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  • How becoming a Fox News hack is paying off for Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow

    Washington Post: Jay Sekulow’s family is personally profiting from his charities 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow is using his conservative media exposure and close relationship with President Trump for his family’s personal financial gain.

    According to a report from The Washington Post, Sekulow, who is a radio host and the Chief Counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), is using his position to gain millions from charities he and his family controls. The report details how his charities “brought in nearly $230 million in charitable donations from 2011 to 2015 — and millions of those dollars ended up going to the members of the Sekulow family or their companies.” According to the Post’s research into the business records and tax filings of Sekulow’s charities, $5.5 million has gone to Sekulow’s family with another $23 million going to his firms.

    A large part of Sekulow’s success can be traced back to his media exposure and his close ties to the president. The report found that as “Sekulow’s exposure on television increased,” his fundraising for the organization run by he and his wife increased by ten million dollars over a two-year period. His fundraising “jumped another $10 million” as Sekulow’s role as an anti-Obama “legal pundit on Fox News further amplified his reach.” Sekulow’s new position as Trump’s personal lawyer could also boost his fundraising and income even further. From the Post:

    As Sekulow’s exposure on television increased, CASE’s annual fundraising jumped from $14 million to $24 million over a period of about two years.

    Then, during the term of President Barack Obama, Sekulow’s role as a legal pundit on Fox News further amplified his reach. As Sekulow questioned whether Obama’s IRS had unfairly targeted conservative nonprofit and tea party groups, revenue for CASE jumped another $10 million, eclipsing that of the ACLJ.

    At the same time, the work of the ACLJ increasingly moved in step with causes of the political right.

    The group joined legal challenges to Affordable Care Act mandates and Obama’s executive order on immigration. It defended an antiabortion activist who was sued in California over undercover videos at a Planned Parenthood clinic. It also argued that the corruption conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, should be overturned.

    Gregory M. Lipper, a partner in private practice and former senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he saw the change in cases he fought against the ACLJ.

    “We litigated against a number of religious organizations, and they all, generally, have similar or slightly different angles. But the ACLJ seemed to become much more like a movement right-wing organization,” Lipper said. “They were very noisy on Islamic terrorism . . . and they started to sound more like Fox News than focusing specifically on free speech or religious liberty issues.”

    On May 9, when Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, Sekulow was one of the president’s first and most vocal supporters, both in television appearances and on social media.

    Sekulow tweeted that Trump had made “the right decision” — and a similar assessment later came from the ACLJ’s Twitter account. “There is NO evidence of collusion between Pres #Trump and #Russia. Trump says it’s ‘a total hoax’ ” read a tweet from the nonprofit.

    On June 9, a day after Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sekulow announced to his radio listeners that he had accepted a position on Trump’s personal legal team, calling it his patriotic duty to defend against “an attack on the presidency.”

    Borochoff, of CharityWatch, said Sekulow’s proximity to Trump could boost fundraising.

    “He has far more attention than he normally would have to raise money — so there is the question of profiting from his relation to the president,” Borochoff said. “Are people listening to his radio program because he’s the president’s adviser? Then they get hit on to donate.”

    Sekulow has regularly pushed false stories and conspiracy theories to defend Trump and attack his opponents. Sekulow has defended Trump’s lie that he may have recorded conversations with former FBI Director James Come, hyped conspiracies that a “shadow government” and “deep state” operatives are out to destroy the Trump administration, and pushed the discredited conspiracy theory that a former Democratic National Committee staffer was assassinated in retaliation for allegedly being the source of leaked DNC emails. Fox News was forced to retract the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

  • Trump lawyer and Hannity regular Jay Sekulow regularly pushes false claims and conspiracies

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    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.

  • Media need to be extremely careful to not repeat their mistakes with Trump and Syria

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s administration may launch another military strike in Syria if the Syrian government carries out another chemical attack. If Trump does attack Syria, media must be cautious in their coverage and not repeat the fawning approach much of them adopted after Trump launched an April strike in the country.

    On June 26, the Trump administration issued a statement saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad was possibly preparing for another chemical attack and warning that Assad would “pay a heavy price” if he actually carried one out. The New York Times also noted that military officials were “caught off guard” by the statement.

    If there’s another chemical attack and Trump carries out his threat and launches military action in response, it could be a repeat of what happened just a few months ago. On April 7, in response to the Assad government’s reported chemical attack on a rebel-held Syrian town, Trump ordered the military to fire missiles at the Syrian airbase that launched that attack. Many in media lauded Trump in an over-the-top fashion, calling the strike “beautiful” and “an emotional act by a man suddenly aware that the world’s problems were now his,” saying the strike was the moment “Donald Trump became President of the United States,” and claiming that he had “nailed” his “first test,” that he “made Americans proud,” and that he showed “a level of decisiveness that we have not seen in these past eight years.” Yet that same Syrian base was back in operation less than 48 hours after the attack, and now the administration is claiming it could be the source of another possible attack.

    Thus far, cable news coverage, in particular, has generally been restrained, expressing caution in their interpretation of the administration’s action while also suggesting that it could be a “deterrent” and a “red line” threat against the Syrian regime. (Fox News, perhaps unsurprisingly, used it to criticize former President Barack Obama.) If Trump follows through on his threat, this continued level of cautious analysis will be crucial.

    The commentary about military action does not exist in a vacuum. After Trump’s missile strikes in April, some pundits linked their praise of the strikes to the threat North Korea poses to the U.S. Trump, a huge consumer of cable news, could potentially have felt incentivized to increase tensions with that country as a result, given the positive coverage he has received for taking military action.

    Further, the possible military action could yet again revive the Trump-is-finally-pivoting narrative, a claim that has repeatedly popped up since Trump announced his presidential campaign but that has consistently been incorrect. With Trump’s threats against Syria, media are being given another chance not to repeat the "pivot" mistake that many of them have made time and time again.

  • Five great examples of local journalism showing what the GOP bill will do to Americans

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    After the Senate GOP released a massive tax cut bill for the the wealthiest Americans disguised as a health care proposal, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected would kick 22 million Americans off their insurance, drastically cut spending on Medicaid, and raise premiums on seniors, Fox News used the opportunity to lie and spin on behalf of the Republican Party. For example, Fox hosts and guests have mocked legislators who correctly pointed out that the Senate bill would increase mortality rates in the United States. Additionally, hosts and guests claimed that millions not having health insurance is “the American way,” lied that Medicaid wouldn’t be cut by the bill, and attacked former President Barack Obama for speaking out against the proposal, which would reduce all of the gains in insurance coverage his signature law created.

    In stark juxtaposition to Fox News’ misinformation campaign, state and local media outlets have often properly covered the effects of the bill on citizens of their areas and debunked popular right-wing myths. Here are five of the best examples:

    KMGH’s 7 News @ 10 PM (Colorado): Despite administration talking points, “the CBO’s big-picture analysis” on Obamacare “was right.” KMGH anchor Anne Trujillo debunked a claim from President Donald Trump that the CBO produced “inaccurate predictions on Obamacare,” noting that “the CBO’s big-picture analysis, that Obamacare would bring the uninsured rate down to a historic low, that was right.” From the June 26 edition of KMGH’s 7 News @ 10:

    ANNE TRUJILLO (HOST): And the White House, once again, criticizes CBO today for its, what it calls “inaccurate predictions on Obamacare.” So we did some digging. And this is not a new argument from the administration. Back in March, our partners at PolitiFact ranked the criticism as “Half True.” And here’s why. In 2010, the CBO predicted 30 million more Americans would gain coverage by 2016. That number turned out to be 22 million, so off by 8 million. But PolitiFact says the CBO’s big-picture analysis, that Obamacare would bring the uninsured rate down to a historic low, that was right. PolitiFact also pointed out that the CBO could not have foreseen the Supreme Court’s decision on Medicaid expansion, which led 19 states to opt out.

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Georgia): Senate health plan may leave 680,000 more Georgians without insurance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that, according to health care analyst Bill Custer of Georgia State University, the Senate bill would cause approximately 680,000 Georgians to lose their health insurance coverage. From the June 26 article:

    The Congressional Budget Office released its score of the Senate plan’s impacts late Monday. The nonpartisan office estimated that 22 million more Americans would be without health insurance at the end of 10 years if the plan becomes law. Georgia’s share of that figure is 680,000 or so, according to a health care analyst who has been following the debate, Bill Custer of Georgia State University.

    Georgia advocates for rural hospitals, patients and others likely to feel the cuts howled.

    “This legislation represents a giant leap backward from what Americans have come to expect and demand from their healthcare delivery system,” Earl Rogers, president of the Georgia Hospital Association, said in a statement.

    “Cuts to Medicaid take resources away from the entire healthcare delivery system, so tough decisions will have to be made regarding which services to scale back or eliminate entirely,” he added, cutbacks “that will affect all patients.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution, 6/26/17]

    Penn Live (Pennsylvania): “Senate bill for Obamacare repeal would ‘destabilize’ Pa. health care system: state official.” Penn Live, the online version of Harrisburg’s Patriot-News, noted that the state’s deputy secretary for human services estimated that the cuts to Medicaid would cost the state “about $4.5 billion annually.” In addition, “the cut would be especially damaging given the opioid addiction crisis, which is presently killing 13 Pennsylvania residents per day, according to Jennifer Smith, the acting secretary of drug and programs.” From the June 23 piece:

    The Medicaid expansion that covers 716,000 people in Pennsylvania would be phased out over three years ending in 2024. The state could continue paying for the coverage -- the federal government now pays about 90 percent under Obamacare -- but it would be unaffordable, according to Brendan Harris, the deputy secretary of human services. He said on Thursday afternoon the state hadn't yet figured out the exact financial impact, but estimated the state would lose about $4.5 billion annually.

    Eliminating the Medicaid expansion would impact drug and alcohol treatment. About 124,000 people covered by the expansion have accessed such treatment. The cut would be especially damaging given the opioid addiction crisis, which is presently killing 13 Pennsylvania residents per day, according to Jennifer Smith, the acting secretary of drug and programs.

    Overall Medicaid spending would be capped. States could choose between a block grant or a per capita limit, although children with major medical needs would be exempt from the cap. Moreover, increases to Medicaid spending would eventually be based on increases in the consumer price index. Increases are presently based on medical cost inflation, which is higher than CPI increases. Asked whether that might have the positive impact of bending the cost curve downward, a state official said it would not. Rather, it would shift costs to medical providers and private insurers and create pressure that would harm services.

    [...]

    The income limit for people to receive federal subsidies to help buy coverage on the electronic exchange would drop to 350 percent of the federal poverty level, down from 400 percent. About 426,000 Pennsylvania residents have exchange coverage, with 80 percent receiving a subsidy, Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said. Also, subsidies would be based on 56 percent of the benchmark plan, down from 70 percent, which would lower their value, Miller said. Miller said the changes would increase the number of people who can't afford coverage.

    [...]

    Secretary of Health Karen Murphy said the cuts to Medicaid would "destabilize" the health care system in Pennsylvania and result in "hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs." Other impacts would include the loss of $22 million in annual funds that go toward disease prevention. [Penn Live, 6/23/17]

    The News Journal (Delaware): ‘People will die’ under new health care proposal. An article in Delaware’s The News Journal quoted the director of Delaware’s Division of Public Health, who called the GOP’s legislation “simply inhumane” and said, “People will die.” [The News Journal, 6/23/17]

    WLWT’s News 5 at 11:00 (Ohio): Senate bill would “allow insurers to charge older policyholders more.” A segment on WLWT’s News 5 at 11:00 explained that the CBO score found that 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 under the bill, which would “end enhanced Medicaid expansion, eliminate coverage mandates, and allow insurers to charge older policyholders more.” In addition, the segment explained that “those in the individual market would be hit with dramatic increases for services.” From the June 26 edition of WLWT News 5 at 11:00:

    MIKE DARDIS (CO-HOST): Well, Republicans can’t seem to agree on the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare, a promise several years in the making.

    SHEREE PAOLELLO (CO-HOST): The Senate is expected to vote on this newest health care bill a little bit later this week, but some new numbers out this evening may not help convince the holdouts.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): CBO’s report today makes clear that this bill is every bit as mean as the House bill.

    [END VIDEO]

    REPORTER: Twenty-two million -- that’s how many more Americans would be without health insurance by 2026 if the proposed Senate GOP health care bill passes, according to the Congressional Budget Office report. Like the House version of the bill that passed in May, this version would end enhanced Medicaid expansion, eliminate coverage mandates, and allow insurers to charge older policyholders more. Premiums would be down about 20 percent over the next 10 years for the average customer. The U.S. deficit could also by cut by $321 billion. But those in the individual market would be hit with dramatic increases for services. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is scrambling now to shore up votes for the bill, but these numbers may not help.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): From a political point of view, if you had a problem with the bill, the CBO score didn’t help you at all. It’s going to be tough to get to 50, but time will tell.

    [END VIDEO]

    REPORTER: Senate Republicans unveiled their version of the Obamacare repeal last Thursday to an underwhelming response by many in their own party.

  • Stalin, East Germany, and emancipation: The 12 dumbest takes (so far) on 22 million people losing health insurance

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After a report on the Senate health care legislation by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that the Republican plan would lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans than under the Affordable Care Act, right-wing media figures either tried to spin the CBO report by saying it was “extremely positive,” or attacked and undermined the CBO’s integrity. From an East Germany analogy to the suggestion that senators simply “forget” the millions that will be uninsured, here are 13 of the worst right-wing CBO takes. 

  • Fox News lies about context of Rob Reiner tweet to claim he called for “all out war” against Trump

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Co-hosts of Fox News’ The Five took a tweet by Rob Reiner out of context, claiming Reiner called “for ‘all out war’ to resist Trump,” ignoring Reiner’s quote was a reference to repeated instances where Fox News attempted to justify possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Reiner’s tweet was a reference to prominent Fox News hosts repeatedly attempting to justify any collusion that may or may not have occurred between the Trump campaign and Russia during the presidential election. Fox News hosts Gregg Jarrett, Brit Hume and Sean Hannity have all attempted to justify potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s government, as has Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera.

    But the co-hosts of The Five ignored this criticism of their colleagues and instead mocked Reiner’s claim without providing any context. From the June 26 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Hollywood is, of course doing what it can to help fuel the resistance movement. Actor and director Rob Reiner, best known as “Meathead” from All In The Family, is encouraging his fellow resisters on Twitter to fight an “all out war” to save democracy.

    [...]

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): And what exactly is an all out war from Rob Reiner? Is he going to load up his Prius with water balloons? He’s gonna write a really scathing piece in Huffington Post and then order a pie, and get all the crust in his beard?