Tag: dominion voting systems
Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson Seems Nice -- Until You Take A Closer Look

Mike Johnson, the four-term Louisiana representative just elected as House speaker, makes a pleasant first impression. That may be why his fellow Republicans chose such an untested politician, with no obvious qualifications, to fill that demanding post. Or they may have simply succumbed to exhaustion and embarrassment after the procedural fiasco that left Congress in limbo for weeks.

Whatever their motivations, it is now clear that Johnson's sudden elevation was a wildly irresponsible act. Behind his thin biography and bland smile is a fanatical mindset that will threaten constitutional order and the democratic process. Throughout his public career, the new speaker has espoused the ideology of Christian nationalism, which marks him as hostile to religious pluralism, rational inquiry and personal dignity.

His perspective sets him far outside the mainstream of American life. Which is not too surprising, because he appears to exist in a far-right dimension of fantasy.

Consider the most obvious stain on Johnson's record, which alone ought to have disqualified him from such high office, namely the starring role he played in former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. Billing himself as a constitutional lawyer, he crafted a legal brief, signed by congressional Republicans, that aimed to disqualify millions of votes in four key states because of fake "fraud" claims.

Those claims had already failed and the Supreme Court swiftly rejected Johnson's arguments. Then he voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory on the House floor.

Presumably that was why Trump, the chief saboteur of democracy, endorsed him for speaker. But Johnson went all the way, voicing the discredited conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems equipment that eventually cost Fox News Channel nearly $800 million in libel damages. "The allegation about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with the software by Dominion — look, there's a lot of merit to that," he said on a Louisiana radio show, describing Dominion's product as "a software system that is used all around the country that is suspect because it came from Hugo Chavez's Venezuela."

Those accusations were unequivocally false, as Johnson could easily have discovered for himself. Either he didn't care whether what he was saying about a free and fair election was true — or he was eager to repeat lies because they had been uttered by Trump's lawyers.

Underneath his mild-mannered persona, Johnson is afflicted with a dogmatic temperament that prizes partisan and sectarian belief over factual evidence. He has proclaimed his confidence in the "creationist" superstition that proclaims Earth is only six thousand years old, because the Bible appears to say so, and not 4.6 billion years old as determined by astronomers and geologists. Indeed Scripture, or at least his interpretation of it, provides his all-purpose intellectual guide.

To anyone who asks, "What does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?" he offers a simple reply. "Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it — that's my worldview. That's what I believe and so I make no apologies for it."

Where this strict adherence to Biblical law and lore will lead him on economic or foreign policy questions remains to be revealed, although the precedents are ominous. Christian "charity" is not characteristic of Christian nationalists, who have shown an inclination to torment the poor and working class that Jesus would not approve. And owing to their obsession with other people's sex lives, we already know what he thinks about gays and lesbians and anyone else who doesn't conform to his notions of morality.

Yes, Mike Johnson is one of those people who feels obliged to denigrate people defined as "deviant" by his religious sect. He would outlaw their sexual lifestyles and punish them severely, much like the Iranian regime or the Taliban. In his worldview, too, deviance is a sin that extends beyond homosexuals and transsexuals to anyone who has sex outside the bounds of marriage or who asserts the right to reproductive freedom. He has declared that the state has a compelling interest in suppressing such "damaging" conduct, including contraception.

What were Republicans thinking when they installed this bigot as speaker of the House? Did they expect Americans to welcome his rigid ignorance and aggressive prejudice? They've made Trump happy, but before long they will answer to voters for this mad insult.

Joe Conason is editor-in-chief of The National Memo and editor-at-large of Type Investigations. He is the author of several books, including two New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers And Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published by St. Martin's Press in 2024.

Fox News

New Tapes: Trump Campaign Directed Bartiromo To Push January 6 (VIDEO)

New audio revealed as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — which Fox allegedly failed to provide to Dominion in the discovery process — shows how Fox News and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo took directives from the Trump campaign to promote the campaign’s plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election results on January 6, 2021.

The new evidence was revealed by former Fox producer Abby Grossberg as part of her separate lawsuit against the network for allegedly setting her and Bartiromo up as scapegoats for Fox’s clear pattern of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. While the paper trail released so far in the case shows that Grossberg herself promoted conspiracy theories in the pursuit of ratings, she has also brought forward additional evidence that has already produced big legal results in the Dominion case. The judge in the case reportedly sanctioned Fox on Wednesday for failing to turn over Grossberg’s audio recordings in a move that will give Dominion an opportunity to conduct further legal discovery at Fox’s expense.

On Wednesday night, MSNBC host Alex Wagner played exclusive audio excerpts from the key pieces of evidence that Grossberg had preserved and Fox had allegedly withheld from Dominion, including a phone call on November 8, 2020, in which then-Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani admitted that he did not have evidence for his outlandish claims about Dominion. (Bartiromo and other Fox hosts continued to host Giuliani, anyway.) In another phone call, from December 5, 2020, an unnamed Trump campaign official admitted that Georgia’s statewide recount of ballots was “pretty darn close to what the machine count was,” and that the secretary of state’s office found that “that there weren’t any physical issues” with the voting machines. In a key piece of audio that Wagner played Wednesday night, the Trump campaign official also gave one of the earliest signals that the campaign intended to use the January 6, 2021, joint session of Congress in an attempt to overturn the election results, and that then-Vice President Mike Pence would supposedly “have to decide” which votes to count.

In another key section from the December 5, 2020, phone call that Grossberg’s lawyer provided to Wagner, the unnamed Trump campaign official suggested that media outlets should cover this date as a supposed milestone for determining the election — indeed, this had been his entire purpose for getting on this phone call.

Bartiromo immediately picked up on the Trump campaign’s instruction. On both her weekday morning Fox Business show, as well as her Sunday show on Fox News that Grossberg regularly produced, Bartiromo pushed the January 6 date many, many times, furthering the Trump campaign’s efforts to move the goal posts from its many legal and electoral defeats. These examples included instances in which Bartiromo either mentioned the date first, or she was clearly teeing up the guest to talk about the date, which Bartiromo depicted as an alleged point in time when Congress or Pence could realistically overturn the election.

  • On December 8, 2020, which was known as the “safe harbor” date against any legal challenges for the election results, Bartiromo hosted then-Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, asking her, “So what do you see as, you know, today's date in terms of the safe harbor date? How does that complicate your challenges?” Ellis responded that “the ultimate date of significance is January 6,” which she said justified the campaign’s continued litigation. This was three days after Bartiromo’s call with the Trump campaign official. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 12/8/20]
  • On the December 13 edition of her Sunday show, Bartiromo hosted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), asking him, “I want you to walk us through what happens on January 6,” which she described as “another date, as we approach a potential transition” of the presidency. Jordan then described the efforts that congressional Republicans would make to object to the election results, in order to prevent the “potential transition” that Bartiromo had described. [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 12/13/20]
  • On December 14, the date when the Electoral College delegates voted across the country, Bartiromo hosted then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “What's your take on where we are?” she asked. “Is it the end of the line now for the president's campaign to stop and overturn this election as the Electoral College will meet, or are you looking at January 6 as a pivotal date or what?” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 12/14/20]
  • The next day, December 15, Bartiromo read a news headline about the Electoral College results. Following a video clip of President-elect Joe Biden calling for the country “to unite, to heal,” Bartiromo said in a seeming rebuttal: “The next major step in the election process is on January 6. This is the date we are looking forward to, when Vice President Mike Pence is going to preside over the joint session of Congress while they officially tabulate the electoral votes.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 12/15/20]
  • On December 18, Bartiromo hosted former pro football player and future Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker and his son, right-wing social media personality Christian Walker. Bartiromo played a video clip that Christian Walker had posted in which he declared, “The electors might have cast their votes today. They're not counted until January 6, when Congress meets. … This isn’t over yet.” Bartiromo responded: “I just love that.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 12/18/20]
  • On December 20, Bartiromo hosted Herschel and Christian Walker again on her Sunday show, once again praising Christian Walker’s online video and telling him, “You were basically underlining Section 1, Article 2 in the Constitution.” After Christian declared on “January 6, the vice president will count the votes,” Bartiromo did not challenge the apparent contention that Pence could determine the election results, but instead just praised Christian further: “Yes, and that's pretty much what you said on Instagram, which was great. It went viral.” [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 12/20/20]
  • On the January 3, 2021, edition of her Sunday show — the weekend prior to the joint session of Congress — Bartiromo hosted multiple Republican members of Congress who were planning to challenge the election results. At the conclusion of one segment, she remarked to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL): “If you're going to object to six states, and then you’ve got a two-hour debate, we’re not going to learn the results here until — well, we're not going to learn on January 6, that’s for sure. This goes into January 7.” (The electoral votes were indeed certified after midnight, under what had become truly unprecedented circumstances.) [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 1/3/21]

The manner in which Grossberg has sought to substantiate the main claim in her lawsuit against Fox — that the network was allegedly setting up her and Bartiromo to take a fall in the Dominion lawsuit — is turning out to be a very strange thing indeed. Fox executives must bear ultimate responsibility for the lies the network helped to spread, but at the same time the new evidence that Grossberg has brought to bear in this case makes Bartiromo look worse and worse by revealing more of her reckless on-air behavior and coordination with the Trump campaign’s effort to subvert a national election result.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

What To Do About Fox? Stop Treating It As A 'News' Organization

What To Do About Fox? Stop Treating It As A 'News' Organization

Ever since Fox News Channel launched in 1996 with a slogan that was an aggressive lie – “Fair and Balanced” – most viewers have understood that Rupert Murdoch and his lackey Roger Ailes created a propaganda operation, not a news channel.

And yet the latest revelations of deception, hypocrisy, and greed among the network’s management and “stars,” unbound by any journalistic principle, are nevertheless stunning. Perhaps we still expect a measure of self-respect even from our villains. But here we see an essential and sometimes noble democratic endeavor – delivering the news to a self-governing people – degraded beyond redemption.

There is no way to regain the trust so wantonly forfeited by Murdoch and his minions in misleading their audience about “fraud” in the 2020 election. No other media company is as culpable in relentlessly goading the attempted coup and insurrectionary violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 – a deadly assault on the republic that Fox still insists on whitewashing, even after the humiliating exposure of its knowing promotion of the “Big Lie.”

The unavoidable question that Americans and their institutions now confront is how to excise this diseased organ from our body politic.

As Murdoch is the first to remind us, Fox News can shield itself behind the First Amendment, even as its operations undermine the United States and the Constitution itself. Fox is free to lie, if not to defame, and everyone else is free to ignore its spew. Outside the courts, where Dominion Voting Systems may soon impose a heavy price on the network’s chicanery, there are few means to punish or isolate the Murdoch outfit. For the most part, that’s a very good thing.

What we should have learned from the Dominion lawsuit and other glaring episodes, however, is that America needs to establish barriers against disinformation and propaganda masquerading as “news.” A free government may have a limited role here, focused on curbing the incursions of hostile foreign powers. But in a media universe where privately held entities predominate, it is those outlets that must establish the boundaries – and sanction the malefactors who grossly and repeatedly violate them.

In Washington, D.C., where the nation witnessed the terrible havoc wrought by Fox’s recklessness, there are a few organizations with the clout to whack the Murdochs and their enablers. The White House Correspondents Association, which credentials journalists who cover the president and administration, can expel Fox from its ranks (and deny access to its vaunted annual dinner). The Congressional Press Galleries, which perform the same function on Capitol Hill, can do likewise.

And so they should.

Beyond all the text messages exposing the snide duplicity of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and their bosses, the exhibits in the Dominion lawsuit prove beyond doubt that Fox is not a news organization at all, but a partisan propaganda machine with no allegiance to the ideals of a free press.

The documents show Murdoch handing over Biden campaign ads, not yet aired, to Jared Kushner for the benefit of the Trump campaign -- an unlawful in-kind donation that provides the basis for a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. They depict the contempt expressed by him, his son Lachlan, and Fox executives for honest reporting that might harm ratings. Indeed, the lawsuit unearthed countless instances of conscious mendacity in election coverage.

What those incriminating documents don’t show is any commitment at Fox to the “health of the republic,” to “excellence in journalism,” to “robust news coverage” or to any of the aspirations that the correspondent’s groups claim to hold dear. No, what they show is precisely and undeniably the opposite.

It is worth noting that on the board of the White House Correspondents Association sits Jacqui Heinrich, a star witness to those Fox abuses. When the Emmy-winning Heinrich tweeted a fact-checking correction to Trump’s lies about election fraud – and specifically noted the lies emanating from Hannity as well – she infuriated powerful figures at the network who could crush her.

“Please get her fired,” the bullying Carlson urged Hannity. “Seriously…What the [expletive]? I’m actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”

Rather than brush off that bullying rant, Fox executives forced Heinrich to delete her tweet – which had unforgivably reported plain and vital facts: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” (In an email to me after this column was published, Heinrich notes that she posted a second tweet correcting Trump that didn't include his tagging of her deceitful Fox colleagues, and later posted a couple more tweets correcting Trump election falsehoods.)

Heinrich got away without losing her job. At Fox, telling the truth is unacceptable and will likely get you fired, however – as Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox election analyst dumped for calling Arizona correctly on Election Night, discovered when Murdoch dumped him (and lied about the reason).

Whatever may happen if the Dominion lawsuit finally goes to trial, the nation’s leading journalists have the authority to register their disgust with Murdoch’s mockery of their vocation. To uphold their own professed standards, they have no other choice.

Lachlan Murdoch

They Knew It Was A Lie: Fox News Purposely Pushed Deception On 2020 Voting

A recent filing in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News reveals how much the network knew it was pushing false claims to its viewers in the aftermath of the 2020 election by suggesting that Dominion’s voting machines were involved in voter fraud.

In March 2021, Dominion filed a defamation suit against Fox for the false claims the network pushed after the election. Those false claims were extensive: In the two-week period after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect, the network questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it almost 800 times, including by using Dominion as a scapegoat. Fox became an outlet that aired Trump campaign lies about Dominion voting machines getting hacked without any evidence.

For Dominion to prove defamation, the company must show that Fox acted with “actual malice,” meaning that Fox knew the allegations made about Dominion were false or that Fox acted in reckless disregard for the truth. On February 16, Dominion’s brief calling for a summary judgment in its favor was released to the public. As Dominion detailed in the filing, “literally dozens of people with editorial responsibility—from the top of the organization to the producers of specific shows to the hosts themselves—acted with actual malice.” Indeed, the filing shows “lies in twenty accused statements across six different shows with the active involvement of numerous Fox Executives.”

Here are some of the damning quotes from the filing showing how much Fox’s executives and employees knew they were lying about Dominion or the election at the time:

  • Fox star Tucker Carlson to his producer Alex Pfeiffer about Sidney Powell, one of Trump's campaign lawyers: “Powell is lying.” [11/16/20]
  • Host Laura Ingraham to Carlson and fellow host Sean Hannity: “Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is.” [11/15/20]
  • Carlson to Ingraham: “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane.” Ingraham replied: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.” Carlson replied: “It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it.” [11/19/20]
  • Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch: “Really crazy stuff.” [11/19/20]
  • Murdoch after watching Giuliani and Powell on November 19, 2020: “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott replied, “Yes Sean [Hannity] and even [Jeanine] Pirro agrees.” [11/19/20]
  • Fox reporter Lucas Tomlinson to anchor Bret Baier: “It’s dangerously insane these conspiracy theories.” [12/1/2020]
  • Fox Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt on whether the allegation that Dominion rigged the election was true: “No reasonable person would have thought that.”
  • Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott responded “Yes, I believe that,” to the question “You believe, since at least the time that Fox News called the election on November 7th, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected the President of the United States, correct?”
  • As the filing outlined, Carlson texted a redacted name “that it was ‘shockingly reckless’ to claim that Dominion rigged the election ‘[i]f there’s no one inside the company willing to talk, or internal Dominion documents or copies of the software showing that they did it’ and ‘as you know there isn’t.’” [11/21/20]
  • Fox’s internal “fact checks” about Dominion allegations reported they were “incorrect” and “not evidence of widespread fraud.” [11/13/20; 11/20/20]
  • After canceling Pirro’s November 7 show, Fox executive David Clark told Executive Vice President of Primetime Programming Meade Cooper: “Her guests are all going to say the election is being stolen and if she pushes back at all it will just be token.”
  • Ingraham’s producer Tommy Firth texted Fox executive Ron Mitchell: “This dominion shit is going to give me a fucking aneurysm—as many times as I’ve told Laura it’s bs, she sees shit posters and trump tweeting about it.” [11/8/20]
  • Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch: “Viewers going through the 5 stages of grief. It’s a question of trust—the AZ [call] was damaging but we will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.” Murdoch replied: “Yes. But needs constant rebuilding without any missteps.” Scott responded: “Yes today is day one and it’s a process.” [11/9/20]
  • Fox News Washington, D.C., Managing Editor Bill Sammon to Fox Political Editor Chris Stirewalt on the network’s coverage of “supposed election fraud”: “It’s remarkable how weak ratings make[] good journalists do bad things.” [12/2/20]
  • Carlson to Ingraham: Powell’s “a nut, as you said at the outset. It totally wrecked my weekend. Wow... I had to try to make the WH disavow her, which they obviously should have done long before.” Ingraham responded to Carlson: “No serious lawyer could believe what they were saying.” [11/22/20]
  • Rupert Murdoch told Scott to read a Wall Street Journal piece about Newsmax, telling her: “These people should be watched, if skeptically. Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can. We don’t want to antagonize Trump further, but Giuliani taken with a large grain of salt. Everything at stake here.” [11/16/20]
  • Scott: “Privately, I had a number of conversations with Sean where he wanted the President to accept the results.”
  • After White House correspondent Kristen Fisher fact-checked Giuliani and Powell’s press conference, she received a call from her boss, Bryan Boughton, in which he “emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it,” and said that Fisher “needed to do a better job of…—this is a quote—‘respecting our audience.’” [11/19/20]
  • Fox Corp. Senior Vice President Raj Shah wrote: “shit is so crazy right now. so many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is clearly full of it.” Carlson’s producer Alex Pfeiffer replied: “She is a fucking nutcase.” [11/22/20]
  • Rupert Murdoch told Suzanne Scott, “It’s been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won,’” and that such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election [was] stolen.” [1/5/21]
  • Carlson complained to Hannity about Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich, who “was ‘fact checking’ a tweet by Trump that mentioned Dominion—and specifically mentioned Hannity’s and Dobbs’ broadcasts that evening discussing Dominion” Carlson reportedly wrote: “Please get her fired. Seriously....What the fuck? I’m actually shocked...It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” [11/12/20]
  • According to the filing, “Ingraham herself testified that she has no basis to believe Dominion committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 Presidential Election or that it is owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez (and agreed its ownership is ‘readily ascertainable’).”
  • Anchor Dana Perino also called the voter fraud allegations “total bs,” “insane,” and “nonsense.”
  • Powell sent an email to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo about voter fraud claims that “Powell had received from a ‘source’ which the author herself describes as ‘pretty wackadoodle.’” According to the filing, “Bartiromo agreed at her deposition that this email was ‘nonsense’ … and inherently unreliable.”
  • As the filing laid out:
Each circumstantial factor cuts strongly in Dominion’s favor. But here, the words of multiple Fox employees provide overwhelming direct evidence of actual malice. In addition to the evidence cited above, the excerpts below feature just some of the additional examples showing Fox employees knew at the time that these claims—and the guests promoting them—were:
  • “ludicrous” –Tucker Carlson [11/20/20]
  • “totally off the rails” –Tucker Carlson [12/24/20]
  • “F’ing lunatics” –Sean Hannity [12/22/20]
  • “nuts” –Dana Perino [11/16/20]
  • “complete bs” –Producer John Fawcett to Lou Dobbs [11/27/20]
  • “kooky” –Maria Bartiromo, regarding email received from Powell [11/07/20]
  • “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS” –Raj Shah, Fox Corporation SVP [11/21/20]

Fox knew that it was pushing lies about Dominion and the election, and the network continued to smear the company and spread conspiracy theories anyway.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters