Jason Chaffetz | Media Matters for America

Jason Chaffetz

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  • Like clockwork, right-wing media exploit DOJ IG report to call for special counsel Mueller’s removal

    The report had nothing to do with the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Less than 24 hours after the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) inspector general (IG) released a long-awaited report on the department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, President Donald Trump’s allies in the media are already using the report to call for special counsel Robert Mueller’s removal. The IG report clearly states that its investigation “found no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations”; and yet, the president’s sycophants in right-wing media are spinning the report to claim that “anything that Mueller is doing” in his probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia “is tainted” by the IG’s findings.

    On June 14, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz released a report on the DOJ’s actions during the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. According to the report, the IG found, among other things, that former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the case; that he violated department policy by publicly discussing the investigation; and that two FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, exchanged disparaging texts about Trump, with one text from Strzok reading, “We’ll stop” Trump from becoming president. While Horowitz severely criticized Comey, Strzok, and Page for their conduct, the inspector general concluded that there was “no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, [the IG] concluded that they were based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law, and past Department practice.”

    Even though the IG report focused only on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and had nothing to do with the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, and even though it found that there was no evidence of bias in the FBI determination, the president’s defenders on Fox News and in conservative media are still twisting themselves into knots to try to use the IG report as a reason to call for Mueller’s removal. On the June 14 edition of Hannity, a panel of four of Trump’s staunchest defenders shouted about how the report “taint[s] the entire Mueller investigation”:

    And the following morning on the June 15 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade argued that the Mueller investigation is “contaminated” by the IG’s findings:

    The reaction from Trump’s sycophants in conservative media is unsurprising, considering that they preemptively laid the groundwork to discredit the IG’s report. But, even as conservative media continue their convoluted and disingenuous calls for Mueller’s removal, the special counsel’s investigation continues, racking up numerous indictments, one of which resulted in Trump’s former campaign manager having his bail revoked, landing him in federal prison until his trial.

  • In the wake of mass shootings at schools, conservatives blame everything but guns

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE, SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After nearly every school shooting, right-wing media scramble to find reasons why guns should not be blamed for gun violence.

    After 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, TX, pro-gun proselytizers in the conservative media sphere insisted that gun safety laws would not have prevented the shooting and instead pointed to other aspects of American culture that they said required reform. Here are some of the excuses right-wing pundits offered for the May 18 shooting:

    In February, after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, claimed 17 lives, conservative media took the very same approach:

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that talking about firearms doesn’t get to the “core issue” of “the human condition.” She and the hosts of Fox & Friends also blamed drugs, virtual reality, and video games for the shooting.
    • Radio host Michael Savage tweeted that “liberal judges and the ACLU” were to blame.
    • Fox guest Lou Palumbo blamed “the media, the entertainment industry,” and “the lack of parenting.”
    • Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson blamed “Leftist-run schools” and falsely claimed that the shooter was linked to antifa.
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham blamed “mental illness”and “broken or damaged families” for the shooting on her show.
    • The Gateway Pundit suggested that the shooter supposedly being a registered Democrat was a factor. (He was not actually a registered Democrat; the blog was forced to correct the story.)
    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter blamed the FBI’s Russia probe for the shooting, tweeting, “The FBI was too busy trying to undermine the president to bother with doing it's (sic) freaking job.”
    • The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson suggested that the shooting was related to the shooter growing up without a father.
    • Liberty One TV’s Joe Biggs (formerly of Infowars) tweeted that the FBI was “too busy chasing Trump/Russia nothing burgers” to have prevented the shooting.
    • Pamela Geller falsely claimed that the shooter was connected to antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.
    • Laura Loomer shared a fake photo of the shooter and speculated that he was a “radical leftist” with potential ties to antifa and Islamic resistance groups.
    • Infowars claimed that the “MSM” (mainstream media) was “already covering it up” that the shooter was likely a “Democratic voter” and had clothing “similar to the style worn by ISIS fighters in Syria.”

    But as others have pointed out, most of the phenomena listed above are also present in other countries that don’t experience nearly as much gun violence as the United States does.

  • Fox & Friends is banging the drum for another special counsel

    Fox’s Jason Chaffetz: “The real investigation should be into the investigators”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    In three separate segments today, Fox & Friends suggested the appointment of a “second special counsel to look into” the Department of Justice’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and “into the investigators” on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Former congressman and current Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz appeared on Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite cable news program, alongside Fox’s Pete Hegseth to push for an investigation of the Department of Justice employing “a special prosecutor and the IG at the same,” something the president’s legal team has endorsed.

    Chaffetz’s call for a second special counsel followed two other segments in which the hosts hyped the possibility of an appointment of a second special counsel as “a debate being had right now.” Trump’s attorney general has so far resisted similar calls from Republican lawmakers. From the March 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): I know you have called and some others have called for the need, potentially, for a second special counsel to look into this FISA abuse. The attorney general is now saying the [Department of Justice] inspector general will be looking into it. Is this a good development, and is it sufficient?

    JASON CHAFFETZ (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, it means that they’re following the facts and that -- the inspectors general, they don't just go on fishing trips. He’s completing an investigation, nearly a year long. And what this indicates to me is he’s actually got some real evidence out there and he’s warning a second investigation.

    That should be coupled with a special prosecutor, because there are a number of people that have left the employment of the government and [Department of Justice Inspector General] Michael Horowitz, as good and as talented as he and his staff are, they don't have the jurisdiction to go talk to people who, like Mr. [former Deputy FBI Director Andrew] McCabe, for instance, who’s now left. If you couple a special prosecutor, then they have the investigative tools in place to go interview those people and to prosecute those people if they find anything where people have broken the law.

    HEGSETH: So this inspector general was looking into the email server abuse potentially and the investigation into the Hillary Clinton. It seems the facts have broadened into the reality, the real investigation should be into the investigators themselves and the abuse of the FISA process. But you say they should be coupled together, need a special prosecutor and the IG at the same time?

    CHAFFETZ: This is also critical because [Former FBI Director and Special Counsel Robert] Mueller is evidently not doing his job based on the one-page directive that he was given. Not only was he supposed to look at directly at the Donald Trump and any collusion, even though we don't see any evidence of it, that was the directive that [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein put in place, but point number two on that one page was to follow the evidence of anything else that he might’ve seen about meddling in the election. And there is a lot of evidence about the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign coordinating and spending money overseas on this fake dossier. But it does not appear that Mueller is pursuing any of that, that’s why I think the inspector general coupled with a yet-to-be-named appointment of a special prosecutor, is going to have to go do that job.

  • More than a dozen Fox personalities have been headlining GOP fundraisers during Trump era

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    More than a dozen Fox hosts and contributors have been raising funds for Republican Party organizations around the country since Donald Trump was elected president, according to a Media Matters review.

    Fox hosts and contributors have been some of President Trump’s loudest supporters, using the network to push his agenda and attack his critics. Trump, in turn, has rewarded the network with regular interviews and praise.

    While Fox personalities’ on-air support for Trump and his party is open and well-documented, many of those same hosts and contributors have also been working off-air to raise critical funds for state and local GOP organizations. In addition to aligning themselves with Trump, those organizations provide backing and resources to Republican candidates when they run for office.

    The Fox personalities include hosts Lou Dobbs (​Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight), Greg Gutfeld (Fox News' The Five and The Greg Gutfeld Show), Pete Hegseth (Fox News' Fox & Friends Weekend), and Jeanine Pirro (Justice with Judge Jeanine), and Fox News contributors John Bolton, David Bossie, Rachel Campos-DuffyJason Chaffetz, Sebastian Gorka, Mike Huckabee, Alveda King, Ed Rollins, Karl Rove, and Allen West.

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham also headlined an October fundraiser for Republican Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward. The New York Times reported at the time that “Fox News hosts are not usually allowed to stump for candidates, but Ms. Ingraham was granted an exception because her show had not yet begun” (Ingraham was a Fox News contributor and frequent guest host prior to starting The Ingraham Angle). But Fox's reported prohibition against hosts stumping for candidates is meaningless given that they're allowed to raise funds for political parties that help those very same candidates. 

    Keynoting fundraisers can be potentially lucrative for media personalities, according to available campaign finance data. The Larimer County Republican Party in Colorado paid Premiere Speakers Bureau, which represents Pete Hegseth, a total of $5,000 in speaking fees around the time of the event Hegseth was headlining. Jeanine Pirro has received fees ranging from roughly $5,000 to $20,000 from state and local branches of the GOP. The Manatee County GOP paid a $25,000 “fee” to Washington Speakers Bureau, which exclusively represents Dobbs, a few months before its event with the pro-Trump host. It also paid roughly $2,300 for travel expenses to the bureau shortly after the event.

    A common theme among the Republican fundraisers is the use of Fox News’ branding and notoriety to sell tickets.

    Here is how the Washington State Republican Party promoted its event with Greg Gutfeld:

    Here are two flyers for events featuring Pete Hegseth:

    And here are two event pages for fundraisers with Jeanine Pirro:

    Fox considers these personalities as part of the network’s opinion side as opposed to its “news” side -- a largely meaningless distinction given how often the two sides blur together on the network. Trump himself treats Fox & Friends as a leading source of information. And Fox's opinion-side personalities have gotten numerous interviews with the president. For instance, both Hegseth and Pirro have interviewed Trump on their Fox News programs. Lou Dobbs also conducted a softball interview with the president. (Huckabee interviewed Trump though their talk aired on the former Republican governor's Trinity Broadcasting Network program.)  

    Media Matters has documented over the years how Fox News hosts and commentators actively help Republican-aligned groups grow their coffers at partisan events. In 2010, for instance, Sean Hannity keynoted a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner that “raised over $7 million.”

    The following is a non-comprehensive list of Fox News personalities who have headlined or have been scheduled to headline 2017-2018 fundraisers for Republican Party organizations.

    John Bolton

    Flagler County Republican Party (FL); San Francisco Republican Party (CA);​ Smith County Republican Club (TX).  

    David Bossie

    Republican Central Committee of Harford County (MD); St. Mary's County Republican Central Committee (MD); Washington County Republican Central Committee (MD); Wicomico County Republican Central Committee and the Salisbury University College Republicans (MD).

    Rachel Campos Duffy 

    Republican Party of Wood County (WI).

    Jason Chaffetz

    Gallatin and Madison County Republican Central Committees (MT).

    Lou Dobbs

    Manatee County Republican Executive Committee (FL). 

    Sebastian Gorka

    St. Lucie County Republican Club (FL).  

    Greg Gutfeld

    Washington State Republican Party.

    Pete Hegseth

    Larimer County Republican Party (CO);​ Powhatan County Republican Committee (VA);  Republican Party of Brazos County (TX); Snohomish County Republican Party (WA).

    Mike Huckabee

    Hawaii Republican PartyOkaloosa County Republican Party (FL).  

    Alveda King

    Cape Girardeau County Republican Women’s Club (MO). (Update: The Southeast Missourian reported on March 30 that King "suffered an injury and won't be able to attend the event.") 

    Jeanine Pirro

    See here.

    Ed Rollins

    New Canaan Republican Town Committee (CT).

    Karl Rove

    Allen County Republican Party (OH); Williamson County Republican Party (TX).

    Allen West

    Broward Republican Executive Committee (FL); Montgomery County Republican Party (TX); Republican Party of Coryell County (TX).

  • Following a bombshell report, Fox News is desperately clinging to their alternate reality about the Russia investigation

    While a NYT report reveals the real impetus of the Russia investigation, Fox is running with the unfounded conjecture of fake news, pro-Trump trolls, and Republican congressmen

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    In a continuation of the network’s pattern of sycophantic defenses of the president, Fox News hosts dismissed reporting from The New York Times that provided new details about what sparked the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, muddying the waters by pushing baseless conjecture espoused by pro-Trump internet trolls and fake news websites alike.

    A December 30, 2017 report by The New York Times explained that a conversation between Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and an Australian diplomat at a bar prompted FBI officials in June 2016 to investigate the connection between Russia and the Trump campaign. The report disrupted a well-established far-right and right-wing media claim that the investigation was prompted solely on information provided in a partially unverified opposition research dossier produced by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, noting:

    The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

    It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

    In a January 2 New York Times op-ed three days after the December 30 report, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that funded the dossier, echoed the Times’ earlier reporting, writing that rather than the Steele dossier being the major impetus for the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling, their sources told them “the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had [already] received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.”

    But in a segment responding to the the op-ed today, the panel of Fox News’ Outnumbered didn’t even mention Papadopoulos’ name. Instead the panel members deflected from the revelations by launching baseless claims, including the notion that Fusion GPS exerted influence on the FBI and that the “fake report” (which has in fact been at least partially verified) was used to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump, itself a fallacy promoted by Breitbart. From the January 3 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:

    MELISSA FRANCIS (CO-HOST): Fox News has reported that Fusion GPS was being paid by a Kremlin-linked law firm at the same time that it was digging for dirt on then-candidate Trump. And human rights activists have accused Fusion GPS of secretly working for the Russians. Congressman Jason Chaffetz is here.

    JASON CHAFFETZ: I did I read that op-ed from Fusion GPS. First of all, if they want to maximize openness and transparency, there is nothing, nothing that holds back Fusion GPS from releasing all the documents and all the financial transactions.You have the House intelligence committee having to issues subpoenas in order to get that information.

    SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): That's a great point.

    CHAFFETZ: But today they could release all of that information if they want. So, don't blame the House intelligence committee. It is against the law to go out and hire a foreign national to engage in these activities during the campaign. So, they potentially broke the law there. You have Marc Elias who was general counsel for the DNC. Hillary Clinton is involved in this. You’ve got the Podesta group involved in this. There is some really nefarious things, and you have a top official at the FBI whose wife works at Fusion GPS at the same time that they're doing an investigation, so don't call it a fake investigation. Let's get all the truth out there. That's what [South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey] Gowdy and [California Republican Congressman Devin] Nunes and everybody is after.

    [...]

    KATIE PAVLICH (CO-HOST): They have a responsibility on their end to the American people now because they are so involved and because they did have influence in the FBI based on the dossier. And again we have people connect to the dossier also connected to the Department of Justice under President Obama. And those are questions that are unanswered and that deserve answers to the American people.

    [...]

    FRANCIS: I think what people in the audience should remember and probably what you care about a lot is this idea that when originally we gave the government special powers to collect data, to listen in on your phone calls, it was a time when we were all frightened and still are about terror, about national security. The warning at the time was that in the end, this FISA warrant, this whole idea could be used to listen in on political opponents and become a political weapon. In this case, it looks like that's very much what happened, that a fake report was used to get a FISA warrant to spy on a political opponent. That's a very dangerous thing in this country. And that's what I think we should be chasing down and focused on.

    Pro-Trump media outlets have long attempted to discredit the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with the Russian government, and Trump’s defenders on Fox have spent months baselessly claiming that the FBI used the dossier as sole evidence to get a FISA warrant to surveil and investigate Trump and members of his presidential campaign. Fox’s Jeanine Pirro even suggested that FBI and the Department of Justice officials should be jailed for their implication in this alleged conspiracy.

    Following The New York Times’ December 30 report, right-wing media figures attempted to discredit the story by downplaying Papadopoulos’ influence, attacking the article’s anonymous sourcing, and castigating the reporting as distraction from the Mueller investigation that the network has deemed a “witch hunt.” Other right-wing outlets like Red State, the National Review, as well as other pro-Trump media outlets, fake news websites, and internet trolls have levied similar attacks in attempts to discredit the story.

  • Fox's perfect storm: Jake Tapper edition

    Fox News throws in a lie about Tapper into its terrible anti-Muslim coverage of the New York City truck attack

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ latest mischaracterization, this time about comments made by CNN’s Jake Tapper, may have gotten national attention, but the tactics the network used are par for the course for Fox.

    During the October 31 edition of his CNN show, host Jake Tapper said that the phrase “Allahu akbar” is “sometimes said under the most beautiful of circumstances and too often we hear it being said in moments like this.” He was referring to an attack in New York City in which the attacker reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” after he killed eight people by driving a truck down a bike path. Soon after the show aired, websites that promote fake news and other pro-Trump outlets pushed stories about Tapper’s comments, many of which took them out of context. Fox News Insider also published an article with the headline “CNN's Jake Tapper: 'Allahu Akbar' Can Be Said Under 'Most Beautiful' of Circumstances.” A subsequent (and since deleted) tweet from Fox News promoting the article claimed that “Tapper says ‘Allahu Akbar’ Is ‘Beautiful’ Right After NYC Terror Attack.”

    The story got national attention after Tapper called out Fox for “lying,” but it’s actually nothing new for the network, which is prone to both taking people out of context and attacking other media, frequently targeting CNN. The premises for these attacks can be as ridiculous as they are misleading. Fox has even taken its own polling out of context in a desperate attempt to prove a point. And while many on the network have lashed out at the “media” at large, Fox often seems to single out CNN in particular.

    There was also anti-Muslim sentiment injected into Fox’s suggestion that Tapper’s comments were sympathetic to terrorism. And that was likely no accident as, at this point following the terror attack, Fox was in the midst of its typical anti-Muslim crusade.

    Here is how the events unfolded:

    October 31:

    November 1:

    Madeline Peltz contributed research to this piece.

  • 5 examples of misinformation in one Fox & Friends segment about the NYC truck attack, debunked

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    The day after an Uzbek immigrant killed eight people and injured several more in a terror attack in lower Manhattan, Fox & Friends invited former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to criticize the visa program through which alleged attacker Sayfullo Saipov was admitted to the United States. Here are five examples of Chaffetz and his Fox hosts’ misleading or inaccurate claims, debunked:

    First, Chaffetz claimed, “Bangladesh, they took literally everybody on their phone book and put them in for the lottery.” The source of this claim could very well be the 2011 testimony of Stephen Edson, former deputy assistant secretary of state for visa service to the House Judiciary Committee (of which Chaffetz was a member), in which he cited an example of a single Bangladeshi “agent” who was “reported to have enrolled an entire phone book so that he could then either extort money from winning applicants who had never entered the program to begin with or sell their winning slots to others.” Media Matters was unable to corroborate this claim, but a 2010 article in The Wall Street Journal reported that one Bangladeshi man submitted 2,800 entries that year. In 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh launched an anti-fraud campaign to curb exploitation of the program, for which Bangladesh is not currently eligible in the first place.

    Chaffetz then added, “And I see a mugshot. Now if you are coming here to this country, and you’ve got an arrest record, A. You shouldn’t get in. And if you’re here and you get arrested, then kick him out of the country. … And you should get rid of the family.” Co-host Steve Doocy also referenced “chain migration.” But Saipov’s mugshot was taken when he was arrested for failing to pay a traffic citation, a crime which does not constitute grounds for deportation. Spouses and children are perfectly eligible to accompany a diversity visa holder, though Saipov married his wife in the United States so likely did not bring any with him.

    Doocy’s fears of so-called “chain migration” are unsubstantiated. Saipov reportedly came to the United States on his own, and even if he had brought family members, they would have been subject to the same already thorough vetting procedures as any other potential immigrant.

    Chaffetz also exclaimed, “I want every governor in this state to go in front of the cameras today and justify why they give illegal aliens driver’s licenses.” But Saipov was not an “illegal alien.” He was here legally and had a valid driver’s license. The attempt to link this unrelated incident to some states allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire valid driver’s licences fits a long tradition at Fox of fearmongering about a group of people who are no more likely to commit crimes than anyone else.

    Last, Chaffetz agreed with Doocy’s suggestion that this incident makes “President Trump’s suggestion that we need to have a super vetting program more reality,” but Uzbekistan was never on any iteration of Trump’s currently stalled proposal to ban immigrants from mostly Muslim nations.

    From the November 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    JASON CHAFFETZ: What is the most ridiculous way to pick the next United States citizen? Not on merit, not on family, just literally a lottery. You had one country -- I think it was Bangladesh -- they took literally everybody on their phone book and put them in for the lottery. And you literally -- I mean, coming to the United States is a privilege. But how do you do this? And I see a mugshot. Now if you’re coming here to this country, and you’ve got an arrest record, A. You shouldn’t get in. If you’re here and you get arrested, then kick him out of the country. It is privilege to be here. You don’t need people like that here. And you should get rid of the family. This guy who committed this crime, assuming that he did commit this crime, his entire family should be deported. It’s that we’re so nice and so politically correct. Oh, let’s just keep them here.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Because of this program, you can automatically bring everyone in your family.

    CHAFFETZ: You get to bring in immediate family.

    DOOCY: Chain migration.

    CHAFFETZ: That’s right.

    [...]

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Well, when there’s a mass shooting, we always hear the Democrats are saying, “Get rid of the guns. We need gun control.” Now, when it’s a truck, or it’s ISIS, or it’s this visa program, why aren’t they screaming we need to get rid of that?

    CHAFFETZ: I want every governor in this state to go in front of the cameras today and justify why they give illegal aliens driver’s licenses. Because, guess what? You can’t rent a truck if you don't have a driver’s license. So go explain to me why it's a good thing, if you're here illegally, to give them a driver’s license. And if you go and you commit a crime, you're here on a visa and you commit a crime, maybe we should think about that. Maybe we should have an actual discussion about that.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): You know sometimes when things happen there is an immediate legitimate response for lawmakers who are consumed with taxes and everything else. Do you think this might go into that category? That where there might be a bipartisan push to, for example, to put on hold this visa lottery program?

    CHAFFETZ: I would hope so.

    [...]

    DOOCY: Well, doesn’t this particular tragic case make President Trump’s suggestion that we need to have a super vetting program more reality?

    CHAFFETZ: Yes. And look at the countries we are talking about. Talking about places like Libya and places that, they have no -- and if you actually go, I’ve been to many embassies around the world, and you watch the vetting process, sometimes it’s just 10 minutes. It’s just a little interview.