Newt Gingrich | Media Matters for America

Newt Gingrich

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  • Right-wing media figures have led Trump's purge of Department of Justice officials they perceive as threatening

    Here’s who they have left

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & GRACE BENNETT

    Right-wing media have consistently lined up behind Donald Trump to defend him against any and all allegations regarding Russian interference in the presidential election. Led primarily by Fox News and primetime host Sean Hannity, right-wing media figures have denounced, undermined, or maligned Department of Justice and FBI officials involved in the broader Russia investigation since it began. 

  • Fox News is practically begging Trump to fire Mueller

    In the aftermath of the Flynn plea, Fox News’ attacks on Robert Mueller have become completely unhinged

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ prime-time block of programming these days is extremely dark. The network’s evening hosts have been in a highly agitated state, filling the airwaves with grave warnings about totalitarianism, covert subversion by anti-democratic forces, and midnight raids on the quiet homes of unsuspecting citizens. This churning miasma of corruption and menace is sourced to a single nefarious person whose scheming -- if left unchecked -- could undermine civil society and pose a threat to the very fabric of American democracy itself.

    That person is special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Mueller has never been the most popular person at Fox News given that he’s busily investigating Donald Trump, whom the network treats less as a president and more as a living sun god. Fox’s biggest names have been working to discredit Mueller and calling for his head for months. (A Media Matters study found that Sean Hannity had called for Mueller to resign or be fired 40 times between May and the beginning of November.) But ever since news broke that Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn had cut a deal with the special counsel and pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, the level of anti-Mueller histrionics at Fox has spiked as the network’s hosts and contributors paint Mueller and his investigation as existential threats to the country.

    Sean Hannity kicked off his December 6 show by ripping into “Robert Mueller's partisan extremely biased hyper-partisan attack team.” To Hannity, the fact that Mueller (a registered Republican as of several years ago) hired investigators who donated to Democratic campaigns meant that “Robert Mueller has assembled the most partisan special counsel in history. Now, they are in utter disgrace in terms of equal justice under the law.” Per Hannity, Mueller and his team “now pose a direct threat to you, the American people and our American republic.”

    Then Hannity turned to Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, who piled on the hysterics. “I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt,” he said, referring to Mueller’s dismissal of investigator Peter Strzok, who had sent text messages in 2016 mocking Trump. “Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America's secret police,” Jarrett added, explaining that it has become “like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night, banging through your door.”

    Hannity was in complete agreement. “This is not a game. This is not hyperbole you are using here,” he said of Jarrett’s obvious hyperbole. “Ask Paul Manafort,” Jarrett replied. “They came for him and broke through his front door.” Hannity was shocked. “If it can happen to him, Gregg …” Jarrett finished the thought. “It can happen to all of us. Absolutely. The FBI is a shadow government now.”

    Pardon me while I get a change of pants.

    This is all quite insane. When Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman and shadowy millionaire lobbyist who is wrapped up in off-the-book Ukrainian financial deals, is your avatar of the persecuted everyman, you’re playing a desperate and losing hand.

    As for the KGB nonsense, it is true that the FBI conducted a no-knock raid on Manafort and subsequently arrested him after a grand jury returned indictments for conspiracy and money laundering. But doing things like obtaining warrants and presenting evidence to a grand jury are precisely what secret police forces -- KGB and otherwise -- don’t do. The whole point of a “secret police” is to obviate due process, and by all indications the arrest of Paul Manafort was by the book.

    Later the same evening, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Laura Ingraham’s program and started howling about the threat Mueller poses to America itself. “Mueller is corrupt, the senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt and until you get back up and say -- realize how really truly corrupt this is, there's a sickness here,” Gingrich said. “I think it is frightening,” he added. “If you believe in the rule of law and you believe in America, what we are learning is genuinely frightening.”

    On December 4, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs went the extra mile, slamming Mueller as a partisan hack but also calling for him to be prosecuted for unspecified “crimes” against Trump. “A call for the firing of Robert Mueller no longer really truly satisfies any call for accountability,” Dobbs said. “Strzok and Mueller and Comey, in my judgment, should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported them. Just one man's opinion.”

    All this overwrought talk of the KGB and threats to democracy made a compelling show for Fox News’ core audience of angry seniors. My suspicion is that the message is intended for one specific angry senior who is known to be a devoted Fox viewer: Donald Trump.

    As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote in October, there exists “a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt -- with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary.” In the aftermath of the Flynn bargain, Hannity, Jarrett, and pals are putting in extra work to frame Mueller and his investigation as over-the-top threats to the country and Trump’s presidency that must be eliminated. That’s a message Trump wants to hear, and everyone knows he’s watching.

  • Fox Business hides Newt Gingrich’s paid work for anti-CFPB group

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox Business allowed Newt Gingrich to attack the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) without disclosing that he’s been paid by a group trying to kill the government agency.

    During a November 28 appearance on Mornings with Maria, Gingrich discussed the ongoing leadership conflict at the agency and complained that the CFPB has been “a playground for [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and her left-wing anti-capitalist, anti-free enterprise friends. It was a very abusive agency, it's an agency which did enormous damage.”

    The business network did not disclose that the Fox News contributor has worked as a paid adviser for the US Consumer Coalition, a secretive group that is attempting to dismantle the CFPB. He’s also worked as a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, a public relations firm whose clients include the US Consumer Coalition. Gingrich acknowledged his ties to both groups during a December 2015 congressional hearing. He co-authored an October 2016 Medium post attacking the CFPB with Brian Wise, who heads the Consumer Coalition and Wise Public Affairs. Both groups did not return requests for clarification about their current financial relationship with Gingrich.

    Gingrich previously hid his anti-CFPB financial connections when he wrote a July 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the CFPB and promoting the US Consumer Coalition. The op-ed did not disclose any of his financial ties, simply identifying Gingrich as a former House speaker. Following criticism by Media Matters and The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, the Journal issued an "amplification" that Gingrich is "a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition, which opposes some policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

    Fox News and Fox Business have a long history of failing to disclose the conflicts of interest of their guests and on-air personalities, including Gingrich. Fox News’ Dana Perino recently failed to disclose that anti-CFPB guest Shannen Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” as noted in his recent Weekly Standard column. Perino didn't note the connection despite quoting from that column during the segment. 

    UPDATE: Following the publication of this piece, FoxNews.com posted a November 30 op-ed by Gingrich in which he attacked "the dangerously unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." That op-ed also did not include any disclosures about Gingrich's paid anti-CFPB work

  • Study: How Sean Hannity is trying to discredit Mueller and the Russia probe

    Echoing Trump and his supporters, Hannity and his guests made hundreds of statements about Mueller's supposed "conflicts of interests"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & GRACE BENNETT

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity has used his prime-time TV show as a platform to try to discredit both the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, leading the investigation. For months, Hannity and his guests have called for Mueller to resign and brought up bogus “conflicts of interest” in an apparent attempt to undermine the “witch hunt” and save face with one of Hannity’s biggest fans, President Donald Trump.

    A Media Matters analysis found that since the beginning of the investigation in May, Hannity and his guests have repeatedly called for Mueller to recuse himself or be fired from the probe and brought up phony “conflicts of interest” in attempts to discredit him. Hannity has also repeated several other canards in an attempt to dismiss the investigation, often hyping them when the ongoing probe results in the release of damaging reports. In this study:

    Hannity has used his Fox show to call for Mueller to resign or recuse himself -- or for him to be fired -- 40 times

    Hannity has called for either Mueller to remove himself or for his firing 40 times. Since Mueller took up the investigation on May 17, Hannity has called for Mueller to remove himself from the investigation -- or for him to be forcibly removed --- 40 times on his Fox News program.

    Fox’s Gregg Jarrett has made 11 comments calling for Mueller’s firing or for Mueller to remove himself from the investigation. Gregg Jarrett, Fox legal analyst and ardent Trump defender -- especially on matters related to Russia -- made 11 statements on Hannity calling for Mueller to remove himself from the investigation or be fired.

    Other guests have made similar statements, including noted right-wing misinformers. Other guests on Hannity have made similar calls for Mueller to either step away from the investigation of his own volition or for him to be fired:

    • Right-wing radio host Larry Elder, who claimed that Clinton, the FBI, and the Democratic National Committee are the only ones who were involved in Russian collusion, called for Mueller to leave the probe twice;

    • Former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom, who called the bogus “unmasking” controversy regarding former national security adviser Susan Rice one of the biggest scandals ever, made two statements saying Mueller should not be involved with the probe; and

    • Benghazi conspiracy theorist Victoria Toensing called for Mueller to leave the probe once.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hannity and his guests made over 220 statements suggesting Mueller had a “conflict of interest”

    Hannity brought up Mueller’s alleged “conflicts of interest” 183 times. Since May 17, Hannity has made 183 statements that Mueller allegedly has a “conflict of interest” that would prevent him from fairly conducting the probe.

    Guests have made 45 statements asserting that Mueller has a “conflict of interest.” Apart from Hannity’s own statements, guests on Hannity, including Jarrett and other Trump defenders such as Newt Gingrich and Fox host Jeanine Pirro, have made a total of 45 statements alleging that Mueller has a “conflict of interest” surrounding the investigation.

    Two of the most popular “conflicts of interest” are not really conflicts at all. Of the over 220 statements about “conflicts” that Hannity and his guests have hyped, two of the most popular ones (cited 167 times) are not actually conflicts at all:

    • On 92 occasions, Hannity and his guests -- including Gingrich and Fox contributor Ari Fleischer -- claimed that Mueller’s team was compromised or conflicted because it included several investigators who had previously donated to Democrats. As a group of political science professors wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “According to the Justice Department’s own rules, campaign donations do not create a conflict of interest.”

    • On 75 occasions, Hannity and his guests -- including Jarrett and Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow -- suggested that Mueller is conflicted because of his relationship with former FBI Director James Comey. But, as The Associated Press (AP) pointed out, Mueller and Comey are “not known to be especially close friends.” Additionally, “Legal experts say whatever connection they do have doesn't come close to meriting Mueller's removal as special counsel.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hannity and his guests have used several other canards to attack Mueller and the investigation

    Hannity and his guests used a variety of other talking points and canards to discredit the investigation and Mueller:

    • On 22 occasions, Hannity and his guests referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt”;

    • On 17 occasions, Hannity and his guests suggested that the investigation was a political attack on Trump, his administration, and potentially even the Trump family;

    • On 36 occasions, Hannity and his guests attacked the investigation and Mueller for having too much discretion; and

    • On 40 occasions, Hannity and his guests attempted to discredit Mueller by hyping his connections to the repeatedly debunked Uranium One “scandal.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Many of the show’s attacks came as reporting circulated that was damaging to Trump

    After Comey spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Hannity and his guests ticked up their attacks on Mueller. In the week following Comey’s June 8 testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, Hannity and his guests increased their attacks on the investigation and Mueller, compared to the prior week:

    • Hannity and his guests called on Mueller to resign or called for his firing 20 times;

    • Hannity and his guests brought up Mueller’s supposed “conflicts of interest” 40 times; and

    • Hannity and his guests referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” four times.

    After it was reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Hannity and his guests attacked Mueller’s “conflicts of interest.” In the week after The New York Times reported on July 8 that Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials had met with a Russian lawyer who had ties to the Kremlin in hopes of securing damaging information on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Hannity complained about Mueller’s “conflicts of interest” 18 times.

    Following report on Trump’s attempts to discredit the investigation, Hannity launched more attacks on Mueller. In the week following a July 20 New York Times report that claimed Trump and his aides were “looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused,” Hannity and his team ratcheted up their attacks on Mueller compared to the prior week:

    • Hannity and his guests brought up Mueller’s supposed “conflicts of interest” 36 times;

    • Hannity and his guests claimed 18 times that Mueller’s investigation was compromised because some of his investigators had donated to Democratic politicians;

    • Hannity and his guests discussed Mueller’s relationship with Comey in order to discredit the investigation seven times;

    • Hannity and his guests asserted seven times that the investigation was a politically motivated attack; and

    • Hannity and his guests called the investigation a “witch hunt” four times.

    Following reports of Mueller’s use of a grand jury, Hannity and his guests attacked Mueller for his “conflicts” and wide discretion. A week after reports surfaced that Mueller had impaneled a grand jury as part of his investigation, Hannity and his guests made 21 statements attacking Mueller’s “conflicts of interest” and 20 statements asserting Mueller had too much discretion over the investigation.

    After the news came out that multiple Trump campaign associates had been indicted, Hannity and his guests attempted to connect Mueller to Uranium One. Between October 30 -- when it was revealed that three Trump campaign aides had been indicted due to Mueller’s investigation -- and November 3, Hannity and his guests made 18 statements attempting to link Mueller to Uranium One and 14 statements complaining about Mueller’s alleged “conflicts of interest.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis for transcripts of Fox News’ Hannity between May 17 and November 3 mentioning the words “Mueller” or “special counsel.” Transcripts were then coded for statements -- which in this study we defined as a sentence -- which included the following:

    • calls for Mueller to resign or recuse himself or calls that he be fired, or suggestions that he never should have been appointed as special counsel;

    • suggestions that Mueller had a conflict of interest with the investigation;

    • mentions of Mueller’s investigators who had ties to Democratic lawmakers;

    • mentions of Mueller’s alleged friendship and relationship with Comey;

    • questions as to whether Mueller should resign, recuse himself, be fired, or have never been appointed as special counsel;

    • claims that the investigation is a political attack on Trump, his administration, or his family;

    • suggestions that the investigation is a “witch hunt”;

    • claims that Mueller had been given too wide a mandate over the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein;

    • claims that Mueller had expanded his investigation too far; and

    • attempts to link Mueller to Uranium One.

    Transcripts were reviewed by two independent coders and differences were then reconciled.