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  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has appeared on Fox News four times more than on the other major TV networks combined

    Like other Trump officials, Zinke heavily favors the president's favorite network

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has appeared on Fox News four times more often than on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined, Media Matters has found. And for the last nine-plus months, as Zinke has been increasingly dogged by scandals, he has not given interviews to any major channels other than Fox networks.

    In exhibiting a clear preference for Fox News during his 13-plus months in office, Zinke is following the same pattern as many of President Donald Trump’s other cabinet officials and top aides, including Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

    Zinke has gotten soft treatment on Fox News. During his interviews, the network's hosts and journalists rarely asked about his scandals. Instead of confronting him with tough questions, they let him peddle Trump administration talking points and trumpet brand-burnishing policies such as “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.” 

    Zinke appeared on Fox News 13 times and other major networks three times since he took office

    Zinke gave 13 interviews to Fox News and one each to CNN, MSNBC, and CBS. From March 1, 2017, when Zinke was sworn in, to April 17, 2018, Zinke appeared on Fox News 13 times. He granted only one on-air interview apiece to the other major cable news networks, CNN and MSNBC. On broadcast TV, Zinke appeared only on CBS; he gave no interviews to ABC or NBC.

    Zinke appeared most often on Fox & Friends, a show that shapes Trump’s decision-making. Here are all of Zinke's appearances on Fox News during his time as interior secretary:

    Fox & Friends’ interviews with Zinke were good examples of how he was treated across the network. When the hosts were not feting him for his Navy Seal service or lauding him for enacting Trump's deregulatory agenda, they allowed Zinke’s statements on policy to go unchallenged. Zinke's September 20 appearance on Fox & Friends stands out for its breeziness. Host Brian Kilmeade accompanied Zinke on a tour of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and neglected to ask the secretary about a controversial recommendation Zinke had made just days earlier to shrink four national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah.

    Here are Zinke's appearances on major networks other than Fox:

    On cable business news networks, Zinke appeared on Fox Business seven times and CNBC once

    Zinke’s preference for Fox extended to the Fox Business Network, which he has appeared on seven times, compared to once on rival CNBC. Fox Business, like Fox News, regularly echoes Trump administration talking points and attacks the administration's perceived enemies. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs even has the ear of the president, who has invited Dobbs to participate in senior-level meetings via phone.

    Here are Zinke's appearances on Fox Business programs:

    Zinke's sole appearance on CNBC was on Squawk Box on June 29, 2017

    Zinke appeared only on Fox News and Fox Business after becoming embroiled in scandals

    Zinke started getting a notable amount of bad press last summer after an article published on July 26 revealed that he tried to strong-arm Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) into voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since then, Zinke, like Pruitt and others in Trump's cabinet, has been at the center of numerous scandals involving excessive travel expenses, favors for donors, and undisclosed financial ties to companies that could benefit from his agency’s decisions.

    All of the TV interviews Zinke did with networks other than Fox or Fox Business happened prior to July 26, 2017, after which point his controversies began generating significant media attention.

    Once scandals cropped up, Zinke retreated fully to his safe space. For more than nine months now, Zinke has not granted a single interview to any major TV network other than Fox News or Fox Business.

    Fox News covered a key Zinke travel scandal less than CNN and MSNBC

    On September 28, The Washington Post and Politico reported that Zinke spent more than $12,000 of taxpayer funds to charter a flight from Las Vegas to near his Montana home on a plane owned by oil and gas executives. Commercial flights between the airports run daily and cost as little as $300, the Post reported. Zinke's jaunt was widely reported across cable news the week after the story broke, but more widely on MSNBC and CNN than on Fox.

    From September 28 to October 4, MSNBC ran 27 segments that mentioned Zinke’s travel, while CNN ran 23. The networks' hosts, correspondents, and guests usually brought up Zinke’s travel scandal during wider conversations that included mention of other cabinet members' extravagant travel.

    During the same period, Fox News ran 12 segments about Zinke’s travel -- roughly half as many as each of the other cable news networks. Most of Fox's mentions of Zinke's travel were news alerts restating basic facts from the Post article. When Fox News hosts and correspondents discussed the story on air, they usually downplayed or excused the scandal. For example, on America’s News Headquarters on September 29, White House Correspondent John Roberts said that Zinke was “taking The Washington Post to task” before airing Zinke’s defense for taking private flights. Later in the show, host Sandra Smith remarked, “Zinke makes a fair point,” and noted that he got approval for other controversial flights he took on government planes.

    On April 16, 2018, the Interior Department’s (DOI) inspector general released a report that found Zinke's $12,375 charter flight "could have been avoided." Zinke took the chartered flight so he would have time in his schedule to give a motivational speech to a hockey team owned by a major donor to Zinke's former congressional campaign. The speech did not mention Zinke's work at the Department of Interior. The inspector general’s report concluded, "If ethics officials had known Zinke’s speech would have no nexus to the DOI, they likely would not have approved this as an official event, thus eliminating the need for a chartered flight. Moreover, had ethics officials been made aware that the Golden Knights’ owner had been a donor to Zinke’s congressional campaign, it might have prompted further review and discussion."

    Kevin Kalhoefer contributed research to this report. Charts by Sarah Wasko.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis and iQ media to find Zinke’s on-air TV appearances from the date he was sworn in as secretary of the interior on March 1, 2017, to April 17, 2018: “Zinke OR Zinky OR Interior Secretary OR Secretary of the Interior OR Secretary of Interior.” We used the same terms to search cable news networks’ coverage of Zinke’s travel controversy from September 28 to October 4, 2017.

  • 83 times Hannity did not mention that his pro-Trump legal guests also had done legal work for him

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox host Sean Hannity has been under fire for not disclosing his legal relationship with President Donald Trump’s associate Michael Cohen. Hannity also has a legal relationship with Trump-linked attorneys Jay Sekulow, Victoria Toensing, and Joseph diGenova. Hannity hosted them (and Cohen) a total of 83 times on his Fox News show Hannity without disclosing the relationships.

    Michael Cohen

    Jay Sekulow

    Victoria Toensing

    Joseph diGenova

    Michael Cohen

    Trump connection: Michael Cohen is Donald Trump’s longtime associate, who has been described as Trump’s “personal lawyer and fixer.” He is currently under federal criminal investigation.

    Hannity connection: On April 16, Cohen’s lawyer disclosed in court that Hannity was Cohen’s client. Hannity has since attempted to downplay their relationship. Despite widespread criticism of Hannity’s actions, Fox News reportedly has no plans to hold Hannity accountable for his failure to disclose his relationship with Cohen.

    Cohen has appeared as a guest on the Fox show Hannity 15 times in the past five years. Additionally, Cohen was mentioned or discussed during Hannity’s show 11 times. Cohen has also been on Hannity’s radio show twice and has been discussed on Hannity’s radio show at least six times. While Hannity has said things such as “we’ve been friends a long time” and “we’re friends … I know you” to Cohen, giving some insight into their relationship, Media Matters found no instances on Hannity where the host disclosed his legal ties to the lawyer. Here are the times Cohen appeared or was discussed on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    4/16/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    4/12/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    4/11/18 - Fox News - Mentioned  Cohen

    4/10/18 - Fox News - Mentioned  Cohen

    4/9/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/11/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/9/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    4/28/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    4/3/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    1/18/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    1/12/17 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/11/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    1/10/17 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/5/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/19/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/4/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    4/18/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    4/8/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    3/4/16 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/4/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    10/5/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/24/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/10/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/4/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    7/28/15 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    7/24/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    Jay Sekulow

    Trump connection: Jay Sekulow announced on June 9, 2017, that he was joining Trump’s legal team. He has been on the team since then and is currently the primary attorney for Trump in regard to the Russia probe.

    Hannity connection: In April 2017, after a far-right troll suggested that the CIA “targeted” Hannity for surveillance during the election “because of his perceived ties to Julian Assange,” Hannity claimed that he had hired lawyers Jay Sekulow and Joseph diGenova to investigate and pursue a civil action. Additionally, The Atlantic reported that an Oklahoma radio station received a cease-and-desist letter on May 25, 2017, after right-wing radio host Debbie Schlussel accused Hannity of sexual harassment, that was signed by Sekulow and Victoria Toensing, listing them as “Counsel for Sean Hannity.”

    Since Hannity announced that he hired Sekulow nearly a year ago, Sekulow has been a guest on Hannity’s Fox show 53 times. Sekulow has also appeared on Hannity's radio show at least 27 times in that period. Media Matters found only one occasion throughout Sekulow’s 53 appearances on Hannity’s television show in which the host mentioned he had legal ties to Sekulow. On May 23, 2017, two days before the Oklahoma radio station received a letter from Sekulow on Hannity’s behalf, Hannity stated, “Joining us with reaction, from the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow, by the way, who's done legal work for me in the past.” Here are the times Sekulow appeared on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    3/8/18 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    2/2/18  - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    1/23/18 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    1/22/18 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    12/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    12/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    11/14/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    10/30/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    10/26/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    10/23/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    9/21/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    9/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    9/5/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/8/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/7/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/4/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/3/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/27/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/18/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/17/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/14/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/11/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/10/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/29/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/27/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/26/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/23/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/22/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/21/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/19/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/14/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/13/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    [Sekulow joined Trump legal team]

    6/9/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/8/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/7/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/30/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    [Radio station KFAQ received letter signed by Sekulow as “Counsel for Sean Hannity”]

    5/23/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow, “who's done legal work for me in the past”

    5/22/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/19/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/18/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/16/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/10/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/9/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/3/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/2/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    4/28/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    4/19/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    4/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    Victoria Toensing

    Trump connection: Trump reportedly wanted to add Victoria Toensing and her husband diGenova to his legal team. Ultimately, neither of them did due to what Sekulow called “conflicts” that prevented them “from joining the president’s special counsel legal team.” He added: “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters.”  

    Hannity connection: Hannity has leaned on Toensing in the past to help push conspiracy theories about both Benghazi and Uranium One. Toensing represented the alleged FBI informant who made allegations about foul play by the Clintons in the Uranium One deal and who was frequently discussed on Hannity’s show. Additionally, Toensing was identified, along with Sekulow, as “Counsel for Sean Hannity” in a letter received by an Oklahoma radio station in March 2017 after right-wing radio host Debbie Schlussel accused Hannity of sexual harassment.

    Hannity has hosted Toensing on his show 11 times in the past two years. And Toensing has been discussed or mentioned on the show nine times. Hannity has previously alluded to Toensing being “one of the great attorneys” and a “friend for years,” and he has actually claimed on multiple occasions that he’d love to hire her. But a Media Matters review found no instances in which Hannity disclosed on his Fox News show that Toensing was or had been his attorney. Here are the times Toensing appeared, or was mentioned, on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    3/26/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    3/22/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    3/9/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    3/8/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    2/21/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    2/8/2018 - Fox News - Guest Mentioned Toensing

    2/7/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    1/29/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    1/4/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    12/4/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    11/28/2017 - Fox News - Guest Mentioned Toensing

    11/21/2017 - Fox News - Guest Mentioned Toensing

    11/20/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    11/13/2017 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    11/6/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/26/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/25/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/24/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/18/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    5/5/2016 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    Joseph diGenova

    Trump connection: Trump wanted to hire Joseph diGenova to his legal team after he reportedly watched diGenova’s Fox News appearances defending him and presenting the Russia probe “as a conspiracy against him.” But diGenova and his wife Toensing ultimately did not join his team because of unspecified “conflicts” related to their ability to join “the president’s special counsel legal team.” Sekulow added: “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters.”

    Hannity connection: In April 2017, after a far-right troll suggested that the CIA “targeted” Hannity for surveillance during the election “because of his perceived ties to Julian Assange,” the WikiLeaks founder, Hannity claimed that he had hired lawyers Sekulow and diGenova to investigate and pursue a civil action. Additionally, The Atlantic reported that Toensing’s signature in a May 25, 2017, cease-and-desist letter sent on behalf of Hannity to an Oklahoma radio station “sits above her name and that of her husband Joseph E. diGenova, the members of diGenova and Toensing LLP, who are identified as ‘Counsel for Sean Hannity.’”

    Since Hannity said he hired diGenova nearly a year ago, diGenova has been a guest on Hannity’s Fox News show five times. DiGenova was also discussed on Hannity’s show on one other occasion. Separately, diGenova has appeared on Hannity’s radio show at least seven times in that time period. In March of this year, while discussing diGenova and Toensing, Hannity stated on his show, “I’d hire them in a second.” But a Media Matters review of diGenova’s appearances on Hannity’s Fox News show found no instances in which Hannity disclosed that diGenova’s firm represented him. Here are the times diGenova appeared or was mentioned on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    4/16/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    4/11/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    4/4/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    3/22/18 - Fox News - Mentioned diGenova

    2/7/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    5/11/17 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    Nick Fernandez, Zach Pleat, Sanam Malik, Steve Morris, and Tyler Monroe contributed to this post.

  • How Sean Hannity has talked about Michael Cohen since the FBI raid

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    For four days last week, Sean Hannity attacked the April 9 FBI raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room, all without disclosing that he is also a legal client of Cohen, as Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in federal court today.

    The New York Times reported that FBI agents were looking for records of payments to two women who say they had affairs with President Donald Trump years ago, Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels). They were also reportedly looking for communications between Trump and Cohen about a leaked Access Hollywood tape and records about Cohen’s taxi medallion business. Days later, CNN broke the news that the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of conversations with a lawyer who once represented both women. The Washington Post reported that Cohen is being investigated “for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.”

    The disclosure that the Fox News host is a client of Cohen was made by one of Cohen’s attorneys in court today, after Cohen’s lawyers said they contacted Hannity and he had not authorized the release of his name. Nonetheless, the court ordered Hannity’s name disclosed. As Politico explained, Hannity (and his guests) repeatedly criticized the raids without disclosing his own connection to Cohen until after it was made public in court.

    Hannity dedicated multiple segments of his Fox primetime show to criticizing the raid on Cohen each night from April 9 through April 12 (he spent the entire April 13 edition of his show covering Trump’s airstrikes on Syria.) Here's exactly what he said:

    April 9

    Hannity opened his show by saying the Michael Cohen raid is a declaration of “a legal war on the president.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And this is a Fox News alert. President Trump's long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, just had his office, his home, and his hotel that he was staying in raided by the FBI today in an early morning raid. Now, what that means is Mueller's witch-hunt investigation is now a run away (sic) train that is clearly careening off the tracks.

    [...]

    HANNITY: All right. Tonight, we have explosive new chapter in Mueller's partisan witch-hunt. Now, we have now entered a dangerous phase and there is no turning back from this.

    [...]

    Now, keep in mind. Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States. Now, Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president.

    Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said to Hannity that the Cohen raid “abused the law.”

    GREGG JARRETT( FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): I think the president was right to be frustrated and angry. Americans should be outraged. This is an abuse of the system.

    You know, here you have an attorney general who should never have recused himself and seems to be rather incompetent on the matter. You've got corrupt acts by top officials at the FBI and you've got Rosenstein and Mueller who have abused the law and today was a perfect example of this.

    April 10

    Hannity said the Cohen raid was a declaration of “all-out political war against this president” and advised Trump to continue attacking Mueller and cease any negotiations with him.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The so-called investigation to Russia collusion, it is now officially moved beyond its mandate into a political takedown of the president you elected, and it seems by any means necessary. Now, just a minute, we will uncover the shocking unfair two-tiered justice system in this country and we'll show you just how abusively biased and corrupt Mueller and his team of investigators are and that they have now declared an all-out political war against this president.

    [...]

    Frankly, the president needs to immediately start advancing the truth about who Robert Mueller is, what his mandate was, how far beyond his mandate is and about his entire team of Democratic donors. And, frankly, any negotiations that were going on with the president talking to Robert Mueller, that should probably likely end if it hasn't already, and the president and his legal team should be preparing to take this all the way to the United States Supreme Court. That's where we are tonight.

    Hannity and Jarrett agreed that the Cohen raid was a “trap” to provoke Trump into doing something rash.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Gregg, I'll start with you. You have referred to the seizing of Michael Cohen's attorneys as an affront to our legal system and our justice system.

    GREGG JARRETT (FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): And it shows just how unprincipled Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein are. You know, they knew it was outside the scope of the authority of the special counsel, so they gave it to somebody else to do their dirty work. I suspect this was an effort to provoke the president into doing something [rash] that would hurt himself. But he's too smart for that, he's not going to do that.

    But -- think about what's it at risk here.

    HANNITY: Well, it's a trap. Don't you think it's a trap in a lot of ways?

    JARRETT: It's surely a trap, as is a trap of sitting down with Robert Mueller to answer questions.

    April 11

    Wannabe Trump lawyer Joe diGenova told Hannity the Cohen raid shows Rod Rosenstein and Mueller are “using a grand jury to terrorize people” and it’s “an abuse of power” that Rosenstein should be fired for.

    JOE DIGENOVA: Look, I must tell you, I find this raid of Mr. Cohen's office so appalling in every sense -- legal, ethical professional responsibility. What Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller have done is weaponized in an unconstitutional way the criminal investigation process which should be sacrosanct.

    And what they have done is they have conducted and are conducting now something that is called an in terrorem grand jury. They are using a grand jury to terrorize people. That is an abuse of power. Mr. Rosenstein is responsible for it.

    And while I agree with Alan wholeheartedly that Mr. Rosenstein cannot possibly ethically participate in this, it will make no difference to him because he now has an animus toward the president of the United States, which disqualifies him from the performance of his duties and Jeff Sessions should fire him tomorrow morning.

    Hannity said that the Cohen raid is “what we expect in Venezuela.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): All right as we continue with Joe diGenova and professor Alan Dershowitz, these tactics are not American. That's the point. This is -- this is what we expect in Venezuela. This is not the United States or anything.

    April 12

    Hannity cited the Cohen raid to smear Mueller’s investigation as an “overreaching witch hunt” and complained that liberals weren’t standing up for Cohen’s rights.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now, we turn to some other developments, including those surrounding Robert Mueller's overreaching witch hunt. Former Federal Election Commission chairman, his name is Bradley Smith, he's a Republican appointed by President Clinton, is throwing cold water on the notion that Michael Cohen could or should be charged with a crime in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.

    [...]

    So, now, it's actually moved into Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and the "Access Hollywood" tape and worse. And raiding the home of the president's personal attorney to find those issues, not about Russia -- at some point, I am wondering where is the left in this country? Where are the civil libertarians in this country?

    All transcripts are from the Nexis database.

  • Fox & Friends weekend shows ignored stories about Trump associate Michael Cohen

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News program Fox & Friends’ weekend editions completely ignored a series of major damaging stories about Trump associate Michael Cohen. This continues the show’s pattern of playing defense for the president and ignoring damaging stories.

    On April 9, FBI agents raided Cohen’s hotel room, home, and office “seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan revealed on Friday, April 13, that Cohen has been under investigation for months and that a grand jury has been convened that is separate from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Prosecutors emphasized that while Cohen has been called Donald Trump’s lawyer, he is being investigated over his business dealings and that Cohen “is in fact performing little to no legal work.” CNN also reported that during the raid, the FBI seized recordings between Cohen and Stormy Daniels’ former attorney.  

    Also on Friday, McClatchy reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has uncovered evidence that Cohen “secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign” after he “vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign.” If true, the evidence would corroborate parts of the Christopher Steele dossier “purporting to detail the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia.”

    Yet another Cohen-related story broke on April 13, when CNN reported that Cohen “facilitated a payment plan totaling $1.6 million last year to a former Playboy model who says she became pregnant by Elliott Broidy, a leading GOP fundraiser.” Broidy resigned as a result of the revelations.

    While Fox & Friends has been silent on Cohen, Trump has reportedly called Cohen. Trump also tweeted about the matter.

    The obsequious relationship between Fox & Friends and Trump has been well documented, with Trump’s tweets frequently lining up with segments and talking points from the right-wing morning show. Media Matters has repeatedly highlighted the feedback loop between the show and Trump, including how Trump has made policy announcements responding to its segments. Fox & Friends has also repeatedly ignored damaging stories about Trump and the Russia investigation.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched Snapstream transcripts of Fox & Friends Saturday and Sunday for mentions of the word “Michael” or “Cohen.”

  • Fox News has spent years claiming that Scooter Libby's conviction was unjust. Trump just pardoned him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump on April 13 pardoned Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, saying, “I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.” In the past year, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have repeatedly compared special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia with Libby’s case and subsequent conviction. Libby was convicted of four felonies including for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists.

    Various figures on Fox primetime have made repeated claims in the last year that Scooter Libby was unfairly prosecuted. On February 1, conservative radio host and author Mark Steyn said on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the Scooter Libby investigation was “disgraceful.” On January 29, Libby’s lawyer Victoria Toensing (who almost joined Trump’s legal team in March along with her husband Joe diGenova) bemoaned Libby’s fate on Fox News At Night, saying he “didn’t lie” to investigators and was indicted “without one other minutia of evidence.” Fox host Sean Hannity said on January 25 that Libby was given “a raw deal” and said the next day that he was “innocent.”

    Nexis transcripts show various mentions of Libby in 2017 when Fox personalities talked about the supposed unfairness of the Mueller investigation. On November 8, Fox host Laura Ingraham said on her show that officials like Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who led the investigation of Libby, are “out of control.” On August 7, Hannity also made a reference to Libby, saying that Libby was caught in a “perjury trap” (a claim he repeated on June 13 and 19) because he “wouldn’t give up the vice president.” During his August 1 show, Hannity cited Libby as a victim of “investigative creep,” which is “a real problem with all special counsels” -- a point he also made on July 21 when he said he’s “been warning about this investigative creep.” Former Fox contributor Monica Crowley, who was slated to join the Trump administration but chose not to amid allegations she heavily plagiarized a 2012 book and parts of her PhD dissertation, said on the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Hannity that prosecutors went after Scooter Libby “as a way to go after Dick Cheney,” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Hannity on May 30 and said, “I have said over and over again that the conviction of Scooter Libby in the Bush administration is one of the greatest scandals in modern America.”

    Plame’s covert status as a CIA operative was blown in July 2003 after The Washington Post published a column by Robert Novak that outed her as “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” The outing happened after Plame’s husband Joe Wilson revealed evidence casting doubt on the George W. Bush administration's claims Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium. Fitzgerald, who was appointed to investigate this leak, explained to the media that Libby “was the first official known to have told a reporter” about Plame’s CIA employment. Libby was convicted “in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice.” President George W. Bush commuted his sentence, but did not pardon him.

    Trump may have also heard personal appeals from Toensing and Fox regular Alan Dershowitz. Toensing, who is also one of Libby’s lawyers, met with the president in March along with her husband when he was considering adding both of them to his personal legal team. Dershowitz, who worked on Libby’s appeal of his conviction, reportedly had dinner with Trump just days ago. According to CNN, “Trump did not follow his predecessors' practice of consulting with lawyers at the Justice Department before announcing his decision.”

  • Don't believe the right-wing lie that auto fuel-economy standards make cars more dangerous

    WSJ and SFC also push false notion that strong fuel-economy standards kill people

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On the heels of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement this month that his agency will weaken the 2012 vehicle fuel-economy standards set by the Obama administration, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed celebrating the rollback and arguing that President Barack Obama's standards would have led to more vehicle crash fatalities. Other news outlets, both right-wing and mainstream, have also published pieces pushing the message that ambitious fuel-economy rules kill people. But it’s an unsupported claim based on decades-old data. More recent research has found that strengthening the standards can actually improve road safety and save lives.

    WSJ and other outlets push outdated claim that efficient, lightweight cars lead to more fatalities

    On April 2, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt announced his intention to revise the Obama-era Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which would have required new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. to get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. In doing so, he ignored demands from many states, environmental groups , and consumer protection organizations to keep the Obama-era standards in place.

    Two days later, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled “Coffee Won’t Kill You, But CAFE Might,” written by Sam Kazman, who's identified under the piece as "general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute." The Journal failed to note that the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has funders with an economic interest in fuel-economy rules: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and auto companies like Ford and Volkswagen; the American Petroleum Institute and oil companies like ExxonMobil; and the Koch brothers

    "CAFE kills people by causing cars to be made smaller and lighter," Kazman asserted. To make this point, he relied on one study published in 1989 and another study from 2002 that analyzed 1993 data. Kazman wrote

    A 1989 Harvard-Brookings study estimated the death toll [from CAFE standards] at between 2,200 and 3,900 a year. Similarly, a 2002 National Academy of Sciences study estimated that CAFE had contributed to up to 2,600 fatalities in 1993. This was at a relatively lenient CAFE level of 27.5 miles per gallon. Under what the Obama administration had in store, CAFE would soon approach levels twice as stringent.

    After citing these outdated studies, Kazman tried to make the findings seem relevant today:

    Advocates of stringent standards claim that automotive technologies have advanced since that 1992 court ruling, making vehicle mass less significant. But the basic relationship between size and safety has not changed. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which closely monitors crashworthiness, still provides the same advice it has been giving for years: “Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer.”

    Other news outlets have also given industry-friendly voices a platform over the past two weeks to claim that CAFE standards boost fatalities, often citing the same outdated research and CEI staffers. These outlets include: the San Francisco Chronicle, which published an op-ed by CEI senior fellow Marlo Thomas; the Washington Examiner, The Epoch Times, and the Media Research Center, which published pieces by their own contributors; and conservative websites Townhall and CNSNews.com, which published versions of the same piece by Paul Driessen, a senior policy analyst at the oil industry-funded Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

    Latest research undermines claim that CAFE has increased road fatalities

    The National Academy of Sciences revised its view in 2015. The arguments from Kazman and others hinge on a 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which analyzed deaths in 1993 -- a 16-year-old study based on 25-year-old data. Basing their claims on such dated information is highly questionable; automotive safety technology and design have advanced substantially in the past quarter century.

    Also, the 2002 NAS study included an appendix with a dissent by two of the report’s authors who argued, “The relationship between fuel economy and highway safety is complex, ambiguous, poorly understood, and not measurable by any known means at the present time.” As such, the two wrote, the study's conclusions on safety were “overly simplistic and at least partially incorrect.”

    Kazman and his fellow CAFE critics also ignored how the government adjusted rules to improve safety after the 2002 study was released, and they neglected to mention a more recent 2015 National Research Council study. The 2002 NAS study recommended tying fuel-economy goals to vehicle attributes such as weight, and the federal government implemented these recommendations in 2009. By 2015, researchers concluded that these changes had yielded appreciable benefits to highway safety.

    As a February 12, 2018, Bloomberg article explained:

    The [2002 NAS] study recommended several changes to the efficiency regulations, including basing fuel economy on an attribute such as vehicle weight. That would mitigate an incentive for automakers to sell smaller, fuel-sipping cars to offset sales of gas-guzzling trucks.

    That change was made in 2009, when NHTSA [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] began tying fuel economy targets to a vehicle’s "footprint," the area between an automobile’s four wheels.

    In 2015, the academy released a new study that concluded the change to a footprint measurement had satisfied many of its safety concerns.

    From a press release describing the 2015 study conducted by the National Research Council, the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences: “Manufacturers are likely to make cars lighter in their efforts to improve fuel economy. The most current studies support the argument that making vehicles lighter, while keeping their footprints constant, will have a beneficial effect on safety for society as a whole, especially if the greatest weight reductions come from the heaviest vehicles, the report says.” Still, researchers recommended that NHTSA monitor and mitigate safety risks as automakers transition to lighter cars.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety supported Obama's CAFE rules. Kazman also cited the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as he tried to argue that Obama-era fuel-economy rules were dangerous. But a spokesperson for the institute, Russ Rader, said that it supported the Obama plan. "The Obama-era changes to the rules, essentially using a sliding scale for fuel economy improvements by vehicle footprint, addressed safety concerns that IIHS raised in the past," Rader told Bloomberg in February. 

    A 2017 study found that CAFE standards can cut down on deaths. Research released last year found that fuel-economy standards could actually decrease fatalities. The 2017 study on pre-Obama CAFE standards, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, concluded that "on net CAFE reduced fatalities.” The Washington Post summed it up with this headline: "Scientists just debunked one of the biggest arguments against fuel economy standards for cars." The Post article explains how lighter cars might lead to fewer deaths:

    Say you observe a crash between two SUVs, both around the same size. If you downsize one of those vehicles to a Smart car, the chance of its passengers being injured or killed may increase. On the other hand, if you downsize both vehicles, the overall risk of fatality might actually become smaller than it was to begin with.

    The researchers argue that, in the past, critics have only examined the effects of reducing an individual vehicle’s weight and not the standards’ overall effects on all vehicles in circulation — an important distinction.

    […]

    “I think one of the findings of this study is that these [safety] concerns have been drummed up as the reason to get rid of this standard,” [study coauthor Kevin] Roth said. “We’re essentially showing that these concerns are probably overblown.”

    Another coauthor of the study said that the safety benefits on their own are a good argument for maintaining fuel-economy standards, even without considering environmental benefits.

    Because the science underpinning vehicle efficiency and safety is complex, industry-aligned organizations such as CEI are able to cherry-pick and manipulate specific data to meet their predetermined conclusions. For those who want to obtain a comprehensive understanding of vehicle efficiency standards and their myriad benefits, there are many useful resources, including a 2012 report jointly produced by the EPA and NHTSA, which details how the agencies took safety into account as they formulated the CAFE standards that the Trump administration intends to roll back.

  • Is Sean Hannity coordinating with the White House?

    Hannity denies it, but Hannity is also a liar

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Every episode of Fox News’ Hannity follows a fairly basic formula these days: pugnacious cube-headed goon Sean Hannity serves up a monologue devoted almost entirely to the vituperative (and frequently incoherent) slander of President Donald Trump’s political adversaries, and then he lards out the hour with panel discussions featuring a small, rotating cast of like-minded Trump sycophants and the odd sacrificial liberal.

    As Donald Trump’s many scandals have mushroomed, Hannity has been forced to get louder and crazier. Last night’s episode was an especially psychotic exercise in Hannity-brand demonization as he attempted to counterpunch former FBI Director James Comey, who is ramping up a book tour for his forthcoming memoir. You can watch Hannity’s monologue below, in which the host places Comey, the Clintons, and special counsel Robert Mueller as the heads of their respective “crime families.”

    It’s insane. But being a crazy asshole is what Sean Hannity does. What was interesting about last night’s show, however, was the tweet that President Trump posted at 8:48 p.m. EST, 12 minutes before Hannity started:

    Big show! How would Trump know that last night’s Hannity would be a big show? Why would he want everyone to watch this specific episode of Hannity, which featured some of his favorite pundits calling for the heads of top Justice Department officials alongside an elaborate, acid-burned harangue against James Comey and Robert Mueller? What possible explanation could there be?

    Well, the obvious and extremely satisfying one is that Trump knew it was coming and this was all one big coordinated attack on the credibility of the Russia investigation. That, at least, was the explanation put forth by well-sourced Trumpworld reporters. We know that Trump is in regular contact with his favorite Fox News hosts/propagandists (some of whom are old friends) and even solicits their input on policy matters. And given that Fox News is absolutely critical to the White House’s PR war against the Russia investigation, it’s not crazy to assume some level of coordination.

    Hannity, however, is aghast and insulted that anyone would ever accuse him of such corruption.

    “No collusion,” as it were. One should take a moment to note the specificity of Hannity’s denial -- Trump had no advance knowledge of the monologue. What about the rest of the show? If Trump had no idea what was coming, then why was he boosting the program before it aired?

    Also, Hannity’s angry denials are not worth the flung spittle that accompanies them. He is so thoroughly compromised by his feral Trump advocacy that nothing he says can be taken at face value. Hannity has admitted to giving Trump advice on strategy and messaging in 2016 and described himself as “a little bit of a liaison” between the Trump campaign and Fox News. He has dinner with Trump frequently. Hannity has no core, no animating philosophy, and nothing of substance to say -- he’s a Rottweiler whose job is to bark louder than his master’s critics.

    But Hannity would have us believe that he comes by his maniacal Trump boosterism honestly, that he is beyond official influence in his straight-shooting mission to cover the president as an infallible sun god molested by foul heretics and despicable blasphemers. So, I guess denying or admitting coordination doesn’t really matter because his end product is already functionally indistinct from official propaganda. Hannity’s either giving us the official White House line or the line the White House just happens to agree with entirely.

  • Who cares if Trump’s reckless, dangerous Syria announcement is hypocritical?

    Pundits zero in on the least important aspect of Trump’s pledge to bomb Assad

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    This morning, the president pecked out an especially unglued Twitter tirade in which he announced that the United States would be taking military action against the Syrian government. According to Donald Trump, who very likely made this announcement because the lackwit bobbleheads on his favorite morning cable TV show were talking about Syria, his plan is to fire “nice and new and ‘smart!’” missiles as punishment for “Gas Killing Animal” Bashar Assad’s recent alleged chemical attack on the town of Douma.

    To add still more unnecessary drama to the announcement, Trump packaged it as a taunt to Russia, which backs the Assad government in its brutal war against Syrian opposition forces and vowed to intercept any U.S. missiles fired at Syrian government targets.

    It would be dangerous for any president to unilaterally escalate U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war, but for an erratic and unthinkingly bellicose president like Donald Trump to go down this path is reckless beyond measure. Trump promised to attack the Syrian government with no hint of strategy, no attempt at legal justification, and not even a whisper about what such an attack is supposed to achieve (the last time Trump bombed Syria, it was meant to deter further chemical attacks, which apparently didn’t work). The only things we know for sure about this planned military action is that Trump plans to go ahead without Congress’ input, and that he intends it to be a deliberate provocation of the nuclear-armed regional power that is deeply immersed in the Syrian civil war.

    Trump’s dashed-off pledge to strike against Syria raises critically important questions about U.S. Middle East policy, the power of the president to make war, and the dangers of a manifestly incompetent commander-in-chief making war plans based on what Fox & Friends chooses to cover. Faced with these weighty issues, however, the immediate reaction from the press was to focus on the least important aspect of Trump’s planned military action: whether he is a hypocrite for announcing it ahead of time.

    Immediately following Trump’s tweet, Twitter was full of pundits and reporters whose first reaction to the president’s announcement was to wryly poke at his past criticisms of presidents who telegraphed their attacks.

    NPR’s early reaction to Trump’s tweet was to focus on the hypocrisy angle. “This is a president who has made a big deal of not showing his hand, especially when it comes to really important decisions as commander-in-chief,” NPR’s David Greene reported shortly after Trump made the announcement. “He’s doing exactly what he criticized Obama for doing,” NPR’s Mara Liasson agreed.

    The reason reporters and pundits defaulted to the hypocrisy angle is because it’s an easy criticism that is ultimately meaningless and thus safe for them to have an opinion on. And it indicates how alarmingly comfortable much of the mainstream press is with the idea that the president can just up and decide to initiate military hostilities whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason -- even when there is no actual reason at all. It’s just another political game.

    The Trump administration has not offered a compelling legal rationale for its attacks on the Syrian government. It hasn’t secured or even asked for authorization from Congress. The administration hasn’t garnered the support of the U.N. or the international community. Instead, the White House is just barreling forward with the longstanding executive-branch practice of initiating hostilities and then slapping together a retroactive pseudo-justification that it confidently assumes won’t be seriously challenged.

    Few people seem especially bothered by this, and just about everyone is ready to accept that oafish hothead Donald Trump can bumble ass-first into another Middle Eastern quagmire because he’s the president and the president can do that. But as missiles careen into Syria and the U.S. lurches aimlessly into a broader military conflict involving Russia and Iran, at least we can say we called out Trump on Twitter for being inconsistent.

  • Yes, Kevin Williamson wanted to hang people who've had abortions. Don't let conservatives rewrite history.

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    This week, former National Review writer Kevin Williamson was fired by The Atlantic after 2014 audio proved that Williamson did, in fact, mean it when he said people who’ve had abortions should be hanged. In the resulting conservative meltdown, what right-wing outlets seemed desperate to do is have any conversation other than the one actually at hand. Instead, they chose to cry censorship, bemoan so-called liberal bias, and tried to rewrite history by saying Williamson was fired for holding a general anti-abortion stance.

    But this retelling is fundamentally untrue. Williamson wasn’t fired because he holds anti-abortion views. He was fired because he repeatedly, across multiple platforms, advocated for the criminalization and brutal execution of people seeking abortion care. And the fervor to distract from that truth would be truly astounding, if it wasn’t so eminently predictable. 

    When news of Williamson’s hiring first broke, a number of pundits across the ideological spectrum tripped over themselves to downplay and excuse his statements -- defending a so-called “provocateur” whose cherished turns of phrase include calling attacking transgender people as being “delusional,” and arguing that “it just simply is not the case that young black men are getting gunned down, unarmed, by police officers in any sort of significant numbers.” These writers -- including The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg, who initially framed Williamson’s comment as an “objectionable tweet” -- argued that Williamson hadn’t really meant what he said about people who’ve had abortions being executed, and asked us to kindly calm down. “For heaven’s sake,” wrote The New York Times’ Bret Stephens, “it was a tweet.” Others, such as Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum called the rightful outrage over Williamson’s hiring, “weird,” while National Review’s David French implored readers to just “give tolerance a chance.”

    Once Williamson’s meaning proved truly undeniable, leading to his firing, right-wing media outlets raced to reframe the conversation -- ignoring the substance of his remarks to instead cry wolf about perceived ideological intolerance. For example, The Federalist wrote that Williamson “was fired for his opinions on abortion” after “the usual suspects freaked out and proceeded to dig up old tweets and audio.” Washington Examiner published not one, but two, pieces arguing that Williamson was a victim in a larger ideological war. In another example, RedState argued that Williamson wasn’t fired because of his “fanciful views about legal consequences connected to abortion,“ but that he was “kicked out for refusing to back down in expressing that abortion is murder and should be viewed as such even in this current climate.” David French even asked where the respect for Williamson’s tolerance was as he is “the son of a teen mom, born shortly before Roe v. Wade, and narrowly escaped being aborted,” who would’ve been forced to share an office at The Atlantic with people who support abortion access.

    What these defenses, and even Goldberg’s original justification for hiring Williamson, ignore is that statements like Williamson’s send a clear message to the one-in-four women who’ve had abortions in the United States: that their lives do not matter, that they are criminal, and that they deserve (even in hypothetical terms) to be brutally executed for seeking constitutionally protected and sometimes life-saving medical care.

    Williamson wasn’t fired because he’s anti-abortion -- he was fired because he advocated for the brutal punishment of those who’ve have abortions. Even if you grant the premise that Williamson was merely expressing what could happen in a future without legal abortion, that he not only carved out an exception to his overall ambivalent stance on the death penalty for those who have abortions, but also advocated for a method that is considered too inhumane by almost all the states that currently employ capital punishment, takes his comments beyond mere speculation.

    As research from Media Matters has previously shown, the people who are often empowered to shape the conversation about abortion are overwhelmingly men. As a result, these conversations reflect not only an incomplete understanding but also treat abortion as some sort of hypothetical thought exercise or as a political bargaining chip, ignoring real impacts that lack of access has on the lives of real people.

    Furthermore, Williamson’s defense of capital punishment for those who’ve had abortions is extreme but not really that hypothetical. Already, policies at the state level punish people for attempting to access abortion care. As Irin Carmon wrote in 2016: “Just ask Purvi Patel, who is appealing a 30-year prison sentence for her conviction for feticide in Indiana,” or Anna Yocca, Rennie Gibbs, Jennie Lynn McCormack, or Jennifer Whalen. She continued that all these cases all demonstrate how “women have been prosecuted under current restrictions on abortion, at times with major felonies.” Just this week in Idaho, Republican lieutenant governor candidate Bob Nonini was forced to walk back comments that the Associated Press characterized as “women who get an abortion should be punished” including that “that the punishment should include the death penalty.” During the presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (before later backtracking) that he thought there should “be some form of punishment” for people who have abortions. As Robin Marty explained, although the right may claim that punishing people for abortion is merely an “extreme fringe” of the movement, there are already anti-abortion groups and candidates running on platforms incredibly similar to what Williamson advocates. 

    Williamson felt so strongly on this topic that he even confirmed at the time to an anti-abortion publication that he meant exactly what he said. Given that right-wing media outlets have regularly participated in or facilitated anti-abortion harassment, it’s not surprising to see a lack of concern about Williamson’s comments. Conservatives may be desperate to change the conversation, but the fact remains: advocating for the brutal execution of people who’ve had abortions isn’t provocative or tolerant -- it’s cruel.