There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.
If you're a conservative who wants to impeach President Obama, time is running out. You need to give Allen West money, and quickly. It's an "emergency."
In a series of emails sent to subscribers in recent weeks, Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman Allen West has implored people to donate to his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, in order to hasten Obama's impeachment. And West isn't alone -- numerous conservative media figures and political groups are looking to cash in on Obama's supposedly impending impeachment through donations, books, and various impeachment merchandise.
Right-wing media have been pushing for Obama's impeachment for more than five years over a wide range of issues, but impeachment chatter got a boost earlier this July when Sarah Palin penned an opinion piece for Breitbart.com. She called for Obama's removal from office, arguing that the president's "unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'no mas.'" She reiterated her call on Fox's Hannity, telling viewers it was time to "get going" on impeachment.
While numerous members of the conservative noise machine are agitating for impeachment, not everyone is on board. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, for one, thinks "impeachment would be crazy" at the moment.
But regardless of whether impeachment is good politics for conservatives, it's starting to look like good business.
After years of conservative media figures agitating for congressional Republicans to impeach President Obama, today House Speaker John Boehner announced plans to sue the president for not "faithfully executing the laws of this country."
Discussing the suit -- which would be filed on behalf of the House of Representatives -- Boehner claimed that it was "not about impeachment." But in a piece for The New Republic, Brian Beutler argues that conservatives' push to stir up outrage over Obama has led Republicans to seek a "relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment":
Having created a clamor within the GOP conference, and the conservative base, over Obama's use of executive power, Republicans now must satisfy the consequent appetite to do something about it. Suing Obama is meant to do that. The goal is to be head-turning enough to simultaneously address coalition management obligations--calm restive conservatives, keep the base energized--and serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment.
The risk is that it'll whet rather than diminish the right's appetite for impeachment. But Boehner doesn't have much choice. You can't gin up this much outrage over Obama's actions, and then do nothing to stop him, when the Constitution provides you so many tools to do just that.
Much of the building pressure for impeachment has come not only from congressional Republicans, but from conservative media figures, whose calls for impeachment have been a steady drumbeat since Obama took office.
Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now-shuttered Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World, was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications, concluding a lengthy trial focused on criminal activity at the British paper. According to the Associated Press, fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted.
Coulson and fellow former News of the World employees Brooks, Kuttner, and royal editor Clive Goodman were on trial for charges stemming their alleged roles in the tabloid's widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories. The scandal became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.
Brooks' personal assistant Cheryl Carter, her husband Charlie, and Mark Hanna, a former security official for News International, were "acquitted of perverting the course of justice by attempting to hide evidence from police."
The AP reports that the jury is "still considering two further charges of paying officials for royal phone directories against Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman."
While the hacking allegations gathered steam in 2011, News of the World, which had been operating for 168 years, was shut down.
*Update: Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh also expressed skepticism about Klein's reporting.
Ed Klein, the utterly discredited "reporter" who once forwarded an allegation that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary, is back once again with a new book. Though his credibility is completely beyond repair after years of trafficking in lazy inaccuracies and salacious gossip, Klein is once again getting a boost from some conservative media outlets.
In Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, Klein details the "personal animosity" and "the jealousy and antipathy that divides the two most powerful Democratic families in the country." If that sounds like the kind of book that conservative daydreams are made of, you're not far off. Klein's books are basically designed as a series of pre-packaged headlines for the Drudge Report (indeed, a supposed Klein scoop from Blood Feud about Hillary Clinton's purported terrible state of health is leading Drudge's site as of this writing).
Inevitably -- as they do with every Klein book, despite clear concerns about his credibility -- Fox News is devoting airtime to one of Klein's big new scoops. But Klein's sourcing is so sketchy that even Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade is calling foul.
On the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts broadcast Klein's allegation -- which was also reprinted in the New York Post -- that President Obama forced then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to blame the Benghazi attacks on a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist attack, despite her better judgment.
According to Klein, Obama called Clinton the night of the attack to issue the directive. She then allegedly called her husband and discussed "various doomsday scenarios," including her potential resignation.
Quoting from Klein's book, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck recounted alleged lines from the conversation between Bill and Hillary Clinton, wherein the former president lamented how Obama "isn't going to allow anyone to say that terrorism has occurred on his watch."
This too-good-to-be-true sourcing -- which, it should be noted, is the defining characteristic of everything Ed Klein writes -- was called out by Brian Kilmeade, who asked, "Now, who is his source? Chelsea? I mean, how would you possibly get in between them?"
Doocy answered, "According to the book, it is one of Hillary Clinton's legal advisers gave this information to Mr. Klein."
The Fox hosts threw more cold water on Klein's story, citing conservative activist and former Republican congressional candidate Kenneth Timmerman to explain that the timing of Klein's storyline makes no sense. Rather than blame Klein's shoddy reporting, Doocy instead cited Timmerman to explain, "The reason the people reached out to Ed Klein and are pushing this fake story is simply to preserve and save her chance to run for president." (Salon writer and former Media Matters employee Simon Maloy further lays out how Klein's Benghazi report is nonsensical and botches basic details.)
Klein has a history of shoddy work that has been repeatedly called out by conservative commentators, but he nonetheless gets free promotion from conservative outlets when he releases new books.
Following the announcement that U.S. Special Operations forces had captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News' coverage has been notable for a word that's been missing.
Since 2012, Fox News has referred to numerous Benghazi reports -- which typically just rehash their tired smears about the attacks -- as "bombshells." But in the hour after news of the arrest, nobody at the network has called the latest development a "bombshell."* (Instead, Fox is busy questioning the timing of the arrest.)
Here's a video demonstrating Fox's use of "bombshell" to describe everything but a major development in the story:
*Based on a transcript search of Media Matters' internal video archive.
Conservatives have responded to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by attacking his father, questioning President Obama's sanity and patriotism, and calling for impeachment.
Several conservative media figures are floating the idea of impeaching President Obama over the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Numerous right-wing activists, media figures, and politicians have been trying to drum up a reason to impeach Obama ever since he took office more than five years ago. National Review writer and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy released a new book today on subject, endeavoring to explain the "political case" for impeaching the president. In making his case, McCarthy rehashes a wide number of well-worn supposed scandals from the Obama administration. Fittingly, McCarthy has also been at the forefront of the latest calls for impeachment, arriving right as his book hits the shelves.
In comments on June 2 to the Daily Mail's website, the Mail Online, McCarthy reportedly called the exchange of Taliban figures for Bergdahl a "high crime and misdemeanor," because, he claimed, the administration did not sufficiently notify Congress of the planned transfer. The Mail article was quickly highlighted on the Drudge Report.
Appearing on Fox & Friends the next morning, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Obama "may very well have committed a federal crime by giving material assistance to a terrorist organization." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy responded by plugging McCarthy's book and pointing to his comments to the Mail Online about impeachment. Napolitano added that it was a "very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about."
Later in the day, Fox News' Outnumbered host Sandra Smith asked "does this become an impeachable offense" and highlighted Napolitano's claim that "this breaks federal law."
Fox News contributor Allen West posted on his website, "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama." He continued, "I submit that Barack Hussein Obama's unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult -- mandated by law -- with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense."
With the outsized vitriol Barack Obama's presidency has inspired among conservatives, it's seemed inevitable that the right would try to find some reason to impeach him. For more than five years, fringe activists, conservative media, and various Republican politicians have invoked the specter of impeachment over any number of manufactured scandals and supposed outrages. In a new book out today, National Review writer and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy tries to kickstart the movement in earnest, laying out the "political case" for impeaching the president.
Writing in the New Republic in 2010, liberal journalist Jonathan Chait predicted that if Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and Obama won a second term, "the House will vote to impeach him before he leaves office." He continued, "Wait, you say. What will they impeach him over? You can always find something." Indeed, for much of Obama's presidency, the prospect of impeachment has been a hammer in search of a nail.
While fringe activists have been agitating for impeachment for years, more mainstream conservatives have been considerably more reluctant.
In Faithless Execution: Building The Political Case For Obama's Impeachment, McCarthy tries to bridge the gap and build support for impeachment as a serious idea. The crux of McCarthy's argument is that despite what he sees as the rock-solid legal justification for impeaching Obama, Republicans cannot move forward with the effort without first convincing the public that removing the president from office is the right course of action. To do so without public backing would "look like partisan hackery. It would be worse than futile."
Slate's David Weigel explained in a piece last month about Republicans' recent push to impeach Obama "without looking crazy" that many of the supposed impeachable offenses highlighted in McCarthy's book have already "faded under the klieg lights of big media." (Though Weigel points out that McCarthy "puts some of the blame for that on Republicans" and their timidity over the issue of impeachment.)
While he's ostensibly trying to jumpstart popular support for removing Obama from office, McCarthy's book seems unlikely to win any new converts -- it's just more preaching to people already in the conservative media bubble (the first reference to frequent right-wing boogeyman Saul Alinsky comes in the third paragraph and the first invocation of "ACORN" follows shortly thereafter).
Half of Faithless Execution is comprised of McCarthy's draft Articles of Impeachment. The supposed outrages in the book are a mix of ongoing focuses of conservative ire -- "The Benghazi Fraud," and "The Obamacare Fraud," for example -- and long-forgotten Scandals of the Month like the "racially discriminatory" Justice Department's treatment of the New Black Panther Party. If all of these pseudo-scandals that conservatives flogged relentlessly weren't enough to keep Obama from winning a second term, it's hard to envision the public deciding they constitute justification for impeachment thanks to a reinvigorated push from Republicans.
Update: Faithless Execution's release comes amid a new wave of conservative calls for impeachment. This morning, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Obama "may very well have committed a federal crime" with the release of Bowe Bergdahl. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy responded by plugging McCarthy's book, and Napolitano highlighted McCarthy's comments to the Mail Online suggesting potential impeachment over Bergdahl. Napolitano added, "it's a very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about." A few hours later, Fox News program Outnumbered returned to the impeachment subject, with host Sandra Smith asking, "does this become an impeachable offense?" Fellow Fox contributor Allen West was more forceful, posting on his website, "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama."*
McCarthy concedes in the book, "As things currently stand, the public does not support impeachment -- no surprise, given that no substantial argument for impeachment has been attempted."
Whether or not McCarthy sees any of the other arguments as "substantial," the prospect of impeaching Obama has been a regular source of discussion for conservatives since shortly after the president took office. McCarthy's isn't even the first book to try to lay out the argument in serious fashion -- last year WND writer Aaron Klein and co-author Brenda Elliott released Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office.
Media Matters looks back at some -- but far from all -- of conservatives' incessant calls for impeachment below.