Charlie Spiering | Media Matters for America

Charlie Spiering

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  • How right-wing media defended Trump after Mueller's press conference

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    Special counsel Robert Mueller read a statement at a May 29 press conference in which he explained that his investigation did not attempt to determine whether President Donald Trump had committed any crimes because it would be against Department of Justice policy to charge a president who is in office. Mueller also announced that he was formally closing the special counsel's office and resigning from the DOJ to return to private life. Conservative media figures responded by criticizing Mueller for not exonerating Trump, claiming his statement is a “huge win” for the president, complaining that Mueller helped make Democrats’ case for impeaching Trump, misrepresenting what he said about his findings, and suggesting he might be lying in his statement.

    Claiming Mueller didn’t do his job properly by failing to recommend whether Trump should be charged

    Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro: “‘If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so.’ That is not the standard of a prosecutor. Prosecutors exist to determine whether someone committed a chargeable offense, not whether they are exonerated of charges.”

    National Review Online Editor Charles C. W. Cooke: “Is this how it works? Isn't it the other way around? You look for evidence that a crime was committed, and if you don't find it you say ‘we didn't find any.’ You don't look for evidence that it wasn't and then say, ‘we couldn't find evidence of innocence.’”

    The Federalist co-founder Sean Davis: “Also, Mueller's view of a prosecutor's role -- to prove and declare a target's innocence, rather than to charge criminality -- is a despicable affront to the rule of law and the Constitution. Cops and lawyers don't grant innocence. It is our default legal state absent conviction.”

    Fox News Radio host Guy Benson: “If he had the evidence, Mueller could have identified criminal conduct & *recommended* charges, then let DOJ decide whether OLC guidance would or would not permit those charges being filed against a sitting POTUS. Instead, he decided not to recommend anything.”

    Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich: “Muller tried today to have [it both] ways. If he thought President [Trump] was guilty of something he should have said he was guilty of something. Ken Starr used the word guilty 11 times on 11 different counts in his report on President Clinton. If not guilty Trump is innocent.”

    Claiming Mueller’s statement represents a victory for Trump

    Breitbart.com White House correspondent Charlie Spiering: “Huge win for Trump: Mueller steps down, refuses to testify, states that president cannot be charged with a crime, urges Americans to secure future elections.”

    Far-right blog The Gateway Pundit: “Mueller Dunks on Pelosi and Dems – Praises Attorney General Bill Barr For Releasing Entire Report in Good Faith.”

    Gingrich: “In the absence of proof in America, you are innocent. Therefore, by definition, President Trump is innocent.”

    Claiming Mueller is inviting chaos and impeachment of Trump

    Commentary Associate Editor Noah Rothman: “The impeachment case just got a lot easier to make.”

    Fox Nation and Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes: “Mueller just poured gasoline on the Democrats' Impeachment fire.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: “He begged [Congress] to impeach. He gave them the green light. He said that’s what you people have to do.”

    Fox News contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich: “Impeachment is coming.”

    Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly: “After Robert Mueller’s deflection to Congress on the obstruction issue, we can expect democrats to begin impeachment proceedings. That will harm the country economically and lead no where as the Senate will not convict.”

    Fox’s Martha MacCallum and Brian Kilmeade agreed Mueller “threw some kerosene on the fire.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his radio show Mueller “closed his office, he called it quits, but before he did it, he actually threw some kerosene on the fire and then threw the match.” Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum agreed, saying: “Absolutely, no doubt.” Kilmeade then added: “So my sense was he saw the chaos that happened after he released the report that was supposed to put a fine point on a 22-month investigation, and he made it worse.”

    Fox's Lisa Boothe: “Robert Mueller is a hack. And we know that he’s a hack because he gave Democrats exactly what they wanted ... more fuel to the fire of impeachment.”

    Claiming Mueller said things he didn’t say

    Fox host Pete Hegseth falsely claimed that Trump will “rightfully” say there was “no obstruction” and that he's “exonerated.” Mueller actually explained that he was prevented from considering charging Trump with a crime because of Department of Justice policy.

    Wash. Examiner’s Philip Klein: “Impeachment or bust: Robert Mueller just made clear he won't give Democrats a second crack at his report through testimony.” The text of Klein’s article was more accurate than its headline, correctly noting that Mueller said the report covers everything he has to say about the investigation.

    Claiming that Mueller may have been lying

    The Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway: “Multiple people at DOJ say Mueller stated that [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion had nothing to do with his decision not to charge obstruction, and report itself doesn’t make determination on obstruction, as it did on collusion. Remarks today curiously at odds with both.” While responding to a reply pointing that Mueller had set the record straight with his statement, Hemingway added that Mueller “wasn’t speaking under oath while someone who said otherwise was, so…..”

    Claiming Mueller did it to appease his “social circles”

    Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz: “It’s purely a guess, but from where I sit I think it was to cover his butt within his own political, social circles. … Barr was actually out there telling the truth, and it scared Mueller and his reputation. He was supposed to be the guy to get Trump, and he didn't, and he feels bad about that.”

    Gingrich: “My guess is that in his social circles, people felt that he had failed to serve the worthy cause of destroying Donald Trump, and he was trying to sort of cleverly toss it to the Congress."

    Claiming Mueller was fairer to the indicted Russians than to Trump

    Boothe: “Robert Mueller gave more deference to the Russians yesterday than he did to President Trump.”

    Hegseth: Mueller “went out of his way when talking about the Russians that had been indicted to say that they are innocent until proven guilty. The Russians. Which he never went out of his way to say about a sitting president.” 

    Gingrich: Mueller “says of the Russians they’re innocent until proven guilty, and in the next paragraph he says he can’t prove the president’s innocence. So, his standard for the American president is dramatically lower than his standard for Russians. You couldn’t have made that up.”

  • The small chorus of pro-Trump figures defending his disastrous presser with Putin

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Amid bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump’s capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin, some of Trump’s fiercest media allies are standing behind him, even as many of his loyalists defect.

    During a July 16 press conference with his Russian counterpart, Trump questioned the findings of his own intelligence community and legitimized Putin’s false claim that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election, calling his denial “extremely strong and powerful.” His shameful performance garnered sharp rebukes from intelligence community veterans, Democrats, Republicans, and even friends of Trump who have defended the president through some of his most egregious slip-ups.

    Nonetheless, a group of Trump’s most ardent supporters in the media rejected the overwhelming consensus and defended the president:

    • Fox's Jeanine Pirro: "What was [Trump] supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?"
    • Fox host Sean Hannity praised Trump for being "very strong at the end of the press conference."
    • Infowars host Owen Shroyer on the press conference: "It just kept getting better in time."
    • Conservative radio host Mark Simone: “The whole idea of a summit is to make peace. That’s what he was doing there.”
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham admonished “mass hysteria” in reaction to the press conference and downplayed Trump’s performance as involving an “unfortunate word choice.”
    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson attacked media for their reactions to the press conference and said it seems like politicians critical of Trump’s actions toward Putin and Russia “seek increased conflict with Russia.”
    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak: “A day after the media/Democrats/NeverTrump meltdown over Trump-Putin summit, they're still wrong, the world's still here, and the future is bright.”
    • Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering: “Remind me, did Obama forcefully confront Putin for” the 2014 attack on a Malaysian Airlines passenger flight over Ukraine?
    • The Washington Times boosted comments from former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), current host of the web show Liberty Report, who categorized Trump’s meeting with Putin as “significant diplomacy.”
  • After horrific casualties in Las Vegas, right-wing media say now is not the time to talk about gun violence

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures are saying it’s too soon to debate measures to reduce gun violence after at least 58 people were killed and over 500 were wounded in Las Vegas, NV, in what news organizations are calling the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. According to police officials, the shooter had 10 rifles in his possession at the scene.

  • Warning To European Facebook Fact-Checkers: Here's How Conservatives Will Try To Discredit You

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    With Facebook’s recent announcements that it is partnering with fact-checking news organizations in the United States and Germany to fight fake news on its website, conservative media are trying to discredit those organizations by claiming their fact checks -- and fact-checking in general -- are too subjective, suggesting bias due to staffers’ backgrounds or the organizations’ funding sources, launching personal attacks, and making claims of censorship. As Facebook expands its partnerships in France, future fact-checkers in Europe will likely face similar lines of attack.

  • Reporters Roast Sean Spicer’s Breitbart Interview: “Most Awkward Thing Ever,” “Insanely Cringey”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s “exclusive interview” with Breitbart.com crashed and burned. Reporters mocked the two-and-a-half-minute sit-down as “the most awkward thing ever” and “a glorious two-minute comedy of errors” that suffered from terrible production values.

    Breitbart.com had announced on February 8 that Spicer would appear in an interview the following day with White House correspondent Charlie Spiering, who regularly produces fawning coverage of President Donald Trump. Breitbart is a leading defender of Trump, and several White House staffers are Breitbart alumni, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, who formerly chaired the website.

    Spicer gave a short interview to the pro-Trump outlet last evening following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision to not reinstate Trump’s travel ban targeting seven majority-Muslim countries.

    The interview produced little of value; Breitbart.com was not even promoting the interview’s results on the top of its homepage as of posting time (the site is instead attacking comedian Rosie O'Donnell).  

    Reporters reacted to the interview by noting its “moments of awkward silence,” comparing Spiering to “a 10-year-old who snuck into 1600 Penn,” and calling it a “total disaster” from a “production standpoint”:

    The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers: “Sean Spicer’s Facebook Live interview with Breitbart News is the most awkward thing ever. … From a production standpoint, it was what Spicer's boss likes to call a ‘total disaster.’”

    The Huffington Post’s Rebecca Shapiro: “The interview suffered from moments of awkward silence, unpleasant background noises and some strange camera angles.”

    Esquire’s Sammy Nickalls: “This Breitbart interview was...not good.”

    Death and Taxes’ Candace Bryan: "The interview is rife with awkward silences, harsh changes in sound levels, abrupt push-ins, and a reporter that looks like a 10-year-old who snuck into 1600 Penn after hiding behind the colonnades until Secret Service went on break and is now terrified he’s about to have his cover blown. ... Spicer himself looks as though he’s isn’t certain he isn’t being trolled." 

    Fusion’s Katherine Krueger: The interview was “insanely cringey.”

    The A.V. Club’s Clayton Purdom: It was “a glorious two-minute comedy of errors, with production qualities rivaling the cringe-inducing crap cinema of Fateful Findings, A Talking Cat!?!, and even The Room.”

    The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern:

    ThinkProgress’ Ned Resnikoff:

    Gizmodo's Ashley Feinberg:

    BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick:

  • Sean Spicer Grants “Exclusive Interview” To Breitbart.com

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer will participate in an “exclusive interview” with “alt-right” website Breitbart.com -- a development that underscores the growing relationship between the Trump administration and the notoriously inflammatory outlet.

    Breitbart announced the interview in a February 8 post, touting an “exclusive interview” with Spicer to be streamed on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 9. Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering will conduct the interview. The post encouraged Breitbart readers to suggest questions for Spicer in the website’s infamous comments section, which has been called “a sewer of mindless hatred and racism.”

    Ties between the White House and Breitbart.com run deep. The website was formerly run by chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who previously termed Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right.” Other current Trump administration employees who used to write for Breitbart include deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka and Bannon assistant Julia Hahn.

    During Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, the only reporter given a reserved seat was Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle, and Trump called on him in short order to ask a sycophantic question about what “reforms” the new president would recommend for the media industry.

    Trump and his allies have engaged in an unprecedented war on the press, dating back to his campaign. A day after being sworn in as president, Trump referenced his “running war” with mainstream media. Bannon later called mainstream press “the opposition party” and suggested that “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.” Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly elevated pro-Trump propaganda outlets like Breitbart. Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette, a website that frequently publishes false reports, received the first question at a recent White House press briefing. The Gateway Pundit, a notoriously sloppy conservative blog, and conspiracy theory outlet Infowars have both claimed they will soon be credentialed by the White House.

    In contrast to the widespread derision Spicer has drawn because of his tendency to lie from the press briefing room lectern, Breitbart’s coverage of Spicer’s briefings has been fawning, amplifying perceived victories over the press. Here’s a sampling of recent Breitbart Spicer headlines, all of which ran atop articles written by Spiering:

     

  • Right-Wing Media Can't Believe Hillary Clinton Has Hot Sauce In Her Bag

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media figures attacked Hillary Clinton for saying that she always carries hot sauce with her during an interview with a New York hip-hop radio show, attacking her for “pandering” and “casual racism.” But Salon reports that Clinton “has been talking about carrying hot sauce since 2008,” and various outlets over the years have reported that Clinton “packed pepper sauce” in her bag and had “a collection of more than 100 hot sauces” when she was first lady.