Karl Rove | Media Matters for America

Karl Rove

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  • Fox plays defense for Trump after Democrats ask the IRS for his tax returns 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 3, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) asked the Internal Revenue Service to deliver the last six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the committee. Trump’s personal lawyer William S. Consovoy and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney have both forcefully responded to the committee’s request, claiming Democrats have no right to the documents -- and Fox News seems to agree.

    Hosts, contributors, and guests on the network suggested that Democrats’ efforts to view the documents are a politically motivated “fishing expedition” and claimed that congressional Democrats are weaponizing the IRS and abusing their power.

    But in reality, there are plenty of good reasons for seeking a president’s tax returns. And while the law Neal is relying on to request them has not previously been used for that purpose, it also hasn’t ever been needed; Trump is the first president in 40 years to forgo releasing his tax returns. Additionally, Republicans used the same law in 2014 to access the returns from several partisan groups and then made the documents public.

    Fox figures also argued that the public likely doesn’t care about the returns. But a recent poll found that the majority of Americans -- 56% -- want Trump to release his returns to the public.

    Here are some of Fox’s reactions:

    Fox claim: The request is an attempt to change the narrative from the Mueller report or other issues

    After special counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report to the attorney general about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that Democrats are asking for Trump’s returns to “sow doubt in the public mind [and] undermine Mueller’s conclusion” by “implying a coverup” on his tax returns.

    Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs hosted frequent Fox guest Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who argued that requesting Trump’s tax returns is an “effort by Democrats to distract us from how corrupt the DNC and Clinton campaign were.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy argued that Democrats have moved on from collusion and “changed the narrative now to the taxes.” Fox contributor Dan Bongino agreed that Democrats “switched the narrative,” saying, “Now that obstruction isn't working, they are going to move on to some kind of financial collusion with the Trump tax returns.”

    Kayleigh McEnany, frequent Fox guest and national press secretary for Trump’s 2020 campaign, claimed Democrats are “so upset that the Mueller report turned up no collusion, no obstruction. So they’re returning back to the old tactic of let’s go after the tax returns.”  

    Fox claim: Requesting the returns is a politically motivated “fishing expedition” to find anything at all on Trump

    Fox regular and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed the request as “a political fishing expedition” and complained that Democrats “are not going after him because of some particular reason. They want to go in a fishing expedition and find something that they can hang over his head.”

    Fox contributor Byron York claimed on multiple Fox programs that the IRS request is a “fishing expedition.” On Fox Business, Dobbs told York that he didn’t use the phrase “fishing expedition” himself because he believes “that nomenclature trivializes what is a venal, venomous, ignorant assault against a sitting president.” Dobbs also claimed that the request is “absolutely beyond the proper bounds of the intent of the Constitution or the statutory authority of the United States Congress.”  

    Fox hosts Sandra Smith and Bill Hemmer hosted White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley and failed to push back when he asserted that if the government “gave the Mueller report to the entire press corps” along with Trump’s tax returns, “they’d come up with something else. It is never good enough.”

    Fox claim: Democrats are weaponizing the IRS

    Fox contributor Karl Rove claimed that “every American, Republican or Democrat, ought to be concerned about weaponizing the IRS in this manner,” and he said that Democrats are looking for “anything they can find in order to bring [Trump] down.”

    Fox guest and Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler argued that Democrats are doing “exactly what the IRS did to the Tea Parties -- they targeted people based on their political affiliation.”

    Frequent Fox guest and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the IRS will “have to resist” the Democrats’ request “because it would be totally illegal.”

    On America’s Newsroom, McEnany accused Democrats of “using the IRS as a political weapon.”

    Fox claim: People aren’t interested in seeing Trump’s tax returns

    After Fox contributor Jessica Tarlov claimed that “people want to know how rich is the president actually,” Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner suggested that those people don’t actually exist. She asked Tarlov, “Have you talked to these people?” and, “Are they in the electorate? Where are these people?” Faulkner added that “America voted,” suggesting that Americans must not care about the returns since Trump won an election without releasing them.

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that "the majority" of "America doesn't care about seeing" Trump's tax returns.

  • A Fox News anchor recycled a debunked claim about Beto O’Rourke

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News is already spreading misinformation about newly announced Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

    During a segment on America’s Newsroom about O’Rourke’s announcement that he is running for president, co-anchor Sandra Smith listed what she labeled “some of O’Rourke’s policy positions.” Among them, she said O’Rourke “called law enforcement the ‘new Jim Crow.’”

    This claim originated from a midterm election debate between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and O’Rourke in September, during which Cruz said: “Just this week, Congressman O’Rourke described law enforcement -- described police officers -- as modern-day Jim Crow.” Following that debate, multiple news organizations explained that Cruz was misleadingly simplifying comments O’Rourke made about racial discrimination that is found throughout the entire criminal justice system as well as in legislative redistricting.

    America’s Newsroom was not the first Fox show to recycle Cruz’s debunked claim against O’Rourke as an objective fact. Last night on The Story, before O’Rourke officially announced his candidacy, Fox contributor Karl Rove stated that O’Rourke had said “law enforcement is the new Jim Crowism.” Rove repeated this claim on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo today. And Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said this morning that O’Rourke “called law enforcement ‘the new Jim Crow,’” not just once, not twice, but three times.

    Fox News has been pushing the claim that its “hard news” division is separate from its opinion shows and commentators. But this example of a Fox anchor dutifully repeating a false talking point about O’Rourke -- one that had already been repeatedly pushed by a Fox & Friends co-host and President George W. Bush’s former deputy chief of staff -- is just further evidence that no such editorial divide exists at Fox.

  • Right-wing media attacked Obama for showing openness to talks with Iran. Trump just did exactly that.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 30, President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to meet with Iranian leadership with “no preconditions.” Right-wing outlets were largely silent about Trump’s remarks, but had harshly criticized former President Barack Obama for saying the same thing.

    While running for president and during his presidency, Obama made clear that his vision for America’s foreign policy involved meeting with Iran. In 2009, Obama said that he was willing to talk to Iran “without preconditions” to reach a deal that would end the country’s nuclear weapon program. Obama again said in 2013 that he would sit down with Iranian leadership but only if the regime signaled that it was serious about giving up its nuclear weapons. In response, conservative media pundits branded the former president as “weak” and roundly disapproved of his supposed leniency toward Iran.

    But now right-wing outlets are generally silent about Trump’s remarks. Notably, Fox host Sean Hannity, who was an outspoken critic of Obama’s plans to meet with Iran, has not mentioned Trump’s announcement, and many others have followed his lead.

    Here’s how right-wing media reacted to Obama previously:

    • Hannity also griped repeatedly about the possibility of Obama meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani or Russian President Vladimir Putin while supposedly sidelining Republicans.
    • Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Hannity in 2012: “I have a message to the President. Mr. President, they [Iran] don't want to negotiate with you. They want to build an atomic weapon. Wake up!” (via Nexis)
    • Hannity stated in 2012 that Obama “said he would negotiate with Iran without preconditions. I can think of a few preconditions -- recognizing Israel's right to exist, stop threatening to annihilate them and wipe them off the map, recognizing the truth that the Holocaust occurred, and also stopping your nuclear weapons program.” (via Nexis)
    • Hannity also said in 2010, “Do you think we can negotiate with Hitler Jr., [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, without preconditions?” (via Nexis)
    • Hannity said in 2008: “Iran is a tiny country and not a serious threat. Those are Barack Obama's words. He said would you meet in your first year with people like Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad without preconditions? Yes, his answer was. He hasn't been held accountable, really, for a lot of these statements.”
    • Advisor to President George W. Bush Karl Rove complained to Hannity in 2011 that it is “frankly inexplicable” that Obama would continue to meet with American enemies despite “having been in office now for two-and-a-half years.” (via Nexis)
    • Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel stated on Hannity in 2013, “The only time in the Islamic world you come to the negotiating table is to negotiate the terms of your surrender! Right now, President Obama has delivered America to Iran as weak.” (via Nexis)
    • National Review’s William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn wrote, “Barack Obama’s position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history.” The authors added that if Obama were to meet with Iranian officials, “he will lower the prestige of the office of the president.”
    • Fox’s Steve Doocy hosted Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. who complained that Obama would rather negotiate with “a murderous anti-Semite,” referring to Rouhani, than with Republicans. Johnson also said, “Let’s be as eager to speak with the Republicans as we are to speak with the Iranians and malefactors in this world.”
    • Then-New York Post columnist Charles Hurt criticized Obama for “promis[ing] face time” to Ahmadinejad. According to Hurt, “We'd still be fighting the Japanese if Harry Truman - a Democrat unafraid to fight - subscribed to this fuzzy fringe foreign policy.”
  • More than a dozen Fox personalities have been headlining GOP fundraisers during Trump era

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here are two flyers for events featuring Pete Hegseth:

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

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

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

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

    John Bolton

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

    David Bossie

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

    Rachel Campos Duffy 

    Republican Party of Wood County (WI).

    Jason Chaffetz

    Gallatin and Madison County Republican Central Committees (MT).

    Lou Dobbs

    Manatee County Republican Executive Committee (FL). 

    Sebastian Gorka

    St. Lucie County Republican Club (FL).  

    Greg Gutfeld

    Washington State Republican Party.

    Pete Hegseth

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

    Mike Huckabee

    Hawaii Republican PartyOkaloosa County Republican Party (FL).  

    Alveda King

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

    Jeanine Pirro

    See here.

    Ed Rollins

    New Canaan Republican Town Committee (CT).

    Karl Rove

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

    Allen West

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

  • Trump's repeal of the Clean Power Plan will cost lives, but TV news outlets are covering it as a political football

    Ditching limits on power plant emissions will lead to an estimated 3,600 more premature deaths each year

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A number of TV news outlets failed to cover the negative health impacts of the Trump administration's decision to repeal limits on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. Of the major broadcast networks' morning and evening news shows, only ABC's World News Tonight mentioned how Americans' health could be affected by the move. On the major cable news networks, CNN overlooked the health angle and MSNBC addressed it in some segments, while most Fox News commentators discussed the repeal in approving or celebratory tones.

    Trump's repeal of the Clean Power Plan will have major health impacts

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced on Monday that he would formally move to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and on Tuesday he signed a proposed rule to get the process rolling. The Clean Power Plan was put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, imposing the first-ever federal limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    Pruitt's move will have serious, real-world impacts on Americans' health. According to Obama's EPA, not only would the Clean Power Plan have helped to fight climate change, but it would also have curbed a number of health problems and premature deaths. That's because when utilities reduce their emissions of climate-warming CO2 pollution, they also reduce other pollutants that cause soot and smog and directly harm human health. An EPA fact sheet from 2015 says the agency determined that the rule would prevent thousands of deaths and health-related problems each year:

    • 3,600 premature deaths
    • 1,700 heart attacks
    • 90,000 asthma attacks
    • 300,000 missed work days and school days

    Under Pruitt, however, those health improvements will be denied to Americans. Pruitt's EPA not only disputes the scientific agreement that humans are driving climate change; it also disputes the scientific agreement that particulate matter and other smog-forming pollutants are unsafe for humans at any level. The EPA's new proposed rule contends that there would be no health benefits to reducing air pollutants below levels currently required by Clean Air Act regulations.

    Pruitt's repeal will be particularly harmful to people of color and low-income Americans, as they suffer more than whiter, wealthier communities do from coal plant pollution. The Clean Power Plan included a number of environmental-justice provisions intended to help redress that inequity.

    Among major broadcast networks, only ABC mentioned the health benefits of the Clean Power Plan, while CBS and NBC ignored them

    Media Matters analyzed morning and nighttime news shows on October 9 and 10 on ABC, CBS, and NBC, plus PBS NewsHour. ABC was the sole corporate broadcast network to note the health benefits of the Clean Power Plan in coverage of the plan’s repeal, and it did so in only a brief mention. During a headline rundown on the October 9 episode of World News Tonight with David Muir, Muir reported, “The 2015 Clean Power Plan aimed to cut power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent and save 3,600 lives a year.”

    In contrast, neither CBS nor NBC made any reference to what the repeal would mean for public health. NBC covered the repeal once, on the October 10 episode of NBC Nightly News, while CBS covered it twice, on the October 9 episode of CBS Evening News and the October 10 episode of CBS This Morning.

    PBS NewsHour briefly mentioned the health angle during a lengthy segment on the plan's repeal on October 10 that featured interviews with Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA under President Obama, and coal company CEO Robert Murray. PBS correspondent John Yang did not bring up the health implications of the repeal, but McCarthy mentioned them when she said that Pruitt's move “will limit the kind of protections you will get for public health and take a significant bite out of our ability to address climate change and keep our kids’ future safe.”

    MSNBC reported on the health impacts of the Clean Power Plan repeal three times, while CNN did not mention them at all

    Of the major cable networks, MSNBC provided the best TV news coverage of the health implications of the Clean Power Plan repeal. Media Matters analyzed cable news from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on October 9 and October 10 and found that MSNBC aired eight segments on the repeal, three of which mentioned human health. On the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson explained that “doctors are very concerned, because if you increase the amount of coal-fired power, that means you’re putting more particulates in the air, and if that happens, that means you’re going to see more asthma attacks, more days missed in school and work from various illnesses, and more premature deaths.” Another October 10 edition of MSNBC Live featured an interview with Laura Kellogg, an American Lung Association volunteer and mother of children with asthma, who discussed how the plan’s repeal would harm children living close to coal plants. And the same day on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, Melvin asked guest Mustafa Ali, former head of EPA's environmental justice program, about the health impacts of the repeal and gave Ali a chance to discuss the premature deaths and asthma attacks that are expected to result.

    (The remaining five MSNBC segments on the plan's repeal, which didn't mention its public health consequences, aired on the October 9 edition of MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, the October 10 edition of MTP Daily, the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live, and the October 10 edition of MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, which featured two segments on the repeal.)

    CNN, on the other hand, did not discuss the health effects during any of its four segments that mentioned the Clean Power Plan repeal on October 9 and 10. Two of those segments aired on New Day on October 10, while one ran on Inside Politics on October 10 and one on At This Hour on October 9.

    Much of Fox News' coverage praised the repeal, but two segments did mention health effects

    Fox News aired seven segments covering the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and made four additional mentions while reading headlines. Much of the tone of Fox’s coverage was celebratory. Twice on the October 9 edition of Fox & Friends and once on the October 10 edition of the show, Jillian Mele presented the repeal as President Donald Trump delivering on a campaign promise to his base. On October 10, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade introduced an interview with a former coal worker by saying, “Yesterday the Trump administration kept another campaign promise because Hillary Clinton didn't win, even though no one told her yet, to end the war on coal and help American families.” Sandra Smith also covered the repeal as Trump keeping a campaign promise on the October 9 edition of America’s Newsroom, and the next day she asked Fox contributor Karl Rove whether it can “be seen as a big win for this administration.” Rove responded, "Well, it’s a big win,” adding that Trump needed legislative victories as well.

    Special Report was the outlier on Fox News, citing information on health effects of the repeal in two segments. During the show’s October 9 report, correspondent Griff Jenkins read a quote from the Sierra Club noting that the Clean Power Plan would “prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks every year.” And on October 10, during an interview with Pruitt, host Bret Baier read a statement from former EPA Administrator Carol Browner that noted the health impacts of the move and asked Pruitt to respond to the statement.

    (The additional Fox News segments and mentions on the repeal were on the October 9 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum and the October 9 edition of America’s Newsroom during the 9 a.m. hour and the 10 a.m. hour.)

    The media failed to adequately report on the Clean Power Plan in past years too

    When the Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, many mainstream media outlets neglected to cover the public health implications, as Media Matters noted at the time.

    Coverage of the Clean Power Plan was even more lacking last year. Then-candidate Trump promised to repeal the Clean Power Plan during his campaign, but broadcast news programs gave little attention to that pledge or to the plan itself last year, Media Matters found in an analysis of 2016 coverage. Ultimately, broadcast news failed to adequately inform viewers and voters before the election about what a Trump presidency would mean for environmental policy. Now we're seeing the Trump administration working to roll back more than 50 environmental protections.

    TV news outlets’ shortcomings this week in covering the repeal of the Clean Power Plan are just part of a longer pattern of insufficient coverage.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of "Pruitt,” “Clean Power Plan," "EPA," "Environmental Protection Agency," "carbon," "emissions," "regulation,” and "rule.” We examined coverage on October 9, the day Pruitt announced his intention to repeal the rule, and October 10, the day he formally proposed the repeal. For broadcast networks, we examined the morning and evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as PBS NewsHour. For cable news, we examined coverage from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

    Zachary Pleat contributed to this report.

  • Architect Of CIA's Waterboarding Program And Fox & Friends Host Mislead About Torture

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox host Brian Kilmeade praised waterboarding, claiming it “yield[ed] tremendous results,” during an error-filled interview with psychologist James Mitchell, the man who created the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program. Mitchell and Kilmeade promoted numerous misleading arguments about the supposed effectiveness of torture as a form of interrogation while promoting Mitchell's upcoming memoir. Fox figures have previously spoken out in support of reinstating waterboarding as an interrogation technique, even though experts have condemned the practice, saying that it constitutes torture, is illegal under American and international law, and “yielded no intelligence.” 

  • Media Said If Elected, Clinton Should Include Republicans In Her Cabinet. Will They Hold Trump To That Standard?

    ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    During the presidential campaign, a cross-section of media figures argued that if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were to win the election, she should include Republican appointees in her cabinet and other top positions in order to help unify the country. Will the media now push President-elect Donald Trump -- who said during the campaign that he wouldn’t consider offering any top positions to Democrats -- to meet that same standard?

  • Conservative Media Run With Wall Street Journal's Nothingburger Of A Clinton Pseudo-Scandal

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media are hyping a Wall Street Journal article that attempts to scandalize the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email use by tying political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to a 2015 state senate candidate whose husband later became involved in the FBI investigation. Journalists mocked and poked holes in the “embarrassing” story that has “literally nothing” to it.