Alex Castellanos

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  • Trump Advocated White Nationalism With An "Indoor Voice," And Pundits Loved It 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics -- and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants -- the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”

    That's how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far. To some in the media, the speech was a “reset” for the new president.

    As soon as he finished speaking, the accolades from pundits began to roll in. Fox’s Chris Wallace said, “I feel like tonight, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” ABC’s Alex Castellanos similarly said Trump “became president tonight. I think we saw the long-awaited pivot.” MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki claimed that Trump had “a more presidential tone, a more optimistic tone,” and Fox’s Chris Stirewalt said Trump “did sound like the president, look like the president, act like the president.” They weren’t the only ones.

    It wasn’t just pundits on TV either. Newspaper headlines also lauded “a more temperate Trump,” his supposed “milder tones,” and his call for an “end to ‘trivial fights.’”

    Essentially, the media set the bar so low for the speech that when Trump, the president of the United States, sounded like the president of the United States, it was lauded as a victory.

    Not only was that an absurd measure, but the praise delivered by pundits across the broadcast and cable news stations, for the most part, entirely lacked context. One prominent example of this failure was the reaction to Trump’s comments about a slain Navy SEAL officer, William “Ryan” Owens. During his speech, Trump acknowledged Owens’ widow and said that “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” That portion of the speech was cited by many as a highlight and an “extraordinary moment”:

    CNN’s Van Jones: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

    Politico’s John Bresnahan: “That was a Reaganesque moment for Trump.”

    CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Powerful moment.”

    But there’s a lot more to this story. As NBC’s Katy Tur properly noted, while it was an emotional moment in the speech, it “came after Trump seemed to blame his generals/Obama for Owen’s death” just that morning, and after NBC reported that “senior intelligence sources dispute” the White House’s “characterization of [the] raid as a success.” As Tur pointed out, NBC’s reporting “would mean that Trump isn’t being honest with a grieving wife. And that is anything BUT presidential.”

    The praise also ignored the actual content of Trump’s address. Those lauding the speech as “normal” ignored what was extraordinarily abnormal about it of it. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, “President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies.” And while large parts of the speech simply featured Trump touting what he’s done so far as president, not much about those actions is normal either. According to a New York Times analysis, most of the significant actions and events in Trump’s presidency thus far have been “abnormal.” 

    Those praising parts of the speech also seemed unable to acknowledge the startling differences between the Trump who gave that speech and the Trump from just that morning. Some examples:

    • Some pundits praised Trump for addressing the recent wave of threats against Jewish Community centers. But just hours prior to the address, Trump seemed to imply that those threats could be false flags -- a suggestion he has made before.
    • Many pundits cheered Trump for honoring the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid. Yet earlier that day, Trump blamed the military for Owens’ death, telling Fox & Friends hosts, “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals. ... And they lost Ryan.”
    • And all those cheering how “presidential” and “normal” the speech was must have missed the stark and pervasive demonization of immigrants -- from Trump’s announcement that he would set up an office for “victims of immigration crime” to his decision to bring three guests whose family members had been killed by immigrants.

    These remarks, particularly on immigration, served a clear purpose that the fawning punditry seemed to miss. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, talking to a “senior White House official,” reported that the aide said the speech was aimed to be “‘nationalism with an indoor voice,’” and that Trump “backed off exactly none of his previous policies.”

    Perhaps because Trump’s speech didn’t indicate any real change in policy, the high praise from the press has apparently even caught some of his aides off guard. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, even “some sources in [the White House] are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech,” noting that “Trump has not changed,” and there is “no big shift in policy coming."

    It’s not the first time the media has fallen for this ruse. Over the past year, media figures have repeatedly either predicted that Trump would finally start acting more respectable or claimed that it had already happened -- that he had finally pivoted. Yet time and time again Trump has reverted back to his usual style, leaving the media the Charlie Brown to Trump’s football-wielding Lucy.

    So yes, Trump may have sounded more like a president than we expected. But a normal-sounding speech isn’t nearly enough to erase the first month of his presidency, which was distinguished by abnormal -- and extremely problematic -- actions, attacks, and rhetoric. With promises of worse to come, it’s crucial that media stop setting the bar so low and start demanding more.

  • Media Can't Stop Pining For Another Trump Pivot

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media seized on President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress as an opportunity for him to “pivot” or “reset” his administration. This canard that he would at some point change course was repeated throughout the presidential campaign, yet any shifts that occurred were always short-lived.

  • It’s Not Just Trump Fans; His Media Supporters Also Call Clinton A “Bitch”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Washington Post noted today that many of Donald Trump’s fans are routinely calling presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a “bitch.” The sexist attack isn’t just common among Trump fans -- it’s also been regularly used by Trump’s leading media supporters and allies.

    The Post noted that many T-shirts calling Clinton a bitch are “sold at nearly all of Trump’s rallies” and “many Trump supporters spotted wearing the shirts at rallies over the past six weeks don’t think the term is that bad.” (Trump, who has a long history of making sexist remarks, claims he does not approve of the term for Clinton.) The Daily Caller has also promoted a Clinton “bitch” T-shirt in its “Daily Dealer” section:

    Here are examples of Trump media supporters Roger Stone, Ted Nugent, Alex Jones, Michael Savage, and Alex Castellanos calling Hillary Clinton a bitch over the years.

    Roger Stone Formed The Anti-Clinton Group “C.U.N.T.” Because He Couldn’t “Come Up With Words For B.I.T.C.H.”

    Stone, a longtime Trump friend and ally, heads a pro-Trump super PAC after working for his campaign last year. He has a long history of sexist commentary, especially about Hillary Clinton. In 2008, Stone established the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid. The group -- now defunct -- emphasized the acronym by bolding the first letter in each word. The group claimed to "educate the American public about what Hillary Clinton really is." Stone said also he spent "hours trying to come up with words for B.I.T.C.H. and just couldn't do it." He also tweeted that Chelsea Clinton is a “total bitch.”

    Ted Nugent: Clinton Is A "Worthless Bitch" And "Toxic Cunt"

    Nugent is a conservative pundit and NRA board member. He has implored his fans to vote for Trump and said that “Trump is as close to Ted Nugent as you are going to get in politics."

    Nugent has called Clinton a "lying America destroying criminal ass bitch," a "worthless bitch," a "toxic cunt," and a "two-bit whore." In May, Nugent shared a video depicting Clinton being shot; he remarked, “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

    Fellow Trump supporter Sean Hannity refused to disavow Nugent’s attack against Clinton as a "worthless bitch," stating on his Fox News program in 2007: "No, I like Ted Nugent. He's a friend of mine."

    Alex Jones To Hillary Clinton: “You Bitch”

    Jones is a conspiracy theorist radio host who plays an “important role” in organizing support for Trump. Trump has appeared on his program, and Roger Stone is a regular guest.

    In August 2015, after the deadly shooting of a Virginia journalist and cameraman, Jones said: “Hey Hillary, you got bodyguards. Are their guns bad too? Why can’t I have a gun to protect myself, you bitch?”

    Michael Savage Describes Clinton As A Bitch

    Trump is a frequent guest on Savage’s radio program and has thanked him for his support and being “so amazing.”

    In a May 2016 interview, Savage said of Hillary Clinton: “There is a word for this kind of individual in the dog world, but I can’t use it on your show. It begins with a b.”

    Alex Castellanos On Clinton As "White Bitch": "Some Women ... Are Named That And It's Accurate"

    Castellanos, a political commentator and Republican strategist, works for the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now.

    During a May 2008 segment on CNN, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin mentioned a news column in which "the punch line was a line that … Clinton was a 'white bitch.'" Castellanos, who was working as a CNN political commentator, responded: "And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate.” He then said: “She is a tough -- that tough lady, tough in politics, that's been her great strength. But let's face it, she can be a very abrasive, aggressive, irritating person, and a lot of voters, I think, see her that way." Castellanos later apologized for his remarks.

  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Conservative Civil War Over Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative pundits are bickering over Donald Trump's campaign, especially after National Review's "Against Trump" issue and the backlash it engendered. On one side are pundits who want to stop Trump's candidacy in its tracks. On the other are conservatives who are lauding Trump's candidacy, even if they have not officially endorsed him. Media Matters breaks down exactly who is on which side (click for the full-sized image):

    Civil War over Donald Trump

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko, Research by Eric Hananoki
     
  • CNN's Castellanos Disproves The Myth Of Romney's Consistency

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    CNN contributor Alex Castellanos cited Mitt Romney's role with the 2002 Winter Olympics as evidence of the Republican candidate's consistency, even as Romney has campaigned against the very public investments that he once worked tirelessly to secure for those Olympics.

    Weighing in on whether Romney shifted to the center during the October 3 presidential debate, Castellanos said: "The other Mitt Romney's that's always been there is this fix-it guy, this pragmatic businessman who transforms the Olympics, who invents a new way to do business in America." According to Castellanos, that Romney has always been there.

    But in pointing to the Olympics, Castellanos picked a curious example to demonstrate Romney's consistency. After all, Romney took advantage of a sizable contribution from the federal government -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- to help transform the Salt Lake City Games in 2002. Taxpayers were so critical to helping Romney's bid to "save" the Olympics, he reportedly said, "We couldn't have done it without them. These are America's games."

    Yet that same Romney -- the one Castellanos said has "always been there" -- has campaigned aggressively against taxpayer "bailouts," perhaps most notably in his criticism of the successful rescue of GM and Chrysler. An entire night of the Republican National Convention in August was centered around a dishonest attack on public infrastructure spending -- the very infrastructure spending the Romney who has "always been there" lobbied for to help build the Olympics.

  • This Is CNN's Soft Birtherism

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    CNN contributor and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos waded into birther conspiracies to excuse Mitt Romney's refusal to disclose his tax returns, arguing that Romney should withhold his tax returns until President Obama "releases 10 years of birth certificates."

    Noting the increasing pressure for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake reported:

    "Let's say Mitt Romney released 100 years of tax returns tonight," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican media consultant who advised Romney in 2008.  "What do you think the odds are that the Obama campaign would say, 'Oh great Mitt. Thank you! Now we can put that behind us and move on to more substantive issues like entitlement reform!' Zero."

    Added Castellanos: "I'd advise Mitt to release 10 years of tax returns when Obama releases 10 years of birth certificates."

    Castellanos appeared on CNN as recently as Tuesday.

    This is not CNN's first brush with on-air personalities dabbling in birtherism. In 2009, Lou Dobbs spent several months exploring what he said were "new questions" about Obama's birth certificate - a campaign that eventually contributed to CNN's decision to part ways with Dobbs.

    Castellanos' nod to the birthers is also at odds with comments he previously made expressing hope that the silly birther thing was finally over.

    In April 2011, after Obama released his original birth certificate, Wolf Blitzer asked Castellanos whether that would finally end the birther controversy. Castellanos responded:

    You know, we certainly hope so, because there's certainly enough serious issues confronting the United States and questions about President Obama's leadership. I mean, if we're going to release a long form, it would be great to see the longer explanation of how the president wants to spend more in Washington while reducing the deficit, how he's going to stimulate the economy while taking tax money out of it, how he's going to win a war in Libya while he's trying to get out of the war in Libya. There's a lot of other things we could talk about other than something I think the president has put to bed today. 

    It's difficult to put the birther issue to bed when people like Alex Castellanos invoke it when it serves their political agenda. 

    UPDATE: As Steve Benen noted, Castellanos' comparison of the birther conspiracy to Mitt Romney's undisclosed tax returns serves to whitewash the substantive, unresolved questions surrounding the candidate:

    There are a couple of angles to this to keep in mind. The first is that really are legitimate questions that voters deserve answers to, and those answers are only available in the documents Romney is inexplicably keeping secret. No one is characterizing this as some kind of procedural hurdle that must be cleared; it's about resolving lingering, relevant questions about Romney's background.

    Indeed, Romney publicly gave his word, on camera, that he would "go back and look" to let us know what tax rates he paid over the last decade, and it now appears the candidate will break that commitment without explanation.

  • Conservative Media Attempts To Disprove The Wage Inequality Between Men And Women Fall Flat

    ››› ››› MARCUS FELDMAN

    As Democrats push for the Paycheck Fairness Act to address wage inequality between men and women, conservative media figures have claimed that there is no real wage inequality because men work more hours than women and thus earn more. But studies have shown that an earnings discrepancy between men and women persists, even when accounting for a variety of factors, including hours worked.