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  • Trump's lawyers now say collusion is not a crime. Right-wing media have been saying that for over a year.


    Two lawyers for President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, have begun publicly making the case on behalf of their client that colluding with a foreign country to swing an election is not be a crime. During a July 30 appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Giuliani claimed that “collusion is not a crime,” an argument he went on to repeat that same day to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. The next day, Sekulow appeared on Fox & Friends and declared multiple times that “collusion is not a crime.”

    This isn’t the first time that Giuliani has suggested that potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia may not have been illegal. In May, he told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that there is “nothing illegal” about “looking for dirt” on political opponents, even “if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American.” And Trump in December himself told The New York Times, “Even if there was [collusion], it's not a crime." These claims from the president and his lawyers echo more than a year of similar protestations by right-wing and pro-Trump media figures:

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The breaking news today is [special counsel Robert] Mueller is just now starting investigating Russia collusion, which isn’t a crime.”

    • Hannity: “Today is the one-year anniversary of the Mueller witch hunt, and so far the special counsel has not provided a single shred of evidence of any collusion. And collusion is not against the law.”

    • Hannity: “Collusion is not a crime.”

    • Hannity : “Collusion’s not a crime. That’s the whole irony here.”  

    • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: Trump “only needs to answer questions about crimes. If it’s not a crime to fire [former FBI Director] Jim Comey, then what crime are we talking about? Collusion? Russian collusion is not a crime.”

    • Pirro: “Collusion is not a crime, so why are all the Democrats saying we’re looking for collusion? Collusion is not a crime. How stupid are they?”

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “Collusion’s not a crime. ... As Andy McCarthy keeps saying, collusion -- there is not a crime in actually speaking to Russian officials during an election cycle.”

    • Fox’s Gregg Jarrett: The FBI “launched the investigation, as I argue in my book, to frame Donald Trump for things he didn’t do, for crimes he didn’t commit. Collusion is not even a crime in a political campaign."

    • Jarrett: “You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election.”

    • Jarrett: “It was always a myth that collusion in a political campaign is a crime. It’s not.”

    • Jarrett: “Collusion is only criminal in an antitrust setting. It has nothing whatsoever to do with elections.”

    • Fox Business Network’s Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: “As the president’s attorney Jay Sekulow has pointed out a bunch of times, collusion is not a crime. And that’s absolutely true.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Alan Dershowitz: “You cannot impeach a president unless he’s committed a crime. Collusion is not a crime.”

    • Dershowitz: “Collusion is not a crime. I have seen no evidence of collusion.”

    • Dershowitz: “I’ve been teaching criminal law for 50 years, and I know the federal criminal code pretty well. The word ‘collusion’ appears only in one context, and that is if businesses collude with each other in violation of the antitrust law, that’s a crime. But there’s no crime of collusion with a foreign government.”

    • Dershowitz: Mueller is “inventing a crime. There’s no such crime as 'collusion' in the federal statute.”

    • Fox's Brit Hume: “Can anybody identify the crime? Collusion, while it’d obviously be alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign -- of which there is no evidence by the way, of colluding with the Russians, -- it's not a crime.”

    • NRATV’s Dan Bongino: “I don’t believe the collusion story at all. But the fact is, Tucker, even if there was collusion, collusion isn’t even a crime.”

    • Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “What is the crime? If the Russian KGB chief is talking to Paul Manafort and the chief says, ‘You know, I've got this dirt here that says Hillary Clinton was this or that.’ And Paul Manafort says, ‘Next Wednesday, why don't you release that. That'd be great for us.’ I don't know that that's a crime at all, what’s the crime?”

    • Conservative author Ronald Kessler: “There’s no violation of the law if, in fact, the campaign colluded with Russia, whatever that means.”

    • Conservative author Michael Reagan: “Collusion is not breaking the law.”

    • Pro-Trump Twitter troll Bill Mitchell:

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Simone:
    • Frequent Fox guest Jonathan Turley on Fox & Friends: “Collusion itself is not a crime”

    Video by John Kerr

  • Report: Donald Trump relies on Fox News programming to set the White House agenda

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Politico is reporting that White House chief of staff John Kelly’s relationship with President Donald Trump is withering and that as they “have proven increasingly incompatible,” Fox News shows and personalities seem to be filling the void in the White House.

    Media Matters has documented the Trump-Fox News feedback loop since the early days of the Trump administration, but as Trump continues to bring on former Fox News employees for White House positions, Fox’s influence over the administration is becoming more stark. Less than one month ago, Trump hired disgraced former Fox News executive Bill Shine as White House communications director (a move Trump sycophant and “unofficial chief of staff” Sean Hannity staunchly endorsed). And now Politico reports that Kelly, who was ostensibly hired to “impose order on a chaotic” White House, has been unable to prevent the president from soliciting advice from a “coterie of outside advisers, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.” Trump is even reportedly setting his daily agenda by simply tuning into his favorite show, Fox & Friends, as a former White House official told Politico that Trump “comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on 'Fox and Friends,' he schedules meetings based on that.”

    From Politico’s July 30 article, by Eliana Johnson:

    Kelly has done away with “meeting crashers,” the West Wing aides who showed up for meetings uninvited, according to a White House aide, but he has not been able to curb Trump’s practice of adding and subtracting advisers to meetings throughout the day or of turning scheduled gatherings into freewheeling discussions of subjects that suit his interests — including those suggested to him by his coterie of outside advisers, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.

    “He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on 'Fox and Friends,' he schedules meetings based on that,” said one former White House official. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’ … If he’s seen something on TV or [was] talking to Hannity the night before, he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”

    With closer contact, Trump and Kelly have proven increasingly incompatible. The president makes decisions in part based on the blurts emitted from a media world of his own creation, his television tuned to Fox News and his cellphone at the ready to dial up any number of its on-air talent. Kelly, by contrast, rarely watches television and doesn’t follow Twitter, the forum on which the president announces many of his decisions.

  • The effort to impeach Rod Rosenstein, brought to you by Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs

    Meadows and Nunes laid the groundwork to impeach Rosenstein on Fox months ago, and Hannity, Pirro, and Dobbs have driven the message ever since

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    A group of House Republicans introduced articles of impeachment in an attempt to remove Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is responsible for overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The impeachment proceedings come after Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) and attorney Joe DiGenova, whom President Donald Trump almost hired, introduced the idea on Fox News in late March and early April. Since then, Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs have consistently pushed for Rosenstein’s removal, regularly hosting members of Congress and pundits to sound off and advocate for impeachment proceedings to begin.

  • Right-wing media are defending ICE from calls to abolish the inhumane agency. Here are 30 examples of its abusive practices.

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures are falling over themselves to defend U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after fervent calls for the agency’s abolition. Activists and immigrant communities have been pushing back against ICE’s abuses for years, but recently, opposition to the agency has gained momentum on Twitter (under the moniker #AbolishICE) and has grown increasingly mainstream. Progressive organizations, politicians, and even some ICE agents themselves have endorsed the movement. And on July 12, some progressive Democrats introduced a bill in the House or Representatives to defund the agency within one year.

    Proponents of defunding ICE point to the relatively young agency’s draconian and callous handling of immigration policy, as well as a laundry list of instances of despicable abuse and neglect. Under President Donald Trump, the agency has grown increasingly emboldened and lawless. Since Trump took office, ICE arrests have skyrocketed, especially of immigrants who have no criminal records or who have been convicted of low-level offenses like traffic violations. It arrests people who are reporting crimes and who are victims of violence. The agency now routinely detains and deports immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades. It also often arrests and detains people who are legally allowed to reside in the United States, including U.S. citizens and immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Agents are regularly accused of breaking the law by invading homes without producing a warrant and allegedly arresting people in off-limits areas. Nevertheless, right-wing media have proved unmoved by stories of ICE’s terrible impact on immigrant communities and have instead become cheerleaders for the agency in recent months.

    On June 28, Fox News’ entire prime-time lineup attacked the Abolish ICE movement. Tucker Carlson -- who routinely uses his platform to promote white nationalism -- opened his show by complaining that Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in a New York congressional primary marked an “ideological revolution on the left” because she “ran on abolishing ICE.” Carlson went on to fearmonger that criminals and drugs would flood the country in the agency’s absence. During the next hour, Sean Hannity suggested that attacks on ICE are merely an effort by “people on the left” to distract from the fact that special counsel Robert Mueller has unearthed “zero evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections. Following Hannity’s program, Laura Ingraham, who has a long history of attacking and mocking immigrants, accused the protesters of the Abolish ICE movement of making it “impossible for our immigration investigators to do their jobs.” The next day, Fox & Friends hosted Thomas Homan, then-acting director of ICE, who said that he’s been “sickened the last couple of months about the attack on ICE officers,” arguing that anti-ICE protesters “should be respecting law enforcement across the board,” including ICE agents.

    More recently, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs has claimed that if ICE were abolished, there would be “one-and-a-half million criminal illegal immigrants released into society.” Fox News’ Dagen McDowell suggested that those who wish to abolish the agency “are not for the rule of law and they are for child trafficking and human trafficking, things that ICE fight.” Her Fox colleague Brian Kilmeade argued that ICE is “just enforcing the laws that are on the books” and questioned whether the Abolish ICE movement was making law enforcement officers into  “the bad guys” Fox & Friends’ Todd Pirro claimed that in addition to “protect[ing] the citizens of the U.S.,” ICE also “protect[s] the illegal immigrants trying to cross our borders from things like rape, murder, human trafficking.” Fox News’ America’s Newsroom hosted Homan, who claimed that ICE is “hitting on all cylinders” and bragged that the agency’s  “detainers are up 80 percent,” its “arrests are up 40 percent,” and its “removals are up 40 percent.” Co-host Sandra Smith failed to question him about the agency’s misconduct.

    In reality, ICE terrorizes immigrant communities, tearing apart families and forcing immigrants to live lives of fear and instability. There are thousands of nightmarish stories about the consequences of ICE’s actions. Here are just some of the myriad abuses committed by the agency that right-wing media are scrambling to appease and defend:

    • ICE has targeted people who report domestic abuse to U.S. authorities. On one occasion, the agency arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son as they arrived for the son’s testimony against his mother’s ex-fiance. Agents removed them from the courthouse, leaving behind the women’s 2-year-old son. Targeting people who report domestic abuse will inevitably lead to undocumented people foregoing reports of abuse altogether.

    • Thousands of immigrants have reported experiencing sexual abuse while in detention, and half of those complaints have named ICE employees as abusers.  

    • The agency is trying to make it easier to detain pregnant immigrants, even though multiple pregnant people have suffered miscarriages after receiving insufficient care in ICE custody.

    • ICE has repeatedly taken caregivers away from children and sick people.

      • A California couple who died in a car crash while fleeing ICE agents left behind six children. Later, agents realized they been pursuing the wrong man. ICE then deported the children’s uncle, who had taken them in and has four kids of his own.

      • In Michigan, a father who serves as the sole caregiver to his sick wife was forced to take refuge at a church after being targeted for deportation.

      • ICE deported the “sole provider and trained medical caregiver of a 6-year-old paraplegic boy.”

      • Children often end up in foster care after ICE deports their parents or guardians.

    • ICE routinely arrests and detains the most vulnerable.

      • A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was on her way to a hospital in an ambulance to receive emergency gallbladder surgery when ICE officials apprehended her.

      • Agents arrested a 28-year-old man with Down syndrome and held him away from his family.

    • ICE has been responsible for numerous deaths.

    • ICE has been accused of committing or allowing acts of violence and abuse.

      • When one man refused to enter an airport to be deported because he feared for his life if he returned to his native Central African Republic, agents allegedly struck him on the legs with a baton, cut his seat belt, and dragged him to his flight handcuffed to a wheelchair. (The airline refused to take him and he was returned to his cell.)

      • In a 2017 lawsuit, Somali immigrants alleged that agents “kicked, punched, choked, and dragged” them down the aisles of a plane as they were being deported. (The plane never made it to Somalia and returned because of logistical problems.)

      • A group of immigrants have claimed that while in ICE detention they were treated like "animal[s]."

      • ICE officers reportedly broke an immigration attorney’s foot and then detained her.

    • ICE agents readily mock their terrified victims, and target their dissenters.

      • In one instance, ICE agents arrested a DACA recipient and reportedly told her family that under Trump, DACA “doesn’t exist anymore.”

      • During a raid on a San Francisco home, an agent mocked residents when they asked to see a warrant, telling them, “You’re watching too many movies.”

      • ICE allegedly targets immigration activists, along with those who speak to the press. ICE has also detained a journalist who was arrested while he was doing his job.  

    • ICE makes it impossible for immigrants to live stable or productive lives by targeting their jobs and other public places for raids.

      • ICE agents reportedly ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant before detaining three members of the staff.

      • About 30 immigrants were forced to fearfully quit their jobs and lose their source of income after an ICE agent visited the restaurant where they worked and demanded to see employment eligibility forms.

      • More than 500 students were kept home from school after ICE raided a Tennessee meatpacking plant and arrested nearly 100 people.

      • Two men in New Jersey were arrested while dropping their children off at school, while a third man was able to avoid detention only by taking refuge in a church.

      • ICE arrested a 48-year-old father of four, who had lived in the United states for 25 years, after he dropped his youngest daughter off at school. In a video of the arrest, his other daughter can be heard sobbing in the car.

      • One man was detained by ICE after appearing at scheduled meeting with an immigration official to obtain a green card. His daughter noted that he “filed all the necessary paperwork, paid all the fees, hired a lawyer, did everything in his power to obtain lawful status and he was tricked and brought into the office and detained.” This is not the first time ICE has targeted people seeking legal status with immigration officials.

      • ICE routinely makes arrests at courthouses, making it impossibly risky for immigrants to pursue legal problems, serve as witnesses, or answer warrants.

      • ICE agents are reportedly interrogating worshippers as they go to church about their immigration status.

    • ICE has also been on the forefront of the Trump administration’s war against people seeking immigration and asylum at the southern border, aiding U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in the kidnapping and detention of children.

      • ICE reportedly provides parents who have been separated from their children with a useless telephone number where the operators do not have any information on the children.

      • The agency has attempted to pressure asylum seekers into “voluntary” deportation by claiming it’s the only way they will be reunited with their children.

  • Conservative media want you to believe Trump has been “tough” on Russia. They’re not telling the full story.

    Secretary of State Pompeo echoed right-wing media talking points on Trump’s toughness. In reality, Trump has undercut a number of actions Congress and his administration have tried to take against Russia.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following President Donald Trump’s disastrous bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the president’s administration flacks and conservative media lackeys quickly scrambled to his defense, arguing that Trump has been “tough” in his “actions against Russia” and rattling off a series of actions he has taken since 2017 that supposedly support such a claim. The president himself and administration officials have also parroted the talking points in an attempt to dispel the idea that he is somehow in the pocket of the Russian government. But a closer look at the actions Trump shills have pointed to reveals a foreign policy that is more concerned with posturing for media than being “tough” in the face of Russian aggression.

    On July 16, Trump met with Putin for a meeting behind closed doors in which no other American -- except an interpreter -- was present, and they emerged more than two hours later to give a wide-ranging press conference. When asked whether he holds the Russian government accountable for its multifaceted interference campaign during the 2016 elections, Trump repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia. (The president would later claim to have gotten “would” and “wouldn’t” confused.)

    To counter the deluge of negative press in the wake of the meeting, right-wing media and administration officials pointed to various foreign policy and military responses to Russian aggression that the United States and its allies have undertaken during Trump’s presidency to argue that the president’s “actions” actually “have been tough.” About a week after the bilateral meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s conservative media defenders as he faced senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisting Trump “has taken a truckload of punitive actions against Moscow” and that he has been “tough on Russia” as president. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated the meme, as did the president himself.

    Trump’s defenders have pointed to sanctions against Russia that were imposed under Trump, the American strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in 2017 and 2018, the March 28 expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of a Russian consulate, Trump’s demands for other countries to increase their NATO spending, the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine to fend off the Russian military and rebels in the eastern portions of the country, and the pressure Trump put on German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia, among other specific actions. But Trump’s defenders are not telling the full story behind these actions.


    In the aftermath of Trump’s meeting with Putin, a number of the president’s defenders touted sanctions that were imposed against Russia as evidence of Trump’s clear-eyed approach with regard to Russia. But, not only were the sanctions drawn up and passed by Congress while the Trump administration loudly opposed the move, the administration also dragged its feet in implementing them, missing a deadline to begin the implementation and only taking action after Congress demanded it do so. Moreover, Trump left United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley out to dry by walking back, without explanation, an announcement she made regarding additional sanctions against Russia.

    Additionally, one of the first official actions the Trump administration attempted was “to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election.” The effort to remove sanctions that were already on the books appeared to continue into Trump’s presidency, as one of his top fundraisers and former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, reportedly offered in 2017 to “help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.”


    Right-wing media have also cited U.S. airstrikes conducted against the Syrian regime as evidence that Trump has stood up to Russian aggression. But, in 2017, Trump “notified Russia in advance of” the strike, “giving time for both Russian and Syrian forces to avoid casualties in an attack,” and by the very next day, Syrian warplanes were using the airfield that was targeted. Additionally, in 2018, the strikes Trump authorized against the Syrian regime targeted chemical weapons infrastructure, “and not the bases where the Russians and Iranians are.”

    Trump’s defenders have also pointed to an American counterattack on Russian mercenaries and Syrian military personnel in February, saying Trump “authorized” the attack. While the U.S. military did in fact fend off a Russian-backed attack after “repeatedly” warning about the “growing mass of troops,” the strike was an “act of self-defense.” Citing the incident as evidence that Trump is countering Russian interests in Syria does not address the larger picture that, under Trump, Russia has become even more entrenched, further solidifying its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Trump lacks a coherent overarching strategy for the war-torn country. Not to mention the fact that, in May 2017, Trump disclosed sensitive “code-word information” originating from Israeli intelligence services to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

    Expulsion of Russian diplomats

    Trump sycophants are additionally highlighting the March 26 expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence operatives who were in the United States under diplomatic cover and the closure of a Russian consulate as further proof of Trump’s tough stance on Russia. But the expulsion of diplomats is an expected reaction that “represent[s] more symbol than substance.” And Trump also berated administration officials for expelling too many Russian officials, as he was reportedly “furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia” as compared to European allies, who joined the United States in the symbolic gesture.

    Moreover, in a still-unexplained proposition in the early days of the Trump administration, officials looked at “handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

    Weapons to Ukraine

    In what has emerged as a favorite talking point for Trump defenders in the wake of the meeting with Putin, conservative media are touting an arms deal with Ukraine. The deal, which the Obama administration had resisted, is meant to bolster Ukrainian defenses against the Russian military and pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels. Except Trump stooges in right-wing media fail to mention that the Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager’s shady business dealings in that country conspicuously stopped just “as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles.” Not to mention the fact that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump made the laughable claim that the Russian military is “not going into Ukraine,” even though it effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. According to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Ukrainian officials were “tearing their hair and running around like crazies” when Trump was elected because of fears over what it would mean for the country.

    NATO spending

    Trump’s Fox News sycophants have also insisted that by “beating up the NATO allies” at the 2018 NATO summit, Trump succeeded in getting allies to “cough up more money” for the alliance when in fact Trump’s efforts had little to do with members’ increases in direct spending on their national military budgets. According to The New York Times, “each NATO member pledged in 2014,” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year by 2024. … As a share of G.D.P., spending by European members and Canada began to rise before Mr. Trump took office.”

    Nord Stream 2

    Conservative media have also pointed to Trump’s critical comments to Merkel at the 2018 NATO summit over the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany as confirmation that Trump is “tough” in dealing with Russia. But previous administrations and a bipartisan group of senators also opposed Nord Stream 2, and Trump himself toned down his criticism after meeting with Putin, conceding that the United States cannot block Germany’s domestic energy decisions. The German Marshall Fund’s Ulrich Speck said the president’s attacks against Merkel “looked as if Trump is looking for ammunition against Germany. If he would have been serious on pushing against Nord Stream, he would probably have brought this up much more forcefully with Putin.” Indeed, a “tough” U.S. policy toward Russia would avoid driving such a wedge between the United States and an ally that has disregarded domestic business concerns to wrangle European Union member states, which had their own economic apprehensions, to join sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

  • Sean Hannity in 2008: “If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?”

    Sean Hannity: Americans “have a right to know before we elect somebody” president if he had an affair

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Sean Hannity said in 2008 that presidential candidates who have affairs have a “character issue” because they are “living a life that’s a lie.” Hannity, who made the comments during a discussion about the affair of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Hannity & Colmes, also said that Americans “have a right to know before we elect somebody” whether the candidates have had such affairs. He also speculated, “If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?”

    In a subsequent episode of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity went further, stating that “If you take a vow, a promise, a pledge, a solemn vow, and you promise to love, honor, cherish, be faithful to, in good times and in bad, richer or poorer, better or worse, and be faithful, you know, till death do you part, if you don't -- if you can't keep that vow, why should people not be suspect that you keep a vow to, you know, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

    President Donald Trump is currently under fire for paying hush money during the 2016 campaign to conceal affairs with model Karen McDougal and adult actor Stormy Daniels. Hannity is Trump’s confidant and top propagandist.

    SEAN HANNITY: That is a sign of love that I think all human beings can aspire to, so if that -- and her personal life is her choice, I admire her. I think that's great. But she did take a shot at the Enquirer when she said, “Most recently, the pain is caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without regard for human consequences.” She's got to know he's running for president. She's got to know he is a contender for vice president, or was. So I honestly applaud the Enquirer.

    KIRSTEN POWERS: Well, I guess it comes down to whether you think this kind of stuff needs to be in the public domain or not and I think we probably disagree. I tend to think that it is a private matter.

    HANNITY: If you're going to be president?

    POWERS: And I don't -- I think -- yes, yes, I do. I don't think that.

    HANNITY: It doesn't matter if you're president and you're having an affair.

    POWERS: Look, as far as I can tell, George Bush has been faithful to his wife. I don't think he's been that great of a president. That's just my personal -- I know you disagree with me. But I don't think that's the mark necessarily -- FDR, JFK, there are plenty of people, and I -- but I do think that they -- it is -- it was brought into the public domain by her husband, though.

    HANNITY: But if you're living a life that's a lie.

    POWERS: Right.

    HANNITY: If you're not honest, it's a character issue.

    POWERS: It is a character issue. I agree.

    HANNITY: Don't we have a right to know before we elect somebody?

    POWERS: Look, Sean, my feeling is that it's a character issue if I was looking at that person do I want to marry this person. That's a decision. But it's -- as far as the president.

    HANNITY: If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?

    POWERS: Like I said -- but we have plenty of -- I mean do you think that FDR was an honorable president? I mean I think that he was. So I don't think that that's necessarily be the measure. But to Elizabeth's point, her husband put this in the public domain, you know?

    HANNITY: We got to take a break. We're going to come back. More details on the Edwards affair and what about the baby?

    Later in the show, Hannity emphasized the seriousness of an affair, saying “Where’s any level of love there?”

    CHIP SALTSMAN: I mean this is a true tragic dark story, if you - what you and Barry were talking about. It sounds cold and calculating, and here's a guy that was running for president of the United States, running for his nomination on the Democrat party and had just no care in the world and said, “Nah nobody's going to find out about it.” I mean, this runs deeper issues, and we wonder why we have such low approval ratings of our politicians when we now expect them to lie because they do.

    SEAN HANNITY: You know something. It's sad. Going back to what Barry just said, Kirsten, about that, I've got to wonder, you know, just putting aside all the politics and interpersonal relationships, if I was married to somebody and that was revealed to be true, where's any level of love there? Where's any level of concern?

    KIRSTEN POWERS: I don't know. I don't think we can really look at other people's marriages and know what's going on. You know, they have a long history together. They've been together since they were in law school. They, you know, were obviously very close, and I think that perhaps, you know, she's forgiven him, and you know, he's stumbled, and she's decided that she has -

    ALAN COLMES: That's what John says before. Because if this is - it's a wonderful example of forgiveness if she's able to do that. I mean, we could all aspire to be as forgiving as Elizabeth Edwards appears to be.

    Days later, Hannity was even more emphatic.

    SEAN HANNITY: And there are also reports, the Enquirer, that has had it right up to this point, Chris, is pointing out that there were numerous liaisons at this hotel in Beverly Hills that came -- went on much, much later.

    But there are other questions that may become a legal issue for him. Number one, did he really know about the hush money? Did he know about $15,000 being paid monthly? Did he know who paid for the expensive mansion she was living in, in Santa Barbara? And this woman, who's not qualified to do these documentaries, was this a, you know, job of silence?

    CHRIS WILSON: Was paid over $100,000 to go shoot documentaries, which she'd never done before. And really, the narcissism and hypocrisy go behind -- that go into this is just remarkable.

    You look at one, he's running for president on moral values. His wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and yet, this is a man that we're going to trust of leading the free world?

    ALAN COLMES: He's not running for president any more.

    HANNITY: Hang on a second.

    WILSON: No, he's not now, but he was at the time, and he was considering it. And I think that's really the whole -- that's why this is an issue.

    HANNITY: Let me go back to Ronald, because Ronald…

    AMANDA CARPENTER: I think that's part of the…

    HANNITY: I want to go back to this fundamental issue. I want to know: you've got to explain this to me. I'm just not getting this. Explain to me -- I'm just a regular guy.

    And I'm wondering if you can't keep the promise to your family, can't keep your promise to your wife, you're having an affair, you're lying about the affair repeatedly, why should the American people trust you when you say you're not going to lie to them? Why should we trust you?

    Later in that show, Hannity made clear he was more upset at Edwards’ affair than that of Sen. John McCain because of Edwards’ wealth and his haircut.

    SEAN HANNITY: Can I explain something in the last segment?

    ALAN COLMES: Sure.

    HANNITY: Senator McCain spent 5.5 years of his life for his country being tortured, beaten on a daily basis with broken bones and broken body.

    COLMES: War hero.

    HANNITY: Excuse me. The fact that they didn't break his spirit -- if you can't see the difference between him and Mr. Two Americas in his 28,000-square-foot mansion with his, you know, doing his hair, $1,000 hair cut…

    COLMES: Excuse me. Let me ask you a question.

    HANNITY: Excuse me. If you don't see the difference than I can't explain it to you.

    COLMES: Let me ask you a question. With all due respect, and I've never denounced John McCain for his service to his country. He's a true American hero. However, does that give him -- does that mean it's OK to have an affair when you come back from war?

    HANNITY: No, but here’s the difference. There are extenuating circumstances. And he is the first to admit that when he came back after five and a half years of being tortured for his country, that he was not the person that he is now, it was 30 years ago. And for you to make the same thing about Mr. Hair Cut, I'm sorry.

    COLMES: No, no. I do not equate his being a war hero with cheating on his wife. I don't conflate the two.

    In the years since, Hannity has returned to the topic on Twitter. In June 2012, Hannity tweeted in response to @MariaHasAQuill that “I doubt mrs h. And my 2 kids would like that. I m not john edwards.”

  • Fox is deceptively hyping GOP’s next tax bill that just benefits the ultra rich

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Back in December, when President Donald Trump signed into law changes in U.S. tax policy, Fox News helped Republicans spin the discussion surrounding the legislation by hyping anecdotal reports of bonuses, wage hikes, and investments. Now that Republicans are aiming to make the individual tax cuts permanent, Fox is at it again -- despite analyses showing how staggeringly disproportionate the benefits are for the wealthy and large businesses, that they barely lower tax burdens for some middle class and lower income families, and that they have had no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    The law, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in December, and Fox hosts celebrated the legislation’s passage after contributing their own dishonest coverage. Fox News shows repeatedly focused on announcements of bonuses -- such as some AT&T workers receiving a $1,000 bonus their union already negotiated -- and small wage increases from some companies to portray the tax cuts as beneficial for ordinary working Americans.

    Others, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, claimed that the tax legislation would lead to increased investment by corporations, in some cases pointing to anecdotal examples of businesses announcing investments and saying they were possible because of the policy change. Two days after the legislation’s passage, Fox & Friends invited White House special adviser Ivanka Trump on to hype an increase to the Child Tax Credit in the legislation. (According to tax experts, “the expanded child credit will actually provide little relief for some of the lowest-income families.”)

    Republicans are now attempting to pass another tax bill, in part to make permanent the individual tax policy changes in the original law, which expire within 10 years. The White House is portraying a report that House Republicans are planning to advance a bill as “a big win for the middle class.” And Fox News is again helping Republicans with their spin. On July 18, Fox & Friends hosted Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the committee the bill would originate from -- who said lawmakers should make permanent “those cuts for middle-class families.” Later on the show, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said: “I think Republicans are setting a tax trap for the Democrats. … Are the Democrats going to vote against something which really supports America's middle class?”

    But as reporting from NPR and experts from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) have explained, Trump’s tax cuts provide only minor benefits to the middle class, are geared toward the wealthiest Americans, and are having no noticeable positive effect on the economy.

    Trump tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy

    NPR: Tax cut benefits to middle class are meager compared to those affecting the wealthy. NPR cited a December report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center which showed that middle-class households are receiving meager tax benefits from the Trump tax cuts compared to the wealthiest households and that when those benefits expire, middle-class households will earn slightly less income than they did before the tax cuts were passed:

    [NPR, 12/19/17]

    EPI: Republican spin of tax cuts as primarily middle-class benefits “is false.” A blog post by EPI budget analyst Hunter Blair showed that Republican lawmakers’ attempted spin of the Trump tax cuts as targeted to the middle class “is false.” The post showed that the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers earn a disproportionately small benefit from the policy change, with the top 5 percent earning a larger share of the benefits relative to their income:

    [Economic Policy Institute, 4/13/18]

    CBPP: Trump tax cuts deliver largest benefits to the wealthiest while boosting income inequality. The CBPP explained in an April report that Trump’s tax plan “will increase income inequality since it delivers far larger tax cuts to households at the top, measured as a share of income, than to households at the bottom or middle of the income distribution”:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    CBPP: Increase in Child Tax Credit skews toward the wealthy. The CBPP report explained that “10 million children under age 17 in low-income working families will receive no CTC increase or a token increase of $75 or less.” Further, the law increased the upper limit for the Child Tax Credit from $110,000 in income annually to $400,000, with the wealthiest getting an increase worth several times more than the increase middle-class families will receive:

    [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/18]

    Data so far show Trump tax cuts having no positive effect on the economy

    EPI: “There is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.” In June 1 testimony submitted to the House’s Tax Policy Subcommittee, EPI explained that “there is no evidence that wage growth has materially picked up since the TCJA’s passage.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    Bloomberg’s Noah Smith: Federal Reserve data and PayScale index show wages fell after Trump tax cuts took effect. In a July 18 Bloomberg column, Noah Smith pointed to Federal Reserve and private sector data to show that wages actually declined since the Trump tax cuts were passed:

    [Bloomberg, 7/18/18]

    EPI: Bonuses were overhyped, and they are less likely to occur in future years. EPI’s testimony explained that “nearly 40 percent of American workers get bonuses every year,” and that there was a financial incentive to give bonuses after the law’s passage at the end of 2017 when such bumps could be less expensively written off on corporate tax filings. As EPI explained: “What this means is that even if some increase in bonuses occurred in 2017 because of the TCJA (this remains a big ‘if’), there is no reason to think such bonuses will recur in the future.” [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]

    EPI: “There is no serious evidence that the TCJA spurred a notable pickup in business investment.” EPI’s testimony showed that business investment has grown less than it did in either 2011 or 2014. “In short, we do not yet have economy-wide data showing a rapid upsurge of investment due to the TCJA.”

    [Economic Policy Institute, 6/1/18]