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  • Trump ordered the unprecedented release of classified material after a push from Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On September 17, President Donald Trump ordered the declassification and public release of sensitive classified documents and text messages related to the origin of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. For weeks leading up to the president’s decision, two of his informal and most-trusted cable television advisers, Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, clamored for the release of the material. Hannity even appeared to have gotten some early notice of the move, saying just days before Trump’s decision to declassify the material, “We expect next week, we might get those unredacted FISA warrants.”

  • I, fraud-ius: Conservatives go back to counting Obama’s pronouns

    Hannity and Dobbs preview the bad-faith attacks they’ll revive for a Democratic president

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The right-wing barkers who populate Fox News have rediscovered one of their favorite narratives: The president is an incurable and undignified narcissist. Not the current president, mind you. Not the one who made a business of slapping his name on gaudily appointed buildings, who used to call reporters pretending to be his own publicist and boast about his romantic life, who pursues illicit extramarital affairs and then pays his mistresses hush money, who gets a twice-daily briefing on positive cable news chyrons about himself, and who kicked off his presidency by lying extravagantly about the crowd size at his inauguration.

    No, the allegedly bloated and unseemly ego they can’t abide is that of former President Barack Obama, who just returned to the political stage with a critical speech aimed at Republicans generally and Donald Trump specifically. During Obama’s presidency, it was standard practice among conservative pundits to obsessively tally the number of first-person pronouns he used during public remarks and present those numbers as scientific proof of his potentially calamitous narcissism. Now that Obama has reemerged and given a political speech, they’re falling back into old habit.

    Sean Hannity smarmily observed that Obama “was so proud of himself that during his recent hour-long speech he talked a lot about himself, 102 times in one hour.”

    Lou Dobbs -- a tart critic of unseemly vanity who also sports an unnaturally radiant helmet of auburn hair atop his septuagenarian scalp -- complained that Obama “lovingly referred to himself 102 times during his unprecedented attack against his successor in the Oval Office.”

    The news here isn’t that pundits like Hannity and Dobbs are hypocrites -- they obviously are and they don’t give a shit. Moments like these are instructive, however, in that they show how conservative media will react once a Democrat returns to the presidency.

    Donald Trump’s narcissism and intensely fragile ego are more or less his defining qualities. His enablers and apologists in the conservative media who spent eight years howling that Barack Obama was fatally compromised by overriding self-regard either choose to simply ignore Trump’s actual crippling egotism or twist it into a positive. But the second Obama pops his head up, those same pundits momentarily revert to their old ways and start counting Obama’s “I’s” again. This is all being done in transparent bad faith.

    It’s important to recognize this nonsense ahead of time because these liars and propagandists have huge megaphones that they will use to slander and deride whoever challenges Trump for the presidency in 2020. They will energetically attempt to hold those Democrats to standards of moral and ethical behavior that they will never impose upon the current president. When there is no actual scandal to be found, they’ll invent one.

    All of this will be done with the goal of influencing the broader media coverage of those candidates. You can draw a straight line between shallow antics like conservatives counting Obama’s first-person pronouns and mainstream political analysts describing Obama as “aloof,” “professorial,” and the like.

    The key to thwarting this behavior is to recognize early on that it is all rooted in aggressive dishonesty. Hannity, Dobbs, and their ilk will make every excuse for Donald Trump’s scandalous behavior and moral failings and, in literally the next breath, hold Democrats to standards reserved for saints.

    (Video by John Kerr)

  • “It seemed pretty dangerous”: Right-wing and pro-Trump media lash out at Kavanaugh confirmation hearing protesters

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Members of the right-wing and pro-Trump media -- typically the self-proclaimed vanguards of “free of speech” -- are lining up to attack protesters who are exercising their First Amendment rights by voicing their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They’ve attacked protesters as “venomous” and “dangerous” and even leveled sexist digs at female protesters, saying that they “are showing how truly ugly women can be.”

  • Why President Trump is attacking Google

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump promised to act in reaction to Google purportedly “suppressing voices of Conservatives” in pre-dawn tweets this morning. The comments came after he tuned in to a recorded Fox program in which several of his dedicated followers fulminated about a sketchy study concluding that the company is “manipulating its algorithm to prioritize left-leaning news outlets in their coverage of President Trump.” This is no way to run tech policy.

    In a pair of tweets issued beginning at 5:24 a.m., Trump said that Google search results for “Trump News” had been “RIGGED” to ensure that reports from “Fake News Media” were highlighted and that conservative outlets were “shut out.” He concluded, “This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

    Trump was tweeting while watching last night’s edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, as his subsequent tweets demonstrated. A segment on that program highlighted an August 25 report in the conservative website PJ Media headlined “96 Percent of Google Search Results for 'Trump' News Are from Liberal Media Outlets.”

    PJ Media supervising editor Paula Bolyard wrote the piece after she ran a Google News search for “Trump,” took the first 100 articles, and “analyzed the results using Sharyl Attkisson's media bias chart.” This is an absurd methodology, as Attkisson’s chart (embedded below) places mainstream outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN on the far left -- indeed, further to the left than it places avowedly conservative outlets like The Weekly Standard, The Federalist, or National Review to the right. If you believe that to be an accurate view of the state of the news media, I cannot help you. (Attkisson is this decade’s Bernie Goldberg, a former CBS reporter with a history of conspiracy-minded reporting who left the network in 2014 and carved out a niche in conservative media in part by portraying herself as a victim of liberal media bias.)

    In a Twitter exchange this morning with the tech ethicist Matthew Stender, Bolyard acknowledged she had not conducted a “scientific study,” but said she stood by her “anecdotal results.”

    That might have been the end of the story. But the Drudge Report featured Bolyard’s post, and then Dobbs picked it up last night. The host, whom the president reportedly venerates as “a political and populism godfather,” opened the segment by claiming the report shows that Google is “blatantly suppressing conservative media outlets.” He then turned to Diamond and Silk, pro-Trump YouTubers who have become a cause célèbre on the right due to their baseless claims of censorship by tech companies. True to form, the pair claimed Google is engaged in “tyranny” and “political lynching” to prevent people from learning the truth about “our beautiful president.”

    Diamond added that "somebody's going to have to step in and take a look at this here." And the president, engaged in his usual practice of watching recorded Fox programs, said this morning that he would. All that’s left to determine is which Republican senator decides to answer the president’s call and garner some of the limelight when tech executives testify before the Senate intelligence committee next week. A right-wing conspiracy theory moved through the conservative noise machine to one of the president’s on-air apparatchiks, and now it may end up guiding federal tech policy.

  • No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen were found guilty and pleaded guilty, respectively, each on eight criminal counts, right-wing media immediately rose to President Donald Trump’s defense. Multiple media figures claimed that none of the charges had anything to do with Trump and that Trump’s former associates pleaded guilty to crimes that “don’t exist.”

  • As hundreds of newspapers plan editorials to denounce Trump’s war on the press, Fox hosts attack the newspapers

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News and Fox Business hosts are slamming hundreds of newspapers as “anti-Trump” and “fake news” for coordinating to publish editorials on August 16 denouncing President Donald Trump’s war on the press.

    Trump and his administration publicly attacked news organizations and specific journalists hundreds of times in just his first year in office. Though he routinely attacked news organizations during his presidential campaign and the transition period between his election and inauguration, Trump’s anti-press rhetoric reached a new low in February 2017, when he began calling news organizations “the enemy of the American people”:

    Trump repeated his comments multiple times, though he eventually added the disclaimer that only “fake news” is “the enemy of the people” -- a bogus claim because he’s spent years labeling a broad range of mainstream news outlets and journalists as “fake news.”

    Many newspapers have decided that they’ve had enough and are pushing back. Led by The Boston Globe, more than 100 newspaper editorial boards around the country are reportedly planning to publish editorials on August 16 “on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press.” Each newspaper will be writing its own editorial in this coordinated effort.

    Fox, which has both served as a platform for Trump’s attacks on the press and promoted his attacks on its own, is now criticizing the newspapers participating in this effort as anti-Trump and “fake news.” On August 13, five Fox News and Fox Business hosts took offense to the coordinated editorial release protesting Trump’s anti-press rhetoric. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt said these newspapers are releasing editorials “attacking the president” and that “there is just kind of a mainstream, somewhat leftist bias coming from a lot of our media companies.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented that The Boston Globe “said essentially they’re going after the president.” Varney & Co. guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman both defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to the planned editorials as “anti-Trump screeds” by “coordinated national left-wing fake news.” And Fox host Laura Ingraham, while criticizing media coverage of antifa actions against reporters, mocked the newspapers’ coordinated effort as “not collusion or anything.”