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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 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

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

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

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

The “Dual Role”

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

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

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

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

Eastman’s Legal And Media “Hats” Clash

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

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

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

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

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

Levin Pushes Far-Right Legal Theories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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

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

Maria Bartiromo Gave Trump Questions And Guidance In Advance Of Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News Ignores Bombshell Story Of McCarthy’s Big Lie

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

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

McCarthy’s lie gets unmasked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published with permission from Media Matters from America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA Today Rewrites Recent History To Scandalize Biden Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Post Pushes Republican Talking Points About Hunter Biden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Fox News Promotes Fake Covid Report To Boost Red State Policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News And Vladimir Putin Recycling Propaganda In Feedback Loop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sanctions … are hitting Americans and Europeans themselves”

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

“Rising prices for gasoline, energy”

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

“Problems faced by millions of people in the West”

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Putin’s Rants Are Literally Parroting Tucker Carlson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters