Jeanine Pirro | Media Matters for America

Jeanine Pirro

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  • Jeanine Pirro was paid to speak at GOP event with Kevin McCarthy -- who thanked her on Fox the next day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Earlier this year, the Kern County Republican Central Committee in California paid Fox News host Jeanine Pirro $25,000 to keynote a fundraiser that also featured House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The very next day, McCarthy, whose district includes most of the county, appeared on Pirro’s show and thanked her for giving “a great speech.”

    Pirro is a Republican who hosts the weekend show Justice with Judge Jeanine. She appeared at a campaign rally with President Donald Trump last month. Fox News subsequently claimed that it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” which is a blatant lie.

    Fox News personalities regularly appear at events for candidates and political parties and sometimes get paid to do them. Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs, Sebastian Gorka, Greg Gutfeld, and Pete Hegseth have received money to headline fundraising events. Media Matters recently documented more than $200,000 in speaking fees that Pirro has received from 13 Republican organizations in the past two years.

    The help isn’t always just contained to the event. As Media Matters documented last week, the Livingston County Republican Committee in Michigan paid Hegseth to keynote a fundraiser with then-Senate candidate John James. Hegseth then repeatedly interviewed James on his Fox & Friends Weekend program (and didn’t disclose the payment from the committee).

    Pirro has similarly used her Fox News program to push a Republican cause that was related to her speaking fee.

    On March 16, the Kern County GOP hosted a fundraising dinner featuring Pirro. According to Federal Election Commission records, the party paid Pirro a total of $25,000 for speaking at the event (the party sent its payment to Fox News’ New York City headquarters). Kevin McCarthy, whose 23rd Congressional District "covers most of Kern,” also spoke at the event.

    Pirro also tweeted a picture of herself with McCarthy at the fundraiser:

    On the following day, March 17, Pirro hosted McCarthy and told him: “Happy Saint Patrick's Day, and especially in Kern County where I saw you last night. Great Republican county.” McCarthy replied: “Well, you gave a great speech.” At the conclusion of the interview, McCarthy said: “Judge, thank you so much for having me and thanks for coming to California. You are always welcome to come back.” Pirro did not mention the event payment during the interview.

    Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Fox is going to love Trump attorney general pick William Barr

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Update (12/7/18): Trump has announced that he will nominate Barr to be attorney general. 

    Fox News' leading propagandists have been begging for President Donald Trump to install an attorney general who will turn their conspiracy theories into federal investigations. With William P. Barr, the reported front-runner to fill the position, they may finally get their wish.

    In a November 2017 meeting with Trump, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro reportedly savaged then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his failure to conduct a federal investigation into a deal approved while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state that gave Russia control over some U.S. uranium mines. Conservatives latched on to that deal during the 2016 presidential election, pushing a bogus conspiracy theory that Clinton approved Russia’s effort to buy Uranium One, a Canadian firm with licenses to extract uranium in the U.S., because she had benefited from Russian government bribes. Fox tried to divert attention from reporting about Trump’s Russia ties by devoting hours of airtime to the pseudoscandal in the weeks before Pirro’s White House meeting. Now, the Fox host was using direct access to the president to undermine the attorney general, calling for him to appoint a special counsel to scrutinize Clinton and trying to make a federal case out of right-wing bullshit.

    Pirro’s rant reportedly agitated Trump, who became angry that Sessions was failing to act in his interests -- as if the attorney general were his personal lawyer. But Sessions largely weathered the harsh public criticism from the president and his Fox propagandists over the Uranium One case. He pointedly refused to appoint a special counsel, instead directing prosecutors to examine the issue to little effect.

    But now Sessions is gone, canned by Trump after a drumbeat of attacks from Fox for that very unwillingness to use the Justice Department to punish the president’s enemies and his refusal to interfere in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. And his reported likely replacement is already on the record supporting a Uranium One investigation.

    Barr, who served as attorney general to President George H.W. Bush, is Trump’s “leading candidate” to return to that office, The Washington Post reported Thursday. In public statements made since Trump’s election, Barr has repeatedly suggested that he is much more willing than Sessions was to use law enforcement as a tool to enforce the president's will. That includes moving forward with a federal probe into the Uranium One deal.

    In November 2017, after Sessions publicly declined to appoint a Uranium One special counsel, The New York Times reported that Barr “sees more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed collusion between Mr. Trump and Russia.” He also defended Trump’s public calls for investigating his former political rival, complaining, “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility.”

    In a separate November interview with The Washington Post, Barr said, “I don't think all this stuff about throwing [Clinton] in jail or jumping to the conclusion that she should be prosecuted is appropriate, but I do think that there are things that should be investigated that haven't been investigated."

    Barr has also echoed the effort by Trump and his Fox allies to delegitimize Mueller’s probe because some of his team members had Democratic ties. “In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” he told the Post in July 2017. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group.”

    And in a May 12, 2017, op-ed for the Post, he defended Trump’s decision to terminate James Comey as FBI director. Barr agreed with the White House’s initial explanation for Comey’s removal -- that the firing was justified because Comey had usurped the authority of the attorney general by unilaterally announcing that Clinton should not be charged over her use of a private email server. He did not address Trump’s statement, offered on NBC the night before, that he actually fired Comey over his handling of the Russia probe.

    If nominated and confirmed, Barr would replace acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who had publicly mused about curtailing the Mueller probe.

    Trump and his Fox supporters want an attorney general who shares their authoritarian view of the law as a constraint on the president’s enemies but not his allies. It seems unlikely that the president’s eventual pick won’t fit that bill -- and Barr's recent comments suggest he would.

  • Fox News desperately insists Michael Cohen’s (other) guilty plea means “absolutely nothing”

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & NICK FERNANDEZ

    After President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to “lying to Congress about the timing and extent of his negotiations,” on behalf of the Trump Organization, to build a Trump Tower in Moscow -- his second guilty plea to a federal crime in three months -- Trump’s sycophants and defenders in the media are proclaiming that Cohen’s guilty plea means “absolutely nothing.” By furiously attempting to spin the potentially devastating news as “a nothingburger,” right-wing media are simply picking up where they left off in August after Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws on Trump’s behalf. And even though Trump’s stooges in the media have openly worried about what may come next for some time now as the special counsel investigation continues, they continue to wage their public relations campaign with laughable spin:

  • Ann Coulter went on Fox News and called for migrants to be shot. Here’s the headline Fox went with.

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Conservative commentator Ann Coulter urged President Donald Trump to allow soldiers to shoot people at the border or, alternatively, invade Mexico during an appearance on Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine on November 24. Despite Coulter’s outrageous comments, Fox News headlined the show’s transcript on its website “Coulter urges Trump to follow through on tough border talk.”

    During the show, Coulter argued that U.S. soldiers "can shoot invaders," adding that if they couldn't shoot them in the United States they could "go one yard into Mexico." When host Jeanine Pirro pushed back, stating, “Ann, we can’t invade Mexico. … We certainly can’t cross the border to shoot them up over there,” Coulter responded, “Reagan invaded Grenada, and Grenada was far less of a threat to Americans.” She also stated that even if judges would try to prevent Trump from allowing soldiers to shoot at migrants or invade Mexico, “that’s not a reason not to try it.”

    To summarize: Coulter called for shooting migrants or invading Mexico, and Fox News thought the best description for those comments was “Coulter urges Trump to follow through on tough border talk.”

    Here’s the transcript:

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): You know what the legal requirement is, [the] Posse Comitatus [Act]. I mean, he is doing everything he can ...

    ANN COULTER (CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR): That you can’t shoot Americans --

    PIRRO: ... to back it up. What?

    COULTER: Number one, you can't shoot Americans; you can shoot invaders. Number two, even if that were true, OK, go in one yard into Mexico. What is happening on our border is certainly --

    PIRRO: So we should invade Mexico?

    COULTER: -- a bigger crisis for Americans than Grenada was.

    PIRRO: Ann, we can’t invade Mexico to stop them from coming in here. I mean, we're doing the same thing unless Mexico gives us that authority. If you recall, even in Benghazi they said, "We didn't get permission from Libya to go in and protect our men." We certainly can’t cross the border to shoot them up over there, I mean, if that's what you're talking about -- to send the military there.

    COULTER: We invaded -- Reagan invaded Grenada, and Grenada was far less of a threat to Americans than what’s happening on our border and I am saying, I don't think the Posse Comitatus Act -- I mean, Nazis have been arrested by our troops, when they landed in the Hamptons no less, with guns.

    PIRRO: Right, because they were, because --

    COULTER: Our troops had guns. He is the commander-in-chief. This is what he should be doing, and as for the omnibus bill and [Speaker of the House Paul] Ryan --

    PIRRO: And he has got to follow the laws because there are federal judges all over this country who will stop him in his tracks. Final word, Ann, real fast.

    COULTER: Well, I don't think so. I don't think so.

    PIRRO: I've been watching the news.

    COULTER: Most of the property in Texas -- so they'll bring a lawsuit, but they will lose.

    PIRRO: Yes, ultimately.

    COULTER: And that's not a reason not to try it.

  • Fox host Jeanine Pirro has banked more than $200K speaking at GOP events since Trump's inauguration

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro has received more than $200,000 in speaking fees from 13 Republican organizations in the past two years, according to a Media Matters analysis.

    The network recently lied by claiming it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.” In reality, Fox News personalities have routinely participated in Republicans events such as fundraisers and rallies.

    Perhaps the most prolific campaigner for Republicans is Pirro, the host of the weekend show Justice with Judge Jeanine. Pirro has positioned herself as one of President Donald Trump’s most sycophantic backers in the media. She has ​reportedly attempted to cash in her on-air advocacy for a senior job in the Trump administration.

    Pirro has also turned her pro-Trump advocacy into a lucrative side business as a paid speaker for Republican events. Fox News has no apparent problem with her and other personalities such as Fox News host Pete Hegseth and contributor Sebastian Gorka getting paid by Republican organizations; in one case, a Republican committee sent a payment directly to Pirro at Fox News’ New York City headquarters.

    Here is a list of 13 events that Pirro has done since 2017, along with the amount of money she or her speaking agency, Premiere Speakers Bureau, received in speaking fees near the time of the event. The data was obtained through a search of available campaign finance reports posted on state and federal databases.

    • Scott Wagner for Governor in Pennsylvania (October 10): $35,000. (Note: Initial reports documented that Wagner paid Pirro $24,500; an additional payment of $10,500 was made public following those reports.)
    • Kern County Republican Party in California (March 16): $25,000
    • Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois (February 8): $13,250
    • New Jersey Republican State Committee (Pirro received a “speaker’s fee” in January, February, and March of 2018 for an “event”; Media Matters wasn’t able to determine which event she did, and the committee did not respond to a request for clarification.): $15,000
    • Alachua County Republican Party in Florida (November 9, 2017): $15,000
    • California Republican Party (October 21, 2017): $20,000
    • Volusia County Republican Party in Florida (October 8, 2017): $20,000; separately, Pirro also received $442.35 for "books."
    • Republican Party of Arkansas (July 28, 2017): $15,000
    • Bonneville County GOP in Idaho (March 31, 2017): $14,000; separately, Pirro also received $2,204.42 for “airfare and hotel.”
    • Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth in Pennsylvania (March 20, 2017): $5,284; separately, Pirro also received $240.90 for "transportation expenses."
    • Georgia Republican Party (March 13, 2017): $15,000; separately, Pirro also received $261.38 for “travel fees.”
    • Erie County Republican Committee in New York (March 9, 2017): $7,579.34
    • Kent County Republican Committee in Delaware (February 18, 2017): $12,000 (via SENR PAC, which is the campaign committee of the Delaware Senate Republicans).

    Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Fox figures constantly parrot Trump in attacking the media

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT, COURTNEY HAGLE & ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News and some of its high-profile hosts are attempting to distance themselves from President Donald Trump’s constant attacks on the media, which he has famously smeared as the “enemy of the people.” Martha MacCallum, host of Fox’s The Story, told Politico that she finds Trump’s rhetoric “wrong” and “disturbing.” Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of Fox & Friends, told viewers that he wished the president would “lose” the term “enemy of the people.” Pointing to Kilmeade’s comment, a Fox spokesperson argued to Forbes that “many of the FNC and FBN programs regularly push back on the Trump narrative.”

    These halfhearted deflections are undoubtedly an effort to avoid any blame for recent attempted violence amid calls for a boycott of the network’s advertisers. But in reality, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have directly contributed to hostility against journalists and the media by regularly launching Trumpian attacks at outlets and reporters. They dismiss media outlets as “fake news,” label the media “the enemy of the people,” vilify individual journalists, and call for the Trump administration to crack down on the free press.

    Video by Miles Le

    Attacks on the media are frequent and vicious on Fox

    Fox’s Pete Hegseth has smeared the media as “the opposition party, the left-stream media, the legacy media, whatever you want to call them,” and argued that journalists “ continue to expose themselves because they can't hold back on their dedication to tearing down any single member of the Trump administration.”

    Fox’s Sean Hannity complained that “the propaganda media” is “out to destroy Trump. That is their main purpose. They want to advance the interests of liberal Democrats and the left. Now -- they're not journalists. They’re not reporters. They’re rigid, radical left-wing ideologues.”

    Hannity also said: “The alt-left propaganda media is getting worse every single day. They’re now at war with you, the American people.”

    Fox guest and Daily Caller writer Stephanie Hamill said: “Some of these journalists have an agenda, and they’re pushing a globalist agenda. And so when Trump calls the media the fake news media, the enemy of the people. They are the enemy of the people when they’re not being honest.”  

    Frequent Fox guests Diamond and Silk: “Not only are [the media] the enemy of the people, they are the enemy of the truth. Because they spread lies, and that’s why we call them the fake news.”

    Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to planned editorials criticizing Trump’s rhetoric about the media as “anti-Trump screeds” and “coordinated national left-wing fake news.”

    Dobbs argued that “the left-wing media” was aiding the Democratic Party in carrying out “a coup d'etat against President Trump.”

    Fox host Laura Ingraham accused the media of “actively concealing the heinous actions” of groups like antifa “because they serve their ends.”

    Fox’s Jesse Watters said the press, along with leakers, comprise “the official Democratic Party opposition.”

    In response to newspapers’ condemnation of Trump’s rhetoric, Fox Business guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.”

    Frequent Fox guest Michelle Malkin: “The media is the opposition party. I gotta get that on a bumper sticker.”

    Fox host Steve Doocy: The media want “to destroy [Trump] for the most part, because they didn’t like him. Look, nobody in the mainstream media for the most part predicted or wanted Donald Trump to win. He won, ha ha, he would go, and now, look, it’s the state of journalism today.”

    Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Media coverage “enrages” the president, “and I understand why. And I think he’s probably right to be mad.”

    Hannity criticized the media for being "filled with all opinion" and "kissing [Obama's] ass,” instead of holding government accountable.

    Hannity dismissed claims that he was  “inciting violence” by criticizing the “fake news media” for “reporting fake news almost every night”:

    Fox hosts regularly insult the media’s coverage of stories that reflect negatively on Trump or Republicans  

    Lou Dobbs slammed the “national left-wing media” for covering Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ racist comment about his opponent, Andrew Gillum.

    Sean Hannity smeared media coverage of the package bomber targeting high-profile Democrats and CNN, calling it “so over the top, so outrageous, so disgustingly partisan.”

    Hannity complained that media “betrayed the American people” in their coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation.

    Hannity also slammed the media for covering his disastrous interview with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, calling reporters “lazy, … abusively biased echo chamber people in the fake news overpaid media.”

    Fox’s Jeanine Pirro whined that coverage of Trump and Russia is “like propaganda.”

    Fox routinely celebrates Trump’s hostility toward the media

    In response to a particularly vicious press conference in which Trump “launched an extraordinary denunciation” of the media, according to CNN, former Fox host Eric Bolling claimed that the room “looked like a WWE arena, with the mainstream media having fits about being called out for their unfair reporting.”

    Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle called the same press conference “wildly entertaining.”

    While interviewing the president, Fox’s Pete Hegseth asked him which  is his biggest opponent -- the Democrats, the “deep state,” or the “fake news media.”

    Fox & Friends celebrated Trump’s made-up "awards" attacking media: “Excitement for President Trump's fake news awards is so off the charts.”

    Fox figures often target specific outlets and individual journalists

    When the White House banned CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from an open press event, Lou Dobbs celebrated the move: "It's about time there were consequences for disrespectful behavior."

    Dobbs smeared CNN’s Jim Acosta as “triggered” and “delicate” after Trump supporters harassed him at a rally.

    Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Acosta's conduct makes him "an enemy to the American people."

    Hannity argued that the president shouldn’t “do any more interviews with Lester Holt, which then is sent over their cable channel and CNN so they can rip it apart.”

    Hannity also claimed that “corporate jihad” is “being waged by NBC News against President Trump,” and he went on to attack the “alt-left propaganda, destroy-Trump-at-all-costs media.”

    Fox contributor Michael Goodwin attacked The New Yorker's Jane Mayer for her reporting on sexual assaults: "She's been on this rampage for 25 years.”

    Fox & Friends defended Trump after he launched a sexist attack on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, saying the media had a “melt down” over the comment and arguing that Brzezinski “make[s] a living insulting” Trump.

    After Trump tweeted a photoshopped GIF of him “body slamming” CNN, Fox & Friends Sunday praised and joked about the GIF.

    Brian Kilmeade claimed CNN “went unhinged” after Trump posted the GIF, and Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that the network has “this unremitting hostility to Donald Trump.”

    Fox personalities have called for a crackdown on the free press

    Fox’s Newt Gingrich urged the administration to “close down the press room, send the reporters off. They can sit over at the Hay-Adams. They can go to Starbucks across the street. I don't care where they go.” Sean Hannity rejoiced at the idea: “The media will implode! They would not know how to deal with this.”

    Gingrich argued that the White House should “suspend” CNN’s Jim Acosta “for 60 days… as a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” on how they’re allowed to behave.

    Gingrich claimed that if he were the president, he “would kick some of the [news] organizations out. I would flood the White House press corps with lots of people,” adding that Trump should recognize “this is a real war.”

    Hannity: “As long as they keep reporting fake news, bizarre conspiracy theories, and show this bizarre fascination and paranoia about Russia, how about no more press conferences for the Hillary Clinton-colluding media?”

    Hannity claimed that the president shouldn’t “do interviews with the network so they can spend hours and hours and hours tearing up every word this president says, something they'd never do to Obama. End it. He doesn't need the press.”

  • Conservative media run with flawed FBI investigation and GOP's spin to vindicate Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media are hyping claims from the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that the results of an FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh do not corroborate multiple women’s accounts that he sexually assaulted them while at the same time attacking anyone who pointed out flaws in the investigation. The FBI investigation was extremely limited in scope and time; did not include interviews of Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, or approximately 40 others who say they tried to talk to the FBI but couldn’t get through; and did not look into the likelihood that Kavanaugh lied in his Senate testimony. Ford, whose report that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school is central to determining Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court, offered to speak with the FBI, but was rebuffed.

    Trump and Senate Republicans purposely limited the scope of the FBI investigation

    The FBI was initially authorized by the Trump administration and Senate Republicans to interview just four people. From The New York Times:

    Mr. Trump ordered the one-week F.B.I. investigation on Friday after Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a key swing vote, insisted the allegations be examined before he committed to voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. But the White House and Senate Republicans gave the F.B.I. a list of only four people to question: Ms. Ramirez and Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth and Leland Keyser, three people Dr. Blasey identified as being at the house where she said Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. [The New York Times, 10/1/18]

    Trump later reportedly authorized the FBI to interview more witnesses, but still kept it limited by an arbitrary deadline. From The New York Times:

    The White House authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

    At an event on Monday celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, President Trump said he instructed his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, over the weekend to instruct the F.B.I. to carry out an open investigation, but the president included the caveat that the inquiry should accommodate the desires of Senate Republicans.

    The new directive came after a backlash from Democrats, who criticized the White House for limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The F.B.I. has already interviewed the four witnesses it was originally asked to question, and on Monday it reached out to others. [The New York Times, 10/1/18]

    In the end, only 10 witnesses were reportedly interviewed. [Twitter, 10/4/18]

    The investigation finished within only a few days. CNN reported that the White House sent the information gleaned from the investigation to the Senate on the morning of October 4, just days after the investigation was set into motion on September 28. [CNN, 10/4/18]

    The FBI reportedly did not investigate whether Kavanaugh lied to the Senate. New York magazine’s The Cut noted that, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the FBI did not investigate whether Kavanaugh perjured himself by lying about his high school and college behavior:

    What’s not being investigated is Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school and college, which his classmates say was defined by partying and drinking to excess, at which point the SCOTUS nominee would allegedly become “aggressive” —accounts that drastically differ from those Kavanaugh offered while under oath. Some senators, including Bernie Sanders, have raised concern over the FBI’s apparent disregard for the likelihood that Kavanaugh may have perjured himself.

    “The FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh must include a review of his numerous untruthful statements in his previous testimony before Congress,” Sanders tweeted. “Lying to Congress is a federal crime.” He then outlined the numerous examples in which Kavanaugh appears to have lied under oath. [The Cut, 10/3/18]

    Neither Kavanaugh nor Ford were interviewed by the FBI. Kavanaugh repeatedly lied under oath about his behavior in high school and college, but he didn’t have to defend his statements during an FBI interview. Ford sought to speak with the FBI, but was turned down. From Vox:

    Notably, Ford and Kavanaugh are both not yet on the list of people that the FBI has interviewed. A spokesperson for Ford’s attorneys said she had still not been contacted by the FBI as of early Wednesday afternoon.

    “We have received no response from anyone involved in this investigation, and no response to our offer for Dr. Ford to be interviewed,” Ford’s attorneys emphasized in a Tuesday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This afternoon, we learned of media reports that the FBI does not intend to interview either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. We hope that this reporting is inaccurate.”

    There could be a crucial reason for their omission from the investigation. Sources have told Bloomberg that the FBI has not done interviews with Ford or Kavanaugh because the White House hasn’t granted it the authority to conduct them. [Vox, 10/3/18]

    NBC News: “More than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI.” [NBC News, 10/4/18]

    Legal and criminal experts explain that conditions Trump placed upon the FBI investigation make it a sham

    Chris Kang, former Obama administration deputy counsel: “President Trump and Senate Republicans are turning this much-needed FBI investigation into a sham. … The entire investigation must be made public, so the American people can know which witnesses were interviewed and whether the FBI was able to follow a full range of questioning, including regarding Kavanaugh's candor and credibility.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Mike Zubrensky, former deputy assistant attorney general at DOJ Office of Legal Counsel: “The investigation of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct is far too serious for a rigged process. … Senator Flake and his Senate colleagues must insist that McConnell respect the confirmation process. And they should demand that the FBI take the time it needs to conduct a thorough and meaningful investigation.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence: “Existing background investigation protocols between the White House and the FBI regarding presidential appointees are flawed and need to be reexamined. ... When the White House can prevent the nation’s premier investigative agency from fully determining the suitability of a Supreme Court nominee we have a problem.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Kristine Lucius, former top legal and policy advisor to Sen. Patrick Leahy: “During my over 14 years on the committee, I can’t remember any supplemental investigation in which the FBI did not interview the person who brought forth the allegations, and the nominee himself. … That has been – and must remain – a minimum base line for credibility. No senator should even consider agreeing to proceed with this nomination unless and until the FBI investigation is determined to be thorough and unfettered.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Former FBI officials said past background checks were not limited by politics. From The New York Times:

    Several former F.B.I. officials said that they could think of no previous instance when the White House restricted the bureau’s ability to interview potential witnesses during a background check. Chuck Rosenberg, a former F.B.I. chief of staff, said background investigations were frequently reopened, but the bureau decided how to pursue new allegations.

    “The White House normally tells the F.B.I. what issue to examine, but would not tell the F.B.I. how to examine it, or with whom they should speak,” he said. “It’s highly unusual — in fact, as far I know, uniquely so — for the F.B.I. to be directed to speak only to a limited number of designated people.” [The New York Times, 10/1/18]

    Leah Litman, UC Irvine assistant law professor: Restricted FBI investigation makes it “a joke.” From The New Yorker:

    Leah Litman, an assistant professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, said the severe restrictions on the scope of the investigation made it “a joke.” She asked, “What kind of an investigation into an assault that happened under the influence of alcohol doesn’t include investigating the accused’s use of alcohol?” She said, “Usually, the F.B.I. investigators aren’t told who to call and who not to.” She said that Rasor should be interviewed, given her past relationship with Judge. “If Mark Judge is on the ‘approved’ list of witnesses, and they are interviewing him, there is no reason not to interview Rasor, who has testimony that is very relevant to his credibility, and the testimony that he would offer,” she said. [The New Yorker, 9/30/18]

    John Mindermann, former FBI special agent: The restrictions on the probe means it’s not a “real, authentic FBI investigation.” From an October 4 MSNBC interview:

    JOHN MINDERMANN (FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT): What will be laid out within the limits of the scope and the time that the FBI had to do the investigation will be a portrait of the individual who is being investigated. That's in any background check. The key to a background check is comprehensive running out of all available leads. Apparently in this case, those leads, which were available, were not run out by the FBI because of the limits of time and scope. That is very, very problematic because that limits the overall portrait. It's like taking the brush out of the hand of the painter midway through the portrait session. What will be in there will be, corroborating or not, statements, data, information, times, dates, et cetera, that may or may not corroborate specific allegations that were brought forward.

    HALLIE JACKSON (HOST): We know that the FBI has spoken with nine people that have been interviewed. And we know the names of six of them. We don't know who the other three people are. We know that they originally contacted 10 people. It's not clear to us just yet, based on our sources, why that 10th person was not actually interviewed. You can see who we know and who we don't know there. Dr. Ford's attorney says because she's not on this list -- right, you don't see Christine Blasey Ford on that screen right there -- so her lawyer says this can't be called an investigation. The FBI was not actually seeking the truth. So John, do you agree? Is this a comprehensive investigation or not?

    MINDERMANN: I actually agree that really this does not fall under the definition of a real, authentic FBI investigation. It really is an investigation which is just limited in terms of targeting specific individuals, and for reasons unknown, eliminating a vast majority of people who could have provided corroborating evidence, corroborating information, positive, negative, neutral, whatever. But in an FBI investigation -- and I've done these and I've supervised these -- in these investigations, you encourage your agents to go out, cover all bases, run out all leads, develop that comprehensive look so that whoever is looking at this is well versed and can make that judgment call. This is a judgment call. There's a lot of subjectivity if you don't have factual information. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, 10/4/18]

    Conservative media figures carry water for the sham investigation -- and treat its spin by GOP officials -- as vindication for Kavanaugh

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity:

    Conservative pundit Erick Erickson:

    Erickson:

    Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk:

    Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume:

    Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro: The FBI didn't need to talk to Ford because "there is nothing else to ask her. There is nothing else that they need to do”:

    Fox & Friends applauded the investigation by claiming "the very narrow scope" avoided "tangents":

    CRTV’s Allie Stuckey:

  • Pro-Kavanaugh shills claim nominee is the victim of a "lynching." Have they ever seen a lynching?

    Lynchings were a cornerstone of a hundred-year campaign of racial terrorism in defense of white supremacy, but conservatives see parallels with a powerful, wealthy white man facing consequences

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Warning: This piece contains graphic images and descriptions. 

    An emerging right-wing media narrative that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is the victim of a “lynching” betrays not only conservative media’s desperation to salvage the nomination after he was credibly accused of sexual assault and likely perjured himself, but also their selfishness and superficiality when it comes to race relations in America. 

    On September 27, professor Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school party in the early 1980s. Right-wing media had already been building up a campaign against Ford since news of her allegations broke earlier in the month. But after her testimony, they dialed up their campaign to discredit Ford, with some of them eventually landing on the idea that the opposition to Kavanaugh is nothing but a “lynching.” 

    Attacking a sexual assault survivor with a reductive take on racial terrorism is, unfortunately, very on-brand for American conservatism in 2018. Fox’s Sean Hannity led the charge out of the gate; on September 17, the day after Ford went public, Hannity compared her allegations to the “vicious and horrible and nasty and unjust” hearings about Anita Hill’s sexual harassment reports against Justice Clarence Thomas and aired a clip of Thomas’ infamous “high-tech lynching” line. The Thomas quote was favorably recalled by several right-wing media figures, but they didn’t stop there: Several conservative and right-wing media figures took it upon themselves to make the comparison directly.

    On September 22, Fox’s Jeanine Pirro accused a guest of “setting this man up for his own lynching.” Similarly, the Family Research Council’s William Boykin told Newsbusters that he “thought lynching was made illegal and that the burden of proof rested upon the accuser, not the accused.” And Townhall published a piece (from a Black author) that audaciously began, “History is an easy and convenient thing to forget,” before comparing Kavanaugh to Emmett Till, a Black 14 year-old lynched in 1955 because of a white woman’s false groping allegation


    Mamie and Louis Till overlooking their son Emmett's corpse. (Time magazine)

    Perhaps the most depraved take came from National Review Editor-in-Chief Rich Lowry, who seems to compare Kavanaugh to the falsely accused in To Kill a Mockingbird, who is threatened with lynching. Lowry claims that a book famous for its themes of racial injustice “stands firmly for the proposition that an accusation can be false.” Lowry’s column completely ignores race -- the word doesn’t make a single appearance -- so it’s easy for him to twist Mockingbird into pablum about a man’s false accuser being “destroy[ed]” by an attorney who “doesn’t care about her feelings, only the facts.” In the original story, that same attorney also faces down a racist lynch mob outside the jail, but Lowry’s revisionist history inverts a hundred years of racial terror into a narrative that somehow vindicates Kavanaugh at the expense of his alleged victims. This take has spread throughout the right-wing Facebook echo chamber via a popular meme.

    In case conservative media have forgotten, lynchings are a uniquely reprehensible (and ongoing) part of American history. From 1882 to 1968, 4,743 people were lynched -- 72.7 percent of them Black -- for the express purpose of enforcing white supremacy. The victims were murdered in unspeakably horrific ways. Emmett Till, whom the Townhall piece compared to Kavanaugh, was found in a river, weighted down with a piece of a cotton gin. His face was so mangled by his attackers that he was unrecognizable. A sign marking where Till was murdered is regularly shot up by anonymous vandals. There’s also Mary Turner, a pregnant woman whose unborn child was cut from her womb and stomped to death (Turner was also set on fire and shot hundreds of times); Jesse Washington, who was doused in coal oil and hanged to death over burning crates, then carved into souvenirs and paraded around town; and Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie, who were dragged out of jail, beaten, hanged, then turned into postcards. Kavanaugh, in contrast, is facing extreme public scrutiny as he interviews for a job at the highest court in land. And if he doesn't get it, he'll simply go back to his old cushy life as a federal judge. 


    A postcard made from an image of Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie's lynching, also known as the Duluth lynching. (Wikimedia Commons)

    Right-wing media’s increasingly racialized Kavanaugh coverage is especially rich considering their routine denunciations of “the race card.” When conservative media say Kavanaugh is being lynched, they are playing "the race card" with blinders on; their arguments invoking an era of racial terrorism are completely devoid of any meaningful racial analysis. They’re defending a credibly accused sexual predator by first inventing, then weaponizing, an alternative history in which one of the most infamous acts of racial violence isn’t racial at all -- it’s simply about attacking people.

    It’s no coincidence that right-wing media deployed a racially charged accusation of “lynching” at the same time the conservative movement has embraced Dinesh D’Souza’s laughable, brazenly dishonest version of American history in which the Democrats are “the real racists” and the well-documented party realignment around civil rights simply “did not take place.” The right’s attempts to put an accused sexual abuser on the Supreme Court -- after electing another one to the presidency -- only serve to highlight the profound moral and intellectual rot at the heart of American conservatism.