On the list of "Most Shameless Political Hacks in America," Fox News political analyst and former Bush adviser Karl Rove certainly ranks near the top.
In recent years, when he hasn't been rewriting history to shelter his former boss from any responsibility for the current state of the country or forwarding the GOP Smear of the Day, Rove has spent much of his time attacking Obama and Democrats for doing precisely the types of things the Bush administration and Republicans did during Bush's tenure in the White House.
It's a sad commentary on the state of Fox News that someone with Rove's storied history of dishonesty has seemingly emerged as a voice of reason at the network.
On Friday night, Rove went on Greta Van Susteren's show and labeled Donald Trump a "joke candidate" who is "off there in the nutty right" due to his "full embrace of the birther issue." Rove's harsh words place him at odds with several of his Fox colleagues.
For a nice contrast, watch some of the interview that Sean Hannity conducted with Trump that aired on Hannity just before Rove's interview with Greta, during which Hannity helped Trump promote his birtherism. Hannity later attributed Trump's popularity to his "torpedos of truth" and the fact that Trump is taking on "controversial issues." He also aired graphics like this one during his show:
Hannity certainly hasn't been alone in his Trump boosterism at Fox. This morning, during Trump's regular Monday segment on Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy dipped his toe into the birther swamp by saying that Obama "could end" birtherism "simply" by releasing his birth certificate.
Fox's senior vice president of business news Neil Cavuto has defended Trump as a serious presidential candidate and declared that "we could do worse." Cavuto thinks Trump "talks like a boxer" and is "frank."
During an appearance on Fox & Friends Saturday this morning, Fox News host and putative Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was asked about Donald Trump's soaring poll numbers and Karl Rove's comments on Greta Van Susteren's show last night that Trump is a "joke candidate":
Setting aside the ethical problems inherent in Fox News hosting one of their own employees to discuss the poll numbers of one of his potential GOP primary opponents, Huckabee's comments about Trump's birtherism are notable. According to Huckabee, who doesn't "think the birther issue is a good issue" and doesn't "agree with it," people aren't "rallying behind Donald Trump because of the birther issue."
But the PPP poll that Huckabee and the Fox crew were discussing tells a different story.
According to PPP's write-up, "only 38% of Republican primary voters say they're willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory." Among that 38%, Trump polls third (with 17%) behind both Romney and Huckabee.
Trump's numbers are considerably better among those who are "not sure" whether they could support someone who outright rejects birtherism, and soar among the 23% of GOP primary voters who say they are only willing to vote for a birther. Among the latter group, Trump's support hits 37%, nearly 24 points higher than the 2nd place finishers (Huckabee and Palin in a tie).
While Trump's birtherism doesn't explain his entire appeal to GOP primary voters, it certainly seems to help him immensely. And Huckabee's own network - and Sean Hannity in particular - has played a large role in promoting Trump and moving the inane, discredited birther conspiracy from chain emails and WorldNetDaily articles into the Republican mainstream.
When walking infomercial Dick Morris visited Florida last October, he reportedly said that GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott "is a criminal who belongs in jail not the governor's office." Asked about Scott's opponent, Alex Sink, Morris reportedly said "She's a terrible candidate... her opponent is a criminal."
As reported by The Hill, Morris also told conservative magazine NewsMax last July that Scott is "not the tea party candidate" because he "fleeced and robbed the federal government and the taxpayers." He added that "the only way" Scott is "qualified to be governor is that he's very experienced -- he stole from the taxpayers once, so he's really experienced, and he'll steal from them again."
But that was months ago, long before Morris had a new book to sell about how to "translate this avalanche of votes" for the GOP in the 2010 election "into power and action in Washington."
In a post on his blog hawking his latest book, Morris listed Scott among the "reform Governors" who are "leading a movement for fundamental change in America."
Morris also listed Scott among his chosen "courageous governors" in his column outlining the "GOP's budget dream team" for The Hill this week.
What a difference a few months (and a new book) make.
This morning, Fox & Friends hosted "renowned Christian minister and author" John Hagee to promote his latest book and discuss, in host Gretchen Carlson's words, if America "is heading to a disaster it cannot survive."
Carlson interviewed Hagee for several minutes about Israel and the national debt, while chyrons like "On The Path To Disaster: Geopolitical & Economical [sic] Storms Brewing" appeared on-screen.
At the end of the segment, Carlson plugged Hagee's book, Can America Survive?, as "great" and said to him that "you also touch on the religion in your book."
"Touch on the religion" doesn't quite cover it.
As we detailed last year when Glenn Beck plugged Hagee's book (note: Hagee was appearing today to promote the "updated" version), Can America Survive? is about how the world is fast-approaching Biblical Armageddon. Hagee buttresses his hypothesis with flimsy interpretations of "Bible prophecy," and writes that the global economic crisis will be hastened by the sudden Rapture of billions of Christians, which will pave the road for the arrival of the Antichrist.
For Americans who get their history primarily through postage stamps, a startling trend has emerged recently: stamps have become "childish, silly, and racist."
That's the concern of American Thinker writer Alan Fraser, who reports that while "for years we would use stamps with the figures of Lincoln, FDR, Washington represented," a "5 minute cruise of the USPS website shows that these kinds of men have been erased."
What has taken their place? According to Fraser, "Polar bears, lots of women and blacks no one has ever heard of."
Take it away, Alan:
There's Julia de Burgos (who?), Mother Teresa (an Albanian saint), Oscar Micheaux (a black guy I never heard of), Kate Smith, Katharine Hepburn, Love, Pansies in a Basket, the Year of the Rabbit (Forever, a Navajo necklace, Anna Julia Cooper (a black woman I never heard of), Adopt a Shelter Pet, Butterfly, Tiffany lamps, Chinese bracelets, Kwanzaa, Mary Lasker (who?), Richard Wright (another black guy), playing cards, balloons, daisies, cherries, all the NFL Teams, Hollywood personalities, the Simpsons, and don't forget...you guessed it...the all-important-never-thing-that-one-cannot-know-too-much-about...wait for it... Negro Baseball Leagues.
Oh, and there is a stamp of the U.S flag and one of the Liberty Bell as well as one of Reagan and a white cartoonist.
That's it. Oh, and there's also some kind of Muslim stamp. No stamp that reminds us of September 11th, nothing of the landing at Normandy (everyone's including even Hollywood's favorite war), none of our aircraft carriers or the fighter jets of today, no Eisenhower, Grant (who liberated more black Americans than any black man ever did), Audie Murphy, Thomas Edison, George Patton, Lewis and Clark, or Chesty Puller.
It's almost as though a law had been enacted to prevent the intelligent representation of American History through its postage stamps.
And before you dismiss American Thinker as merely a collection of fringe conservatives complaining about accidentally learning something about black people from their postage stamps, keep in mind that it remains an influential conservative website.
Rush Limbaugh regularly cites articles from the Thinker on his radio show, and even promoted their conspiracy alleging Obama secretly skipped his daughter's soccer game last year to do unsavory, unspecified things while the press wasn't looking. Limbaugh has said [subscription required] that it is "one of my favorite and most thoughtful blogs."
As we've repeatedly documented, the line separating Fox's news from its opinion program is an illusion.
For those of you lucky enough to not spend much of your waking hours immersed in the world of Fox News, in can be hard to concisely capture the extent to which their news programming just functions as a slightly toned-down version of the over-the-top GOP boosterism of their "opinion" shows.
But in a tease for today's America's Newsroom, Bill Hemmer managed to do exactly that:
After framing the budget battle as "not a question of cutting, it's a question of how much," Hemmer announced the guests for today's program:
HEMMER: Our lineup: Karl Rove, Stephen Hayes, Mike Pence, Maria Cardona. John Bolton tackles the battles in the Middle East, Frank Luntz on the union battles at home, and Peter King on the trial at Gitmo for KSM. Wow, we'll see you in ten minutes with Martha and me here on America's Newsroom.
For good measure, in the opening minutes of the program, Hemmer's co-host Martha MacCallum announced that GOP Rep. Paul Ryan would also be a guest today. (Based on Hemmer's previous praise of "serious," "smart" Ryan, I'm not predicting a hard-hitting interview.)
So, for those keeping track, that is three Republican members of Congress (Ryan, King, Pence), two former Bush administration officials (Rove and Bolton), a Weekly Standard columnist (Hayes), and a conservative pollster/messaging guru (Luntz). For balance, there's one Democratic strategist (Cardona).
As Jon Stewart said in last week in his segment highlighting Fox news exec Bill Sammon admitting to lying on-air about then-candidate Obama, "[w]e're all smart enough to discern the line between hard news and opinion on Fox, much in the way that you can taste all the individual ingredients that go into soup."
Any claim Fox News has to being a legitimate news organization is premised on the supposed wall that separates their "news" and "opinion" programming.
When Fox execs or network personalities are challenged on the conservative tilt of the network, they often trot out this defense. Writing in October 2009 about the then-blossoming feud between the White House and Fox News, the New York Times' Brian Stelter reported that, "Fox argues that its news hours -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays -- are objective."
In the article, Fox News senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, is quoted as saying: "The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page."
Special Report anchor Bret Baier spent much of his interview with Jon Stewart last week championing the supposed division between Fox's news and editorial content. Similar to Clemente, Baier said that Fox "respect[s] the viewers' ability to discern the difference" between their news and opinion programming.
The problem, of course, is that the division between the news and opinion programming at Fox is a farce. In addition to regularly promoting dubious stories and supposed scandals that damage liberals or benefit conservatives, Fox's Washington news bureau is run by a political hack.
It's not realistic to think that all journalists are automatons that have no political leanings -- they are human. A problem arises when their politics infect their news coverage, and that's what has clearly happened in Fox News' Washington bureau under the heavy hand of Bill Sammon.
So, for the sake of argument, let's set aside the fact that Sammon has fundraised for conservative groups and organizations. Ignore that he wrote numerous fawning books about the Bush campaigns and administration, which were published by a company that exists to prop up the conservative movement. And pay no attention to his Fox News colleagues saying he is "conservative" and "coming from that point of view."
What matters is whether Sammon lets his political leanings infect his supposed "journalism," and over the course of the past few months, that has become undeniably clear.
Last year, a source with knowledge of the situation at Fox's Washington bureau told Media Matters that Sammon shapes the network's news coverage in an "often brutish way." A separate Fox source told Media Matters that they "keep hearing things from staffers about Sammon," and that "when news is being tampered with, you have to worry."
As evidenced by the series of internal Fox emails Media Matters has released over the past several months, Fox's news is certainly being "tampered with."
In the pantheon of insane anti-Obama conspiracy theories, few hold a candle to the idea that former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers secretly wrote Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father.
This particular bit of crackerjack analysis was popularized by WorldNetDaily writers Jack Cashill and Aaron Klein, who have based their theories on "evidence" like the frequency of nautical terms in Obama's book, despite the fact that "Obama gives little indication that he has any real experience with the sea or ships beyond bodysurfing at Waikiki." (Slightly less unhinged conservatives like David Freddoso have labeled Cashill's work on this "a lot of crap, all conjecture and no concrete evidence.")
The Ayers ghostwriter theory has been back in full force this week, thanks to some conservative bloggers' inability to detect sarcasm. Speaking at Montclair State University last week, Ayers responded to a question from an audience member by joking that he "wrote" Obama's autobiography, and saying, "if you help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you." Ayers was quite clearly kidding, and, as Jim Newell explains at Gawker, he's used this same joke before.
Numerous conservative websites like NewsBusters (which exists to lecture places like the New York Times on how to properly conduct their journalistic activities) promoted the Ayers comment as an admission that he wrote Obama's book. The story does seem to have caused a bit of a rift in the conservative blogosphere, however, with Dan Riehl writing that people running with the supposed admission look like "a bunch of Kool-Aid inebriated Right Wing nut jobs."
And while it's always good sport to point and laugh at the clownishness of certain corners of the conservative media, it's important to point out that conspiracies theories like this are actually not out of the conservative mainstream - they are the bread and butter of the movement.
In his upcoming book, which Media Matters obtained in advance of its release, Andrew Breitbart asserts that Ayers wrote Obama's book. Twice.
In a chapter titled, "Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Revolutionaries," Breitbart discusses the rise of conservative "citizen journalists" and purports to enumerate their various accomplishments. Apparently unfamiliar with the words "proved" and "reasonable," Brietbart lists among citizen journalist accomplishments that they "proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers." From Breitbart's Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World:
In the past few years alone, citizen journalists have deposed Dan Rather for his scurrilous and baseless attacks on George W. Bush; exposed John Kerry's true war record during the 2004 election cycle; debunked Reuters's photography fraud in the Middle East; proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers; gotten rid of communist Van Jones; and the list goes on. [Righteous Indignation, pg 149-150]
On the next page, advising activists to "Be open about your secrets," Breitbart again references Obama's "Ayers-written autobiography":
3. Be open about your secrets. If you're going to go out in public, be absolutely open about what you've done in the past. Take a page from Barack Obama, who revealed in his Ayers-written autobiography that he had done a bit of blow, hung out with commies and racists like Jeremiah Wright, and hated whitey. Once it was out there, there wasn't much the right could do with it - he'd already admitted it. [Righteous Indignation, pg 150]
We'll have more on Breitbart's book closer to the release date, but this seemed as good a time as any to remind people that he shouldn't be taken seriously.
Update: Proving yet again that there is nothing too absurd for conservative media outlets to promote, Fox & Friends hosted Cashill this morning to discuss his various conspiracy theories about Obama, including the idea that Ayers wrote Obama's book.
Update 2: In contrast to the review copy we were sent, Breitbart's endorsement of Cashill's theory is somewhat toned down in the retail version of the book.
Whereas in the version we were sent Breitbart says citizen journalists have "proved beyond a reasonable doubt" that Ayers wrote Obama's autobiography, it now says that citizen journalists have "raised the question whether Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers."
Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon boasted that he repeatedly lied during the final days of the 2008 presidential campaign when he speculated on-air "about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism." Sammon has repeatedly used his position at Fox to slant the network's news coverage to the right.
Glenn Beck is not not saying it's the end of the world.
As we've documented extensively, Beck has made a habit of dabbling in end-times soothsaying over the years, hosting a rotating cast of hucksters warning about impending doom and often openly suggesting that we are (maybe, probably) living in the end times right now.
Though Beck likes to dance along the line of yelling, "The world is ending!" his chosen experts on the subject are less coy about it.
Take, for example, the upcoming Insider Extreme "documentary" Rumors of War II (which I strongly suggest they subtitle "Judgment Day").
Here's the preview on Beck's website, featuring a variety of talking heads saying things like, "It's coming -- Israel knows it, we know it"; proclamations that "all three major monotheistic religions believe increasingly that the signs of the last days are in motion and that we're getting close to a very cataclysmic moment, or series of moments"; and onscreen text subtly hinting at "UNTHINKABLE EVENTS PREDICTED IN THE BIBLE":