Jonathan Martin | Media Matters for America

Jonathan Martin

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  • On CNN, the NYT’s Jonathan Martin claims there’s “an argument” that Republicans want to protect pre-existing conditions coverage

    Some Republicans have reversed course to claim they support pre-existing conditions coverage, but have voted to repeal the whole ACA without calling for the exception

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During the October 26 edition of CNN’s New Day, The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin suggested that Republicans “have an argument” when they say “we want to scrap the parts” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but save other provisions like protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In reality, there is ample evidence that Republicans are happily targeting pre-existing conditions coverage.

    The vast majority of congressional Republicans have spent years attempting to repeal the ACA and offering replacements that would have substantially weakened or eliminated protections barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has publicly stated his intention to revisit a full repeal should Republicans do well in the midterm elections. Moreover, many Republicans remain publicly supportive of a lawsuit brought by “Republican attorneys general representing 20 states” that could end pre-existing conditions coverage. The president, McConnell, and other Republican officials and candidates all support the lawsuit. Faced with overwhelming public support for the ACA’s pre-existing conditions coverage, Republicans have started lying about their party’s very recent history of favoring restricted access for those with pre-existing conditions.

    On New Day, Martin suggested Republicans could argue that the narrative that they're against protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is not “fair” because Republicans in Congress had to vote against the Affordable Care Act as a whole entity, even if they supported some components of the law. However, these Republicans never expressed support for protections for people with pre-existing conditions until the midterm elections began to approach and haven't explained how they plan to repeal the ACA while protecting that provision. In reality, mandatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions only became possible because of the ACA’s individual mandate, which conservatives rallied against for years. The individual mandate forced healthy people to purchase insurance, helping to offset costs of covering those with pre-existing conditions. Conservatives’ efforts to repeal the ACA as a whole cannot be separated from attacks on pre-existing conditions. Republicans did pitch one new bill as a way to protect coverage, but it was quickly revealed to be “a fraud.”

    During his appearance on CNN, Martin gave undue benefit of the doubt to GOP claims by ignoring obvious evidence of Republicans’ antipathy toward pre-existing conditions coverage and suggesting that they might want to protect it after all:

    JONATHAN MARTIN (THE NEW YORK TIMES): The challenge they have is that they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a key part of which includes those protections. Now, the Republicans will say, “Look, we want to scrap the parts of the ACA that we don't like, we will save those.” And so they have an argument there. But obviously, politics is not always fair in terms of when you sort of vote to repeal a large bill and there’s popular items therein, that isn't always specified.
  • Who cares if Trump’s reckless, dangerous Syria announcement is hypocritical?

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

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • For months, pundits have called Trump a populist, but his policies have been about giveaways to the rich

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Several media outlets are suggesting that President Donald Trump’s August 30 speech calling for tax reform was a “populist pitch,” and dozens of media figures and outlets have been calling the president a “populist” since his inauguration. A closer examination of Trump’s policies, however, show a pattern of decisions that will create devastating impacts on Americans, particularly low-income residents, while providing handouts to corporations and the wealthiest citizens.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)


    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • Trump Ridiculed After Insinuating Obama Is Complicit In Orlando Attack

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for “casually [and] darkly” suggesting that President Obama sympathizes with Islamic terrorists and was complicit in the Orlando terror attack, calling his comments “indefensible,” “distasteful,” and part of his “latest escalation in his years-long campaign to smear” Obama.

  • NY Times Highlights How Trump’s “Whole Frame Of Reference” Is Right-Wing Media Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin explained that because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “‘whole frame of reference’” for his campaign strategy has been conservative media outlets and discredited conspiracy theories, he’s “obliterated” the line separating elected officials and “conservative mischief makers.”

    Trump has long had a symbiotic relationship with conservative media. Fox News and other right-wing news outlets have built up his campaign and repeatedly defended his controversial policies and rhetoric while Trump has echoed their talking points and peddled their conspiracy theories -- most recently including the claim the Clintons were involved with the death of aide Vince Foster. Trump regularly surrounds himself with and lauds known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, an infamous 9/11 truther, and Roger Stone, a notorious dirty trickster who alleges the Clintons are murderers.Trump has also courted and pushed the claims of discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein, whose conspiracies on the Clintons have been called “fan faction” and “smut.”

    In a May 25 piece, Martin noted that Trump has obliterated “the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides.”Martin also quoted Republican strategists explaining that Trump’s “whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and [Alex Jones’] Infowars.” From the May 25 New York Times piece:

    Ever since talk radio, cable news and the Internet emerged in the 1990s as potent political forces on the right, Republicans have used those media to attack their opponents through a now-familiar two-step.

    Political operatives would secretly place damaging information with friendly outlets like The Drudge Report and Fox News and with radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh — and then they would work to get the same information absorbed into the mainstream media.

    Candidates themselves would avoid being seen slinging mud, if possible, so as to avoid coming across as undignified or desperate.

    Yet by personally broaching topics like Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and the conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a Clinton White House aide, Donald J. Trump is again defying the norms of presidential politics and fashioning his own outrageous style — one that has little use for a middleman, let alone usual ideas about dignity.

    “They’ve reverse-engineered the way it has always worked because they now have a candidate willing to say it himself,” said Danny Diaz, who was a top aide in Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, speaking with a measure of wonder about the spectacle of the party’s presumptive nominee discussing Mr. Clinton’s sexual escapades.

    With Mr. Trump as the Republican standard-bearer, the line separating the conservative mischief makers and the party’s more buttoned-up cadre of elected officials and aides has been obliterated. Fusing what had been two separate but symbiotic forces, Mr. Trump has begun a real-life political science experiment: What happens when a major party’s nominee is more provocateur than politician?


    Roger J. Stone Jr., the political operative who is Mr. Trump’s longtime confidant and an unapologetic stirrer of strife, called Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney “losers” for their more restrained approaches.

    But that is precisely what has many Republicans, and some Democrats, nervous.

    “He’s never been involved in policy making or party building or the normal things a candidate would do,” said Jon Seaton, a Republican strategist. “His whole frame of reference is daytime Fox News and Infowars,” a website run by the conservative commentator Alex Jones.

    Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s former chief of staff, said Mr. Trump was making common cause with “the lunatic fringe,” citing his willingness to appear on the radio show of Mr. Jones, who has claimed that Michelle Obama is a man.

  • Fox's Father Jonathan Morris: The Obama Administration Is "Raping ... Our First Amendment Rights"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a statement regarding an Obama administration policy that ensures women have access to insurance coverage for birth control while accommodating employers who object to providing birth control, Father Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest and Fox News contributor, stated:

    Any national media outlet that fails to report the obvious raping of our First Amendment rights by this Health and Human Service mandate, is trumpeting either woeful incompetence or shameless bias.

    Morris' comment was reported by the Media Research Center, which complained about media coverage of a lawsuit filed by various organizations against the contraception coverage policy.

    As a reminder, President Obama's contraception coverage policy has the support of a wide variety of Catholic institutions as well as a majority of American Catholics.


    Father Morris Pushes "Federal Funding For Abortion" Falsehood To Suggest Obama Is Untrustworthy

    Fox Now Attacking Obama's Reasons For Becoming A Christian

  • Politico ignores conservatives' lame-duck hypocrisy

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's Jonathan Martin writes up the Right's fear-mongering about a potential lame-duck session of Congress this fall, and does a good enough job of noting that it is unlikely that Democrats would "come up with a 60-vote majority in the Senate on the sort of hot-button bills now being used to galvanize conservative constituencies" during such a session.

    But Martin didn't so much as hint at the fact that many of the conservatives currently insisting that it is wildly inappropriate to take up controversial measures during a lame-duck session are more than a little hypocritical. For example, Martin prominently quotes a spokesperson for House Minority Leader John Boehner insisting Democrats should rule out a "a 'sour grapes' lame-duck session." But Martin didn't mention that John Boehner voted to impeach a sitting Democratic president during a lame-duck session following an election in which the Republicans lost seats in part because of public disgust over GOP efforts to impeach the president. (Nor did Martin note that Boehner's spokesperson apparently doesn't know what "sour grapes" means.)

    That's kind of a big one, don't you think? The Republican leader currently running around denouncing Democrats for (theoretically) using a lame-duck session to pursue controversial goals himself cast a deeply controversial vote to impeach President Clinton during a GOP-controlled lame duck session. You don't get much more hypocritical than that -- but Martin didn't mention it. Nor did he mention that Charles Krauthammer, who Martin noted has "sounded the alarm" about a lame duck session, urged the lame-duck House to impeach Clinton in 1998.

    UPDATE: Here's a USA Today article from November 13, 2006, just days after Democrats won control of both houses of Congress:

    A lame-duck Congress, including the so-called "living dead" who were defeated for re-election, opened today with an ambitious agenda that includes a showdown over President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

    Although the Democrats take charge of both houses of the new Congress starting in January, the Republicans maintain control of the Senate and the House of Representatives until the lame-duck session expires in December.

    This year's session could run well into December as Congress takes up a long list of unfinished business: nine spending bills; extending already-expired tax breaks; approving trade pacts with Vietnam and Peru; bioterrorism legislation; and a measure giving doctors a reprieve from a scheduled cut in Medicare payments.

    But a critical test of wills between the Democrats' rising power and the White House will come over the Bolton nomination.

    Bush last week also called on the lame-duck Congress to pass a controversial warrantless domestic wiretapping bill known as the Terrorists Surveillance Act. But that appears dead because of strong opposition by Democrats.

    And a December 6, 2006 Associated Press article:

    House Republicans abruptly pulled from floor action Tuesday a bill to open a large area of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling after it became clear the legislation lacked the two-thirds vote needed for passage.

    "The House will revisit the offshore drilling legislation again at some point before the end of this week, though details on the mechanics of how the measure will be considered have yet to be decided," Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner, said in a statement.

    The drilling bill is one of a string of measures House GOP leaders have readied for this week's "lame-duck" session under an expedited procedure that bars amendments, but also requires a two-thirds vote for approval.

    Why would any journalist report conservatives' anti-lame-duck-session stance without checking to see what they did in 2006?

  • Angle, Paul find refuge at Fox

    Blog ››› ››› FAE JENCKS

    Politico's Jonathan Martin made an interesting observation yesterday while filling in on Ben Smith's Politico blog. In commenting on an article about Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, Martin highlighted Paul's reluctance to speak to reporters and detail his, at times controversial, policy positions. He noted that both Paul and Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle have had a shaky relationship with the media because of a heightened focus on their far-right views. From the post:

    Each has demonstrated that they're a risk to themselves when it comes to doing media. Yet when they run from the press - in Angle's case, literally -- the storyline that they're incapable of answering questions than dominates the race, causing them to eventually give in and face reporters. Yet when they do, the cycle repeats itself as they can barely suppress their far-right views.

    What Martin notes here is true. We've certainly seen examples of both Angle and Paul shunning reporters for fear of the criticism that their views will generate. In fact, we've even learned that Rand Paul cancelled an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press at the suggestion of Fox News contributor Karl Rove. However, there is one outlet that Republican candidates like Angle and Paul readily embrace: Fox News.

    Fox has become a safe haven for conservative candidates looking for softball questions and opportunities to make nationwide fundraising appeals. Sharron Angle has even explained that her affinity for Fox News appearances results in part from the network's permission of fundraising appeals. From a July 14 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (emphasis added):

    David Brody: Not to harp on the point but when you're on Fox News or talking to more conservative outlets but maybe not going on "Meet the Press" or a "This Week", those type of news shows, then the perception and the narrative starts to be like you are avoiding those mainstream media outlets.

    Sharron Angle: Well, in that audience will they let me say I need $25 dollars from a million people go to Sharron send money? Will they let me say that? Will I get a bump on my website and you can watch whenever I go on to a show like that we get an immediate bump. You can see the little spinners. People say 'Oh, I heard that. I am going and I'm going to help Sharron out because they realize this is a national effort and that I need people from all around the nation. They may not be able to vote for me but they can certainly help."

    Additionally, after a particularly rough interview on an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, Angle sought out the familiar comfort of an appearance on Fox News where host Stuart Varney lobbed softball questions and excluded any substantive follow-ups.

    Likewise, Rand Paul has taken full advantage of Fox's glowing coverage (including on-air endorsements by contributors Dick Morris and Sarah Palin), by making at least 21 appearances on Fox News, Fox Business and between May of 2009 and May of 2010. During these appearances, Paul faced hard-hitting questions such as "Can that Tea Party rage or populist sentiment last until November?" and "We have been getting into this raging debate as to whether Republicans veer more to the right ... or be pragmatic. Where do you stand?"

    Although Angle and Paul struggle with articulating their policy positions while not, as Martin says, "hand[ing] the opposition yet more oppo," they can, have, and will continue to seek refuge in the substance-free interviews provided by Fox News.

  • How many times will Politico write up the same RNC research?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, an RNC aide sent reporters an email listing a bunch of mundane DNC expenditures -- money spent on hotels and travel, mostly -- in an apparent attempt to draw some sort of equivalence between staying at the Hilton and visiting a sex club. As Time's Jay Newton-Small put it, the DC expenditures are "very milquetoast" and "none of them were particularly controversial."

    Naturally, Politico's Jonathan Martin posted the list -- the entire list -- under the over-heated headline "RNC drops oppo on DNC high-falutin' expenditures." Because, as you may know by now, Politico really is just a GOP bulletin board. Martin breathlessly explained:

    RNC spokesman Doug Heye just blasted out raw oppo detailing the fact that the other guys also drop some cash for fancy purposes (mostly to stroke donors).

    Writes Heye above the research goodies: "I thought you might find the list below of DNC expenditures of interest."

    Wow, "Blasted out raw oppo" really makes it sound impressive, doesn't it? But it was just a list of payments to hotels. Not many "research goodies" there. And Heye's I-thought-you-might-be-interested line? Was that really quote-worthy? Basically, Heye sent around a whole big pile of nothing, and Politico's Jonathan Martin tried desperately to hype it into something.

    It gets worse.

    Politico then followed up with an article about the email, in which reporter Andy Barr listed several of the "research goodies" the RNC provided, just in case anyone missed Martin's blog post. For example: "During the past year and half, the DNC has paid $4,464 to the limousine service Carey International." That should just about lock up a Pulitzer, don't you think?

    Interestingly, Barr vouched for the accuracy of the RNC's email, writing "the data the RNC presents is accurate." Why is that interesting? Because Time's Newton-Small wrote that "the RNC couldn't provide the Federal Election Commission links to each of the searches and the DNC disputed at least one item: the catering charge at the Elysian which wasn't at the Bahamian beach resort but, rather, the Elysian Hotel in Chicago." Barr didn't address that discrepancy.

    Gee, you don't think Politico's Andy Barr affirmatively vouched for the accuracy of the RNC email without first checking the information himself, do you? Because that would be dishonest and wrong.

    Believe it or not, there was a time when reporters didn't simply re-print opposition research without checking into it first -- particularly when the research in question is as mundane as a list of car companies and hotels. And when affirmatively proclaiming the accuracy of partisan political attacks without actually looking into them would get a reporter in some hot water.

  • Howard Kurtz, please define "transparent"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, Politico published a navel-gazing piece by editor John Harris, explaining the decision to allow reporter Jonathan Allen to return after a brief stint working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- roughly a month. Harris wrote that one of his concerns in taking Allen back was that "it seemed likely that Allen's brief tenure with a Democrat might open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans."

    As I pointed out yesterday, it's a little odd that Harris would write such a line about someone with twenty years of work as a reporter and one month working for a member of Congress without noting that another Politico reporter, Jonathan Martin, worked on a Republican gubernatorial campaign, two congressional campaigns, and spent more than three years working for a Republican member of Congress. Martin left his job as press secretary to Rep. Rob Simmons in October 2005 and joined Politico upon its January 2007 launch.

    Well, today, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz praises Harris' piece. After quoting both Allen's own explanation for his decision to return to journalism and Harris's concerns about bringing him back, Kurtz writes:

    While television has practically obliterated the line between party insiders and pundits, I do think Republicans--and Politico readers--might be wary of someone who was so recently in the employ of a Democrat. But I give Allen and Politico major points for transparency.

    Kurtz, like Harris, is concerned about a reporter who was "so recently in the employ of a Democrat." And Kurtz, like Harris, doesn't say a word about Martin. Keep in mind: Allen has twenty years of experience as a journalist, and a month of working for a member of Congress. Martin, on the other hand, came to Politico barely a year after spending more than three years with a Republican member of congress and working on at least three GOP political campaigns. And not only does Kurtz fail to mention Martin while expressing wariness about Allen's one-twelfth of a year working for a Democrat, he actually praises Harris for "transparency" after Harris omitted any mention of Martin. Incredible.

    (Speaking of transparency: Harris and Kurtz were colleagues at the Washington Post before Harris left to start Politico.)

  • At Politico, 1 month of working for a Dem outweighs 3 years with a Republican

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's John Harris has a weird navel-gazing article about Jonathan Allen's return to journalism -- and Politico -- after a brief stint working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Actually, it's about Politico struggling to decide whether it should take Allen back -- not because of doubts about his skills as a journalist, but because they feared a month working for a politician would irrevocably taint him:

    It was a couple of weeks ago that we heard from Allen again. After a month on the job, he decided he had made a mistake. He concluded that his talents and temperament were those of a journalist, not an operative. He wanted to come back to POLITICO, if we would have him.

    Ugh, again. Two thoughts were immediately at war: "Damn right, we want him," and "I'm not sure we can take him." Some critics would say he was too compromised by his brief sojourn in politics - in which he publicly aligned himself with Democrats and made a modest contribution to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln - to return to straight reporting. I wasn't sure the critics were wrong.


    I have no doubt about Jonathan Allen's ability, or my own ability, to separate personal or ideological views from reporting.

    But I am enough of a traditionalist to be wary of the revolving door between politics and journalism. And it seemed likely that Allen's brief tenure with a Democrat might open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans. I viewed this as a matter of perception, not of reality.

    So, Harris didn't have any doubt about Allen's ability to separate his personal views from his journalism, but worried that hiring a reporter who had a month of experience working for a Democratic politician might "open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans."

    Huh. Seems like a good time for Harris to mention that Politico reporter Jonathan Martin previously worked for a Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate, two Republican congressional campaigns, and a Republican congressman, for whom he worked for more than three years.

    But Harris never mentioned Martin. Weird.