Bret Stephens

Tags ››› Bret Stephens
  • MSNBC’s Scarborough Helps NY Times’ Bret Stephens Rehabilitate His Climate Denialism

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough attempted to help New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens rehabilitate his climate denialism by presenting him as a climate pragmatist.

    The Times hired Stephens, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, to “bring a new perspective to bear on the news,” despite his long-standing record promoting conservative misinformation on foreign policy, sexual assault and climate change. On April 29, the Times published Stephens’ first column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” which was criticized for containing multiple errors, “unfair comparisons,” “straw men,” “logical fallacies,” and “lazy” and “disingenuous arguments.” Climate experts published an open letter calling for the Times to issue a substantial correction to the many fallacies in Stephens’ column and urged people to petition the paper to stop publishing misinformation about climate science.    

    On the May 8 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough described the criticism Stephens’ column received as an “uproar,” claiming that Stephens was merely arguing “that there still is a debate on the best way forward and how extreme [climate change] is.” But as Slate’s Susan Matthews argued, “the goal of [Stephens’] column is not to help readers learn how to reason with people who are skeptical about climate change. Instead, the column reinforces the idea that those people might have a point. …  [I]t is a dog whistle to people who feel confused about climate change. It’s nothing more than textbook denialism.”

    Stephens also defended his column by claiming that he represents a view “that goes beyond the Cambridge, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., corridor.” But recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are concerned about global warming and believe action should be taken to address it.

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Joining us now, columnist for The New York Times Bret Stephens.

    JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): He’s a troublemaker.

    BRZEZINSKI: Yes he is. I’m reading his latest piece.

    SCARBOROUGH: Bret, what’s your problem? You got to the Times and you’re making trouble. What's going on?

    BRET STEPHENS: They love me.

    SCARBOROUGH: The kids love you in the streets. Serious question, though. Obviously a lot of controversy because you said you believe in climate change, you believe it's man-made, in fact, but we need to figure out the best way forward. That there still is a debate on the best way forward and how extreme it is. Caused a huge uproar, obviously, for people that don't know, caused a huge uproar. How have the Times editors been? How’s the management been towards you?

    STEPHENS: The Times has been terrific. Everyone on the masthead, all of the senior editors have been supportive. Look, they brought me in because I offer a different view, and I think they brought me in also because they know that the Twitter-verse is not -- doesn't represent the entire range of opinion among Times readers.

    SCARBOROUGH: Thank God.

    STEPHENS: So there was a lot of anger on Twitter and in social media and maybe among a certain demographic, but I think there's also a view that you need a representative sample that goes beyond the Cambridge, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., corridor.

    SCARBOROUGH: Because, after all, it's a national newspaper. It is the national newspaper, along with The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and if we’ve let anybody out -- and The Washington Post of course. But I'm curious, you had said before that your concerns, you said this to the editors, was that you were going to be the conservative flavor of the month. And you were worried they got you simply because you were a never-Trumper.

    STEPHENS: Yeah, and in fact they were very reassuring on that point. I think they wanted -- they were clear that that’s -- and I said to them, look, I don't want to be just the conservative you like because of my Trump views. And they were clear that that’s not what they were -- that they wanted me on board for that.

    SCARBOROUGH: They hired you in spite of that.

  • Climate Experts Pen Open Letter To NY Times Calling For Additional Corrections To Bret Stephens’ “Alternative Facts”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Dozens of climate experts are calling on The New York Times to reaffirm its dedication to the facts and issue a more comprehensive correction to columnist Bret Stephens’ error-laden debut column on climate change.

    On April 29, former Wall Street Journal columnist and longtime climate denier Bret Stephens published his first column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” for The New York Times. The column was roundly criticized for being full of errors, “unfair comparisons,” “straw men,” “logical fallacies,” and “lazy” and “disingenuous” arguments. Notably, in the one instance where Stephens actually quoted data to make an assertion, the Times was forced to issue a correction, clarifying, “An earlier version of this article misstated the area that warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius as noted in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel report. It was the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface, not only the Northern Hemisphere.”

    Now climate experts have issued an open letter calling for the Times to publish a more substantial correction. It notes that Stephens inaccurately and misleadingly uses the term “modest” to describe the rise in temperatures since 1880, cherry-picks “only one side of the range of uncertainties” associated with climate projections, and “mischaracterizes both the certainties and uncertainties regarding climate change, and misrepresents how science reports uncertainties.”

    The letter also invites scientists to add their names to the letter and urges concerned members of the public to sign a petition calling on the Times to stop publishing climate science misinformation.

    From ClimateFactsFirst.org

    A CHANGING POLITICAL CLIMATE SHOULDN’T CHANGE NYT’S DEDICATION TO FACTS

    We are deeply concerned about inaccurate and misleading statements about the science of climate change that appeared in Climate of Complete Certainty by Bret Stephens (April 28, 2017). While “alternative facts”, misconceptions, and misrepresentations of climate science are unfortunately widespread in public discussion, we are dismayed that this practice appeared on the editorial page of The New York Times.

    There are opinions and there are facts. Stephens is entitled to share his opinions, but not “alternative facts.”

    Fact: The N. Hemisphere warmed substantially more than claimed by the writer. The globe warmed by about the amount Stephens claimed the Northern Hemisphere did when he referenced the 2013 IPCC report. The subsequent correction was inadequate, failing to note, for example, that Stephens understated the warming, and that the record warmth in each of the past three years magnifies this mistake.

    Using the term “modest” to describe this amount of warming is inaccurate and misleading. Science has found the warming to date to be large and rapid. Much as a fever of only several degrees can be deadly, it only requires a few degrees of warming to transition the planet out of ice ages or into hot house conditions. Importantly, the recent warming has been extremely rapid: more than 100 times as fast as the cooling that took place over the previous 5000 years. It’s the rapidity that is most troubling. Human society is built on a presumption of stability, and the rapidness of the change is creating instability.

    Not surprisingly this warming has already led to impacts that are widespread and costly. The damage incurred in New York City during Super Storm Sandy was amplified by sea level rise that elevated and significantly extended the reach of the storm surge. Estimated costs for the additional damage were in the billions of dollars.

    Stephens also mischaracterizes both the certainties and uncertainties regarding climate change, and misrepresents how science reports uncertainties. Contrary to the writer’s false accusation that scientists claim total certainty regarding the rate of warming, IPCC reports present a range of estimates for global warming -- centering around 1°C (1.8°F) of warming since pre-industrial times.

    Some things we know for sure, for example that the Earth is warming and that humans are the dominant cause. Yet even the latter is expressed with care; the best estimate of the human influence is 110%, with a range of about 80% to 130%. In other words, natural factors alone would have caused the Earth to cool slightly, but human influences counteracted that and led instead to substantial warming.

    Importantly, the scientific treatment of uncertainty extends to climate projections, which give ranges of future warming under various emissions scenarios. However, Stephens suggests that risk management should only be guided by the possibility that warming and its impacts could be less than the best estimate, and not the possibility that it could be more. This cherry picking presents only one side of the range of uncertainties. But uncertainty cuts both ways, and reasonable risk management demands looking at both.

    We respect the journalism at the Times and believe its reporters consistently do an excellent job of accurately covering climate change with depth and clarity. But that does not excuse disinformation appearing on the editorial page. Facts are still facts, no matter where in the paper they appear.

    We call on the Times to publish a more comprehensive correction to the inaccuracies that appeared in Stephen’s column and to avoid such errors in the future by fact checking editorials as carefully as they do news stories.

    There is certainly a place for a variety of well-informed opinions when it comes to societal responses to climate change. But it must be made clear that there are facts that are not subject to opinion.

    If you are a scientist, click here to add your name to the letter.

    Concerned members of the public, click here to take action.

    Signed:

    John Abraham
    Michael Ashley
    Barbara Mayes Boustead
    Jason E. Box
    Eric Chivian
    Jeffrey Corbin
    Andrew Dessler
    Cari Ficken
    Robert Ficken
    Jason Freeman
    Lawrence Hamilton
    James Hansen
    Zeke Hausfather
    Katharine Hayhoe
    Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
    Joanie Kleypas
    Greg Laden
    Simon Lewis
    Michael E. Mann
    James McCarthy
    Jerry Melillo
    Stephen Mulkey
    Dana Nuccitelli
    Michael Oppenheimer
    Shawn Otto
    Henry Pollack
    James Powell
    Ann Reid
    Ben Santer
    Stephen Scolnik
    Richard C. J. Somerville
    Missy Stults
    Kevin E. Trenberth
    Michael Umbricht
    George Woodwell

  • The NY Times Sold Subscriptions On Opposing “Alternative Facts.” Then It Published Bret Stephens.

    The Newspaper of Record Earned The Backlash It Has Received

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The New York Times finds itself mired in controversy after newly-minted op-ed columnist Bret Stephens devoted his first piece to preaching a “teach the controversy” approach to climate change. The piece has been pilloried by journalists inside the paper and out, the Times is crouched in damage control mode, and some readers say they will terminate their subscriptions because they believe the paper is siding with climate deniers.

    The Times is responsible for this backlash. After President Donald Trump’s election, the paper sold new subscribers on providing vigorous resistance to the “alternative facts” that fueled his rise. Now, it's publishing them.

    The paper’s subscription growth soared after the election, with new Times customers explaining on social media they wanted to support a bulwark against the new president. The paper fueled that narrative in pursuit of more subscriptions, creating an advertising campaign that depicted the Times as an opponent to Trumpian “alternative facts.” The paper’s CEO and executive editor claimed in earnings calls and cable news interviews that the president’s attacks on the outlet had backfired and generated more readers.

    But when you market your paper as an antidote to a worldview that is unmoored from reality, your subscribers will actually expect you to follow through. When you fail to fulfill your promise, those readers will take their money elsewhere.

    Flash forward to Friday, when Stephens -- whose hiring drew criticism for, among other things, his past columns calling global warming a “sick-souled religion” whose adherents share the methods of “closet Stalinists” -- authored his first piece for the paper.

    In keeping with his past work, Stephens used an “alternative fact” contradicting the paper’s own reporting to compare those who believe action should be taken to halt the consequences of climate change to Cold War-era Polish authoritarians. His “teach the controversy” salvo argued that “ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism” around climate change because “history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.”

    The column was accompanied by a note from Times editorial page editor James Bennet, who praised Stephens and wrote that “we should have the humility to recognize we may not be right about everything and the courage to test our own assumptions and arguments.”

    Stephens’ piece provoked a fierce backlash from embarrassed Times journalists, reporters outside the paper, climate scientists, and angry subscribers, some of whom said they were taking steps to cancel their subscriptions.

    Then came the backlash-to-the-backlash, with Bennet issuing a statement defending the column as a necessary part of the Times “promoting the free exchange of ideas,” executive editor Dean Baquet standing by Stephens during an interview on CNN, and several prominent Times journalists lashing out at readers for the “liberal embarrassment” of criticizing the paper and wanting to cancel subscriptions over Stephens.

    I’m a third-generation Times reader who finds the paper’s reporting on any number of topics essential, including their excellent news coverage of climate change. I won’t be dropping the paper in light of Stephens’ hiring and first column -- my expectations for the paper’s columnists are astonishingly low after two decades of reading Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman. But I understand where those faltering subscribers are coming from, and the Times’ response to its progressive critics is silly and insulting.

    Contra Bennet, the paper is not providing some sort of unique value to news consumers by publishing an op-ed columnist whose writing on climate change defies the facts published in the paper’s news section. If that’s what readers want, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and George Will’s columns in The Washington Post are readily available.

    It stands to reason that some Times subscribers signed up precisely because they were looking for something different -- for what the Times itself was promising in its advertising, a paper where “alternative facts” were unwelcome.

    Good journalism is an essential part of a democratic system. But newspapers are a commodity in a capitalist economy -- the Times will run you more than $900 a year for seven-day-a-week home delivery -- and if customers aren’t happy with the product, they won’t stick around. They’ll find another source for news, Times political reporters will get to look down their noses at the hippies who don’t want what they’re selling, and people like me will still be reading the paper for what it does well. It’s a win-win-win!

    The problem for the Times, of course, is that the faltering financial model for print journalism means that the paper desperately needs to keep its subscription numbers rising, or it’ll be in a financial crunch that will lead to more layoffs. Which is why it tried to juice its subscription numbers by selling itself to liberals as a force against “alternative facts” in the first place.

    UPDATE: After Baquet, Bennet, and Stephens all publicly defended the piece, the Times has now added a correction to Stephens' first column. Stephens had falsely claimed that the evidence shows "modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere." The updated column corrects that statement to accurately note that the figure represents the global change, but leaves all Stephens' conclusions (originally based in part on a falsehood) intact. The correction reads

    An earlier version of this article misstated the area that warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius as noted in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel report. It was the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface, not only the Northern Hemisphere.

    As Think Progress' Joe Romm has noted, a 0.85-degree warming globally is a substantially bigger deal than the same increase would be in the Northern Hemisphere alone:

    The 0.85°C is not “modest.” It is roughly the same as the entire variation the Earth experienced during the several thousand years of stable climate that enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population 

    So Stephens got his facts wrong, in a way that undermines his argument, but even after the correction sees no need to alter his conclusions. What an embarrassment for the paper.

  • Will Bret Stephens' Climate Denial Threaten The Integrity Of The NYT Opinion Section?

    The NY Times’ Climate Denial-Free Opinion Section Is Unique Among Major Newspapers, But Bret Stephens Could Change That

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A Media Matters study conducted last year found that over a year-and-a-half period, The New York Times was the only one of four top U.S. newspapers that did not publish climate science denial and misinformation about climate change in its opinion pages. But the paper’s recent hire of Wall Street Journal columnist and climate denier Bret Stephens may tarnish the Times’ otherwise stellar record when it comes to covering climate change.

    On April 12, the Times announced that it was hiring Stephens as its newest columnist. The paper’s editorial page editor defended the decision, saying characterizations of Stephens as a climate denialist were “unfair” because “millions of people” agree with him (an argument that has rightly been criticized for presenting a false equivalency on the reality of climate change). In a statement to The Huffington Post regarding his hiring, Stephens described himself as “climate agnostic,” adding that it “seems to be the case” that “man-made carbon emissions” are “probably largely” causing the earth to warm (an understatement given that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists say human activity is the primary cause of global warming).

    But Stephens’ attempt to cast himself as occupying some sort of middle ground on climate change belies his lengthy record of outright climate denial in The Wall Street Journal, where he often made extreme comments about climate change, calling it a “sick-souled religion,” comparing those who accept and are concerned about global warming to “closet Stalinists,” and declaring in 2010 that “global warming is dead.” Stephens has also promoted the myth that climate scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s and cited fiction writer Michael Crichton to discount the scientific consensus on global warming. And as recently as 2015, Stephens dismissed climate change as an “imaginary enemy.”

    Stephens’ hiring is especially worrying considering that a Media Matters study examining the opinion pages of four national newspapers -- the Times, the Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today -- found that the Times was the only one that avoided publishing climate science denial in its opinion pages. Notably, for the newspaper with the next-lowest amount of climate science denial, The Washington Post, all three instances of denial came from a single columnist: George Will.

    In addition to tarring the Times’ opinion pages, the paper’s hiring of Stephens could also mar the The New York Times’ stellar climate coverage. The Times has provided readers with explainers on the position of 2016 presidential candidates and current administration and elected officials on climate change, employed visual storytelling to detail on-the-ground climate impacts, chronicled local responses to climate change, and conducted an in-depth investigation of the troubled Kemper project in Mississippi to build a first-of-its-kind “clean coal” power plant.

    Just this week, the New York Times magazine devoted an issue to climate change that covered topics such as geoengineering, climate change-induced migration in regions around the world, the threat rising sea levels pose for coastal properties, and an increase in “the potential for viruses like Zika” due to climate change.

    And at a time where broadcast network coverage of climate change is seeing a drastic decline, the Times has been expanding its climate team. While announcing that Hannah Fairfield was joining the paper as the new climate editor in January, Times editors wrote, “No topic is more vital than climate change. … With Hannah’s appointment, we aim to build on what has already been dominant coverage of climate change and to establish The Times as a guide to readers on this most important issue.”

    Let’s just hope that Bret Stephens’ “agnosticism” doesn’t misguide those very same readers. 

  • From The Iraq War To Climate Change To Sexual Assault, NY Times' New Op-Ed Columnist, Bret Stephens, Is A Serial Misinformer

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times hired Wall Street Journal deputy editor Bret Stephens as its newest opinion columnist, claiming he “will bring a new perspective to bear on the news.” Stephens has a long history of promoting misinformation, including on climate science, foreign policy, and sexual assault.

  • On CNN, Journalists Provide Historical Context For Criticism Of Trump's Attacks On The Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the February 26 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, journalists warned about the parallels between attacks on the free press from President Donald Trump and his administration and similar strategies used by President Richard Nixon and authoritarian regimes.

    Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor and conservative columnist Bret Stephens stated that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s decision to exclude certain outlets from a February 24 press gaggle is part of a strategy by the administration to “bully the press” and “manipulate coverage,” saying he “would call it Nixonian, except I think that would be unfair to the memory of President Nixon.” Stephens added, “if the administration is going try to boycott certain news outlets, then perhaps we should, as news organizations, return the favor to this administration”:

    BRIAN STELTER (HOST): When you invite a channel called One America News Network, which is so small it doesn't have Nielsen ratings, but then you exclude CNN, it's clearly a premeditated decision. So let me ask you Bret about this, does this feel like part of a strategy by the White House?

    BRET STEPHENS: Yeah, it seems, I would call it "Nixonian," except I think that would be unfair to the memory of President Nixon. This is an attempt to bully the press by using access as a weapon to manipulate coverage. And, I think The Wall Street Journal put out a statement that I thought was very clear: that if we had known what was happening we wouldn't have participated in that meeting with Mr. Spicer. And I think that's the right attitude for the rest of the press to take, that if the administration is going try to boycott certain news outlets, then perhaps we should, as news organizations, return the favor to this administration.

    In a later segment, columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News compared Trump’s relations with the media to that of “right-wing authoritarians in Europe in the 1930s” and “Hugo Chavez in Venezuela on the left in the 21st century,” stating, “the first thing authoritarian governments do is go after the media”:

    STELTER: Will, you wrote for the Philly Daily News that this language, “enemy of the people,” that it has historical parallels. Tell us about that.

    WILL BUNCH: Yeah, absolutely. If you look back, Brian, the last 100 years going all the way back to the rise of right-wing authoritarians in Europe in the 1930s, but follow a straight line all the way to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela on the left in the 21st century, and you’ll see that the first thing that authoritarian governments do is go after the media. And there's been concerns about Donald Trump, going back to the campaign, that he was going to try and run the government in an authoritarian fashion. And I think when he calls the press the "enemy of the American people," I think he’s playing exactly into the worst of what people feared from a Trump administration. Not to get too Orwellian here, but I think what's going on big picture is the Trump administration and his advisers like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump himself are in a war to control what is the truth. When they tell repeated lies like about the murder rate in America or even about little stuff like the number of people at his inauguration, they’re trying to create a scenario where they, and not the media, are the ones defining the truth. And so tearing down the media is also part of the strategy. And some of it doesn’t matter now, but in the months ahead there’s going to be big crises. We’re going to see his signature programs, like mass deportation implemented over the coming months. And the truth is going to become more and more important. And you know, just like Orwell warned in "1984", he who controls the truth is in control and I think that’s the big strategy here.

    Click here to tell the White House Press Corps to stand up Trump’s media blacklist.

  • The Continuing Conservative Media Civil War Zeroes In On Sean Hannity

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    In the latest development in the conservative media civil war over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity, a staunch Trump supporter, is battling other conservative media figures over his unapologetic and unconditional defense of the candidate, with those media figures now calling his shilling for Trump “slavish” and “disgraceful.”

  • BEDLAM: Hannity, National Review, WSJ Editor Go To War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    In what was supposed to be a moment of unity within the Republican Party following the national convention, presidential nominee Donald Trump has fostered a party consumed by infighting, much of which is taking place within right-wing media. Fox News anchor Sean Hannity has been at the center of the brawl, going to battle against conservative magazine National Review and an editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spurred a civil war among the Republican Party following a week where the campaign has been rocked by Trump’s extended fight with a Gold Star family, staff firings, his refusal to endorse several Republican leaders, a variety of additional bizarre and extreme comments, and cratering poll numbers. NBC’s Chuck Todd has described this as a “crisis” faced by the campaign, stemming from Trump’s “36 hours of total and complete chaos.” Several Congressional Republicans have refused to endorse Trump, with Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) announcing he will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    The disarray is not limited to the Republican Party. Infighting also broke out within conservative media circles this week over the GOP nominee. Sean Hannity, a fervent Trump supporter and defender, along with Breitbart News, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, and Ann Coulter lashed out against what they called “establishment Republicans” who tepidly endorsed the nominee and the Republicans who refuse to support Trump, saying they would be to blame if Trump loses in November. Several right-wing media figures, including George Will, Erick Erickson, and radio host Charlie Sykes, have said they would not support Trump.

    National Review, a conservative publication that once called Trump “the very epitome of vulgarity,” blamed Hannity, Fox News, and conservative talk radio for the rise of Trump, saying “they have created an intellectual ghetto that no one else wants to visit.”

    Hannity also drew ire from Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens, who called him “Fox News’ dumbest anchor.” Hannity subsequently went after Stephens in a tweetstorm, calling him an “arrogant” and “elitist” “enabler[].” He also proclaimed that “If Hillary wins I will hold assholes like you accountable.”

    UPDATE: Stephens responded to Hannity’s criticism in an August 8 column, calling Hannity’s “excuses” for Trump “disgraceful” and writing that “Today’s GOP is on the road to self-immolation, thanks in part to the veneration of ignorance typified by” Hannity. Stephens added that Hannity “proved my point” that Hannity is Fox’s “dumbest anchor” by retweeting Stephens. He also labeled Hannity’s Twitter tirade a “tantrum” and wrote that Hannity calling him a “dumba-- with his head up his a--” showed “he can’t even swear competently.”

  • Media Slam The Republican Leaders Disavowing Trump’s Feud With Khans But Not Rescinding Their Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”

  • Wall Street Journal Columnist Blasts Rush Limbaugh And Mark Levin For Helping Build Up Donald Trump

    Bret Stephens: Levin And Limbaugh Are "Ideological Drunks Who, When They Knew Better, Cheered The Donald On"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump

    Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens slammed right-wing radio hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh for providing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters."

    In his February 22 column, Stephens criticized right wing talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin for creating the environment in Republican Party politics that paved the way for Donald Trump's rise.

    So where were Messrs. Limbaugh and Levin last summer, when the Trump candidacy was still a big soap bubble, waiting to be popped by the likes of them?

    In July, Mr. Trump said of John McCain, "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." The Donald's trademark insult--coyly calibrated to appeal to voters who lack the brains or the decency to be appalled--should have been the tombstone of his campaign. But it wasn't, thanks not least to a loud assist from Mr. Limbaugh.

    "Trump can survive this. Trump is surviving this," Mr. Limbaugh exalted. "The American people haven't seen something like this in a long time. They have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell."

    In fact, Americans have often seen such figures: Marcus Garvey, Henry Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Lyndon LaRouche. We just used to have the good sense to dismiss them as eccentrics, lowlifes or clowns. What we haven't seen are the modern-day keepers of mainstream conservatism developing schoolgirl crushes on the bad boy of the GOP class. "The Republicans are impotent!" swooned Mr. Levin in one September broadcast. "And now this guy [Mr. Trump], who may not be a down-the-line conservative, is standing up to them. And he's kicking them all over the place."

    Mr. Levin has since become more critical of Mr. Trump, though Mr. Limbaugh seems to be hedging his bets. But both men provided Mr. Trump with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters.

    So Mr. Trump had once supported socialized medicine? That didn't matter, said Mr. Levin, because the candidate opposed ObamaCare now. So Mr. Trump was conspicuously ignorant about major foreign-policy issues? Who cares, since he was passionate about the "invasion," as Mr. Limbaugh calls it, of Latin American migrants. So Mr. Trump wants to ban Muslim immigration? Well, Mr. Levin says, at least "Trump has opened the way" to a "national discussion."

    [...]

    It's a lucky thing for conservatives that the likeliest alternative to Mr. Trump for the nomination is the very "establishment Republican" Marco Rubio, the non-jerk of the season who could actually win in November. Too bad his task will be that much harder thanks to the ideological drunks who, when they knew better, cheered the Donald on.

    Creative Commons Image via Flickr / Matt Johnson

  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Conservative Civil War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative pundits are bickering over Donald Trump's campaign, especially after National Review's "Against Trump" issue and the backlash it engendered. On one side are pundits who want to stop Trump's candidacy in its tracks. On the other are conservatives who are lauding Trump's candidacy, even if they have not officially endorsed him. Media Matters breaks down exactly who is on which side (click for the full-sized image):

    Civil War over Donald Trump

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko, Research by Eric Hananoki