The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

Tag: media

Why The Press Urged Cuomo To Resign — But Not Trump

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Rushing in to inform readers that in the wake of damning investigation into his history of sexual harassment, New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no longer suited for office, the New York Times editorial page waited barely 24 hours to reach its sweeping conclusion — "Governor Cuomo, You Should Resign." [EDITOR'S NOTE: Cuomo offered his resignation on August 10.]

"Regardless of what may happen in a court of law, the governor has only one conscionable option left: He should resign," the Times announced. "If Mr. Cuomo cares for the well-being of the state and its citizens as much as he has said he does over the years, he needs to do the right thing and step down."

The Times was unequivocal. What made the clarion call so jarring was it came from the same editorial page that refused for four years to demand Trump resign from office — to conclude, as they did regarding Cuomo, that stepping down remained Trump's "only conscionable option left," and urging him to do the "right thing."

Trump ran a criminal enterprise out of the White House, which everyone at the Times understood, and still the paper could not summon the courage to call for his resignation. Yet the Times sprinted into action in order to insist a Democrat step down? The contrast is stunning even if you agree, as so many Democrats did, that Cuomo had to leave office.

What explains the radically different standards the Times uses for announcing sitting Republican and Democratic office holders are no longer fit to serve? How does the Times, after refusing to weigh in on Trump's fitness for office for four years, announce Cuomo must resign less than a day after the results of the New York investigation was announced?

Here's the larger context: The media love to call for the resignation of Democrats. Republicans though, not so much.

In the 1990's, dozens of major newspapers loudly demanded a Democratic president step down for the good of the country. That president's sin? He lied about an extramarital affair.

"He should resign because he has resolutely failed — and continues to fail — the most fundamental test of any president: to put his nation's interests first," USA Today announced unequivocally of Bill Clinton in September 1998. "Bill Clinton should resign,'" echoed the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He should resign because his repeated, reckless deceits have dishonored his presidency beyond repair."

When Republicans tried to drive a Democratic president from office for lying about his personal life, media elites couldn't wait to tell Clinton to get lost. (None of those same papers told Trump to do the same thing.)

To be clear, the Times was not one of the dailies that demanded Clinton resign, so they managed to avoid that glaring hypocrisy. Still, we see a clear pattern in terms of media resignation calls made for Clinton and Cuomo, and crickets for Trump.

It's not like the Times didn't have endless, obvious opportunities to demand that Trump step down. Most recently, it would have been for the blood-thirsty mob he incited on January 6 after trying to use all levers of the government to overthrow a free and fair election last November. For trying to engineer a coup, plain and simple.

Or last year, when Trump refused to protect America from the Covid-19 virus invasion, and then made America's pandemic response worse every day by constantly lying to the public about science.

"Any CEO who was deemed responsible for allowing a massive tragedy to unfold would be immediately called upon to resign or be fired, even if he or she were six months from retirement," noted former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart in a CNN column last summer, shaming newspapers for remaining silent regarding Trump's much-needed departure.

Or in 2019, when Trump openly colluded with a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political opponent, while offering up the assistance of the Department of Justice. He hid transcripts of presidential calls on secret servers in hopes of covering up the collusion, and publicly threatened to expose the crucial whistleblower, insinuating that he or she should be executed. He's also urged that a Democratic member of Congress be arrested for treason.

Or the Times should have insisted Trump leave office based on his chronically deranged behavior, which made him categorically unfit to serve, such as being a habitual liar who shredded our public discourse. Trump also lined his pockets while serving. He coddled murderous dictators. Spent his day wallowing in racist attacks, lobbed vicious, personal attacks against the press, and regularly inspired white nationalist gunmen to unleash murderous attacks.

By not taking a public stand, newspaper leaders like those at the Times sent a loud, collective message that what Trump was doing to America did not represent a looming crisis; that the country could easily weather the storm and no drastic action was needed. Note that in 2019, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said he didn't really view Trump as being an unprecedented figure in American history, and likened him to Edwin Edwards, a controversial Louisiana Democratic governor from the 1970s and 1980s. (The two men have almost nothing in common.)

It's true that calls for resignation certainly would not have forced Trump from office. They would however, have helped change the national debate and more accurately reflected the crisis our country faced with a tyrannical liar at the helm. And quite simply, the calls would been the right thing to do.

The Times was right in urging Cuomo to resign. Too bad the paper of record failed to make that same obvious demand while Trump was shaming the Oval Office.

Why Didn’t Reporters Ask Biden A Single Question About The Pandemic?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although Joe Biden has been speaking to members of the media during his two months in the White House, he didn't hold his first formal press conference as president until Thursday. Biden, during the conference, discussed subjects including the legislative filibuster, voting rights, his re-election plans, foreign policy toward China and North Korea, and migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But White House reporters are receiving some criticism for the important things that they didn't ask Biden about.

The Washington Post's Karen Attiah listed some of the issues that White House reporters either ignored or downplayed:

During the press conference, Biden discussed his ambitious timetable for COVID-19 vaccinations — saying that his new goal is to get 200 million vaccination shots distributed within his first 100 days in office:

But reporters attending the press conference didn't follow up on that announcement. Nor did they ask about his goals on re-opening schools, which Biden announced his administration has made significant progress toward.

The Washington Post's Lena H. Sun and the New York Times' Maggie Haberman tweeted that the COVID-19 pandemic should have been a priority for White House reporters:

While the administration's vaccine rollout has been relatively impressive, it's not without flaws or shortfalls, and reporters could have pressed the president on that topic. They could have asked about what plans the U.S. has in the effort to get the whole world vaccinated against the virus to really put an end to the global pandemic. But they didn't.

Journalist David Boardman complained:

Indeed, Biden did make some significant news by saying he "expects" to run in 2024. But CNN's Kaitlan Collins bizarrely asked if Biden planned to keep Vice President Kamala Harris on the ticket, as if Biden would announce it if he planned to kick her off, and as if anything in the past two months would have given him any reason to part ways with her. Biden says he expects Harris will be his running mate in 2024.

Here are some other observations from Twitter users on things that White House reporters didn't ask Biden about:

How Right-Wing Media Spread Debunked Rumor Of Iowa ‘Fraud’

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton and other key conservative media figures manufactured and spread a false smear about voter registrations, previewing how right-wing media plan to spread disinformation to sow doubt and confusion throughout the 2020 election cycle.

On February 2, Fitton tweeted that “eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.” Early the following morning, Iowa’s Republican secretary of state, Paul Pate, debunked the claim multiple times as “false,” responding to Twitter users who promoted the smear and issuing a formal statement. Independent journalist Judd Legum also explained that this claim is baseless and relies on a misinterpretation of data. Still, right-wing media acted in concert to feed the smear, spreading the false claim hours after it had been thoroughly debunked.

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton

Fitton responded to Pate’s debunking by doubling down, claiming that Judicial Watch is “under attack for accurately highlighting dirty voting rolls in Iowa” and smearing the Republican secretary of state and journalists who reported on the claim. In addition to spreading the smear on Twitter, Fitton bought an advertisement on Facebook to promote it. Facebook took the advertisement down after a few hours, but not before it had received between 25,000 and 30,000 impressions.

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk also played a key role in spreading the claim. On Sunday night, Kirk tweeted a paraphrase of Fitton’s report, gaining over 43,000 retweets and 62,000 likes. Pate debunked the claim early the following morning, but Kirk continued to spread the smear nearly 21 hours after Pate’s initial attempts to debunk it. 

The Epoch Times

The Epoch Times also played an outsized role in spreading the disinformation after it had been thoroughly debunked. At 4 p.m. EST on Monday — hours after Pate had debunked the claim — The Epoch Times published an article on the report, which initially simply pushed the false claim but later added Pate’s debunk. The article began to swiftly pick up engagement, earning over 100,000 total interactions on Facebook by 8 p.m. By the following morning, the article had obtained nearly 175,000 interactions on Facebook, which had to add a disclaimer warning users that the post contained false information. On Tuesday morning, most of the posts pushing the article on its multiple Facebook pages were deleted

Fox News’ Sean Hannity 

Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity also promoted the smear online after it had been debunked, even though Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto hosted Pate to debunk the claim on his show. Hannity’s website wrote the report up in an article titled “REPORT: Eight Iowa Counties Have More Registered Voters than ELIGIBLE Voters, 18K+ Extra Names.” Hannity tweeted out a link to his write-up at 4:07 p.m. EST on Monday, earning over 4,000 retweets and over 6,000 likes. MoveOn’s Natalie Martinez (formerly of Media Matters) also reported that some local radio stations that syndicate Hannity’s radio show were reposting the article. Hannity also posted it on Facebook, which added a disclaimer to his post too, though the social media network did not take it down. 

Other right-wing media figures and outlets involved in promoting the smear on Monday include The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, right-wing commentator Janie Johnson, and One America News Network.

This ordeal offers a glimpse into how right-wing organizations like Judicial Watch use distorted interpretations of information to fearmonger about voter fraud — a myth long-championed by conservatives to distract from real voter suppression. Their goal appears to be to cast doubt on election results, paving the way for conspiracy theories that leave their audience’s faith in voting institutions shaken. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Right-Wing Media Smear Vindman’s Twin Brother As Leaker

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On January 26, The New York Times reported on leaked portions of an unpublished manuscript from former national security adviser John Bolton, which the paper says revealed that President Donald Trump told Bolton he wanted to continue with a hold on Ukrainian military aid until the country opened investigations into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. 

The same night, Breitbart News swiftly posted a conspiratorial smear against the brother of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council expert on Ukraine who testified in the House impeachment inquiry in October. Breitbart claimed “a source close to the Trump administration” told the outlet that Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Alexander’s brother, “is in charge of reviewing all publications by current and former NSC officials,” which would include Bolton’s book manuscript. 

Right-wing media have attacked Alexander Vindman with detestable smears since October, when he testified to Congress that he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen” and that he “was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.” His testimony led to a swarm of right-wing media accusations that because he had immigrated from Ukraine as a small child, the Purple Heart winner may be more loyal toward Ukraine than the United States. 

Now, right-wing media outlets are turning their attention toward Yevgeny. While Breitbart‘s report is accurate that Yevgeny is a “senior ethics lawyer” for the NSC, there is no evidence that he saw the manuscript. In fact, Fox News’ John Roberts tweeted on January 27 that his sources say Yevgeny “is NOT part of the NSC team vetting John Bolton’s manuscript.”

Still, that didn’t stop right-wing media figures — including some from Roberts’ own network — from promoting the smear that the leak of Bolton’s book manuscript was a conspiracy stemming from the Vindmans. Conservative media outlets including The Washington TimesRedState, and Biz Pac Review reported the story, citing Breitbart. Prominent figures in conservative media tweeted about the conspiracy theory, including Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, Fox News host Mark Levin, and right-wing radio host Bill Mitchell.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), one of Trump’s strongest defenders in Congress, also promoted the smear:

The War Room podcast co-host Jason Miller also tweeted about the smear, writing, “No such thing as coincidences in politics.” Conservative giant Rush Limbaugh also promoted it as fact on his radio show, saying, “Yevgeny Vindman is the guy vetting Bolton’s book.” Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson tweeted the Breitbart article, sarcastically adding, “What a coincidence … if you believe in coincidences.” Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity claimed on his radio show that “we’re hearing that the brother of a key Schiff impeachment witness” was allegedly involved in the leak, though he also said he had not confirmed the report and was getting it from Breitbart

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs similarly offered a disclaimer that a source denied the allegations to Fox News, but he mentioned that only after sharing the smear, saying, “Both Bolton and [Robert] O’Brien led the National Security Council that employed the likes of the infamous, anonymous whistleblower, never-Trumper Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, and his brother, Yevgeny Vindman, the security council senior ethics lawyer. Yevgeny is also in charge of reviewing publications for former or current NSC employees to ensure [removal of] confidential information — say, that sort of thing, well you know, that happens at the National Security Council, the CIA, and other secretive agencies.” Frequent Dobbs guest Ed Rollins then promoted the smear, effectively rendering Dobbs’ brief disclaimer moot. 

This treatment of the Vindmans illustrates the harassment, lies, smears, and vitriol right-wing media will employ to attack any critic of Trump, particularly witnesses in the impeachment proceedings.

Pompeo Accused Of Retaliating Against NPR After Barring Reporter

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In her role as a pool reporter, Kelemen was to travel with Pompeo and share information as a representative of all radio news outlets, not just NPR. But last week, Pompeo ignited a feud with NPR when host Mary Louise Kelly pressed him on his failure to stand up for State Department officials who got wrapped up in the Ukraine impeachment scandal. Reporters need the department’s permission to fly on the plane along with the secretary for foreign trips, though this practice is usually uncontroversial.

The association said in a statement that it “can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange.”

It defended Kelemen specifically, saying she is a “consummate professional who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades.” Punishing members of the press association is “unacceptable,” the statement said. It also noted that around the world, the U.S. State Department promotes and defends journalism.

But when he was put under pressure by Kelly in the recent NPR interview, Pompeo became terse and combative when she raised the issue, and he refused to answer her questions. He suggested, falsely, that she was relying on anonymous sources when she cited internal complaints about the department, even though she referred to public congressional testimony of one of his former top aides.

Kelly said that after the on-air interview, Pompeo became even more aggressive, swearing at her and demanding she find Ukraine on an unmarked map, which she did. When she revealed these details publicly, Pompeo claimed she violated an off-the-record agreement, though he didn’t contradict her account. Kelly denied she agreed to go off the record. Pompeo also claimed that Kelly had agreed not to discuss the Ukraine matter with him before the interview, a charge NPR likewise denied. The New York Times reported that it obtained emails between Kelly and the State Department that, in fact, explicitly said she would discuss Ukraine.

The State Department has not yet commented publicly on the matter.

Fox News Personalities Who Promoted Bolton Now Scorn Him

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade offered up a novel and deeply ironic retort to The New York Times’ Sunday night bombshell that President Donald Trump told then-national security adviser John Bolton military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on officials there aiding “investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” which the paper reported based on descriptions by multiple sources of an unpublished manuscript of a forthcoming Bolton book. 

“The one thing the president should take from this,” he said on Monday morning’s Fox & Friends, is that “he’s got to do a better job vetting his staff to find out if they actually want to work for him or not, or they actually want to leak out information about him.” 

But if anyone could be said to have vetted Bolton for a top position in Trump’s administration, it was Fox. 

Bolton spent the decade between his stints in the Bush and Trump administrations as a Fox contributor, serving as the network’s face for national security policy in frequent interviews on Fox & Friends and other Fox programs. Trump reportedly selected Bolton for the national security adviser position specifically on the strength those Fox appearances. And the network personalities Trump values most repeatedly vouched for Bolton on air, urging the president to give him a top post and applauding him when he did.

Indeed, when Bolton was under consideration for a senior State Department role back in December 2016, Kilmeade himself bolstered his colleague’s aspirations.

Kilmeade trumpeted fellow host Mike Huckabee’s call for Trump to name Bolton his pick for deputy secretary of state, while Fox & Friends’ chyron read “Number 2 Diplomat?” As co-host Steve Doocy led Bolton onto the set and urged him to get on a Simply Fit board, Kilmeade shouted, “Trump wants to see if you’re in shape! He’s watching! Mr. President-elect, this is what you could have!”

Fox & Friends wasn’t the only Fox show looking favorably on the notion of Bolton ascending to a top State role. Discussing his own decision not to make a bid for secretary of State, Rudy Giuliani told Sean Hannity that “John Bolton was on the list at that point, and I guess John was probably my favorite.” Hannity replied, “I think you and John together would have been a great team. That’s my opinion.”

Giuliani later became Trump’s personal lawyer, and his Ukraine machinations are at the heart of the scandal reportedly detailed in Bolton’s book, while Hannity became a close adviser to the president as well as the chief propagandist defending his actions.

Bolton ultimately did not take a position among Trump’s initial administration hires. Instead, he remained on Fox, where he lavished praise on the president’s decisions. That reportedly caught the eye of the president, who “relished the way he validated the administration’s policies,” and so when Trump soured on H.R. McMaster, his second national security adviser, he picked Bolton to replace him.

Bolton’s hiring earned plaudits on Fox, with the network’s hosts specifically highlighting his loyalty to the president and his agenda.

“This is, a friend of mine put it, a great day for the America and as well for the president,” argued Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs, perhaps Fox’s most sycophantic Trump fan and a sometime adviser to his White House, on his program the night the move was announced. “I think anyone who knows John Bolton is celebrating because of his intellect, his capacity, his experience, his talent,” he added.

Hannity likewise described Bolton’s hiring as “good news” and a “huge improvement” from McMaster on his March 22 program. “He will serve the president, right, and his agenda,” Hannity added. 

“I know John Bolton,” former Bush White House press secretary and Fox contributor Ari Fleischer told Hannity the next night. “With John Bolton at NSA, even more is about to get done. John Bolton is one of the sharpest, savviest operators in Washington. And he is a true north. He is a principled conservative and I welcome John Bolton into this administration.” “Yes, me too,” Hannity replied.

On Fox & Friends, Pete Hegseth, another Fox host who also advises the president, claimed there was a “sense” that McMaster “felt like he was saving America from President Trump, as opposed to  channeling why President Trump was elected and helping him do that.” 

“That’s the switch you’re getting with Ambassador John Bolton,” Hegseth added. “We know him from this channel, and you know him from hearing from him, but those on the inside have seen him work inside bureaucracies and elsewhere and are very hopeful that this is the kind of guy that will advance the agenda this president ran on.”

And Fox contributor Dan Bongino said that unlike past members of the administration, Bolton would be loyal to the president. “One thing about Donald Trump we all know, and what I’ve heard from a lot of people who know him, and friends of mine who obviously still work there is he prizes loyalty over anything else, everything,” Bongino said, noting that his National Security Council members were “loyal to themselves, they’re loyal to the swamp, and strangely, they’re loyal to the press that will screw them over in a minute.” 

“Now, he brings in John Bolton, and though John Bolton has some establishment ties, no one questions his loyalty,” Bongino went on. “He’s going to go in there, it’s going to be a housecleaning, and I think it’s exactly what Donald Trump needs to right this ship.”

That doesn’t seem to be the way events have played out. 

The House impeachment investigation produced testimony that Bolton had opposed what he called a “drug deal” to condition a White House visit by Ukraine’s president on Ukraine opening an investigation into the Bidens. And after criticism from Fox host Tucker Carlson, who had Trump’s ear, forced him out of the administration, Bolton has now moved to the center of the Ukraine scandal, which developed because of the president’s affinity for the network and played out on its airwaves.

That makes him an obstacle his former colleagues must overcome if they hope to keep Trump in office, and so they are gearing up to tear him down.

Trump Tweet Threatens NPR Over Pompeo Tantrum

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The cycle of Fox News coverage and President Donald Trump’s id repeated itself this weekend, this time involving the network’s coverage of the now-infamous blowup between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly.

In response to negative media coverage, Trump is now seconding a suggestion from Fox News personality Mark Levin — to end NPR’s funding, and even get rid of the organization itself.

Original controversy regarding Pompeo

Kelly’s interview of Pompeo on January 24 became heated when she asked him about the ongoing Ukraine scandal and impeachment, to which he replied that he had only come on to talk about Iran. (Kelly answered that she had confirmed with his staff that she would discuss both Iran and Ukraine.)

Kelly reported that after the interview, Pompeo challenged her to find Ukraine on a map of the world without country labels on it. She also contends that Pompeo used profanity throughout their exchange: “He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine. He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence and many others.”

On Saturday, Pompeo issued a statement decrying the “unhinged” media. He also called Kelly a liar and suggested that she confused Ukraine and Bangladesh.

The suggestion about Bangladesh was especially preposterous.

Fox News gets involved, triggering Trump

Despite such widespread outrage (“Bangladesh” was prominently trending on Twitter), Fox News treated Pompeo’s statement credulously. On Sunday, the Fox News web site ran a story detailing Pompeo’s further rebuttals to Kelly, including his contention that she had broken a promise for their further conversation to be off the record — which Kelly denies was ever promised at all. The story led Fox’s website.

Right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin, who has a weekly TV show on Fox News itself and is a regular on Sean Hannity’s Fox show, tweeted a link to the Fox News article, and asked, “Why does NPR still exist?”

Shortly thereafter, Trump quote-tweeted Levin and agreed.

This obvious threat comes just hours after Republican Senators had a meltdown about lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) referencing a CBS report about Trump threatening them if they voted against him on impeachment. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and many others rushed to mainstream media to decry the notion that Trump would ever threaten them. Fox News (and many mainstream reporters) took all of this credulously despite threatening people being Trump’s entire brand.

To wit: Elsewhere this morning, Trump threatened Schiff.

Trump Will Make Super Bowl Appearance With Hannity

Fox announced on Friday that Donald Trump is scheduled to be interviewed before the Super Bowl by Fox News host Sean Hannity, one of his biggest fans and supporters. The network said the interview will take place at the White House and cover “an array of topics.”

Trump sat down last year with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan and made a series of outlandish claims,  including suggesting migrants were invading the country, claiming he ‘knocked out’ ISIS almost completely, and dismissing concerns about ISIS’ return by saying the U.S. military had “very fast airplanes.”

Trump skipped a Super Bowl interview in 2018, when it ran on NBC, but in 2017 he agreed to be interviewed by then-Fox Host Bill O’Reilly in 2017, the last time Fox broadcasted the game.

Now, Trump is back in the safety zone of his preferred television network — and a friendly interviewer. Hannity often devotes considerable airtime on his nightly prime-time show to extolling the virtues of Trump’s presidency despite ongoing scandals and poor approval ratings. Hannity has also spent hundreds of hours attacking Trump’s political rivals and news outlets for reporting on Trump’s missteps.

Trump recently complained that Hannity hasn’t won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the network.

Hannity has been described as Trump’s “West Wing adviser” and “shadow chief of staff” for his closeness to the administration. A report from last year said the two men speak to each other on the telephone “virtually every night.”

Hannity even appeared with Trump on stage at a campaign rally before the 2018 midterm elections and attacked media covering the event using Trump’s term, “fake news.”

That closeness led to Hannity’s name coming up during the House investigation of Trump that led to his impeachment. Former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified that as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to remove her from her position, Hannity was attacking her on his show, echoing smears from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

After Yovanovitch testified before Congress, Hannity called her a “self-important very narcissistic diplomat snowflake.”

Hannity also found himself involved in another Trump-related scandal when it was disclosed that lawyer Michael Cohen had him as a client. Cohen for years worked as Trump’s personal lawyer and orchestrated payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about her affair with Trump before the 2016 election.

Trump shouldn’t have much to worry about for this Super Bowl interview, which follows close on the heels of his impeachment trial.

Published with permission of The American Independent.