Chris Stirewalt | Media Matters for America

Chris Stirewalt

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  • Fox News politics editor fears if Trump comments on Roseanne he'll be associating himself with conspiracy theories

    Fact check: Trump is a conspiracy theorist

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Several hours after conspiracy theorist and pro-Trump comedian Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist attack on former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, ABC announced its decision to cancel Barr’s TV show, Roseanne. The show has received an outpouring of support from conservatives since its March premiere, and, despite Barr’s documented history of extremism, President Donald Trump has reportedly praised her.

    During an appearance on Fox’s The Daily Briefing, Fox politics editor Chris Stirewalt argued that Trump should resist defending Roseanne after this latest scandal. Stirewalt noted that Roseanne “occupies the murkiest part of the fever swamps of online conspiracy theorists” and “trafficked in the same sort of kookism and grossness” as people like Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser. Both Flynn Jr. and Roseanne helped spread the pizzagate conspiracy theory.

    Similar to these two high-profile supporters, the president also has a long history of promoting conspiracy theories. His son, Donald Trump Jr., has also demonstrated a willingness to embrace false and extreme theories, as evidenced by his retweet of another Barr message, which claimed that philanthropist George Soros was a Nazi collaborator (a right-wing conspiracy theory that has been roundly debunked).

    After noting the similarity between Barr’s actions and those of Flynn Jr., Stirewalt suggested that if Trump does come to Barr’s defense, then “he is implicating himself in the rest of that rottenness.” From the May 29 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino:

    CHRIS STIREWALT (FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR): The amount of stupidity that is coursing through our body politic these days is pretty astonishing. But it was hard to miss with Roseanne. Here is a person who has made her career out of being awful, right? The famous national anthem, with the spitting during the national anthem. She is a comedic version of a shock jock. Her whole employ here was about saying and doing outrageous things to get attention. When I saw conservatives and I saw Republicans gravitating to her because she was saying things that they liked about Donald Trump and they could claim her as one of their own, I thought what a bad risk. This is a person who -- this is like the animals in the wild. If certain stripe patterns let you know that this is a venomous snake, stay away. And the fact that the president couldn't stay away and the fact that a lot of his followers couldn't stay away tells you the intensity of tribalism.

    I would say it would be smart for [Trump] to ignore her completely. This is an "L" for his tribe. But the danger here, if you defend her, then you go right into -- because remember, Roseanne occupies the murkiest part of the fever swamps of online conspiracy theorists, about pizzagate and the slain --

    DANA PERINO (HOST): That’s how this whole thing started. It was a right-wing, sort of alt-right whatever conspiracy theorist website, which -- I don't even know what those look like. I don't visit them.

    STIREWALT: It's gross.

    PERINO: But it got her into a huge amount of trouble, Chris.

    STIREWALT: Right. And they trafficked -- she trafficked in the same sort of kookism and grossness that people like the son of the former NSA -- you know who I mean. But his son and others.

    PERINO: Jr. Flynn Jr.

    STIREWALT: Right. Flynn Jr. and others trafficked in this terrible, terrible stuff that they put out there. That’s where she hung out. If the president moves to defend her against this action by ABC, then he is implicating himself in the rest of that rottenness.

  • Media have found their latest Trump pivot: General Kelly

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & SANAM MALIK

    Media figures promoted the idea that President Donald Trump’s administration is heading towards a reset, this time following the firing of White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci along with the swearing in of former Marine General John F. Kelly as the new White House chief of staff. Kelly’s move to chief of staff is just the latest example of the media’s obsession with the fantasy of a Trump “reset” that will never happen.

  • Stalin, East Germany, and emancipation: The 12 dumbest takes (so far) on 22 million people losing health insurance

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After a report on the Senate health care legislation by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that the Republican plan would lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans than under the Affordable Care Act, right-wing media figures either tried to spin the CBO report by saying it was “extremely positive,” or attacked and undermined the CBO’s integrity. From an East Germany analogy to the suggestion that senators simply “forget” the millions that will be uninsured, here are 13 of the worst right-wing CBO takes. 

  • Conservative Media Split On Who To Blame For Trump's Attempt To Destroy Health Care

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Conservative media figures can’t decide who to blame for the disastrous American Health Care Act (AHCA), which seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will endanger the health insurance of millions of Americans. Despite President Donald Trump taking credit for this effort to roll back health care reform, right-wing media figures and outlets are grappling over whether they should fault the president for “Trumpcare” or absolve him of responsibility.

  • Five Things Media Figures Demanded Obama Attorneys General Resign Over That Are Less Serious Than Lying Under Oath

    And Trump’s Chief Of Staff Twice Called For Eric Holder’s Resignation

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Lawmakers began calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation after news reports published on March 1 revealed that he had spoken to Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the 2016 election, when he was serving as a campaign surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump. The reports contradict sworn testimony Sessions provided during his confirmation hearing, when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.” During the Obama administration, conservative media figures and Republicans demanded that his attorneys general resign or be fired for supposed outrages far less damaging than lying to Congress, none of which were criminal in nature, and were in many cases completely phony.

  • Trump Advocated White Nationalism With An "Indoor Voice," And Pundits Loved It 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics -- and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants -- the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”

    That's how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far. To some in the media, the speech was a “reset” for the new president.

    As soon as he finished speaking, the accolades from pundits began to roll in. Fox’s Chris Wallace said, “I feel like tonight, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” ABC’s Alex Castellanos similarly said Trump “became president tonight. I think we saw the long-awaited pivot.” MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki claimed that Trump had “a more presidential tone, a more optimistic tone,” and Fox’s Chris Stirewalt said Trump “did sound like the president, look like the president, act like the president.” They weren’t the only ones.

    It wasn’t just pundits on TV either. Newspaper headlines also lauded “a more temperate Trump,” his supposed “milder tones,” and his call for an “end to ‘trivial fights.’”

    Essentially, the media set the bar so low for the speech that when Trump, the president of the United States, sounded like the president of the United States, it was lauded as a victory.

    Not only was that an absurd measure, but the praise delivered by pundits across the broadcast and cable news stations, for the most part, entirely lacked context. One prominent example of this failure was the reaction to Trump’s comments about a slain Navy SEAL officer, William “Ryan” Owens. During his speech, Trump acknowledged Owens’ widow and said that “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” That portion of the speech was cited by many as a highlight and an “extraordinary moment”:

    CNN’s Van Jones: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

    Politico’s John Bresnahan: “That was a Reaganesque moment for Trump.”

    CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Powerful moment.”

    But there’s a lot more to this story. As NBC’s Katy Tur properly noted, while it was an emotional moment in the speech, it “came after Trump seemed to blame his generals/Obama for Owen’s death” just that morning, and after NBC reported that “senior intelligence sources dispute” the White House’s “characterization of [the] raid as a success.” As Tur pointed out, NBC’s reporting “would mean that Trump isn’t being honest with a grieving wife. And that is anything BUT presidential.”

    The praise also ignored the actual content of Trump’s address. Those lauding the speech as “normal” ignored what was extraordinarily abnormal about it of it. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, “President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies.” And while large parts of the speech simply featured Trump touting what he’s done so far as president, not much about those actions is normal either. According to a New York Times analysis, most of the significant actions and events in Trump’s presidency thus far have been “abnormal.” 

    Those praising parts of the speech also seemed unable to acknowledge the startling differences between the Trump who gave that speech and the Trump from just that morning. Some examples:

    • Some pundits praised Trump for addressing the recent wave of threats against Jewish Community centers. But just hours prior to the address, Trump seemed to imply that those threats could be false flags -- a suggestion he has made before.
    • Many pundits cheered Trump for honoring the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid. Yet earlier that day, Trump blamed the military for Owens’ death, telling Fox & Friends hosts, “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals. ... And they lost Ryan.”
    • And all those cheering how “presidential” and “normal” the speech was must have missed the stark and pervasive demonization of immigrants -- from Trump’s announcement that he would set up an office for “victims of immigration crime” to his decision to bring three guests whose family members had been killed by immigrants.

    These remarks, particularly on immigration, served a clear purpose that the fawning punditry seemed to miss. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, talking to a “senior White House official,” reported that the aide said the speech was aimed to be “‘nationalism with an indoor voice,’” and that Trump “backed off exactly none of his previous policies.”

    Perhaps because Trump’s speech didn’t indicate any real change in policy, the high praise from the press has apparently even caught some of his aides off guard. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, even “some sources in [the White House] are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech,” noting that “Trump has not changed,” and there is “no big shift in policy coming."

    It’s not the first time the media has fallen for this ruse. Over the past year, media figures have repeatedly either predicted that Trump would finally start acting more respectable or claimed that it had already happened -- that he had finally pivoted. Yet time and time again Trump has reverted back to his usual style, leaving the media the Charlie Brown to Trump’s football-wielding Lucy.

    So yes, Trump may have sounded more like a president than we expected. But a normal-sounding speech isn’t nearly enough to erase the first month of his presidency, which was distinguished by abnormal -- and extremely problematic -- actions, attacks, and rhetoric. With promises of worse to come, it’s crucial that media stop setting the bar so low and start demanding more.