Trump downplayed the incidents by saying that President Barack Obama “had a massive campaign violation” but “he settled his very easily.” Both Jarrett and Hannity had made similar arguments in recent days; in fact, these cases aren’t remotely comparable.

    • Trump said that “almost everyone that runs for office has campaign violations,” echoing Dershowitz’s statement on Tuesday’s edition of Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight that “every candidate violates the election laws when they run for president.”

    • Trump claimed that special counsel Robert Mueller is “so conflicted” because former FBI Director James Comey is “his best friend.” Trump allies like Hannity frequently highlight this purported conflict, even using it to call for Mueller’s removal. Comey and Mueller reportedly aren’t actually close.

    • Asked whether he is considering pardoning Manafort, Trump turned the discussion to “the crimes that [Hillary] Clinton did, with the emails and she deletes 33,000 emails after she gets a subpoena from Congress, and this Justice Department does nothing about it?” The president’s media allies regularly claim that Clinton’s case is evidence of a double standard and that she should be tried and imprisoned

    • Trump highlighted “horrible texts” between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, arguing they constituted “subversion” and complaining that “our Justice Department doesn’t do anything about it.” Strzok and Page were hounded out of government thanks in part to conspiracy theories promoted by Fox.

    With the help of a sympathetic interviewer, Trump is able to take these Fox talking points, and, by repeating them on the network, push them into the mainstream, as journalists from other outlets try to grapple with the nonsensical or outright false claims. It’s another way in which the president’s Fox fixation has real implications for the rest of the media, and for the country.

    This should seem completely absurd; instead, it’s a regular Thursday in Trump’s America.

  • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt will interview Trump this week. Her previous interviews with the president have been sycophantic and weak

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The August 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, one of President Donald Trump's favorite shows, will reportedly include co-host Ainsley Earhardt's “exclusive interview” with the president. Trump’s decision to sit for yet another interview with Fox shouldn’t come as a surprise given his tendency to offer interviews only to friendly sources. If past experience is any guide, Trump has nothing to fear from Earhardt, whose previous interviews with the president have been entirely devoid of tough questions.  

    Earhardt, who has interviewed the president several times, laughably claimed that it’s “not true” that the hosts of Fox & Friends “give soft interviews” to the president and members of the administration. Here are just a few examples of the “hard-hitting questions” Earhardt claims she asks:

    • On Trump’s recanted suggestion that he had taped former FBI Director James Comey: “Why did you want him to believe that you possibly did that? …  That was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in his hearings.”

    • On Robert Mueller: “Robert Mueller, do you think he should recuse himself from this, because he is good friends with James Comey, he's hired some some attorneys that were part of Hillary Clinton's foundation, had given money to President Obama and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Should he recuse himself?”

    • On Democrats: “What do the Democrats need to do? Are they in denial and what do they need to do to get on board?”

    • On Trump’s nominee for secretary of Veterans Affairs who was accused of misconduct: “As Dr. [Ronny] Jackson says, these allegations are baseless, and they're just attacking him? This is not true, he served our country, but yet, he's still withdrawing his name. So does the obstructionist win when your nominees don’t fight back?”

    • On Kanye West: “We want to get to Kanye West. He tweeted that he loves you, that you're his brother, and the left goes ballistic. What's your reaction?”

    In addition to her soft-ball interviews with the president, Earhardt has also done amicable interviews with adviser to the president Ivanka Trump. During a June 2017 interview, Earhardt asked the following hard-hitting questions:

    • “Any stories you want to share about your kids in the White House?”

    • “Are you the chef or is Jared [Kusher] the chef?”

    • “What does it mean to be an American? Why are you a proud American?”

    Perhaps, the most shameful moment of the interview, however, came when Earhardt allowed Ivanka, who has an office in the West Wing of the White House, to distance herself from her father’s policies by describing herself as “not a very political person.”

    Earhardt has repeatedly demonstrated her disinterest in conducting valuable, tough interviews with the Trumps. The August 23 interview is also destined to be yet another useless sycophantic exercise aimed only at providing the president free airtime.

  • Trump's favorite Fox News stooges didn't even try to cover the Manafort bank and tax fraud trial seriously

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Update (8/21): A jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts of federal tax evasion and bank fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 charges.

    Original article below.

    The first trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has garnered a great deal of media attention and scrutiny since it began on July 31. But, predictably, Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have not even attempted to cover the trial in a serious manner.

    Manafort, a longtime (and self-described) foreign influence peddler, is awaiting a verdict on an 18 count indictment related to various financial crimes, including federal tax and bank fraud. Much of the evidence against Manafort consists of documents and testimony regarding income from his political work in Ukraine and other activity in the years before he joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016. The judge in the case, Judge T.S. Ellis III, has forbidden any mention of the special counsel’s investigation, the Trump campaign, or Russia during the course of the trial.

    But the judge has also ruled that the special counsel’s case against Manafort could move forward, rejecting arguments from the defense that the charges are outside the special counsel's mandate to, according to The New York Times, "investigate 'any links' between the Trump campaign and the Russian government." In his ruling, Ellis affirmed that the special counsel mandate "covered the payments to Mr. Manafort from Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych." Moreover, when the defense asked a question about Manafort’s ex-business partner Rick Gates’ involvement with the Trump campaign, the prosecution requested that Judge Ellis seal a “limited portion” of a subsequent sidebar conference that apparently was “pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” ostensibly having to do with another aspect of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    Furthermore, as some have pointed out, Manafort’s spending habits and close ties to Russian oligarchs are relevant to the 2016 election considering that Manafort volunteered to work for Trump for free.

    But you wouldn’t know all that if you’re getting your news from the president’s favorite propagandists on Fox News. Continuing a trend of keeping their audience ignorant regarding one of the key players in the special counsel’s investigation, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have all but given up on presenting a serious or informative picture of the case:

    Fox & Friends

    Fox & Friends’ coverage at the start of the trial consisted of extended discussions of the case, albeit skewed to emphasize the idea that Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial “is nothing about Russia” or “collusion,” and focused on the judge’s combativeness with the prosecution. Yet, according to a Media Matters review of videos and transcripts, Fox & Friends effectively gave up on providing viewers detailed updates on the trial after Rick Gates -- Manafort’s longtime business partner, the deputy Trump campaign manager, and the prosecution’s so-called “star witness” -- testified and corroborated significant documentary evidence against Manafort. At that point the show began discussing the trial only in short, roughly 20- to 25-secondheadlinesreports. Fox & Friends did not provide any updates on the mornings of August 9 and 10, days eight and nine of the trial.


    Since the start of the trial, host Sean Hannity has used his show to incessantly mock the case against Manafort and misinform Fox’s prime-time audience regarding its details. According to a Media Matters review, Hannity has discussed the trial nearly every evening since its outset on July 31, but in those segments he defaulted to insisting that the case has “nothing to do with President Trump or Russia or collusion.” Hannity has also persistently mischaracterized the case against Manafort as “a 2005 tax case,” willfully ignoring reams of evidence presented in the trial, including an email that suggests Manafort was conspiring to commit bank fraud with Gates as late as October 2016, while Gates was still serving as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman. Nevertheless, Hannity has taken a page directly out of Manafort’s defense playbook and attacked Gates’ credibility, seized on Judge Ellis’s outbursts at the prosecution, and whined about the special counsel’s mandate supposedly being too broad.

    Justice with Judge Jeanine

    The two editions of Justice with Judge Jeanine that have aired since the trial’s start largely ignored the bank and tax fraud case against Manafort. According to a Media Matters review, since the start of the trial, host Jeanine Pirro has mentioned the trial only three times: in an angry and conspiratorial screed against the special counsel, quickly in an interview with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, and in a discussion with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. In the interviews with Trump’s surrogates, Conway falsely asserted that the charges stemming from the special counsel’s investigation have nothing to do with Trump or Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Giuliani complained about the conditions Manafort has been detained in.

    The president’s Fox News stooges are not even attempting to present details and facts that have emerged in the case against Trump’s former campaign manager. Instead, they are choosing to run a public relations campaign on behalf of the president; the nonsensical coverage will ultimately have no bearing on the jury’s decision, but it could impact public opinion of the ruling. And their willful ignorance is simply the latest example of Fox ignoring or downplaying consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation. And given recent polling showing that a solid majority of Republicans did not pay close attention to the Manafort trial proceedings, the lacking and skewed coverage of the trial coming from some of Trump’s most well-known propagandists has the potential to drastically shape opinions among Fox’s audience, something the president’s personal legal team seems to understand. Now they just have to gear up for round two on September 17.