Marc Thiessen | Media Matters for America

Marc Thiessen

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  • 60 Minutes’ interview with Stormy Daniels airs tonight. Here are 5 ways conservative media figures have attacked or downplayed her story.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Adult film actress and director Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, recorded an interview about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, which is scheduled to air tonight on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Since she first came forward, some conservative media figures have chosen to attack her or to minimize her story.

    According to Daniels, she and Trump had an affair in 2006. She first gave an interview about the affair in 2011 with In Touch Weekly, but it was only published in full earlier this year. While Trump has denied the affair took place, one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just a month before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Trump and Daniels have recently sued one another over the 2016 agreement.

    Trump’s lawyers reportedly considered legal action to stop the broadcast of Daniels’ pre-recorded 60 Minutes interview, which will air tonight on CBS. And in recent weeks, some conservative media figures have also run defense for the president.

    Smearing Daniels over her adult film career

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Daniels is a “washed up porn star.”

    [Gateway Pundit, 3/6/18]

    CNN conservative political commentator Jason Miller: “I think it is clear that Ms. Clifford is trying to essentially launch a second act to her career now.”

    CNN guest Michael Caputo: “Let's not forget, this is a woman who gets paid for sex wanting more money.”

    Telling other media outlets they shouldn’t be giving Daniels’ story much attention

    Fox host Sean Hannity dubbed CNN president Jeff Zucker the “‘porn king’ of cable news” for coverage of Daniels. Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity lashed out at CNN for covering Daniels’ allegations against Trump, calling CNN president Jeff Zucker the “porn king” of cable news. He also called CNN’s “non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels” a “new obsession” of “basically soft-core pornography.” [Hannity.com, 3/23/18]

    Fox media critic Howard Kurtz suggested other media outlets were devoting too much coverage to Daniels and accused them of being “rather gleeful in covering these stories.”

    Conservative talk radio host Mark Simone: “Media [are] now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election” by covering Daniels.

    [Twitter, 3/11/18]

    Accusing Daniels of faking evidence

    Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl pointed to one photo to claim Daniels’ reported polygraph test was fake. NBC News acquired a report of a 2011 polygraph test Daniels took about her relationship with Trump, which came with a sworn declaration from the examiner about its authenticity. According to NBC, “the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex in 2006.” Jacob Wohl of The Washington Reporter used an image taken from a video of the polygraph test to claim it was fake.

    [NBC News, 3/20/18; Twitter, 3/21/18]

    Downplaying the relevance of the interview

    Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen: Conservative Christians will stand by Trump because he keeps his promises to them. Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen defended conservative Christian supporters of President Trump from accusations of hypocrisy for violating their espoused values because he “does have one moral quality that deserves admiration: He keeps his promises.” From Thiessen’s March 23 FoxNews.com column:

    During the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to defend religious liberty, stand up for unborn life and appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. And he has done exactly what he promised. The abortion-rights lobby NARAL complains that Trump has been "relentless" on these fronts, declaring his administration "the worst .?.?. that we've ever seen." That is more important to most Christian conservatives than what the president may have done with a porn actress more than ten years ago.

    [...]

    No one upholds Trump as moral exemplar. He is not the most religious president we have ever had, but he may be the most pro-religion president. Christian conservatives are judging Trump not by his faith, but by his works. And when it comes to life and liberty, his works are good. [FoxNews.com, 3/13/18]

    National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson: “People knew the accusations against the president” but didn’t care about them. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) about Daniels upcoming 60 Minutes interview, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson said conservative Christians just don’t care that Trump allegedly cheated on his wife Melania:

    "Christians want the president to be pastoral. We like that but that isn't really the job assignment," National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson told CBN News. "People knew the accusations against the president before he was elected and they said, 'Actually, we care about security. Actually, we care about the economy.' "

    Johnson added that Christians "should identify with Christ" before any politician and called his vote in the 2016 election a "prudential" one. "You've got to vote. You have a choice. Who are you going to vote for?" Johnson said. "I voted for Mr. Trump. I don't regret that vote. I don't think Christians who voted for him regret that vote. We knew this was in the past, but his job is to keep us safe and to keep the government out of the way of business so the economy can grow and I think he's doing that." [CBN, 3/23/18]

    Anti-gay hate group Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins: Trump’s behavior was in the past. Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, also told CBN that Trump’s past behavior doesn’t matter because he’s keeping political promises he made to conservative Christians:

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, echoed the same sentiment to CBN News and said Trump should be judged on his behavior and accomplishments in office.
     
    "To date, what has the president done?" Perkins asked. "The president has not engaged, to our knowledge, and I think we would know, in any of the behavior that he did in the past, prior to the election. What he has done is he's actually followed through on political promises." [CBN, 3/23/18]

    Barely mentioning Daniels’ alleged affair with Trump

    In early through mid-March, Fox News barely mentioned Daniels’ story. The news explainer website Vox examined cable news transcripts and found Fox News has barely even mentioned Daniels’ name, especially compared to its main competitors.

    [Vox, 3/21/18]

  • Fox is spinning a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as a "major concession." It's not.

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Over the past week, Fox hosts and pundits have insisted that the White House gave a “major concession” by including a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in its immigration proposal, ignoring the draconian aspects of the plan.

    On the January 27 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Pete Hegseth exclaimed, “For conservatives, citizenship and 1.8 [million] DACA recipients is a lot more than people expected this White House to give … They made that concession out of the gate.” Tucker Carlson echoed that sentiment on his show, claiming that “the White House’s proposed immigration deal gives a major concession to Democrats: amnesty.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has pushed the “huge concession” line multiple times. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen was the latest to make the misleading claim on the January 31 edition of America’s Newsroom:

    First off, the proposal grants the Trump administration $25 billion for a border wall, a number that has been criticized as “a bloated increase from the $18 billion the White House called for just at the start of the year.”

    And as the libertarian think tank Cato Institute points out, “The new plan [cuts] the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent or half a million immigrants annually—the largest policy-driven legal immigration cut since the 1920s.”

    The proposal also pits “immigrants against one another” as it limits the scope of family reunification policies, preventing immigrants who have obtained citizenship from sponsoring certain family members and likely deterring skilled immigrants who are considering relocating to the United States. The White House proposal also expedites deportations for undocumented immigrants, effectively “strip[ping] all those people, if caught by the federal government, of their right to a deportation hearing before a judge.”

    Fox's servile "major concession" drumbeat is just another example of the network sacrificing context to push the White House’s agenda.

  • How adopting right-wing spin about Doug Jones' support for abortion access led media astray

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On December 12, Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate -- ending a 25-year streak in which Democrats were unable to win a single seat in the state. Jones’ victory put to rest weeks of media hand-wringing and speculation about what would be more offensive to Alabamians: Republican candidate Roy Moore’s reported sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s or Jones’ allegedly “extreme” position on abortion.

    In November, The Washington Post reported multiple women’s accounts of experiencing inappropriate conduct from Moore when they were in their teens, including one account of Moore pursuing a 14-year old girl. A few days later, another woman reported that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. In response, Moore largely avoided granting interviews to media, with the exception of a few friendly outlets such as Breitbart and One American News Network. To counteract these reports, right-wing outlets began leveraging what they claimed were Jones’ “extreme” views on abortion access against allegations of wrongdoing against Moore.

    In reality, as Jones has explained, he supports upholding current Alabama law, which allows patients to seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions for “medical necessity” beyond that point. During a September 27 interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Jones stated that he was “a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body.” Despite this, many outlets not only adopted right-wing media’s inaccurate spin that Jones’ stance was “extreme,” but also went on to claim that Jones’ support for abortion access would ultimately cost him the election.

    From early in the campaign, right-wing media consistently pushed the talking point that Jones’ position on abortion access was “extreme.” For example, during the November 15 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jesse Watters described Alabama voters as having to decide between Moore, who “may have done inappropriate things with young girls 40 years ago,” and Jones, who he claimed supported so-called “‘partial-birth’ abortion” (a procedure that doesn’t exist but was invented by anti-abortion groups to shame those seeking abortions). In another example, Fox’s Marc Thiessen tried to equate Moore’s predatory behavior and Jones’ stance on abortion by calling them “two extremes.” Beyond this, Fox hosts and contributors alike leveraged a variety of inaccurate claims about Jones’ position on abortion -- saying he was for “abortion on demand,” claiming he was “a person who supports abortion at every level,” or parroting that he supported “abortion through all nine months” of pregnancy. In a particularly ill-fated exchange on the night of the election, Fox's Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume predicted that Jones' support for abortion would be his undoing:

    Unfortunately, rather than debunking such obvious anti-choice talking points, some outlets instead adopted this right-wing spin about Jones.

    During a November 27 discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough claimed that Democrats would be better off if they had run “somebody who were, let’s say, conservative to moderate on abortion … but with Democrats on 99 percent of the other issues.” The following day, a panel on Morning Joe continued this line of argument with MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan stating that adopting an anti-abortion viewpoint “would have taken Doug Jones easily over the finish line.” Beyond Jordan’s claims, during the same discussion MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki also promoted the right-wing argument that Jones supported “no restrictions on abortion at all.”

    On CNN, contributor Stephen Moore also adopted the right-wing spin about Jones, arguing that he supported “partial-birth abortion, which a lot of people in Alabama think is tantamount to murder.” While at The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis speculated that Alabama voters may not be able to cast a vote for Jones because of his “extreme position on what many see as a definitive life or death issue.” Lewis concluded that Jones “would be in a much better position” to win if his views about abortion weren’t “so radical.”

    As election day drew nearer, other outlets continued to run with the argument that not only was Jones’ position “extreme,” but that it would also cost him the election. For example, The Boston Globe claimed that for Alabama voters, Jones’ stance was “a deal-breaker” and that if Moore was “running against a Democrat less doctrinaire on abortion, the revelations about Moore’s pursuit of young girls would likely have sunk his campaign.” NPR reported on December 8 that “for some Alabama voters, supporting abortion rights may be a sin worse than some of the sexual misdeeds Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore has been accused of.” On the night of the election, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said that he’d been told that “if Doug Jones loses, it will be a one word answer: Abortion.”

    This is far from the first time that media have gotten carried away with the argument that support for abortion access costs votes or elections for Democratic or progressive candidates. In early 2017, The New York Times published an op-ed titled, “To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party” -- kicking off wave of responses rebutting the false dichotomy that Democrats must sacrifice reproductive rights to win voters.

    As HuffPost reported on December 4, however, there was ample reason to believe that Jones’ support for abortion access wouldn’t be a hindrance. According to polling performed by Clarity Campaign Labs, “Abortion wasn’t really in the top couple issue” when likely Republican voters explained why they wouldn’t support Jones over Moore.

  • "Late-term" abortion is made up and so is Doug Jones' so-called abortion "extremism"

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    After reports surfaced that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted and harassed several teenagers when he was in his 30s, right-wing media outlets rushed to characterize Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones as supporting “partial-birth” abortions, abortions up to the moment of birth, or so-called “late-term” abortions. Other outlets have adopted the right-wing media spin, claiming Jones is too “extreme” for Alabama voters.

  • Media Can't Stop Pining For Another Trump Pivot

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media seized on President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress as an opportunity for him to “pivot” or “reset” his administration. This canard that he would at some point change course was repeated throughout the presidential campaign, yet any shifts that occurred were always short-lived.

  • Three Ways Fox Is Attempting To Delegitimize Clinton’s Lead In The Polls

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News has attempted to delegitimize Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls for months, claiming that the polls are skewed due to oversampling, that the size of rallies Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds is more indicative of his support than polls, and that there are “secret” Trump supporters who are too embarrassed to tell pollsters whom they support. However, other media outlets have explained that concerns about oversampling are “laughably incorrect,” and that claims that crowds are more accurate than polling are some of “the most idiotic claims out there.”

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

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    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.

  • Media Fell For Bogus “New Information” Spin In GOP Benghazi Report

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Benghazi Myths And Facts

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & OLIVIA KITTEL

    After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.

  • Wash. Post Columnist Peddles Widely Debunked Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Predator” Myth

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen peddled the widely debunked myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people are “an open invitation to sex predators” in public restrooms.

    In a May 16 Washington Post opinion piece, Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen repeated the debunked myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people will cause male predators to pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into women’s bathrooms and commit sexual assault. Thiessen is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who authored an error-ridden 2010 book defending the use of torture that The New Yorker called “better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts.”

    Thiessen’s fearmongering contradicts the expert testimony of over 300 national, state, and local anti-sexual-assault and domestic violence organizations. It also contradicts the experience of states, cities, and school districts across the country that have had trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies for years without incident.

    From the May 16 column:

    Allowing biological men to use women’s restrooms and changing rooms — what could possibly go wrong?

    Plenty.

    As a compassionate society, we believe that transgendered people should be protected from discrimination. We also believe that women and children should be protected from sexual exploitation and assault. Creating a new “right” for biological men to use women-only facilities is an open invitation to sex predators pretending to be transgender in order to get access to vitcims (sic) at their most vulnerable.

    […]

    By all means, schools should be required to provide access to bathrooms and changing areas where transgender people can feel safe. And there is a simple solution. As one transgender young man put it in The Post this weekend, “Imagine a room with a toilet, a sink and a door with a lock. Suddenly everyone’s problems go away.” But that is not good enough for the Obama administration, which insists that biological males who identify as women have a fundamental right to access to women’s facilities. That is a recipe for disaster.

    Sex predators are devious; they will use any excuse to gain access to their victims. Government should not be opening the bathroom door for them. Yes, we should find ways to protect transgender people — but we must do so without endangering everyone else.

  • Trump’s Latest Clinton Attack Comes Straight Out Of Fox News’ Benghazi Playbook

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released an online video accusing Hillary Clinton of lying about the cause of the September 11, 2012, Benghazi, Libya attacks. Trump’s video echoes Fox News’ favorite and oft-repeated smear that Clinton deliberately lied by linking an inflammatory anti-Muslim video to the attacks, and ignores the fact that intelligence reports said initial information about the cause of the attacks was conflicting and that reports have linked the anti-Muslim video to the attacks.

  • Right-Wing Media Lose It After Obama Dances The Tango

    ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing commentators ripped President Obama for dancing the tango at a state dinner in Argentina a day after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, criticizing him for "dancing the night away" "while Brussels burns." Meanwhile, journalists and analysists slammed conservative media figures' "easy attacks," noting that right-wing media would have criticized Obama "either way," regardless of whether he continued on or cut his trip short following the Brussels attacks.

  • Right-Wing Media Wrongly Insist President Obama's Executive Actions On Guns "Change The Law"

    Executive Actions Aim To "Ensure Smart And Effective Enforcement" Of Existing Gun Laws

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are mischaracterizing President Obama's executive actions on gun safety as "a blatant violation of the separation of powers" and falsely claiming that the president is attempting to circumvent Congress to "change the law", while ignoring the fact that President Obama's executive actions seek to "clarify" and "ensure ... enforcement of [current] gun laws."