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Greg Abbott's 'Open Borders' Lie Dishonors Migrant Deaths

After at least 50 migrants were found dead from heat exposure after they were left trapped in an abandoned truck in San Antonio, Texas, this week, some mainstream media outlets became vehicles for right-wing politicians to exploit the horrific event by printing their outlandish comments without sufficient pushback.

On Monday night, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”

It ought to be obvious that “open border policies” are not responsible for this horrifying tragedy; people would not resort to sneaking across the border, the victims of human smugglers, if the border were in fact “open” and easy to cross.

As University of Texas Rio Grande Valley political science professor Terence Garrett told PolitiFact while responding to Abbott’s previous lies about Biden’s immigration policies, “There's no such thing as an open border.” According to Garrett, current border security measures include nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, aerial surveillance systems, and hundreds of miles of fencing. “We don’t have an open border,” Garrett said. “That’s absurd.”

Though this week’s horror was perhaps the deadliest human smuggling event in modern American history, these types of tragedies are not a new phenomenon and neither is the predictable right-wing response. After the deaths of 10 migrants in Texas in July 2017 — when Donald Trump was president and Abbott was also the governor of Texas — right-wing media voices called for more border wall construction and the defunding of so-called “sanctuary cities.”

However, recent history shows that more fencing and Border Patrol resources do not actually deter migration. Instead, such policies simply divert migrants into more dangerous routes, while the core issues that lead them to flee their homelands remain unaddressed. In fact, the increasingly intense security along the southern border is in part responsible for greater suffering and death among migrants. Migrants have been killed or injured from falls when attempting to scale the barriers, while others are driven deeper into inhospitable desert regions as they search for accessible crossings.

Mainstream Media Privilege Abbott’s Lies

In a tweet, The New York Times simply publicized Abbott’s smear of Biden without adding any explanation. The linked article from the Times’ live page included Abbott’s full quote, without any direct pushback or inclusion of data about the Biden administration’s continued enforcement efforts or any clear demonstration that the Times realized Abbott’s claim was false.

Other news outlets carried the basic facts that the Biden administration is indeed fully enforcing border security. But they also created a false political balance by still repeating Abbott’s outrageous accusation and not specifically debunking his false claim. The Washington Post, for example, pointed out that Customs and Border Patrol had made 239,416 arrests in May, further commenting: “The agency is on pace to surpass the record 1.73 million border arrests tallied in 2021 — presenting an ongoing logistical and political challenge for the Biden administration.” Immediately following that sentence, the Post still ran Abbott’s baseless accusation that the deaths were purportedly the result of Biden’s “refusal to enforce the law.”

Similarly, The Associated Press quoted immigration advocate Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, who pointed out, “With the border shut as tightly as it is today for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes.”

But then the AP immediately quoted not only Abbott, but also former White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, a notorious white nationalist who sought to push asylum entries down to zero during the Trump administration.

The AP did not provide any of this context to readers, instead simply serving as a stenographer for an anti-immigrant zealot: “Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, said, ‘Human smugglers and traffickers are wicked and evil’ and that the administration’s approach to border security rewards their actions.” (As documented above, tough border policies do “reward” human smugglers by fostering the economic and logistical incentives for them to prey on migrants — though Miller would insist upon even tougher crackdowns and more exclusionary policies.)

Following the article’s citation of Miller, the AP then quoted Abbott: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection, was blunt in a tweet about the Democratic president: ‘These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies.’”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump Allies Scheme To 'Counterprogram' January 6 Panel Hearings

The bipartisan House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has scheduled prime-time hearings for next week, during which the committee is expected to lay out many of its findings regarding former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election. Headed into that process, news outlets must prepare themselves to treat the response by Trump’s right-wing media allies as another component of that coup plot, which culminated in the storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters — not as mere political messaging.

Axios reported Thursday night, “Scoop: Trumpworld plots January 6 counterprogramming blitz,” outlining coordinated plans by Trump and his allies, including conservative groups and members of the House Republican leadership, for a real-time public relations effort to respond to the committee’s proceedings. This will include efforts to deploy misleading pro-Trump commentary on media platforms such as Fox News, Steve Bannon’s show, and Facebook, along with op-ed pieces written by members of Congress, and conservative influencers on social media.

But while Axios documented the coordinated messaging operation against an investigation into a major attack on America’s democratic process, the outlet also made a major mistake by focusing its coverage in terms of a political horse race — rather than in terms of an entire political party covering up a coup, as noted by Crooked Media editor-in-chief Brian Beutler.

That’s Not “Why It Matters”

This problem became especially obvious in the “Why it matters” section of Axios’ piece:

Why it matters: Republicans face a daunting challenge in the coming messaging war. The committee has been building toward this moment for months, hoping to use the blockbuster summer hearings to paint a vivid picture of how close Trump and his supporters came to subverting democracy.

Further bullet points added that Republicans would argue the committee is “a partisan fishing expedition,” and that this framing “will be central to their hopes of defanging whatever negative revelations come to light during the hearings.” Axios left unremarked, however, the idea that a political party’s leadership in a functioning constitutional republic should not want to “defang” revelations about an actual coup attempt.

Axios also reported that one of the point people on this media operation will be Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who will “seek to hammer the message that the committee ‘lacks merit and legitimacy’ and is hyperpartisan.” The article failed to note, however, that Jordan was also an active participant in the plot to overturn the election, having met with Trump in late December 2020 to discuss efforts to reject the counting of the Electoral College votes. He was also revealed months ago to have advocated for then-Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count electoral votes in text messages with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the days before the Capitol insurrection. (In texts from the morning of January 6 released yesterday by CNN, Meadows replied to Jordan, “I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen.”)

Fox News Pushing GOP Talking Points To Undermine Hearings

The right-wing media campaign against next week’s hearings has already started on Fox News, the network that helped to foment Trump’s efforts to subvert the election results and has since attacked the committee’s previous hearings, painting an alternate reality about the attack on the Capitol.

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner hosted Jordan on Tuesday’s edition of The Faulkner Focus, providing him with a platform to attack the committee as allegedly being “political” — as if Jordan’s previous attempt to subvert a national election, and the wider House Republican efforts to obstruct any investigation into the events, were somehow apolitical.

Later in the interview, Jordan complained that the committee’s attempt to subpoena him was really an effort to “play the politics.” Faulkner seemingly agreed, saying that “if they’re serious, they’ll respond” to Jordan’s concerns, “and then you’re actually having a conversation. Right now, it’s just running around.”

Then, in a truly outrageous moment on Wednesday, Faulkner opined to House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) about the need for a 9/11 Commission-style inquiry, “where everybody had a voice.”

“Everybody would want to participate in that, I would think,” Faulkner said. “Is it too late?”

“Remember, Republicans and myself came out right after January asking for that type of situation,” McCarthy said, falsely claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had “said no.”

In fact, McCarthy opposed a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol attack, following public opposition by Trump, and then Senate Republicans blocked the Democrats’ proposal to establish such a committee.

Mainstream media outlets have an important job ahead of them. The coming right-wing media blitz against next week’s January 6 committee hearings is not merely part of some political horse race, but an active effort by conspirators to justify themselves and discredit anyone trying to expose them.

In the face of such an onslaught, media outlets should treat this “counterprogramming” not as a matter of partisan messaging, but as an intrinsic component of an attack against democracy in America — both by Trump and his allies in Congress, as well as from any other media outlets that gladly play host to it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Murdoch Media Backs Gun Safety After Mass Shooting -- In Australia (VIDEO)

As the country reels from yet another horrific mass shooting, right-wing media outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News are doing all they can to halt any progress on reforming the country’s gun laws. But a totally different story is being told in Australia — the original home of the Murdoch family’s media empire — where Murdoch outlets have instead touted the importance of gun safety, and are now highlighting the dangerous conditions of gun proliferation in the United States.

In response to a mass shooting in 1996, in which 35 people were killed, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard undertook a comprehensive program of outright gun buybacks and confiscation, targeting the kind of high-power rifles used in such massacres. Today, Australia requires a person to show a “genuine reason” for them to obtain a license for the categories of firearms that are still legally available. They must also pass a background check, complete a firearms safety course, and practice safe storage of their weapon. As a result, Australia has suffered just one mass shooting resulting in 5 or more deaths since 1996. In the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive, seven mass shootings on that scale have occurred in the first five months of 2022, including two horrific mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, just 10 days apart.

Howard has long touted the success of these laws as an important legacy of his administration, writing in a January 2013 guest column in The New York Times: “After this wanton slaughter, I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.” (Howard wrote the column in the wake of the terrible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.)

A little over a year ago, Howard sat for an interview with Murdoch-owned Sky News Australia, looking back on his gun laws as a major accomplishment that no Australian government would dare to undo today.

Sky News reporter Andrea Crothers asked Howard, “Do you think we’ll see an overhaul of U.S. gun laws in your lifetime?”

“I would hope and pray I do,” Howard responded. “I have my doubts, but I’d like to think that it could happen.”

It is impossible to even imagine Fox News giving such a friendly interview to an American political leader on the subject of gun control.

Looking at the latest events, Sky’s coverage of the Uvalde school massacre is also sharply different from Fox News’ coverage. Here in America, Fox hosts immediately denounced any calls for “sweeping massive changes,” while blaming everything but guns for the atrocity and calling for all manner of absurd solutions that are proven not to work. (Fox has even blamed the school-age victims of mass shootings for not doing enough to warn police.)

Perhaps the most egregious coverage was the prime-time responses to President Joe Biden’s speech calling for the country to stand up to the gun lobby, and to stop the proliferation of assault weapons designed exclusively to kill lots of people. In Fox’s telling, this was a “bitterly partisan” speech, “desecrating the memory of recently murdered children with tired talking points of the Democratic Party,” and Biden allegedly delivered the speech not to express sincere beliefs but instead because “politics is selfish.”

One of Sky’s conservative opinion hosts, Andrew Bolt, took a very different stance while cueing up those same clips of Biden’s address. “Now again, we’re getting as we always do with these American shootings, heartfelt appeals for more action to control guns,” Bolt said. “And sitting here in Australia, you're wondering why this even needs saying.”

The panel discussion that followed provided an interesting mix of talking points that could normally be seen on Fox News, such as invoking violence in cities like Chicago or crime in California, falsely attributing violent crime to only Democratic-governed areas, and even throwing in empty talking points about the non-existent defunding of the police. At the same time, the panelists still diagnosed the proliferation of guns in the United States as one of the key problems contributing to the gun violence epidemic.

One particularly sharp comment came from Adam Creighton, Washington correspondent for Murdoch paper The Australian, describing America’s “globally unusual” gun culture to his audience back home. “I think it's only the U.S.A. and Mexico of the large countries that enshrined these gun-carrying rights,” Creighton observed. “And it leads, at least in my view, to the extraordinary increase in murders and homicides and and mass shootings.”

To reiterate the point, these are comments that we would simply never see from Fox News and other Murdoch properties in the United States.

Just to be clear, Sky News Australia is hardly a bastion of bipartisan moderation, with the Murdoch empire’s past political domination of the country being especially atrocious on climate issues. In the network’s coverage these past few days of their country’s election — in which the progressive Labor Party ousted the conservative Liberal Party after nine years in office — the channel has been crowing about a “hardcore, left-wing government that will destroy the fabric of this nation,” pushed for right-wing leadership from the defeated conservatives, trashed moderates, and continued to promote a failed candidate who ran on a transphobic platform.

In short, Sky News Australia’s usual content would be quite recognizable on Fox News — even down to its coverage of Biden. But, as it turns out, even they understand that standing up to the gun lobby and getting rid of high-powered killing machines are such an obvious course that as Bolt observed, “you’re wondering why this even needs saying.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Eastman's Latest Legal Move Exposes Fox Hosts' 'Dual Role' In Coup

Politico reported Friday that John Eastman, the disgraced ex-law professor who formulated many of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, was also apparently in communication with Fox News host Mark Levin. The story gets even more interesting from there, revealing the shell game that right-wing media personalities engage in while doubling as political operatives.

A legal filing by Eastman’s attorneys reveals that, among the messages Eastman is still attempting to conceal from the House January 6 committee are 12 pieces of correspondence with an individual matching Levin’s description as “a radio talk show host, is also an attorney, former long-time President (and current board chairman) of a public interest law firm, and also a former fellow at The Claremont Institute.” Other details, including a sloppy attempt to redact an email address, also connect to Levin, who did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment.

Eastman’s contention, however, is that he was not communicating with Mark Levin the media personality, which would forfeit attorney-client privilege on those communications. Instead, he was speaking with Mark Levin the attorney, and formulating legal strategies regarding the election.

The “Dual Role”

In their legal filing, Eastman’s attorneys argue that he should not have to turn over certain communications with right-wing media figures, even as other communications with those same people have been submitted. This question turns on a body of case law involving lawyers who serve in a “dual role.”

This area of law normally involves people who both are attorneys and have personal business interests, in which case a court must determine in which capacity they were acting and whether those communications or actions in question retain the legal privileges of secrecy.

The brief acknowledges that Eastman could find no previous instance in law having to do with media figures who were also attorneys, but it argues to extend this doctrine accordingly.

“Many members of the modern ‘media’ have multiple roles,” the filing argues, contending that some of Eastman’s communications with Levin in fact “involved work product communications with attorneys who also wear media ‘hats.’”

Eastman’s Legal And Media “Hats” Clash

In the case of Eastman, however, his work as an attorney in conservative causes and his public media presence have been so closely intertwined as to demonstrate that any such ethical separations quite simply do not exist in the right-wing media and political ecosystem.

Most notably, Eastman first came to Trump’s attention via an appearance on Levin’s Fox show back in May 2019, in which Eastman argued that Trump had the power as president to fire people who were investigating him. “The notion that the president can’t determine the course of an investigation is the most basic violation of separation of powers,” Eastman argued — even including an investigation involving the president himself.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump had never met Eastman before watching this episode. “Within two months, Mr. Eastman was sitting in the Oval Office for an hourlong meeting,” the Times reported.

In addition, Eastman’s new filing notes that he has had different sets of communications with an “opinion editor at Newsweek,” who is also affiliated with different conservative legal organizations. That description matches Newsweek editor Josh Hammer, who published Eastman’s disastrous op-ed in 2020 asserting that then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was not a U.S. citizen and thus ineligible to run for office, even though she was in fact born in California. In this instance, clearly, the Venn diagram of the conservative legal and media worlds was simply a perfect circle.

And while Eastman was advising Trump on his theories of reversing the election results, he also advanced those ideas on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s show.

Levin Pushes Far-Right Legal Theories

While apparently acting under the privileges of an attorney corresponding with Eastman on their efforts to overturn the election, Levin also used his media platform with Fox News to publicly advocate for the same pseudo-legalistic theories. For example, he and Fox News contributor Ken Starr advocated the weekend after the election for state legislatures to overturn their election results and instead appoint pro-Trump slates to the Electoral College.

During an appearance on the December 10, 2020, edition of Hannity, Levin also advocated for the bizarre lawsuit in which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the election results in four swing states.

Dr. Oz Thanks ‘True Friend’ Hannity For Advising His Campaign

Senate candidate Mehmet Oz thanked Fox News host Sean Hannity for advising him “behind the scenes,” helping to bring him to the cusp of a potential victory in Tuesday night’s primary in Pennsylvania — a revelation that further illustrates Hannity’s position as a Republican operative who leverages his media presence for political influence.

The Republican primary race could potentially go to a recount, with Oz currently ahead of former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick by a slender margin. The winner will face Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won his primary by a landslide. During a speech on Tuesday night, Oz first thanked his wife, his children, and his campaign staff and then called out two key political figures who endorsed him and advised him throughout the campaign: former President Donald Trump and Hannity.

MEHMET OZ (U.S SENATE CANDIDATE): And I want to thank some other individuals who are actually unbelievably close friends, made a big difference in my life, are always there at every moment. Let's start with 45, President Trump. President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean in to this race in Pennsylvania. He knows all the subtleties of it. He was willing to participate with tele-town halls, which he advised that I do, it was a brilliant idea. He participated in a massive rally out in Westmoreland County. God bless you, sir, for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.

I want to thank Sean Hannity. Sean is like a brother to me. When Sean punches through something, he really punches through it. He understands exactly how to make a difference, and he's been doing that this entire campaign — much of it behind the scenes, giving me advice on late night conversations — again, the kinds of things that true friends do for each other.

Hannity previously had an eerily similar role during the Trump campaign and administration, serving as the “shadow” chief of staff to the then-president and often holding late-night phone conversations in which he functioned as a sounding board for Trump’s policies.

Hannity also endorsed Oz’s Senate campaign, helping Oz launch his candidacy with a nearly ten-minute interview on his prime-time Fox show in late November. Hannity also reportedly lobbied Trump to endorse Oz, which may have made the difference if indeed Oz’s currently thin lead holds up through the vote count.

Hannity also used both his TV show and his radio show last week to attack the campaign of insurgent candidate Kathy Barnette, telling his audience that Barnette should not win in the primary due to her history of anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ statements. (Hannity did not acknowledge his own history of spewing similar bigotry.)

During one such segment trashing Barnette, Hannity reiterated his endorsement of Oz, saying he would “always tell you how I feel,” before interviewing Oz to continue attacking Barnette. But, while Hannity might acknowledge his candidate preference, he did not reveal that he had been advising Oz behind the scenes, nor admit his role in securing Trump’s endorsement for the candidate.

Oz’s revelation Tuesday night should also be placed in further context of how Hannity uses his Fox platform to spread misinforming Republican campaign talking points.

Previously released text messages between Hannity and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed that Hannity took direct instructions on coordinating get-out-the-vote messaging on Election Day in 2020, and Hannity later described himself as being “at war with” the network’s purported news figures such as then-Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace over the network’s declaration that Joe Biden had won the election. (The network undermined its own decision desk’s election call nearly 600 times in just nine days after that call was made.)

The texts have also shown the extent to which Hannity wears two faces along with his two hats. On the one hand, he publicly claimed the attackers who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were left-wing infiltrators. On the other hand, he urged Meadows during the attack to ask Trump to call off his supporters, and afterward, he worked on damage control with the White House.

Whether Oz even wins or loses in the final result is almost beside the point. Hannity’s role in elevating his candidacy and orchestrating another instance of the Trump-Fox feedback loop provides yet another example of Fox's evolution from its earlier role as a propaganda outlet on behalf of the Republican Party to a major engine of the party itself.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Newly Released Text Messages Show Fox Anchors Plotting Trump's Coup

On Friday, CNN reported on a newly unearthed set of text messages between former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and multiple Fox News hosts, exchanged during the two-and-a-half months between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. The texts further reveal the extent to which Fox was integral to Trump’s plot to illegally hold onto power after losing the election. The texts also prove yet again that Fox operates day-to-day as a propaganda arm for the Republican Party, not as a news organization.

Maria Bartiromo Gave Trump Questions And Guidance In Advance Of Interview

CNN reported that Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo gave Meadows the questions in advance of her interview with President Donald Trump on the November 29, 2020, edition of her weekend show on Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures. The texts reveal that Bartiromo also provided Trump with explicit messaging guidance and instructions on how to respond to her softball questions, which she intended to help him better make his case that the election outcome was illegitimate. The segment was Trump’s first TV interview since the election, and it aired roughly three weeks after all the major media outlets, including Fox News, had projected Biden as the winner.

Bartiromo texted Meadows that morning, hours before the interview with Trump, to claim that “the public wants to know he will fight this,” and that people “want to hear a path to victory” and that “he's in control.” (The entire premise of Bartiromo’s line of questioning was false, because a majority of “the public” had just voted for Biden.)

She then laid out the first question she would ask: “1Q You've said MANY TIMES THIS ELECTION IS RIGGED... And the facts are on your side. Let's start there. What are the facts? Characterize what took place here. Then I will drill down on the fraud including the statistical impossibilities of Biden magic (federalist).” (Based on Bartiromo’s word choice, it is possible that she was referring to a piece from a week earlier in the right-wing site The Federalist, titled “5 More Ways Joe Biden Magically Outperformed Election Norms.”)

Surely enough, the interview began exactly with that question: “Mr. President, you have said many times that this election was rigged, that there was much fraud, and the facts are on your side. Let's start there. Please go through the facts, characterize what took place.”

Throughout the rest of the interview, Bartiromo provided Trump with a platform to air a litany of lies about the election results, going on for 45 minutes, including his outlandish claims about voting machines being used to change the results. Dominion Voting Systems is currently suing Fox News for $1.6 billion for the network’s role in Trump’s defamation campaign against the voting machine company. Another voting technology firm, Smartmatic, is suing Fox News for $2.7 billion and has also named Bartiromo as a defendant for her role in promoting conspiracy theories that the company played a role in altering the election result.

Separately, ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent, Jonathan Karl, reported last year that Bartiromo had called then-Attorney General Bill Barr in mid-November 2020, complaining to him that the Justice Department had not taken action against supposed voter fraud. “She called me up and she was screaming,” Barr told Karl. “I yelled back at her. She’s lost it.” Fox News denied the reports of Bartiromo’s unprofessional conduct — though this wasn’t exactly convincing, because Bartiromo had publicly stated her hopes for Barr to intervene and help reverse the election results.

Hannity Was “At War" With Chris Wallace And News Reporters

Another Fox News host who is heavily implicated in the latest texts is Sean Hannity, who was already known to have functioned as Trump’s “shadow” chief of staff and as a constant sounding board for the disgraced former president. Previously released texts had shown that Hannity tried to work on damage control after the failed coup attempt on January 6, and that he had urged the White House to have Trump call off his supporters from attacking the Capitol. (In public, Hannity claimed the attackers were left-wing infiltrators.) Other texts show that Hannity took instructions from Meadows on coordinating get-out-the-vote messaging on Election Day in 2020. The latest revelations demonstrate the extent of Hannity’s efforts to keep Fox News from straying away from the administration’s illegal efforts to cling to power.

On December 6, 2020, Meadows sent Hannity a link to an article in The Hill, highlighting a segment from that morning’s edition of Fox News Sunday in which the show’s then-host Chris Wallace pointedly interrupted Trump’s former secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, after Azar had referred to Joe Biden as “Vice President Biden.”

“He's the president-elect, sir,” Wallace replied, repeating that point again in their conversation.

In texts to Hannity, Meadows castigated Wallace and Fox, writing, “Doing this to try and get ratings will not work in the long run and I am doubtful it is even a short term winning strategy.”

“I've been at war with them all week,” Hannity replied.

Meadows later asked on December 11, 2020, for Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott’s direct phone number — noting that he wished to avoid making a call to the network’s main switchboard. Hannity asked the next day whether Meadows had gotten through to Fox executives, again declaring, “I’ve been at war with them.” (As it turned out, Meadows had not yet called Scott, as he had been too busy working on the Trump administration’s lame-duck pardons.)

Keep in mind that the major news networks had all projected Biden as the winner a month before, on November 7 — and yes, that included Fox. The network, however, undermined its own decision desk’s projections by attempting to subvert the election results nearly 600 times in just the two weeks after the election call.

To the degree that tension existed between the opinion and alleged “straight news” sides at Fox, that conflict has since been resolved by Chris Wallace’s decision a year later to quit the network. Wallace said recently that he had been fine with opinion content on the channel, but he had reached his limit. “When people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable.”

Hannity, of course, is still at Fox, where he is launching smear campaigns, parroting Kremlin spokespeople, and helping Trump to continue pushing the Big Lie.

Sean Hannity wrote one cheesy Trump campaign ad — and he may have written yet another one that never aired

This latest batch of text messages also reveals that Hannity lied last year about the extent of his connections to the Trump campaign — seemingly confirming a story that Hannity had previously described as being “full of shit.”

Last year, Wall Street Journal senior White House reporter Mike Bender published a book about the 2020 election and its aftermath, titled Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost. The book revealed that Hannity had actually written a Trump campaign ad, which insiders even referred to as “the Hannity ad” and “the one Hannity wrote.” The specific ad in question was an attack spot that seemed to deploy every anti-Biden talking point at once, referring to him as a “47-year swamp creature” who had “accomplished nothing,” and tying him to the so-called “radical, socialist Green New Deal.” Trump’s campaign staff reportedly ridiculed it.

“Inside the campaign, the spot was mocked mercilessly, mostly because of the dramatic, over-the-top language and a message that seemed to value quantity over quality,” Bender wrote. The campaign came up with a solution to the problem, by running the ad only during Hannity’s own show on Fox News: “If Trump and Hannity watched the spot on television – and were satisfied enough to stop asking about the commercial – that seemed to be the best result of the ad. The cost of that investment: $1.5m.”

Hannity, however, denied the story in very strong terms. “The world knows that Sean Hannity supports Donald Trump,” he told Bender. “But my involvement specifically in the campaign — no. I was not involved that much. Anybody who said that is full of shit.”

On December 8, 2020, however, as Hannity and Meadows commiserated via text, Hannity bemoaned that the campaign had not done more on the topic of election fraud during the campaign — including regarding an ad he had written for them.

“I was screaming about no ads from Labor Day on,” he wrote. “I made my own they never ran it. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm frustrated.” It is possible here that Hannity may have been referring to yet another campaign ad that he wrote, but which still went unaired.

Hannity’s vulgar denial to Bender of the earlier campaign ad not only reveals that he is a liar, but there’s more. In this instance, he also lied to a news reporter at The Wall Street Journal, the most prominent of the Murdoch media empire’s journalistic front operations and a perpetual doormat for the opinion side. The fact that he would lie to one of his colleagues from another Murdoch publication clearly demonstrates the sense of leverage Hannity has over anyone who thinks they really can report news while working at a Murdoch outlet.

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News Ignores Bombshell Story Of McCarthy’s Big Lie

Fox News is ignoring the biggest political story of the day after newly released audio revealed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he was planning to push for then-President Donald Trump’s resignation shortly after Trump’s failed coup attempt on January 6, 2021.

The New York Times reported Thursday that in the days following the attack on the Capitol, both McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had privately examined ways for congressional Republicans to join with Democrats in pushing Trump out of politics. McCarthy reportedly told a group of Republican leaders, “I’ve had it with this guy,” and said that he would tell Trump to resign from office rather than be impeached, which he believed had a high likelihood of succeeding. But those same Republican leaders sang a completely different tune in public, opposing the effort to impeach Trump and successfully blocking an indictment in the Senate that would have disqualified him from holding public office ever again. (They have also opposed all efforts to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the coup attempt.)

McCarthy’s lie gets unmasked

McCarthy posted a statement Thursday on Twitter, calling the Times’ report “totally false and wrong.” The problem here is that there’s an audio recording from January 10, 2021, showing that McCarthy just lied. He did voice support for Trump’s removal from office, clearly stating his plan to encourage the president to resign rather than being forced out. You can listen to the audio yourself.

Times correspondents Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns appeared on Thursday night’s edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, during which the host played the audio recording of McCarthy saying, “The only discussion I would have with [Trump] is that, I think this [impeachment] will pass, and it will be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it, but I don’t know.”

“Mr. McCarthy flat-out and categorically denied that today,” Maddow said. “He denied that he said he would tell Trump to resign. He in fact said exactly that.

Martin contrasted McCarthy’s plan with his later realization that House Republican members were, by and large, not angry with Trump over the events of the insurrection, saying, “McCarthy is down at Mar-a-Lago before the month is out and patching up his relationship with President Trump.”

Burns said, “If past performance is any indicator of future results, what you heard on that tape and then what Kevin McCarthy did subsequently to hold Donald Trump to account — which was nothing — is a pretty ominous story about the future.”

Fox News’ cover-up of the biggest scandal of the day

Fox News has not covered the tape on the air, and late Friday morning its website published a strange article with the headline “McCarthy rebuts reporting on leaked recordings recommending Trump resign as Cheney, Scalise deny involvement.” The article only contained references to events from earlier on Thursday — including McCarthy’s denial — before the tapes actually became public later that night. A person who read only this article would not even know that the audio recording is now in the public record and that McCarthy’s public denial was revealed as a complete lie.

The story about the audio confirming the Times’ reporting has been carried by multiple other news outlets, including The Associated Press, Politico and The Washington Post. On CNN’s New Day, co-anchor Brianna Keilar bluntly declared, “Here he is caught, pretty much, in a lie.”

Even the far-right website The Gateway Pundit picked up the story — to express outrage at McCarthy’s betrayal of Trump. But anyone who gets their news by watching Fox would still not have heard of it.

Fox News has consistently downplayed stories about Trump’s threat to American democracy — something in which the network has played its own part. This latest situation is also eerily similar to Fox’s selective silence five months ago, when the network did not cover an audio recording in which Trump openly defended rioters who had chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” following his failed efforts to cajole his then-vice president into unconstitutionally refusing to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. (Another shared attribute between two stories: Both have involved mainstream reporters obtaining this information, but then refusing to report it to the public for months — instead saving it for a book launch.)

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

News Outlets Fail To Identify Anti-Mandate Judge As Unqualified GOP Hack

On Monday, a Republican-appointed federal judge struck down the Biden administration's regulation requiring travelers to wear masks on trains, airlines, and other forms of mass transportation. Major network news broadcasts largely failed to include crucial details about the situation — namely that the judge has already been the subject of controversy owing to her lack of qualifications, the timing of her appointment, and her personal ties to the Trump administration.

In a bizarrely written ruling that appears to have been drafted explicitly to achieve a policy outcome, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle engaged in a feat of semantics by which the government’s legal authority over “sanitation” would not include keeping things clean, only the act of cleaning them when already sullied. “Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets,” Judge Mizelle wrote. (By such terminology, Mizelle thus rejected the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent and control the spread of a disease.)

The Biden administration has indicated that it could potentially appeal the ruling, if the CDC determines that the mandate was still necessary. Such a move would likely also be well within the political mainstream, with a new Associated Press-NORC poll finding that 56 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring masks on mass transportation versus only 24 percent who are opposed. (The poll was conducted days before Mizelle’s ruling.)

Mizelle’s peculiar reasoning in her decision to discard effective public health measures should have been a national scandal. But, instead, mainstream coverage of the ruling simply treated it matter-of-factly.

On Monday’s edition of ABC World News Tonight, ABC News correspondent Eva Pilgrim briefly noted, “The decision by the judge, appointed by former president Donald Trump, signals another sweeping change for Americans,” in a report noting that the CDC continues to recommend wearing masks in mass transit in light of the BA.2 subvariant. NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams also referred to Mizelle simply as “a Trump appointee” during a brief segment on NBC Nightly News.

During Monday’s edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell failed to even mention Judge Mizelle’s connection to Trump, stating simply that “a federal judge in Florida today ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority and failed to follow proper rulemaking.” The report by CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste included a useful comment from infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder, who continued to advise plane travelers to wear a mask.

Network news should explain that anti-mask mandate judge is a Trump-aligned political hack

Network news should explain that anti-mask mandate judge is a Trump-aligned political hack

The network coverage on Tuesday night focused largely on the fact that medical experts are distressed by the ruling, citing continued dangers from contagious variants of the virus, and that immunocompromised travelers and children too young to get vaccinated are now at risk when traveling. But only NBC Nightly News noted that the judge in the case had been appointed by Trump — a fact that was neglected by both CBS and now ABC, which had included that information the night before. And even NBC failed to explain any further details about the controversial judge in question.

The problem with this coverage, which simply describes Mizelle as “a federal judge” or even as a “Trump appointee,” is that it ignores crucial details about the obvious personal and political biases driving the ruling. In short, the ruling was handed down by an unqualified and extremely partisan political appointee with significant personal connections to the Trump administration and family.

Mizelle, who is just 35 years old, was confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench on November 20, 2020 on a party-line vote held two weeks after Trump had lost reelection. Mizelle was confirmed despite the American Bar Association (ABA) rating her as “not qualified” for her nomination, due to a lack of professional legal experience. (She was also confirmed despite the fact that the president appointing her was actively engaged in an attempt to overturn the election and illegally install himself as president.) The ABA recommends that federal judicial nominees have at least 12 years of experience, while Mizelle had only graduated from law school and passed the bar exam eight years earlier. The ABA further noted that Mizelle had “not tried a case, civil or criminal, as lead or co-counsel.”

Mizelle instead built her résumé on close ties to Republicans, including in private practice at Jones Day, a firm known for its links to Republican politics, along with a position in the Trump-era Justice Department, clerkships for conservative federal judges including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and a membership in the right-wing Federalist Society.

Judge Mizelle is also married to Chad Mizelle, a former general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. During his time at the DHS, Chad Mizelle levied personal attacks against the Government Accountability Office’s determination that the Trump administration had illegally filled top positions at DHS. (Chad Mizelle is also reportedly employed by Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s shady investment firm Affinity Partners, which seems designed to help the disgraced former president and his family cash in on the deferential policies they pursued with foreign autocrats while in office.)

Chad Mizelle has also been publicly described as an “ally” of Trump adviser Stephen Miller, a white nationalist who played a public role in the administration’s efforts to illegally overturn the 2020 election. Miller applauded Judge Mizelle’s ruling Monday night, telling readers on Twitter to “please vote Republican" in order to stop more mandates.

In an ironic twist, Fox News was one major news outlet that actually compiled a long list of complaints about Mizelle’s qualifications in the context of an online article headlined “Liberal reporters attack judge's age, background after she tossed federal mask mandate for public transport.”

The article seemingly gloated that “left-leaning reporters melted down” at Mizelle’s anti-mask ruling. But even as the article collected a variety of these complaints, the author did not make any attempt to rebut the central charge that Mizelle was an unqualified, partisan activist — instead, the entire point here seems to be the right-wing national pastime of “owning the libs.”

Published with permission from Media Matters from America.

Why Did Major Newspapers Chase Hunter Biden And Airbrush Jared Kushner?

Several of the nation’s leading newspapers failed to thoroughly scrutinize a potentially major scandal involving a president’s close family member using influence in the White House to establish lucrative international business deals.

In this case, the person trying to enrich himself s is none other than former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose multibillion-dollar sweetheart deal with Saudi Arabia has gotten just a fraction of the attention devoted to baseless stories about Hunter Biden.

The contrast could not be clearer. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter never held any official role in the Obama or Biden administrations, but Republicans and their media allies are investigating his business dealings — including those conducted during a period in which it appeared as if his father had permanently retired from politics.

Jared Kushner, on the other hand, had an “unrealistically broad policy portfolio” in his father-in-law’s administration, ranging from health care to foreign policy. Kushner, who served as one of Trump’s closest White House advisers, even reportedly led the administration to its early determination to ignore the COVID-19 pandemic in Democratic-leaning states. And, contrary to Hunter Biden’s private sector work, Kushner’s current business ventures are happening as his father-in-law tries to lay the groundwork for a political comeback in 2024.

Saudi Arabia’s $2 Billion Investment In Kushner’s Firm Raises Serious Questions

Last Sunday, The New York Times reported that, just six months after leaving the White House in 2021, Kushner had secured a $2 billion investment from the Saudi Arabian government to capitalize his newly formed private equity firm Affinity Partners. In addition to comprising the majority of the firm’s initial portfolio, the deal will also pay $25 million in annual fees to Affinity.

Professional Saudi investment analysts had internally questioned the decision to inject capital into the Kushner-led venture, citing Kushner’s inexperience in private equity and the financial risks involved — only for the fund’s board headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the despotic heir apparent in Riyadh and a political ally of Kushner and Trump, to order that the deal should go ahead.

Documents also show Saudi investment fund staff explaining that the deal was made “to form a strategic relationship” with Kushner, rather than on the basis of its financial merit — an outright admission of a political relationship.

During the Trump administration, Kushner helped broker $110 billion in arms sales to the Saudi government, to assist in the ruthless Saudi military intervention in Yemen, while he also provided political cover to the regime after the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Times reported that ethics experts argue the deal “creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024.”

USA Today Rewrites Recent History To Scandalize Biden Family

By an eerie coincidence, USA Today also published last Sunday a profile of Valerie Biden Owens, the president’s sister, which appeared on the front page of Monday’s print edition under the headline “President's sister defends 'Joey,' Hunter.”

“Not since John F. Kennedy has a president been surrounded by such a large and close-knit clan, one that has been a source of both emotional support and political trouble for the commander in chief,” wrote the paper’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page. She further asserted, without a hint of irony, “For years, Donald Trump has hammered Joe Biden with accusations of corruption involving multimillion-dollar contracts that son Hunter and brother James won in China and Ukraine when Biden was vice president.”

Even if the Times hadn’t just published the story about Kushner’s deal with the Saudi regime, it would be simply astonishing that Page could write such dramatic statements about the perception of impropriety in the Biden family without acknowledging the well-known history of Trump’s children making millions in overseas business deals during his presidency.

Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner worked in the White House with direct access to sweeping policy portfolios, and Trump’s adult sons were involved with his political campaign while also ostensibly managing his business as his proxies. And, of course, Trump himself used the presidency to routinely patronize his hotels and resorts at government expense, siphoning millions in taxpayer dollars through his properties in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and even Scotland.

If Page wanted to tell a story about the president’s family serving as a source of “political trouble for the commander in chief,” her fixation on President Biden’s sister is a perplexing choice.

In the past five days, USA Today still has not published anything in its print edition about Kushner’s deal with the Saudi government.

Washington Post Pushes Republican Talking Points About Hunter Biden

Also last Sunday, The Washington Post’s print edition ran a story about Republican accusations against Hunter Biden, titled “Unraveling the tale of Hunter Biden and $3.5 million from Russia.” The story, which first appeared online two days earlier, made the mistake of prioritizing the misleading Republican attacks over explaining the truth of the matter.

For example, after opening with two accusatory quotes from Trump and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who had every reason to launder their political smear through the press, the article waited until seven paragraphs later to actually declare, “We found no evidence that Hunter Biden was part of those transactions.” So, what exactly was the news value of reprinting these Republican lies?

Two articles the Post published in response to the Times story about Kushner’s actual deal with the Saudis could have been useful counterweights to the Republican smear campaign currently targeting the president’s son.

Post staff writer Aaron Blake wrote an article titled, “After Trump’s contentious courtship of the Saudis, $2B for Jared Kushner,” which detailed how Kushner may have secured his financial backers through political favors. Furthermore, national correspondent Philip Bump also wrote a piece titled “You say a president’s relative is part of iffy international deals?” which confronted the right-wing fixation with Hunter Biden by juxtaposing it with the seemingly obvious corruption inherent in Kushner’s investment firm.

But, unfortunately, these articles appeared only online and not in the paper’s print edition, where prime real estate was reserved for rehashing attacks on Biden.

The Wall Street Journal Hammers “Hunter’s Laptop,” But Remains Silent On Jared

The Wall Street Journal, the quasi-respectable news operation of the Murdoch media empire, has not run any articles on Kushner’s business deals. However, opinion writer Holman W. Jenkins Jr. ran a column in Thursday’s print edition titled “Media Bias and Hunter’s Laptop,” with the somewhat ironic declaration, “The press won’t claw back its credibility until it admits why it buried the story.”

In the past, the Journal’s news side actually helped to debunk Republican accusations against Joe Biden regarding his son’s business deals, during the controversy over Trump’s attempted extortion of the Ukrainian government in an effort to create political dirt against the Biden family. However, the opinion side summarily ignored it at the time.


Media Matters searched articles in the Factiva database for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today for the term “Kushner” and any of the terms “Saudi,” “crown prince,” “Salman,” “billion,” or “fund” within the headline or lead paragraph from April 8, 2022, through April 13, 2022. We also searched articles in the Factiva database for the same newspapers for the term “Hunter” in the headline or lead paragraph during the same time period.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. Research contributions from Rob Savillo.

Fox News Promotes Fake Covid Report To Boost Red State Policies

Murdoch media outlets are promoting an economic report declaring that Republican-led states did better than their Democratic-led counterparts in the COVID-19 pandemic. But the supposed “study” is simply an engineered conclusion produced by a political front group, which gives extra credit to Republican policies to not implement public health guidance or restrict normal life. And on top of that, it manipulates the typically higher death rates in red states by artificially adjusting them downward, while dishonestly fabricating higher death statistics in blue states.

The report, with the grandiose title “A Final Report Card on the States’ Response to COVID-19,” is the brainchild of right-wing pundit Stephen Moore, along with conservative political organizer Phil Kerpen and libertarian University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. (Both Moore and Mulligan served as political appointees in the Trump administration.) The report was released through the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a conservative group advocating the discredited principles of “supply-side” economics that has also promoted “pro-growth and liberty-based responses to COVID-19.”

The report, which is not peer-reviewed, also includes a note on the first page thanking Dr. Jay Bhattacharya “for his review of this study and his instructive advice.” Bhattacharya is a Stanford medical professor associated with the right-wing Hoover Institution, who has also informally advised Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) — a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024 — and has appeared multiple times on Fox News and undermined the COVID-19 vaccines and public vaccination campaigns. Bhattacharya also co-authored the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a reckless libertarian proposal for loosening public health measures in the midst of the pandemic to achieve global “herd immunity.”

Fox’s Special Report covered this rigged “study” as if it were straight news

The study was touted on Monday’s edition of Fox’s flagship “straight” news program, Special Report with Bret Baier. A chyron on screen claimed, “Red states fare better on economic and health outcomes.” But as a close examination of the study reveals — briefly alluded to by Fox News correspondent Jonathan Serrie — this conclusion exists only after the authors made some creative adjustments “for age, obesity, and diabetes.”

The study was also promoted in stories on Fox’s website, as well as in the editorial pages of the network’s corporate cousins: the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. and the New York Post both mentioned the metric of “age-adjusted death rates,” while the Journal was a bit more forthcoming in noting that the study also made adjustments for “the prevalence of obesity and diabetes (leading co-morbidities for Covid deaths).”

The reports in these three Murdoch publications all pointed to the report’s praise of Florida as supposedly one of the best-performing states — a possible sign of Bhattacharya’s influence on both Florida’s policies and this report’s verdict. By contrast, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has run through numbers from health care analyst Charles Gaba, which found that Florida is actually one of the worst-performing states in COVID-19 death statistics, even accounting for the state’s older population.

Moore also appeared on Monday morning’s edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., during which he claimed, “The big takeaway is that the lockdown strategy was pretty much a total failure. … States that remained open did not have higher death rates from the virus than states that completely shut down.” Serrie later mentioned Moore’s study again, on Tuesday morning’s edition of America’s Newsroom.

Moore has built a career as possibly the worst economist in the media, making serially wrong pronouncements and false calculations in service of his political agendas. In March 2019, then-President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Moore to the Federal Reserve Board, only for Moore to eventually withdraw from consideration due to multiple controversies over his past political comments.

Committee to Unleash Prosperity rewrites death numbers in red states with a fake statistic: “Metabolic-health adjustment”

In order to arrive at the favored conclusion, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity report actually looked at more than just health outcomes. The group’s press release explains that it used three metrics for its findings — COVID-19 deaths, economic performance, and school openings — and declared they were “equally weighted” in the analysis. The result is that the question of saving lives accounts for only one-third of the calculation. The study also essentially just rehashes in pseudo-scientific form Moore’s long-standing contention that saving lives in the pandemic might not be “worth trillions of dollars of losses” and that simply allowing the virus to spread was “a better strategy” than enduring the economic costs of lockdowns.

The concept of age-adjusted deaths across populations is a tricky issue. While it is a legitimate line of inquiry, Fox News has exploited it ever since the start of the pandemic to create a nonchalant response to COVID-19 deaths among the elderly. Looking at this metric from a neutral source does show some interesting effects, but the ranks of worst-performing states would still be Republican-led ones such as Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Moore and his compatriots at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity have gone even further, however, by setting up a new metric in the fine print of their supposed study. They call it an adjustment for “metabolic health” in different populations — “the pre-pandemic prevalence of obesity and diabetes.” But what it really amounts to is a manipulation of the statistics to declare that higher death tolls should be discounted in populations that were less healthy to begin with, and to act as if public health responses can be separated from the overall health of the public.

Much of the discourse around the role of obesity in COVID-19 deaths has framed it as “another ongoing pandemic,” and the role of diabetes has been addressed in media as a “public health train wreck” and evidence of “America’s diabetes crisis.” But the Committee to Unleash Prosperity instead treats these deaths as somehow a mitigating factor in the public health responses of the states most affected. It’s almost as if, by the standards of Moore and his co-authors, the deaths of unhealthy people are not a problem at all.

As a result of this statistical chicanery, death rates in the South and some other Republican-led states were magically revised downward, while deaths were “adjusted” drastically higher in many Democratic states — skewing the data to make blue states look like the worst offenders.

“NV, NY, NJ, and DC were the four states with the highest metabolic-adjusted mortality, even though none is in the top four without the adjustment,” the report says — as if that were a good thing for the authors’ credibility — because those four places all have obesity and diabetes rates that are below the national average. By contrast, in the real-world statistics they began with, the worst contenders were all red states.

Fox News has waged a two-year propaganda campaign against public health, in which it has lied about COVID-19 vaccines, promoted fake cures, encouraged the spread of the virus, and turned people defying public health measures into culture war heroes even as their actions have gotten them killed. Fox also clearly does not believe any of what it preaches — see its own corporate vaccination and testing policies — but the network nevertheless pursues this framing because it is “great for ratings.”

Who knows, perhaps the network will be able to come up with a study showing that watching Fox News is good for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, once the analysts can adjust for the comorbidities associated with watching Fox News.

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News And Vladimir Putin Recycling Propaganda In Feedback Loop

Throughout former President Donald Trump’s term in office, Media Matters carefully documented a phenomenon we defined as the “Trump-Fox feedback loop,” in which the right-wing propaganda network’s programming inspired over 1,000 tweets from its most important viewer, steering his obsessions and political talking points. That phenomenon came to an end when Trump lost his Twitter account after waging a literal assault on American democracy — which Fox also prodded him to do — but it has now been replaced by a new version, in which Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s talking points excusing his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine have come to resemble Fox’s own coverage of the assault.

In a real-life illustration of the Putin-Fox feedback loop, a recently reported memo from the Russian government directed the country’s media outlets to promote as many clips of Fox News star Tucker Carlson as possible, as the regime’s propaganda and Carlson’s own rhetoric have dovetailed almost perfectly.

Media Matters documented Wednesday that Putin’s denunciation of what he called “national traitors,” Russians who live supposedly elitist lifestyles that put them out of touch with the Russian nation, was remarkably similar to Tucker Carlson’s fake populism. (Putin's use of “national traitors” is co-opted Stalinist language, which he has used in the past.) Carlson was born into wealth and privilege, while Putin is reportedly one of the richest men on Earth and lives like a king.

Putin’s speech Wednesday seemingly contained another example of the confluence of Kremlin and Fox News talking points, when he attempted to directly address any potential Western audience, telling them that they should not blame Russia for the global economic consequences of sanctions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Instead, according to Putin, they should blame their own governments for the negative side effects of international sanctions. He also urged his audience to view the sanctions themselves as part of an effort to distract from the harms already being done in their home countries by their own governments and ruling “elites.”

All of these accusations have had antecedents on Fox News programming, from prime-time front man Tucker Carlson as well as other network hosts.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: For us, it is also obvious that the Western patrons are simply pushing the Kyiv authorities to continue the bloodshed. They are supplying them with new shipments of weapons and intelligence. They are providing other assistance, including the sending of military advisers and mercenaries.

In terms of weapons, they have chosen economic, financial, trade, and other sanctions in relation to Russia, which are hitting Americans and Europeans themselves in the form of rising prices for gasoline, energy, foodstuffs, and employment losses associated with the Russian market. We shouldn’t do, what is called, shift the problem from a sore head to a healthy one, and blame our country for everything.

I want ordinary citizens of Western governments to hear me, as well. They are now persistently trying to convince you that all your difficulties are the result of some hostile actions of Russia. That from your wallet you need to pay for the fight against the mythical Russian threat. It’s all a lie.

And the truth is that the current problems faced by millions of people in the West are the result of many years of actions by the ruling elites in their governments. Their mistakes, short-sightedness, and ambitions. These elites are not thinking about how to improve the lives of their citizens in Western countries, they are obsessed with their selfish interests and excess profits.
(Translated by Media Matters from Russian state TV)

A person can easily go through Putin’s talking points in the order he delivered them above and notice how well they match up with Fox News programming over the last few weeks:

“Western patrons are simply pushing the Kyiv authorities to continue the bloodshed”

  • On the March 15 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host suggested that providing weapons to Ukrainians in their resistance to Russia’s invasion might simply “prolong the fighting in Ukraine at the expense of the vulnerable civilian population in Ukraine,” declaring that such an act “would be cruel.”

“Sanctions … are hitting Americans and Europeans themselves”

  • On the March 11 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host specifically attacked the Biden administration’s ban on Russian oil, as well as its overall response to the invasion, as “the single most damaging thing any American president has ever done to this country and to the world. Not to Putin, to us.”

“Rising prices for gasoline, energy”

  • Multiple Fox News personalities attacked President Joe Biden for banning Russian oil, accusing him of deliberately wanting to raise gasoline prices on American consumers — after those same Fox commentators had previously attacked Biden for not placing sanctions on Russian oil, branding it an act of moral cowardice.
  • Fox News hosts then pivoted to accusing Biden of using the sanctions to divert the blame for high gas prices away from himself, and to make Putin into his “fall guy.”

“Problems faced by millions of people in the West”

  • On the February 28 edition of The Faulkner Focus, Fox host Pete Hegseth minimized the importance of the ongoing war in Ukraine in comparison to problems at home in America: “I was at CPAC this weekend talking to conservatives and young people, and they said yes, what is happening in Ukraine is important. But it pales in comparison to the crime I see in my streets, to the wokeness I see in my culture, to the inflation I see at my pocket book, to the real border I care about, which is the southern border, which is wide open. On every single issue, the quality of life of average Americans has gone down.”
  • On the February 18 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, shortly before the war began, the host complained that “you know how the news cycle moves, you'll hear ‘Ukraine’ and then, once the bombs start dropping, you'll never hear about inflation, CRT, the open border, crime, anything.”

“These elites ... are obsessed with their selfish interests and excess profits”

  • On the March 15 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, the host wondered whether Russia’s war was instead “engineered as a distraction” by the Biden administration, to distract from any scandals surrounding the president’s son Hunter Biden.
  • On the March 11 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host also put forward the idea that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was really the product of a conspiracy by American elites to keep their own power: “At exactly the moment when the emergency powers they awarded to themselves to fight COVID started to wane, our leaders began pushing for conflict with Russia.”
  • On the February 22 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, just before the war began, Carlson alleged that the coming sanctions on Russian energy were really a plot to benefit Democratic donors: “Maybe they're not against rising oil and gas prices. Maybe they are for them. Maybe expensive energy would be good for the many renewable deals their friends and donors are invested in.”
  • And on February 16, when Russia had been putting its troops in position to attack Ukraine, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo repeatedly claimed that the entire Russian threat against Ukraine was really an elaborate hoax by the U.S. State Department, in order to distract from supposed scandals related to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Clarification (3/18/22): This piece has been updated for clarity.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Putin’s Rants Are Literally Parroting Tucker Carlson

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin spoke Wednesday at a televised government meeting, during which he denounced U.S.-led economic sanctions that have isolated Russia’s economy as well as targeted the overseas assets of the country’s oligarchs in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s response was a tirade of culture-war themes about a supposed elite class attached to liberal values instead of their own country — themes that felt oddly like they could have been copied from right-wing media in the United States.

Among the targets of Putin’s ire were so-called “national traitors” who have taken up Western values, combining luxury goods and liberalism including “foie gras, oysters, or so-called gender freedoms.” Putin claimed that such people “would sell their own mother, just to have permission to sit at the entranceway of this higher caste.” Putin added, “they want to be like them, imitating them in various ways,” according to English subtitles on a video of his remarks.

While we have become almost desensitized to the way Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson has parrotted pro-Kremlin propaganda, it now seems like Russia’s leader is parroting Tucker Carlson. This development comes in the wake of a recent memo from the Russian government, directing the country’s media outlets to promote as many clips of Carlson as possible.

Notably, Carlson has a long history of attacking gender equality, insulting women in the military, and falsely claiming that transgender rights were "an issue for rich people." Carlson has also railed against diversity as a “core” national weakness, which he claimed was to blame for everything from higher gasoline prices to the looming downfall of society.

Putin also claimed that the West was now seeking to “cancel” Russia, echoing one of Carlson’s own arguments from three weeks ago. As the war against Ukraine began, Carlson exhorted his viewers to resist attempts by the media to get them to hate Putin, with Carlson invoking numerous culture-war themes in his defense: “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”

During his televised rant, Putin also denounced persistent economic inequality in the West. But, according to multiple reports, he could potentially be the richest person in the world. He had an estimated net worth of $200 billion in 2017, stemming from his alleged control over significant chunks of Russia’s energy sector, and he also presides over an inner circle with vast wealth of their own. And while he heckled “those who have a villa in Miami” or “the French Riviera,” he’s got his own palace on the Black Sea, and a lifestyle of yachts, cars, and reported “secret girlfriends.”

Carlson also does quite well for himself, with a reported net worth of $30 million and a family fortune that afforded him a privileged upbringing, which included attending private school in San Diego and an elite prep school in Rhode Island. His father Dick Carlson is a retired banker and media executive with lengthy government experience, whose résumé included stints as director of Voice of America and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Carlson has made an entire career out of his fake-populism scam, claiming to oppose a cultural "ruling class" and to speak out against rich people on TV — when in fact he is one of the elite, is supported by wealthy benefactors, and those wealthy individuals he does attack tend to be people in minority groups.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Carlson Scapegoats Harris To Justify Craven Flip-Flop On Ukraine

Fox News host Tucker Carlson previously defended Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, and his work has been promoted by Kremlin-backed media as he’s opposed economic sanctions and denigrated Ukraine. But amid continued Russian atrocities, such as the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Carlson is now trying to find a scapegoat for his having gotten the entire situation completely wrong.

It should come with little surprise that he picked out a woman of color to be that scapegoat: Vice President Kamala Harris.

Carlson has a long history of making disgusting sexist comments – while claiming that criticism of his misogyny is evidence of the decline of civilization. He is also the single biggest champion of white nationalism in the media landscape today. When it comes to his attacks on Harris, Carlson’s penchant for racism and misogyny often become intertwined.

Carlson declared Thursday night that Harris’ involvement in rallying America’s allies ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine “appeared to be proof this could not really be a big deal,” as “if things were dire, serious people would be involved in fixing them.” Carlson continued, “If the future of Europe and the world hung in the balance as now, so obviously, it does, of course, the Biden administration would not have sent Kamala Harris to fix it.” Apparently, Carlson seems to think the vice president of the United States is capable of engaging only in frivolities.

In the real world, two weeks ago, Harris had in fact warned Russia that the global community would “impose far-reaching financial sanctions” if it invaded Ukraine as she worked to rally America’s partners and allies to deter Russian aggression. She also informed the public in no uncertain terms about the seriousness of the situation, bluntly stating that it involved “the real possibility of war in Europe.” In the time since, the United States has led the global effort to impose economic sanctions against Russia and hold the line in defense of NATO allies.

Over the course of his ranting monologue, Carlson denigrated Harris’ efforts at diplomacy in starkly misogynistic terms. “Imagine being first in line for a shoe sale on Black Friday. Kamala Harris had that look: She knew what she wanted and she knew where to find it.” He also returned to his ongoing obsession with Harris’ love life, proclaiming “So if you're looking for someone to date Montel Williams, well, maybe she’s the person you would choose. She could be a solid choice for that, she has done it before. Dating Montel Williams, you know, is something that’s within her range of experience” then adding that he could not say whether or not she was “good at it.”

Carlson also told a blatant lie based on a selectively edited quote, claiming that Harris had “explicitly encouraged Ukraine to join NATO. Quote, ‘I appreciate and admire President Zelensky's desire to join NATO.’ She said that at a press event.”

Carlson went on to falsely allege that “the idea that Ukraine might join NATO obviously caused this crisis in the first place, whatever you think of it. … So obviously, no sane person would say something like that with Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border. You'd have to want an invasion of Ukraine to say something like that.” (Russia caused this crisis, not NATO, and not Ukraine.)

Carlson quoted Harris saying, “I appreciate and admire President Zelensky's desire to join NATO,” while leaving out everything else she said while speaking to reporters in Munich, Germany, on February 20. Harris acknowledged Ukraine’s publicly established desire to join NATO’s alliance of democracies — in contrast to Russia’s attempt to dictate domestic and foreign policy to Ukraine — while also balancing that desire with NATO’s established processes of determining new membership. From the White House (emphasis added):

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me start by saying I appreciate and admire President Zelenskyy’s desire to join NATO. And one of, again, the founding principles of NATO is that each country must have the ability — unimpaired, unimpeded — to determine their own future, both in terms of their form of government and, in this case, whether they desire to be a member of NATO.
And I’ll put that in context, because the obvious is also the point, which is that: and therefore no other country can tell anyone whether they should or should not join NATO. That should be their independent choice. That is the point of sovereignty. So I respect President Zelenskyy’s desire to be a member of NATO.
NATO is a membership. It is about nations coming together as a group, making decisions collectively around, again, principles and what will be, then, the conditions and — and the standards of membership. And so that is the process.
It doesn’t happen overnight. No one country can say “I want to be, and therefore I will be.” And no one country can say “You can’t be.” And isn’t that at the heart of the very issue we’re presented with in terms of Russia’s aggression, or stated aggression, toward Ukraine?

Of course, acknowledging Harris’ full statement would not only have run completely counter to what Carlson was trying to allege she had said — it would also demonstrate the extent of her knowledge and involvement with the complex policies involved, thus disproving his entire attempt to turn her into a scapegoat for his own propaganda campaign in favor of Russian dictatorship.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In Alternate Fox News Reality, Trump Was Tough On Putin

Fox News is gaslighting the American public about how former President Donald Trump would have handled Russian aggression against Ukraine, claiming Trump was a stronger leader than President Joe Biden and would have better protected vulnerable countries. In reality, Trump often promoted a foreign policy agenda that aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests.

The disgraced former president publicly sided with Putin in 2018 against U.S. intelligence officials’ determinations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He also reportedly sided with Russia, in conversations with other world leaders, over Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Trump also attempted to extort Ukraine into launching an investigation against then-presidential candidate Biden by withholding military aid vital to their defense against Russia, in a scheme that led to Trump’s first impeachment. (The scheme almost worked, too.)

Trump was also infamously biting toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the linchpin of European military security against Russian aggression, calling the organization “obsolete” before being forced to backtrack. Trump publicly wavered in his commitment to NATO's “Article 5” assurances, which bind member states to one another's mutual defense if they were ever to be attacked, before again backtracking.

In Fox News’ alternate reality, none of this happened. Prime-time host Sean Hannity spoke Monday night with Fox News contributor and retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who held a number of national security positions in the Trump administration, with the two suggesting that Trump had been a stronger leader against Russia.

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let me ask you this. Why is it that this happened in the Obama-Biden administration? It didn't happen in the Trump administration, and now it's happening again. Do you have any strong belief as to why that is?

KEITH KELLOG (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Yeah, Sean, I do have two words: weakness and opportunity. When you look at this administration and when you look at the chief executive and you look at the national security staff that he has around him, and you look at the vice president, it’s a constant pattern of weakness.

When President Trump was in office, you know, he was resolute and he was also predictably unpredictable. He kept adversaries on their back foot all of the time and he would do things that would surprise people but adversaries would look at him and say, “Well, look, this may happen to me.”

Hannity is in fact linked to both disgraceful chapters of the Trump-Russia relationship. Hannity took a major role in pushing conspiracy theories meant to absolve Russia from the hack of Democratic emails in 2016, a role that culminated in Fox paying an out-of-court settlement to the parents of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Hannity also pushed disinformation about Ukraine and the Biden family, as part of a propaganda effort linked to then-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, which the Fox News’ internal research “Brain Room” eventually acknowledged wasn’t credible. Hannity had also pushed a false narrative that the “real collusion” in 2016 had been between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, thus helping to stoke Trump’s anger and desire to scapegoat the Eastern European country.

On Tuesday morning, Fox’s America’s Newsroom spoke with Fox News contributor and former Trump-era Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who falsely insisted that Trump had been tougher on Russia in comparison to Biden’s alleged weakness.

BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): For four years, Democrats said that Donald Trump was in awe of Vladimir Putin — and Joe Biden was one of them. Lay out for us what a proper deterrence would have been, if you believe you could have stopped Putin when you were in office.

MIKE POMPEO (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, Bill, I can say this, The only thing that has changed in the last 14 months is the leadership in the United States of America. We’ve all known Vladimir Putin a long time. I spent a great deal of time with him and his lieutenants. He hasn't changed, his vision for reinstating the greater Soviet Union and creating a sphere of influence was precisely the same for the four years that I was in office alongside President Trump. We were determined to convince him that there were things he could not do, and we put lots of sanctions on him. But where we could work with him, we could. We had a model for engagement and deterrents that stopped him from doing precisely what you’re seeing happened this morning.

Pompeo failed to recall, however, the occasion in December 2020, when Trump publicly contradicted Pompeo about Russia being behind a massive hack of the federal government and industries. Pompeo had said that “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians,” but Trump instead said that it might have been China. (Trump was also very busy during that period attempting to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election — an assault on American democracy in which Pompeo also seemingly participated.)

And on Tuesday afternoon’s edition of Outnumbered, co-host Harris Faulkner said to co-host and former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “The White House response to Russia was quite different in the last administration. Talk to us about it.”

McEnany responded, in part: “The real truth here is this — that there is no greater supporter of the Democrat Party than Vladimir Putin.”

During her time at the White House, McEnany pushed false talking points that investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election had resulted in “the complete and total exoneration of President Trump.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Carlson Joins Far-Right Media To Push January 6 FBI Bomb Conspiracy

Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson and top right-wing media allies in his propaganda campaign claiming the January 6 insurrection was a false flag operation are now pushing a new set of conspiracy theories focused on the pipe bombs discovered that day outside both the Republican and Democratic national committee offices — which they want you to believe may have been planted by the FBI.

CNN and Politico reported this past January that Vice President Kamala Harris, then the vice president-elect, had to be evacuated from the DNC headquarters when a pipe bomb was discovered outside. CNN later added more to the story, revealing that Harris had been within yards of the bomb when she initially arrived at the building.

About a month after this news broke, Carlson and his compatriots in the January 6 Truth movement began to push back with unfounded conspiracies. Carlson insinuated the reports about the pipe bombs were false on the February 9 edition of his Fox show: “Now, everyone has assumed those bombs were planted by a Trump supporter. The media have told us that. But who was this person?”

During a more than eight-minute rant, Carlson suggested virtually every detail of the pipe bomb news was suspicious, including the placement of the bombs, the construction of the devices, and the facts of their discovery. He even implied it was suspicious that the bomb suspect had still not been caught. Furthermore, according to Carlson, there must be some crucial information that Kamala Harris hasn’t been talking about — and “this is not a conspiracy theory.”

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): What we can confirm is that Kamala Harris was not chased into danger on January 6 by insurrectionists. No, she was driven to danger by a government chauffeur. And then, critically, Kamala Harris hid that fact for more than a year. Why is that?

We have a right to know the answer to that question. It's not a conspiracy theory. It's an entirely legitimate question. Maybe someone could ask Kamala Harris.

Contrary to Carlson’s conspiracy theory, the FBI has publicly said that both bombs found at the DNC and RNC offices “were viable and could have been detonated, resulting in serious injury or death.” Carlson falsely claimed the bombs had been “designed to be found, not to explode” and misleadingly used quotes from police officials in 2021, who said that the bombs had potentially been meant to be a diversion to draw police away from the Capitol.

In Carlson’s telling, “the bomb couldn't have been the diversion that the Capitol Police Department said it was” unless the person planting it knew beforehand that Harris would be at the DNC. Carlson never mentioned, however, that a bomb was also found at the RNC office — a place Harris obviously would never have been in the first place — but such a fact would interfere with his own narrative. He also never acknowledged that the would-be bomber didn’t even need to have been targeting anyone specifically, and could simply have been targeting whichever people happened to be at either of those respective national headquarters that day.

A few days after Carlson delivered this monologue, his right-wing compatriot Julie Kelly published her own piece declaring the bombs were an FBI-perpetrated hoax. Her February 14 post to the right-wing website American Greatness declared “No one still trying to convince the public that two pipe bombs were planted near the Capitol in advance of January 6 can be believed.” Kelly’s post also dabbled in a number of other conspiracy theories that Carlson and his allies have pushed about January 6, including the purported involvement of Arizona man Ray Epps and claims that the storming of the Capitol involved a “still-unknown number of FBI informants.”

Kelly also appeared Wednesday, February 16 on One America News, where host Kara McKinney claimed “we have the makings of yet another hoax perpetrated by the FBI.” Kelly, in turn, falsely declared, “The FBI is not trustworthy. It is wholly an enforcement arm, a surveillance arm of the Democratic Party.”

Kelly had been working for months on this false-flag story. In November 2021, she wrote “So a fleet of bomb-squad trucks just happened to be on the east side of the Capitol complex, which happens to be the location of both the RNC and DNC headquarters, at exactly the same time a device is found?” (Emphasis in original.)

Keep in mind that such security services would have been in place near the Capitol, because there were certainly reasons for police to be on high alert for possible trouble on the date of January 6, a day that culminated in a mob of insurrectionists storming the Capitol to interrupt the presidential transition in an attempt to overthrow the government. Of course, the denial of this obvious fact is what the efforts by Carlson, Kelly, and key players on the far right is really all about. (And it’s also not any kind of magical coincidence that both the DNC and RNC normally have their offices right near the Capitol, which is the most obvious location for them in the first place.)

In the weeks in between the CNN and Politico reports, and then Carlson’s segment, Kelly posted a number of tweets about the bomb plotline, connecting it to what she falsely claims was a government-fomented breach of the Capitol.

Kelly also publicly applauded Carlson’s February 9 segment, and did some further promotion of the conspiracy theory in the days until her own post went live. For example, she seemingly branched out into yet another false-flag claim about an act of right-wing political violence from years ago — perhaps as a way of rhetorically planning ahead for any future arrest in the pipe bombs case:

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Cesar Sayoc is the so-called “MAGA Bomber,” who was arrested in October 2018 and pleaded guilty in March 2019 for sending mail bombs to a variety of liberal political figures including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, multiple members of Congress, actor Robert De Niro, and the CNN offices in both Atlanta and New York City. At his sentencing, Sayoc attributed his crimes in part to mental illness and decades of steroid abuse, also describing his political obsession with then-President Donald Trump as “this new found fun drug.” Sayoc was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and currently has a projected release date in November 2035.

At the time of Sayoc’s arrest, a number of right-wing media figures spread claims that the entire incident had been a false flag, on the grounds that Sayoc’s van — which was covered in pro-Trump stickers — purportedly looked too new and not sufficiently worn down for him to have been a real Trump supporter.

Right-wing commentators like Kelly and Carlson are now going back to this familiar well, insisting that right-wing political violence is never genuine and must be an elaborate hoax.

Fox News Anchors Insist That Infrastructure Isn’t Really ‘Infrastructure’

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News is mounting a rhetorical push against President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan announced on Wednesday and is trying to declare that a number of projects mentioned in the bill aren't "infrastructure" — even when they obviously are.

According to Fox's purported "news side" personalities as well as segments from opinion hosts, only roads and bridges actually qualify for the label — which leaves out the following: The electrical grid, broadband internet, building construction, plumbing networks, and who knows what else.

On Thursday morning's edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer asked Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg why only a portion of the spending money was "dedicated to roads and bridges," instead highlighting the bill's investments in "electric grid improvements, broadband, water systems, and on and on it goes."

Buttigieg then explained what was wrong with this argument: The electric grid, broadband internet, and other technologies are part of the infrastructure of a modern economy.

This line of argument, suggesting that various areas of technology don't really count as "infrastructure," began even before Biden delivered his speech. And it also becomes clear that Fox's goalposts have kept on moving.

On Wednesday's edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy said that there are "still some infrastructure priorities in this package," such as money for roads and bridges, as well as to replace all the lead pipes still being used in the country, and $213 billion for environmentally sustainable housing.

But other items, shown in a list on screen, included "$174 billion to 'win' electric vehicle market" — as if the emerging market of electric vehicles doesn't require a public strategy.

But then in the very next hour on The Five, co-host Jesse Watters contrasted the problem of potholes on the highways with building "a lot of electric car charging stations for all the Tesla drivers," though the bill also includes basic money for roads. He also complained about the environmental improvements to buildings, casting it as wasteful: "If they retrofit every single building here in Manhattan, I'm going to have a headache with all the hammering. It's enough already."

Similarly, Sean Hannity remarked on Wednesday night that a large portion of the bill would be dedicated to such purportedly non-infrastructure projects as "retrofitting millions of homes and hospitals and other buildings in an environmentally conscious way and other funds would go towards building new green schools."

Hannity also brought on South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who declared: "I was shocked by how much doesn't go into infrastructure. It goes into research and development. It goes into housing, and pipes, and different initiatives, green energy, and it really is not an honest conversation we're having about what this proposal is."

The next morning, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt reaired the clip of Noem's comments. Keep in mind, of course, that Doocy's earlier segment had included the replacement of lead pipes and housing improvements as part of the genuine "infrastructure" components of the package. But now, the network will run that clip of Noem as a serious statement, even after it was widely reported and lampooned the night before.

Union-Hating Fox News Backs Wildcat Action By Fringe Truckers

Fox News’ vocal support for the far-right trucker convoys in Canada, which began in opposition to vaccine mandates for operators crossing the U.S.-Canada border but has since expanded to oppose all public health measures, has revealed Fox’s hypocritical stances on vaccine and testing policies, as well as protesters who block roads.

But now another key angle has been exposed: While, in the past, Fox opposed advances by organized labor, demeaned unions, insulted striking workers, supported companies over unions, opposed higher wages for workers, and falsely blamed unions for supply chain troubles during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is now egging on this labor shutdown — which not only sabotages other workers, but was not authorized by any union or democratic process in the first place.

A key point here is that Fox has falsely represented the truck convoys as representing the wider views of truckers in Canada, as the network has tried to incite similar actions in the United States. In fact, a reported 90 percent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, and since the beginning of convoy protest many spoken out against it and noted that it is not addressing “critically important” issues affecting the industry’s workers. Teamsters Canada has also opposed the convoys, leaving the minority of truckers to represent themselves. And since blockades began at sites such as the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, the truckers who are still doing their jobs have been faced with arduous traffic at other routes.

Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, told CTV News about the toll that the blockades have taken on the truckers who are actually working. “They have no access to food for six to eight hours other than what's in their truck, [no] washrooms, they’re losing shifts, the mental stress,” Laskowski explained, further adding: “Most importantly … drivers are telling us their reputation as truck drivers are being hurt by these people who have nothing to do with our industry that are involved in this.”

Furthermore, the Ambassador Bridge blockade has led to shutdowns at auto plants, as assembly components have been stuck across the border. This event seemingly triggered an immediate reversal in Canada of conservative support of the convoys, with the federal Conservative Party leadership calling for all protesters in Ottawa to go home. Previously, the party’s federal caucus members had openly courted the Ottawa convoy’s support.

Doug Ford, the conservative premier of Ontario (an office similar to a U.S. governor), announced Friday that the province was declaring a state of emergency and imposing stiff penalties on blockade participants. These include up to $100,000 Canadian dollars (approximately $78,500 USD) in fines, prison sentences of up to one year, and possible revocation of personal and commercial driver’s licenses. [Editor's Note: The Ambassador Bridge was cleared by police over the weekend.]

But on Fox News, which has engaged in absurd and disproven demagoguery on supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this new supply chain crisis caused by anti-vaccine saboteurs is a cause for celebration.

Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson claimed last Thursday night that the blockade was “the single most successful human rights protest in a generation” — while at the same time boasting of the economic damage that the blockade has caused to other workers, forcing a shutdown of Ford and Toyota plants, and noting that “General Motors has canceled multiple shifts.”

Carlson then condemned the Biden administration for coordinating with the Canadian government on providing alternative traffic routes: “That's Scranton Joe, the pro-union guy, shutting down a labor action” — thus falsely equating the wildcat disruption with a real strike that would have been brought about by a democratically representative decision.

Later in the monologue, Carlson accused liberals of committing a betrayal of their usual support for “organized labor,” again falsely describing those truckers committing the blockades as “striking workers,” and claiming that liberals would soon “be demanding scabs” — disregarding the fact that other truckers have still been working and facing sabotage this whole time. Adding insult to injury, Carlson would seemingly brand them as “scabs,” despite the fact that they never had any chance to vote on any real labor action, and for which all evidence indicates it would have failed under a democratic procedure.

Then, promoting a further truck convoy in this country, Carlson said: “How does the supposedly pro-union White House feel about this? They're completely panicked.” (As for what any actual unions might think, the Teamsters in the U.S. had already put out a statement on Thursday condemning the blockades up north.)

On Friday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Will Cain offered this praise of the blockades: “I think this is the working class versus the elites. This is the common man versus the authoritarian. This is people standing up for individual freedom — not necessarily or specifically or exclusively against a vaccine or even a vaccine mandate. This is people tired of being lorded over. And what starts in Canada may soon make its way here to the United States.”

As Cain said that, however, the b-roll video playing was not one of the blockades, but of a traffic jam on the Blue Water Bridge, connecting Ontario to Port Huron, Michigan, which has been one of those alternate routes since the Ambassador Bridge was blocked off. The video did not show the truckers Fox has praised, but instead a great mass of trucks moving very slowly, and extending back as far as a helicopter camera could see — perhaps representing the true “working class” still struggling to make it through this manufactured crisis.

Then, in a truly comical moment later in the segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade declared that “it's time to sit down, Justin Trudeau, with the truckers, if you want to get your bridges back” — before immediately segueing to another edition of the network’s exaggerated narratives about crime: “Meanwhile, New York City business owners begging for help as the crime hits a decade high.”

And even Fox’s business side got in on the soft-on-crime, pro-sabotage line. Fox Business reporter Lauren Simonetti told host Stuart Varney that between the choice of all mandates ending, or all the trucks being removed so that trade could resume, “I don't see either one of those things happening, because they’re too extreme. Someone — both sides need to save face here.”

Maybe what is really “extreme” here is Fox News promoting an illegal, international economic disruption that has harmed workers across multiple industries, and which had no democratic mandate in the first place — and then for the network’s hosts to falsely claim that this represents an authentic expression by labor against oppressive forces.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters