Craig Harrington

Author ››› Craig Harrington
  • Fox Business Gets Fooled Again By Gateway Pundit's Email Conspiracy Theory

    Host Stuart Varney Falsely Claims Out-Of-Context Email Proves Clinton Campaign Is “Encouraging” Voter Fraud

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta tacitly endorsed mass voter fraud based on a misreading of the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks. Varney’s story comes straight from the discredited right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, and it marks the second time in as many weeks that the Fox host has fallen for such an obviously fabricated story on air.

    In an attempt to deflect criticism of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s suggestion during the third presidential debate that he might not accept the results of the general election, Varney falsely accused Podesta of arguing in an email that “if you’ve got a [driver’s] license, you should vote … whether you’re a legal citizen or not.” Varney and guest Andrew Napolitano went on to suggest that the availability of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in California and some other states would create an environment ripe for mass voter fraud:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Now listen to this. Maybe Trump's got a point. A WikiLeaks email from Clinton campaign manager [John] Podesta shows that if you’ve got a license, you should vote. That’s what Podesta thinks, whether you're a legal citizen or not. Here is exactly what he wrote: “On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a driver's license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in Federal elections.” … You’ve got to stand up and attest that you're citizen when you're not so you’ve got to lie. He’s encouraging this.

    Once again, Varney is pushing a conspiracy theory from hapless right-wing blogger Jim Hoft based on an intentionally misleading interpretation of emails released by WikiLeaks.

    On October 19, Hoft published a blog claiming “Podesta Says It’s OK for Illegals to Vote With Driver’s License…” in which he highlighted the exact quote cited by Varney and singled out California and other states for providing driver’s licenses to “illegal aliens.” The entire October 20 segment on Varney & Co. is based on this single blog, and Varney’s argument during the segment is pulled directly from Hoft.

    Varney could have followed the link back to the original WikiLeaks source and viewed a days-long email exchange from January 28, 2015, through February 4, 2015, between individuals who would soon join Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At no point during the email exchange, which has not been authenticated, does any participant so much as mention the word “immigrant,” much less undocumented ones. The email in question is about how responsive voters are to easing voter registration restrictions -- such as by adopting a policy of automatic voter registration when you receive a driver’s license or other state ID -- and the author simply concludes -- correctly -- that “you have a right to vote in Federal elections” if you “show up on Election Day with a drivers license ... [and] attest that you are a citizen”:

    It would still be a felony for a noncitizen to vote in a federal election, regardless of whether that person has a valid driver’s license. Trump supporters have been trying and failing to turn voter fraud into a core issue of the campaign, but the problem simply does not exist at any meaningful level. Fox News even admitted as much earlier the same day with an on-screen chyron reading “Experts Say Voter Fraud Is Rare.”

    Varney’s face plant on the voter fraud issue marks the second time in as many weeks that he has fallen for an laughable Gateway Pundit conspiracy on air. Last week, the Fox Business host bizarrely claimed that an unsolicited racist email sent to -- not from -- John Podesta somehow proved that Hillary Clinton was a racist.

    Varney should be more careful when regurgitating talking points pulled from fringe blogs like The Gateway Pundit, particularly when their conclusions are based on documents that the U.S. intelligence community stated on October 7 were stolen via Russian state-sponsored hacking in an effort to “interfere with the U.S. election process.”

  • Fox’s Chris Wallace Pushes Candidates To Accept GOP Budget Priorities During Debate

    Moderator Falsely Claims Social Security And Medicare Are “Going To Run Out Of Money” Without Major Benefit Cuts

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News host and 2016 presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace used the last question of the presidential debate to push both the Democratic and Republican nominees into accepting a past GOP proposal -- harmful cuts to vital entitlement programs as part of a national debt-reducing “grand bargain.”

    Wallace opened his question by falsely claiming that “the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare while falsely equating the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) analyses of Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s tax and economic policy proposals. Wallace claimed that the CRFB “has looked at both” the Trump and Clinton tax plans and concluded “neither of [them] has a serious plan” to address “the fact” that Medicare and Social Security are going to run out of money in the next two decades: 

    CHRIS WALLACE: The one last area that I want to get into with you in this debate is the fact that the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements, which is 60 percent of all federal spending. Now the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has looked at both of your plans and they say neither of you has a serious plan that is going to solve the fact that Medicare is going to run out of money in the 2020s, Social Security is going to run out of money in the 2030s, and at that time recipients are going to take huge cuts in their benefits. So, in effect, the final question I want to ask you in this regard is, and let me start with you, Mr. Trump. Would President Trump make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that included both tax increases and benefit cuts -- in effect, in effect a grand bargain on entitlements?


    WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, same question, because at this point Social Security and Medicare are going to run out -- the trust funds are going to run out of money. Will you as president entertain -- will you consider a grand bargain, a deal, that includes both tax increases and benefit cuts to try to save both programs?

    Wallace’s question ignores three important points.

    First, the CRFB did not score the Clinton and Trump tax plans as roughly equivalent in terms of their impact on the debt and deficit. According to a September 22 analysis from the organization, Trump’s economic agenda will create $5.3 trillion in new debt accumulation over the next decade -- more than 25 times more new debt that Clinton’s more balanced plan. University of Michigan economist and New York Times columnist Justin Wolfers tweeted a chart from CRFB showing how Trump’s plan would “explode” the national debt beyond current projections, whereas Clinton’s proposal leaves it “basically unchanged”:

    Second, as economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote on Twitter, Medicare and Social Security “DO NOT run out of money!!” because they are paid for by secured trust funds and specific permanent tax provisions. Bernstein also noted that the Affordable Care Act, which Trump vowed to repeal during the debate, has actually extended Medicare “solvency by 11 years.” Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research added that, because the program can only spend money from a protected trust fund, “Social Security can’t legally drive the debt.”

    Third, Wallace’s supposed solution to avoid benefit cuts for Social Security and Medicare recipients in the 2030s is to start implementing those cuts today. As New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has noted many times, “these proposals would be really bad public policy” and would harshly impact low-income Americans who rely on the programs for retirement security. The only reason Social Security faces a long-term revenue shortfall is because the payroll tax that funds it is only applied to the first $118,500 of individual earnings. If the payroll tax cap was lifted to include more taxable earnings, the program could bring in more revenue and be funded through the end of the century. As Krugman notes, “while most Americans love Social Security, the wealthy don’t. Two years ago a pioneering study of the policy preferences of the very wealthy found many contrasts with the views of the general public; as you might expect, the rich are politically different from you and me. But nowhere are they as different as they are on the matter of Social Security.”

    Wallace’s decision to relitigate the failed “grand bargain” from 2011 wasn’t the only example of the Fox News host using the debate as a forum to push a conservative policy agenda. However, his specific fearmongering and misleading framing of the debt and entitlements does vindicate economic policy experts’ many concerns about him moderating the debate in the first place.

  • Wallace Uses Presidential Debate To Push Right-Wing Fantasy That 2009 Stimulus Hurt The Economy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News host and presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace falsely blamed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) -- commonly referred to as “the stimulus” -- for creating a historically sluggish economic recovery, a frequent charge from right-wing media outlets that bears no resemblance to reality.

    During a line of questioning designed to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Wallace alleged that Clinton’s economic agenda closely resembles “the Obama stimulus plan in 2009,” which he falsely claimed was responsible for “the slowest GDP [gross domestic product] growth since 1949”: 

    CHRIS WALLACE: I want to pursue your plan, because in many ways it is similar to the Obama stimulus plan in 2009, which has led to the slowest GDP growth since 1949.

    DONALD TRUMP: Correct.

    CHRIS WALLACE. Thank you, sir. You told me, in July, when we spoke that the problem is that President Obama didn't get to do enough in what he was trying to do with the stimulus. So is your plan basically more, even more of the Obama stimulus?

    Right-wing media outlets, including Fox News, have long charged that the 2009 stimulus package was costly and ineffective, and they regularly promote the fantasy that the roughly $800 billion rescue package actually hurt the American economy. Fox News has portrayed the very concept of stimulating the economy through targeted government investments as a “distraction,” Fox host Bill O’Reilly has falsely claimed that food stamps have no economic value, and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly has been derisively referring to the rescue package as “the so-called stimulus” for years.

    Contrary to Wallace’s misleading talking point, economists like Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman generally believe that the stimulus package was too small and too focused on tax cuts instead of targeted spending. (Tax cuts actually don’t stimulate the economy very effectively.) In a July 2014 New York Times column, economist Justin Wolfers noted that 36 of 37 economists surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets agreed that the stimulus was directly responsible for lowering the unemployment rate, and 25 agreed that the economic benefits of the law exceeded its costs.

    Wallace’s willingness to use the debate stage as a forum to promote right-wing misinformation was one of the primary reasons that Media Matters questioned the decision to include him as a moderator.

  • NY Times Columnist Urges Fox News Moderator To Discuss “Budget Reality” During Final Debate


    New York Times columnist David Leonhardt called on Fox News host Chris Wallace to base “his questions on budget reality” during the “debt and entitlements” portion of the third and final presidential debate that he will moderate tonight -- the first general election debate ever moderated by a Fox personality. Given Wallace’s track record of parroting right-wing media budget hysteria from his anchor desk at Fox News, it is possible that the moderator will fall short of what Leonhardt characterized as his “reputation as a serious journalist.”

  • Fox Business Pushes Absurd Conspiracy Theory That Hacked Emails Prove Hillary Clinton Is “Bigoted”

    Fox’s Stuart Varney Thinks It’s “A Big Deal” That Someone Sent Unsolicited Racist Emails To Clinton’s Campaign Chair

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Right-wing radio host and political commentator Stacy Washington used Fox Business’ Varney & Co. to push a debunked lie about the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks in an attempt to paint Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as a racist.

    Washington’s baseless allegation originated with an October 8 post by discredited right-wing blogger Jim Hoft, who claimed in a post titled “WIKILEAKS BOMBSHELL: Racist Hillary Trashes African Americans” that a trove of stolen emails to and from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta revealed the Democratic nominee to be a bigot. The blog links back to the WikiLeaks document in full, but it highlights only a single out-of-context section in which an undisclosed author claims African and Muslim immigrants, among others, are less “successful” than others “irrespective of circumstances.” From Hoft’s The Gateway Pundit:

    Hoft falsely claimed that the author of the racist email is Hillary Clinton, but clicking on the link to WikiLeaks clearly shows that the author was an unidentified person using the Netherlands-based email address On February 21, the user sent this unsolicited racist email to Podesta’s publicly listed email address at the Georgetown University Law Center, along with at least two dozen seemingly random reporters and bloggers. The email is clearly racist, but it was also not written or solicited by Podesta, much less by Clinton. All of these facts were outlined very clearly in an October 11 blog post by Wonkette publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf, who described receiving similar emails herself “from loons” (emphasis original):

    The super-racist email was from “” It sent screeds to Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta and a shitload of HuffPo bloggers. (Really, it was spam TO John Podesta. He’s in the “to” field! He did not send it! He is also not from the Netherlands!) If you check the tipline at, you will see a lot of emails just like it! From loons!

    The obvious falsity of Hoft’s claims was not enough to stop Washington from making the case that the email proves Hillary Clinton is “bigoted” against the African-American community. During the October 13 edition of Fox Business’ flagship morning news program, Washington falsely claimed Clinton “actually emailed people saying that blacks aren’t good immigrants.” Host Stuart Varney agreed, wondering aloud why “a big deal” wasn’t made out of this transparent falsification of the stolen emails’ contents.

    Watch the entire spectacle here:

    STACY WASHINGTON: [Clinton] also said in the WikiLeaks reports that -- of her emails -- that she actually emailed people saying that blacks aren’t good immigrants, because no matter what country they emigrate into, they don't do well.

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): I saw that. I thought a big deal would be made of that because you don't say things like that. But that’s what was said. I thought it would be a headline, but it wasn't. Last 20 seconds to you, Stacy.

    WASHINGTON: You know, Stuart, it’s not true. If you look at Haitians, and people from the actual continent of Africa -- the many nations there -- they do extraordinarily well here in the United States. Her comments are those of someone who is bigoted. Everything she accuses others of, it’s really her.

    VARNEY: Stacy Washington, I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be back on this program because we like you.

  • Trump Allies Promote Rape Apologist Days After Sexual Assault Revelations

    Gen. Michael Flynn And Donald Trump Jr. Promoted Rape Apologist Mike Cernovich’s Defense Of Trump’s Confessed Abuse Amid Hot Mic Scandal

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Influential members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign promoted a defense of Trump from “alt-right” blogger Mike Cernovich, a sexual assault apologist who denies the existence of rape culture, as the GOP reeled from the revelation that Trump once bragged about committing sexual assault.

    On October 7, The Washington Post published 2005 audio and video of Trump saying on a hot mic: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” Trump later added, “And when you’re a star they let you do it,’ Trump says. ‘You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The comments have been widely condemned as an admission by the Republican presidential nominee of sexual assault.

    Late in the evening of October 8, Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn tweeted a link to Cernovich’s defense of Trump’s confessed abuse while promoting the blogger’s supposedly “terrific book” about masculinity. Hours later, BuzzFeed political reporter Rosie Gray noted that Donald Trump Jr. had retweeted the link. In the video linked to by Flynn, Cernovich and libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux disparage concerns over Trump’s “locker room talk from 11 years ago,” which they portray as nothing more than “alpha male” exaggerations as they complain about a “selective outrage hysteria that seems to be the hallmark of the left”:

    As Media Matters has documented, Cernovich is a sexual assault apologist and noted conspiracy theorist prominent on the “alt-right” fringe of conservative media. Cernovich operates a website called Danger & Play where he peddles misogyny, Islamophobia, and other baseless conspiracy theories to the lowest common denominator. His social media accounts, particularly on Twitter, frequently dismiss the existence of date rape, which he claims is a natural male activity -- “the hotter the sex, the more closely it resembles rape.”

  • Fox Contributor Robert Jeffress Defends Trump Despite Sexual Assault Boasts

    Pro-Trump Evangelical Leaders Confirm To The Daily Beast That They Still Support GOP Nominee

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress was one of several right-wing evangelical leaders who reconfirmed their support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump despite the recent discovery of a 2005 recording of Trump profanely bragging about sexual assault.

    An explosive October 7 article from Washington Post reporter David Farenthold revealed video and audio of Trump bragging during a private conversation “in vulgar terms about kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women” with or without their consent. The revelation of the nominee’s apparent admission that he had committed sexual assault set off a firestorm of criticism of the Republican nominee from journalists and political commentators, as the recording corroborated what has been alleged about Trump for years  

    Despite this torrent of criticism and the flight of would-be supporters, several of the far right conservative evangelical leaders who have been supportive of the GOP nominee for months remain solidly behind him. According to an October 7 report from Daily Beast reporter Betsy Woodruff, right-wing leaders Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, and David Bozell believe “the audio won’t change how conservative voters view the candidate,” and Fox contributor Jeffress is “still voting Trump.” From The Daily Beast:

    The fact that Donald Trump said in 2005 that he could grab women “by the pussy” because he’s famous doesn’t seem to be changing how social conservative leaders feel about him.

    Evangelicals who opposed him before still aren’t fans. And the ones in his camp aren’t phased by the recording. That’s because this isn’t about how much they like the brash billionaire; it’s about how unflinching they are in their opposition to Hillary Clinton.

    “People of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defund Planned Parenthood, defend religious liberty and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” said Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “A ten-year-old tape of a private conversation with a talk show host ranks low on their hierarchy of concerns.”

    Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, said the comments were “lewd, offensive, and indefensible.”

    But, he added, he’s still voting Trump. He said he moderated a meeting between the candidate and Evangelical and Catholic leaders, and he was forthright about his hesitations about Trump’s moral

    “I said at that time, with Trump sitting next to me, I would not necessarily choose this man to be my child’s Sunday School teacher,” [Robert] Jeffress said. “But that’s not what this election is about.”

    He added that he doesn’t think Hillary Clinton is morally superior to Trump.

    Both Ralph Reed and Robert Jeffress are members of Trump’s anti-LGBT and anti-choice “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board” and Jeffress is a long-time Fox News contributor. David Bozell spent 11 years at the right-wing Media Research Center, which serves as a prominent clearinghouse for misinformation parroted by right-wing media outlets.

  • MSNBC's Hewitt Blames Trump Business Failures On A Non-Existent "Clinton-Triggered Recession"

    Trump Falsely Claimed He Weathered “One Of The Most Brutal Economic Downturns In Our Country’s History” During One Of America’s Wealthiest Decades

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    MSNBC contributor and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt parroted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim that he weathered “an economic depression” in the 1990s, with Hewitt blaming a so-called “Clinton-triggered recession” that did not actually happen for Trump’s disastrous business failures throughout that decade.

    During an October 3 speech in Pueblo, Colorado in which the GOP nominee attempted to deflect criticism in the wake of a devastating New York Times investigation into a decades-long period where he may not have paid income taxes, Trump blamed his business struggles in the 1990s on “one of the most brutal economic downturns in our country’s history” that he claimed was “almost as bad as the Great Depression of 1929.” Immediately following Trump’s speech, frequent Trump apologist Hugh Hewitt gave cover to Trump’s dubious claim, saying that President Bill Clinton’s policies and a supposed “Clinton-triggered recession of those years” were to blame for Trump’s business collapse, where he reported losses of over $900 million in 1995:

    Unfortunately for Trump and contrary to Hewitt’s claim, there was no recession during the Clinton administration, much less an economic contraction as severe as the Great Depression of 1929 or the profound economic and financial crisis of 2007 through 2009, which was inherited by President Obama.

    According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the institution responsible for delineating and analyzing American economic cycles, there was a mild recession from July 1990 to March 1991 during the George H.W. Bush administration, and another from March 2001 to November 2001 during the first term of George W. Bush. Neither recession occurred during the period of time covered by the Times' report on Trump’s nearly billion dollar loss, or during Bill Clinton’s presidency, which was marked by steady economic growth and job creation. As you can see in these data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the 1990s resembled the exact opposite of the economic tumult Trump had described (recessions are noted in gray):

    The 1990s weren’t the only time when Trump’s real estate empire has been bedeviled by losses in the midst of an overall economic expansion. According to the latest reporting from Forbes magazine, which has been tracking Trump’s wealth for nearly four decades, the GOP nominee has lost almost $800 million over the past year mostly thanks to the declining value of his real estate while the rest of the economy performed admirably with a robust increase in median household incomes and historic reductions in poverty.

  • Vox Slams Media For Placing Style Over Substance In Aftermath Of Trump's Debate Meltdown

    Ezra Klein: Trade “Was Trump’s Best Portion Of The Debate … But He Didn’t Know What He Was Talking About”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Even as they criticized the rest of his performance for its lies and a general incoherence on basic policy specifics, mainstream and conservative media personalities are largely in agreement that Republican nominee Donald Trump earned more style points than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the first half of their presidential debate on September 26, which focused on the economy and international trade.

    But as Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein argued in a September 27 blog, the belief among journalists and pundits that Trump “won” the opening economic portion -- or any portion -- of the debate only holds water if you grade the candidate’s braggadocious style as more important than his vacant substance (emphasis added):

    This is how it felt to me, too. Stylistically, this section was Trump’s best portion of the debate. He kept slamming Clinton on NAFTA — "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere” — and spoke with the confidence of a man who knew what he was talking about.

    But he didn’t know what he was talking about.

    What was stylistically Trump’s best portion of the debate was substantively among his worst (I say among his worst because it is hard to beat the section where he said he both would and would not honor the NATO treaty, and then said he both would and would not adhere to the first-strike doctrine on nuclear weapons). Trump was arguing the central economic theory of his campaign — and he was just wrong. In a section that began with him demanding solutions for our economic woes, he showed himself completely confused as to the nature of not just our economic problems, but the underlying labor market.

    The tone of his voice and the confidence of his delivery shouldn’t distract us from the hollowness of his remarks.

    From his introductory remarks, Trump unleashed a torrent of falsehoods during the first presidential debate of the general election. Journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum slammed the GOP nominee for his seeming lack of preparation and inability to execute a clear debate strategy. Focus groups of undecided voters conducted by CNN and by conservative pollster Frank Luntz agreed that Clinton trounced Trump on the stage, and a national poll fielded by CNN showed that debate viewers came away thinking Trump had lost “overwhelmingly.” Trump was even needled by reporters for revealing “his famously thin skin” and for failing to control his impulses and “los[ing] the battle against himself.”

    And yet, somehow, numerous professional debate-watchers seemed to think Trump actually performed well during the opening portion of the debate, when he attacked Clinton and President Obama on the economy. Ignoring that the country Trump was describing doesn’t actually exist, journalists largely seemed to agree that Trump’s jeremiad was nonetheless effective.

    Professional economists who watched the debate, on the other hand, savaged Trump for his repeated lies about the American economy. Trump falsely claimed the American labor market is being hollowed out by trade even when job creation is steady, he reiterated a false right-wing media claim that American incomes are stagnant when they are rising, he repeated his own false claim that the Federal Reserve is acting “politically” to prop up the economic recovery while claiming at the same time that the economy isn’t really recovering, and he lied about his impossible plan to pay down the national debt. And Trump did all of these things during a segment of the debate that commentators currently argue he won.

    For months, media critics have lamented how Trump is often graded “on a curve” for his performances and public statements, noting that he is “held to a different standard than Clinton” and his other political counterparts. The widespread perception that Trump outdid himself during the opening minutes of the debate while spouting a laundry list of lies about the economy and trade, proves how persistent this problem remains.