The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


After spending years pursuing baseless congressional investigations that fed Fox News’ insatiable demand for stories on Democratic malfeasance, former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has now signed on with the network as a contributor.

In a Wednesday press release, Fox announced that Gowdy had been hired to “offer political and legal analysis.” The network added Gowdy to a stable of former Republican officials that also includes his predecessor as chairman of the House oversight committee, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who left Congress in 2017 to grab a hefty Fox paycheck.

This is no coincidence — much of Fox’s news coverage is devoted to credulous reporting on Republican congressional investigations, making it useful for the network to have people on the payroll who can authoritatively support those inquiries’ claims.

For years, much of Fox’s reporting revolved around the 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, as the network aimed first to prevent President Barack Obama’s re-election and then to scuttle Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspiration.

In the first 20 months following the attacks, the network’s evening lineup alone ran nearly 1,100 segments on the story. Much of the coverage was conspiratorial and false, devoted to proving that the Obama administration was to blame for the deaths and that Obama, Clinton, and others had deliberately deceived the public through a sinister cover-up. A rotating set of Republican congressmen rolled through Fox’s studios to give its segments weight and bolster their own political stars, even as a series of investigations debunked these myths.

Gowdy was one of the Republican members who benefited the most from Fox’s spotlight. A former South Carolina prosecutor who used his courtroom skills to good, if sometimes deceitful, effect during congressional hearings, Gowdy made dozens of appearances on the network, often using the Fox platform to push long-debunked myths about the Benghazi attacks. When then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave in to a Fox campaign demanding the formation of a special committee to re-investigate the attacks, he naturally turned to Gowdy to lead the effort.

The Benghazi select committee was a politically motivated crock, spending $7 million over more than two years to uncover little new of note about the 2012 attacks, with its highest-profile moment a dramatic hearing in which Republican representatives tried and failed to lay a glove on Clinton. It nonetheless achieved its aim: As then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) boasted during a September 2015 appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox show, the committee’s attacks damaged Clinton’s approval ratings as she sought the presidency.

The select committee also kept Gowdy in the spotlight. He made dozens more Fox appearances, using that platform to give Fox access to the latest revelations on Benghazi. After the 2016 presidential election ended with Clinton’s defeat, Gowdy quietly shuttered the committee, then moved on to chair the oversight committee after Chaffetz abandoned Congress for his Fox gig.

With President Donald Trump in the White House, there were plenty of opportunities for an aggressive investigator who truly cared about public corruption to dig in. But Gowdy spent his two years as head of the oversight committee doing everything he could to ignore rampant criminality and malfeasance in Trump’s campaign, company, and administration. Instead, he made headlines for his efforts to protect Trump from the purported “deep state” conspiracy that the president and his Fox News allies claim is targeting him. Among his final acts as chair was bringing in former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for a nearly seven-hour hearing about how the Justice Department and FBI handled its probe regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server.

That’s the Trey Gowdy you can expect to see on Fox — someone willing to go to the mat to attack Democrats while doing his best to protect Republicans.

Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}