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Covering Up For Trump, Fox News Returns To Pandemic Denial

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The New York Times released a devastating report on Saturday which found that President Donald Trump had failed to respond to warnings from medical experts, intelligence agencies, and his own trusted adviser on trade issues over the dangers presented by COVID-19, losing valuable time to contain the pandemic as a result. Now, Fox News is scrambling to spin the report's damaging fallout in favor of Trump.

The Times' April 11 report said:

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Social Distancing Works, So Fox Hosts Are Ready To End It

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Fox News is continuing its effort to declare victory in the country's struggle to get through the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to continued downward revisions in the projected death count to argue that the regular economy should be reopened. In fact, those downward revisions are happening precisely because of the social distancing measures that Fox commentators want to start peeling back.

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Right-Wing Media Again Push To Open Economy Despite Death Toll

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, there has been an increased wave of right-wing media figures calling for an end to the economic lockdown in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. As they've begun to explain rather openly, the cost for jobs and businesses is just too much for what they deem is a low death figure being reported.

Left out of all these discussions is a key detail: The reason that COVID-19 death predictions have been revised down from over 2 million to a (still horrific) figure of up to 240,000 is precisely because of the social distancing and stay-at-home orders. If that regimen were to simply be lifted, then the projected deaths would rise again — especially if the health care system were to become overwhelmed.

But as they miss this point, many of these right-wing media figures seem to think even this reduced level of deaths has come with too high an economic cost.

On the Thursday night edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight, the eponymous host defended Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for suggesting last week on his show that senior citizens should be willing to risk the increased health dangers in order to restore jobs and businesses. Carlson declared that there should've been a greater discussion about businesses remaining operational while just certain vulnerable groups "remained inside, cloistered away" — even if there was a greater risk of death rate becoming higher — rather than costing millions of jobs.

From the April 2, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): What would've happened for example if we would've adopted a more conventional response to this epidemic? What if we asked the elderly and the immunocompromised and anyone else facing statistically higher rates of risk to stay inside, cloistered away. And then at the same time allowed the rest of the population to use informed common sense and continue to work? What if we'd done that a month ago? Would the death rate today be much higher than it is now? Maybe, maybe not. We don't know. But it's clearly a conversation we should've had before we locked the entire country down and put ten million people out of work. But we didn't have that conversation. Instead we outsourced the decision to public health officials. And that's a strange irony of the moment we're living through. One of the main lessons of this crisis is that the public health establishment failed us badly.

On Sean Hannity's Fox News show, Fox host Mark Levin gave a dire warning that the financial aid bills would turn America into Venezuela by "pouring money into industries that are not open" and paying people not to work. "Don't pass another bill. Open up parts of the economy," Levin said. "Ask these businesses what they can do, and tell these governors to cut it out."

From the April 2, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

On The Ingraham Angle, Fox host Laura Ingraham decried the statistical models "funded by billionaires that keep Americans out of work," said that "hundreds of thousands" of Americans die of all sorts of things — though of course "every life is precious" — but that the economic lockdown to fight coronavirus might "kill the patient, which is America."

From the April 2, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle

In a discussion with guest Victor Davis Hanson, the two of them also further talked about how awful it was to shut down the economy over such minimal deaths now happening.

From the April 2, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Yes, well, when you have PhD, scientists, biostatisticians, bio — you know physics experts, Nobel laureates saying wait a second, we have to know the denominator to understand the lethality of this disease. And every life is precious, we want to keep everybody safe and we — of course, that's a given. But we also have to understand the cost of American lives on the other side of this.
When they're saying this now, Victor, you got to — you got to imagine the policymakers at some point will hear from the people who are suffering with these job losses in these businesses and say, you know, "We have lives as well, and we have to somehow preserve them."
VICTORY DAVIS HANSON (SENIOR FELLOW, THE HOOVER INSTITUTION): Laura, I'm sitting in a state that's the fifth largest economy in the world that's completely shut down and we've suffered less than 250 deaths and we have about 3 million people. Three people per million that have died.
We have twice the population of New York and we've suffered one-tenth the deaths and one-twentieth the deaths on per capita basis and so this one size fit all is absolutely insane. There are individual conditions, many of which we don't know. But we do know the results and California should be treated in a different way than New York City.
And that means that we can have a graduated return to some type of normalcy because we're — it doesn't — we don't shut down the greatest economy in the United States in California because we have three people per million dying. That's just a fact of life when we have 760 people in California dying every day. And during this crisis we have about four extra on average.
INGRAHAM: Now Victor, we're going to be — and I loved it piece, by the way, which I posted and everyone's got to read and I'll send it around again tonight on Twitter, discussing just that. An actual data, an actual numbers, not to minimize any loss of life.

On Friday morning's edition of America's Newsroom, Fox Business anchor David Asman responded to the newest unemployment figures by warning that the country was on the verge of a new Great Depression, and asked, "How many lives would be lost as a result of that as opposed to the coronavirus?" After April, Asman concluded, "We have to get back to work."

From the April 3, 2020, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

DAVID ASMAN (FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR): The Oxford Economics projects a loss of 30 million jobs by the beginning of June. That would be a 16 percent unemployment rate. We have not seen those figures since the Great Depression. And the real key here, Sandra [Smith], and you know this so well, is what would be worse for America right now — another Great Depression like we had back in the 1930s or a continuation of the coronavirus? A lot of people say with the various restrictions we have in place now, with the various medications that are online, we better get back to work soon, that is, at the end of this 30-day period. If not, we are risking a Great Depression. And how many lives would be lost as a result of that, as opposed to the coronavirus?

There's no getting over — there's no easy solution here, but there's a lot of money out there for individuals — the 157 million people in the workforce, for the 30 million small businesses, and for individuals who are going to be getting those checks. So as long as the government operates efficiently — that's hoping for a lot — but if that happens, we'll be OK at least for the month. After that, I think we have to get back to work.

Indeed, Variety reported that an internal Fox News memo shows the company is hoping for a "possible return to work" for remote employees in early May.

And the patience of Fox's on-air personalities is running out. On this afternoon's edition of Outnumbered, co-host Melissa Francis wondered: "Who doesn't know 10, 12 people who have it at this point, personally? … At this point we are destroying our economy. … That part is so scary to me. I don't know about the continued stay inside. I'm losing faith in it."

From the April 3, 2020, episode of Fox News' Outnumbered

Other right-wing media figures are also pushing this narrative.

Far-right online personality Mike Cernovich put the dollars-for-lives argument rather bluntly:

Jim Hoft of The Gateway Pundit — a right-wing outlet known for pushing conspiracy theories and recently quoted by Trump — tweeted an appeal to "Open The Economy!"

The Washington Times columnist Cheryl K. Chumley posted a piece this morning, "Anthony Fauci goes nuts," declaring:

The question on the table is whether 4,513 deaths due to coronavirus in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands justifies closing down an entire country — its economy, schools, transportation systems, entertainment and more — for 30 days or more.

So when Fauci calls for a national order to keep every man, woman and child in America at home, behind closed doors, for the next 30 days or longer, he's only suggesting the best course of action that, in his medical opinion, would keep his patients — whom he's deemed to be all of America — safe and healthy, free of risks of catching the coronavirus.
But that doesn't mean he's right. That doesn't mean his medical opinion ought to be taken as sacrosanct; all the other considerations — economic, political, social — tossed to the side as secondaries.
Americans are not lab rats, and America is not a science lab.
The country can't come to a grinding halt every time flu season approaches.

The Federalist, already one of the most irresponsible outlets for conservative thought on the pandemic, posted a piece today titled "We Cannot Destroy The Country For The Sake Of New York City." Never mind the fact that red states such as Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana are also grappling with this pandemic, as well.

As Crisis Escalates, Right-Wing Figures Still Reject Reality

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

American life is grinding to a halt during the coronavirus outbreak as people are being urged — or even being ordered by state and local governments — to stay inside as much as possible.

In both New York City and Los Angeles, bars and restaurants have been ordered to close almost completely, with service only for delivery or takeout. Movie theaters in both cities have also been shut down.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just ordered similar restaurant closures on a statewide basis. And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered a reduced occupancy of 50 percent in restaurants and is urging people over 65-years-old or with chronic health conditions to stay inside.

Schools are also closing across the country, which could place a secondary strain on doctors and nurses in need of child care services. In many places, the school closings could potentially go all the way through the academic year.

Disney World has also shut down — though as a promotion of sorts, the company is releasing the hit movie Frozen 2 onto its Disney+ streaming service three months ahead of schedule to help keep all those parents and children entertained.

Despite the growing list of changes to everyday life in the U.S., there are still voices in right-wing media who claim this is all a giant conspiracy to hurt President Donald Trump or to destroy America and its freedoms, instead urging people to ignore guidance from “big government” and medical experts to practice social distancing:

Former Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Sheriff David Clarke

Former New York City police commissioner and recent Trump pardon recipient Bernard Kerik

Racist media figure Katie Hopkins

Right-wing radio host Todd Starnes

The Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Hennessey

Anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller

Right-wing radio host Mark Simone

Former NRATV host Grant Stinchfield

American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer

Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz

Right-wing radio host Bill Mitchell

Pro-Trump conspiracy theory blog The Gateway Pundit

“BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: The Coronavirus Fatality Rate Reported by the Media Is COMPLETELY INACCURATE. The Actual Rate Is LESS THAN THE FLU – MEDIA LYING AGAIN!” (3/16/20)

“Nashville Business Owners Defy Mayor and Remain Open! – Say Order to Close Bars and Restaurants on Broadway Is UNCONSTITUTIONAL” (3/15/20)

“Is It Related? Italy Holds the Largest Chinese Diaspora Community in the EU Today – And Now Has the Largest Outbreak of Coronavirus in Europe” (3/15/20)

“Is the Worst Case Scenario for Coronavirus Overblown?… Will 21 Million Americans Really Need Hospitalization?” (3/15/20)

“BY THE NUMBERS, Via the CDC: 2019 Flu – 22,000 Dead and 10 percent Mortality Rate …2019 Coronavirus – 50 Dead and 2 percent Mortality Rate” (3/14/20)

“Leftist Michigan Governor Flirts with Invoking ‘Martial Law’ using Virus as Excuse to Power Grab” (3/14/20)

“Enemy of the People – Rude Reporters Lash Out at Trump Over Coronavirus – Media Hysteria Causes Panic Buying, Americans Fight Over Toilet Paper” (3/14/20)

Trump Parrots Hannity’s Lies About Obama Response To 2009 Swine Flu Outbreak

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

While speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon at the White House, President Donald Trump made a false claim about the Obama administration’s handling of the H1N1 flu (also commonly known as “swine flu”) back in 2009. And there’s a good bet that he’s learned this latest fiction from Fox News — and his favorite host, Sean Hannity.

“If you go back and look at the swine flu, and what happened with the swine flu,” Trump said, “you’ll see how many people died, and how actually nothing was done for such a long period of time, as people were dying all over the place. We’re doing it the opposite. We’re very much ahead of everything.”

As Media Matters has previously documented, Hannity and other right-wing personalities and outlets have circulated a lie that the Obama administration had done nothing about H1N1 — waiting six months to declare a national emergency, they say — while Americans died in vast numbers. In fact, this is totally false, and it also relies on obfuscations based around bureaucratic terms of art and specific effects on government regulations.

The Obama administration declared a public health emergency in April 2009, for the purpose of freeing up funds for emergency preparedness. Then came an official national emergency declaration in October 2009, which also served a specific regulatory purpose by waiving certain federal requirements to allow hospitals and local governments to set up alternate treatment sites. And in the interim, the government had been working with researchers on developing a vaccine for the H1N1 strain and coordinating its launch in the fall.

In fact, just on Wednesday night, Hannity repeated the charge of Obama waiting to declare a national emergency. And while briefly acknowledging the health emergency early on, he threw in yet another lie.

CitationFrom the March 11, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Hannity

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): For more perspective, we go back to 2009. That year, more than a thousand Americans had died in a six-month period from H1N1, better known as swine flu, that virus, and 20,000 Americans had contracted the pandemic before President Obama himself declared a national emergency. One of his health officials on day 11 did, in fact, say it was an emergency to release some funding. Got to tell the truth on all cases, but a thousand Americans at that point had died.

In fact, at the time of the public health emergency declaration in April 2009, there had been just 20 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the United States — and no deaths.

From a Reuters fact check, published two days ago:

A public health emergency for Swine Flu, also known as H1N1, was declared on April 26, 2009 by the Obama administration with no deaths in the U.S. (see here). While Obama personally declared H1N1 an emergency in October 2009, when over a thousand had died (see here), the “Secretary of Health and Human Services first declared a public health emergency” on April 26, 2009. Statements that say Obama and his administration waited until 1,000 had died before declaring an emergency often ignore this April 26, 2009 Government announcement (see it here). The claim that there were 1,000 deaths when a public health emergency was declared under Obama’s administration is therefore false.

One has to wonder: Was Trump watching Hannity last night and repeating the charge today? (Before Hannity’s repetition of the lie Wednesday night, it was being spread anew on Twitter by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.)

The H1N1 pandemic was a highly prevalent infection, with a later analysis showing it had infected 1 in 5 people worldwide. However, its death rate was very low, estimated at only 0.02 percent (around 200,000 deaths globally and 12,000 in the United States). By contrast, COVID-19 appears to be much more dangerous among the infected population so far, with a currently estimated mortality rate of 1 percent, or 10 times the normal flu.

Don’t Believe Fox News! COVID-19 Is Far More Dangerous Than Flu

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

This past Friday, President Donald Trump expressed surprise upon learning that people die from seasonal flu. (In fact, it killed his grandfather.) Fox News figures have similarly downplayed the dangers of coronavirus by comparing it to the deaths that occur from the flu.

The problem with that comparison is coronavirus is much more deadly to those infected than the seasonal flu, and they will spread it to more people because the new disease is also more contagious.

There is also an extra layer of uncertainty, as mortality estimates still vary because of uncertainties about the number of people tested for COVID-19 and the population who might have had mild cases but were never tested.

All told, the United States could be looking at a genuine epidemic on the scale of what is now going on in Italy.

On March 6, Fox News chief medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel told Sean Hannity that “at worst, at worst, worst case scenario it could be the flu.”

On Saturday night, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro boldly declared that “all the talk about coronavirus being so much more deadly doesn’t reflect reality.”

JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Now, they say the mortality rate for coronavirus is higher than a flu. But consider though, that we have a flu vaccine, and yet in 2019, 16,000 Americans died from the flu. Imagine if we did not have the flu vaccine, the flu would be a pandemic.

So all the talk about coronavirus being so much more deadly doesn’t reflect reality. Without a vaccine, the flu would be far more deadly.

Of course, there are flu vaccines every year — while there is no coronavirus vaccine yet available to the public, which could take over a year to be tested for safety before it is released on a wide scale.

Trump dug in on Monday with a tweet seeming to bemoan a double standard that the country doesn’t shut down over the flu, compared to what is going on now with the coronavirus.

Interestingly, Trump’s tweet came just six minutes after his own secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, appeared on Fox and publicly declared: “This is a very serious health problem. Nobody is trying to minimize that.”

On Monday’s edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox Business anchor David Asman said there was “nothing you can argue with” about Trump’s tweet, and praised his leadership on the economy as having created a “strong foundation” for the country to pull through, calling it “a rainy day fund.”

And during his Tuesday night show, Sean Hannity downplayed coronavirus fatalities compared to gun violence in Chicago and also invoked mortality statistics for the seasonal flu in on-screen graphics — but noted that “by the way, still, any deaths are tragic.” Later in the segment, he decried the “politicization of coronavirus” and asked for viewers to consider their “perspective” on the potential pandemic.

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now, again, perspective. The standard flu every single year kills tens of thousands of Americans. Now, does truth matter? Does perspective matter?

Well, I wish nobody died from the flu. I hope nobody else dies from corona. We don’t want any people dying. I lost my parents. It sucks.

But during an appearance later on Hannity’s show, the renowned virologist and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci explained why the Fox prime-time host was wrong:

From the March 10, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Hannity

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI (WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE): But, Sean, to make sure your viewers get an accurate idea about what goes on, you mentioned seasonal flu. The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1. The mortality for this is about 2, 2.5%. It’s probably lower than that, it’s probably closer to 1. But even if it’s 1, it’s 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. You’ve got to make sure that people understand that.

Fittingly enough, Hannity had earlier referred to Fauci as “the adult in the room,” while promoting his appearance on the show.

And speaking of an adult in a room, on Wednesday morning’s America’s Newsroom, co-anchor Sandra Smith conducted an interview via Skype with American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp, who has been staying at home since his exposure to an unnamed individual at the group’s recent Conservative Political Action Conference who later tested positive for COVID-19.

And with that organization now working to contain the political fallout, Schlapp’s pronouncements clearly crossed the line between cautious optimism and vigilance on one side and Pollyanaism on the other, contradicting the express warnings of medical experts.

From the March 11, 2020, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom

SANDRA SMITH (CO-ANCHOR): Some Republicans are now taking extra precaution after coming in contact with someone at CPAC who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Those same Republicans are now under self-quarantine after also interacting with the president himself. My next guest is one of them: Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, he joins us now by Skype. How are you feeling?

MATT SCHLAPP: Great. Never had a symptom. We have no health problems in the Schlapp family, thank God. I’m glad the president is completely healthy, and I’m glad the CPAC community is healthy. So I think coming out of CPAC, one thing we’ve learned is even when there is an infected person amongst thousands and thousands — in our case over 10,000 people — it is very, very difficult to contract this virus.

This is particularly dangerous misinformation to be spreading, given the lack of testing in the United States thus far.

White House Reportedly Stops Fauci Media Appearances

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

In an apparent effort to control its media messaging on the potential impacts of coronavirus, the White House appears to be locking down any media appearances by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Fauci has "told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance." This after President Donald Trump and Fauci gave differing messages on the virus — Trump said nobody knew whether the situation might get better or worse, while Fauci described COVID-19 as "a serious virus."

Then on the Friday edition of MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) — whose district has become a focal point of the outbreak in the U.S. and who has blamed inaction by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — said he had heard directly from Fauci himself that his planned media appearances had been called off.

This isn't the first time that Trump has objected to the statements of an actual medical expert during a potential pandemic — indeed, it's not even the first time he's publicly opposed this specific medical expert.

As Mediaite uncovered, back in 2014 Trump made frequent appearances on Fox & Friends to disparage the Obama administration's handling of the Ebola scare. Among the targets of his disdain was one Dr. Anthony Fauci. During a particular morning appearance that October, when the co-hosts asked Trump to respond to Fauci's statement that a travel ban could make the situation worse, Trump rejected his advice, declaring, "Well, I think it's ridiculous."

Fox personalities such as Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace and then-Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck also questioned Fauci on the government's handling of the situation during the Ebola epidemic.

Recently, Fox News has been more positive toward Fauci, with the network's own medical expert, Dr. Marc Siegel, praising Fauci's "many decades of experience on this."

‘The Hill’ Posts Damning Report On Solomon’s Role In Ukraine Scandal

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

The Hill on Wednesday published its internal review of former columnist John Solomon’s role in the Trump-Ukraine scandal, in which he pushed a series of smear narratives against key Democratic figures — smears that have continued in Solomon’s new role as a Fox News contributor, and which that network’s own internal research division knows to be false.

Not that the review itself can just easily wash away The Hill’s sins. The article states: “This review was conducted independently by The Hill’s news staff under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack.” While The Hill perhaps means it was done “independently” of the opinion section, where Solomon officially worked, the supervision of the paper’s editor-in-chief and the involvement of its own news staff would also mean it’s not really “independent” — which would have required some kind of outside oversight.

The report is also flawed in that it only focuses on Solomon’s work in the Ukraine story — not branching out into other stories in which he clearly committed the same ethical transgressions. For example, the connection between Solomon’s reporting and his attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing — a point of criticism in The Hill’s review — was also apparent in his columns pushing the Uranium One narrative. (Solomon had cited an anonymous source for the anti-Clinton conspiracy theory, who turned out to be another one of Toensing’s clients, lobbyist William Douglas Campbell.)

National security reporter Marcy Wheeler noted another missing line of inquiry:

Despite these shortcomings, the report is still quite damning of both Solomon’s behavior and The Hill’s longtime tolerance of it.

The review explains how Solomon misused his official title as an opinion columnist, while seemingly offering up investigative news reports — and The Hill didn’t do anything about it, thus creating an opportunity for Fox News to further spread Solomon’s stories around:

While Solomon’s columns on Ukraine were labeled as opinion, they largely read like news stories. Adding to the potential confusion between opinion and news, Solomon was identified as “an award-winning journalist” in his column tagline. When appearing on television to discuss his Ukraine columns, Solomon was not typically labeled an opinion writer by the broadcast programs. The Hill did not contact television producers to label Solomon as an opinion columnist. It should have.

Lending further support to an impression that the columns were more like news stories, rather than opinion columns, Solomon’s Ukraine columns were longer than typical opinion pieces, in many cases contained what could be viewed or was identified by him as original reporting, and stuck to one general topic. This may have suggested to many readers it was an investigative series, which normally resides in the news department, rather than opinion. Solomon’s subsequent appearances on Fox News where he was often identified as an investigative journalist further potentially blurred the distinction between news and opinion in the minds of some readers.

A cursory search on Nexis shows that Hannity and other Fox News hosts have referred to Solomon as an “investigative journalist” or “investigate reporter” over 100 times since January 2018. (Indeed, this point was a bone of contention in the internal Fox News document, as well.)

As for Solomon’s actual columns, The Hill’s review goes into Solomon’s crucial omissions of his sources’ own agendas: “In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation. In other cases, the sources were his own attorneys.”

Those attorneys are diGenova and Toensing, who also have previous legal ties to President Donald Trump and have made over 100 appearances on Fox News, though they are currently missing from the network. (Solomon has also revealed recently that diGenova and Toensing introduced him to indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.)

The review also further exposes Solomon’s role in working with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who ran a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. At one point, the report uses some rather dry and legalistic language to call out Solomon’s dishonesty about his ties to Giuliani, Parnas, diGenova, and Toensing:

Solomon has said the notion of Giuliani being a principal source for his Ukraine columns is a “bogus narrative.” In November 2019, Solomon said Giuliani was “never an on-the-record, off-the-record or on-background source for any of those stories.”

Since the publication of Solomon’s columns, Parnas delivered Ukraine-related communications to Congress that show repeated contact among Parnas, Giuliani, Solomon, and Victoria Toensing of the Washington law firm of diGenova & Toensing, among others.

Solomon need not worry too much about fallout from The Hill’s review, thanks to his new gig at Fox News. After all, the reporting earlier this month on the Fox News internal research document showed that his new employers were fully aware that he had “played an indispensable role in the collection and domestic publication of elements of this disinformation campaign.” But the network continued to run with his stories as part of its overall push to aid Trump throughout the impeachment process, and Solomon is still appearing there to this very day.

And hey, at least The Hill went to the trouble of investigating some of the disinformation they’d been peddling. Meanwhile, it’s been years and we’re still waiting on that promised review of Fox’s own lies about the Seth Rich case.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Fox News Judge Promotes Bogus Bias Charge Against Stone Juror

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared Tuesday morning on Fox & Friends, boldly declaring that former Trump campaign associate Roger Stone deserves a new trial due to allegedly undisclosed bias of the foreperson of the jury that convicted him — and President Donald Trump himself amplified Napolitano’s message.

There’s just one problem: The story is based on a lie. While right-wing media have been harping on the supposed surprise about the jury foreperson’s political background, it’s really not a surprise at all. At most, one slight new detail could be discovered now — and even that’s not clear, either — after Stone’s lawyers had ample opportunities to bring the whole matter up as some kind of serious issue.

Napolitano said that in light of unearthed tweets by Tomeka Hart, who has publicly revealed herself to be the foreperson of the jury, Judge Amy Berman Jackson has an obligation to reopen her consideration of motions by Stone’s lawyers. (Later in the day, Jackson rejected a motion by Stone’s lawyers to delay his sentencing.)

Later in the morning, Trump tweeted direct quotes from Napolitano:

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who also played a key role in the recent impeachment saga — and continues to push a proven disinformation campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, with Fox News’ help — also tweeted in approval of Napolitano.

(Interestingly, Napolitano was largely sidelined from Fox News’ coverage of Trump’s impeachment after he openly espoused the view that Trump committed a wrong worthy of impeachment. But for this case right now, he’s back on the president’s good side.)

But as conservative writer and attorney David French explains, this entire attempt at a narrative is based on a false premise: In reality, Hart’s political leanings and activities were clearly known during the jury selection process, and not even Stone’s legal team tried to strike her from the jury pool (emphasis in original):

Hart (identified only as Juror 1261, but identifiable by her statement that she ran for Congress and other biographical details) was questioned by the trial judge and by defense counsel. After first asking questions about Hart’s prior service on a grand jury, the judge asked a series of key questions:

So let’s recap. Stone’s lawyers knew that she was generally familiar with Stone, they knew she ran for Congress, they specifically asked about political bias, and then refused to seek her removal.

French adds a caveat: Based on just the immediately available information, it is not totally clear whether lawyers in the case knew that Hart had written critical tweets about Trump and the Mueller investigation. (The public does not have access to Hart’s submitted jury questionnaire.) But he nevertheless states: “Thus, it’s possible that there were material omissions in her written answers, but again—Stone’s lawyers knew she ran for Congress and they still didn’t initially seek to strike her.”

Stone was convicted on seven charges, including lying to investigators and witness tampering. (Among other things, he had threatened the dog belonging to a cooperating witness, Randy Credico.)

Fox News and other right-wing media have been on a campaign of urging Trump to pardon Stone. Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Barr intervened in the case to overrule the sentencing recommendations against Stone, resulting in the resignations of four Department of Justice professionals from the case.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Right-Wing Media Explain Barr’s Bogus Rebuke Of Trump

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Many mainstream media outlets fell right for the bait from Attorney General Bill Barr’s public complaint that President Donald Trump’s tweets on specific cases were making it “impossible for me to do my job.” Here, they thought, was some genuine daylight between the attorney general and the president — in the wake of Barr’s intervention to overrule the sentencing recommendations against former Trump campaign associate Roger Stone, and the resignations of four Department of Justice professionals.

But here’s the thing: Right-wing media weren’t actually fooled. (Well, maybe a laggard or two didn’t quite catch on.) Most of them understood perfectly what was going on. That’s why major right-wing activists and even far-right conspiracy theorists were so quick to leap to Barr’s defense.

Like a vaudeville or cartoon villain who can’t resist breaking the fourth wall and gloating right to the audience, these right-wing commentators tell us Barr is accomplishing two different things: Asking Trump to leave him alone so that he can actually carry out Trump’s desired objectives and psyching out the media into thinking he’s not just following Trump’s orders.

Just as the story was breaking, Fox News’ Sean Hannity immediately leapt to put Barr’s frustrations in context to listeners of his radio show, thus tamping down any instinct for his audience to be mad about the attorney general’s seeming dissension. After all, Hannity explained, Barr needs to do his job.

From the February 13, 2020, edition if iHeartRadio’s The Sean Hannity Show

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now this just breaking on ABC, Bill Barr is mad at the president. And I guess I kind of understand his frustration, because he’s trying to do his job, he can’t be influenced by anybody. I respect that, totally and completely.

But he wants the president to stop tweeting, because that makes it — the tweets are making it impossible for him to do his job, because people are saying he’s taking orders from the president, and he’s not.

And that night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham put it succinctly: “The media sees this sexy story of Trump versus Barr, but they missed the fact that Barr was basically telling Trump, ‘Don’t worry, I got this.’”

And others noticed a second angle here: Barr is pulling a mind game with the media, to make everybody think he’s in a feud with Trump — thereby taking away a point of criticism of the attorney general.

On the Thursday evening after the story broke, Will Chamberlain of Human Events called it “some old school PR wizardry.”

“But think about it, there’s a 4-D chess play here,” Chamberlain explained. “What is the criticism of Barr — what is the criticism of him? It’s that he’s Trump’s toady, right? Like, that’s the Elizabeth Warren thing. They’re saying, ‘Oh, he’s just Trump’s hand dog.’ Well, now literally every mainstream media outlet is reporting that ‘Barr is criticizing Trump vociferously.’ Meaning that he’s just managed, by this one press conference, to create distance between himself and the president, which is sort of what is needed to defang every bit of the criticism that is going on of President Trump.”

“Everybody knows Barr is doing a lot of work, he’s doing a good job,” Chamberlain later added, mentioning that the White House had already expressed full and continued confidence in Barr. “I mean, the single most decisive intervention was Barr squashing the Mueller report. And there’s a lot that Barr has done that’s really good. He seems to be pulling back on the Flynn case, seems to, you know, pulling back on the Stone thing, you know, getting these terrible, lying Mueller prosecutors out of there.”

And on Fox News, former Secretary of Education and now Fox Nation host Bill Bennett even speculated Friday morning that seemingly “attacking” Trump would really serve to take the heat off Barr from Democrats.

From the February 14, 2020, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom

BILL BENNETT (FOX NATION HOST): The president needs Bill Barr. But it turns out to be fine, and the White House supports him. You know, this is a strong guy and the president needs strong men around him — he’s a strong personality, he needs strong personalities.

But what are the Democrats going to do about Bill Barr? They were ready to impeach him, and then for a moment last night, you had to think they were saying, “Hey, wait a minute, he’s attacking Trump. Maybe we’re on his side.”

Co-anchor Sandra Smith even added that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) “didn’t waste any time taking the back of Bill Barr on that one.”

Note: This supposed maneuver to make Democrats think Barr is somehow on their side really doesn’t work — especially when Bennett gets up in public and explains the attempt at a mind game.

There were also a handful of mainstream outlets that got it. Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan explained:

As we previously noted, CNN’s Chris Cuomo called the move a “ploy,” explaining the White House’s statement of continued confidence in Barr and noted of Trump: “You’ve never heard him say that about anybody who said anything close to what Barr just did. I wonder why.”

And on MSNBC’s Hardball, former CIA Director John Brennan and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler explained to Chris Matthews that Barr still has a lot of maneuvering room.

“He is just so self-centered — Donald Trump — that anybody who has the audacity to challenge him, or to criticize him, is going to be within the line of fire,” explained Brennan, a longtime Trump detractor. “And that’s why I do have questions about what happened today with William Barr, whether or not this was coordinated with the White House,” he said, adding that he thought Barr was trying to prevent “a full-scale revolt within the Department of Justice.”

Butler summed it up: “Trump needs Barr more than Barr needs Trump. So, I think Barr has some room. But again, the question is, how will he exercise his power? And from everything we know, he will continue to be the president’s Roy Cohn.”

Giuliani Podcast Promotes His Debunked Ukraine Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

You almost have to feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani — almost.

As the personal attorney for President Donald Trump, he ran a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, a front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. (And he couldn’t have done it without other associates, such as attorneys Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, indicted henchmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and current Fox contributor John Solomon.)

But now, Giuliani has been left off the actual legal team for Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Instead, he’s presenting a virtual trial on his new podcast. And as we’ve already documented, his entire racket consists of telling people to tune in for his next appearance, during which he will show all this proof of Biden’s supposed wrongdoing — only to then ask people to tune in the next time after that, to see it then.

The second episode of Giuliani’s podcast, while seeming to show documentary evidence supporting his case — in the form of various papers he holds up for viewers to see on camera — is really just more of the same lies, distortions, and empty promises he’s dealt in so far.

Now, let’s examine just a handful of bogus claims from Giuliani’s latest round of falsehoods.

Giuliani says Shokin’s reputation for corruption is another big conspiracy by “children of Soros”

In this video, Giuliani focuses on Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine who was fired in 2016 at the urging of then-Vice President Biden and the international community. That event has formed the nucleus of right-wing smears against Biden, which allege that he pushed for Shokin’s removal in order to shield his son Hunter, who had joined the board of a Ukrainian gas company, from investigation.

In reality, the push to get Shokin fired was part of a Ukrainian anti-corruption effort by advocates and international supporters of the country. It was well-established that the United States’ position was that ousting Shokin was a critical aspect of anti-corruption measures. At the time of his removal, The New York Times reported that the “United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin” for “turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite.”

But not according to Giuliani’s telling. In his words, Shokin was an honest and active prosecutor: “If he was corrupt, he sure wasn’t good at it. Because I’ve met him — he’s not a rich man.”

And furthermore, Giuliani asserts, all the aspersions on Shokin’s character were also “created” as part of that grand conspiracy — the whole thing driven, he later claims, by George Soros’ nongovernmental organizations such as the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine, which he says are the true epicenter of corruption. “Then you wonder why, when they fire Shokin, they can get people from Italy and England and Germany to all say that he’s corrupt,” Giuliani claims. “They’re all people from the NGOs that were being paid off.”

The freezing of Burisma’s assets — Giuliani rewrites history

In his podcast, Giuliani lays out the case of the corrupt Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, founder of the Burisma energy company. Giuliani claims that after the 2014 revolution in Ukraine — which overthrew a corrupt, pro-Russian government in which Zlochevsky had been a cabinet minister and engaged in all sorts of self-dealing for his company — “he was very afraid that the new government, which was going to be supposedly a reform government, was going to take his business away from him.”

Giuliani then claims Ukrainian authorities like Shokin were right on Zlochevsky’s trail: “And they already began actions against him in the U.K., to take his money away from him.” Thus, Giuliani says that Zlochevsky hired Hunter Biden to protect him from these corruption-busting Ukrainian prosecutors.

But way back in December 2015 — long before this story was ever part of the current impeachment debate or the 2020 election — The New York Times ran a news article that cast a suspicious eye on Hunter Biden’s involvement with the company. And even that coverage made it clear that Ukrainian prosecutors under Shokin were part of the problem by refusing to cooperate in that very investigation over in Britain, leaving little reason for Zlochevsky to even need Biden’s supposed help:

But after Ukrainian prosecutors refused to provide documents needed in the investigation, a British court in January ordered the Serious Fraud Office to unfreeze the assets. The refusal by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office to cooperate was the target of a stinging attack by the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, who called out Burisma’s owner by name in a speech in September.

“In the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized $23 million in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Pyatt said. Officials at the prosecutor general’s office, he added, were asked by the United Kingdom “to send documents supporting the seizure. Instead, they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the U.K. court, and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.”

The Wall Street Journal has also documented that “Mr. Shokin had dragged his feet on those investigations, Western diplomats said, and effectively squashed one in London by failing to cooperate with U.K. authorities, who had frozen $23.5 million of Mr. Zlochevsky’s assets.”

There was no “raid” against Burisma in 2016

Giuliani also claims that under Shokin, the investigation against Burisma had been very much alive, and there was a “raid” of the company in February 2016 — around the same time as Joe Biden was demanding Shokin’s firing. (Giuliani’s phrasing that Shokin “arrested the Burisma company” seems a bit odd; how does one put an entire corporation in handcuffs?)

The Washington Post examined this claim back in December when House Republicans also attempted to advance the storyline that a “raid” had taken place against Burisma. But instead, they found that “nothing significant appears to have happened in February 2016 except primarily the reinstatement of a previous court order. Instead, Zlochevsky’s assets had been seized a year earlier and were only briefly not under a court order because of a prosecutorial error.”

Prosecutions against Burisma had been long dormant, as former Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko told Bloomberg this past May: “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”

What is that document?

Giuliani also holds up what he says is a document from a prosecutorial office in Latvia, supposedly proving that prosecutors were on the trail of Hunter Biden in February 2016.


But this isn’t new, either. Giuliani already showed this purported document during his recent series on the right-wing media outlet One America News Network.

The Washington Post reached out last month to the Latvian government to find out whether the document was authentic but did not hear back. The paper also pointed to some suspicious signs that it might have been tailor-made just to go after Hunter Biden:

So what does it show? It essentially shows that Burisma paid four people through these transfers. Who are these people? They are all people who were employed by Burisma at the time. Archer and Hunter Biden served on its board, while Apter joined as chairman around the same time. Hunter Biden said he was convinced to join the board by the fourth person, Kwasniewski, who is a former president of Poland.

Somebody in Latvia apparently regarded these money transfers as suspicious, but there isn’t much to go on here. And even if the money was laundered, does it implicate Hunter Biden in the laundering? (There have long been legitimate questions about potential corruption at Burisma.) The document for some reason names four people as receiving the funds but mentions Hunter Biden as being involved only “in corruption affair.” Why is that? You would think the document might explain, but OANN doesn’t appear to have probed that.

Money laundering experts said there doesn’t seem to be much there there.

(Emphasis in the original.)

Forbes magazine, hardly a left-wing outlet, also took a look at this supposed document and noted the weaknesses of whatever it was supposed to prove:

But the document only states that “according to publicly available information, Burisma Holding Limited and its director Hunter Biden are involved in corruption affair.” The document proceeds to list monetary transactions of Burisma outside of Ukraine, without any mention of investigations or other evidence of allegedly corrupt activities beyond the initial reference to publicly available information.

Giuliani’s most irresponsible claim yet

Giuliani goes on to tell viewers that soon after he spoke with Shokin in late 2019, the former prosecutor general was poisoned with mercury and almost died in an apparent assassination attempt, having to be transported to Austria for both medical treatment and his personal safety.

“So there was an attempt to kill Shokin, which gives you an idea of how serious what we’re dealing with is,” Giuliani says. “This is a very, very serious matter.”

It may well be that Shokin was poisoned by some unknown party. The physician in Austria whom Giuliani cites to say that Shokin was poisoned, Dr. Nikolai Korpan, is in fact a reputable medical practitioner with significant prior experience treating these sorts of cases. (Indeed, it seems to be a common practice for the Russian government to kill people by poisoning, using “mysterious chemical substances” like mercury or dioxins as the method of choice.)

But what Giuliani is clearly trying to imply here — without just coming out and saying it directly, of course — is that Joe Biden or people close to him arranged for this crime to occur. He clearly does not have any evidence to say that, and for charges of this magnitude, it is grossly irresponsible to even be implying it as he is.

Tune in next time — same Rudy channel

Of course, Giuliani closes out with an exhortation for his viewers to watch the next episode, promising that’s when he’ll really get to the bottom of the Bidens’ supposed misdeeds.

“This is a vast crime. This is probably, obviously, going to be the biggest scandal so far of this century — let’s hope there’s none greater,” he says. “It makes Teapot Dome look cheap, when we get finished with the amounts of money, and there’s a lot more to it.”

“And in the next episode, we’ll finish the outline. We’ve got most of it. And then we’ll get right to the testimony, and you’ll get to see some of these witnesses on camera, for yourself, to see that we have something called proof — which Democrats do not have against the president, and never had.”

Trump Tweet Threatens NPR Over Pompeo Tantrum

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

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

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

Original controversy regarding Pompeo

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

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

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

The suggestion about Bangladesh was especially preposterous.

Fox News gets involved, triggering Trump

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

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

Shortly thereafter, Trump quote-tweeted Levin and agreed.

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

To wit: Elsewhere this morning, Trump threatened Schiff.

On Fox News, Iran Strike Rules Out Impeachment

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Following the U.S. military strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Fox News personalities have tied this event back to the ongoing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. This commentary has ranged from trying to use the impeachment to justify Trump’s lack of communication with Congress about the strike, to invoking the attack to discredit impeachment.

On Fox & Friends, co-cost Ainsley Earhardt and guest Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) discussed the “conspiracy theory” spread by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) accusing Trump of using the strike as a distraction from impeachment, while Graham also said Trump should not have briefed Democratic or Republican members of Congress.

But later that very morning, Fox Business host Stuart Varney pitched the idea that the Soleimani strike itself ought to take impeachment off the table, during a lead-in appearance on Mornings with Maria: “Are we now going to try to impeach and remove from office the commander-in-chief who’s just taken out one of the world’s leading terrorists? That’s quite a question, I suggest.”

Christian Whiton, a frequent Fox guest and former adviser to the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, published an opinion piece on that covered a lot of bases, such as accusing Democrats of “singing from Tehran’s song sheet.” And while Whiton at one point lambasted Democrats for “implying Trump acted only to distract the public from the impeachment sham — which most Americans have already tuned out,” many paragraphs later he also declared that the Soleimani strike would send the world a message about impeachment.

Furthermore, don’t think the importance of Trump’s action will be lost in the capitals of other U.S. adversaries. China’s Xi Jinping, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin all undoubtedly hoped that the Democrats’ impeachment sham would have weakened Trump – even if it didn’t remove him from office. Now they know it didn’t.

Fox News contributor Ed Rollins spoke effusively (and quite repetitively) about the “great strength” that Trump had shown, adding that “Democrats are foolish if they are going to continue on this impeachment process, and sort of the peacenik role that they’ve tried to advocate for the last several years. This is an unsafe world, and this shows great strength.”

Rollins also declared: “Congress has given up its opportunity to be briefed in advance, by the leaks that have occurred over the last year in the impeachment process.”

Stuart Varney also raised the point during his regular program Varney & Co.: “Back to Congressman Schiff, who chairs the intelligence committee and has been widely accused of leaking all kinds of stuff which is denigratory to the administration over the past few years — why on earth would the administration tell Adam Schiff in advance that they were about to take out a rotten terrorist overseas? I mean, why on earth would they do that?”

In one notable case of a dog that didn’t bark, however, host Neil Cavuto had on a national security guest, retired Col. Peter Mansoor. After Cavuto quite casually raised the idea that briefing congressional Democrats before the raid might not have been a good idea — because of the impeachment probe leaks — Mansoor explained that Democrats wouldn’t have leaked something of this sensitive nature.

So that’s something, right?

Right-Wing Media Promote Trump Campaign’s Clyburn Smear

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

How bad does a right-wing smear have to be for a “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist to reject it — but also to have Fox News personalities still push it?

On Thursday, the Trump campaign tweeted a video clip of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) appearing on CNN to discuss the process following this week’s impeachment of President Donald Trump. In an effort to cast Democrats as full of “hatred and anger,” the campaign accused Clyburn of calling for Trump to be executed.

The problem is that the clip shows what Clyburn actually said, which contradicts the campaign’s claims about what he said.

During a discussion about House Democrats holding back the official transfer of the articles of impeachment until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agrees to hold a full trial, Clyburn said: “If he doesn’t come around to committing to a fair trial, keep those articles here. So keep it as long as it takes. If you know, and he’s told you what he’s going to do — it’s almost like, ‘Let’s give him a fair trial, and hang him’ — I mean, it’s the reverse of that.”

Clyburn was speaking of the “reverse” of a quick trial that ends in a hanging — in this case, the possibility that the Senate might end the impeachment trial in a quick manner, without calling witnesses or pursuing any significant investigatory work — as indeed McConnell is indicating he intends to do.

But that hasn’t stopped right-wing media from completely twisting it around.

The Federalist pursued the most blatantly dishonest description possible of Clyburn’s words, making them out to be the exact opposite:

Later in the interview, Clyburn said that the Senate should give Trump a fair trial, then proceed to hang him.

“Let’s give him a fair trial, and hang him,” Clyburn said.

Brent Bozell, the conservative (supposed) media critic, falsely declared that the longtime congressman had just called for Trump to be lynched.

Fox Nation hosts Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson pursued a racial angle to attack Clyburn.

Though, to be sure, not all right-wing media are carrying this particular bucket of water for Trump. Washington Examiner Executive Editor Seth Mandel called it “a bad, out of context hit,” and Examiner reporter Siraj Hashmi even declared: “@TrumpWarRoom is engaging in the same practices it accuses the media of doing.”

But the real kicker here: Far-right media figure Jack Posobiec, who has pushed conspiracy theories involving such topics as “Pizzagate” and the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, noted the truth of the matter as far as what Clyburn actually said.

Apparently, even he’s got limits.

Inspector General’s Report Busts Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The long-awaited Justice Department inspector general report on the Trump-Russia investigation is out, busting a multitude of right-wing media notions about a supposed political agenda to go after then-candidate Donald Trump.

Not that it’s likely to make much of a difference on Fox News. Sean Hannity has already declared: “Well, everything we said, everything we reported, everything we told you was dead-on center accurate.” (And as we shall see, he is no small player himself in the hype and lies that have been spread here.)

But how do the various Fox News claims and conspiracy theories stack up to the facts in the new IG report? The clips below are are just a small sample of each of these talking points; all of these lines were repeated or inferred countless times in the past few years.

“No predicate” for the investigation? Wrong.

The report makes it clear how the investigation began in 2016: The FBI received a tip from an official with a “Friendly Foreign Government” — known to be Alexander Downer, then the Australian High Commissioner (ambassador) to the United Kingdom and also a former leader of Australia’s main conservative party — that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos said that “the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama).” In addition, the report states that, “at the time, FBI officials involved in opening the investigation had reason to believe that Russia may have been connected to the Wikileaks disclosures that occurred earlier in July 2016, and were aware of information regarding Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections.”

As for any role of the infamous campaign research dossier by Christopher Steele in starting the investigation? According to the report, “These [FBI] officials, though, did not become aware of Steele’s election reporting until weeks later and we therefore determined that Steele’s reports played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening.”

An accompanying letter by FBI Director Christopher Wray summarizes the report’s findings of the investigation’s legitimacy, albeit also noting some procedural irregularities:

The Report concludes that the FBl’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and related investigations of certain individuals were opened in 2016 for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication. The Report also details instances in which certain FBI personnel, at times during the 2016-2017 period reviewed by the OJG, did not comply with existing policies, neglected to exercise appropriate diligence, or otherwise failed to meet the standard of conduct that the FBI expects of its employees — and that our country expects of the FBI.

But back on the January 23, 2018, edition of Fox News’ Hannity, for example the eponymous host declared: “The entire basis of Robert Mueller’s so-called investigation is based and predicated on a lie … The only evidence we do have tonight is that Hillary Clinton bought and paid for a salacious phony document filled with Russian lies to try and influence all of you during that election. That’s what Mueller should really be looking into.”

On the May 17, 2018, edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News legal analyst Andy McCarthy declared that “they did not have a criminal predicate to open an investigation on Trump … And what they did was use their counterintelligence powers covertly to investigate the Trump campaign during the stretch run of the campaign under circumstances where they did not have evidence that anyone had actually committed a crime.”

And on the March 26, 2019, edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, anchor Maria Bartiromo repeatedly said there was “no predicate,” claiming, “They launched the investigation into candidate Donald Trump with no reason. They have nothing to base it on, other than the flimsy dossier.”

Was there an FBI “informant” or “spy” in the Trump campaign? Not relating to this investigation.

Interestingly, the report says there were individuals involved with Trump who were already FBI contacts — known as “confidential human sources” (CHSs) — but they did not have any substantial involvement in this particular investigation:

In addition, we identified several individuals who had either a connection to candidate Trump or a role in the Trump campaign, and were also FBI CHSs, but who were not tasked as part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. One such CHS did provide the Crossfire Hurricane team with general information about Crossfire Hurricane subjects Carter Page and Paul Manafort, but we found that this CHS had no further involvement in the investigation.

The bottom line: “Additionally, we found no evidence that the FBI attempted to place any CHSs within the Trump campaign, recruit members of the Trump campaign as CHSs, or task CHSs to report on the Trump campaign.”

Instead, the FBI had contacts interact from outside the campaign, by speaking to people who were involved in it:

We found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs or UCEs within the Trump campaign or tasked any CHSs or UCEs to report on the Trump campaign. However, through our review, we determined that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Crossfire Hurricane team tasked four CHSs and a few UCEs [“Under Cover Employees”], which resulted in interactions with Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and a high-level Trump campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation. We found that the Crossfire Hurricane team tasked CHSs to interact with Page and Papadopoulos both during the time Page and Papadopoulos were advisors for the Trump campaign, and after Page and Papadopoulos were no longer affiliated with the Trump campaign.

In other words, as the old saying goes: “Loose lips sink ships.”

On the May 11, 2018, of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-hosts Pete Hegseth, Steve Doocy, and Ainsley Earhardt played up the conspiracy theory that the FBI had a “spy” in the campaign (or an “informant,” as stated by Rush Limbaugh in a featured video clip) in order to “frame candidate Donald Trump.”

On the May 15, 2018, edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Fox News contributor Sara Carter said there was an “informant” placed in the campaign — and even suggested Hannity would recognize their initials.

On the May 17, 2018, edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, guest host David Asman declared that “apparently the DOJ put a spy in the Trump campaign. This has never been done before — and again, by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump.” His guest, Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, castigated the FBI for planting “an undercover informant that they were utilizing — a spy, a mole — trying to get people to say something incriminating, to entrap them.”

Joseph Mifsud — secret U.S. intelligence asset? Nope.

Back in 2016, Joseph Mifsud was the Maltese professor suspected of being a connection between Papadopoulos and the Russian government. Mifsud’s current whereabouts are unknown, but right-wingers have continually insisted that he must have really been an American intelligence asset, not Russian, and part of the plot to frame Trump.

But what does the IG report say?

We also investigated an allegation, raised by Papadopoulos, that the FBI used Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese citizen who was living in London and serving as a university professor, to pass information to Papadopoulos in April 2016 as a set up, so that the FBI could predicate the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Papadopoulos raised this possibility during his October 25, 2018 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, by stating that Mifsud might have been “working with the FBI and this was some sort of operation” to entrap Papadopoulos. The FBI’s Delta files contain no evidence that Mifsud has ever acted as an FBI CHS, and none of the witnesses we interviewed or documents we reviewed had any information to support such an allegation.

On the October 6 edition of Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, Bartiromo interviewed Papadopoulos himself while displaying an on-screen graphic called the “Papadopoulos international entrapment timeline,” which included his meetings with Mifsud.

And on the August 19 edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox contributor John Solomon described a “very plausible explanation” offered by Mifsud’s attorney, saying there would be proof that Mifsud was “a long-time Western intelligence collaborator who was tasked specifically with reaching out to Papadopoulos and making connections for him in Russia. If that’s true, the beginning of the origins of the Russia case was a set up — It was a ruse from the beginning, a political dirty trick. We need to get to the bottom of that but there is some new evidence that’s starting to emerge there.”

On the October 1 edition of Fox News @ Night, Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz claimed that “Mifsud supposedly — supposedly, at least there’s some reporting on there — that he had engaged and actually done some work for the Department of Justice in the past.”

On the October 18 edition of Hannity, Jarrett told guest host Chaffetz: “Mifsud has always been a Western intelligence source. And in fact, he gives instructions to U.S. intelligence agents, including the FBI. So, think about this, our own asset is feeding disinformation to George Papadopoulos on purpose to set him up as a patsy to justify an investigation of Donald Trump.”

GOP Impeachment ‘Report’ Recycles Fox News Arguments

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

House Republicans have released a report attempting to rebut the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump — revealing a patchwork of spin, distortions, and outright denials of reality. But more than that, the document echoes the talking points that Fox News has made throughout the entire Trump-Ukraine scandal.

From the start, of course, this story has been laundered from Fox News into Trump’s brain, beginning with the smear campaigns against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and other figures who have been caught up in the presidential scandal. Indeed, many of this new document’s purportedly factual (but easily debunked) claims about the impeachment inquiry can also be found in Fox host Sean Hannity’s recent “e-book” guide for talking to relatives over the holidays — though what Hannity wrote in just two-and-a-half pages, House Republicans stretched out to 123 pages.

Fundamentally, the House GOP report engages in Fox’s tried-and-true strategy of constructing an alternate reality in which the impeachment witnesses are said to have proved the exact opposite of what they actually testified about, such as claiming that “none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” even after multiple people laid out in detail the Trump administration’s quid pro quo demand that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigate the Bidens. (And yet still, the report claims: “The evidence does not establish that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Burisma Holdings, Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or Ukrainian influence in the 2016 election for the purpose of benefiting him in the 2020 election.”)

“In the absence of real evidence, the Democrats appeal to emotion—evaluating how unelected bureaucrats felt about the events in question,” the report says (emphasis original). This is reminiscent of Fox News legal analyst and Trump acolyte Gregg Jarrett, who previously proclaimed that the impeachment witnesses were really just offering their opinions rather than facts — even those who directly witnessed the key events in question.

Indeed, perhaps one of the most damaging witnesses against the president was Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union — and a Trump appointee and donor. But Fox News’ own headlines variously declared his testimony to be either a nonfactor or really just damaging to the Bidens.

The report also relies on the idea that the impeachment inquiry is based on “the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump’s policy initiatives and processes.” Fox News figures ranging from Hannity to “news”-side personnel such as chief White House correspondent John Roberts have also repeated the line that military aid was withheld from Ukraine as a “policy” matter — even while witnesses testified that the aid was withheld to pressure that country into investigating the Bidens. (If a move this egregious is simply “policy,” then we seem to be in the same territory as when Richard Nixon infamously remark to journalist David Frost in 1977: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Nothing would be out of bounds.)

The report even echoes another recent exercise in right-wing media gaslighting, denying that Trump had even tried to obtain the Democratic National Committee’s mythical email “server” from Ukraine: “The call summary, however, demonstrates that while President Trump mentioned Crowdstrike and ‘the server,’ President Trump never made any request that President Zelensky locate or turn over any material.”

In fact, the memorandum from the July 25 phone call shows that after Zelensky inquired about purchasing missile systems from the United States, Trump replied that he would like Ukraine to do “a favor. … The server, they say Ukraine has it.” It’s worth repeating: Not only is there no evidence that Ukraine was involved in the DNC email hack in 2016, but “the server” doesn’t even exist as a single physical object — the DNC emails were constructed across multiple cloud-based servers, and the U.S. security firm CrowdStrike turned over forensic replicas of those virtual disk images to the FBI.

Right-Wing Media Distort Key Moments In Vindman Testimony

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Right-wing media distorted various key moments from Tuesday’s impeachment inquiry hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, in which Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified about his experiences working on the National Security Council and having been a witness to the key phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

At one moment in the hearing, Vindman responded after ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) had addressed him as “Mr. Vindman.”

“Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please.”

The homepage ran a headline about the exchange declaring that Vindman “snaps” at Nunes, later changed to “scolds” and “pulling rank.”

Breitbart radio host Joel Pollak claimed that Vindman’s central testimony of hearing Trump’s phone call with Zelensky — and the pressure the administration applied for Ukraine to announce an investigation of Democratic 2020 candidate Joe Biden and his son — was “his own opinion” which had already been “debunked.”

But in his testimony, Vindman discussed how, as a matter of fact, he had heard the call, and that a request for a “favor” from someone in a superior position — such as Trump made to Zelensky after discussing U.S. military aid to Ukraine — would be understood as a command.

Pollak also peddled a misleading Breitbart headline to claim that Vindman had said there was no “pressure” on the Ukrainians, adding that the inquiry should be over.

The linked article itself simply quoted from an exchange between Vindman and Democratic committee counsel Daniel Goldman over whether the Ukrainians had ever approached him about feeling such pressures. “Not that I can recall,” Vindman answered — though he had also said he had become aware through other channels of Ukrainian concerns about delayed military aid.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham seized upon a Ukrainian official’s possible offer to Vindman of the position of Defense Minister — which is now said to have been “clearly a joke,” but which Vindman declined and reported to his own superiors at the time — to question how Vindman’s loyalties were “perceived” by Ukraine.

And when Vindman paid tribute to his family’s decision to immigrate to the United States from Ukraine when he was a child, right-wing talkers such as The Federalist’s Jesse Kelly simply ridiculed the display: