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New Book: Sean Hannity Wrote Trump 2020 Campaign Ad

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News host Sean Hannity's role as an off-the-books political operative to former President Donald Trump extended to writing copy for one of the Trump campaign's commercials, according to a new report.

Mike Bender, the Wall Street Journal''s senior White House reporter, reports that Hannity played a role in scripting a Trump campaign ad in his forthcoming book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story Of How Trump Lost. According to a write-up in PunchBowl News, "The ad was known in the Trump campaign as 'the Hannity ad' and 'the one Hannity wrote,'" and Bender describes internal Trump campaign emails which "referred to the spot simply as 'Hannity'" or "the 'Hannity-written' spot."

The ad, like Hannity's show during the campaign, is a semi-coherent mashup of pro-Trump and anti-Biden talking points that lacks a clear narrative.

And indeed, according to Bender, the ad was widely mocked within the Trump campaign and aired only once, on Hannity's program, at a cost of $1.5 million.

Hannity vaguely denied writing the ad copy, telling Bender, "The world knows that Sean Hannity supports Donald Trump. But my involvement specifically in the campaign -- no. I was not involved that much. Anybody who said that is full of shit."

It's hard to know what to think about a statement like this from a notorious liar. But one reasonable interpretation is that this helps to establish an outer bound for the type of political behavior Hannity thinks his employer would let him get away with. The statement suggests that he believes that Fox would have a problem with him openly accepting responsibility for writing one of the former president's campaign ads.

This is, of course, an absurdly low bar for a cable news host. But as I noted last year, Hannity regularly violated basic tenets of journalistic ethics throughout the Trump years, with the network brass either ignoring his behavior or offering slaps on the wrist:

2016: Amid a presidential campaign that saw Hannity actively using his show to boost Trump's candidacy and promoteunhinged conspiracy theories about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, Hannity endorsed Trump in a promotional video for his campaign, leading to a stern statement from Fox.
2017: Hannity triggered an advertiser exodus and internal dismay when he tried to defend Trump against reports linking his campaign to Russian interference in the 2016 election by championing the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.
2018: Profiles in The Washington Post and New York magazinedetailed the scope of Hannity's White House influence and regular conversations with Trump. He was revealed as a secret client of Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, a fact the Fox host had not disclosed in his commentary on Cohen's case. And he appeared on stage and spoke at a Trump political rally on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections.
2019: Hannity was a central figure in the Ukraine disinformation plot that triggered Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives.
2020: Documents uncovered by BuzzFeed News showed that Hannity had served as a backchannel between Trump and his associates under investigation during special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Since then, Fox has become even less ethical and more propagandistic. The network hired a slew of former Trump administration officials. The list includes 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pompeo, as well as the former president's daughter-in-law, would-be Senate candidate Lara Trump. One Fox contributor, Newt Gingrich, is working with Trump to develop the GOP's policy agenda for the 2022 elections.

But taking ownership of a campaign ad appears to still be a step too far.

Blinken Scraps Trump Administration’s Global Attack On Gay Human Rights

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The Biden administration has thrown out a report from the Trump administration that human rights groups criticized for devaluing LGBTQ rights across the globe.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a 2020 report on the status of human rights that includes some 200 countries and territories.

"There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others," Blinken said. "Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those by the recently disbanded State Department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document for this administration."

In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, created the "Commission on Unalienable Rights," which was chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, an opponent of abortion rights and LGBTQ equality, and supported by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Last year, Pompeo announced the release of a report from the commission.

During that press conference, Pompeo said, "Americans do not only have unalienable rights but also positive rights: rights granted by governments, courts, multilateral bodies. Many are worth defending in light of our founding. Others aren't ... More rights doesn't necessarily mean more justice."

Amnesty International, Equity Forward, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch, among other advocacy groups, contacted foreign diplomats last fall to oppose that message. Human rights experts saidthat Pompeo's efforts could result in uncertainty among LGBTQ people that might affect whether they felt safe turning to U.S. embassies for support.

Ryan Thoreson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program, wrote at the time, "The report focuses at length on the US Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The report pays little attention to what followed these, including advancements in the rights of racial minorities, women, children, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as the growing realization of economic and social rights."

Blinken said on Tuesday, "One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal. All people are entitled to these rights no matter where they were born, what they believe, who they love, or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal."

During the press conference, the new secretary of state mentioned LGBTQI people multiple times.

"Human rights are also interdependent," he said. "If you're denied equal access to a job or an education because of the color of your skin or your gender identity, how can you obtain health and well being for yourself or your family?"

He said that an important part of monitoring human rights issues includes awareness of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected marginalized groups, including LGBTQI people. Blinken added that the Trump administration's reports on the status of human rights abroad had also removed a section about reproductive health and that the Biden administration plans to release an addendum later in 2021 covering those issues and including them in future reports.

The announcement is part of a broader promise by President Joe Biden, who gave a speech at the. State Department in February saying he would "reinvigorate our leadership on LGBTQ issues."

Biden issued a memorandum later that day which required executive agencies to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance officials both protect LGBTQ rights and promoted them whenever possible.

The memorandum also urged agencies engaged abroad to fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ people and give equal access to assistance and protection for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.

"Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights," the memorandum read. "The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Pompeo Falsely Accuses Former Obama Aide Of ‘Anti-Semitism’ (He’s Jewish)

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

During a recent appearance on journalist Peter Beinart's podcast, Occupied Thoughts, former Obama White House official Ben Rhodes made some statements that were critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in response, falsely accused Rhodes — who is Jewish — of being anti-Semitic, and is being lambasted for it on social media.

Beinart is a fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace and editor-at-large of Jewish Currents, and Rhodes served as deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting under President Barack Obama. When Rhodes appeared on Beinart's podcast, they discussed Israeli-Palestinian relations and Netanyahu's policies. And Pompeo, in an over-the-top tweet, falsely equated criticism of Netanyahu with anti-Semitism and condemnation of Israel in general.

Rhodes, who often appears on MSNBC and co-hosts the foreign policy podcast "Pod Save the World," never said anything "anti-Semitic" during his conversation with Beinart, but he did criticize the Republican Party for being overly favorable to Netanyahu's hardline policies on Israeli-Palestinian relations. The former Obama White House official told Beinart, "I wish the right…. would just say, 'We don't believe there should be a Palestinian state. We believe in the concept of a greater Israel. We feel sorry for the Palestinians, but they're just gonna have to deal with it.' That's the position of the Israeli government. Frankly, that's the position of the Republican Party, even if they're not honest about it."

When Beinart asked Rhodes to speculate on Netanyahu's world view, the former Obama official responded, "Maybe the view is, 'Jews have been screwed throughout history, by a corrupt cruel world. And so, you know what, we just have to be corrupt and cruel ourselves. That's the only way to survive in this world.'"

The reference to being "corrupt and cruel" was clearly not an expression of Rhodes' view of "all Jews," as Pompeo falsely claimed, and it was absurd to claim as much. Both Rhodes and Beinart are Jewish, and Pompeo is not. Rhodes told Beinart that he has problems with Netanyahu's governing philosophy, but he never said that all Jews are "corrupt and cruel."

Pompeo is being slammed on social media for distorting Rhodes' comments. Beinart posted:


Liberal New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who is Jewish, tweeted:


Here are some other responses on Twitter:




Pompeo Attacks Biden Foreign Policy — And Twitter Claps Back Hard

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Abiding by the unwritten rule – for now – even disgraced former President Donald Trump has not criticized his successor, but former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just made clear he has no intention of observing such norms, even in the interest of statesmanship.

Unlike most former Trump appointees, Pompeo has a strong government background, yet he has chosen to criticize President Joe Biden just two weeks after leaving office.

Telling the world, "America is back, diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy," Biden delivered an internationally-acclaimed speech at the State Department on Thursday, laying out his foreign policy vision.

Hours later, Pompeo hit the airwaves to attack it.

"I don't think the American people can afford to go back to eight more years of Barack Obama's foreign policy. I hope they'll move forward with a foreign policy, much more like our America First foreign policy," Pompeo told former GOP Congressman Trey Gowdy, now a Fox News try-out host, as The Hill reported.

Gowdy had time in his nine-minute interview to bring up Benghazi, but no time to ask Pompeo, a likely 2024 presidential candidate, about his highly controversial "Madison Dinners" – those massive, taxpayer-funded, highly secretive events at the State Department's headquarters that were attended by more donors than diplomats. He also didn't ask the former secretary of state about firing the inspector general who was investigating him and his alleged misuse of government staff and government funds. Nor about the allegedly improper arms sales Pompeo sidestepped Congress to approve. Gowdy did not even address reports that State Dept. personnel blocked a whistleblower's charges against Pompeo from being investigated.

But critics on social media were more than happy to remind America about Pompeo's time in office, and, as The New York Times reported last month, his "dubious legacy."