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  • Right-wing media figures are defending Trump’s lies about the Puerto Rican death toll 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that he did not believe the official death toll from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico last year, claiming that Democrats inflated the number to make him look “as bad as possible.” An independent study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government estimated that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storms, but Trump rejected this figure, claiming the high number was just "bad politics."

    The president’s comments come as multiple states are readying to face another dangerous (and “tremendously wet”) storm, and two days after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló forcefully rejected the president’s earlier assertion that the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria was “incredibly successful.” Instead of focusing on incoming Hurricane Florence, which has the potential to cause massive damage and threaten lives on the East Coast, the president is trying to gaslight the public, asserting with absolutely no evidence that Democrats inflated the death toll in Puerto Rico. This isn’t the first time the president has taken to Twitter to lie to the American public.  

    Unsurprisingly, right-wing media figures have once again answered the call to excuse the inexcusable:

    Fox’s Geraldo Rivera responded to news of Trump’s tweets by arguing that it is “grotesquely unfair” to blame Trump for the federal government’s response to the hurricanes and claiming that the problem with Hurricane Maria coverage is that “intense politically motivated hatred of President Trump deflects attention from what’s really needed.”

    Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton: “The dramatic increase in death toll due to hurricane in Puerto Rico is result of statistical guess work. … we should be suspicious of a guess that moves it up to nearly 3,000.”

    NRATV’s Grant Stinchfield: “I’m there with Donald Trump -- I call bogus on the 3,000 deaths."

    The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson: “The President would be more willing to accept the truth about the thousands dead in Puerto Rico if news outlet in the country weren't trying to blame him for the deaths.”

    Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering: “He’s right. The 2,975 who died did not die ‘IN’ the storm but in six month period AFTER the storm.”

    Fox News’ Cody Derespina attempted to equivocate over the “official” death toll. Using deaths that resulted from 9/11 as an analogy, he suggested that many of the hurricane deaths shouldn’t be considered in the “official tally” because many of them occurred in the months afterward.

    Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell: “Dems learned how to politicize natural disasters when Katrina hit New Orleans. It worked against Bush 43 so now they’re trying it against @realDonaldTrump with his response to Maria in Puerto Rico last year.”

    In addition, Fox News ignored Trump's denialism for several hours, at which point the network's reporter downplayed it as Trump merely continuing his "feud with Puerto Rican officials." 

  • Trump's lawyers now say collusion is not a crime. Right-wing media have been saying that for over a year.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS, GRACE BENNETT & KATIE SULLIVAN

    Two lawyers for President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, have begun publicly making the case on behalf of their client that colluding with a foreign country to swing an election is not be a crime. During a July 30 appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Giuliani claimed that “collusion is not a crime,” an argument he went on to repeat that same day to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. The next day, Sekulow appeared on Fox & Friends and declared multiple times that “collusion is not a crime.”

    This isn’t the first time that Giuliani has suggested that potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may not have been illegal. In May, he told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that there is “nothing illegal” about “looking for dirt” on political opponents, even “if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American.” And Trump in December himself told The New York Times, “Even if there was [collusion], it's not a crime." These claims from the president and his lawyers echo more than a year of similar protestations by right-wing and pro-Trump media figures:

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The breaking news today is [special counsel Robert] Mueller is just now starting investigating Russia collusion, which isn’t a crime.”

    • Hannity: “Today is the one-year anniversary of the Mueller witch hunt, and so far the special counsel has not provided a single shred of evidence of any collusion. And collusion is not against the law.”

    • Hannity: “Collusion is not a crime.”

    • Hannity : “Collusion’s not a crime. That’s the whole irony here.”  

    • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: Trump “only needs to answer questions about crimes. If it’s not a crime to fire [former FBI Director] Jim Comey, then what crime are we talking about? Collusion? Russian collusion is not a crime.”

    • Pirro: “Collusion is not a crime, so why are all the Democrats saying we’re looking for collusion? Collusion is not a crime. How stupid are they?”

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “Collusion’s not a crime. ... As Andy McCarthy keeps saying, collusion -- there is not a crime in actually speaking to Russian officials during an election cycle.”

    • Fox’s Gregg Jarrett: The FBI “launched the investigation, as I argue in my book, to frame Donald Trump for things he didn’t do, for crimes he didn’t commit. Collusion is not even a crime in a political campaign."

    • Jarrett: “You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election.”

    • Jarrett: “It was always a myth that collusion in a political campaign is a crime. It’s not.”

    • Jarrett: “Collusion is only criminal in an antitrust setting. It has nothing whatsoever to do with elections.”

    • Fox Business Network’s Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: “As the president’s attorney Jay Sekulow has pointed out a bunch of times, collusion is not a crime. And that’s absolutely true.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Alan Dershowitz: “You cannot impeach a president unless he’s committed a crime. Collusion is not a crime.”

    • Dershowitz: “Collusion is not a crime. I have seen no evidence of collusion.”

    • Dershowitz: “I’ve been teaching criminal law for 50 years, and I know the federal criminal code pretty well. The word ‘collusion’ appears only in one context, and that is if businesses collude with each other in violation of the antitrust law, that’s a crime. But there’s no crime of collusion with a foreign government.”

    • Dershowitz: Mueller is “inventing a crime. There’s no such crime as 'collusion' in the federal statute.”

    • Fox's Brit Hume: “Can anybody identify the crime? Collusion, while it’d obviously be alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign -- of which there is no evidence by the way, of colluding with the Russians, -- it's not a crime.”

    • NRATV’s Dan Bongino: “I don’t believe the collusion story at all. But the fact is, Tucker, even if there was collusion, collusion isn’t even a crime.”

    • Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “What is the crime? If the Russian KGB chief is talking to Paul Manafort and the chief says, ‘You know, I've got this dirt here that says Hillary Clinton was this or that.’ And Paul Manafort says, ‘Next Wednesday, why don't you release that. That'd be great for us.’ I don't know that that's a crime at all, what’s the crime?”

    • Conservative author Ronald Kessler: “There’s no violation of the law if, in fact, the campaign colluded with Russia, whatever that means.”

    • Conservative author Michael Reagan: “Collusion is not breaking the law.”

    • Pro-Trump Twitter troll Bill Mitchell:

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Simone:
    • Frequent Fox guest Jonathan Turley on Fox & Friends: “Collusion itself is not a crime”

    Video by John Kerr

  • Fox & Friends barely covers report that Trump approved of Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The day after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, said that Trump knew and approved of a meeting between members of his campaign and a Russian lawyer -- a meeting that the president had denied having knowledge of beforehand -- Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox & Friends, almost entirely ignored the news until the president tweeted about it. At that point, the show opted to smear Cohen in an effort to clear Trump.

    CNN first reported that Cohen claimed to have been in the room when Donald Trump Jr. informed his father of his plans to meet with a Russian lawyer who, Trump Jr was told by an intermediary, would provide dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." It has since been reported that the Russian lawyer has close ties to top Russian officials. Cohen also reportedly said he is willing to give his version of the events to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. Previously, both the president and Trump Jr. denied that the then-candidate knew of the meeting. Trump Jr. testified to Senate investigators that he couldn’t recall whom he had told.

    Whether or not Trump knew of the meeting beforehand has been a central question in the investigation. The day after the story broke, Fox & Friends initially mentioned it only once during a headlines segment. Only in the third hour of the show, after Trump denied Cohen’s account via Twitter, did Fox & Friends cover the story in more depth -- but with a characteristically pro-Trump slant. After replaying the same headlines segment from earlier, co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Fox contributor Geraldo Rivera about the matter. During the interview, Kilmeade questioned Cohen’s credibility and peddled a theory that “it was the Trump team that released the information” in a clear effort to save face for Trump. Rivera joined Kilmeade, commenting on Cohen’s “sleaziness” in an effort to discredit his account.

  • Right-wing media are mad Trump picked Putin over US intelligence. He was just following their lead.

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In an unusual development, many right-wing media figures have criticized President Donald Trump for throwing the U.S. intelligence community under the bus during a July 16 appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin by refusing to affirm its conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. While it’s uncommon to see typically sycophantic figures rebuking the president, this criticism is particularly surprising given right-wing media’s own history of encouraging Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community for just that finding.

    During the press conference in Helsinki after his one-on-one meeting with the Russian president, Trump touted Putin’s denial of interfering in the U.S. elections and claimed he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would have meddled. Many right-wing media figures were displeased with this response and rebuked the president’s behavior:

    • Fox News’ Abby Huntsman (whose father currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Russia): “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”

    • Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately.”

    • Fox News analyst Jack Keane: “That’s alarming that the president would not stand behind that entire intelligence community and judicial process and back them up a hundred percent.” Keane also stated: “To stand there on a world stage and appease Russia in disfavor to our intelligence community was a thing that shocked me."

    • Fox’s Trish Regan: “This was clearly not [President Trump's] best performance. ... He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community."

    • Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera tweeted: Trump “seems to distrust & despise @HillaryClinton & #SpecialCounsel more than he distrusts& despises #Russia & #GRU He also didn’t embrace our own intelligence community, which says Russia is guilty of meddling.”

    • Fox News analyst Brit Hume: “Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least.”

    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: said that “When Newt Gingrich, when Gen. Jack Keane, when [Chairman of American Conservative Union] Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it’s time to pay attention.” He also claimed that Trump “fell short” in Helsinki.  

    • Townhall’s Guy Benson: Trump’s response to the question if he believes U.S. intel or Putin was an “atrocious, humiliating answer.”

    • The Washington Examiner’s Byron York: “Concerning Trump's newser remarks specifically on Trump-Russia affair: Appalling.”

    Right-wing media’s apparent shock at the president’s actions, however, is itself laughable, given Trump’s history of attacking the U.S. intelligence community over the Russia investigation, and right-wing media’s own war against intelligence officials. Right-wing media have spent years besmirching the intelligence community to protect Trump and undermine the Russia investigation, often pushing outlandish conspiracy theories about a “secret society” and attempted “coups,” or else aggressively targeting individual officials in order to delegitimize intelligence findings that might hurt Trump. There is plenty to scrutinize the intelligence community over, but it is wildly hypocritical that right-wing media are finding Trump’s rhetoric about the Russia investigation “appalling.” After all, he probably got it from them.

  • Right-wing media praise Trump after he snubbed the British prime minister and voiced white nationalist views

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 12, British tabloid The Sun published a wide-ranging interview with President Donald Trump in which he disparaged British Prime Minister Theresa May and espoused white nationalist views. Conservative media figures responded to the interview by praising the president and berating his critics.

    Trump sat down for an interview with the Murdoch-owned paper shortly after the conclusion of the NATO summit, at which he insulted world leaders, missed and was late to a number of meetings, and took credit for convincing other nations to increase their NATO contributions, which he did not actually do. After alienating allies at the summit, the president proceeded in the Sun interview to undermine May and criticize her Brexit blueprint, praise her chief political rival, and threaten and threaten to kill a potential trade deal between the U.S. and Britain. Trump also used white nationalist rhetoric to talk about immigration to Europe, saying, “I think what's happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration - allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe. And unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way.”

    Here’s how conservative media figures have responded to Trump’s latest outburst:

    • Fox News contributor Nigel Farage praised Trump for his “bombshell to the establishment” opposition to “globalist structures like the European Union.”
    • Fox's Steve Hilton: “The president is 100 percent right about Brexit.” May is weak and “caved in to the elitist establishment.”
    • Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt: Trump is "allowed to" snub British Prime Minister Theresa May and "he's not afraid of the backlash."
    • Fox host Jeanine Pirro: “I don’t think it matters if [Trump] likes [May] as a person.”
    • Breitbart: “Trump just dropped the Mother of all Brexit Bombs on Theresa May.”
    • Breitbart also tried to legitimize Trump’s white nationalist view by hyping “significant demographic changes being seen across Europe” and fearmongering about the advent of “culturally alien practices” like female genital mutilation in Europe.
    • Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller: “Reality vs Fantasy: President Trump warns Europe is ‘losing its culture’ by allowing ‘millions and millions’ of migrants, PM Theresa May praises their’ fantastic contribution’: Reality has a nasty way of shattering delusions. Trump speaks as it is. May…”
    • CRTV's Michelle Malkin attacked “media freaks” for overreacting to Trump’s comments, saying he was just “speaking truth” rather than acting like a "doormat.”
    • Fox's Geraldo Rivera: “He’s a great negotiator, the president.”
    • Fox host Melissa Francis: “To be clear… #TheresaMay wanted the President to lie about how he felt about her approach Brexit. And he wasn’t willing to lie. I guess #TheResistance & #NeverTrumpers thinks lying & diplomacy and the same thing.”
    • Asked about Trump’s conduct at the NATO summit and his interview with The Sun, YouTube vloggers Diamond & Silk said, “He’s doing an amazing job. He’s standing up for the American people and for America.”
    • Right-wing blog HotAir dismissed Trump’s comments, arguing they might actually help May.
  • Video: All of Trump's in-person TV interviews in the past year have been with sycophants

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Ever since President Donald Trump’s disastrous interview with NBC’s Lester Holt on May 11 2017 -- in which he may have admitted to obstructing justice -- Trump has given in-person TV interviews to only friendly journalists who mostly avoid asking tough questions.

    Over the past year, Trump has appeared on television for in-person interviews 14 times and only with fawning reporters. He has given 11 interviews to Fox News and Fox Business, one to Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson, one to Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Mike Huckabee, one to CNBC’s Joe Kernen, and one to ITV’s Piers Morgan. Oftentimes, rather than posing hard-hitting questions, the journalists use their time with the president to compliment his performance, criticize the media, and hype his achievements:

    In total, Trump has given 23 interviews to print, TV, and radio outlets since May 11, 2017 -- 17 of which were with reliably sympathetic hosts:

    May 13, 2017: Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro

    June 23, 2017: Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt

    June 25, 2017: Fox News’ Pete Hegseth

    July 12, 2017: Reuters’ Steve Holland

    July 13, 2017: Christian Broadcasting Networks’ Pat Robertson

    July 19, 2017: The New York Times’ Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman

    July 25, 2017: The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker, Peter Nicholas, and Michael Bender

    September 28, 2017: Fox News’ Pete Hegseth

    October 3, 2017: Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera

    October 7, 2017: Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Mike Huckabee

    October 11, 2017: Fox News’ Sean Hannity

    October 17, 2017: SiriusXM’s David Webb

    October 17, 2017: Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade

    October 22, 2017: Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo

    October 25, 2017: Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs

    November 2, 2017: Fox News’ Laura Ingraham

    December 28, 2017: The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt

    January 11, 2018: The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Bender, Peter Nicholas and Louise Radnofsky

    January 17, 2018: Reuters’ Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton, and Jeff Mason

    January 26, 2018: CNBC’s Joe Kernen

    January 28, 2018: ITV’s Piers Morgan

    February 24, 2018: Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro

    April 26, 2018: Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy

  • Fox News repeatedly claims information obtained by torture led to Osama bin Laden’s death. It didn't.

    The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the coverage leading up to and following CIA acting Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become director, multiple Fox News personalities and guests have asserted that torture helped lead to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, the Senate’s 2014 investigation of the CIA torture program indicates that there is no evidence for this claim. 

    In recent days, Fox figures and guests have made bold claims that torturing detainees at secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” resulted in valuable intelligence that helped track down the former leader of Al Qaeda:

    • On his May 7 Fox show, Sean Hannity cited an earlier guest to claim that if there had been “no waterboarding we wouldn't have found Osama bin Laden's courier and we wouldn't have gotten bin Laden.” Hannity made the same claim the following night. 
    • In an May 8 appearance on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the torture program “gave us clues that led directly to helping identify the location of Osama Bin Laden.” Cheney repeated the claim two days later on Fox Business. 
    • On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle asserted that “the water boarding led them to Osama Bin Laden's house.”
    • On May 10, all three co-hosts of Fox & Friends agreed that “you don’t get bin Laden” without torture.
    • On the May 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Geraldo Rivera commented that “torture in retrospect may seem regrettable, but there’s no denying that it did lead to the courier that did lead us to the terror mastermind” Osama bin Laden.

    In 2014, the Senate investigated the CIA’s torture program. According to a Vox summary of the 525-page document, the Senate report reveals that the CIA extracted “key intelligence” on bin Laden courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti -- “‘including information the CIA would later cite as pivotal’ in finding Bin Laden” -- by 2002. However, “the CIA didn't acquire any intelligence on al-Kuwaiti via torture until 2003. The CIA had begun trying to find and identify al-Kuwaiti well before any of that information was in.”

    In 2004, the CIA torture program did capture a man named Hassan Guhl who told the U.S. government that al-Kuwaiti was a bin Laden assistant and that the Al Qaeda leader "likely lived in a house with a family somewhere in Pakistan," according to Vox. However, “Ghul told the CIA all of that before they decided to torture him.” The Senate report explains that “during and after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Ghul provided no other information of substance on al-Kuwaiti." From the Senate’s report on CIA torture, via NPR:

  • Fox News figures are downplaying Trump’s moves towards a trade war with China

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump ramps up a potential trade war with China, Fox News and Fox Business figures have been downplaying the damage his actions could do.

    Since the beginning of 2018, President Donald Trump has been rolling out increasingly aggressive tariffs on Chinese goods. In January, the president announced new tariffs targeting solar panels and washing machines, goods that primarily come from China. In March, he announced further tariffs on steel imports. And this week, the U.S. announced $50 billion worth of new tariffs, prompting the Chinese government to retaliate, placing tariffs on “128 American-made products” and asserting that the U.S. tariffs “violate World Trade Organization rules.”

    Following the news of China imposing retaliatory tariffs, CNN interviewed several economists who expressed concern that the increased economic hostility between the two nations might soon spiral into an all-out trade war. Joseph Brusuelas, chief U.S. economist at accounting and consulting firm RSM, told CNN, “This is a classic lose-lose proposition, no one wins.” After Trump threatened to impose additional tariffs, and the Chinese government promised to respond in kind, experts warned that additional tariffs would hurt both countries.

    Despite experts’ concerns, Fox News and Fox Business figures are downplaying fears of a trade war:

    • On America’s Newsroom, Fox’s Maria Bartiromo dismissed concerns about trade, commenting that she’s “not worried” about trade fears because she looks “at the broader picture.”

    • On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy downplayed Trump’s trade moves by claiming, “there are no tariffs,” arguing that “this is the starting point,” and “it’s all a suggestion, it’s all a negotiation.”

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce argued that “this is not about a trade war,” and compared America’s trade deficit with China to “a battered woman situation.” She also asserted that ““this will, in the end, because of Trump’s ability to negotiate, work out well.”

    • During the same broadcast, Fox Business’ Charles Payne claimed that “President Trump [has reminded] us that we’re not in a trade war,” because, “China already won that.”

    • On Fox News Radio's The Brian Kilmeade Show, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade dismissed the possibility of a trade war, claiming, “I do believe this is what we call the pre-fight, and so far, it's hype. It doesn't mean there's actually going to be a Showtime, HBO main event.”

    • Trump sycophant Lou Dobbs dismissed those who claim there is no trade war, claiming that there already is a trade war with China, but the United States simply wasn’t “fighting it until this president arrived in Washington.”

    • Fox Business' Stuart Varney explained away stock market backlash to Trump's tariffs as "an emotional response,” and claimed that “all this talk of a trade war” is “overblown.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Ron Meyer referred to China’s retaliatory tariffs as “minor.”

    • Fox’s Charles Payne claimed that the stock market drop following the announcement of China’s retaliatory tariffs was actually Wall Street “not only overreacting but trying to intimidate the White House."

    • On America’s Newsroom, Bartiromo claimed that she’s “not afraid of a trade war.” and that Trump’s actions are “more of a negotiation.”

    • During an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Payne dismissed fears about a trade war by claiming “we’re already in a trade war. We have been fighting with one hand behind our backs.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that China’s retaliatory tariffs were insignificant and represented “chump change,” and expressed his confusion about why the market responded “so emotionally” to China’s tariffs.

    • During the same broadcast, Fox’s Trish Regan expressed her dismay at unfair Chinese trade policies, and said, “If it takes throwing around the idea of a few tariffs … maybe that works. Maybe it is, indeed, the art of the deal.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity dismissed concerns about a trade war on his radio show, claiming, “I don’t think there’s ever going to be a trade war.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Dagen McDowell defended Trump’s “approach with China,” claiming that there is a “method to this madness,” and that we don’t know if these “tariffs will ever be put in place.