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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Why Does The Press Keep Rooting Against Biden?

Like clockwork, the first Friday of the month brought another blockbuster jobs report. The U.S. economy under President Joe Biden added another 400,000-plus new jobs in March, it was announced last week.

Biden is currently on pace, during his first two full years in office, to oversee the creation of 10 million new jobs and an unemployment rate tumbling all the way down to three percent. That would be an unprecedented accomplishment in U.S. history. Context: In four years in office, Trump lost three million jobs, the worst record since Herbert Hoover.

Yet the press shrugs off the good news, determined to keep Biden pinned down. “The reality is that one strong jobs report does not snap the administration out of its current circumstances,” Politico stressed Friday afternoon. How about 11 straight strong job reports, would that do the trick? Because the U.S. economy under Biden has been adding more than 400,000 jobs per month for 11 straight months.

The glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments means a key question lingers: Why is the press rooting against Biden? Is the press either hoping for a Trump return to the White House, or at least committed to keeping Biden down so the 2024 rematch will be close and ‘entertaining’ for the press to cover? Is that why the Ginni Thomas insurrection story was politely marched off the stage after just a few days of coverage last week by the same news outlets that are now in year three of their dogged Hunter Biden reporting? (ABC This Week included 19 references to Hunter Biden yesterday.)

Just look at the relentlessly dour economic coverage. For the press, inflation remains the dominant, bad-news-for-Dems economic story. Even on Friday, the day the stellar jobs report was released, “inflation” was mentioned on cable news nearly as often as “jobs,” according to TVeyes.com.

Axios contorted itself by claiming Biden’s promise to add “millions” of new jobs (which he’s already accomplished), was being threatened because there aren’t enough workers, because so few people are out of work— or something.

The home-run report itself was often depicted as a mixed bag. These were some of the glass-half-empty headlines that appeared in the wake of the latest runaway numbers:

• “America’s Job Market Is On Fire. Here’s Why It Doesn’t Feel Like It” (CNN)

• “Booming Job Growth Is a Double-Edged Sword For Joe Biden” (CNN)

• “Why a Great Jobs Report Can’t Save Joe Biden” (CNN)

• “Unemployment Hits Pandemic Low in March, But Uncertainty Looms Ahead” (Washington Post)

• “Biden Gets a Strong Jobs Report, But a Sour Mood Still Prevails” (Washington Post)

Totally normal journalism, right? The president announces another blockbuster jobs report and the press presents it as borderline bad news.

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Media’s Hunter Biden Frenzy Is Another Whitewater Pseudo-Scandal

Eagerly deploying newsroom resources to the perpetually overblown Hunter Biden story — just as Trump and Fox News kick off a new smear campaign — CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post gladly did the GOP’s bidding this week. Signing off on the idea that the Hunter Biden story remains a scandal simply because Republicans say so, the press has adopted a Whitewater-like obsession with the perpetual dead-end story.

One White House reporter from CBS News, doing his best Fox News impression, asked if President Joe Biden would take the extraordinary step of pardoning Hunter — who is not accused of any crime.

Producing remarkably similar articles that were published nearly simultaneously this week, the CNN.com, Journal, and Post efforts all swung and missed. On paper, there’s no reason why they would pick the exact same moment to churn out nearly 7,000 words of Biden reporting. Especially since none of the investigations dug up any startling revelations about his business dealings from the previous decade.

The copycat nature of the reports raises questions about who the unnamed sources for these stories were, and if there was a coordinated effort by Republican operatives to push simultaneous Hunter updates.

It’s also telling that the hand-delivered leaks arrived the same time we’re learning even more about the Trump White House’s criminality. Specifically, the administration’s clear lawbreaking surrounding the January 6 coup attempt.

This was the big ah-ha moment from the Post piece: “The new documents illustrate the ways in which his family profited from relationships built over Joe Biden’s decades in public service.”

And?

The press can’t provide an answer to the “and” — they can’t find anything illegal or shocking — so they pretend that the business deals themselves are newsworthy and that Hunter’s career requires years of media digging. Meanwhile, the recent revelation about a Supreme Court Justice’s wife strategizing with the Trump White House to overturn an election has evaporated from most newsrooms in less than one week.

After years of media focus there’s nothing to suggest Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings or profited from them in any way, or that the senior Biden ever did anything remotely unethical in connection with Hunter’s career. The son has never run for office, never served in the government, never lobbied to change U.S. policy, and never acted as an advisor to his father in any way.

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Beltway Media Sleepwalk Past Ginni Thomas’ Sedition Scheming

The Sunday morning talk shows sprinted into “gaffe” patrol mode after President Joe Biden made a nine-word, ad-libbed comment in Poland over the weekend about how Vladimir Putin should not be allowed to stay in power in Russia.

On Meet the Press, USA Today’s Susan Page emphasized Biden’s comment was “distracting” and “undisciplined.” The assembled pundits spent nearly ten minutes discussing the story, along with a new NBC poll that was bad news for Biden. (Inflation!)

What was mostly ignored by the round table was the blockbuster story about Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, wife of right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She had been texting unhinged QAnon-like messages to Trump’s chief of staff after the 2020 election, strategizing and urging that Biden’s victory be overturned, saving America from “the end of Liberty.” The NBC pundits on Sunday spent 45 seconds discussing that story.

Like when Trump was recently caught smuggling boxes of top-secret documents out of the White House, the Beltway press is treating Ginni Thomas’ seditious assault on democracy as a middling story; one that will likely receive little or no new coverage in coming days.

The revelation that Thomas’ plugged-in wife who enjoyed easy access to the Trump White House hoped that “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators … will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition,” came just after Republican Senators used QAnon signaling during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. She was smeared as a child pornography apologist.

Meet the Press was hardly alone in sleepwalking past the Ginni Thomas story, which represents another GOP direct assault on democracy and election integrity. ABC This Week s’ round table spent ten minutes dissecting Biden’s Putin “gaffe,” and just three minutes acknowledging the Supreme Court’s stunning setback in terms of its reputation for fairness. (The Court’s already at its lowest standing ever.)

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal has yet to run a single page-one piece on the Thomas story and how she accused the “Left” of “attempting the greatest Heist of our History,” and complained about being “disgusted” with Vice President Mike Pence for approving the 2020 election results.

CNN announced Biden’s overseas Putin comment had set off “shock waves.” But I can find no CNN coverage that suggests the same thing occurred when we learned about Ginni Thomas’ relentless, high-level push to overturn the election (a “fight of good versus evil”) while Judge Thomas was the only justice who voted against allowing the release of records from the Trump White House related to the January 6 attack. Thomas’ lone, radical dissent on another 2020 election case openly promoted Trump lies about mail-in ballots. Lies that sound a lot like Ginni’s.

Cable news in general has been slow-walking the story. Look at how much TV attention the Thomas controversy received compared to how many hours this month were showered on the issue of rising gas prices in the U.S

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

It's The GOP In Disarray, As Trump Tears His Party Apart

Hours after Trump took the extraordinary step of un-endorsing a Republican in the Alabama primary for the U.S. Senate race, the candidate responded. He claimed Trump had repeatedly pressured him, in 2022, to “rescind” the last election and to help illegally install the Republican back in the White House.

The stunning and bitter feud is just the latest that Trump has detonated within the GOP. A one-man wrecking crew who’s committed to sowing discord throughout the Republican Party, Trump seems to take glee in pitting it against itself as he insists his personal grievances about the “stolen” election be the GOP’s most pressing electoral issue.

Dems in Disarray has been a Beltway media go-to narrative for years. Why won’t they apply it to today’s comically fractured GOP?

Trump views the unfolding primary season not as a way for the party to position itself for midterm contests against Democrats, but as a chance to exact revenge on Republicans whom he considers to be insufficiently loyal to Mar-a-Lago.

Lashing out at the previously-endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama, Trump insisted the withdrawal was because Brooks had recently told a radio show host it’s best for the GOP to look forward, not back. The implication is that Trump will now find a primary candidate in Alabama who is fixated on Trump’s win being “stolen” and he’ll support that person. But there is no such candidate in the race. There are two other leading players besides Brooks and neither seem interested in running on Trump’s laundry list of 2020 grudges and slights.

Trump’s throwing a tantrum and the GOP has to clean up the mess. Again. It didn’t help that Brooks, a right-winger who rode the Tea Party wave to office, was floundering in Alabama GOP primary polls and that Trump hates being associated with a loser.

So where’s the nonstop “feuding,” “civil war,” “chaos” coverage for today’s fractured GOP? Those were the hysterical words the press used last spring to describe Democrats when just two senators initially refused to support the White House’s infrastructure bill.

Remember when Biden and his team were filling out their cabinet in an orderly manner? The D.C. press lost its mind with Dems in Disarray coverage — the president-elect was facing a "considerable challenge" while "confronting factionalism and fierce impatience." Alliances had been "strained," his choices were "vexing" "frustrated" and "increasingly skeptical" supporters. Biden had "irritated" Democratic lawmakers who are "complaining."

Oh my!

And don’t forget during the spring of 2020 when the New York Times basically wrote off the Biden campaign, insisting the "perilously passive" candidate was "grappling," "uncertain," "tentative," "cloistered," "stuck at home," and "struggling with basic technical difficulties," while Democrats were "worried" and "perplexed" — Biden won the election by 7 million votes.

In Georgia today, not only is Trump trying to end the career of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in his high-profile reelection run, the egomaniac is targeting Kemp’s allies, too. “For the second time in as many weeks, the former president endorsed a little-known Republican challenger to one of Kemp’s closest political loyalists,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Trump is likely fuming that the candidate he is backing against Kemp, former U.S. Senator David Perdue, is trailing, setting up a potentially humiliating Trump defeat.

Meanwhile, Trump can’t stop insulting the GOP’s most senior senator, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling him a "dumb son of a bitch" and a "stone cold loser." Can you imagine what the D.C. press coverage would look like if a former Democratic president launched grenades at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from the sidelines on a weekly basis? For Trump though, the press shrugs, committed to its Trump-being-Trump mindset, where there’s nothing does truly damages his party.

Trump is still the party’s presumptive 2024 nominee and there is a cult-like following around him. But his runaway narcissism is taking a toll on the party, and the press ought to center its Trump coverage that way.

Republicans know all too well how Trump can spoil their chances for success. Democrats swiped two surprise, run-off Senate victories in January 2021 largely because Trump was still obsessed with overturning his election loss, while waging war on Georgia Republicans for not doing enough to help him steal away Biden’s win.

Trump not only distracted the GOP during the crucial run-off elections, he likely animated Democratic and Independent voters by loudly lying about the 2020 election. Recall that Republicans lost the White House, House and Senate while Trump was president.

There’s also no indication Trump’s revenge tour is connecting with voters. A recent Gallup poll offered participants a chance to rank the 30 most important issues facing America. “Election reform” was a choice that nobody selected.

It’s the GOP that’s in disarray, trust me.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

https://pressrun.media/p/gop-in-disarray-trumps-tearing-the?s=r

How Media Normalized The QAnon Smear Of Judge Jackson

Signaling that the Republican Party would not allow the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an entirely serious and dignified one, Republican senator Josh Hawley began trafficking vile claims about the first Black woman tapped for the Court.

For the last week, Hawley and his allies have been trying to turn Jackson, arguably the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in the last half-century, into a child-pornography apologist. It’s breathtaking, unconscionable and straight out of the QAnon cult playbook— but the press doesn’t care. In their eyes, there is no decency line that the GOP can ever cross. Nothing is out of bounds for them.

On Fox News, Hawley specifically described Jackson as protecting pedophiles when it came to sentencing: “I haven't been able to find a single case where she has had a child porn offender, a pedophile, in front of her where she hasn't given him the most lenient sentence she possibly could.”

Still, the New York Times downplayed the outlandish GOP smears against the mother of two, describing the claims as merely “hostile critiques,” and Republicans “forcefully attacking Jackson’s record.” In a puff piece highlighting four GOP senators this week, the Times elevated Hawley as one “to watch” during the confirmation hearings.

The allegation that Jackson operated as some sort of pro-child pornography outlier on the bench because she sentenced below federal guidelines is obviously false, as ABC News, among others detailed [emphasis added]:

Federal appeals court Judges Joseph Bianco of the Second Circuit and Andrew Brasher of the Eleventh Circuit, both Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed with Hawley's support.

Hawley didn’t make the bogus claims because he thought they were valid, or that they could withstand a moment of scrutiny. He made them to link Jackson to the odious phrases “child pornography” and “pedophile,” which are signaling mechanisms for the QAnon cult.

Signaling that the Republican Party would not allow the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an entirely serious and dignified one, Republican senator Josh Hawley began trafficking vile claims about the first Black woman tapped for the Court.

For the last week, Hawley and his allies have been trying to turn Jackson, arguably the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in the last half-century, into a child-pornography apologist. It’s breathtaking, unconscionable and straight out of the QAnon cult playbook— but the press doesn’t care. In their eyes, there is no decency line that the GOP can ever cross. Nothing is out of bounds for them.

On Fox News, Hawley specifically described Jackson as protecting pedophiles when it came to sentencing: “I haven't been able to find a single case where she has had a child porn offender, a pedophile, in front of her where she hasn't given him the most lenient sentence she possibly could.”

Still, the New York Times downplayed the outlandish GOP smears against the mother of two, describing the claims as merely “hostile critiques,” and Republicans “forcefully attacking Jackson’s record.” In a puff piece highlighting four GOP senators this week, the Times elevated Hawley as one “to watch” during the confirmation hearings.

The allegation that Jackson operated as some sort of pro-child pornography outlier on the bench because she sentenced below federal guidelines is obviously false, as ABC News, among others detailed [emphasis added]:

Federal appeals court Judges Joseph Bianco of the Second Circuit and Andrew Brasher of the Eleventh Circuit, both Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed with Hawley's support.

Hawley didn’t make the bogus claims because he thought they were valid, or that they could withstand a moment of scrutiny. He made them to link Jackson to the odious phrases “child pornography” and “pedophile,” which are signaling mechanisms for the QAnon cult.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Kremlin-Style Propaganda Now Defines The Republican Party

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands as one of the most hated world figures in recent history, with a barely-there favorable rating of 4 percent among Americans. Yet his influence within MAGA America grows. The dictator’s unique brand of propaganda and disinformation — dubbed the “Fog of Unknowability” — has been embraced by the Republican Party, Trump and Fox News.

It’s a stunning collective that’s become more pronounced during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The evidence of that alliance was on display when Kremlin forces teamed up with Fox News and GOP players to push the obvious distraction about Ukraine being the home of a secret, U.S.-funded bioweapons that target certain ethnicities, thereby producing some sort of justification for Russia’s land war.

It’s shocking to watch an American media outlet such as Fox routinely suggest the U.S. provoked the Ukraine invasion, side with Russia over America, and smear Ukrainians as being unworthy of U.S. support. Still, the anti-democratic, authoritarian bonds are becoming tighter as the Trump movement now turns to the Kremlin for its messaging cues. The overlap is undeniable, and the implications are grave.

Look at how the Washington Post recently described Putin-era propaganda: “Russian disinformation often begins with a speck of fact, which is then twisted into a full-blown conspiracy theory. The technique makes it easier to spread and take root among the country’s supporters.” Sound familiar? They’re describing the foundation of Fox News’ daily programming.

For some reason though, the D.C. media which so easily identifies Russian propaganda, refuse to apply the same term when the GOP engages in the exact same behavior.

Note that the Post piece suggested Fox News’ Tucker Carlson had “fallen” for Russian disinformation about a bioweapons program in Ukraine. Trust me, nobody at Fox News, in the right-wing media, or inside the GOP has “fallen” for the bioweapons story — no one got duped. They have knowingly embraced the campaign of lies. That’s why state-run Russian TV is encouraged to air clips of Carlson. The two validate each other.

What makes Putin’s brand of propaganda unique is that it’s not designed to win over converts; it’s not built to ‘prove’ a point. The goal is to create confusion and raise doubts, often through a stream of contradictions and lies. Using the Kremlin’s firehouse approach, so much confusion is created so often via a multitude of media platforms, it becomes impossible to navigate the deliberate fog. Putin has buried Russia in that misinformation morass for more than two decades.

This isn’t traditional Beltway spin, where partisan players tease out and extend the facts in order to make a preferred point. It’s a sophisticated, KGB-influenced brand of postmodern propaganda that deftly mixes facts with fiction, with constantly shifting storylines, to the point where it’s not possible for most Russian news consumers to discern the truth. They stop even trying. Collective passivity is the goal.

“At the heart of this mindset is the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth or even facts because everything is spun or disguised to reflect advantageously on one group or another,” Vanity Fair noted in a seminal piece from 2017 about Trump’s early embrace of Putin’s propaganda playbook. “This dark internal logic allows for the Kremlin propaganda machine's single greatest achievement: to rub out all distinctions between truth and lies, so that facts, conspiracies, reality, and fabrications are all pulled down into the same indistinguishable muck.”

The result? The dense fog of unknowability. “Once you've successfully swamped truth, you're no longer accountable for your actions,” wrote Vanity Fair’s Mike Mariani.

Authoritarian Trump immediately adopted the Putin strategy as president. Three quick examples from early 2017:

  • When the White House announced it was abandoning the Paris climate accord, the administrating claimed it was because of a “slush fund” that the U.S. was flushing billions of dollars each year into and letting other countries spend — but the “slush fund” doesn’t exist. It was a choreographed lie.
  • That May in 2017, the White House trumpeted the news that it had brokered a $110 billion arms sale to a Middle East power. But the deal never existed. It was fabricated.
  • One month later, after Trump announced plans to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system, he and Republican members of Congress then staged a fake bill-signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House. There, supportive politicians gathered around the seated president, who signed nothing more than a letter to Congress stating his support for the proposal. The entire event was Kabuki theater.

In four years, the D.C. press never adjusted to Trump’s lies and contradictions. The media was soon enveloped in the Fog, in part by refusing to begin each news cycle with the assumption that Trump lied without pause. Instead, the press became distracted by each morsel of disinformation, overwhelmed by the spectacle of constant chaos.

Putin-style propaganda has been a political win for American conservatives. Now they’re repaying the Kremlin by running interference for its invasion.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Embracing Trump's Big Lie May Cost Murdoch Billions In Libel Lawsuits

Rupert Murdoch for years has enjoyed a Trump-like ability to avoid responsibility for the avalanche of lies he promotes. That all may be changing thanks to a pair of billion-dollar defamation lawsuits surrounding Trump’s Big Lie campaign — Murdoch appears powerless to stop the looming legal reckoning.

This week, Justice David Cohen of State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued a stinging rebuke of Fox News. Denying the network’s attempt to dismiss a $2.7 billion lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, the election technology company that Fox smeared as part of Trump’s Big Lie offensive following the 2020 campaign, Cohen waved off Murdoch’s attorneys.

“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote in his 61-page opinion. The judge repeatedly signaled that the lawsuit can proceed because there’s a reasonable chance that a jury would find Fox guilty of defamation.

The finding comes just three months after a judge in Delaware issued an identical ruling in another defamation lawsuit against Fox News, this one seeking $1.6 billion in damages. That one was brought by Dominion Voting Systems, which claimed Murdoch’s network smeared the election software company by casting it as a central villain in the GOP’s “rigged” charade.

“Fox possessed countervailing evidence of election fraud from the Department of Justice, election experts, and Dominion at the time it had been making its statements,” the judge wrote. “The fact that, despite this evidence, Fox continued to publish its allegations against Dominion, suggests Fox knew the allegations were probably false.”

For years, Fox News has gotten away with blatantly lying and slandering people, most often Democrats, and have paid almost no price for it. The reason Smartmatic and Dominion are having success in court is because they are businesses, not individuals, and they’re not “public figures.” If they were, it would be extremely difficult, under U.S. legal precedent, to prove they were defamed. They are both easily able to document how their brands have been damaged, and the amount of business they have lost, thanks to Fox smears.

What’s so damning for Murdoch’s legal team is that the facts of the recent Smartmatic case are not in dispute. That’s because Fox News defamed the company in plain view, repeatedly, on national television, alleging the company’s software switched California votes in the 2016 election, switched votes in Michigan in 2020, and did the same thing in overseas elections, among many wild and false allegations.

Because the facts are not in question, the best Murdoch’s lawyers could do in court was claim that the voting lies that aired almost nonstop did not constitute defamation because there’s no proof they were aired out of malice. Instead, Fox was just covering a big story and including lots of voices.

“When a sitting President and his surrogates claim an election was rigged, the public has a right to know what they are claiming, full stop,” Murdoch lawyers argued.

The judge rejected that defense, without reservation. “This Court finds that plaintiffs have pleaded facts sufficient to allow a jury to infer that Fox News acted with actual malice, since it conceivably had a “high degree of awareness of falsity” or “serious doubts as to the truth” of the statements made.” He added, “Since Fox News allowed allegedly defamatory statements about [Smartmatic] to be repeated on its network, a jury may therefore find that it acted with intent or reckless disregard of the truth.”

The Smartmatic lawsuit can now proceed to discovery, which means it’s likely Murdoch will try to settle, in part because Smartmatic wants access to emails from Murdoch to his top executives to confirm the likelihood they knew the “rigged” allegations were false.

In 2020, Fox News agreed to pay millions of dollars to the family of a murdered Democratic National Committee staff member, after the network had repeatedly hyped a false claim that the young staffer, Seth Rich, was involved in leaking D.N.C. emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Russian hacked the emails.)

The settlement came just before key hosts Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity were set to be deposed. Reaching an out-of-court agreement with Smartmatic will cost Murdoch a fortune considering the strength of the company’s case. Then double that with the Dominion lawsuit.

The irony is that in the days right after the 2020 election, Fox News initially resisted echoing Trump’s wild claims about a stolen election.

When Kayleigh McEnany held a White House press conference to double down on allegations of fraud, illegal voting, and a rigged election, Fox News host Neil Cavuto cut away from the event: “Whoa, whoa, whoa – I just think we have to be very clear. She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this."

That right-wing void was quickly filled by players like NewsMax and OAN. The Trump sycophants rushed in and eagerly became the home of “rigged” propaganda. As their audience mushroomed, Fox took note. Refusing to let itself be outflanked on the fringe-right, the network embraced the Big Lie.

Now Murdoch’s going to pay a very high price.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Why Did Beltway Press Trust Trump's War Intel, But Not Biden's?

The Biden administration got it right.

The unfolding Ukraine crisis has been a clear victory for U.S. intelligence. The decision to rapidly declassify secret intelligence effectively blunted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to use disinformation and lies as instruments of war. It also helped President Joe Biden bolster NATO allies during the run-up to the invasion.

What’s curious is that weeks ago the Beltway press angrily brayed at the White House, suggesting they were cooking up wild claims about Russia and not producing the intelligence to back up the allegations. Yet just years earlier, the same press corps raised no such concerns when the Trump White House engaged in baseless claims about a cooked-up foreign policy crisis.

The idea that journalists should always question authority, especially when the issue is war, remains a sound and important one. The question is, why did journalists aggressively press Biden officials about war intel but give the Trump team a total pass? Why does the D.C. press have two different standards when dealing with Democratic and Republican administrations?

Last month when the U.S said intelligence suggested Russia was planning a “false flag operation” with propaganda videos to justify an invasion, indignant reporters in gotcha mode demanded to know where the administration got that idea, even though Putin has a long history of doing exactly that.

“This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into,” complained Associated Press reporter Matt Lee, who got into a heated, five-minute, viral back-and-forth with State Department spokesman Ned Price, as the reporter ridiculed the administration’s position. “What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?”

Price explained that it was based on intelligence that had been declassified in real time as part of the administration’s information warfare campaign against Russia.

The AP, among others, responded by attacking the White House’s “lack of transparency.” It claimed, “Biden promised to restore truth in Washington after defeating Trump, but trust appears to be in short supply one year after taking office.” The clear implication was that because an AP reporter did not trust the White House, neither did the country.

“When the U.S. government makes a claim, it’s a reporter’s job to ask for evidence. History has taught the destruction that can be wrought when reporters don’t,” wrote Sebastian Murdock at HuffPost. He made the direct connection to the media’s bungled reporting during the run-up to the Iraq War which parroted administration talking points, suggesting the Biden White House’s information campaign this winter to stop a war in the Ukraine was the same as the Bush White House information campaign to start one in Iraq. That makes no sense.

It turns out virtually everything the Biden administration said about Russia’s plans for Ukraine has been accurate, including warnings about an imminent land invasion and the use of phony “false flag” videos. The same cannot be said for Trump era justifications. But back then, the press didn’t care.

In January 2020, Trump approved the drone killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. Administration officials told reporters the assassination was carried out in order to fend off vague looming threats against American troops in the region. Why those threats would disappear simply because Soleimani was killed, the administration never explained.

There was no documentation. There was no intel report, no photo surveillance, and no intercepted communications to give the attack context. It was the Trump White House, which lied about everything, making a hollow claim to cover for an unauthorized military strike. And the press ran with all of it. Instead of angry, five-minute showdowns with administration spokesmen and women demanding evidence for the attack, journalists simply typed up whatever the Trump team said about the raid.

CNN certainly didn’t question the paper-thin justification. Instead, it stressed that Trump, who was “wary of war,” had been “defiant” on the day the kill order was given, and seemed to “be freshly aware of the gravity of his role and the power he wields.” Perhaps most importantly, the raid represented an “immediate victory” for Trump, according to CNN. (Later, sources within the intel community conceded that the rationale Trump had used for the drone killing was a joke.)

That wasn’t the only time the press eagerly issued Trump a pass on war-related intel. In 2019, he invented a foreign policy crisis, which the press politely played along with. After Iran downed an unmanned U.S. drone, Trump blustered for days about possibly dropping bombs on Iran in response. When Trump didn’t attack a country of 80 million people, the press practically did backflips touting Trump’s leadership.

"Lawmakers in the room watched as the weight of his duties as commander-in-chief bore down on him, lives hanging in the balance," CNN breathlessly reported. "That cautious mindset would hang over Trump's deliberations throughout the day as he huddled several times with his national security team." The Washington Post newsroom cheered that Trump had avoided "a potentially devastating new crisis in the Middle East," while the New York Times stressed Trump "navigated his way through one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of his presidency."

All of this for a made-up crisis — Trump might bomb Iran! — for which the administration provided zero intelligence to support. News outlets didn’t care. They loved the storyline of a “consequential” Trump.

It makes no sense for the press to hold the Biden White House to a higher intel standard than the Trump one. Especially when the GOP lied about everything.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Beltway Media Sugarcoats Republican ‘Bromance’ With Putin

You don’t have to be a political scientist to understand the Republican Party has found itself on the wrong side of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: 85 percent of Americans now view Russia unfavorably — the country’s worst rating in over three decades — while GOP leader Trump publicly praises Vladimir Putin’s war moves as “smart” and “savvy” and “genius,”

So why is the press ignoring the huge political blunder by the GOP? Why aren’t elite pundits lining up to warn about midterm implications for Republicans who foolishly blamed Biden last week, instead of Putin.

The strange silence comes as the Beltway media have spent months obsessing over the midterms — but only from the perspective that Democrats might be headed for lopsided losses. That story has been covered without pause, even though the midterms aren’t until November.

Every possible angle has been examined, over and over — Covid might hurt Democrats in November. Inflation might hurt Democrats. Education might hurt Democrats. The supply chain might hurt Democrats. There is been no shortage of media jumping off points as the press appears to be giddy over the prospect of GOP wins in November, and wants to spend the entire year detailing possible Democrats election woes.

Why the collective shoulder shrug when it comes to the spectacle of the GOP’s leader praising Putin as he launches the largest European land invasion since World War II? It may be the most astonishing foreign policy position ever taken by a major American political figure, let alone a former President of the United States. It’s not just Trump. In the days leading up to the invasion, Republicans were lining up to state their admiration, if not allegiance, to Putin, a despot whose political opponents are regularly killed, poisoned, and imprisoned.

Forever presenting Republicans as being savvy and outmaneuvering Democrats, the press remains blind to the possibility that the GOP has miscalculated by picking the Kremlin over the White House. Apparently, only Democrats can be in a state of disarray.

As I noted last week, what’s unfolding within the GOP would have been like in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait if members of the Democratic Party had praised Saddam Hussein. The media condemnations would have rained down without pause, as would have predictions of the party’s electoral ruin.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Media Must Stop Whitewashing Republican Worship Of Dictator Putin

American politicians cheerleading a dictator as he sends tanks into a neighboring country and bombs a sovereign nation ought to be a huge news story. The fact that portions of a major U.S. political party, and its aligned media outlets, sanction Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine represents a stunning turning point for the Republican Party and how this country traditionally deals with foreign crises.

Assigning its loyalty and admiration to the Kremlin instead of the West Wing, key parts of the GOP, led by Trump who called Putin’s move “genius,” is embracing a truly radical worldview. But that’s not how the treasonous behavior is being portrayed by the press, which for days has matter-of-factly described the GOP as being “divided” over the prospect of a tyrannical Russian leader — his adversaries regularly end up dead — launching an invasion.

Ho-hum language abounds. There’s been a “split,” the New York Times reports, suggesting that Republicans who turn a blind eye to Putin’s invasion are merely “America First” “isolationists.” The party is facing “foreign policy factionalism,” Politico insisted. It’s sending “mixed messages,” NBC News announced, which went on to describe the GOP’s pro-Putin wing as “a newer brand of America Firsters,” “Republican doves,” and “the libertarian right” which has an “anti-interventionist strain.” None of that accurately describes this unprecedented trend in American politics of endorsing murderous autocrats.

More pedestrian presentation from NBC:

The fissures point to a growing divide in the Republican Party, between traditional foreign policy hawks who have advocated for a more confrontational U.S. posture to the Russian strongman and a Trump-aligned “MAGA” faction that has expressed some sympathy for Putin's tactics or described them as effective.

The Washington Post on Wednesday suggested it was a “novel phenomenon” that a portion of a U.S. political party was siding with the Kremlin over the White House. Novel? The Post article didn’t quote one Democrat or one expert on the rise of authoritarianism to put the GOP’s shocking behavior in context.

The Beltway press treats this as if it were nothing more than an inter-party squabble over taxes or immigration policy, not portions of the party tacitly supporting the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II, a possibly brutal blitzkrieg that could leave thousands of civilians dead. And spearheaded, ironically, by the former Soviet Union, which for decades served as the epicenter of right wing suspicion and hostility; the proverbial Evil Empire.

Today’s kind words for Putin would be like in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, if the Democratic Party had been “divided” over whether the deadly incursion was a good thing or a bad thing, and the D.C. press shrugging and treating it as normal political posturing. In truth, if a single elected Democratic official had even breathed a sentence of support for Hussein back then it would have been a huge story and created a maelstrom of media trouble for the party. Yet Republicans singing Putin’s praise in 2022 is treated as no big deal.

It’s the latest example of the media constantly normalizing reckless conservative behavior. “Trump’s own giddy rush to side with a foreign leader who is proving to be an enemy of the United States and the West is shocking even by Trump’s self-serving standards,” CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote. It’s “shocking” if you haven’t covered politics for the last six years.

The Putin appeasement coverage also lacks key context — what does this mean that one of America’s two major political parties supports a tyrant who invades his neighbor without cause? A U.S. party that politely regurgitates Kremlin talking points and embraces institutional appeasement for Putin, who in the previous decade stridently defended a Syrian regime that killed tens of thousands of its people in a civil war.

It’s not a minor faction either. Thanks to Trump’s worshipful embrace of Putin for years, 62 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents insist Putin is “a stronger leader” than Biden, according to a recent poll.

The GOP’s Putin bromance actually began under President Barack Obama, when Republicans and the right-wing media marveled at Putin’s political prowess. (Matt Drudge: “Putin is the leader of the free world.”) Why the sudden Republican attraction? Putin (a “macho man”) was defying the U.S. with regards to Syria and when Russia invaded Crimea.

Today it’s not just about oppositional politics — it’s not the GOP conveniently and temporarily embracing Putin because he’s squaring off against another Democratic president. Instead, it’s genuine admiration of an undemocratic strongman imposing his will, which is exactly why Republicans slavishly supported Trump for four years. This is another glimpse into the growing, and unapologetic, undemocratic movement within the GOP — and the press portrays it as normal.

That’s why Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, told Fox News that Putin is “a very talented statesman” with “lots of gifts," adding, “He knows how to use power. We should respect that.” It’s why the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens, warned about “bloodthirsty Washington elites" and their "warmongering” against Russia.

And it’s why Tucker Carlson tells his millions of Fox News viewers each night that Biden is the one who needlessly provoked Russia, and that Ukraine is not a country worth saving.

Stop whitewashing the madness.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Covid Nearly Killed Cavuto --Who Still Won’t ‘Debate’ Fox Anti-Vax Propaganda

Veteran Fox News host Neil Cavuto returned to the network this week after an unexplained, month-long absence to tell viewers he not only got Covid for the second time, but he nearly died. “It really was touch and go,” he said, while describing his lengthy stay in intensive care. “Doctors say had I not been vaccinated at all, I wouldn’t be here,” he added.

The miraculously safe and effective Covid vaccine saved Cavuto’s life, but that won’t change Fox News’ programming as it remains committed to pandemic nihilism and aggressively spreading lies about America’s public health crisis. Even if the immunocompromised Cavuto had died, Rupert Murdoch’s network wouldn’t have spent ten minutes reflecting on its role in the carnage that surrounds the pandemic of the unvaccinated in 2022, where nearly 2,000 people are still dying everyday simply because they refuse to get the jab.

Incredibly, Cavuto continues to be part of Murdoch’s morbid machine, even after the virus nearly took his life. Rather than deciding enough is enough, and that he can no longer be a willing accomplice to Fox News’ relentless vaccine lies, Cavuto rather meekly addressed the issue on his show. “I’m not here to debate vaccinations for you,” he announced, stressing that, “my opinions don’t matter.”

Cavuto’s weak-kneed response might have been because last year when he more forcefully urged viewers to “stop the politics” and “get vaccinated,” the host became the target of an aggressive right-wing smear campaign. “I know we live in this hyper-politicised age. I get that, I appreciate that, but I’d like to urge people of all sorts, please get vaccinated,” Cavuto announced last October. “In the end, if you can get vaccinated and think of someone else and think of what that could mean to them and their survivability from something like this, we’ll all be better off.”

In speaking honestly and passionately about the vaccine, Cavuto had crossed the line. “I want you gone. Dead. Caput. Fini. Get it?” one angry viewer wrote the host. “Now, take your two-bit advice and deep-six it, and you!”

After his second, nearly-deadly bout of Covid, as he recovered in the hospital and realized that Trump voters in Trump counties who refused to get vaccinated were dying in record numbers, Cavuto could have followed the lead of Chris Wallace, Shep Smith, and other longtime Fox News staffers who have decided to walk away from their cable TV home. Instead, after checking out of intensive care, Cavuto rejoined the network, while it eradicates more of its viewers.

Fox News is never going to stop killing its audience in the blind pursuit of ratings and its love of trolling liberals. We’re watching a slow-motion, political mass suicide as millions refuse the vaccine and hundreds of thousands have died since the arrival of the inoculation one year ago. Clinging to political identity over personal health and safety, the Fox audience pledges its allegiance, making it more difficult for everyone else to get past the pandemic.

“A new study by four Harvard epidemiologists estimates that 135,000 unvaccinated Americans died unnecessarily in the last six months of last year,” the New York Times reports. Meanwhile, unvaccinated people are 20 times more likely to die of the virus, according to an ABC News analysis.

No other country in the world faces as powerful, deep-pocketed, and well-organized anti-vaccine propaganda campaign as the one now crippling portions of the United States.

Murdoch owns right-wing media properties and enjoys immense political leverage in other countries, such as Britain and Australia. But there’s been a conscious decision to unleash on America a special kind of anti-science, anti-vaccine campaign. Fox News is not only encouraging millions of viewers not to get vaccinated, but claims the inoculation might kill them, the government cannot be trusted, and that the vaccine poses a grave danger to pregnant women.

Pretending that American school children for nearly 70 years haven’t been forced to get vaccinated for lots of serious viruses, Fox has embraced a wholesale anti-vax conspiracy approach, portraying Covid jabs in the arms as signs of encroaching totalitarianism, condemning the shots in the most hysterical terms.

Today, the network remains perfectly aligned with the GOP, which is clearly pro-Covid. Republican politicians and commentators, who are fully vaccinated themselves, want the virus to spread in order to extend the deadly pandemic so it inflicts political damage on Democrats. There’s a reason every single Republican member of the House and Senate voted against the historic, $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill —they didn’t want newly-elected President Joe Biden to secure a legislative win.

We know for a fact Fox doesn’t care its viewers are dying. Last month when a Washington state trooper died of Covid, the network made no mention of the fact even though the trooper had appeared on Fox several times last October to brag about his decision to quit his job rather than getting vaccinated. The network touted him as a hero, until Covid claimed his life.

That’s why nothing at Fox will change, even if its hosts fall victim to the virus.

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

How The Media Advanced Durham's Fraudulent 'Clinton Spying' Narrative

Fox News has lost its mind. Again.

Looking for a partisan outrage to promote as Covid cases plummet and the U.S. economy continues to soar, Fox News, Trump and the ferocious Right Wing Noise Machine have gone all-in claiming Hillary Clinton’s campaign six years ago “spied” on the Republican candidate. The dreamt-up allegation comes courtesy of special counsel John Durham’s dishonest handiwork and his Trump-sanctioned investigation into Russiagate and the hollow claims that Trump had been the target of a massive deep state conspiracy.

The current caper has more holes than the GOP’s Benghazi production, but it’s sucking up lots of Beltway oxygen and generating right-wing hysteria which is the whole point — to create a spectacle of Democratic lawbreaking. (Trump’s demanding Durham’s defendant be executed.)

The good news is the mainstream media are not blindly repeating bogus claims about Clinton “spying,” for the simple reason that nobody has offered any proof.

The bad news is the same elite news outlets are stepping lightly around the real story at the center of the right-wing mob — the unethical nature of Durham’s work and how he’s clearly working with the far right to try to manufacture controversy where none exists.

In the ABC News report, it wasn’t until the ninth paragraph that that network spelled out, “nowhere in Durham's filing does he state that lawyers for the Clinton campaign paid a tech company to "infiltrate" servers belonging to Trump Tower and later the White House.” That crucial debunking should have been found in the first paragraph, if not the headline.

The New York Times dissected the phony spying claims, but its woefully soft headline claimed the right-wing “narrative” was merely “off track.” Off track? It’s a mountain of deliberate lies. A Washington Post report suggested Trump’s claims were built on “inaccurate Durham reporting,” which makes the whole thing sound innocuous.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal pretended it couldn’t figure out which side was telling the truth about the “spying” claims, and insisted Durham had simply “reignited disputes.”

By legitimizing the “spying” nonsense in any way, the press helps the GOP run interference on Trump’s 2016 ties to Russia, as well as the January 6 insurrection, by suggesting Clinton is the real traitor.Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, initially appointed Durham to investigate alleged deep-state plotting within the FBI. Unable to find any proof, Durham has instead spent years helping the right-wing media create a fantasy storyline that the Clinton campaign in 2016 spread misinformation to the FBI and to the media that there was illegal collusion between Russian and Trump, and that somehow that Clinton strategy was against the law.

Along the way, Durham’s court filings have been irregular, unethical and “indecipherable,” as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough put it, as the prosecutor stuffs unsupported conspiracy theories into court records, designed to give the dishonest GOP media new nuggets of vague information, which they can conflate anyway they want, like Durham’s filing last week and Clinton being caught “spying” on Trump’s campaign.

“News organizations often struggle to debunk right-wing disinformation, a complicated undertaking that often ultimately muddies up the truth simply by virtue of covering it, which is what that disinformation is designed to do,” noted Greg Sargent at the Post.

Durham is taking advantage of longtime Beltway media traditions as he aggressively peddles misinformation. Traditions like, if someone has the title “special counsel” in front of their name, than that person is a serious, honest prosecutor doing serious, honest legal work and that they must be left alone to do their digging; their ethics and motivations should not be questioned. So far, that’s working for Durham, who appears to be working with the GOP political and media infrastructure within the Beltway.

Durham is Ken Starr II, and the press still hasn’t learned any lessons.

Here’s a quick example of the type of joke investigation Durham is overseeing. Last year, his shining moment was indicting Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussman on a single count of making a false statement to an FBI agent, five years after the fact. (The indictment had nothing to do with FBI misconduct, which was supposedly under investigation.)

Durham’s indictment, which is based on the testimony of one witness who has contradicted himself, claims Sussmann committed perjury by denying he was working for the Clinton campaign at the time he brought his information about Trump’s Russian ties to the FBI in 2016. The false statement claim is a laughably small crime to serve as the centerpiece of Durham’s $4 million investigation, which has produced two indictments. (By contrast, Robert Mueller indicted 34 people as part of his Russia probe.)

As journalist Marcy Wheeler details, Durham’s allegation is based on the central claim that Sussmann had secretly “coordinated with representatives and agents of the Clinton Campaign.” When Sussmann’s lawyers in a court filing last October demanded to know with whom Sussmann had directly plotted with on the Clinton campaign, Durham refused name anyone. That’s because at the time, Durham had not interviewed anyone with the Clinton campaign to see if Sussman had coordinated with them.

It’s amateur hour. “There’s tons of instances of where Durham demonstrably failed to do basic investigative work before charging Sussmann five years after a claimed lie,” notes Wheeler, who’s been picking apart Durham’s shoddy work for years.

When Fox News and Trump team up with a corrupt investigation, the role of the media isn’t to do neutral fact checks. It’s to call out the liars and the lies.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Amid Trump Document Scandal, ‘But Her Emails’ Still Haunts DC Press

Responding to critics of the New York Times’ halting, timid coverage of the unfolding story of how Trump smuggled top secret documents out of the White House and stashed them at Mar-a-Lago for a year, the Times’ top Trump chronicler, Maggie Haberman, claimed it wasn’t for the newspaper to suggest whether Trump broke any laws. “Many are awaiting [Attorney General] Merrick Garland’s view on what’s against the law, which law enforcement and not reporters dictate,” she tweeted.

Haberman’s rationale was stunning — journalists are clearly in a position to determine whether public figures like Trump have broken laws by absconding with 15 boxes of documents when the Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over at the end of their administrations. The idea that the Times newsroom has to wait for law enforcement to officially make determinations of lawbreaking is a new approach.

That’s certainly not how the Times covered the manufactured Hillary Clinton email scandal for two years, commonly referred to as the media’s But Her Emails fiasco. In the first Times article about the Clinton email story in March 2015, and in the first paragraph of that story, the daily openly suggested the presumptive Democratic nominee had broken the law [emphasis added]:

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

It wasn’t until August 2015 that the FBI began investigating the Clinton server and whether it involved transmission of classified material. By then, the press had spent five months leaning into the idea that possible criminality was fueling the endless coverage .

The media’s chronic and dishonest But Her Emails coverage, framed as nonstop horse race updates, changed the course of American history by denying Clinton the chance to become the first woman president. By helping elect Trump, it also hastened a political unraveling at home, as he unleashed a new brand of criminal and authoritarian rule. To date, the D.C. press has never acknowledged its sins of 2016; and has made no serious attempt to grapple with what went so wrong.

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

How Does Trump Get Away With Shredding Everything?

We just witnessed another textbook example this week of how Trump gets away with bending rules in his favor, and without having to pay a price from the press or the Beltway establishment. It’s maddening to watch and it highlights just how unprepared D.C. institutions still are in terms of dealing with an unapologetic authoritarian like Trump who, through his entire adult life, has always assumed rules do not apply to him. And they clearly do not.

The media continue to normalize his criminality, in this case absconding from the White House with classified documents as he readies another presidential run. (And shredding other docs.) It’s the same D.C. press corps that crucified Hillary Clinton for years simply because journalists thought her email story might have a hint of criminality to it. It never did.

What Trump has done since he first arrived in Washington, D.C., in January 2017 was shred longstanding Beltway protocols; traditions that for decades and sometimes centuries were based on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on the proper way to behave and the ethical course that should be followed while running the government. The consummate bully and liar, Trump didn’t care about any of those rules and began obliterating them immediately. He flooded the zone with crass, outlandish and destructive behavior, which the press tried to keep pace with at first. Shattering Beltway protocols used to carry a penalty, which was handed out by the press.

Eventually, as the years passed, news outlets mostly gave up, especially with the day-to-day transgressions, adopting a Trump-being-Trump view of his chronic rule breaking. Beltway institutions, particularly within the federal government, embraced the same mealy-mouthed approach, which gave Trump the okay to trample norms. “He didn’t think the rules applied to him,” a former White House aide told CNN this week. And he was right.

That’s why he packed up 15 boxes of presidential documents, some of them marked “top secret,” and shipped them off to Mar-a-lago, even though all the contents should have been sent to the National Archives, because the Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over at the end of their administrations. Previously, Trump spent years destroying presidential documents, which is not allowed by law.

The whole story revolved around “the Trump administration flagrantly violating federal law by removing and destroying protected federal records,” as Media Matters noted. But that’s not how it got played in the press this week.

The Washington Post, which broke the 15-boxes story last Monday, politely carried spin from unnamed Trump advisers saying there had been no “nefarious intent” in keeping the batch of documents, some of which the January 6 committee want as part of its insurrection investigation. Instead, there had been a “frenzied packing process” in the wake of Trump’s defeat, the Post explained.

The newspaper actually granted anonymity to a “former Trump White House official,” so he or she could be quoted as saying that Trump packing up the 15 boxes was just an honest mistake by a man who would never consider breaking the rules — the same Trump who told more than 20,000 lies while in office.

Following up the Post’s credulous reporting, the New York Times managed to be equally obsequious, as it typed up the same spin from the same former Trump officials. Shorter Times: Nothing to see here folks, it was all just a misunderstanding.

Look at the Times’ ridiculously gentle headline, “Trump Gives Documents Improperly Taken From White House to Archives.” [Emphasis added.] Even before reading the article, news consumers are tipped off that this wasn’t a major infraction by Trump; it wasn’t a criminal act because he gave back the documents that were “improperly taken.” Fact: Trump did not simply “hand over” the documents, as the Times suggested in the article. He turned them over after his lawyers negotiated for months with the National Archives.

At the top of the article, the Times stressed that 15 boxes were taken (illegally) because of the “hasty exit” Trump made from the White House, and because aides were “preoccupied” in January 2021. What does “hasty exit” even mean? Like every other president whose time in the White House ends, Trump was given ten weeks notice from the time of the November election to the time the new president was sworn in. There was nothing “hasty” about the transition.

The Times’ ho-hum coverage took a strange turn on Thursday when Axios reported Maggie Haberman’s upcoming Trump book reports that “staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper.”

That’s weird because two days earlier it was Haberman who wrote the Times story suggesting Trump taking 15 boxes home with him was an honest mistake — yet she knew he was likely flushing documents down the toilet while he was president? Why wasn’t that crucial information included in the Times’ Archives reporting? And if Haberman knew that, why did she allow Trump aides to spin the story this week as nothing more than a bureaucratic misunderstanding?

When the Archives story progressed after it was learned that classified documents had been found within the 15 boxes, the Times ran that update on page 15, not page 1, once again signaling the news wasn’t especially important.

That’s how Trump gets away with shredding everything.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Why Spotify’s Joe Rogan Implosion Keeps Getting Worse

What a way to mark Black History Month.

Turns out when Spotify’s right-wing podcast host Joe Rogan isn’t spreading lies and misinformation about a life-saving vaccine during a public health crisis, he’s been chronically using the N-word.

One week after he offered a semi-apology for trafficking in Covid lies, Rogan offered another public mea culpa regarding his regular on-air use of racist language, and for comparing a Black neighborhood to the “Planet of the Apes.” The after-the-fact apology rang hollow, since just days ago Rogan was telling his listeners Black people aren’t really Black. This, while 70 older Rogan podcasts got yanked down last week, reportedly because they contained more racist slurs.

Over the weekend, as a compilation clip of Rogan’s 20-plus N-word utterances went viral, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson walked back his support for Rogan, whose Covid lies prompted a number of famous musicians to demand their catalogs be pulled from the music playlist platform. (Joni Mitchell: “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives.”)

It’s the latest public relations fiasco for the audio content giant Spotify, the billion-dollar media behemoth that made a huge bet on GOP favorite Rogan, signing him to a $100 million contract despite knowing about the host’s long history of bigotry and baseless conspiracies.

Spotify’s unfolding Rogan fiasco comes as the company does deep damage to its own brand by steadfastly defending a chronic purveyor for right-wing lies and hate; a modern-day Rush Limbaugh. Rather than setting common-sense guidelines for Rogan, Spotify has opted to treat him as untouchable as he wreaks havoc on the company’s image.

Once seen as a fun, feel-good brand for music and podcasts, Spotify is now synonymous with Fox News in terms of peddling toxic content; a poster child for corporate cowardice.

“Its failure to take any meaningful responsibility, other than adding a few disclaimers, is all too reminiscent of the way Facebook, for years, has dodged accountability for spreading so many harmful lies,” noted Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post.

In refusing to take meaningful action, Spotify is trying, and failing, to present itself as both a steward of free speech, guarding the rights of hosts to say whatever they want, while at the same time paying lip service to the idea of maintaining editorial guidelines.

Here’s the simple fact: When Spotify made Rogan a millionaire one hundred times over with a nine-figure deal to be the exclusive home of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” they knew exactly what they were getting. They knew some of Rogan’s content was so objectionable that Spotify wanted nothing to do with it.

How do we know? Because in 2020 when Spotify purchased the entire Rogan catalog of podcasts and hosted them, dozens of older episodes were deleted, featuring friendly interviews with reprehensible, far-right figures such as Sandy Hook shooting conspiracist Alex Jones, Holocaust denier Chuck C. Johnson, neo-Nazi fan Milo Yiannapoloulos, and Proud Boy founder Gavin McInnes. (Rogan dubbed his interview with the white supremacist McInnes to be “fun times.”) Those chummy chats on a national platform helped normalize their racist and deranged behavior.

At the time, Spotify agreed to silence those interviews because they were, presumably, so objectionable that the company did not want to be associated with them. The same thing happened last week when 70 episodes mysteriously vanished while Spotify was in damage control mode.

But Spotify has remained silent when Rogan and his guests have claimed, “It’s more dangerous to get vaccinated than it is to get Covid,” that you’re “more likely to get infected if you’ve had three jabs,” that Dr. Anthony Fauci “produced the pandemic,” that Biden got a fake booster shot on TV because his aides were afraid he’d die if he got a real one, and the government is monitoring everyone’s texts looking for anti-vaccine messages.

Rogan last year bragged that the company was letting him say whatever he wanted about the pandemic and the vaccine — “They’ve been amazing. Spotify has given me no pushback whatsoever.” That, despite the fact Spotify had in place a policy that “prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health.”

Spotify recently told the Wall Street Journal that it has taken down thousands of podcast episodes in violation of “detailed content policies” related to COVID-19. Just none of Rogan’s. He has violated those rules countless times and none of his Covid episodes have been touched. Last year, when Rogan urged people under the age 21 not to get vaccinated, Spotify somehow concluded those comments were not anti-vaccine.

Late last year, Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone, a world-class Covid denier and medical quack, who told Rogan’s millions of listeners that public health experts advocating for vaccines today are akin to Nazis in the 1930s. The episode got banned by YouTube, where the Joe Rogan Experience often gets uploaded, for violating the platform’s rules about trafficking in pandemic lies. For Spotify, the interview, conducted at the height of the Omicron surge which flooded hospitals with Covid patients nationwide, was deemed to be just fine.

Today, the public face of Spotify is an anti-vaccine zealot who has a long history of spouting racial slurs. Rupert Murdoch would be proud.

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Jeff Zucker's CNN Legacy: Selling Drama Over News

News that Jeff Zucker, CNN’s longtime, larger-than-life chief, has been forced out for failing to disclose a consensual relationship he was having with a colleague, signals the end of an era for the all-news channel. One of the most celebrated TV programmers of his generation — he was Today’s executive producer at age 26 — Zucker leaves an indelible mark on CNN. He exits as the network struggles through a steep, post-Trump ratings slump, while desperately trying to manufacture Biden-era theater by relentlessly hyping “crisis” coverage. (Afghanistan! Inflation!)

His messy departure gives CNN executives a chance to review the network’s addiction to selling drama over news — to manufacturing storylines for the sake of viewer continuity.

Zucker is a storyteller first and foremost, a newsman second. Learning a key lesson from Roger Ailes at Fox News, Zucker preferred that there be running storylines with easily identifiable characters that ran for weeks and months on end, which made it easy for viewers to follow along the moment they tuned in because they already knew the plot line and the main characters. Why do you think this week Fox News is back pushing the phony story that Hillary Clinton is going to run for president again? Because for the Fox audience, Clinton serves as a popular, instantly recognizable villain.

Under Trump, it was easy for CNN to execute that strategy because his presidency was a long-running drama, often with unbelievable plots twists driven by an array of outlandish characters. The most important thing to understand about CNN and Trump is that the network’s profits doubled after he became president. Doubled.

CNN famously helped Trump get elected and then treated him as a reality TV star. According to a leaked phone call from the height of the Republican primary season, Zucker buttered up Trump's longtime attorney Michael Cohen: "You guys have had great instincts, great guts, and great understanding of everything." (I guarantee you Zucker was not having similar phone calls with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.)

Zucker stressed how "fond" he was of Trump, wished he could talk to him "every day," and then floated the idea of giving Trump a "weekly show" on CNN during the campaign. The whole thing was inconceivable, unless you view American elections as nothing more that entertainment, and your job as the head of CNN is to secure pleasing content. (Zucker turned Trump into an Apprentice TV star a decade earlier when he oversaw NBC.)These were some of the questions put to Trump by Anderson Cooper during a CNN campaign town hall:

•"What do you eat when you roll up at a McDonald's, what does - what does Donald Trump order?"

•"What's your favorite kind of music?"

•"How many hours a night do you sleep?"

•"What kind of a parent are you?"

•"What is one thing you wish you didn't do?"

In an unprecedented campaign move, CNN aired endless Trump rallies live and in their entirety. No explanation was ever given why the events were covered as "news," while no other candidates’ rallies received that kind of uninterrupted airtime. “I like Donald,” Zucker told the New York Times in 2017. “He’s affable. He’s funny.”

During his presidency, CNN refused to pull the plug on Trump no matter how outrageous and dangerous his behavior became, like after one of the most bizarre televised performances by a sitting president. That planned rant from April 2020 featured a campaign-style commercial that aired in the White House briefing room and attacked the media as well as Trump's critics. Immediately following the meltdown, CNN anchor John King admitted, "That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room."

So why did CNN keep airing Trump briefings? Because the network saw it as a compelling storyline — it was dramatic.

Also, why did CNN keep hiring congenital liars who were paid by the network to fabricate nonsense in the name of defending Trump?

In 2019, the network hired Sean Duffy as a commentator to blindly defend Trump during his first impeachment. The former Republican congressman quickly created problems by constantly fabricating facts and spreading reckless and dangerous conspiracy theories.

That same year, CNN for weeks stood by its inexplicable decision to hire as its national political editor Sarah Isgur Flores, who spent her career flacking for Republicans such as Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, and Carly Fiorina. Flores had absolutely no journalism experience. As Norman Ornstein succinctly put it, “Time after time, to curry favor with the right, Jeff Zucker and CNN soil themselves.”

Addicted to that drama and the Breaking News culture of the Trump years, CNN has desperately tried to recreate that frenzy under President Joe Biden, even though his administration represents the antithesis of the chaotic, criminal enterprise that Trump oversaw.

During the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, CNN’s Kabul reporter famously announced the U.S. would never be able to airlift 50,000 people out of the country (“it can’t happen”), and the network claimed the U.S. was inflicting “moral injury” by “abandoning” allies. Yet the U.S. ended up evacuating 130,000 people, in the most successful post-war operation of its kind. CNN also claimed that Biden’s long-expected troop withdrawal meant the U.S. was “walking away from the world stage” and “leaving Europe exposed.” Fact: Most European troops left Afghanistan eight years ago.

On and on it went as CNN insisted on injecting hysteria into an already compelling event, all in the name of chasing ratings and selling drama over news.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Biden Boom Hits New Heights, As Press Buries The Good News

When the Commerce Department on Thursday announced that the economy just grew at the fastest rate in nearly 40 years, posting robust growth numbers not seen since the Reagan era, none of the network newscasts treated the announcement as a big deal. In fact, two of the three newscasts, “ABC World News Tonight” and “CBS Evening News” didn’t even cover the story on Thursday — “NBC Nightly News” gave it one sentence.

The same media that remains in inflation hyperventilation mode, just cannot work up the energy to consistently inform news consumers about the red-hot economy under President Joe Biden. It won’t billboard the fact that it grew so rapidly in the fourth quarter of last year that it pushed the annual gross domestic product rate — the broadest measure of economic activity — to an eye-popping 5.7 percent. (The GDP under Trump never got above 3 percent.) Consumer spending also soared 7.9 percent last year, the quickest clip in since 1946.

So attached to the idea of using economic news to bash Biden, the press doesn’t know what to do when the data demolish the media’s preferred storyline. That was obvious by the fact that the coverage of the blockbuster GDP news seemed to go out of its way not to mention him.

In its GDP news piece, the New York Times made no reference to Biden or that the soaring economic data were a boost for the administration. But when the Times covers jobs reports and inflation updates it makes sure to emphasize, prominently in the coverage, that that news is bad for Biden. In its reporting on the jump in the December inflation rate, the newspaper mentioned Biden in the very first sentence, referencing, “a troubling development for President Biden and economic policymakers.”

This trend is quite common. The Associated Press in its reporting on high inflation in December also mentioned Biden in the first sentence, while its recent report on GDP figures didn’t mention him until the tenth paragraph, and made no suggestion that the figures represented a win for the White House.

Then there were the news outlets that acknowledged the GDP numbers were good news, but stressed that bad news was likely around the corner. “Economy Caps Strong Year as Worries Lurk,” was the Wall Street Journal page-one print headline. CNN rushed in with similar, glass-half-empty analysis: “The Economy Boomed in Biden's First Year. His Second Will Be Harder.”

The CNN spin was especially remarkable because the network spent the second half of last year burying Biden with doomsday economic coverage, especially regarding inflation, which was deemed a “political nightmare for Biden.” (Remember CNN’s wacky report about gallons of milk?) Then when GDP numbers confirmed that the economy had been on fire last year, CNN begrudgingly acknowledged the fact (“the economy boomed”), then quickly insisted Biden faces economic trouble in 2022.

Heads, Biden loses. Tails, Biden loses.

That media drumbeat of negativity, cheered on by the GOP, has taken its toll. Recently asked in a YouGov poll if they had “heard mostly positive or mostly negative news stories about the economy,” 48 percent of Americans said “mostly negative,” and just 8 percent said “mostly positive.” (28 percent said both negative/positive, and 16 percent said they hadn’t heard much about the economy at all.) Those results came in the wake of a media study that showed Biden was getting worse coverage late last year then Trump did in late 2020.

Note that the same day the GDP announcement was made, a National Public Radio reporter was on Twitter asking listeners to share their stories of economic gloom: “Has your 2021 raise been wiped out by #inflation? Has your 401k taken such a steep dive you're rethinking retirement? The @nprbusiness desk wants to hear from you.” The plea raised the obvious question: Why does NPR only want to hear bad news about the economy?

Another key fact about the coverage: The GDP for 2021 obliterated expectations that had been set by economists during the run-up to the announcement. Yet still the press shrugged. That’s telling because when it comes to reporting on monthly jobs reports, the press bases its coverage entirely around the same type of expectations. When 199,000 new jobs were added in December, the press treated that as bad news (“faltering,” “a major disappointment”) because the key number failed to beat expectations.

Last year, NPR announced the 210,000-jobs report for November was a “bust” even though the unemployment rate tumbled from 4.6 percent to 4.2 percent in just 30 days. By contrast, back in January of 2020, NPR cheered that the U.S. economy under Trump was “revved up” because 225,000 jobs had been created. That jobs report was good news because it beat expectations.

So why wasn’t the estimate-beating GDP news treated as a huge deal? NPR, which has been committed to doomsday economic coverage under Biden, tried to downplay the news, suggesting that “believe it or not” the economy grew last year.

For NPR, good economic news under Biden is treated as a mirage.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun