Jeanine Pirro | Media Matters for America

Jeanine Pirro

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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.

  • TPUSA invited a slate of sexists to speak at its Young Women’s Leadership Summit 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA, the student-aimed conservative organization that raises its money by stoking fear among rich conservative donors about the alleged liberalization of college campuses, will host its fourth annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit June 14 through 17. Slated to address the young women attending is a roster packed full of misogynists.

    While Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is perhaps most famous for a laughable 2017 stunt in which its members donned adult diapers and sat in oversized playpens to express their outrage over safe spaces, its stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Despite TPUSA’s lofty goals, the organization’s events are often little more than sophomoric spectacles designed to fearmonger -- often via Fox News airtime -- about the supposedly leftist leanings of U.S. colleges. But the group also has a more sinister history that includes hosting serial harassers and defending racists. Overall, TPUSA is focused on combating “political correctness,” and conferences like the Young Women’s Leadership Summit are one vehicle used to accomplish this goal.

    TPUSA’s website invites “young, conservative women” to apply to attend the summit, and it promises to deliver “professional development and leadership training,” as well as opportunities to network with fellow young conservatives. While at first glance, the event seems to be about women's empowerment, the slate of speakers scheduled to present says otherwise. The roster includes people who publicly support misogynistic policies, routinely dismiss the importance of issues that advance gender equality, and use dangerously sexist rhetoric. Here is a breakdown of 10 of those speakers and their histories of anti-women messaging:

    Charlie Kirk

    Jeanine Pirro 

    Dana Loesch 

    Kimberly Guilfoyle

    Katie Pavlich

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Tomi Lahren

    Ben Shapiro

    Candace Owens

    Jordan Peterson

    Charlie Kirk

    The founder, chief fundraiser, and public face of TPUSA, “boy wonder” Charlie Kirk has a long history of attacking feminism and a tendency to dismiss and mischaracterize the problems women face. He is also ever-ready to complain about girls intruding on sacred male spaces like the Boy Scouts.

    Jeanine Pirro

    At first glance, Fox’s Jeanine Pirro seems an obvious choice for the summit. As the first woman elected to serve as the district attorney in New York’s Westchester County, Pirro spent years working on behalf of abuse survivors, often women and children. Since her years as DA, however, Pirro has seemingly turned her back on abuse victims, using her Fox show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, to downplay sexual misconduct allegations.

    • When Pirro’s former Fox colleague Gretchen Carlson reported then-Fox CEO Roger Ailes’ many instances of severe sexual misconduct, Pirro aggressively defended Ailes, dismissing Carlson’s lawsuit as “absurd” and describing Ailes as a “no-nonsense guy.”

    • In October 2016, Pirro was quick to defend then-candidate Donald Trump after the release of an Access Hollywood video, which caught him bragging about sexually assaulting women. Two days after the video was released, Pirro dismissed Trump’s violent remarks as “locker room talk" and "frat house language." She also proudly announced that the video did nothing to change her vote, and that Trump was still an undoubtedly better choice than “double-talking woman” Hillary Clinton.

    • Days later, when multiple women reported that Trump had touched them inappropriately, Pirro rejected their reports as “a little too convenient” and criticized their timing.

    Dana Loesch

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch is a remarkably bad choice to speak at a women’s conference, considering her numerous glib comments about rape, her mischaracterization of issues that advance gender equality, and her cruel attacks against transgender women. Additionally, Loesch has openly ridiculed college-aged women, the demographic TPUSA’s summit is aiming to capture, for wanting access to contraceptives.

    • After conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh aimed misogynistic insults at Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student who testified in front of Congress about access to contraceptives, Loesch launched a barrage of heinous attacks against her. She denounced Fluke as unable “to control her sexual urges” and claimed that Fluke had testified that she “simply cannot stop getting it on.”

    • Loesch then extended her attacks to seemingly include all college-aged women who want access to contraceptives, ridiculing them for acting “like they’re nymphos” and dismissing young women's call for contraceptives coverage as "insulting to the original spirit and intent of the suffrage movement."

    • Loesch has a history of making flippant remarks and ill-advised jokes about rape, including comparing the penalization of gun owners for improperly storing firearms to “shaming a rape survivor.”

    • Loesch has been quick to fearmonger about false reports of sexual assault (which researchers say make up only an estimated 2 to 8 percent of allegations), and she came immediately to the defense of former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) after he claimed that it’s “really rare" for women subjected to "legitimate rape" to become pregnant.

    • In addition to her trivializing rhetoric on rape, Loesch has made careless and insensitive comments about gender, including claiming that some women “wouldn’t know what masculinity was if it hit them in the face."

    • According to Loesch, the gender wage gap is “an absolute myth.” And after actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay describing her own experience with pay inequality, Loesch denied that “sexism” played a role in Lawrence’s experience, instead accusing Lawrence of having a “self esteem issue.”

    • Loesch has additionally aimed cruel and dangerous attacks at transgender women, going out of her way to misgender former soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    • Loesch also claimed that Manning was given “preferential treatment” and an “unnecessary surgery” when she received hormone therapy while in prison. In reality, hormone therapy is medically necessary, and to say otherwise simply serves to dismiss the health needs of transgender women.

    Kimberly Guilfoyle

    Former Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle has repeatedly used her platform as a Fox News host to make misogynistic and demeaning remarks, and she has spoken out in support of street harassment.

    • In a bizarre 2014 endorsement of catcalling, Guilfoyle defended street harassment by arguing that society should “let men be men” and insisting that “men are going to be that way.”

    • Later in the same year, during a discussion about women voting, Guilfoyle asserted that “young women on juries are not a good idea” because “they don’t get it.” She went on to contend that they’d be better of going “back on Tinder or Match.com.”

    • Guilfoyle has also derided women who have abortions in the third trimester as “selfish and disgusting,” even though women who receive abortions that late in their pregnancies do so because of serious concern for the fetus or their own health and are thus often forced to make heartbreaking and terrifying medical decisions.

    Katie Pavlich

    Katie Pavlich is an editor at the conservative outlet Townhall as well as a Fox News contributor. Pavlich has a history of using insensitive rhetoric and spreading misinformation about sexual assault as well as a tendency to espouse sexist tropes. In 2015, Pavlich gave a disastrous speech on sexual assault at Iowa State University, during which she insulted sexual abuse survivors and spread misinformation about the realities of sexual assault on campuses.

    • During the Iowa event, Pavlich argued that the incidence of sexual assaults on college campuses had been exaggerated and advanced the evidence-free notion that allowing students to carry concealed guns on college campuses could reduce sexual assault (the NRA is a sponsor of TPUSA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit). She also made the wildly insulting claim that "lots of the time" women "make a decision about whether you are going to stop a sexual assault or not" before it happens and sarcastically apologized while disagreeing with a woman who shared that she was sexually assaulted as a child. 

    • In 2016, Pavlich “guarantee[d]” that Russian President Vladimir Putin and “the Saudis” would find then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s voice “grating.”

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Many of the speakers invited to TPUSA’s summit have served as Trump apologists, but perhaps none have done so as consistently as Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany. In her constant defense of Trump’s sexist and violent rhetoric, McEnany has demonstrated her own indifference toward the sexism and abuse that women often face at the hands of powerful men.

    • McEnany defended Trump in the aftermath of the release of the Access Hollywood video, which contains Trump’s claims that when he sees a “beautiful woman” he will “just kiss” them and not “even wait” to speak to them first. The video also features Trump saying that “when you’re a star… you can do anything,” including grabbing women “by the pussy.” McEnany claimed that she didn’t “think [Trump] was condoning sexual assault.”

    • Days later, after multiple women said that Trump had sexually assaulted them, McEnany argued that “Donald Trump's claim is stronger” than that of one of the accusers.

    • McEnany also excused Trump’s tone-deaf assertion that if his daughter was sexually harassed at work, she ought to find a new job. She claimed that was “the same advice I would give to my sister.”

    • Her sycophancy continued in 2017, when she contended that Trump crossed no boundaries when he made a sexist remark to an Irish reporter.  

    Tomi Lahren

    Fox’s Tomi Lahren has built a career out of making unapologetically cruel and anti-feminist rants. She has a long history of attacking women and empowerment movements, including during a speech at the 2016 TPUSA summit.

    • During her 2016 YWLS speech, Lahren attacked various groups of women and derided modern day feminism. About liberal women, she told the crowd, “You notice the difference between a conservative women’s conference and a liberal women’s conference, because y’all dress like women.” In reference to Hillary Clinton, she proclaimed, “Don’t tell Hillary, but you can wear a dress and still be a woman,” and then she called both Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “men” based on the clothes they wear. She accused actress Lena Dunham of making false rape accusations, and she commented that Dunham was “somewhere getting undressed on HBO” and “no one wants to see that.” She described feminists as “barely women,” and she described the modern-day feminist movement as “all about “gimme -- it’s gimme this, gimme this.”

    • On another occasion, during a particularly vicious tirade, she described modern-day feminism as “the dumbest load of hypocritical crap ever masqueraded as an equality movement.”

    • In an interview with Playboy, in which she described feminism as “bad,” she implied that feminism attempts to simplify women into “wanting free abortions or free birth control, and by using a false statistic like the 77 cents on the dollar bullshit.”

    • In another instance, she slightly tweaked her previous definition of the feminist movement, arguing that feminism is in fact “about man-bashing & free birth control.”

    • Lahren once claimed female activists attending a planned “Day Without Women” protest were not “real women.” According to Lahren, “Real women don’t have to remind the world every single day that history once slighted us. Real women don’t wake up and skip work to march for abortions or paid contraceptives.” She added that she wasn’t sure about “a day without women, but I could use a day without this nasty feminist BS masqueraded as women’s rights.”

    • Lahren condemned the 2017 Women’s March as a “vulgar display of hate and bitterness” and “a giant temper tantrum clogging our streets and hurting our ears and eyes.” She condemned the protesters themselves as “actual mean girls” and opined, “If only these marchers put this much time/effort into their families & life choices. Perhaps then they wouldn't have to glorify abortion.”

    • She complained about girls being allowed into the Boy Scouts.

    • She (wrongly) denied that there is a gender-based wage gap.

    Ben Shapiro

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro frequently misinforms his audiences about the obstacles women face, demeans and attacks transgender women, and serves as a reliable source of misogynistic commentary on multiple issues.

    • Shapiro has repeatedly denied the existence of a gender wage gap (once again, it's real). When actor Jennifer Lawrence discussed her experience with pay inequality, Shapiro claimed she was just “whining about a bad contract.”

    • He has dismissed the impact that having children has on women’s earnings potential. 

    • Shapiro is against women serving in combat positions, tweeting: “Women SHOULD NOT register for the draft. National service is one thing. Combat? Come the hell on.”

    • He has claimed that “fewer women are interested in getting into tech because of all of the demands of work-life balance.”

    • He has repeatedly attacked and misgendered transgender women, tweeting that transgender people have “mental illness[es]” and claiming that Chelsea Manning only “think[s]” she’s a woman.

    • In response to the 2015 edition of MTV’s Video Music Awards, Shapiro tweeted: “Feminism is apparently the proposition that women are empowered by showing their breasts, but men are sexists for looking at them. #VMAs”

    • He accused “leftist women” of “redefin[ing]” rape and cautioned his followers not to believe “the lies” about “rape culture.”

    • He mocked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke for her activism on contraceptive access and labeled her a “fascist” for wanting contraception to be more accessible to workers.

    • Shapiro has launched numerous attacks against planned Parenthood, claimed that women who seek abortions are “kill[ing] their own children,” and denied that medical care received by pregnant women is part of “women’s health.” 

    Candace Owens

    TPUSA’s communications director, Candace Owens, is a vicious critic of the #MeToo movement. She has attacked its leaders and maliciously defamed and insulted victims of abuse. Owens has also maligned feminism and she often promotes sexist and demeaning tropes.

    • Owens has been a vocal critic of the #MeToo movement, which has helped elevate the voices of people who have experienced abuse and has led to the rightful downfall of numerous abusive men. Owens, however, has accused the movement of turning “sexual assault into a trend,” contended that its premise is that “women are stupid, weak & inconsequential,” and claimed the movement is at fault for men who won’t hire women. Owens’ attacks on #MeToo were so tone deaf and clueless that even conservative women condemned them, causing at least one conservative organization to pull out of the conference, and leading TPUSA’s Kirk to beseech attendees not to attack Owens publicly.  

    • Owens also wrote that the “entire #metoo” movement was evidence of how “vicious and cunning women can be when they feel scorned.”

    • She argued that the leaders of the movement “were at one time willing to trade sex for career advancements” and accused them of leading a “political witch hunt.”

    • Owen’s has promised that her 2018 TPUSA speech will center on why she “hate[s] the #metoo movement.”

    • Owens has claimed that women “are being systematically taught to equate ‘regret’ with ‘rape,’” an old and incorrect assertion that is sometimes used to minimize the reality of sexual assault.

    • She has accused “modern feminism” of “singlehandedly (sic) deteriorating relationships and eventual motherhood” and argued that feminists “hate men” and are “miserable.” She also claimed that “if you believe in equality between men and women, you cannot be a feminist today.”

    • Owens has perpetuated sexist tropes with such statements as “Women are naturally jealous creatures. It’s not a trait they grow out of, they just get better at hiding it.”

    • She once relayed the “interesting theory” that “something bio-chemically happens to women who don’t marry and/or have children” to her Twitter followers. She offered comedians Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, and Sarah Silverman as “evidentiary support.” In a similar vein, she noted that “the most vicious perpetuators of modern feminism almost never have any children.”

    Jordan Peterson

    Right-wing YouTube star and Canadian professor Jordan Peterson advances a philosophy that demonizes and demeans women, refuses to respect the needs of transgender women, and shares videos that have been described as a gateway into the “alt-right” for men suffering from depression.

    • Peterson has argued for a hierarchical system built around gender and has condescendingly claimed that those who view our culture as an “oppressive patriarchy” simply don’t want to “admit” that the “current hierarchy might be predicated on competence.”

    • During a discussion about the “incel” (short for involuntarily celibate) who murdered 10 people in Toronto, Canada, at least in part because of his antipathy toward women, Peterson suggested that the “cure” for violent men is “enforced monogamy” to ensure that lower-status men get to have sex with women.

    • Peterson has argued that “conscientious and agreeable women” are more likely to prioritize their families over their work.

    • He has questioned whether “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance?” and asked, “Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

    • He warned against women trying to “usurp” men.

    • He has called Nazi sympathizer and unapologetic anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos “unstoppable” and “an amazing person.”

    • Peterson ardently rejects the right of transgender people to be called by their prefered pronouns and insists that calling people by the pronouns they prefer won’t “do [them] any good in the long run.” In reality, misgendering is a cruel and dangerous act.  

  • Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists are avoiding reports about Paul Manafort’s legal troubles

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have steered clear of reporting on Paul Manafort’s legal exposure, but they spent significant time on a judge’s strong words for the special counsel's team

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update:

    On June 14, a federal judge revoked Manafort's bail for allegedly tampering with witnesses, landing him in federal prison until his trial.


    President Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News shows are all but ignoring the cascade of damning reports regarding former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his legal troubles. Since May 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller has been scrutinizing various relationships between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to focus closely on Manafort’s business history and associates. As the legal pressure ramps up against Manafort, the president’s propagandists at Fox News have sought to distance Manafort from Trump and, through selective reporting on Manafort’s legal troubles, discredit the probe against Trump’s former campaign manager.

    Since the beginning of 2018, Manafort’s legal exposure has grabbed mainstream media attention, but the topic has not managed to break through on Trump’s favorite Fox News programs. Media Matters reviewed transcripts and video of the first editions of Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine after significant reports surfaced about new developments regarding the investigations into Manafort this year. We found little to no coverage of notable turns in the multiple high-profile legal cases against Trump’s former campaign manager. But we did find extensive coverage of the strong words a judge had for the special counsel’s team.

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all but ignored major turns in legal cases against Manafort

    Manafort sues Department of Justice, alleging special counsel exceeded mandate

    On January 3, NPR reported that Manafort was suing the Department of Justice, alleging that “Mueller's team has ‘diverged’ from its stated focus on potential collusion with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election and instead zeroed in on Manafort for ‘unrelated, decade-old business dealings’ in Ukraine.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development.

    Company tied to former Manafort business associate and Russian oligarch sues Manafort and business partner

    On January 10, according to NBC News, “a company controlled and funded by” Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one-time business associate of Manafort’s, sued Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates for allegedly “bilk[ing] his company by taking $1.1 million in capital and paying it to themselves.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the lawsuit.

    Special counsel tells judge investigation has revealed “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort

    On February 16, according to Politico, the special counsel’s office submitted a court filing informing a federal judge of “additional criminal conduct that [the office has] learned since the Court’s initial bail determination” on Manafort’s federal case that “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing specifically. Though a guest on Fox & Friends, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, briefly mentioned general “charges” against Paul Manafort, he downplayed them as “unrelated to the campaign.”

    Former Trump aide Richard Gates will “plead guilty” and has agreed to “testify against Manafort”

    On February 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gates, who is also a former Trump campaign aide, would “plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days” and that he “made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort.” While the Times report was unverified by other media outlets at the time, according to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report. Fox & Friends briefly mentioned it but added that Catherine Herridge, Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent, “says, as of now, no deal, and Gates is not cooperating.” Five days later, The New York Times confirmed that Gates would plead guilty “to financial fraud and lying to investigators” and “has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development. Fox & Friends all but ignored the report other than airing a 15-second teaser from co-host Brian Kilmeade (who did not identify how Gates is tied to the Trump campaign) and a softball question from co-host Steve Doocy during an interview with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus also attempted to downplay the significance of the report, claiming Gates’ and Manafort’s conduct was “independent of the Trump campaign.”

    Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort business partner sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

    On April 3, according to CNN, Alex van der Zwaan, a “Dutch lawyer tied to former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates,” was “sentenced … to spend 30 days in prison and pay a $20,000 fine after he admitted to lying to” the special counsel regarding his “communications with Gates and a person with Russian intelligence ties.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity briefly mentioned the sentencing, downplaying it as having “nothing to do with Russia collusion,” and saying, “In reality, it looks like a giant waste of your money.” Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the sentencing, which was the first in the special counsel’s investigation. Fox & Friends twice mentioned the development in passing while attempting to downplay its significance, once saying the sentencing is “unrelated” to Trump and Russia.

    Special counsel obtains seven new search warrants against Manafort

    On April 5, CBS News reported that prosecutors on the special counsel’s team “revealed in court filings ... that they had obtained on March 9 seven new search warrants against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort” for “various properties” including “a storage unit, bank accounts, email addresses and devices.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Federal judge rejects attempt to get Manafort case dismissed

    On May 15, according to Politico, a federal judge “rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort … to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed.” The judge wrote that “given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest” for U.S. law enforcement. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the judge’s decision.

    Manafort’s former son-in-law cuts plea deal, will testify against Manafort

    On May 17, Reuters reported that Manafort’s former son-in-law and “business partner” Jeffrey Yohai “cut a plea deal with the Justice Department” requiring him “to cooperate” with the special counsel’s prosecutors. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Special counsel accuses Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses

    On June 4, according to The New York Times, “federal prosecutors ... accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case,” with one witness telling the FBI “that Mr. Manafort was trying to ‘suborn perjury.’” Yet again, according to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing, even though the charges leveled against Trump’s former campaign manager can mean up to 20 years in federal prison if he is found guilty.

    Special counsel unseals additional charges against Manafort, Russian business associate

    On June 8, according to NPR, the special counsel’s office “unsealed more charges” against Manafort, alleging “that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the additional round of charges against the president’s former campaign manager.

    But Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered a judge’s sharp questioning of the special counsel’s motivations extensively

    On May 4, according to The Washington Post, “a federal judge in Virginia ... sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager.” According to the report, Judge T.S. Ellis III told prosecutors on Mueller’s team, “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered the judge’s rebuke of the Mueller team extensively.

    On the May 4 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity spent a total of 14 minutes and 46 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ comments, calling his remarks the “single biggest beatdown I have ever seen in my life by a judge.” The nearly 15 minutes Hannity devoted to Ellis’ comments were significantly more than the time he spent covering any development in the various cases against Manafort in 2018 combined, which totaled about 1 minute and 57 seconds.

    On the May 5 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine, host Jeanine Pirro spent a total of 15 minutes and 27 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ remarks. In contrast, Pirro did not mention any of the other stories regarding Manafort's legal troubles in 2018.

    On the May 7 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts devoted 11 minutes and 5 seconds to Judge Ellis’ comments over three hours of airtime. Fox & Friends spent a total of 2 minutes and 43 seconds on the other turns in the various cases against Manafort, and during those reports the hosts usually downplayed the events as “unrelated” to Russia or “independent from the Trump campaign.”

    As Fox buries reports on Manafort, majority of Americans are unaware of numerous special counsel indictments

    Given Manafort’s past and the people he has been willing to associate with professionally, it is no wonder Fox News’ chief Trump propagandists have attempted to distance the president from him. According to The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer, Manafort’s career was built on lobbying on behalf of “dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others.” Manafort’s experience representing repressive regimes eventually landed him a job in Ukraine, assisting the “former gangsters,” as Foer wrote, in the Party of Regions in improving their image domestically, eventually guiding pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych to presidential victory in 2010.

    Fox News’ efforts to bury Manafort’s legal exposure seem to be having an impact. According to a recent survey conducted by Navigator Research, 59 percent of Americans are not aware that the special counsel’s investigation has uncovered any crimes, even though Mueller has amassed five guilty pleas and numerous indictments. Should the special counsel’s investigation turn up evidence that supports allegations of a criminal conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and foreign actors, Manafort would surely be implicated as a key player.

    Suppressing reports regarding (arguably) the most corrupt member of Trump’s campaign team -- and following Fox’s usual playbook of downplaying and ignoring other consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation -- appears to be part of the network’s larger strategy to pre-emptively downplay any possible findings that could implicate the president and his campaign.

  • Even conservative women are shredding Candace Owens' attack on the #MeToo movement

    Owens claimed #MeToo treats women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” Even conservatives clapped back.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Points USA, attacked the #MeToo movement on Twitter on June 11, claiming that it treats women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” Owens, whose profile skyrocketed after rapper Kanye West promoted her brand of hot takes on Twitter,  also stated that #MeToo had “turned sexual assault into a trend,” an absurdity akin to claiming that fire alarms are turning fires into a trend.

    By elevating the voices of accusers, the #MeToo movement has been pivotal in spotlighting powerful figures who had gotten away with sexual misconduct and violence. Owens’ ignorant attack faced immediate criticism. Even conservative women, who typically espouse anti-feminist views, spoke out against it.

    Kimberly Corban, a rape survivor and an NRATV favorite due to her pro-gun advocacy, said she disagreed with Owens and suggested they “get together” to talk:

    Corban also pointed out why Owens’ words could be damaging to survivors and victims, while explaining that #MeToo “isn’t a problem with women” but rather a problem that stems from a culture that forces victims into silence.

    Amber Athey, a breaking news editor for The Daily Caller and a columnist for Catholic Vote, called Owens’ tweets “an ignorant take” and “ridiculously unfair”:

    According to Athey, Owens’ cluelessness on #MeToo comes from taking “the conservative idea of personal responsibility” and warping and twisting it to “unimaginable levels.” 

    Rita Panahi, who works for the Herald Sun, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia, and hosts The Friday Show at conservative network Sky News, responded to Owens that “blaming the victim for being victimised isn’t helpful”:

    Cassandra Fairbanks, who writes for The Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy theory-friendly and error-filled outlet, called out Owens for her “bad tweet”:

    Some conservative men were also shocked by the ludicrous comments. Benji Backer, founder and president of the American Conservative Coalition, shared his own experiences of being subjected to sexual misconduct and called Owens’ attacks “abhorrent” as well as “asinine & cowardly”:

    Jerry Dunleavy, an alum of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign who works for Judicial Watch, explained why Owens’ take was “exactly wrong”:

    Caleb Hull, a senior editor at Independent Journal Review, suggested Owens “will do or say anything for the attention”:

    Hull might be onto something. Owens is slated to speak at Turning Point’s upcoming Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX. With her tweet, she was likely attempting to exploit a sensitive topic to draw more attention to her speech, in which she has promised to explain why she hates the #MeToo movement.

    Owens’ skyrocketing ascent to conservative fame has, after all, always rested on wildly inaccurate assertions. She has claimed that police brutality is not an issue the Black community faces, blatantly dismissed the threats that white supremacy presents, and volleyed toxic, inaccurate attacks at the immigrant community, including claiming that undocumented immigrants are voting illegally and that they are “directly harming the black community” by taking jobs.

    Kennedy Copeland, an advancement associate at Owens’ own Turning Points USA, attempted to distance the organization from Owens’ views after she tweeted about #MeToo, claiming to “respectfully disagree” with her statement. But given that TPUSA considers “grab them by the pussy” apologist Jeanine Pirro and enforced-monogamy supporter Jordan Peterson worthy ambassadors for its young women’s leadership summit, TPUSA’s views on women and victims of sexual violence and misconduct may actually be in lockstep with Owens’.

    UPDATE: Following backlash, Candace Owens took to Periscope, calling #MeToo "a witch hunt on men" and blaming it for causing the men she speaks to refusing to hire women.

    UPDATE (7:15 PM): On Twitter, Mediaite's Caleb Ecarma shared a leaked message in which TPUSA's executive director and founder Charlie Kirk asked fellow conservatives to refrain from critizising Owens or the organisation and to backchannel their disagreements to avoid hurting the group's image.

  • Jeanine Pirro calls for Jeff Sessions’ head (because she wants his job)

    Fox News’ loudest Trump propagandist aspires to be attorney general

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    The key to understanding how Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro operates is to realize that she is single-minded in her personal ambition while completely unencumbered by anything resembling shame, dignity, or professional integrity. As it stands, Pirro is one of the more influential pundits in the country by virtue of her close relationship with President Donald Trump. She uses her awful Fox News program, Justice with Judge Jeanine, to propagandize on Trump’s behalf, for which she is granted access to the president, interviews with key administration officials, etc.

    But that’s not enough for Pirro, who turned to televised punditry only after her once-promising political and legal career was left in smoldering ruin by her personal scandals and widely mocked campaign ineptitude. According to Politico, Pirro aspires to the lofty office of attorney general of the United States and has been telling the president’s advisers that “she’s interested in taking over as the nation’s top law enforcement official.”

    Ordinarily, it would seem ridiculous that a cable pundit would have any chance of serving as attorney general, but that was before the reality TV star president tapped two cable pundits to be his chief economic and national security advisers and nominated his doctor to run the Department of Veterans Affairs because he gave a good press conference.

    There are, however, some major obstacles to Pirro landing her dream job: chief among them, the guy currently holding it. She can’t be attorney general while Jeff Sessions is still in office. So Pirro is taking matters into her own hands and using her cable news program to undermine her supposed rival and publicly call for his resignation (or ouster).

    Here’s Pirro on June 2 saying, “If Jeff Sessions can’t do his job because he’s too scared or recusing himself, maybe he ought to resign himself. But that’s just me.”

    And here she is one week before that calling Sessions an “absentee attorney general” and asking White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Isn’t it time to get a working attorney general on staff?”

    And here she is one week before that calling Sessions “the most dangerous man in America” because he refuses to use the awesome powers of his office to protect Donald Trump and arrest the senior staff of the Justice Department (seriously):

    This is all quite insane and grotesquely unethical and fatally shot through with toxic self-interest. All those characteristics should, under normal circumstances, prevent Pirro from having her name even briefly considered for any government position, let alone attorney general. But these are strange times in which a televised authoritarian harangue in support of turning the Justice Department into a weapon against the president’s political enemies can win you plaudits in the Oval Office. “Attorney general nominee Jeanine Pirro” would be a sad, surreal joke, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that it won’t happen.

  • Right-wing media praise, justify Trump's decision to pardon Dinesh D'Souza

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures were quick to defend and rejoice over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza for his felony conviction for violating campaign finance law.

    On the morning of May 31, Trump tweeted:

    D’Souza was indicted in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws, and right-wing media figures also jumped to defend him then, portraying him as a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration, which D’Souza had criticized in a lie-filled book attempting to trace Obama’s liberal policy motivations and later in a lie-filled movie. But D’Souza pleaded guilty to the charges against him five years ago. His more recent missives have included tweets mocking students who survived the February school shooting in Parkland, FL and likening Democrats to Nazis.

    Following Trump’s announcement that he will give a full pardon to D’Souza, right-wing media figures celebrated the decision and claimed that D’Souza was indeed treated unfairly:

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro: “Fantastic news @DineshDSouza to be pardoned by @POTUS. Obama’s political prosecution null and void.”

    Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s pardon of D’Souza is “a marvelous act of justice. Not mercy, justice.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “It’s about time”; pardon “was long overdue.”

    Right-wing troll Mike Flynn Jr.: “WOW! Incredible! @DineshDSouza totally deserves this! CONGRATS!”

    Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: “Good to see Trump using that power” to correct “a lot of these travesties of justice that are taking place.”

    Wash. Examiner’s Byron York and Ingraham agree D’Souza sentencing was a “travesty” and “outrage.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: D’Souza was sentenced “so that Obama could flex his muscles and show what a tough guy he was.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth: “I thought that was great.”

    Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft: D’Souza’s prosecution was an “Obama political hit job and “an obvious witch hunt.”

  • Introducing the Sean Hannity Expanded Universe, Fox’s anti-Mueller alternative reality

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservatives often bemoan liberal dominance of Hollywood. But since Donald Trump’s election, Fox News’ Sean Hannity has built the closest thing the right wing has to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the wildly successful superhero franchise. Where Marvel’s superheroes fight alien invaders, the stars of the Sean Hannity Expanded Universe (SHEU) position themselves as the last bulwark against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But while the superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe fight villains like Thanos on their own, Hannity and his compatriots want to go a step further and enlist their audience to support a frightening and anti-democratic response by Trump.

    Hannity has cast himself as his series’ Iron Man, the only visionary clear-sighted enough to identify an existential threat. The sprawling team assembled around him includes bankable leads, aging stars seeking new relevance, promising new faces, and ensemble players, all crossing over into each other’s storylines to build common narratives. Their overarching tale is that Mueller’s Russia probe is a “witch hunt,” the result of the fabrications of a shadowy cabal of journalists, Democrats, and “deep state” operatives. The happy ending they seek is the president saving himself by curtailing Mueller’s probe and instead ordering investigations into his political enemies. 

    For more about Hannity's conspiratorial narrative and the authoritarian endgame he's pushing, see our study reviewing his coverage of the first year of the Mueller probe.

    President Trump is simultaneously the audience for this story, the victim who needs to be saved, and, in Hannity’s telling, the potential hero. The SHEU’s proposed solution to the Mueller investigation is in line with the authoritarian model for law enforcement Trump prefers, casting the Justice Department’s function as protecting the president and punishing his enemies. Unlike Marvel fans, Trump is able not merely to watch members of the SHEU on Fox broadcasts, but to break the fourth wall and go on their shows for fawning interviews, highlight particular segments for his Twitter followers, promote their programs and books, and even call on a select few for advice.

    That might be a fanboy’s fantasy. But it has real and frightening consequences. The SHEU is reaching out from the Fox News screen and encouraging the president to act on his authoritarian impulses. Hannity and his teammates are preparing their viewers to support Trump no matter what norms he shatters. They have great power, and if Trump takes their advice, they will bear great responsibility.

    Anti-Mueller conspiracy theories have permeated nearly every corner of Fox. But only the true stalwarts merit inclusion in the Sean Hannity Expanded Universe:

    • A weekly guest spot with the Fox & Friends crew helped turn Trump into a political phenomenon, and he’s remained a loyal viewer throughout his presidency. If you see Trump angrily tweeting about the Mueller probe early in the morning, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, or one of their guests is almost certainly responsible.

    • Lou Dobbs’ cable news career seemed over when his bigoted commentary finally forced CNN to push him out in 2009, but he soon found a new home at Fox Business. Even at Fox, he’s distinguished himself as a shameless pro-Trump sycophant whose calls to not just fire but jail Mueller and the FBI and Justice Department leaders who have defied Trump are genuinely unnerving.

    • A longtime friend of Trump’s whom he considered for a senior Justice Department position, Jeanine Pirro has a Saturday night program that’s a must-watch for both White House aides and observers hoping to predict Trump’s messaging. She drew attention for her disturbing call for a “cleansing” of the FBI and DOJ and the arrests of top officials she considers insufficiently loyal to the president.

    • Gregg Jarrett spent much of his career as a marginal legal commentator and weekend Fox anchor. But he raised his profile by becoming the go-to analyst for hosts like Dobbs and Hannity, who value having someone with a law degree claim that Trump’s associates are innocent because collusion isn’t a crime and condemn their FBI pursuers for acting like “the old KGB.”

    • Jarrett’s a hack, but at least he’s Fox’s hack. Other attorneys regularly called upon to dismiss the investigation include Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow and the husband-and-wife team of Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, who were briefly considered for Trump’s legal team and have represented several figures under Mueller's investigation. All three are mainstays in the right-wing legal community -- and each has done legal work for Hannity.

    • Once colleagues at the right-wing website Circa News, John Solomon has moved on to The Hill while Sara Carter is a Fox contributor who publishes her reporting at her personal blog. Their slanted reporting based on conservative sources helps fuel anti-Mueller Fox hosts eager for information confirming their dire theories, and it garners the pair regular appearances throughout the SHEU -- and Hannity’s call to award them with Pulitzer Prizes.

    • A former Secret Service agent, Dan Bongino parlayed three failed bids for federal office into a career as a mid-level right-wing pundit, a gig on the National Rifle Association's media operation NRATV, and regular appearances on Fox & Friends and Hannity. Keep an eye on this one -- someone willing to call the Russia probe “an obvious frame job” could go far in this morally bankrupt movement.

    • Sebastian Gorka, who joined Fox after being canned from his poorly defined White House job after only seven months, has argued that Clinton should be put to death for treason.

    • After spending years attacking the ethics of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton now uses his Fox appearances to urge Trump to pardon everyone implicated by the Mueller probe and describe the FBI as “a KGB-type operation.”

  • Sinclair is gearing up to compete with Fox -- by being even worse than Fox

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Recent reports indicate that local TV news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group has met with a number of current and former Fox News employees and is gearing up to compete directly with the cable channel -- by attempting to beat Fox News in a race to the very bottom.

    On May 16, Politico’s Jason Schwartz reported that Sinclair executive chairman David Smith met “in the last few months” with the executive producer of Fox News’ Hannity. The producer, Porter Berry, is at least the second person with close ties to Sean Hannity to have reportedly met with Sinclair leadership recently; Schwartz earlier reported that Sinclair was attempting to recruit current Tribune programming executive Sean Compton, a “close friend” of Hannity’s.

    According to Schwartz’s sources, Smith is planning to set up Sinclair as a direct competitor with Fox News after the former’s massive acquisition of Tribune Media is finalized. Smith is said to be developing ideas for a “three-hour block of news-opinion programming” that could air on a cable network Sinclair already owns or another it would acquire in the Tribune deal.

    Sinclair’s apparent dream line-up for this nightly cable news programming amounts to a who’s who of Fox News liabilities and Trump sycophants. Not only has Smith reportedly met with executives close to Hannity, but he’s also been in talks with current Fox News host Jeanine Pirro as well as a handful of former Fox personalities: Greta Van Susteren, Eric Bolling, James Rosen, and (at least at one point) Bill O’Reilly.

    Of this group of six, half left Fox News in connection with sexual misconduct reports. Bolling parted ways with Fox last September amid an investigation into reports he had sent unsolicited pictures of male genitalia to multiple colleagues. Rosen reportedly departed the network around the new year following “increased scrutiny of his behavior” due to an “established pattern” of harassment. And O’Reilly, of course, was fired in April 2017 after reports came out that he had engaged in a decades-long pattern of harassment and that 21st Century Fox had failed to stop it.

    O’Reilly, Pirro, Van Susteren, and Hannity were all vocal defenders of late Fox chief Roger Ailes when he was named for serial sexual harassment in 2016. (Van Susteren later said she regretted defending Ailes.)

    In order to truly compete with Fox News, Sinclair has decided it must be willing to become a safe space for Fox News’ most toxic liabilities -- including powerful media men who have hurt others, created hostile and unsafe work environments, and done little to nothing to make it right. This shameful decision is the latest sign from Sinclair executives that the company simply does not care about the safety of its employees or the actual needs of its viewers.  

    Sinclair’s strategy for competing with Fox also seems to include seeking out top Trump sycophants like Pirro, who spends nearly every Saturday night on Fox yelling about the president’s alleged mistreatment by just about everyone (and who is also informally advising the president). Bolling, too, has been orbiting the Trump White House for months. And Sean Hannity -- perhaps the worst of them all -- has taken Fox prime time to impossibly new lows in the name of defending the president.

    Sinclair is already drastically changing the local news landscape, infecting TV stations across the country with a combination of blatant pro-Trump propaganda, fearmongering rhetoric, and uniform local news that barely counts as “local” at all. Its M.O. of drastic consolidation leaves its own journalists under-resourced and embarrassed by their employer, and it leaves local audiences with less access to the news they need.

    Sinclair is doing more than enough to make local news measurably worse. Will it now sink below even the Fox News fever swamp to bring more horrors -- and even less actual news -- to cable?

  • 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

  • While Fox News figures push Trump to fire Rosenstein and Mueller, Fox & Friends blames "the media"

    Brian Kilmeade: "It almost seems like the media is pushing the president to fire Rod Rosenstein, pushing the president to fire Robert Mueller, as if they are saying please, create a constitutional crisis”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the April 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that “it almost seems like the media is pushing the president to fire [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, pushing the president to fire [special counsel] Robert Mueller, as if they are saying please, create a constitutional crisis.” Kilmeade added that “clearly the president feels ill-served, clearly the president feels boxed in, clearly he is irate” by the Mueller investigation about his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. 

    In his pearl-clutching moment, Kilmeade failed to acknowledge that Fox News figures -- including Kilmeade himself -- have helped lead the attacks on Mueller, Rosenstein, and the entire Russia investigation. 

    President Donald Trump is a devoted viewer of Fox News, especially its morning show Fox & Friends, and he often responds directly to the network’s programming. So, when Fox stars say the “illegitimate and corrupt” Russia investigation is “tortur[ing]” and “tearing this country apart,” while demanding that the Department of Justice be “cleansed” of Trump’s enemies, the president is listening closely. 

    Here are just a few of the times Fox News has attempted to undermine the Russia investigation, including by directly attacking Mueller or Rosenstein:

    Kilmeade: “America’s being tortured by Robert Mueller’s worldwide mystery tour.” 

    Kilmeade: “The special counsels (sic) … are ripping this country apart. The Robert Mueller investigation is tearing this country apart.” 

    In August 2017, Kilmeade called for an end to the Mueller investigation: “Six months is enough.”

    Host Sean Hannity: "Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president. … Mueller’s investigation is way out of control."

    Guest Joe diGenova, formerly a candidate to be Trump’s personal attorney, on Lou Dobbs Tonight: “They should move to impeach” Rosenstein.

    Host Jeanine Pirro: The FBI and DOJ need “to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

    Hannity regular Gregg Jarrett: “The Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt. … It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night.” Sean Hannity responded, “This is not hyperbole you are using here.”

    These clips show only a fraction of the times that Fox News figures have denounced what Pete Hegseth called the “special impeachment counsel,” attacks that carry weight with Trump. Jarrett and Hannity (a friend of Trump’s who also advises him) called for Mueller to be fired at least 39 times in June 2017 -- the same month that Trump actually did attempt to fire Mueller. And between May and December, Hannity and his guests questioned Mueller's legitimacy at least 79 times and claimed he and his team have conflicts of interest over 364 times.

    In addition to making specific attacks against officials involved in the investigation, Fox personalities actively support the conspiratorial mindset that “the deep state” is in the midst of “what essentially amounts to a coup d’etat” against Trump, and that “it may be time to declare war outright” against the government employees that Fox perceives as the president’s enemies. 

  • With Fox feedback loop tightening, Trump lashes out on immigration

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    A screengrab from this morning's edition of Fox & Friends shows a tweet President Donald Trump sent yesterday in response to that morning's Fox & Friends broadcast.

    Fox News’ hosts triggered a hard-line turn on immigration from President Donald Trump over Easter weekend, making the case in private meetings at his Mar-A-Lago resort and egging him on with inflammatory coverage on the network’s airwaves.

    Not only does Fox’s stable of conservatives provide fawning coverage of the presidency, but Trump also looks to them for advice and to fill his administration. He is also enmeshed in a feedback loop with the network’s programming, frequently watching Fox broadcasts and tweeting along. This loop, too, can trigger major shifts in White House communications strategy and policy, causing chaos as the administration, Congress, and the press try to figure out what the live tweet du jour really means.

    On Friday night, Trump dined at Mar-A-Lago with Fox host Sean Hannity. Hannity regularly advises the president, reportedly convincing Trump to kill an incipient deal with Democrats last year to ensure legal status for the undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

    Over the weekend, Hannity, whose show is pure pro-Trump propaganda, reportedly urged the president to take a firmer line on immigration, citing the need to preserve the GOP’s chances in this year’s midterm elections. Trump’s decision to sign an omnibus spending bill that did not include funding for the long-sought wall on the U.S.-Mexican border has drawn a fevered response from some of the president’s most loyal supporters.

    Hannity’s remarks appear to have been the first salvo in a successful weekend-long effort by the president’s supporters at Fox to get him to step up his criticism of immigration.

    The next morning, Trump appeared to respond to Hannity’s advice while taking his cues from Fox’s morning programming.

    After Fox & Friends ran multiple segments criticizing California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to pardon five immigrants who were facing deportation, Trump slammed the “Moonbeam” governor. Trump’s tweet, sent while traveling in his motorcade from Mar-A-Lago to the Trump International Golf Club, copied language from one of the show’s graphics and tagged the network’s handle.

    Later that day, Trump reportedly met with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, another staunch loyalist who has also advised him during his presidency. Pirro echoed Hannity’s message on the need to take a harsher stance on immigration, according to CNN. The president also dined that evening with Hannity and Bill Shine, the former Hannity producer who rose to become co-president of the network before being forced out in disgrace because of his role in the network’s culture of sexual harassment.

    On the morning of Easter Sunday, the president again live-tweeted Fox & Friends’ immigration reporting. The program devoted several segments to a BuzzFeed News report about a caravan of several hundred Central American migrants who have been traveling from Mexico’s southern border toward the U.S. southern border, with the reported intention of settling in either country.

    In one such segment, Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents border patrol agents, criticized “catch and release” immigration policies in which immigration officials allow apprehended undocumented immigrants to remain at large if they are not considered dangerous in order to free up space in detention centers. Judd also called for the use of the “nuclear option” in the Senate to allow Republicans to pass immigration legislation without Democratic support.

    Roughly 40 minutes later, the president began sending a series of tweets that echoed Judd’s rhetoric.

    Questioned about his tweets by pool reporters as he walked into the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea for Easter services, Trump again slammed Mexico, said that Democrats “blew it” over DACA, and baselessly claimed that “a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA.”

    Trump himself took the action that puts DACA recipients in jeopardy, he has been inconsistent on whether he actually wants to protect them, and there is no evidence that recent migrants are trying to “take advantage” of DACA, which applies only to people who came to the U.S. as children and have been in the country since 2007.

    Trump’s comments about Mexico, which upended the administration’s recent effort to improve its relationship with the country, drew a quick response from that government.

    The president had obviously taken the advice from Fox’s hosts to heart, and the network could not be happier.

    This morning, Fox & Friends was trumpeting the president’s statements, with the first captions of the program reading, “TRUMP: NO MORE DACA DEAL!” and “CARAVAN OF IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.”

    And within the hour, the nation’s most prominent Fox & Friends viewer kicked off a morning of live-tweeting by chiming in once more:

    Trump was tweeting about a Fox & Friends segment about Trump tweeting about a Fox & Friends segment. The feedback loop is tighter than ever.

  • Trump's border wall proposal is exactly what Ann Coulter pitched on Fox News Saturday night

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On March 25, President Donald Trump released a cryptic tweet proposing to use funds dedicated to national defense to build a wall along the southern border, a plan conservative commentator Ann Coulter had proposed hours earlier on one of Trump’s favorite Fox News shows, Justice with Judge Jeanine.

    On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted:

    The tweet was widely interpreted as a proposal to use military funding to build a border wall, a proposal Coulter had made the night before on Justice with Judge Jeanine. The show's host, Jeanine Pirro, is a longtime friend of Trump’s and has earned a special place on his watch list through her fawning coverage.

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): What can the president do? What can the president do as commander-in-chief?

    ANN COULTER: Look, on the day after his inauguration, it's his authority under the Constitution that cannot be taken away from him by any legislature, by any court -- I'm quite confident the Supreme Court would uphold this -- to defend our borders. I mean, he has -- the last war that had a declaration of war from Congress in it was World War II, and we engage in a lot of military actions around the world. I think it can be done right on our border as part of the defense. Have the Seabees do it. But if he needs to --

    PIRRO: OK, so where does he get the money? Where does he get the money to build the wall that you can say he can build as national defense. Where does he take the money from?

    COULTER: The same place Reagan took the money to invade Grenada. The same place he took the money to bomb Syria. He has money to spend on national defense, and this is a much bigger problem of national defense. This is our people being attacked with chemical warfare, not allegedly Syrians.

  • Victoria Toensing, new Trump lawyer Joseph diGenova’s wife, has been trying to use Uranium One to get Mueller investigated

    Update: Toensing reportedly may also join Trump's legal team

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reported on March 22 that according to two sources, President Donald Trump "is likely to add" Victoria Toensing to his legal team as well, in "a sign that Trump wants to flip the script and investigate his investigators."


    Since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in May and given a mandate to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and any other matters arising from that probe, the president and his supporters in Congress and the media have responded in two ways. First, they have tried to make the case that the president and his associates did nothing wrong -- that there was “no collusion,” as Fox News’ Sean Hannity and others have put it. Second, they have sought to delegitimize anyone whose work could endanger the president, from Mueller himself, to other top FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the case, to the journalists reporting on the probe.

    The New York Times report today that Trump plans to hire Joseph diGenova to join his personal legal team ties those two branches together more tightly than ever. As the Times points out, in a January appearance on Fox, the Washington lawyer with deep ties to the GOP baselessly accused people at the Department of Justice and FBI of “trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.” But beyond that, diGenova’s wife and law partner, Victoria Toensing, who is also a longtime Republican activist and lawyer, is representing a purported “witness” whose claims are at the center of a right-wing media effort to have another special counsel appointed. In theory, this second special counsel would be able to investigate Mueller himself over a shoddily constructed conspiracy theory involving the Russian nuclear energy agency’s 2010 acquisition of Uranium One, a company with licenses to extract U.S. uranium.

    In 2015, conservatives used the Uranium One deal to attack Hillary Clinton, claiming that as secretary of state, she helped push the deal through in exchange for payments from Russians to her husband and the Clinton Foundation. They returned to the story after the election as a way of diffusing the Trump-Russia story by claiming that, in the words of Sean Hannity, it was Clinton who was guilty of the “real collusion” with Russia. And the tale came back again after an October 17 report in The Hill claimed that a “confidential U.S. witness” who was “working inside the Russian nuclear industry” -- later revealed as lobbyist William Douglas Campbell -- had told the FBI that Russian nuclear officials had tried to pay off the Clintons to secure Hillary Clinton’s support for the deal, and that the Obama administration had then covered it up.

    Each iteration of this story has collapsed in light of the simple reality that the State Department was one of numerous federal and state agencies to sign off on the Uranium One deal, and that there is no evidence -- even from Campbell -- that Hillary Clinton ever personally participated in any discussions about it.

    Crucially, the latest version of the Uranium One conspiracy theory implicates not just Clinton, but also Mueller, who was FBI director when Campbell came forward. As such, it provided a way for the president’s allies to call for Mueller’s removal. As Fox News' Jeanine Pirro put on October 28, “Starting Monday, this has to happen: Special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller must be fired immediately. His role as head of the FBI during the uranium deal and the Russia extortion case, his friendship with Jim Comey, demand his firing.”

    Toensing is Campbell’s lawyer, and so she has played a key role in promoting the Uranium One tale. She and diGenova frequently represent Republican clients or “whistleblowers” whose claims could be damaging to Democrats. As such, those clients typically receive credulous coverage from Fox and other right-wing outlets, where the lawyers often appear. True to form, Campbell’s claims drew a constant stream of coverage on Fox. In the three weeks after The Hill story dropped alone, the network devoted nearly 12 hours to the Uranium One story.

    Toensing herself has appeared on Fox to discuss the story at least 18 times since it broke. In one of those appearances, Toensing made her aims explicit. After Hannity said that in spite of the Uranium One news, “Robert Mueller is now investigating anything involved with Russia,” Toensing replied, “I think this cries out for a special counsel. I just don't see how this can continue on. Congressional committees are fine. But this really takes -- this is a criminal investigation.”

    Over the following days and weeks, the president’s media and congressional allies chimed in, calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Uranium One deal. It’s clear that at least part of the impetus for that push is to checkmate Mueller -- as longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone put it, Mueller “can’t be a special prosecutor when he himself is under investigation,” making the naming of a Uranium One special counsel a key step toward curtailing the Mueller probe.

    That argument made it all the way to the Oval Office, with Pirro reportedly calling for a special counsel's appointment and bashing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a November meeting with the president and his top aides. Sessions has since publicly suggested that a second special counsel is unnecessary, but the Justice Department has also taken steps to move forward on an investigation.

    With diGenova moving onto Trump’s payroll, he’ll be trying to defend the president while Toensing continues to attack Mueller. The pro-Trump two-step has been made manifest in a single household.

  • The insane, toxic Trump adulation of Jeanine Pirro

    Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro sold out her public image and debased herself to become one of President Trump’s go-to pundits

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you were to ask me who Jeanine Pirro works for, I’m not sure I could give you a straight answer. On paper, at least, she is an employee of Fox News, which pays her money to host a weekly show called Justice with Judge Jeanine. It’s a terrible program that exploits the well-worn cable news trope of using a crackpot pundit’s career in law enforcement to give unearned credibility to their howlingly stupid opinions. In theory, Justice with Judge Jeanine is a platform for Pirro (a former judge, former district attorney, failed Senate candidate, and speed-limit scofflaw) to give her take on the week’s top legal stories.

    In practice, however, Pirro serves as a combative and vocal propagandist for President Donald Trump. Pirro makes it her business to be the loudest pro-Trump voice in whatever room she happens to find herself in, and she moonlights as an informal adviser to Trump, who reportedly seeks her out for her counsel. Pirro’s advocacy for the president is so aggressive that it often borders on insane -- some of her commentary would be at home in an authoritarian state media apparatus. And she has enthusiastically sold out the cause she built her career in public life on -- advocating for women who were victims of abuse -- to become a sneering and poisonous sycophant to the most powerful elected official in the country.

    An ambitious rise and embarrassing fall

    Jeanine Pirro does not lack for ambition. Her career in public life saw her score a series of firsts: She helped create and lead what was then called the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau for Westchester County, New York; she was the first woman to be elected as a judge on the Westchester County court; and she was the first woman to serve as the county’s district attorney. Her ex-husband, Al Pirro, was a well-connected real estate lawyer and GOP fundraiser who knew all the power players in New York -- one of his biggest clients in the late 1990s was Donald Trump, back when he was still in the real estate game.

    She had a talent for drawing media attention and relentlessly marketed herself as a hard-charging prosecutor who brought legal hell down upon sex offenders and domestic abusers. Pirro positioned herself as an advocate for women at a time when victims of domestic abuse were an afterthought in the criminal justice system. Her political ascent was durable enough to survive Al Pirro’s 2000 conviction on charges of tax fraud and conspiracy.

    All this success and exposure made her a star within the New York GOP, which, in the mid-2000s, was desperately looking for someone to derail the re-election of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. Pirro, the crusading, media-savvy district attorney, seemed like an obvious choice, and in August 2005, she announced her campaign for the U.S. Senate. She came into the race with a ton of hype and lofty expectations, and almost immediately Pirro proved she was completely out of her depth.

    Pirro’s campaign was an unalloyed fiasco from the start. Her speech announcing her candidacy became a nationwide joke after she spent half a minute silently fumbling for a missing page of her prepared remarks (The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart cracked that she observed “32 seconds of silence in memory of the premature death of her campaign”). Her first campaign ad didn’t directly state that she was running for a seat in Congress, and she showed up at the wrong location for a press conference announcing the ad buy. Pirro was also a fantastically inept fundraiser. Her campaign pulled in just $438,555 in its first fundraising quarter, compared to Clinton’s $5.3 million. (Amusingly, $900 of Clinton’s haul that quarter came from Donald J. Trump, according to campaign finance records.)

    With no money, no traction, and almost exclusively negative press attention, Pirro came under pressure from New York Republicans who wanted her to get out of the race so another candidate could take on Hillary. Among the high-profile Republicans plotting against Pirro’s ambition was her own husband, who reportedly urged state GOP officials to convince her to end the campaign.

    Pirro quit the Senate race after just four months and opted instead to run for New York attorney general. She won the Republican nomination running unopposed. But whatever slim hope Pirro might have nurtured for a comeback was crushed in September 2006 when she herself came under federal investigation for conspiring to wiretap her husband, who she suspected was cheating on her.

    No charges ended up being filed, Pirro lost the race to future New York governor Andrew Cuomo by 20 points, and she and her husband separated a year later. With her political career left a smoldering ruin, Pirro made the move to television. After a short run as host of a low-rated Judge Judy-like courtroom reality program, Pirro jumped to Fox News and started hosting Justice with Judge Jeanine in 2011.

    Pirro enthusiastically sells out for Trump

    Pirro’s affinity for Trump makes sense in a lot of ways: They’ve been friends for decades, they’re both Republicans, they’re both combative New Yorkers who crave media attention. But in one very important aspect, Pirro and Trump should -- at least in theory -- be irreconcilably opposed.

    Remember that Pirro’s entire public image was built around her work on behalf of victims of abuse: women who had been cowed into silence by their abusers and left unrepresented by the law and the courts. Her career as a politician was rooted in the idea that she was a tireless and hellacious enemy of sexual predators, wife beaters, and perpetrators of domestic violence. A 2005 profile of Pirro in the New York Observer described her as “half crusading cop, half crusading mom” and said her career was defined by “work with victims of spousal abuse and sexual abuse, murder, stalking, rape, [and] torture.”

    As a pundit, however, she has fanatically aligned herself with the nation's most prominent accused sexual assaulter. Donald Trump has faced too many credible allegations of assault against women to simply wave off, but Pirro has done exactly that, making every excuse for him, even when Trump got caught describing his own sexual misconduct.

    “The comments are shameful and cringeworthy. The words are disgusting, devastating, and embarrassing. It’s the kind of locker room and frat house talk that personally infuriates me,” Pirro said on her program following the release of the Access Hollywood tapes in which Trump boasted of groping women by their genitalia. “But guess what: I still without a doubt support Donald Trump.” Her rationale aligned perfectly with the excuse offered by Trump: that his comments were just “words” and not to be taken as an admission of sexual assault. And regardless of what Trump said, she argued, he was still better than “double-talking woman” Hillary Clinton.

    Pirro mortgaged her own reputation to defend Trump from his own self-incrimination. “He has always been a gentleman,” Pirro said on Fox & Friends in October 2016. “I know the man, and I can speak as a woman who has fought for battered women, I have crusaded for women my whole career to level the playing field for women who are victims of crime.” When multiple women came forward with their stories about Trump’s sexual assault, Pirro dismissed them as not credible and perhaps part of an anti-Trump conspiracy. “It’s a little too convenient. All of the sudden all of these people on one day on the day when WikiLeaks starts coming out,” she said.

    Last month, during one of the “Opening Statements” that she starts each show with, Pirro lashed out at former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned from the White House amid allegations that he’d physically abused his ex-wives. Pirro called Porter a “batterer” and lamented that “he doesn’t walk around with a scarlet letter or a sign on his forehead that says ‘I beat women.’” But she also went out of her way to exculpate the people in the White House who protected Porter for months, like chief of staff John Kelly, casting them as victims of anti-Trump hysteria. “You want to stop a four-star general who is running the White House, who believes in chain of command, who makes a decision within 40 minutes because you hate Donald Trump?” she asked before absurdly suggesting that the Rob Porter scandal was actually Barack Obama’s fault somehow. “Find another scapegoat. You might want to look at the last president.”

    The reason Pirro has so enthusiastically set fire to her reputation like this is that Trump is her avenue to power and influence. She protects and champions Trump in the face of all the damning evidence because he’s her friend, and because he’s the president of the United States and he gives her access.

    Softballs and poison

    Jeanine Pirro’s access to Trump comes in several different forms. She’s not just a pro-Trump pundit -- she’s also an adviser whom the president routinely seeks out. The New York Times reported in November 2017 that Pirro had once interviewed to be Trump’s deputy attorney general and that she had met with Trump in the Oval Office to “excoriate” Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Daily Beast reported that Trump regularly consults Pirro “privately for advice on political and policy matters.” Pirro was the keynote speaker at a January event at Mar-a-Lago put on by a pro-Trump political group, and she’s reportedly discussed with Trump the possibility of writing a rebuttal book to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.

    As a media figure, Pirro has scored two interviews with Trump since his inauguration; both were embarrassing spectacles that set new boundaries for the definition of “softball.”

    Her most recent sit-down with Trump was on February 24. The “questions” she asked him were, in several instances, just direct invitations for Trump to praise himself. This, for example, is an actual question posed to the president of the United States by Jeanine Pirro:

    Mr. President, your approval rating is soaring. And we can talk about the economy and the low unemployment and the stock market and all of the great things that have been happening with the economy. But you have accomplished all of this -- and, by the way, there’s a poll that put you at 50 percent, and at CPAC you were at 93 percent approval rating -- you did all this in one year with the economy. To what do you attribute these incredible advances?

    “I know that you support the military and you’re giving them the resources they need -- are we going to have a parade?” she asked at another point. The parade (one of Trump’s favorite pet issues) elicited a follow-up from Pirro: “When do you think we can have this parade? Because I want to go to the parade!”

    Her previous interview with Trump, on May 13, 2017, came in the immediate aftermath of his massively controversial firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Pirro used the opportunity to soothe Trump’s ego. “The media’s in a frenzy, and so given that some of these congresspeople thought he should have been fired … doesn’t it suggest to you that it isn’t even about Comey, it’s about anything that you, as president, do?” (Trump, of course, agreed.) That question wasn’t nearly as sycophantic as Pirro’s take on the messaging disarray within the administration. “Are you moving so quickly that your communications department can’t keep up with you?” Pirro asked. “Yes, that’s true,” Trump responded.

    I’d like to think that any media personality bearing even the spindliest shred of professional integrity would choke on the idea of being so exuberantly obsequious to the most powerful politician in the country. Pirro, however, is not so encumbered.

    The obverse side to Pirro’s gross deference to Trump is the noxious vitriol she spits at anyone who crosses the president, be they political adversaries or government officials who’ve drawn Trump’s ire.

    Like her Fox Business Network colleague (and fellow presidential propagandist) Lou Dobbs, Pirro is a staunch advocate of arresting and prosecuting Trump’s perceived enemies for the crime of opposing Trump. On December 9, 2017, she caused a stir by calling for a “cleansing” of the FBI and the Justice Department (DOJ), which she said were full “of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in handcuffs” and whose “corruption and lawlessness” require that they made into “examples.” Her fervor for “cleansing” the DOJ was undercut by her difficulty in identifying any actual crimes committed by the people she wanted purged -- special counsel Robert Mueller’s arrestable infraction, for example, was that “in a year, with a team dedicated to destroying Donald Trump, he can’t come up with one piece of evidence.”

    That insane harangue caused a media backlash driven largely by the fact that Pirro herself was a former law enforcement official calling for a purge of law enforcement. The following week she responded with an escalating series of attacks on the DOJ, grandiosely declaring: “I hereby double down.” She said there is “a criminal cabal in our FBI and the Department of Justice who think they know better than we do who our president should be,” describing it as “a crime family like in the movies except this time the FBI is the crime family.”

    Hillary Clinton also features prominently in Pirro’s weekly diatribes, likely due to Trump’s ongoing obsession with his former rival and Pirro’s own history as a failed Clinton foil. Last week saw huge stories break on guns, trade, and White House staffers, but Pirro’s “Opening Statement” on Saturday’s show focused on a tweet by Clinton about Trump and Russia. “The woman is even dumber than I thought,” she said as the starting point for a six-minute screed aimed at a candidate who lost an election 16 months ago.

    Earlier this year, Pirro filmed a “Street Justice” segment in which she wandered around Chappaqua, NY, pestering locals with inane questions about the Clintons. “Does Hillary Clinton drop off her pantsuits here?” she yelled through the open door of a dry cleaner (the employee inside ignored her). Then she tromped through the local woods “looking for Hillary,” apparently because Clinton was spotted hiking there after the election. The segment was confusing and pointless but extremely amusing to Pirro. “You think she’s home writing another book? Or maybe she’s still reading ‘What Happened’ because she can’t figure out what happened!” she said, taking obvious delight in what she believed to be a joke.

    The wages of propaganda

    Like other pro-Trump propagandists in the Fox News family, Jeanine Pirro understands that the way to attract and maintain the president’s attention is through grandiose, inflammatory demonstrations of dog-like loyalty. Trump watches a disgusting amount of cable news and loves pundits who posture as fighters and scrappers. Pirro markets herself precisely that way: a brawler who brings the principled, no-nonsense sensibility of a crusading judge to her weekly program. But Pirro has no principles and her only crusade is deifying Trump. And for her service, she is rewarded with access to the White House and the president.

    Corrupt arrangements like these have a baleful influence on how media figures behave. The most unethical and least principled actors in the media ecosystem are the ones who enjoy the best access and benefit from the exposure granted by their proximity to the president. This perverse incentive structure makes flagrant toadyism and barking lunacy desirable attributes (or, at the very least, it makes them less intolerable as trade-offs for access). The rise of unscrupulous pro-Trump whack jobs like Jeffrey Lord and Ed Martin speaks to this dynamic: inflammatory, manifestly untrustworthy voices given positions of prominence by media outlets because their slavish devotion to the president.

    This rotten dynamic puts a sycophant and sellout like Jeanine Pirro on the inside track, and it makes the Trump worship and scalding venom of Justice with Judge Jeanine a formula to be emulated.