Following the Trump administration’s implementation of a policy requiring the separation of immigrant children from their parents as they cross the border, some self-described “pro-life” organizations and media figures have failed to denounce this policy. Others, though, have seemingly attempted to distract from the outrage about the policy by making outlandish and inaccurate comparisons to abortion.
In anticipation of its annual gala, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) has been promoting official room blocks for the event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and running a contest in which the prize includes a free stay at the property during the gala. On May 14, during the White House press briefing, deputy press secretary Raj Shah then announced that President Donald Trump would be delivering the keynote address at the gala.
Since Trump’s election, many experts have warned about the potential for the president to benefit from expenditures made at Trump Organization properties. As part of an ongoing analysis of how political groups leverage use of the Trump hotel in D.C. to gain influence with the administration, The Washington Post noted that since Trump’s election, the property has “turned into a Republican power center where foreign governments, political groups, religious organizations and business interests have held dozens of events.” In March, CNN reported that in February alone, Federal Election Commission documents indicated that “the RNC spent more than $271,000 on venue rental and catering at Trump properties in Florida and Washington, DC," noting that "more than half of that" was spent at the Trump International Hotel. Politico similarly explained, “Because Trump has maintained his financial interest in his vast business while president — and, unlike previous presidents, filed for reelection soon after taking office — the relationship between pro-Trump political groups and the Trump businesses has no precedent.”
SBA List is one group cashing in on its ties to President Trump. On May 22, the group will host its annual “Campaign for Life” gala, with Trump as the keynote speaker. Before Trump’s appearance was announced, SBA List promoted on its website a discounted room rate ($399 per night) at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. for those attending the gala. However, after the White House announced Trump as the speaker, SBA List’s website stopped listing the hotel among its accommodation options. It’s unclear exactly when the change was made, but according a Google cached version of the webpage, SBA List took down the page listing the hotel and discounted rate as early as the night before the announcement.
SBA List enjoys close ties to the president and his administration. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence delivered the gala’s keynote address, while this year “longtime friend” of the organization Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, will be awarded “SBA List’s 2018 Distinguished Leader Award.” Previously, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was appointed to lead Trump’s “Pro-Life Coalition.”
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What's the point of hosting Conway on news programs?
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway proved herself once again to be a pointless interview when ABC News’ Martha Raddatz repeatedly tried to nail her down on a number of subjects. Conway refused to give answers to Raddatz’s questions, spinning, equivocating, and dodging rather than offering any useful information.
In a ten minute interview on the November 12 edition of ABC’s This Week, Raddatz spent almost seven minutes futilely asking Conway about reports that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually abused a 14 year old and pursued other teenagers in his 30s, nearly two minutes asking about President Donald Trump's statement that he "really believes" Russian President Vladimir Putin "means it" when he says that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election, and about a minute and a half asking about Trump’s most recent statement about North Korean leader Kim Jung-un.
When pressed on the reports of Moore’s sexual misconduct, Conway insisted that she condemned the “conduct as described” “if the allegations are true,” but ducked every single follow-up question Raddatz asked. Raddatz pointed out voters might not get any more information on the subject and asked what proof Conway would need to go further than her “if” statement. Conway refused to answer, instead both saying it would be “dangerous” to prosecute someone based on a press report and also denying that she thought some of the accusers may be lying.
Additionally, when Raddatz noted Trump's recent tweet about Kim Jun-un, asking, "How is [name-calling] helpful?" Conway ignored the question and spouted talking points about about Trump's trip to Asia. She also refused to clarify Trump’s comments about Putin, instead saying she couldn't imagine the president “being more explicit”:
MARTHA RADDATZ (HOST): I want to get some clarity on President Trump's position on Russia and election interference. He said Saturday on Air Force One that every time he sees Vladimir Putin, Putin "says, 'I didn't do that,' and I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it." He tried to clarify that in a press conference overnight. Let's listen.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies.
RADDATZ: Those two statements seem to contradict each other. Which is it?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: No, it's what -- I can't imagine the president could be more explicit. He said yesterday as he said today, that when President Putin says it, President Putin means it. He means they didn't interfere in the election. What the president said is that he --
RADDATZ: So he thinks he's just delusional, President Putin?
CONWAY: No, he didn't use that word. He said that President Putin believes it. What the president believes is what's most important here. He believes the assessment of the intelligence communities. And he stands by that. He's very respectful of that.
Following the interview, ABC’s Matthew Dowd came out and acknowledged that it was totally uninformative, suggesting that Conway “needs to teach a yoga class in how to contort the positions in all of this.”
This latest interview is another data point showing Conway’s utter lack of media credibility, joining the ranks of other illustrious moments like her use of the phrase “alternative facts” and her fabricating the non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre.” Indeed, it is this pattern that has earned Conway the moniker “propaganda minister.” News shows gain nothing by hosting Conway, other than the satisfaction of a dubious compulsion to hear directly from the White House (as though Trump’s tweets didn’t speak for themselves), as Raddatz learned yet again today.
Trump and his administration officials, family members, and lawyer are sticking to right-wing media
Since the beginning of August, President Donald Trump, prominent figures in his administration, members of his family, and his personal lawyer have appeared on weekday programming on Fox News far more often than on corresponding shows on CNN or MSNBC.
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Officials in President Donald Trump’s administration and those who worked for his presidential campaign took to broadcast and cable news over the past year to spread lies and propaganda about voting, often defending Trump’s debunked claims about massive noncitizen voting and widespread voter fraud.
Before and after the election, Trump repeatedly hyped debunked theories that widespread voter fraud and massive noncitizen voting “rigged” the election against him and cost him the popular vote. Given the president’s affection for his staunchest cable news defenders, his “TV addiction,” and his desire for loyalty, it makes sense that those seeking to curry favor with Trump took to TV to hype lies about voting. According to a Media Matters analysis of broadcast morning and nightly news as well as prime-time cable news, at least 11 different Trump loyalists made television appearances, often on Fox News, in which they misinformed viewers about voter fraud nearly 120 times:
Ben Carson, who now serves as Trump’s secretary for housing and urban development, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news twice from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those two appearances, Carson made two statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made one statement falsely alleging that voter ID laws do not suppress minority turnout in elections.
Boris Epshteyn, who previously served as one of Trump’s press officers, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news three times from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those three appearances, Epshteyn made four statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made two statements falsely alleging that there is massive noncitizen voting. Additionally, Epshteyn made two statements falsely claiming that voter ID laws prevent voter fraud and one statement falsely claiming that voter ID laws do not suppress minority turnout in elections.
Corey Lewandowski, who previously served as Trump’s campaign manager, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news four times from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those four appearances, Lewandowski made 10 statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made four statements baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud.
J. Christian Adams, who now serves on Trump’s election integrity commission, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news twice from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those two appearances, Adams made six statements falsely alleging that there is massive noncitizen voting. He also made two statements baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud.
Jason Miller, who previously served as a senior communications adviser on Trump’s campaign, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news three times from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those three appearances, Miller made seven statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made one statement falsely alleging that there is massive noncitizen voting and two statements baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud.
Jeff Sessions, who now serves as Trump’s attorney general, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news twice from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those two appearances, Sessions made three statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made two statements falsely alleging that there is massive noncitizen voting and one statement falsely claiming that voter ID laws prevent voter fraud.
Kellyanne Conway, who now serves as Trump’s senior counselor, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news 11 times from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those 11 appearances, Conway made 13 statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. She also made four statements falsely alleging that there is massive noncitizen voting and two statements baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud.
Kris Kobach, who now serves as vice chair of Trump’s election integrity commission, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news four times from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those four appearances, Kobach made 12 statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made seven statements falsely alleging that there is massive noncitizen voting and one statement baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud. Additionally, Kobach made one statement falsely claiming that voter ID laws prevent voter fraud and four statements falsely claiming that voter ID laws do not suppress minority turnout in elections.
Michael Cohen, who served as a surrogate during the presidential campaign, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news once from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. During his appearance, Cohen made six statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made three statements baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud.
Mike Pence, who now serves as Trump’s vice president, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news four times from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. Over those four appearances, Pence made 12 statements falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud (but also one statement correctly stating that widespread voter fraud does not exist). He also made two statements baselessly conflating voter registration inaccuracies with voter fraud.
Mike Pompeo, who now serves as Trump’s CIA director, appeared on prime-time cable news and broadcast news once from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, to discuss voting. During his appearance, Pompeo made one statement falsely claiming that there is widespread voter fraud. He also made one statement falsely claiming that voter ID laws prevent voter fraud.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts for evening cable news programs and broadcast morning news and evening newscasts from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. We included the following programs in the data: ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News, CNN’s The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News’ The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren*, On the Record with Brit Hume*, Tucker Carlson Tonight*, First 100 Days*, The Story*, The O’Reilly Factor*, The Kelly File*, and Hannity, and MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, For the Record with Greta*, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. Due to the substantial reorganization of Fox News’ programming during the study period, programs that were either added or removed from the network during the study period are marked with an asterisk. During the study period, Greta Van Susteren moved to MSNBC and began hosting a program there; unlike with the network’s previous 6 p.m. programming, the transcripts for this program were included in the Nexis database, and thus were included.
For this study, Media Matters included only those segments where the stated topic of conversation was voting rights or issues related to voting, or where “substantial discussion” of these topics occurred. We defined “substantial discussion” as that where two or more speakers had at least one direct exchange on the topic. Host monologues were also included only when the speaker made two independent mentions of voting or voting rights within the same segment. We did not include statements made in news or video clips in edited news packages except those made by a network correspondent. If news packages aired more than once, Media Matters coded only the first unique appearance. Similarly, if a live event -- such as a town hall or public forum -- was held during regularly scheduled programming, these segments were also excluded because the participants were not network or media guests.
The resulting 561 segments were then coded for the mention of one or more of four general topics of conversation: logistical barriers to voting on the state level, the election, legal issues, and gerrymandering. Segments were also coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements each speaker made about six topics: widespread voter fraud, massive noncitizen voting, voter ID laws, voter registration inaccuracies, early voting, and gerrymandering. The statements coded for were:
There is widespread voter fraud (inaccurate).
Widespread voter fraud does not exist (accurate).
There is massive noncitizen voting (inaccurate).
Massive noncitizen voting does not exist (accurate).
Voter ID laws are useful to fight voter fraud (inaccurate).
Voter ID laws would do little combat voter fraud (accurate).
Voter ID laws do not affect voter turnout (inaccurate).
Voter ID laws disenfranchise voters, especially minority voters (accurate).
Voter registration inaccuracies lead to voter fraud (inaccurate).
Voter registration inaccuracies are different from voter fraud (accurate).
Early voting leaves elections more susceptible to voter fraud (inaccurate).
Early voting does not leave elections more susceptible to voter fraud (accurate).
Gerrymandering has not contributed to an outsized Republican majority on a federal and state level (inaccurate).
Gerrymandering has contributed to an outsized Republican majority on a federal and state level (accurate).
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Then helped her lie again
On the June 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsley Earhardt flip-flopped twice on Medicaid cuts, supporting, then debunking, then returning to supporting the White House’s false claim that the Republican health care bill doesn’t cut Medicaid funding.
During the first hour of the program, the hosts repeated a debunked claim from Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, that the Republican Senate’s health care bill does not cut Medicaid funding. Doocy claimed that those covered by Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion “will continue [being covered] in the future,” and Kilmeade added later that “we don’t even have that money” to fund the Obamacare Medicaid expansion “to begin with,” but the Republicans’ bill is “still increasing it” to guarantee coverage for the needy.
In the second hour of the program, Doocy asked Fox News contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier if “the Senate health care bill, as it stands this morning,” cuts Medicaid or not. Saphier claimed that it “depends on who you ask, [but] I’m going to say there will be cuts to Medicaid” because “you’re not taking away real-time dollars, however what you’re gonna see is a slowing of spending in the future.” Doocy attempted to diminish her claim by noting that it will be up to states to decide how to handle Medicaid, but Saphier said that “we’re not quite sure” how states will respond to the cut in federal funding.
Saphier’s analysis resembles that of several panelists on CNN’s New Day, who highlighted that the Senate is “handing a gigantic -- by one estimate $43 billion check -- I should say bill -- to the governors and asking them to figure out how to pay for this,” and that several states, “if they don't have the money to do that federal match, then they can just jump out of this altogether.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the House version of the bill clearly states that “several major provisions affecting Medicaid would decrease direct spending by $880 billion over the 2017-2026 period, … culminating in 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026, a reduction of about 17 percent relative to the number under current law.”
Shortly after Saphier debunked the White House’s false talking point, the hosts had Kellyanne Conway on the program to “set the record straight” because “if you watch the mainstream media this morning, they’re saying that you were caught in a lie.” Conway maintained that “it’s not a lie” because “it is slowing the growth of Medicaid” although it “continues to be funded.” She noted that “Medicaid over time would be unsustainable and unaffordable because Obamacare failed to bring costs down for health care, so these states are having a very difficult time meeting the bills.” Conway attacked “detractors and Trump haters” for “call[ing] me a liar because they don’t want to do the homework and look at what’s actually happening to Medicaid,” as Saphier did minutes earlier.
Fox has adopted Conway’s oft-repeated lament that media outlets aren’t covering Trump’s supposed accomplishments enough
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has spent months demanding media outlets end “presumptively negative” coverage of the president and devote more time to his accomplishments. Now, Fox has begun adopting her wishes by repeating her criticism -- to the point that she praised them in a recent interview for doing so.
In the weeks following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Conway has repeatedly criticized interviewers for focusing on events or statements by the administration that make Trump look bad and tried to steer conversation to what the administration views as positive developments and news.
This is a strategy she has followed no matter what Trump has said or done. After the president called the press the “enemy of the American People” in March, Conway asserted on Fox that journalists have a “responsibility” to “not be presumptively negative” in their coverage of Trump. In April, Conway told Fox host Jeanine Pirro that “the mainstream media are making Americans suffer from information underload on all the great things the president is doing” by instead covering Trump’s scandals. Trump has reinforced Conway’s admonishment of the media with his own tweets. (However, media have noted that many of Trump’s supposed accomplishments either have little or nothing to do with him, or are just political theater with little substance.)
Fox News recently showed that it has taken Conway’s criticism to heart and adopted her idea of what media coverage of the Trump administration should look like.
On June 11, MediaBuzz host and media critic Howard Kurtz noted that during “infrastructure week,” the May 16-19 week in which the administration attempted to heavily promote Trump’s plans for infrastructure repairs, “the media attention was so focused” on former FBI Director James Comey and Russia that the president’s agenda was not covered. He concluded: “There is some responsibility on the part of the media to keep reporting on things that actually affect the lives of most Americans and not just Washington scandal stuff.”
The next day, Fox Business host Stuart Varney went on Fox & Friends to gush over the country’s economic performance and lambaste other news outlets for not adopting a 100 percent optimistic view of the economy in their headlines. After co-host Steve Doocy stated that “the mainstream media has a whole different story” on the economy, Varney went all-in on criticizing news outlets for their continued coverage of Trump’s scandals, declaring it a “disgrace” and “a crying shame” that they weren’t devoting more time to the economy’s performance under Trump:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Well, numbers don't lie. The economy on the rise under President Trump, but the mainstream media has a whole different story. Here's some of the headlines, The New York Times claiming "weak spots remain," Washington Examiner citing a "roller coaster economy," and Bloomberg going as far as calling the president's economic agenda "almost dead."
STUART VARNEY: I think it's a disgrace, quite frankly. Here we have the media concentrating en masse, Russia, Russia, Russia. Comey, Comey, Comey, plots, investigations. All of that is front page news all the time. What's going on in people’s lives -- better jobs, wages, housing improving, the improvement in our economy, our financial way of life -- that goes uncovered, and that's a crying shame.
Less than 30 minutes after Varney’s tirade, Fox & Friends interviewed Conway, and co-host Brian Kilmeade said to her that “these other media outlets are trying to kill you.” Conway responded by praising Fox for doing what she’s been demanding of news outlets for months (emphasis added):
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Kellyanne you are a genius at politics. Every time the president mentions Comey or Russia, it doesn't work to his advantage. It works to the Democrats’.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: I know he’s …
KILMEADE: So if you agree with that, maybe you don't, if you agree with that and the president wants to get his agenda through, wouldn't he be better off not doing anything about those things, letting others do it?
CONWAY: He is likely watching and getting your advice right now, Brian. But at the same time, I don't know why people just can't cover both. In other words, if I hear one more time, well we wanted to cover infrastructure, we wanted to cover jobs and workforce development. We really wanted to talk about this incredible economy of 4.3 percent unemployment, lowest in 15 years. Fewer unemployed since 2007, I believe. And certainly the confidence numbers are way up. For the last decade, they haven't been this high. So why can't people cover both stories?
KILMEADE: Because they are trying to kill you. Because these other media outlets are trying to kill you.
CONWAY: No kidding. No kidding, but he’s the president.
KILMEADE: That’s just it. So don’t give them the bloody knife.
CONWAY: They need to, quote, “accept the election results.” All the things that I was asked and the president was asked and everybody was asked six weeks to Sunday, from that October 19 debate in Las Vegas when he said, “I will keep you in suspense.” And the next day he said in Ohio at a rally, “I will accept them if I win.” And people freaked out and they’re still freaking out. So -- but I think that the responsibility is to cover all of the above. And look, the media has a great responsibility and a great role here. They can be telling the veterans that hey, you’re now --
KILMEADE: But they're not.
CONWAY: Well, but they should. And you at least give us a platform to talk about facts, to talk about all the great things that are happening that impact real people's lives.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): That's because, Kellyanne, they care more about politics than they do about America. I mean, they’re not reporting on this.
And on June 16, Conway reappeared on the network to again trash the media for supposedly not covering the president properly. Conway said Fox was the only network not criticizing the president “as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt questioned how the media would cover Trump’s upcoming change in Cuba policy later that day:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: I did a really clever thing. I went back and looked at exactly what was being discussed on all of the TV shows except [Fox & Friends] at 7:09 a.m. on Wednesday when this happened, and it's a really curious exercise because as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field in a trail of blood, you should go back and see what people were saying about the president and the Republicans at that very moment. Of course, they had to break in with the news of this tragedy and since then there’s been some introspection, some quieter, more muted voices, toning down the rhetoric, but look at Twitter: If I were shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement. This is the world we live in now.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Yeah, we’re going to have to watch and see how [the media] cover things going forward. That was all before the shooting happened. It will be interesting to see how the mainstream media covers President Trump’s trip to Miami today. What is he doing down in Miami today, Kellyanne?
CONWAY: So down in Miami today, the president is doing a very exciting for the Cuban people. Our unity is with the Cuban people, not the oppressive Cuban regime that has benefitted from these changes in the Obama administration policies that helped the military, the security, and the intelligence entities there benefit from U.S.-derived funds. That has to stop and that will stop.
Yes, the media should take statements from the president seriously, be they on Twitter or any other platform
President Donald Trump’s staffers have excoriated the media for covering the president’s tweets and for questioning his use of the platform, claiming that "it's social media," not official government policy. However, the Qatari government’s bewildered reaction to Trump’s tweets criticizing the Persian Gulf state over terrorism financing, followed by the president contradicting his secretary of state’s call to ease a recent blockade against Qatar by other Arab nations, demonstrates that journalists should ignore White House staffers’ admonishments and treat Trump's social media comments as presidential statements.
On June 5, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka made television appearances where they lectured journalists about their coverage of the president’s tweets. When hosts on NBC’s Today and CNN’s New Day asked Trump’s staffers about tweets he had sent earlier that morning, they derided the hosts for their, as Conway put it, “obsession with covering everything [Trump] says on Twitter.” Gorka also repeatedly told his interviewer that the interviewer was “obsessed” with Trump’s tweets and tried arguing that “a hundred characters is not policy. … It’s not policy. It’s social media.”
Enter the sudden diplomatic crisis between Qatar, which hosts America’s largest military base in the region, and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Several Arab nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off access routes to its territory because of the nation’s supposed support for radical Islamist groups. Trump reacted to the volatile situation by posting a series of tweets taking credit for the move to isolate Qatar -- while also explaining why he uses social media to communicate:
The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
...extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
Trump staffers’ may insist to the media that the president’s tweets aren’t policy and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but the Qatari government apparently feels otherwise. In a June 6 interview with The Daily Beast, Qatar’s ambassador to the U.S., Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, stated that the Trump administration didn’t express any hostility to Qatar until Trump began tweeting:
Qatar’s brand new ambassador to Washington was already bewildered, along with much of the rest of his country, at dramatic moves by several Arab nations in the past 48 hours to cut diplomatic and trade ties with the tiny Gulf nation. The hate tweets by Donald Trump only made things worse.
“We were surprised,” said Ambassador Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, perhaps the understatement of the year from the diplomat who is just a couple of months into his post here. “No one approached us directly and said, ‘Look, we have problems with this and this and this,’” he told The Daily Beast in his first on-the-record interview since the controversy broke.
President Donald Trump hailed the move in tweets as proof his recent visit to the region was a success. “They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism,” he tweeted.
But here’s the strange thing. Trump had hailed the Gulf nation in his landmark summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, calling Qatar “a crucial strategic partner,” and he met with Qatari leader Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani—and raised no complaints, the ambassador said.
“We participated in Riyadh. We had a good meeting with the president and with [Saudi] King Salman—nothing was raised,” he said. The Treasury Department has praised Qatar’s work on terrorist financing, and the gulf nation plays host to a massive U.S. air base. Its special operations forces fight side by side with American special operators on a number of battlefields.
“It’s unfortunate to see these tweets,” the ambassador said. “We have close coordination with the United States. They know our efforts to combat financial terrorism and terrorism.”
So much for the president’s tweets not being government policy.
Trump’s June 9 press conference underscored the importance of media scrutinizing the president's social media posts. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had publicly defended Qatar just an hour before the presser and had called for the Arab countries that had severed ties with the Persian Gulf state to “immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other.” But during a presser with the president of Romania, Trump slammed Qatar, again accusing it of having “been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” and cited Tillerson’s support of his idea that “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding” of terrorism. As it turns out, Trump’s tweets were a clear indication of his thinking at the time and showed that journalists should ignore Conway, Gorka, and anyone else from the administration urging them to discount their importance.
Just ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just cited a Trump tweet as an "official statement" of the president.
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