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  • As hundreds of newspapers plan editorials to denounce Trump’s war on the press, Fox hosts attack the newspapers

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News and Fox Business hosts are slamming hundreds of newspapers as “anti-Trump” and “fake news” for coordinating to publish editorials on August 16 denouncing President Donald Trump’s war on the press.

    Trump and his administration publicly attacked news organizations and specific journalists hundreds of times in just his first year in office. Though he routinely attacked news organizations during his presidential campaign and the transition period between his election and inauguration, Trump’s anti-press rhetoric reached a new low in February 2017, when he began calling news organizations “the enemy of the American people”:

    Trump repeated his comments multiple times, though he eventually added the disclaimer that only “fake news” is “the enemy of the people” -- a bogus claim because he’s spent years labeling a broad range of mainstream news outlets and journalists as “fake news.”

    Many newspapers have decided that they’ve had enough and are pushing back. Led by The Boston Globe, more than 100 newspaper editorial boards around the country are reportedly planning to publish editorials on August 16 “on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press.” Each newspaper will be writing its own editorial in this coordinated effort.

    Fox, which has both served as a platform for Trump’s attacks on the press and promoted his attacks on its own, is now criticizing the newspapers participating in this effort as anti-Trump and “fake news.” On August 13, five Fox News and Fox Business hosts took offense to the coordinated editorial release protesting Trump’s anti-press rhetoric. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt said these newspapers are releasing editorials “attacking the president” and that “there is just kind of a mainstream, somewhat leftist bias coming from a lot of our media companies.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented that The Boston Globe “said essentially they’re going after the president.” Varney & Co. guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman both defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to the planned editorials as “anti-Trump screeds” by “coordinated national left-wing fake news.” And Fox host Laura Ingraham, while criticizing media coverage of antifa actions against reporters, mocked the newspapers’ coordinated effort as “not collusion or anything.”

  • Sean Hannity turned over his radio show to Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow to undermine the Mueller probe

    Giuliani: "Even conspiracy is not a crime"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Fox News host Sean Hannity allowed Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow to guest host the entire broadcast of Hannity’s radio show on August 10. The duo, who both work as personal lawyers for President Donald Trump, devoted substantial time to lobbing wild attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s "hoax" investigation into Trump and his campaign.

    Sekulow and Giuliani are regular guests on both Hannity’s Fox News show and his radio show, where they assist Hannity in pushing pro-Trump propaganda.

    Despite the ongoing prolonged back-and-forth between Trump’s legal team and Mueller about whether Trump will allow himself to be interviewed by Mueller’s team -- and the fact that Trump himself has called for Mueller’s investigation to be summarily ended -- Giuliani and Sekulow argued on Hannity’s show that the White House has given “unprecedented cooperation” to Mueller’s investigation.

    Giuliani also advanced his false claim that allowing Mueller to question Trump about his decision to fire former FBI director James Comey would be an impermissible “perjury trap.”

    As Jonathan Chait explained at New York magazine, a perjury trap “describes when prosecutors lure a witness into giving false testimony, usually for reasons other than covering up a crime, knowing they can prove the claim was false, and then nail them for perjury. … Asking Trump about his attempt to manipulate his FBI director is not a perjury trap. The question is not extraneous to a crime, it is a crime.”

    During the show, Giuliani also channeled Trump in denigrating the investigation as “illegitimate,” a “witch hunt,” and a “hoax.”

    Perhaps the most absurd moment occurred when Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett joined the show’s third hour. During a discussion where Jarrett, Sekulow, and Giuliani claimed that collusion cannot be a crime as a matter of law (they are wrong), Giuliani said, “Even conspiracy is not a crime. It’s got to be a conspiracy to commit a crime,” to which Jarrett responded, “Right, we conspire every day to have lunch, or breakfast, or whatever, that’s not a crime.”

  • Sean Hannity turns over his radio show to Trump’s lawyers

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Sean Hannity announced on Twitter that he will turn over the August 10 edition of his nationally syndicated talk radio show to two of President Donald Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani.

    Sekulow and Giuliani are regular guests on Hannity’s both Fox News show and radio show.

    Hannity has even hired Sekulow as his attorney.

    Hannity’s pro-Trump propaganda has made both his shows indistinguishable from the narrative spun by the Trump administration. His shows are widely regarded as state media for the Trump administration. White House staffers even reportedly call Hannity Trump’s “shadow” chief of staff.

    Hannity’s singular goal for months has been to protect Trump from the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Now he’s giving his show to Trump’s lawyers to do exactly that.

  • Report: Donald Trump relies on Fox News programming to set the White House agenda

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Politico is reporting that White House chief of staff John Kelly’s relationship with President Donald Trump is withering and that as they “have proven increasingly incompatible,” Fox News shows and personalities seem to be filling the void in the White House.

    Media Matters has documented the Trump-Fox News feedback loop since the early days of the Trump administration, but as Trump continues to bring on former Fox News employees for White House positions, Fox’s influence over the administration is becoming more stark. Less than one month ago, Trump hired disgraced former Fox News executive Bill Shine as White House communications director (a move Trump sycophant and “unofficial chief of staff” Sean Hannity staunchly endorsed). And now Politico reports that Kelly, who was ostensibly hired to “impose order on a chaotic” White House, has been unable to prevent the president from soliciting advice from a “coterie of outside advisers, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.” Trump is even reportedly setting his daily agenda by simply tuning into his favorite show, Fox & Friends, as a former White House official told Politico that Trump “comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on 'Fox and Friends,' he schedules meetings based on that.”

    From Politico’s July 30 article, by Eliana Johnson:

    Kelly has done away with “meeting crashers,” the West Wing aides who showed up for meetings uninvited, according to a White House aide, but he has not been able to curb Trump’s practice of adding and subtracting advisers to meetings throughout the day or of turning scheduled gatherings into freewheeling discussions of subjects that suit his interests — including those suggested to him by his coterie of outside advisers, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.

    “He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on 'Fox and Friends,' he schedules meetings based on that,” said one former White House official. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’ … If he’s seen something on TV or [was] talking to Hannity the night before, he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”

    With closer contact, Trump and Kelly have proven increasingly incompatible. The president makes decisions in part based on the blurts emitted from a media world of his own creation, his television tuned to Fox News and his cellphone at the ready to dial up any number of its on-air talent. Kelly, by contrast, rarely watches television and doesn’t follow Twitter, the forum on which the president announces many of his decisions.

  • Conservative media want you to believe Trump has been “tough” on Russia. They’re not telling the full story.

    Secretary of State Pompeo echoed right-wing media talking points on Trump’s toughness. In reality, Trump has undercut a number of actions Congress and his administration have tried to take against Russia.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following President Donald Trump’s disastrous bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the president’s administration flacks and conservative media lackeys quickly scrambled to his defense, arguing that Trump has been “tough” in his “actions against Russia” and rattling off a series of actions he has taken since 2017 that supposedly support such a claim. The president himself and administration officials have also parroted the talking points in an attempt to dispel the idea that he is somehow in the pocket of the Russian government. But a closer look at the actions Trump shills have pointed to reveals a foreign policy that is more concerned with posturing for media than being “tough” in the face of Russian aggression.

    On July 16, Trump met with Putin for a meeting behind closed doors in which no other American -- except an interpreter -- was present, and they emerged more than two hours later to give a wide-ranging press conference. When asked whether he holds the Russian government accountable for its multifaceted interference campaign during the 2016 elections, Trump repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia. (The president would later claim to have gotten “would” and “wouldn’t” confused.)

    To counter the deluge of negative press in the wake of the meeting, right-wing media and administration officials pointed to various foreign policy and military responses to Russian aggression that the United States and its allies have undertaken during Trump’s presidency to argue that the president’s “actions” actually “have been tough.” About a week after the bilateral meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s conservative media defenders as he faced senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisting Trump “has taken a truckload of punitive actions against Moscow” and that he has been “tough on Russia” as president. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated the meme, as did the president himself.

    Trump’s defenders have pointed to sanctions against Russia that were imposed under Trump, the American strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in 2017 and 2018, the March 28 expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of a Russian consulate, Trump’s demands for other countries to increase their NATO spending, the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine to fend off the Russian military and rebels in the eastern portions of the country, and the pressure Trump put on German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia, among other specific actions. But Trump’s defenders are not telling the full story behind these actions.

    Sanctions

    In the aftermath of Trump’s meeting with Putin, a number of the president’s defenders touted sanctions that were imposed against Russia as evidence of Trump’s clear-eyed approach with regard to Russia. But, not only were the sanctions drawn up and passed by Congress while the Trump administration loudly opposed the move, the administration also dragged its feet in implementing them, missing a deadline to begin the implementation and only taking action after Congress demanded it do so. Moreover, Trump left United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley out to dry by walking back, without explanation, an announcement she made regarding additional sanctions against Russia.

    Additionally, one of the first official actions the Trump administration attempted was “to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election.” The effort to remove sanctions that were already on the books appeared to continue into Trump’s presidency, as one of his top fundraisers and former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, reportedly offered in 2017 to “help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.”

    Syria

    Right-wing media have also cited U.S. airstrikes conducted against the Syrian regime as evidence that Trump has stood up to Russian aggression. But, in 2017, Trump “notified Russia in advance of” the strike, “giving time for both Russian and Syrian forces to avoid casualties in an attack,” and by the very next day, Syrian warplanes were using the airfield that was targeted. Additionally, in 2018, the strikes Trump authorized against the Syrian regime targeted chemical weapons infrastructure, “and not the bases where the Russians and Iranians are.”

    Trump’s defenders have also pointed to an American counterattack on Russian mercenaries and Syrian military personnel in February, saying Trump “authorized” the attack. While the U.S. military did in fact fend off a Russian-backed attack after “repeatedly” warning about the “growing mass of troops,” the strike was an “act of self-defense.” Citing the incident as evidence that Trump is countering Russian interests in Syria does not address the larger picture that, under Trump, Russia has become even more entrenched, further solidifying its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Trump lacks a coherent overarching strategy for the war-torn country. Not to mention the fact that, in May 2017, Trump disclosed sensitive “code-word information” originating from Israeli intelligence services to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

    Expulsion of Russian diplomats

    Trump sycophants are additionally highlighting the March 26 expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence operatives who were in the United States under diplomatic cover and the closure of a Russian consulate as further proof of Trump’s tough stance on Russia. But the expulsion of diplomats is an expected reaction that “represent[s] more symbol than substance.” And Trump also berated administration officials for expelling too many Russian officials, as he was reportedly “furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia” as compared to European allies, who joined the United States in the symbolic gesture.

    Moreover, in a still-unexplained proposition in the early days of the Trump administration, officials looked at “handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

    Weapons to Ukraine

    In what has emerged as a favorite talking point for Trump defenders in the wake of the meeting with Putin, conservative media are touting an arms deal with Ukraine. The deal, which the Obama administration had resisted, is meant to bolster Ukrainian defenses against the Russian military and pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels. Except Trump stooges in right-wing media fail to mention that the Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager’s shady business dealings in that country conspicuously stopped just “as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles.” Not to mention the fact that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump made the laughable claim that the Russian military is “not going into Ukraine,” even though it effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. According to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Ukrainian officials were “tearing their hair and running around like crazies” when Trump was elected because of fears over what it would mean for the country.

    NATO spending

    Trump’s Fox News sycophants have also insisted that by “beating up the NATO allies” at the 2018 NATO summit, Trump succeeded in getting allies to “cough up more money” for the alliance when in fact Trump’s efforts had little to do with members’ increases in direct spending on their national military budgets. According to The New York Times, “each NATO member pledged in 2014,” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year by 2024. … As a share of G.D.P., spending by European members and Canada began to rise before Mr. Trump took office.”

    Nord Stream 2

    Conservative media have also pointed to Trump’s critical comments to Merkel at the 2018 NATO summit over the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany as confirmation that Trump is “tough” in dealing with Russia. But previous administrations and a bipartisan group of senators also opposed Nord Stream 2, and Trump himself toned down his criticism after meeting with Putin, conceding that the United States cannot block Germany’s domestic energy decisions. The German Marshall Fund’s Ulrich Speck said the president’s attacks against Merkel “looked as if Trump is looking for ammunition against Germany. If he would have been serious on pushing against Nord Stream, he would probably have brought this up much more forcefully with Putin.” Indeed, a “tough” U.S. policy toward Russia would avoid driving such a wedge between the United States and an ally that has disregarded domestic business concerns to wrangle European Union member states, which had their own economic apprehensions, to join sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

  • Sean Hannity in 2008: “If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?”

    Sean Hannity: Americans “have a right to know before we elect somebody” president if he had an affair

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Sean Hannity said in 2008 that presidential candidates who have affairs have a “character issue” because they are “living a life that’s a lie.” Hannity, who made the comments during a discussion about the affair of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Hannity & Colmes, also said that Americans “have a right to know before we elect somebody” whether the candidates have had such affairs. He also speculated, “If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?”

    In a subsequent episode of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity went further, stating that “If you take a vow, a promise, a pledge, a solemn vow, and you promise to love, honor, cherish, be faithful to, in good times and in bad, richer or poorer, better or worse, and be faithful, you know, till death do you part, if you don't -- if you can't keep that vow, why should people not be suspect that you keep a vow to, you know, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

    President Donald Trump is currently under fire for paying hush money during the 2016 campaign to conceal affairs with model Karen McDougal and adult actor Stormy Daniels. Hannity is Trump’s confidant and top propagandist.

    SEAN HANNITY: That is a sign of love that I think all human beings can aspire to, so if that -- and her personal life is her choice, I admire her. I think that's great. But she did take a shot at the Enquirer when she said, “Most recently, the pain is caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without regard for human consequences.” She's got to know he's running for president. She's got to know he is a contender for vice president, or was. So I honestly applaud the Enquirer.

    KIRSTEN POWERS: Well, I guess it comes down to whether you think this kind of stuff needs to be in the public domain or not and I think we probably disagree. I tend to think that it is a private matter.

    HANNITY: If you're going to be president?

    POWERS: And I don't -- I think -- yes, yes, I do. I don't think that.

    HANNITY: It doesn't matter if you're president and you're having an affair.

    POWERS: Look, as far as I can tell, George Bush has been faithful to his wife. I don't think he's been that great of a president. That's just my personal -- I know you disagree with me. But I don't think that's the mark necessarily -- FDR, JFK, there are plenty of people, and I -- but I do think that they -- it is -- it was brought into the public domain by her husband, though.

    HANNITY: But if you're living a life that's a lie.

    POWERS: Right.

    HANNITY: If you're not honest, it's a character issue.

    POWERS: It is a character issue. I agree.

    HANNITY: Don't we have a right to know before we elect somebody?

    POWERS: Look, Sean, my feeling is that it's a character issue if I was looking at that person do I want to marry this person. That's a decision. But it's -- as far as the president.

    HANNITY: If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?

    POWERS: Like I said -- but we have plenty of -- I mean do you think that FDR was an honorable president? I mean I think that he was. So I don't think that that's necessarily be the measure. But to Elizabeth's point, her husband put this in the public domain, you know?

    HANNITY: We got to take a break. We're going to come back. More details on the Edwards affair and what about the baby?

    Later in the show, Hannity emphasized the seriousness of an affair, saying “Where’s any level of love there?”

    CHIP SALTSMAN: I mean this is a true tragic dark story, if you - what you and Barry were talking about. It sounds cold and calculating, and here's a guy that was running for president of the United States, running for his nomination on the Democrat party and had just no care in the world and said, “Nah nobody's going to find out about it.” I mean, this runs deeper issues, and we wonder why we have such low approval ratings of our politicians when we now expect them to lie because they do.

    SEAN HANNITY: You know something. It's sad. Going back to what Barry just said, Kirsten, about that, I've got to wonder, you know, just putting aside all the politics and interpersonal relationships, if I was married to somebody and that was revealed to be true, where's any level of love there? Where's any level of concern?

    KIRSTEN POWERS: I don't know. I don't think we can really look at other people's marriages and know what's going on. You know, they have a long history together. They've been together since they were in law school. They, you know, were obviously very close, and I think that perhaps, you know, she's forgiven him, and you know, he's stumbled, and she's decided that she has -

    ALAN COLMES: That's what John says before. Because if this is - it's a wonderful example of forgiveness if she's able to do that. I mean, we could all aspire to be as forgiving as Elizabeth Edwards appears to be.

    Days later, Hannity was even more emphatic.

    SEAN HANNITY: And there are also reports, the Enquirer, that has had it right up to this point, Chris, is pointing out that there were numerous liaisons at this hotel in Beverly Hills that came -- went on much, much later.

    But there are other questions that may become a legal issue for him. Number one, did he really know about the hush money? Did he know about $15,000 being paid monthly? Did he know who paid for the expensive mansion she was living in, in Santa Barbara? And this woman, who's not qualified to do these documentaries, was this a, you know, job of silence?

    CHRIS WILSON: Was paid over $100,000 to go shoot documentaries, which she'd never done before. And really, the narcissism and hypocrisy go behind -- that go into this is just remarkable.

    You look at one, he's running for president on moral values. His wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and yet, this is a man that we're going to trust of leading the free world?

    ALAN COLMES: He's not running for president any more.

    HANNITY: Hang on a second.

    WILSON: No, he's not now, but he was at the time, and he was considering it. And I think that's really the whole -- that's why this is an issue.

    HANNITY: Let me go back to Ronald, because Ronald…

    AMANDA CARPENTER: I think that's part of the…

    HANNITY: I want to go back to this fundamental issue. I want to know: you've got to explain this to me. I'm just not getting this. Explain to me -- I'm just a regular guy.

    And I'm wondering if you can't keep the promise to your family, can't keep your promise to your wife, you're having an affair, you're lying about the affair repeatedly, why should the American people trust you when you say you're not going to lie to them? Why should we trust you?

    Later in that show, Hannity made clear he was more upset at Edwards’ affair than that of Sen. John McCain because of Edwards’ wealth and his haircut.

    SEAN HANNITY: Can I explain something in the last segment?

    ALAN COLMES: Sure.

    HANNITY: Senator McCain spent 5.5 years of his life for his country being tortured, beaten on a daily basis with broken bones and broken body.

    COLMES: War hero.

    HANNITY: Excuse me. The fact that they didn't break his spirit -- if you can't see the difference between him and Mr. Two Americas in his 28,000-square-foot mansion with his, you know, doing his hair, $1,000 hair cut…

    COLMES: Excuse me. Let me ask you a question.

    HANNITY: Excuse me. If you don't see the difference than I can't explain it to you.

    COLMES: Let me ask you a question. With all due respect, and I've never denounced John McCain for his service to his country. He's a true American hero. However, does that give him -- does that mean it's OK to have an affair when you come back from war?

    HANNITY: No, but here’s the difference. There are extenuating circumstances. And he is the first to admit that when he came back after five and a half years of being tortured for his country, that he was not the person that he is now, it was 30 years ago. And for you to make the same thing about Mr. Hair Cut, I'm sorry.

    COLMES: No, no. I do not equate his being a war hero with cheating on his wife. I don't conflate the two.

    In the years since, Hannity has returned to the topic on Twitter. In June 2012, Hannity tweeted in response to @MariaHasAQuill that “I doubt mrs h. And my 2 kids would like that. I m not john edwards.”

  • Mike Pence turns to Sinclair for an embarrassingly friendly interview as Trump defends the media giant 

    Pence on corporation-friendly tax cuts: “President Trump has been delivering on his promise: to cut taxes for working families” 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Vice President Mike Pence has joined a growing list of Trump administration officials benefiting from softball interviews with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    On July 24, part of Pence’s sit-down interview with Sinclair chief political analyst and former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn was shared online.

    In this latest “Bottom Line With Boris” segment, Epshteyn and Pence discuss how “President Trump has been delivering on his promise: to cut taxes for working families and businesses” thanks to the Republican tax overhaul known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In reality, the legislation predominantly benefited large corporations, and wages have actually fallen by 1.8 percent since the cuts were enacted. Epshteyn does not mention this in the segment, but rather asks the sorts of vague questions that set Pence up to use the interview as an infomercial for Trump and the Republican party.

    Here is a full transcript and video.

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: I joined Vice President Mike Pence on his trip to Philadelphia this week. He focused on tax reform. Here’s what he had to say.

    [INTERVIEW CLIP]

    MIKE PENCE: As you look at this economy, confidence is back, jobs are coming back. In a real sense, America is back, and it’s because President Trump has been delivering on his promise: to cut taxes for working families and businesses.

    EPSHTEYN: Where do you see the job market going in the next six months, a year, two years?

    PENCE: Well, 3.7 million new jobs is an extraordinary amount of progress, but the fact of the matter is there [are] still many Americans that are on the sidelines. But the encouraging news, Boris, is that in the last month the unemployment number nationally ticked up a little bit.

    EPSHTEYN: Right.

    PENCE: But that was because more Americans were now looking for jobs across the country. And so making sure that we continue to make these tax cuts permanent, that we continue to roll back red tape, but that we also make sure that Americans who are now looking for work have the training, the vocational education, and the skills to fill those good-paying jobs that are open now.

    EPSHTEYN: You’re criss-crossing the country ahead of the midterms. So important. How vital of a role is tax reform playing in your message while you’re out there?

    PENCE: To continue to move the nation forward, we’ve got to have partners. We’ve got to have renewed Republican majorities in the House and in the Senate that will work with us as we drive for more tax reform, roll back more federal red tape, and have an energy policy that puts America first. So we’re out there telling the story and it’s a great story to tell.

    [END OF INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here's the bottom line: The historic tax cuts signed by President Trump into law in December are going to continue to be a key agenda item for the Republican Party heading into November. Expect to hear a lot about the tax cuts on the campaign trail throughout the country.

    This interview segment will now air as “must-run” content on more than 100 Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV news stations across the country. As of publication, a Media Matters search of the iQ media database shows the segment has already aired in at least 20 states. There will be at least one more excerpt from the interview released as an additional segment in the coming days -- according to Epshteyn’s newsletter, the next Pence segment will focus on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

    The fawning Pence interview is just the latest entry in a long list of friendly connections between Sinclair and the Trump inner circle. Sinclair has previously aired softball segments with at least six other administration officials, as well as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

    Hours after the Pence segment was first posted online, President Donald Trump tweeted a defense of Sinclair, signaling displeasure with a recent and surprising Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to send Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media to its likely doom. Trump tweeted that an even larger Sinclair “would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People.” Had the deal been approved, pro-Trump propaganda like these interviews would have reached more than seven in 10 American TV households.

  • Fox is deceptively hyping GOP’s next tax bill that just benefits the ultra rich

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Back in December, when President Donald Trump signed into law changes in U.S. tax policy, Fox News helped Republicans spin the discussion surrounding the legislation by hyping anecdotal reports of bonuses, wage hikes, and investments. Now that Republicans are aiming to make the individual tax cuts permanent, Fox is at it again -- despite analyses showing how staggeringly disproportionate the benefits are for the wealthy and large businesses, that they barely lower tax burdens for some middle class and lower income families, and that they have had no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    The law, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in December, and Fox hosts celebrated the legislation’s passage after contributing their own dishonest coverage. Fox News shows repeatedly focused on announcements of bonuses -- such as some AT&T workers receiving a $1,000 bonus their union already negotiated -- and small wage increases from some companies to portray the tax cuts as beneficial for ordinary working Americans.

    Others, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, claimed that the tax legislation would lead to increased investment by corporations, in some cases pointing to anecdotal examples of businesses announcing investments and saying they were possible because of the policy change. Two days after the legislation’s passage, Fox & Friends invited White House special adviser Ivanka Trump on to hype an increase to the Child Tax Credit in the legislation. (According to tax experts, “the expanded child credit will actually provide little relief for some of the lowest-income families.”)

    Republicans are now attempting to pass another tax bill, in part to make permanent the individual tax policy changes in the original law, which expire within 10 years. The White House is portraying a report that House Republicans are planning to advance a bill as “a big win for the middle class.” And Fox News is again helping Republicans with their spin. On July 18, Fox & Friends hosted Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the committee the bill would originate from -- who said lawmakers should make permanent “those cuts for middle-class families.” Later on the show, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said: “I think Republicans are setting a tax trap for the Democrats. … Are the Democrats going to vote against something which really supports America's middle class?”

    But as reporting from NPR and experts from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) have explained, Trump’s tax cuts provide only minor benefits to the middle class, are geared toward the wealthiest Americans, and are having no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    Trump tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy

    NPR: Tax cut benefits to middle class are meager compared to those affecting the wealthy. NPR cited a December report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center which showed that middle-class households are receiving meager tax benefits from the Trump tax cuts compared to the wealthiest households and that when those benefits expire, middle-class households will earn slightly less income than they did before the tax cuts were passed:

    [NPR, 12/19/17]

    EPI: Republican spin of tax cuts as primarily middle-class benefits “is false.” A blog post by EPI budget analyst Hunter Blair showed that Republican lawmakers’ attempted spin of the Trump tax cuts as targeted to the middle class “is false.” The post showed that the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers earn a disproportionately small benefit from the policy change, with the top 5 percent earning a larger share of the benefits relative to their income:

    [Economic Policy Institute, 4/13/18]

    CBPP: Trump tax cuts deliver largest benefits to the wealthiest while boosting income inequality. The CBPP explained in an April report that Trump’s tax plan “will increase income inequality since it delivers far larger tax cuts to households at the top, measured as a share of income, than to households at the bottom or middle of the income distribution”:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    CBPP: Increase in Child Tax Credit skews toward the wealthy. The CBPP report explained that “10 million children under age 17 in low-income working families will receive no CTC increase or a token increase of $75 or less.” Further, the law increased the upper limit for the Child Tax Credit from $110,000 in income annually to $400,000, with the wealthiest getting an increase worth several times more than the increase middle-class families will receive:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    Data so far show Trump tax cuts having no positive effect on the economy

    EPI: “There is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.” In June 1 testimony submitted to the House’s Tax Policy Subcommittee, EPI explained that “there is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    Bloomberg’s Noah Smith: Federal Reserve data and PayScale index show wages fell after Trump tax cuts took effect. In a July 18 Bloomberg column, Noah Smith pointed to Federal Reserve and private sector data to show that wages actually declined since the Trump tax cuts were passed:

    [Bloomberg, 7/18/18]

    EPI: Bonuses were overhyped, and they are less likely to occur in future years. EPI’s testimony explained that “nearly 40 percent of American workers get bonuses every year,” and that there was a financial incentive to give bonuses after the law’s passage at the end of 2017 when such bumps could be less expensively written off on corporate tax filings. As EPI explained: “What this means is that even if some increase in bonuses occurred in 2017 because of the TCJA (this remains a big ‘if’), there is no reason to think such bonuses will recur in the future.” [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    EPI: “There is no serious evidence that the TCJA spurred a notable pickup in business investment.” EPI’s testimony showed that business investment has grown less than it did in either 2011 or 2014. “In short, we do not yet have economy-wide data showing a rapid upsurge of investment due to the TCJA.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]