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A report from The New York Times highlighted how an ongoing, years-long trend of right-wing media figures praising Russian President Vladimir Putin has helped President Donald Trump downplay the fast-growing Russian scandal surrounding himself, his family, and his administration.
Right-wing media has long been obsessed with Putin’s masculinity and authoritarian tendencies. In 2013, Fox News analyst Ralph Peters, when speaking about Putin said, “I respect that guy,” adding “he presents himself as a real He-Man.” The same year, Matt Drudge tweeted “Putin is the leader of the free world.” FoxNews.com previously published a “must watch” video of "Putin doing macho things." And Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle once said she wanted Putin to be US president for 48 hours in order to defeat ISIS.
Essentially, right-wing media effectively built a normalization machine working to sanitize Putin, and it had results.
In a July 14 New York Times article, Jeremy Peters noted that while “such fondness for Mr. Putin fell outside the Republican Party’s mainstream” previously it became a widely held sentiment in the conservative movement by the time Mr. Trump started running for president in 2015.” Peters wrote that “the veneration of Mr. Putin helps explain why revelations about Russia’s involvement in the election ... and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge it, have barely penetrated the consciousness of the president’s conservative base.” Media Matters President Angelo Carusone added that the mythologizing of Putin by right-wing media has led to him enjoying “a Paul Bunyan-esque persona among this audience.” From the July 14 article:
Years before the words “collusion” and “Russian hacking” became associated with President Vladimir V. Putin, some prominent Republicans found far more laudatory ways to talk about the Russian leader.
“Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, gushed in 2014.
Mr. Putin was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, K. T. McFarland said in 2013, before going on to serve a brief and ill-fated stint as Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser.
“A great leader,” “very reasoned,” and “extremely diplomatic,” was how Mr. Trump himself described Mr. Putin that same year.
Though such fondness for Mr. Putin fell outside the Republican Party’s mainstream at the time, it became a widely held sentiment inside the conservative movement by the time Mr. Trump started running for president in 2015. And it persists today, despite evidence of Russian intervention in the 2016 American election and Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies at home.
The veneration of Mr. Putin helps explain why revelations about Russia’s involvement in the election — including recent reports that members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle set up a meeting at which they expected a representative of the Russian government to give them incriminating information about Hillary Clinton — and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge it, have barely penetrated the consciousness of the president’s conservative base.
In this view, the Russian president is a brilliant tactician, a slayer of murderous Islamic extremists — and not incidentally, a leader who outmaneuvered and emasculated President Barack Obama on the world stage. And because of that, almost any other transgression seems forgivable.
The unflattering comparisons with Mr. Obama became especially personal in 2014 after Mr. Putin invaded Crimea, an act of aggression that was widely condemned by the United States and its allies but praised as a display of brawn and guts by many on the right.
Sarah Palin, for one, questioned Mr. Obama’s “potency” and added that no one had any such doubts about Mr. Putin. “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” she told Sean Hannity on Fox News.
“He’s looking like a real man,” Mr. Limbaugh declared approvingly in 2014.
Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, which has tracked the conservative media’s depiction of the Russian president, described Mr. Putin as taking on “a Paul Bunyan-esque persona among this audience.”
Mr. Putin’s mystique for conservatives resembles in many ways the image that Mr. Trump has cultivated for himself.
President Donald Trump and members of his administration have spent months describing as fake news reports on his ties to Russia and the allegations that the Russian government acted to aid his presidential campaign. They have remained steadfast amid a drumbeat of stories and even U.S. intelligence community findings about Russia, the election, and Trump’s staff. His right-wing media allies have been a key force in this endeavor, consistently finding ways to minimize or explain away damning new revelations and blaming them not on Trump, but on a shadowy nexus of Democrats, the “deep state,” and the press. This aid is essential to maintaining the president’s political position: The vast majority of Republicans have continued to support Trump in part because of the efforts of his loyal propagandists.
Over the last week, new information has emerged that should change the trajectory of the Russia story. As The New York Times reported, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as top Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, met during the 2016 presidential campaign with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. Emails that Trump Jr. released reveal that the meeting came about after Trump Jr. was told the lawyer had damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was provided by a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Trump Jr. has effectively admitted to trying to collude with a hostile government. The debate should now move to how deep that collusion went, and who was involved.
But this damning new information has moved few minds among the president’s core media supporters. Instead, faced with the devastating revelation that the president’s campaign was trying to collude with the Russian government, they have followed the president’s lead by offering the risible argument that anyone would have done the same thing if given the opportunity. Faced with evidence that the president’s team serves no morality but that which benefits itself, they have declared that everyone else shares this twisted worldview.
As Newt Gingrich put it to The Atlantic, “If somebody in the middle of the campaign walks in the door and says ‘I have information that will harm your opponent,’ virtually every campaign in the world will say show me, what do you have.” “Let me tell you, if my father was running for president of the United States,” Kimberly Guilfoyle said on Fox, “I would sit down and take a meeting and find out if there was information against an opponent.” Yesterday, the president himself adopted this argument, telling Reuters, "Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do” what his son did; he reiterated the point this afternoon.
It is obviously, flagrantly false that Trump Jr.’s actions were typical and proper. The media has said so: As The New York Times put it, “while opposition research is part of modern presidential campaigns, it normally does not come from representatives of a hostile foreign power.” Top Republican campaign operatives have said so, claiming that the incident was extremely unusual, that they wouldn’t have taken the meeting, and that the Trump team should have reported it to law enforcement. Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee to become FBI director, has said so, stating that politicians in that situation should call the bureau. And history says so: When a top aide to Al Gore’s presidential campaign received George W. Bush’s debate preparation materials in the mail, he turned them over to the FBI. (And Trump ally claims that Clinton’s campaign similarly colluded with Ukraine are specious nonsense.)
At this point, it seems foolish to imagine that Trump’s media allies will change their opinion of the story, regardless of what new information comes forward. They are in too deep at this point, having sacrificed their credibility and independence too many times to turn back now. He expressed unchecked bigotry and they were fine with it; audio bragging about sexual assault was explained away as “locker room talk”; his campaign viciously attacked and even physically battered reporters and was cheered. At a certain point, they went too far, and now have little choice but to tell one another that colluding with a hostile foreign power is not just acceptable, but necessary.
The president’s media allies have decided to believe the president instead of their own lying eyes. The result is a series of arguments that have the country not only unmoored from a common view of reality, but of anything approaching a common morality. The propagandists have moved the goalposts from a question of whether a presidential campaign colluded with a hostile foreign government, to whether such collusion is actually a good thing. The nagging remaining question is whether their audience will ever decide that they’ve seen enough of this farce.
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Based on reporting and the people themselves, Trump is on the phone with right-wing media and fringe figures a lot
“Trump gave me a call, and I told him, ‘Mr. President-elect, you’re too busy, we don’t need to talk.’ But we still spent over five minutes -- he said, 'Listen, Alex, I just talked to the kings and queens of the world -- world leaders, you name it.' But he said, 'It doesn’t matter, I wanted to talk to you to thank your audience, and I’ll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.'” Jones added that Trump indicated it was not a “private call” and told him, “I want to thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic. We know what you did early on and throughout this campaign to stand up for what’s right.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 11/14/16]
“As I said in one speech, ‘I’m sorry I missed Trump’s call.’ I know the numbers. I know when he calls. He calls like three times in a row. I was on air. He gets confused. He called me and I missed the calls and I just feel guilty because who knows what it was about. And I know Trump doesn’t -- I’ll tell the enemy this because Trump knows it’s true. They need to know this. Trump just wants to connect with a spirit that is good. He needs that energy.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 2/24/17]
“You and others have reached out and said, “If you talk to Trump, tell him this.” Half the time I’ve missed the calls and other ones, early on, calls were like 15 minutes long. We really talk. Now it’s like, “Alex. Lot of folks watching.” He knows everything he’s saying is being recorded. “Keep it up, great job. How’s the family? Just keep it up, you know I’m delivering. Are you happy?” It’s mainly a pat on the head, and I get that -- but then I talk to folks that have to go have private meetings with him and he’s just literally just like -- and I can’t get into it.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 4/5/17]
“You know why the FBI admits a month ago in Congress that I’m under investigation and that I’m being wiretapped? Because I talk to the president and I talk to people that talk to the president every day. And they want to be able to say, ‘Mr. President, he’s under investigation -- you can’t talk to Alex Jones.’” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 4/12/17]
“But the fact is I know from the White House that no one in media talks to President [Donald] Trump more than Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity talks to President Trump two or three times a day, sometimes at length, and I'll just tell you right now, Sean Hannity is currently the main leader of the resistance against the globalists outside of Trump and then, of course, myself.” -- Alex Jones [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 6/22/17]
“Ruddy has been a ubiquitous presence in Trump’s sphere over the past several months, the ‘Zelig’ of the administration, as the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray wrote. He converses regularly with Trump and White House officials, and says he has given the president advice on everything from health care to Chinese relations to fake news.” [The Washington Post, 6/15/17]
“President Donald Trump personally reached out to two of his former campaign aides – his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and his deputy campaign manager, David Bossie – to sound them out about working with the administration as crisis managers, according to two people familiar with the situation.” [Politico, 5/22/17]
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): I don't think this is a deal that anybody should be crying about. Like we said, it's nonbinding, and the United States is already a clean energy, oil and gas leader. So, we can keep doing what we're doing, we can keep reducing our emissions. Why would we in fact put ourselves at an economic disadvantage, giving and subsidizing an economic windfall to other countries, in sort of a climate redistribution of wealth scheme? It makes no sense to me. I think he did the brave and courageous thing, and in fact, I told him that this morning at 8 a.m., when he called. And I spoke to him about it, and this was something very much so on his mind, but he seemed like--
GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): Wait a second, who called you?
GUILFOYLE: The president.
DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): To ask about climate change?
GUTFELD: Why did he call you?
GUILFOYLE: Climate change, taxes. The Five. [Fox News, The Five, 6/1/17]
GUEST CO-HOST: When was the last time you talked to him?
ROGER STONE: Been a little while now. I would say -- I don’t want to characterize it, but less than a week ago.
GUEST CO-HOST: Good talk?
STONE: From time to time. He’s easier to find on the weekends. He’s got more time on his hands. But I’m happy to say after I was on with George Stephanopoulos, he called. After I was on with Chuck Todd, he called. After the Netflix document trailer was released, he called.
GUEST CO-HOST: What’d he say?
STONE: Well, I mean, he was certainly pleased with those appearances because, of course, I was happy to defend Donald Trump. [SiriusXM Patriot, The David Webb Show, 5/5/17]
“On May 11th Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again political adviser for several decades, had just wrapped up a pair of morning television appearances when, according to two sources with direct knowledge, he received a call from the President. ... As Stone left the studio on May 11th, the President, who the evening before had essentially pretended not to know him anymore, had a simple message: good job.” [The New Yorker, 5/31/17]
“Fox News host Eric Bolling said he’s talked to President Donald Trump about how to best go about “draining the swamp” — one of Trump’s top campaign promises and the central topic of the cable-news star’s latest book. [...] Bolling said the president has read his book, and he’s had several discussions with him about how to best go about fighting corruption.” [The Daily Caller, 6/26/17]
“The president’s relationship with Mr. Murdoch is deeper and more enduring than most in his life, and the two commiserate and plot strategy in their phone calls, according to people close to both.” [The New York Times, 4/22/17]
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.
When Fox says that DT colluding with the enemy is not a crime, the fight to save Democracy is now an all out war. US-Stay strong. #Treason
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) June 25, 2017
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?
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Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that President Donald Trump called her for advice before announcing his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. Guilfoyle has been an outspoken critic of efforts to fight climate change, and has previously attacked public figures for speaking out about the threat of climate change, pushed false claims surrounding the science of climate change, and has even suggested that climate change is not real.
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Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle is a front-runner for replacing White House press secretary Sean Spicer -- if, indeed, his replacement is imminent -- and that should surprise no one. If she gets the job, it won’t be much of a change from her current role at Fox: routinely praising President Donald Trump, defending him unquestioningly, and lashing out at media outlets daring to report critically on his actions.
Guilfoyle, a co-host of the network’s The Five, told the San Jose Mercury News she’s in talks with the Trump administration about the press secretary position. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers described Guilfoyle’s Mercury News interview by saying she’s “openly gunning for Sean Spicer’s job." He also noted that Guilfoyle certainly took the opportunity to tactfully criticize Spicer “as if he were already gone” and declare her patriotism, signaling loyalty to the president.
Guilfoyle and Fox News both subsequently released brief statements attempting to walk back the Mercury News interview -- though neither actually denied that Guilfoyle was in communication with the White House (but Guilfoyle is under “long-term” contract at Fox). Both The New York Times and Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website have said that Trump is interested in bringing in Guilfoyle for the role; she was also considered for the job back in December before Spicer was ultimately hired. If Spicer is fired, all signs point to Guilfoyle as a serious contender.
Regular viewers of her Fox program might not be surprised by these developments -- in the last week, Guilfoyle has essentially tried out for the job on air. Her sycophantic praise for Trump, blatant critiques of the current White House communications staff, and attacks on reporters suggest she’d fit right into the Trump administration.
Guilfoyle has also been lavishing Trump with unconditional praise.
Just hours after The New York Times broke the news that former FBI Director James Comey had written a series of contemporaneous memos detailing his interactions with the president -- one of which included an account of Trump potentially engaging in obstruction of justice by asking Comey to “let go” a federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn -- Guilfoyle questioned the validity and timing of the memos:
Last Friday on The Five, Guilfoyle and the other co-hosts discussed Trump’s statements about the White House communications team in an interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, and Guilfoyle’s contributions were essentially a five-minute-long job interview. Her assessment of the White House press shop included subtle implications she’d be more loyal and likeable than Spicer, and a joking reference to her earlier consideration for the role. She also agreed with her co-hosts that “the only person who communicated” effectively about the firing of FBI Director James Comey was Trump “himself.”
Guilfoyle’s Twitter account also highlights her Trump praise. More than a third of the tweets and retweets Guilfoyle’s posted since May 11 are just Trump retweets. Another is a Twitter “moment” she shared of comedian Melissa McCarthy unflatteringly impersonating Spicer. And the Fox personality’s pinned tweet is a post-inauguration response thanking the president for promoting her book in an old tweet from 2015.
Guilfoyle also seems to agree with her potential new boss on one key issue: She regards members of the media who are critical of Trump with contempt. She praised Trump’s media-bashing February press conference -- in which he mockingly called CNN “very fake news” and scolded reporters for writing critically about the White House -- as “wildly entertaining,” and celebrated that Trump “let the media have it for their bogus, dishonest reporting.” In March, Guilfoyle said Trump’s repeated attacks calling legitimate news organizations “fake news” were “pretty funny,” and that “he does have a pretty good delivery and inflection when he says it.”
And in the last week, Guilfoyle has doubled down. On May 10, Guilfoyle responded to Trump’s firing of Comey by asserting she would “have done the same thing,” and mocking “mainstream media” for going into “full meltdown mode” over the highly unusual and newsworthy move.
The next day, Guilfoyle again stood by Trump’s decision to fire Comey. She opened the May 11 episode of The Five with a lengthy, press-conference-ready defense of the firing -- but offered a brief and helpful critique of “what would have helped” the White House “in terms of the communications” to keep “detractors” from “trying to make something out of this.”
And just last night, Guilfoyle delivered a diatribe about mainstream media’s “witch hunt” against Trump, arguing that CNN reporters are engaging in a “bloodsport” and “trying to do in the presidency of Donald Trump” by running “biased” stories that “effectuate that outcome.”
She sounds ready for the Trump briefing room.
Reports that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials, potentially violating espionage norms, raise the question of whether anyone on Fox News will criticize the president. Several Fox personalities viciously attacked Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information with her email server and, without evidence, claimed that she allowed foreign actors to obtain that information.
Right-Wing Media Flipped Out When A Clinton Supposedly Talked To Law Enforcement About A Clinton Investigation
Nearly a year ago, conservative media figures assailed former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton that occurred as Hillary Clinton’s email practices were being investigated, suggesting that she be fired or recuse herself, and stating that she undermined belief in rule of law. Will right-wing media figures have the same reaction after President Donald Trump claimed that he talked to former FBI Director James Comey on several occasions about whether he was under investigation by the agency?