On Fox Business, Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton says Jeff Sessions can "unrecuse" himself from Trump/Russia probe
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President Donald Trump and his legal team “are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest,” according to a Washington Post report. The president’s right-wing media allies have waged a months-long campaign against Mueller and his team, calling for Mueller to be fired or his investigation “to be shut down,” and citing supposed “conflicts of interest” among members of Mueller’s investigative team and even of Mueller himself.
Fox luminary to join Sunday show panel
Fox News host and Trump shill Eric Bolling is scheduled to appear as a panelist on ABC’s This Week. Aside from cheerleading everything President Donald Trump says and does, Bolling was a prominent birther who challenged former President Barack Obama’s legitimacy, as well as a racist, sexist and Islamophobic conspiracy theorist.
Bolling has been one of Trump’s most outspoken media sycophants, even on Fox News. He’s dismissed Trump’s lies, downplayed the controversies surrounding the president, and deflected blame from Trump and his allies. Even his colleagues at Fox News have called him a “Trump apologist.” Bolling has also criticized the integrity of the host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. In October, Bolling speculated that Good Morning America, ABC’s morning show which Stephanopoulos also hosts, did not cover hacked emails from former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s top aides released on WikiLeaks because Stephanopoulos used to work for former President Bill Clinton.
Bolling’s affection for Trump makes sense. After all, they both have a history of using racist, sexist and Islamophobic rhetoric, as well as a pattern of hyping conspiracy theories.
Bolling had a pattern of making sexist remarks as a co-host of Fox News’ The Five. In 2014, Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot for the United Arab Emirates, who conducted bombing against Islamic State terrorists, “would … be considered boobs on the ground.” Later that year, Bolling said men are “more successful ... and better leaders” than women. In 2013, he lamented that allowing young girls to play football was part of “the wussification of American men.” The year before, he had criticized a story of a 9-year-old girl playing football, saying, “Let the boys be boys, let the girls be girls.” And in 2015, Bolling cackled in response to co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle’s remark that “anything a guy can do, a woman can do better.”
Bolling also has a history of racist remarks. In 2012, Bolling told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is African-American, that she should “step away from the crack pipe.” Bolling also lectured "rappers" last year, saying that they should be happy because white people are “financing their lifestyles” by buying their music. When the Gabonese president Ali Bongo visited the White House during the Obama administration, Bolling characterized it as "a hoodlum in the hizzouse." Bolling also criticized Obama's leadership in 2011 by claiming the first African-American president was "chugging a few 40s" instead of doing his job.
Bolling has said that racism doesn’t exist anymore, because the U.S. elected a black president and there are “black entertainment channels.” He has also argued, “There’s no racial aspect of [police] profiling” and called Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder “race merchants” for defending the Voting Rights Act.
Bolling has also made a series of Islamophobic remarks on Fox News. In 2012, Bolling alleged that “every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim.” Bolling also opposed the proposal to build a Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City, suggesting it could be “a meeting place for some of the scariest minds,” even “some of the biggest terrorist minds.”
In addition to his own rhetoric, Bolling has defended Islamophobic remarks made by others. After then-presidential candidate Ben Carson said in 2015 that the U.S. shouldn’t elect a Muslim president, Bolling defended him, saying, “Unless you’re willing to denounce Sharia law as the governing law over yourself, and anyone you oversee, I wouldn’t vote for a Muslim either.” Bolling also defended Trump’s false claim that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered on 9/11 as the twin towers came down, alleging, “I know there were Muslims and Muslim groups who were happy that the World Trade Center came down.”
During his time at Fox News, Bolling has pushed a number of conspiracy theories. He was a big force behind the “birther” conspiracy theory that alleged that Obama was not born in the U.S. After Obama released his long-form birth certificate, Bolling still claimed, that “there is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States.” Bolling took it upon himself to thoroughly examine Obama’s birth certificate on air, even speculating that the certificate’s border showed it may have been photoshopped.
Bolling also speculated about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich who was murdered in 2016, dismissing the police conclusion that his death was the result of a botched robbery: “It’s clearly not a robbery. There wasn’t a robbery. … This was a hit.” Bolling concluded that there’s “lots of smoke right now” and that the death was “like an episode of Homeland.”
Beyond that, Bolling has pushed a number of other conspiracy theories, alleging that Obama was trying to “bring people closer to the cities” to keep an eye on them and questioning whether Obama “let” an oil rig leak so he “could renege on his promise” to “allow some offshore drilling.” Perhaps his most entertaining conspiracy theory came in 2011 when Bolling wondered if “liberal Hollywood was using class warfare [in a Muppets movie] to brainwash our kids”:
Just this week, Bolling lived up to his reputation when he suggested that “maybe the Russians were colluding with Hillary Clinton to get information on Donald Trump,” claimed he was unsure “if the climate’s getting warmer or colder,” and attempted to deflect from reports of a previously undisclosed meeting Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week’s G-20 conference, calling it a “fake news headline” “generated by the biased left media.”
Stuart Varney: Ignore Trump’s political failures, praise “MAGAnomics”
Fox Business host Stuart Varney celebrated the first six months of the Trump administration by ridiculously claiming that the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump are responsible for adding trillions of dollars to the economy and lifting wages for low-income workers around the country. Varney’s claims are the latest in a long-running right-wing media fantasy that the Republican Party’s economic agenda will unleash the American economy, which conveniently ignores more than six years of steady economic progress under the Obama administration.
On July 20, Trump celebrated the six-month anniversary of his inauguration as president of the United States. By any objective measure, Trump’s presidency has already been one of the strangest and most chaotic in living memory. The Trump administration is consumed by scandals of its own making, and, according to a Washington Post report published on Trump’s six-month anniversary, the president is beginning to ask his political and legal advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself.”
Despite these facts, the team at Fox News and Fox Business attempted to find a silver lining for the Trump presidency by falsely crediting his administration for the continued overall health of the American economy. In a July 20 op-ed published by FoxNews.com and a corresponding segment on Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney credited Trump with “add[ing] $4.1 trillion to the nation’s wealth” thanks to a post-election stock market rally. Varney also preposterously claimed that “during [Trump’s] presidency,” long-established American tech giants “Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook” have “emerged as global technology leaders.” Varney’s ridiculous claims were promoted by the network’s social media accounts and parroted again from the Trump-friendly confines of Fox & Friends during a segment in which Varney also credited Trump for wage growth witnessed by low-income workers. From the July 21 segment:
Fox’s claim that Trump is responsible for low-income wage increases stems from a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, which said that “full-time earners at the lowest 10th percentile of the wage scale” witnessed a 3.4 percent year-to-year wage increase in the second quarter of 2017, according to data from the Department of Labor. Contrary to Fox’s argument that Trump deserves credit for the increase, the Journal pointed to consistently low unemployment rates and minimum wage increases enacted by states and municipalities across the country as primary drivers of the uptick, which continued an accelerating wage trend for low-wage workers dating back to 2015. Minimum wage increases have been found to correlate with significant gains to low-income earnings, as the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) reported on September 5, and 19 states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of the year:
In addition to falsely crediting Trump for years-long wage growth trends, the team at Fox News also claimed that Trump is responsible for a $4.1 trillion increase in stock market capitalization since Election Day, citing the Wilshire 5000 composite index. It is true that American stock markets have gained value since November, but as CNN business correspondent Christine Romans pointed out last month, stocks had been gaining value for years before Trump’s election. Indeed, the Wilshire 5000 index, like other major stock indices, has been consistently climbing since bottoming out in March 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession and financial crisis.
Fox’s promotion of Trump’s supposed economic success was not lost on the network’s number one fan, as the president posted a video of Varney’s celebratory July 20 segment on Twitter just this morning:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2017
Fox has repeatedly pushed misleading economic data to hype Trump since the start of his administration, and the network has even fought against increased minimum wages, which are partly responsible for the wage growth its hosts now celebrate. Fox’s sycophantic devotion to Trump runs so deep that Varney even once admitted his unwillingness to criticize the president, a complete reversal from the tone of his coverage during the Obama administration.
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Thomas McInerney’s shameless conspiracy mongering comes one day after Rich family told partisans "cease using Seth as a political football"
Fox News military analyst and retired Lieutenant General Thomas McInerny defended Donald Trump Jr. from accusations of colluding with Russia by promoting the discredited Seth Rich murder conspiracy.
One day after the Rich family pleaded with the public to stop using their son's murder as a “political football,” McInerny appeared on Fox Business’ After The Bell and used Rich’s murder to claim that Russia was not behind the DNC email hacks and to dismiss accusations of Russia collusion around Donald Trump Jr.:
MELISSA FRANCIS (HOST): A couple of the assumptions that he is making based on this, that he feels that the Trump family has been discredited in terms of self-reporting on the meetings that they had. Also proving that they were in fact receptive to the idea of receiving information that would hurt the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign, based on information that the Russian government had. Let's bring in retired lieutenant-general Thomas McInerney, retired general and Fox News military analyst. Some of the things, the other conclusions that he made there, I'm not totally convinced of.
THOMAS MCINERNY: This is all fake news. The fact is, there are two things that that committee has got to look at. They have got to look at the DNC computer servers, that was hacked that released that information, and John Podesta's and others emails. Why hasn't the DNC turned that over to the FBI?
FRANCIS: But tell us, why you are tying that to this?
MCINERNY: Because this shows that the Russians did not do it. That server was turned over by Seth Rich and no one will look at his server. And those two servers blow this whole Russian conspiracy, collusion up.
MCINERNY: And that is why it is that simple. I've been watching this for a long time and why the Congress has not gone after those those servers, because cyber is my business, Melissa -- and so, if you get the server, you get the fingerprints of the people that hacked you.
FRANCIS: Okay. So let's concede that we want to get that server.
Seth Rich’s family has previously detailed the “nightmare” caused by right-wing media figures peddling conspiratorial smears about their deceased son, writing “The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us.”
Fringe media supporting President Donald Trump have claimed that former President Barack Obama violated federal law and is acting as a “shadow president” because he has talked to former and current foreign leaders since the end of his presidency. The claims, which have at least partially been parroted on Fox News, are an extension of conservative media’s ongoing conspiracy theory that Obama runs a “shadow government.”
Since Trump’s inauguration, conservative outlets have baselessly claimed that Obama is running some kind of “shadow government,” a conspiracy theory which has since been invoked by a Republican congressman and by one of Trump’s attorneys. The right-wing hysteria took on a new level of feverishness after Obama met with a handful of former and current world leaders, some of whom he worked closely with as president.
Pro-Trump fake news purveyors were quick to attack Obama for his post-presidency activities. Several websites, including American Today, Patriots On The Right, US Postman, and USA Daily Time, claimed in June that Obama was “undermining President Trump” while “advertis[ing]” his “shadow government.” They suggested that Obama had “committed treason” and “violated” the Logan Act, a law barring private citizens from interfering with American foreign policy and for which no one has ever been prosecuted. The Federalist Tribune and The Washington Feed also asserted that Obama would get “a lengthy jail sentence” as a consequence of the law. Eventually, more fake news purveyors continued to push the false narrative, with Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Global Politics Now, Freedom Daily, US Advisor, ENH, and Before It’s News joining in.
Additionally, “alt-right”-affiliated Infowars and fake news purveyors Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and Red Rock Tribune hyped a Daily Caller piece suggesting Obama was a “shadow president.” “Alt-right”-affiliated The Gateway Pundit also called Obama a “shadow president” who “may be breaking the Logan Act.” There has also been some discussion regarding Obama and the Logan Act on the “alt-right”-affiliated forum 4chan /pol/.
According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, these claims being peddled by the pro-Trump fringe ecosystem, including American Today, Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Freedom Daily, Infowars, Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and The Gateway Pundit, have drawn numerous Facebook engagements that rise well over the thousands, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. There were at least 380 engagements with American Today's article, 41,900 with Mad World News’ article, 122,500 with USA Newsflash’s article, 6,500 with GOP The Daily Dose’s article, 7,000 with The Angry Patriot’s article, 48,300 with Freedom Daily’s article, 58 with Infowars’ article, 10,200 with Conservative Fighters’ article, 8,700 with TruthFeed’s article, and 5,000 and 6,900 for The Gateway Pundit articles, respectively.
Some of the narrative has now gained cable news visibility by reaching Fox News, with host Lou Dobbs on July 6 attacking Obama for “shadowing” and trying to "undercut" Trump, and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade on July 7 wondering why Obama was “shadowing” Trump and wondering whether Obama was trying to “swamp him.”
Fox Business spokesperson says host Charles Payne has been suspended while "matter is being thoroughly investigated"
Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended from the network amid reports of sexual harassment by a former political analyst.
According to Variety, a “Fox Business spokesperson said Payne had been ‘suspended pending further investigation’” following a Los Angeles Times report that Payne had a three-year extramarital relationship with a woman who says she was coerced into the relationship "under threat of reprisals." The Times reports the woman “believed she was eventually blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015 and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News.” These new developments come as Fox Business’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, faces heavy scrutiny in their bid to acquire Sky PLC:
A Fox Business spokesperson said Payne had been “suspended pending further investigation” after being asked about allegations that surfaced previously in The Los Angeles Times. “We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy for any professional misconduct. This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner,” the network said in a statement.
A female political analyst who has appeared on Fox News as well as CNN has contacted the law firm of Paul Weiss, which has been working for Fox for several months, alleging she was banned from Fox after ending an extramarital affair she had with the anchor in 2015, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times. An attorney for Payne told the Times the anchor denied sexually harassing the woman. The analyst alleged her Fox appearances were reduced after she terminated the relationship.
But the revelations around Payne suggest the company faces more disclosure about past behavior. 21st Century Fox remains under scrutiny as it strives to acquire the remaining shares in European broadcaster Sky PLC that it does not own and its bid is examined by British government regulators. Proving that the company has taken steps to improve its working culture could serve to curtail criticism as its effort to buy Sky gains further scrutiny. Earlier this week, Fox Sports dismissed programming chief Jamie Horowitz, citing an investigation into claims of sexual harassment.
Payne is the latest example of the culture of predatory behavior at Fox News, joining former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, host Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Latino vice president Francisco Cortes, and the decades-long reports of harassment at the network.
UPDATE: HuffPost wrote that the report of sexual harassment against Payne came from conservative commentator Scottie Nell Hughes. From HuffPost:
Conservative analyst Scottie Nell Hughes has accused Charles Payne, a Fox Business host, of sexual harassment, multiple sources tell HuffPost.
Hughes has told several sources that she feels that Payne, the network and Bill Shine ― then co-president of Fox News and Fox Business ― retaliated against her after they learned of the relationship, which would be the basis for her sexual harassment claim.
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Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, is a regular Fox News guest, particularly on staunch Trump ally Sean Hannity’s TV and radio shows (which Sekulow has also sometimes guest-hosted). Fox and Hannity have repeatedly given Sekulow a platform to push misinformation; in fact, Sekulow made at least seven misleading or dubious allegations on Hannity’s shows between late May and June, some of which Hannity encouraged.