John Solomon

Right-Wing 'Journalist' Destroys Impeachment Case Against Biden

The right-wing scandal machine relies on confusing the public with references to an obscure cast of characters and a plethora of minute details which they claim prove their political foes engaged in nefarious deeds. But when you dig through the labyrinthine particulars they rail about, you often find that the core of their story is total nonsense. Here is one such case.

The right-wing conspiracy theory that Joe Biden, as vice president, pushed for Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to aid his son Hunter’s business dealings is a pillar of House Republicans’ push to impeach him. Even some GOP members of Congress have pointed out there is “no evidence” to support this long-debunked narrative. But the hypothesis is further demolished by a document published last month by — of all people — the fabulist John Solomon, which indisputably confirms that at the time of that meeting, it was the policy of the U.S. government to seek that prosecutor’s removal.

The right has baselessly claimed for years that when Biden told Ukraine’s leaders during a December 2015 visit that the U.S. would not release $1 billion in loan guarantees unless they fired Viktor Shokin, the country’s prosecutor general, he was acting to benefit Hunter by halting Shokin’s purported probe of Burisma Holdings, on whose board Hunter served. Solomon, a former Fox News contributor and Washington Times editor, played a key role in concocting this pseudoscandal, alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and others, as they sought to damage Biden’s 2020 presidential run.

Their allegations were nonsense: Biden was carrying out U.S. policy, Shokin had been widely faulted by Western governments for failing to prosecute corruption, and his Burisma probe had stalled, as detailed in contemporaneous news reports and sworn testimony during then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. But House Republicans have revived the conspiracy theory as the core of their Biden impeachment plan.

The GOP’s narrative has now taken another hit: A briefing memo published by Solomon last month documents that it was U.S. policy to seek Shokin’s removal at that time. The memo, generated by the State Department for Biden in preparation for his meeting with then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko during a December 7-8, 2015, Ukraine trip reads in part under the heading “Background” (emphasis added):

Unity and Reforms: With local elections in the rear-view mirror and an economy that while still in difficulty, seems to have moved back from the precipice, the time is ripe for President Poroshenko to reanimate his reform agenda. You should recommend that he give a state of the nation speech to the Rada in which he reenergizes that effort and rolls out new proposed reforms. There is wide agreement that anti-corruption must be at the top of this list, and that reforms must include an overhaul of the Prosecutor General’s Office including removal of Prosecutor General Shokin, who is widely regarded as an obstacle to fighting corruption, if not a source of the problem.

Under “Talking Points,” the document states that “anti-corruption efforts … will also require changing the Prosecutor General who is damaging your credibility and obstructing the fight against corruption.” Similar language appears in a separate memo for Biden’s meeting with then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, which Solomon also published.

Solomon, naturally, is unwilling to accept that these documents blow a hole in the narrative he and his allies have pushed for years. He stressed in an August 22 article for his Just The News site and on Fox that night that the same memos call for Biden to sign the $1 billion loan guarantee rather than using it as leverage to force Shokin’s firing.

“The Biden White House knew that this Shokin investigation posed a political threat to the family, a personal threat to Joe Biden’s son's company, the company paying him a million dollars a year,” Solomon told Hannity. “And it’s in that moment when all this is happening that Joe Biden flips the switch and goes from the recommendation giving the billion dollars to you’re not getting the billion dollars until you fire Shokin and son of a b, they fire Shokin.”

The reason for Biden’s divergence from the plan described in the memos is unclear. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler reported Friday that a source told him Biden had “called an audible” during the plane trip to Ukraine, but that “by the time Biden landed in Kyiv, four people with direct knowledge told The Fact Checker, the Obama White House was firmly on board with the plan.”

”Others,” Kessler wrote, “recall a more disciplined policy process preceding the trip that led to consensus on linking the firing to the loan.”

Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2015, and Victoria Nuland, who oversaw European affairs at the State Department at the time, both testified in 2020 congressional depositions that they recalled that conditioning the assistance on firing Shokin had been “U.S. government policy” developed through an interagency process. Pyatt further testified that the policy had already been conveyed to Ukrainian officials at the time of the trip.

Pyatt also downplayed the importance of the memos’ recommendations, saying they had been “written by a desk officer” and that in his experience, high-ranking officials would never “take a State Department product like this and sort of use that as their script.”

Nuland, meanwhile, stated that the interagency community had at the time been “dissatisfied that past investigations of Burisma had not been brought to conclusion” and thought that Shokin’s removal “would be counter to Burisma's interests.”

That’s consistent with last month’s testimony from Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner and fellow Burisma board member, who told congressional investigators he had not been aware of any Shokin investigation into the company and that Shokin’s firing “was bad for Burisma because he was under control.”

But ultimately, the tick-tock of how Biden came to use the particular strategy of leveraging the loan guarantee is fundamentally irrelevant: The memos show that Biden, in seeking Shokin’s firing, was acting consistent with U.S. policy rather than freelancing to help his son.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump and Biden

How Trump's First Impeachment Debunked Premise Of Biden Impeachment

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) finally succumbed to pressure from Fox News and its caucus and announced an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Tuesday that nonpartisan experts, Senate Republicans, and even some of his own members acknowledge lacks evidence of presidential wrongdoing. A pillar of the effort apparently involves reviving a right-wing conspiracy theory that was debunked during the impeachment inquiry into then-President Donald Trump four years ago.

That conspiracy theory is that Joe Biden corruptly pushed the government of Ukraine to fire Viktor Shokin, the country’s general prosecutor, when he was vice president in 2016, in order to benefit his son Hunter, who served at that time on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company which they claim Shokin was investigating.

Hunter’s work for Burisma is involved in one of the six flawed predicates McCarthy raised in announcing the need for an impeachment inquiry to probe “allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption” by Biden.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, one of the three co-chairs of the impeachment probe, issued a press release the same day highlighting the Shokin conspiracy theory and seeking documents from the State Department regarding its “perception of the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General” at the time.

And during a Wednesday morning Fox & Friends interview, another co-chair, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), pointed to Shokin’s allegations as the “central facts” that suggest illegal behavior by Biden and demand an impeachment inquiry.

These moves come just weeks after Fox heavily promoted its interview with Shokin, who claimed he was fired “because I was investigating Burisma” and accused Joe Biden of “corruption,” while skipping over the glaring flaws in his story. On Tuesday night, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity, a Trump partisan whose show is a major hub for dubious claims about the Bidens, alleged that “evidence of Biden's wrongdoing is now quite overwhelming and questions around the family's shady dealings,” touting in particular the “slam dunk case” of Shokin’s firing.

The Republican claims may sound familiar, as they are a rehash of the Ukrainian disinformation campaign spun up by Rudy Giuliani and his allies and parroted incessantly by Hannity, John Solomon, and other Fox propagandists as they sought to kneecap Biden’s presidential campaign back in 2019. Trump regurgitated their conspiracy theories when he tried to condition military aid to Ukraine on Ukraine’s government announcing a probe of Biden. Public disclosure of that corrupt abuse of power triggered a House impeachment inquiry and ultimately Trump’s first impeachment.

But the underlying allegation that Joe Biden demanded Shokin’s firing to help his son’s business dealings never made sense and was thoroughly dismantled during Trump’s impeachment inquiry, as U.S. officials testified that Shokin had been widely faulted by Western governments for failing to prosecute corruption, they were unaware of Shokin reviving a probe into Burisma (it was reportedly moribund at the time), and Biden’s actions were consistent with U.S. policy. Those officials’ testimony is explained below.

George Kent, Ukraine deputy chief of mission (2015-18)

George Kent, who served as deputy chief of mission in Kyiv, Ukraine, from 2015 to 2018 and then oversaw U.S. foreign policy in the country as deputy assistant secretary of State, addressed the allegation during his public testimony before the inquiry on November 13, 2019.

“What former Vice President Biden requested of former President of Ukraine [Petro] Poroshenko was the removal of a corrupt prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, who had undermined a program of assistance that we had spent, again, U.S. taxpayer money to try to build an independent investigator unit to go after corrupt prosecutors,” Kent said. He went on to agree that Biden was participating in a “whole-of-government effort to address corruption in Ukraine.”

Kent repudiated the claims in greater detail in his sworn deposition. He explained that Biden was following the official U.S. government position that Shokin must be removed because he was “an impediment to the reform of the prosecutorial system, and he had directly undermined in repeated fashion U.S. efforts and U. S. assistance programs.”

“And so,” he added, “because we had a strategic interest in seeing the Ukrainian prosecutor system reformed, and because we have a fiduciary responsibility for U.S. taxpayer dollars, it was the consensus view that Shokin needed to be removed so that the stated goal of reform of the prosecutor general system could move forward.”

Kent also testified that the State Department had put forward the plan for Biden to leverage the U.S. aid to get Shokin removed.

“To the best of my knowledge, the idea originated with [then-Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey] Pyatt in discussion with Assistant Secretary [Victoria] Nuland and then was pitched to the Office of the Vice President,” he said.

Pyatt had denounced “the failure of the institution of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to successfully fight internal corruption” in a September 2015 speech, adding, “The United States stands behind those who challenge these bad actors.”

Kent further stated that any possible Shokin investigation into Burisma “was not something that I ever recall coming up or being discussed” and that he was unaware of any probe into that company at the time.

Kurt Volker, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations (2017-19)

Kurt Volker, a former diplomat who served in the White House and State Department under the Bush administration and then as the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations during the Trump administration, concurred in his own deposition before the inquiry.

“There is clear evidence that Vice President Biden did indeed weigh in with the President of Ukraine to have Shokin fired, but the motivations for that are entirely different from” the portrayal by Solomon, he said. “When Vice President Biden made those representations to President Poroshenko he was representing U.S. policy at the time.”

“And it was a general assumption – I was not doing U.S. policy at the time – but a general assumption among the European Union, France, Germany, American diplomats, U.K., that Shokjn [Shokin] was not doing his job as a prosecutor general. He was not pursuing corruption cases,” Volker continued.

Volker went on to say that Shokin’s “reputation is one of a prosecutor general who was protecting certain interests rather than prosecuting them” and reiterated that Biden had been “executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy, right.”

Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2016-19)

Marie Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 to 2019, similarly testified that “Vice President Biden, the IMF, pretty much every country that is present in Ukraine all felt that Mr. Shokin as prosecutor general was not doing his job,” leading to calls for his ouster.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson Scrapes Bottom In The Conspiracy Barrel (VIDEO)

Tucker Carlson, who is scrounging for attention in an increasingly fractured and competitive right-wing media ecosystem while seeking funders for his new media venture, revived a convicted con man’s ridiculous allegation that he had crack-fueled gay sex with a young Barack Obama in a podcast interview. Carlson also revealed that he plans to interview the man for his show on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“In 2008, it became really clear that Barack Obama had been having sex with men and smoking crack,” Carlson told host Adam Carolla. He cited the story of Larry Sinclair, who alleged during the 2008 presidential campaign that he “personally engaged in sexual activity and personally used illegal drugs in November 1999” with Obama in the back of Sinclair’s limousine and at a Chicago hotel. (Sinclair further alleged that Obama had been having a gay affair with the choir director at his church, who was subsequently murdered “to keep the media from believing the claims” Sinclair made.)

“A guy came forward, Larry Sinclair, and said, I'll sign an affidavit. And he did. I'll take a lie detector. And he did. ‘I smoked crack with Barack Obama and had sex with him,’” Carlson explained.

Carlson said Sinclair’s claims were “obviously true” but “nobody reported it … because the Obama campaign said anyone who reports on this gets no access to the Obama campaign.”

Sinclair’s story did receive little attention at the time from credible news outlets, even as it was widely covered on WorldNetDaily, a conspiracy theory website famous for promoting the lies that Obama was not born in the United States and is a Muslim. But while Carlson portrays this as a conspiracy in which journalists passed on Sinclair’s story to preserve access to the Obama campaign, Ben Smith noted in a 2008 article on the saga for Politico that the “story has generally been ignored by the mainstream media, because he’s been unable to substantiate his allegations.”

Carlson said he found Sinclair’s story compelling because he passed a lie detector test and signed an affidavit. But as Smith and even WorldNetDailyreported, Sinclair actually failed his polygraph (he later alleged Obama adviser David Axelrod had paid $750,000 to rig the polygraph). As Smith pointed out, Sinclair also claimed to be “terminally ill” in another affidavit he signed in 2004 (he is apparently still alive nearly 20 years later).

Asked by Carolla if he actually believed Sinclair’s story, Carlson replied, “That definitely happened. Oh, for sure. I mean, I've talked to Larry Sinclair about it and — oh, definitely it happened.” He went on to say that “40 years ago,” Sinclair had been “in and out of prison,” so “he’s got a criminal record by definition” and a “record of deception.”

“But this story, if you listen to it in detail, is clearly true,” he said, adding, “I'm going to do an interview with him and you can hear it.”

In fact, while Carlson suggested Sinclair’s criminal record occurred decades before his claims about Obama, Smith reported that “public records and court filings reveal that he has a 27-year criminal record, with a specialty in crimes involving deceit,” including “forgery charges in two states, one of which drew Sinclair a 16-year jail sentence.” At the time Sinclair made his allegations, there was “an outstanding warrant for Sinclair’s arrest for forging an acquaintance’s signature and stealing her tax refunds” in 2001, and he had been “arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in South Carolina” the previous year.

Elsewhere in the interview, Carlson told Carolla that Democrats plan to win the 2024 election by assassinating Donald Trump and initiating a “hot war” with Russia.

The former Fox host has been living his best life since the right-wing network dropped him from his prime-time post in April — moderating a GOP presidential forum, hobnobbing with Eastern European autocrats, and standing up for Vladimir Putin.

He’s also founded a new company that will be “anchored by longer versions of the free videos that Carlson has been posting regularly on Twitter” and is seeking “hundreds of millions of dollars” from right-wing billionaires like Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mercer. Unfortunately for Carlson, he’s just Alex Jones in suit-and-tie without Fox’s support, his viewership has been low, and he’s largely fallen out of the day-to-day conversation.

The Carolla interview provides insight into the niche Carlson’s new company will occupy — his investors will be funding WorldNetDaily 2.0, an outlet that dives deep into the right-wing internet fever swamps and credulously repeats absurdities as unvarnished truth.

Of course, Carlson is a notorious liar exposed by the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit for his willingness to tell his viewers the opposite of what he says privately, so we’ll never know whether he actually believes anything he publishes.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

School bus

Right-Wing Scammers Are Targeting Public School Kids Now

The right's war on public education has reached its inevitable conclusion: fighting back against supposed liberal indoctrination in schools by empowering an explicitly right-wing organization to expose schoolchildren to flagrant conservative propaganda.

PragerU is creating partnerships with Republican-controlled states to put videos from its PragerU Kids offshoot — which it bills as a counter to ”the woke and anti-American leftist narrative taught in most schools” — in their classrooms. Oklahoma’s Department of Education announced on Tuesday that it will join Florida in treating PragerU Kids’ propagandistic work as legitimate educational content.

More states will likely follow — PragerU hosts a petition on its website whose signers support allowing its videos “in classrooms nationwide,” and state officials often mimic the policies they see implemented elsewhere.

This marks a new twist on an old con. Right-wingers regularly denounce nonpartisan institutions as excessively left-wing, then establish explicitly ideological counter-institutions as a purported balance. At its most effective, that strategy brings political benefits for Republican politicians and financial profits for their propagandists. With PragerU Kids, GOP officials are using their power to ensure that the grifters get paid.

Education is the next frontier for right-wing grifters and propagandists 

For more than two years, the right has conducted a nationwide campaign targeting the purported influence of the academic framework known as “critical race theory” in public school systems. Conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, and media outlets identify, exaggerate, or fabricate discrete instances of alleged left-wing excesses in discussions of race across the nation’s approximately 130,000 schools, then blow them up into national stories in order to focus the movement’s mostly white adherents’ racial anxiety into political energy.

Republican politicians have largely responded to the incentives created by this campaign by enacting legislation to limit discourse and teaching on race in public schools, at times through laws that courts have blocked as unconstitutional.

But the anti-critical race theory campaign also presents right-wing organizations with opportunities to access public school resources and their large, captive audience — and PragerU is taking advantage.

PragerU is a right-wing propaganda factory which claims to have generated “7 billion lifetime views” for its massive archive of videos targeting college-aged viewers. While its name conveys the imprimatur of a nonpartisan educational facility, the organization describes itself as “focused on changing minds” to be more conservative. Founded in 2011 by Dennis Prager, a right-wing talk radio host with an array of extremist views who has argued that “either ‘studies’ confirm what common sense suggests or that they are mistaken,” the organization has been heavily funded by Dan and Farris Wilks, the extremely religious GOP megadonors who also backed The Daily Wire.

PragerU rolled out its PragerU Kids line in 2021 in direct response to the right-wing frenzy over critical race theory. As with its videos geared toward college-aged viewers, PragerU claims its kids content is intended to counter the left-wing material purportedly taught elsewhere.

According to PragerU’s most recent report for its donors, its “kids shows are created to inoculate children against the woke and anti-American leftist narrative taught in most schools.” What that actually entails, as my colleague John Knefel reported, is “right-wing propaganda” that seeks to “render history and its inheritances invisible, inert, and incapable of inspiring young people to seek a more equal and more just world.”

By putting these videos in their state’s public school classrooms, Republican politicians can garner accolades on the right. PragerU, in turn, gets to tell the donors who gave more than $65 million according to its last publicly available tax filing that the organization has been successful in finding a new, captive audience for its content.

The losers are the students, and parents who don’t want their kids watching content explicitly designed to make them more conservative.

The right manufactures rage against institutions, then props up its own

PragerU Kids marks the latest iteration of a decades-old strategy. Grievance by grievance, the right has torn down nonpartisan institutions and businesses and constructed an alternate set of brands for “lifestyle conservatives” to purchase.

First came the press. Republican activists and politicians spent decades attacking mainstream news sources as excessively liberal. As rank-and-file conservatives lost trust in journalists, movement leaders launched new right-wing alternatives: talk radio in the 1980s, Fox News in the 1990s, and digital outlets in the 21st century.

Much of the content on these outlets focuses on attacking the mainstream press, both as a way to “work the refs” and encourage them to provide more favorable coverage of the GOP and its causes, and as a business strategy to keep audiences ensconced in a closed information environment where they only hear from right-wing voices.

Then came social media. The right ran the same playbook against the likes of Facebook and YouTube, trying to garner special dispensation to break the rules by claiming the platforms were biased against them. At the same time, they stood up (with varying degrees of success) explicitly right-wing alternatives in Trump’s Truth Social, Trump aide Jason Miller’s Gettr, white nationalist stomping ground Gab, and Rumble, a YouTube knock-off backed by fascist billionaire Peter Thiel.

Then came everything else. Over the last few years, right-wing propagandists have denounced an array of American corporations as exemplars of “woke capital” and called for boycotts. At the same time, right-wing entrepreneurs (often the same people promoting the critiques) have launched right-wing analogues to those disfavored brands.

Right-wing culture warriors are urged to drink Ultra Right Beer instead of Bud Light and Black Rifle Coffee instead of Starbucks, shave with Jeremy’s Razors instead of Harry’s or Gillette, make phone calls on Pure Talk instead of AT&T, and eat Jeremy’s Chocolate instead of Hershey’s. As other figures on the right attacked Disney movies and popular children’s books as excessively “woke,” they prepped right-wing options to replace them.

It’s a long con, one designed to channel culture war issues into Republican votes so the party can redistribute wealth upward, while also putting money in the pockets of the party’s hack class. And now, GOP politicians are putting the power of the state behind their grifters.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Joe Biden

Fox News Is Pushing Republicans Into A Crazy Biden impeachment (VIDEO)

House Republicans appear poised to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who called an impeachment inquiry a “natural step forward” during a Fox News appearance late last month, is reportedly strategizing with other top Republicans about how to open one by the end of September, which would likely focus on the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter during the Obama administration.

House congressional probes of the subject have generated plenty of content for right-wing outlets. But even members of the GOP caucus acknowledge it has uncovered little to no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden. As one House Republican (anonymously) put it: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden got money, or that Joe Biden, you know, agreed to do something so that Hunter could get money. There’s just no evidence of that. And they can’t impeach without that evidence. And I don’t think the evidence exists.” Absent that proof, political commentators rightfully warn, moving forward with impeachment “would carry considerable risk for the Republican Party.”

McCarthy’s folly is a sign of the hammerlock Fox News has on the Republican Party. The right-wing propaganda network’s stars have long demanded a Biden impeachment as both retaliation and political cover for Donald Trump’s various impeachments and criminal indictments. Since those Fox commentators wield more power within the GOP than most of its putative leaders do, a Biden impeachment inquiry has seemed inevitable, with the only question being what they’d end up backfilling as its rationale. And somehow, they’ve settled on taking a shot with the Hunter Biden minutiae they’ve all spent years feverishly rehashing (but that no one can parse without a PhD in Sean Hannity Studies).

Fox’s stars began calling for Biden’s impeachment before he was elected — or even nominated. Nearly four years ago, as House Judiciary Committee Democrats prepared to approve articles of impeachment against then-President Donald Trump over his corrupt abuse of power in attempting to coerce the Ukrainian government into opening a criminal investigation into Joe Biden, Fox host Mark Levin demanded that the GOP prepare to retaliate in kind.

“The next Democrat president of the United States must be impeached!” Levin bellowed during a heated December 12, 2019, appearance. “Not to get even, not because we are at their low level, because the Republicans can't live under one Constitution when the Democrats live under another Constitution and it's the only way we're going to stop them!”

Impeachment talk returned to the network’s airwaves in the waning days of the 2020 presidential election, as Fox and other outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch tried to help Trump to victory by calling attention to Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Their allegations were factually dubious, Trump and his family members had far worse conflicts of interest through their own businesses, and the effort ultimately failed to gain traction. But even then, Fox hosts were setting a predicate to impeach Joe Biden if he were elected.

Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery claimed during a late October segment on The Five that because Democrats had supposedly “lower[ed] the bar” by impeaching Trump, a Joe Biden impeachment over Hunter Biden’s business dealings would be fair game. “Why wouldn’t you, if you are using the same threshold and the same standard, why would you not impeach Joe Biden?” she asked.

Fellow co-host Greg Gutfeld likewise suggested that Republicans could “start preemptive impeachment on Joe Biden, in case he wins.”

And Fox host Jeanine Pirro similarly called for Biden’s impeachment based on the bogus conspiracy theory that he had pushed out a Ukrainian prosecutor to benefit his son’s business while serving as vice president, saying, “They can impeach him for what he did in the Ukraine.”

Fox’s Sean Hannity offered the same analysis as Kennedy had, arguing to his radio audience in December 2020, at a time when Trump was seeking to subvert the election he had lost to Biden: “What are you going to do if -- you know, all these people that impeached Trump, how do you not impeach if it's Joe Biden one day? How do you not do it? It's a foreign -- it's a family foreign crime syndicate.”

Republicans were unable to carry out Hannity’s impeachment dream for the next two years, with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress. But just weeks after Republicans won a slim House majority in the 2022 midterm elections, he predicted that an impeachment over Hunter Biden’s business dealings was inevitable.

“When you look at this evidence, it seems overwhelming where this is going,” Hannity told his radio audience on November 30, 2022. “I don't have the answer whether or not the money has influenced political decisions of Joe Biden, but we do know for sure that Joe Biden lied about talking with his son about these business dealings, and that he was up to his eyeballs in it, way more than he ever indicated, and that's gonna be very problematic for him.”

He concluded: “And where it goes, it could be -- it could be down the road of impeachment. That's my prediction for the year.”

The year that followed has been marked by three overlapping trends: repeated indictments of Trump on state and federal charges, fruitless congressional efforts to uncover damning evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s businesses, and demands from Fox for Republicans to retaliate against Democrats for the former, including by turning the latter into fodder for impeachment.

On June 9, the day after a federal grand jury indicted Trump on 37 counts over his withholding of highly classified government documents, Fox host Jesse Watters said he wanted Biden impeached as a “distraction” from Trump’s legal troubles.

Fox hosts issued a new wave of calls for Biden’s impeachment in late July and early August, as the nation awaited and reacted to Trump’s federal indictment over his election subversion.

“I say: Impeach away. They wasted our time. Let's waste theirs. And it's deserved,” said Gutfeld.

“The issue is whether or not impeachment is appropriate,” said Pirro. “I think it is. I think it's long past time.”

Watters explicitly said that Republicans needed to move fast on impeachment so it could garner media attention and hurt Biden’s reelection campaign as a “counter” to Trump’s trials.

“Without the impeachment, you have back-to-back-to-back-to-back Trump trials,” he explained. “The media’s not going to cover anything else. Biden’s going to hide and Trump is going to be criminalized on TV. But if Republicans time this right and follow the evidence where it leads, impeachment is going to run counter to the Trump trials next year.”

Watters was saying out loud what has been clear all along. The GOP and its Fox propagandists have settled on renominating a flagrantly corrupt former president who could be convicted on an array of charges, some linked to his attempt to remain in power after losing the 2020 elections. Rather than picking someone who isn’t looking at four state and federal trials on scores of charges, they want to tear down his opponent by ginning up a scandal and hoping that the mainstream press fails to make clear what they’re doing.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Joe Biden

The Latest Right-Wing Attempt To Prove Biden 'Senile' Is A Cynical Lie

At a reception for a civil rights group on Monday, President Joe Biden responded to a white supremacist gunman’s racially motivated slaughter of three Black people in Jacksonville, Florida, the previous day. The president described white supremacy as “a poison that’s been allowed to grow faster and fester in our communities,” but said that “America is the most multiracial, most dynamic nation in the history of the world” and “hate will not prevail.”

Over the balance of the speech, Biden discussed the history of the Civil Rights Movement, his record as president on that issue, and “how, from trauma, hope can grow and the promise of America can prevail.”

Republicans and their right-wing media propagandists are totally uninterested in any of this. Instead, party activists weaponized a fragment of Biden’s remarks, right-wing influencers used the snippet to accuse the president of lying or being senile, hyperpartisan websites ran with the story under the same frame, and by Tuesday night, the bogus narrative had hit Fox News. This pattern has played out time and time again as the right seeks to damage Biden’s reelection bid.

At one point in the speech, Biden said he had previously “thought things had changed” and there had been “real progress” in America, but that racist killings like the one in Jacksonville showed that “hate never dies” and Americans can’t “remain silent” about it.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: But pause for just a moment. I thought things had changed. I was able — literally, not figuratively — talk Strom Thurmond into voting for the — the Civil Rights Act before he died. And I thought, “Well, maybe there’s real progress.”

But hate never dies. It just hides. It hides under the rocks. And when someone breathes a little oxygen in it, it comes out — roaring out. And silence — silence is complicity. And we’re not going to remain silent. You’re not, nor am I, nor are the vast majority of Americans. Denialism is worse. And we’ll call out — we’ll call it for what it is.

Republican strategist Greg Price and the Republican National Committee’s research department posted a sub-30-second clip highlighting Biden’s statement, “I was able to literally, not figuratively, talk Strom Thurmond into voting for the Civil Rights Act before he died." Biden and Thurmond had a long and at times controversial relationship. They served in the U.S. Senate together from 1973, following Biden’s first election, until 2003, when Thurmond passed away; Biden gave a eulogy at Thurmond’s funeral.

Thurmond infamously set the record for the longest Senate filibuster to block the Civil Rights Act of 1957; he also filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party after it passed. But Biden’s description of Thurmond as evolving to support civil rights should cue in any fair-minded observer that he wasn’t talking about convincing Thurmond to support one of those bills. Thurmond did vote for subsequent civil rights bills which became law when he and Biden were serving in the Senate together, including the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Voting Rights Act of 1980, which Biden invoked during his eulogy.

But the path to right-wing stardom is paved with reflexive attacks on Democrats, not fair-minded observation or familiarity with civil rights laws. Conservative influencers immediately seized on the Price and RNC tweets to claim that Biden had actually been saying he had convinced Thurmond to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Highlighting that Biden had been 21 when that bill passed and that Thurmond had opposed it, they portrayed the president as either lying or senile.

Once that narrative entered the social media ecosystem, content-hungry hyperpartisan websites ran with it. Several outlets published headlines which falsely claimed that Biden had explicitly referred to the 1964 law, which more squarely fit their preferred story. Here’s a sampling:

Gateway Pundit: “He’s Shot: Joe Biden Claims He ‘Literally’ Convinced Strom Thurmond to Vote For Civil Rights Act (VIDEO).”

Dan Bongino’s “Biden Claims to Have ‘Literally’ Convinced Strom Thurmond to Vote for 1964 Civil Rights Act - When He Was Just 21.”

John Solomon’s Just the News: “Biden claims he 'literally' persuaded leading Civil Rights Act opponent to support it.”

Breitbart: “Biden Falsely Claims to Have Convinced Strom Thurmond to Vote for the Civil Rights Act.”

Media Research Center: “Biden Claims He 'Literally' Convinced Strom Thurmond To Support Civil 21 Years Old?

Fox News: “Biden claims to have 'literally' convinced Strom Thurmond to vote for Civil Rights Act — at 21 years old.”

The Daily Wire: “Biden Claims He Convinced Strom Thurmond To Vote For The Civil Rights Act.”

By Tuesday evening, Fox star Sean Hannity had swallowed the bogus narrative and regurgitated it to his prime-time audience, claiming that Biden had “told the truly unbelievable tale” that “he literally convinced the senator and former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond to vote for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

According to Hannity, Biden’s statements proved that the president “is deteriorating cognitively right before our eyes,” and been “reduced to a mumbling, bubbling — bumbling, frankly, buffoon” who “is not capable of fulfilling his duties.” He also called Biden’s statement a “lie” because “in 1964, Joe Biden was 21 years old. He had never met Strom Thurmond. And not only did Thurmond vote against the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he also filibustered the bill.”

Fox contributor Charlie Hurt later told Hannity that while “everybody's known” Biden is ”a liar,” “the problem now is he's become so senile, we don't know whether it's lies he's telling or it's just his senility setting in and he's making up these crazy stories about Strom Thurmond.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Anti-Vax Propagandists Declare War On New Covid-19 Shot

Fox Anti-Vax Propagandists Declare War On New Covid-19 Shot

Tucker Carlson may be gone from Fox News, but his former colleagues are still carrying on his war against the COVID-19 vaccines that have prevented millions of American deaths since they became widely available in 2021.

Fox’s propagandists responded to President Joe Biden’s Friday call for new funding for an updated vaccine booster that will be recommended for all Americans when it becomes available this fall by warning that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous and ineffective. Some even directly exhorted their viewers — generally seniors who are most vulnerable from COVID-19 — not to take the new booster.

“There's another shot that he's going to recommend all Americans take?” Jesse Watters, Carlson’s 8 p.m. replacement, asked Monday on Fox’s panel show, The Five. “This is another huge scam and no one is going to go along with another shot, especially if it's mandated.”

Several pharmaceutical companies are currently developing updated COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to provide increased protection from Eris, the variant currently dominant in the United States.

With COVID-19 cases on the upswing, Biden said Friday that he plans to ask Congress “for additional funding for a new vaccine” he would “tentatively” recommend “that everybody get.” The updated vaccine is expected in mid-September, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during her Monday briefing.

Fox hosts responded with ridicule and fury. Notably, several suggested that because the initial vaccines provided limited protection from infection from newer variants (even as they continued to provide strong protection from death or serious illness), people should be skeptical of the effectiveness of an updated shot specifically targeted to current strains. That’s a recipe for Fox’s viewers to once again put their health in danger by declining the shots.

Sean Hannity once garnered unearned credit from mainstream reporters over a tepid snippet about the vaccines. But since coming under fire from right-wing rivals and walking back even those remarks, he’s rarely missed an opportunity to demonstrate his vaccine skepticism.

“Straight ahead, COVID madness coming back,” he said, teasing a Monday night segment. “More draconian measures and a new vaccine that I'm sure they're going to tell you is absolutely safe. Like the last one? Straight ahead.”

After the break, he introduced Biden’s comments by saying, “Here we go again,” then asked Fox contributor Tomi Lahren, “Isn't this the same Joe Biden, same government that said that if you got the vaccine, that you'd never get COVID, you'd never transmit COVID and that were proven dead wrong? Isn't that the same government?”

Lahren replied that “if the Biden administration and leftists everywhere were that concerned about a new COVID strain, a new COVID variant, that southern border would be closed,” adding, “If the American people are ever dumb enough to fall for this again, we deserved to fail as a country. But I don't believe we are dumb enough to fall for it again. Not this time.”

Hannity went on to say that while he was not giving “medical advice,” he was “not listening to them” about the vaccines because “I don't believe a word they say. They've been proven wrong again and again and again.”

Likewise, while guest-hosting Fox’s prime-time “comedy” show Gutfeld!, Jimmy Faila argued that Biden’s call for a new shot was unnecessary because “unlike the Clintons, the virus wasn’t nearly as dangerous as we were told.”

“Now, I'll admit it's nice to see this White House making news for a drug besides cocaine,” Faila said. “But there's no need to discuss any drugs because the vaccines didn't stop transmission.”

Faila went on to express confusion about why politicians would say COVID-19 “would have been way worse” if they hadn’t been vaccinated, adding, “Like, you're saying it didn't work, OK? The government was wrong about every single thing they pushed on us during COVID, especially mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccines.”

Fox could have responded to the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, which were developed under then-President Donald Trump and are remarkably effective in preventing serious COVID-19 cases (with rare side effects), by urging viewers to get the shots. But the network instead ran a multiyear campaign against the vaccines while relentlessly hyping ineffective drugs popular among right-wing influencers. Any moral responsibility its hosts felt for their audience was apparently overrun by their reflexive opposition to Biden and their recognition that antivax commentary was “great for ratings.”

These attacks on the vaccination campaign had deadly consequences. Polls routinely show the network’s viewers were less likely to say they were, or planned to get, vaccinated than people who get their news from other sources. One recent study found that “excess mortality was significantly higher for Republican voters than Democratic voters after COVID-19 vaccines were available to all adults, but not before."

But Fox is undeterred by the destructive impact of its vaccine coverage. The network is doing its best to inflame viewers as its extremist competitors baselessly fearmonger over the prospect of “new lockdowns” ahead of the 2024 election. And that means more of them are going to die.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Georgia Indictment Highlights Propaganda Of Right-Wing Fever Swamp

Georgia Indictment Highlights Propaganda Of Right-Wing Fever Swamp

The right’s most ignorant and dishonest partisans are trying to delegitimize the new Georgia charges against former President Donald Trump over his 2020 election subversion plot by claiming that the indictment from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis shows that, in the words of Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, “watching cable TV and tweeting can now get you indicted.” This argument is nonsense: Prosecutors seeking to establish a conspiracy to further a criminal scheme use indictments to lay out the individual steps alleged participants undertook, many of which may not be themselves illegal, as the legal writer Julian Sanchez explained.

But this brand of dumb-or-lying blather inadvertently highlights a critical point: Trump’s obsessive consumption of right-wing media's lies and conspiracy theories about purported election fraud played an essential role in the effort to overturn the presidential election that ultimately triggered his indictment.

As president, Trump was fully enmeshed in the alternate reality spun by his TV propagandists. He would spend hours a day watching right-wing cable news channels and sent nearly 1,300 tweets in response to Fox News and Fox Business alone from September 2018 to the end of his presidency. Trump treated Fox hosts as members of his kitchen cabinet, enacting policy based on what he saw on their shows and seeking their counsel in private. People would go on his favorite channels seeking to influence his administration’s decision-making, at times snaring government contracts or presidential clemency because he happened to be watching.

This media diet fueled the election fraud conspiracy theories at the heart of Trump’s election subversion plot. After Election Day 2020, Trump’s top campaign advisers and his attorney general tried to tell him that he had lost the election and the claims he was making about election fraud were “bullshit.” But Trump preferred to listen to his TV advisers, who told him what he wanted to hear: that he had been the victim of election-shifting fraud.

Trump sent at least 76 tweets hyping right-wing TV programming about supposed election fraud in the weeks between Election Day and the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol that he helped spur. His live-tweets from that period promoted incendiary and patently ridiculous conspiracy theories, including that Joe Biden benefited from “millions of Fake Votes”; that voting machines had deleted “2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES” and “shifted 2-3% of Trump Votes to Biden”; and that the U.S. Postal Service had been “tampering with hundreds of thousands of ballots.”

The then-president used that steady stream of “bullshit” from his TV allies to keep his supporters agitated and infuriated about the supposedly “rigged” election — including in Georgia.

In response to right-wing cable news segments, Trump attacked the state’s Republican elected leaders for not supporting his lies, claimed that “signature match” would make the state “flip Republican,” baselessly lashed out at election rule changes as unconstitutional, and urged his followers to tune in to a televised hearing on the election (the last of which is highlighted in the indictment as “an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy”).

It’s worth noting that many of the people who went on TV to claim the election had been stolen did not actually believe that was the case. Filings in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox showed that top executives and big stars at the network knew the election fraud claims were baseless, but nonetheless lied to their audience in support of Trump’s plot out of cowardice and greed rather than leveling with them.

That endless stream of right-wing media disinformation gave Trump cover to build the phony justification for his efforts to throw out the 2020 election results and stay in power. His supporters, trapped in an information ecosystem in which election fraud claims were constant and validated, became convinced that the election had been stolen. That, in turn, created incentives for Republican officials to aid the then-president’s scheme, which came frightfully close to succeeding.

Three years later, Trump faces charges in Washington, D.C., and Georgia courts over whether that seditious attempt to end American democracy was illegal. But he’s still obsessed with what he sees his propagandists saying on his television. And right now, the same people who told Trump that the election had been stolen are encouraging him to retaliate if he regains power by politicizing the justice system and throwing his political enemies in prison on spurious charges.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Donald Trump

Trump's Plot To Steal The Election Is What Set 2020 Apart

Fox News pundits have pivoted from declaring Donald Trump a free speech martyr being prosecuted for simply saying that fraud tainted the 2020 presidential election to citing Democrats making supposedly similar claims about past races, seeking to portray him as the victim of a two-tiered justice system in which only Republicans are charged for claiming an election was rigged.

Their narrative is nonsensical — contrary to the Fox depiction, the former president isn’t actually being prosecuted for his myriad, notoriously false election fraud lies and conspiracy theories. Instead, Trump faces federal and Georgia state charges for using those false claims as the basis for an allegedly unlawful scheme to overturn the election results, something none of those Democrats attempted.

Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 Presidential election,” as chronicled by the House select committee on the January 6 insurrection. Prosecutors have since alleged that aspects of that plot — notably, the organizing of fraudulent electoral certificates and fake electors and the pressuring of Vice President Mike Pence to reject duly appointed electors to keep Trump in power — broke an array of federal and state laws.

Their indictments hinge on Trump’s actions, not his false public statements. As Alan Z. Rozenshtein, an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School and a senior editor at Lawfare, wrote for The Atlantic:

The crimes that Trump is charged with in the January 6 indictment—obstruction, fraud, and conspiracy—fall squarely into the category of speech, in the ordinary sense of the word, that is not protected by the First Amendment. (The same is true for the racketeering, solicitation, and conspiracy charges that Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, has brought against Trump for his attempt to interfere with Georgia’s presidential-election results.) This should not be controversial. After all, tax cheats, witness tamperers, and financial fraudsters all commit their crimes by communicating with others, and many go to prison on the basis of that speech. Many violent criminals also act through speech—think of a mob boss ordering a hit or a group of bank robbers planning its next heist. None of this speech furthers the values of the First Amendment, and so it does not deserve constitutional protection.

Indeed, the federal indictment specifically notes, “The Defendant had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won.” Trump was charged, the indictment states, because as his use of “lawful and appropriate means” of challenging the results failed, he attempted “unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results.”

Commentators on Fox, in highlighting Democrats they say have avoided prosecution despite making similar statements about fraud regarding other elections, are ignoring this distinction.

Alan Dershowitz, who was part of Vice President Al Gore’s legal team following the 2020 election but now regularly appears on Fox to argue that Trump’s various actions are not illegal, kicked off the latest iteration of this bogus narrative on Monday night. While awaiting news of the August 14 Georgia indictment on Fox’s Hannity, Dershowitz argued that the actions of Gore and his team were “pretty much the same thing” as Trump and his team attempted.

“So, if you look back at the 2000 election and the protests, I still think to this day and I'll say it here on television that that election was stolen from Al Gore by Bush, that he won the actual election. I'm saying that,” Dershowitz said. “Are they going to come after me now? I guess the statute of limitations is gone.”

“They” did not “come after” Dershowitz because Gore’s conduct was not actually similar to Trump’s. After his legal challenges failed, Gore conceded and subsequently gaveled down Democratic House members who objected to Florida’s electoral votes, even though, by the standards of the plot Trump laid out, he had the right to unilaterally reject them and make himself president.

The next night, Fox host Laura Ingraham drew another inapt comparison.

“If aggressively challenging the outcome at an election is now somehow a state or federal crime, I have a question tonight,” Ingraham said. “Where's the indictment against this woman?” She then aired a series of clips of Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams criticizing the 2018 election she lost, including saying, “It was not a free and fair election,” and, “If it looks like it’s rigged, it probably is.” (Ingraham went on to cite the Gore campaign’s role in the 2000 recount, as well.)

Right-wing pundits have tried to excuse Trump’s behavior by pointing to Abrams since shortly after the 2020 election. But Abrams ended her bid for governor 10 days after the 2018 election, concluding her legal challenges even as she continued to say that aspects of the race had been unfair, as Parker Molloy noted when those faulty comparisons were first made.

The comparison makes even less sense now. Abrams’ rhetoric may have been inaccurate or unwise, but it was not coupled with a plot to subvert the results and have herself declared governor. If Trump had simply spent his time going on TV and criticizing the 2020 election, he wouldn’t be facing charges.

Fox’s Sean Hannity picked up the same angle later that night. He claimed that the United States has a “dual justice system” and the Justice Department has been “weaponized” because Trump is being prosecuted, whereas “if you are a prominent Democrat, last names Clinton or Biden, it's totally OK to deny election results.” To buttress this argument, Hannity later aired clips of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Democratic members of Congress stating or agreeing that Trump is “illegitimate.”

You can look at those comments and say that it's reasonable to describe as “illegitimate” a president who lost the popular vote, was nonetheless elected based on tiny margins in states providing an electoral vote majority, and benefited from a Russian scheme to help him win. Or you might say that this is toxic rhetoric that lowers faith in elections in search of partisan gain. But either way, it’s not a plot to actually reverse the results of the election — Clinton conceded the race almost immediately rather than assembling fake elector slates and pressuring Biden to unilaterally declare her president.

Trump’s actions following the 2020 election were unique in modern American history. After declaring victory in a race he’d clearly lost, citing false claims of voter fraud that were laughed out of court, Trump tried to subvert the results to remain in office. His machinations culminated with a mob of followers he had summoned to Washington, D.C., storming the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of electoral votes. That’s what happened, much of it out in public, whether or not Trump is ultimately convicted of crimes over the scheme.

Fox’s hosts inevitably support Trump. In late 2020, that meant playing key roles in his plot to destroy American democracy. Right now, that means trying to minimize what he did with these frivolous comparisons to Democrats. But they clearly have no regrets, and if given the opportunity again, they will do everything in their power to further a similar conspiracy to steal a presidential election.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Special Counsel Appointment Exposes Bad Faith Of Right-Wing Media (Again)

Special Counsel Appointment Exposes Bad Faith Of Right-Wing Media (Again)

There’s simply no reason for reporters to give credence to the Republicans and right-wing media figures currently rending their garments over Attorney General Merrick Garland’s grant of special counsel powers to David Weiss, the prosecutor investigating President Joe Biden’s son.

The right’s interest in Hunter Biden’s alleged crimes begins and ends with whether they can use him to harm his father’s reelection campaign. They are willing to pretend to be mad that Weiss wasn’t appointed special counsel — and then get mad that he was; for political gain, they’re even willing to pretend to care about tax crimes after years of trying to defang the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to target tax cheats. But reporters covering their responses don’t have to play along with this charade.

Weiss, a U.S. attorney first appointed by former President Donald Trump and retained by President Biden, has been investigating Hunter Biden for five years. The probe has overlapped with a storm of spurious right-wing claims that foreign actors had used Hunter Biden’s business interests to bribe his father. In June, Weiss charged Hunter Biden with two misdemeanor counts of failure to pay taxes and one count of felony gun possession as part of a plea agreement; the agreement fell apart during a court hearing and Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty. On Friday, Garland announced that Weiss had requested special counsel status and he had granted it after talks to revive the plea deal failed.

Republican politicians and the party’s media propagandists reacted to Weiss’ appointment with feigned fury. Just weeks ago, right-wingers were denouncing Garland’s supposed refusal to grant Weiss special counsel status as evidence of the Biden administration’s corruption. But now that Garland has actually done it, that too is a signal of the Biden administration’s corruption — with some on the right even claiming Weiss is ineligible for the position.

Sean Hannity, the Trump adviser and GOP mouthpiece who also has a prime-time Fox News show, and Gregg Jarrett, the Fox contributor Hannity brings on to explain that Democrats are criminals and Republicans are not, showed how this game is played on Friday night.

Hannity opened his show by describing Garland’s appointment of Weiss as “a pathetic new sleight of hand from Biden’s clearly weaponized and politicized DOJ” and “a new strategy — yup — to help shield the big guy and the entire Biden family operation, but especially President Joe Biden.” He added that Weiss’ appointment may not be legal because special counsels are supposed to be appointed from outside government, citing Jarrett. After railing against the newly minted special counsel, Hannity concluded, “So let me be very clear: David Weiss is not to be trusted. This is a sham from the get-go.”

“I think this is a farce, more cover-up and corruption by Merrick Garland,” Jarrett added when Hannity brought him on later in the program. “The attorney general is not allowed to appoint David Weiss as special counsel. Under federal regulations, you can only appoint somebody outside the government because Weiss is conflicted.” Jarrett went on to call Weiss “the absolute last person on Earth who should be special counsel. This is the guy who effectively stopped the case. So, Sean, you know, the fix is in. It’s a sham.”

That’s not what Jarrett was telling Hannity back in April. Then, the story was that “the fix is in” because Garland had supposedly refused to grant Weiss special counsel status (Weiss denied this happened).

“You know, David Weiss, who wanted to file the charges against Hunter Biden, went to Merrick Garland and asked to have him elevated to special counsel status, to give him independence and autonomy which Garland promised in his testimony,” Jarrett said on the April 21 edition of Hannity. “What did Garland do? He said absolutely no. That tells you everything you need to know about this.”

As for Weiss’ eligibility to be named special counsel, the situation is nearly identical to Trump attorney general William Barr’s 2020 grant of that status to John Durham, the U.S. attorney whose investigation of the origins of the Russia probe the right trumpeted.

When that news was announced, Jarrett reacted by telling Hannity viewers, “This was a shrewd and smart move by Bill Barr. He’s essentially made John Durham Eliot Ness. He’s untouchable, giving him elevated status as special counsel. Remember, the A.G. is gone when a new administration comes in and so are the 93 U.S. attorneys, and Durham is one of those.”

That’s a revealing statement. Contrary to Jarrett, President Biden did not fire every U.S. attorney — he left Weiss in place to complete the investigation of his son. The move was one of several Joe Biden took in order to maintain the credibility of the justice system after his election. For that, he gets no credit from the likes of Hannity and Jarrett, as their interests are purely partisan and results-oriented. The integrity of the process doesn’t really matter — if it finds Republicans guilty or Democrats not guilty, it must be flawed.

For decades, Fox talking heads like Hannity and the rest of the right’s scandal machine have relied not just on keeping their audience perpetually angry — but on a pliant mainstream press willing to parrot their preposterous arguments as if they were offered in good faith.

They do not actually care about tax crimes. The GOP’s top policy priority is repealing funding for the IRS to target wealthy tax evaders, and right-wing personalities denounced potential new hires for that agency as President Biden’s “army,” “Gestapo,” and “Praetorian Guard.”

They do not actually care about politicized justice. Trump regularly used the justice system to target his political opponents, he and his presidential primary foes are openly running on ending the independence of the Justice Department from the White House, and his media allies regularly call for politically motivated prosecutions.

And they do not actually care about the purported corrupt dealings of members of a president’s family. The allegations regarding Hunter Biden pale in comparison to reporting about Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr., and his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who worked in his White House.

They are pretending to care, and reporters should not pretend to believe them.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Jesse Watters

In Wake Of New Trump Indictment, Fox News Mounts Frantic Defense

A federal grand jury indicted Donald Trump on Tuesday on criminal charges sought by special counsel Jack Smith in his examination of the January 6 insurrection. Of the three indictments filed this year against the former president, this latest set of alleged crimes includes the ones Fox News’ propagandists were most involved in enabling — and they quickly moved to denounce the charges in the hours after they were reported.

Trump is charged with four criminal counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights. The charges stemmed from his efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s efforts, in turn, depended on the complicity of right-wing media outlets like Fox to participate in his lies that the election had been rigged through massive voter fraud, which served as the pretextual justification for his scheme. This is particularly true for the fake elector scheme, which was widely promoted on Fox at the time.

Fox hosts don’t want Trump to face accountability. They support his bid to return to the White House, and they surely recognize that they bear some responsibility for his corrupt plot to retain power.

As news of the indictment broke, the co-hosts of The Five immediately set to work running cover for the former president, including absurdly claiming that the charges were an attempt to criminalize speech.

Jesse Watters, the network’s newly minted Tucker Carlson replacement at 8 p.m., argued that the charges were “overkill” and akin to “political war crimes.” He added a warning to Democrats, saying, “Payback is going to be a you know what. And you guys started it.”

JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): You have another thing. Greg said it. This is like lawfare, they call it. Legal warfare. If this was political, this would be, like, a political war crime. This is overkill. This is political germ warfare. These are political war crimes. It's an atrocity. It's, like, not just dropping one atomic bomb, you drop 15 dozen, Jessica. Enough is enough.

This is the establishment terrified of Donald Trump's reelection because of all the money that's going to dry up and all the influence. And you know what? They're terrified of the payback. And that's what this is about.

And what happens if you trigger a reelection by Donald Trump and he gets in there? You think he's not going to go after the Bidens? He might go after Dr. Jill at this point, after you've been rummaging through Melania's underwear drawer, turning his life upside down. Payback is going to be a you know what. And you guys started it.

The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed Trump -- whom he described as “probably one of the most consequential leaders of our lifetime” -- was being targeted by nefarious forces for “payback” due to his being an “outsider” who was “outside the box.”

GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): You know, I look at this stuff -- I, honestly, I just see again -- it's war -- it's lawfare. That's all there is -- we're not supposed to understand this. This is supposed to be out of our hands, out of our control.

Donald Trump is probably one of the most consequential leaders of our lifetime. He was outside the box. He didn't play well with others -- others being insiders. This is the payback. He's not one of the kids that -- he's not one of them. He's the outsider. So, this is just payback and it's going to elevate him even more.

Gutfeld also said that charging Trump for his attempt to overturn an election was effectively “criminalizing thoughts and it's criminalizing speech.” (The indictment makes clear that falsely claiming an election was stolen is not a crime; it’s the elaborate scheme to overturn the election results based on those lies that is at issue.)

Fox offered similarly unhinged demagoguery following both Trump’s first indictment, over his alleged participation in a scheme to pay off a porn star during the final days of the 2016 campaign to keep her from publicly claiming to have had an affair with him, and his second indictment, regarding his retention of government documents after leaving the White House.

Contrary to the frequent argument from the network’s hosts that prosecuting a former president is the sign of a “banana republic” in which the justice system is politicized, many other democracies have charged and convicted former leaders with crimes.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

RFK Jr. and Sean Hannity

When RFK Jr. Called For A Boycott Of 'Fascists' Like His New Pal Sean Hannity

Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has been feted by right-wing media figures in a transparent attempt to damage Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, previously called for advertiser boycotts against right-wing media figures he said were “lying to the American public” by denying climate change. The figures Kennedy called out — and later described as fascists — include Fox News host Sean Hannity, who hosted a town hall for the candidate on his Tuesday night broadcast.

Kennedy condemned Hannity and other “corporate toadies” who are “lying to you” during a speech at Live Earth New York on July 7, 2007.

“And so I'm going to tell you this,” he said, “that the next time you see John Stossel, or Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, these flat-Earthers, these corporate toadies, lying to you, lying to the American public, and telling you that global warming doesn't exist, you send an email to their advertisers and tell them you're not going to buy their products anymore.”

Hannity, who had previously jousted with Kennedy about climate change and the environment several times on his Fox show (then billed Hannity & Colmes), responded two nights later. He called Kennedy an “environmental extremist” and “a very angry man,” and went on to denounce the activist’s “incendiary rhetoric.”

The Fox host further criticized Kennedy for “taking a shot at me and everyone else who doesn't buy into his global warming hysteria” on his July 11, 2007, show. He also described him the following night as a “Learjet liberal” who is “very angry, very shrill” and “so arrogant and condescending.”

Kennedy subsequently went on Glenn Beck’s CNN Headline News program and said that he considered Beck, Hannity, and the other right-wing media figures he had criticized to be fascists.

During the July 12, 2007, interview, Beck said that “you call me a fascist for asking questions” and asked Kennedy to define the term.

“The American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as the domination of government by corporate power,” Kennedy replied. “You and John Stossel, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh have made yourselves the primary spokesman for the domination of corporate power over American government.”

Kennedy did not return to Hannity’s Fox show until after he launched his 2024 presidential campaign, according to a review of the Nexis database. The candidate joined Hannity on May 8 to discuss how, in the Fox host’s words, voters are “abandoning” Biden and instead giving Kennedy a “whopping 20 percent” in the polls.

Hannity, a staunch Trump supporter who served as one of his closest presidential advisers, has frequently touted Kennedy’s campaign. In June, after airing a clip of the candidate saying that there is a “humanitarian crisis” at the U.S. border with Mexico, Hannity commented, “Wow. That’s a Democrat.”

“RFK delivering a much needed dose of reality to the entire Democratic Party, all while gaining real support and sparking, quote, jitters inside of Biden’s orbit,” the Fox host continued. “He’s also against biological men in women’s sports, and was dead set against how the country was treated with regards to COVID, and his candidacy is getting very interesting.”

Hannity then contrasted Kennedy’s “strong performance” with “the weak, frail, and cognitive mess of a president Joe Biden.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s standing in the polls has deteriorated, in part because Democratic voters are becoming increasingly aware that his biggest supporters are Republicans like Hannity and his Fox colleagues.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Tucker Carlson

How Fox News Victimized A Trump Supporter To Entertain MAGA Bullies

Ray Epps, a Trump supporter whose lawyers filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News on Wednesday alleging that his life had been turned upside down by the network’s false claims about his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, is part of a disturbing pattern for the right-wing propaganda channel.

Fox’s desperate need to cater to its MAGA viewers leads inexorably to its propagandists pushing vile conspiracy theories that end up harming the regular people and companies targeted by its attacks. And when those ill-conceived salvos turn out to be duds, they get the network in legal trouble.

Epps’ lawsuit tells a powerful story about the network’s malfeasance.

“In the aftermath of the events of January 6th, Fox News searched for a scapegoat to blame other than Donald Trump or the Republican Party,” it states. “Eventually, they turned on one of their own, telling a fantastical story in which Ray Epps—who was a Trump supporter that participated in the protests on January 6th—was an undercover FBI agent and was responsible for the mob that violently broke into the Capitol and interfered with the peaceful transition of power for the first time in this country's history.”

The lawsuit details numerous instances in which Fox furthered these claims. Many — but hardly all — of them come from former network star Tucker Carlson, who was particularly obsessed with the Epps saga as he sought to generate a sinister, fraudulent alternate narrative in which the true victims of January 6 were its participants and its true villains the federal “agents provocateurs” he claimed generated the attack as a pretext to purge righteous conservative patriots.

Epps’ lawyers detail the “astronomical” toll he faced as an average person suddenly becoming one of the network’s main characters.

They write that Epps and his wife “received threatening voicemails, emails, and text messages,” including death threats, and they “found bullet casings in their yard.” As a result, they were forced to sell their home and give up the location of their wedding-site and dog-grooming businesses and are currently living in hiding in an RV.

“The emotional and psychological effects of the threats and attacks cannot be overstated,” the lawsuit states. ”Indeed, they may very well dwarf the economic consequences.”

Epps isn’t alone – he is merely the latest victim of Fox’s business model, which relies on keeping its right-wing viewers happy by providing a zealous defense of former President Donald Trump, no matter the cost. Typically, the network’s lies and deceptions go after high-profile people and entities: Democratic politicians, prominent figures in media or business, Fortune 500 companies, and the like.

But when people like Epps and low-profile businesses find themselves targeted in this manner, the impact can be staggering. They are hounded by the network’s fervent fans, leading to economic losses and psychological damage. And their recourse is to sue Fox, garnering some high-profile settlements. Here are a few recent cases.

The family of murdered DNC worker Seth Rich

In May 2017, then-President Trump triggered a media firestorm and a special counsel investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey over his handling of the federal probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Fox, led by Sean Hannity and aided by a right-wing political operative, responded by reviving the internet conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, rather than Russian hackers, had been the source of the Democratic National Committee emails WikiLeaks published during the election, and that his murder may have been in retaliation.

As Hannity put it, as an onscreen graphic read “Murder Mystery,” the Seth Rich story “could completely shatter the narrative that in fact WikiLeaks was working with the Russians, or there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

Fox’s dishonest, politically motivated coverage reopened the wounds that members of Rich’s family had suffered when he was murdered and his tragic death was seized upon by would-be online sleuths. His brother and parents publicly pleaded for the lies to stop, with the latter writing they were “living in a nightmare that you can never wake up from.” They ultimately sued Fox for emotional distress, with the network eventually settling for a reported seven-figure sum.

Dominion Voting Systems

Fox served as a megaphone for Trumpian lies that the 2020 election was rigged against him in the weeks following his defeat. The network’s hosts and executives knew such claims were false but promoted them anyway in the hopes of keeping their viewers happy. As part of that effort, Fox targeted the little-known election technology company Dominion Voting Systems on numerous occasions, pushing a variety of conspiracy theories -- including claiming that Dominion is a Venezuelan company created at the behest of Hugo Chavez that changed the votes to prevent Trump’s victory.

In one instance, Fox’s Jeanine Pirro hosted Sidney Powell (a Trump lawyer numerous Fox hosts privately agreed was not credible), who on the basis of such lies alleged that Dominion is “one huge, huge criminal conspiracy that should be investigated by military intelligence for its national security implications.” Pirro replied, “Yes, and hopefully, the Department of Justice but who knows anymore.”

Dominion subsequently filed a defamation suit against Fox, arguing that the network’s coverage had led to the stalking and harassment of its employees and “enormous and irreparable economic harm” to its business. Fox settled immediately before the start of the trial for a record $787.5 million.


Smartmatic, another voting technology company, faced a similar assault from Fox in the wake of the 2020 election. While the company’s products were used in only a single county in the 2020 election, the network’s personalities alleged that they were widely used and a source of substantial fraud used to “steal” it from Trump.

Fox’s Maria Bartiromo claimed at one point that according to a single source, “the key point to understand is that the Smartmatic system has a back door that allows it to be, or that allows the votes to be mirrored and monitored, allowing an intervening party a real-time understanding of how many votes will be needed to gain an electoral advantage.”

Smartmatic has sued Fox for $2.7 billion, claiming that its “disinformation campaign had a direct and harmful impact on Smartmatic’s ability to conduct business in the United States and around the world now and in the future.” Fox has begun providing documents to the company and the trial is expected to begin in a New York state courtroom in 2025.

Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss

Fox’s 2020 election fraud lies were not limited to voter technology companies: In December 2020, the network turned the full power of its propaganda apparatus against two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.

The Trump campaign put out a video compiling security footage of Freeman and Moss engaged in normal ballot tabulation procedures and falsely alleged the footage showed the pair counting fraudulent ballots that had been concealed in suitcases in order to change the result. Fox hosts quickly adopted the Trump team’s false interpretation and trumpeted it to their millions of viewers.

“In the middle of the night, they kick the observers out, then they went back and kept looking at ballots. They’re finding them under the tables. I mean, this is like a banana republic,” prime-time host Laura Ingraham alleged.

Moss, in June 2022 testimony before the January 6 House select committee, explained that she and Freeman had been suffering through a wave of harassment ever since they became the targets of right-wing conspiracy theorists.

“This turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. ... I don't want anyone knowing my name," Moss said. "I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I've gained about 60 pounds. I just don't do nothing anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies, for me doing my job -- same thing I've been doing forever.”

The utter lack of quality control at Fox, and its devotion to coddling its right-wing viewers, makes incidents like these inevitable. And the network seems largely uninterested in avoiding them: Fox ignores or buries debunks of its lies, has retained and even promoted key figures in these smears, and is treating its defamation problem as a matter of poor lawyering.

Fox’s current weakened position will exacerbate the network's defamation problem. The network is vulnerable now, as it was in the aftermath of the 2020 election, facing depressed ratings and a horde of right-wing rivals hoping to sap its audience by attacking it. That will once again increase pressure on its commentators to adopt ever-more-extreme and irresponsible rhetoric in order to rebuild its viewership. And that means that Epps’ day in court with Fox may be on the way — but he won’t be the last.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Gal Luft

Fugitive GOP 'Informant' Luft Is Right-Wing Media's Latest Broken Toy

Within the right-wing echo chamber, the evidence that will finally expose the corruption of Democrats and their deep state pawns is always on the way, yet tantalizingly out of reach. Gal Luft, the House Oversight Committee “informant” and indicted fugitive, is just the latest source.

It goes like this: Republican politicians will trumpet some new document or witness, and their propagandists will puff it up as a game-changer, the final piece of the puzzle. But when the right’s heavily touted sources are finally revealed, they do not move — and then all the same players settle on a new Macguffin and restart the cycle.

This pattern has played out an untold number of times over the past six years. Republican politicians want to get booked on Fox, right-wing media personalities want to fill airtime and column inches, and both need ways to defend Donald Trump, attack his predecessor, and excite the base. Just wait, they tell their audiences. Wait until you see the text messages revealing the FBI’s anti-Trump “secret society.” Or Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo. Or Richard Grenell’s “unmasking” list. Or special counsel John Durham’s report. Or the Biden bribery tapes. Then the perfidy of our enemies will be unveiled, and they’ll finally get their comeuppance.

Yet another of those Macguffins imploded on Monday when federal prosecutors announced charges against Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who helms a Maryland-based think tank and had been touted on the right as a “whistleblower” who would expose President Joe Biden’s corrupt ties to China. The prosecutors accused Luft of “multiple international criminal schemes,” including serving as an unregistered agent of the Chinese government, and said that he had been arrested in February, but jumped bail and is currently a fugitive from justice.

Rep. James Comer, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, caused a stir in May when he revealed during a Fox interview that an “informant” his committee had been working with regarding purported corrupt Biden business dealings in China had vanished.

“Unfortunately, we can’t track down the informant,” Comer told Maria Bartiromo. “We’re hopeful that the informant is still there.”

Last week, that “informant” reemerged — in a 14-minute recording provided exclusively to New York Post columnist Miranda Devine, a Trump favorite and Fox contributor who is the author of a book about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

In the “extraordinary video,” Devine writes, Luft “claims he was arrested in Cyprus to stop him from testifying to the House Oversight Committee that the Biden family received payments from individuals with alleged ties to Chinese military intelligence and that they had an FBI mole who shared classified information with their benefactors from the China-controlled energy company CEFC.”

She adds that “[i]t remains to be seen whether Luft is the man who will bring down the Bidens, but he is not going quietly into the sunset” and that he is denying all the charges against him.

The Luft video drew a new storm of coverage on the right as Devine made the rounds on Fox and elsewhere talking up her story. It led Fox’s The Ingraham Angle, with guest host Pete Hegseth highlighting the “explosive allegations” and praising Devine for her “fantastic scoop.”

And the right quickly began working the press to treat the story with credulity. “Media silence on key would-be witness Gal Luft’s Biden revelations speaks volumes,” wrote the Post’s editorial board. “Dr. Luft released a video making pretty damning allegations against President Biden and his son Hunter. And yet in the media? Crickets,” Megyn Kelly complained on her podcast.

Then on Monday, the Justice Department unsealed the charges against Luft. As CNN reported, he “was charged with failing to register as an agent for China in the US, including in 2016 acting through a former high-ranking US official who was then advising President-elect Donald Trump. He was also charged with acting as a middleman to aid Chinese companies buying weapons. The indictment also alleges Luft violated US sanctions by attempting to broker sales of Iranian oil.”

Luft gave the right a ready-made excuse and they are deploying it, decrying the fugitive as an innocent victim of the purportedly weaponized Justice Department. The charges make it seem somewhat less likely, however, that Luft will be the one to finally crack the case against Biden.

But don’t worry, this isn’t over yet. You see, I hear there’s an FBI FD-1023 form out there that will change everything…

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Hunter Biden

Right-Wing Media Furious Over GOP Prosecutor's Plea Deal With Hunter Biden

News broke on Tuesday morning that federal prosecutors have charged Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, with two misdemeanor counts of failure to pay taxes and one count of felony gun possession. Under a plea agreement, he reportedly plans to plead guilty to the tax charges and enter a pre-trial diversion program that would expunge the gun crime. The agreement comes amid an ongoing five-year probe of Hunter Biden’s business dealings and finances and shows that the United States is a nation of laws in which even the president’s son can be investigated and prosecuted for violations.

But right-wing media figures, desperate for pretexts they can use to weaponize the justice system, are responding to the news by moving the goalposts. They are claiming that the charges and punishment are insufficient and show the president’s son received special treatment — apparently from the Trump-appointed Republican prosecutor in charge of the case.

The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro previously denounced last week’s federal indictment of former President Donald Trump for illicitly retaining government documents and related charges, arguing that the prosecution of a Republican political leader under a Democratic president is inherently politically charged.

“The only way that you actually restore the credibility of the justice system is to have Republicans prosecute Republicans and Democrats prosecute Democrats,” Shapiro claimed. “If the basic line here is that Republicans are just supposed to accept that Republicans who are guilty of crimes get indicted, and Democrats who are guilty of crimes get slots on CNN and MSNBC, that is not a workable solution for anyone.”

“At the very least,” Shapiro added, at the same time charges were announced against Trump, Attorney General “Merrick Garland could have said we’re also bringing charges against Hunter. Right? That would have shielded — because Hunter is clearly guilty of a bevy of crimes, up to and including violation of gun law.”

He concluded, “The only way to restore the credibility of the institution is even-handed application of justice against your own side.”

Here we are a week later, and charges have been filed against Hunter Biden — during his father’s presidency — including the “violation of gun law” Shapiro had singled out.

Does Shapiro think that this shows “even-handed application of justice against your own side” that will “restore the credibility of the justice system”? Of course not.

Shapiro began criticizing the results within minutes as insufficiently punitive and a sign of preferential treatment for the president’s son.

Others on the right offered similar takes on the “sweetheart plea deal.”

Meanwhile, journalists with greater insight into the charges reported that Hunter Biden is actually being treated relatively harshly for the crimes of which he was accused. NBC News justice reporter Ryan J. Reilly noted that the gun charge against Hunter Biden “is very rarely brought” by prosecutors. And The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger pointed out that Trump crony Roger Stone and his wife were not criminally charged when they settled an unpaid taxes case with the Justice Department over a larger sum.

It’s worth recalling the steps Joe Biden took in order to maintain the credibility of the justice system when he took office three years into the probe of his son, as they show the weakness of the right wing’s argument.

President Biden left in place FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump-appointed Republican. It is traditional for FBI directors to serve out their 10-year term unimpeded — but Trump violated that tradition by firing James Comey over his handling of the Russia probe as that inquiry touched on his own associates.

Joe Biden also retained David Weiss, the Republican prosecutor who was overseeing the probe and ultimately filed the charges against Hunter Biden, as U.S. attorney in Delaware. Incoming presidents traditionally replace U.S. attorneys when they take office, and while Biden did so for most of Trump’s appointees, he left Weiss in place to complete the investigation of his son.

Apparently, those Republicans are in on the effort to let Hunter Biden off easy.

The right doesn’t seem to care about the legal process — they care about the results. Their aim is the destruction of the independence of federal law enforcement in favor of a weaponized justice system, and they will keep creating new pretexts until they get it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Donald Trump

Trump's Captive Media Demands Politicized Justice

Donald Trump conceives of justice as what happens when the law punishes his enemies and protects himself and his allies, and he has spent the last eight years urging his supporters to view investigations through that lens. The former president frequently denounces his critics as criminals, calls for their prosecutions, and claims that he and his cronies have done nothing wrong. When the justice system disagrees, he assails it as corrupt.

The pro-Trump media response to his Tuesday arraignment on federal criminal charges shows how thoroughly this narrative has infested their thinking. Right-wing pundits have excoriated the decision to prosecute Trump over mishandling government documents as politically motivated, and pointed to the lack of prosecutions for Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden as evidence of a two-tiered justice system. And they’ve adopted Trump’s own view that the Justice Department should serve the will of the president by attributing to Joe Biden, without evidence, the special counsel’s decision to file charges against his predecessor.

It is true that federal investigations involving Trump and his cronies have repeatedly led to prosecutions, while probes of Clinton and Hunter Biden have dragged on or fizzled without charges. But what Trump’s propagandists ignore is that all of these investigations have involved oversight from one or more high-ranking Republicans — at times including those appointed by Trump; in several, key decisions were made while Trump was in office; and Democratic political appointees involved in the cases repeatedly acted to reduce any appearance of coercion.

Under the cover of critiquing the process of these investigations, the real complaint from Trump’s media allies is squarely over their results. In their view, by definition, if probes lead to charges against Trump but not his opponents, they must be unjust.

Fox anchor Martha MacCallum provided a case study in this motivated reasoning during a fiery back-and-forth with contributor Juan Williams shortly after Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. She rejected Williams’ effort to distinguish between the Trump documents probe, which resulted in an indictment, and the probe of Clinton’s use of a private server, which did not. And then she suggested that Americans are right to think that only political partisanship explains such decisions.

“You seem to be able to just say, ‘Oh, everybody did what they were supposed to do there,’ but the problem is that half the country sees investigations as either politically sunk or politically elevated depending on the winds that happen to be backing them,” MacCallum said. “So you might have confidence that those cases were investigated clearly. A lot of Americans don't have that confidence. They see, my goodness, so how could it take five years to investigate Hunter Biden's taxes and what's on a laptop? Can you explain that to me? What is taking five years, Juan, if it isn't back-burnered?”

Such sentiments are everywhere on the right. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro went so far as to call for a completely unworkable system in which the Justice Department explicitly and deliberately only prosecutes members of the president’s party, saying, “The only way that you actually restore the credibility of the justice system is to have Republicans prosecute Republicans and Democrats prosecute Democrats."

A Fox chyron that night referring to Joe Biden read, “Wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested” — dangerously inflammatory language which suggests that Trump’s prosecution can only be explained as the president’s doing.

But the federal investigations of Trump, Clinton, and Hunter Biden actually show something very different from the right’s overwrought claims that Democrats are prosecuting Republicans while letting Democrats off the hook. In fact, those cases show that when Republicans and Trump appointees investigate Republicans the probes have led to criminal charges, and when Republicans and Trump appointees investigate Democrats they have not. And when Democrats held the presidency during such investigations, the party’s leaders and political appointees bent over backward to avoid impropriety.

Trump documents probe: Launched under Republican FBI director appointed by Trump, prosecuted by independent special counsel. The FBI opened its investigation of Trump’s handling of government documents in March 2022 under the leadership of Director Christopher Wray, a Republican appointed to that post by Trump who had previously served as a political appointee in the Justice Department during the presidency of George W. Bush. After Trump declared his candidacy for president, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith, a political independent who had prosecuted politicians of both parties as head of the Justice Department’s political corruption unit, to oversee the case as special counsel, walling it off from political pressure. President Biden reportedly found out Smith had filed charges through news reports and has ordered the Democratic National Committee and his reelection campaign not to mention Trump’s prosecution.

Hunter Biden probe: Launched under Trump-appointed Republicans, currently overseen by a Trump-appointed Republican. MacCallum complained that the federal probe of Hunter Biden’s business dealings has gone five years without reaching a conclusion and suggested partisanship explains the delay — but the bulk of that time was during the Trump administration. The probe launched in 2018, when the FBI was headed by Wray and the Justice Department by the Trump-appointed Republican Jeff Sessions, and continued through the tenure of the Trump-appointed Republican Attorney General William Barr. After Joe Biden’s election, he retained David Weiss, the Republican prosecutor overseeing the probe, as U.S. attorney in Delaware rather than replacing him as he did most of Trump’s appointees.

Clinton email server probe: Launched and closed without charges under Republican FBI director. The FBI, headed at the time by Director James Comey, a Republican, opened an investigation in 2015 into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. After Loretta Lynch, the Obama-appointed attorney general, publicly said she would accept the FBI’s recommendations as to whether to prosecute the case, Comey recommended no charges, saying, “Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” That judgment was apparently ratified by the Trump-appointed FBI and Justice Department leadership, which did not reopen the case and charge Clinton.

Clinton Foundation probe: Launched under Republican FBI director, closed without charges at end of Trump administration. Under Comey and fellow Republican Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the FBI opened an investigation in 2016 into the Clinton Foundation’s dealings with foreign donors during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The probe continued through the Trump administration under his political appointees at the FBI and Justice Department, “long past when F.B.I. agents and prosecutors knew it was a dead end,” and was ultimately closed without charges in the final days of his administration.

Clinton Uranium One probe: Trump-appointed Republican AG assigned case to Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who investigated and closed the case without charges. Sessions selected John Huber, a U.S. attorney appointed by Trump, to investigate Clinton’s purportedly criminal role in the U.S. government's decision not to block the sale of the company known as Uranium One. After a two-year probe, Huber concluded his work without recommending any criminal charges.

Trump Russia probe: Launched under Republican FBI director, prosecuted by Republican special counsel selected by Republican Trump appointee. The Comey/McCabe FBI opened the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the efforts by Trump associates to aid that interference. After Trump fired Comey, citing his handling of the probe, Rod Rosenstein, the Trump-appointed Republican serving as deputy attorney general, appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel overseeing the case. Mueller, a Republican, had served as a political appointee in the Justice Department of President George H.W. Bush and was appointed FBI director by President George W. Bush. Mueller successfully prosecuted several top Trump aides and developed substantial evidence of obstruction by Trump.

The throughline of these cases is that federal prosecutors — even Republican ones — don’t find either the right-wing media’s conspiracy theories about Democratic criminality or their furious declarations of Republican innocence to be legally compelling arguments.

When the results of those probes don’t match Trump’s expectations, he denounces Republicans like Comey, McCabe, Wray, and Mueller — and Fox and the rest of the right-wing press follows his lead.

And so Republicans end up declaring that the FBI, long a conservative bastion, needs to be shut down because the results of its investigations don’t match the political expectations of Trump and his propagandists.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Sean Hannity

'Dark Day': Fox Responds To Trump Indictment With Unhinged Demagoguery

Former President Donald Trump has been indicted — again — and Fox News personalities are once more rallying behind him. In the hours after news broke that Trump is facing seven federal criminal charges over his mishandling of federal documents, his loyal propagandists denounced the indictment as a “dark day in America” and an attack on American democracy and the rule of law.

Trump wrote on social media Thursday evening that he had been indicted over his mishandling of classified documents. The New York Times later reported that Trump “was charged with a total of seven counts, including willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and an obstruction of justice conspiracy, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Trump had taken government documents with him when he left office and refused to return them, leading to an August search of his Mar-a-Lago resort in which the FBI uncovered a trove of documents bearing classification markings, some at the “top secret” level. Special counsel Jack Smith has been investigating the former president’s conduct for months.

Trump is the first former president ever to face federal criminal charges and is expected to surrender in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday. The charges were not a surprise — even Trump’s own former attorney general Bill Barr had repeatedly acknowledged that the former president’s own conduct put him in serious legal jeopardy.

But on Fox, host Jesse Watters announced the news by saying that “the president, former, calls it the boxes hoax” and suggesting that the indictment was an attempt to distract attention from the House GOP’s investigations of President Joe Biden.

The situation rapidly devolved from there. Over the following hours, Fox’s hosts and the menagerie of Trump cronies and sycophants the network put on the air unleashed unhinged demagoguery.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba called it evidence that we live in a “sick world” with “a two-tier system of justice,” citing the lack of legal punishment for Biden, his son Hunter, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

Former Trump aide Stephen Miller claimed that “history will record today as the day that we ceased to be a democratic republic and we became a people ruled by an unelected government bureaucracy.”

Former Trump acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker called it “a really sad day for our country” and “the stuff of banana republics.”

For right-wing activist Ned Ryun, it was “late-stage republic behavior. When you use the legal system as a weapon against political opponents, you’ve abandoned the rule of law.”

“What’s going on here is a disgusting disgrace. It is war on Trump, it is war on the Republican Party, and it is a war on the republic,” Fox host Mark Levin screamed. “You have crossed the Rubicon twice, which has never been done, and we will never forgive you — never, ever, and that’s the bottom line,” he added.

“It is a dark day in America,” concluded longtime Trump adviser and Fox host Sean Hannity. “There is no equal justice. There is no equal application of our laws.” He added, “Our system of justice has now been weaponized beyond belief and this country is in serious trouble."

Fox’s furious denunciations may have taken the issue off the table for Trump’s would-be presidential rivals. When Fox’s Harris Faulkner brought on Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is theoretically running for president against Trump, to discuss the indictment, she asked him, “The bottom line is, you’re a Republican, this was a Republican president, and look at what has happened. Your reaction?” Scott took the hint and issued a rambling response that avoided directly criticizing Trump.

Fox’s over-the-top response is familiar. While some have suggested that the network and its Murdoch owners have turned on the former president, Fox always rises to Trump’s defense at his moments of legal peril.

The network’s stars were similarly furious in March, when Trump was indicted on 34 charges of falsifying business records in a New York state court in connection with the $130,000 hush money payment made to an adult film actress in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. They urged viewers to treat the charges as an attack on the U.S. Constitution, American democracy, the rule of law, and themselves, while denouncing the prosecutor and his purported “witch hunt.”

Likewise, when news first broke of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the Trumpists at Fox denounced it as “the worst attack on this republic in modern history” and part of a “preemptive coup” to prevent Trump’s reelection, among other incendiary claims, with hosts urging viewers to believe that “the real target of this investigation is you.”

The throughline is that any legal attack on Trump is inherently corrupt and a signal that America has been lost — and that, if Trump is brought down, Fox’s viewers may be next.

Trump needs the powerful propaganda apparatus of Fox to keep his supporters in line and his primary opponents at bay, and the network’s hosts and executives are happy to oblige. But we’ve seen the disastrous consequences that can come from Fox’s overheated rhetoric in the former president’s service.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters