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Monday, December 09, 2019

Reject Political Media Mythology: Debt Ceiling Rise Isn't A 'Credit Card'

With Republicans once again setting the stage for gridlock in Congress over raising the U.S. Treasury's statutory debt limit, and using interviews to push disingenuous analogies comparing the federal government’s budgeting practices to that of an average American household. The real danger is that mainstream media could fall for this misleading comparison and pressure Democrats into enacting painful cuts to popular social programs, while also letting Republicans off the hook for their role in manufacturing this crisis in the first place.

These comparisons between federal and household budgets go back many years, and they ignore some glaring differences: Unlike a household or business, the U.S. government issues its own currency and can roll over its own debt. The political utility of this comparison, however, is that it has enabled conservatives to target social programs, while they avoid answering for their own role in running up the public debt through unfunded tax cuts under Republican administrations.

Deceptive “credit card” analogy distracts from GOP’s role in running up deficits

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared on the January 15 edition of Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures in an interview designed to excuse his party’s role in manufacturing a crisis, by accusing President Joe Biden and Democrats of wasteful spending akin to running up credit card debt.

“So, what I really think we would do is treat this like we would treat our own household,” McCarthy said. “If you had a child, you gave them a credit card, and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn't just keep increasing it. You would first see, what are you spending your money on? How can we cut items out?”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) appeared on the January 22 edition of Sunday Morning Futures and also blamed Biden singularly for the levels of U.S. debt, using the credit card comparison. In outlining this flawed analogy, Scalise also gave away the political game by describing what he thinks should happen next.

“And so what happened is the credit cards are maxed out. That's basically how you hit the debt ceiling. It's the ability to print more money. And that expires when you hit the debt ceiling,” Scalise said. “And so the only way to address it is to control spending or to increase the debt ceiling, or a combination of the two.” (Scalise left out the obvious third possibility — of undoing the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy — while instead pushing an agenda to go after important government programs.)

Other elected Republicans have continued pushing this deceitful analogy via Fox News, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on the January 22 edition of Fox News Sunday.

As others have pointed out, McCarthy did not have a similar zeal for obstructing routine debt limit increases during the Trump administration, when he voted to extend the debt limit during unified Republican control of government, and later supported a deal between a Democratic-led House and a Republican president to suspend the limit. This all occurred against the backdrop of congressional Republicans helping Trump balloon the national debt and budget deficit through unpopular tax cuts benefiting America's wealthiest families and corporations.

But going beyond the point of hypocrisy, this false comparison enables other bad messaging and both-sides comparisons, which falsely equate congressional Republicans taking the economy hostage through debt ceiling brinkmanship with Democrats opposing the act of hostage-taking.

McCarthy's own “credit card” analogy doesn’t make any sense

Earlier this month on Peacock’s The Mehdi Hasan Show, Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton explained why the federal debt ceiling is not remotely the same as a personal credit card limit — and just how nonsensical and potentially catastrophic the whole arrangement really is.


STEPHANIE KELTON (ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY): We know that the limit on our credit card is imposed by the lender, right? It’s the lender who says, “I’m going to limit the amount of charges that I’m willing to allow you to put on the card, because I’m worried about your ability to repay the loan.” Now, the debt ceiling limit, who imposes that limit? It is not a lender; it is the borrower itself. It is the federal government, in the form of Congress, that is saying “we are self-imposing this absurd constraint.” Which, as you just said, does nothing to actually constrain spending. All it does is potentially impede the ability of the government to make the payments that Congress has already authorized.

So, the debt ceiling is a form of self-delusion and obviously the kind of thing that periodically takes us to the brink where, you know, we start to wonder whether we’re going to do something unprecedented that could create incredible chaos in the global financial system, which is to actually default on those payments.

MEHDI HASAN (HOST): And the credit card analogy is not just dumb, it doesn't even make sense. Because, what Steve Scalise is saying is, “Don't pay back your credit card bill.” That's essentially what they're saying, if they want to risk a debt default.

Last Thursday on CNN, University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers also explained this distinction. He further added that to the extent that levels of public spending and debt are an issue, McCarthy and other members of Congress are the ones who should be fixing that via normal legislative processes, instead of threatening to “to punch the American people in the face” by defaulting on the government’s bills and inevitably triggering both higher interest rates and higher taxes while undermining the integrity of the entire economy.


ERICA HILL (ANCHOR): And this something I think that Speaker McCarthy was really looking to do, so he compared the debt limit to a family’s finances saying, “look, Congress at this point can’t just keep raising the government’s credit card limit.” That’s an analogy I think most Americans can understand. And it’s one you called “cute,” but you also said it’s wrong. Why doesn’t that example work here?

JUSTIN WOLFERS (ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN): So, it’s wrong because the person who raises your credit card limit is the credit card company, it’s the lender. Speaker McCarthy is part of the government. The government’s the borrower. The only choice the borrower makes — and we all face it every month — is the credit card bill comes due, are you going to pay it or not?

So if Speaker McCarthy wants the U.S. government to spend less money, he needs to pass bills so that we spend less money. But right now, he’s got a credit card bill in the mail and he’s just stomping his feet and saying, “I’m not going to pay it.” This is the part, actually, where it’s a pretty good analogy. Most of your viewers know that’s a pretty bad idea, it’s a pretty good way of getting your credit cut off, raising interest rates. And what that means is if the U.S. government pays higher interest, you and I pay higher taxes.

Former Federal Reserve economist Louise Sheiner, currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has also explained that the debt ceiling does not accomplish any fiscal restraint in the first place and should be abolished. “The only way to change the level of the debt is to change your tax revenues that are coming in or your spending that's going out, and that requires direct legislation on those elements,” Sheiner told KPCC radio in an interview published January 21. “And I think the evidence suggests that, really, the debt ceiling has not had a disciplinary effect on the budget. It really is used more, I think, as a political football than as a really intentional way of addressing our long-term challenges.”

Mainstream reporters mustn’t fall for the “credit card” analogy

CNN Inside Politics anchor John King ominously said Thursday, “The government’s credit card comes due, and there is no plan to pay it down.” And during a panel discussion, Tia Mitchell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution claimed that the Biden administration was at risk of losing political support in the country because of it.

“And I think the people at home are looking at Congress — they’re not just looking at the White House, but they’re looking at Congress — and they’re saying, ‘We have to control our spending, because we only have so much we can put on our credit card. You need to do the same,’” Mitchell said. “Republicans understand that, and that’s why they want to have that conversation.”


About an hour later, CNN hosted Wolfers to explain exactly why the credit card analogy is wrong.

NBC News data reporter Brian Chung also used the credit card analogy Thursday on MSNBC: “Imagine that you have racked up $1,000 on your credit card, but you only have $800 to pay off that bill. That's the limit that we're talking about here. It's a cap on how much the government can borrow to pay its bills for spending that’s already been done, by the way, so it has nothing to do with whether money goes to defense or infrastructure, for example. … If they can’t pay its bills, then maybe they have to cut spending and funding and things like Social Security or Medicare.


NBC News senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake also pointed out that congressional Republicans obstruct this purported credit card limit only when there is a Democratic president, not under a Republican. But the discourse is still trapped by this flawed analogy.

Update (1/23/23): This piece has been updated to include additional transcripts.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Buries Bust Of New Mexico Shooting Suspect -- And His MAGA Motives

Fox News has almost completely neglected to cover breaking news developments in a series of shootings that targeted the homes of multiple Democratic officials in New Mexico, neglecting a story that would potentially call further attention to the network’s own promotion of conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

On Monday, an Albuquerque SWAT team arrested Solomon Pena, naming him as the suspected “mastermind” behind a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of four local Democratic elected officials, including two county commissioners as well as the incoming speaker of the state House. Nobody was injured in the shootings, but in one instance bullets went through the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl while she was asleep.

A crucial aspect of this story is the suspect’s alleged motive, reported by the Albuquerque Journal: Pena ran as the Republican nominee for a state legislative seat last November, losing with just 26 percent of the vote, and since then has made conspiratorial claims that the election was stolen. “Once the rigging is stopped, I will be sworn in as the State Rep for district 14,” Pena wrote in one Twitter post. He also was in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, when then-President Donald Trump gathered his supporters in an attempted insurrection to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, and has since repeatedly voiced his support for Trump’s false claims about elections being stolen by Democrats.

CNN has covered the story for a total of one hour and 35 minutes over the past two days, MSNBC has covered it for a total of two hours and 20 minutes, including interviews on both networks with one of the officials whose home was shot, and who described Pena’s earlier visit to her home to complain that the election had been fraudulent. In an astonishing contrast, Fox News has covered it for a grand total of less than one minute.

Pena’s false claims of election fraud align with past messaging from Fox News personalities, from defending the January 6 insurrectionists to telling viewers not to trust the results of the 2022 midterm elections before and after Election Day.

The first mention of this story on Fox News was not even intentional: The network was carrying a live feed of White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s briefing with reporters, when a journalist asked a question.

Fox first purposefully included the story during a headline update on Special Report, lasting less than 30 seconds. The story received another 20 seconds of coverage on Fox News @ Night, as part of a collection of stories headlined under Fox’s misleading category “America’s Crime Crisis.” Fox mentioned in both instances that Pena had lost his campaign for the state legislature, but the network did not mention his false claims that the election was stolen, the fact that he had previously visited a county commissioner’s home to complain about the results, or his presence in Washington on the day of the January 6 insurrection.

Fox News could never admit a connection between those conspiracy theories and a rash of terrorist acts, as doing so would call into question the network’s own recent coverage. Last November, for example, prime-time host Tucker Carlson questioned the election results in Arizona, where a number of statewide Republican candidates lost their races, and declared ominously that “Americans lose their faith in their democratic system and when they lose that faith, they tend to become radical and over time, they can become dangerous.” In addition, the network’s coverage last August of the FBI search for stolen documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was clearly aimed at whipping up its viewers into further rage.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “shot,” “gun violence,” “death,” or “attack” or any variation of any of the terms “shoot,” “wound,” “kill,” “injure,” “gunfire,” or “terror” within close proximity of any of the terms “Solomon,” “Pena,” “Peña,” “New Mexico,” or “Albuquerque” from January 16, 2023, when authorities arrested Pena, through 12 p.m. ET on January 18, 2023.

We included segments, which we defined as instances when the shootings allegedly directed by Solomon Pena were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the shootings. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the shootings with one another.

We also included passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the shootings without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the shootings scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wing Media Promote Lies, Conspiracies About Documents Found At Biden Office

Right-wing media are disingenuously comparing the recent discovery of classified documents among President Joe Biden’s vice presidential papers at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement — a Washington, D.C., nonprofit think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania — versus the ongoing scandal involving disgraced former President Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate in returning classified documents he’d kept at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

CBS News broke the story Monday, reporting that Biden’s personal attorneys discovered the documents while they were preparing to move out of office space at the Penn Biden Center in November 2022. The White House counsel’s office immediately notified the National Archives, and Biden’s attorneys have cooperated with the government on searching for and returning materials.

NBC News reported Wednesday that Biden aides have “discovered at least one additional batch of classified documents” in a separate location as they continue what was described as an “exhaustive” search for items that belong at the National Archives.

By contrast, the scandal involving Trump's mishandling of government records first exploded into public view in February 2022, after reports surfaced that the National Archives had recovered 15 boxes of materials from his private residence in Florida, including classified records. (At the time, the Trump team’s absurd excuse for mishandling government records was that they were accidentally packed away amid Trump’s failed coup and hasty transition out of office.)

When even more classified documents were later recovered during an FBI search of Trump’s home in August 2022, the public learned that he and his legal team had refused to cooperate in returning the documents for months, and had only partially relented after a monthslong legal fight with the National Archives that necessitated a federal subpoena.

Before the FBI search of his home, Trump’s legal team falsely asserted to federal authorities that they had returned all the materials sought by the Department of Justice. Trump then variously switched his story to claim that he had actually declassified the materials before removing them, or to claim that he was allowed to retain them because they were his personal records and not government property. Trump also threatened more violence from his supporters if he got into legal trouble.

Contrary to Trump’s sound and fury, Biden has publicly said he was “surprised” to learn of the story about documents stored in his former office, and that his attorneys “did what they should have done” in returning the documents promptly.

Right-wing media are completely ignoring these crucial distinctions in their rush to exaggerate Biden’s situation as being tantamount to Trump’s scandal. On the one hand is Trump’s clear evasion and refusal to cooperate with government requests to turn over official documents, which were illegally removed from the White House after Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the 2020 election and remain in office, compared to the Penn Biden Center taking it upon itself to notify the government and fully cooperate in returning documents that ought to have remained in federal custody.

These false comparisons seem to have multiple purposes. The first one is to muddy the waters on the investigation into Trump’s noncompliance with federal records laws. (CNN’s reaction to the Biden news initially fell for this line of thinking, though the network’s coverage has since improved somewhat.) In addition, right-wing media are trying to insist that despite his own team’s full cooperation, Biden really did commit some crime worthy of a serious criminal investigation, similar to the Trump case, or even impeachment by the newly Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And still others are pushing conspiracy theories that because Chinese donors have given money to the University of Pennsylvania, this would somehow give Chinese agents direct access to stored materials at the Penn Biden Center.

Comparisons to Trump Investigation

  • Fox News host Sean Hannity compared the mainstream media reaction to the Biden news with reactions to the Trump investigation: “The hysteria, well, it was as usual with anything Donald Trump, and the media mob, it was through the roof. Let’s see if they’ll apply this to Biden.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/9/23]
  • Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett claimed, “They don’t know what they’re talking about, but this certainly blows a hole in any ability of Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice to go after Trump for allegedly mishandling classified documents,” adding, “No, his name’s Donald Trump so we’re going to go after him with a vengeance and threaten him with crimes.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/9/23]
  • Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee sarcastically remarked about a potential raid on Biden’s office similar to what was done to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence: “Well, of course they’ll be treated the same. You and I both expect that, right?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/10/23]
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short explained the distinction that Trump’s legal team had not cooperated with the Justice Department, but still complained of a “double standard” by the government in the Biden case. Fox Business correspondent Jackie DeAngelis then falsely claimed without missing a beat that “the current sitting president when he was vice president did something very similar” as Trump. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Steve Doocy dismissed the “details are different in sheer numbers and stuff like that,” saying, “Nonetheless, when you have these kind of documents, just one counts. So it’s like, you know, people said, ‘Oh, he had 300, Biden only had 10.’ It just takes one.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News correspondent Alexandria Hoff compared Biden’s reaction to the discovery that Trump was sitting on hundreds of documents to the reaction of the documents in his office, “The president had been far more outspoken when it came to his predecessor’s possession of classified documents, which led to the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz asked, “Why aren’t they raiding the Penn Center? If there were classified documents there, do we know that they’ve got all of them? We just assume and take their word of somebody else?” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro claimed what Biden did was worse than Trump because Mar-a-Lago was more secure: “At least Mar-a-Lago was protected by the Secret Service. This is Penn. This is an academic institution.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News Radio host Guy Benson dismissed comparisons to Trump’s case, even as he apparently acknowledged the relative egregiousness of Trump’s behavior: “If you walk into a courtroom and you are trying to defend your client for robbery, you can’t say, ‘Well, the guy in the next courtroom over is convicted of two murders or accused of two murders so my guy isn’t so bad.’” [Fox News, Special Report, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing activist Mike Davis claimed that “President Trump had the absolute constitutional power under the commander-in-chief clause and the absolute statutory power under the Presidential Records Act to take — to declassify and take records,” before asking, “What are they doing about then-Vice President Joe Biden, who had no power to take these records? This is a clear violation of the Espionage Act for then-former Vice President Joe Biden to have these records.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/10/23]
  • Fox’s The Ingraham Angle ran the chyron: “Double standard emerges in Biden doc scandal.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News legal contributor Jonathan Turley: “So there’s a lot of questions there. But at the end of the day, the same underlying crime exists, even if there are differences in aspects of the case.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/10/23]
  • On Twitter, Hannity posted: “WHEN’S THE FBI RAID? Trump, Conservatives Unload Over Classified Docs Found at Biden Think Tank” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing strategist Chuck Castillo: “They found Classified Docs at BIDEN’S OFFICE from when JOE was VP... Joe DID NOT HAVE legal authority to un-classify anything as VP.. This was KNOWN prior to MIDTERMS and possibly before TRUMP’S FBI RAID... Let that SINK IN for a few minutes.” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Dan Bongino: “Another massive Biden scandal erupts, as the media moved quickly into cover-up mode.” [Telegram, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera: “Biden’s own document embarrassment should just give DOJ more reason to drop probe of Trump’s documents. Neither had criminal intent. Why bother with bullshit?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton: “So Biden’s lawyers ‘found’ the records with classified markings while ‘packing’ his records in preparation for an office move from Biden’s influence-peddling operation run through University of Pennsylvania? Interesting, I didn’t know legal services could include office movers.” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Washington Post columnist Hugh Hewitt, attacking a Politico article on the Biden White House’s cooperation: “Classic left-wing media spin: Article doesn’t even ask the most obvious question: Why wasn’t Biden case assigned to Special Counsel Jack Smith? It’s the same set of laws AND both subjects (Trump and Biden).” Previously, Hewitt argued in a September 2022 interview with Trump that every former president “has papers that should not be with them by accident,” only for Trump to continue to dispute the fact that he shouldn’t have possessed the materials. [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News contributor Leo Terrell: “Attention, CNN and MSNBC. Are you going to report on the undisputed fact that Joe Biden has classified documents in his possession?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]

Calls for Biden to be investigated, impeached, or arrested


  • Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller told Fox’s Laura Ingraham, “You need to appoint a special counsel to find out not only what is going on with these documents, but to look at every single residence, property, and office under Biden’s control to determine what other classified documents he has purloined in violation of federal law.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/9/23]
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh made a call for action in retaliation for the treatment of Trump: “We’ve got to call for investigations. We need to think about impeachment. This is, like, we have to treat it like a crisis because that’s what the left did. And we’re going to hold them to their own standard.” [The Daily Wire, The Matt Walsh Show, 1/10/23]
  • Mike Davis called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to take action, saying he “must appoint a special counsel to investigate this just like he did with President Trump. It is a more blatant conflict of interest for Garland to investigate this with his boss being Biden.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/10/23]
  • The Gateway Pundit ran the headline: “‘When is the FBI Going to Raid the fMany Homes of Joe Biden?’ Trump Responds to Reports of Classified Documents Found at Penn Biden Center” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/9/23]
  • Judicial Watch: “RETWEET if you think Congress should investigate Biden family corruption!” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza: “In one sentence, can anyone explain why Trump’s retention of classified documents constitutes a serious crime, if not outright treason, which should bar Trump forever from holding public office, while Biden’s retention of classified documents is benign and without consequence?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]

Conspiracy theories that the Biden documents are connected to the Chinese Communist Party

  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested that documents at the Penn Biden Center were exposed to Chinese donors, saying, “Penn, as an institution, takes an awful lot of money from the Chinese Communist Party. I am not making that up. In recent years, Penn has received more than $50 million from anonymous Chinese donors. So the question is: Were those donors peering at the classified documents, the national security secrets, that Joe Biden had been stashing at the fake think tank that Penn set up for him?” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/9/23]
  • Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon claimed that “the Chinese Communist Party financed the whole thing,” including “the whole University of Pennsylvania deal,” adding that the CCP “has bought and paid the Biden administration.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld fearmongered about Biden selling nuclear secrets to China: “I would not be doing my job if I didn’t raise the important questions that need to be raised about what actually happened. Do we know that there aren’t nuclear secrets in there? Perhaps he exchanged nuclear secrets to China for the 10%, that’s a question worth raising.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed, “They opened the Biden Center with Chinese money. He announces he’s doing the Biden Center at UPenn. And all of a sudden, China quadruples their donations to the University of Pennsylvania.” He then fearmongered, “In terms of national security implications here, where do you think the Chinese have greater access? To a think tank 15 minutes’ bike ride from the Chinese Embassy … or a basement at Mar-a-Lago.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/10/23]
  • Watters pushed the conspiracy again during his monologue: “The Chinese were paying Joe Biden a million dollars a year and it was just laundered through the Penn Biden Center. And just five miles away from the center was the Chinese Embassy.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/10/23]
  • Carlson again pushed the conspiracy theory, saying, “There was a lot of money being raised and it was being raised by the University of Pennsylvania and it was being raised from foreign governments after the Biden Center opened. See the connection here?” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/10/23]
  • New York Post columnist Miranda Devine said the university’s “long, incestuous symbiotic relationship with the Bidens” resulted in attracting “a lot of Chinese money.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/10/23]
  • Fox News host Sean Hannity baselessly claimed, “Now to put it simply, thanks to Joe Biden, America’s most sensitive secrets were floating around in an unsecured office that was bought and paid for by the CCP.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/10/23]
  • Right-wing TV host Benny Johnson: “Tucker Carlson just nuked Joe Biden from space for hoarding classified documents in his ‘fake thinktank’ -- potentially for the Chinese donors of UPenn to see. Was Joe Biden selling American National Security to the Chinese Donors in his fake think tank? Like father like son.” [Twitter, 1/9/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Evading Mainstream Media, Mastriano Campaigns At QAnon Meeting

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano appeared Saturday at a QAnon-linked Christian nationalist conference in Pennsylvania, headed up by disgraced former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. This is just the latest example of Mastriano's effort to mobilize his base of supporters through fringe networks cultivated by the QAnon community, while he has simultaneously avoided mainstream media appearances.

ReAwakening America tour event organizer Clay Clark, himself a QAnon-linked conspiracy theorist, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Mastriano’s campaign asked for a spot in the speakers line-up, a fact that helps to cast light on Mastriano’s deliberate strategy of cultivating support from the extremist fringe.

The official theme for the event, as shown on a promotional poster, is “The Great ReAwakening vs. The Great Reset.”

Mastriano has also frequently promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. Following the 2020 election he publicly prayed for Congress to “disregard” the votes, and he then organized buses to Washington, D.C., for the event that turned into a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Mastriano shuns mainstream media, embraces the fringe

During his campaign for governor, Mastriano has avoided contact with credible media outlets, refusing debate invitations from newspapers, shunning local press, and conducting almost no interviews with Pennsylvania media outlets. Instead, he developed relationships with the white nationalist social media site Gab and far-right figures such as conspiracy theorist Jack Posbiec. He has also campaigned with Julie Green, a self-proclaimed “prophet” who has declared that God will execute various political figures. In June, Mastriano tapped right-wing media personality Jenna Ellis — the disgraced former Trump lawyer and current Newsmax contributor — as a senior advisor for his campaign.

Just this week, Mastriano was interviewed by evangelist broadcaster and serial misinformer David Brody, during which Mastriano spread the conspiracy theory that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is “grabbing homeless kids and kids in foster care” and “experimenting on them with gender transitioning.” He also appeared Friday morning on Steve Bannon’s show, speaking with guest hosts Jack Posobiec and former Trump adviser Peter Navarro while Bannon was at his sentencing hearing for contempt of Congress.

So, while Mastriano is avoiding contact with respectable media outlets, he has worked to build up his base among fringe activists — which is where Flynn’s ReAwaken America tour comes in.

ReAwaken America tour is a who’s who of QAnon speakers

Flynn launched ReAwaken America a few months after the January 6 insurrection, to spread a Christian nationalist message that Democrats and other government officials are evil. Flynn had previously called for then-President Donald Trump to impose martial law and disregard his defeat in the 2020 election, and he later called for a military coup in 2021. His political tour is now a QAnon hotbed, featuring a who’s who of speakers associated with the violent conspiracy theory movement.

Speakers at the event have included election denier Mike Lindell, who also appears to have urged Trump to impose martial law following the failed insurrection, and who used his speaking slot Friday to continue spreading conspiracy theories about voting machines that he claims were used to defraud the 2020 presidential election. The event also featured numerological prophecies and claims that the “angel of death” is coming for President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and other public figures “by year-end.”


Other tour speakers:

  • Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national former security advisor, is a star attraction at ReAwaken events and a “constant presence.” He is considered a hero and martyr among QAnon supporters.
  • Clay Clark, ReAwaken tour organizer and event emcee, is a QAnon-linked conspiracy theorist. At a ReAwaken event attended by The Associated Press, Clark said he and other attendees “believe that America is on the verge of ending.”
  • Ann Vandersteel is a QAnon conspiracy theorist. She previously said the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that baselessly alleged Democrats of operating a pedophile sex ring was “all real” and “true.”
  • Greg Locke is a hate preacher who spoke at the January 5 “Rally for Revival” in Washington the night before the January 6 attack, where he “offered a prayer” for the Proud Boys and the far-right group’s leader Enrique Tarrio. Tarrio and members of the Proud Boys have since been indicted on charges of conspiracy for their role in the attack on the Capitol.
  • Longtime “dirty trickster” and former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone is linked to numerous violent far-right extremist groups being investigated for their role in the January 6 insurrection, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. He was filmed prior to the election asserting, “Fuck the voting. Let’s get right to the violence. Shoot to kill.”
  • Scott McKay (also known as “Patriot Streetfighter”) is a QAnon influencer who frequently encourages his followers to harass school boards and endorsed using violence against law enforcement for enforcing public health measures.
  • Julie Green is Mastriano’s campaign “prophet.” She has claimed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi drinks “children’s blood,” God will execute political figures, and that Biden “is no longer alive” and being impersonated by an actor.
  • Stella Immanuel is a doctor and conspiracy theorist who has repeatedly been suspended from social media platforms for falsely claiming hydroxychloroquine is a “cure” for COVID-19 and that masks don’t work. She has claimed that alien DNA is being used for medical treatments and that “some gynecological ailments are caused by people having sex in a dream-world with demons, with the demonic semen as the origins of the afflictions.” She also claims that the government is partly run by “reptilians.”
  • Former Trump administration official Kash Patel previously sat on Truth Social’s board, where he helped shape the platform’s strategy to cater and appeal to the QAnon community. Patel was reportedly almost installed as acting CIA director in the lead-up to January 6 as Trump deemed certain members of his administration insufficiently loyal in his effort to overturn the election.
  • Mark Burns is a South Carolina evangelical pastor and former Republican congressional candidate who said at a recent ReAwaken event that he was declaring war on “every demonic, demon-possessed Democrat that comes from the gates of Hell.”
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Hannity Hosts Fake 'Town Hall' For Walker After He Skips Debate

Fox News host Sean Hannity turned his prime-time show into a full-on campaign rally Monday night for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker, after the former football star had skipped an official debate Sunday night. Walker’s appearance with Hannity was hastily announced Sunday evening, as incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) prepared to face Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver (and an empty lectern in place of Walker) on the debate stage in Atlanta.

The episode of Hannity was officially billed as a “town hall,” a label that the host used multiple times during the hour. But attendees in the audience never actually asked any questions of the candidate, instead simply delivering applause at various moments and engaging in call-and-response routines with Hannity or other speakers.

To be clear, this was simply a campaign rally for Walker, organized and promoted by Hannity and Fox News, and featuring special guests such as Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott from neighboring South Carolina. (Hannity closed out the program by promoting another supposed “town hall” episode of his show scheduled for Wednesday, featuring Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz — another candidate whose campaign Hannity was instrumental in boosting — as well as Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a favorite of far-right media.)

Walker’s appearance with Hannity followed his participation in another debate that took place Friday, which is likely to be the only televised face-off between the two major-party candidates in the Peach State. During that debate, when Warnock made comments about Walker’s documented history of violence, including when he had threatened a “shoot-out with police,” Walker responded by producing an honorary “prop” police badge from his jacket pocket as alleged proof of his close relationship with Georgia law enforcement.

Walker appeared on Hannity on Monday after he didn’t attend Sunday’s debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. Hannity opened the pseudo-“town hall” with Walker by declaring that Sunday’s debate was an attempted “ambush,” citing an article in the right-wing Washington Free Beacon that attacked some of the organization’s members who had donated to Democratic candidates in 2020. (The debate moderator was radio host Scott Slade, who has been a fixture of Georgia political news for more than 50 years.)

Dismissing other media coverage, Hannity further declared that “in Friday night's debate, Herschel Walker proved them all wrong and he won that debate,” followed by a clips reel of Walker speaking on stage. (Walker has actually been widely lampooned for his stunt involving the prop badge, a moment that Hannity’s team did not include in the clips reel.)

Of course, Hannity’s protests of alleged press bias for Democrats really ought to ring alarm bells for anyone who has observed both Hannity and Fox News in general.

Hannity is a longtime political operative who practically recruited Walker into the Georgia Senate race, and he has repeatedly used his show to promote other Republican candidates in the midterm elections. In addition, the rest of Fox News also helped pick the Republican Senate candidates while burying negative stories about Walker in its running coverage.

The pseudo-“town hall” was also marked by Hannity feeding Walker talking points for their discussion. Following Hannity’s lengthy opening monologue, the host finally brought the candidate onto the show around 10 minutes into the program, then proceeded to recount a conversation the two supposedly had about Walker’s dedication to public service. (Walker didn’t remember it.)

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): So, I told you before you ran, I said, this is going to get ugly, they’re going to attack you, they’re going to smear you, they’re going to slander you. And do you remember what you said to me?

HERSCHEL WALKER: No.

HANNITY: You said to me, “Sean, I have fought my whole life, and they can do whatever they want. But I’m going to go and be the — I'm going to go be a public servant for the people of Georgia.”

The campaign rally atmosphere continued midway through the program, when Graham and Scott joined the stage, urging viewers to help elect a Republican Senate majority.

“If we want to help Georgians and all of America, let's start winning the majority right here in Georgia,” said Scott.

Graham also repeatedly asked viewers to go to Walker’s campaign site and donate money. “TeamHerschel.com, folks,” he said. “Help this man.” (Graham’s plea for contributions from Fox’s audience is nothing new; he was notorious for begging for donations to his own campaign during appearances on Fox in 2020.)

During this entire programming block that lasted nearly 15 minutes, Walker began speaking for himself only at around the six-and-a-half minute mark, after lengthy partisan jeremiads from the other men.

Hannity later revved up Walker, and the crowd, by asking a series of simple, loaded questions toward the end of the block, essentially directing the candidate to accept the policy agenda being handed to him live on-air.

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): If you're elected, you're promising the people of Georgia — I want to make sure I'm right — lower taxes, controlled borders, re-fund the police, get rid of this —

HERSCHEL WALKER: Energy independence.

HANNITY: — idiotic no-bail laws.

WALKER: Yes.

HANNITY: You will support energy independence.

WALKER: Yes.

HANNITY: And you will support reading, writing, math, history, science —

WALKER: Yes.

HANNITY: And get rid of the woke agenda.

WALKER: Yes. And our military — I want to continue to say I will support —

GRAHAM: Amen.

WALKER: — our military because our military is our strength.

SCOTT: Amen.

WALKER: And we have to continue to support our military.

An analysis by Media Matters found that Walker himself only spoke for roughly 8 minutes — in what was supposedly a “town hall” with the candidate. Hannity, by contrast, had 19 minutes of speaking time. Another way of looking at this is that Walker’s speaking time was still less than the combined total for the other two major guests, Graham and Scott, who collectively spoke for 9 minutes. (All times were rounded to the nearest minute.)

By comparison, in the hourlong debate that Walker skipped Sunday night, a count by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Warnock and Oliver dominated the speaking time, distantly followed by the moderators.

Hannity’s TV episode with Walker, by contrast, perfectly illustrates a propaganda display that featured a candidate for public office only as a supporting character on the show.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Virtually Ignores Walker Abortion Payment Bombshell

Fox News heavily promoted the U.S. Senate candidacy of former football star Herschel Walker from its earliest stages, despite Walker’s seeming lack of qualifications and well-known personal history that included multiple reports of domestic violence. Now, the network has been almost silent on the biggest story of the race so far, after The Daily Beast reported Monday night that Walker had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, despite his current hardline anti-abortion stance.

Walker appeared Monday night to address the reporting with Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity, a longtime Trump adviser and perhaps Walker’s earliest and most prominent endorser on the network. The interview went badly, as Walker failed to refute that he had sent a $700 check and a get-well card to the unnamed woman, who said it was to reimburse her total expenses from receiving an abortion. (The woman also provided The Daily Beast with a $575 receipt from a clinic for the procedure.)

Tuesday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends featured only a short news headline delivered by Fox & Friends First co-host Carley Shimkus, lasting a little over 30 seconds. This paltry coverage was despite the fact that the show’s co-host Brian Kilmeade has personally boosted Walker’s campaign with puff pieces featuring the candidate, and could be seen on the couch with his co-hosts following Shimkus’ news reading. None of the Fox & Friends co-hosts had anything to say about the story.

Fox’s next program, America's Newsroom, also offered the story nothing more than a single headline read despite purporting to be one of the network's “straight news” daytime programs. In addition, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Mike Emanuel highlighted some of the tweets by one of Walker’s children, right-wing social media personality Christian Walker, who called out his father both for womanizing and for having threatened to kill his family.

Emanuel effectively let Herschel Walker get the last word in, however, by citing a tweet in which the candidate “says he loves his son, no matter what.” Emanuel failed to note, however, that Christian Walker had already responded to that message by citing his father’s failure to raise multiple children he is now known to have conceived.

Christian Walker had deleted his rebuttal Monday night, but it was captured in screen grabs by multiple journalists, including HuffPost senior politics reporter Igor Bobic.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Broadcast Networks Carried Charles III's Speech -- But Not Biden's

The three major broadcast networks all aired live special coverage Friday afternoon of King Charles III’s first speech as the British monarch, following the death Thursday of his mother Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96. The gratuitous coverage provided by ABC, CBS, and NBC of the ascension of a foreign monarch stood in glaring contrast to each network's refusal to air a presidential address by President Joe Biden just one week ago about growing threats to American democracy.

Indeed, the two speeches could not have been more different in their level of importance to the United States. Last week, President Biden delivered a prime-time address in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which he condemned former President Donald Trump and his supporters for encouraging political violence and seeking to undermine elections in America. The president made a call for national unity, and pledged to continue to “fight for democracy with every fiber of my being.”

By contrast, the United States has been a separate country from the United Kingdom for nearly 250 years, and is not a member of the modern Commonwealth of Nations that also recognizes the British monarch as a ceremonial head of state. In short, the king’s speech Friday did not have any impact, even a symbolic one, on life in the United States, while the president’s speech last week related to urgently important domestic threats. (Mainstream media outlets have also struggled to address the dangers now facing American democracy.)

Boston Globe opinion columnist and associate editor Renée Graham pointed out this major contrast in the networks’ behavior: “None of them aired President Biden's primetime speech about the ongoing threats to American democracy.”

One might possibly argue in response that this is a comparison of apples and oranges, as the networks on Friday were simply running a live feed of King Charles in the course of their regularly scheduled midday news programming. The American president’s speech last week, by contrast, would have required them to preempt other shows during prime time.

The problem with such a counterargument, however, becomes obvious from actually looking at what they ran last Thursday night during the 8 p.m. ET time slot instead of the president’s speech. Two of the networks, CBS and NBC, aired reruns of the shows Young Sheldon and Law & Order, respectively. ABC did in fact run new programming, namely the game show Press Your Luck, in a specially themed episode titled “Zombie Apocalypse Ready.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

In Last Appearance On CNN, Harwood Called Out Media's 'False Equivalency' Problem

CNN White House correspondent John Harwood announced Friday afternoon that it was his last day at the network. Earlier that morning, he explained that the typical rules of political neutrality in mainstream journalism should not apply when covering former President Donald Trump and his continued dominance of the Republican Party, because those rules are designed for “honest disagreements” between the parties, and Trump is instead a “dishonest demagogue.” Harwood, a “harsh critic” of the former president, reportedly had two years left on his contract with CNN.

His departure is not a promising sign, as CNN has reportedly been trying to reach out to Republicans in the name of a warped political balance, the very thing Harwood called out this morning. Harwood reportedly knew in advance that this would be his last day with CNN, and used his appearance “to send a message.”

Harwood appeared Friday on CNN Newsroom, during a discussion of President Joe Biden’s prime-time address Thursday night. The president spoke about how Trump’s MAGA movement “threatens the very foundations of our republic,” referencing Trump’s failed attempt to stay in power after losing the 2020 election, and his and his followers’ continued attempts to subvert state election systems heading into 2024.

Harwood pointed out that as much as mainstream journalism does not want to take sides, Biden is right, pointing also to Trump’s separate declaration earlier Thursday that if he regained the presidency he would pardon those who have been convicted for various crimes after storming the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

JOHN HARWOOD: Of course it was a political speech, we’re — in a midterm reelection year, the issues that he’s talking about are inherently political. But, I think it’s also important to say that the core point he made in that political speech about a threat to democracy, is true.

Now, that's something that's not easy for us as journalists to say. We're brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view, and we don't take sides in honest disagreements between them. But that’s not what we're talking about. These are not honest disagreements. The Republican Party right now is led by a dishonest demagogue. Many, many Republicans are rallying behind his lies about the 2020 election, and other things, as well.

And a significant portion, or a sufficient portion, of the constituency that they’re leading attacked the Capitol on January 6, violently. By offering pardons or suggesting pardons for those people who violently attacked the Capitol — which you've been pointing out numerous times this morning — Donald Trump made Joe Biden's point for him.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Carlson Lays Out White Nationalist 2022 Platform For Republicans

Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson has long been at the forefront of pushing the deadly “great replacement” conspiracy theory, seeking to bring an idea from the white nationalist fringe into the mainstream of American political discourse. In the latest ominous sign, both Carlson and the network’s supposedly “straight news” programming are pushing his ideas for the Republicans’ midterm platform, a development that should raise alarm bells given the long history of Fox News controlling the Republican agenda.

On the Thursday night edition of his show, Carlson argued that Republican candidates were stalling in both the polls and small-dollar fundraising because the party was focusing too much on inflation. While it is indeed important, Carlson said, inflation is not really “the generational issue of this campaign season.” Instead, Carlson instructed Republicans to run against Democrats on the issues of violent crime and immigration — or “changing the population of the United States” and “allowing people to be murdered in the street,” in his own words.


“How can you take the country seriously when it doesn't even have a border? And it doesn’t,” Carlson said later in the same monologue, cueing up video from Fox correspondent Bill Melugin, who has a dedicated beat at the network producing anti-immIgrant propaganda.

“When Ann Coulter saw the video we just played,” Carlson said, referring to the notorious white nationalist and antisemite, “she noted correctly that it is easier to get into this country as an illegal alien than it is to return as an American citizen back into JFK.”

The seamless fusion of Fox’s supposedly separate “news” and “opinion” wings continued Friday morning. During the network’s morning programming, Fox News ran at least 20 segments that discussed the topic of violent crime, and at least 8 segments that discussed the topic of immigration. Fox & Friends featured at least 11 segments that discussed violent crime and least 5 that discussed immigration, while America's Newsroom had at least 9 that discussed violent crime and at least 3 that discussed immigration, according to Media Matters’ internal database of cable news programming.

Perhaps the single most egregious example occurred during a segment on America’s Newsroom, featuring Fox contributors Jessica Tarlov and Katie Pavlich. After Pavlich falsely accused the Biden administration of “refusing to secure the border,” the resident Fox liberal Tarlov actually agreed with her fundamental premise.

“Katie’s absolutely right,” Tarlov said. “Joe Biden should solve this problem. This is part of the policies that the Democratic administration supports.”

Pavlich further echoed sentiments that Carlson has pushed on the network for years, among his claims that immigration makes America poorer and increases crime, while straining the country’s housing and health care.

“And when we talk about bigger issues, like why is rent so high, why is it more difficult to find housing in this country?” Pavlich said. “Well, when you infuse millions of people into a country over two years, with no end in sight for the future, it becomes a resource problem and an impact on everyday Americans and the poorest, more vulnerable Americans in this country.”

Fox co-anchor Bill Hemmer, meanwhile, demonstrated the extent to which the network’s “straight news” coverage is also fully invested in pushing specific agendas for electoral purposes. Hemmer brought up Fox’s new polling of the top-tier Senate races in Arizona and Wisconsin, and was personally mystified as to why immigration was not currently the top issue among more voters.

“I don't understand what’s happening in Arizona, your home state. Because border issue is right there with inflation,” he told Pavlich. “If it was really that much of a concern for Arizonans, it would rank much higher. I just don't know why that measures that way. Likewise for Wisconsin, it is way down the list. Only seven percent consider it to be the important issue for people in Wisconsin.”

If history is any guide, expect Fox News to engineer a lot more coverage to vilify immigration this fall, timed conveniently to run up through Election Day.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Hosts Smear Merrick Garland Over Protection Of Public Officials (VIDEO)

Fox News personalities are now dishonestly engaging in rhetorical whataboutism in response to threats against federal law enforcement from supporters of former President Donald Trump after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort. In their fictional retelling, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Merrick Garland has taken a hard line against Trump and his supporters, yet has done nothing to protect right-wing Supreme Court justices such as Trump-nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh who have also received violent threats.

In fact, when an armed suspect was arrested outside Kavanaugh’s home in early June for allegedly threatening to kill him, Garland strongly condemned threats of violence against the justices and described the measures that the Justice Department has taken to protect them.

“Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices of course strike at the heart of our democracy, and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people who do them accountable,” Garland said on June 8. He further outlined actions he had taken the previous month to increase security at the justices’ homes “24/7,” and a meeting he had with court security and law enforcement officials “to ensure every degree of protection available as possible.”

Fox News, however, is telling a different story now. Last Thursday, the network posted an article on FoxNews.com promoting a million-dollar ad buy from the right-wing activist group Judicial Crisis Network attacking Garland for neglecting to protect Kavanaugh, specifically. The article quoted Carrie Severino, the group’s president and a frequent Fox guest, who accused Garland of “continuing to not enforce the law,” apparently referring to a federal law prohibiting protests outside judges’ homes. Many experts believe, however, that this law poses serious constitutional difficulties on free speech grounds regarding protests of Supreme Court justices, and in response the Justice Department has resolved to prosecute any threats of violence or actual violence.

The ad itself, however, did not even discuss the specific law about protests at judges’ homes. Instead, it simply declared that Kavanaugh was being “harassed,” and “threatened,” adding, “even an armed assassin was after him.” The ad then falsely concluded that Garland “could stop it, but doesn’t.” It currently has nearly 1.2 million views on YouTube in addition to viewers who may have seen the commercial airing on TV.

Other Fox News programs have pushed the same flagrantly dishonest talking point in the past several days, attempting to discredit Garland and the Justice Department in the wake of the search at Mar-a-Lago.

On Jesse Watters Primetime, a program which has pushed multiple conspiracy theories following the search at Mar-a-Lago, Watters wrongly claimed Friday night that Garland “wouldn't lift a finger to protect Supreme Court justices, even after a lunatic showed up at Brett Kavanaugh's front door trying to assassinate him.”

Likewise, Fox host Mark Levin claimed on his show Sunday night that Supreme Court justices were being threatened by people gathered at their homes, “and we have an attorney general who will not enforce federal criminal law against them.” In fact, the man who allegedly threatened Kavanaugh is currently facing federal charges.

And, on Tuesday’s edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney asked former Trump administration Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker about a man who was just arrested for posting online threats to kill FBI personnel. Whitaker at first claimed that “the American people, I think, are upset, especially Donald Trump supporters are upset,” essentially reiterating similar comments he had made on Monday blaming the FBI.

He then pivoted to the spurious claim that threats to Supreme Court justices were not being similarly punished. “In my experience, we need to make sure that we treat all political violence as not only abhorrent, but treat it similarly,” Whitaker said. “And there are examples where that hasn’t always been the case, including the threats to, you know, Supreme Court justices.”


The entire point here is that the Justice Department is addressing far-right threats against the FBI just as it is treating far-left threats to conservative justices. But this whole story has revealed the extent to which conservative media have demanded that the laws may not be applied against their side.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wingers In Dizzying Spin To Explain Away Kansas Abortion Vote

The political world is still digesting Tuesday’s referendum vote in Kansas, where voters resoundingly rejected a proposed amendment that would have removed constitutional protections for abortion rights in this Republican-dominated state. The final result was not even close, with the pro-choice side winning 59 percent of the vote in the first direct political test of abortion rights since the Republican appointees on the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade over a month ago.

The referendum received high turnout despite being scheduled during a summer primary, which typically should have favored conservatives in this red state. In fact, a large number of independent voters participated in the referendum outside of the party primaries, while NBC News elections expert Steve Kornacki has estimated that at least 20 percent of Republican voters opposed the amendment. The referendum’s defeat also occurred despite weeks of national and local media coverage that has often platformed anti-abortion advocates with little pushback.

Right-wing media outlets are still figuring out how to spin this.

Blaming it on campaign money — and on their own unpopular position

As the results were coming in Tuesday night, Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, who is also editor-in-chief of right-wing site The Federalist, first attempted to spin away the looming political defeat by chalking it up to the notion that “so much money was spent by hardcore abortion supporters.”

Hemingway also seemingly conceded that her side did have a political problem, though, when she said that “pro-life initiatives do much better when they're incremental.” At the same time, she said that there would be continued work for years in fighting “the scourge of abortion,” implying that even incremental restrictions would only be a political means toward a hardline end.

Hemingway’s employer, The Federalist, also published a piece in which writer Michael J. New declared “supporters of legal abortion can almost always outspend pro-lifers,” and claimed that the main campaign organization for the “No” side had outspent its anti-abortion counterpart “by over 1 million dollars.” The linked article that New provided did not say that, instead putting the main pro-choice group’s spending edge at under a half-million dollars.

The latest media reports indicate that campaign spending on both sides was nearly even, when all allied and outside groups were added together. With more than $12 million spent in total on a hotly contested campaign, any narrow advantage for one side or the other certainly can’t just explain by itself an 18-point margin.

Similar to Hemingway, New also wrote that in order to succeed, “the pro-life policy change must be popular, incremental, and difficult to caricature.” This might come as a surprise to anyone who usually reads The Federalist, as the site typically promotes absolutist bans of abortion and prosecution of patients seeking them.

Conservatives explain this is just democracy in action — and it’s “too soon” for that

Another talking point now emerging is that the Kansas result actually vindicates the decision of the Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority to overturn Roe. This idea, which popped up in June, was that the Supreme Court did not directly make abortion illegal, but instead turned abortion bans into a matter of legislation for the states that voters can directly reject themselves. The pitfall for conservative media in pushing such a view is that this proposition can only be borne out by Republican candidates losing elections, or for their extreme positions to lose via direct democracy in referendum votes.

The logical problem here can perhaps be illustrated by two tweets from right-wing commentator Erick Erickson. In a tweet Tuesday night, Erickson wondered if the referendum proposal by Kansas Republicans and anti-abortion activists had not gone far enough and thus turned off some of their own supporters by leaving room for some abortion exceptions. But by the morning, Erickson had switched gears to now say that the Kansas result had really been the intended outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision:

On Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell also argued that the Supreme Court’s decision had been “a return to democracy,” as illustrated by Kansas voters.

“So, that all blows up the Democrat narrative of ‘the Supreme Court is destroying our democracy,’” McDowell said, adding, “And in fact, they're saving it.”

On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway likewise claimed “this is exactly what the Dobbs decision designed the next steps to be, which is kick it back to the states, let the people decide.” She then added that it “may be too soon” to impose abortion restrictions on the ground that “emotions are raw, confusion is deep.”

Citing increased donations to Planned Parenthood since the Dobbs decision was handed down, Conway said that “people are concerned that we've gone from all abortion anywhere, any time, anywhere, essentially under Roe, to nothing in some of these states. So, it may be a little too soon for that.” (Conway’s political talking point here was absolutely false, as plenty of restrictions on abortion existed for decades under Roe.)

Conway made the seemingly useful point that simply looking at states as red or blue was “not really respecting the diversity of opinion” and the people of those states. She then added, “But maybe it’s a little too soon for some voters to be going to the ballot box and saying no to abortion.”

The problem with such a complaint is that under America’s constitutional system, people are going to the polls this year. Regardless of whether some people think it might be “too soon” to face the political consequences of their own positions, the time for voting on important issues like the future of abortion rights is now.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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

Politicoreported 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 Timesreported 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 matchesNewsweek 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.