William McGurn | Media Matters for America

William McGurn

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  • Fox melts down after polls show vast majority favor taxing the rich more

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After new polling was released showing the overwhelming popularity of raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Fox News and Fox Business figures blasted voters as “brainwashed” and ignorant and even claimed that some taxes on the wealthy are “anti-human.”

    A Fox News poll released at the end of January showed that a vast majority of registered voters -- 70 percent in total -- support raising income taxes on families making more than $10 million per year, and 65 percent support raising income taxes on those making more than $1 million per year. A Morning Consult/Politico poll released on Monday showed 61 percent of registered voters favor a wealth tax on households worth more than $50 million. Two other recent polls also found majority support for increasing taxes on the rich. But Fox hosts and guests decried these proposals as “one big giant con” amounting to a “war on the wealthy.”

    First up on Monday was the Fox Business show Varney & Co., where host Stuart Varney -- who has previously declared himself among the top 1 percent of income earners in America -- delivered a monologue bashing a Democratic proposal to strengthen and expand Social Security as just “another tax hike proposal from the Democrats.” He said, “The Democrats’ 2020 campaign is an endless series of tax hikes, massive tax hikes with massive new spending. Tax-and-spend on steroids.” He suggested that Democrats’ proposals to tax the richest Americans are aimed at undermining President Donald Trump, declaring that Democrats “hate Trump and can’t tolerate any success, even prosperity.” Varney also warned his viewers that Democrats “resent wealth. And if you’ve got it, they want it.”

    Following Varney’s monologue, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee compared Democratic lawmakers to armed robbers: “The Democrats have got a new uniform they're all supposed to wear. It’s ski masks and carrying blue steel revolvers, because they all believe that, instead of robbing 7-Elevens, they’re just going to rob everybody who has a job, everybody who’s making wages.” He also suggested that the Democrats’ aim was to “kill the economy and put people back on the welfare rolls and get them off those nasty jobs they're getting.” When Varney asked why “this form of socialism, this grab bag of take-money-off-the-rich,” was so popular, Huckabee blamed liberals in teaching positions for having “indoctrinated people coming up through the education system that there’s something really wrong with people who have been successful.” Huckabee continued by blaming American voters, saying, “We have a real economic ignorance going on in America.” Later in Varney’s show, Fox contributor Bill McGurn claimed that Democrats simply “don’t like wealth,” prompting Varney to ask if “jealousy of wealthy people [is] the norm.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne claimed “there’s a racial element” to raising taxes on the rich and said Democrats are “trying to use tax policy [as] a social justice tool to rewrite the wrongs of yesteryear,” adding, “It’s a punitive action.” Later in the day on his Fox Business show Making Money, Payne declared the Democrats’ tax proposals “the war on the wealthy” and rhetorically asked if Democrats can “win on class warfare.” On Tuesday, Payne returned to America’s Newsroom to blame the education of America’s children for the popularity of taxing the rich: “The idea of fairness has been promoted in our schools for a long time. And we're starting to see kids who grew up in this notion that fairness above all, and now they are becoming voting age and they are bringing this ideology with them.”

    On the Fox Business show Cavuto Coast to Coast, Reagan administration economist Art Laffer slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) proposal to greatly increase the estate tax rate for billionaires, saying, “There is no tax that is more vulgar, in my mind, than the death tax.” After a short rant, Laffer declared that the estate tax is “the most anti-family, anti-human tax I know of.”

    Fox Business show Bulls & Bears featured several panelists who ranted against Democratic proposals to tax the rich more. Host David Asman kicked the discussion off by asking, “Isn’t demonizing the rich an attack on the American dream?” Gary Kaltbaum, who runs his own investment firm, responded by calling the proposals “a war on the wealthy” and “just one big giant con because these socialists hate successful people.” Jonathan Hoenig, who owns the aptly named investment fund company Capitalistpig, ranted that American voters “have been brainwashed -- I mean, Americans writ large have been brainwashed in schools” into supporting tax increases on the rich, and claimed, “We’ve never seen this explicit hatred for success, envy of people who produce something.” Hoenig concluded that taxing the rich will run America into “the poor house.”

    And Fox Business host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery used her daily monologue to dismiss the popularity of taxing the rich as a “rush on both sides to fan the flames of jealousy” and called Democrats’ proposals “an emotional and irrational appeal that amounts to redistribution.” She ominously warned rich people: “God help you if you find success in the new world. Even if capitalism is still marginally more popular, socialism has a better PR team. And when it gains a foothold, they're coming to neuter your golden nuggets.”

  • Stop blaming "the media" for Roy Moore

    Right-wing pundits sidestep their own movement’s toxic pathologies to blame the press for Moore’s potential win

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recurring feature of conservative punditry in the age of Trump is the idea that Republican voters generally -- and the conservative movement specifically -- cannot be held to account for their excesses, moral failings, and political disasters. Each time Republicans and their voters act in ways that right-wing pundits acknowledge are deleterious to civic health and deeply immoral, there’s a mad rush to recast those behaviors as the fault of liberal failures. We’re seeing this dynamic play out as Alabama voters seem poised to elect Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate and right-wing pundits attempt to deflect blame for this potential outcome onto “the media.”

    Former George W. Bush speechwriter William McGurn wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal arguing that if Moore does win despite reports of child molestation and sexual assault, a large chunk of the blame will belong to “the liberals who are enabling him,” a group that includes “the national press corps.” Matt Latimer, another former Bush speechwriter, wrote a Politico op-ed arguing that “the real reason” Moore remains politically viable is “that the media has totally lost its connection with a large portion of the nation, almost all of them conservatives.” Over at The Federalist, Bethany Mandel argues that “it’s media’s fault” that a large majority of Alabama Republican voters don’t believe the Washington Post’s stories on Moore’s reported misconduct.

    This argument isn’t especially surprising given that one of the pillars of modern conservatism is reflexive animosity toward “the liberal media.” The popularity of outlets like Fox News and Breitbart.com stems directly from a concerted, decades-long effort across the entire conservative movement to render “mainstream” sources of news suspicious and inherently untrustworthy. But claiming that “the media” are to blame for Republicans backing Moore is a deflection that accomplishes little beyond confirming the biases of the writers while backhandedly affirming Moore’s claims that he’s under persecution by the press.  

    Writers like McGurn, Latimer, and Mandel are in a difficult spot because while they clearly believe the Post’s reporting and think it stands up (none make any attempt to rebut it or suggest that the case against Moore isn’t a solid one) their party’s voters are flatly disregarding those reports and are poised to elect Moore to the Senate (71 percent of likely Republicans voters in Alabama say the claims about him are false). They try to square that uncomfortable circle by cherry-picking other unrelated media failures -- like ABC News reporter Brian Ross’ botched story on former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s plea deal with federal prosecutors -- to exculpate conservative voters who refuse to believe the Post.

    “In their quest to tarnish the reputation of President Trump and try to remove him from office, the media has become particularly adept at getting more than a few things wrong,” Mandel writes. “They [Alabama Republican voters] may well be wrong about Mr. Moore and his accusers,” McGurn observes, “but is their skepticism really that difficult to understand?”

    Well, no, actually, but not for the reasons Mandel and McGurn offer. They’re attacking the media for not being credible enough to people who’ve been told for decades on end that the media aren’t credible. So it’s not surprising that Alabama voters distrust the media. But the fact that they refuse to see the truth that’s staring them in the face is less an indictment of the media than the toxicity of a conservative political culture that teaches voters to disbelieve all news they don’t want to hear and seek information only from outlets that reaffirm their existing viewpoints.

    Conservative media outlets Republican voters prefer over the “mainstream media” have embarked on a dishonest campaign of distraction and obfuscation to discredit the Post’s reporting and bolster Moore. Breitbart.com sent reporters down to Birmingham to (unsuccessfully) undermine the Post, but their failed efforts still resulted in splash-page “EXCLUSIVE” articles suggesting that Roy Moore had been the victim of a smear. Some Fox News figures lined up behind Moore and against the Post as they dutifully parroted the Moore campaign’s absurd attempts at discrediting the candidate’s accusers. Just hours after the Post's first Moore article was published, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett told Hannity viewers, "I am suspicious of this because of the source, The Washington Post, which has a dog in this fight having endorsed his opponent."

    This isn’t merely a question of conservative voters thinking “the media” in general are untrustworthy -- they’re being specifically told by right-wing media that the Post’s story is false and that Moore is being unjustly attacked. So even in a situation where a media outlet meets the standard of accuracy and trustworthiness conservative pundits claim has been irretrievably lost, it still comes under assault from the right-wing press in a flagrantly dishonest attempt to discredit it.

    That feels like a significant part of the explanation for why Alabama Republicans are gearing up to make Roy Moore their next senator, and why they’re apparently more comfortable electing a reported sex criminal than a Democrat. But conservative pundits glide right past it so they can disingenuously argue, as McGurn does, that Moore’s election “may be as much the fault of those who opposed him as those who supported him.”

  • Right-Wing Media Scandalize Purpose Of “Limited Immunity” To Create New Clinton Email Conspiracy

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    House Republicans are selectively pushing new information that long-time Clinton aide Cheryl Mills was granted a limited form of immunity in the now-closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Right-wing media have seized on these efforts to falsely claim the immunity was broad and stands as proof of criminal wrongdoing, while ignoring the reasons for why the limited immunity was recommended by both the FBI and Mills’ attorney.

  • Wall Street Journal Columnist Defends “Curt Schilling The Science Guy”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member William McGurn defended recently fired ESPN analyst Curt Schilling by supporting Schilling's baseless use of “science” to justify denying transgender people access to the restrooms that align with their gender identity.

    In an April 25 opinion piece for his "Main Street" column McGurn, former chief speechwriter for George W. Bush, compared Schilling, who was recently fired for posting an anti-transgender meme on social media, to astronomer and scientist Galileo.

    Schilling had responded to his firing by offering shoddy "scientific" claims on his WordPress blog to justify denying transgender people access to restrooms that align with their gender identity. In his column, McGurn falsely asserted that Schilling’s position on sex and gender determination is based in science, which “progressive dogma” refuses to acknowledge:

    But let us also note the irony. Mr. Schilling’s main contention—“a man is a man no matter what they call themselves”—is supported by DNA and those pesky X and Y chromosomes. In short, in this fight between science and authority, Mr. Schilling is in the amusing position of being the Galileo, with ESPN filling in for the Holy Office.

    Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, puts it this way: “Curt Schilling is of course correct with the science in saying that claiming to be a woman when you have the chromosomal and anatomical structures of a man does not make you such. You’re still a man no matter what you think or how you dress.”

    It’s an interesting detail that has gone largely unaddressed since Mr. Schilling delivered his knuckleball. Nor is it hard to see why. For it contradicts the dominant narrative in which Democrats take their positions from a clear-eyed look at the science while Republicans are blinded by their religious, social and economic orthodoxies.

     

    McGurn ignored the documented biological differences in the brain structures of people who are transgender, the variance in factors that influence sex and gender determination, and the opinion of every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, which support providing transition-related care to transgender individuals. He also quoted Paul McHugh, a conservative psychiatrist notorious for his anti-transgender position and for peddling junk science, to further support Schilling.

    This isn’t the first time that The Wall Street Journal has run questionable anti-LGBT opinion pieces. In June 2014, McHugh himself penned a Wall Street Journal commentary lamenting the growing attention to transgender rights in public policy and the media, warning that these developments signal a troubling trend toward affirming transgender identities rather than treating them as "confusions" and illnesses. Several organizations spoke out against the outlet for publishing this misinformation, including GLAAD, the national LGBT media advocacy organization.

     
  • No Matter How Right-Wing Media Spin It, Millions Would Feel "Sharp Effects" Of GOP Budget

    ››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

    Right-wing media have responded to criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget plan by trying to reframe the plan as not actually calling for spending "cuts," but that it simply limits the rate of an increase in spending. But experts agree that Ryan's plan would indeed reduce funding to programs that assist millions of low- and middle-income Americans; as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has noted, Ryan's plan includes reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding that alone would "necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families."

  • 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.

  • Quick Fact: WSJ's McGurn forwards misleading attacks against Senate health bill

    ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    In a November 24 Wall Street Journal column, News Corp. vice president William McGurn wrote of the Senate health care reform bill: "Conservatives and Republicans rattle off any number of objections to the bill: It would bust the budget; it would force many families to replace private coverage with government; it would subsidize abortion; it would ration care, etc. These are all variations on the major argument: It's not going to work."