MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle | Media Matters for America

MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle

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  • MSNBC anchor hosts conservative commentators to argue Democratic primary candidates should be “more moderate” and less “weird”

    George Will lies about the Green New Deal with no pushback at all

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle hosted two conservative commentators to claim Democratic presidential candidates and popular progressive policies are extreme and “weird.”

    On the June 5 edition of MSNBC Live, Ruhle hosted columnists George Will and Bret Stephens to discuss 2020 Democratic candidates. Ruhle allowed Will to lie without pushback about key aspects of the Green New Deal, repeating a common but false right-wing talking point that the Green New Deal will “require ending meat and airplanes.” Will also pulled out a list of common progressive policy proposals -- including many that poll popularly among Democratic voters -- and painted them as extreme and fringe. Will claimed that Americans will feel that “these people are weird” and that “they are not talking about things that I care about.” His advice to Democratic candidates: “Shift to the middle.”

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Are you seeing any possible candidates that you think would be better for conservativism than President [Donald] Trump?

    GEORGE WILL (AUTHOR): Well, there is a sense in which all 23 Democrats would be better if there is a Republican Senate because the Republican Senate would virtually block legislative change. That is not all the change that we have, but they would block it. And it would take the Republican Party away from its current identification with someone who is, in temperament and in most policies, not conservative. There’s -- I hate to give the kiss of death to someone like former Congressman [John] Delaney (D-MD) or former [Colorado Democratic] Gov. [John] Hickenlooper, but they know where the public's pulse is. I am staggered by the amount of time Democratic candidates for president are spending talking about things they know are not going to happen. “Abolish the Electoral College,” they promise. No, the reason they want to abolish the Electoral College is it’s very good for smaller states, 13 of which are all that’s required to block a constitutional amendment. [Sen.] Kamala Harris (D-CA) says, “Well, we’re going to eliminate private health insurance.” She's walked that back a bit, but who knows. No, they are not. It is a very odd way to begin a presidential campaign by saying we’re going to offend 180 million Americans who have employer-provided health insurance and 20 more million Americans who have other sources of private health insurance and rather like it.

    RUHLE: Well, you could like John Delaney, you can like John Hickenlooper, but if the ultimate goal for the Democratic Party is to defeat Donald Trump, what’s the right move -- to shift to the middle or shift to the left?

    WILL: Shift to the middle. I keep in my pocket -- I'm going to need a bigger card. These are all the things they’ve said that cause the American public to say, “These people are weird, they’re not talking about things that I care about.” Terrorists in prison should be allowed to vote. End private health insurance. Pack the Supreme Court, abolish the electoral college, the Green New Deal -- which will require ending meat and airplanes -- impeach the president, reparations for slavery. The country hears these individually and they say, “I'm not for that.” Collectively, they say, “These are very strange people because they are not talking about things that I want to talk about.”

    RUHLE: OK, but George, you have the very strange things they have said on a tiny little card. The president has told, by The Washington Post’s count, 10,000 lies. And I don't think I'm getting over my skis to say he says very strange things every single day. And he is sitting in the White House. Why does very strange things disqualify someone?

    WILL: Well, if they think that the path to power is to emulate Trump from the left, saying strange things, I think they’re mistaken because people are going to go into the voting booth on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November 2020 and say, “Do I stick with the doofus I've got or pick the doofus I don't know.” I mean, give people a decent choice. I mean, look, what the Democrats did -- an astonishing achievement in 2016 -- was help elect Donald Trump by giving the country an unpalatable choice. Why do it again?

    RUHLE: “Don't be a doofus, please skip on strange.” That’s George Will’s advice to these candidates out there.   

    Ruhle also hosted Stephens, a conservative op-ed writer (and climate denier) at The New York Times, who argued that Democrats pursuing impeachment -- which has high support among liberals -- are “harming themselves politically,” and that “the real heart of the party” is “much more moderate, much more centrist.”

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Bret, in your latest piece, you talk about Democrats and the impeachment debate and you compare it to football. You say, “It's a dumb and dangerous game of maximum brutality and minimal movement.” Elaborate.

    BRET STEPHENS (NEW YORK TIMES OPINION COLUMNIST): Yeah. Well, I just think that Democrats are going to be harming themselves politically and not advancing the debate if they take steps to impeach the president.

    RUHLE: So they should just let it roll?

    STEPHENS: No, I mean what I’ve been advocating is that there should be a vote of censure against the president for disgraceful behavior that brings some Republicans along who would be otherside backed into a political corner. I just have to make the point because it’s never made often enough: If you impeach the president, which the House has the votes to do, you will not convict him in the Senate. OK? That's the deal. What you’re going to do is suck up an incredible amount of political oxygen. You’re going to make Republicans feel like the president is being victimized, that Democrats are trying to overturn the results of the election, and you're going to wind up helping to re-elect Trump. And in my book, that's the worst possible thing you can do. I don't know what other people think, it might feel really good, but I don't want to re-elect Trump.

    RUHLE: Democrats think it's the worst possible thing to do but Democrats are not all on the same page. The Washington Post details how the fight going on between the moderate and progressive wings of the party are really divided, and this thing played out at the Democratic Party Convention over the weekend in California. I want to share this.

    Help us understand, what do you think the Democratic Party is doing?

    MATT BENNETT (THIRD WAY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS): Well, look. Who is the Democratic Party? It isn't the people at the California Democratic state convention. Last year they had a convention in California and they took a vote on who should be the Democratic nominee for Senate. [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) lost that vote 65-7. She then went on to trounce the same opponent, Kevin de Leon, by 35 points in the actual primary. So, the people at that convention do not represent even the Democrats of California, much less Democrats nationally. There is a huge disconnect going on in our discourse right now between the activists, the activists online --

    RUHLE: The Twitter Democrats. The Twitter Republicans.

    BENNETT: Exactly. And people who actually are going to vote next year, starting on February 3, for who our nominee is. And I'm just talking Democrats, leave aside Republicans and Independents -- Democrats in the real world don't sound much at all like the Democrats online.

    STEPHENS: And it's important, at the same convention, you had John Hickenlooper saying socialism is not the answer and being booed. Now, Hickenlooper is not going to be the candidate but guess what? That’s going to be a fantastic ad for the Trump 2020 campaign as to what the Democratic Party is going to be, even if Joe Biden or a moderate candidate is the nominee. And the loud voices on -- well, both sides, but particularly on the Democratic left, are creating a picture of what the party is about, what its values are for. It's completely at odds with, I think, the real heart of the party, which is much more moderate, much more centrist.

    RUHLE: They're creating daily segments for Fox News every single day.

    Conservative commentators have been telling Democrats to shift to the middle since immediately after the recent midterm elections in which Democrats won major gains in the House. Stephens himself used the 2018 midterms to tell Democrats to shift to the right -- even as his column hilariously undercounted Democratic gains in the House. Of course, Stephens has every right to never change his analysis, no matter how much evidence proves him wrong. But there's no need for MSNBC to reward his obstinacy.

  • Trump administration flocks to Fox to recycle discredited statistic about terrorists crossing the southern border

    The Trump administration drew media criticism in February for a misleading claim that 10 terrorists were intercepted crossing the U.S.-Mexico border each day in 2017. The claim has now resurfaced as “almost 4,000 terrorists” throughout 2018. It is still misleading.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared on the January 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends to defend President Donald Trump’s stance on the ongoing government shutdown. She told the hosts that a border wall is needed because “last year alone, there were nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists” arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    About an hour later, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley made the same claim on another Fox show, America’s Newsroom. Gidley said that there were “almost 4,000 terrorists, known or suspected, coming across the border” last year. 

    The White House’s claim of 4,000 terrorists invading through the southern border appears to be a rudimentary reframing of Vice President Mike Pence’s October statement that, in the 2017 fiscal year, “we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day” trying to cross the southern border. (Eight months prior, Pence had said it was seven per day.) It seems Sanders and Gidley multiplied 10 terrorists by 365 days, then rounded the figure up to an even 4,000 for 2018. In recent days, congressional Republicans and prime-time host Sean Hannity have made similar claims on Fox. 

    Pence’s assertion was roundly debunked as a false claim last year. PolitiFact rated his initial claim “pants on fire” because the figure he referenced appeared to be for all points of entry to the country, not just the southern border. Similarly, The Washington Post said Pence’s later claim “quickly falls apart upon further inspection.” A Pence spokesperson also “tacitly” acknowledged to the Post that the vice president misstated the statistic. 

    On MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, national security reporter Julia Ainsley also noted that the White House “is likely rounding from this figure that we’ve heard from the administration before. ... What they’re taking that from is the number of all people who are stopped at all ports, especially airports.” Ainsley said that Sanders “seems to be rounding [the figure] and especially playing it off the border to make it seem as if these are people crossing the border to make the case for the president’s wall. When, in fact, we’re talking about airports where a wall wouldn’t do anything.” 

    Update (1/7/19): On January 6, Sanders appeared on Fox News Sunday to again push the myth that 4,000 suspected terrorists were attempting to cross the southern border. Sanders brought up the statistic after host Chris Wallace quoted the State Department’s statement that there is “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.” When Sanders tried to bring up the statistic, Wallace said, "I know the statistic -- I didn’t know if you were gonna use it, but I studied up on this," and pointed out that “they're not coming across the southern border, Sarah; they’re coming and they are being stopped at airports.” Sanders ignored the factual basis of this claim, saying that terrorists “come by air, by land, and by sea.” In reality, zero immigrants have been arrested on terrorism charges while attempting to cross the southern border in recent years.

  • Right-wing media's message to survivors: It's better if you keep quiet

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ever since the first of three women reported sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, right-wing media’s message to victims of sexual violence has rung painfully clear -- if you come forward and tell your story, you’re putting yourself at risk and the establishment will circle the wagons to protect your abuser.

    Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick have faced unending smear campaigns while also being summarily dismissed by those seeking to ram Kavanaugh onto the court. Conservative media have systematically overlooked the fact that Kavanaugh lied and perjured himself during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, instead propagating outlandish conspiracy theories about his accusers and questioning whether they have political motivations. Their smear campaign coalesces around one simple message of intimidation: If you tell your truth about sexual violence, it won’t disqualify your assailant from moving up in his career; instead, you’ll ruin the reputation of a good man, and a right-wing attack mob will set its sight on ruining yours as well.

    Conservative media message: Sexual assault allegations do not disqualify Brett Kavanaugh from a promotion

    Right-wing media’s radical and insulting insistence that a history of sexual assault doesn’t disqualify a man from sitting on the Supreme Court is perhaps the most honest confession in their coverage of allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh. They are telling survivors that coming forward is, as Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) put it, but a “hiccup” on the way to their assailant getting a promotion.

    Perhaps the most shameless example of conservatives telling on themselves is an article published in The Federalist titled, “Why Brett Kavanaugh Should Be Confirmed To The Supreme Court Even If He’s Guilty.” An anonymous author argues “the actual impact” of Kavanaugh’s alleged history of sexual violence would likely be irrelevant to his “behavior as a Supreme Court justice.” The article goes on to say that “the stakes” of confirming Kavanaugh “are even higher” now than they were before, noting that if he fails to get on the court, “every Supreme Court nomination henceforth will be derailed by mere allegation.”

    For its part, Fox News has also made clear that Ford’s report should not get in the way of Kavanaugh’s promotion. This is not a surprise, considering that the network functions as a mouthpiece for the White House communications team led by disgraced former Fox executive Bill Shine, who was forced out due to his role in the culture of sexual harassment that prevailed under Roger Ailes. Here are some of the most offensive takes from the network’s Kavanaugh coverage:

    • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt insisted that “there has to be a vote” on Kavanaugh despite reports of sexual assault.
    • Fox contributor and former Bush administration flack Ari Fleischer asked if the “bigger ethical issue” of stopping alleged sexual predators from getting a lifetime judicial appointment is that it sets a precedent that they should be held “accountable” for “a disputable high school action.”
    • Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway questioned “whether it’s even appropriate that you can bring forth an allegation” from “35 years after the fact.”
    • On The Ingraham Angle, guest Wendy Long admitted, “I don’t think [Dr. Ford] deserves to be heard” and “we just can’t just cave into it.”

    Conservative media message: Sexual violence allegations against Brett Kavanaugh have made an innocent man into the victim of a smear

    In the effort to rehabilitate Brett Kavanaugh’s image, right-wing media have characterized the reports as nothing more than smears of a good and innocent man. Some have bizarrely admitted they believe Christine Ford but they don’t believe what she says Kavanaugh did to her. They’ve also deflected from the women’s stories by mentioning that Kavanaugh goes to church and volunteers and coaches his daughters’ basketball team:

    • Stuart Varney of Fox Business said reporting sexual assault “is how you slime a good man.”
    • Regular Fox News guest and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp labeled Kavanaugh “the victim here.”
    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce characterized Ford’s story as “an attempted political assassination of a character” and somehow managed to make the argument that coming forward with sexual assault reports actually negatively impacts the gains feminists have made in recent decades.
    • On Twitter, Fox’s Gina Loudon echoed Bruce’s sentiment that survivors coming forward sets back women because men will hesitate to hire women to avoid facing sexual violence allegations.
    • Laura Ingraham, who has had some of the most disgusting takes on Kavanaugh among her right-wing peers, said Ford’s report has “the whiff of a political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation.”
    • Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino, whom NPR identifies as chief counsel of the organization that is “responsible for the Federalist Society’s public support” of Kavanaugh, lamented,  “We’re smearing a poor man’s reputation.”
    • Fox’s Jason Chaffetz implied Ford’s story was not important because “there’s not a pattern” like there was with Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, called it “unfair,” and said Kavanaugh is a “good, decent person.”
    • On MSNBC, The New York Times’ Bari Weiss said, “Other than this instance, Brett Kavanaugh has a reputation as being a prince of a man.” (Chaffetz and Weiss made their comments before both Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick came forward -- not that a “pattern” of personal violence should be required to disqualify a person from serving on the Supreme Court.)
    • On Fox & Friends, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich raised the stakes, saying Kavanaugh is “fighting for more than” his reputation; “he’s fighting for the United States.”

    According to some right-wing pundits, even listening to victims is a wholesale attack on men. During her daily radio show, Laura Ingraham said she wanted to “focus on men for a moment” because “this could happen to any of you.” Not to be outdone by his peers, Tucker Carlson used the stories of sexual assault survivors to continues his ongoing white nationalist campaign, categorizing allegations against Kavanaugh as an attack on all white people and men and arguing that Democrats’ willingness to listen to Ford demonstrates a sexism that’s similar to racism. He also called Kavanaugh a “folk hero” to the “unfairly maligned.”

    When conservative media figures portray a sexual assault report as a politically motivated smear of a decent family man, they are telling victims the damage wrought by the violence they experienced is unimportant and that speaking about it is wrong.

    Right-wing media message: If you come forward, our machine will ruin your life

    The conservative victim-blaming campaign discourages survivors from speaking up through the direct threat of a never-ending character assassination and harassment campaign. The results of this tactic have been illustrated by the fact that Ford has had to go into hiding, separately from her children, for her family’s safety. Here are some examples of right-wing media attacking Ford’s character:

    • Frequent Fox guest Joe diGenova called Ford a “loon” because “one of the signs of lunacy” is “believing something that isn’t real.”
    • Later diGenova doubled down, saying Ford is “a deeply troubled person” with “a history of psychological discord,” and called her “a very sad woman.”
    • Laura Ingraham mocked protesters who disclosed their sexual assaults to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on a Senate elevator, and her guest suggested Flake staged the scene to cover for a vote against Kavanaugh.
    • On Twitter, then-Fox contributor Kevin Jackson called Ford a “lying skank,” adding, “Dang girl stop opening your legs and OPEN A BOOK!” (Jackson was quickly fired.)
    • CRTV’s Steven Crowder simply called Ford a “lying whore.”
    • Fox’s Andrew Napolitano fantasized that a Republican senator would “demolish” Ford like “Arlen Specter did to Anita Hill,” to which host Stuart Varney replied, “That would be a sight for sore eyes.”
    • Tucker Carlson got creative (and incredibly insulting) when he compared sexual assault survivors speaking up to the mob engaged in a witch hunt in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

    And while Twitter is a general cesspool of conspiracy theories and smears against sexual assault survivors, no individual has put more into this effort than conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who called the confirmation process “the Left’s PizzaGate” and said that the Democrats were “willing to destroy an innocent man so they can keep killing kids.”

    Reality check: Right-wing media will not succeed in silencing survivors

    Right-wing media and Republicans in Congress have been working overtime to send a clear message to survivors of sexual violence: It’s better for us if you stay quiet. The campaign against Kavanaugh’s accusers reinforces what women already know -- that sexual violence is about power, and that when backed into a corner, power brokers will regroup and lash out at its challengers.

    Millions of people watch Fox News every day. Many of them are undoubtedly survivors of sexual violence themselves. While Fox News personalities get rich smearing victims in an effort to install Kavanaugh into power no matter his past behavior or the fact that he repeatedly lied to Congress, they’re saying to their viewers, “We don’t care about you, we don’t believe you, and you should shut up and keep your experiences to yourself.” Right-wing media outlets are sustained by their commitment to punching down, even if that means launching an attack on half of the world’s population to save the career of one man. Only through the power of testimony and solidarity can survivors overcome the system that seeks to silence us.