Philip Klein | Media Matters for America

Philip Klein

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  • How right-wing media defended Trump after Mueller's press conference

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    Special counsel Robert Mueller read a statement at a May 29 press conference in which he explained that his investigation did not attempt to determine whether President Donald Trump had committed any crimes because it would be against Department of Justice policy to charge a president who is in office. Mueller also announced that he was formally closing the special counsel's office and resigning from the DOJ to return to private life. Conservative media figures responded by criticizing Mueller for not exonerating Trump, claiming his statement is a “huge win” for the president, complaining that Mueller helped make Democrats’ case for impeaching Trump, misrepresenting what he said about his findings, and suggesting he might be lying in his statement.

    Claiming Mueller didn’t do his job properly by failing to recommend whether Trump should be charged

    Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro: “‘If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so.’ That is not the standard of a prosecutor. Prosecutors exist to determine whether someone committed a chargeable offense, not whether they are exonerated of charges.”

    National Review Online Editor Charles C. W. Cooke: “Is this how it works? Isn't it the other way around? You look for evidence that a crime was committed, and if you don't find it you say ‘we didn't find any.’ You don't look for evidence that it wasn't and then say, ‘we couldn't find evidence of innocence.’”

    The Federalist co-founder Sean Davis: “Also, Mueller's view of a prosecutor's role -- to prove and declare a target's innocence, rather than to charge criminality -- is a despicable affront to the rule of law and the Constitution. Cops and lawyers don't grant innocence. It is our default legal state absent conviction.”

    Fox News Radio host Guy Benson: “If he had the evidence, Mueller could have identified criminal conduct & *recommended* charges, then let DOJ decide whether OLC guidance would or would not permit those charges being filed against a sitting POTUS. Instead, he decided not to recommend anything.”

    Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich: “Muller tried today to have [it both] ways. If he thought President [Trump] was guilty of something he should have said he was guilty of something. Ken Starr used the word guilty 11 times on 11 different counts in his report on President Clinton. If not guilty Trump is innocent.”

    Claiming Mueller’s statement represents a victory for Trump

    Breitbart.com White House correspondent Charlie Spiering: “Huge win for Trump: Mueller steps down, refuses to testify, states that president cannot be charged with a crime, urges Americans to secure future elections.”

    Far-right blog The Gateway Pundit: “Mueller Dunks on Pelosi and Dems – Praises Attorney General Bill Barr For Releasing Entire Report in Good Faith.”

    Gingrich: “In the absence of proof in America, you are innocent. Therefore, by definition, President Trump is innocent.”

    Claiming Mueller is inviting chaos and impeachment of Trump

    Commentary Associate Editor Noah Rothman: “The impeachment case just got a lot easier to make.”

    Fox Nation and Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes: “Mueller just poured gasoline on the Democrats' Impeachment fire.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: “He begged [Congress] to impeach. He gave them the green light. He said that’s what you people have to do.”

    Fox News contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich: “Impeachment is coming.”

    Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly: “After Robert Mueller’s deflection to Congress on the obstruction issue, we can expect democrats to begin impeachment proceedings. That will harm the country economically and lead no where as the Senate will not convict.”

    Fox’s Martha MacCallum and Brian Kilmeade agreed Mueller “threw some kerosene on the fire.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his radio show Mueller “closed his office, he called it quits, but before he did it, he actually threw some kerosene on the fire and then threw the match.” Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum agreed, saying: “Absolutely, no doubt.” Kilmeade then added: “So my sense was he saw the chaos that happened after he released the report that was supposed to put a fine point on a 22-month investigation, and he made it worse.”

    Fox's Lisa Boothe: “Robert Mueller is a hack. And we know that he’s a hack because he gave Democrats exactly what they wanted ... more fuel to the fire of impeachment.”

    Claiming Mueller said things he didn’t say

    Fox host Pete Hegseth falsely claimed that Trump will “rightfully” say there was “no obstruction” and that he's “exonerated.” Mueller actually explained that he was prevented from considering charging Trump with a crime because of Department of Justice policy.

    Wash. Examiner’s Philip Klein: “Impeachment or bust: Robert Mueller just made clear he won't give Democrats a second crack at his report through testimony.” The text of Klein’s article was more accurate than its headline, correctly noting that Mueller said the report covers everything he has to say about the investigation.

    Claiming that Mueller may have been lying

    The Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway: “Multiple people at DOJ say Mueller stated that [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion had nothing to do with his decision not to charge obstruction, and report itself doesn’t make determination on obstruction, as it did on collusion. Remarks today curiously at odds with both.” While responding to a reply pointing that Mueller had set the record straight with his statement, Hemingway added that Mueller “wasn’t speaking under oath while someone who said otherwise was, so…..”

    Claiming Mueller did it to appease his “social circles”

    Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz: “It’s purely a guess, but from where I sit I think it was to cover his butt within his own political, social circles. … Barr was actually out there telling the truth, and it scared Mueller and his reputation. He was supposed to be the guy to get Trump, and he didn't, and he feels bad about that.”

    Gingrich: “My guess is that in his social circles, people felt that he had failed to serve the worthy cause of destroying Donald Trump, and he was trying to sort of cleverly toss it to the Congress."

    Claiming Mueller was fairer to the indicted Russians than to Trump

    Boothe: “Robert Mueller gave more deference to the Russians yesterday than he did to President Trump.”

    Hegseth: Mueller “went out of his way when talking about the Russians that had been indicted to say that they are innocent until proven guilty. The Russians. Which he never went out of his way to say about a sitting president.” 

    Gingrich: Mueller “says of the Russians they’re innocent until proven guilty, and in the next paragraph he says he can’t prove the president’s innocence. So, his standard for the American president is dramatically lower than his standard for Russians. You couldn’t have made that up.”

  • Trump pushes false anti-abortion talking point claiming there's a lack of public support for Roe​

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    In a recent interview, President Donald Trump repeated a right-wing, anti-abortion talking point alleging that Americans’ support for abortion is evenly divided. This talking point -- and Trump’s comment -- has emerged as part of the push to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and to paint any warnings about his likelihood of overturning of Roe v. Wade as overblown.

  • Washington Examiner: Conservative Reaction To Tubman On The $20 Highlights GOP Issues With African-Americans

    "The Episode Illustrates Some Of The Broader Challenges Facing Republicans"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    This week the U.S. Treasury announced a plan to add faces of women and civil rights leaders to U.S. currency, including replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 with Harriet Tubman. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently commented that this decision was "pure political correctness," before suggesting Tubman could go on the $2. Trump's comments echo some of those in right-wing media, who have called the decision "dumb" and a "travesty" and said that it "ensures [our] enslavement."

    An April 21 article by the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein pointed to Trump's comments as an example that "illustrates some of the broader challenges facing Republicans seeking to win over black voters": 

    When the U.S. Treasury Department announced that they were bumping Andrew Jackson off the front of the $20 bill to be replaced by Harriet Tubman, most conservatives and Republicans praised the decision. But not Donald Trump.

    Instead, Trump derided the decision as "pure political correctness" and suggested maybe Tubman appear on the little-used $2 bill instead. Trump's comments followed those of Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, who charged that the Obama administration "went stupid" with the decision to bump Jackson, supposedly picking a "completely unnecessary fight" that was "dividing the country."

    [...]

    Typically, I'd dismiss Trump as an outlier for his comments, but it's harder to do that given that he's the Republican front-runner who has won more votes than any other candidate. The episode illustrates some of the broader challenges facing Republicans seeking to win over black voters.

    [...]

    If resistance to Republicans among the black community cannot be explained by ideology alone, then, what else can it be attributed to?

    Another aspect is that for all the official efforts at black outreach among national Republicans, and attempts at racial sensitivity by elected officials, whenever the issue of race is in the news, there's always a Republican or conservative media figure somewhere saying something off-putting.

    What gets communicated to blacks is that a lot of Republicans are resentful toward them and dismissive of any complaints about modern day racism. When the Republican front-runner, instead of using the Harriet Tubman news as an opportunity to celebrate an American icon, takes the chance to slam "political correctness," it's one other incident that reinforces this impression.

  • The Differences Between The 47 GOP Senators' Iran Letter And Pelosi's 2007 Syria Visit

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    After 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Iranian leaders attempting to undercut President Obama's negotiations with that country, conservative media figures have defended the widely criticized move by pointing to a 2007 Syrian meeting then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had with President Bashar al-Assad. But as MSNBC.com's Steve Benen noted, "the parallels to this new scandal are tenuous, at best."

    While the Bush White House strongly opposed the trip, Pelosi was accompanied at the meeting by a Republican congressman and Bush State Department officials. She informed the White House and State Department of her trip, and foreign policy experts said that her visit didn't stray from a "typical" congressional visit. Three Republican congressmen also met with Assad prior to her visit.

    47 Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), signed a March 9 letter telling Iranian officials that any nuclear agreement would face scrutiny from the Republican-led Senate and could be undone by a future president. The letter drew criticism from the White House, diplomacy experts, and even some Republicans.

    Conservatives have attempted to rebut criticism by drawing a direct parallel to an April 4, 2007, meeting Pelosi had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For example: 

  • Right-Wing Media Cherry-Picks Study Findings To Attack Medicaid And Health Care Reform

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Right-wing media have seized on a study of Medicaid recipients to attack the program by focusing on certain parts of the findings while health care experts point out that the program successfully expanded access to care and eased health-related financial problems, the primary focus of Medicaid.

    In 2008, the state of Oregon held a lottery to expand Medicaid coverage to 10,000 people. Because the selection was random, researchers began a controlled study on how the coverage affected the participants. After the results were posted in The New England Journal of Medicine, right-wing media seized on the findings to attack both Medicaid and health care reform. On May 2, Fox Nation posted a Washington Examiner article on the study under the headline "Landmark Study Shatters Liberal Health Care Claims." In the article, Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein noted that the study's authors found that enrollment in Medicaid led to "lower rates of depression," but Klein wrote that "the study suggests that expanding Medicaid ... does not improve" the health of recipients. On Your World, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, used the findings to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA):

    On May 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the Medicaid study "[b]ad news for Democrats who support Obamacare." On-screen text during the segment stated that the study found that Medicaid is "ineffective":

    But while Fox used the study as an opportunity to attack various aspects of health care reform, experts have pointed out that the study's findings, while not entirely positive, show that the program aided the new enrollees in several ways. In a Health Affairs blog post, Dr. John Lumpkin, who served for 12 years as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, wrote that the study showed that "coverage alone will not necessarily lead to good health," but also pointed to the "big impact on family finances" and the fact that "expanding Medicaid was shown to substantially reduce depression." Dr. Lumpkin concluded:

    So far, the Oregon Health Insurance Study shows us that people who obtained Medicaid coverage received more health care services in the first two years--especially needed preventive care--and had less depression and financial worries. Their health outcomes weren't significantly better, but at least they are now participating in the health care system and getting the care they need, without plunging their families deeper into poverty. From this vantage point, the glass seems more than half full.

  • Right-Wing Media Use Interruptions To Attack Debate Moderator Raddatz

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Right-wing media are attacking ABC reporter Martha Raddatz, the moderator of the vice-presidential debate, complaining that she interrupted GOP candidate Paul Ryan significantly more than Vice President Joe Biden. In fact, Raddatz interrupted Biden and Ryan roughly the same number of times. 

    Following the October 11 debate, right-wing media figures complained that Raddatz cut Ryan off significantly more often than she did Biden. Washington Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein tweeted, "Every time Biden starts interrupting Ryan, Martha Raddatz cuts Ryan off." Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham complained that Raddatz interrupted Ryan when he rebutted "Biden's illogical position on abortion and Catholic Church." Town Hall news editor Katie Pavlich wrote, "This debate should be renamed: Joe Biden and the Moderator Interrupt Paul Ryan!" 

    But Raddatz interrupted Biden and Ryan approximately an equal number of times. According to a Media Matters review of the debate, Raddatz interrupted Biden 15 times and Ryan 18 times:

    interruptions

  • Media's Responsible Budget Grown-Up Paul Ryan Helped Create Massive Deficits

    ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN, SHAUNA THEEL & NED RESNIKOFF

    Media figures have been quick to portray Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, as "courageous" "genius" for introducing an "adult plan" for the 2012 budget. Ryan's current role as the lone "adult" on budget issues is belied by his support for policies - including the Bush tax cuts - that created massive federal deficits.

  • Right-wing media falsely claim that health care reform will increase premiums

    ››› ››› TOM ALLISON

    Right-wing media are using an exchange between President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to falsely claim that the Senate health care bill would cause individual health insurance premiums to increase. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate's version of health care reform would result in lower premiums for most individual enrollees.